Authors: Leona Fox
A Deadly Encounter
A Seagrove Mystery Series
Copyright © 2015 Leona Fox
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher
Sadie Barnett sat on the balcony overlooking the park across the street. It was a lovely morning and she enjoyed being in the fresh air sipping her second cup of coffee—hand delivered from the bakery next door. John, the bakery's owner, had a new assistant who loved walking through Sadie's shop. So after Sadie drank her first cup in the bakery with John, Liza would wait half an hour or so and then bring Sadie her second cup.
Today it had taken Liza a full fifteen minutes to make it from the top of her stairs, down through the shop and out the front door. Sadie knew because she’d time her. There was no harm in it, but Sadie wished she could be a fly on the wall in the shop when the baker’s helper walked through. She’d love to know what Liza found so fascinating.
From Sadie’s vantage point above the street she could see the comings and goings of the town, which was mostly still asleep at this time of day. A car came around the corner half a block down, and Sadie could see it belonged to Seagrove PD. She wondered what Chief “call me Zack” Woodstone was doing out of his office so early in the day, and she was even more surprised when he came to a stop in front of her shop.
“Good morning, officer,” she called down to him when he slid out of his car. He was a big man, and she sometimes wondered how he got into spaces like the front seat of his squad car.
He looked around, his forehead wrinkled with confusion.
“Up here,” she called. “I’m on the balcony.” She resisted the urge to laugh. He might take it the wrong way and think she was making fun of him.
He looked up and smiled. “Just the person I wanted to see,” he called. “Is the door unlocked?”
She nodded. She knew he didn’t approve of her leaving the front door unlocked when she wasn’t in the store, but it couldn’t do much harm when she was sitting right up here. A moment later he appeared at the door to the balcony, two cups of coffee and a bag of pastries in one hand and an evidence bag in the other. There was a sheepish look on his face.
“Oh, I see you already got your morning coffee. Guess I’ll have to drink two.” He winked at her.
“The third is the charm,” she said. “And you get cranky if you drink too much coffee.”
“As do you,” he said.
He set the two cups on the table with the pastry bag and slid down into the chair. He leaned back and closed his eyes for a moment, and Sadie thought he was enjoying the moment. Then he took a deep breath and sat up.
“Unfortunately, I’m here on business.” He sighed and pulled his notebook from his front pocket.
“As your local police chief, meaning that this is an official investigation, I need to know where you were yesterday morning.”
Sadie looked at him in surprise and then complied.
“First,” she said, “I took Mr. Bradshaw for a walk in the park, and then we went next door for our morning coffee, pastry and chat. Mr. Bradshaw was very interested in the new display case and he hardly looked out the front window at all. After that Mr. Bradshaw and I open the shop, he had a sniff around for rodents, I went through my accounts. At 11 AM a lovely young woman from out of town came into my shop and bought a very expensive clock. I could shut my doors for a month on what that clock brought in.”
“Unfortunately, Ms. Barnett, Mr. Bradshaw is not adequate to give you an alibi. Can you tell me what time you were in the shop next door?”
Sadie was enjoying this. For one thing she knew she hadn’t done anything wrong, and for another she was pretty sure that Zack knew she hadn’t done anything wrong as well. So while she knew a crime had probably been committed and Zack was doing his job in questioning her, no harm was ever going to come of it. She liked Zack’s company and was pretty sure that he liked her too, so she found the charade of being in trouble fairly amusing.
“What crime did I commit yesterday morning?” she asked. “Have I been out robbing banks?”
“I only wish it was something as innocent as bank robbery,” he said. “No. What I’m looking for is a murderer.” He frowned and rubbed his chin with the back of his hand.
“A murderer?” she cried. “Who was murdered?” Another murder in their little town? What were the odds of that?
“Victor Rumsfeld,” he said, “and he was killed with this.” He rummaged in the other bag he had been carrying and pulled out the antique potato peeler she brought back from her last trip to Ireland.
“But that’s mine,” she said, surprised. “And it was in a locked drawer!”
“Indeed.” It was all Chief Zack Woodstone needed to say.
He stayed a while longer, drinking his coffee and watching the people in the park with Sadie, but before long he was on his way. He had a killer to catch, after all.
As soon as he was gone Sadie rushed downstairs to her shop with Mr. Bradshaw, her ten-pound dynamo of a terrier, at her heels. She got the key from her office and opened the drawer where she and her best friend Lucy had stored the potato peeler weeks before. It wasn't there, of course, because Chief Woodstone had it. The drawer looked absolutely normal, nothing to indicate it had been jimmied open.
"Well dang, Mr. Bradshaw," she said. "I don't understand this at all."
She plopped herself down in an overstuffed chair from colonial Boston while Mr. B sniffed around the shop for unwanted guests of the rodent variety. Who had access to the keys? Betty, her shop assistant, of course. Lucy, Sadie’s best friend, knew where they were kept. Sadie supposed that a customer or two might have seen her open the drawer and watch where she put the keys. It wasn’t like it was a huge secret or anything. It wasn’t like she was expecting a murderer to come looking for a weapon in her shop.
Damn it. Someone had stolen her antique potato peeler and killed someone with it. That was wrong on so many levels it wasn't funny. Not only did it cast suspicion her way, but it also ruined the potato peeler for her. Even if she got it back, she'd always look at it and see a murder weapon. It was fun when she could say it looked like it could be used to drain the blood out of a corpse, but now that it really had been used to kill, all the fun had been drained, uh—extracted from it.
That was probably the worst part of the whole thing. Well, besides the fact that a man had died.
Rather than sit a brood by herself, Sadie picked up the shop phone and called Lucy.
"You need to get over here," she said when Lucy answered the phone. "I'm being framed for murder." Not the exact truth, but it got Lucy moving. She arrived not ten minutes later.
"What in the world?" Lucy asked as she came through the door. Sadie could barely hear her over Mr. B's barking and the chiming of the bells over her door. "What do you mean you've been framed for murder?"
"Somebody took the potato peeler from my drawer and killed Victor Rumsfeld with it," Sadie said. "The chief was over here questioning me."
"You know he doesn't really think you did it, right?" Lucy said. "He has to ask you about it. And because you've shown that thing to just about everyone in this town and lied about it being for exsanguination, it could have been taken and used by just about anybody. I hope this is a lesson to you."
"You are as bad as Chief Woodstone," Sadie said. "If I needed a lecture I would have gone down to the station. What I want is for you to help me figure out who could have taken it."
"But that's the thing, isn't it?" Lucy asked. "So many people have seen that thing that it's going to be near impossible to figure out who did it. I think you need to look at it from a different angle."
"What angle is that?" Sadie asked.
"What did you do when Mayor Rumstocking was killed?" Lucy asked.
"I looked at who might have had a motive," Sadie said.
"That's right. Did you go around town looking for someone who had access to a blunt instrument? No. That would have been futile." Lucy pushed a stray hair behind her ear. "What you did was look for a person with motive."
"But the murderer wasn't one of the people I thought it was," Sadie said. "It was someone else entirely."
"But looking for motive put you in place to find the murderer. If you'd been out looking for people with access to bricks, Lois would still be at large. Right?"
"I guess so," Sadie said. "But I'm still upset that they used my potato peeler. It's a personal affront."
"Was it a personal affront when poor Roger was killed?" Lucy asked.
"Yes. But it wasn't as bad because I didn't care about that thing. I really liked the potato peeler."
"Are you sure that thing is a potato peeler? Because it really does seem like an undertaker’s tool to me."
"Of course it's a potato peeler," Sadie said. "I bought it off a woman who was peeling potatoes for her dinner at a junk fair."
"She was peeling potatoes at a junk fair?" Lucy asked. "Why?"
"It's like a giant yard sale. Everyone has their own spot at the fairground and they sit there and sell things from dawn to well after dark. Midnight sometimes. So they fire up their camp stoves and make dinner while they are there." Sadie paused for moment, thinking about the day she'd spent at the horse fair. "Well not just dinner, breakfast and lunch too."
"And they pack up their stuff at midnight and drag it all home? That seems kind of brutal," Lucy said. She leaned back in her chair.
"No. Then they climb in their caravans—I mean campers, not gypsy caravans—sleep until dawn, and then get up and do it again in the morning. Some of them spend all summer there with all their kids and everything." Sadie leaned forward into the breach Lucy had created when she leaned back.
"The entire family? That seems a bit weird." Lucy drank her coffee and waited for Sadie to go on.
"No. Just the moms and kids. I think the husbands have to work their day jobs, but the rest of the family go off to the horse fair to make grocery money," Sadie said. She smiled, remembering the people she’d made friends with at the fair.
"I thought you said it was a junk fair," Lucy said.
"Junk fair, horse fair, same thing," Sadie said. "Only sometimes there really are horses being sold. And puppies, pigs, goats...you name it. I spent a whole week at one. I had a blast."
"You had a blast at a junk fair? Nothing new about that. I suppose you stayed in someone’s caravan instead of a comfortable hotel?" Lucy raised an eyebrow.
"Of course," Sadie said. "When in Roma." She inscribed a flourish in the air with her hand.
Lucy rolled her eyes. "That was a terrible pun," she said. "Were you tempted to buy horses and goats?"
"No. Horses are big, and although I hate to admit it, also scary. There was the cutest pony. You know, one of those ponies with shaggy hair over their eyes?"
"I do. And thank goodness they are too big to get on an airplane. Otherwise I have no doubt Mr. Bradshaw would be sharing his bed with one."
"Mr. Bradshaw could curl up on the pony's rump." Sadie rummage through a pile of small prints and pulled one out. "Like this one." She handed the print to Lucy. It was of a draft horse in a stable with a tabby cat curled up on its back.
"This is not a pony, and that's not a dog," Lucy said.
"Don't be so literal," Sadie said. "Mr. Bradshaw could curl up on a pony's rump just as easily as that cat can curl up on that big horse's rump. You know he could."
"But would he want to?" Lucy watched Mr. B snuffling along the baseboards. "He doesn't seem much like a curl up and do nothing kind of a dog."
"No," Sadie said. "He's not. But maybe at the end of a long day he would. You know, in the winter when we've been down to the beach for a run. He can come back and curl up on his pony to keep warm."
"You do know you are not bringing a pony home, don't you?" Lucy asked. "Because you are starting to sound like you believe Mr. Bradshaw should have a pony." She crossed her arms over her chest.