Maggie’s impending wedding finds her more concerned with a cold case than cold feet in the latest from the author of Marked Down for Murder . . .
There’s something 100% off about Maggie and her fiancé Sam’s new dream home in the historic section of St. Stanley. The lights flicker, the doors blow shut, and their cat, Marshall Dillon, hisses at empty space. And there’s something in the basement that’s definitely not a bargain . . .
After Maggie discovers a skeleton in the root cellar, she’s convinced her house is haunted by a murdered man’s ghost. With the help of her Good Buy Girls, Maggie works to tag a killer. But she’ll need to be careful as she digs into the history of her new digs. Someone is willing to keep the truth buried at all costs . . .
INCLUDES BARGAIN-HUNTING TIPS!
About the Author
New York Times bestseller Jenn McKinlay is the author of the Cupcake Mysteries, the Library Lover's Mysteries, and the London Hat Shop Mysteries. As Josie Belle, she writes the national bestselling Good Buy Girls Mysteries, including Marked Down for Murder, Buried in Bargains, and A Deal to Die For. As Lucy Lawrence, she wrote the Decoupage Mysteries.
Read an Excerpt
“Why can’t I just wear a dress I already own?” Maggie asked. She knew her voice had reached a whiney pitch but she didn’t care enough to try and make it less grating. Her feet hurt, her back ached and she was pretty sure she’d pulled a muscle in her butt, trying to wriggle into the last dress Ginger had foisted upon her.
“Maggie Gerber, you are not walking down the aisle to Sam Collins in a dress you already own,” Ginger Lancaster said. A fine sheen of sweat coated her dark complexion; clearly Maggie wasn’t the only one exerting herself in this quest for the perfect bridal gown.
Maggie had refused to wear white. She was in her forties. She’d already been married and had a grown daughter, and wearing white just seemed too ingénue to her. Unfortunately, her auburn hair and pale freckled skin ruled out a lot of color options.
Then there was the issue that Maggie was a founder of a self-named group of bargain hunters called the Good Buy Girls, who pretty much lived for savings and thrift. She simply could not spend a fortune on a dress she was going to wear for just one day. It went against the code.
If it had been left up to Maggie, she would have worn the gown she had worn to the Madison Ball in December, but her friends wouldn’t hear of it.
“Ginger’s right. Besides your favorite was a long-sleeved, high-necked dress that would be suffocating to wear in June,” Joanne Claramotta said. She glanced up from the stroller that carried her baby girl Patience, or as her daddy liked to call her, Patty Cake.
“And the olive color, while gorgeous in December, is a bit somber for a June wedding,” Claire Freemont chimed in. “Not to mention the back.”
“What back?” Ginger asked and they all broke out laughing. “Oh yeah, Pastor Shields would keel over dead if he got a gander at all that skin in his house of worship.”
Maggie heaved a sigh. “I could wear a veil that would cover the open back.”
“No. Just no,” Ginger said and shook her head at her.
“Fine,” Maggie said. “But I look like Tinker Bell in this thing so it’s a no, too.”
“Oh, I think it’s cute,” Joanne said.
Maggie glanced at her friend. Clearly, she was suffering from some postpartum fashion impairment. The bodice of the dress Maggie currently had on was sparkly silver and the skirt looked like a puffy tutu in layers of pink and purple tulle. She wouldn’t have been caught dead in this dress, and she was pretty sure Ginger had only made her put it on to amuse herself. One glance at Ginger’s face, which was contorted from trying not to laugh, confirmed it.
“You’re right,” Maggie said. She spun a sloppy pirouette in the dressing room’s three-way mirror. “It is cute. You know, I think I’ll take it.”
“Gah! What?” Ginger squawked.
“Aha!” Maggie pointed at her. “You were pranking me with this dress.”
“Maybe, a little,” Ginger said. She looked down. “Claire bet me five bucks I couldn’t get you to try it on.”
“Ah,” Maggie gasped. “Claire!”
“What?” Claire asked. She pushed her black glasses up on her nose. “I’m the one who’s out five bucks. I don’t know why you’re upset. Besides we’ve been at this for five hours. We’ve hit every bridal store within a fifty mile radius of St. Stanley. Honestly, how can we not have found you a reasonably priced but still amazing dress yet?”
“I don’t know,” Maggie said. “But this poufy sparkly thing is giving me a headache.” She glanced at the skin on her chest. “And possibly a rash.”
“Here, let’s get you out of it,” Ginger said and she spun Maggie around and unzipped her.
Maggie sucked in a deep gulp of air and ducked behind the curtain to get dressed. When she returned with the offending dress and three other rejects on her arm, she handed them to the waiting saleslady and signaled to the girls that it was time to go.
As they passed a bride and her mother, Maggie felt a pang in her chest. She missed her daughter, Laura, who was doing an internship in New York City this summer. Oh, she’d be in Virginia to stand up for Maggie at the wedding, and Maggie knew that Laura loved Sam and was happy for them, but her baby girl would be finishing college soon and was starting her own life. It was one of the many changes Maggie had been trying to adjust to over the past few months.
“Don’t worry,” Ginger said as she draped her arm over Maggie’s shoulder. “It’s only May; we have almost a month to find your perfect dress.”
Maggie returned her friend’s half hug. She didn’t have the heart to tell her that it wasn’t just the dress that had her fretting. She and Sam had decided to start their new life in a new house, a place that they owned together, which would be a new beginning for both of them. While she was thrilled by the idea of a fresh start, leaving her home of more than twenty years was harder than she had thought it would be.
“I know you’re right,” she said. She didn’t want to burden her friends with all of her thoughts. “No worries.”
Joanne had been the designated driver since she needed Patience’s car seat. They all piled into her SUV with Ginger sitting next to Patience so she could coo at the baby while they drove. As the mother of four teen boys, Ginger could not get enough of the precious baby girl.
“If not ivory or white, then what color do you want to wear to your wedding?” Claire asked from the front passenger seat. “I can research customs for second weddings for you at the library. Maybe there is something mystical about wearing red or purple.”
Claire glanced over her seat back at Maggie. With her blond bob and rectangular black glasses, Claire looked just like the librarian that she was. She was always the one to answer a conundrum with research and Maggie valued her for it.
“That might give us some interesting ideas,” Joanne said. “Maybe yellow could be your go-to color.”
She tossed her long brown braid over her shoulder and met Maggie’s gaze in the rearview mirror, then her eyes darted to the baby just to be sure her girl was fine. It had taken Joanne and her husband, Michael, a long time to conceive and Maggie frequently caught her friend staring at her baby girl in wonder. She understood the feeling well.
“Yellow?” Maggie asked. “I don’t know if that color is always kind to redheads.”
“Just be thankful that your only issue is finding a dress. I’ve been reading up on international wedding customs and there are some doozies,” Claire said. “In Fiji, the groom must present his prospective father-in-law with a whale tooth. Biggest mammal going and it lives under water, how’s that for proving your love?”
“Sam is getting off easy,” Ginger said.
“There is also a tribal custom in northern Borneo where the newly married couples are required to be confined to their house while not going to the bathroom for three days and nights,” Claire said. “Now that’s commitment.”
“Suddenly, finding an appropriate dress does not seem as much of a challenge as it did a few minutes ago,” Maggie said. She grinned at her friend. “Thank you, Claire.”
“You’re quite welcome,” Claire said.
“How do you know all of these things?” Ginger asked. “It mystifies.”
“We information scientists are full of useful facts,” Claire said. “I know a few more unusual customs.”
“No, no, I think we’re good.” Ginger held up one hand. “I don’t want to ruin my lunch.”
“Can you drop me off at the station, Joanne?” Maggie said. “Sam and I have an appointment with Marcy Hayes.”
“No problem, what property are you looking at today?” Joanne asked.
Maggie glanced at her friends. She wondered how they were going to take the news. She could still hear her mother’s gasp of horror from when she’d spoken to her on the phone last night. Well, there wasn’t any way to sugarcoat it.
“The Dixon place,” she said.
The rest of the the Good Buy Girls looked at her with wide eyes. They wore matching expressions of disbelief and not the sort that meant they’d found a Louis Vuitton handbag in perfect condition at 75% off. Instead, they looked as though they’d found an imitation Coach bag for sale but still priced at more than its retail value.
“I know what you’re going to say,” Maggie said. “My mother let me have it with both barrels last night.”
“That the place has been empty for over five years and there’s probably a family of skunks living in it,” Ginger said. Obviously, there was no warning her off of the subject.
“There are no varmints living in it,” Maggie said. “At least, I don’t think so.”
“Well how about the fact that the yard is so overgrown it’s begun to swallow up the neighborhood pets that stray too close to the picket fence, which is falling down,” Claire said.
“A landscaper was over there last week, making everything nice and tidy again,” Maggie said. “As far as I know, they found no carcasses of missing pets.”
Joanne didn’t say anything and Maggie met her gaze in the rearview mirror. Her friend looked worried.
“What is it, Joanne?” Maggie asked. “You may as well say your piece, too.”
“Nothing,” she said with a forced smile.
“You’re a terrible liar, Joanne,” Ginger said. “Go ahead and say it. We’re all thinking it.”
“I heard it’s haunted,” Joanne said. She clamped her lips together quickly as if by closing her mouth she could disassociate herself from her own words.
“That’s just a rumor,” Maggie said. “Of course people think it’s haunted. It’s been in the Dixon family for generations with its last residents being two spinster sisters. I think that means it has a rich family history. I don’t think it means it’s haunted.”
They were all quiet as Joanne navigated the winding road back to town.
“Maybe,” Ginger said. “But are you willing to risk it?”
Sam Collins was waiting outside the station when Joanne pulled up to let Maggie out. As always, Maggie’s heart beat a little faster at the sight of him. His brown hair was peppered with gray, and his bright blue eyes had crinkles in the corners, but he was still as big and strong as he had been when he was eighteen and Maggie was seventeen and they’d fallen in love the first time around.
More than twenty years and a lot of living had kept them apart but Sam had moved back to St. Stanley after retiring from the Richmond PD. He was sheriff for their small town and as circumstances had thrown them together over the past year and then some, he and Maggie had discovered they had unfinished business. Now they were getting married. It boggled.
As Maggie climbed out of the car, Ginger quickly grabbed her and held her still. Then she took off the cross she always wore around her neck and pressed it into Maggie’s hand.
“Just in case,” Ginger said.
Maggie rolled her eyes but draped the necklace over her head to hang around her neck just to make her best friend since preschool happy.
“Text us,” Claire said. “ASAP.”
“Yes, anytime,” Joanne added. “You know I’m up all night.”
“It’ll be fine,” Maggie said. “But yes, I promise I’ll check in.”
She waved as the van pulled away. Sam joined her at the curb and gave her a quick hug.
“What’s up with the thrifty three?” he asked.
“Ghosts,” she said.
Sam frowned at her. “Whose?”
“Ours. They are concerned that we are looking at a haunted house,” Maggie said.
“The Dixon house?” he asked. “Nah, it just needs a little love, or possibly a wrecking ball.”
Maggie laughed. “I like your flexibility. Let’s not keep Marcy waiting. I swear she almost swooned when I told her we would look at it.”
“Did you tell her we were bringing a third opinion?” Sam asked.
“No, I thought I’d leave that to you,” Maggie said.
Sam smiled. He led Maggie to the car and opened the door. Curled up on the passenger seat waiting for them was Marshall Dillon, Sam’s cat, who was now their shared cat. A gray tabby with a distinctive stripe in the shape of an M on his forehead, he liked to ride around in Sam’s squad car and spent most of his days in the station. Maggie was pretty sure Sam would have deputized him if he could.
Maggie scooped Marshall Dillon up and then sat down, replacing him on her lap. Sam took the driver’s seat and they buckled up and headed over to the historic part of town.
The Dixon house was one of the oldest houses in St. Stanley. It wasn’t as big as some of the mansions on the street but it was a beautiful two-story Victorian with a wraparound porch and arch-shaped windows on the upper level. Maggie had always admired it and she had even occasionally daydreamed about having a place like this of her very own.
The grass was freshly mowed and the bushes had been trimmed back, but it still had an untamed air about it. The house badly needed a coat of fresh paint and the windows longed for some elbow grease but the bones were all there. Like any aging beauty, with a little upkeep, Maggie felt certain it would be spectacular again.
Sam pulled up in front of the house. Maggie carried Marshall Dillon to the front porch where Marcy Hayes was waiting.
Marcy was a very earnest woman, a single mom with two teenagers. She worked seven days a week doing listings, showings and open houses, all in an effort to provide since her husband ran off with a woman half his age and was selfish enough to clean out their bank account on his way out of town.
Maggie glanced at Sam as they climbed the steps to the porch. He didn’t seem the type to have a midlife crisis but then she was pretty sure Marcy would have said the same thing about her husband. She glanced at the house. If Sam did leave her, would she want to live here alone?
Marshall Dillon hissed which made Maggie jump and she let him go. He leapt down onto the porch with the scruff of his neck in an agitated ruff and his tail fluffed.
“Well, hello there, little fella.”
Marcy knelt down and wiggled her fingers at Marshall Dillon then made kissy noises. Maggie did not think Marshall Dillon was going to go for this in the least but he lowered his head and plowed toward Marcy, not stopping until she was scratching him under the chin and he was purring. His fur slowly lowered from its full alert state.
“What do you suppose that was about?” Maggie asked Sam.
“Maybe he smelled another cat in the area. The place has been empty for a while. It could be we have some feral cats living under the porch.”
Maggie looked at him. “I like the way you’ve already mentally moved in.”
“Noticed that, huh?” he asked.
Marcy rose to her feet and Marshall Dillon twined around her ankle.
“He is just precious,” she said. “I think he’d really love having such a big house to play in, and maybe you could even get him a friend.”
“We were thinking about a dog,” Sam said.
“Oh, the backyard is just perfect for a dog,” Marcy said. “So much room to run and play.”
Maggie pressed her lips together. She had a feeling they could say they were going to breed elephants and Marcy would find a way to make the house the perfect location for them.
“Let’s go inside and I’ll give you the room-by-room tour,” she said.
Sam gestured for Maggie to follow Marcy first. She had a feeling Marcy wasn’t going to have to work too hard to sell Sam on the place. As for her, this was probably the biggest change she’d made in her life since she quit her job working for Dr. Franklin, bought her own business and started dating Sam.
Okay, now that she considered it that was a lot of change in the past few years, and all since Sam came back to town. Maybe buying a house together would be the final upheaval for a while. She tried not to think about how leaving her home of so many years was going to feel.
She stepped into the foyer with Marshall Dillon scampering ahead. There was no furniture in the house. Wainscoting was the only decoration on the walls. It looked prim and proper but homey, too. The floors were hardwood and polished to a high gloss.
Maggie’s footsteps echoed in the empty rooms, and then Sam’s joined hers and it didn’t sound so lonely anymore.
“This is the front parlor,” Marcy said. “It could be turned into a library, however, and the fireplace is original but was converted to gas about ten years ago.”
Maggie crossed to the fireplace. The mantel shelf looked good and strong, the perfect place to put all of the pictures of their loved ones. Sam’s hand slid into hers and he laced her fingers with his.
“We could put a loveseat right here,” he said. “And read in front of the fire on cold winter evenings.”
“Oh, that sounds nice,” Maggie said.
“Through here is the formal dining room,” Marcy called as she disappeared through a door on the far side of the room.
It was a large space with a big bay window that overlooked the side yard. Maggie could see her own dining room table in here. It would look amazing when set with her grandmother’s china for the holidays.
“The kitchen is in here,” Marcy called, still trotting on ahead. Maggie wondered if Marcy was moving at such a fast pace because she had another appointment or because she didn’t want them to linger in the house. Hmm.
Marcy didn’t sound as peppy as she had before and Maggie got the feeling Marcy was hoping to finish up quickly with something distasteful. As soon as Maggie and Sam stepped into the kitchen, Maggie knew what Marcy had been dreading.
The kitchen was sparkling clean, but it was also locked somewhere in the year 1956 with gray steel cabinets, aqua tile countertops and even a matching aqua refrigerator.
Maggie ran her hand over the counter. It was in perfect condition with no chips or cracks, hard to believe for something that was easily sixty years old. The range was an old O’Keefe and Merritt gas and was equally spotless.
“Does it work?” she asked Marcy.
“Oh yes,” Marcy said. “There were some renters here a few years back. They said everything was in tip-top shape. I know it isn’t state-of-the-art.”
“No, it’s more like art, period,” Maggie said. “Oh, I love vintage kitchens.”
“You knew it was all vintage, didn’t you?” she asked.
He nodded. “I’d heard the kitchen was remodeled in the fifties and hadn’t been touched since. I figured you’d dig it.”
Marcy’s eyes went wide. “You like it as it is?”
“Like it?” Maggie asked. “I love it. I specialize in retro at the shop. I think I even have a copper canister from the fifties that would look amazing over there.”
“Well, isn’t this perfect?” Marcy spread her arms wide. She was beaming.
“Yes, it is actually,” Maggie said. Each room was better than the last and she was really beginning to see Sam and her making their life together here.
The master bedroom and bath had been modernized and updated. A big bay window with a love seat looked out over the two acre backyard. There was a walk-in closet that was as big as Maggie’s bedroom now, and the large master bath had another bay window and a Jacuzzi.
There were several more bedrooms and a sitting room upstairs and Maggie and Sam haggled over which would be their home office and which would be guest bedrooms. Maggie didn’t really care and only put up a bit of resistance just to keep Sam on his toes.
She had been alone for a very long time. The thought of sharing the three Bs—bed, bathroom and bills— with someone again made her feel just a bit light-headed. She wasn’t used to making compromises; she was used to making all the decisions and doing all the heavy lifting. What would it be like to lighten the load? She could barely fathom it.
Marcy’s cell phone rang and she glanced at it. “I’m sorry. I have to take this. You two go ahead and wander about, and I’ll meet you on the porch when you’re done.”
Sam and Maggie poked their heads in the attic. It was dry and dusty with a few cobwebs and a bit of a draft but there was no sign of any critters of the furry or the insect sort. They also checked out the basement which, aside from creaky wooden stairs, was dark and dank but dry and free of mold.
They examined the overgrown garden just outside the kitchen window. Maggie could just picture replanting it with an herb garden. She’d always wanted to plant parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, well, just because. And she wanted to plant tomatoes since there was nothing like fresh tomatoes in summer.
Sam was thrilled to discover that the toolshed at the back end of the property was big enough for a ride-on mower. Maggie noticed that the woods beyond the lawn looked friendly and cheerful, the sort of place deer and bunnies would roam, as opposed to being cold and creepy and full of monsters.
At least Maggie imagined it that way, but maybe that was because she was falling in love with the house as quickly as she’d fallen in love with Sam. She knew from experience that when something was right, you could feel it all the way down in your bones. This house felt right. As they strode across the lawn, Sam put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close.
He leaned down and kissed her temple as they both examined the back of the house. It did need paint and some more landscaping. But the wraparound porch was just begging for a swing and Maggie could see herself sitting on it with Sam as they sipped iced tea and watched Marshall Dillon chase butterflies.
“What do you think of it, darling? Do you think we could make a life here together?” Sam asked.
Maggie noted that his voice was carefully neutral as if he didn’t want to influence her decision in any way.
“I think . . .” Maggie began but she was interrupted by the loudest screeching meow she had ever heard. It made her heart clutch and the hair rise up on the back of her neck.
“Marshall Dillon!” Maggie and Sam cried together, and they ran toward the house.
They banged through the back door and into the house.
“Marshall Dillon!” Maggie called.
“MD, where are you, buddy?” Sam called.
He made a soft clucking noise and they both paused to listen for the sound of Marshall Dillon’s feet coming toward them or for another howl. There was nothing but oppressive silence.
“Where is he?” Maggie whispered.
“Don’t worry,” Sam said. “He has to be here somewhere and we’ll find him. He’s a cat, a particularly curious one.”
“You’re right. Should we separate?”
Before Maggie could answer the yowl began again and they both started.
“Basement,” Sam said. He strode toward the basement door in the hallway.
“We must have shut him in down there,” Maggie said with a wince.
Sam yanked the door open and they glanced at the top step. There was no sign of Marshall Dillon. Sam went to take a step into the basement and a ball of fur flew past him and out the door.
Maggie and Sam both jumped back. Sam closed the door and they followed the gray tabby down the hall and into the front room where he scurried into a corner with his back up and his teeth bared.
“Hey, buddy.” Sam crouched down. “It’s okay. You’re all right.”
Maggie knelt beside Sam and wiggled her fingers. Marshall Dillon hunkered low and crept forward until he was under Sam’s hand. Sam gently rubbed his head and the back of his neck until his fur went down. Then he picked Marshall Dillon up and cradled him close.
Maggie checked all of the kitty’s limbs, looking for bites, scratches, missing fur or sore spots but Marshall Dillon looked fine. He even purred and pushed his head against Sam’s chest.
“He seems okay,” Maggie said.
“Maybe he just scared himself,” Sam said.
“Well, it is a deep, dark basement,” Maggie said. “Poor guy, maybe he thought we left him.”
Sam lifted the kitty until they were nose to nose. “Never gonna happen, buddy.”
Marshall Dillon gently batted Sam’s nose and Maggie could swear the cat smiled. She felt a bone-deep chill pass over her skin, and she shivered. Sam saw it and gave her a half hug.
“Well, should we go tell Marcy what we’ve decided?” Sam asked.
Maggie glanced around the room. “Yes.”
“Is that yes, we should tell her or yes, we’ll take it?” Sam asked.
“Both,” Maggie said and then glanced at him. “That is, if you want to.”
Sam grinned. “Heck, yeah! Well, Maggie O’Brien Gerber, soon to be Maggie O’Brien Gerber Collins, it looks like we have a home.”
The light-headedness hit again, but Maggie was sure it was just a rush of joy and not a panic attack. Okay, she was mostly sure and even if it was panic she told herself that it was okay because it was sort of like manic happiness, right?
Marcy was just ending her call as they joined her on the porch. She turned to look at them with wary eyes. Maggie assumed she was being cautious and not wanting to get her hopes up about a sale.
Maggie knew the feeling. In her consignment shop, Maggie frequently had people come in and eyeball an expensive dress or piece of furniture and it was agony when they kept coming back to look but wouldn’t commit to making the purchase. She didn’t want to do that to Marcy.
“We’ll take it,” Maggie said.
Marcy just stared at them as if she was waiting for the punch line, which was amusing because Marcy wasn’t the kind of gal to joke around, especially about real estate.
Everything about Marcy was a statement in efficiency. She wore her brown hair in a fashionable bob. Her suit was flattering: not too boxy and not too sexy but just right. Her pumps were sensibly thick heeled and made for walking around houses for hours and hours while still being stylish.
She wasn’t one to flirt or tease. She took her listings and her sales very seriously, wanting to sell homes but also to make sure everyone was happy.
Sam and Maggie glanced at each other. Marcy wasn’t moving.
“Marcy, did you hear Maggie? We’ll take it,” Sam said.
“The house?” Marcy clarified.
“Yes, the house, this house,” Maggie said. “We would like to buy it.”
“You would?” Marcy asked. “Oh, my gracious. You’re not teasing me? You mean it.”
“Of course we do,” Sam said.
“We wouldn’t tease you about something like that,” Maggie said.
“Oh!” Marcy pressed both of her hands to her mouth as if trying to keep in a whoop of joy. Then she threw her arms wide and hugged both Maggie and Sam with Marshall Dillon squished in the middle. “I can’t believe it. I’ve finally sold the Dixon house after five long years. This is amazing. I just know you’re going to be so happy here.”
As she started to cry, Maggie met Sam’s gaze over Marcy’s head and she grinned. Reducing your Realtor to happy tears of joy had to be a good sign, right?
* * *
“Maggie, you need to make a decision about the venue for your wedding. Did you get a dress yet? What about flowers? Daffodils are lovely.”
Maggie would have said something but since her mother, Lizzie O’Brien, didn’t pause for breath it didn’t seem her input was warranted.
As her mother continued to grill her about the wedding, Maggie puttered around the house that had been her home since she had said yes to Charlie Gerber more than twenty years before.
It was small and cozy. Just right for a widowed mom and her young daughter, which was why Maggie had never moved. Well, that and the fact that making ends meet had meant living simply and cheaply without a lot of extras. The kitchen was woefully out of date as were the floors, the doors and the baths. In fact, she wondered if her love of vintage came from the fact that her home was still very much in its original state.
As she walked from the living room to the kitchen, she ran a finger over the pencil marks that had charted her daughter’s height through the years. She’d have to remember to take a picture of it for posterity’s sake. The last mark made was right before Laura left for college in Pennsylvania. How had the years passed so swiftly?
The corner of the living room where their Christmas tree always stood made her chest tighten at the thought that they would never have their beautiful angel smile benevolently down at them from that corner again.
“Maggie, are you listening?”
“Good, now about the menu . . .” Lizzie continued with her monologue.
As her mother talked, Maggie walked out to the glassed-in sunroom at the back of her house. Full of comfy wicker furniture, it overlooked her pretty little yard. A warbler was sitting on the edge of the bird bath doing his daily ablutions. She wondered if Sam would be okay with her bringing the bird bath. She knew Marshall Dillon would be happy about it, but she didn’t want him to mistake it for an all-he-could-eat bird buffet.
The large dogwood tree was in full flower. It was the same tree Laura had fallen out of when she was seven. She’d only had the wind knocked out of her but Maggie would never forget looking out the window to see her daughter lying still and pale in the yard. She put a hand on her head. She wasn’t sure where it was exactly but she knew there was a gray hair attached to that episode.
So many memories and now she was leaving to start a new life with Sam. She had never thought she’d marry again after Charlie. He had been all that was good and kind and losing him had just about killed her. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Laura, she wondered if she would ever have pulled out of her grief.
But life had had other plans for her, and Maggie was game. She was ready to start a new life with Sam. She was giddily ecstatic about it, truth to be told. She had just never thought she could be so sad and so excited at the same time.
“Your sister wants to talk to you,” her mother said, pulling Maggie out of her reverie.
“Oh, okay, love you, Mom,” Maggie said.
“Love you, too,” her mother said. “And don’t worry. Your wedding will be lovely. I’ll make sure of it.”
“Hey, Magpie,” her sister said. She’d been calling Maggie that since they were kids.
“Hey, Sissy,” Maggie said. Her sister’s real name was Michelle, but Maggie had called her older sibling Sissy from the moment she could talk and the name had stuck.
“Hang on, I’m going out of earshot of Mom,” Sissy said.
Maggie heard a door open and close with a creak and slam. Her sister had moved to Florida several years ago, and their mother had joined her shortly after. Maggie loved them dearly and she missed them, but she knew the three of them were as close as they were because of the miles between them. Had Lizzie and Sissy continued to live in St. Stanley, Maggie was quite sure the henpecking and nagging would have driven a wedge between them.
“How are you really?” Sissy asked. “About the wedding and all?”
“I’m good,” Maggie said. “With so much going on, I don’t really have time to be anything else.”
“Are you kidding? You just bought a house,” her sister said. “You have to be freaking out.”
Maggie had no idea why her sister telling her she had to be feeling something made her determined not to feel that way at all. It was like they were still teenagers and she couldn’t help her knee-jerk response.
“Well, I’m not,” she said. “I’m perfectly fine.”
“Liar, liar, pants on fire.”
“No, really,” Maggie insisted, more determined than ever to prove she was fine. “I couldn’t be happier.”
“Then why don’t you have a venue, a dress, flowers or a caterer for your wedding? Shall I go on?”
Maggie could feel her brain contract. Maybe Florida wasn’t far enough away for her mom and sister to live.
“I have plenty of time,” Maggie said. “Oh, speaking of, look at that, I have to go. I’m picking up some donations for the shop today. Love you.”
“You are not fooling me one little bit, Magpie. We’ll talk later. Love you, too,” Sissy said just before Maggie ended the call.
Maggie shoved her cell phone into her purse. She hadn’t been lying to her sister. She was picking up some donations from the Spring Gardens Assisted Care facility in the heart of town. Her old boss Doc Franklin maintained an office there to make it easier for the seniors who lived there to be able to get to him.
Because she had kept Doc’s books for him for over twenty years, Maggie knew the place and the residents well. She was on speed dial for many of them when they wanted to shop at her store or when they wanted to consign some items for a little extra money or to declutter their space.
Today, Maggie had a dual purpose. She was picking up an Oneida silver set from Rosie Hernandez that her daughters had informed her they didn’t want even though it had been in the family for three generations.
Rosie had been so offended she had called Maggie and asked to consign it. She planned to go on a cruise with the money she made from the sale. Since it was a nearly flawless service for twelve, Maggie was pretty sure Rose was going to get her wish.
She locked up her house, trying not to think about the fact that she wouldn’t be doing that much longer, and climbed into her Volvo station wagon. She wound her way through her neighborhood and pulled into the gated estate that was Spring Gardens.
Maggie parked in the visitor’s lot and crossed the well-manicured green lawn to the entrance of the building. Maggie pushed through the massive door of the remodeled colonial and stopped by the check-in desk.
Barbara York was working the front desk, and she greeted Maggie with a smile.
“Hi, Maggie, you here to pick up Rosie’s silver?”
“Yes,” Maggie said. “She called me three times yesterday. I think she is eager to sell it and book her cruise.”
“Good for her,” Barbara said. “If the young ones don’t appreciate the finer things then they don’t deserve them.”
“Agreed,” Maggie said. “I also wanted to pop in on Blue Dixon. Is he around?”
“Always,” Barbara said. “He’s holding court out by the pool.”
“Holding court?” Maggie asked.
“You’ll see,” Barbara said with a small smile.
Excerpted from "All Sales Final"
Copyright © 2015 Josie Belle.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
“[I] love the Good Buy Girls . . . So fun.”—MyShelf.com
Praise for Marked Down for Murder
“Another fantastic mystery from the master of small-town mysteries.”—Cozy Mystery Book Reviews
“A series that celebrates friendship, and, in this case, romance, along with the mystery.”—Lesa’s Book Critiques
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'm a sucker for books about historic houses and bodies in basements. Better than the typical cozy in it's historic feel. No social agenda just a exciting read with good characters.
Fantastic! But sad the series is over.
Jenn McKinlay aka Josie Bell is simply amazing!!! Reviewed by Kim When it comes to getting a great deal, or getting in on one, timing is everything. The women of the Good Buy Girls Club all know this. Well, for me, timing sucks. Why do I say that you ask? Well, All Sales Final marks my first time reading Josie Belle and her A Good Buy Girls Mystery Series. The fifth book in the series is unfortunately, the last book in the series, and from what I can tell, this is a good series. I’m definitely going to have to go back and read the other books. All Sales Final finds Maggie Gerber less than a month away from marrying her first true love, Sam Collins. Like most brides to be, she finds herself feeling overwhelmed. Unlike most brides to be, Maggie hasn’t done anything for her wedding. In addition to planning a wedding, Maggie and Sam are also house hunting. They finally find a house they can each agree on, the only kicker...it’s rumored to be haunted by a ghost. The Dixon House has everything Maggie and Sam could ever want in a house. There’s a big backyard, hardwood floors, a fireplace, large rooms, and even a large basement. What they don’t want is the skeleton they find in the root cellar. Maggie and Sam start a quest to find out who the skeleton was. They just don’t expect little questions to result in Maggie almost being killed. You have to start to wonder if St. Stanley, Virginia will ever see a Gerber/Collins wedding. Or, if someone from Sam’s past will convince him that St. Stanley isn’t for him. Josie Belle is a pen name for Jenn McKinlay. I don’t know how she does it, but with each of her stories, I find myself sitting back and enjoying the journey to the big whodunit and why reveal. I was so intrigued with the storytelling I did not attempt to figure out who the culprit could be. All Sales Final combines humor, friendship, romance, and of course, mystery. This is one of those stories you can just sit back and enjoy. As I said before, back to the beginning I must go. **Received a copy from Berkley in exchange for an honest unbiased opinion.**
The Good Buy Girls are back and better than ever. As with all the books in this series, ALL SALES FINAL would be a bargain at ten times the price. (But Maggie and friends would still suggest you look for the best deal.) I have adored this series since the first book and I’m not embarrassed to say I consider the group of characters in these stories to be friends of mine. Book one in this series, 50% OFF MURDER, is one of the first cozy mysteries that I picked out and purchased for myself. Up until Book 1, I had been reading cozies loaned to me by my sister who introduced me to the world of cozy mysteries. Okay, back to the review. Who knew wedding plans and buying a house would bring up old skeletons? Okay, one old skeleton. One that is discovered in the house that protagonist Maggie and her fiancé, Sam plan to make their new home. As with all her books, having a true talent for storytelling, author Josie Belle filled ALL SALES FINAL to overflowing with mystery, fun, and wonderful relationships (and with this story some unearthly happenings) that continues all the way through this book until the amazing ending. This book was wonderful through and through, though I’m afraid my review isn’t doing it justice. This was a hard one for me to write. You see, the entire time I was writing it, in the back of my mind I knew this would be the last review I wrote for a Good Buy Girls mystery. Author Josie Belle aka Jenn McKinlay has announced she won’t be writing any more books in this series. I can live in hope that one day she may change her mind, however from what she has announced through her social media pages, it doesn’t seem likely. Rather she does pen a new GBG mystery or not, I’d like to thank Ms. Belle for the hours and hours of joy she has given me through these books and the delightful characters. I’ll miss them.