I never had a good feeling about my granddaughter, Nancy, going to work for Grace Simpson. The whole idea of Grace being in tiny River Bend had never made sense. Why would a big city therapist hang up a shingle here in the first place? And when Nancy said she’d been hired as Grace Simpson’s assistant—straight out of college with no work experience, mind you—I worried even more that something was amiss.
As it turned out I was right. Call it grandmother’s intuition or just good old common sense. Pretty soon it came to light that Grace had descended on our neck of the woods under false pretenses. She didn’t care about healing broken hearts or patching up splintered relationships. She was researching our small town for secrets about sex in the boonies.
Unfortunately by the time the town figured out what she was up to, it seemed that nearly all of River Bend had flocked to Grace’s couch—for the novelty of it if nothing else—confessing their most intimate thoughts and secrets. For a full year, Grace had been taking notes on everyone’s marital troubles and peccadilloes, enough to fill a book…which is exactly what the end result would be. Yep, a sordid little tome called Small Town Secrets: Therapy Outside the Big City. Not surprisingly, River Bend was in an uproar.
Of course, Nancy got caught in the middle of it.
The other night at dinner when the poop began to hit the fan, Nancy confessed, “I’ve already fielded dozens of calls about Grace’s manuscript. It got so bad today that I started letting them all go to voice mail. I don’t know why Grace is so worried about who sees the thing beforehand when she’s been dropping hints about it all over River Bend, ticking people off for weeks.” Nancy had set her elbows on the table and dropped her chin into her hands. “Now everyone who’s ever been in for a session is afraid she’s put them in there.” Nancy had looked at me with her forehead wrinkled. “Despite the fact that Grace used pseudonyms, people are freaked out about being recognized, and I can’t blame them. This isn’t LA. It’s more like Mayberry.”
If they’d had pitchforks handy, I’m sure the citizens of River Bend would have used them when they’d taken to the streets in protest. As it were, they found Grace getting her hair done, about to head into St. Louis to meet with her publisher and turn over the offensive manuscript. When Grace saw Nancy on the fringes of the mob that greeted her outside LaVryle’s Cut ‘n’ Curl, she fired her in front of everyone. And after all Nancy had done for her. Never mind that Nancy had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It turns out Grace never made it to dinner with her publisher that night. Nancy found out why when she went to Grace’s house to confront her the next morning and discovered her ex-boss dead on the floor.
I can’t blame my granddaughter for running out of the place screaming bloody murder. Just because the sheriff happened to be standing outside when Nancy emerged doesn’t mean Nancy was guilty of anything.
But as usual, when Frank Biddle sets his sights on a suspect he doesn’t give much thought to looking elsewhere.
That’s why I had to get involved. I wasn’t about to let Nancy go to jail for a crime that she didn’t commit. If that meant sticking my nose where it didn’t belong, so be it. Yes, the sheriff’s job was to serve and protect and, so far as I was concerned, that was my job description, too. Serving and protecting is exactly what mothers and grandmothers do every day of our lives.
And I wasn’t about to drop the ball with Nancy just because the sheriff didn’t approve of my meddling.
You can read more about Helen in Mad as Helen, the second book in the new “River Road” mystery series, published by HarperCollins.
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About the author
SUSAN MCBRIDE is the USA TODAY best-selling author of the Debutante Dropout Mysteries. Her new River Road Mystery series debuted with To Helen Back in May. Mad as Helen is the second to feature Helen Evans with Not a Chance in Helen to follow in late September. Her first young adult mystery, Very Bad Things, will be published in hardcover this October. She’s also the author of The Truth about Love & Lightning, Little Black Dress, and The Cougar Club, all Target Recommended Reads. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband and daughter.
You can find out more about Susan and her books at susanmcbride.com