Robbie Jordan, here. I had a couple of intriguing discoveries while renovating the second floor of my Country Store restaurant, so I thought I’d share them with you. My boyfriend Abe came over to help.
Abe pressed his lips to my ear, sending a zing of heat through me. I turned to face him. “Seriously. If you keep that up, I can’t be held accountable for my actions.” I smiled. “Come on, let’s tear out some lath and plaster.”
He mock-rolled his eyes. “I love it when you talk dirty to me.”
“We’re going to get dirty all, right.” I’d tied a hot pink bandana over my hair to keep the dust out. I picked up a heavy flat pry bar from the pile of tools I’d laid on a drop cloth in the corner. “You can use this or a crow bar. Let’s start over there.” I grabbed a hammer, too, and headed to the back wall, the one overlooking my apartment. “It’s a shame to take off this wallpaper, but it’s going to have to go.”
The paper featured a background of tiny pink flowers with larger puffy bouquets at regular intervals. The covering was faded, stained, and torn, though. And I needed to rewire and insulate before installing new sheetrock. I pried off the window trim and then went to work on the wall. The wallpaper covered crumbling plaster that had been pressed into the inch-wide slats called lath. The screech of nails pulling out from the studs behind the lath grated on my ears.
A wide swath of plaster and lath came off all at once and I jumped back to avoid getting hit. As it fell, I saw an object drop down into the wall between the studs. Something black and odd-shaped, neither plaster nor lath. I peered into the cavity but couldn’t see it.
“What are you looking for?” Abe asked.
“I don’t know. Something got dislodged and fell down. I’ll find it when this section is cleared.” I kept prying and pulling, working down, even though it made more sense to work horizontally. When a coughing fit interrupted me, I went back to my tool tarp and grabbed a couple of white cupped face masks. I handed one to Abe.
“We should’ve been wearing these from the start. Plaster dust isn’t good for anybody’s lungs.” I slid the elastic over my head and pinched the little metal strip on the bridge of my nose, then resumed work. When I got down to about a foot off the floor, I peered in again. Part of the plaster had fallen into the cavity, so I dug that out and dumped it on the growing pile of refuse. Finally, I reached in and felt around.
“Aha.” I straightened, holding a ladies shoe in my hand. It was a small size, maybe a five, but definitely a shoe for an adult woman. A high heeled black shoe, with a chunky sole, cutout toe, and squared off three-inch heel that made me think of an elegant woman in a tailored suit swanning down a street. In 1947.
Abe pushed his mask down to his neck. “That looks sort of high fashion, doesn’t it?”
I pulled my own mask off my nose and mouth, too. “Yes, but fashion from a long time ago. I wonder if there’s another one.” I reached back into the cavity. What I came up with was an entirely different kind of shoe. Two, in fact. I dusted them off and showed Abe my find: two miniature pink moccasins, complete with a tiny star of beads sewn onto their tops. Baby’s first shoes. The leather, once smooth, had stiffened and the side of one was brown from water damage or another trauma. What was their long-ago story?
You can read more about Robbie in When The Grits Hit The Fan, the third book in the “Country Store” mystery series.
Despite the bitter winter in South Lick, Indiana, business is still hot at Robbie Jordan’s restaurant. But when another murder rattles the small town, can Robbie defrost the motives of a cold-blooded killer?
Before she started hosting dinners for Indiana University’s Sociology Department at Pans ‘N Pancakes, Robbie never imagined scholarly meetings could be so hostile. It’s all due to Professor Charles Stilton, who seems to thrive on heated exchanges with his peers and underlings, and tensions flare one night after he disrespects Robbie’s friend, graduate student Lou. So when Robbie and Lou go snowshoeing the next morning and find the contentious academic frozen under ice, police suspect Lou might have killed him after their public tiff. To prove her friend’s innocence, Robbie is absorbing local gossip about Professor Stilton’s past and developing her own thesis on the homicide—even if that means stirring up terrible danger for herself along the way . . .
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About the author
Agatha-nominated and national best-selling author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries; as Maddie Day, she writes the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Her award-winning short crime fiction has appeared in many juried anthologies and journals. She is President of Sisters in Crime New England.
A fourth-generation Californian and former tech writer, farmer, and doula, Maxwell now writes, cooks, gardens (and wastes time as a Facebook addict) north of Boston with her beau and three cats. She blogs at Wicked Cozy Authors, Killer Characters, and with the Midnight Ink Authors. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and at www.edithmaxwell.com.
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Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of When the Grits Hit the Fan. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends March 30, 2017. Good luck everyone!
When the Grits Hit the Fan is available at retail and online booksellers.