Bowled OverValetta Nibley, pharmacist (among other things), got to work early that morning but opened right at nine as usual. When she pulled the curtain back on her pharmacy window she was surprised to find Jaymie Leighton there looking more agitated than usual.

“What’s up, Jaymie?” Valetta asked.

“Mrs. Frump is sitting on the step outside the general store crying. I can’t find out what’s wrong. She’s not making any sense.”

Mrs. Imogene Frump was a local senior who occupied her time by waging a long term battle against Mrs. Bellwood, weeds in her rose garden, the mailman, and almost everyone else in Queensville, Michigan. She was legendary for her temper and her lemon squares.

Valetta closed back up again and followed Jaymie, threading through the store to the long wooden front porch that fronted the centenarian building.

Mrs. Frump was, indeed, sitting on the step weeping. Valetta crouched beside her. “What’s wrong, Imogene?” she asked. Mrs. Frump had quite a few ailments which required weekly visits to the pharmacy, during which she laid out her litany of complaints about all and sundry in the village. After she was done, she always said, “But now Valetta, you know me, I’m not one to complain.”

This time though, she just shook her head and squinted up at the summer sun when asked what was wrong. “I don’t know what’s wrong,” she said. “I just feel so…” She trailed off and sobbed.

Jaymie, with her little three legged dog Hoppy, was agitatedly moving from foot to foot. “What can we do?” she asked. “Should I call 911?”

“Wait a moment,” Valetta said. She sat down beside the elderly woman. “Imogene, what day is it?”

The woman looked up and squinted again. “That you, Valetta? Can’t see too clear. What did you say?”

“I asked what day of the week it is. Do you know?”

“Why it’s…” Then she shook her head. “I’m so tired. I ought to… I need a nap.”

Valetta watched her for a moment, her mind racing, then she grabbed the woman’s bag and started rooting through it.

“What are you doing?” Jaymie asked.

Mr. Klausner, the owner of the general store, clumped out on the porch phone in hand and without a word held it out to Jaymie.

Valetta found what she wanted. Efficiently, she took the pen in one hand and Imogene Frump’s arthritic, knobby hand in the other and jabbed her finger. The woman didn’t even move. The pharmacist then took a strip of paper from the pen kit and held it to the drop of blood oozing up from the jabbed finger; then she inserted it in the meter device from the kit.

“Good heavens!” she said. She looked up at her younger friend. “Jaymie, can you go get a small bottle of orange juice from the store, add a couple of teaspoons of sugar, and bring it back with a small cup?”

“What’s… okay, I’ll do it right away.”

When her friend was back, Valetta poured some of the sugary orange juice into a cup and held it up to Imogene’s lips. “Drinks some of this,” Valetta said, gently. As the older woman sipped, Valetta looked up at Jaymie. “Her blood sugar was low, really low. Scary low. This will help.”

“How did you know to check?”

“Depression. Lethargy. Sadness. Vision problems. That, and I know she’s a Type 2 diabetic. But I’ve never seen the symptoms. It was a little scary!”

Imogene began to perk up after a few minutes. She frowned and looked around at Valetta and Jaymie who were staring at her, and Mr. Klausner, who sat out on his rocking chair by the door, clamping down on his empty pipe. “What are you all looking at?” She griped. She took another drink and made a face. “This is the worst orange juice I’ve ever tasted. Not that I’m complaining.”

Now that was the Imogene Frump they were all used to! Valetta explained what happened, then looked up at Jaymie. “If I phone ahead, would you have time this morning to run Mrs. Frump to her doctor? I’d like them to have a look and talk to her, make sure she’s all right. And to figure out why her sugar crashed like that.”

In ten minutes Jaymie was on her way—using Valetta’s car instead of her rattletrap van, which no sane person would expect an octogenarian to ride in, to Mrs. Frump’s doctor in Wolverhampton—and Valetta was back opening up the pharmacy for the customers who had gathered while the little drama played out.

At eleven, when it was time for her tea break, Valetta sat out on the stoop with her cup of tea. Jaymie, back from the doctor, returned the car keys and grabbed a cup of tea. Plunking down on the wooden step in the sunshine beside her friend, she said, “Mrs. Frump is fine, but the doctor said he’d adjust her insulin so that won’t happen again. He said it’s lucky you knew what to do. Mrs. Frump told the doctor you were the best pharmacist in the world!”

Valetta smiled. She had the best job in the whole world, and sometimes it even required her to be a bit of a detective!


Victoria is giving away one (1) copy of Bowled Over. Contest open to Canadian and US residents only and ends March 13th 2013. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. Book will be shipped directly from the author.

You can read more about Valetta in BOWLED OVER, the second book in the “Vintage Kitchen” mystery series.

Meet the author:
Victoria Hamilton is the pseudonym for author Donna Lea Simpson. As Victoria she writes the bestselling Vintage Kitchen Mystery series (Book 1 – A Deadly Grind – May 2012) and the upcoming Merry Muffin Mysteries, also from Berkley (Book 1 – Bran New Murder – September 3rd, 2013). Victoria loves cooking and collecting vintage kitchen utensils, as well as reading and writing mysteries. Check out her webpage for all the latest and find her on Facebook.

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

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