The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club
by Duncan Whitehead
Something is not quite right in the leafy Savannah neighborhood of Gordonston.
As the friends and fellow members of her afternoon cocktail club gather to mourn the death and lament the life of their neighbor, Thelma Miller, not all is what it seems.
As old friends vie for the attention of widower, Alderman and mayoral candidate Elliott, jealousies surface and friendships are strained. An old woman with a dark secret and an infamous uncle plots her revenge for a perceived wrong done over thirty years before, a once successful children’s writer with his own secret is haunted by memories of the past and aspiring model Kelly Hudd has just won the trip of a lifetime.
As secrets are revealed and history, both old and recent, unravel and an intertwined web of deceits and lies surfaces in the middle class neighborhood a killer lurks and is anyone really who they seem to be? A mysterious European gentleman in South America, a young Italian count parading the streets of Paris and a charitable and kind hearted nephew recently arrived from India add to the remarkable assortment of characters in this story of intrigue, deceit and revenge. What is the secret a recently retired accountant is trying to hide and just why did the former showgirl and attractive sixty two year old widow Carla Zipp really have plastic surgery?
As the plot thickens and the Georgia summer temperature rises we discover who is destined for an early-unmarked grave in the wooded park that centers the tree-lined avenues of Gordonston.
A mysterious organization with links to organized crime, a handsome fire fighter who can do no wrong and a trio of widows with deep hidden agendas compound a story of simplistic complexity. As twists and turns lead the reader to a conclusion that they will not see coming and a sucker punch ending that will leave readers breathless, the Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club’s top priority remains the need to chastise the culprit who refuses to ‘scoop’ after his dog walking sessions in their treasured park.
He took one final draw on his cigarette before flicking the wet butt into the hole he had just dug. It was still dark; the sun not due to rise for another thirty minutes. He checked his watch and confirmed the time. He was still on schedule. He turned suddenly to his left, surprised by the rustling noise he had heard in the undergrowth. A grey squirrel peered out from the bushes before rapidly disappearing into the wooded area to the right. Overhead, a woodpecker began to tap against a nearby oak tree. The ‘rat-a-tat’, like a hammer, echoed through the densely forested landscape.
Satisfied that he was still alone, he re-inspected the freshly dug hole. Ideally, it should have been six feet deep, but four, he thought, would do. It was not the first time he had dug a hole like this, but he wondered though if this one would be the last. He had begun digging the night before and hoped that no one would discover his half-dug hole and half-empty bag of lime salts, which it now appeared, they had not. Usually he would have poured more lime salts into the bottom, to cover the unpleasant smells that would rise from the ground later, but he had decided that the extra bags would be too much to hide. He crouched and leaned over the hole, stretching his arm to full length to pick up his discarded cigarette butt. Unprofessional, he thought. He really knew better than that. He slipped the butt into the packet it had come from, alongside the other nineteen yet unsmoked menthols.
From his vantage point he could see anyone entering or leaving the park. There were three gates, but he had taken the precaution of locking the north and south gates with padlocks, which he would remove and discard once his task was complete. Now the only way to enter the park would be via the east gate, which was the main entrance anyway, and the one he knew would be used that morning.
The recently prepared hole was ensconced just off the welltrodden path that encircled the park; he couldn’t have asked for a better spot to perform his task. If only they were all this easy. He picked up his shovel and placed it out of sight in the undergrowth. He would need it later to fill the hole back in. Though he had dug holes like this before, they were usually not necessary. But the instructions he had received were very specific, that there should be no trace of his work for at least one week. He hoped that four feet was deep enough. He considered his surroundings and decided it was.
The park was located in the center of a middle class neighborhood of approximately 300 homes. It was protected by a wrought iron fence and three gates—perfect for his purposes. Signs proclaimed that this was private property, designated solely for the use of those who lived there. At least half the families in the area owned a dog and regularly used the park to exercise them. Not everyone walked his dog in the park. He estimated that only fifty or so people ever ventured where he now stood.
The Girl Scout Hut, an old log cabin-style building that stood in the center of the park, was available for hire for private functions and neighborhood gatherings as well as for residential association meetings. An extensive wooded area, home to an abundance of wildlife, dominated the interior of park. Trees and shrubbery surrounded the perimeter railings, hiding the interior of the park from anyone traversing nearby streets. A children’s playground in the northeast corner of the park offered wooden swings and forts. These, along with sliding boards and monkey bars delighted the children of those privileged to play there.
Dog walkers took advantage of the wood-chipped track that circled the park. The path wove around the trees and crossed ditches and natural moats. The occasional jogger who ventured into the park would sometimes make use of the track but would have to watch for fallen trees and avoid the sprawling roots that sprouted from the earth. He pulled another menthol from its packet and lit it. He sucked in the mint-flavored smoke and exhaled it into the early morning air. It was hard to hold the cigarette in his gloved hand, so he removed the leather pair that he wore. He wore the gloves not due to any coldness but as necessary to his task.
The sky was no longer black but a dark blue, the sun now on the verge of rising. The first birds of the morning began their song and the temperature was slowly beginning to rise. The unnatural sound of a car engine straining into life could be heard in the distance. Its owner was probably an early morning worker, beginning his day while most were still enjoying their last few minutes of sleep.
It was going to be another warm day, and air conditioning systems would be on high throughout the city. He considered removing the dark coat that he wore but didn’t. It, along with the gloves, was his standard attire when working: an unofficial uniform of his trade. More rustling, this time from the north, made him twist his body and alerted his senses. As before, another squirrel disappeared into the dense wood as the streetlights that illuminated the avenues and streets that ran alongside the park switched off in unison, announcing that daybreak was approaching. Soon bedroom lights would turn on as early risers prepared themselves for the day ahead.
In a cleverly twisted plot, there are 4 possible victims, and yet only one suspect, so far. With an eye for lush imagery and a tongue in cheek sense of the absurdities of suburban living, the satire is intermingled throughout the story, aiding in the reader’s enjoyment of the characters and the plots that are set against them.
With distrust and suspicion, friendships and romantic entanglements are revealed, and are slowly unravelling as the plot thickens, with several twists that were unique and very reminiscent of playing the game of Clue as a child. Thoroughly entertaining, the pacing improves as the book moves on to a conclusion that certainly leaves room open for one, or more, murders.
About the Author
Duncan was born in England in 1967. After a successful career in the military where he served in British Embassies throughout South America and saw service in the Gulf War he joined the world of super yachts as a Purser onboard some of the world’s largest private vessels, working for many high profile individuals, being fortunate enough to visit some of the world’s most luxurious and exotic places. Eventually retiring to Savannah, Georgia, he began to partake of his greatest passion, writing. Initially writing short stories he finally put pen to paper and wrote The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club, inspired by the quirky characters and eeriness of his new environment, the book, a thriller, which boasts an assortment of characters and plot twists, set in the leafy neighborhood where he lived. His passion for comedy saw submissions to The Onion and a stint performing as a stand- up comedian.
He is a former boxer, representing the Royal Navy and an English under 19 team as an amateur and is a qualified teacher of English as a foreign language as well as a former accomplished children’s soccer coach.
In 2011 Duncan returned to South America, spending six months in Brazil and a few months in Paraguay before travelling to the Middle-East and Europe before returning to the United States to settle in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and lists his hobbies and passions as cooking, the Israeli self-defence art of Krav Maga and the pressure point martial art Dim-Mak.
Duncan has written over 2,000 spoof and comedy news articles, under various aliases, for an assortment of web sites both in the US and UK.
As well as his other activities he performs volunteer work, as a hospice volunteer visitor and teaches English to refugees arriving in South Florida.
Duncan has penned a further novel, The Reluctant Jesus, a comedy set in Manhattan which is set to be published early 2013. He is also working on the script for a potential sit-com and the second and third books in The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club trilogy.
Duncan has one daughter, Keira, and lives alone.