FIRST IN A NEW SERIES!
Hamelin, Vermont, isn’t the most likely place for bagpipes and tartan, but at Peggy Winn’s ScotShop, business is booming…
While on a transatlantic hunt for some authentic wares to sell at her shop, Peggy is looking to forget her troubles by digging through the hidden treasures of the Scottish Highlands. With so many enchanting items on sale, Peggy can’t resist buying a beautiful old tartan shawl. But once she wraps it around her shoulders, she discovers that her purchase comes with a hidden fee: the specter of a fourteenth-century Scotsman.
Unsure if her Highland fling was real or a product of an overactive imagination, Peggy returns home to Vermont—only to find the dead body of her ex-boyfriend on the floor of her shop. When the police chief arrests Peggy’s cousin based on some incriminating evidence, Peggy decides to ask her haunting Scottish companion to help figure out who really committed the crime—before anyone else gets kilt…
About the Author
Tanya Eby has been a voice-over artist for over a decade. She is an Audie-nominated and AudioFile Earphones Award-winning narrator. Besides narrating, Tanya spends her time teaching creative writing classes at the collegiate level, blogging, and working on her own novels.
Read an Excerpt
The Benefits of Yoga
Yoga is supposed to relax you, isn’t it? But the yoga manuals never say anything about what kind of breath to take when yoga class ended early because the teacher’s water broke and you crept into your boyfriend’s house at ten p.m. as a special surprise and found Andrea, your as-of-this-very-minute former best friend ever since fourth grade in bed with your as-of-this-very-minute former almost fiancé.
“I thought you were at yoga class,” Mason said, and, yoga composure be damned, I hauled off and slugged him. Then I took a strangled breath—the kind yoga practitioners always make fun of—and threw my key at his formerly well-loved head. I stomped down the stairs, slammed the front door, opened it, and slammed it again. Then I ran to Karaline’s house. Karaline Logg. My friend. My real friend. A better friend than Andrea Stone, damn her hide. So what if Karaline had to get up at three thirty? This was an emergency.
“Kill him,” she told me after I’d sobbed and sworn and gurgled and howled numerous times and in no particular order. “Think of it as a thirtieth birthday present to yourself, and it’ll make you feel better.”
I growled and punched her couch cushion. “Hell isn’t hot enough for Mason Kilmarty.”
“That’s cold enough, Peggy.” We’d both read Dante. His version of hell was frozen over, colder than a Vermont winter.
She swiped her hand as if to erase all thought of Mason. “You still planning on going tomorrow?”
“So, by the time you get back from Scotland, he’ll be sorry as a hound dog in a skunk hole.” She’d never liked Mason, or Andrea either. “He’ll try to get you to take him back.”
I made a face. “I wouldn’t take him back if he crawled.”
Karaline yawned. Her grandfather clock chimed quite a few times. “Go home,” she told me, “before I turn into a pumpkin.”
By that time I felt better, even though Karaline would have to get up in a few hours to start making maple pancake batter for the tourists. “Like I said,” she reminded me as I left, “just kill him and be done with it.”
A Shawl of My Own
I made it through the morning somehow, and I didn’t even speed too much as I drove to Burlington to catch my flight to New York. The layover at JFK was long, but I always had my e-books. This time, though, they weren’t as much comfort as usual. The night flight to London was the normal hassle with all the increased airport regulations, yet I felt unusually restless, unable to snooze on the plane the way I generally did. I started to doze, but visions of Andrea—why did she have to have such a gorgeous body? Stop it, Peggy. I kept telling myself that, but then, just as I was about to doze off again, I thought about Karaline’s solution to the problem. Tempting. Maybe I’d get arrested by that new cop in town, the one with the exquisite eyes. Officer Harper. Then I could explain the reasons—justifiable homicide, isn’t that what it’s called?—and he’d let me go, after a suitable interlude of . . . Stop it, Peggy.
A woman sitting across the narrow aisle wore a red-and-green Kilgour tartan skirt. Kilgour was close enough to Kilmarty—Mason Kilmarty—to set me off again. I pulled out my cell phone and reprogrammed all his numbers to read JUNK on my caller ID. I considered something a bit more graphic but decided I didn’t need to lower myself.
Then I worked on my calendar, blocking off one whole day the Sunday after next to balance my checkbook. I was four months behind on it. Somehow or other the statements just kept piling up. I was pretty sure I had enough money in there, but it would be a good idea if I knew for certain. I blocked off that Saturday night for the surprise party Karaline was giving Drew and me—the party I wasn’t supposed to know about. Eventually I dozed.
At Heathrow, I practically staggered onto my flight to Edinburgh, and by the time I eventually stepped off the bus in Pitlochry, my eyes were as droopy as a basset hound’s. I took a deep yoga breath to wake myself up, and in came that special air of Scotland. Not that it was particularly special next to the bus; it was just the thought of what awaited me here in this town I loved. I waited for a large family to clear out of my way, then looked around. Linklater Sinclair always met me at the station. There he was, kilt ruffling around his sturdy legs as he stepped forward to take my bag.
“Mr. Sinclair,” I said. “Thank you for meeting me.”
“As if I wouldna?” he said, scrunching his gray eyebrows together in what I had learned over the past six years was his way of covering a sweetness I’d seldom seen in a man before. I think he was old enough to be my father, maybe even old enough to be my grandfather. I’d never had the nerve to ask him his age.
He wore his kilt, in the muted blues and greens of the Sinclair hunting tartan, as if it had been made for him, as I supposed it had. It suited him somehow. Well worn, with a slightly shabby texture to it, he wore it with an ease and a grace that I often wished American men would—could—adopt. But no. Life was different in Scotland. Slower. I did wonder briefly, not for the first time, what Officer Harper would look like in a kilt. Too bad our Hamelin town cops wore dark blue pants. Kilts would have been more in tune with the tourist aspect of the town. I put that thought out of my head, though, as I smiled at the sparkling blue eyes of my dear Scot friend.
He looked me over, ran his free hand through his silvery white hair, handed me into the left front seat, and stuffed my bag in the trunk—the boot. I’d been to Scotland on numerous buying trips, and I had never mustered up the courage to drive. If I were on the road all by myself and driving slowly enough, I was sure I could remember which side to drive on. But approaching a traffic circle—they called it a roundabout—I knew I’d always go the wrong direction. And if an oncoming car appeared on a narrow road, I knew I’d dive to the right without thinking. If it weren’t for Linklater Sinclair, I’d have been dead twelve times over. Thank goodness I’d found him and his wife on my first visit to Perthshire.
“Will ye be wanting to go straight to town first,” he asked in a tone that clearly said I’d better not, “or do ye need to freshen yourself? Mrs. Sinclair will want to see ye, and there’s always time for tea.”
As much as I wished to get into the shops, a quick inventory of my head warned me how fuzzy it was. A bracing cup of tea would do it, I thought. Good grief, I never say “a bracing cup of tea” when I’m in the States. Must be something in the atmosphere. “I’d love a cup,” I told him, and I wasn’t surprised when he nodded emphatically.
The Sinclairs had a quiet sort of respect for each other. In the six years I’d known them—I always stayed at their bed-and-breakfast when I was in Perthshire—neither one of them had ever said an unkind word about the other, and they tended to finish each other’s sentences.
He pulled up in front of their small cottage, where a compact stone wall surrounded a neat garden of herbs and flowers. Climbing roses arched over the paned windows of the tidy stone structure. I knew from experience that the house was considerably deeper than it looked, and the roses surrounded the house on all four sides.
My room—they rented it to others when I wasn’t there, but I couldn’t help but think of it as my very own—was a cozy garret in back above the kitchen, reached by a narrow, twisting stairway. The climbing rose that grew up to my window had yellow blossoms. It wouldn’t be blooming yet, but I’d seen the Sinclair roses at every season and loved them regardless of the time of year.
Mrs. Sinclair opened the front door and waved me inside. I didn’t throw my arms around her sturdy body, even though that was what I wanted to do. Mr. Sinclair followed with my bag. The first time I stayed with them, I’d brought four suitcases—four! Ridiculous. Mr. Sinclair had gently refused to let me carry any of them inside. “Part of the service we offer, lassie,” he told me. I’d wondered about his ability to carry them up those stairs but learned soon enough not to worry about him. He could walk circles around Mrs. Sinclair and me when the three of us hiked the dirt and gravel trail up the side of Ben y Vrackie, the friendly mountain that loomed a mile or so to the north of Pitlochry. It had been a couple of years, though, since I’d hiked it with them.
When I walked into the Sinclairs’ front room, Bruce, their aging Scottish terrier, made eye contact and slowly lowered his head onto the edge of his round padded bed.
I looked at Mr. Sinclair and he shook his head. “The wee boy is feeling his age.”
Bruce picked his head back up, hauled himself to his feet, stepped across the edge of the soft bed, and came over to sniff my feet.
I bent to scratch his wiry head. “You’re just taking your time, aren’t you? That’s okay, boy.”
Mr. Sinclair had been telling me for the past few years that I needed a wee dog of my own—a Scottie, naturally—but with Shorty, my cat, I wasn’t sure a dog would work out. Anyway, I got plenty of doggie kisses from my brother’s dog every time they dropped by. Still, I could imagine a Scottie in the ScotShop. Maybe with a little tartan jacket? I whipped out my phone and took a picture of Bruce as he lay back down.
I wasn’t even a third of the way though my cup of tea when Mrs. Sinclair said, “So, what’s bothering ye, dearie? Ye’re not . . .”
“. . . your usual bright self,” her husband concluded for her. “We can tell there’s something wrong.”
As much as I hated to disturb the peace of their cottage with my lousy love life, I needed their sense of perspective. “It’s Mason,” I said.
“Mason Kilmarty?” Mrs. Sinclair rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “Wasna that the young man . . .”
“. . . ye were stepping out with, no?” Mr. Sinclair’s eyes wrinkled in worry.
“He’s not my young man anymore.” I tried to sound matter-of-fact, but the look on their faces told me I’d failed. Often enough they’d listened to me brag about how well suited Mason and I were to each other. In retrospect, I wondered if I’d been trying to convince myself. “We broke up night before last.” They looked so concerned, I added quickly, “It’s okay. I’m fine, really.”
Mrs. Sinclair pursed her lips. “He found someone else?”
“The rat turd,” Mr. Sinclair pronounced at the same time, and Bruce growled from his doggie bed.
I laughed in spite of myself. “That’s about the size of it.”
He set down his cup. “So now ye are free . . .”
“. . . to find just the right one for ye.” The Sinclairs passed a look back and forth between them, soft as an ancient velvet box designed to hold love letters. Finally, she stood, setting the teacups onto a tray. “Why do ye not head into town before the shops close,” she said, but without a question in her voice. “Mr. Sinclair will drive ye.”
“No,” I said. “I’ll walk. It’s only half a mile.”
“Aye, and he’s going to drive ye there and bring ye back as weel.”
I knew a losing battle when I saw one. “Well, that will be a help if I collect any packages.”
“Of course ye will,” she scoffed. “When did ye never have parcels to lug around?”
I thanked her and ran upstairs to change from my wrinkled travel clothes. I took a moment to lean out the window and sniff. I knew there weren’t roses blooming now, but I could swear I smelled them, not exactly a rose smell but something sweet and springlike. I turned around and spotted a bouquet of early wildflowers on the dresser beside a heavy pewter candlestick. The yellowed candle matched the color of the wild daisies. I’d walked right by without seeing them. My head was fuzzy indeed. I’d need to go to bed early.
* * *
Mr. Sinclair dropped me off at one end of the Atholl Road, Pitlochry’s main shopping street. “I’ll come back whenever ye’re ready with your parcels, my dear,” he told me as I lugged myself out of the car. I was more tired than I’d thought. “If ye need to warm up”—he pointed down the street to where his sister had a lovely little tearoom I’d visited often—“ring me, and I’ll come to fetch ye.” He patted the worn cloth seat beside him with what looked to me like deep affection.
He’d always told me the same thing, every time I’d been in his car. He didn’t often drive me into town, only if the weather was blustery or if rain was in the offing. Same words. Same intonation, his light tenor voice sounding like a rather settled golden retriever. He even looked like a retriever, an old one. His white hair swept to one side from a part that hopped around the left side of his head. His habit of running a hand—sometimes both of them at once—through his hair any time of day made tidiness impossible.
I stepped out of the car and leaned down to look at him again. “I won’t be long.”
He arched his bushy black eyebrows, which were an odd contrast to his silvery hair. “In that case, I’ll wait at least two hours before I come back.”
I laughed. “No, I mean it.”
Despite my indignation, or maybe because of it, he chuckled and headed back the way we’d come.
I waved and started along the main thoroughfare but stopped as I came to a side street bordered by a low wall of stacked stone. I couldn’t remember ever having walked down that way. I headed toward a tall larch tree about halfway down the lane but was sidetracked by a gated arbor covered with an early blooming vine I didn’t recognize. The flowers were a dark peach color with darker brown veins in the petals. Feathery leaves whorled around the sinuous stems like Christmas greenery around a bannister. I breathed in an almost citrusy scent with an underlying spicy hint of—of what? Cinnamon? I glanced through the arbor to see a little stone shop tucked in between two rowan trees. A discreet sign in the door said Open. I ducked through the gateway under the bower of fragrant blossoms.
Three women stood inside, huddled in conversation. They looked up at me, and one of them, wearing a blue-and-green plaid skirt, motioned me farther in. “Ye are well come to the Scot Shop,” she said.
What a lovely old-fashioned phrase, I thought as I closed the door behind me, but all I said was, “To the what?”
“The Scot Shop. Did ye no see the sign beside the door?”
“No, I didn’t notice it. I guess I was too busy looking at your flowers. Have you been here long?” They looked a bit confused until I added, “I’ve been to Pitlochry many times and never saw your store before today.”
“Aye. Well. That’s no bother. Ye’ve found us now.”
“I’m intrigued with the name. I own a store called the ScotShop back in the States. I come here often on buying trips.”
“Do ye now?”
One of the other women spoke up. “The Scot Shop? For aye? Like this?” She waved her arm in a slow arc that took in the whole room.
“I live in a tourist town called Hamelin. It was founded by Scots years ago. Many of the men in town wear kilts.”
The first woman nodded. “And would ye be wearing an arisaidh yourself?”
“Oh, yes, at least when I’m working at the store. That or just a long skirt, white blouse, and tartan scarf.”
“That’s lovely. Feel free to look around, dear. Let me know if ye have any questions.”
I thanked her and moved to my right, but a sudden impulse turned me toward the back left corner of the shop, where I saw piles of felted fabric. It was darker there. I normally prefer a brightly lit store, but this was Scotland, after all, and I supposed the darkened corner was deliberately planned to invoke a sense of mystery. The items certainly did seem a bit mysterious. No price tags, for one thing. I touched as I went—I do love the feel of wool, particularly fabrics that are handwoven.
A pile of plaids called to me, and I stepped closer. There’s a certain look to beautifully handwoven and hand-felted cloth that can’t be reproduced by anything machine made. I reached for them, and then I turned back to the proprietor. “May I rummage a bit?”
“Of course ye may,” she said with a nod of her grizzled head.
I set the top few pieces to one side and stopped when I reached a dark plaid with blocks of blue, wide stripes of green, and thin crosshatchings of red and what looked like yellow, although in this low light I couldn’t be sure. Maybe it was white. I didn’t recognize the pattern. I knew quite a few clan tartans by name, but this one was unfamiliar to me. That wasn’t surprising, since nowadays there were dress tartans, hunting tartans, ancient tartans, and something called a modern tartan for every clan. I’d long ago given up trying to recall even the names of all the clans, much less their various plaids.
I lifted it, expecting a square or rectangle of material, but the felted fabric, surprisingly lightweight and supple, was shaped to drape around the shoulders. “A shawl,” I said, more to myself than to anyone else, and clutched it to my chest. A wave of warmth, coziness, and comfort spread through me.
“Och, lassie, don’t go picking up that aulde thing.” The nasal voice came from the third woman, the one who hadn’t spoken before. She turned to the plaid-skirted woman. “I surely don’t know why ye keep it around.”
The woman murmured something, but I paid little attention. The shawl felt so warm in my arms, so enveloping.
“. . . from my great-grandmother.”
I fingered the edge of the shawl. I couldn’t imagine anyone having something that old. It didn’t look like it could be—what would it have to be? A hundred years old? The woman in plaid looked like she was in her late seventies, so the shawl, if it had belonged to her great-grandmother, would have to be 120 years old maybe? It certainly looked in good shape for something so ancient. “Did you say your great-grandmother made it?”
“Och, no,” the woman whispered. Her skirt matched the pattern of the shawl I held, and it swished as she swayed from side to side. “Her great-grandmother’s great-grandmother was the one who saved it from the fire that took the village.”
The other women nodded knowingly. There was always a story of some devastating fire that had swept through a village, claiming not only the houses but lives as well. That was why, I was sure, this town was built of stone.
“It was her great-grandmother’s before her, and that woman’s great-grandmother even before, and another nine great-grandmothers before that. It always passed to the eldest great-granddaughter, but now”—her voice quavered with what sounded like regret—“I’m the first to have no daughter of my own. ’Twill have to go to my sister’s branch in Nefyn.”
I couldn’t imagine that many great-grandmothers. I often wished I could have known my great-grandmother. She sounded like such a hoot. My grandmother—my mother’s mother—had told me often that her ma always claimed to be able to see ghosts. It was something of a family joke, but there was an undertone of chagrin that there could have been someone so crazy in the family. When my brother and I turned ten, though, I blew out my half of the birthday candles secretly wishing I could see a ghost someday.
My ancestors, the ones I knew of, went back almost to the 1700s, when Hamelin was founded, but the records before then were destroyed when half the town burned down. That was well close to three hundred years ago.
But how many hundreds of years was this woman talking about?
I looked at the shawl I still held. Ridiculous. It couldn’t be that old. Anyway, would anyone sell something that had been in the family for so long? I was being spun a tale. Still, I liked the feel of the shawl. “I’ll take it,” I said, and cringed. I’d just made the worst mistake a buyer can make. The woman knew I wanted it, so the price would go up accordingly.
“Of course ye will, lassie,” she said. “It’s been waiting for ye all these years. Ye are the one.”
I’m afraid I gawked at her. The one what?
“’Tis so,” she said. “The shawl is yours. It always has been. Can’t ye tell?” She reached out and took it from me, holding it up under my chin. She nodded. “Aye.”
At that moment, feeling almost as if I were in a trance, I think I would have paid any amount for it. But the price she named was reasonable indeed, and I paid it without hesitation, silently blessing the woman for her lack of avarice.
“It’s a Farquharson,” she said. “Did ye ken that?”
“No,” I told her, “I’m not familiar with that clan,” and started toward the door.
“Och, ye soon will be,” she said.
I held the shawl tight against me as I headed back toward the main street. I couldn’t imagine what she meant.
For some reason, I wasn’t much in the mood for shopping that afternoon. I kept thinking about Ben y Vrackie, the mountain a mile or so north of town. I felt an urge, almost a yearning, to climb it. I hugged the shawl more tightly, relishing its softness. “Let us climb,” an inner voice urged me. At least, that’s what I imagined. Maybe it was a fragment of an old poem I’d read but couldn’t recall. I laughed the thought away and returned to the cottage, surprising both the Sinclairs.
I placed the shawl over their hall tree. “Mrs. Sinclair? Would you like to take a walk up Ben y Vrackie?”
“Today?” Her eyebrows rose right into the wrinkles across her forehead.
“No. You’re right. It’s too late for that, but maybe tomorrow?”
For some reason, she looked at the shawl.
“That sounds lovely,” she said, glancing at her husband, who raised his bushy eyebrows and shrugged.
“Of course.” She sounded like she was answering an unspoken question. “’Twould be a lovely day for a walk, dearie. We’ll leave here just after midday and take our tea with us.” She headed into the kitchen.
“I don’t want to be any bother,” I protested.
“Nonsense, lassie.” Mr. Sinclair looked toward where Mrs. Sinclair has disappeared into the back. “We’ve not been up on Ben y Vrackie for . . .”
“. . . nae for a year or twa,” she called.
I ate a quick dinner at the pub down the lane and turned in early. I’d set my clothes out on the chair beside the window with the shawl draped across them. Tomorrow, the mountain. Why did I feel so excited about climbing a big hill? With the moonlight streaming across the bed, I slept.
A Wee Ghostie in the Meadow
Breakfast was the usual porridge, sausage, and a coddled egg. Mrs. Sinclair set them in front of me with an admonition to “eat heartily. ’Tis hungry you’ll be on the mountain this afternoon otherwise.”
I passed the morning pleasantly enough wandering around town and ate lunch at a small pub. It was such a lovely day, I’d left the shawl in my room.
Finally, I couldn’t stand the wait any longer, and headed back to the B and B.
Within moments Mrs. Sinclair appeared, tucking in the flap of a rucksack, two others slung over her arm. “Tea, nuts, and biscuits,” she said, handing one pack to Mr. Sinclair and one to me.
I ran upstairs and grabbed the shawl. It was likely to be chilly on the side of the mountain. As I climbed into the back of their little car, I hoped I wouldn’t regret that I hadn’t taken the time to go to the bathroom. Karaline always accused me of TBS—tiny bladder syndrome—whenever we hiked at home.
Mr. Sinclair parked in a small graveled area at the beginning of a well-defined trail. He hefted the rucksack. Some well-meaning person had placed a blue porta potty—here it was called a Portaloo—at the mouth of the trail. I excused myself to make use of it. I couldn’t recall it from the last time I’d hiked here, but was quite grateful for it this time.
Why, I thought, had I chosen to come here rather than to explore more of the Pitlochry shops? This trip was short to begin with, and here I was wasting several hours.
Mr. and Mrs. Sinclair had gone ahead. They sat on a large stone outcropping a few minutes up the trail, waiting patiently. “Thank you,” I said, and we headed uphill.
The climb to the summit is supposed to take less than an hour, but I’ve never been much of a hiker. Oh, I like to take long walks, but I have a tendency to stop—often—to look at odd stones, bits of plant, and puddles of mud. Also, I must admit, I do get out of breath if I try to keep up a regular pace. So I’m afraid I slowed the Sinclairs down, but they were used to me. We’d taken this walk before. They adjusted their pace to mine, and Mrs. Sinclair stopped occasionally “to look at this lovely view,” she said, but I knew it was so I could catch my breath.
I spotted a charming meadow a ways off the main trail and called to the Sinclairs.
Mrs. S cocked her head at her husband. “Did I not tell ye?”
He didn’t answer, just disrupted his hair again with both hands.
We drank our tea from pottery mugs. Mrs. Sinclair disliked plastic and Styrofoam as much as I did. The grassy meadow flowed down the hill beside a gurgling brook that tumbled toward the loch below. Most of the mountainside was covered in heather, which tends to be prickly, but this one place sported grass, and a towering larch spread its deep green branches like a billowing cape. There were other trees on Ben y Vrackie, but none so large as this. How could I have missed it on my previous hikes?
After we munched a bit on filberts and walnuts, Mr. Sinclair stretched out on the turf beneath the tree and pulled his hat forward over his eyes. “A wee nap,” he muttered—an unnecessary explanation.
“A lovely idea, my dear,” Mrs. Sinclair said, and settled down beside him, her back up against the enormous larch. She smiled sweetly at him and then at me. “Rest yourself, Peggy,” she said, and patted the ground beside her.
I felt restless, though, and shook my head. “I’m going to walk down by the brook.” She waved gaily, and I turned my back on her.
The grass was spongy beneath my feet. I’ve always thought the smell of newly cut grass was the best smell in the world. This grass didn’t look newly shorn at all, but the smell was there just the same. Heavenly, I thought.
I’d chosen to travel in a sturdy calf-length walking skirt. I felt very old-world when I wore it, because it wasn’t the sort of thing Americans wore on airplanes or on hikes. I’d packed some jeans, of course, but the skirt felt better somehow. My hiking boots laced above my ankles. I’d learned the hard way that my tendency to slip on any uneven surface required me to buy good footwear. When I reached the stream, though, I slipped off the boots and my practical white socks. After a moment’s hesitation, I dipped my toes into the cold water and quickly out again, tucking them beneath the soft folds of my skirt. I pulled the shawl off my left shoulder, where I’d been carrying it, and wrapped it around me, covering the back of my neck, for I’d begun to feel a chill. I glanced back up the hill. The Sinclairs were, fortunately, out of sight behind a slight rise in the meadowland. What lovely solitude.
Mason, damn him, floated into my mind. I was better off without him. If I were completely honest with myself, I hadn’t really trusted him, ever since the day I’d found him rummaging through my purse, my checkbook in his hand. No, I was not going to let him ruin this day. The utter peacefulness of the meadow slowly sank into me the way butter melts into hot toast. I took a deep breath and then another.
I didn’t hear anyone walk up behind me, but the voice hardly startled me at all, it felt so much a part of this place. He called my name.
“Peigi? Are ye now well then?” the voice said, soothingly, gently. Pay-ee-gee was how he pronounced it. I rather liked that, and I turned my head uphill to see who had spoken. My shoulder-length hair swung forward, and I brushed it back.
“Och no!” the voice said. “Peigi! What have they done to your hair?” The distress of the burly gentleman who stood there was almost palpable, but there was a wavering shimmer around him, like heat waves above hot pavement, and I could—almost—see the far edge of the meadow through his billowing belted plaid. Heavy black hair blew back from his face, although I didn’t feel a wind. I began to think that perhaps I wasn’t the Peggy he was expecting. I began to wonder, too, if my great-grandmother had been telling the truth about seeing ghosts.
“I knew ye were ill, my love, but they kept me from ye. Was it the Fever? Is that why they cut off your beautiful . . .” His voice faded a bit as he stepped nearer, and his left hand went to the hilt of his dirk. “Ye are no my Peigi,” he said in an accusing tone that contrasted horribly with the gentleness of his earlier words.
I slid back on my butt, farther away from him. I was going to have grass stains on my skirt, damn it, and it was his fault. I pulled my shawl closer about me. This couldn’t be happening.
“Ye are no my Peigi,” he repeated.
“Well, no,” I said. “I’m Peggy, that’s true, but not your Peggy.” Why was I conversing with this lunatic? I should be yelling for the Sinclairs, who were, unfortunately, out of sight. “What are you doing here anyway?”
“Doing here?” His indignation practically exploded. “What are ye doing on my land?”
“What do you mean your land? This is a public walking trail. I have every right to be here.” It occurred to me that maybe I didn’t, since we’d strayed off the trail to this meadow. Come to think of it, I’d never seen this particular meadow before, despite all the times I’d walked up this mountain. Maybe we were trespassing, but I wasn’t about to admit that to this cantankerous guy. “Just ask the Sinclairs,” I said. “They walk here all the time.”
“The Sinclairs?” He planted his booted feet wide apart and crossed his arms in front of his massive chest. “And what would ye be having to do with that clan?”
“What are you talking about? They’re my friends, and they’re asleep under the larch up there.” I pointed.
“What larch? The goats roam over this entire hillside, and there are no trees big enough to sleep under.”
I gathered my skirt out of the way, picked up my boots, stuffed the socks in them, and stood in a huff. “You just come with me, sir,” I said, “and you can see for yourself.” Without waiting, I marched up the small rise and started across the grass toward the ancient tree. Mrs. Sinclair had apparently woken up. Or maybe she hadn’t slept at all. She held a small paperback book. When she saw me, she waved merrily.
“See?” I said out of the corner of my mouth. “There they are and there’s the tree. And,” I added with some spite, “no goats anywhere.”
I turned to look at him as he walked up beside me. The shock on his face stopped me in my tracks. “Where did yon tree come from? It wasna there yester morn.”
I shifted my boots to my other hand and headed toward Mrs. Sinclair, who seemed to be rummaging in her knapsack. Her husband lay inert. “Peggy,” she called when she saw me, “come have a wee sit before we head back down the trail.” She patted the ground beside her, the way she had a little while ago, and held up a red tin. “I’ve biscuits for us to share. All three of us,” she added, and prodded her husband, “if the mister will deign to wake up.”
Three of us? I looked sideways at the man standing right beside me. “I’ll be there in a moment, Mrs. Sinclair,” I called. “I . . . I left my socks by the stream.” I turned and fled, and the man came along with me.
At the side of the stream I whirled around. “She couldn’t see you.” My stage whisper was indignant, unbelieving, and, I must admit, a trifle terrified.
“And do ye think,” he practically spat at me, “do ye think I am enjoying this?” He paced a few feet uphill, turned around and paced down. “I woke up . . . I didna know I had been sleeping, but it seemed I awoke . . . thinking my Peigi had somehow been transported from her sickbed, restored to health, and brought here to my lands.” He spread his arms to encompass the hillside. “Instead, I find a brazen woman striding around with . . . with her ankles showing.” He shuddered, but I noticed his eyes drift down the length of me. I missed his next few words. “. . . a tree where no tree stood ever since my grandda’s father cleared this land for our crops and the goats.” His hand strayed to his dirk again. “And these strange clothes ye wear. Where did ye come from? Are ye . . . a spirit?”
A bird flew across the meadow, and I saw the wings flap as it passed behind him. He seemed so much a part of this place, but his clothes, his attitudes were—Oh dear, this can’t be happening—from a very long time ago.
I took a deep breath. “I don’t think I’m the one who’s the spirit here.” He looked incredulous. “I think you’re . . .” I took another breath. “I think you’re a ghost.”
“That canna be. I dinna believe in them, despite what the aulde grannies say.”
“But I can see through you—sort of.”
He held a hand up in front of his eyes. I could see a shimmer of light through it. He swallowed convulsively; his Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. “And I can see ye, too, like. Through my—” He sat down abruptly. “I’m deid?”
I sank down onto the grass beside him. “It sure looks like it.”
“Why am I here, then?”
“I don’t know.” I gripped the shawl more tightly.
He reached out and fingered the edge of it. “This is her shawl, ye know,” he said. “See this wee line of white that disrupts the pattern along this one edge?”
I doubt I would have noticed it if he hadn’t pointed it out. A thin white line was clearly visible, even though the felting had blended the colors and made the pattern soft and indistinct. I checked the other edges, but no white line was there.
“It was her love message to me,” he said.
He had a bad case of five o’clock shadow, about two days’ worth. I almost wanted to reach over and run my fingers along his jaw to see what it would feel like. I restrained myself.
“She told me that her love for me would last as long as this white line was visible. And that when I was awae from her, she would keep me by her side.” The shawl dropped from his fingers. “Forever,” he added.
I looked around the hillside, half expecting to see a long-skirted, long-haired, long-dead woman walking our way. “When . . .” I didn’t know how else to ask it. “When are you from?”
He looked puzzled for a moment until understanding sank in. “This is the year of our Lord 1359.”
“Thirteen!” I yelped. “Thirteen-fifty-nine? How the heck did you get to the twenty-first century?”
He gulped again. “Twenty-first, ye say?” His wavering cheeks went a bit pale. He cupped his face in his hands and leaned his elbows on his knees—and very fine knees they were, I had to admit. His kilt was hiked halfway up his thigh. But I didn’t need to be thinking about that. We sat in silence for a minute, maybe two.
What on earth would my great-grandma have done in a situation like this? Was I going absolutely nuts? “Do you have a name, or do I just call you ghost?”
He bowed in a surprisingly courtly manner. “I have the privilege of carrying the name of Macbeath Donlevy Freusach Finlay Macearachar Macpheidiran of Clan Farquharson. My family call me Macbeath.”
“Mock-beh-ath? Macbeth? Like Shakespeare?”
“Shake spear? What is shake spear?”
“You’ve gotta be kidding. Everybody knows Shakespeare.”
“I assure you I do not.”
“Oh, yeah; he was the sixteen hundreds.” I watched a small spider in the grass while I thought.
He raised his head and looked down the hill toward the loch. “What brought me here?” He laid his hand gently on my shawl, where the corner of it touched the grass. The spider had begun spinning a web beside his soft-booted foot. I was glad he hadn’t stepped on her. I like spiders. “’Twas the shawl brought me here, I am sure of it.”
I looked away from the spider into his disturbingly alive-looking eyes. “So you’re really a ghost?” The idea was beginning to sink in.
He nodded slowly. “’Twould appear so, but I’ve not known it till now.”
“And you’re here because of the shawl.” I fished my socks out of my boots and pulled them on while he thought.
He shook his head. “No. Not just that. I think I came when Peigi called.”
“But—but,” I sputtered, “she’s been dead for”—I did a quick calculation—“almost seven hundred years.”
He heaved a heart-wrenching sigh. “So, it would appear, have I.”
Without another word, he followed me uphill. When we were almost within sight of the Sinclairs, just before we reached the top of the rise, I turned to him. “Don’t say anything, anything at all, while we’re with the Sinclairs.” I spread my hands in the age-old gesture of helplessness. “They wouldn’t understand.”
He nodded solemnly. “Nor do I.”
He trailed disconsolately behind me. I couldn’t make up my mind what to say. I have a ghost named Macbeth. No. My shawl is haunted. Nope. You won’t believe what just happened to me. They certainly wouldn’t.
He circled behind me and approached the tree. I took a deep breath. “I hope you had a good nap, Mr. Sinclair.” I sat gingerly on Mrs. Sinclair’s left and accepted a cookie. Biscuit. I had to remember to call it a biscuit. If I could remember a bracing cup of tea—one of which I could definitely use right about now—I could certainly remember biscuit. “The clouds are lovely today, aren’t they?”
Mrs. Sinclair looked at me as if she thought I’d lost my mind. Maybe I had.
I looked over my right shoulder. The ghost had his hands up, pressing them against the tree’s crenellated bark. He looked up at the lowest branches, which were a good eight feet above his head. I wondered if he could feel the bark or if his hands would pass through it. He looked up, as if he were trying to gauge the larch’s height, and light glinted off the handle of his dirk.
“Yes, they are lovely, but what are ye looking at, lassie?” Mr. Sinclair’s voice broke into my reverie. “It is no the clouds,” he added.
“The, uh, the tree?”
Mrs. Sinclair chuckled. “Is it us ye’re asking, dearie?” She swiveled her neck around to her left, surprisingly flexible, I thought, for a woman her age, and looked up at the larch. She studied the tree longer than I would have expected, and when she turned back to me, her gaze felt laserlike, but all she said was, “The tree, was it?”
“I wonder how old it is?” I stole a quick look at the ghost. He had turned his head to look at Mrs. Sinclair and then at me. I could feel his gaze, and I shivered.
“Pull your shawl more tightly round your shoulders, dearie. Ye look like ye’re catching a chill.” She handed me the little tin of cookies. Biscuits. She smiled. “To tell the truth, ye’re acting like ye’ve seen a wee ghostie.”
Mr. Sinclair laughed. “Not so wee, from the look on her face.”
The wee ghostie under discussion circled around to my left and knelt in front of me. The light of the setting sun poured through his hair, turning the black to liquid charcoal.
“Can she see me?” he whispered. “I canna tell.”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Don’t know what, lassie?”
Damn. I couldn’t talk to him when other people were around. They’d think I was crazy. I put on a bright smile. “I don’t know . . . uh, but I just felt a little faint. I’m fine now, though.”
Mrs. Sinclair looked at Mr. Sinclair, and they both turned back to me. “Are ye now?” They spoke at the same time, echoing each other.
I looked at my watch, remembered I wasn’t wearing one, and took the last cookie. Biscuit.
Mr. Sinclair stood and helped his wife to her feet. We packed our few belongings in the rucksacks and headed back to the trail. I turned to look at the peaceful meadow one more time.
“It was here we—my Peigi and I—were together for the last time.” The ghost stood close to my right shoulder but did not touch me.
“When was that?” I asked.
Mr. Sinclair turned around. “When was what, lassie?”
This was going to be harder than I thought. “Just muttering to myself,” I said. And to the resident ghost. I waited until the Sinclairs walked farther downhill. “I guess this is good-bye,” I said. What was I supposed to do? Shake hands? Nuh-uh.
He inclined his head.
I walked a few yards and tuned back to wave. He was right behind me. “Go away! I don’t want you following me.”
“I believe I must. My Peigi’s shawl . . . I canna seem to . . . ” His words drifted away into a silence almost as confused as the look on his face.
Whatever was I going to tell Karaline?
At the bottom of the trail, I veered off toward the porta potty.
“We’ll wait for you . . .”
“. . . in the car,” the Sinclairs said.
I opened the blue door. “Inside, you,” I whispered with my teeth clenched.
We were fairly cramped. These things were designed for one person at a time. His head brushed the top. Damn, he was tall. I thought people had been short in the fourteenth century. As close as we were standing, I had to tilt my head back. I got an unexpectedly good look at his upper incisors. They were big, strong, and very white. This would be a great place for him to turn into a vampire. Stop it, Peggy.
“What is this place?” He sounded a bit awed. Maybe that was why his mouth had been hanging open.
“It’s a porta potty.” When he looked blank, I added, “A loo.” Still blank. “A privy.”
Understanding dawned. “A necessary?”
“Why did ye bring me in here? I dinna have to pass water.”
“We’re here because it’s the only place I can speak to you in private. Now, you listen. We’re about to get into a car—”
“Hush. A car. It’s like a little house on wheels.”
“Why would we get into—?”
“No, wait, it’s more like a wagon that’s all closed up.”
“And how d’ye open it?”
“That’s not the point!” It’s hard to shout when you’re whispering. “The point I’m trying to make is that you have to be absolutely quiet. You cannot ask a single question while we’re in the car. Do you understand?”
“Because I won’t be able to answer you. Mr. and Mrs. Sinclair are already looking at me funny. I don’t want them to think I’ve gone barmy.”
“What is barmy?”
“Mad. Crazy.” I threw up my hands. “Now, will you keep your mouth closed until we’re alone again.” It wasn’t a question.
“Ye tell me I have been deid for more than six hundred years. In all that time I have not said a word, and now ye want me to keep my mouth closed?”
“Yes. That’s right.” I almost felt sorry for him. Almost.
A small spider dangled down between us, slowly spinning out her silk as she passed in front of his face. I backed out and held the door open. This was ridiculous. How was I going to . . .
It was worse than I could have imagined. I slipped into the backseat behind Mr. Sinclair, motioning surreptitiously for the ghost to follow me in. But of course I had to slide to the other side to make room for him. And the door was still open. “You stay here,” I said to him, hoping the Sinclairs would think I was talking to them. “The door seems to have stuck.” I got out, walked around the car, checked to be sure his dirk was out of the way, closed the door, walked back to the passenger’s side, and got in.
Mr. Sinclair adjusted the rearview mirror so he could peer at me. Mrs. Sinclair had swiveled around in her seat.
“The picnic lunch was a lovely idea, Mrs. Sinclair. I enjoyed it thoroughly.”
She made a sound, low in her throat, and turned around to face forward. “Drive us home, Mr. Sinclair. I think our lassie could use a wee lie-down before bed.”
I heard a whispered comment at my side. “Where are the horses?”
A Wee Pub of My Own
I conducted an extremely sketchy history lesson in a whisper while the Sinclairs thought I was napping. Finally, I asked, “Did you ever meet Chaucer?”
“You would have loved the Wife of Bath.”
“Never mind. That’s an English major joke.”
“A joke? Ye’ve stolen my Peigi’s shawl, I am apparently dead, and ye jest?” Each syllable sounded like a dirge tone. “Ye are most unladylike.”
I expelled a heavy breath. “You think so? It’s a good thing you aren’t coming with me to America. You’d be appalled.”
He looked faintly puzzled. “And where would that be? I know of no town by that name. Is this where your Mr. Shakespeare lives?”
I was supposed to teach a comprehensive history lesson to someone who’d never heard of the Declaration of Independence? Who last took a breath around the time of Chaucer? “And just to set the record straight, I did not steal this shawl. I paid for it.”
“My Peigi would never sell that shawl.”
“I didn’t say I bought it from her. What are you doing wearing a belted plaid, anyway? They weren’t in common use until the end of the fifteenth century.”
“My plaid?” He patted the fabric draped across his chest. “I wear it all the time.”
“Tell that to the historians.”
“Ye make no sense, woman.”
“Come on, I’m hungry. There’s a pub down the road where I usually eat my evening meal.”
He trailed along beside me. When we got close, he sighed. “At last,” he said, “some place I recognize.”
“You know this pub?”
“Weel, not this precise building. I dinna ken your word pub.” He looked at the surrounding hills as if to orient himself. “There was an inn here—built of wood it was, not fine stone like this. It was here when I was . . . when I used to . . .” His voice faded away. “More than six hundred years? How can that be?”
“I wish I knew.”
“Aye. Me, too. But I suppose it would take more than six hundred years to design a way to put a hundred tiny horses underneath a carriage.”
He obviously hadn’t understood the internal combustion engine. “Too bad I don’t have my college history book here. You could read up on what’s been happening in the world for all this time.” Thanks to my dad, I had a hefty interest in a lot of subjects, history included. Not that I always remembered the details.
“Read? Aye. I can read. But—ye own a book?”
“A book? Of course. I’ve got dozens of them.”
He stopped walking. “I didna ken ye were wealthy.”
“Huh? What are you talking about?”
“Books. Ye said ye had dozens of them.” He sounded a bit exasperated. “How is that possible if ye are not wealthy?”
Six or seven hundred years ago, the only books were in churches and monasteries, and possibly the homes of the nobility. No wonder he thought I was rich. Even one book would have been a priceless treasure.
I put my hands over my face and shook my head. “There was this guy named Gutenberg, about two hundred years after you.” I gave up for the moment and opened the pub door. “Let’s eat.”
“I wish I could,” he said as the light streamed onto the pavement. He didn’t cast a shadow.
I ordered at the counter, chose a relatively quiet corner, and pulled a chair out for him before I sat down.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really enjoy Fran Stewart's Wee Murder stories. I appreciate her knowledge of the Scots and their history. As far as the foreign words go, it's easy to look for translations, especially if you have a Nook or other e-reader. When I have to put the book down, I look forward to picking it back up again. I think the presence of a ghost hundreds of years old adds so much to the stories! I like a little realistic paranormal mystery, and Fran's Wee Murder stories don't delve so far into the paranormal that they become unbelievable. I enjoy that when Peggy travels, she becomes friends with locals. I started by reading the second book a while back, then recently read the first one, which helps me understand more about the characters . Peggy has an issue with her body type and has real-life problems. I hope that Fran Stewart writes more Wee Murder stories. I'm not one to re-read books, but I think I'll just go do that right now.
A Wee Murder in My Shop by Fran Stewart falls under the cozy mystery category, which is nice, but sometimes tiresome. Stewart employs many Scottish words and sayings that the reader does not understand. The fact that a very old ghost stands as one of the main characters fall sadly to oblivion. This is not the tale of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, but a sad attempt to bring history into the novel. Plus, the main character, Peggy Winn, has relatives everywhere---working for her and as best friends. Peggy also has a twin brother who is paralyzed from the waist to his legs. The story does not begin with a murder, but with a buying trip to Scotland for Peggy, as she owns a Scotland themed shop. The story missed many elements that were exposed in the beginning, but never came to fruition. The series does not interest me.
This book is a quick read, it keeps you interested but okay to put it down. The conclusion is a little short but a twist that wasn't really obvious. I would read it again.
A Wee Murder in My Shop by Fran Stewart was an engaging debut novel. The small town of Hamelin, Vermont is the typical small tourist town in New England that sounds like a fun place to visit for a day. Peggy Winn owns a shop in Hamelin call the Scot Shop. We meet Peggy as she has just discovered that her boyfriend is cheating on her and she is preparing to leave on a buying trip to Scotland. While in Scotland she makes a purchase of an 600 year old tartan shawl. The shawl has a male ghost attached to it which Peggy names "Dirk". She cannot leave the shawl behind so she brings "Dirk" with her to America. The secondary characters are fun and the plot included enough twists with the secondary characters that there are many questions left to be answered (I hope) in the next book. The murder mystery only included subtle clues as to the reason behind it; and the reveal wasn't until the last chapter. Peggy talking to her ghost provides many laugh-out-load moments as her friends begin to think she might be going crazy talking out loud to herself alot. It was an enjoyable read and I look forward to the next book in this series.
I loved this first book in this new series. For me it was the Scottish aspect that drew me in first then the ghost part was an added bonus. I liked that part of the book took part in Scotland and wished a little more of it was there but the fact that the Scotsman ghost comes back with Peggy is pretty fun. Poor Peggy trying to talk to her ghost without people really knowing what she was doing - it was kind of fun to listen to but I did feel bad for her. I love all things Scottish so all the little tidbits were great for me. The author did a very good job with the mystery as you had no idea right up until the last few pages. I am anxious to read the next book as I can't wait to see what is up with Gilda and the twins and what happens next with Peggy and her ghost. A great start to a new series.
Very tough to read with 2 or 3 conversations going on at once with ghost involved. Also difficult for characters involved to keep track of conversations. Feels like plodding through muddy water at times. Story itself not bad and characters could become interesting.
A great start for a new mystery series! Peggy Winn is visiting the small Scottish town of Pitlochry, searching for authentic Scottish wares to bring stateside to Scotshop, the small store she owns and manages in Vermont. Her mood is not the best, though, as she caught her best girlfriend and boyfriend in bed after entering his house the evening before, thinking to give him a pleasant surprise. Peggy, though, is the one on the receiving end of the surprise, and she's brooding about it during her stay in Scotland. Then she happens upon a small store, and is drawn to a tartan shawl. When one of the three older women in the store asks her if she knows that the tartan is a Farquharson, and Peggy answers no, the woman tells her, " Och, ye soon will be." In fact, the shawl is a major mover in the story, as a very masculine ghost is attached to it. The ghost's name is Macbeath Donlevy Freusach Finlay Maccearrachar Macpheidiran, of clan Farquharson. Peggy, after finding she is pretty much stuck with the ghost, gives him the moniker of Dirk. Comic touches abound in the tale, as Dirk and Harper, the detective, are both trying to protect Peggy. The plot thickens after Peggy returns home to Vermont, and the body of her now ex-boyfriend is found in her store, underneath a bookcase. Fran Stewart keeps the plot thickening, with enough twists and turns to keep the mystery reader fully engaged throughout. The only quibble I have with the book is the cover, for Peggy does not have a Scottish Terrier, so the little Scottie on the cover is a bit of disingenuous artwork. There is a Scottish terrie in the story, but it's an older one belonging to the Sinclairs who are the older couple whom Peggy stays with while she's in Scotland. Perhaps Ms. Stewart will add a Scottish Terrier to the series in the next book? Highly recommended.
Fran Stewart brings readers the first book in her new Scotshop mystery series, A Wee Murder in my Shop. This book is about all things Scottish. From a buying trip to Scotland to the 600 year old Scottish shawl. Many cozy mysteries have a paranormal element but it isn't usually a Scottish Highlander transported across time. Stewart has created an interesting cast of characters and provides a mystery that will have readers guessing all the way to the end. A great new series! I love Scotland. I love everything about it and this series hit the spot for me. I could just imagine the little shop in Vermont and how it could give off the atmosphere and small town charm that you might find in a Scottish village. I thought Fran Stewart did a great job of making her Scottish theme seem authentic and realistic. If I can't live in Scotland, I want to live in Hamelin. A great setting. The 600 year old Scottish shawl that Peggy buys for herself on her buying trip to Scotland came with it's own resident ghost. "Dirk" is a great character, but I would have preferred Peggy keep his original Scottish name. I think that took a little bit away from his credibility as a 14th century Scottish ghost. It seemed a bit contrived, but was the only thing I didn't like about the character. He was obviously curious and learning to deal with the 21st century and that made for some interesting moments and of course Peggy going around talking to thin air might have raised an eye brow or two, but all in all Dirk was a hit with me and will be with other readers as well. The mystery in this one centers around the death of Peggy's ex-boyfriend and the arrest of her cousin, Shoe for the deed. Stewart doesn't give the reader a plethora of suspects in the case, but there is motive. I liked the idea of the smaller suspect pool. It made me a as a reader concentrate a little harder on the clues because it was harder to figure out which one of them could have done it. This wasn't one I figured out right away and that was a good thing. Stewart did drop a few clues that only a good sleuth would have picked up on and I was quite surprised at who actually killed, Mason and why. Bottom Line: This is a great new series, especially for readers who like Scotland and legends and artifacts that deal with Scotland. I thought Stewart gave us a great paranormal character in "Dirk", though he could have been handled a little better. I think we will see great things from him in the future of the series. I loved the smaller suspect pool and the way that Stewart cleverly put in tidbits and information that not every reader would get. A great new book in a great new series!