Who's Sorry Now? (Grace and Favor Series #6)by Jill Churchill
Sister and brother Lily and Robert Brewster may not have a penny to their names, but at least they're in good company––times couldn't be tougher in the Hudson River Valley during the Great Depression, and even the much–revered Chief of Police has lost his home. Their poor town has been stripped of its Post Office, too; now mail gets dumped off the
Sister and brother Lily and Robert Brewster may not have a penny to their names, but at least they're in good company––times couldn't be tougher in the Hudson River Valley during the Great Depression, and even the much–revered Chief of Police has lost his home. Their poor town has been stripped of its Post Office, too; now mail gets dumped off the trains steaming up the Hudson River, and people have to rummage through the bags to find their letters and packages. When Robert helps a young widow and her newly–arrived German grandfather haul the old man's trunks to his granddaughter's shop, he thinks he may have found a new set of friends––especially the kind train porter who helps them out. But when a red swastika is found painted on the widow's shop window, and the train porter is found dead, Robert knows that something much deeper, and much darker, is happening in his sleepy little town. Even back at Grace & Favor Mansion, where Lily and Robert live, things are falling apart. The Chief of Police has just unearthed a very, very old skeleton––right on the grounds! Could the two murders be related? It's up to Lily and Robert to find out the truth, before their quiet community is town apart by hatred, secrets, and a killer who may have set his sights on Grace & Favor...
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Who's Sorry Now?A Grace & Favor Mystery
By Jill Churchill
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Jill Churchill
All right reserved.
Monday, April 17, 1933
Robert Brewster was waiting around the train station in Voorburg-on-Hudson for a box of books he'd ordered for his sister Lily's next birthday. A week ago, he'd sneaked away to New York City with a list the comely town librarian had given him. Miss Philomena Exley knew Lily's reading habits and favorite authors. He'd been told that two of the author choices she'd enjoyed had new books coming out the end of the week if he'd care to wait for just one package to be shipped by train to Voorburg.
Since he was doing this much earlier than necessary, which was not the way he normally treated birthdays, Robert didn't mind. Mostly, he frantically picked up some silly trinket at the last minute, and offered to pay Lily's way to a talkie. But getting to speak at length with Miss Exley was a rare treat.
Since there was no longer a post office in Voorburg because it burned down years ago, the incoming mail and packages were in bags at the train station and the residents had to rummage through the bags to fish out what they'd received.
There was a porter who hung around the station, helping with luggage and living on the tips, which must have been meager in these hard times. Edwin McBride had been at the Bonus March and heard Jack Summer, the editor of the Voorburg Times, talk about Voorburg. It had sounded like a nice town so he'd settled there. "A box for you, Mr. Brewster," McBride said. "Really heavy."
Robert tipped him fifty cents, which was probably more than McBride normally made in a week, and set the box down on a bench, to figure out where to hide it from Lily. As he was doing so, a familiar Voorburg resident stepped off the last car, which was for passengers. She was Sara Smithson, a young widow who had inherited a lot of rental property from her husband. She looked exhausted as she gestured for Mr. McBride to help her with her enormous suitcase, then a large trunk. The trunk was followed by an older man, who needed help down the steep steps.
Robert approached her. "May I help you and this gentleman?"
"Oh, Mr. Brewster, how nice of you. It's been such a long hard trip."
"From where?" Robert asked, not that it was any of his business.
She didn't mind telling him. "Clear from Berlin, Germany."
She pushed back her hair, which was straggling loose from under her hat.
"I went to fetch my grandfather." She put her hand on the old man's arm and glanced at Robert. "This nice man, Mr. Brewster, is going to help us with our belongings."
The old man took Robert's hand, and introduced himself. "Schneidermeister Kurtz."
"Grandpa, say it in English," Mrs. Smithson said with a hint of irritation. "I've told you not many people here know German."
He patted his granddaughter's arm and with a smile, said, "Yes, you have, sweeting. I'm Master Tailor Kurtz. My granddaughter came to rescue me from the Nazis." Robert was surprised at how well the old man spoke English. Only the faintest hint of German accent.
"Are you Jewish, then?" Robert asked.
"No, Catholic," he said. "But once I went with a friend to a Communist meeting. We all had to sign our names and addresses in a ledger so we'd get a notice of the time and place of the next meeting. The Nazis hate Communists as much as Jews. I feared someone would turn me in if they found the ledger."
It took both Robert and McBride to thrust Mr. Kurtz's trunk and Mrs. Smithson's big suitcase into the back of Robert's butter-yellow Duesenberg.
"What a fine car this is," Mr. Kurtz said. "You must be very wealthy to have one."
"Grandpa! That's rude," Mrs. Smithson said.
"I don't mind at all," Robert said. "I inherited it from a great-uncle I didn't even remember. My sister and I are as poor as everyone else in town. Mrs. Smithson, where am I taking you and your grandfather?"
"I live next door to Miss Jurgen. Do you know her house?"
"I do. My sister Lily takes sewing lessons from her."
"I know. I take lessons at the same time she does. But it's not sewing. It's graphing patterns for embroidery and needlepoint. But we need to drop off Grandpa's trunk first."
"That little empty shop across from the courthouse that used to be a bookstore before the tenant and his family took off for California. My late husband owned it."
Robert pulled up in front of the building and said, "We're going to have to have some help with this trunk. Your grandfather can't endanger his hands or back trying to carry it. It's very heavy. I'll go and see if the newspaper editor, Jack Summer, can help me."
"I hate putting so many people to all this trouble."
"It's no trouble at all. And you can do me a favor. Hide this box of books in your house until my sister's birthday, if you would."
"Small payment for all you've done," she said, fishing in her handbag for the keys to the building.
Robert and Jack were back in minutes. "How can a trunk be so darned heavy?" Jack asked.
"Mr. Kurtz is a tailor," Robert explained. "A Master Tailor, in fact. He must have his sewing machine and all his shears, scissors, and threads in it. Probably lots of fabrics as well."
They were both out of breath by the time they'd hoisted it up the two steps to the shop. They could hear voices from the floor above, where there were probably living quarters.
"In English, Grandpa," came Mrs. Smithson's voice.
"But you know German, too."
"Not very well, Grandpa, and I don't speak it anymore. You shouldn't either. German speakers aren't very well liked in America these days."
Excerpted from Who's Sorry Now? by Jill Churchill Copyright © 2005 by Jill Churchill. Excerpted by permission.
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Jill Churchill has won the Agatha and Macavity Mystery Readers awards and was nominated for an Anthony Award for her bestselling Jane Jeffry series. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed Grace and Favor mysteries and lives in the Midwest.
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