Millicent Le Sueur is an eccentric, obsessive-compulsive bag lady in a rural Southern town who witnesses the hit-and-run killing of a teenage girl. Or so she claims. Some townsfolk believe she killed the girl and made up the story to cover her crime. Battling her neuroses and psychoses, and counting her steps along the way, she tracks a killer she hopes won't count her as the next victim.
|Publisher:||Brash Books LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.47(d)|
About the Author
Moseley was born in Durant, Oklahoma, raised in Fort Worth, Texas and for twenty years lived in Fort Smith, Arkansas. During her time in Arkansas, she was a personal friend of the Clintons and campaigned for them as an Arkansas Traveler at the time of the 1992 election.
She is the author of five mystery novels Bonita Faye, Milicent LeSueur, The Fourth Steven, Grinning in His Mashed Potatoes, and A Little Traveling Music Please, all of which are being republished by Brash Books, starting in early 2015.
Moseley is married to computer guru and novelist Ron Burris. They live in Euless, Texas, with their rescued beagles Miss Sadie and Miss (The Terror) Matilda.
Read an Excerpt
Milicent Le Sueur
By Margaret Moseley
Brash Books, LLCCopyright © 2001 Margaret Moseley
All rights reserved.
"Whatcha lookin' at?" The ragtag group of early morning snoopers turned toward me as I edged my way through them. Most of them stepped away as I approached. Well, whoop-de-do. I was used to that, but I drew the line at the lady in a housecoat who sniffed the air as I brushed by her. "Hey, you, Grandma, bet I've had a bath since you have." I stopped and looked at her again. "But I do like your taste in clothes. Is that Goodwill or Abilities Unlimited?"
I will never know where to improve my eclectic wardrobe because she stuck that sniffing nose in the air and pushed to the side of the crowd. "Your loss," I shouted after her. "I would have told them at the Oscars that you were my designer. Whoop-de-do, what have we here?"
I had finally reached the yellow police tape draped around my two trees on the vacant lot. Between the trees, down by the curb, lay a black plastic sheet. The plastic was stiff in the chilled morning air and, not being warmed by what it was covering, barely allowed me to see the small form underneath it.
"Oh, yeah, I remember her. Are you just now finding her? And you call yourselves professionals. Oh, well, I'm off to KFC for a biscuit. Anyone treating me?"
"Here, here's a dollar. That ought to get you a hot biscuit," said a suit with an Oscar de la Renta tie.
"Thanks," I said. "I'm kind of in between the rock and the hard place today."
The suit next to him, pinstriped and proud of his bad taste in cheap neckties, offered another buck. "Have some coffee, too, lady; it's cold this morning."
"Will do. Will do." I looked around for some more givers, but they had mostly turned their attention to an arriving police car. It joined the two others already parked around the small bundle at the curb. I pocketed the bills on the inside of my blue parka and ducked down a little to make my way through the people. I didn't need to see what they uncovered, and I sure didn't need the police to see me.
I knocked my mitten at the KFC window down the block, and the lazy-faced attendant rolled her eyes. "Don't be giving me your looks, missy. Just give me a biscuit and coffee. Oh, and I want mixed-fruit jelly."
"Here, take it and go. You're holding up the line. Next time, come inside."
Whoop-de-do. A free biscuit and coffee, and me with big money in my pocket.
"I'll do that when this coffee runs through me," I promised. KFC was my favorite restaurant, open twenty-four hours a day and the cleanest restrooms in Portsmith. I knew that because I clean them myself when I'm in the mood.
Across the street, both my trees were tied up at the moment, so I moseyed on down the walk and sat on the waist-high wall that surrounded my property and had myself a little picnic while the cars and the people came and went.
I liked the sound of the car doors opening and shutting. Whoosh, slam. Whoosh, slam. There was a nice rhythm to it, and it beat the heck out of those mockingbirds in the trees fussing at the crowd as good as I could have. I closed my eyes. Whoosh, slam.
Whoosh, slam. "Whoosh, slam," I said aloud. My words rose above the birds' chatter as I enjoyed them sliding off my tongue. So I said them again. And again.
"Whoosh, slam? Now, would that be the sound you heard when the car hit that woman, Millie?"
Uh-oh. I hunkered down on the wall like a beagle caught stealing the leftover meat loaf off the dining-room table. There was a definite silence in the air. Where were the birds when you needed them?
"Are you finished with your breakfast, Millie?"
"I sure am, Wade Tate. Nary a crumb left for you."
"That's fine. Now how about you get in my car and come on downtown with me for a little talk?"
"I don't think so, Tate Wade. This is a busy day for me."
"You've got that right, Millie. And it starts in my office. Come on now, don't give me any trouble."
Wade Tate was Portsmith's Police Chief and this day was no friend of mine. And I hate when he calls me Millie. But what can you do? He's the one with the gun.
I love his name, though. It's the same sound backward and forward. I changed whoosh, slam to Wade Tate, Tate Wade as he guided me toward his white car with the blue letters. I stopped before I got in the passenger side. "Tate Wade, Wade Tate, we have a new car."
The little man with the big gun laughed. "Yes, I guess we do, Millie. I guess we do."
Yep, I got special treatment from the police around here. I'm a bit of a celebrity. People drive by just to point me out. Happens when you're the only bag lady in town.CHAPTER 2
"Whatcha lookin' at?" I fairly screamed at the reporters gathered around the police car as we arrived at city hall. I didn't even take the time to study the black-and-gray granite blocks that arranged themselves to make up the building. The black squares were polished, and the gray ones rough. Whoever designed it grew up in a quilt-filled household; that was for sure. Ordinarily I would sit for hours and study the geometry of it all. How many black ones? How many gray blocks? How did they fit the windows and doors in? Basic stuff. But oh, no ... not today.
Today my Wade Tate just parked at the curb and opened the door on the right side for me and told the little uniformed elf who followed him around to take me on inside to his office. The elf took my elbow and guided me away. But I could still hear the words floating in the air.
"Who's the dead girl, Tate?"
"Why are you bringing Millie in? Did she do it, or did she see it?"
"Wade, can you give me a sound bite for the twelve o'clock news?"
The elf turned me over to a female elf. You can tell the difference right away. The females have wings. You used to tell by the skirts, but now they all wear pants, so whoop-de-do, I had resorted to new clues. They hid the wings, of course. Made them look like bosoms, but I knew.
By the time Wade Tate joined us in his big pink room, I had already had two cups of awful coffee and a sticky donut.
His name was Wade Tate. I could read it on the desk plate. I had read it before, but this time I was determined to carry it in my head.
"Damned reporters," he said as he seated himself in his chair. It was an old wooden one with creaky parts that allowed him to lean back in it and swivel if he wanted to. I thought about asking him if I could sit in it — just for a minute, mind you — but decided now was not the time.
Wade Tate was a good-looking man. My type. Rich brown hair and tight buns. Tall enough to carry a gun, but short enough to not look like a bully doing it.
"You're a good-looking man, Tate Wade," I said.
"It's Wade Tate, Millie." The poor man sighed. "And flattery will only get you another donut." He shouted, "Andy, bring us another go-round." Pause. "Please."
"Well, my name is Milicent, Mr. Wade, and I'll be going now. I'm not hungry anymore."
"I reckon you won't, Milicent. Not till you answer a few questions. God help me, but you are our only clue this morning."
"Don't know a thing," I said. "The numbers aren't right. I thought you knew about the numbers."
"Dammit, who brought Millie in by the front door? Andy?"
Deputy Andy Forest deposited the donuts on the wood part of Wade Tate's metal desk. "It was the rookie, Wade. I've told him. He knows better now."
"Now won't cut it this morning, Andy," bellowed Wade Tate. "Milicent, can't we forget the numbers this morning? I've got work to do here."
I listened to the phones ring outside the Police Chief's office. If it rang three times in the next minute, I would consider his request.
Wade Tate and Andy Forest stared down at me.
I held up a finger for them to wait.
Andy started to say something, but Wade Tate held up a finger to him.
Yep, there it was. Three.
"Okay," I said, "they beat the clock. But only if I get to sit in your chair."
"By all means, please do." Wade Tate smiled as he replied. Well, not a real smile, but his mouth was going in the right direction. He stood up and bowed as we changed seats. "And for god's sake, Andy, don't ever bring her in the front again. The steps don't count right."
I sat in Wade Tate's creaky chair and counted ten creaks before I looked up from my rocking. "Now, what was it you wanted to know?"
He thought for a minute. "I was wondering, Millie. Where did you spend last night?"
I tried to give him the right answer. "At home in bed?"
"Millie, you don't have a home."
"Oh, I'm sure I do."
"Want to think again?"
"Okay, well, let's see. Oh, I remember. I didn't sleep last night. It was a wandering night. I remember when the dew fell." I smiled a real smile at him, hoping it was the answer he wanted.
"And did you hear or see anything unusual?" His voice was encouraging.
The room was quiet except for the squeaks. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.
"The moon was out."
"Yes, go on."
"There was a cloud cover came over at five this morning." The two men and the woman elf waited. "That's about it?" I asked.
"What about the whoosh, slam?"
"Oh, that! That's what this is all about? Whoop-de-do. Yes, there was a whoosh, slam about five fifteen this morning. Hit that girl and down she went."
Wade Tate was excited. "Now we're getting somewhere. Millie, did you see the car? Do you know what kind it was? Did you see who was driving it?"
"The car that hit the girl? And did you know the girl? Know what she was doing out that time of day?"
Too many questions. Tate Wade knows better than that. Guess he was forgetting who he was with.
One. Two. Three. Four.
Hell, I had to start over again. They all waited; I could hear them counting the squeaks along with me. That was nice.
"The car came later," I said.
"Later than what? The whoosh, slam?"
I loved it when Tate Wade spoke my language.
"Yes, the he/she pulled the girl into the street and came back with a car and did a second slam, bang."
The chief gave me a look. "Andy, phone the ME and tell him to look for a primary cause of death. Might not have been the car."
"I'm tired now," I said.
"Will you tell me more later, Millie?"
"Will you get me a cheeseburger for lunch?"
"Of course," said the woman elf.
"With a chocolate milk shake?" I turned to her. Women always were the nurturing ones. "Fries?" I added hopefully.
"With the works, Millie," she answered.
"Milicent," I corrected her. I turned to the man in charge. "Can I sleep here?"
"We're cleaning out your cell now, Milicent," Wade Tate replied.
"Number four, now mind you."
"Yes, we know. We know."
"Can I ask you one more question before you go to sleep, Millie?"
One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.
"Just one," I said.
"Why did you say he/she? Was it a man or a woman?"
"Silly, who could tell with that hood?"
"Millie, I hate this, but I have to ask you. You didn't kill Angela, did you?"
"That's two questions, Wade Tate, but I guess I owe you one. No, I didn't kill that angel-sweet girl. Why would I? And furthermore, I would remember if I had done so. I never forget anything," I ended proudly.
Three heads swerved as one to face me.
"Okay," I confessed. "Sometimes I have blank spells, but I remember the important stuff." I looked at the ceiling to avoid their incredulous looks as I added, "What's important to me, anyway."
The woman elf, whose earth name was Betty, took me by the elbow and led me toward my room. "We'll have that burger ready for you when you wake up, Milicent."
I reminded her, "Cheese. And don't forget the Fancy Ketchup. You can't get that at KFC."
As we went through the door, I could hear Tate Wade moving back to his chair.
He did ten squeaks and stopped. They were fast, quick ones, but ten nonetheless.CHAPTER 3
Now here is why I am called Milicent Le Sueur. I really am a Milicent, although I think it's spelled different, but it doesn't matter about that. What matters is that I am every woman's worst nightmare come to life. Which is doubly hard if you're the one living the nightmare.
Once, when I was the other-spelled Millicent, I drove by this place, and there was a bag lady. Every day I drove by on my way to somewhere in my other life, and there she was. Sitting and knitting under this tree.
Then I had this dream about her.
In the dream, I drove the car right up to the curb, and she stopped her knitting and looked up from under her lime-green straw hat and stared at me. It was me.
Now that would make anyone wake up.
So I thought. If I were a bag lady, what kind would I be?
In my waking dream about me, I created a safe world, making it fun to be a bag lady. I designed my bags and packed them with the bare essentials of life. Water and bread, of course. A little greasy cheese. A crossword puzzle book. Two changes of underwear. A toothbrush. A bar of Lever 2000 antibacterial soap.
Then one day I was in the alley, taking out the trash, and there were these three cans on the ground. Mindful of sharp edges, I picked them up to add to my garbage. All three were Le Sueur pea cans, all shiny and elegant-looking.
"Are those empty?"
"Whoop-de-do, you scared me," I said to the black man who had come upon me in the alley, catching me staring at those cans.
"If they ain't empty, will you gimme some?"
I looked into the cans, one at a time. "Empty," I announced.
"Dammit all, I'm so hungry."
So I took him on in my house and opened my own can of Le Sueur peas that I had in the tallest cabinet and fed him.
"Peas is fine, but I'm still hungry," he said.
I fixed him steak and eggs and opened a can of cranberry sauce. And a can of corn and a can of corned beef hash. And all the cans I had.
"A fine mess you've made, Mrs. Le Sueur," he told me when I had emptied the cabinets. "But I thank you for it. I'm full now. I'll be off, but you will be in my prayers and my thoughts."
What a nice thing to say.
I ran after him down the alley and caught up to him by the climbing red roses. "Where are you going?"
"Over dem hills and through the valley to Portsmith. Heard tell they have good alleys to eat from. We'll see if they're as good as yours. Iffen not, I'll tell them about your alley. I'm marking it in my mind, see? Red roses and Mrs. Le Sueur." He ambled on off, singing a song about me. The refrain had to do with bare toes, soft grass, and open gates. The part that stuck with me was "... and God bless Mrs. Le Sueur."
At the grocery store, where I restocked my larder with three full grocery baskets, I signed the check, "Mrs. Le Sueur."
"Oh, good Lord, whatever am I thinking of?" I asked the cashier when she brought it to my attention.
"Maybe those three baskets of canned peas, ma'am?"
Eventually there were those who wanted to have me tested, so I just up and moved to Portsmith. It was just over the hills and through the valley.
Oh, and the reason it's spelled Milicent is because that's how they put it on my first police report.
Excerpted from Milicent Le Sueur by Margaret Moseley. Copyright © 2001 Margaret Moseley. Excerpted by permission of Brash Books, LLC.
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