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Authors: Joyce,Jim Lavene

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5 Buried By Buttercups

BOOK: 5 Buried By Buttercups
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Buried by Buttercups

A Peggy Lee Garden Mystery


Joyce and Jim Lavene


Copyright © 2012 by Joyce Lavene and Jim Lavene

All Rights Reserved

Cover art by Emmie Anne Studios


Table of Contents


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Garden Journal

About the Authors



Chapter One


Angel’s Trumpet- Brugmansia
- Angel's Trumpet is related to Datura or Jimson weed. It is an evergreen shrub that can be trained as a small tree. Produces large, drooping, trumpet-shaped flowers in white or pink shades. Wonderful fragrance. All parts of this plant are hallucinogenic and poisonous. Do not plant around children or pets. The basis for the drug Scopolamine.

“Excuse me, ma’am.”

Peggy Lee realized a 30-something man was trying to get her attention. He looked a little scruffy—needed a shave and a change of clothes. When he flashed his badge, she knew he must be a police detective or undercover officer.

He was standing right beside her, but she’d been so interested in the investigation going on in the park that she hadn’t noticed him until he spoke.

She glanced around herself. Had she strayed out of the boundaries set for the crowd? No. She was right where she should have been, even a little further back than those around her.


“I’m Detective Tanner Edwards. Lieutenant McDonald would like to speak to you.”

She sighed.
Now what?
She couldn’t even show up at crime scenes without people getting their noses out of joint? The crime scene was right across the street from her house, for goodness sake. There were dozens of people watching what was going on.

Peggy followed the detective out of the crowd. She could feel questioning gazes burn her back as people around her wondered why she was being escorted toward the cordoned-off space.

She ducked under the tape. The fine fall weather had turned chilly during the night. A low fog had set in across the open ground. The branches of hundred-year-old pin oaks looked ghostly in it with their scarce, dangling leaves.

 The majority of the leaves had turned yellow and spun to the damp ground, sliding under her feet. The dogwoods’ leaves were red and green and had showy red berries that made a splash in the dim morning.

There was still grass underfoot that was lush and green thanks to the hard work and chemicals used by the Mecklenburg County Parks and Rec Department. There wouldn’t be any worms living in that treated soil—a crime in itself. Most people didn’t seem to care.

“Peggy!” Lieutenant Al McDonald greeted her with a cheerful smile. “Would you like some coffee? I’m sure there’s an extra cup around here somewhere.”

She raised one cinnamon-colored brow in his direction. “It hasn’t been that long since we’ve seen each other, Al. You know I don’t drink coffee. Thanks for offering.”

Al McDonald had been her first husband’s partner on the Charlotte Police force for twenty years. The men had spent hours together, shared each other’s lives. When Peggy’s husband, John, had been killed in a domestic dispute, it was Al who’d brought her the bad news.

“That’s right. Sorry.” Al scratched the top of his head. His coarse, black, curly hair was graying now. His broad, dark face was aging but very dear to her. “I guess I was thrown off by this murder.”

“Murder?” She tried to peek around the side of his much larger form. There was a body covered on the damp ground that she hadn’t been able to see from her previous vantage point. “What happened?”

“I was hoping you could tell me. You live right across the road. Did you see anything unusual?”

Peggy knew Al had been recently promoted to lieutenant in the homicide division. She was sure he felt plenty of eyes on him too. Not only from the people who surrounded them, but his superiors as well.

“The only thing I saw was the police cars pulling up earlier this morning. When do you think it happened?”

“The ME says around midnight. You weren’t out walking your dog that late, were you?”

Her green eyes narrowed. Of course he knew she wasn’t out walking Shakespeare at midnight. The Meyer’s Park area, with its hundred year old homes, was a quiet neighborhood. Not many people were out that late at night.

“What is it you really want from me?” she asked, a little sharply. “We both know I’ve been on the outs with the police department. Are you asking for my help?”

He laughed, sounding a little nervous. His dark brown eyes shifted away from her. “You were on the outs with Lieutenant Rimer, not me. He didn’t like your methods. I’ve known you most of my life. I could use your expertise on this one.”

She smiled at him and squeezed his arm. “Why didn’t you say so? I take it you think the murder involves botanical poison.”

Al took her elbow and led her toward the victim on the ground. “This is for your ears only, Peggy. I think we might have a serial killer in Charlotte. And he picked my division to kill people. How lucky can one new lieutenant get?”

“How does Mary feel about your promotion?” Peggy stared at the form covered by a tarp. “Last time I talked to her, she wanted you to retire.”

He shrugged his large shoulders. He’d once played football in college and still maintained that bulk that had made him a formidable fullback. “You know how it is. Mary wants me to retire. If I keep working for a few more years, I can retire with a better pension. She likes that idea. She always wanted to retire at the beach.”

“That’s what I thought.”

Peggy knew she couldn’t delay the inevitable any longer. They were standing by the victim. Drops of mist were falling on them from the pin oak branches. Peggy shivered, telling herself it was because of the chilly morning, not the fact that she was about to view a dead body.

“Are you okay with this?” Al knew better, but asked anyway.

“I’m fine.”

Al had one of his officers flip back the gray tarp. There was a man in a suit and tie beneath it. His face was ghastly white and his eyes were closed. There didn’t appear to be any bruises or signs of violence on his person, at least from the waist up.

Peggy’s sharp eyes saw at once why Al had called her over. Tucked into the pocket of his suit coat was a bunch of buttercups. The bright yellow color made the red of the man’s tie stand out even more against his white shirt.

“Buttercups,” she said. “Not your usual boutonnière—and out of season. Do you think those have something to do with the murder?”

“You don’t recognize him by any chance, do you? Maybe someone from the neighborhood?” His voice whispered like the leaves falling from the trees around them, as he drew her away from the body.

“No. I’m sorry.” She tried to put the dead face from her mind.

When they were well away from the crowd, Al finally got down to business.

“I haven’t specifically told anyone about my serial-killer theory yet. I think this is victim number two. The first victim was found in similar circumstances with some white flower pinned to his chest.  The ME called it Jimson weed.”

Peggy didn’t like the sound of that. “Angel’s trumpet. Deadly poison.”

“That’s what she said.”

“Is it alphabetical?”

“I don’t know yet.” Al glanced around at the crowd. “I hope this is it. I don’t need something like this as my first case.”

“No, I suppose you don’t.” She smiled at the frown on his dark face. “How did I miss a person killed by angel’s trumpet in the paper?”

“We didn’t release that information.” He shrugged. “I was hoping it would help identify the killer later.”

“But now you have what appears to be a second victim killed by poison.”

“We can’t tell for sure about this one yet. The ME says the poison appeared to be administered the same way.”

“Was it ingested? Burned mouth and tongue?” she asked.

He looked surprised. “No. Should that have been there too?”

“Only if your victim ate the buttercups.”

“The angel’s trumpet poison was injected into the first victim. This man had a needle mark in the same place, right side, just below the ear.”

Her brows knit together. “No wonder you think the same person is responsible. I suppose you haven’t released
information yet either.”

“No.” He shook his head. “I’m trying to keep this as quiet as I can. I’d appreciate it if you don’t say anything to anyone, especially the press.”

“You know I won’t,” she promised. “What can I do to help?”

“You could assist on this case. You’re trained to be a forensic botanist. I could get you on the payroll, at least for the investigation. I really need your help here, Peggy. No one knows poisonous plants like you do.”

“There are some.” She grinned. “But they don’t live around here. I’d be glad to help. I could use the paycheck to keep The Potting Shed up and running.”

“Tough times,” he agreed. “Thanks for helping me out. This is my first homicide case, as the lead officer, anyway. I need a big win to impress everyone if I’m going to retire on a lieutenant’s pension. I’ve got nothing right now.”

“All right.” She put aside the fact that she’d been booted out of her forensic consultant’s position by his predecessor. This was different anyway. This was for Al. “I’ll come by the station later.”

Al hugged her then looked around with a sheepish expression. Obviously he was worried how that would play with his superiors too.

Peggy made her way back through the crowd. She saw several familiar faces, her neighbors for the past thirty years. One of them was new. She tried to hurry past him. It didn’t work.

“Mrs. Lee.”

Mr. Bellows—she didn’t know his first name—he’d introduced himself to her that way. He’d moved in next door to her last year. She’d only thought Clarice Weldon and her apricot-colored poodle, Poopsie, were annoying.

Mr. Bellows complained about everything. He was creepy to boot with his sallow face and cold blue eyes. He was always stepping out in front of her, seemingly from nowhere.

“Mr. Bellows.” What else could she do but acknowledge him?

“I could hear your dog barking last night.”

“I’m sorry. He was a little nervous. Steve isn’t home and he—”

He raised one gloved hand. “I don’t care. These concerns are your own. Keep him quiet.”

“I do the best I can.” She didn’t go on to say that she felt safer with Shakespeare barking when he’d heard something unusual, especially when she was in the big house alone. Mr. Bellows had made it clear that it didn’t matter to him.

“Have you thought about selling your home and moving into the country with your menagerie?”

Peggy’s temper flared. “I don’t think my one dog counts as a menagerie, Mr. Bellows. I’m sorry he bothered you. Maybe you should sleep with earplugs!”

BOOK: 5 Buried By Buttercups
6.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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