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Authors: Ed Lynskey

Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Humor - Elderly Sisters - Virginia

Ed Lynskey - Isabel and Alma Trumbo 02 - The Cashmere Shroud

BOOK: Ed Lynskey - Isabel and Alma Trumbo 02 - The Cashmere Shroud
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Ed Lynskey - Isabel and Alma Trumbo 02 - The Cashmere Shroud
Isabel and Alma Trumbo [2]
Ed Lynskey
BooksforaBuck (2013)
Mystery: Cozy - Humor - Elderly Sisters - Virginia
Small town Quiet Anchorage, Virginia, doesn't seem like a prime spot for murder, and Isabel and Alma Trumbo look forward to spending their days playing Scrabble and visiting with the "Three Musketeers" outside the local florist shop.
When their young friend Sammi Jo becomes a suspect in her father's murder, however, the sister-sleuths dust off their skills and get to work investigating. Of course, someone willing to kill Sammi Jo's father isn't likely to be intimidated by a couple of senior sleuths.


Cashmere Shroud

Isabel and Alma
Trumbo Mystery


Ed Lynskey





The Cashmere Shroud Copyright 2013 by Ed Lynskey, all rights reserved. No portion of this novel may be duplicated, transmitted, or stored in any form without the express written permission of the publisher.


Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.


This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and locations are fictitious or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or people is coincidental.


Published b


Chapter 1

ammi Jo’s mouth dropped open. She closed it. Disbelief set her face in hard planes like a flesh-tone marble statue as her jaws and mouth tightened. “Come again.”

Your father Ray Burl is dead,” said Sheriff Fox. “He was murdered.”

he twenty-something wheat blonde had been sitting at her office desk, moving her shoulders to the beat while listening to her music device, its ear buds pumping the noise into her ears. He had had to touch her shoulder to get her attention, and she flinched as a startled rabbit does.

Get out of here. You’re nuts.” Her strained voice was a gate squeaking on its rusty hinges.

“I’m sorry for your loss
, Sammi Jo.”

She still didn’t get it. “Is this your idea of a sick joke, Sheriff

He was
shortly taken aback. “Hardly. You see me dressed in my uniform, so you know it must be official. Ray Burl Garner lies in a morgue drawer wearing a toe tag.”

the truth struck home, she felt as if her insides had liquefied into mush. “Ray Burl is dead. Crazy.” Murmuring it seemed to help reinforce her acceptance of it. “How so?” she asked, her tone a stronger timbre.

He was found shot. Once. The slug penetrated his chest. It was a fatal hit.”

he nodded. The blood roared between her ears. It coursed that intensely.
My father is dead
, she thought
“Are you sure?”

“Never more so in my life, I
regret to say,” replied Sheriff Fox.

“Ray Burl is dead. Crazy.” Her
still dry eyes blazed at the medium height and weight man with the prematurely balding iron gray hair. “Who did it?”

“At this early stage, I
have got no suspects.”

the right one,” she said. “Soon.”

homicide investigation is already underway.”

His killer can’t get away with it, and I deserve to see that justice is done.”

“Absolutely,” said Sheriff Fox.
“Is there anybody I can call?” He slitted his eyes, beginning to regard her in an altogether different light. The killer was often a close family member. Did he deal with that situation here? “Should I call Isabel and Alma? Reynolds? You shouldn’t be alone at a bad time like this.”

“Huh?” Sammi Jo acted as if she hadn’t
just heard Sheriff Fox.

He made a
calculated decision. “Why don’t you close up the office? Your boss won’t mind, given the extreme circumstances. I’ll drive you over to Isabel and Alma’s place. Does that sound like a plan?”

Sammi Jo nodded again. “Yeah
, sure, I’d like that, Sheriff. Thanks.”

“They’ll know what to do at a bad time like this,”
he said.


While Isabel took Petey Samson, a part beagle and part terrier mutt she’d rescued from the SPCA animal shelter, on his call to nature, Alma and Sammi Jo settled in the comfortable living room. Ray Burl’s murder was the centerpiece of their conversation.

“I find it hard to believe this
has happened to me.” She was rubbing her throbbing temples. “It feels surreal, as if I’m trapped in a nightmare, and I can’t shake myself awake, but it’s real as all get out.”

normally gregarious Alma said nothing. She’d given Sammi Jo the box of tissues. Alma was alarmed over how the wheat-blonde younger woman’s face showed deeper crow’s feet, red-shot eyes, and mottled cheeks. Could she have any tears left in her to wring out?

The grief was shredding her up, and she acted far from her normal “moxie” self.
Alma ached more than anything to console Sammi Jo, but no pearls of wisdom came to be imparted. Alma felt the best thing she could do was lend a sympathetic ear and quiet receptiveness to whatever Sammi Jo felt led to share.

“Daddy wasn’t a saint, but he never harmed or hurt anybody.”

Alma’s shamus reaction was:
Or at least as far as we know about
. Ray Burl had been employed at Barclay’s Turf Farm located three miles from Quiet Anchorage for so long the townies considered him a fixture out there. She’d a recollection he’d worked his way up to the foreman’s position, but she’d no clear concept of what the foreman did. Tending to acres of sod, then cut and sold in slabs that were piled and banded on pallets, didn’t strike her as too complicated. Then it was all she could do each week to keep their yard’s swatch of grass looking presentable.

Sammi Jo made a furtive wipe at her moist eye corners.

Catching the motion, Alma pretended she hadn’t. If Sammi Jo broke down, sobbing out her heart and wailing like a wounded banshee, that was okay by Alma. She’d coped with the agonizing loss from the deaths of loved ones. She gave Sammi Jo a little more time before proceeding.

“Did Ray Burl often work late?” asked

Sammi Jo summoned an unresponsive shrug. “Beats me. We seldom talked shop, just to say we stayed busy as church fans at a July camp meeting. He was the honcho in charge, so I guess he stuck around until the day’s work got finished.”

Alma saw the practical sense in that. “Did he have a run in with his boss or one of his crew members?”

“I don’t have an inkling,
Alma. He was content as could be expected of a working guy who grew and sold grass to put food on the table. It wasn’t a glamorous or sexy job, but he appreciated how it gave him a steady paycheck.”

“There’s no shame in doing honest work,” said

“He wasn’t a bad or evil man. You and Isabel liked him, right?”

“No question about it,” replied Alma. “We always nodded and spoke if we passed him. He was a man of few words, so making chitchat presented a challenge.” She was set to compare Ray Burl to Randolph Scott, but Sammi Jo wouldn’t know who the laconic cowboy actor born right down the road in Orange County, Virginia, was. Alma’s voice dropped into her angry note. “Nobody should be murdered like Ray Burl was.”

Sammi Jo’s face brightened when something dawned on her. She smiled although she could only coax out a scratch mark. “Are Isabel and you going to investigate his murder like you did for Megan and Jake? I’d be grateful if you’d consider doing it.”

The old spark excited Alma over the thrill of the snoop while also doing a good turn for their young friend. “Absolutely count us in. Isabel will be raring to go.”

“But you haven’t discussed it with her,” said Sammi Jo.

Alma waved off Sammi Jo’s trepidation. “Isabel and I are in lockstep, and we’re cool on pretty near everything.” Alma was exaggerating, but she threw aside any caution. “Wipe any worries from your mind. I’ll hold a powwow with sis when she returns with Petey Samson.”

“She sure is nuts about that dog,” said Sammi Jo. “Has she taught him how to play Scrabble?”

Alma was elated by Sammi Jo’s sense of humor glimmering through for the first time since she’d arrived. “Not so far, but never say never. I’ve entered the room when Isabel in her armchair is making goo-goo baby talk at Petey Samson lying in her lap where he barks and licks her face.”

Sammi Jo giggled. “I had no idea she has such a screwball side. She acts so prim and proper whenever I’m around her.”

“Every once in a blue moon, she’ll crack a joke, and it leaves me in stitches.”

“Good for her.” Sammi Jo stood up. “I should be going. Tell
Isabel I said hi.”

“She’ll be sorry she missed you
.” Alma thought Isabel should take along her cell phone when she left the house. “I’ll also get together with her and discuss this other matter. It’s a piece of cake, so don’t fret about it.”

“I know it’s a lot to ask of you, and I’m grateful.”

“It’s the least we can do.” Alma pondered the right approach to twist Isabel’s arm over the sisters putting back on their deerstalker hats. “Why don’t you come to dinner if you’re free later?”

“Thanks, I’d like that
.” Sammi Jo nodded as she rose. She was acting more like her normal moxie self.


Chapter 2

ay Burl was the last gentleman I ever knew to wear cashmere.” Alma glanced over at Isabel. “How about you?”

After lick
ing her thumb, Isabel flipped to the next page in the
Alaskan Outdoor
. The sisters occupied their favorite armchairs that expressed their individual tastes. Alma’s upholstery was an adventurous tartan plaid while Isabel was partial to the sedater lime green velveteen.

Cashmere is a bit too expensive for anybody else I know,” replied Isabel.

arched her ashy white eyebrows. “Is the detail he died in his cashmere dress suit a significant clue? It was his best suit.”

“How might you know
it was his best dress suit?” Isabel’s hazel eyes were piercing as she gazed up from the magazine.

shrugged. “Sammi Jo and I talked, and she told me all about him. It sort of flowed out once she got on a roll.”

“In other words, you pumped her
for information. Honestly, Alma. You might’ve given her half a chance to catch her breath.”

Anyway, you and I had better get cracking of we’re going to find the killer.” Alma spoke as if they were going to shop at the IGA.

At hearing that bombshell, Isabel scooted to the edge of her armchair, the
Alaskan Outdoor
sliding through her lap and landing on the floor. Her jaw dropped in disbelief. She refused to hook up her medieval hearing aid, so she hoped she had misunderstood Alma.

Please tell me I didn’t hear you just say we’re going after the killer,” said Isabel.

Nodding her head in the affirmative before Isabel
had finished speaking, Alma stuck to her convictions. “Absolutely it’s to be us. Who else would Sammi Jo depend on during a crisis like this?”

“Well, I might be
ranging out on a limb by saying this, but what about Sheriff Fox? It is his job, after all.”

peal of laughter was Alma’s response. “You know that’s a joke,” she said. “Sheriff Fox doesn’t have the right stuff to investigate and arrest a murderer.”

“And we do?” The incredulous
Isabel put up her flat hand as if stopping the traffic on Main Street in midtown Quiet Anchorage, Virginia, population 598, plus a slew of furry as well as a few scaly pets. “I’m not letting you drag us into this madcap fiasco. Not again, you won’t.”

puzzled expression lined Alma’s forehead. “But of course we’ll step up. Give me one good reason why the two of us shouldn’t.”

“Because I’m
just beginning to recover from the rigors of our last case,” replied Isabel. “We cracked it, for the most part, through dumb luck, and I’ll bet our personal library our dumb luck has petered out.”

unlimbered her big guns. “There’s another important point to be considered here.”

Don’t you dare bring that up, Alma. I forbid it.”

did anyway. “Sammi Jo is our dearest friend in town.”

Dreading how she stood on less
stable ground, Isabel said nothing.

ammi Jo asked me for our assistance,” said Alma. “How can we say no to her?”

Of course we can’t.” Isabel tilted her chin at Alma. “Checkmate, eh? You figure you’ve just cornered me into saying yes.”

This time
Alma said nothing, and Isabel thought Alma did her best to keep her triumphant smile at bay.

The next time I’d like to be consulted beforehand since I have a big stake in the matter,” said Isabel.

“You’d taken
Petey Samson out for his constitutional,” said Alma. “Sammi Jo acted like she wanted to get it off her chest. Was I supposed to ask her to cool her heels until you both traipsed back to the house?”

“We don’t go
that far, just the loop around the block.” Isabel elevated from the armchair. “It takes us six-and-a-half minutes. On the windier, colder days, we move with a little more urgency in our step, and it goes faster.”

She confided in me, and I shared it with you.” Alma also stood up. “We’re obligated to do whatever good we can do for her.”

of them said anything during the interval they used to process the magnitude of the new course they’d embarked on taking.

quit celebrating their birthdays and had been correcting the townies on the delicate issue of their respective ages. Each sister hovered at “seventy-something
.” In addition, Alma quickly noted Isabel was the
of the Trumbo siblings. She tolerated Alma’s insistence only because as the
elder sister, Isabel had the last say on the major decisions since age brought its wisdom.

Her calmer demeanor and deliberative approach served as an effective counterbalance to
Alma’s somewhat scrappy, opinionated nature. On the other hand, if anyone ran afoul of both Trumbo sisters, they’d better leave, or the fur would fly fast and furious. Sheriff Roscoe Fox could vouch for that from his experiences of tangling with them. He’d found himself in such a precarious crossfire during Jake Robbins’ murder case. After Sheriff Fox had arrested Jake’s fiancé and the sisters’ niece, Megan Connors, for Jake’s homicide, they had swung into action. They proved Megan’s innocence and beat Sheriff Fox.

defeat still smarted with him even if Megan had since moved to live in the same distant city as did the third and youngest Trumbo sister, Louise. Sheriff Fox gave Isabel and Alma a wide berth whenever they appeared within sight of each other in public. His furtive behavior tickled them, in particular Isabel who kept a quirky sense of humor bubbling away under her quiet reserve.

her eyes, she sighed. “The Trumbo Sisters Detective Agency has reopened its doors after I assumed we’d retired it.”

“Speak for yourself
.” Alma smiled at the sensational shamus memories she kept close. “Rooting out the right clues, eliminating the red herrings, and targeting in on the true solution all appeal to my taste for adventure.”

“It would.
Who’s going to help us if things turn hairy like, say, the murderer takes a vengeful mind to come after us?”

“Sammi Jo
is our muscle and brawn.”

noticeable shiver traveled through the length of Isabel’s slim frame. “This time even she might not be enough muscle and brawn for us.”

a hand behind her ear, Alma canted her head for a sharper listen. She tapped Isabel on the forearm. “Is that Petey Samson I hear scratching at the door? I believe he’s saying he’s set to take off on his next safari.”

Already? Good grief.” Isabel threw up her hands. “It seems like we just finished doing that.”

your grousing since it only takes you a speedy six-and-a-half minutes.”

“I fibbed by giving
you the low side of the estimate. We’re gone a bit longer, something along the lines of fifteen or twenty minutes. Petey Samson has to halt at each street sign and mailbox to—”

Right, I get the picture. Unless you were both running like antelopes, I knew it took you longer.”

Isabel laughed. “The last
time I ran anywhere like an antelope came when the smoke alarm shrilled out in the middle of the night. Max and I still resided on the boulevard.” She pronounced it as
. “We sprang up from bed to see what the matter was.”

“I remember
your telling me that story,” said Alma. “Master Cecil had tiptoed down to the basement to experiment with his new chemistry set. He played an apprentice wizard concocting a secret formula to drink and turn him invisible.”

He’d watched
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
and liked his chance at success. Afterward, the house reeked of rotten eggs for a week, and Max, as he always did, laughed it off. Boys will be boys was his philosophy.”

“Did you
confiscate Cecil’s new chemistry set?”

Indeed I did on the spot, though by then a new hobby had grabbed his fancy. Inventing a pair of tinfoil-and-bubblegum wings to leap and fly off the garage roof, if I’m not mistaken. But that’s another story for another time.”

Maybe he began sneaking smokes on the playground
around then,
thought Alma. She said, “Cecil was a devil like Max.”

And both devils, big and small, are now gone.” Isabel’s gaze drifted out the window. “You know what’s so untrue? Time doesn’t bind up and heal all wounds. It just never does because I miss them more than I ever did.”

Petey Samson is clawing down the door.” Alma tried to rescue Isabel from drowning in her pensive moment.

Isabel had recently added Petey to his name
because she thought two names, as in Petey Sampson, had more dignified ring. Alma also knew Petey was the name Max had given his first sedan, a melon bright sports coupé he tooled up in to court the young Isabel. Alma would never give her car a name except a bad one cursed on the mornings its cranky engine didn’t start up for her.

I can hear the pooch is hurting,” said Isabel. “We’re off again.”

“I’ll have your refilled glass of iced tea waiting for you
when you get back,” said Alma.

BOOK: Ed Lynskey - Isabel and Alma Trumbo 02 - The Cashmere Shroud
2.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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