How are you all doing with your fall leaf clearing? I put in a few hours this week on Round One of raking and blowing leaves from the grass into a big pile at the curb. I was quite proud of myself when I saw how neat the lawn and driveway were afterwards and was pleased with the invigorating exercise the task provided. But I’m not done. It takes one look skyward at the still-loaded-with-leaves trees to know I have more hours to put in with the rake. However, I didn’t expect to wake up the very next morning to a howling wind and a fresh blanket of leaves across the ground. Boo! Am I allowed to say that, post-Halloween?
In celebration of the raking festivities, I thought I’d share an excerpt from Cast for Murder (non sequitur, anyone?) to get you in the mood for the coming winter. The book will be released in February and the mystery takes place between January and March, so the story won’t provide much of an escape from the short days and freezing temperatures, but just picture yourself sitting by a crackling fire (or the air vent), warming yourself and drinking hot chocolate while reading the latest Veronica mystery. Cozy thought (and story), isn’t it?
We made the short walk to the theater’s office, housed in a cottage fifty yards from the barn. Constructed of the same stone used for the mansion, the one-story building was once the home of the estate’s caretaker. Multi-paned windows on each side of the front door gave the place a cozy feel. An evergreen wreath hanging on the door, adorned with a red bow and small gold ornaments, added charm and brought a burst of color to the gray façade.
Sophie twisted the doorknob and stepped inside, leading me into a small front room warmed by radiator heaters. A desk and a printer stand were under the window on the left. On the white stucco walls hung posters from the theater’s productions of The Sisters Rosensweig and Noises Off. A faded blue rug covered several feet of the hardwood floor. The fireplace on the right-side wall was long out of use.
A short hall led to a kitchenette, bathroom, and storage room, where a rolling clothes rack holding costumes from past productions blocked the back window, obscuring the view of the dense expanse of trees behind the cottage.
The only thing missing from the scene was Gigi. “She might have walked up to the barn for a minute,” Sophie said when I inquired about our director.
We hung our coats on the stand beside the door and sat at the desk. Sophie opened the top drawer, clapping with glee when she found in it a check and a small wad of cash.
“Nice contribution,” she murmured, eyeing the check. “Five hundred bucks from Carlisle Bridal.”
“My friend dropped that off,” I said. “Dusanka’s a seamstress at the salon. She said she was going to buy a ticket this morning.”
“You’re definitely renewing enthusiasm in the BCT.” Sophie gave me an appreciative look.
I let my glance slide over the desk. A laptop computer was open, its screen was black but its power button glowed silver. A vase of tulips sat on the far corner; the pink-and-white striped paper Carol used in her flower shop lay crumpled in a ball in the garbage can.
We sat and chatted for a few minutes. Sophie described the backstage jobs she had done at the Barton Community Theater before becoming stage manager and talked about her graphic design job in nearby Glens Falls. After she remarked on our similar fair-skinned Gaelic looks—she had jet-black hair and sky-blue eyes to my dark-brown hair and hazel eyes—we delighted in learning our families had both come from the same part of Ireland: County Mayo.
“We’re almost Irish twins!” Sophie said, a laugh animating her oval face.
I considered my five-five height and Sophie’s youthful age of twenty-nine and didn’t come away amused. “Except you’re three inches taller and I’m almost twice your age. Almost.”
Sophie checked the time on her iPhone. “Let’s go see what Gigi’s doing.”
We put on our coats and traversed the paved path that connected the parking lot, cottage, barn, and kitchen facilities. Sophie tugged on the barn door, clicking her tongue when it proved locked.
“Maybe she went in the back door.”
We trudged around the side of the barn. A wide, graveled area provided a border between the barn and a football field-size expanse of trees. Birdsong filled the air.
Sophie broke the serenity with an “Oh!” Lurching ahead, she let out a mighty scream that drove the cardinals, sparrows, and juncos from the trees. My glance followed her, and in seconds I saw the cause of her panic and it filled me with dread.
How’s that for a teaser?
Have a great week, everyone!