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Authors: Elizabeth Spann Craig

Tags: #Mystery, #Contemporary, #Humour

A Dyeing Shame (17 page)

BOOK: A Dyeing Shame
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“Counseling is exactly what she needs. And she needs to be relieved of her chemicals.”

Myrtle couldn’t smother a snicker at Agnes’ droll expression. Elaine returned with a pretty scarf. “This one looks like you, Miss Agnes.”

“It’s perfect, Elaine, and you’re a sweet girl. Your Red lucked out, Myrtle. I wish Connor could settle down with a nice girl.”

Here it comes. The agonizing over Connor’s budding involvement with Kat
.
But Agnes’ mind was occupied as she fumbled in her voluminous pocketbook for an equally large billfold. “Better run and buy this to cover my blue locks. Take care.” She left without looking back.

Elaine stared after her. “Well. That was abrupt, wasn’t it?” Turning back to Myrtle, she asked, “What do you think about these dresses? The green one is more on sale than the blue one, but I could dress the green one up or dress it down…”

Myrtle had the enviable talent of appearing to listen attentively while her thoughts drifted. She nodded encouragingly at Elaine and even managed to choose her favorite dress when Myrtle gathered she was being asked her opinion. But her mind worked full-speed on Agnes. Jack dropped Dirty Doggy and Myrtle absently gave it back to him. Was Agnes’ warning the other day prompted by her concern over Connor’s involvement? Could Connor have killed Tammy in an impulsive moment? If Agnes knew something, she’d cover up for him at all cost.

What about Agnes, herself? The thought made Myrtle shift uncomfortably. But it seemed like a possibility. Maybe she couldn’t stand the thought of his dating or marrying Tammy. Agnes was old but strong, and could easily have pushed Tammy down the stairs. Could she have plunged the scissors in Tammy’s back, though? Probably. If she thought she was protecting Connor.

“What do you think of this? I found it while I was looking for the scarf for Agnes.” Elaine held up a prissy-looking one piece gingham romper with a Peter Pan collar.

“I think he’ll look like Raggedy Andy, Elaine.” She was rewarded by seeing her grandson beam at her with relief as his mother put the romper back on the rack. Another Good Deed.

E
LAINE HELPED MYRTLE
pack up her bags and carry them to her house, which was nicely cool. Actually, Elaine said it was a little on the chilly side, but Myrtle didn’t notice. She was still trying to figure out who Bootsie was sneaking around with. As soon as Elaine left, Myrtle picked up the phone. “Miles? Could you come over for a minute? No, to my house…the air is fixed.”

Miles had barely settled himself into her living room sofa when Myrtle launched in. “Miles, I need you to flirt with Bootsie and squeeze some information out of her.”

Miles stared at her coldly. “I won’t. Besides, I’m too old for Bootsie.”
“But she’s nearly
your age
!”

“That’s what I mean. I’m too old for her,” said Miles.

Myrtle stared at him. “You know something, don’t you?”

“I might have seen her leaving a tryst,” he said in a grudging voice. “I was driving by the motel, so I couldn’t identify the person. But I got the impression he was really young.”

Myrtle asked, “When was this? You couldn’t have told me this earlier?”

“Earlier it just would have been gossip. And now I’m not sure it’s more than that, either. But now that I’ve thought of it, I guess I should tell Red or Lieutenant Perkins what I saw. Then they can decide if it’s relevant or not.”

“Now, Miles, let’s not be hasty. There’s no point in telling the police anything about Bootsie’s little indiscretion. You’re right—it’s probably not important at all. Just in case, though, you and I should go check it out.”

“How are you planning to do that?” asked Miles, his tone very polite.

“We’ll have a stakeout. Complete with doughnuts. I’ll buy them. We were going to do surveillance anyway, and it sure is a lot easier now that we know where Bootsie has been going for her tryst.”

“Myrtle, I really don’t want to hang out in a second-rate motel all day, waiting for a rendezvous that might not even happen.”

“No, no, it’ll be fine. You’ve given me the place and Jo has given me the time that Bootsie leaves for her assignations. It’s going to be an easy-peasy stakeout. So you could pick me up tomorrow before lunch.”

Miles nodded glumly.

“Oh. And, by the way, I need to borrow your car.”

Miles closed his eyes, looking pained. “Please don’t tell me you’re going off on another joyride in the country. Last time, it took me forever to get all the mud off my car.”

“No joyrides. I just need to go visit my…spiritual advisor.”

Miles looked ridiculous with his mouth hanging open like a fish. Myrtle felt a flash of irritation, which she squashed since she hadn’t gotten the car yet. “Plenty of people have them, Miles.”

“So, you’re going to see a
minister
? He’s giving you Biblically-based guidance?”

Miles’ eyes were just a little too widely innocent. She was sure he knew exactly what she was referring to, but was trying to embarrass her. He should know that most elderly ladies were beyond embarrassment. “No,” she gritted through her teeth. “I mean a seer. A clairvoyant. A psychic.”

Miles grinned at her. “You’re not seeing that Madam Zora person off the old highway, are you? The same place that sells tires and boiled peanuts? She’s got to be a total quack.”

“It’s
not
tires, it’s hubcaps. And I think they stopped selling boiled peanuts a long time ago.”

Miles frowned thoughtfully. “You’re not at all gullible, though. You don’t mean—”

“That she has the sight? Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. She’s legit.”

“You mean she can really predict the future?” Miles squinted skeptically.

“She apparently has a gift.” Myrtle shrugged as if psychic gifts were something one encountered every day.

“Maybe I’d like to go with you then,” said Miles slowly. “When are you heading over there?”

“Right now.”

“Now?” Miles glanced at his watch. “But I’m about to have to wait around for my plumber to come over. Can’t you go later?”

“Not in the interest of justice, Miles, no. I’m on a timetable here. What if the killer strikes again? Don’t worry, I’ll fill you in on all the details when I get back.”

The ride out
to the shack that Wanda (Madam Zora) shared with her brother was a little ways out of town. Myrtle always knew she was getting closer because the church signs became more and more ominous as she approached. They started out with a heartfelt
Jesus loves you
, before moving on to the slightly more pointed
Forbidden fruit creates many jams.
By the time she finally puttered up to the turnoff for Wanda’s house, the last sign said
Choose the bread of life or you are toast.

The small house where Crazy Dan and Wanda lived was entirely covered with hubcaps. The pair supposedly made their living from selling hubcaps, bait, and psychic readings. Myrtle had a feeling they probably received a little government help in the form of Social Security or disability pay, too.

Myrtle carefully maneuvered across the gravel of the driveway to the house and rapped her cane on the hubcaps. She noticed Wanda had a new sign duct taped to the metal:
Madam Zora. Sykick. Tarro Card reeding
. Crazy Dan poked his grizzled head out the door, a scowl on his leathery, stubble-covered features. “You again!”

“Hello to you, too,
Crazy
Dan,” said Myrtle pointedly. “It’s been months since I’ve been here. I’m not here to visit you, anyway. I want to see your sister.”

Still looking her in the eye, he hollered, “Wander…uh, Madam Zora! You gotta for-toon to tell!” With that, the wizened, dirty man disappeared into the dark recesses of his small house.

If Myrtle hadn’t met Wanda before, she’d have thought that Crazy Dan had just run into the back, put women’s clothes on, and joined her again. Like her brother, she was skin and bones, with nicotine stained hands, and five or six teeth missing. She seemed surprised to see Myrtle—and a little unsettled. “You always come back,” she muttered. “You come back, I warn you, and you never listen.”

“I listen!” protested Myrtle. She just didn’t
heed
it. She listened the whole time.

Wanda sucked in a deep, sustaining breath through her ruined lungs and grabbed Myrtle’s hand as if it were a hot potato. “No, no, no,” said Myrtle. “I don’t want my palm read this time. I want you to do the tarot cards. I want to hear your thoughts on what’s going on in my life.”

Wanda’s expression said that she really didn’t want to delve too far into the nether regions of Myrtle’s life. Grumbling, she yanked out a drawer and pulled out a disreputable looking deck of cards.

She slouched over to a rickety table, motioning Myrtle to follow her. She slapped the cards onto the table and examined them. “There’s a man,” she said. “He is close to you.”

“Yes, yes,” said Myrtle waving her hand in a circular motion. “Probably Red. What else?”

“He will help you.”

“Hmm. Not Red then. Must be Miles. Okay, so Miles will help me. What’s next?” This reading was not particularly helpful so far. “Can we use your crystal ball? I think we get better results with it.”

Madam Zora looked balefully at her as she snatched the crystal ball off a nearby table. Rubbing the ball for effect, she intoned, “There’s a woman. She’s been hurt. Very deeply.”

Myrtle rolled her eyes. “I’ll say. She’s dead.” Money down the drain.

“Not dead. But dead inside.”

That could apply to any number of women. Tammy hurt Kat, Prissy, Bootsie, Dina, and Agnes, too.

Wanda squinted at the dusty ball. “There’s another woman. She’s…” Wanda frowned. “Goin’ on a trip.” She seemed to sense Myrtle’s irritation and said in a grand voice, “But there is death nearby.”

Myrtle’s head hurt. This reading was a total let-down for details.

“Can you see the woman, Wanda? Because it seems to me that if you can tell she’s going on a trip, you ought to at least make out whether it’s an old woman or a tall one or something.”

“Madam Zora never sees faces,” croaked Wanda. “I just see suitcases.”

“How helpful,” gritted Myrtle between her teeth. She fumbled for her cane. “You know, I just remembered there’s something I need to do. I better go.” With her left hand she fumbled in her pocketbook until she pulled out two tens. She showed Wanda one of them, then stuffed it back in her purse. “Ten dollars now, and ten dollars if the faces or other details ever get in focus.”

Wanda nodded. Then she gave a resigned sigh and said, “Cards say
yer
in danger, too. Not that you care. Yer always in danger.”

“Yes, well, that’s fine. I don’t know how you even know it’s me that’s in danger, since you don’t see details.” Myrtle sniffed. “Take care, Wanda.”

She was almost to Miles’ car when she heard the door screeching open behind her and quickly turned around. “Yes? Did you see something else, Wanda?” She clutched her pocketbook tight in her excitement at further revelations.

“Could you “like” me on Facebook?” Wanda leaned against the doorframe as if needing its help to stand up.

Myrtle stared at her. “Facebook? You’re on Facebook? You have a
computer
?”

Wanda shook her head. “No computer. My cuzzin put me on the Facebook, though. Git lots of bizness that way.”

Myrtle was accelerating
to a regal thirty-five miles an hour when suddenly the car made a clunking noise, the check engine light came on, and she realized the accelerator was as good as useless. After some choice words, she stopped on the side of the road and fumbled for her cell phone. “Miles, your car is broken.”

“Broken! What do you mean? Did you have a wreck?”

Myrtle said, “Of course not. But you could have told me it was broken.”

“But it wasn’t!”

“I’m going to need you to come and get me,” said Myrtle.

“Impossible. You’re in my car.”

“Oh, right. Well. Okay, I’ll call Red.” This wasn’t good. He’d wonder what she was doing out in the boonies in Miles’ car. And he wasn’t, for some reason, all that thrilled with her driving anymore. Who knew why?

Red arrived with
Miles, who stayed with his car to wait for the tow truck. The drive back home was swift.

“Aren’t you driving a little fast? I think we just passed a speeding bullet.”

“Who’s going to pull me over?” demanded Red.

Being a police chief had its perks.

“Although I don’t know for the life of me what you’re doing out here in the country.”

Myrtle said, “I was proud of my renewed license and I wanted to get in some practice time behind the wheel. That’s all.”

They seemed to really be driving at a fair clip. Myrtle clutched the door of the car in an obvious manner.

“Just chill out, Mama. I’m not even going that fast. Although, compared to the way you putter around, I guess I am.”

“Sharper than a serpent’s tooth….”

“I’m not a thankless child and you’re not King Lear.”

His level tones only infuriated Myrtle more. “I’m writing you and your bad attitude out of my will.”

“Fine. All your worldly riches—or lack of them—won’t change things a bit.”

BOOK: A Dyeing Shame
3.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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