Geared for the Grave304
Geared for the Grave304
Hoping to shift her chances of a promotion in her favor, Evie Bloomfield heads to Mackinac Island to assist her boss’s father. Rudy Randolph has broken his leg and operating his bike shop, Rudy’s Rides, is too much to handle by himself. But Evie’s good turn only leads to more trouble.
After Evie’s arrival, wealthy resident Bunny Harrington dies in what looks like a freak bike accident. Upon closer inspection, Bunny’s brakes were tampered with, and now the prime suspect in her murder is also Bunny’s number one enemy: Rudy. So if Evie hopes to stay on her boss’s good side, she’ll need to steer Rudy clear of jail. Now she must quickly solve this mystery so she can put the brakes on the real killer’s plan...
Related collections and offers
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Series:||A Cycle Path Mystery , #1|
|Sold by:||Penguin Group|
|File size:||3 MB|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
While cowering in the back of a ferryboat, head over railing and losing my lunch in Lake Huron, it occurred to me that no matter how old I am, I want to impress my parents. Deep inside I’m just a kid yelling, Mom, look at me! No hands! Granted, this wasn’t exactly a look at me moment, but it’s what got me into this mess.
“Hey, lady. Where should I put these paint cans?” a man in a neon yellow vest asked as I staggered off the last ferry of the day. After a ten-hour drive plastered with orange construction barrels followed by the boat trip from hell, I so wanted to tell this guy where to put those cans. Instead I handed him a twenty and said, “Get a taxi and put them in the trunk.”
I was thirty-four, had been around the Chicago block a few times and ten months ago got left standing at the altar thanks to a sports-aholic fiancé and the seduction of last-minute game three World Series tickets. I wasn’t a first-time anything. “Fudgie?”
“Yeah, good luck with that trunk.”
And for that smart-ass crack I’d forked over twenty bucks. I zipped my fleece against the lake chill, grabbed a paint can and my duffel and trudged up the dock with the rest of the tourists to Main Street, lined with twinkle-lights and cute shops shutting down for the night, the whole place smelling kind of . . . earthy?
“Can you get me a taxi to Rudy’s Rides?” I asked a college kid as he tossed luggage onto a horse cart. He nodded to a two-horse-power red and yellow wagon with people merrily climbing on board.
I dangled the can. “A car taxi, like as in fast transportation weaving in and out of traffic scaring everyone. It’s been a long day.”
“Lady, this is as fast as we get around here.” College guy added another bag to the cart, and people and luggage carts clip-clopped off past meandering pedestrians and bikes, with no traffic lights or roar of internal combustion engines anywhere. A poster in the window of Fred’s Deli announced a Dirty Pony Wash. Not a car wash? Where the heck was I?
I yanked out Sheldon, my BFF iPhone. OhthankGod he had bars. I hadn’t slipped into some time-warp thing, and there on the screen right below the Mackinac Island ferry schedule was the no-car statement. You got to be kidding. This was Michigan; Motown; the birthplace of hydrocarbons and gas-guzzling engines and ozone central.
I followed Sheldon’s directions past the Lilac Hotel, Doud’s Market and one, two, make that seven fudge shops just within the two blocks I could see. My guess was that fudgies were tourists, and dentists and Weight Watchers owned the biggest houses on the island. Rudy’s Rides sat next to Irma’s Fudge Emporium. Why couldn’t it be the broccoli emporium? I could resist broccoli ten feet from where I’d spend the next week.
Propped-open, weathered double doors marked the entrance to Rudy’s, where a shiny new yellow three-wheeler sat at the curb next to a horse and buggy. I stepped inside the shop only to find rental bikes from the Ronald Reagan years. Dusty handlebars and pedals lined the wall next to a spotless trophy shelf, and tools littered the workbench. A pool table sat in back with a stained-glass light suspended overhead. Mark Twain said, Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated, and here he was in a white crumpled suit, wild gray hair, cigar balanced across a whiskey glass and his left leg in a cast.
The Twain look-alike, whom I took to be Rudy, aimed at the nine ball as a girl about my age in a purple sequined paperboy hat with a pencil stuck in the band hustled inside scribbling in a notebook. A knobby-kneed granny in electric pink biker shorts brought up the rear.
“I took a good look around this place,” Knees huffed at Rudy. “It’s a dump, just like I thought. Town council meets tomorrow night, and I’m getting on the agenda and recommending they shut you down.”
Knees turned to the sequined-hat girl. “But whatever you do, Fiona, don’t put that in the Town Crier. You’re just getting the hang of being the editor now that your mom and dad headed off for Arizona and the sun and left us in the lurch. This isn’t that Inside Scoop rag where we tell all. You need to say something like Rudy’s Rides is closing for remodeling. Fudgies pay for Norman Rockwell around here, so we give them Norman Rockwell.” She swiped her finger across a dusty bike fender. “This is Beverly Hillbillies.”
Fiona scribbled more notes. “It’s late and I’m tired and cranky and getting a lot crankier the longer this takes. I’m doing an article on bicycle shops like you want, Bunny, and right now Rudy’s Rides is open for business, period, end of discussion.”
Rudy sent the nine ball across the green felt, missing the left pocket by a mile. “Geeze Louise.” He jabbed his cigar at Bunny. “I know what you’re trying to pull, and it’s not going to work. That snotty historical committee of yours up there on the bluffs has three votes on the council—just three. The business owners down here in town trying to make a buck got the other three, and I’m one of ’em. Our shops would go belly-up with rules about original windows, pine floors and the other half-baked ideas that pop into your little pea-brain ’cause you got nothing else to do. You wanna shut me down to get me out of your hair.”
Bunny stuck her prune face inches from Rudy’s. “The only thing up to snuff in this joint are your euchre trophies and that pool table. Start packing, Rudy boy, you’re history.”
Bunny tromped through the bike maze and climbed on her three-wheeler as Rudy raised his whiskey glass. “Here’s to the old bat going, and that’s a heck of a lot better than the old bat coming.”
Fiona closed her notebook. “Bunny thinks she’s hot stuff around here because her family’s been on the island longer than dirt and she lives in a big house. Rudy’s Rides is staying in my article.” Fiona gave Rudy a kiss on the cheek, then hurried out, her departure followed by the sound of horse hooves on pavement fading down the street.
“Take any bike that suits you,” Rudy said to me as he lined up his next shot. “I keep them all running good even if they are a little rough around the edges. Put the money in the coffee can on the workbench—no charge for local drama. It’s free, and there’s a lot of it these days.”
“I’m Evie Bloomfield from Chicago. I’m here to help you.”
“The only help I need is with sinking the dang nine ball. Haven’t made a decent shot all day.”
I dropped my duffel and purse, snagged a cue, aimed for the far pocket and sent the yellow-striped ball sailing across the felt, till Rudy plucked it right off the table. “Hey, why’d you do that? I nailed it.”
Rudy scooped his hand into the pocket, dragging out a sleepy black-and-white kitten. “Bambino hangs out there; left pocket’s off-limits.” Rudy balanced on one crutch—he was a one-crutch kind of guy. “So, Chicago, what brings a pool shark to my doorstep this time of night? From the way things are going, it can’t be anything good.”
I did the innocent look and got the don’t mess with me look in reply. “Pool’s the only thing I could do better than my brother, and the doorstep part is that I work for your daughter.” Though one look at Rudy’s Rides and it was hard to see any connection to a daughter with dollar signs on her license plate. “Abigail’s tied up with a business deal at the ad agency, so I’m here in her place to lend you a hand.”
“Or a leg.” Rudy took a piece of kibble from his pocket for Bambino. “What juicy carrot did my daughter dangle to get you out of Chicagoland to an eight-mile island without a shopping mall or car in sight?”
“Just trying to be useful.” I plastered my best perky please the nice client smile on my face.
“Twain says, Don’t tell fish stories where they know the fish. I know my daughter. There’s a carrot.”
My perky died. It was late; I was tired. Rudy had me, and he knew it. I plopped down on my gallon can of beach-baby blue paint. “Bloomfields are lawyers—really successful lawyers except for me—and my apartment’s the size of your pool table, except the table’s nicer. I’m thirty-four, Thanksgiving’s the next great family gathering and I need a promotion—some bragging rights for a change.” I tapped the can I was sitting on. “Hauled nine of these all the way out here so I could spruce up the place. So, what do you think?”
“I think you’re kissing up to the boss.”
“Being of assistance sounds better. Abigail sort of takes me for granted.”
“Abigail takes everyone for granted unless they’re a client.” Rudy sipped the whiskey. “I’ll get caught up around here once the cast comes off.” He rapped his knuckles against the white plaster. “Planned on making repairs this spring till I got busy with this town council feud and maybe a euchre tournament or two. How’d Abigail find out that I broke my dang leg in the first place? I sure didn’t tell her.”
“That would be my doing,” a man said, making his way through the shop. He was about the same age as Rudy and balding, and had the words Euchre Dude embroidered across his shirt pocket.
“You’d think your only offspring would show up,” the guy said, giving me the head-to-toe disapproving glare. “I came to check on the bikes I ordered last week and I heard you had a visitor from Chicago. Never thought Abigail would send in a pinch hitter who—”
“Look,” I interrupted, acing out another go away speech. “There aren’t any ferries till morning, so unless you want me to doggie paddle it back to Mackinaw City with paint cans strapped to my ankles . . .”
Rudy took a sip of whiskey. “Guess there’s no harm in you waiting around for my last rentals while Ed and I play a few hands of euchre down at the Stang.” Rudy brightened. “Sounds pretty good, actually. The tournament’s on, and I got room for a new trophy up there on the shelf.”
“I can do whatever,” I said in a rush. I had no idea how to play euchre or what the Stang was, but I could park a bike and I’d have time to figure out how to make Operation Brownnose a potential success instead of a looming failure.
Ed snuffed the cigar in a crackled flowerpot. “Don’t know why anyone smokes these things. I’ll get our lucky deck from my place. Can’t believe Abigail isn’t here. Kids—they grow up and only come around when they’re the ones needing something.”
Ed sauntered off, and Rudy tucked Bambino back in the left pocket on the pool table. He pointed his crutch at the front door. “All you gotta do is pull it shut. It sticks, so you gotta give it a tug. Then turn off the lights. There’s one little lock that don’t ’mount to much, but it keeps the drunks at the Pink Pony from taking my bikes and pedaling themselves straight off a dang cliff and into the lake. This isn’t the big city; nothing happens around here. Kitchen’s in the back, cold pizza in the fridge, extra bedrooms upstairs, make yourself at home for the night. Just one night.”
Rudy thump-stepped his way down Main Street, and I saw my promotion thump-stepping into oblivion. Bunny was dead-on about the place being a dump, and if I didn’t think of something fast, I’d be on the first ferry back to the real world by morning and eating turkey at the little kids’ table by Thanksgiving.
I parked the late rentals inside as the phone on the workbench rang—a customer needing two bikes delivered to a house called RestMore by morning to get an early start and catch the sunrise at six. Must be one heck of a sunrise.
The phone went dead before I got an address, and I had no idea where or how to deliver bikes around here. I found a pencil on the workbench and scribbled RestMore on a can of red primer as the words “Yoo-hoo, Rudy, me darling man, how ye be doing this fine night?” singsonged through front door.
“But you not be Rudy, now are ye, dearie,” the woman said, an Irish lilt in her voice. “I suspect ye be that Chicago fudgie girl with a bunch of paint cans we’ve been hearing about all night long. You kind of stand out, ye do.”
Before I could answer, two handlebars fell off the wall, crashing to the ground, an owl hooted three times, the lights blinked on and off, and a rooster crowed somewhere in the distance. The woman clutched the gold shamrock around her neck, her eyes big as goose eggs. “Great day in the morning and blessed be Saint Patrick!” She kissed the shamrock. “How can it be you’re still alive?”
“Hey, Chicago isn’t that bad.”
“’Tis not the geography that’s the worry, me dear, but a big black cloud that’s hanging right over ye.” She gazed around me. “Bad signs these are,” she said in a low voice. “Bad indeed, and all happening at once! Saints preserve us. I be Irish Donna and I know these things. I got the gift, I do.” She lowered her voice even more. “Ye should be making up a will; the sooner the better, if you be asking me.”
Irish Donna was on the upward side of sixty, with curly red hair, and she scared the heck out of me, but the dark cloud theory explained a lot about my life lately. I said to Donna, “Rudy and Ed are at the Stang, and a customer needs bikes delivered. Got any ideas where RestMore is? And just how big is this cloud anyway?”
Ten minutes later Irish Donna and I did the slow . . . really, really slow . . . clip-clop up a steep hill in her one-horse carriage. We’d wedged two bikes in the back, and after Donna patted the Saint Christopher medal where a cup-holder should be, we took off.
A nearly full moon lit the street, which had huge Victorians standing guard on one side and the town stretching out below the cliff on the other, and me contemplating the fact that they should make Pampers for horses. Amazing what you think about when dead tired, the minutes ticking away like hours and the business end of a large animal swaying in front of you. I was suffering from car withdrawal. “What do you do on the island?” I asked Donna, to keep awake and get my mind off giant-size Pampers.
“Shamus and I run the Blarney Scone over there on Market Street, and I be helping answering the phones with Fiona at the Town Crier on occasion. It gives me dear husband and myself a break from each other and we don’t end up in screaming matches over how much butter to put in the pastries and what to charge for Earl Grey. I’m working my way up to reporter. Lucky for you, Paddy here and me were out delivering the newspapers and could lend a hand with the bikes.
“You know,” Irish Donna went on. “While we’re riding along like we are, ye can be telling me all about your lovely self so I can be working on your obituary for when things take a turn for the bad as I figure they might anytime now. A touch of autumn in the air, did ye notice, just a touch.”
I was with her till obituary. Donna nodded up ahead. “Well fancy that, will ye, it be Bunny’s yellow bike all by itself. On her way to the euchre tournament be my guess.” Donna pulled the reins and our four-legged engine shifted into neutral beside the yellow three-wheeler. “And will ye look at this.” Donna clutched her shamrock. “The front’s all mashed in, the light’s busted out and the handlebar’s twisted up like a giant pretzel, it is. Yoo-hoo,” Donna called out. “Bunny me dear. Are ye in need of a wee bit of assistance this fine evening?”
“There,” I said, seeing the moonlight hitting Bunny’s electric pink shorts. “She’s sitting by those two trees.”
“More a’leaning if you ask me,” Donna said on a quick intake of breath. She gave a nudge. “Go have a look-see?”
“I need to be minding Paddy here.”
Right. Paddy was a thousand years old and asleep where he stood, and after the hill he had just climbed I couldn’t blame him. I stepped down from the carriage, the sound of crickets and night stuff I didn’t know everywhere. I crawled between the wood fence slats, hoping that something with wiggling antennae didn’t land on me. “Bunny?”
Heart rattling around in my chest, I crept through the bushes. Leaves crunched underfoot, moonlight weaved between the overhead branches and I tried to remember to breathe. Maybe Bunny had fallen asleep on her perch and didn’t hear Donna calling, or maybe she was just enjoying the view.
Bunny’s eyes were wide open all right, but they weren’t taking in the view. They weren’t taking in anything. They were cold; vacant; dead.
My legs went to jelly and I crumpled to the ground. I’d lived all my life in Chicago and had never come across a dead person. A few bar fights when the Bulls lost or shoving matches at a Bloomingdale’s sale, but that was it. Yet here I was in the middle of freaking nowhere sitting next to a corpse named Bunny. Next time I wanted to impress my parents I’d buy them theater tickets.
“Well?” Donna called to me through the dark.
Yelling dead as a doornail seemed a little insensitive. Instead I punched up 911 and some dude answered, happy noises in the background.
“Dead person on hill,” I said, my brain in acute meltdown.
I stared at the phone. What the heck! Since when did 911 disconnect! Pissed-off Chicago Evie elbowed scared-spitless Evie out of the way and repunched the numbers. “Look, you jackass,” I growled into the phone. “There’s a dead woman on Huron Road by some steps, so put down the brewski, drag your sorry self off your bar stool and get your big fat island butt up here now.” I was from Chicago. I knew a bar when I heard one. I disconnected.
“Glory be,” Irish Donna gasped from behind. “That someone would be a putting a well-aimed bullet in the old biddy at a council meeting wouldn’t have surprised me. Never dreamed she’d be having herself an accident on a road she traveled all her life. Looks to me like she crashed herself head-on into the fence, then went airborne, wedging her bony body between the trees. Bet she was tearing down the hill like a bat out of hell to get up that much speed.”
“I take it Bunny wasn’t one of your favorite people.”
“Slept with me husband, she did.” Irish Donna slapped her hand over her mouth, her eyes huge. “That was twenty years ago and I never told that to another living soul, not a one.”
“Your secret’s safe with me. Is this the turn for the bad you mentioned?”
“Bunny would be thinking so.”
Rustling sounded in the bushes. “Holy crap, there really is a body,” came a deep male I-just-ran-the-steps huffing and puffing voice.
“Duh.” I glared up at a guy, fortyish, tall, dark and handsome, not that looks mattered, especially at that age. I had the younger version of TD&H once, and once was enough. At present I belonged to the Single and Loving It Club and intended to be president.
TD&H hunkered down beside me, favoring one knee, absently rubbing the other one. There was an official-looking police patch on the sleeve of his black Windbreaker and a slight bulge underneath. Either he was packing a gun even here in the land of make-believe or he’d brought along his brewski. A thin scar crossed his jawline, his left eyelid drooped slightly and his nose was less than perfect. The man hadn’t spent all his life sitting at a bar on Mackinac Island.
He closed Bunny’s eyes like someone who’d performed the ritual more than once. “Figured you were drunk-dialing,” he said without looking at me. “It happens around here. What doesn’t happen is dead in the bushes.”
“Hey, Nate? Are you back there?” It was Fiona coming our way. The bushes rustled and I could see the purple sequins in the moonlight. “What’s going on? You ran out of the Stang without finishing your beer, and that never happens, so I knew something important was up and—yikes!”
“It looks to me like Bunny hit the fence,” Irish Donna said to Fiona. “’Course, the trees stopped her from winding up downtown.” Donna peered over the edge of the cliff. “A few feet more to the right and she’d have made it all the way to Saint Ann’s down below. Hard to tell for sure. Would have saved us a bit of transport time, it would.”
We all stared at Donna, and she gave a little shrug. “Just making a friendly observation.”
I wobbled to my feet and TD&H stood, pulling out his phone. “I’ll call Doc Evers to meet us at his office, then get the ambulance up here to take the body and—”
Fiona yanked the phone right out of his hand. “No way. You can’t do that. Not that I care the nasty old bat’s dead and finally quiet for once, but we all know that dragging out an ambulance and a body bag is bad for business, and Labor Day is a week away. People are already pouring in and having a good time. The town merchants will string you up by your toenails if you mess with that, and with the late spring it’s already been a lean year.”
“Fine. What should I do, Fiona?” TD&H asked. “Take Bunny piggyback down the hill?”
“That would probably be the most exciting thing to happen to her in ages, dead or alive, but what if we use Donna’s carriage to take Bunny to the medical center and then in the morning we airlift her off to Mourning Meadows Mortuary on Saint Ignace? We need to keep this on the down-low, and I’ll keep it out of the paper. Any hint of dead will kill the fun around here for sure.”
Fiona smirked at her kill crack, and TD&H rolled his eyes as Donna added, “She’s right as rain, she is. Fudgies are a touchy lot. The least bad thing a’brewing is like a curse from the Great Beyond. They’ll all be a’scurrying off to Canada, spending their money there and not be a’coming here like they planned to partake of our life of peace, tranquility and days gone by. Now if Bunny could have bought the farm in the wintertime or early spring, the news would get itself buried and out of the way by summer when the crowds come and all would be well. The old meddling blabbermouth never did consider anyone but herself.”
TD&H rubbed the back of his neck, muttering something about the effects of a full moon, and added, “Fine. I’ll take Bunny in the buggy so the business district doesn’t blow a gasket, but someone has to tell Dwight that his mother’s not coming home tonight, or any other night. Bet he’ll throw a party.”
“I be knowing Dwight Harrington the Third well enough,” Donna huffed. “Not that he cares what Bunny does as long as she pays his bills.”
TD&H looked at me with midnight blue eyes, putting my single and loving it status in serious jeopardy. “Well, Chicago, what’s it going to be? A ride with the corpse into town, or delivering the news?”
Twenty minutes later Irish Donna and I watched the cop, Fiona and Bunny—wrapped in a blanket and strapped in the backseat of the buggy—trot off. We pushed the bikes the rest of the way up the hill to a big Colonial Revival; least that was my best guess, since I mostly slept through art history class. We parked the bikes that had been ordered at the back door, then continued on, the clouds skating across the moon. If the Headless Horseman galloped by, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
“There’s Bunny’s cottage, pretty as ye please,” Irish Donna said to me in a normal voice, as if we’d only walked a few feet on flat ground instead of hiking up a blasted mountain. We stood in front of a grand white Victorian that looked out over the lake, two lighthouses blinking in the distance.
“Where I come from,” I huffed and puffed, bent over at the waist to catch my breath. “A cottage is where Red Riding Hood visited Grandma. This is more where the Rockefellers swill brandy with their cronies.”
“It’s the rich and their ways. They understate everything and be all snooty about it to boot.” Donna glanced to the second floor. “Well, there be no lights a’blazing at Bunny’s place this night, so it be my guess Dwight’s not at home, but we’ll give it a try.”
Leaves tumbled across our path as we squeaked opened the rusting wrought iron gate and took the steps to the weathered front porch. A plaque with SeeFar stenciled in faded yellow hung next to the door. Donna rang the bell and rapped down the heavy brass lion’s-head knocker, the only other sound the breeze whistling through the pines. How did people live with so much quiet? It was . . . deafening.
“Dwight’s off-island and hiding out just like I thought,” Donna said after one more rap. “The Seniority is a scary lot from what I hear. I’d be hiding myself out too if they were hot on my heels.”
We started down Huron and I glanced back to the cottage. Was that a curtain closing in an upstairs window? “What’s the Seniority?”
“A bunch of trouble from what I hear. Dwight’s been nipped by the good life, he has: fast cars, fast boats and lots of fast women. The word is he swindled some old folks with serious connections out of money to pay for his fun and now they be coming after him. He probably didn’t know about the connections part or he would have picked some other oldsters to swindle. The island’s a good place to lie low for a bit, but he can’t do that forever now, can he?”
We reached the lit wood staircase leading to town, my gaze taking in the bazillion steps in front of me. Next time I saw my little blue Honda Civic I’d kiss it. We started down, our footfalls the only sound, a damp fog circling in the trees and around our ankles. Irish Donna gave me a sideways glance when we reached the bottom. “Been a strange night it has.”
“Because of the black cloud?”
“First ferry be leaving at seven.”
* * *
Sheldon’s alarm of “Penny.” Knock, knock, knock. “Penny.” Knock, knock, knock. “Penny.” Knock, knock, knock, jarred me awake, sun slipping through the window. I bolted upright to the sound of clip-clopping outside. Now what? The frat boys next to my apartment swiped somebody’s mascot again? Last time it was a monkey; it fit right in with the frat boys, except the monkey was cleaner.
The aroma of bacon and coffee drifted into the room, caffeine vapors rousing memories of a ferry ride, fudge shops, horses and a dead Bunny. I suddenly had a new appreciation for the frat boys. I pulled on shorts and a sweatshirt, tied back my hair and ran a toothbrush around my mouth. Any day that started off with shorts and bare feet instead of heels and a skirt had to be a good one, right? I followed my nose down the narrow stairway to the kitchen, a low fire crackling in the small hearth chasing off the morning chill. A tabby lounged on a wide windowsill that overlooked a lazy harbor with sailboats, cruisers, blue water and a bright blue sky. Definitely not my apartment in Chicago.
Rudy had on a crumpled shirt and pants slit up to his thigh to accommodate the cast. His hair stuck out in Twain tufts as he sat at a blue Formica table older than me, devouring bacon and eggs. He nodded to a plate of the same across the table.
“Eat this stuff and you die,” I said, plopping a chunk of eggs into my mouth.
“So far I just broke a leg. Heard you had yourself quite a night. Thought I’d let you sleep in before you got that ferry out of here.”
I sank into a chair and picked up a strip of bacon as Rudy passed me a mug of coffee. “I think I killed Bunny. Irish Donna says I have a black cloud. Maybe I should wear garlic or find some eye of newt or toe of frog.”
“Ever since the old battle-ax got those biker-babe shorts she’s been riding around here like a maniac thinking she’s sweet sixteen. Twain says, In all lies there is wheat among the chaff. That Bunny is dead as a duck and never been sweet a day in her life is a pure fact. That some cloud had anything to do with her present situation is a big bucket-load of horse manure. You can take that to the bank.”
I wanted to believe Rudy, I really did, but something was sure messing up my life. I chomped the bacon. “So why Twain? Why not Washington? You could ride around on a horse and you’d have money with your own picture. That’s kind of cool.”
“We already had a George Washington when I came here five years ago. This whole island is eighteen hundreds—God, mother and apple pie—and we have lots of parades and demonstrations and events for the tourists to go along with the theme. It’s kind of a time warp here, and we play to it by each of us assuming important historical figures to add to the fun. Up at the fort there’re soldiers in uniforms with muskets and cannons. We even got a blacksmith with his own forge. Some gal with a spinning wheel weaves cloth, and the coach drivers for the Big House dress in top hats and tails and act all snooty.”
“Big House as in jail?”
“Big House as in the Grand Hotel up there on the hill. I got to be Twain, including the cats, since Twain spent some time here.” Rudy nodded to the windowsill. “That there’s Cleveland, and you met Bambino. Our Betsy Ross ran off to Lauderdale last year after a particularly bad winter. Her arthritis just couldn’t take the cold anymore. I hear she’s been arrested twice down there in Naples for prancing around in her birthday suit saying she needs her vitamin D after years of deprivation.”
“Maybe I could do Betsy in the parade?” I said, trying to think of a reason to keep me around. “Thread, needle, up-down-up-down. I’ve got good credentials. I did a sheep once in a nativity play. What do you say?”
“I say you should go back to drawing pretty pictures in Chicago.”
A knock came from the back door. “Well, if it isn’t Nate Sutter,” Rudy said around a mouthful of egg. Sutter had on a black T-shirt, the same police jacket as last night and soft jeans molded over sexy, lean hips and other fine male body parts.
“Help yourself to coffee,” Rudy offered as Sutter came in. “Hard stuff’s in the cabinet—you could stand a good belt after chauffeuring a dead body around town in a buggy. Bet that was some sight. Dang shame I missed it.”
Sutter shoved his hands in his pockets, standing on one foot, then the other, favoring the other. “We got a problem, Rudy. Bunny’s bike was tampered with, the brake cable cut. I found a red paint smear on the wire, and you’re painting bikes red. Mind if I take a look around?”
Rudy sloshed his coffee and stared, bug-eyed. Finally he managed, “You think Bunny died on purpose and that I—”
“Got a warrant?” The words just popped right out of my mouth. All that legal blah-blah-blah stuff over family dinners that made me crazy had had more of an impact than I thought and finally did me some good. I pointed to Rudy. “Don’t say anything.”
“But Nate can look around if he needs to,” Rudy said, innocent as a lamb to the slaughter. “Bunny and I had our differences, to be sure, and might have said we wanted each other dead and buried and out of the way and that I hoped she rotted in the depths of hell, but we—”
“Not now, Rudy,” I hissed in a listen-to-me voice, wagging my head back and forth to get his attention. Granted I’d just met Rudy and didn’t know him that well, but he let me sleep in, fixed me bacon and eggs and took my side in the black-cloud situation, and I was still hoping for the Betsy Ross position.
Sutter pulled a warrant from his jacket pocket and dropped it on the table. “You’re not helping things, Chicago,” he grumbled at me, then headed for the front of the shop.
“Depends what side of help you’re on,” I grumbled back while following him into the shop. He flipped on the light, the can of primer red right there on top of the workbench where I wrote the info for the bikes. Drat!
“You really think I’d do something like cut Bunny’s brakes?” Rudy took Bambino from the pocket in the pool table and stroked his little sleepy head.
Sutter searched the workbench and the tools hanging above it, my gut tying into knots over what he might find. The problem was that Rudy would have lost his business if Bunny had gotten her way with shutting him down, and where I came from people killed for way less than that. Rudy had motive, lots of it. Sutter heaved a toolbox from below the workbench, rifled through it, tools clanking together, then slid it back where it belonged. He stood, his mouth pulling into a defeated frown.
“See, no cutters, nothing here,” Rudy said. His wiry mustache tipped in a smile. “I’m sure not the only one on this island with red paint, and there’s a list a mile long of people who wanted the old bird dead.”
“And truer words were never spoken, me dear man,” Irish Donna called in from the kitchen. “Came to see how you’re getting on,” she added, her voice muffled as cabinet doors opened and closed. “Pleased as punch you must be. Bet you’ll be doing a jig at Bunny’s wake, crutch and all.”
Irish Donna sauntered into the shop, coffee mug in one hand and a pair of red-paint-splattered wire cutters in the other. Holy freaking heck!
“’Morning to you, Nate,” Donna said. “And see what I found when helping myself to a bit of the cinnamon for the coffee,” Donna went on. “Hiding there behind the spice rack, it was. Bet Rudy’d be looking himself blind when he went to fix up his bicycles. How’d these things wind up in the kitchen of all places?”
Rudy stumbled, and I smacked my hand flat against my forehead. Sutter took a plastic bag thing from his jacket and snagged the cutters right out of Donna’s fingers. “Rudy Randolph, you’re under arrest for the murder of Bunny Harrington.”
“Jumping Jehoshaphat!” Donna gasped, clutching her shamrock, her mug crashing to the concrete floor and splattering coffee everywhere. “Nate Sutter, have ye gone daft in the head? Why would you arrest Rudy of all people for doing in Bunny?”
Sutter slid the bag in his pocket. “My guess is these wire cutters are the ones that were used on Bunny’s brake cables, and we’ll find out soon enough when we examine the sever marks. Everyone knows Bunny was here last night raising hell. That gave Rudy the perfect opportunity to cut her brake cables.”
Irish Donna’s eyes went squinty. “Rubbish, nothing but rubbish! Rudy wouldn’t be doing in Bunny now when he’s held his temper all those many times in the town council meeting when he wanted nothing more than to strangle Bunny dead right there on the spot.”
I gave Donna the finger to the lips gesture to try and get her to stop talking.
“I used to babysit for ye, Nate Sutter,” Donna continued, not paying one bit of attention to me. She tapped her foot like Principal Lancaster had when I adorned my fourth grade math homework with Daffy Duck images. “Wait till I tell your ma what you’re up to this morning. She’s not going to be pleased one wee bit about you doing this, you know. “
Oh boy, and there was another person not being pleased one wee bit about all this. Abigail! Having her dad wind up the prime suspect in a murder less than twenty-four hours after I got here would not get me a promotion. It would get me instantly fired if she found out.
“You . . . You can’t arrest Rudy,” I blurted, my brain scrambling for some legal reason I’d heard over Thanksgiving turkey or opening Christmas presents. Bloomfield attorneys had a one-track mind no matter the occasion.
“Because . . . because of Labor Day.” I waved my hand toward Main Street. “If a dead person in the bushes is bad for business, what will a full-fledged, out-in-the-open murder do? This island will be a ghost town. All the stores will be empty, shop owners will bitch and complain and you’ll never get elected police chief again.”
“I didn’t get elected this time. I’m filling in for the chief of police ’cause he had back surgery last month over in Traverse City and is laid up for a while till he can get back on his feet.”
“That’s even worse!” I pushed on. “The island will go right down the toilet on your watch. Some legacy you’ll leave behind. All you have to do is wait till after the holiday to make the arrest.”
Sutter gave me the you’re out of your flipping mind look. “I uphold the law, Chicago. That means arrest the criminal when he commits the crime.”
“Suspected criminal,” I tossed in. “No eyewitnesses. No one saw anything. All speculation.”
“I have the smoking gun.”
“That be wire cutters, dearie,” Donna tossed in. “And we’re just saying you need to be delaying things a bit for the good of the island. What can another week matter? Bunny’s got all the time in heaven . . . or the other place, if truth be told. Believe me, the old girl doesn’t care if we be putting things off for a few days.”
“And you can put Rudy under island arrest,” I said, feeling instantly brilliant.
Sutter rubbed his forehead. “All right, sure, I’ll bite. What the heck’s island arrest?” His eyes started to cross.
“House arrest, but bigger. Like eight miles bigger. Just tell the ferry operators and the airport that Rudy can’t leave, and he sure can’t climb on a boat with that cast up to his thigh, so he’s stuck here. That gives the fudgies time to spend their money and it gives us time to find the real killer.”
“I have the real killer,” Sutter said.
Rudy looked pained, and I added, “Come on. You gotta see that Rudy wouldn’t hide the murder weapon in his own kitchen and that someone’s out to frame him.”
A devilish glint lit Donna’s green eyes. “Since there’s no refrigeration at the medical center, we’ll put body-bag Bunny in the freezer over there at Doud’s Market to keep her fresh as a daisy. She’ll be wrapped up nice and tight and not going anywhere and we can have a funeral later. We sure can’t have it this week—talk about killing a mood and bad for business. We’ll wedge Bonny Bunny behind the stacks of pizzas and ice cream Doud’s keeps on hand. Andrew will go along with the idea; his market will be suffering as much as anyone’s if this murder thing gets out.”
Rudy nodded in agreement and Sutter let out a long breath as he stared at the floor. “This was supposed to be a cushy temp job for four or five months,” he said, mostly to himself. “I take some time off, help Bernie while he’s on the mend, mind his house, water his philodendron, do some fishing, sail, drink beer and leave the crazies back in Detroit. But they migrated.”
Irish Donna patted his cheek. “’Tis the black cloud hanging over our Chicago girl here, is all. She brought it with her when she came across the lake, and it can’t be helped now and we need to be making the best of it.”
Irish Donna picked up the phone on the workbench. “I’ll give Andrew a jingle and tell him to be a’sending his dray over there to the medical center to pick up Bunny.”
She turned back to Sutter. “Don’t be so down in the mouth, me boy. Nothing to be gained by moping about like a redheaded stepchild. You best call Doc and tell him not to put Bunny on the ten o’clock flight but ship her carcass straight over to Doud’s. The back entrance be best if you ask me. Maybe you should be lending him a hand to make sure it’s done proper and take Chicago here with you, since she brought this on.”
“’Tis your cloud, dearie.”
Rudy shook his head. “Chicago doesn’t belong here.”
“She’s here now and seems to be on your side, and it’s looking like you need all the help you can get, my dear man.” Irish Donna hooked her arm through Rudy’s. “Well, now that we got that straightened out, it’s setting out to be a lovely day on the island, lovely indeed, just like it always is. Our job is making sure it stays that way, even with Bunny laying over in Doud’s freezer taking up space like a giant pink popsicle.”
“Whatever you’re doing here, go do it somewhere else,” Sutter said to me as we crossed Main Street, heading for Doud’s Market on the opposite corner.
“I came here to help Rudy.”
“And how’s that working out for you?”
“’Bout the same as being the local cop is working out for you.” We turned onto Fort Street, which led up, way up, to what looked like a fort plus country club, complete with yellow umbrellas flapping in the breeze, pristine clapboard houses and a white stockade fence. Lewis and Clark would have killed for a fort like this. We ducked into a back alley between Doud’s and Nadia’s Fashion Shop as a dray clip-clopped in behind us, a lone wood box in the middle of the flatbed wagon. A balding man in a faded blue polo sat next to the driver in a baseball cap looking as if dropping off bodies at the local market was an everyday occurrence. Polo Shirt climbed off his perch and parked his hands on his hips. He scowled at Sutter. “We could go to jail for this.”
“Around here I’m jail, and it’s either the freezer or getting lynched by the island’s Better Business Bureau.” Sutter nodded my way. “Doc Evers, meet Evie Bloomfield from Chicago. She’s here to help Rudy.”
What People are Saying About This
"A charming setting, a determined heroine, and a love interest worthy of hunk status...Geared for the Grave speeds along and never puts on the brakes!"—Kylie Logan, author of The Legend of Sleepy Harlow and Death by Devil's Breath
"Sparkling dialogue, an unforgettable island setting, and all the charm a cozy mystery fan would want."—Ellery Adams, New York Times bestselling author
"A new, not-to-be-missed series....Geared for the Grave is the first book I’ve read by Duffy Brown and it will not be the last!"—Open Book Society
"With a great island setting, lots of humor and a murder, what more could you ask for in a great new cozy mystery? Colorful characters and tons of humor make this a cozy must read!"—Debbie's Book Bag
Explore More Items
Bed-and-breakfast hostess Judith McMonigle Flynn isn't exactly bellowing "Bravo!" over the news that obnoxious opera star Mario Pacetti and his entourage are coming to stay at the Hillside Manor. The
Bed-and-breakfast hostess Judith McMonigle and her policeman beau Joe Flynn hgave finally gotten hitched-and they're off on a sunny honeymoon to beautiful Buccaneer Beach.But an unfortunate
A week of "mayhem-as-usual" at Hillside Manor kicks off with the arrival of a mysterious "Mr. Smith" and his floozie "Mrs." from New York City—and it accelerates into chaos when Mr. Smith
A grieving widow becomes a killer in this psychological thriller by the New York Times–bestselling author of Deadly Memories.
A mild-mannered car salesman . . . A womanizing
THE TWELVE DESSERTS OF CHRISTMAS by JOANNE FLUKE
For ten years Lucy has enjoyed her job poring over rare tomes of literature for the Harvard Library, but she has not enjoyed the demands
Ever since her business
When Monica Albertson comes to Cranberry