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Authors: Lesley A. Diehl

Tags: #florida, #rural, #alligator, #polo, #consignment store

A Secondhand Murder

BOOK: A Secondhand Murder
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A Secondhand Murder
by
Lesley A. Diehl
Camel Press
PO Box 70515
Seattle, WA 98127
For more information go to: www.camelpress.com
www.lesleydiehl.com
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.
Cover design by Sabrina Sun
A Secondhand Murder
Copyright © 2013 Lesley A. Diehl
ISBN: 978-1-60381-935-0 (Trade Paper)
ISBN: 978-1-60381-936-7 (eBook)
Library of Congress Control Number: 2013943375
Produced in the United States of America
Acknowledgments

A
n abundance of research went into this book. I was aided and abetted in shopping secondhand by my cowboy, Glenn. I am fortunate to have someone at my side as dedicated as he to finding a bargain.

I grew up respecting thrift. My paternal grandmother, a tiny woman who barely reached five feet, reused dishwater and sewed ties made of grosgrain ribbons onto her daughter's size 10 shoes to make them stay on her size 6 feet. Granny wore petite 6 , my aunt tall 14, but grandma took her six-foot-tall daughter's clothes in and up with stitches, paper clips and staples to make them fit her elfin form. My love of bargains and second hand items came through my family DNA.

Thanks to the many consignment shops who have allowed me the opportunity to satisfy my love for inexpensive shopping. Especially helpful to me in answering questions about the consignment business was Cindy Staffin, owner of Transitions Boutique in Oneonta, New York. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands more consignment owners who helped me in my research by selling me bargain clothes, shoes, household goods, jewelry and—back in the seventies when it wasn't considered a no-no—a fur coat.

And I must mention all those Saturday yard sales without which my cottage would be empty and Glenn wouldn't have his set of brass Ping golf clubs.

I especially want to thank all those nameless people who consigned their possessions or set them out on tables for yard and garage sales. I'd be naked without you.

Chapter 1

I
jerked the dressing room curtains closed, swallowed, then swallowed again. The lump in my throat wouldn't go away. I opened my mouth to speak, but I was at a loss for one of my usual, Eve Appel, sassy gal retorts—the ones I generally have on hand to fend off difficult situations. What's the protocol for a dead body showing up on the opening day of business? I took a deep breath and punched 9-1-1 into my cell and managed to tell the dispatcher about the emergency. Not bad. The lump was gone. I made my voice as cool as the breeze wafting from the window air conditioner. I didn't want to alarm our customers. “Madeleine, could you help me a minute? I think we've got a problem with Mrs. Sanders.” I might be able to fool others with my calmness, but Madeleine, my business partner and lifelong friend, would know better.

She poked her head of bouncy red curls around the hallway corner. “I told you the damn dress would be too tight. I was right, wasn't I?” she whispered.


C'mere.” I signaled her. “You don't have to whisper. Mrs. Sanders can't hear you.” I shoved the curtain to one side and pointed, my red nail polish making a bloody colored blur as my finger shook. I stuffed my hand into my pocket.

Madeleine's ivory skin turned an even whiter shade of pale. “Gads.”

Mrs. Sanders lay face up on the dressing room floor, a knife protruding from her chest.


The dress is way too tight,” Madeleine said with a nervous giggle, a sure sign she was in anxiety overload.


Madeleine, get a hold of yourself.” I grabbed her hand and leaned in to get a better look at the body. “The knife ... I think it's from that cutlery consignment we took in on Monday.”


She was looking at them earlier before she spied the cocktail dress.” Madeleine said as she turned her head away from the body.


I just called the police.” I held up my cell.


Thank goodness. You know I fall apart in crises.” She pulled the curtain closed and leaned against the wall, her tiny freckled hand over her heart.


Buck up, girl. You just make certain no one comes back here.”


Did I hear something about the police?” A woman appeared at the end of the hallway.

Oh, no. It was Mavis Worthington. She was the writer for
About Town
, a new monthly magazine that offers in-depth coverage on people, charity events and business enterprises in the area.. She wrote the “What'Sup in Town” column. If she couldn't find anything 'sup, she made it 'sup. On any other day, she wouldn't have even been in the store, but today was the grand opening of our consignment shop, Second to None. Madeleine and I had sent her a personal invitation and a Ten Percent Off coupon to entice her to cover the event.


No, no.” I steered her out of the hallway, back into the main part of the store, which was filled with customers. “Did you see the lovely selection of Capris we got in, some in more statuesque sizes?” Enormous sizes was what I meant. Mavis was an abundantly proportioned woman, whose ample body seemed to quiver when she walked.

She nabbed several pairs off the rack.


I'll need to use a dressing room.” She nodded her head toward the cubicles.


Uhm. No.”


No? You can't expect me to buy these without trying them on first.”

I wrung my hands and twisted my body in the direction of the dressing rooms, then back to confront Mavis. I must have looked like Gumby. Dressing room? Definitely off limits, especially to the town's professional gossip.


We've had a bit of an accident. You can't use the dressing rooms.”


What kind of accident?”


Ah, well, you see …” I was stumbling around like a teenager whose mother had found her birth control pills. I couldn't tell her the truth—that we were keeping a dead woman in the dressing room next to the one she wanted to use.


Well?” She held up the teal and coral pants and shook the hanger at me.


We've had a leak, and the only unoccupied dressing room has a wet floor.” I smiled. Close enough to the truth.


Too bad, but I'm certainly not going to buy these without trying them on.” She made an impatient gesture toward the sign displayed behind the cash register that said: “All sales are final.”


For you, Mavis, this sale is not only twenty, rather than ten percent off, but it's not final. You can bring them back if you don't like them, or if they don't fit right.”


Great. Then I'll grab a few more things while I'm at it.” She headed toward the dress rack near the front windows. I hadn't intended to offer her the entire store at a reduced rate, but I had more important things to do than worry about how much merchandise Mavis hauled out the door. Getting her to peruse more clothes would keep her around until the cops showed up while also steering her away from “What'Sup” in the rear of the store.

Madeleine stuck her head around the corner of the dressing room hallway. “Where are the cops?”

I rushed up to her. “They should be on their way.” I motioned toward Mavis, who was loading yet another dress onto the growing pile in her arms.


Maybe we should close the store and tell the customers to come back tomorrow,” Madeleine said.


No! The police will want to interview everyone.”


People have been going in and out, and Mrs. Gaulfield looks like she's ready to leave.”

Mrs. Gaulfield didn't look like a killer, but I wasn't going to pass judgment. I rushed past Mavis and threw myself in front of the door. “You don't want to leave.”


Why not?” The tall, thin woman shifted her purse to her other arm. “You're charging mighty stiff prices for secondhand stuff.”


Classy, designer quality, secondhand stuff, gently worn by women of excellent taste,” said Madeleine, barely keeping her temper in check.


Go back to the hallway,” I hissed in her ear.

She smiled at Mrs. Gaulfield and nodded. “The most discerning women of impeccable taste.” She fled to the back of the store where I hoped she was retaking her post in the dressing room hallway.

I placed a gentle restraining hand on Mrs. Gaulfield's arm and whispered in her ear, “We're having an unannounced thirty percent-off sale in several minutes. Stick around and you can get that silk blouse for fifteen dollars.”

Her eyes lit up, and she spun on her heel, making tracks to the blouse round where she pulled a filmy turquoise item off the rack. Hugging the material to her, she said, “I'll look for a skirt to match.”


Thirty percent off,” I heard her crow as she zigzagged her way back to the skirts. If I didn't get control of my nerves, I'd sell off the entire store before we'd even developed a following.

I was about to turn and check on Madeleine when a white Cadillac parked in front of the store caught my eye. I was certain it was the one Valerie Sanders usually drove when shopping or delivering things to the store. The car's paint had always attracted my attention—pearlescent white. A scruffy-looking man, about thirty-something, a weeks' worth of beard on his narrow face, leaned against the front fender. A relative? Chauffeur? Possible thief waiting to break into the car? I shook my head. Maybe it wasn't the deceased's car. There must be a hundred or more Cadillacs in Florida with the same paint.

Was this what I left Connecticut for? Scrub palmetto, cattle, alligators and dead bodies? And just when I thought I was getting adjusted to the place. Madeleine had moved here a year ago after an aunt died, leaving her a house. She invited me to help her redecorate and, when the store came up for sale, we bought it together. I thought I liked the untamed nature of this place, but now I wondered if I should rethink that. Maybe Eve, city girl, did not belong here.

Ten minutes later two uniformed officers corralled our customers near the racks of purses and shoes while Madeleine hovered at the end of the dressing room hall, waiting for crime scene techs and a detective from the police department to finish examining the body. She had directed the detective into the dressing room while I tried to appear calm and unconcerned, although everyone knows cops in a consignment shop can't be good.

Mrs. Gaulfield was still clinging tightly to the turquoise blouse, and I saw Mavis paying more attention to a pair of sandals than to the officer interrogating her. “What's happening back there? Eve told me it was a leak, but that's a police uniform, not a plumber's. Was there a robbery? Or worse?”

Ignoring her questions, the officer asked for her driver's license.


Hold these.” Mavis unloaded her clothes into my arms and rummaged through her purse. “Oops, wrong purse.” She giggled, handing me the purse with the price tag attached and taking hers back from me.


Someone's back there in the dressing room. Who?” She shifted from one foot to another trying to get a better look behind me. The officer examined her license and handed it back to her.

I shook my head, tossed her items on the nearby counter and joined Madeleine in the hallway.


Guess who's in there?” Madeleine pointed at the dressing room.


Mrs. Sanders. Some crime scene techs and a cop.”


No. I mean, yes, but guess who the police detective is? It's someone we know.”

I knew only one person with the police department, but she was a uniformed officer. “It can't be Frida, can it? You must be mistaken.”

A woman, nearly as tall as I, long brown hair curling over her shoulders, emerged from behind the dressing room curtain. Our friend Frida. She adjusted the shoulder holster beneath her jacket.


Damn thing doesn't fit right under here. It needs tailoring.” She pinned us with a very cop-like gaze. “My first case as a detective and it has to concern you two.” The expression on her face said she was unhappy with us and certain we were to blame for the incident.

BOOK: A Secondhand Murder
10.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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