He smashed in the doorbell with a feathered wing.
The door opened. “Yes?” Kat sounded upset. “You must have the wrong place.”
Chicken Boy sang, “Happy graduation to you. Happy grad-u-a-tion—”
I finished the song I’d composed. “—to the girl who’s about to finish near the top of her cla-ass. Happy graduation to you.” I sprang out from behind the chicken, spreading my arms.
My grandchild peered at my face. She stared at the fellow in costume. Tears hit her eyes.
“Baby girl,” I said, “what’s wrong?” She fell into my arms trembling. I wasn’t prepared for this response.
She drew back wiping off tears. “Hi, Gram. We never know when you’ll pop up in town.”
“I like for my visits to be surprises.”
“They always are.” She brushed russet hair off her face. Her cheekbones stood out like her daddy’s. Her nose remained slim like her mom’s. She’d grown into a slender young woman with striking beauty.
“It’s always great to see you, Gram. And that was really sweet.” She nodded to indicate the boy heading for his truck. “But I doubt if I’ll be graduating near the top of my class. Or maybe at all.”
What? How could things have changed so much so soon?
She led the way through the living room. My shoes made a sucking noise through the space that l felt like a shrine. Framed pictures of the dead lined the walls. Each picture showed my daughter-in-law Nancy excited about life. She died two years ago.
=== And later today, after I know my former lover is in town and am tempted to go to him for help…
“No way,” I reaffirmed.
Gil Thurman was certain of everything he wanted from life. I needed to find my own certainty. I’d mourned about becoming a widow long before those golden years I’d planned to spend alongside my husband. My house felt empty. I’d started to become dowdy. Then I read about a speech called “Changing Your Inner Underwear.” Exactly what I needed! My inner panties and brassieres underwent a major upheaval. It was still okay to want to feel sexy. I could enjoy washing clothes for just one person. I wasn’t only my past, I was me—Cealie Gunther. I needed to tend to my spirit and rediscover myself.
What made me happy? What did I like to do?
But now I found myself inside Gil’s restaurant. He stared at me. “What a treat.”
I struggled to draw my gaze away from his mesmerizing eyes. Gil’s neck filled his open collar, and chest hair sprinkled the V above his top button. That same chest hair had often tickled my cheeks.
“Nice to see you, too,” I said, willing my voice normal.
“I don’t know what brought you, but I’m glad it did. Would your visit have anything to do with me?”
Kat’s horrid situation sprang to mind. “No.”
He looked disappointed. Gil indicated the place where the pretty woman sat watching us, her red mouth puckered in a pout. “Come sit with me.”
“Just stay with me a minute,” I said.
He sat and drew his chair close. My gaze flickered toward his table. Surely that young woman’s skirt was black and clingy. Black pantyhose would run beneath that tiny skirt the entire length of her long legs.
Her gaze locked with mine. We gave each other appraising stares.
My skin sagged more than hers, and my waist wasn’t as tapered. I was a decade or two (okay, maybe three) older. Was Gil dating a child now?
Well that was his decision to make. Still, I wished I’d worn something sassier than the boxy pantsuit. It was comfortable. The cropped pants were fashionable but made my legs appear shorter. Comparing me in this outfit to the woman staring back, I looked about as chic as Chicken Boy.
A later day — Footsteps came from behind. Soft steps, slowed for my benefit. I gripped the balcony’s rail. The feet moving behind me stopped.
“Inspecting the stage for graduation?” a voice asked from my rear.
I forced my voice strong. “I was just wondering how Kat is going to look out there.”
“I’m sure she’ll look pretty. If she makes it up there.”
Breathing neared. Darkness seemed to close in. Tapping sounded. The slightest tap-tap of something hard against flesh. I need to keep Kat safe. If I can survive being with this killer.
Untreed Reads will kindly provide an electronic copy of “Relative Danger” to one person who comments about Cealie within two days (Nov 2nd) of this post.
Meet the author
Southerner June Shaw is the author of the “Cealie Gunter” mystery series, which includes the first book in the series, Relative Danger and Killer Cousins, and Deadly Reunion which will follow soon. She’s written the inspirational “NORA 102 ½: A Lesson on Aging Well” and a picture book “How to Take Care of Your Pet Ghost”. She represents Louisiana on the board of Mystery Writers of America’s Southwest Chapter and is the Published Author Liaison for Romance Writers of America’s South Louisiana Chapter. Learn more about June and her books at www.juneshaw.com.
Book is available at online retailers.