Authors: Elizabeth Bright
Tags: #General, #Fiction, #American Mystery & Suspense Fiction, #Mystery fiction, #Suspense, #Mystery & Detective, #Detective, #Mystery, #Fiction - Mystery, #Mystery & Detective - General, #Greeting cards, #Virginia, #Large type books, #Businesspeople, #Small Business
MURDER AND SALUTATIONS
By Tim Myers
writing as Elizabeth Bright
Book 3 in the Cardmaking Mystery Series
Praise for the Cardmaking Mysteries written by Tim Myers as Elizabeth Bright
Independent-minded sleuth Jennifer Shane tracks a murderer, crafts cards, and resists her overprotective family with panache and good humor.”
--Carolyn Hart, Award winning author of Death of the Party
Elizabeth Bright shines in this crafty new series.”
Nancy Martin, author of the Blackbird Sisters Mysteries
Elizabeth Bright writes an engaging and fast read and incorporates interesting information about card making while solving the murders.”
Praise for the Candlemaking Mystery series by Tim Myers
Excellent storytelling that makes for a good reading experience…Myers is a talented writer who deserves to hit the bestseller lists.”
---The Best Reviews
A sure winner.”
---Carolyn Hart, author of the Death on Demand series
An interesting mystery, a large cast of characters, and an engaging amateur sleuth make this series a winner.”
---The Romance Reader’s Connection four daggers
A smashing, successful debut.”
---Midwest Book Review
The Lighthouse Inn Mysteries by Tim Myers
Innkeeping With Murder
Reservations For Murder
Murder Checks Inn
Room For Murder
Booked For Murder
The Candlemaking Mysteries by Tim Myers
At Wick’s End
Death Waxed Over
A Flicker Of Doubt
The Soapmaking Mysteries by Tim Myers
Dead Men Don’t Lye
A Pour Way To Dye
A Mold For Murder
The Cardmaking Mysteries by Tim Myers written as Elizabeth Bright
Invitation To Murder
Murder And Salutations
Murder and Salutations
by Tim Myers
writing as Elizabeth Bright
Copyright © 2006 Elizabeth Bright (Tim Myers)
All rights reserved.
Smashwords Edition, License Notes
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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For Eliza Glade’s entire life, she somehow always managed to steal the spotlight from my sister and me, and wouldn’t you know it, she kept her record perfect, even in death.
You look absolutely radiant,” I told my aunt Lillian, who was elegantly dressed in a formal evening gown. She’s more than my aunt, though—Lillian is also my only employee at Custom Card Creations. My name’s Jennifer Shane, and I own the shop of my dreams, a little handcrafted-card store tucked away on one end of Oakmont Avenue in the heart of Rebel Forge, Virginia. It’s a place where customers can select one of our own handmade cards, or buy the materials to make one themselves.
After Lillian and I had worked at the store all day, we’d changed into more formal attire, and now we were ready to attend the Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards banquet. The organization had held the ritual religiously for the past sixty-seven years, but it was the first time I’d been eligible to attend. The dinner was slated for Hurley’s Pub, an easy walk from the store and a place I’d been many times.
Lillian was wearing an evening gown made of a pastel material that was so sheer, it was nearly translucent. The emerald green tint of the dress complemented her richly dyed henna hair, and I’d never felt so dowdy in my thirty-something years of life. While my aunt was petite and graceful, I tended to feel big-boned and gawky, and it was never so obvious than when we were both dressed up.
You look lovely as well,” Lillian said. After casting a critical glance at my simple gray dress, she added, “Though I do wish you’d let me treat you to a new outfit sometime.” Lillian paused, then added enthusiastically, “I’ve got a wonderful idea, Jennifer. Why don’t we go to Richmond in the morning, shop all day, and then eat somewhere delightful tomorrow night? I know the most charming place we could stay, and we’d be back in time for lunch the next day. What do you say? I’d be delighted to treat.” With several ex- husbands and a shrewd mind for investing, Lillian could easily afford the gracious gesture. She worked at my shop for materials and instruction in lieu of a salary, and to my delight, my aunt had grown to love making cards nearly as much as I did.
I’m tempted to take you up on it sometime, but I you know I can’t afford to close the card shop that long.”
She waved a hand in the air, dismissing my protest. “Yes, I know how thoroughly wed you are to your business. Speaking of marriage, I’m still not certain you should have invited me to this banquet as your guest. Surely you could have found a suitable young man to escort you.”
I wasn’t about to have that conversation with her again. I hugged my aunt and said, “We both know that I probably wouldn’t still be in business without your help. There’s no way I could have asked anyone else tonight.”
She raised an eyebrow in consternation. My aunt had perfected the look from a great deal of practice over the years. “At least promise me you’ll find some time to chat with the eligible young men there. Will Greg be attending?”
Greg Langston was my two-time former fiancé, but never my husband. He ran a pottery shop a few doors down from Custom Card Creations, and we were just starting to manage the awkwardness inherent in our proximity. Lillian had a dream that we’d make the third time a charm someday, and I was getting tired of trying to rid her of her delusions. “I suspect so, but I really don’t know. We quit coordinating our social calendars a long time ago.”
There must have been something in my voice that told her I was through talking about it. “Shall we go, then?”
Just let me lock up and I’ll be ready.”
As I secured the last dead bolt on the shop’s front door, I heard my sister’s voice calling me from up the street. “Jennifer, wait for me.”
Sara Lynn had been cut from the same cloth as my lovely aunt; they were the only two petite people in our family. She ran Forever Memories, a scrapbooking shop, but that had inadvertently led me to custom card-making. I’d been her employee there not so long ago, and when Sara Lynn had rejected my idea of a cardmaking corner, I’d gone out on my own to prove there was a market for handcrafted cards in our resort community. Our brother, Bradford, was the sheriff for your Rebel Forge, though at times it seemed his main duty was keeping our family together.
You look award-winning,” I said, appreciating the effort my sister had gone to. Sara Lynn normally eschewed makeup and fancy formal wear, but she was now skillfully enhanced, from her brand-new hairdo coif all the way down to her expensive pumps.
It’s nonsense, and we all know it,” Sara Lynn said. It was rumored around town that Sara Lynn was slated to receive the Rebel Forge Businessperson of the Year award, something that she’d yet to receive in all her years as a small businesswoman. The reason for the slight was obvious: there was bad blood between my sister and Eliza Glade, the woman who ran the chamber—along with her businesses—with a velvet fist. However, it appeared that it was finally going to be Sara Lynn’s turn, and she was long past due, in my opinion.
I looked behind her and asked, “Hey, where’s Bailey?” Sara Lynn and her husband had been having marital troubles for months, but I had expected him at least to show up for his wife’s crowning triumph. The Bippy—as we affectionately called the award— was the Oscar, the Emmy, and the Obie combined for the folks who ran businesses in Rebel Forge, and I knew that, despite her protests to the contrary, Sara Lynn had a place ready in the display behind her checkout counter for the small golden anvil award.
He’s not coming,” Sara Lynn snapped. From the tone of her voice, it was pretty obvious she was finished with that particular conversation.
Not that Lillian was going to accept the dismissal. “When are you going to kick him to the curb like he deserves?”
I was shocked by the harshness of my aunt’s comment. “Lillian, that’s out of line, even for you.”
Our aunt was prepared to protest, when Sara Lynn put a hand on my arm. “She’s right, Jennifer.” She took a deep breath, let it out slowly, then said, “You’ll hear about this sooner or later, so it might as well be from me. Bailey and I have decided to split up.”
I couldn’t believe it. They’d been married forever, and while I knew they’d had their share of problems, I never imagined it would come to this. “Sara Lynn, it will all work out. I just know you two are meant to be together.”
She touched my shoulder lightly. “Thank you, Jennifer, but I don’t think so.”
Lillian nodded her obvious approval. “You had every right to toss him out after what he did.”
What happened?” I asked. “Is there something I don’t know about?”
Sara Lynn frowned. “If you haven’t heard the rumors yet, you will tonight. Bailey and I are completely and utterly finished. I could have probably forgiven him having an affair—I know he’s just human—but I will never be able to get the image out of my mind of him in Eliza Glade’s embrace.”
I was shocked by the admission, but Lillian just nodded and said, “We’re both here for you. You know that, don’t you?”
I finally managed to find my voice. “Are you positive you want to go to the banquet tonight? Eliza’s to going to be making the presentation.” I couldn’t imagine my sister onstage with her worst enemy in the world. I turned to our aunt and asked, “Lillian, does your offer of a shopping trip to Richmond still stand? Let’s go right now. What do you say, Sara Lynn? We’ll have a blast.”
That’s an excellent idea,” Lillian said. “The three Shane women loose in the capital city. Let’s do it.” Sara Lynn stood her ground, though. “I won’t let that woman deprive me of this evening. I did nothing wrong, and I won’t scuttle away to a corner and hide. Now, are you two coming or not? There’s a banquet I’m determined to attend.”
Behind her back, Lillian looked questioningly at me, and I nodded to signal my acceptance. If Sara Lynn still wanted to go, then I would be right there beside her.
Let’s go,” I said with as much enthusiasm as I could muster.
As we walked to Hurley’s Pub, the three of us chatted about the weather, the mutual states of our businesses, and just about everything but Sara Lynn’s husband and his new paramour. I thought of myself as a strong woman, but I couldn’t touch my sister’s grit and determination. She was right, of course. The best way to handle the gossip and the scandal in our small town was to face it head-on. That had always been her approach to life, and I’d constantly done my best to emulate her behavior, with varying degrees of success over the years.
Hurley’s was closed to the public for the night, and the second we walked in, I could see why. Jack Hurley had opened up the dividers between the dining areas, making his restaurant one big open space. There was a temporary stage set up in front, with a pair of tables split by a podium. Several people were mingling around the room, sharing drinks and quips. Was it my imagination, or was there a momentary hush when everyone realized that Sara Lynn was there? I looked over at my sister, her head held proud and her gaze unflinching, and I couldn’t remember ever being prouder of her than I was at that moment. In less than a second, the crowd went back to their drinks and previous conversations, and I squeezed Sara Lynn’s hand. “You are probably the bravest woman I know.”
She shook her head briefly, and I could see that she was trying her best not to show any emotion at all. “Nonsense. I have every right to be here.” As she spoke, I saw someone approaching us out of the corner of my eye. The relief I’d felt in seeing someone join us dissipated in an instant when I realized who it was.
Eliza Glade was heading our way, and it wasn’t my imagination this time. The room was as quiet as a soft kiss; everyone was holding their breath. Eliza wore a red dress that showed just a little bit too much of her voluptuous figure for a Chamber of Commerce dinner. Her blond hair had been teased and sprayed, and her makeup was more than just a smidge overdone. Truthfully, she looked as though she would have been more at home in a Las Vegas lounge than in Rebel Forge.
Before Eliza could reach my sister, Lillian disengaged from us and headed straight for the woman, effectively cutting her off from us. They shared a few whispered comments, then Lillian said something that rocked Eliza in her tracks. Her face reddened as if she’d been slapped, and I saw her back quickly away.
When Lillian rejoined us, there was a look of smug satisfaction on her face.
Sara Lynn said, “I don’t need you to fight my battles for me. I’m perfectly capable of handling that woman myself.”
Lillian just laughed. “What, and let you have all the fun? That’s hardly fair.”
What did you say to her?” I asked. “You must have really spanked her hard.”
Me?” Lillian asked, her tone as innocent as she could summon. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Sara Lynn said, “Let’s find our table, shall we? I don’t relish having this crowd stare at me just standing here.”
Lillian took her arm. “That’s a capital idea. Let’s see where the shrew has seated us.”
We found our table, nearly concealed in a niche in back behind one of the few posts blocking the view of the stage. I was about to complain when I noticed that our tablemates were already there. It appeared that Sara Lynn, Lillian and I weren’t the only Rebel Forge residents on Eliza’s defecation roster. Savannah and Pete Jones, owners of The Lunch Box—a place where Lillian and I often ate—were already there.
Hi, all,” I said. “Where’s Charlie?”
Charlie was their teenaged daughter and part-time waitress.
Savannah said, “She’s off with some boy, if you can imagine that. I told that girl she has to stay focused if she wants to be a doctor, but does she listen to me?”
Pete, usually a man of few words, surprised us all by saying, “Savannah, the girl’s got a right to a life of her own.”
I’m not trying to tell her what to do,” Savannah said sharply, then noticed Lillian’s grin. “What are you smiling about?”
The two of them had been friends from the cradle, and they weren’t afraid to speak plainly to each other. Lillian said, “Your husband doesn’t say much, but when he does talk, it might be a good idea to listen to him.”
Savannah’s features clouded up, but Lillian’s smile never changed. After a long seven seconds, Savannah reluctantly laughed, and the rest of us joined in. “You might just have a point,” she added, then looked at her husband. “Don’t think you won this argument?” she said.
No, ma’am,” Pete said, the smile still broad on his face.
Savannah said, “Now how in the world are they going to ever serve us if you three don’t sit down? I don’t get to eat out much, and I’m eager to try some of Jack Hurley’s fare.”
We sat with them at the table, and I looked down at the place settings. Besides the knife, spoon and two forks, there was a pewter letter opener with an anvil at the end of the handle.
How lovely,” I said as I picked mine up and felt the solid heft of it.
Savannah smiled. “I’ll say this for the award committee, they always have nice souvenirs. Sara Lynn, is that your husband over there trying to get your attention?”
We all turned to see Bailey waving frantically at my sister.
Lillian started to get up, but Sara Lynn beat her to it. “You sit tight. I’ll take care of him. This is one battle I’ll fight myself.”