Curio shop manager Camryn Brooks thought she’d seen every kind of snow globe—until she saw one depicting a crime scene…
Ever since she was a child, Cami has loved the sparkling beauty of snow globes, and now, she sells them. In fact, they’re so popular, Cami and her friend—coffee shop owner Alice “Pinky” Nelson—are hosting a snow globe making class.
After the flurry of activity has ended and everyone has gone off with their own handmade snow globes, Cami spots a new globe left behind on a shelf, featuring an odd tableau—a man sleeping on a park bench.
On her way home, she drifts through the town park and is shaken to come upon the scene from the globe—a man sitting on a bench. But he isn’t sleeping—he has a knife in his back. When the police arrive, it’s clear they consider Cami a little flaky and possibly a suspect. After her friends also come under suspicion, Cami starts plowing through clues to find the cold-blooded backstabber—before someone else gets iced…
Snow globe making projects and tips included!
About the Author
Christine Husom is also the author of the Winnebago County Mysteries, also set in central Minnesota. She served with the Wright County Sheriff’s Department and trained with the St. Paul Police Department, where she gained firsthand knowledge of law enforcement procedures. She was nominated for the Minnesota Book Award in 2010 and 2012, and the Independent Publisher Book Award in 2009 and 2012, and is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the National Sisters in Crime, and active with the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime.
Read an Excerpt
My friend Pinky Nelson pushed open my Curio Finds shop door with uncustomary gusto. “Jerrell Powers is back in town. I just saw him.” The color on her cheeks was as rosy as her nickname, and the brown curls on her head were bouncing.
“I can’t believe you sometimes, Cami. The guy who broke into Erin’s house a couple of years ago and stole her grandmother’s antique clock collection. He was—”
“The guy who gave me nightmares for months. Literally.” Erin joined us from the coffee shop area that adjoined my shop.
Pinky waved at her. “Erin, sorry. I didn’t know you were here.”
I met Erin in the brick archway that divided the shops and gave her shoulder a little squeeze. “And I’m sorry I blanked out his name for a minute. You always referred to him as—”
Erin inclined her head to the right and raised her eyebrows, alerting Pinky and me that there was someone else in the coffee shop.
I had to think fast. “—‘Mr. No-Goodnik.’”
The older man standing by the former soda fountain, which now served as the coffee shop counter, lowered his cup and swallowed. “I’ve had a few nightmares of my own since ’Nam, and I’da come up with a better name than ‘no-goodnik’ for him.” Archie Newberry was what some called eccentric, and others called one can short of a six-pack. I had known him since I was a child, when he moved to Brooks Landing and went to work for the city parks division. The town population thirty years before was around three thousand, and at that time everyone knew—or knew of—almost everyone else.
Especially so if there was something a little different about a person. Like Archie. He mowed the grass in the parks, cut dead branches from the trees, and talked most of the time he worked, whether there were people near enough to hear what he was saying or not. Word was Archie had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and I figured talking was his way of releasing some of that stress.
Not that I’m a psychologist. If I were, I could have set up a quiet practice somewhere. I would not have taken the job as legislative affairs director in Senator Ramona Zimmer’s office, and I would not have eventually become part of an embarrassing scandal in Washington, D.C. A scandal that necessitated a hasty return to my hometown. But I did my best to limit the amount of time and energy I spent dwelling on that. And thankfully my friends and family believed and supported me and never brought it up. The truth was the truth and bygones were bygones, as far as they were concerned.
Instead, I told myself again and again that my aunt—my adoptive mother—needed me to step in and take over her business while she went through some cancer recovery treatments. And my uncle—and adoptive father—liked having me nearby. He was a basket case over Mom’s illness and stayed by her side almost every waking and sleeping moment. Fifty-some years of togetherness did that to a couple.
“Well, I’m not worried about Jerrell Powers anymore.” Erin raised her hands in what she called the “ready position.” “My self-defense training has given me a whole new outlook and I’m prepared to take him on.”
Erin was not much bigger than a minute. She had been born in Vietnam and adopted as a baby by the Vickermans. They were both medical doctors and unable to have children. Dr. Craig Vickerman was in the army reserves, and when the Vietnam War broke out, his unit was deployed to Da Nang, where he served as a surgeon at a military hospital for two years.
Shortly before he was discharged, he visited an orphanage and fell in love with a three-month-old half-Vietnamese, half-American baby girl named Han. He phoned his wife, who was over the moon with the prospect of becoming a mother. He pulled a lot of strings to get Erin to America, but having an American father meant she would not have been fully accepted in her country of birth. The Vickermans changed her first name, but kept Han as her middle name: Erin Han Vickerman.
“Holy moly, Erin, when you do that you make me feel like I need to defend myself,” Pinky complained as she stepped back with her right foot, lifted her left arm as a shield, and raised her right hand like she was about to deliver a karate chop. At five foot ten, she was nearly a foot taller than Erin.
It struck me again how different the three of us looked from one another. If we stood in a lineup according to height, I would be placed in the middle of my two friends.
Pinky’s facial features were on the sharp side, mostly because she was rail thin. Her cheekbones were prominent, her nose was narrow and straight, and her chin was a bit pointy. Her round, hazel eyes conveyed a sense of mischief most of the time; in my opinion, they were her best feature. And I admired her full head of unruly curls, which she kept fairly short.
Erin had more classic beauty. She had a high forehead; almond-shaped eyes; smooth, nearly flawless skin; full lips; and straight white teeth. I wondered what her father had looked like, because her Vietnamese side dominated her looks.
I made a T with my hands in a time-out gesture. “Stop it, you two. What if another customer—or someone taking the class—walked in about now? We’d scare them off for sure.”
“You’re right, Cam. When is the teacher supposed to be here, anyway?” Erin said and relaxed her stance.
I looked up at the pink Betty Boop (“Boop-Oop-a-Doop”) clock hanging on the wall behind the coffee shop counter. “Any minute now, I’m sure. She stopped by about an hour ago to get the supplies ready then left to run some errands.” I pointed at the three square tables with gray Formica tops and metal pedestal bases in the back of the room that were decked out in snow globe–making supplies.
“I’da never thought there was such a thing as classes for teachin’ a guy how to make snow globes,” Archie said.
“There are classes for every kind of craft. When that woman May Gregors stopped in the shop last month and introduced herself, she told me she taught those kind of classes. I thought it would be kind of unique, since Curio Finds has about a million snow globes for sale,” Pinky said.
“You’ve never had a class like this here before, that’s for sure,” Erin said.
“We’ve never had a class of any kind before, but it’s time we start. I mean, we’re all set up for it.” Pinky waved in the general direction of the back tables. “We have the space, and a few extra dollars will help the business.”
“In theory, anyway. By the time we pay the teacher, we’ll be lucky to break even,” I said.
Pinky shrugged. “You can’t expect to make money the first go-around.”
I glanced around the room, once again admiring how Pinky had given the 1950s-era café new life. The name, Brew Ha-Ha, reflected the fun side of her personality more than it fit the shop theme. But it worked anyhow.
My adoptive parents had purchased the café, a business that had closed a few years before. The two shops shared an interior wall and they’d had a section of it removed to create an archway between the spaces. They had planned to expand their own retail space, but when push came to shove, they felt the old soda fountain was better suited for food and drinks than to display snow globes and other collectible items. They’d talked Pinky—who was working at the local bakery at the time—into running the coffee shop instead.
The black-and-white tile floor was in good condition and gave Pinky the inspiration to use retro furniture and integrate her favorite color in the accent pieces. But she wanted men as well as women to be comfortable in the shop, so she didn’t overdo the pink. Half the gray metal chairs had black vinyl padded seats, and the other half had pink. She’d even used that combination on the six counter stools. It was my observation that men didn’t seem to care whether they took a black seat or a pink seat. They didn’t even appear to notice. And everyone enjoyed the Lucy and Ethel character pictures and the other memorabilia from the fifties.
Pinky ordered a wide variety of coffee beans in ten, twenty, and thirty-pound bags, and the first hour of the day was devoted to grinding three or four kinds. Brew Ha-Ha featured a daily special. My personal favorite was Kona mocha latte. Mmm.
Her muffins and scones were proudly displayed on the back counter in a lighted, glass-enclosed, three-tier case that revolved when it was turned on. My parents had found it for her on one of their antique shopping excursions.
The connecting shops turned out to be a win-win situation for both sides. People flocked in for Pinky’s freshly ground coffee and prizewinning muffins and scones. Many of her customers would wander into the curio side to admire the enviable collection of snow globes my parents had acquired. Although people bought them year-round, they were particularly popular at Christmas. And our curio shoppers rarely resisted stepping next door for a cup of java. The inviting aromas, wafting through to our side, had become part of the shopping experience. I smelled like a coffee bean within my first fifteen minutes of work, but I didn’t care. It was better than perfume, in my opinion.
The coffee shop door swung open and Officer Mark Weston came in. Pinky, Erin, Mark, and I had been in the same class from our elementary school days through the junior and senior high school years. Mark and Erin had dated briefly, and it seemed Mark had not lost his crush on her all these years later.
Mark’s eyes fixed on Erin. “I thought you should know, Jerrell Powers is back in town.”
Erin nodded. “Thanks, Mark. I only hope the entire town doesn’t feel the need to track me down to tell me that.”
“Just remember, I got your back. I’ll keep an eye on him for you. Make sure he stays in line.”
Erin rolled her eyes, but kept her tongue in check.
“Mark, I saw Jerrell Powers, too, and almost didn’t recognize him for a minute. He looks . . . different,” Pinky said.
“Yeah, he did to me, too. He’s skinnier, so his cheekbones stick out more. And his head is shaved,” Mark told us.
“He’ll probably want to grow his hair out with the nip of fall in the air. It’s right around the corner, you know,” Archie chimed in.
“It’s here. It’s almost the middle of October,” Erin corrected him.
“With daytime temperatures in the high sixties, it feels more like September,” Archie said.
“True enough, and it can stay that way for another month or two as far as I’m concerned,” Pinky said.
May Gregors, the teacher for the evening, came through the door looking like she’d seen a ghost. She clutched her hands to her chest and opened her mouth, but no words came out.
Officer Mark took a step toward her. Maybe he thought she was having a heart attack. I know the thought crossed my mind. “Ma’am, can you speak?”
“She’s not a dog,” Erin mumbled quietly.
“Are you able to talk?” Mark asked again when May remained mute.
Finally, she nodded. “I just had a bit of a shock. I ran into my good-for-nothing ex-husband at your post office when I went to mail some letters. The last I’d heard anything about him was when he sent our daughter a letter from a halfway house about two years ago. He said he would be on probation for five years. I didn’t expect to see him back around here.”
Erin frowned. “You’re not talking about Jerrell Powers, by any chance, are you?”
“You know Jerrell?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“They had a close encounter of the criminal kind,” Mark explained.
May’s right eyebrow lifted. “Oh. So you’re the one whose house—”
Erin nodded. “I’m Erin Vickerman.”
“Gosh, I was out of state staying at my cousin’s place the year that happened, and never asked for the details. Jerrell told our daughter someone had slipped a drug into his drink and that he broke into a house when he was under its influence.”
Mark stuck his thumbs into his duty belt. “That would be the defendant’s version. He’d had a few minor run-ins with the law. A kleptomaniac, if you ask me. Erin came home to find him taking a load of clocks out of her house. His third load of stuff, as it turned out.”
Erin put her hands on her tiny hips. “Let’s not go through all the sordid details. I ran back to my car, locked myself in, and called nine-one-one. Officer Weston here and Assistant Chief Clinton Lonsbury were there in minutes.”
Mark nodded. “We found the entire stash in a wagon behind the house. And with enough coaxing, Jerrell confessed to other unsolved thefts around town. Lucky for him he hadn’t gotten around to selling anything, so he got off easy.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know. Jerrell moved here after our divorce. He had a friend here, but I don’t know his name. It could even be a ‘her,’ as far as that goes.” May shrugged.
“It is a ‘her.’ Pamela Hemley is the name,” Mark said.
May frowned slightly. “I’m surprised she’d take him back after all that.”
Erin gave a quick wave. “Whatever. I can’t worry about the life and times of Jerrell Powers. You guys have a class to get ready for and I have to do a couple of things at home, but I’ll be back for the class.” She left before any of us responded.
“She’s not going to hunt down Jerrell, is she?” Pinky asked.
I chuckled. “Erin is spunky, but I think she’s smarter than that.”
Mark looked at his watch. “I better get out there to finish my shift. But I’m kind of interested in how you make snow globes, so I might stop back later to observe.”
“As long as you stay out of the way of our students who paid for the class,” Pinky said.
Mark held up his hand. “Hey, no problem. See you later.” And he was gone.
Pamela Hemley’s name sounded very familiar and then I remembered why. “Pinky, check the names on our class list.”
She retrieved it from the front table, glanced at it, and nodded her head. “Pamela’s on the list, all right. I don’t know her, so I didn’t make the association. If I heard her name back when Jerrell Powers got in trouble with the law, I surely have forgotten it by now.”
I looked at May. “Does Pamela know who you are?”
“I’m not sure. I started going by my middle name a couple years ago, and I took back my maiden name when I got divorced,” she said.
“I’m a thinkin’ she knows,” Archie said, then left without saying good-bye.
Pinky stuck her hands on her hips. “You don’t suppose she signed up out of curiosity, do you? To check out the former competition, what you’re like and all that?”
“Gosh, that seems silly,” May said.
I shrugged. “Well, we’ll know in about a half hour.” I looked at the supplies on the tables. “So what is there left to do? Do you need anything, May?”
She took in a deep breath, then let it go. “Oh, thank you, but no, I should be all set. We have twelve signed up, including the three of you. But I have enough supplies and handouts for twenty, if more want to join us.”
“Twenty would about max out our seating capacity, with the snow globe supplies on the extra tables, that is. It’s counter seating only after that.” Pinky pointed to two covered platters on the back counter. “I baked both fresh rhubarb and blueberry muffins. The rhubarb ones have a cream cheese center. I’ll run as many carafes of coffee as we need, and there’s plenty of bottled water.” Pinky loved making muffins and scones almost as much as we all loved eating them. For many of her customers, a muffin or scone was a necessary staple in their daily diet.
People started trickling into the coffee shop about fifteen minutes before seven. At 6:53 p.m., two women came in together. The red-haired woman was big boned and close to six feet tall, with a husky voice that matched her size. “I’m Pam Hemley, and this is my sister, Lauren Engle, visiting with me for a couple of days. We’re signed up for the class.”
I realized that I recognized Hemley from seeing her around town a few times. Engle was the same height as her sister, but with more lean muscle. They were somewhere in their late forties or early fifties. I hoped I sounded natural when I said, “Welcome. Please sign in and find a seat.” I glanced over to see if May had noticed Hemley’s arrival, but she was bent over her table of tools and supplies, with her back to us, and appeared completely absorbed in what she was doing. Maybe she was doing it on purpose to gain composure before facing them.
By seven, everyone who was preregistered had checked in, along with one of Brooks Landing’s finest, Mark Weston, and our old friend Archie Newberry, who were there to observe out of apparent curiosity. Erin slipped in at the last minute and sat at a table with Pam and Lauren, evidently without realizing who they were, and ignored my attempts to head her off at the pass. Pam looked from Erin to Lauren and raised her eyebrows.
May clapped her hands and held them together. “Okay, let’s get started. I want to thank all of you for coming tonight. I’m going to teach you the basics of making snow globes, and then it’s up to you and your own creativity after that. We’ll start with a little history on the globes, then I’d like each of you to introduce yourselves. And if you’d care to, tell why you’re here. I’m always interested in finding out what brings people to my classes.”
Why I’m here? Well, that’s a loaded question. Long story short, I’m here because a senator’s husband decided he wanted to have more than a professional relationship with me, but I wouldn’t go for it. The trouble was, before I’d figured out the best way to tell anyone what was going on behind the facade of their happy marriage, his wife walked into my office as he was making one last attempt to convince me we’d make a great couple.
But I’m sure May was referring to the snow globe–making class, not my relocation from Washington, D.C., to Brooks Landing, Minnesota. Okay, so I had to work a little harder at not dwelling on my scandalous past. I could thank Pinky for my attendance tonight. She had talked me into offering theme classes, and the biggest theme we had going in our shop of many collectibles was snow globes. Some had traveled from Spain, Austria, Germany, and other places around the world. When I had a minute here and there, I enjoyed picking one up, shaking it, and watching the scene seemingly come to life as multiple snowflakes fell to the ground.
There were any number of nature or village scenes to mesmerize me. Some were quart size, some pint size, others miniature. One of my favorites held a lighthouse on a rocky crag with a boat sailing on high waves heading toward it. There was a switch on the brown ceramic base to turn the lighthouse on, and even with the snow falling fast and furiously, the light was the beacon that would guide the ship to safety.
“. . . No one is really sure who invented snow globes in the first place, but they started to appear in France in the early 1800s. Some think they evolved from glass paperweights, which were common by the end of the eighteenth century.
“Snow globes really caught on after the Paris Universal Expo of 1878. Within a year, there were an estimated six companies in Europe making them. Originally, they had a sealed ceramic base with a heavy glass dome that was filled with water. The snow at that time was made from either pieces of porcelain or sand or bone chips—”
“Bone chips?” Pinky asked.
May smiled. “We won’t be using those today.” She glanced at a sheet of paper. “Okay, so before we get into our lesson, we’ll take a minute to introduce ourselves and break the ice, since we’ll be working together for the next hour or two. And if you’d like, as I said earlier, please tell us why you’d like to learn how to make snow globes. Whoever wants to start . . .”
Erin waved her hand slightly. “Erin Vickerman. I’m friends with Cami and Pinky, the two managers here, and I thought it’d be fun. I’m a teacher and I’m thinking of making snow globes with my students at Christmastime.”
At the mention of Erin’s name, Pam gave her sister a sideways glance. She knew the name of her boyfriend’s victim all right.
Erin looked at Lauren. “Next.”
“Um, I’m Lauren from St. Cloud. My sister invited me. I’m in town visiting because . . . oh, it’s a long story.” She looked at her sister to go on.
“My name is Pam, and I like to do crafts, and I’d never thought of making snow globes before I saw your ad for this class.”
Pam and Lauren had both conveniently left off their last names. And if Pam knew the connection between Jerrell Powers and May Gregors, she didn’t let on. And to her credit, May let it slide by also. But what else could she do? Make a big scene, spoil the class, and have the whole evening implode?
The other seven class attendees were two older ladies from my church; a mother and her teenage daughter; one of Pinky’s muffin eaters; one of the Curio Finds customers who loved looking at the snow globes but rarely bought one; and a local crafter who had booths at fairs around the state.
I introduced myself, then Pinky wrapped up the introduction session and remembered to thank everyone for coming—including the two observers, Archie and Mark.
May sucked in a quick breath. “To start off, we’ll go over all the materials we’re going to be working with. Did any of you bring your own figurines or scenes to use?” She looked around the room, and most of us shook our heads. Apparently no one had gotten that memo.
“Okay, that’s fine. Sometimes a grandma or mom has someone special who loves the Disney princesses, for example. No matter, I have plenty to choose from.” She pointed to a table behind her, where a large assortment awaited us. Wild and domestic animals, trees, farmhouses, barns, stores that looked like they were made of bricks, horse-driven sleighs, children skating or on sleds, people of all ages. What to choose?
May went on, “There are many materials people use nowadays to make the snow, like glitter or crushed eggshells, but I like using benzoic acid because the crystals look more like real snow. I really enjoyed high school chemistry, and it’s fun for me to use this method.”
“How does that work?” Mark asked from the cheap seats.
May threw a glance his way. “Actually, the snow is made from crystals of water from which you precipitate the crystals of benzoic acid.”
“Precipitate benzoic acid?” a church lady asked.
May smiled. “It’s not as complicated as it sounds. You can use a glass measuring cup or a flask—I’ll use a pan tonight—and add the acid to the water. Then you heat it to dissolve the benzoic acid. You can do it on your stovetop or use a microwave, even a coffeemaker. You don’t need to boil it.”
“So how do the snowflakes form?” Pinky asked.
“It’s magic. Or so it seems. It’s like dissolving sugar in water to make rock candy. After it’s boiled and cooled, it forms the hard candy.”
I had never thought of how rock candy was made before. Or snow for globes, either, for that matter.
“When the benzoic acid cools and approaches room temperature, the solid substance separates from the water, and voila! Little snowflakes. Slower cooling makes for prettier flakes, just like in the formation of real snowflakes.”
It made sense. In Minnesota we had everything from hard, driving pellets of sleet to fluffy flakes the size of a small fist. The wet snow was heavy and more difficult to shovel. Dry snow was light, perfect “powder” for skiing and sledding. But on a warm October evening, real snow was not on the list of things I wished for. Winter would come soon enough.
“Okay, class, let’s get going on the flakes.” May set a glass pan on a portable cooktop unit she’d brought with her. She had a pitcher of water, which she poured into the pan, followed by a premeasured amount of benzoic acid. “I’ve got the recipe listed on your handouts.”
May heated the solution to nearly boiling, then removed the pan from the burner and set it aside. “All right. So, everyone, take some time to design your scene. And I’ll help you as much as you’d like me to.”
I debated whether to tell Erin who her tablemates were, but decided to wait until after the class, to avoid any potential dramatic confrontation. If Erin knew who Pamela was, she might tell her where to go, and it would spoil everyone’s fun. Pamela may have had no control over Jerrell’s behavior, but I knew Erin, and she wouldn’t see it that way.
The class members got up and perused the items on the display table. Pinky elbowed my ribs to remind me we shared knowledge we should keep quiet about until the time was right. Erin stepped in beside me. “What kind of scene are you going for?”
I eyed a building that looked like an old country schoolhouse, or a church without a steeple, and picked it up. “This looks a lot like the school my parents went to when they were kids, before they closed the country schools and all the kids were sent to town schools. I think I’ll make a snow globe for them.”
Erin nodded. “After being in the business all those years, it’d probably be the first time anyone actually made one especially for them.”
“I’d say that’s true. How about you two? Any ideas?” I asked Pinky and Erin.
“I like this little princess with her pink dress. She’ll look good in my house,” Pinky said.
Erin smiled. “We should have guessed that, Miss Pinky.” She picked up a plastic piece and studied it. “Hmm. I think I’ll go with a kids’ sledding scene and use it as a display model for when we make them in my class. The children will like that.” She selected some trees to complete the scene.
Mark and Archie mingled in with the rest of us, examining the little figures and buildings and checking to see what everyone was picking. May helped the church ladies and we all had something chosen within minutes then sat back down at our workstations for the next step.
May walked around, nodding as she imagined the possibilities. “You’ve come up with a nice variety, class. We’ll design the scenes, then glue the pieces on the base.”
I looked around and noticed everyone was concentrating on arranging and rearranging the elements of their respective scenes on the heavy plastic globe bases. I set the schoolhouse, a group of three children holding books, a dog, and some pine trees on my own base. It looked good to me.
“When everyone is satisfied, we’ll glue the scenes in place with the hot glue guns.”
“I’ve never used one before,” the teenage girl said, and another class member shook her head.
“That’s quite all right. All we need to do is make sure you don’t burn yourself because the glue is very hot. I can tell you after getting it on my own fingers a time or two. All right. You can secure your figures in two ways. You’ll hold the figure you’re gluing with your set of forceps, and put a dab of glue either on the bottom of the figure or on the base where you plan to set the figure. I like to glue the base because then you avoid dripping the glue where you don’t want it. You don’t need to squeeze the glue gun trigger very hard at all. You only want a drop. Practice on your newspaper to get a feel for it.”
She moved to the supply of glue guns. “I’ve got one for each table. Here, let me get situated with the extension cords. They should all reach just fine, but be careful if you stand up not to trip on one.” Mark left his viewing stool to help her, but an incoming phone call interrupted him. He pulled his cell phone out of its holder and stepped outside to take the call.
I went with May’s suggestion, doing a practice squeeze, then I held each of my figures, one at a time, over the spot I wanted to place it, applied a dab of glue there, and set it in place. Some people struggled a little; others were quicker draws with their glue guns. Erin and Pinky were both more adept than I was. Erin did crafts with her class, and Pinky was a bit of an artist with her baking.
“So we’ll see how the snow is coming along.” May looked at the clear glass pan, and we all followed suit. It seemed the snow making was a success. “When you are ready, the next steps work together. You’ll put a thin line of glue around the outside edge of the base, then we’ll add the snow-filled water to your globes and attach the base to the bottom of the globe. And I have more supplies if any of you want to make two. You can just reimburse me the extra amount.”
Mark returned after his phone call, and when he noticed that Archie was doing his best to help some of the women, he joined in. I was too involved in my own project to pay much attention to how the others were doing, so I thought it was nice the men were lending a hand.
May moved from one student to the next, using a small measuring cup to dip the snowy solution from the pan to pour into our globes. Each person held a globe in one hand and its base in the other. Then after May filled her globe, she put the base in place. When they were all filled and attached, May instructed us to do a final sealing bead of glue where the base met the globe.
Not only had we all survived the class without incident, but we’d produced some wonderful products. I admired what the other crafters had come up with. The teenage girl had assembled a miniature train of three cars on tracks chugging past a group of trees as a gift for her brother. One church lady had placed a single silver, leafless tree with its branches reaching heavenward on her base. It was stunning in its beautiful simplicity. I could have happily put any number of them up for sale on the shop’s display shelves. The class had gone along without a hitch, despite my concerns. But had I known what was about to happen, I would have tried to stop it before it started.
Most of the attendees had left by nine o’clock, and the rest of us were swallowing the last of our treats and putting away the supplies. Pam and Lauren thanked us then headed to the door. May called out to their backs, “You’re welcome, ladies. You know, Pam, you seem like a nice person. Don’t let Jerrell ruin the rest of your life, as he’s sure to do if you stay with him.”
Pam and Lauren both turned on a dime. Everyone’s eyebrows shot up, including mine.
Erin’s face paled. “Jerrell? As in Jerrell Powers? That Jerrell?”
Lauren reached over and laid her hand on her sister’s arm. “That’s why I’m really in Brooks Landing. To get my sister away from him,” she blurted out.
“What’s your connection to Jerrell?” Pam asked.
“He’s my ex-husband.”
Archie mumbled first to himself, then out loud, “Lordy, Lordy.”
“Did you come to Brooks Landing to teach the class, or was it so you could check up on Jerrell?” Pam asked.
May’s head went back like she was avoiding a punch and her face drew taut. “I didn’t know where he was, and haven’t seen him in forever—except today, that is—and I was more than shocked. I wasn’t going to let him wreck this class. I had a say in that much at least. Not like when I couldn’t control what he did. He ruined my daughter’s life.” She paused for a breath. “And mine.”
Erin turned to Pam. “How about you? You and your sister sat with me at the same table and didn’t say anything. You know who I am, don’t you?”
Pam shrugged. “I thought it was you then knew for sure when you introduced yourself.”
Erin pointed her finger at Pam. “For Pete’s sake. And worse yet, you’re in cahoots with Jerrell Powers. You’re harboring a fugitive.”
Pam’s lips trembled and tears welled in her eyes, but didn’t spill out.
Mark gave his hand a slight wave. “Technically, he’s not a fugitive.”
“Okay, a criminal, then. And a creepy one besides. If he comes near me or my things—”
“Then I’ll handle him, Erin,” Mark said, lowering his voice.
Pinky stepped in beside Mark. “Me, too. I’ll protect you.”
I rolled my eyes before I could stop myself.
“If we kick him out of Pam’s house, he’ll have to leave town and you won’t have to worry about him,” Lauren said.
“Lordy, Lordy,” Archie said again.
Being caught up in dramatic scenes had followed me from Washington, D.C., to my hometown of Brooks Landing. At least no one was pointing fingers at me this time. I raised my hands for everyone’s attention. “I think the best thing to do is put a little time and space between all that’s gone down here. I don’t think we’re going to resolve this tonight, so we should all go home and try to get a good night’s sleep. And remember what a nice class we had. We all have wonderful snow globes to prove it.” My words sounded fake and shallow even to me.
“Sleep? Seriously, Cami?” Erin asked.
“A glass of wine might help, Erin. Do you want a ride home?” Pinky said.
Erin lifted her eyebrows. “No.” She rolled her shoulders backward in a half circle. “But thanks.” She looked at each of us in turn. She nodded then left. Mark followed her out the door.
May turned to Pam. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything. I wasn’t going to, but it came out anyway. And Jerrell is a—”
“No-goodnik,” Archie finished for her then slipped out himself.
Lauren pulled on Pam’s arm. “Time to go.” Pam nodded, and they left without another word.
Pinky brushed a crumb off a table. “Let me help you carry your things to your car, May.”
“You know what? I have everything packed in my suitcase on wheels, and I’m parked right outside. But thanks. It was a good class. I wish now that I had just left it at that.”
“Yes, it was a good class,” I agreed and zipped my mouth shut before I told her it was probably the last time she ever taught a class at our shop. Pinky held the door for May, who rolled her supplies out behind her.
“Well, that went well. Not,” I said and sank onto a stool at the counter.
“Holy moly, Cami, our hopes of holding classes here may have died on the vine.”
“Yeah, well, after some time passes, maybe we’ll get our enthusiasm back.”
“That’s optimistic.” Pinky adjusted her neck scarf. “Well, it’s an early day tomorrow, getting up to bake my delicacies, so I’d better head on home.”
I stood up and gave Pinky a light hug. “Rest well, friend.”
Alone in the shop, I walked around to settle my nerves. The last thing I had wanted that evening was a conflict. And a fairly significant one at that. I checked to see that every electrical appliance was off, then shut off the lights in the coffee shop and headed into my more familiar territory on the curio side. I picked up a recently acquired snow globe on a shelf near the counter and gave it a shake. It snowed on the man and woman who were dressed in Victorian clothing, snuggled together on a rocking horse. Their expressions of both joy and contentment had been captured and preserved for at least a century, according to the best information we had from one of our dealers in Germany.
I carefully replaced the globe then sat down in front of the computer on the checkout counter. I read through and responded to some e-mails and read the featured news headlines of the day. I was surprised when the clock on city hall chimed ten times. My hour online had seemed like half that amount of time.
“You need to head home yourself,” I said out loud and shut down the computer. I went to the back of the store and used the bathroom then grabbed my jacket and backpack from the back room and slipped them on. When I returned to the retail area, I walked toward the front window to turn the security light on, but a snow globe sitting on a nearby shelf stopped me in my tracks. It was “snowing.” I blinked, knowing I was imagining things, and watched until the last of the flakes had settled on the ground. I had never seen that particular globe before and wondered where it had come from. It was made of similar, or the same type of, materials we had used in our class. How odd. A chill ran up my spine as I reached for the front door to be sure it was locked. It was. I was relieved because I honestly could not remember locking it, no matter how hard I thought about it.
I picked up the foreign snow globe and studied the scene. Inside, there was a man sitting on a park bench with his head resting almost on his chest. He appeared to be sleeping. There was a streetlamp, several leafless trees, and a moon behind them. The scene looked familiar, like it could be in one of our town parks. I set the snow globe back on the shelf and let myself out. I locked the door behind me and double-checked it to be certain it was secured.
I went to the back lot, where I usually parked, and had a moment of panic when my Subaru wasn’t there. “No. Of all the days not to drive,” I chided myself. My house was less than a mile away, and I often walked or biked to work. It had been a gorgeous October morning, and it was an even lovelier evening, with a full moon overhead. And, as Archie had pointed out earlier, unseasonably warm.
Even though I generally felt safe walking after dark, I removed the small canister of Mace from my backpack and slipped it in the front pocket of my khaki slacks. It had been a long day on my feet, but I hadn’t thought of bringing a change of shoes with me, so my walking sandals would have to do. I headed south on Central Avenue, glancing up at the top half of the old county courthouse building that sat on the rise of a hill, a block west of the buildings on the opposite side of Central. A bank building dating back to 1890 that currently housed an antique business was directly across the street. It still held the original internal vault, a feature that added to the building’s charm.
The streets were mostly deserted at that hour, even though it was Friday night, and I wished there was more traffic. Why was I on edge? I crossed the street and walked on the sidewalk that ran alongside Green Lake. Not a soul was fishing from the public dock. During the summer months, it wasn’t unusual to see fishers there late at night. But once school started in September, people were rarely there after dark, and the dock would be rolled in soon, before the winter snow fell and the lake froze over.
Where the sidewalk divided—one path ran alongside the highway, and the other turned and led into the park—I veered to the right and took the park pathway, a shortcut that saved me a fair distance. There were streetlamps every fifty feet or so, but because I felt more unsettled than usual, I wished there was one every twenty. I patted the cell phone in my left pocket and the Mace in my right pocket. I’d gotten in the habit of carrying a canister during my years in Washington, D.C.
As children, my friends and I had spent hours playing games in the park, sometimes after sunset, before we were beckoned home. Our favorite nighttime game was a version of tag called Starlight, Moonlight. Starlight, moonlight, I hope to see a ghost tonight. I thought about the words and raised my eyes skyward. Just kidding.
Something shiny on the concrete path caught my eyes. A penny. I had a thing for picking up pennies. I remembered my mother—my birth mother—telling me, “Find a penny, pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck.” As a teenager, I had started to believe it was my mother who dropped the pennies from heaven just for me. I bent over quickly, snatched up the coin, and dropped it in the pocket with my Mace. The two items made a soft clicking sound as I picked up my pace.
At the bottom of the hill, before the ground rose again, I noticed a man sitting on the bench. I considered what I should do: sneak by him quietly or make enough noise so I didn’t startle him when I walked behind his back. I pulled the Mace from my pocket and cupped it in my hand. “Hi, there! Beautiful evening, isn’t it?”
No response. As I got closer, I saw his head was bent over, like he was reading a book. But it was too dark where he sat for that. I decided I had better cross in front of him so I could keep an eye on his movements, and be sure he didn’t have any kind of weapon in his hand or stuck in the pockets of the windbreaker jacket he was wearing. I put my finger on the trigger of the Mace container, just in case. When I was about six feet away, little nerve prickles touched the back of my neck. I sidestepped toward the lake, not only to put more distance between him and me, but also so I could get a better view of him.
He appeared to be sleeping, with his head bent over and his hands resting palms up on his thighs. His ball cap hid his face. A cloud moved across the moon, and since the streetlamp was behind him, I couldn’t see well at all. “Hello? Are you all right? Just to let you know, you can’t sleep in the park. The cops in this town are pretty strict about that.”
Still no response. The cloud moved and the moon’s light came through the trees, shining down on us. “Oh, my God,” I whispered. It was the scene from the new psycho snow globe in my shop. I pinched myself to be sure I was really awake and not in the middle of a nightmare. I squeezed enough to make it hurt. Ouch.
I was afraid the man might be drunk and vulnerable to . . . whatever. I braved a step closer and then another. My pounding heart threatened to break through my chest. “Sir.” I didn’t want to touch him, so I picked up a stick lying by my foot and gently touched his shoulder with it. Instead of lifting his head, he fell forward and toppled onto the ground, landing facedown. I jumped back and then screamed.
The handle of a knife was sticking out of his back. His jacket was a dark color, maybe blue. It was too dark to see much more, but I detected a wet, earthy scent that I guessed was blood. “Oh, my God!” I yelled. “Help.” Was there anyone around to hear me? He must be dead, but I wasn’t sure. Maybe the knife was in just a little ways, stuck to a rib. Instinctively, without thinking, I reached down and checked. It felt like it was very deeply and tightly stuck in place.
Oh, Lord, I’d never been alone with a dead body before.
Somehow my reasoning kicked back in and I dialed 911. Thankfully it went through to the emergency operator. I didn’t know if the county had that capability with cell phone calls or not.
“Buffalo County, nine-one-one. Is this an emergency?” a woman asked.
“Yes, it is. I’m with a man who I’m pretty sure is dead. Someone stabbed him. Send the police to Lakeside Park right away. We’re maybe two hundred feet in from the Central Avenue side. Hurry!”
“Ma’am, my partner is dispatching an ambulance and a Brooks Landing officer. Do you know the victim?”
“No. I mean, not that I know of. I can’t really see his face.”
“Are you in danger yourself?”
Dear God, was I? I looked around and listened for sounds, but the only thing I heard was a fish jump in the lake behind me. “I don’t think so.”
Excerpted from "Snow Way Out"
Copyright © 2015 Christine Husom.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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