If you are a facebook friend of mine, then you are aware that for these first three weeks in March I am involved in an INTENSE Principals of Real Estate class, which should (if all goes well) prepare me enough to pass the national exam and get my agent's license. To that end, there is no writing go on here. And by that I mean, no writing of any sort. No books, no stories, no emails and especially no blog posts. I did have the foresight to book my beach chat guests, but didn't really think about putting fingers to keyboard for my own posts. So, I'm "cheating" a little bit by offering up an excerpt of The Blond Leading the Blond. This is from the end of chapter four, and is written in the first person of Ellery Tinsdale, an amateur sleuth--and a most reluctant one at that--as she gets to know some of her new neighbors in Braddocks Beach, Ohio. Enjoy!
We ate. We talked. We laughed. A lot. Sam only had to coach me one more time on my manners. “Corn should be eaten left to right, like a typewriter,” she’d whispered in my ear when racing off to greet some late-arriving guests. Who’d a thunk? She buzzed back to our table, and with her once again seated across from me, I didn’t dare lick the basil butter from my fingers. “If you’ll excuse me for a minute.” I climbed out from under the picnic table. My dinner companions nodded. George and Doodles stood up when I did, after I felt Sam kick George under the table, that is. I was glad I wasn’t the only one who needed prompting when it came to all things mannerly.
Not wanting to have to shake someone’s hand with my buttery fingers, I skirted around the perimeter of the party towards Sam’s backdoor. The route took me through the shadows of a detached garage that I suspected had originally served as a carriage house. As had happened earlier that afternoon, a right place/wrong time period feeling washed over me and left me thinking I’d fallen into some kind of parallel universe time warp. I pressed my nose against the barn-style doors and inhaled deeply, expecting the scent of hay and horses to fill my nostrils. Nope. Only gasoline and decomposing lawn clippings, confirming I was still in the 21st century, but still a long, long way from home.
I shook my head and went to step back, when a strong hand wrapped around my elbow and pulled me towards the darkness behind the garage. Kick first and ask questions later had always been my motto when attacked, and my leg flew forward of its own accord. My opened-toed shoe made contact with the corner of the garage. Pain shot up my foot and leg, the likes of which I hadn’t experienced since the twenty-pound-bowling-ball incident of 1987.
“Are you okay?”
I looked up and as my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I recognized Connie. His look of concern eased my pain by maybe a decibel, or whatever scale is used to register pain. I plastered a smile on my face, feeling foolish for overreacting. “Guess so many years in the big city have me afraid of my own shadow.” I rubbed my toe along the back of my other leg, but the throbbing was not easily assuaged.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you, but you looked like you were going to faint again.”
“Oh, no.” I dismissed his concern with a wave of my hand, hoping I wouldn’t be forced to reveal the reason I’d felt compelled to sniff the door. “In fact, I feel better than I have in a long time. Something about this small-town air, I guess.” It’s hard to carry on a friendly conversation while your lungs want to scream out with pain and agony.
He smiled at me, which seem to take a great deal of effort.
“Are you okay?” I asked, studying his ashen complexion in the sliver of moonlight. He wore the same jeans and boots as this afternoon, but had added a thick, dappled sweater, despite the temperate evening air.
“I feel tired tonight,” he said and sighed. “I think Izzy’s death is finally hitting me, along with the realization that you’ve gone your entire life knowing so little of your family. Every generation of Tinsdale for a hundred and fifty years has played an important role in this town’s history. Izzy anticipated the day she would bring you here and share that heritage with you. But now that she’s gone.” He paused to clear his voice. “Would tomorrow afternoon be convenient for me to stop by?” He leaned in close and dropped his voice to a low whisper. “I feel I owe you an explanation on the secret project.”
A half-smile tugged at his mouth. “Sorry if I’m being dramatic, but I’ll explain tomorrow. There are too many people around here for us to talk. If you’ll excuse me then, I was on my way home.” We shook hands, his feeling cold and clammy within my own, before he turned and left. The lanky figure shuffling down the driveway seemed to have aged twenty years since I’d met him a few hours ago.
“‘Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead,’” a voice whispered to me from the shadows.