Ophelia Jensen's good witch granny Abigail revels in her paranormal powers. But Ophelia never asked for her bothersome psychic abilities -- especially since they proved worthless when the thirty-something librarian's best friend Brian was murdered by a still-unknown assailant.
Now, five years later, another friend is gone, killed in almost identical fashion. Even dear old Abby isn't safe, distracted as she is by her fight to prevent a massive, mega-polluting pig-farming operation from invading their small Iowa town. And Ophelia can't count on her snarling, scoffing nemesis, police detective Henry Comacho, to get the job done, so she'll have to take matters into her own hands. Because a common thread to the crimes -- and a possible next victim -- is suddenly becoming troublingly apparent . . . and it's Ophelia Jensen herself!
About the Author
Shirley Damsgaard, author of numerous published short stories, resides with her family in small-town Iowa, where she has served as Postmaster for the last twenty years. She is currently working on the next Ophelia and Abby mystery, which again touches delightfully upon the paranormal.
Read an Excerpt
Charmed to DeathAn Ophelia and Abby Mystery
By Shirley Damsgaard
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Shirley Damsgaard
All right reserved.
The voices drifted through the open window at the library.
"Everyone needs to disperse right now. I'm sorry, but you can't block traffic."
"What traffic, Brett? I don't see no cars comin'."
I recognized the deep baritone voice of Stumpy Murdock, proud owner of Stumpy's Bar and Billiards.
"C'mon, Stumpy, you know I can't let you have a sit-in smack in the middle of the four-way stop. Take the demonstration someplace else."
"We're exercisin' the right to peaceful assembly."
"Yeah." Several voices cried out -- one of them, the voice of my sweet grandmother.
Crap. Abby was with them. I needed to get out there before poor Brett was forced to arrest all those subversive characters.
When I rounded the corner of the library, I saw the sit-in. Several of the town's senior citizens had planted themselves in the center of the four-way. How Edna Walters ever managed to make it to a sitting position in the middle of the intersection, I'll never know. But there she was, dressed in her pink nylon jogging suit and orthopedic shoes, holding a sign that said DOWN WITH FACTORY FARMS. The sun glinted on her blue-tinted hair, while her walker stood like a silent companion by her side.
"Hey, Brett. How's it going?" I called out.
Brett turned. Two blotches, one on each cheekbone and as red as fresh strawberries, stood out on his young face. Poor guy. Brand-new police officer dressed in his blue uniform, with its sharp creases, and wearing his shiny new badge being hassled by people old enough to be his grandparents. I bet the Academy never taught him how to deal with little old ladies. Definitely in over his head.
"Ophelia, maybe you can talk some sense into these folks. If they don't move, I'm going to have to arrest them for being a public nuisance."
"Oh, you wouldn't want to do that, Brett," I said and tugged on my jacket.
"That's right, young man. If you do, I'll never bring cookies to the station again," Mrs. Walters said, shaking her finger at Brett.
"Mrs. Walters, please. Get up. I'll help you." Brett reached down and offered his hand, but Mrs. Walters swatted it away, her pink jacket crackling.
"No." Her double chin trembled with indignation. "I'm staying until Ned gets here to take our picture."
The blotches on Brett's face spread. If Ned didn't hurry, the only picture he'd get would be Brett tucking Mrs. Walters, walker and all, into the back of his patrol car. I walked over to where Abby sat next to Stumpy.
She had evidently worked in her greenhouse before organizing her seditious demonstration. She still wore her work clothes -- denim jeans, a flannel work shirt, and clogs.
I took a quick look at Stumpy. Was he her coconspirator in this? He looked back at me through his thick glasses. The lenses magnified his eyes and he reminded me of a befuddled owl sitting there. But Stumpy wasn't befuddled. He was a sharp businessman and didn't tolerate any Saturday-night drunks causing trouble. If they tried, they'd find themselves staring at the business end of Stumpy's Louisville Slugger while he escorted them out the door. Shaking my head to clear the image of Stumpy as an owl, I bent down toward Abby and lowered my voice.
"You have to do something. Brett is losing his patience."
Abby stared at me, her green eyes flashing. "Edna is right. We need Ned," she said, her voice still carrying the cadence of the mountains in Appalachia where she was raised. "He's the editor and the main reporter for The Courier. He might give us the publicity we need. Who knows, The Des Moines Register could even pick up the story Ned writes? It's too good a chance to miss."
"Do you want to go to jail for trespassing and unlawful assembly?" I asked through clenched teeth.
"Maybe," she said, cocking her head to one side. "It would make a good story."
"Abby -- "
A sudden cheer stopped me. Ned Thomas had appeared down the street. He walked confidently down the wide sidewalk of the business section, past the limestone buildings that had held local entrepreneurs since the turn of the century. His camera swung from the strap around his neck and a notebook stuck out of his shirt pocket.
Relieved, I watched while Ned approached the group. He stopped at the corner and started shooting pictures. The happy group waved their signs at him in response. I stepped back to get out of the shot. Didn't need my picture on the front page of The Courier.
I walked over to where Brett stood, watching Ned.
"Gosh, I'm glad he finally showed up. Last thing I wanted to do was arrest all of them," Brett said.
Feeling his distress float around him, I patted his shoulder. "Don't worry. Everyone knows you're trying to do your job."
"Yeah, but I never thought it would include arresting senior citizens." Brett shook his head. "This hog confinement thing, it's not good. People are sure steamed up about it."
I tugged at my lip. "I know. It was bad enough eight years ago when they built the farrowing site across the county line. But now they're trying to expand into this county. No one wants a facility housing eight thousand hogs built next to their place. Abby says the amount of manure they'll produce will be monumental."
Brett nodded. "We were thinking about buying a house here in Summerset, what with the new job and all, but now I don't know. My wife doesn't care for the idea of living close to a place like that. Even if it is ten miles from town, she's afraid we'll be able to smell the stink."
The waste from eight thousand hogs and a humid summer's day in Iowa was not a good combination. The stench would drift for miles on the hot breezes. And Abby's farm was only two miles from the proposed site.
Excerpted from Charmed to Death by Shirley Damsgaard Copyright © 2006 by Shirley Damsgaard. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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“Shirley Damsgaard has created a sassy, savvy librarian who just happens to be a reluctant witch haunted by her past.
“Shirley Damsgaard brings us a wonderful second paranormal mystery...beguiling.”
“Ophelia and Abby have Charmed me To Death. I love this series.”
“A Golden Broomstick to the season’s most unusual sleuths, a septuagenarian witch and her psychic granddaughter. Inventive and imaginative.”