Dead Man Walker (Consignment Shop Mystery Series Novella)77
Dead Man Walker (Consignment Shop Mystery Series Novella)77
As a mortician beautician and housekeeper, Mercedes is no stranger to corpses or messy bathrooms. But the last thing she expects to find in a client’s bathtub is a dead body! Now she’s a murder suspect and it seems like her life is going down the drain. She turns to local lawyer Walker Boone to get her out of hot water.
But Walker has his own surprising connections to the dead man in the tub, and now he needs Reagan’s help to clear his own name—and keep him alive…
Includes a preview of the Consignment Shop Mystery, Demise in Denim.
Praise for the Consignment Shop Mysteries:
“Brown deftly spins the tale of Reagan’s many misadventures while sleuthing, fills her story with Southern eccentrics, and offers up a magnolia-laced munificence of Savannah color.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
“A hilarious romp through a consignment shop where customers may end up with more than they bargained for.” —Janet Bolin, author of the Threadville Mystery series
Duffy Brown is the author of Pearls and Poison, Killer in Crinolines, and Iced Chiffon in the Consignment Shop Mystery series. She has two cats, Spooky and Dr. Watson, and works at a consignment shop when she’s not busy conjuring up whodunit stories.
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|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Series:||Consignment Shop Mystery Series|
|Sold by:||Penguin Group|
|File size:||778 KB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
“See, there he is, Mr. Boone,” Mercedes said to me. “Just like I told you on the phone, Conway Adkins dead as a fence post in his very own claw-foot bathtub and naked as the day he was born.”
“I take it you added the washcloth?” I said to Mercedes, both of us standing in the doorway and staring at the corpse.
“Couldn’t be having the man lying there with his shriveledness all exposed to the world now could I? Not proper for a man his age.”
“Or for the rest of us,” I added. “So, did you get me over here for bragging that you did the deed or complaining that someone beat you to it?”
“Not that the old fart wasn’t deserving with the way he treated people, but I’m here to tell you that this ruins cleaning day. Every Monday like clockwork I do Mr. Adkins’s house and now this. Messes up my schedule something fierce.”
“I’d say take him out and shoot him for the offense but . . .”
“The bigger problem is with me being on probation and the police getting more than a tad upset if I keep company with dead folks unless, of course, they happen to be lying flat out on my table where I usually come across them over there at the House of Eternal Slumber.”
Mercedes parked her hands on her well-rounded hips covered in a white maid’s apron and cut her eyes back to the tub. “All I know is that it’s going to take a considerable amount of putty to patch those holes so we can lay him out proper-like. The going-in diameter isn’t bad but the coming-out part’s a different story. Mercy.” Mercedes made the sign of the cross.
Mercedes was a housekeeper by day, a mortician/beautician by night, and a once-upon-a-time madam. The madam part is what got us together. Not that I engaged her services but I did keep her out of jail for that particular offense and now she keeps my house and a few others. The mortician part explained why she wasn’t freaking out over a dead man and, considering her credentials, the putty statement was probably dead-on. Eight in the morning was early to be discussing washcloths and putty but one of the joys of being a lawyer in Savannah is I never know what’s coming around the corner.
A knock sounded from below, Mercedes jumping a foot. Guess the mortician part hadn’t made her immune after all. “Did you call the police?” I asked.
“Lordy, no. In times of stress and anxiety I’m prone to be saying all sorts of things I shouldn’t to the law enforcement establishment, which is why I got you over here to Conway’s house right quick.” Mercedes walked to the bathroom window and peered out. “Well, you can be forgetting about the cops. It’s Reagan Summerside down there on the stoop this fine spring morning. She sure is a sight for sore eyes.”
Before I could stop her, Mercedes leaned out waving. “Howdy, girl, up here. How y’all doing? Haven’t seen you since we broke into Dozer’s construction company a few months back. Now that was something, wasn’t it? That guard dog nearly ate us alive.” Mercedes cut her eyes back to me and made a deep sigh. “See what I mean about having run-on of the mouth in times of stress. Wonder what brings Reagan here at this hour.”
“The way things are going, it sure can’t be anything good,” I said to myself more than Mercedes as Reagan yelled from below, “Is Mr. Adkins up there? We have an appointment. Tell him I’m on my way.”
“Honey, you should know he’s not exactly in a meet and greet frame of mind,” Mercedes called with me adding, “Go away, Reagan.” Not that I expected it to do any good.
Two years ago I represented Reagan’s ex in their divorce, and she came away with a rundown Victorian house and a fistful of bills, wanting nothing more than my head on a platter. Of course, the outcome had more to do with the fact that she’d signed an airtight prenup than with me being an ace attorney. At the moment we were sort of enemies. The divorce accounted for the enemy part, that we shared a dog named Bruce Willis and a kiss or two accounted for the sort of part. Reagan was the double espresso with a shot of Red Bull part of my life . . . energy, excitement with hair-raising consequences.
I heard the door open downstairs, then footsteps echoing through the big house that dated back to when Sherman had parked his unwelcome mangy Northern butt in our town, and Reagan Summerside joined us in the bathroom. She had on black slacks, a white blouse probably from her consignment shop located in that Victorian she now owned, and she was carrying that big ugly plastic purse the color of a Yield sign. Business garb. Usually she was in something denim, hair pinned up like she forgot what a comb looked like and a sprinkled doughnut in her hand. During a heat wave last August she wore short shorts and a halter top that caused a five-car pileup over on Whitaker and was oblivious to it all.
“Boone, it is you,” Reagan said. “Thought I heard your irritating voice. What are you and Mercedes doing up here in the bathroom? It’s nice and all but where’s Mr. Adkins? I’m here to give him a price on furniture he wants to sell over at my shop and— Sweet Jesus in heaven!”
Not breathing, Reagan looked from Conway to me then slowly slouched against the tile wall. “What did you go and do?”
“You had issues with him and then some.”
“So did half the people in this town.”
Sirens sounded in the distance and Mercedes smacked her palm to her forehead. “Now the fly’s in the butter for sure. Think it’s too late to make a run for it?”
The sirens stopped outside the big white frame house, followed by the door opening, someone yelling “Police!”, more footsteps up the staircase, and Detective Aldeen Ross and two uniforms crowding into the tight space.
“A dead guy in a tub, it must be Monday,” Ross groused, taking in the scene. “So, are you all holding a convention in here or what ’cause forensics is going to have themselves a hissy over corrupting the crime scene like this. It’ll take a month of Sundays and a bucket of fried chicken from Sisters to calm them down, I can tell you that.”
Ross was “born short and squashed flat,” as my grandma Hilly used to say. Ross gave new meaning to yo-yo dieting and that she had powdered sugar on her blue suit suggested skinny Ross the Cranky was headed back to Ross the Pleasantly Plump.
“You do this?” Ross said to me and pointed at a fancy blue pillow on the floor with holes on both sides, suggesting the killer shot through it to muffle the sound.
“I know there’s talk about me and Adkins,” I added before Ross could. “We didn’t get along, but murder is a whole lot of not getting along.”
“The man never was a saint sitting on a cloud in anyone’s book.” Ross said, then added, “Della Mae next door called saying she heard shots is what got us here. Mostly she wanted to tell the female contingent down at the police station that you showed up wearing our favorite jeans with the blue pinstriped shirt.”
“Favorite jeans?” I repeated trying to keep up.
“Like it or not, lawyer boy, you’re fine eye candy and we all truly do appreciate it early in the morning like this.” Ross turned to Mercedes. “I just saw Reagan here over at the Cakery Bakery getting a sprinkled doughnut so that makes you a prime suspect at the moment. Care to enlarge on the situation?”
Mercedes held up her hands. “Well, there you go. I get the finger-point and this time I’m innocent as new driven snow. But I do have my suspicions who done the old boy in.”
Mercedes huddled us together. “Not to be tooting my own horn, you see, but I think the culprit in all this happens to be a wannabe customer of mine. Ya see, the oldsters around here hire me on to clean their places knowing that I always spiff them up right nice when their time comes to meet their Maker. It’s an extra little perk I throw in for treating me good while they’re still kicking. The word’s gotten out that I offer up this bonus. Been right good for business I’ll tell you that. But I only got so many cleaning spots available bein’ that I work over there at the Slumber.”
The two uniforms exchanged you gotta be kidding me looks and Ross asked, “Let me see if I got this right, you’re saying that someone would kill to get you to clean their house so you’d make them look good at their funeral?”
“Oh, honey.” Mercedes tisked. “Did you ever see what the wrong foundation does to the dearly departed under those god-awful funeral home lights? Why Fanny Elkins was the color of a toad last week at her lay-out and Janis Wilkes wound up right there on YouTube, casket and all, captioned ‘It ain’t easy being green.’”
Nodding, Reagan held out her hands. “Word on the kudzu vine is that Jeanette Laylaw’s the one who pushed Henry Wentworth down the steps at St. John’s Church last month because she was next on your house-cleaning list.”
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