Wash, Fold, and Dieby Dolores Johnson
Mandy Dyer could use a date. Unfortunately, the man who has come to her cleaning shop has only business on his mind. Detective Stan Foster unceremoniously dumped Mandy nine months before. Now he wants her help: to identify a dead body by the laundry mark
In a mystery of stolen art, murder, and a well-pressed shirt, Mandy Dyer will make a killer come clean.
Mandy Dyer could use a date. Unfortunately, the man who has come to her cleaning shop has only business on his mind. Detective Stan Foster unceremoniously dumped Mandy nine months before. Now he wants her help: to identify a dead body by the laundry mark on a shirt.
When Mandy traces the mark, she makes an astounding discovery: She knew the victima handsome, womanizing artistand knows that he has been dead for seven years. How does someone come back to lifeonly to be murdered? With a cast of outrageous helpers that includes a reformed bag lady, a street person named Honest Abe, and her own romantically challenged detective, Mandy is leading a dangerous hunt for the truth about an artist who painted a little, lied a lot, and left behind a life stained with secretsthe kind that gets people killed....
Read an Excerpt
Who would think the police would come to me, Mandy Dyer, a dry cleaner, for help in a murder investigation? And even if they did, who would think the person seeking my help would be my onetime boyfriend, Detective Stan Foster?
I looked up from the counter of Dyer's Cleaners one Monday morning in March as I was shoving clothes in a laundry bag, and there he was. Still tall, blond, and handsome but looking decidedly ill at ease. No wonder. We'd dated for a while last year, but I hadn't seen him since June.
My first thought was that he'd come to tell me he still lusted for me. After all, he wasn't carrying any clothes, and I knew he didn't have a dry-cleaning order on our conveyor. So what else could he want? To my credit, I had the good sense not to blurt out anything about my overly optimistic hopes for why he was here.
"Hi, Stan," I said. "What can I do for you?" I hoped he couldn't see my heart pounding through the yellow blouse I'd recently adopted as part of the uniform for our counter personnel.
He cleared his throat, then motioned over to the end of the counter. "I was wondering if I could talk to you for a minute."
I made a quick analysis of the situation. If he was here to talk about us getting back together, wouldn't he have wanted to hold the conversation in the privacy of my office?
"What do you want--a dry-cleaning tip?" That sounded more sarcastic than I intended, but after all, hadn't I given him a tip on how to get ink out of his shirt pockets the first time we'd met?
"No, it's nothing like that," he said. "I'm here for your professional help."
So what did he think my hints about stain removal had been? I brushed astrand of dark hair back from my forehead but resisted the impulse to smooth back the sides. It would seem too much like primping, and I'd be damned if I'd do that.
"We need some help on a homicide," he continued.
Until now my help in police matters had been totally unsolicited, and where Stan was concerned, unappreciated. In fact one of the reasons we'd decided to break up was that Stan thought I spent entirely too much time sticking my nose into things that were none of my business. He said he couldn't deal with me putting myself in danger all the time. That's a switch, huh? The homicide detective worrying about a dry cleaner who leads too dangerous a life. But Stan's former fiancee had been a police officer who was killed in the line of duty, and apparently Stan still had a lot of guilt about it. Until he resolved those feelings, I didn't think we'd have much of a future together whether I got in trouble or not.
"The police need my help?" I asked, my voice filled with disbelief.
"Really, you need my help?" I was beginning to sound cocky about the situation, so I tried for a more mature attitude. "Sure, anything I can do, just ask me."
And it wasn't as far-fetched as it sounds. After all, my uncle had once been called to testify at the trial of an air force lieutenant charged with the murder of a fellow officer. A button off a uniform had been found at the scene of the crime, and Uncle Chet's testimony about replacing a missing button on the suspect's uniform helped convict the man.
That was back when Uncle Chet owned a wholesale shirt laundry as an adjunct to his first dry cleaners--long before he built this new dry-cleaning plant near Cherry Creek Shopping Center here in Denver. I'd inherited the new cleaners when Uncle Chet died, but until now the police had never voluntarily come to me for help of any kind.
Stan took a small notebook out of the pocket of his tweed jacket. "I'm looking for information about a laundry mark we found on the shirt of a man who was killed over the weekend."
Stan had come to the right place, and I felt flattered. I knew all about laundry marks. Currently we used a tag in the collar with a corresponding numbered tag we put on the ticket. Other dry cleaners used different methods, including permanent laundry marks and even bar codes, as a means of identifying and reassembling the shirts of their customers.
"I talked to a couple of other cleaners," Stan said, "and one of them thought the mark looked like something your uncle used at a shirt laundry he had years ago."
Okay, so I hadn't been Stan's first choice when it came to seeking expert advice. He'd already sought help from other cleaners. I tried to swallow my pride as I waited for him to continue.
He consulted his notebook again. "There's a piece of cloth made of some washable fabric that was stuck inside the collar. It had some numbers on it."
I nodded. "That would be a tape with an adhesive backing that adheres to the shirt during washing, but I'm afraid it won't tell you who the owner is."
Stan didn't seem to appreciate my negative attitude. "Anyway, there was also a laundry mark on the tail of the shirt."
"We don't use laundry marks like that, anymore, but I suppose it could be one of the shirts from my uncle's shirt laundry," I admitted. "But isn't that a little weird that the shirt would show up after all this time? Uncle Chet sold the shirt laundry five years ago when he was raising money to build this new plant."
Stan frowned, and I could see he was losing patience with my editorial comments. "If you don't mind . . ."
"All right." I threw up my hands to indicate I was ready to dispense with the speculations. "Uncle Chet was a fanatic about keeping track of the shirts, so he used a stamping machine to put the first few letters of the customer's last name or else the first letter and the last four digits of his phone number on the tail of each shirt."
Stan studied whatever was written in his notebook, but he didn't yet seem willing to share the information with me.
"Was there a number at the end of the laundry mark?" I continued. "Uncle Chet did shirts on a wholesale basis for a number of other cleaners as well as for his own store, and he always assigned a number to each customer."
"There's an A, followed by the numbers zero-five-eight-six-one," Stan said finally.
I didn't have to consult any long-forgotten records to know what that final number represented. Uncle Chet had always used a "1" for work he did for his own plant, Dyer's Cleaners and Dyers, which had originally been in downtown Denver.
I wasn't sure if this revelation was good or bad. On the one hand, there was the possibility that the murder victim was someone I had known. On the other hand, it meant I would have an opportunity to talk to Stan again.
"That would have been one of our customers," I said, "but I'm afraid all the shirt-laundry records are in a storage locker out on Leetsdale Drive. It's going to take me a while to find the name of the person who went with the laundry mark."
Stan motioned toward our computer. "Can't you look in there?"
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I always look forward to reading Dolores Johnson's latest Mandy Dyer Mystery. Mandy is a typical, down-to-earth woman with the same ups and downs as every other career woman.