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ANTIQUES FLEE MARKET A Trash 'n' Treasures Mystery
By Barbara Allan KENSINGTON BOOKS
Copyright © 2008 Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins
All right reserved.
Chapter One Market in the Book
The snow had begun falling in the late afternoon-big, wet flakes that stuck to the rooftops of houses like dollops of marshmallow cream, and coated bare branches with hardened white chocolate, and covered the ground in fluffy cotton candy. (I've been off sugar for a while and it's just killing me.)
I was sitting in the living room on a needlepoint Queen Anne armchair, gazing out the front picture window at the wintry wonderland, waiting for Mother to come downstairs. Sushi, my brown and white shih tzu, lounged on my lap, facing the window, too-but she couldn't see anything because the diabetes had taken away her vision.
Soosh, however, seemed content, and any impartial observer who hadn't caught sight of the doggie's milky-white orbs would swear she was taking it all in. I imagine she could still picture what was going on outside, her ears perking every now and again at the muffled rumble of a snow plow, or the scrape, scrape, scraping of a metal shovel along the sidewalk. (Mr. Fusselman, who lived across the street in a brick Dutch Colonial, had been coming out of his house every half hour to keep the pesky snow off his front walk; I, no fool-at least where shoveling was concerned-wasn't about to tackle ours until the very lastflake had fallen.)
I sighed and gazed at the Christmas tree that was in its usual spot next to the fireplace. The fake tree, with fake white tipping (which made Sushi sneeze), had been up since early November, as Mother jumps the gun on everything. (Christmas cards go out in October.) She still decorated the tree with things I had made since the first grade, and many were falling apart, like the clay Baby Jesus that had lost its legs (makes walking on water way tougher). But mostly, hanging from the branches by green velvet ribbons, were small antique items, like red plastic cookie cutters, Victorian silver spoons, floral china teacups, and colorful Bakelite jewelry. One year, however, when I was in middle school, Mother went overboard with her antiques decorating and jammed an old sled in the middle of the tree, and it fell over, knocking our one-eyed parrot off its perch.
For those just joining in (where have you been?), I'll lay in some backstory-all others (unless in need of a refresher course) may feel free to skip ahead to the paragraph beginning, "I stood, giving my butt cheeks a break," etc.
My name is Brandy Borne. I'm a blue-eyed, bottle-blond, thirty-one-year-old, Prozac-prescribed recent divorcée who has moved back to her small, Midwestern Mississippi River hometown of Serenity to live with my widowed mother, who is bipolar. Mother, a spry seventy-four-she claims she's seventy and from here on probably always will-spends her time hunting for antiques, acting in community theater, and reading mysteries with her "Red-Hatted League" gal-pals. Roger, my ex (early forties), has custody of Jake (age eleven), and they live in a beautiful home in an upscale suburb of Chicago, an idyllic existence that I forfeited due to doing something really stupid at my ten-year class reunion two years ago (involving an old boyfriend, alcohol, a condom, and poor judgment).
I have one sibling, an older sister named Peggy Sue, who lives with her family in a tonier part of town; but Sis and I have an uneasy relationship, due to the span of our ages (nineteen years) and difference in politics, temperaments, and lifestyles-not to mention clothing styles (hers, high fashion; mine, low prices). Therefore, a truce is the best we can hope for. Peggy Sue, by the way, is still ragging me for not getting a good settlement out of my busted marriage, but everything Roger and I had-which was substantial-had been earned by his brain and sweat, and I just couldn't ask for what wasn't mine. I do have some scruples, even if they didn't extend to ten-year class reunions....
I stood, giving my butt cheeks a break from the uncomfortable antique chair, and replaced Sushi on the hard cushion-she jumped down, not liking it, either-and then I wandered into the library/music room to check on my latest painting.
Was I, perhaps, an artist? Someone who toiled in oil on canvas, waiting for her genius to be discovered? Hardly. Unless you count covering the bottom soles of an inexpensive pair of black high heels in red lacquer to make them look like expensive Christian Louboutin's. (I don't know why I bothered; inside, I'd always know they were a cheat.)
I picked up a shoe to see if it was dry, and left a fingerprint in the still-gooey paint. (Sigh.)
Mother, who also had a painting project in progress on the plastic-protected library table, was having more success. She had taken the little dead bonsai tree I had given her during her last bout with depression (I didn't give it to her dead-she forgot to water it) and had resurrected the tiny tree (or entombed it?) by covering the brown branches with green spray paint. Brilliant!
I returned to the living room to see what was keeping Mother. We had preshow tickets this evening to the winter flea market event, and should have left a half hour ago for the county fairgrounds.
Mother and I maintained a booth at an antiques mall downtown and desperately needed to restock it with new merchandise for the holiday season. We also desperately needed to make a buck or two, since she was on a fixed income, and I wasn't working. (Okay, I did receive alimony-that many scruples I haven't.)
I crossed to the banister and gazed upstairs, where a good deal of banging and thumping had been going on.
"What are you doing up there?" I hollered.
Mother's muffled voice came back. "Be down in a minute, dear-keep your little drawers on!"
In Mother's eyes I was perpetually five. I guess if she could be perpetually seventy, I could be perpetually a kindergartner.
So I stood and waited, because there is no other choice with a diva, and in another minute Vivian Borne herself descended, wearing her favorite emerald-green velour slacks and top. Coming straight down would have lacked drama, however, and Mother halted on the landing and, with hands on hips, cast me an accusatory glare through thick-lensed glasses that magnified her eyes to owlish dimensions.
"Where," she demanded regally, "is my raccoon coat?"
The hairs on the back of my neck began to tingle. I narrowed my eyes. When in doubt, answer a question with a question: "Why?"
"Why? Because I want to wear it, that's why! What have you done with it?"
This was not as unreasonable a question as you might suspect. I had been known to take certain measures with that particular garment.
Displaying the confidence and grace of a child with a chocolate-smeared face being asked about the whereabouts of a missing cake, I said, "I ... I, uh, I put it in the attic ... in the trunk...."
"To store it," I said lamely.
Mother sighed disagreeably. "Dear, you know I like to keep that coat in my closet where I can get to it. It's my favorite!" She turned on her heels and marched back up the stairs.
You would, too, if you'd spent your formative years in that house with that woman. Nothing could strike more terror in little Brandy's heart than the sight of her mother in that raccoon coat.
I don't know when Mother had bought it ... probably in the 1940s (judging by the severe shoulder pads) when she was in college and Father was off being a war correspondent in Germany. I'd always pictured Mother wearing the raccoon coat while riding around in an open jalopy with ten other kids, waving a school banner and shouting "Boola-boola" into a megaphone, like in an old Andy Hardy movie. (Not that there are any new Andy Hardy movies out there.)
But over the years, the coat-besides keeping moths fat and harvesting bald patches-had taken on a more disturbing significance than just the benign symbol of the bobbysoxed, jitterbugging Mother who once walked the earth with other hepcat dinosaurs. From the dawn of Brandy, that coat had been the magic armor Mother always insisted upon donning at the beginning of her manic phase (this included summer!).
Once, during my teen years, after Mother got better, I threw the coat out with the trash ... then retrieved it before the garbage truck came around. After all, I reasoned, what better early warning system was there to alert me of her deteriorating condition?
And so, perhaps you now have a small understanding of just how worried I was at this moment. If not, let's just say if we were on a submarine, a horn would be blaring ah-OOO-guh! ah-OOO-guh! and Brandy would be yelling, "Dive! Dive! Dive!"
So when Mother tromped back down the stairs wearing the full-length ratty raccoon coat, I hadn't moved from my frozen spot by the banister. Again, she paused on the landing, this time to look at me intently.
"Brandy, darling, if you're worried about my mental health, you needn't be," she said. "I am quite current on my medication."
"I ... ah ... er ... ah...."
And, having said my piece, I shut my mouth.
Mother was frowning thoughtfully and raising a theatrical finger. "We can't look like we have any money, dear. You know how some of those dealers are at a major flea market like this one! They'll send the price sky-high if they think we're women of means."
I nodded, sighing inwardly with relief.
An eyebrow arched, Mother was studying my designer jeans and cashmere turtleneck. "What are you going to wear, dear? I mean, which coat? I suppose they won't see what we have on underneath...."
I said, "I only have my black wool."
Mother made a scoffing sound. "Far too good ... I'll find something for you in the front closet."
Which was better than something from the attic.
While Mother rooted around raccoonlike in the entryway, I took the time to put Sushi out again. Diabetic animals have to pee a lot because they drink so much, and Soosh was no exception. The nice thing about winter is that she can't stand the cold, and when she does her business, she's quick about it-no sniffing each and every blade of grass, or checking to see if any other animal had dared trespass and soil her sacred ground.
I returned to find raccoon-coated Mother holding aloft a sad-looking, strangely stained trench coat, which I dutifully put on so we could get the heck out of there.
As we exited out the front door into the chill air, I suggested, "Let's take your car. It hasn't been driven in a while."
Mother had an old pea-green Audi that was stored in a stand-alone garage. "Stored" because she lost her license to drive it. Several times, however, she had used it for "emergencies"- once to help me and again to help her grandson, Jake-which caused her suspended license to become a revoked license.
I turned the key in the ignition and the Audi whined. How dare we wake it from its deep slumber on such a cold winter night? The car shuddered and shook and wheezed and coughed, but I forced it to life, and we backed out of the garage and into the street. I turned the Audi toward the bypass, which would lead us to a blacktop road that would then take us to the fairgrounds.
Five minutes into the trip, I sniffed the air and asked, "What smells?"
Mother was studying the winter landscape gliding past her mostly fogged-up window a little too intently. "Pardon?"
"What ... stinks?"
Overly casual, Mother replied, "Oh ... that would be the hamburger grease."
"Yes, dear. Hamburger grease."
"What hamburger grease?"
She was pretending to be enthralled by the vista barely visible out her frosted view on the world. "Why, the hamburger grease I smeared on your coat."
"It looked far too pristine, dear-I told you, we mustn't appear as if we have much money."
"Well, we don't have much money!" I snapped, then grumbled, "Great. Now I look poor and smell. I love it when a plan comes together." I powered down both front windows to get rid of the odor.
"Brandy!" Mother protested. "I'm cold."
"Good! I hope you catch one."
For the next ten minutes, all that could be heard was the howling wind blowing in from my window (Mother had rolled hers up) and the castanet chattering of our teeth. But before icicles had a chance to form on the end of our noses, in that jaunty Jack Frost fashion, the bright lights from the county fairgrounds could be seen, and I wheeled off the highway and into the snowy drive leading up to the main building. As I slowed to a stop in front of the large, one-story, maintenance-type structure, Mother hopped out like a hobo from a train and I proceeded on to find a parking spot in the already filled lot.
Man may be able to fly to the moon, clone animals, create bionic body parts, and keep his balance while exercising on a Body Dome. But he (or she) remains powerless to park in a straight row once the snow has obliterated the lines.
After dead-ending down two different lanes, I gave up and added to the confusion, inventing a spot along a far fence.
The temperature had dropped, and my breath mocked me by making smoke worthy of the warmest fire. Hunkered over, I trudged through the white toward the welcoming lights of the building, big wet flakes clinging to my hair and shoulders like the dandruff of a giant.
Just a few hundred feet away from the sanctuary of the building, however, I heard a long, low growl behind me. Then another. And another.
Darting out from a row of parked cars came a pack of wild dogs. They were heading straight for me and didn't seem friendly, so I began to run (well, first I went, "Yikes!"), but the snow-nearly four inches deep now-impeded my flight, and even though the front door to the building seemed close, I knew I couldn't make it before the dogs were on me.
I tore off my coat as the lead dog-a black mongrel apparently pissed for being passed over for the movie version of Cujo-snapped at my heels. Then I whirled, throwing the garment on top of him, and made my final dash toward the building. Reaching the door, I risked a glance over my shoulder. The pack, five in all, were tearing my trench coat to pieces!
What if I'd still been inside the thing?
As I stepped into the safety of the building, shivering with more than the chill, it finally dawned on me that the coat was what the dogs had been after-drawn by the smell of the hamburger grease.
And the scoreboard reads: Mother, one; Brandy, zero.
The flea market preshow was in full swing, and I was a little surprised by the good quality of the merchandise-these were some high-class fleas! (I'd been to some where I really had gone home with fleas.) There were at least one hundred dealers hawking their wares-furniture, china, pottery, vintage clothes, jewelry, books, toys, and assorted collectibles. The sight was dizzying, the sounds deafening, as a sea of winter-clad shoppers scurried about, trying to beat the other guy out of an early bargain.
I took a moment to gather my thoughts. Before we'd left home, Mother and I had devised a game plan and divvied up the money. Since she was the expert on glassware-that is to say, more expert than me (which isn't saying much)-Mother was to look for such items. I, on the other hand, had more knowledge about collectibles (which also isn't saying much) and was to cover that ground.
And because our booth already had enough furniture to sell, we agreed to ignore anything along those lines, particularly if bulky-unless the item was a steal, of course.
Antiques dealers-like all store retailers-depend on good pre-Christmas sales in order to make money. It can mean the difference between dealers keeping their heads above water for the entire year, or going under. But trying to figure out what tickles the public's fancy around Christmastime is difficult; buy the wrong thing, and not only has a dealer laid out good money, he's stuck with the item.
But before jumping into the frenzy and fray, I first had to find a new coat ... because, in spite of the number of people in the building, it was freezing inside! I doubted there was any heat going at all.
I zeroed in on a table of women's fur coats that shared space with a collection of Annalee Christmas dolls, and seeing so many of the Elves and Mice and Santas grouped together with their demented expressions was decidedly unsettling.
Excerpted from ANTIQUES FLEE MARKET by Barbara Allan
Copyright © 2008 by Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins. Excerpted by permission.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the third installment of the Trash 'n' Treasures series and by far is the best of the three. It's genteel reading at best, but at least the non-stop name dropping and product placement has subsided. There were two very intense storylines that could have been really good reading material that were completely glossed over. I guess that's why I am not interested in the cozy genre. These books, had they been stronger in development could have made for fascinating reading.
I read to relax and be entertained...and these books fill the bill perfectly. Easy to follow and engaging characters.
These stories are fun, quick reads! I looooovvvvvve the characters! The plot of this one didn't interest me as much as the previous one but I still enjoyed it and will continue to read more in this series.
I throughly enjoyed the entire series. Didn't want it to end!
I really had a great time reading this book! It is so funny and clever! Different from other mystery's.
I like the characters in this series, but that just isn't going to make up for the screwy plot-what little there is of it. If you need a quick read that doesn't make you think, this book is for you. It's better, and funnier, than reading celebrity gossip mags at the doctors office waiting room.
I love this series and can't wait for the next one.
Entertaining and fun book.
Fun and entertaining.
This book was quick and light with a touch of humor. If you are a busy person with just a few minutes to read now and then, this is perfect for you. Plot and characters are not too deep or hard to keep track of; family relationships are warm and funny.
Author needs to remember house blew up and contents destroyed so how they have clothes from for years. The author needs to do her math. A cherctelr who committed suicide in1942 when she was 18 could not possibly have a mother in a nursing home in the year 2007. The was ok. I
In Serenity, Mississippi, Brandy Borne and her mother Vivian are shopping for bargains at the flea market at the fairgrounds so they can stock their booth at the downtown antiques mall. While looking around they meet Vivian¿s friend Walter Yeager who introduces them to his granddaughter Chaz. Vivian prevents Walter from foolishly selling a first edition of Tarzan and the Apes at a ridiculously low price. A thief is running away with his loot and just as Brandy is about to stop him, Chaz prevents her asking her not to intervene as he is her boyfriend.------------------ Vivian and Brandy go to visit Walter and while her daughter chats with Chaz, the mom enters the trailer to find Mr. Yeager dead. The police declare it a homicide and arrest Chaz, but Vivian hires her Chaz a lawyer to represent her. He gets her off on a technicality. The Tarzan book is missing and Brandy finds she is in a case in which Joe, her friend who is a veteran suffering from PTSD is also missing and he wanted the Tarzan book. When Brandy is knocked out, Joe is found and arrested, but the Borne pair thinks he is innocent so they investigate.------------- The writing team of Barbara Collins and Max Allan Collins provide readers with an entertaining cozy that will bring sunshine on an overcast autumn day due to the loving often frustrating relationships between the mother and daughter. Although Brandy is the star, mom steals the show as she lands the duet in ridiculous predicaments. Fans will enjoy this latest ¿Treasures Mystery¿ as the bipolar mom treats her daughter like a child even though we and Brandy know she is the mom.----------- Harriet Klausner