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Authors: Carolyn Jourdan

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Carolyn Jourdan - Nurse Phoebe 02 - The School for Mysteries

BOOK: Carolyn Jourdan - Nurse Phoebe 02 - The School for Mysteries
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Carolyn Jourdan - Nurse Phoebe 02 - The School for Mysteries
Number II of
Nurse Phoebe
Carolyn Jourdan
Athenaeus Media (2014)
Tags:
Mystery: Cozy - Paranormal - Humor - Romance - Tennessee
Mystery: Cozy - Paranormal - Humor - Romance - Tennesseettt
Phoebe McFarland has just lost her job as a rural home health care nurse in White Oak, Tennessee, a sleepy rural community nestled in the mist-shrouded Smoky Mountains. But then she's unexpectedly offered a ritzy-sounding position as a private duty nurse to an enigmatic scholar.
Unfortunately, before she can start her upscale new life, Phoebe is unwittingly caught up in a medical emergency with Nick, a total stranger. The mismatched couple is forced to cooperate as they flee professional killers who now have Phoebe in their crosshairs as well. Will Phoebe and friends be able to prevent some scary guys from killing her and Nick over a mysterious book that's not even finished?

The School for
Mysteries

By Carolyn Jourdan

In this book Smoky Mountain dialect is rendered as it sounds. Appalachian speech is poetic and musical. It’s sung as much as spoken, so a significant portion of the meaning is conveyed in the cadences and tones.

Dialect is used in conversation by people of all levels of education and intelligence, so no apostrophes will highlight dropped g’s or word variants, as if they are errors. For the same reason, the local grammar is retained.

This was done to enable the reader to experience Smoky Mountain life and language intimately, as an insider would.

This is a work of fiction. Real places or real persons are sometimes mentioned but the story is a work of the author’s imagination.

© 2014
Carolyn Jourdan All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means—electronic, mechanical, photographic (photocopying), recording, or otherwise—without prior permission in writing from the author.

ISBN – 13: 978-0-9899304-6-8 E-Book

Printed in the United States of America

Designed by Karen Key

Cover by Bran Rogers
www.postmodernobody.org

Prologue

Camilla gave Phoebe hope.

Like most females her age, ever since she’d learned to read, Phoebe had used the skill to follow the gossip about Prince Charles’ girlfriends. She’d watched the media arcs for Camilla and then Lady Diana as the press milked the drama for decades taking each of the women around in a circle from saint to sinner to psycho and back again.

Camilla had started out by being cast in the role of slutty girlfriend to the young Prince of Wales. She’d progressed from there to manipulative adulterer, and then conniving homewrecker—and even murderer if you read the wildest of the grief-stricken ranting on the royal forums following Diana’s death.

But in the end, she’d emerged as the chic and happy Duchess of Cornwall. The fact that it had taken the Duchess thirty-five years to sort out her relationship was inspiring because at this point Phoebe had been dating for forty years. If Camilla could end up happy with a guy who was going to be a king, Phoebe figured she might still be able to realistically hold out the hope of finding her prince, too, although she didn’t want a literal one.

Phoebe despised bad manners, poor hygiene, and cheating or lying. She would break off a relationship at the first indication of dishonesty or incivility. She left anyone who shouted at her or called her a name before they could finish their sentence. Sometimes that took ten years, sometimes it took ten minutes.

And the fresh hell of dating in your fifties was that, at this age, boyfriends could actually
die
. This had happened to Phoebe recently. It terrified her that at this age you couldn’t even rely on men to stay alive.

Dating in middle age was strange in so many ways. It was mortifying to date someone who only knew you in your post-menopausal form. Phoebe always wished her prospective dates could’ve seen her when she was young, and thin, and gorgeous. That was one of the best things about having Camilla as a role model. She’d never been conventionally glamorous or beautiful, and now she was overweight and older than her husband.

This was heartening to Phoebe and to the hundreds of millions of other women around the world who wore clothing with sizes in the double digits. Phoebe wasn’t sure why, but nowadays you weren’t supposed to have
any
digits whatsoever, unless zero qualified as a digit.

What did size
zero
even mean? That you weren’t actually there? That no fabric at all was required to make your clothes?

Seeing the new Camilla after the dentists, dermatologists, hairdressers, makeup artists, and British Vogue had all had a go at her was a game-changer. She looked downright pretty. Throw enough money—allegedly a quarter of a million dollars a year—onto a woman and
voila
!

One of the happiest moments of Phoebe’s life had been seeing how perfectly gorgeous and genuinely happy the new duchess looked when she came out of the church after her wedding, wearing that stunning long blue-gray coat dress and ethereal feathered coronet. She’d been radiant. It was a moment that changed Phoebe’s life.

Now she knew for sure.
Anything
was possible.

Chapter  1

Phoebe clung to the side of the huge tree with all her strength. She couldn’t believe she’d been talked into climbing this high.

“Don’t you just love this view?” said Ivy. “It’s like we have our own private balcony on the tenth floor of the world’s most exclusive hotel.”

Phoebe hadn’t taken in the view yet, beyond the bark of the tree she was hugging.
I’m ten stories up in the air,
Phoebe thought to herself.
Why?

Ivy Iverson, Phoebe’s friend, was in her element. She was a medicinal plants expert who climbed trees for a living, researching rare species that grew high in the canopy of the rainforests and cloudforests of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Phoebe, a home health care nurse, was a lot happier at ground level. She had a phobia of heights.

“Come on, let go of the tree,” Ivy urged. “You can’t possibly fall. You’re wearing a harness and you’re still roped in, so you’re perfectly safe. Come on out here and sit with me.”

Phoebe peeked around the tree trunk with one eye and saw Ivy sitting on the cobweb of ropes she’d rigged so she could work up in the top of the trees. The rope
platform
, as Ivy referred to it, was a bit like the net a trapeze artist might fall into, except it was way up in the air, woven among the branches of several leviathan hemlocks.

Phoebe wanted to calm down, but she couldn’t, and she couldn’t make herself let go of the tree.

It was Sunday morning and Phoebe had woken up feeling old. She was fifty-eight, teetering on the border between middle-age and old-age.

Despite her best efforts to suppress them, thoughts had been recurring lately that whatever dreams of adventure she’d ever entertained, she’d better check them off the list quickly before she couldn’t do anything at all except sit around and grumble about her aches and pains and yammer about her most recent visit to the doctor.

Dark thoughts like these had multiplied since she’d lost her job a couple of weeks earlier. Her work with Southern Appalachian Home Health Care hadn’t paid much, but she’d loved her patients and it had given her places to go, people to see, and things to do. Now she had nowhere and nothing.

For most of the three days since the company had closed, she’d lain in bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering how she could survive. Then, this morning, she’d finally gotten bored enough to get up.

She’d heaved her legs over the side of the bed and sat there for a few minutes, imagining where she might go to look for another job. At her age, in this economy and in this part of Appalachia, her prospects were extremely grim. But it was part of Phoebe’s basic nature to think positive, so she tried to count her blessings.

In one way she was glad the company she’d worked for had gone bankrupt. She’d hated Bruce, her dimwit boss, and for a couple of years her job had been in a death spiral as the company slowly collapsed on itself. But now she was a never-married, middle-aged woman with no income and no health insurance.

Then, just as she was about to fall back onto the bed in despair, the phone rang. It was her friend Ivy inviting her to go climbing. Phoebe wanted to decline for half a dozen reasons, but then she remembered the prayer Shakespeare had written for Henry V,
Not today, O Lord, O not today.

She grabbed herself by the bootstraps and jerked—she would
not
get old
today
. She dragged herself out of bed, haphazardly ran brushes across her teeth and through her hair, dressed in layers to cope with the changes in altitude and the whimsical moisture ubiquitous to the high altitudes of the Great Smoky Mountains, and was just going out the door when the phone rang again.

She ran back into the house to answer it, hoping it was Ivy cancelling the tree climbing expedition, but it wasn’t. “This is Arabella Devlin-Forrest for Ms. McFarland, please,” said a woman who sounded like the Queen of England.

“This is she,” said Phoebe, cautiously. Could her thoughts have actually summoned Camilla? Could the Duchess be calling her to remind her to keep her chin up? Maybe she called an old maid every day, like Richard Simmons called overweight people, to give them encouragement. This was epic.

“I’m calling on behalf of my employer to request your services as a private duty nurse. You’ve been very highly recommended and we were hoping that you might be able to start tomorrow morning. Would that be convenient?”

Phoebe was shocked. This was almost as good as Camilla calling her.
Thank you God
, she said to herself. At the same time she had to suppress the urge to shout,
What the hell
?

This was rural Appalachia. Very few people were rich enough to afford a private duty nurse, and nobody she’d ever heard of had a woman who sounded like the Queen to make their phone calls for them.

“Ah,…okay,” Phoebe stuttered, “I think that would be okay.”

The ritzy voice offered her a salary that was three times what she’d been making on her previous job and then dictated a complicated set of directions that ended with a set of GPS coordinates.

Phoebe held the phone between her ear and her shoulder, praying she wouldn’t mash any buttons with her face and accidentally hang up on Mrs. Something Something-Something as she scribbled the directions on the back of an envelope she pulled out of the trash.

“You will be attending a gentleman whose privacy is of paramount importance. Therefore, as a condition of your employment, you must agree to respect his wishes that you hold all facts associated with this position in the
utmost
secrecy.”

Uh,…okay
, Phoebe thought to herself. This sounded like it might be a gig policing a country music star. Nowadays a lot of them were English or Australian. Her patient was probably one of them. He must’ve flunked out of rehab and been expelled from Nashville. If his manager sent him a couple hundred miles east, the press would leave him alone. Going to the Smokies was like falling off the face of the earth.

“Certainly,” Phoebe said, mustering her most professional tone.

Most people didn’t realize the profound effect geography had on Tennessee. The state was 400 miles long. It bordered eight other states, and was said to exhibit a greater variety of geological features than any other state.

Tennessee was divided into what were pompously referred to as
The
Three Grand Divisions
. The segments were designated by the biggest city in the area: Memphis, Nashville, or Knoxville. Each of the three zones had a totally different culture.

Memphis, on the west end of the state, was informally known as The Capital of Mississippi. The area was flat and displayed remnants of the iconic deep-south culture. People in this area had owned slaves and made them work cotton. There was doubtless a connection between this fact and the emergence of Blues music from the region.

The instant you left Memphis, travelling to the west, you crossed a bridge over the Mississippi river and were confronted with East Arkansas. The effect was the same as if you’d just died. But if you went the other way, and drove 200 miles to the east of Memphis, you faced another sort of brutal shock—Nashville.

Most Tennesseans didn’t consider Nashville to be part of their state. It was more like a place where an alien space ship had landed and offloaded a strange new race of invaders who tried to ape the local culture while simultaneously despising any actual indigenous persons they encountered.

About 200 miles east of Nashville, was Knoxville. To get from Nashville to Knoxville you first dropped off a high plateau and a spectacular escarpment and then started a long slow climb into the Great Smoky Mountains. Tennessee was not one of the ritzy states. It had a scruffy sort of image. One of the favorite sayings of Tennesseans was
Thank God for Alabama
[or
Mississippi
].

But then, when the state’s indigenous music was found to be extremely lucrative worldwide—the west end for blues and the east end for bluegrass and country music—foreign hordes descended on it like the Spaniards on South American gold. From the center they figured they could manage both ends. So now Nashville was filled with people who were from
out of town
.

Sending some urban castoff faux hillbilly musician two hundred miles east of Nashville to the stark, stoic, hyper-polite, hyper-violent, hardcore Appalachian culture of the Smokies would be much worse than sending him to lockdown rehab. It would be the equivalent of sending him to hell.

Poor guy
, Phoebe thought.

BOOK: Carolyn Jourdan - Nurse Phoebe 02 - The School for Mysteries
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