If Onions Could Spring Leeks

BOOK: If Onions Could Spring Leeks
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Praise for the Country Cooking School Mysteries

If Catfish Had Nine Lives

“I'm addicted to Paige Shelton's Country Cooking School mysteries . . . Ghosts, history of the Old West, modern crime, and cooking are blended together skillfully . . .
If Catfish Had Nine Lives
adds a few more fascinating ghostly legends to the annals of Broken Rope's history.”

—Lesa's Book Critiques

“Paige Shelton lets her readers hit the ground running in the latest installment of the Country Cooking mysteries. Life is never dull in Broken Rope . . . Whether you like a fun paranormal element or a tasty recipe to try after the thrill of the mystery is over, I believe this series will appeal.”

—Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

“This is a fun cozy mystery series, and the cowboy-ish setting and ghostly aspects keep the plot fresh . . . Recommended for fans of the series, lovers of food cozies, and those who enjoy a little ghost activity in their cozy mysteries.”

—Open Book Societ

“A visit to Broken Rope is always time well spent. I enjoy Betts and Gram, and their devotion and loyalty not only to each other, but also to their town's inhabitants—the living and the dead. While it is not necessary to read all of the Country Cooking School mystery series in order, I highly recommend that you get copies of all four books and have yourself a binge reading session. You won't be sorry!”

—MyShelf.com

If Bread Could Rise to the Occasion

“Lovers of the supernatural will be intrigued by the ghosts that populate the book, while lovers of symmetry will be relieved to know that all of the plot strands cleverly connect in the end . . . The recipes included in the book attest to the appeal of country cooking, Missouri style.”

—Mystery Scene

“Readers who love a little romance with their mysteries will not be disappointed . . . A wonderful addition to an intriguing and ghostly series.”

—Debbie's Book Bag

“Start with an interesting premise . . . Add a pinch of a wonderful setting . . . Season with murder and ghosts and a dash of romance. It won't be long until there's an appetizing aroma of mystery . . . [A] treat for cozy mystery lovers.”

—Lesa's Book Critiques

If Mashed Potatoes Could Dance

“Both mysteries were superb and I absolutely can't wait to take a visit to Broken Rope again.”

—Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

“Once again, author Paige Shelton has cooked up a gem of a novel . . . Ghosts, a tiny old western town, seriously funny dialogue, and history and mystery make this a book you won't want to miss.”

—MyShelf.com

If Fried Chicken Could Fly

“Take a puzzler of a mystery, season with a dashing ghost, add a pinch of romance, and you have a blue ribbon–winning recipe for a tasty read.”

—Jenn McKinlay,
New York Times
bestselling author of the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries, the Library Lover's Mysteries, and the Hat Shop Mysteries

“A juicy mystery that's deep-fried fun.”

—Riley Adams, author of the Memphis BBQ Mysteries

“I guarantee your spirits—pardon the pun—will be lifted . . . Paige Shelton has created a vivid setting [and] fun, friendly characters.”

—E. J. Copperman, national bestselling author of
Inspector Spector

“[Paige Shelton is] a prevailing voice in the culinary cozy genre . . . [A] rib-tickling read with a sturdy family core filled with amusement, hijinks, and love . . . Shelton writes with a Hitchcock essence that readers once found missing . . . until now . . .
If Fried Chicken Could Fly
simply warms your spirit with delicious homespun goodness.”

—Blogcritics


If Fried Chicken Could Fly
has terrific characters, including a wonderful ghost, and a perfect setting.”

—Lesa's Book Critiques

Berkley Prime Crime titles by Paige Shelton

Farmers' Market Mysteries

FARM
FRESH
MURDE
R

FRUIT
OF
ALL
EVIL

CROPS
AND
ROBBERS

A
KILLER
MAIZE

MERRY
M
ARKET
MURDER

BUSHEL
FULL
OF
MURDER

Country Cooking School Mysteries

IF
F
RIED
CHICKEN
COULD
F
LY

IF
MASHED
POTATOE
S
COULD
DANCE

IF
BRE
AD
COULD
RISE
TO
THE
OCCASION

IF
CATFISH
HAD
NINE
LIVES

IF
O
NIONS
COULD
SPRING
L
EEKS

Specials

RED
HOT
DEADLY
PEPPERS

An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

IF ONIONS COULD SPRING LEEKS

A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2015 by Paige Shelton-Ferrell.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

BERKLEY® PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME design are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

For more information, visit penguin.com.

eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-63470-7

PUBLISHING
HISTORY

Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / August 2015

Cover illustration by Phil Parks.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.

Version_1

For the Level 1 Trauma Team at the University of Missouri hospital. Thank you for the miracles you so skillfully performed.

Acknowledgments

The last couple of years have been a whirlwind of changes and challenges. Thanks to those who have kept me on track and who forgave me when I forgot something. Extra thanks to my agent, Jessica Faust and my editor, Michelle Vega.

There's a group of very special people out there. I don't know them all, but I do know some. An extra-extra special thank you to book bloggers and anyone who takes the time to spread the word about the books they enjoy. You truly make all the difference.

As always, thanks to my guys, Charlie and Tyler. I don't know what I'd do without your nerdy senses of humor. And Charlie, my willing and helpful research partner. If he hadn't turned the car around to go back to the building I thought I saw deep in the Missouri woods, I'm not sure what this story would have been. Thanks for not letting me fall through the floors or in with the tiny fishes.

Contents

Praise for the Country Cooking School Mysteries

Berkley Prime Crime titles by Paige Shelton

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Recipes

Chapter 1

At first the mournful whistle sounded far away and lonely. I was asleep and I liked the noise, as though it were part of a sad but hopeful dream. But then it became less a part of the dream and more the thing that was waking me up.

I sat up in bed and tried to gather my weary senses. I was home. Cliff wasn't with me. Why? I remembered—he was in St. Louis picking up some equipment. He should be back tomorrow, or was that later today?

The train whistle sounded again, its volume much louder and its pitch high enough that it would surely hurt my ears if I was standing close to it.

I didn't live anywhere near train tracks.

“Oh. Not true,” I said aloud with a sleep-cragged voice.

Clumsily, I rolled out of bed. I pulled a shirt and some shorts out of my dresser and threw them on over my nightshirt. I grabbed my phone, noticing that it was 3:04 in the morning,
and hurried through and then out of the house, stopping short when I got to my small front porch.

My house was located on a dead-end street; the dead-end part, the spot where now there was just an open field of neglected grass, was once home to the Broken Rope train station. In its heyday and before Route 66 was
the
Route 66, this spot of Missouri saw lots of train traffic, and the area where my house was now located had been a thoroughfare, busy with travelers coming and going. I wasn't old enough to have any memories of the station, of course, but my best friend and the town historian, Jake, had shown me pictures. Black and white renditions of women in tight-waisted long dresses and hats that made my neck ache just by looking at them, and men in heavy suits and ties posing in front of oily black engines that spat out white clouds of steam. There weren't many smiles in those pictures. I liked to tease Jake that it was because those posing for the pictures were so miserable in their heavy, tight, and itchy clothing. He insisted that it was because back then everyone had such lousy teeth.

The field was five houses away, and currently no longer a field. Well, it probably still was a field, but I was seeing it differently. I was seeing it as it was back during the late 1800s when those long skirts and thick suits were all the rage, and back when people dressed up when they traveled.

I was both concerned and fascinated, but more intrigued than anything else. I knew what was going on and it wasn't an unusual occurence—for me, as well as for my gram, Missouri Anna Winston. I'd become used to seeing and communicating with ghosts from Broken Rope's past, so I knew the scene being played out at the end of the street was something that would contain at least one specter searching for attention from
someone still alive. Mostly, my and my grandmother's ghosts were pretty harmless, but there were moments when the danger they brought with them was real and present-day, and potentially deadly.

I stepped slowly and carefully down the porch steps, pausing again at the bottom. The train I'd heard approaching the station came into view nose-first, its squeaky brakes and loud whistle announcing that it was about to stop completely. I sniffed deeply and found a scent—flowers, a big, assorted bouquet of flowers. Or was that a neighbor's garden? I couldn't be totally sure, but the scent was so strong, so pure, that I thought that it was most likely attached to a visiting ghost.

The station platform was on the other side of the slowing train, so my view of whatever was going on there was about to be blocked. I looked around, confirmed that no one was watching me or peering through their windows, and then hurried down the street. I stepped in front of the now stationary locomotive and over the seemingly very real train tracks. Those few steps transported me almost fully into the past. Different than some time I'd spent in an old bakery, I could still see my house and neighborhood in their present-day state, though all the houses, streetlights, and cars were dim and murky and much less real than the feel of the wood planks shifting with my weight as I moved onto the platform.

The station was a long, wide, one-story building that ran along the back of the platform, made of what looked like the same pinewood planks under my feet. There were two doors in its middle, both currently open wide. To the right of the doors was a small window where I assumed long-ago tickets had been purchased. I stepped toward the doors and peered inside. There were two more ticket booths along one wall. The rest of the
space was filled with rows of benches, also made of the same pinewood. The handiwork on the benches was much more utilitarian than I might have pictured it to be. Perhaps it was the movies of my time that made me think of curved, ornate arms and slanted backs, but these benches were simple, straight-backed seats that must have offered respite to only the weariest of travelers. The row of windows along the back wall seemed odd in a couple of ways. Daylight streamed through them, and they were made of glass and what looked like fancy wrought-iron frames. They looked almost elegant against the light pine everywhere. The contrast of the thick Missouri woods bathed in bright sunlight on the other side of the windows made me wonder why and when all the trees had been razed to make way for the present-day vacant grass field that now extended at least a hundred yards back.

As I turned toward the train, more images began to appear. With faded beginnings, people quickly formed and solidified, becoming dimensional and bathed in the same long-ago sunlight that lit the trees.

“But, Papa, I'm so very hungry,” a small girl with black curls and big green eyes said to a man with matching features who held her hand tightly.

“I know, Mary, but we'll spoil our dinner if we eat the peanuts right now. Save them. Grandmama will have dinner on the table when we get there. Don't ask me again.”

“All right,” she said with a sigh of disappointment.

With her bottom lip stuck out, she looked up at me. I smiled and waved, but she didn't respond, didn't even blink. Did she not see me?

An older gentleman who was still spry enough to be moving at a quick clip had his eyes on the pocket watch he held as
he beelined directly toward me. I stepped to the side, but not quickly enough to avoid him completely. His left arm went right through me. I felt nothing, but it was one of those weird ghost things that I would probably never get used to.

It seemed that none of these ghosts saw me, which was a first. Usually, if there was a ghost in the general vicinity, they could see and communicate with both me and Gram. It was what I thought “this” was all about—we could see and talk to them because they could see and talk to us. But the ghost rules had already proved to be fluid, changing at least a little bit with each new ghostly guest.

I wondered what was going on, but didn't sense any danger. I decided I could either go home and go back to bed or stay and wait for whatever happened next, discover if anyone would “see” me eventually.

So many ghosts materialized that the platform became crowded. Even though I could not feel anyone's touch or any sort of breeze their movements stirred up, I became uncomfortable and a little claustrophobic. No one was dodging me, and it was impossible for me to dodge everyone else, so I wove my way to a spot close to the building's doors and out of the main streams of traffic. I heard their voices as they hurried to purchase tickets and sped toward the train or from it and toward whoever was greeting them. I saw their faces and expressions clearly, but still no one saw me.

My fascination with this step back into another time wore thinner with each passing moment. It was late and I did have to get up early the next morning. Perhaps I could ignore all the noise that I was almost a hundred percent sure I'd still hear from my house and catch a few more hours' sleep. But just as I made that decision, something changed.

The scent of flowers grew stronger, filling my nose so fully that a small twinge of sinus pain shot through my head. It mellowed quickly, becoming lighter and pleasant.

A ghost came through the doors, stepping from the inside of the station to the outside platform. She was stunning; the kind of beautiful that made it almost impossible to look away from her. I wanted to study her, see the specifics of her appeal. Since I didn't think she could see me, I figured I could stare all I wanted.

She was tall and small-waisted—probably from a tight corset—she was curvy enough not to be called skinny, but thin enough not to be called chubby. Her neck was long and swanlike. Her dark skin was smooth and flawless and she had high, delicate cheeks. Her nose was button, but for some reason it fit well with her grown-up features. The sadness in her brown eyes was so palpable that when they pooled with tears my heart ached sympathetically.

“I'm so sorry,” I said quietly.

She looked at me, blinked back the tears and then opened her eyes wide. “Oh my, dear, where are your clothes? Here, let me give you my coat.” She made a move to unbutton the thin outer layer that looked like it was part of her dress.

“Oh,” I said as I looked at myself. “No, I'm fine, thank you anyway. You can hear me? See me?”

“Of course, silly thing, but what are you doing without so much as some good underpinnings on?”

As she continued to unbutton, the scene changed again. Suddenly, it was just she and I on the platform. The steam engine remained and puttered in the background. All the other ghosts disappeared.

She looked up and around and then at me. “Gracious, this
is odd. Where did everyone go?” She stopped unbuttoning and took a large step toward the locomotive. Her fingers moved to a simple chain around her neck.

“Uh . . . I'm Betts, Isabelle Winston,” I said as I stepped next to her. “This is all strange because it's not part of what is happening in present time. My grandmother is Missouri Anna Winston. Perhaps you know her?”

She looked at me and blinked. “I do not know your grandmother and I don't quite understand what you mean. At all.”

Since the ghosts' memories were sometimes scrambled when they first arrived, it could take time for them to acclimate, but if this was this ghost's first visit it would also be my first visit without Gram to help me through the introductions. I thought about one of our previous experiences.

“May I ask your name?” I said.

“Grace,” she said absently as she searched the platform.

“Well, Grace, this is bound to be strange, but you are currently visiting the twenty-first century. This scene,” I waved my arm, “is something from the past.” I swallowed hard before I said the next part because it seemed so cruel, but Gram had told me that there was no need to be delicate. The ghosts' realization that they were no longer a part of the living world couldn't possibly harm them, and the sooner they knew the truth the better it was for them, and for her and me.

“Can you tell me what you think the date is?” I said.

“Of course. It's August 16, 1888.”

“Actually, it isn't. You died long ago, Grace. You're just back visiting Broken Rope, a long time after you lived. My Gram and I are the only ones you will be able to communicate with.”

“I don't understand. I'm in Broken Rope?”

I was surprised that this was the most curious part of what I'd just told her, but I said, “Yes.”

“I made it then, I made it,” she said as she stepped back, turned and looked around. “Is he here?”

“Who?”

“Robert. Is he here?” She continued to search.

“I don't see anyone else around,” I said. “There were other people here a few minutes ago, but I don't know who Robert is.”

“Oh, oh no. This isn't right,” she said.

“What isn't right?”

“This is not the Broken Rope station,” she said.

I felt words of protest rise in my throat—how could this be another station? We were in Broken Rope. But then I realized she might be right. I stepped away from the building and looked around. I thought about the pictures Jake had shown me, and though the people in their interesting clothing and the oily black locomotive were parts of what I had seen, the station building I was currently looking at was not. In the pictures, the building had been diminished, a part of the backdrop, but I knew it had not been an uninteresting one-story made of simple, boring pine planks. In fact, I remembered that at one time Jake had gone on and on about the station building and how it had been an attraction in itself, how it was something he wished could be rebuilt for the tourists to see and experience. I tried hard to remember the building details, but I just hadn't found it as interesting as the people and the trains.

“Where are we?” I asked Grace as I peered out toward my house. It was still there in the murky distance. I was relieved.

“I'm not sure,” she said. “But . . .”

I looked at the building, searching for a name, a town, a signpost of some sort. There was nothing. In fact, there were no words anywhere.

“Grace,” I said, “who is Robert?”

She blinked and then turned her confused attention toward me. “Robert Findlay was the man I was supposed to marry. I was to meet him in Broken Rope, and we were going to run away together.”

BOOK: If Onions Could Spring Leeks
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