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Authors: Leslie Meier

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths

Mother's Day Murder

BOOK: Mother's Day Murder
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Mother’s Day MURDER
Books by Leslie Meier

MISTLETOE MURDER

TIPPY TOE MURDER

TRICK OR TREAT MURDER

BACK TO SCHOOL MURDER

VALENTINE MURDER

CHRISTMAS COOKIE MURDER

TURKEY DAY MURDER

WEDDING DAY MURDER

BIRTHDAY PARTY MURDER

FATHER’S DAY MURDER

STAR SPANGLED MURDER

NEW YEAR’S EVE MURDER

BAKE SALE MURDER

CANDY CANE MURDER

ST. PATRICK’S DAY MURDER

MOTHER’S DAY MURDER

Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation

A Lucy Stone Mystery

Mother’s Day MURDER
LESLIE MEIER

KENSINGTON BOOKS

www.kensingtonbooks.com

Mother’s Day MURDER
Chapter One

T
he photo on the front page of the Sunday paper was familiar.
NO MOTHER’S DAY FOR CORINNE’S MOM
read the headline above the plump, sad-eyed woman holding a photo of her pretty teenage daughter. Lucy Stone didn’t have to read the story; as a reporter for the weekly Pennysaver newspaper, she knew all about it. Corinne Appleton, who had a summer job working as a counselor for the town recreation program in nearby Shiloh, had disappeared minutes after her mother dropped her off at the park. The story had been front-page news for weeks, then had gradually slipped to page three and, finally, to the second section as other stories demanded attention. But now, ten months later, Corinne was still missing.

“How come you’re looking so glum?” demanded her husband, Bill, as he entered the room. “Aren’t you enjoying Mother’s Day?”

Lucy quickly flipped over the paper, hiding Joanne Appleton’s reproachful face.

“My mother always said Mother’s Day was invented by the greeting card companies to boost sales,” she said, beginning the struggle to get into a pair of control-top panty hose.

“I always heard it was a creation of the necktie manufacturers,” complained Bill, who often declared he never regretted giving up suits and ties and Wall Street for the T-shirts and jeans he wore as a restoration carpenter in the little Maine town of Tinker’s Cove. “I finally found this in the coat closet downstairs,” he said, holding up a rather rumpled tie, the only one he possessed.

“If you think a tie is torture, you ought to try panty hose,” said Lucy, who usually wore jeans and running shoes, practical attire for her job. Today she was squeezing into heels and a suit for a Mother’s Day brunch at the fancy Queen Victoria Inn. “I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but I liked it better when the kids gave me homemade cards and plants for the garden.”

“And I’d cook breakfast, and you’d get to eat it in bed.”

“Eventually,” laughed Lucy. “I’d be starving by the time it actually arrived.”

“That’s because they had to pick the pansies and make the place mat and decorate the napkin,” said Bill. “It was quite a production. And then they’d fight over who got to carry the tray.” He looked across the bed at his wife, who was standing in front of her dresser, putting on a pair of earrings. “Those were the days,” he said, crossing the room and slipping his arms around her waist and nuzzling her neck.

His beard, now speckled with gray, tickled, and Lucy smiled. “Those days are over,” she said. “Our little nest is almost empty.”

It was true. Only Sara, a high school freshman, and Zoe, in fifth grade, remained at home. Toby, their oldest, lived with his wife, Molly, and their son, eight-week-old Patrick, on neighboring Prudence Path. Elizabeth, their oldest daughter, was a student at Chamberlain College in Boston.

“Can you believe we’re grandparents?” continued Lucy, tickling Bill’s ear.

“You’re still pretty hot,” said Bill, appreciatively eyeing her trim figure and cap of glossy dark hair.

“It’s a battle,” sighed Lucy, leaning forward to smooth on her age-defying makeup.

Bill grabbed her hips and pressed against her, but Lucy wiggled free. “We’ll be late,” she said, reaching for her lipstick. “Besides, now that I’m actually in these panty hose, there’s no chance they’re coming off.”

Bill sighed and headed for the door.

“But I appreciate the gesture,” she added.

Out in the hallway Bill was knocking on the girls’ bedroom doors. “Bus leaves in five minutes,” he said. She heard him go downstairs, followed by the clatter of the girls in their dressy shoes.

Lucy was the last to join the group in the kitchen. Bill was handsome in his all-purpose navy blazer, the girls adorable in flowery dresses that bared their arms and shoulders. They’d freeze but there was no point telling them; they’d been planning what to wear for weeks, ever since Toby came up with the idea of treating his wife and mother to the Mother’s Day brunch. “It’s Molly’s first Mother’s Day,” he’d said. “We should do something special.”

Unspoken, Lucy suspected, was his concern for Molly, who was making a slow recovery from a difficult pregnancy that ended abruptly on St. Patrick’s Day, several weeks earlier than expected. Little Patrick hadn’t appreciated his sudden entry into the world and was a cranky and fussy baby, demanding all his exhausted mother’s attention. Lucy helped as much as she could with household chores and meals, but only Molly could breast-feed the hungry little fellow, who demanded a meal every couple of hours, day and night. Toby did his best to help, too, but he was putting in long hours on the boat, getting ready for lobster season.

 

The new parents were already seated when they arrived at the inn’s sunny dining room. Patrick was propped in a baby seat between them, sound asleep.

“What an angel,” cooed Lucy, stroking his downy cheek. Even in his sleep, his lips made little nursing motions.

“More like a barracuda,” complained Molly. She was still pudgy from her pregnancy, her face was splotchy, and she needed a haircut. Nevertheless, she’d made an effort, and although she was still wearing maternity pants, she’d topped them with a pretty pastel sweater. Seeing her, Lucy was reminded of the terrifying days after Toby’s birth, when she was afraid of dropping him on his head or sticking him with a diaper pin or starving him or over-feeding him and thereby proving her incompetence as a mother.

“The first three months are the hardest,” said Lucy. “But you’re obviously doing something right. He looks great.”

“He’s much too skinny,” said Molly. “Even though I nurse him constantly, I don’t think he’s getting enough.”

Lucy sat beside Molly and took her hand. “He just looks skinny to you, believe me,” she said. “Look at those little creases on his wrists. He’s positively chubby.”

“That’s what I’ve been telling you,” chimed in Toby.

“He’s the cutest baby I’ve ever seen,” declared Zoe. “When will he be old enough to play?”

“Around six months,” said Sara, causing everyone at the table to look at her in surprise. “What?” she responded defensively. “I took that baby-sitting course, remember?”

“I remember. I’m just surprised you do,” said a familiar voice.

Lucy turned around and saw Elizabeth, city chic in tight black jeans, stilettos, and streaked hair. “I thought you were in Boston,” she exclaimed, jumping up to hug her daughter.

“I took the bus. I couldn’t miss brunch at the Queen Vic,” Elizabeth said, taking the last seat. “I used to work here, remember? Today they’re waiting on me!”

“Well, now that we’re all here,” announced Bill, “let’s hit the buffet.”

 

It was really a moment to savor, thought Lucy when she returned with a plateful of favorite foods: fruit salad with melon and berries, eggs Benedict, smoked salmon, and a croissant. And that was just to start. The buffet featured a raw bar with shrimp and oysters, stuffed chicken breast, ham, roast beef sliced to order, vegetable medleys, and salads, plus a lavish tiered display of desserts, set up in the middle of the elegant dining room. But while the food was delicious, there was only so much a body could eat. It was spending time with her family, especially Elizabeth, whom she didn’t see that often, and the new baby, that was most precious to her.

Seeing them like this, with clean faces and dressed in their best clothes and minding their manners, was priceless. She couldn’t help but be proud of them. Toby, with his broad shoulders and easy smile; Elizabeth in her sophisticated clothes and city haircut; Sara, who had shed her baby fat and emerged as a graceful will-o’-the-wisp; and Zoe, with her sweet round face and big blue eyes. And they didn’t just look good: they were good citizens. Toby was recognized by the other fishermen as a hard worker and a capable seaman, Elizabeth not only had top grades but had been chosen by her college to be a resident advisor, Sara was an honor student and cheerleader who also volunteered at the local animal shelter, and Zoe was the delight of her teachers and a keen member of the youth soccer team.

She looked across the table at Bill, who was about to eat an enormous piece of sausage, and smiled at him. She was a good mother, but she couldn’t have done it without him.

“What are you smiling about?” he asked, spearing a piece of bacon with his fork.

“I’m just happy. It’s really special to be here with you all,” replied Lucy.

“I can’t believe the baby is sleeping,” said Molly. “I was afraid he’d scream his head off. This is special.”

Toby made eye contact with his father and, receiving a nod, pulled two pink envelopes out of his jacket. “Dad and I wanted to make it even more special,” he began, “so we got these for you.”

Lucy opened the thick envelope, which was lined with glossy pink paper, and withdrew a card printed with raised letters:
PURE BLISS
. Opening it, she found a gift certificate entitling her to a facial, body wrap, massage, manicure, and pedicure at the fabulous new spa everybody was talking about that had recently opened at the ritzy Salt Aire Resort and Spa.

“You shouldn’t have,” she said. She was about to add that the gift was too expensive but bit her tongue just in time. This present, this Mother’s Day, wasn’t about her. It was for Molly, and she realized that her gift certificate came with a string attached: to make sure Molly got to the spa. “This will be fun, won’t it, Molly? A whole day of pampering.”

“I can’t leave the baby for an entire day,” Molly said, shaking her head.

“Sure you can,” said Toby. “I’ll take care of him.”

Sara chimed in. “We’ll help, too, won’t we, Zoe?”

“I can’t wait,” agreed Zoe.

Molly shook her head. “You can’t feed him….”

“They can, if you pump in advance,” said Lucy. “And you won’t be gone all day, especially if we tell them to put us on the fast track.”

“Well,” Molly said, sighing, “it does sound fabulous.”

“I can’t wait. Let’s book our appoint—,” began Lucy, but she was interrupted in midsentence by a strident, complaining voice that cut through the hum of conversation and the tinkle of silverware to silence the entire room.

“This is unacceptable, simply unacceptable. When I made the reservation, I specifically requested the table in the corner with two windows.”

Lucy recognized Barbara Hume, who was standing in the doorway with her husband, Bart, and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Ashley. Today, as usual, the family projected an image of perfection. Bart, actually Dr. Barton Higginson Hume, was a noted cardiac surgeon. Tall and reedy, he towered over his petite wife. Barbara, who preferred to be called Bar, “just like Mrs. Bush, the
first
Mrs. Bush,” never seemed to have a single shellacked hair out of place. Today she was as trim as ever, in a pale green suit and bone pumps with matching bag. Ashley was standing behind her parents, and even though she was perfectly turned out in a pink, pleated miniskirt and matching jacket, she was slouching awkwardly, with her toes turned in.

“I demand to see Jasper,” continued Bar, her voice growing even louder and more authoritative. Everyone in the room turned to watch as the inn’s longtime maître d’ hurried over.

“Is there a problem?” he asked.

“I’ll say there’s a problem. I was promised that the corner table, that one with the two windows,” said Bar, raising a perfectly manicured hand and pointing with her pink-tipped finger, “would be reserved for us.”

Lucy also recognized the family occupying the table, the Nowaks, who were making a point of ignoring the fuss. At least Tina was. She was a large, sporty woman and was shoveling in forkfuls of food, intent on getting her money’s worth out of the buffet. Her husband, Lenny, a slight, serious man with a mop of curly gray hair, who wore oversize tortoiseshell eyeglasses, was staring at his plate and pushing his food around with his fork, looking distinctly uncomfortable. In contrast, their sixteen-year-old daughter, Heather, was staring contemptuously at Bar, just as you might expect from a talented figure skater who competed regularly and wasn’t afraid of a challenge.

“It’s a family tradition,” continued Bar in a voice that carried to the farthest corners of the room. “We come here every year for Mother’s Day, and we always sit at that table.”

Jasper cleared his voice and folded his hands. “I am so sorry. There must have been some confusion. We have some new staff members from Ukraine….”

“The person I spoke to was not Ukrainian. She spoke perfect English.”

“I regret the mistake,” continued Jasper, “but as you can see, the table is occupied. I will be happy to seat you someplace else.”

“I did not reserve a table ‘someplace else,’” snapped Bar. “I demand that you move those Nowaks from the table that should have been reserved for us and reseat them.” Bar glared at Tina. “Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if
somebody
hasn’t done this on purpose, just to slight me.”

If she was hoping to get a response from Tina, she was disappointed.

Bart, however, cleared his throat, perhaps signaling his wife to cease and desist. If he thought such a subtle hint would calm Bar, he was mistaken.

She snapped her head around to face him, eyes ablaze. “Darling,” she began in a tone that was hardly loving, “perhaps you should slip the maître d’ a little something so we can get the table we want.”

At the Nowaks’ table, Tina’s face reddened, but she continued to concentrate on her food. Her husband, Lenny, looked as if he was ready to abandon ship and vacate the table. He half rose from his chair but, receiving a sharp glance from Tina, sat back down. Heather was smirking, evidently finding the entire episode just another example of parental foolishness.

Jasper assumed a pained expression. “That will not be necessary,” he said. “Now, since it is impossible—”

“Nothing’s impossible,” declared Bar, eyes blazing. “Since you’ve gone to the trouble of importing all these Ukrainians, temporary workers, I presume, who will be returning to their native villages at the end of the summer?”

“Absolutely,” said Jasper, with a nod. “They all have temporary work visas.”

“You’d better see they do. The country’s already got twelve million illegal aliens, you know, and we don’t need any more. Especially since most of them don’t even bother to learn English.”

BOOK: Mother's Day Murder
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