Gossip columnists love a bold-faced name—but “Miss Newsy” at Greyborne Harbor’s local paper seems to specialize in bald-faced lies. She’s pointed a finger of suspicion at Addie after librarian June Winslow never makes it home from a book club meeting. And when June’s found at the bottom of a steep flight of stairs, Addie’s not only dealing with a busybody, but a dead body.
It’s a good thing the guy she’s dating is the police chief. But both the case and her love life get more complicated when a lanky blonde reporter from Los Angeles shows up. She’s trying her hardest to drive a wedge between the couple . . . as if Addie doesn’t have enough problems dealing with angry townspeople. Despite all the rumors, Addie doesn’t know a thing about the murder—but she plans to find out. And the key may lie in a book about pirate legends that June published. Now she just has to hunt down the clues before she becomes a buried treasure herself . . .
About the Author
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A smile played on Addison Greyborne's lips when windswept sea-salt kisses danced across them. As she stepped inside the back entrance of Beyond the Page, her book and curio shop, she was struck by the combination of aromas. She took a deep breath. The briny tang of the sea air mixed with the delicate scent of spring flowers outside, and the heady scents of old books and leather chairs inside. These were fragrances she knew she'd never tire of. She hummed a popular tune as she zigzagged through the narrow aisles of bookcases and around the carved wooden pillars, straightening books on the shelves on her way to the front entrance. She flipped the door sign to "Open" and placed the advertising sandwich board on the sidewalk, holding it steady when an unexpected gust of wind threatened to send it tumbling into the road.
As she double-checked its security, her line of vision drifted up to the bay windows on either side of the glazed entrance. She stood back, admiring the new Founder's Day displays she'd created to commemorate the day in the seventeen hundreds that her forefather had declared Greyborne Harbor the site of a new town. A smile tugged at her lips. Yes, it was going to be another good day. Business had picked up since she was cleared of any wrongdoing in the Greyborne Harbor murder case of the century, and she had become more accepted in her new town. What could go wrong?
Back inside, she paused to adjust the fishnet backdrop in one of the windows to give it a more billowing appearance, straightened the starfish, adjusted the pirate galleon in the sand-and-sea diorama, grinned, placed a pod in the coffee machine, and waited. The aroma of a fresh brewed cup soon filled the air, taunting her nose. The doorbell chimed behind her, and she turned to see a petite, fiery redhead at the corner of a bookshelf.
"Serena, good morning. Do you want a cup?"
Her best friend and the local tea merchant stood unmoving except for one finger coiling a lock of her long, curly hair.
"Are you okay?" Addie glanced at Serena sideways and stirred cream into her coffee. "You seem a bit foggy this morning, and you look as though you need coffee more than I do." She offered Serena the cup of fresh brew.
Serena accepted the offer. Her hand trembling, she brought the cup to her lips. The hot contents dribbled down her chin. She cringed and quickly handed it back to Addie.
"Okay ...? Is everything all right?" Addie's brow furrowed. "You don't look well. Did something happen?"
Serena's hand still wobbly, she pulled a newspaper from under her arm and then stood wringing it in both hands, the color draining from her usually rosy cheeks.
Addie's eyes narrowed. She set the cup down. "What's this?" She snatched the paper from Serena's slender hand.
Her eyes scanned the front page of the Greyborne Harbor Daily News. She turned the page and searched the next, then the next, and the next, and stopped. Her fingers clutched the edges of the paper. Her bottom lip quivered, and she leaned against the counter.
"I thought you might need some company when you read this." Serena's usually silvery voice tightened.
Addie stared down at the article. "How could they?"
The Greyborne Harbor Daily News ... Page 6 Continued from Page 5 — Around Town
Finally, Miss Newsy asks the question on everyone's mind today: was it an alien abduction, which is the theory of some, or is the mysterious disappearance of local librarian June Winslow something far more sinister? Many Greyborne Harbor residents are asking that very question today; I know I am. What is really behind her disappearance, and who would have the most to gain by her sudden departure from the Harbor?
Reports were made by Mrs. Winslow's daughter of shaking ground and strange, flashing lights when she began searching for her mother, who failed to return home from a book club meeting. The report of unusual seismic activity in the area at the time in question was confirmed by Dr. Peterson, a seismology expert at Boston University. He is quoted as saying, "These disturbances did not warrant strong enough seismic activity to have opened up the ground and swallow anyone."
The local utility department also confirmed that a minor power surge did occur at the time in question. However, there was no lightning bolt activity, and the fleeting surge caused no reported damage to infrastructure and posed no threat to citizens.
So, what really is behind this sudden departure of a much-loved and respected member of our community? Who would have the most to gain? Perhaps Addison Greyborne can tell us.
It's rumored that Miss Greyborne, owner of Beyond the Page — Books & Curios, may have more answers than she's letting on. Being a librarian herself and the operator of an allegedly failing local business, she is most likely the one who could shed some light on the reason why there is currently an opening for head librarian at our beloved Harbor Library.
"What? How could they publish something like this?" Addie stared wide mouthed at Serena. "No proof, no evidence — they have nothing to substantiate the claim that I would know anything about her disappearance." She shook the paper in Serena's face. "Besides, I wasn't even a librarian. I was in research. Something that reporter had better learn how to do." She crumpled the newspaper.
"I know, I know." Serena grasped the paper from Addie's white knuckles and tossed it on the counter. "I think you need to sit down. I'll make you a nice, hot, fresh coffee since I took yours."
"I don't want a cup of coffee." Addie smacked her fist on the counter. "I want answers."
"I know you do." Serena took Addie's vibrating shoulders and ushered her onto a counter stool. "Please sit, and I'll try to explain something about the Greyborne Harbor Daily News."
"You shouldn't be explaining. They need to. I'm going over to the newspaper office right now." Addie sprang to her feet.
Serena placed her hands on Addie's shoulders and pressed her back onto the stool. "Not a good idea with you in this state. First sit and listen."
Addie raked her hands through her long hair.
"Take a deep breath." Serena's fingers pressed firmly on Addie's shoulders. "Count to ten. Let me make you a cup of coffee and we'll talk."
Addie nodded reluctantly.
"Promise me that if I turn my back on you, you won't bolt out the door and do something rash."
Addie clenched her teeth.
"I'll take that to mean that yes, you will behave." Serena slowly released her grip on Addie and backed toward the coffee maker at the end of the ornately carved Victorian bar Addie used for a cash and coffee counter.
Addie let out a deep breath and bit her quivering bottom lip. "I thought all this speculation about me being one of the bad guys was over, but now this?" Her hand brushed across the newspaper, sending it fluttering to the floor.
Serena sighed and placed a steaming cup on the counter in front of her. "And it should have ended any talk of you being part of or trying to evade some Boston crime ring, but ..."
"But what? Did it just fuel the flames for some very small-minded people around this town? And who on earth is this Miss Newsy?"
"Miss Nosy is more like it," snickered Serena.
"Exactly! And how in heaven's name can she get away with printing something as libelous as this about me? I'm going to sue." Addie huffed into her cup, then set it down. "Really, I don't get it. When did unsubstantiated reporting become acceptable?" She shook her head and picked up her cup, taking a large gulp.
Serena cringed. "That's still hot."
Addie flinched, and the cup slipped from her fingers. She leapt to her feet as hot coffee poured in all directions and ran down the counter edges toward her lap. Serena jumped up and raced toward a roll of paper towels behind the counter. Addie started to laugh, then cry, then laugh again. Tears streamed down her cheeks. Soon Serena, too, doubled over, holding her stomach and gasping between fits of laughter. A voice boomed behind Addie. She spun around, coming face-to-face with the chief of police, Marc Chandler. She gasped, lost her footing, and stumbled toward him.
He grabbed her mid-collision and righted her before she head-butted his chest. "This isn't quite the scene I envisioned walking into." A broad smile swept across his face. "But glad you girls can see the humor in it."
Addie glared up at him.
His smile crumbled.
"Humor in this?" she snapped.
"But I just thought ..." Marc's face turned ashen. "I mean, you were —"
"Were what?" Addie planted her feet firmly, swept a strand of honey-brown hair from her eyes, and straightened her shoulders. "Actually, you're just the person I want to talk to, Chief."
Marc took a step back. "Okay ... Miss Greyborne, how can the Harbor Police Department be of assistance today?" He looked warily from Addie to Serena, who had slid up beside her friend. Addie spun around, snatched up the newspaper from the floor, and thrust it at Marc.
"This, this ..." Addie's voice vibrated, "this piece of trash that was printed about me." Her finger stabbed at the page.
Marc clutched the brim of his police cap in his hands and rocked back on his heels. "Well, Miss Greyborne." He cleared his throat. "I can take your statement ... I guess. But" — he sucked in a deep breath — "I must caution you. That article was published in the gossip column of the paper and doesn't have to be factual to be printed." Addie's eyes flashed. He glanced sideways at his sister, Serena, his dark brown eyes pleading for help.
"That's what I wanted to tell you, Addie," Serena crooned from a safe distance. "Come on, let's sit down and I'll try to explain how this newspaper works. It's probably nothing like the big papers you're used to in Boston, London, or New York."
"No, it's not. They report the news. They don't run a gossip column where anyone can print anything they like, true or not! I've never heard of something like this." She threw the newspaper to the floor and stomped on it on her way to the counter stool.
"Good, that's right. Sit down, and I'll make you another cup of coffee," Serena chirped, heading to the coffee maker. "It's a tradition that's been followed since the paper was first printed in the early seventeen hundreds. It was a way for people to find out the goings-on in town for such things as bazaars, deaths and births, who was new to town, and stuff like that." She called over her shoulder as she stirred cream into Addie's coffee, "Here, this will help." She grinned and then looked at Marc, who was still standing stiffly by the doorway. Her head motioned toward the stool beside Addie, and he plopped down beside her, laying his hat on the still-damp countertop.
Addie turned, lifted it up, and placed it back in his hand. "Don't ask," she muttered and turned back to Serena. "Go on, this is fascinating," she said between gritted teeth.
Serena looked briefly at Marc, took a gulp, and continued. "Well, like I was saying — it's always been a harmless piece in the paper that just kept the townsfolk in touch with what wasn't headline news but was little things that helped connect them."
"Yes," Marc piped in, "like when Old Man Watterson broke his leg a few years ago and couldn't get out to grocery shop or shovel the snow from his sidewalk. It brought the whole town together to help him until he recovered."
Addie looked from Marc to Serena, her cheeks flushed.
Marc reached over and patted Addie's hand. "I know it doesn't help you today to see the good in what that column brings, but it's important to the people in this town."
She snatched her hand away. "'Good'? You call this 'good'? How would you feel if you were accu —" A face in the window caught Addie's eye, and she leapt to her feet. "Here we go again." There was no mistaking Martha's pudgy face and bakery-flour-stained hands shielding her eyes from the sunlight as she pressed her face against the glass. "She's probably waiting for you to cuff me and haul me away, and I'm sure she'll be more than willing to substantiate the gossip and keep it going." Addie collapsed back into her seat, her head in her hands. "From day one, she never liked me." She groaned. "This will fuel that even more, and I haven't done anything to deserve it. Have I?" She glanced from Serena to Marc.
"Don't be silly. It's like I told you before; it's jealousy. You are a direct descendant of the founding family of Greyborne Harbor and new in town, and people are just, well ... they're just —"
"Leery," Marc jumped in. "They only need to get to know you better, and then they'll accept you." His eyes softened, and a slight smile curved the corner of his lips.
Addie shook her head and turned toward the window. "Do you really think they will ever give me a chance?" She pointed to the now three faces pushed up against the windowpane. Two other town merchants Addie recognized from her travels around the Harbor had joined Martha. "It looks like this gossip has made me a suspect — again."
Marc stood up, adjusted his police cap on his head, placed his hands on his hips, and turned toward the window. The women dispersed. He took his cap off and sat back down. "They won't be bothering you again for a while." He sipped on the coffee Serena had given him.
Serena crossed her arms and leaned her back against the counter. "I just don't get it. Miss Alice wrote that column for what, fifty years? And she never published something as inflammatory as this."
Marc nodded in affirmation.
Addie sat upright. "So who is this Miss Newsy, then?"
Marc shrugged and set his cup down. "She must be the new replacement. Miss Alice passed away about two months ago — she was ninety-two and not well — but the town was in such an uproar that they weren't getting their daily dose of 'what's what' that Max Hunter, the editor in chief, was desperate to replace her. I guess he did."
"But he didn't do a very good job of training this replacement, did he?" Addie shook her head and pushed the paper away. "Didn't he make it clear to this new person that libel is an offense? I'm certain the long-standing goodwill portrayed by the previous columnist is not being adhered to now."
Marc rubbed his neck. "Look, it's a gossip column, it was referred to as a rumor, and you weren't actually accused of anything, so the standard rules and laws don't apply here. There is no actual legal violation."
"Just a moral one that implies I had something to do with her disappearance." Addie fumed, tapping her fingers on the counter.
"She's right, Marc." Serena scowled. "This does cross the line. We need to find out who this Miss Newsy is and stop her before she does any more damage."
"Okay, okay, against my better judgment, I'll stop in and see Max now and try and get a retraction printed, but don't count on it, as it wasn't front-page news and is just gossip, and there's no law against that."
"Yes." Serena cleared her throat. "Or Martha and her posse would be in prison for life by now."
"Don't worry, Addie." He stood and placed his cap on his head, adjusting it so the chestnut-brown waves falling across his forehead were securely tucked under the brim. "We won't let this go any further than it has, and I'll try to find out what's behind it."
"Just remind Max that even implying that I had something to do with June Winslow's disappearance, without a shred of evidence, isn't a bit of harmless town gossip and isn't exactly in keeping with the long history of his newspaper." Her jaw tightened.
"That's right," Serena shouted as Marc disappeared out the door. "Besides," she said, pursing her mouth and looking at Addie, "it was a relative of yours who printed the first edition of that newspaper, and Max better remember that before he goes messing with your family's good name."
Addie jumped at a sharp thwack against the window. She spun around and darted toward it, peering out in time to see an older model green and white pickup speed off down the road. She looked at the two splatter marks on the glass and groaned at the sight of the thick, oozing drizzle running down the pane.
Serena stared at the innards of raw eggs running down the glass. "I'll get the window cleaner and a mop."CHAPTER 2
Addie went through the motions of the day. She smiled and nodded at her customers, but it wasn't heartfelt. What she really wanted to do was shut the doors, sit down, and cry. So much for believing that her name was cleared. Today, it was as if she were reliving her first days in Greyborne Harbor, when only nosy gawkers popped in in order to see the newcomer and heiress to the Greyborne family fortune. She assumed they came in now just to get a closer look at the woman reported as being the person behind June's disappearance.
With the last snooping browser leaving, she closed up shop, walked out the front door into the crisp, spring evening air, and sucked in a deep, cleansing breath. She clasped her jacket tight around her neck, fending off an icy Atlantic Ocean windblast, and strode next door to SerenaTEA.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Prologue to Murder"
Copyright © 2019 Lauren Elliott.
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.
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