People who don’t like winter simply should not move to Vermont, as far as I’m concerned. Visit in the summer or fall, by all means, and buy lots of souvenirs here in Hamelin. Buy an extra number of them in my store, the ScotShop—preferably expensive items like kilts, or even lots of little items, like tartan ties or reproductions of the Loch Ness Monster. Buy one for every relative back home. But quit your infernal bellyaching. Ten degrees Fahrenheit is the way winter works here. Get over it. Get yourself a wood-burning stove and thermal underwear. Silk sock liners. Woolen hats and gloves. Gore-Tex.
Of course, I didn’t say any of this to Emily. Thank goodness this was a phone call. I couldn’t have hidden my irritation face-to-face.
“Mark left me all alone again, Peggy,” she whined yet again. “Why does he do that?”
I’d seen Emily’s husband only once. Tall and lanky beside his short pudgy wife, the two of them like cartoon characters walking up Hickory Lane, past my house. As far as I could see, he hadn’t said a word, but she’d talked nonstop, of course. I heard once that the loneliest people were the ones who were unsuitably married. Not that I had any way of knowing from personal experience.
I rolled my eyes at Dirk Farquharson, the fourteenth-century ghost I’d acquired on a recent trip to Scotland, who stood looking out my living room bay window.
I pointed to his left. “Whoops,” I said into the phone. “Have to run, Emily. There’s the door.”
“You go answer it, Peggy. I’ll wait.”
“No. I’ll probably be awhile. I’ll catch up with you later.” I disconnected and heaved a sigh.
“Ye were nae quite honest with Mistress Emily. There is naebody come a-calling at the door.”
Even though I could almost see through him, even though he’d been dead 653 years, he still had opinions that were hard to shake. “I didn’t say there was anybody standing outside. All I said was there’s the door. And,” I pointed again, “there it is.” It seemed perfectly logical to me. “If she wanted to think someone was knocking on it, that’s her problem.”
He made that low-pitched Scottish sound of disapproval.
“Don’t growl at me,” I said, even though I rather liked hearing it. It emanated from his massive chest. I tried to keep my eyes from scanning the length of him, but lost the battle. He was so tall, so black-haired, so gentle, so fierce, so . . . Scottish.
“Ye should nae tell untruths.”
So stubborn, too. “This is the way things are nowadays, as I’ve told you numerous times. I don’t like getting trapped on the phone. Anyway, what’s it to you?”
He gave me a long, level look from under those thick straight brows of his. “I didna ask to come here,” he said. “I didna desire to leave my home, and I dinna like some of what I see here. Now.”
“I may not like it either, Dirk, but there’s nothing I can do about it.”
“Ye are nae right about that. Ye could do something. Ye could stop telling untruths.”
“Would you rather have me tell her she’s boring me out of my gourd?”
“What would be a gord?”
“Never mind that. You just need to loosen up a little and accept things the way they are.” I tried not to sound supercilious, but from the look on Dirk’s face, I didn’t seem to have accomplished it.
“Mistress Emily seems lonely to me.”
He was probably right. She’d walked into the ScotShop about four months ago and spent an hour complaining. Since then she’d taken to calling me on my days off.
“Her husband’s looking to retire down here,” I said. “That’s why they bought the house.”
“What would be this retyre?”
The words Dirk didn’t know would fill a dictionary. Of course, I didn’t understand a lot of the words he used—he’d died in Scotland when people were still speaking Middle English, like Chaucer. I’d decided there was some sort of transcendental translation agency at work for most of our speech, but we still had a few words to learn. Sometimes I could figure out what he meant just through the context: Ye needna whinge so meant he wanted me to stop complaining. “Retire means to quit working and take it easy.”
He squinted. Two lines appeared between his heavy eyebrows. If he weren’t careful those lines would etch themselves into his face. No, wait. He was a ghost. He’d never get any more wrinkles than those crinkly laugh lines he already had around his eyes.
Retire. Back when he was alive, maybe nobody ever retired. If they survived infancy and childhood, then they worked all their lives, got old, and died. Or at least I thought so. Canterbury Tales was about all I’d known of the time back then, until I bought an old shawl and met Macbeath Donlevy Freusach Finlay Macearachar Macpheidiran of Clan Farquharson. You can see why I opted to call him Dirk.
A Wee Dose of Death is the second book in the “ScotShop” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime, January 2016.
About A Wee Dose of Death
Too Scot to Handle. . .
While business is booming at the ScotShop in Hamelin, Vermont, proprietor Peggy Winn doesn’t have time to toast her good fortune thanks to her hot-tempered, fourteenth-century Scottish companion. Being thrust into the modern world hasn’t been easy for Dirk, but Peggy is at her wit’s end trying to keep the ghostie galoot in line.
But when the local police chief finds the body of Peggy’s friend Karaline’s college professor in a deserted mountain cabin, everyone is thrown for a loop. It seems the secretive professor may have been killed over his ecological work, an idea that’s only reinforced when Karaline herself is shot. Now Peggy and Dirk must set aside their differences to put the cold-blooded killer under loch and key…
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Meet the author
Fran Stewart is the author of the Biscuit McKee Mysteries – GRAY AS ASHES is the seventh book in that series – as well as a standalone mystery – A SLAYING SONG TONIGHT. Her non-fiction work includes FROM THE TIP OF MY PEN: A WORKBOOK FOR WRITERS. Her ScotShop Mystery Series from Berkley Press began with A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP. The second book in that series is A WEE DOSE OF DEATH.
Fran lives quietly with various rescued cats beside a creek on the other side of Hog Mountain, Georgia, northeast of Atlanta. She is a member of the National League of American Pen Women, Sisters in Crime, and Mystery Writers of America. Visit Fran at www.franstewart.com.