Guest Post: THE WORLD OF ANIMALS, CRIME, AND MURDER By Lois Schmitt

Kristy must ferret out the murderer and discover the story behind Sam’s disappearance — Something Fishy by @schmittmystery

THE WORLD OF ANIMALS, CRIME, AND MURDER
By Lois Schmitt

My mystery series revolves around animals—my protagonist serves as a writer for a wildlife magazine.  Friends often ask me: What kind of crimes involving animals are serious enough for a person to commit murder?

In the Middle East, the horns of endangered rhinos are used as daggers.  An intricately carved horn can sell for more than $12,000.   The powder in the horn is considered an aphrodisiac in Asia and sells for more than $450 an ounce.  This means two pounds would cost nearly $15,000.  

Whenever large amounts of money are involved, there is always MOTIVE TO MURDER.  Poachers, wildlife smugglers, and black market dealers operate all over the world and command huge sums for their products.  

Elephant ivory is another lucrative item for poachers and smugglers.  Poachers often hack the tusks off live elephants, leaving the poor creatures to bleed to death.  Ivory carvings can bring in big bucks.  There are unscrupulous art dealers who pretend to be legitimate but sell these illegal items to a special clientele.  To be “outed” would not only mean fines and jail time, but would ruin the professional reputation of these art dealers and their businesses—both the legitimate and illegal parts.

Then there is the illegal trade in live animals which Interpol claims is a ten billion dollar industry.   Exotic animals have become trendy as pets.  There are people who will pay high prices for an endangered species of a snake or lizard.  Parrots and macaws are also in high demand.  One of these birds can fetch more than $10,000 on the black market.   

These live animals are often drugged and hidden in false compartments.  Others are smuggled in plain sight—they are accompanied by forged documents saying they were bred in captivity through a legally sanctioned program.   Parrot eggs from the Amazon are carried in “egg vests” worn by the smuggler.  These eggs are then incubated and the hatchlings are sold.  The smuggling of these animals is big business.

Most people know that the world of drug smuggling is DANGEROUS and DEADLY.  But what do animals have to do with the drug trade?  Drug cartels have discovered that animals can be implanted with drugs and then shipped to other parts of the world.  Not too long ago, police in Columbia found six puppies with scars on their abdomen.  An ultra-sound scan revealed bags of liquid heroin.   These puppies had been surgically slit open, the heroin bags implanted, and the puppies sewn back up. 

The use of puppies in smuggling drugs is rare.  But the use of snakes is not.  Drugs are sometimes hidden in false compartments of crates containing snakes.  The reason this works is that there are few custom officials who want to open a crate labeled VENOMOUS SNAKES.

 Drug dealers are ruthless. They wouldn’t think twice about murdering someone who gets in their way.  

Another crime revolving around the animal world involves wildlife habitat.  Land is a finite resource, and large wooded acreage or prime beachfront attracts developers who want to purchase the property to build condominiums and shopping centers.  The monetary stakes are high, and the fight between developers and environmentalist can get ugly.  In fact, this is the theme in my mystery, Something Fishy. 

Finally, the world of “prize winning” animals is competitive and lucrative, providing a motive to kill. Would a dog owner commit murder to eliminate the competition in a dog show in order to come out “best in show?”  Would a horse owner kill someone to cover up the illegal acquisition of semen from a prize winning race horse?  Is it possible?  It is for a mystery writer. 

Illegal activities involving animals are thriving. The stakes are high.  But are they enough to commit murder?  Many of the perpetrators of these crimes are cruel and ruthless.  Some are connected to organized crime.  So, I’d have to say yes.    

      

When attorney Samuel Wong goes missing. wildlife magazine reporter Kristy Farrell believes the disappearance is tied into her latest story concerning twenty acres of prime beachfront property that the Clam Shell Cove Aquarium hopes to purchase. Sam works for multi-millionaire land developer Lucien Moray who wants to buy the property for an upscale condominium. The waterfront community is divided on this issue like the Hatfields and McCoys with environmentalists siding with the aquarium and local business owners lining up behind Moray.

Meanwhile, a body is found in the bay. Kristy, aided by her veterinarian daughter, investigates and discovers deep secrets among the aquarium staff–secrets that point to one of them as a killer. Soon the aquarium is plagued with accidents, Kristy has a near death encounter with a nine foot bull shark, and a second murder occurs.

But ferreting out the murderer and discovering the story behind Sam’s disappearance aren’t Kristy’s only challenges. When her widowed septuagenarian mother announces her engagement, Kristy suspects her mom’s soon to be husband is not all he appears to be. As Kristy tries to find the truth before her mother ties the knot, she also races the clock to find the aquarium killer before this killer strikes again.

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Encircle Publications
Publication Date: July 15th 2019
Number of Pages: 244
ISBN: 1948338793 (ISBN13: 9781948338790)
Series: A Kristy Farrell Mystery #2 || Each is a Stand-Alone Novel 


Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Encircle PublicationsGoodreads

CHAPTER ONE

“Something bad happened to Sam. I know it.”

Katie Chandler’s sea green eyes filled with tears. A sea lion trainer at the Clam Shell Cove Aquarium, Katie had been my daughter’s college roommate.

“Maybe Sam worked late and forgot to call,” I said.

Katie shook her head, her chestnut hair flying in the bay breeze. “No. He hasn’t answered my texts or phone calls. I stopped by his house twice too. No one’s home.”

Silence. I tried thinking of something helpful, or at least hopeful, to say.

“I called the police, Mrs. Farrell. The officer said being stood up for a dinner date isn’t enough for a missing persons case—that maybe it was Sam’s way of breaking up.”

I shifted my gaze to the whitecaps on the bay while Katie’s statement sank into my brain. Perhaps the officer was right. I knew from my daughter Abby that the relationship between Katie Chandler and Samuel Wong had hit a rough patch.

The conflict: Katie, who served as executor of her late grandmother’s charitable trust, was donating six million dollars of this money to the aquarium’s expansion project, which included the acquisition of twenty acres of adjacent land. Sam worked as executive assistant to multi-millionaire developer Lucien Moray who wanted to buy the bay front property for luxury condominiums. What started off as friendly bantering between Katie and Sam had escalated into explosive arguments that had become increasingly personal.

But Katie and Sam weren’t the only ones embroiled in this controversy. The community at large had become like the Hatfields and McCoys. Environmentalists wanted the property to go to the aquarium where it would be used for breeding grounds for endangered species, an aquatic animal rehabilitation center, and a research camp for marine scientists. Local business owners sided with Moray, hoping high end condo owners would bolster the area’s economy. I was writing an article on this for Animal Advocate Magazine. That’s why I was at the aquarium today.

Katie continued, “No matter what happened between us, Sam would never stand me up. He’s my fiancé not someone I picked up a few hours ago at a bar. Besides, Sam came around to my point of view. He had it with Lucien Moray. He hadn’t told anyone but me yet, but he was quitting his job at the end of the year.”

“I’ve an interview later this morning with Moray,” I said. “I’ll check around and see what I can find out. Someone in Moray’s office may know Sam’s whereabouts.”

“What if no one does?”

“Let’s take it one step at a time.” I glanced at my watch, then pushed myself off the rock where I’d been sitting, a task that would have been easier if I were ten years younger and twenty pounds lighter. “Speaking of interviews, my appointment with your aquarium director is in five minutes, so I better head inside. I’ll call you tonight.”

Katie sighed. “Thanks. I should get back to my sea lions too. We’ve a show at eleven.” She rose and stretched her small wiry body. “After the show, I’ll stop at Sam’s house again.”

Katie, shoulders slumped, wandered off in the direction of the outdoor sea lion amphitheater. I stood for a moment, inhaling the salt air while watching a seagull dive into the bay and zoom back to the sky with a fish in its mouth. As the autumn wind sent a sudden chill down my spine, I wrapped my arms around my body, thinking back to when Katie and my Abby attended college. Abby often acted impulsively, out of emotion, but Katie had always been levelheaded, never someone to jump to conclusions. What if Sam is really in trouble? The thought nagged at me as I trekked up the sandy beach and stepped into the building that housed the indoor exhibits.

I made my way down a long corridor, surrounded by floor to ceiling glass tanks housing ocean life from around the world. I paused at the shark tank and marveled at the grace and beauty of these fearsome predators gliding silently through the water, causing hardly a ripple. I would be back here soon. In addition to my article on the land expansion, I was writing a story on ocean predators.

I veered down the administration wing. When I came to a door marked DIRECTOR, I glanced again at my watch. Ten-thirty. Right on time. I knocked.

“Enter,” a booming voice responded. I pulled open the door and stepped inside.

Standing in front of me was a man who appeared to be in his mid-fifties. Noting his polished wingtips, sharply creased trousers, navy blazer, crisp white shirt, and perfectly knotted tie, I wished I’d dusted the sand off my shoes.

We stood face to face. Actually, it was more like face to chest. I was only five feet tall and this man towered over me by at least a foot and a half.

“Commander Conrad West,” he said, extending his arm. His handshake was firm and strong. “You must be Kristy Farrell, the reporter from Animal Advocate Magazine.”

Conrad West stood ramrod straight, probably a throw-back from his military training. A former naval commander—the youngest African American to be appointed a commander in the navy’s history—he had started his career as a medical corpsman. He had been director of the Clam Shell Cove Aquarium since his retirement from the navy last year.

He walked behind his desk and positioned himself in a large swivel chair.

“You may sit,” he said, pointing to a straight back chair facing him.

I slid into the chair, suppressing the urge to playfully salute.

He went straight to the point. “I understand you’re writing about the land acquisition. Have you seen our expansion plans?”

“Yes, and they are impressive. But how will the aquarium come up with the money to buy this land?” I asked, fumbling through my bag for my pad and pen. “You’re competing with the bottomless pockets of Lucien Moray.”

Commander West leaned forward, his hands clasped in front, as if praying that what he was about to say would come true. “The current property owner, Stuart Holland, is a business man who’s not about to forgo a profit. But he’s also an active conservationist and a lifelong resident of this area who would like to see the land used in an environmentally friendly manner. He’s kept it vacant until recent financial loses forced him to put it up for sale.”

The Commander leaned back. “There’ll be no bidding war. He set a price—ten million dollars. The land is worth more, but Stuart wants it to go to us, so he set a price he feels we can reach. If we can raise the money by next summer, the land is ours.”

“Ten million is a high goal.”

He nodded. “More than half of the funding will come from a trust set up by Alicia Wilcox Chandler. We also have one million in reserve that we accumulated during the past few years. Of course, we’re still three million short, but our new development officer is planning an aggressive fundraising campaign with—”

A loud knock on the door interrupted the conversation.

Commander West scowled. “Enter.”

A plump woman with a bad case of acne barged into the room. She wore jeans and a light blue shirt with an aquarium patch on the upper left pocket identifying her as Madge.

“Commander,” she said, slightly out of breath. “We have a problem. The sea lion show is in ten minutes, and Katie just ran out.”

“What do you mean she ran out?”

The woman shrugged. “She took a call on her cell phone, then flew out of the amphitheater.

“Didn’t she say anything?” The scowl hadn’t left his face.

The woman paused, furrowing her eyebrows as if deep in thought. “Oh, yeah. But I don’t know if it had to do with why she left.”

“What did she say?” He appeared to be talking through gritted teeth.

“She said two fishermen found a body floating in the inlet.”

***

Excerpt from Something Fishy by Lois Schmitt. Copyright 2021 by Lois Schmitt. Reproduced with permission from Lois Schmitt. All rights reserved.

 

 

A mystery fan since she read her first Nancy Drew, Lois Schmitt combined a love of mysteries with a love of animals in her series featuring wildlife reporter Kristy Farrell. She is a member of several wildlife and humane organizations as well as Mystery Writers of America. Lois worked for many years as a freelance writer and is the author of Smart Spending, a consumer education book for young people. She previously worked as media spokesperson for a local consumer affairs agency and currently teaches at Nassau Community College on Long Island. Lois lives in Massapequa with her family which includes a 120 pound Bernese Mountain Dog. This dog bears a striking resemblance to Archie, a dog of many breeds who looks like a small bear, featured in her Kristy Farrell Mystery Series. Lois was 2nd runner up for the Killer Nashville Claymore Award for Something Fishy.

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Twitter: @schmittmystery
Facebook: @LoisSchmittAuthor 
Instagram: @loisschmittmysteries

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06/01 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader
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5 Comments

  1. Wow, such a sad but interesting guest post.
    “Drug cartels have discovered that animals can be implanted with drugs and then shipped to other parts of the world. ”
    Whaaat??? I had no idea this was a thing! Just incredible! 😦

    Liked by 1 person

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