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Authors: Paige Shelton

To Helvetica and Back

BOOK: To Helvetica and Back
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Farmers' Market Mysteries

“Should appeal to fans of Laura Childs and Joanne Fluke.”

Publishers Weekly

“Watching jam-maker Becca Robins handle sticky situations is a tasty delight.”

—Sheila Connolly,
New York Times
bestselling author

“Becca is a genial heroine, and Shelton fashions a puzzling and satisfying whodunit.”

Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Fun characters and a great setting are the highlights of this series full of homegrown goodness.”

—The Mystery Reader

Country Cooking School Mysteries

“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


—Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

“Once again, author Paige Shelton has cooked up a gem of a novel . . . [A] book you won't want to miss.”


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

—Riley Adams, author of the Memphis BBQ Mysteries

Berkley Prime Crime titles by Paige Shelton

Farmers' Market Mysteries







Country Cooking School Mysteries






Dangerous Type Mysteries




An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014


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

Copyright © 2016 by Paige Shelton.

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

eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-18006-2


Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / January 2016

Cover illustration by Anne Wertheim.

Cover design by Sarah Oberrender.

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.


For all the daydreamers. You're my people.


Thank you to:

My agent, Jessica Faust, who doesn't believe in giving up.

My editor, Michelle Vega, who also doesn't believe in giving up (I see a good pattern here).

Assistant editor Bethany Blair, copyeditor Courtney Wilhelm Vincento, cover designer Lesley Worrell, publicist Danielle Dill, cover artist Anne Wertheim, interior text designer Kelly Lipovich, and everyone at Berkley Prime Crime who has done such an amazing job with this book.

The Utah State geologists and paleontologist who spent a whole afternoon with me. Jim Davis, Mark Milligan, and James Kirkland—your stories about volcanos and scorpions and dinosaur bones made the day one of the best ever. Your kindness and generosity were above and beyond, and any mistakes I make in the book are because you were all so interesting just to listen to that I slacked when it came to taking good notes.

Ken Sanders, owner of Ken Sanders Rare Books in Salt Lake City, who spent a bunch of time answering my questions and telling me rare book secrets. He's a kind man with a wonderful bookstore.

My dad for his perfectly timed true story about baseball, a garbage truck, and a blind pitcher. His stories are always the best, but this one captured a whole room full of people's attention.

My readers and friends. I'm becoming very attached to you all.

My guys Charlie and Tyler. They save me from rocky rapids and bad hiking decisions, all while making me laugh and love them more and more every day.

A special thanks to an old and new friend Marianne Corbin Liston. I'm so glad we had a chance to know each other in high school
when we were all grown up. Your kindness and willingness to lend an ear are so appreciated.

I created Star City, Utah, but if it looks a little like Park City, Utah, that's no accident. When I lived in Utah, Park City was one of my favorite places to visit. I couldn't resist using its location and some of its charm and history to dream up an interesting place for a few murder mysteries. Thanks to all the Park City folks for looking the other way when I let my imagination take over.


he trouble is with the ‘L.' Do you have any idea how important an ‘L' is?” Mirabelle said as we peered in at the old black Underwood No. 5.

“I do,” I said as I wiped one hand over my leather work apron. I didn't think my fingers were dirty, but I usually had ink on me somewhere.

I reached into the back of the old Subaru and pressed down on the “L” key, feeling no pressure and seeing no movement. “It seems that the type bar has detached.”

“Can you fix that?” Mirabelle said.

Mirabelle Montgomery was one of our more frequent customers. She'd been one of my grandfather's very first customers when he opened his shop, The Rescued Word, almost fifty-five years earlier. Back then, she'd been wildly independent, writing scandalous stories on her
already-half-a-century-old and classic Underwood No. 5 typewriter that she sold to even more scandalous magazines; that is, when she wasn't carving powder on the slopes, taking on moguls and black diamonds like the fearless skier she'd been.

Mirabelle and my grandfather had formed a fast friendship, and though he had also been a fearless and accomplished skier, he often stated that he'd never been as good as Mirabelle. Chester, my grandfather's name and what he wanted everyone including his grandchildren and great-grandchild to call him, had started his career by fixing typewriters. Back in 1960 when he'd just turned twenty-two and was already a father of two, he'd known he had to find a way to earn an income, so he started a business. He had no idea that his skills would transform over the years and turn The Rescued Word into the rare and unusual business it had become. He'd been able to keep up with the changing times fairly well—in between the days spent on the slopes and along with his manual-typewriter repair skills, he'd taught himself how to restore old books to their former glory. He'd built his own printing press—one that was a “bona fide Gutenberg replica,” or so he often said, after which he'd add some official-sounding lingo, as if an esteemed organization had given him the replica stamp of approval. Somewhere along the way, I figured out that no official experts had given the press any sort of notice at all, but it truly was an amazing machine.

Chester could even repair ink pens, the kind people spent real money for, the kind that were sought out when someone felt like they wanted to write something important or
insightful. When I'd first started working with him at The Rescued Word, I'd been most surprised by how many people loved their pens. I preferred the throwaway variety myself, and I certainly noticed Chester's looks of perplexed dismay when I pulled out my BIC or Paper Mate, though he never said a word. When he added the sale of fine paper and modern-day writing instruments to his offerings, he created a business that was truly built to last.

“I can definitely fix that,” I said to Mirabelle.

“Any chance I could get it back tomorrow?” Mirabelle said. “I have a letter for my grandson Miles. Oh, and I'll need more of that blue paper too. I can get that today though.”

“You bet. I'll get this back to you by tomorrow,” I said. I could, but it would mean working a little late, which was not a problem when it came to doing something for Mirabelle. I had to finish some work on a book that was due in the morning, but the printer was ready to go and the type blocks were in place.

“Oh, thank you, dear,” she said as she placed a crooked, wrinkled finger gently on the back paper table of the typewriter. “This old thing is like a friend, a constant companion. I don't write stories anymore, but my grandbabies love receiving my typed letters. I would hate to disappoint Miles if my latest note wasn't sent in a timely manner.”

“I understand. And fortunately, you're not the only one who loves these old machines.”

“No? Gosh, most of the time I feel like I'm a dinosaur, a dying breed.” She laughed.

“Not even close, Mirabelle. Some still like to write on old typewriters, and some just like to have them on display,
but in working order. Nope, you're not the only one. This is, by the way, a very happy thing for The Rescued Word.”

“Business is good, then?” she asked, her penciled-on eyebrows lifting above her thick glasses.

“Well, fortunately we do a little more than fix typewriters, but, yes, business is good.”

“That's wonderful to hear. Chester and I talk about every manner of thing, but never business. I worry about all of you over here. Bygone Alley is such a wonderful place. I'd hate to see anyone leave,” Mirabelle said.

“I think we all stay pretty busy,” I said.

The fairly level street that jutted off the steep slope of Main Street had long ago been affectionately named Bygone Alley for the old-time stores it held. Along with The Rescued Word, there was a yarn store with a couple looms, a beeswax candle store, a pocket-watch repair shop, a diner/cafe with a soda fountain, and the place where Professor Anorkory Levena taught Latin to people who actually paid him to learn the old, dead language. Though most of the services of those in Bygone Alley were from an earlier time and had been forgotten by many, all of us were still going strong, or strong enough.

I reached into the back of the Subaru and hefted out the almost ten pounds of Underwood. The No. 5s had at one time been the best of the best and used almost everywhere a typewriter was needed. They'd been known for many things, but they'd always been too big to lug around much, even if they had been called “portable.”

I knew that Mirabelle's decades-old Subaru had logged about seventy thousand miles, because other than a few
times a year to Salt Lake City, she only drove to a couple nearby places. She lived around the corner from Bygone Alley, on the street than ran along the non–Main Street side, and though the grocery store was at the bottom of a steep hill and around a tight S-turn, it was not far away. She'd also spent forty-five years working at the Star City Bank and Trust, but she'd walked to work every day. It had been an easy commute as she'd gone to and from the bank's Main Street location via Bygone Alley, waving to us every morning or joining Chester for coffee if she had the time.

I supported the typewriter with both arms as Mirabelle closed the rear hatchback of the car, stepped up to the sidewalk, and opened the front door of The Rescued Word, signaling me to go in first.

When my grandfather purchased the two-story brick building, it had been empty for a few years, but before that it had been home to the Star City Silver Mining Company, a company that had flourished in the late 1800s and early 1900s because of the vast amounts of silver that had been found in the mountains around the mining town now turned skiers' paradise. The first floor of the front part of the store was one big space that was filled with handmade wood shelving. The floors were also wood, original with plenty of long-ago-made scratches and marks to prove it. The walls were simple, now painted a soft blue where they weren't covered by shelves, either the shelves that Chester had built to hold the different types of paper we sold, or the now-antique shelving from the days of the mining company.

The mining company shelves extended down the middle
of both of the sidewalls and were protected by ornately carved wooden doors depicting scenes of the beautiful and mountainous country and wildlife around Star City. The doors were works of art, and we'd had plenty of customers visit who just wanted to take pictures of the carved doors. We welcomed them in, and if Chester was in the mood, he'd come out and tell the visitors a story about the doors. He made up a different story every time. He figured he was just giving the visitors something fun to think about; I thought he'd probably get in trouble someday for his fibs, but he didn't seem to be concerned.

Filling the shelves were papers and note cards and envelopes of varying sizes, colors, and designs. Things were organized by color, and in some instances by complementary colors, like dark forest green and red. Or silver and gold. We had so many different animal note cards that we'd had to reorganize them by baby animals, adult animals, and then even further by which country they inhabited. Giraffes could be found on the Africa shelves, both under the baby animal and adult animal sub-categories.

There were windows along the top of the side walls that lit the entire space as the sun rose on one side and set on the other, finally slipping away every day behind one or another mountaintop, depending upon the time of the year. We had some light fixtures on the ceiling above but typically only turned them on in the late afternoon during the winter. Most of the time our cat, Baskerville, sat somewhere atop a set of shelves. He was there today, on the west side, enjoying the late-morning sun coming in the east windows. He'd move over to the other side soon.

The petite but surly calico meowed a suspicious greeting as he looked down upon us.

“Hello, kitty,” Mirabelle said. “I don't think that cat likes me.”

“Baskerville doesn't like many people,” I said as I eyed the cat that I adored despite how he might feel about me or anyone else. He was the offspring of the very first calico who'd roamed the store. Arial had been my friend and companion whenever I'd visited The Rescued Word, my après ski buddy who'd sat with me while I drank hot chocolate and watched Chester either fix or print something.

Though I'd taken to skiing just like almost everyone else in Star City, I'd been the adolescent cursed with braces and glasses and wild, curly hair that went every direction except the right one. Chester, Arial, and the warm hot chocolate were my best friends for a long time. I still wore glasses, but the braces were long gone, and my curls had been tamed by some products that did what they promised.

Back then I had no idea that fixing typewriters, restoring books, printing things, and selling beautiful papers and pens would become my career. I just thought I was having fun. Arial had been a wonderful and loving cat. She had no idea that her son would turn out grouchy and misanthropic. I'd always love and care for Baskerville, though, if only because Arial would appreciate the effort.

Though Chester had built most of the non-mining-company wood shelves inside the store, my brother and I had built the two shorter shelves that took up the middle of the space. The shelves had taken us a long time to
build, mostly because he'd been sixteen and I'd been six, and neither of us had the patience needed to finish such a project quickly, but Jimmy and I were still proud of our handiwork.

The paper products we sold were imported from all over the world. Paper was important. The way ink moved over the paper was important. Ink itself was probably the most important thing of all. Jimmy and I had a game we played—Chester's seven degrees of ink separation. Everyone and everything could be tied to ink in seven moves or less. Ink was somehow more important than blood; well, to Chester, at least.

The front portion of the store also displayed finer writing instruments and Chester's favorite pencil, the only one he'd ever use. Trusty No. 2 pencil–filled cups were placed all around the store. Many people bought a pencil or two, plucking them out of a cup on impulse, unable to resist the appeal of the memories the yellow No. 2s evoked.

I thought Mirabelle had come into the store to pick up more blue paper but we passed all the paper without stopping, and she was still behind me as we approached the back counter. I sent her an apologetic half smile when we both noticed my niece behind the counter, slunked down in one chair, her feet up on another as she moved with the beat of whatever song played in her earbuds. Her eyes were closed, and she had no idea that either I or a customer was in the building.

I supported the Underwood on my hip and knocked on the top of the counter, startling Marion to opened-eyed surprise. She pulled the buds out of her ears.

“Aunt Clare, Mirabelle, sorry. I didn't think anyone was in here,” she said as she stood, because standing somehow must have seemed like the right thing to do.

“It's okay, dear,” Mirabelle said. “Are you listening to one of those rapper singers?”

Marion smiled. “No, ma'am. I was listening to some country music.” She looked at me. “I didn't know where you were. I walked this morning and saw Mirabelle's hatchback up but didn't know you two were behind it.”

“Your Jeep okay?”

“Yeah. Just wanted to walk.”

“We must have crossed paths. Do you know if Chester's in the workshop?”

“No. I just peeked back there and didn't see anyone.”

“That's where I left him,” I said, now curious but not concerned as to where my grandfather had gone. He never did like to stay in one place for very long.

“Maybe he went back upstairs,” Marion said.

My grandfather lived upstairs, in the apartment he'd fashioned when my grandmother died twenty years earlier. When she died, their two children were already gone from the house, so he saw no reason to do much of anything but ski whenever he could and work. He sold the house and the lawnmower and moved to the second floor of his building, taking down walls and adding appliances to make it an open and comfortable space, particularly for a bachelor. Even though I do most of the work now, he claims he still loves living a mere twelve steps away from his store, and a quick walk to the nearest chairlift, of course.

“Maybe,” I said. “Any e-mails?” She had become our
stationery personalization pro, doing the work on the computer we kept behind the counter.

“I just got a couple of orders, but nothing urgent.” She nodded toward the monitor.

I looked back toward the front, contemplating which task I wanted Marion to tackle first. As my eyes scanned, something flashed from somewhere, or had I just blinked at the wrong angle and thought I'd seen something? I couldn't be sure. I squinted and peered out the front windows, all the way to the diner across the street. Had the flash—what might have just been a brief reflection of the sunlight—come from outside, or perhaps the diner? I didn't see much of anything except indistinct summer-clothes-clad figures either walking down the street or moving around inside the diner. Whatever it had been, neither Marion nor Mirabelle seemed to notice it.

BOOK: To Helvetica and Back
5.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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