by Joan Livingston
Her next case. She’s in it for good.
Isabel Long is in a funk months after solving her first case. Her relationship with the Rooster Bar’s owner is over. Then the cops say she must work for a licensed P.I. before working solo.
Encouraged by her ‘Watson’ — her 92-year-old mother — Isabel snaps out of it by hooking up with a P.I. and finding a new case.
The official ruling is Chet Waters, an ornery so-and-so, was passed out when his house caught fire. His daughter, who inherited the junkyard, believes he was murdered. Topping the list of suspects are dangerous drug-dealing brothers, a rival junkyard owner, and an ex-husband.
Could the man’s death simply be a case of redneck’s revenge? Isabel is about to find out.
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In this scene, Isabel Long and her mother, Maria, — her Watson — are eating dinner at the Rooster, the only bar in the town, when they are approached by a woman, who becomes the connection to their second case. Marsha also figured in Isabel’s first case — the disappearance of Adela Collins. The Old Farts mentioned are a group of gossipy old men who station themselves in the backroom of the general store. They are a great source for Isabel.
My attention turns toward the woman who approaches our table. It’s Marsha, who my mother and I nicknamed the Floozy although we keep that to ourselves. She was the person who gave Bobby Collins an alibi the night his ex-wife, Adela Collins, disappeared although nobody believed him or her, myself included. It turned out she was being honest all along. Let’s say Marsha is a little rough around the edges.
“Hey, Marsha, how are you?”
Her dry bush of brown hair swings around as she checks behind her. I catch a whiff of cigarette smoke, booze, and B.O. Oh, dear.
“Can I talk with you for a minute? It’s kinda important,” she says.
“You remember my mother, Maria? It’s okay to talk in front of her.”
Marsha aka the Floozy nods as I scoot over, so she can take the space beside me. Yowser, I smell more than a whiff. I’m guessing the Floozy is in her late forties, but she’s got some serious country miles on her with missing teeth and some heft she crams into tight jeans. I spot a roll of flesh beneath her loose-hanging flannel shirt. I wonder if she and Bobby Collins are still an item since I didn’t hear any, “Hi, ya, honey,” from either of them.
“What’s up, Marsha?” I ask.
“Heard you’re still doin’ that investigation stuff,” she says.
I smile. Word spread fast thanks to the Old Farts.
“Well, part-time and if it’s a case I’m interested in,” I answer.
“I think you’ll be interested in this one.”
“Is it for you?”
“Nah, my cousin. I don’t think you’ve met her. She lives in Caulfield.”
Caulfield is a hilltown even smaller than Conwell that’s north and west from here in the next county. That town wasn’t part of the Daily Star’s coverage, and honestly, I’ve never had a reason to go there. Maybe Sam and I drove through it a few times to get to somewhere else. Nothing sticks out in my mind about the place.
“Tell me more, Marsha.”
“I’d rather you hear it from her.”
“Fair enough. Why don’t you bring her to my house? You know where I live?”
The Floozy gives me an amused smile. Of course, she knows where I live. Everybody in this nosy little town knows where everybody else lives, what vehicle they drive, and how they make their money. They know their marital status and how many kids they have.
“I can do that.”
“What day works for you two?”
“How about Sunday? My cousin works Saturdays.”
I nod. She’s not messing around.
“Make it around three.”
“I hear you’re chargin’. My cousin can’t afford much.”
“Maybe we can work something out.”
“All right then.” Marsha slaps the table before she’s on her feet. “See you Sunday.”
I giggle as the Floozy pounds Bobby hard on the back before she heads back to the far side of the room. I wait until she’s definitely out of earshot before I ask my mother for her take on that conversation.
Ma slides her empty plate forward. I only ate half of my sandwich. I’m not big into piccalilli in my tuna salad. The fries were a bit on the soggy side.
“Sure, I’m interested in what the Floozy’s cousin has to say,” Ma says. “The fact she wouldn’t say what it is makes me curious. And then she agreed so fast to meet Sunday.”
“What do you think? Money or murder?”
I laugh. My mother’s instincts are usually spot on.
You’re tempted now, aren’t you? Here’s that all-important link again.
Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Redneck’s Revenge, published by Crooked Cat Books, is the second in the mystery series featuring Isabel Long, a long-time journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. The first is Chasing the Case.
An award-winning journalist, she started as a reporter covering the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. She was an editor, columnist, and most recently the managing editor of The Taos News, which won numerous state and national awards during her tenure.
After eleven years in Northern New Mexico, Joan returned to rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting of much of her adult fiction, including the Isabel Long series.
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