Don’t miss Brandy Borne’s tips on white elephant sales!
Praise for Barbara Allan and the Trash ‘n’ Treasures Mysteries
“A hilarious team of snoops.”—Joan Hess
“One of the funniest cozy series going.”
—Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
“The exploits of the ditzy heroines remain endlessly amusing.”
“Plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor.”—Library Journal
About the Author
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Support Your Loco Sheriff
Where to begin? Well, how about with the fact that Mother is running for county sheriff?
What!?! (you might well ask). Is that even possible? I thought the position was appointed by the mayor with the approval of the city council.
So did I! But voters have always picked the sheriff. And now that the current sheriff, Peter J. Rudder, is stepping down due to health concerns, there's going to be a special election in a couple of months — and you know how many friends Mother has.
Didn't you try to stop her?
What do you think? I told her that she had no experience, no aptitude, no qualifications whatsoever.
And what did she say?
She said, "Dear, lots of people hold office who aren't qualified."
Who could refute that? But surely there are some qualifications.
Surprisingly little! For our county, the candidate must be at least twenty-five years old, been a resident here for no less than one year, and have a minimum of 160 hours of law enforcement training at an accredited law enforcement school — which Mother got several years ago taking night classes at the community college, after solving her first murder case.
Oh, brother ... Maybe you should contact her psychiatrist for his help.
He refused to talk to me on grounds of patient confidentiality. And my therapist's advice to me, before you ask, was to stay on my antidepressant.
Wow. Maybe you should just get out of town. You know, on the next stage.
That's your solution? Leave town? And I'll handle the sarcasm, thank you very much.
Leaving out the back door is what I'd do if she were my mother.
Hey, you came to me. You seemed to want my opinion, and I gave it.
Sorry, you're right — I'm just a little stressed.
Look, the voters aren't stupid — they care about who's serving and protecting them. So you can be outwardly supportive while inwardly secure in the fact that she'll never win.
Sure ... but keep a suitcase packed and ready.
The she in she'll never win (for you newcomers) is Vivian Borne, midseventies, Danish stock, attractive despite large, out-of-fashion glasses that magnify her eyes, widowed, bipolar, legendary local thespian, and even more legendary amateur sleuth.
She-Who-Is-a-Little-Stressed is me, Brandy Borne, thirty-three, divorced, blond by choice, Prozac-popping prodigal daughter who came home from Chicago, postdivorce, to live with her mother in the small Mississippi River town of Serenity, Iowa, seeking solitude and relaxation but instead finding herself the frequent reluctant accomplice in Vivian Borne's escapades. Did I mention reluctant?
The third member of our household (and possibly the smartest) is Sushi, my diabetic shih tzu who once was blind but now can see, which sounds oddly spiritual for a dog, but really just means she had successful cataract surgery.
On what appeared to be just another Monday morning, Trash 'n' Treasures — the antiques shop Mother and I run together — was closed for the day. That left us pajama-clad, lingering leisurely over breakfast at the Duncan Phyfe table in the dining room.
Because the meal Mother had made was better than our usual fare — egg casserole, homemade hash, crisp bacon, sausage patties, and giant frosted cinnamon rolls — I suspected the elder Borne had something more in store for me that was not so palatable.
Finally, unable to munch down another morsel, I sat back and sighed, being far too ladylike to burp (as far as you know).
"Well," I said, "let's have the check."
Mother, seated opposite, gazed at me with a dewy-eyed innocence right out of a silent movie. "The check, dear?"
I gestured to the dishes around us. "All that couldn't have been free. Has there been a murder? Do you need me to stage-manage your next one-woman show? Let's get it over with."
Mother lay a splayed hand to her chest. "My darling girl, your mistrust and suspicions cut me deep."
Darling girl? This was going to be a rough one. A grunt of a response was all I could manage (sort of a half grunt, half burp). (Okay, so I'm not so ladylike.)
"Still," she went on, at once casual and grand, "I do have something in mind for today. Shall we retire to the library?"
Bedlam would have been more like it, but the library was — in addition to being a music and TV den — Mother's incident room when she and I (did I mention reluctant?) were on a case.
Mother stood from the table and smoothed the front of her 1940s pink chenille robe with shoulder pads, apparently on loan from Joan Crawford, an item of apparel she'd refused to give up even after I'd bought her a nice new robe for Christmas. (Once, I tried throwing the ratty old thing out with the trash, but she managed to retrieve it before the garbage truck came by. For someone with glasses that thick, she has sharp eyes.)
I followed Mother into the library/music/TV/incident room, which was redolent of ancient moldy books, smelly old brass instruments (mostly cornets), and air freshener — a lethal combination to inhale on a full stomach.
She gestured for me to sit on the bench of an antiquated standup piano that neither of us could play. Oh. Reminds me. For about a month there was another smell added to the room's fragrant bouquet: a dead mouse, which had gotten strangled in the piano wires. Accident, suicide, or murder — that one we never solved.
(Note to Brandy from Editor:While I understand you are going through a difficult time with Vivian, readers come to these books for a good mystery and some lighthearted chuckles, and a mouse strangled with piano wire does not fit either category. Please adjust your tone.)
(Note to Editor from Brandy:Yes, ma'am. But it did happen. And we really never did solve it.)
From behind the stand-up piano, Mother rolled out the old schoolroom blackboard she always used to compile her list of suspects, and stood before it, hands clasped beneath her bosom.
"No murder today, darling," she said. "Nor pending theatrical event. No. What I need is your help deciding upon my campaign slogan."
From incident room to campaign headquarters, in a blink!
Mother went on, "Something catchy like Tippecanoe and Vivian, Too!"
She gave me a mildly cross look. "Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too? William Henry Harrison's presidential slogan in 1840?" She sighed. "How soon they forget. ... Tyler was his running mate, and Tippecanoe was a battle Harrison won against the Shawnee nation."
"Okay, first, nobody knows that today; and second, you don't have anything to do with Tippecanoe or Tyler, too; and third, even if you did, bragging about beating Native Americans only works if you're running for sheriff in the 1800s."
Mother's eyes behind the large lenses studied me suspiciously — was I being helpful, or just obstructive? — I'll never tell.
"What other slogans have you come up with?" I asked, realizing my sarcasm had been showing, adding, "And stay away from any presidential ones — you're running for sheriff, remember. Present-day sheriff."
"Excellent advice, dear. Although I did rather like Goldwater's In your heart, you know he's right, only with a she."
"Maybe so," I said, "but you don't want to remind voters of somebody who lost." Anyway, they might just think, In your head, you know she's wrong.
"Good point, dear," Mother replied.
See? I was being helpful.
Mother furrowed her brow, then brightened, a lamp with its switch thrown. "How about ... A clearer vision for the future!"
"With those glasses?" Okay, obstructive.
"Qualified, experienced, and dependable?"
"Wouldn't go there." Helpful.
Hands on hips, Mother huffed, "All right, Little Miss Smarty-pants — why don't you come up with something?" So much for Her Darling Girl.
I got up, walked to the blackboard, plucked a piece of white chalk from the wooden lip, then wrote in block letters, VIVIAN, BORNE TO BE SHERIFF.
Mother clapped her hands. "Oh, I do like that, dear! Very clever. Now, let's talk about promotion."
Since this confab apparently was going to go on for a while, I returned to the bench. Sushi trotted in from the living room and jumped up on my lap. She looked at Mother in a This-IsGoing-to-Be-Good fashion.
Mother, resuming her teacherly stance before the blackboard, said, "I have a few notions that I came up with in the middle of the night."
Middle-of-the-night notions were never her best, but at least were frequently entertaining. I waited with bated breath.
With a smile only slightly edged with mania, Mother asked, "Why don't we print leaflets and drop them from an airplane all over town?" Gulp.
She continued, "And while the plane is up there, it can skywrite my new slogan. Like Surrender, Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz?"
Pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain.
I took a deep breath, then said slowly, so it would sink in, "I'm pretty sure dropping leaflets from a plane would be considered littering, and you could be fined, which doesn't suggest to the populace that you'd make an ideal sheriff. As for sky-writing, the cost is probably prohibitive."
Mother's face fell like a cake when I opened the oven door too soon. Not that I ever did. Lately.
I shifted on the bench. "By all means, print up leaflets ... but hand them out instead, you know, wherever you go. Door to door. On street corners. That kind of thing."
Mother made a face. "That's so dull! Not a Vivian Borne–style showstopper."
The last time Mother stopped a show was in Hello Dolly when she ("Goodbye!") danced off the stage into the orchestra pit.
She was asking, "What if the plane doesn't sky-write, but merely drags a banner?"
"Again, that depends on the price ... but it can't be cheap."
Mother frowned, then brightened. "Here's an idea that won't cost too much — you drive me around town while I proclaim my slogan from a bullhorn!"
I shook my head. "Now we'd be disturbing the peace. Look, who's going to pay for all this promotion, once we decide what we can do that won't cost too much, or get you arrested?"
A forefinger was raised in declamatory fashion. "A super PAC?"
"You can't form your own super PAC," I said, "and anyway, who are the big money boys that'll line up to back you?"
"How about a medium PAC?"
"No, not even a teensy-weensy PAC. Mother, you're going to have to get donations the hard way — by going around town and begging your friends for money."
Mother touched a finger to her chin. "I do have friends! Not to mention a few enemies who might contribute, knowing what I have on them."
I sighed. "Blackmail may not be the best way to start your law enforcement career."
She shrugged. "It's worked for many who came before me."
"Be that as it may, the people who donate won't want to see their hard-earned money wasted on any looney-tunes antics like sky-writing."
She sighed. "I suppose you're right, dear. Any suggestions on other ways to raise some campaign funds?"
I thought for a moment. "What about collecting items for a white elephant sale?"
Traditionally a white elephant sale was a step up from the usual garage or rummage varieties because "white elephants" were things of value that had fallen out of favor over time, or were too hard to maintain by an owner but still desirable by others.
Mother exclaimed, "Excellent idea! We could make a good deal of money."
"And look fiscally responsible, trying to self-fund your election, which in turn will encourage supporters to make cash contributions as well."
"Dear, you're a genius," Mother remarked. "What a wonderful campaign manager you'll make!"
"Wait ... what?" I stood, spilling Sushi to the floor like a furry drink. "Let's get this straight. ... I'm not going to be your campaign manager!"
"But you already are, dear," Mother said. "You volunteered!"
"I did no such thing."
"It was implied, in the context of all your wise counsel. Anyway, I need you. You can see that. Just look at the unrealistic promotional ideas that I came up with without your grounded guidance!"
Her midnight notions really had been pretty bad.
Her expression turned pitifully pleading. "Please say you will? Pretty please?"
My sigh came all the way up from my toes. "Stop. Don't add with sugar on top. I'll do it. I'll hate myself in the morning, but I'll do it."
Mother's pitiful countenance suddenly evaporated. "Thank you, dear. Now, get dressed. Places to go, things to do, people to see."
As she darted past me on her way out, I thought I caught a tiny, smug smile.
Had I just been had?
Had I been played, like one of her smelly old cornets? With nutsy talk of Tippecanoe and leaflets dropping from a plane and sky-writing and a bullhorn and super and medium PACs?
What do you think? (That's rhetorical. We don't need to reopen our conversation.)
* * *
Half an hour later, about a quarter to ten, I was behind the wheel of our C-Max, having become the de facto chauffeur in the family since Mother lost her driver's license due to various infractions; she was riding shotgun, while Sushi was left at home holding down the fort.
I've had a few complaints from readers about detailing what Mother and I are wearing in these narratives. If you prefer to think of us as flitting about in the nude, skip the rest of this paragraph. For those of you without dirty minds, I was wearing a floral cotton shirt by Madewell, my favorite DKNY jeans, and a pair of Sam Edelman sandals; Mother was in a pink sweater and matching slacks by Breckenridge, and white shoes custom made to accommodate her painful bunions.
Our destination on this sunny spring morning was the fittingly named Sunny Meadow Manor, an assisted-living /nursing-care facility situated in the country off the bypass — or as Mother calls it, "The Treacherous Bypass," due to the lack of stoplights needed to ensure safe cross-traffic passage.
Mother had always enjoyed visiting nursing homes, and would sometimes drag along a reluctant Brandy, who didn't want to face the final stage of life — especially as depicted by the at-risk patients in wheelchairs lining the hallway, many of whom were forgotten souls.
"Why," I asked, "are we going to Sunny Meadow? You aren't thinking of changing addresses, are you?"
"Unfunny and unkind, dear," Mother replied. "No, my intention is to solicit items from the assisted-living residents for our white elephant sale."
"That doesn't seem very likely to succeed."
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, anybody living there has left their homes behind and most of their belongings."
Mother twisted toward me. "Dear, have you ever been inside any of those apartments?"
"Well ... no."
"If you had, you'd know that the units are indeed rather small, but are usually crammed with more possessions than the residents should ever have brought along with them."
"Not to be crass," I said, "but what makes you think you'll get anything of value?"
"Because, dear, only the very well-off can afford to live in those apartments, with all of the extended services. So they've undoubtedly brought along their best things — things that have meaning, but might by now have become burdensome."
"Like a silver tea set," I reasoned, "that needs constant polishing."
"Bingo." Then she lowered her voice: "I really should avoid saying that, since that particular game is almost certainly going on in the commons area."
I took my eyes off the road momentarily. "So your plan is to weasel these well-off senior citizens out of their best things?" Mother's laugh was musical, if irritating. "Oh, my, no. They'll practically beg me to take them."
I remained skeptical, but in such matters, she was usually right.
I turned off the bypass, then drove west into a countryside of Grant Wood–esque rolling hills comprised of freshly planted fields dotted with the occasional oak or maple tree. Sunny Meadow Manor itself was perched on one of those hills, up a sharp incline, and surrounded by evergreen trees whose boughs gently swayed in the breeze.
I had been to Sunny Meadow Manor several times, having visited Mother there when she was recovering from her double hip replacements — that went back about eight years, when I was still married to Roger and living in a Chicago suburb.
So I was familiar with the layout, which hadn't changed any — the first floor devoted to assisted-living apartments, the second given over to usual nursing home fare, with the third the Alzheimer's Unit. Any higher floor than that would have pearly gates.
As I drove up the incline, Mother said, "Now, I'll do all the talking, dear."
Which I'd planned on, anyway. I was willing to aid but not abet.
Excerpted from "Antiques Wanted"
Copyright © 2018 Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Table of Contents
Chapter One - Support Your Loco Sheriff,
Chapter Two - The Lone Danger,
Chapter Three - Paint Your Bandwagon,
Chapter Four - The Sick and the Dead,
Chapter Five - Have Wheels-Will Travel,
Chapter Six - Buffalo Bilious,
Chapter Seven - Rollin', Rollin', Rollin',
Chapter Eight - Shady Deal at Sunny Meadow,
Chapter Nine - Hang 'em High,
Chapter Ten - The Wild Hunch,
Chapter Eleven - Pistol- Packin' Mama,
Chapter Twelve - Destiny Rides Again,
Mrs. Goldstein's Chocolate Babka,
About the Authors,