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Ask not for whom the wedding bell tolls, it tolls for Judith McMonigle Flynn's son Mike—and the Hillside Manor b&b is packed to the rafters with relatives. However, Mama Judith's unrestrained joy is somewhat dampened when, during the rehearsal dinner downtown, she spies a tuxedo-clad gent tossing a bridal-gowned beauty off the roof of a nearby hotel. Always one to eagerly exclaim "I do!" when offered the opportunity to investigate nefarious deeds, Judith's ...
Ask not for whom the wedding bell tolls, it tolls for Judith McMonigle Flynn's son Mike—and the Hillside Manor b&b is packed to the rafters with relatives. However, Mama Judith's unrestrained joy is somewhat dampened when, during the rehearsal dinner downtown, she spies a tuxedo-clad gent tossing a bridal-gowned beauty off the roof of a nearby hotel. Always one to eagerly exclaim "I do!" when offered the opportunity to investigate nefarious deeds, Judith's determination to unveil a killer could put undo stress on her own marital bliss with policeman-hubby Joe. But she remains wedded to her mission—and she's not about to take a honeymoon from amateur sleuthing until she's gotten to the bottom of the homicidal hanky-panky surrounding a match made in hell.
Holding a twenty-pound ham in onc hand, Kristin closed the refrigerator door with her hip. She was a big girl, a tall girl, a Valkyrie of a girl. Her long blond hair was more or less tamed into a single braid, and her flaw less skin was almost as tanned as Mike's. She wasn't exactly pretty, but neither was she plain. Judith usually settled for "striking" when describing her daughter-in law to-be.
"Aunt Leah and Uncle Tank had a little trouble checking in at the Naples Hotel," Kristin said in her low, calm voice. "There was some confusion about their reservation, but they got it straightened out after Uncle Tank threatened to shoot the desk clerk."
Startled, Judith glanced at Mike. Her son, however, showed no unusual reaction as he opened a loaf of rye bread. Kristin placidly began carving ham.
"You're kidding?" Judith sounded dubious.
"In a way," Kristin replied matter-of-factly. "The airlines don't allow guns in the passenger cabin. Uncle Tank left his at home where they live in Deep Denial._
Judith's dark eyebrows arched. "Deep denial? Of what?"
With only the faintest hint of a smile, Kristin shook her head. ''They live in Deep Denial, Idaho. It's a place, not a state of mind."
I wonder, thought Judith. She knew little about Kristin's extended family. Maybe that was just as well. Mr. and Mrs. Rundberg seemed like sensible people, but that didn't mean that their shirttail relations were. Judith knew that too well from her own sometimes peculiar relatives.
But there was no time to discuss family eccentricities. Judith was off to Falstaff's Market. As she turned on the ignition of her Subaru, the radioalso came on. Judith winced. Mike and Kristin had been listening to a young adult music station.
"Ya-a-a-h!" the DJ shouted. "Turn up the volume and tear off the knob! It's rockin'-sockin'-slammin'-jammin'-rappin'-slappin' tunes right here on KRAS-FM, with your freedom-lovin_-gun-totin_-butt-kickin' Harley Davidson, bringing you all the. . ."
"No, you aren't," Judith said quietly but firmly, and tuned the dial to a station that featured hits from the fifties and sixties. Andy Williams and "Moon River" caressed her ears as she drove up the steep hill to the neighbor hood's main shopping area. Judith smiled and relaxed be hind the wheel. The song had been one of her favorites when she was dating Joe over thirty years ago. They had danced to it, hummed to it, made love to it. And then Joe had eloped with another woman. Judith had never wanted to hear "Moon River" again, refused to watch Breakfast at Tiffany's, despised Andy Williams, and had secretly admired his ex-wife, Claudine Longet, for shooting her lover, Spider Sabich, in a fit of jealous rage. She would have liked to have done the same thing to Joe. Judith hadn't known then that Joe had gotten drunk after his rookie encounter with teenaged OD fatalities, and been lured onto a Las Vegas-bound plane by the woman known as Herself. Nor had Judith realized that while she suffered in her rebound union with Dan McMonigle, Joe had done penance of his own as the husband of a dedicated alcoholic. It was only when one of Judith's guests was murdered at the B&B that the erstwhile lovers were reunited. Joe had been assigned to break the case; his marriage was already broken. After all was explained, much was forgiven. Judith and Joe had taken up more or less where they had left off, and five years later, life was usually good. There were minor problems, of course. Gertrude had loathed Dan, but she'd never liked Joe much, either. After Judith and Joe had gotten married, Gertrude had steadfastly refused to share a roof with her new son in-law. The move to the converted toolshed ensued, though Judith_s mother never ceased to complain about being thrown out of her own house. There was some truth to the charge, but Judith had been forced into a corner. Gertrude had to go, if only about twenty yards.
Then, just as Judith foolishly thought life was moving on a fairly smooth course, Herself—or Vivian, as was her real name—returned from Florida. To Judith's horror and Joe's dismay, she purchased a house in the cul-de-sac just two doors down from Hillside Manor. While Herself hadn't quit drinking, she apparently had stopped making passes at her former husband. Judith did her best to accept the other Mrs. Flynn as nothing more than a slightly eccentric neighbor. Most of the time, the approach worked.
"Moon River" ended as Judith pulled into the grocery store parking lot. She had ordered a very large pork roast, since at least two dozen guests would be on hand for dinner. Maybe, she reflected as she wailed for Harold, the butcher, to bring her order, she should get a second, smaller roast. It wouldn't go to waste; she could always use the meal for sandwiches. Gertrude loved pork sandwiches.
"I'm not cooking," said a voice at Judith's ear. She turned to see Renie, looking resolute. "It's too hot. We're getting a couple of pizzas."
"So why are you here if you're not making dinner?" Judith inquired.
Renie made a face. "It turned out that my mother also needed a few things at the grocery store." She waved a lengthy list in front of Judith. "I've got coupons, too. She can save twenty cents on toilet paper, thirty on flour, fifty on coffee, and a whole dollar off an oilskin tablecloth. Why does my mother need an oilskin tablecloth? She's been using plastic table covers for twenty years."
Judith made sympathetic noises. "She probably wants to save it for good. My mother has eight slips that have never been out of their gift boxes."
"So what?" Renie snorted. "My mother has ten old girdles in her closet. The last time she wore one of them, a stay popped up and cut her chin."
Harold presented the pork roast with a flourish. Judith gaped at the price, recovered herself, and thanked the butcher. A second roast was beyond her budget. The cousins continued down the aisle, toward dairy.
"At least you won't have to cook tomorrow night," Renie pointed out. "The food at the Naples Hotel should be quite good. They've had an outstanding restaurant ever since they remodeled a few years back."
"I wish you and Bill were coming," Judith said with fervor. "I really don't know any of these people. It's going to be dull."
Renie, who drove a grocery can almost as erratically as she handled a car, knocked over a papier-mache pineapple that was part of Falstaff's "Hawaii Days" display. "You do very well with strangers. That_s why you're such a success as a B&B hostess. Besides, you'll gel to know most of the in-laws tonight. By the rehearsal dinner, they_ll all be your new best friends."
"I don't know," Judith said in an uncertain voice as they passed into housewares. "They sound kind of... odd."
Renie got tangled up in an orchid lei. "Ooops! Hey, they can't be any odder than some of our shirttail relations." The lei came apart spilling purple petals all over Aisle B.
"I don't think they're used to the city," Judith remarked as she paused to pick up a box of laundry detergent. "They're basically small-town folks.
"Then they're probably thrilled to be in a big city," Renie asserted. "I'll bet the ones who have already arrived are having a great time sightseeing."
"Mmm, maybe." Judith wailed for Renie to choose an oilskin tablecloth. "I'll be relieved when this weekend is over."
Renie smiled at her cousin. "I don't blame you—weddings are stressful. Not that I'd know," she added archly, mowing down a plastic pig. "But when you think about it, what can really go wrong?"
Judith admitted she didn't know. Indeed, she couldn't begin to guess.
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