The curse came from my new boss, Cara Mia Delgatto, as she shuffled through papers on her desk. With a trembling hand, she pushed back a curl of her dark auburn hair from where it was hanging over her eyes. The frown on her face darkened her pretty eyes to a deep hazel.
“What’s wrong, Cara, dear?” I asked gently. She’s not really a morning person, even though she does get up early to start coffee for all of us, her workers.
I’m Honora McAfee, Cara’s most recent hire here at The Treasure Chest. Since I once knew Cara’s grandmother, I have maternal feelings toward my new boss. Cara’s own mother wasn’t very nurturing, and sometimes I sense that the girl needs the tender ministrations of a mother-figure.
Gracious! Listen to me. Calling Cara a “girl.”
She’s in her thirties, and a single mother herself.
But then, I’m a woman of a “certain age.” Seventy-six to be exact. And I’m a miniaturist, a maker of tiny (but wonderful!) objects. Sometimes my new employer seems like a young girl to me. Like now, when she’s fuming and growling at the papers on her desk.
“It was around here somewhere!” Cara huffed and shoved a wodge of papers back into her in-box. “I can’t believe I lost it!”
Instead of standing there and watching her fretting, I hurried over to the tea kettle, filled it with water, and turned on the burner. What Cara needed was a nice cup of Green Tea with Yerba Mate. It would help her concentrate. I often drink Yerba Mate when I’m working on my miniatures. It doesn’t have caffeine, but it does improve one’s focus. Working with tiny pieces can be quite demanding. Caffeine causes my hands to shake. A tremor turns into an earthquake when dealing in a small scale. Most of my work is done in one-twelfth, one-inch-to-a-foot. Quite simply, for every foot in RL (Real Life), my items measure an inch. For example, a ceiling height of eight feet is re-sized to eight inches.
“Here you go, Cara, dear,” I said, sliding the cup of tea next to her hand. She was impatiently drumming her fingers on her desktop. “Now what is it that you’re missing?”
She sighed. “The check from my old restaurant in St. Louis. Our old manager is buying the business and the building. He always mails me his payment at the last possible minute. It came yesterday. I wanted to deposit it this morning as soon as the bank opened.”
“You don’t trust the man?” I pulled up a chair across from her desk and sipped my tea.
“I do. Sort of. I know he’s having a rough go of it. He thought he knew more about the restaurant business than he actually does. But he’s a fast learner. It’s just that I don’t want him to get behind,” and she paused. “To be frank with you, I depend on that payment. Right now, I’m using it to live on. I don’t want to take money out of this business, The Treasure Chest. I want to keep re-investing.”
I nodded. Cara is an astute businesswoman. When she took over The Treasure Chest, it was a defunct antique store in a dilapidated building here on the Treasure Coast of Florida. Since then, she’s remodeled, redecorated, and reinvigorated the place. Now we specialize in upcycled, recycled, and repurposed décor items. Even my miniatures get their start as discards. Right now, I’m working on a dollhouse made entirely from cast-off items. This morning I hope to finish shingling the roof. I’m using recycled cardstock for the shingles. It’s going to be fabulous!
“The check arrived yesterday in a priority mail envelope. I put it down right here,” she said, as she tapped the edge of her desk. “I opened it. Glanced at the amount. Set it aside because it was after banking hours. The envelope was white with blue and red lettering.”
“Oh, my,” I said, sitting bolt upright. “Oh, dear!”
“Have you seen it?” Cara sounded hopeful.
“Yes.” I swallowed the last of my tea and got to my feet. “I think I have. I think I pulled it from the trash can next to your desk. I remember thinking at the time that you usually recycle all your paper and card. I was shocked to see that envelope in the trash!”
“I must have knocked the envelope off my desk and into the waste basket,” said Cara. “Okay, so where is the envelope now?”
“I’m not sure,” I said. “It might be…roofing material.”
“WHAT!” Cara’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.
I beckoned for her to follow me over to the dollhouse. One half of the roof was covered in tiny cardstock shingles. The other half was bare, waiting for me to cut and glue down the individual pieces.
“Did you cut up the priority envelope?” she asked.
“I don’t know. I hope not!” With that, I began rummaging through my “stockpile” of cardstock. I’ve turned an old dish drainer into a storage unit, setting cardstock into the slots where plates would go. I have the card sorted by thickness and color. My fingers paged through the pieces. Cereal boxes, packaging, corrugated card, Bristol board, mat board, and the backs of notepads were all there. But no mailing envelopes. I started to feel a little ill.
Then I remembered. “The thickness was perfect for eaves. For the gullies between the dormers!”
“Okay,” said Cara cautiously. “And that means…what? You have it? You don’t have it? It’s glued to that dollhouse somewhere?”
Quickly, I pushed my dollhouse supplies to one side and located my Fiskars personal paper trimmer. Sticking out from under the blade was a US postal service priority envelope.
Half of it.
The top half.
In the bottom half was the check.
“Wow,” said Cara, with a laugh. “That was almost a very, very expensive roof!”
The Cara Mia Delgatto Mystery Series by Joanna Campbell Slan is set on the east coast of Florida and features Cara Mia Delgatto, the owner of The Treasure Chest. This cozy mystery series includes historical Florida lore, craft ideas, recycling tips, and recipes, as well as a strong female protagonist who occasionally is called upon to act as an amateur sleuth. Kicked to the Curb is the second book in the series.
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About the author
Award-winning and National Bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan is the creator of three mystery series. Her first mystery—Paper, Scissors, Death—was shortlisted for the Agatha. The first book in her historical romance mystery series is Death of a Schoolgirl, winner of the 2013 Daphne du Maurier Award for Literary Excellence. Her latest series, featuring Cara Mia Delgatto and beginning with Tear Down and Die, has quickly become an Amazon Bestseller. In her past life, Slan has been a television talk show host, an adjunct professor of public relations at Illinois State University, a sought-after motivational speaker, and a corporate speechwriter. Sharing Ideas Magazine named Joanna “one of the top 25 motivational speakers in the world.” Visit her website at www.JoannaSlan.com Go to www.tinyurl.com/JoannaSlan for details.