Authors: Judith Ivie
Mainly Murder Press, LLC
PO Box 290586
Wethersfield, CT 06129-0586
Mainly Murder Press
Karen A. Phillips
All rights reserved
Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are
products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance
to actual events, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely
coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any
form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without
permission in writing from the publisher.
Copyright © 2014 by Judith
Published in the
United States of America by
Mainly Murder Press,
PO Box 290586
Wethersfield, CT 06129-0586
Dedicated to the overwhelming majority
of thoughtful, ethical writers, editors, reviewers and publishers in this
industry … long may we prevail
Waiting for Armando
Murder on Old Main Street
A Skeleton in the Closet
Drowning in Christmas
in trade paperback at:
Heart of the Country, Wethersfield,
Barnes & Noble, Glastonbury and
in a variety of e-book formats at:
in downloadable audio formats at:
special note to my bird-loving readers
It’s so kind of you to want to
help out our feathered friends, especially during the
months, but I need to make you
aware of something I myself didn’t know until a few years ago: The digestive
tracts of waterfowl and other birds are not equipped to digest bread, crackers,
popcorn and other starchy stuff made from processed flour. In fact, these
things can make them very sick and contribute to the spread of avian botulism.
Birdseed is widely available in packages
that clearly state the types of birds for which it is intended. As for ducks,
geese and swans, as long as water fowl can find open water, they can mostly feed
Birds with injuries that make it
impossible for them to fly to open water usually spend the winter in marshes
fed by springs and moving streams, such as the Spring Street Pond in
Wethersfield. Helping them out is a good thing during tough winter months—but
not with bread or junk food.
means, bring them some
which you can purchase from feed stores, nurseries, pet supply stores and
even the grocery store these days very affordably. Please pass this information
along—and thanks so much for caring.
It had been a very freeing moment
learned, really knew, that
nobody was paying attention to her. It came to her in a happy moment of
realization that no one at all gave a hoot about what she was doing, saying or
wearing. They were far too busy worrying about who might be looking at them.
She found this to be especially true in a crowd, which meant that unless she
made it a point to draw attention to
way, she could go about her business all but unnoticed.
This knowledge had already served her well, and
she expected to make even better use of it in the years ahead, since women of a
certain age were virtually invisible in a youth obsessed culture.
If Isabelle ever suffered a stroke
from sheer frustration, she had no doubt it would happen while she was standing
in line at the supermarket. How the checkout staff could bear the endless
procession of fumbling, querulous customers without becoming homicidal was
Before she endured that
experience today, however, she had first to wait her turn at the deli counter,
where she customarily purchased the low sodium turkey breast upon which her
internist insisted. She consoled herself that it was probably the last time she
would have to do so. Her lawyer, with whom she had just finished consulting,
had assured her that henceforth, she could afford to have her groceries
delivered. It was a comforting thought.
She was delighted to see that the
counter was deserted except for one clerk, who wiped down the slicing machine
without enthusiasm, so she eschewed taking a numbered service ticket from the
“Someone will be right with you,”
the clerk acknowledged her, waving in the general direction of a door in the
back wall, which led to the inner sanctum. It figured. One clerk, one customer,
but still Isabelle had to wait. Half a minute or so later, another clerk
scuttled through the door to resume his counter duties. Before asking her to
state her business, he peered up at the screen displaying the number of the
next customer due for attention. As he did so, another patron arrived and
snatched a ticket from the machine. The woman’s excess poundage was encased in
pink spandex, and her already overflowing shopping cart didn’t auger well for
an improvement in that situation anytime soon.
“Number forty-six,” the clerk
announced, looking at his two customers with barely concealed contempt.
Isabelle stepped forward. “There
was no one else here when I arrived, so I didn’t take a ticket, but I’m next.”
have a ticket to be served,” he pronounced officiously, clearly delighted to
have the upper hand.
Spandex Woman was quick to pounce.
“I have a ticket! Number forty-six, right here.” She waved the pink slip with
glee to prove her worthiness. Isabelle noticed that the color of the paper
stretch pants. She spoke up
“Nevertheless, Madam, I was here
first, as you are well aware, and that should entitle me to first service.”
“No ticket, no service,” the clerk
contradicted her. “You can take a number now or come back later.” Even behind
thick lenses, his eyes sparkled with venom.
“I can also shop at another
store,” Isabelle suggested.
“Okay, then, ‘bye ‘bye!” The clerk
grinned full out and turned his attention to Spandex Woman, who
unapologetically began asking to sample various mayonnaise-laden potato salads.
Isabelle paused to consider what
would happen to the odious clerk after she’d had what would surely be a
satisfying conversation with the store manager. Did the misguided troll perhaps
have a dog or cat at home that would be abandoned at the pound if his master were
suspended? It was, after all, a difficult economy in which to lose one’s job.
Isabelle would feel bad about the pet if that happened. Still, the store manager
deserved to know how his customers were being treated.
Resolved, Isabelle turned to
retrieve her cart, which remained empty. Her eye fell upon Spandex Woman’s
cart, jammed to the rim with fat, salt and sugar, not a vegetable in sight.
Unobtrusively, Isabelle transferred her handbag from one cart to the other and
pushed Spandex Woman’s briskly away from the deli counter and toward the
manager’s office at the front of the store. After a quick stop to rid
of the cart in a discreet corridor outside the
ladies’ restroom, she asked a customer service clerk at the desk to invite the
store manager to join her for a moment. He did, and Isabelle outlined her
experience to him clearly and concisely. When she left the store, the manager
was headed purposefully in the direction of the deli.
The morning after Isabelle learned
from her attorney that she was suddenly quite comfortable, thanks to the demise
of dear old Aunt Caroline, who had made Isabelle her sole heir, she arose at
her customary time, drank her coffee and dressed with care. The events of the
past twenty-four hours had been so unexpected and of such consequence that she
found it difficult to believe they didn’t show on her face, but the woman
regarding her in her dressing table mirror appeared unaltered. Over the four
and a half decades she had spent in the workforce, she had occasionally
daydreamed of winning the lottery and retiring, but since she rarely purchased
a ticket, she had dismissed that hope as the nonsense it was. Isabelle was not
a lucky person. She had never won anything and so eschewed gambling of any
Still, she had been fortunate in
many ways. As a girl she had been bright, athletic and healthy, blossoming into
a sleek young woman with bright prospects. Schoolwork had come easily to her,
and she had never lacked for a young man or two to squire her to all the
appropriate dances and parties. After high school she had attended Katharine
Gibbs School in Boston and equipped herself to earn her living, later completing
a bachelor’s degree in business administration externally from the State
University of New York.
Over the years she had received
three proposals of marriage but had ultimately declined them all. After that,
she made her preference for singlehood known quickly to avoid misleading the
young men who had domesticity in mind. Instead, she enjoyed a number of
discreet relationships, some brief and others of longer duration, with men
whose interests paralleled her own. Free of the financial burdens of
child-rearing and the emotional burdens of tending to aged parents (Both
Isabelle’s father and mother had expired nine years apart of massive heart
attacks, each in the space of an afternoon.), she had indulged her interests in
traveling and the performing arts. She had season tickets to absolutely
everything and attended alone, reveling in her freedom to walk out
mid-performance if she became bored.
So the woman of sixty-two who now regarded
her in the mirror had enjoyed a life of quiet satisfaction. She was slender,
attractive, well dressed. Her haircut was stylish and her makeup discreet. Her
relatively unlined face shone with good health. She had never lacked for
anything or regretted her personal choices. The one fly in the ointment of
Isabelle’s contentment had been her inability to find challenging, fulfilling
work to do.
As an accomplished administrative
assistant, Isabelle had never had trouble finding or holding a job. She made a
good appearance and interviewed well, and she had been hired by top executives
in both corporate and nonprofit organizations wherever she went. No, getting a
job had not been the problem.
Beginning as an ace stenographer
and typist fresh out of Katie Gibbs, Isabelle steadily acquired the new skills
that were always necessary to perform the duties of each position she held. As
a junior editorial assistant in the Boston headquarters of a major publisher,
she polished her already considerable language skills and learned to copy edit,
marking up manuscripts for senior editors. As the dean’s secretary at a small
college in eastern Connecticut, she ran the work study program and became adept
at event planning. Her next job required her to make complex travel
arrangements for half a dozen senior executives.
For thirteen years after that, she
devoted her workdays to creating sales prospectuses, course materials and
catalogs for a tradeshow company. She rose through the ranks to become
publications manager before being shown the door, along with all the other
employees, by the owners, who sold the show and walked away millionaires. All
the while Isabelle gained hands-on knowledge of the increasingly sophisticated
computer technology that emerged in the 1980s and took over the world of work.
After that Isabelle worked for a
prominent attorney, mastering the intricate billing software that invoiced
clients in six-minute increments. She crafted fundraising proposals for a
Hartford university’s capital campaign,
quarterly SEC reports for a telecommunications company. For four years she
assisted the CEO of a dining equipment company. She tracked reams of legal
documents and kept her mouth shut through a drawn-out, hush-hush acquisition by
a larger firm.
And through it all, more than
forty years of it, Isabelle had been bored, bored, bored. Each and every one of
her prospective employers had plumbed her depths during pre-employment interviews
to ensure that she possessed the myriad skills and superhuman qualities they
insisted their jobs required, but when it came right down to it, Isabelle could
have fulfilled the actual requirements of any of them backwards and in high
heels. She often thought of Ginger Rogers, to whom that famous quotation
referred, trapped in the role of arm candy while Fred Astaire claimed the
spotlight and, presumably, the lion’s share of the cash. Small wonder Ginger had
relinquished her role to other dancers. There’s only so much satisfaction one
can take in making someone else look good.
Yes, it had been enduring the tedium
of her jobs that invariably proved to be the difficulty, and her present
position was no exception. In fact, it was by far the worst of the lot. In all
of her previous posts, Isabelle had been well aware that she surpassed her
supervisors in both intelligence and competence. Several of them had sensed it,
too, and had compensated in the fearful,
manner of empire-building middle managers everywhere, taking care to keep her
in her place. Their tactics varied somewhat, but the intent was always the
same, to keep her where she was in the hierarchy, making them look good while
denying her significant advancement or compensation until she had no option but
to leave if she wished to improve her situation.
Occasionally, her departure had
stemmed from other causes. The sale of the tradeshow company had been one. The
manufacturing company acquisition had been the most recent. Before the ink on
the sale documents was dry, Isabelle and her boss, the former CEO of the
acquired company, had both been informed that their services were no longer
required. To her everlasting disgust, at the age of sixty-two in the middle of
a devastating economic recession, Isabelle had found herself smiling and
chatting through a numbing series of interviews, once again seeking out a job
she didn’t want. And once again, she got it.
This time she was to manage the
financial records of an assisted living facility in Wethersfield called Vista
The redundancy of the name alone
was enough to set Isabelle’s teeth on edge, but she had to admit the position
had its advantages. For one thing, the modest salary was considerably augmented
by the one-bedroom apartment that came with the job, and she couldn’t complain
about her commute. Her living quarters were on the ground floor of Vista View’s
administrative building and were separated from the small business office by a
set of double doors. For another, she would be able to handle the workload in
blessed solitude, for the most part. The accounts were maintained off site from
reports transferred through Vista View’s integrated computer system, and unit
sales and rentals were handled by Mack Realty, a local firm whose agents had
managed that side of the business for years. The previous business manager had
recommended them to Isabelle very highly.
All in all, she reflected, she was
With her retirement
nest egg safely tucked away and just three years to go until Medicare kicked
in, she could skate through her undemanding new day job in near solitude,
retreat to her paid-for apartment in peace, and finally have the time and privacy
necessary to accomplish the one thing she’d always dreamed of doing: getting
her romance novel published.