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Authors: Audrey Claire

1 Odds and Ends

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Odds and Ends

(Margot and Odds Mystery – Book 1)

 

Copyright © November 2014, Audrey Claire

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, distributed, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, without express written permission from the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes.

 

This book is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, or any events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story line are created from the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously.

 

 

OTHER WORKS AVAILABLE:

 

 

A Libby Grace Mystery

 

How to Be a Ghost

How to Blackmail a Ghost

How to Kill a Ghost

 

A Makayla Rose Mystery

 

Depth of Field

Multiple Exposures

Distortion Control (Coming Soon)

 

 

www.authoraudreyclaire.com

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

“Judy,” Margot called yawning. She sat up in bed and stretched but kept the eye mask on a little longer. Most mornings, she didn’t want to face the light too soon. If she could go through the day with the guard in place, wait, no that was silly. She’d break a hip. Then she would be in trouble because as sure as anything that darn Lou would have her committed to a nursing home. “Judy, are you there?”

She groaned and pushed back the mask. Wincing against expected pain, she was surprised to find the room still dim. Had she risen too early? She checked the bedside clock. No, her usual time, eight-twenty a.m. Where was that woman with her coffee? Judy knew how grumpy Margot was in the morning, how loath she was to rise.

Margot tossed the silk sheets away and threw her feet over the side of the bed. Feeling a chill, she stuffed her feet into the furry slippers waiting neatly side-by-side and grabbed the satin robe from a chair. She’d almost gotten the thing belted over her pajamas as she headed across the room when the door opened.

“Well, honestly, Judy, what are you being paid for? I shouldn’t have to get out of bed to get my coffee,” she complained.

Judy appeared around the edge of the door, and she did indeed have Margot’s coffee tray, but the paleness of her face and the way she trembled was troubling. Margot hurried over to her.

“Give me that. Are you sick, Judy?” Margot took the tray and relieved the young woman, who had been in her employ—or rather her husband’s employ, if one wanted to get technical—for the last ten years. Judy must be thirty or so, but Margot still thought of her as a girl. “Sit here, and let me feel your forehead.”

Judy raised a hand to catch Margot’s, and Margot gasped. The young woman released Margot right away and twisted her hands in the apron she wore. “I’m fine, Mrs. Gardner. Thank you for worrying. It’s just…”

Margot glared. “Just what, child? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.
Have
you seen a ghost?”

Judy blinked at her and then shook her head. “No, it’s not that.”

With little patience in the morning, Margot spun on her heel and padded back to bed. She felt like she needed to use the facilities, but decided to put it off and climbed under the covers. “Well, if you’re not sick,
please
, the coffee. At least I can get a few brain cells firing while you gather your thoughts.”

“Of course.” Judy bent to the task, and her hands were a little more stable than they were when she entered the room.

What on earth was the matter with the girl? Was it boyfriend troubles? More money? Margot didn’t know how much Lou paid the staff, but surely he was generous. At least she hoped so, especially to Judy. Margot had no idea how she would get along without the girl.

“Here you are,” Judy said, and Margot received the cup with thanks. She took a cautious few sips and sighed, feeling the caffeine soothe the savage beast.

“Thank you,” Margot said. She believed in using manners no matter who one was dealing with. Maybe it was the southern part of her still clinging after so many years living in New York. “Now then, what’s the matter?”

Margot’s question set the girl off again, but this time Judy squared her shoulders and faced Margot with gumption. Margot had to admire that. “Mrs. Gardner, it’s
Mr.
Gardner.”

“What’s he done? Something inappropriate? Pinched you? If he does it again, just beat him over the head. He’ll learn his lesson.”

“He’s run off!”

“He’s…” Margot repeated, not sure she’d heard right. No, she prayed she didn’t hear right. “Come again?”

“There’s a note—”

Margot moved faster today at sixty-six years old with bones that creaked regularly than she had at twenty-five. At least she thought she did as she sped from the room and ran down the hall toward Lou’s room. Her heart hammered in her throat. There must be some mistake. That had to be it. Except Judy wasn’t prone to fanciful thinking.

Margot slid to a stop before her husband’s bedroom door. He always shut the door, a barrier to her in the last six years. She stepped inside. The bed was neatly made, and the closet… In horror, she grabbed her chest.

“Mrs. Gardner!” Judy reached for her arm, but Margot pulled away and straightened.

Lou had always considered himself something of a dashing older gentleman. He loved his clothes, every stitch, and he had taken them all with him. The closet stood open and empty. He must have moved in the middle of the night, the sneaky bastard.

“Where’s the note, Judy?”

“In the dining room, ma’am.”

This time, Margot took her time. Of course, that had everything to do with her legs trembling and threatening to give out after her mad dash. She raised her chin, pinched her lips together and descended the stairs.

Just as Judy said, the missive sat on the edge of dining room table, a pristine white envelope propped up by delicate teacup. Her feet stuck in the doorway and wouldn’t move her forward.

“Give me a push, Judy.”

“Ma’am?”

“A push, to get me going.”

Judy, used to Margot’s fits and starts, did as she asked, and Margot stumbled toward the table. She felt the emotion bubbling up, but she swallowed it down, clenching her hands at her sides.

Everything is going to be okay, Margot. This is probably one big misunderstanding.

With that thought, she cheered. Maybe Lou had bought another property, and he would send for her shortly. Yes, that must be it. She picked up the letter and flipped it over.

“Judy, if this envelope is sealed, how did you know Mr. Gardner ran off?”

Her maid hesitated. “He left me a letter too, ma’am.”

That gave Margot pause, and she spun to face the girl, frowning. “What did it say?”

Silence.

“Judy? What did your letter say? Now, please.”

Judy cleared her throat, eyes downcast. “It was a reference letter for when I look for a new position…and severance pay.”

 

Chapter Two

 

“It’s true, Edna,” Margot sniffed and dabbed at her eyes. “He’s gone. That old goat is gone!”

“Now, dear,” Edna soothed, “don’t get yourself all worked up. You and I both know you haven’t liked Lou since the seventies.”

Margot frowned at her friend. Edna Butler had come up from Briney Creek, North Carolina, their hometown where Edna still lived, when Margot had called her crying about the end of her fifty-year marriage.

“I know, Edna.” She didn’t mean to snap, but ever since she had read the letter, her emotions had gone haywire. Try as she might, she couldn’t pull herself together. “But he left me with nothing! Don’t you understand?”

“You still have your health.”

Margot glared at her. “I’d rather have the house.”

“Oh, you don’t mean that.” Edna, ever the chipper smiling one, had made sweet tea, and she had brought along her special upside down apple pie, which Margot loved. She cut generous slices and offered Margot one.

“I do mean it. No, I don’t want pie.” She scrubbed her nose with the flaying tissue. “He sold the cars and let the staff go. He even sold the house right out from under me. I have two weeks to vacate the premises.”

“Are you sure you don’t want pie, honey?” Something in Edna’s tone caught Margot’s attention, and she looked down. She held the tin in which Edna had brought the pie, and she had already tucked into it with her fork. The taste of cinnamon lingered on her tongue, and she set the dish down with flaming cheeks.

“You see? I’m so distraught I don’t know what I’m doing. I have
nothing
, Edna. Even Judy is gone.”

Edna sipped her tea and sat back in her chair, ankles crossed. “He left you something, surely. I don’t remember Lou being that cold.”

“He left me an insult!”

“An insult?”

Margot knew her friend couldn’t understand until she showed her. “Wait, I’ll get the note, and you’ll see.” Margot went to retrieve the letter and envelope from the kitchen counter and brought it back to hand to Edna.

Edna frowned. “The end of it is burned.”

Margot shrugged. “I was going to burn it while I envisioned Lou, but then I wouldn’t have evidence to refuel my dislike later.”

Edna eyed her in disbelief, but Margot refused to be shamed. No, Lou was the one who should be shamed, not her. “Dear, Margot, I’ve run off.”

In misery, Margot watched her friend do what she did, flipped the letter over to see if there was more on the back, checked the envelope in case a page had stuck.

“Is this all?”

“Yes, that’s all.”

“But you said he ran off with his business partner. Isn’t his business partner an older man about our age?”

“Heavens, no, Edna.” Margot gaped at her. “Is that what you’ve been thinking all this time? He sold out to Lou over a decade ago. Lou started a new venture shortly after that with a younger woman. She’s…” Margot’s throat closed.

Edna pushed the tin toward her. “Here, dear. Have more pie.”

Even while declining, Margot spooned the dessert onto a saucer this time. The sweetness touching her tongue was a healing balm, and she was able to speak. “She’s thirty-five. Almost half my age, Edna. Can you believe it?”

“What did she see in Lou?” Edna appeared to consider it. “He was never anything to look at, and time wasn’t kind to him. That bald spot glistening in the sun and all blotchy.”

Margot was not offended at this assessment. Edna had always been outspoken with her opinions, and why should Margot care if Lou was insulted? “I’ll tell you what she sees—his money.”

“Oh my poor Margot.” Edna leaned forward and patted Margot’s hand. Tears spilled down Margot’s cheeks, and she stuffed more pie into her mouth. Edna nodded her approval, as if it were the only way to get through the mess. “Didn’t he leave any money?”

“That’s the insult.”

Edna’s face registered confusion. “What do you mean?”

“Lou’s solicitor came by and went through everything with me. That’s how I knew everything had been sold, and since he’s a gossipy old thing, he told me about Lou running off with the partner. He said he no longer works for Lou, but his last task was to square me away.”

“What about getting half Lou’s earning in a divorce?”

“Prenuptial.”

Edna winced.

“The solicitor brought me a check and gave me my time limit for staying here.”

“A check! That’s good.”

“It’s not good. It’s an insult.” Margot dug through her purse, which she had brought into the living room with her. She pulled out the check and handed it over to her friend. Her friend accepted it and studied the slip of paper.

Edna blanched, and her fingers trembled. “Why, that’s more than I’ve seen at any one time. You call this an insult?”

“It is,” Margot insisted. “How am I going to live off of that? I had hoped to buy the house back, but couldn’t even afford rent with that thing, or food.”

“You pitiful spoiled thing.” Edna chuckled and slapped her knee.

“You’re being very unkind, Edna.”

“I’m sorry, but you are spoiled, Margot. You don’t know what the simple life is like anymore. Even when you lived in Briney Creek, your family had money.”

“They’re all gone now, my parents and my aunt.”

“I know. Well, there’s nothing to do except come stay with me.”

“In Briney Creek?”

“Where else? I have lots of friends, and you’ll love it. My house isn’t in Hillrise, mind you, but it’s still a nice regular neighborhood. There’s bingo at the church, and often we all get together at one of the local restaurants just to enjoy each other’s company. You can stay with me as long as you want.”

Margot thought about the idea long and hard. “Edna, I thank you for the offer from the bottom of my heart, but I can’t imagine leaving New York. I love it here. It’s my home now until I go to heaven to be with Mama and Daddy.”

Edna handed back the check, and Margot tucked it away because she couldn’t bear to look at it. So few zeros made her itch and dredged up fear in her heart of how she would survive.

Her friend echoed her thoughts. “What will you do to take care of yourself?”

Margot stiffened her spine. “I’ll get a job.”

Edna blinked at her. “You’ve never had a job in your life. You moved from your daddy’s house straight to Lou’s, and you were something of an old maid when you did it.”

“Thank you for that reminder, but despite your doubts, I’ll do it. I’m determined, Edna. You watch and see. I’m going to survive, and when I’m on my feet, I’m going to find that Lou Gardner and make him pay!”

 

BOOK: 1 Odds and Ends
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