Murder in a Basket (An India Hayes Mystery)

BOOK: Murder in a Basket (An India Hayes Mystery)
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Murder in a Basket

An
India Hayes Mystery

Amanda Flower

Praise for
Murder in a Basket

 

“...this humorous cozy moves at a steady clip, throwing in a monkey wrench of two to put readers off-track. Agatha Award nominee Flower has the chops to make this series last.” -
Library Journal

“Fans of Donna Andrews’ humorous Meg Langslow mysteries will enjoy India and her quirky extended family.” –
Booklist

“In Flower’s delightful, clean-as-a-whistle second India Hayes mystery, India, the librarian at Ohio's Martin College, intends to retrieve the items she left in her face-painting booth at the founders’ festival, but discovers more than she bargained for... The satisfying conclusion will leave cozy fans eager for India's next adventure.”-
Publishers Weekly
*

 

Murder in a Basket

An India Hayes Mystery

 

By Amanda Flower

 

Published in print
2012 by Five Star Publishing/Gale, Cengage Learning in conjunction with Tekno Books and Ed Gorman.

 

Published for Kindle by Amanda Flower

 

Murder in a Basket

Copyright 201
2 by Amanda Flower

All rights reserved.

 

Kindle
Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your person enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, o
r it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you respecting the hard work of this author.

Dedication

For the congregation of

Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church

and

in loving memory of

my father
, Thomas Flower

Acknowledgments

Laughter to all the readers who embraced my first novel,
Maid of Murder
. I hope you find this mystery just as amusing.

Thank you to all the librarians who selected
Maid of Murder
for their collections. Knowing my mysteries reach readers through libraries means more to me than you will ever know.

Special thanks to Rosalind Greenberg of Tekno Books and Tiffany Schofield of Five Star for their continued support of
India and me and to my editor Alice Duncan for her assistance on this manuscript.

Thanks to my first reader Mariellyn Dunlap for her keen eye and to my critique partner Melody Steiner for
her insightful comments that made this a better book.

G
ratitude to Sara Smith, web mistress and friend.

Hug
s to PGF and RTF who are constant sources of inspiration.

Blessing
s to the members of Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church for their love and support.

Love
to my mother, Rev. Pamela Flower. God couldn’t have given me a better mom or friend.

Finally, to my
Heavenly Father, thank you.

Chapter One

Late autumn is the best time to be on a college campus. By October, the freshmen—for the most part—know which end is up and don’t have the deer-in—
the-headlights look that haunts them throughout September. The students still appear happy to be back in school, the clean smell of new textbooks still lingers in the air, and the promise of extended Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays is on the horizon.

However, that October I wasn’t feeling quite as optimistic about being on a college campus as I adjusted my mobcap on the top of my head. I stood in front of the small wall mirror in the tiny third floor office I shared with Bobby McNally, my fellow
Martin College reference librarian and best friend. Sometimes I wondered how he’d earned either title.

The door opened and Bobby stepped inside. He appraised me with a smirk on his handsome face. His irritatingly blue eyes slid down my body from the white mobcap on my head, across the pink gingham dress and apron, to the black granny boots on my feet. His grin was so large I feared he might dislocate his jaw.

“Don’t say a word,” I muttered through gritted teeth. I snapped a fanny pack, which I would use as a money belt, around my waist with an angry click.


Your groupie is downstairs looking for you.” Bobby walked over to his desk and turned on his laptop. Our nineteen-seventy issue metal desks stood face to face, creating one monster cube of beige metal and gray plastic laminate. I noticed his files were encroaching on my side . . . again.


Didn’t you tell him I was running a booth at the Founders’ Festival? I’m already late, and Carmen is going to have my head.” In a momentary lapse in judgment, I’d agreed to run the face-painting booth in the Stripling Founders’ Festival, which celebrates the settling of our fair town. This year, for the first time, the festival would be held on the Martin College campus. It was quite a coup to have the festival on college grounds. My sister, Carmen, was the chair of the Founders’ Festival Committee because Carmen viewed volunteering as a duty and a full-contact sport. Compared to my parents, however, who have volunteered and marched for every movement that would make flower children proud, Carmen was a minor leaguer. I, on the other hand, tried to avoid volunteering as much as possible.


I thought you would want to tell him yourself,” Bobby said.

I rolled my eyes as I opened the office door. I looked left and right. The hallway was deserted.

“Afraid of something?” Bobby’s voice was in my ear, causing me to jump.


No,” I said a little too quickly.


He’s at the reference desk. You can go down the service elevator, and he’ll never see you.”

I gnawed on my lip.
“Is that safe?” The service elevator was a glorified dumbwaiter and at least seventy years old, the same age as the library. It was tiny in comparison to the one the library installed in the 1980s to come up to code. We used it to send carts of books between the building’s floors. It was just big enough for one book cart or one librarian.


You can’t weigh much more than a cart of law books. You’ll be fine.”

I wasn’t sure how to take that. Law books were mighty heavy.

Bobby marched me down the hallway to the elevator. He pressed the button and the tired machine creaked up from the basement. When the elevator at last reached the third floor, Bobby opened the wooden trifold door. The space was cramped. I would have to crouch during the ride.

My courage waned.
“Didn’t we forbid the students from doing this because it wasn’t safe?”


You are not a student. Martin doesn’t see you as being that valuable.”


Gee, thanks.”

He gave me a little shove.
“Get in.” He looked me in the eye. “Or you can go down the stairs and come face to face with your buddy.”

I hopped into the elevator.

Bobby shut the door. “See you on the other side.”

I wondered what other side he meant exactly. I hoped he wasn’t referring to the afterlife.

The inside of the service elevator was dimly lit. The ceiling was only five feet high, so I had to stoop my five-nine frame to fit. The elevator smelled faintly of book mold and dust. Both smells I was accustomed to in my profession. At each floor, the ropes and pulleys jerked slightly as if they planned to stop, and I banged my mobcap on the ceiling with each pause in the descent. Through the slats in the door, I could see the passage of floors. At last, the elevator jerked to a complete stop. On the other side of the door was the library’s workroom, the private domain of our cataloger, Jefferson Island.

Jefferson
blinked when I popped out of the service elevator. I waved before escaping out of the staff-only exit.

Outside it was one of those rare blue-sky days, the kind that almost make me forget I live in northeastern
Ohio, where there are only two seasons: winter and construction. A handful of puffy cumulus clouds bobbed in the periwinkle sky. It made me want to lie down on the grass and pick shapes out of the clouds like I did as a child. I allowed myself a quick peek and spotted a lion. The air was crisp; an icy reminder that Old Man Winter wasn’t too far behind those lion-shaped clouds. I pulled my shawl more closely around my shoulders and put my head down.

I received strange looks from students as I scurried across campus, so I pulled my mobcap further down, hoping to hide my face. I scolded myself for stopping at the library before going to the practice football field where the festival would be held. As a consequence, I had to parade my pioneer self in front of the underclassmen, who probably thought this was how librarians dressed every day. Thank you very much,
Hollywood, for that stereotype. I’d gone to the library because I’d felt obligated to stop by to check my work email—all junk and complaints, by the way—as the college was graciously giving me free release time to take part in the festival.

The practice field was on the opposite side of campus just beyond fraternity row. On the walkway, I had no cause to fear
catcalls. No self-respecting frat boy would be up at that hour.

The field was a glorified patch of grass. Martin’s sports program could not afford a real practice field and certainly not a stadium for home games. Although Martin was heavily endowed for a college of its size, roughly three thousand students, the
board of trustees viewed the sports program as overindulged intramurals. They were probably annoyed cricket wasn’t on the roster and withheld funds in protest. Much to the head football coach’s humiliation, the college rented the Stripling High School stadium for home games.

I spotted Head Coach Lions in a heated conversation with a woman as I crested the slight rise surrounding the practice field. He was a medium-height muscular man with just a hint of softening around his middle. The woman was none other than my sister Carmen. Carmen gripped the double
-stroller handlebar in front of her with a vengeance. My infant nieces, tethered inside the stroller, cooed to each other, seemingly unperturbed by their mother’s angry tone.

Carmen and Coach Lions weren’t the only ones
on the outskirts of the field. The Stop Otter Exploitation Commission, or SOEC, stood about ten yards away. They were a group of animal rights activist students who felt the college’s mascot objectified otters and exploited them for sport. Yes, the school mascot is an otter. Terrifying, I know. They found the cartoon mascot of Otis the Otter, who frolicked with the cheerleaders during games, especially disturbing and demanded the college choose a non-animal to represent its athletic teams. Lately, the group had fixated on Coach Lions as their avenue of otter equality. They followed him everywhere, sometimes taunting him or his players, but in most cases they stood near him in silent accusation. The group of six students watched the coach’s exchange with my sister with smug looks on their scruffy faces. They appeared pleased someone else was on the coach’s case.

Behind the coach and Carmen, food vendors put the final touches on their concession trailers and carts. My stomach growled as I read signs for caramel apples, apple cider, and strawberry shortcake. Beyond the food were the crafters and artisan booths.

Within twenty feet, I could hear Carmen clearly. “You will have this field back when I say so.”

The coach crossed his arms across his broad chest, resting their weight on his belly as if it were a shelf. His forearms resembled Easter hams, and he looked down his short nose at Carmen even though he was at best an inch taller than her. Carmen was my height and looked enough like me with her dark brown hair, strong profile, and gray eyes to be mistaken as my twin, although she is five years my senior.

The coach was bald. The brown skin on his head looked as if it were polished to a high sheen on a daily basis. He wore his sunglasses on the back of his head, giving the illusion he had eyes back there as well. He wore them that way no matter what the setting: practice, games, or graduations. I’d never seen the sunglasses on his eyes even when he was in direct sunlight.

His voice was gravelly from years of yelling from the sidelines.
“No one told us you all would be here last night. I had to cancel practice when the guys needed it.”

They would need a lot more than that, I thought, if they planned to win a game.

“I’m sorry there was a misunderstanding. I was very clear in my request to the college that I needed the field for five days.”

This certainly was not a discussion I wanted to join. I started to slink away in the direction of my booth, which I had constructed the evening before, but I was too slow.

“India!” Carmen’s harried, mother-hen voice assaulted my ears.

Against my better judgment
, I turned.

She crooked a finger at me. I shook my head left and right. Her eyes narrowed, and I walked over.

BOOK: Murder in a Basket (An India Hayes Mystery)
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