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Authors: Traci Tyne Hilton

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BOOK: Good, Clean Murder
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Jane had managed to
get all of her clients cleaned despite the additional work that came with
cooking for Marjory and Jake. By the time Friday night class rolled around,
Jane felt tired, but satisfied. The fluorescent flickers and the aroma of dust
greeted her like an old friend. She had made it back to class again after the
most trying week of her life. However, try as she might, she still struggled to
pay attention to the whole lecture.

Three hours of
lecture was long at the best of times, but when trying to sort out the major
players in a suspicious death, plot a plan to retrieve her confiscated
belongings, and keep her face from blushing magenta every time she looked at
the tall, dark, and disarming lecturer, it was a Herculean event. And she
wasn’t Hercules.

Hercule Poirot,
perhaps, but not Hercules.

She had a list of
people she needed to talk to about Pam and Bob, and next to each name she had
noted what she knew of their psychology.

Since she had
grown up with Phoebe and Jake at their exclusive Christian prep school, they
were easy.

Jake: lazy,
self absorbed, emotionally stunted.
She scribbled possible motives onto her
paper next to his name, but they seemed foolish. Seize power of the company.
Scratch. If it had been a motive he certainly hadn’t exerted himself to do it.
Escape being sucked into the family company? That one seemed more likely, but
with Bob’s plans to shut the burger business down being public it seemed
unnecessary. What company was Jake at risk of being sucked in to? Unless she
came up with something better than the last one on the list, “Erratic behavior
indicates mental imbalance,” Jake was not her first suspect.

She considered
Phoebe. Despite being on campus at a university a mere two miles from her
parents’ home she hadn’t been seen since the deaths were reported. Well, Jane
had to admit, she herself hadn’t seen Phoebe, but Jake, Marjory, or any number
of their other family members may have. Under psychological notes Jane listed:
Determined, driven, hardworking. In general those were good qualities and only
applied, as far as Jane knew, to Phoebe’s soccer career. The notebook paper
line allocated for motive was blank. Why would Phoebe want her parents dead?
They were paying a pretty penny so she could play soccer for a team that had
recently won the national championship. One doesn’t hamstring one’s gravy
train, usually.

Marjory was a
different story. Marjory, Bob’s sister-in-law via her marriage to his deceased
brother, had grabbed the reins of the business that had funded her lifestyle
all these years. When William had passed away, his shares had gone to her. Or were
they shares? Is that what it was called? Jane had to admit that she didn’t know
what kind of financial stake Marjory had in Roly Burgers.

Financial stake.
Marjory wanted status quo…that’s what Jane had gleaned from the bits of
conversation that had fallen by the wayside. If she were financially dependent
on the burger business would she have been willing to kill to keep it running?

Or, by status quo,
did Marjory really mean they needed to continue Bob’s plan to shut it down?
Jane picked through her memories of overheard conversations.

Jane scribbled big
X’s across all of her notes. It didn’t matter. It wasn’t her business, and it
was distracting her from the real and present danger of not getting her lock-box
with her emergency credit card back from the apartment. Plus her futon, privacy
screen, side table, locally-sourced honey mustard, alarm clock, iPod, swimsuit,
Excedrin migraine, shower foof, the OED on CD Rom and Nave’s Topical Bible. She
stopped. Was that all she owned in the world besides the junk in her car and
the laundry that she had finally managed to wash? No, she also had the complete
works of L M Montgomery, a hummingbird feeder, a pair of Gucci sunglasses, her
Birkenstocks, and one pair of high heels. She ran her pencil down the list.
That looked exhaustive. And pathetic. But she had needed to keep her
possessions to a minimum. She did not need a bunch of first world baggage in
the 10/40 window.

She was still
staring at her list, bouncing her thoughts between facing down the bully
landlord and what could be keeping Phoebe from coming to the house when Sarah
sat on the desk.

“Earth to Jane.
You have a serious case of senior-itis.”

“How can I? This
place doesn’t have ‘seniors.’”

“It’s a great
mystery, but either way, our lecturer stares at you for hours at a time and you
ignore everything he says.”

Heat rose to
Jane’s cheeks. She looked up to see if he was anywhere near them.

“It’s okay, he
took a call in the hallway. What’s up with you two? The last two classes, you
two couldn’t keep your eyes off of each other and then tonight you hardly know
he’s alive.”

“Nothing’s ‘up.’
I’ve just got a lot on my mind right now.”

“What is so
important that you can’t make time for a hot guy like Mr. Daniels?”

Jane tried to
suppress a smile.
Mr. Daniels.
She called him Isaac, herself. “Did I not
tell you that I was evicted because my roommate stole my rent money instead of
paying it and now the landlord has all of my worldly possessions under lock and

“You are kidding!”

“I’m not. It is
pretty bad. I have a place to stay right now—as a housekeeper, but I’d kind of
like to get all of my stuff back, you know?”

“I can imagine, at

Jane laid her hand
over her suspect notes. “I admit though, the attractive lecturer has distracted
me from making any progress.”

Sarah’s eyes
popped open wide and her mouth made a little “o.” She shook her head in a tiny
motion. Jane’s heart dropped. It was that shocked-but-laughing look people get
when someone you are talking about is right behind you.

Jane raised an

Sarah looked over
her shoulder, but turned her head as though following someone with her eyes.
Then she let out a long breath. “He passed. I don’t think he heard you.”

“I’m probably a
really big idiot.” Jane picked up her pen and tapped it on her page of notes.

“No, I can assure
you, as an expert at seeing who digs who, however attractive you find Mr.
Daniels, he thinks the same, but double, about you.”

The smile snuck
back on Jane. Her heart did a little flip. She held the same opinion, after
their coffee earlier in the week, but they hadn’t been calling or texting or
any of the other things people do when they like each other, so she had begun
to think she was imagining it. Of course, they hadn’t exchanged phone numbers,
but that was a part of her disappointment.

Sarah stood up.
“Stay at your desk after everyone leaves. He always walks out of class
immediately after you do. This time, just don’t leave.”

Jane nodded.

The rowdy
students, hopped up on coffee from the cart in the lounge, seemed like they’d
never leave at the end of lecture. Isaac had been in the middle of a lively
conversation with several of them. It didn’t seem to Jane that he had noticed
her waiting. While she debated on paper whether to call her parents over the
weekend, when she knew they’d be back from the cruise, Isaac and the students
she thought of as “kids” argued over the L in John Calvin’s TULIP. As far as
Jane was concerned John 3:16 said
God so loved the world
so there
couldn’t be any limit to his atonement. She was glad to hear that was the side
Isaac took as well.

“You just believe
what your seminary taught you,” an eighteen-year-old Calvinist called Duncan
said. He thumped his Bible with his knuckles. “If you took the Bible literally
the way you claim you do, you couldn’t deny that Christ’s atonement isn’t for
everyone. Jeesh, all you have to do is look around and see that not everyone is

“You are confusing
your L and your U, Duncan. Not everyone is saved because not everyone is

“You’re both just
rebelling against your parents. It’s dangerous and stupid.” Sarah flailed her
hands while she spoke. “We all grew up together at Fair Havens Baptist and you
know you don’t really believe this Tulip nonsense.”

“Be careful,”
Isaac said. “Just because we don’t subscribe to it, doesn’t mean it is

“But it is
dangerous and foolish. What’s the point of missions if everyone who is going to
get saved will get saved and can’t escape it anyway?”

“Thank you, William
Carey. There is more to salvation than that.”

“Of course there
is. That’s my point!” Sarah face-palmed.

Jane rested her
head in her hands. Free time. That was the problem with the live-in students.
They had too much free time. If they had some real work to do they wouldn’t
have time to waste arguing about election and all of that. She could wait three
more minutes. If they weren’t done arguing in three minutes she’d have to
leave, no matter how much she wanted a few moments alone with Isaac.

They didn’t stop.
At one moment Jane thought she caught Isaac glancing her way, but he didn’t
extricate himself from the group.

Jane packed up her
small computer and her notebooks. She left without looking behind her.

As Jane turned
into the Crawfords’ driveway her phone rang.

“I hope you don’t
mind. I got your number from the class list.”

Jane’s heart
raced. “I don’t.” She felt like her heart was going to break out of her chest.

“It’s been a
while…I was just wondering how you are doing.”

“Okay…hanging in
there. Um…when I got home after coffee I found out I had been evicted.” Jane
unbuckled, but stayed in her car.

“What? Are you
kidding? I’m so sorry I didn’t follow you home. I should have followed you. It
was so late. What did you do?”

“I’m okay. It is
okay. It might have been weird if you had followed me home.” Jane couldn’t
suppress the smile. Maybe, just maybe, he was interested.

“Yeah, that’s what
I thought at the time.”

“You were right.”
Jane drummed the steering wheel with her fingers.

“Do you have a
place to stay? You must since it’s been days, but do you need any help with

“I hate drama. I’m
sorry if this seems like a lot of drama. Drama is totally not my thing.” In
fact, Jane thought, she might die if he thought this was normal life for her.

“I can imagine.”

“So, my roommate
stole my half of the rent for what seems to have been several months, and
that’s why we were evicted, but the landlord has all my stuff locked up,
something about selling it to make up for back rent. Is that right? Can he do

“You should talk
to a lawyer, Jane. Do you want to? I can connect you with my dad.”

“I really can’t
afford a lawyer.” Her envelope full of cash that had represented hope didn’t
have enough to pay a lawyer’s consultation, much less any real help.

“No problem, just
meet my dad for coffee or something. Let him talk you through it just once.”

“But would he do
that? For free?” Jane tapped her toes in rhythm with her drumming fingers. She
couldn’t have been more excited if he had actually shown up at the house. She
dearly wanted to turn the conversation away from her predicament.

“He’d help a
friend of mine, sure.”

Jane bit her lip.
She’d only known this guy for a few days, but so far absolutely everything
about him was wonderful.

“Let me talk to
him and then I’ll give you his number, okay?”

“Thank you so
much, Isaac.”

“I know you are
pretty busy but I was wondering if you were free for dinner next Saturday?”

Jane closed her
eyes and pictured her schedule. The date of the funeral was still unannounced.
Unless that changed, she was still free. “Sure, I’m free,” she said.

“Great. Dinner
then? Can I pick you up?”

Jane looked up at
the Crawfords’ brick mansion. “Let’s just meet this time.”

Isaac didn’t
answer for a moment. “Oh. Okay.”

“Just because I’m
staying with clients. I don’t know if housekeepers get to go on dates, you

“Ah! Okay then.
Can you meet me at Hudson Station at seven?”

“I’d love to. See
you then.” She hadn’t meant to end the call, but the “see you then” and the
awkwardness of arranging a first date took the wind out of the conversation.

“See you then,”
Isaac repeated, and ended the call.

Hudson Station.
That was a nice restaurant. She’d been there with her parents before. This was
a real date. Not just a quick coffee or hanging out to talk about her drama.
Too bad she didn’t have anything to wear.

Jane was shivery with
excitement on her drive down to the Mini-Missions Fair. She felt like she had
some kind of a handle on how God was using her in the life of the Crawfords,
but cleaning up for local families wasn’t her destiny. Cross-Cultural
Evangelism was.

Last year she had
felt a strong connection with the Village Friends. She wasn’t a Quaker, but
after research and prayer she felt like she could sign their statement of faith
with an honest heart. The work they did with women in the 10/40 window made her
heart flutter. She could picture herself settled into village life, learning
from the women and sharing with them. The representative last year had been encouraging
as well. She and Jane had hit it off. They had even exchanged emails on and off
over the last year. Jane planned on hitting up the Village Friends booth first
thing to reconnect and even, maybe, begin the application process.

Of course, Jane reminded
herself, there were many great organizations to work with. She’d have to attend
the fair with an open mind and heart, listening to God’s call. She just hoped,
and prayed, that His call would involve Village Friends.

The missionaries’
cars filled the back parking lot at the Harvest campus. Jane tingled with
excitement. Today looked to be a day of unalloyed pleasure.

She parked in
front of the dorms and headed to the old sanitarium building. Like last year,
the organization booths were arranged around the perimeter and down the middle
of the dining hall. The keynote speaker would be using the chapel/classroom and
the library and boys’ and girls’ community rooms in the dorms would host the
break-out sessions.

The dining hall
was packed tight with booths, tables, tri-folds, even video projectors.
Missions recruiting seemed to have taken a high tech turn since the year
before. The aroma of stale cafeteria food had been replaced by the smell of
thousands of freshly printed pamphlets and excited kids. The room was bright,
hot, and loud.

There looked to be
about twenty-five tables and a missionary for every student. Weaving her way
through the bustle wasn’t easy, but it was fun. Jane kept her eye open for the
Village Friends logo but it wasn’t one of the first booths.

She tried to ease
her way past the Youth Mission Adventures table, but her bag snagged on
something. She turned to see the strap of her bag firmly in the hand of Amelia
Long, her closest friend from last year’s class at Harvest. “Amelia!” Jane dove
to hug her. “When did you get home?”

“We made it in
last Tuesday. Just in time for the Harvest Fair. I begged them to let me come
rep here.” Amelia squeezed Jane. “You’re almost done, right? Are you ready to
fill out your apps? I’ve been dying to have you on the field with me.”

“Amelia—you know
I’m not joining YMA. I’ve got my sights set on something long term.” Jane
tilted her head away from Amelia, in search of the familiar brown logo.

“This is such
great experience, though, Jane, I don’t think you should dismiss it. So many of
our staff move on to long-term missions after they serve with us. I think you
would really benefit from a term with YMA.” Amelia grabbed a handful of
pamphlets and shoved them at Jane. “Just reconsider it? If you join the Uruguay
Station we could serve together!”

Jane took the
pamphlets. “I’ll pray about it. How does that sound? I promised myself I’d keep
a completely open mind despite what my personal longing is.”

“Thank you. Thank
you, thank you!” Amelia threw her arms around Jane again and squeezed her.
“We’ve got break-out sessions in the dorm lounges this year. Make sure you come
to mine. I’m sure you won’t say no after you hear us share.”

Jane nodded. She
had already dismissed the conversation in her mind. Her year of hanging out
with Amelia and dreaming together about missions work seemed so long ago.

Jane moved on from
the Youth Mission Adventures table. She had spotted Village Friends around the
corner. A knot of students encircled one of the representatives, but there was
also an older woman sitting at the table, doing some kind of handwork. Jane
pushed through the crowd.

“Good morning,”
Jane said.

“Ah, good morning,
my dear.”

“What is that you
are making?” Jane spoke with a quiet reverence. The woman in front of her looked
to be in her early seventies. She wore some kind of tribal dress that looked
hand-embroidered. As she worked on a piece of her own embroidery, her hands
shook. “This is suzani, a traditional Kirghiz embroidery.”

The unbleached
fabric was covered with soft cotton thread in vibrant primary colors. The hook
looked like a crochet hook, but was sharper, and seemed to work like a regular

“This is the
tambour,” the missionary said, directing Jane’s eyes to the hoop. “And this is
the suzan, or needle. It’s rather different than your needles at home, isn’t

“Yes.” Jane
watched as the missionary pierced the taut fabric with her needle.

“This is what I
spent many, many years doing with the women of Chong-Tesh. Mothers and
daughters work the suzani together, and share wisdom. We find that letting the
women of the village teach us their work is the best way for us to share our
savior with them.”

“I’m Jane, a
friend of Sandra Obwey.” Jane stuck out her hand. She was too excited to keep
talking about the suzani. She wanted to skip right to the paperwork.

The missionary set
down her tambour. She took Jane’s hand in her own thin, warm hand. “Lovely to
meet you. I am Margaret Stowe, but you may call me Macha, my Kyrgy name for the
last forty years.”

“Wonderful to meet
you, Macha. I’m really excited about graduating Harvest this year. Sandra and I
connected last year and I’ve been interested in partnering with Village
Friends.” Jane scanned the table. Intricate handiwork covered the whole table.
There wasn’t a flier or leaflet in sight.

“Sandra and I
really connected. I was hoping to get more information today. Maybe an

“Please, take a
seat.” Macha indicated a folding chair at the corner of the table. “Do you sew,

“Not yet.” Jane’s
cheeks were beginning to hurt from her smile. Patience. She needed to be
patient with Macha.

“It would be a
good idea to learn as much about sewing as you can. I don’t know where God is
planning to send you, but all of the work we do with women centers on sewing. You
should also know quite a bit about cooking.”

“Oh, I do. I’ve
been living on my own for two years.” Jane bit her lip. It sounded true before
it came out, but as soon as she said it her life of ramen noodles and frozen
pizza flashed before her. That, she was sure, was not what Macha meant by
cooking. “At least, I should say, I’ve got a start. I’m learning.”

“That’s very good.
Young ladies do so much better with us if they have spent some time keeping
their own homes. We find that women with a family connect much more deeply with
the women we serve than single women do. In the 10/40 window marriages tend to
be arranged and being a single woman is unusual.”

Jane nodded. She
hoped Macha wasn’t saying what it sounded like she was saying.

“When I began my
years of service, single women went into the mission field. We went all over
the world. I began as a nurse you see, so I had something to offer the women.”
Macha stitched as she talked. Her voice had the slow, sing-songy rhythm of
reminiscence. “We could still use nurses. Nurses are welcome everywhere. But we
have found, through the years, that standing out makes connecting at the heart
level more difficult.”

Jane nodded. More
difficult to be single. Nurses welcome. She plastered the smile back on her
face. She was going to keep an open mind. She wasn’t going to crumble at the
first roadblock. Village Friends had sounded like the right place for her, but
it wasn’t the only place.

“What do you do,

“I’m a
housecleaner.” Jane licked her lips. She was hard worker, doing a humble
job—wasn’t that somewhere near the heart of missions?

“What do you want
to do?”

“Well, I want to
be a missionary, Macha. I want to go overseas and spread the gospel.”

“That’s good,
since you are at a missions fair, but what do you want to do on the missions
field? How do you want to serve?” Macha’s eyes never left Jane’s face.

“When I started
school, I didn’t know about tent-making missions, but I’ve only got this one
term left and I’m ready to go. I thought if I wasn’t a tentmaker, it would be
okay. I want to do what you do.” Jane bit her lip.

“Are you married?”

“No.” Jane dropped
her eyes to her hands.

“What I do works
so much better if you are married, but Village Friends isn’t the only
organization, my dear. Why don’t you look around the fair a little? You might
find a good fit.” Macha turned her eyes back to her needlework.

“Thank you for
your time, Macha.”

“You might also
consider continuing your education. Perhaps you could go to nursing school.”

“Thank you.” Jane
stood up quickly and turned away. Sandra Obwey hadn’t mentioned that she needed
to be married, or a nurse. Maybe Macha was wrong. Jane tried to make sense of
the milling students and missionaries. Macha might be wrong, but her heart told
her not to make a snap decision. God hadn’t called her to be a nurse, but that
didn’t mean he wasn’t going to.

The milling crowd
overwhelmed Jane. She needed to get a breath of fresh air and a moment of
quiet. She grabbed a schedule as she passed a student handing them out. Jane
found a quiet seat on the front steps to read it, but before she did, she
closed her eyes and prayed silently.
Dear Lord, give me the heart of a
servant, and a heart to follow your lead. I’m scared that I’m going to make a
mistake, Lord. I just want to serve you, however you have planned.
She sat
with her eyes closed for several moments, listening to the calm quiet, and
being still before God.

She opened her
eyes again, but stared into the distance at the views of the farmland around
The harvest is ready. Pray for the workers.
This was what she had
always been taught, what she believed, and what she had dreamed of. She did not
dream of cleaning toilets, frying bacon, and solving murders. She was certain
that the Crawfords were the trial of the moment, not her future life’s work.
But what
her future life’s work?

Jane spotted Isaac
leaving the Chapel. He had a spring in his step. When he spotted Jane he loped
across the gravel parking lot. “Hey there!”

He took a seat on
the step next to Jane. “I just got here. This looks like a pretty good fair.”

Jane frowned.

“What’s wrong?”

“Sorry. It’s
nothing.” Jane set the schedule across her knee so they could both look at it.

“Trouble at home?”

“No, nothing like
that.” Jane pointed at the Youth Mission Adventures session on the schedule.
“My friend Amelia is speaking. I might go listen to her.”

“Pause. Don’t move
on yet. I really do want to know what’s bothering you. I would have thought the
Next Steps Fair would put a smile on your face, if nothing else would.”

Jane chewed on her
bottom lip. “It’s nothing really. I am keeping an open mind and trying to
listen to God’s will.”

“But you got
disappointing news inside?” Isaac leaned away from Jane so he could make better
eye contact.

“Yeah, kind of.”

“What kind of

“It’s just that I
really like one organization, but they kind of want married women, or like,
nurses. I feel…unprepared.”

“If you need to be
married, I’m glad you’re unprepared.” Isaac’s face broke into a big smile.
“Let’s go in and find a different organization. One that knows what you have to
offer.” He grabbed her hand and stood up.

She stayed seated,
but her heart felt a little lighter. “I just need to figure out what it is I
have to offer first.”

Isaac tugged her
arm. She stood up and smiled. He put his arm over her shoulder. “I’ll do what I
can to help. You have a good head on your shoulders. You’re a hard worker. You
make people smile just by walking into a room.”

Jane felt her
cheeks heat up. “All admirable qualities, but useful overseas?”

“You know your
scripture. You care about people who are hurting.”

“That’s a little
more tangible.” Jane’s heart was in her throat. She walked into the
Mini-Missions fest with Isaac—
Mr. Daniels’
—arm around her shoulders.
What would the other students think? What did she think?

“How about ELIC?”
Isaac asked, stopping at the first booth.

“That’s short
term.” Jane led him away.


“Also short term.”

“Have you
considered the Evangelism Fleet?” Isaac grabbed a glossy pamphlet from the
table with a cruise ship model.

BOOK: Good, Clean Murder
9.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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