Authors: S. Dionne Moore
Spyglass Lane Mysteries presents:
Murder on the
S. Dionne Moore
Spyglass Lane Mysteries
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®.
Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984
Used by permission of
. All rights reserved.
To Joseph C. M. Griffin, my friend and father.
Precious memories, how they linger. . .
Huge thanks to ACFW. Through this organization I learned so much about the craft of writing and have formed friendships that I cherish.
, who helped
this manuscript and offered support as I entered the Genesis contest.
Tompkins and the old ACRW
7, who gave me the ability to believe in myself as a writer, and taught me how to fine-tune.
Humble thanks to Susan Downs for taking a chance on me, and to her team of editors who got out their polishing cloths to make this manuscript shine.
Something about the Out of Time antique store didn’t feel quite right that Tuesday afternoon. The rattle of that annoying bell Marion Peters insisted on hanging over the front door combined with the shock of cool air against my hot skin and managed to fry all my circuits and make me feel a little crazy. Kind of like the days when my kids each used to demand my all
“Mercy, Marion,” I reached up to still the clattering noisemaker and called down the narrow building toward the soda fountain Marion used as a counter, at the back of the store. “When you
’ to bless us all by removing this thing?”
No one answered.
Silence is not one of Marion’s virtues. Come to think of it, her Virtue list is pretty short, if you get my meaning. And no one enters Marion’s store without her verbally pouncing on them with news of her latest purchase of quality merchandise or her daughter
most recent show of academic brilliance.
My sweet husband, Hardy, set the bell to rattling all over again as he heaved his plaid pants a little higher and stepped inside the shop and out of the Colorado sunshine. He shot me a grin that sported his pride and joy—his lone front tooth, covered in gold. But the sight of his weathered black face and grizzled gray-black hair has filled my heart with contentment for going on thirty-eight years. ‘Course, I don’t let him know that too often or he’d be thinking he’s got me wrapped around his little finger.
Hardy shut the door and gazed up at the spastic bell. He reached to silence the thing, fingertips three inches shy of meeting their goal. His cocoa eyes rolled in my direction, waiting. You see, Hardy’s as short as I am tall.
I reached up to squelch the bell and patted him on the head, not bothering to hide my smile. “Where’d you disappear to? I looked all around the library for you, then gave up and came here.”
Hardy’s grin didn’t dim.
“Went to Payton’s to talk music.
He tried to sell me a book on playing the banjo.”
“You don’t play the banjo.”
“How am I supposed to know? I just got here myself.” Reaching around Hardy’s slender form, I opened the door wide enough to set the bell to making noise and slammed it hard. We both cocked our ears toward the room for any sound to indicate Marion’s arrival.
Hardy guffawed. “Never thought I’d enter a place owned by Marion Peters and not hear her mouth flapping.”
I sailed past the old
concert grand piano that took up one side of the room and peered into one of the two boxes of books I’d purchased earlier in the day. Marion had grudgingly agreed to let me leave the boxes until I could fetch Hardy to haul them for me. “I suppose we can just take this box and go. Wonder where the other one is?” Where was that woman? “Marion!”
“Lot o’ wind in them lungs for an old woman.”
“You better shut your trap, Hardy Barnhart.
Years of yelling after you has given me my lung capacity.
Hardy’s eyes twinkled. “She’s giving you the silent treatment. I figure she’s still mad at you for—”
“Marion can hold a powerful grudge.”
His words came to me through the filter of my own warring thoughts. Something wasn’t right. I could feel it. Marion never left the store without flipping the sign from OPEN to CLOSED. And forgetful she’s not. Ask anyone who has ever done her wrong. I glanced back at the door. The sign definitely said OPEN.
“You go ahead and load this box into the car, I’m
look for the other one.”
Hardy shuffled forward. “You paid for them?”
I sent him a healthy dose of the look I made legendary with my children.
He held his hands up, palms out.
Barnhart is thinking of starting a life of crime, I want to make sure I get cut in on the loot.”
He makes me crazy. I glanced down the length of him and smirked. “Got your drawers hitched too high again, don’t you? I can always tell—you start spouting crazy things.”
“Yeah, like the day I said, ‘I do.’”
“That’s not what you said. You said, ‘Yes, ma’am.’”
I peeked into the box. The old books, covers frayed and worn, were neatly stacked, and definitely the ones I’d purchased. I motioned to Hardy and he lifted the box to his shoulder. I turned and mentally itemized the merchandise in the store. Having worked at Out of Time until my youngest left for college last fall, I knew exactly where everything should be. A few dustless outlines proved recent sales had helped boost Marion’s receipts, but other than that things looked normal. And why shouldn’t they be?
The store didn’t hold much. A huge oak bookcase, a mahogany secretary, and a cherry dining room set, took up most of the twenty-one-foot length. Thanks to her going-out-of-business sale, Marion’s overpriced stock now sported tags well within the price range of Maple Gap folk. The store’s impending closing had surprised many of the citizens. Everyone figured Marion’s elite clientele of wealthy collectors both here in tourist-laden Colorado and across the United States would keep Out of Time a thriving landmark for many years.
So much for that thought.
The scent of old books and dust hung heavy in the air. A draft of cold air raised shiver bumps on my arms. I stilled myself, turned, and studied everything again, forcing deep, calming breaths. Something was eluding me. Whatever stirred my senses to high alert seemed to be strongest at the counter. I returned there and sucked in another breath. And that’s when I caught it.
A certain strange scent.
What was that odor?
A mental image of my grown son at the age of eight bloomed. Tyrone had been helping Hardy build a shed and had sliced his finger a good one on the saw. Tyrone gave out a yelp. I went running. Hardy’s dark chocolate face took on a milk chocolate patina at the sight of the blood, so I took charge. As Hardy hit the ground in a faint, I barked instructions to my children on how to care for their father and hustled Tyrone to the car.
I directed our old Buick through town, one hand on the wheel, the other helping Tyrone maintain pressure on the wound. I tell you, blood seeped through that towel faster than I felt comfortable with, filling the air with its copper scent.
That was it! I inhaled the air in Marion’s shop, held my breath, and then released it slowly. My stomach clenched hard.
All my senses flared, spitting warnings, making my head spin. With a hand on the counter, I steadied myself for what I knew needed to be done. As if pulled by an unseen string, I gravitated toward the only corner of the room I hadn’t already examined. Some sixth sense screamed at me, telling me to hightail it out of there. But I ignored it, my feet leading the way, my brain screaming at my toes, telling them to cease all forward movement, turn tail, and run.
I focused on the things scattered along the counter, a white envelope, an old-fashioned cash register, brochures of the store, a small bell for service. The now identified scent of blood saturated the air. My throat clenched. My feet must have finally got the message because they wouldn't move forward at all now, so I steeled myself and leaned forward over the counter.
Her head lay in a pool of blood.
Cold shivers tingled along my scalp. My heart skittered. I pressed both hands flat on the counter and squeezed my eyes shut to block the horrible image as shock carried me over the edge of rational thinking into one where every impulse had its way. I opened my mouth and gave vent.
Hardy came on the run, his steps banging along the wooden floor as he skidded to a halt beside me.
“What’s wrong? What happened?”
My tongue stuck to the roof of my dry mouth.
“You getting ready to drop over or something?”
Tears glazed my eyes and turned Hardy a fuzzy, carnival-mirror image. I raised my hand and shooed him away. “Get back,” I finally croaked. “Go back outside. You don’t need to see her.”
Hardy’s eyes got wide. “What you talking about, woman? See who? You
been sniffing glue again, have you?”
He sure knew how to get to me, but I wasn’t having any of it. “You know I only did that once on a dare. Now you get.” I waited for him to retreat, instead he stared. I flicked my hands at him, hoping he’d trust me on this one. “Hardy . . .” My glance at the place where Marion now rested gave everything away.
Hardy’s expression melted into a frown. “What’s back there?” He took a step closer.
“No! You’d better not stick your nose over that counter. I’m warning you. You’ll be sorry. Don’t look.”
“Hardy’s coming around,
,” the young doctor of Maple Gap stood in the doorway of Out of Time, divested of its annoying bell at long last by the chief of police himself.
“I think he’ll be just fine.” Doctor Troy Gordon motioned me to precede him back into the store. “It’s not everyday one sees a dead body.”
I stepped over to the end of the
careful to keep my eyes off the form flanked by the police chief and another man I’d never seen before. I gazed down at Hardy’s waxy complexion. He needed a thorough chiding, so, being the good wife that I am, I warmed to the event like a microwave on high. “I told you not to look. You never do listen.”
The doctor knelt next to my man and patted Hardy’s shoulder as he tried to sit up. “You’d better lay back down, Mr. Barnhart. You’ve had quite a shock.”
,” he grated out. “She talks to me like that all the time. Ignoring her works best.”
My tongue poised to reply, but a wave of dizziness gripped me so hard I felt myself whirling. “I’m a-thinking I’m going to lay me down, too.”
Doctor Gordon’s wide-eyed face tilted up at me and he jumped to his feet. Just as my knees gave way, a hand jerked me backward and my body folded onto a chair.
.” Doc’s hand pushed my head between my knees, or as far forward as it could reach over my stomach. Diet is a four letter word, after all.
Within seconds the dizziness began to release its grip. Something tickled down my belly. As my head cleared, I realized the sensation came from my pantyhose beginning a southern migration. Never could get a decent pair anymore.
“How do you feel?”
Doc Gordon’s voice penetrated my thoughts. I croaked a little hiccup and raised my head slowly. “I’ll be fine.” But I wanted air.
I nodded toward the door. Doc must have understood my silent plea because he gripped my arm and helped me get up. With his hand directing me, I broke out of that shop and back into the spring sunshine. He helped me get settled into one of the two Windsor chairs he’d dragged from Marion’s shop.