Monday, October 3, 2011

Beach Tale: "The Honor of Your Presence is Requested", a short prequel to THE BLOND LEADING THE BLOND

          Have you ever felt like a dry martini, shaken not stirred?  I don’t mean felt like imbibing in one, I mean actually felt like the gin and vermouth inside a shaker where the bartender rattles it up and down and side to side to make sure all the ingredients are sufficiently blended but not bruised?  That’s how I’ve felt ever since the letter arrived from Geoffrey Maxamillion Eddington the Third, Esquire.  I don’t imagine anyone likes getting a letter from an attorney, but this one had the effect of shaking me like a martini. 
          On the surface, one might consider his request for "the honor of my presence for the reading of the Last Will and Testament (his capital letters, not mine) of one Isabel Genevieve Tinsdale," to be held June 11 at his office in Braddocks Beach, Ohio, to be a good thing.  There’s a hint that I might be a beneficiary of some sort, and with my current financial situation, well, any little bit would help.      
          But here’s the problem.  I’ve never heard of Braddocks Beach, let alone anyone by the name of Isabel Genevieve Tinsdale.  So I ran to my computer and Googled both and I discovered the small lakeside resort in east central Ohio to be nothing more than a dot on the map and found an obituary for the Tinsdale woman. Based on that, it seems a nomination for sainthood was immanent.
          Figuring they must have mistaken me for some other Ellery Elizabeth Tinsdale, I called this Geoffrey guy to tell him he had the wrong person.  He was out of the office, but his secretary asked me a question that had every last one of my neck hairs standing at full attention.
          “You are the daughter of Jack Elliott Tinsdale, born March 9, 1940, aren’t you?”
          “Yes,” I answered.  At least in my head.  My mouth didn’t seem to be functioning at the time.  How would she know who my father is?  He and my mother have been gone from this earth for more than 15 years. 
          “Miss Izzy was Jack’s little sister.”
          Oh.  Well then. That explained it.
          When I had been about five years old, my mother told me that everyone from my dad’s side of the family, including his sister Bella, had been killed in some sort of tragic accident when he was 18 years old.  Mom warned me to never ask Dad about it because it upset him, so I never did.  Could Bella and Izzy be one and the same?  And if so, why then, up until a few days ago, had she been alive when Dad thought her dead? 
          “Why didn’t my aunt contact me before?” I asked, my voice revealing just a hint of the suspicion I was feeling.  Could this person be fishing for information so they could steal my identity?  Sure, I've heard horror stories about that stuff but I didn't think it would ever actually happen to me. 
          “I’m not at liberty to discuss the details with you,” the secretary said. 
          Nor was the secretary able to answer any of the other twenty questions I bombarded her with. But she did reveal just enough information to lead me to believe that this was no hoax.  I was due to inherit something, and anything that tied me to my father as a child, say a picture of him and my grandparents, would mean more to me than all the money in the world.  But truth be told, a little money would be nice, too.   
          Eventually, and in the most syrupy sweet voice, the secretary said, “If you are able to meet with Mr. Eddington on Friday at 2 p.m. you’ll get all the answers you need.” 
          “Okay.” Really, what choice did I have? 
          I brushed away the niggling worry that I would have to leave tomorrow and that the pilgrimage would take four days out of the two weeks that were already slammed full with myriad of things that needed to be done before my summer vacation, which had been three years in planning and saving.  I was booked on a cruise to Alaska, and my ship sailed in a little over two weeks.    
          “I’ll tell Mr. Eddington you’ve confirmed the appointment,” the secretary said. “He’s looking forward to meeting you, as is everyone else in Braddocks Beach.”  And she hung up.  Just like that, with the faintest of clicks, my tenuous connection to my father’s childhood was severed.
          Most self-respecting females when faced with the prospect of meeting kin she didn’t know existed for the first time would plan a trip to the mall.  And even though I had long ago accepted the fact that I had not been blessed with the Shopping Gene in my DNA, I did just that.  This was perhaps the one instance where a snazzy new outfit was needed.  I mean, I couldn’t very well show up in my teaching uniform of denim skirt and polo shirt now, could I?  So I dragged myself to McArthur Center in downtown Norfolk and blew an entire year’s clothing budget on one outfit, complete with shoes and a dab of classy (translation: pricey) jewelry. 
          On the afternoon of June 10th, I threw an overnight case in the passenger seat, hung my new outfit on the garment hook and pointed the nose of Bessie (my bold and brassy Land Rover) northwest.
          No sooner had I cleared the limits of Virginia Beach than I got a craving for pimento stuffed olives.  Preferably ones at the bottom of a gently shaken martini.  

You can read what happens when Ellery gets to Braddocks Beach in The Blond Leading the Blond, a cozy mystery published by Avalon Books and available for reading at a library near you or for purchase from Barnes and Noble or

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If you missed the post of Aunt Izzy’s obituary, just click the Read More button to see it now.

<<News clipping from the front page of the  Braddocks Beach Bugle, Braddocks Beach, Ohio, May 31)>>

Town Matriarch Dead at Age 63
          Isabel Genevieve Tinsdale, age 63, was found dead yesterday at the bottom of the stairs of the Braddocks Beach watchtower. Although the autopsy report is not expected to be released for two more days, sources involved in the clean-up efforts indicate that loss of blood will be listed as a contributory cause of death.
          Police have declared Miss Izzy’s tumble down three flights of steep, cement stairs to be an accident, although the reason she was visiting the watchtower at two o’clock in the morning leaves many asking questions. Don’t expect answers from the local authorities, as according to Braddocks Beach Police Chief Albert C. Bennett, “Delving into a citizen’s personal business is beyond the scope of our duty to protect and serve the community. Miss Izzy took that secret to her grave.”
          Our dearly departed Miss Izzy has taken more than secrets; also gone is the magic and mystery that defined our societal leader.  Her gracious spirit was mimicked but never duplicated.  Her boundless energy was admired but never matched.  Her financial generosity was appreciated but never publicly acknowledged.  Regal in conformation and character, she was a true local treasure. 
          Born on the steps of the old Town Hall (now the Tourist Welcome Center), Miss Izzy left her mark on our small lakeside town. As a ten-year-old, she started a
Teddy Bear Drive
for orphans. It became an annual event, which last year distributed over $1,000,000 worth of toys and clothes to impoverished children throughout Ohio. As a teenager, she staged the town’s first sit-in to protest rising school lunch prices. Her actions led to a free milk policy still in effect today. Most recently, she appointed herself Braddocks Beach’s Goodwill Ambassador, making daily rounds of local eateries to spin tales of local lore in the manner of the great Samuel Clemens (better known as Mark Twain). Thanks to Miss Izzy’s efforts, visitors to our town left feeling they were as much a part of Braddocks Beach history as the gingerbread trim that adorns the shops that encircle Town Park.
          Miss Izzy’s direct lineage to the town’s founding father gave her “royal” status among local society, leading to the official title of Town Matriarch. She served with grace, pride and flair. Her fashion choices set the trend for the season. Recipes for her culinary creations (when she shared) were hoarded like gold. Her bestselling book, Etiquette-liness is Next to Godliness, will proffer mannerly guidance to young men and women for generations to come.
          Throughout her life, Miss Izzy received many offers for her hand in marriage. Despite such romantic overtures as sky-written proposals, a newspaper headline declaring undying love and the legendary footprints painted in the street leading from both Tandy Grisholm’s and Miss Izzy’s front doors to the steps of the Braddocks Beach Church of Divine Spiritual Enlightenment, Miss Izzy chose to remain single. The consequences of this decision are that she produced no heirs to the great Tinsdale fortune. Undoubtedly, the reading of her Final Will and Testament will be the most anticipated event of the year.
          Miss Izzy is preceded in death by her parents, Jonathon and Gertrude “Irene” Tinsdale, and her brother, Jack Elliot Tinsdale. The existence of Jack’s daughter, Ellery Elizabeth Tinsdale, born in San Diego, CA was only recently discovered.  However despite Miss Izzy’s funding of exhaustive coast to coast searches, no record of Miss Ellery has been found in over 20 years and she is presumed dead. Thus Isabel’s passing is not only the end of an era, but also the end of the lineage.
          Isabel Tinsdale’s life will be celebrated in true “Miss Izzy style” with a potluck picnic and chamber music concert in Town Park on Saturday afternoon. Donations in lieu of flowers are requested to be made to the Braddocks Beach Historical Society (or as Miss Izzy was fond of calling it, the Hysterical Society), of which she was a founding member.
          Peace be with you, dear friend.
~Mystic Sayers,
Beat Reporter, Braddocks Beach Bugle  



J.M. Griffin said...

I can't wait to read this book. Miss Izzy sounds delightful. Stroytelling is a true gift and you have it.

Patricia said...

Loved the excerpt, Janye. It was enough to pull me right in. I want to know how much money she inherited and learn about the people in that beach community. And why hadn't she heard of her relatives before then? Great read.

Loretta C. Rogers said...

You absolutely hooked me with the analogy of the martini. I can already see that humor and mystery go hand-in-hand in this story. Sounds like a true winner.

Sandy Cody said...

Irresistible excerpt. Love the setup for your story. Both your protagonist and her departed relative sound like people I'd like to spend time with. Can't wait for the book.

jeff7salter said...

Enjoyed the excerpt!

Anonymous said...

I liked your narrator's voice quite a bit. She was sarcastic, but the story wasn't stopping because of it. I'm excited to read your novel. :D

Nina Pierce said...

Oh, I just love your writing, Jane! I can't wait for this book to be released. Wonderful prologue for us to enjoy!

Sheila Claydon said...

Loved the prequel and love your blog.

Jolyse Barnett said...

Bravo, Jayne! I don't generally read mysteries, but I'll be sure to read yours. :)

Donna Tedone said...

Loved it!

Beate Boeker said...

Make sure you sign up this novel for contests, Jayne! It sounds like a winner . . . I'm very much looking forward to reading it!

Gina/Katherine said...

Sounds like a fun read! Can't wait to get my hands on a copy!

Jayne Ormerod... said...

Wow, the power of social media continually amazes me! The number of hits and comments are a personal best for this fledgling blogger and I thank all of you who stopped by! So many new names, too! Love that!

I feel like Sally Field accepting her Oscar for NORMA RAE..."You like me. You really like me."

Truly, I'm touched. Thank you all!