When Sarah Grayson opened a secondhand shop in the quaint town of North Harbor, Maine, she was expecting peace and quiet. Then she was adopted by a rescue cat named Elvis and a kooky trio of senior sleuths known as Charlotte’s Angels. Now she has nine lives worth of excitement...
Sarah’s friend and employee Rose is delivering a customer’s purchase when the quick errand becomes a deadly escapade. Rose arrives just in time to see the customer murdered by his wife, but before she can call the police, she is knocked out cold. When she wakes up, no one believes her, especially after the woman claims her husband is very much alive and has left her for someone else—and has a text message and empty bank account to prove it.
Despite her convincing story, Sarah is sure something is fishy—and it’s not Elvis’s kitty treats. Sarah, Elvis, and the Angels are determined to unravel this mysterious yarn, before the feral killer pounces again...
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The last thing Rose Jackson saw before she was coldcocked with a plastic sailboat fender was the body of Jeff Cameron being dragged across his kitchen floor. At least that was what she was telling everyone from her bed at Northeastern Medical Center.
Earlier that Wednesday evening, Elvis and I had been settled in the big chair in front of the bedroom TV. We'd watched part one of the Gotta Dance reunion special, and when the credits had begun to scroll across the screen, I'd intended to get up, but before I knew it I was caught up in the campy drama of Restless Days, the popular new nighttime soap that was turning out to be the hit of the summer television season. Elvis was sprawled across my lap and I didn't want to move him. At least that's what I told myself.
I tucked my feet up underneath me and reached for the big bowl of popcorn covered in Parmesan cheese that I'd made just before Gotta Dance began. It was empty.
I glanced down at the floor to see if any had spilled. No. "I guess we ate it all," I said to Elvis.
The cat lifted his head, looked at me through narrowed green eyes and made a soft murp.
I made a face at him. "Okay, I ate it all."
Satisfied that had been cleared up, he dropped his head on my lap again.
Elvis was the only one with whom I could share my secret addiction to Gotta Dance. Since he was a small black cat with a scar across his nose and not the King of Rock and Roll, he wasn't likely to say anything about how caught up I was in the must-see-TV celebrity dance show. Because I had two left feet myself, I knew if my brother Liam found out he'd laugh himself silly, not to mention wheedle that video of me doing the bird dance in middle school from Mom.
"Part two will be on in an hour and a half," I said, setting the empty popcorn bowl on the footstool. I reached over the side of the chair and picked up the small dish of cat crackers I'd brought in for Elvis. There were three left. The cat, it seemed, had paced himself a little better than I had.
I arranged the star-shaped treats in a row on my leg. He glanced at them, then looked at the TV, where the spinning mirror ball now filled the screen again in a promo for part two of the Gotta Dance reunion special. Finally, he focused his green eyes on me with a seemingly-to me-quizzical expression on his furry black face.
"Matt Lauer, Kevin Sorbo, Lee Child, Christian Kane and the cute guy with the beard from that cooking show Rose made us watch," I said, ticking off the names of the show's second-half participants on the fingers of my left hand.
Elvis cocked his head to one side as though he was trying to decide which celebrity he was going to root for. After a moment he made a soft "mrrr" sound as though he'd made up his mind. I picked up a cracker and held it out to him. He took it from me, wrinkling his whiskers in a thank-you.
My phone rang then. I glanced at the screen. It was Liz. Elizabeth Emmerson Kiley French was one of my grandmother's closest friends, and since Gram had been gone on what seemed like a never-ending honeymoon, Liz had been keeping an eye on me. Among other things, that meant she asked pointed questions about my mostly nonexistent love life and showed up with takeout when she thought I wasn't eating properly.
"Hi, Liz," I said. "What's up?"
"Rose is in the hospital," she said flatly. Liz wasn't the type of person to beat around the bush.
"What happened?" I asked, sitting upright in the chair. Elvis rolled over and turned to watch my face, as if somehow he sensed something was wrong. My stomach lurched as though I'd just swung way out over deep water on a rope swing and let go. Rose-who was also close friends with my grandmother-was like family to me. The thought of anything happening to her was something I didn't want to even consider.
"She's all right," Liz said, and I pictured her gesturing with one perfectly manicured hand. "Someone hit her over the head and knocked her out. I think that hard noggin of hers is what saved her."
I swallowed down the lump in my throat. "You're sure she's okay?"
I heard her exhale. "I promise," she said softly.
Elvis put his paws on my leg, his eyes locked on my face. He adored Rose, too. Without thinking about it, I began to stroke his fur. "What happened? Where was she? I thought she was here," I said.
"Here" was my house, a two-story restored Victorian from the 1860s within walking distance of downtown North Harbor. It was divided into three apartments. Elvis and I lived in the front, main-floor unit, Rose had recently taken over the small back apartment, and Gram-when she was home-lived upstairs. On paper it didn't sound like it should work, but so far it had.
"She wasn't mugged," Liz said. "Not exactly. Remember the man who came into the shop this afternoon and wanted to have those candlesticks delivered to his wife?"
I pressed the heel of my hand against my forehead. "Tell me she didn't do what I think she did." I owned a repurpose shop, Second Chance, with an eclectic selection of merchandise, much of it given new life-a second chance-in our work space. Rose worked part-time for me.
"Oh yes, she did. She went over to that cottage to deliver those candlesticks. And I have the damn things, by the way." I could hear the click of Liz's high heels. She was probably walking in a hospital corridor, I realized. "She gave in too easy, you know," she continued. "We should have known. Rose has a stubborn streak a mile wide, and before you start on about people in glass houses throwing stones, I'm going to remind you that I am not stubborn. I'm persistent, which is a completely different thing."
"Noted," I said. I wasn't going to argue over word choice. Liz was just as stubborn as Rose was, which meant their longtime friendship got contentious at times, but this wasn't the time to point that out. "I'm on my way," I said. "You're at Northeastern?"
"The ER. Just ask at the desk," she said. "I better get back. Alfred could probably use some moral support."
"Okay, I'll be there soon," I said.
Elvis had already jumped down from the chair and started for the living room. I turned off the TV and stood up. Liz had said Rose was all right. That was what mattered.
It took me only a couple of minutes to pull on a pair of jeans and grab my purse and keys. Elvis watched me from the top of his cat tower.
"I'm just going to make sure Rose is okay and I'll be back," I told him. He bobbed his head as though he were saying that was fine with him, and for all I knew maybe he had understood every word I'd said and that was exactly what he meant.
Northeastern Medical Center is a ninety-nine-bed full-service hospital with a trauma center just off the highway exit for North Harbor. It's one of the top-rated hospitals in the state of Maine. As I drove I realized I hadn't asked Liz how Rose had gotten from the cottage on the shoreline, where I was fairly certain she'd been assaulted, to the health center. Liz had mentioned Alfred, who was Rose's "gentleman friend," but she hadn't said anything about whether Rose's children-who didn't live in North Harbor-had been called. Knowing Rose, I was pretty certain the answer to that was no; in fact, I was surprised Rose had called anyone at all.
Liz was right about Rose's stubbornness. I'd seen that dogged streak in action enough times. I should have known that just because she seemed to acquiesce when I asked her not to deliver those candlesticks, that didn't mean I'd won the battle.
Why had someone attacked Rose if it wasn't for the two silver candlesticks she had with her? They were antiques, made by S. Kirk & Son more than a century ago. Kirk had learned the silversmith trade in Philadelphia and then opened a shop in Baltimore. His work was exquisite and in demand by collectors all over the United States and beyond. Finding them for the store had been nothing short of serendipity.
I'd gone to an auction up in Bangor and at the end of the day bid on the contents of a sealed cardboard box. It wasn't the kind of thing I ever did, but I'd been with my best friend, Jess, who had encouraged me after two other boxes had gone for twenty-five and thirty-two dollars, respectively.
"Go for it. What do you have to lose?" she'd whispered in my ear.
"I could lose thirty-two dollars," I'd hissed back at her.
"So bid less," Jess had retorted, and before I'd really thought about it, I'd raised my hand and nodded in the direction of the auctioneer. I'd ended up getting the box for twenty-seven dollars. Inside I'd found a selection of ladies' vintage gloves, which Jess had happily taken, a Brambly Hedge full-size teapot, several hand-crocheted dish towels and the badly tarnished candleholders. It was an auction jackpot. Rose had washed and blocked the dish towels and they'd sold in the shop for enough to cover the twenty-seven dollars I'd paid for the box.
"Are you going to say 'I told you so'?" I'd asked Jess as she sorted through the gloves, which had been in a white pillowcase with a crocheted lace edging.
Jess had held up one long black evening glove with a rhinestone clip at the opening edge and smiled. She owned a small shop down along the waterfront with two other women where she sold her up-cycled clothing. I could tell by the gleam in her blue eyes that she already had some ideas about what to do with her find.
"Nope," she'd said, rooting around in the pillowcase for the mate to the glove she was holding. She found it, admired the pair and then gave me a sideways glance, the smile still pulling at the corners of her mouth. "It's enough to be right. I don't need to rub it in." Then she'd put her free hand over her heart and tried to look humble. She didn't exactly get there, and I couldn't help laughing.
I'd known as soon as I saw the teapot that I could probably get more than a hundred dollars for it. I'd had no idea how valuable the candlesticks were. After I'd gotten back to Second Chance and figured out what I had, I'd taken them downstairs and asked Rose if she'd polish them.
"I'd be happy to, dear," she'd said. "They'd look lovely on that cherry table Mac has been refinishing."
"You're right," I'd said, putting one arm around her shoulders to give her a hug. "In fact, I'm going out back right now to see how it's coming."
Behind the shop, along the back edge of the parking lot, was a garage that we'd converted into work space and storage, although we all still called the space the garage. Mac, my second-in-command, jack-of-all-trades and good friend, had been working out there, stripping a coat of brown paint from a dining room table we'd found at the curb during North Harbor's annual cleanup week in the spring.
When I'd returned to the shop, Rose had caught me just as I stepped into the store proper from the back workroom. Her gray eyes were sparkling behind her glasses. She was barely five feet tall, with short white hair, and she was a cross between a mischievous elf and Cinderella's fairy godmother, with a little doting grandmother thrown in.
"Sarah, would you take four hundred dollars for those candlesticks?" she asked.
I glanced across at the cash desk, where a man in jeans, a black T-shirt and a pair of bright red running shoes was standing, one hand resting possessively on the top of the silver candleholders.
"They haven't been polished," I said. "I haven't even logged them into our inventory yet."
"I can do the cleaning," Rose said. "And you can take a picture of them. Then Avery can do all the rest of the computer work later."
Avery was Liz's granddaughter and another of my employees. She'd been taking on some of the work of logging in new stock and doing it much faster than I could.
Rose leaned her head close to mine. "Four hundred dollars," she said. "But he has to have them today."
"Why?" I asked, eyeing the man, whose head was now bent over his cell phone.
"They're a gift for his wife." Rose glanced in the man's direction, too. "So it has to be today." She patted my arm. "You know how some men are. They never do these things until the last minute." She gave me a little smile. "Not every man is as organized as Alfred."
"I think I should talk to Mr. . . ." I looked expectantly at Rose.
"Cameron. Jeff Cameron." She handed me the man's business card. Jeff Cameron worked in client services for Helmark Associates. He looked up then, as though he'd heard his name, and smiled in our direction. "He and his wife are new in town," Rose added, as though that explained everything.
North Harbor sits on the midcoast of Maine: "Where the hills touch the sea." The town stretches from the Swift Hills in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the south. It's full of beautiful old buildings and eclectic little businesses, as well as several award-winning restaurants. Our year-round population is about thirteen thousand people, but that number more than triples in the summer with summer residents and tourists.
Occasionally one of those seasonal visitors fell in love with the town and relocated permanently. I wondered if that was the case with Jeff Cameron and his wife. It was kind of what had happened with me. Growing up I'd spent my summers in North Harbor with my grandmother. When my radio job disappeared, it was the place that most felt like home.
We walked over to join Jeff Cameron at the counter. I offered my hand.
"Mr. Cameron, this is Sarah Grayson," Rose said before I could introduce myself. "She owns Second Chance."
"It's nice to meet you," he said. His handshake was firm but not obnoxiously strong. He was several inches taller than me-maybe five-ten or so-with blond hair and the lean, angular build of a distance runner, which explained the flame red running shoes.
Excerpted from "Telling Tails"
Copyright © 2017 Sofie Ryan.
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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.