Faith Fairchild took a long, satisfying drink from the iced tea her friend Ursula Rowe gave her, sighed and asked the question uppermost in her mind, “So what’s all this about the Proctors and a squabble over who inherits The Birches?”
“You know the old saying, ‘where’s there’s a will, there’s a way’?” Ursula said, giving a vigorous push to the wicker porch rocker she was seated in. “In this case, there wasn’t one and the way is starting to look more like a maze. Instead of leaving the place outright to one of her nieces and nephews Priscilla Proctor decided to let her husband Paul choose once she was gone. Dear man that he is, he agreed and now they’re all next door vying for his favor.”
“The only Proctor I know is Sophie Maxwell who used to babysit for us. Her mother was a Proctor. Sophie must be in her twenties now.”
“Yes, and a sweetheart. As for the others, think piranhas. You’ll meet them at the Fourth of July clambake.”
Faith brightened at the thought—not at meeting the human equivalents of piscatorial killers, but the clambake. The Fairchilds were staying with Ursula at her “cottage”—the term a misnomer for the ark of a place that had been in Ursula’s family for generations. Just like The Birches. As guests they had been invited to the traditional clambake thrown by all the residents on the Point. Faith knew this meant a pit dug in the sand, lined with hot rocks, the clams, lobsters and corn layered with seaweed to steam for hours, a vat of fish chowder plus all the sides—old fashioned eggy potato salad, tangy coleslaw, baking powder biscuits, gallons of melted butter and plenty of desserts—blueberry pie of course, but each family had a specialty like chocolate bread pudding and in one case, Pavlova—the son had married an Aussie. There would be real lemonade—one insulated container clearly marked offered it with an alcoholic twist for the adults.
These first July days had broken records for the highest temperatures in this part of Maine, Sanpere Island in Penobscot Bay. Faith had almost been tempted to swim in the frigid waters, but when she couldn’t feel her toes after wading in, she’d limped back to shore and come to her senses.
What with husband Tom down in Massachusetts, leaving Faith with Ben, fifteen, and Amy, almost thirteen—as her daughter continually pointed out to Faith’s dismay—Faith wasn’t feeling the calm a vacation was supposed to provide. Everyone said teenage girls were more difficult than boys. Although she said to herself, Ben was giving her plenty to worry about. He’d taken a dishwashing job on the island and Faith was getting a funny vibe from the place—a new one, “The Laughing Gull Lodge”. And not “funny” as in Ha Ha.
“I think we need something to go with all the iced tea we’ve been drinking,” Faith said to Ursula. “How about some of those chocolate drop cookies? Easy and I’m in the mood to bake.”
“You must be,” Ursula said dryly, “because it certainly is baking out here!”
They both laughed and Faith headed for the kitchen. Whenever she had something on her mind, cooking helped clear her thoughts. The familiar motions were comforting. As she assembled the ingredients, she realized it wasn’t the kids who were worrying her—well, maybe a bit—but the situation at The Birches next door. This sort of thing—who gets what—could make The Birches a tinderbox of emotions, even without the eighty-degree temperatures. After all, everyone knows: real estate can be murder!
You can read more about Faith in The Body in the Birches, the 22nd book in the “Faith Fairchild” mystery series, published by William Morrow. The first book in the series is The Body in the Belfry.
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About the author
KATHERINE HALL PAGE has been awarded Agathas for Best First, Best Novel, and Best SS and also was nominated for additional Agathas, an Edgar, Macavity, Mary Higgins Clark and the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance Literary Award for Crime Fiction. Her series features amateur sleuth/caterer, Faith Fairchild. The 22nd entry is The Body in the Birches (Wm Morrow, May 2015). She has also written for young adults and published a series cookbook, Have Faith in Your Kitchen (Orchises). She lives in Maine and Massachusetts. www.katherine-hall-page.org