Excerpt from PAPER, SCISSORS, DEATH

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EXCERPT FROM

PAPER, SCISSORS, DEATH

by Joanna Campbell Slan

Author’s Note: Kiki and her daughter Anya were at an event to teach kids how to scrapbook when a policeman arrives and asks Kiki to come with him to the police station. When she arrives, she’s greeted by this horrifying news.

“My husband is dead? Are you sure? Sure it’s George? I mean, you could have made a mistake. Right?” I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard.

Detective Chad Detweiler of the St. Louis County Police Department shook his head solemnly. “No, Mrs. Lowenstein. I’m sorry. There’s no mistake. A housekeeper found his body in a room at the Regal Chalet. We’re sure it is — was — your husband. His clothes were hanging over a chair, and his wallet was in his pants pocket.”

I swallowed hard. I’d managed to keep calm on the ride to the police station. I kept reassuring my daughter there must have been a misunderstanding. Now I felt like I was coming apart at the seams. I couldn’t focus. I kept repeating, “Dead? My husband is dead? There must be some mistake.”

“I sincerely doubt it.”

The room swam and turned flips. I tried to process what the detective told me. In my struggle, I focused on the trivial. It seemed more manageable than the big picture. “I, uh, don’t understand. Why were his clothes over a chair? You mean he … he didn’t have them on? Did he … uh … have on any of his clothes?”

The detective shook his head, his eyes never leaving my face. He seemed to be taking my measure, sizing me up.

The large mirror on the adjacent wall of the interview room bounced my image back to me. My hair was always curly, but today it had turned into ringlets. My skin looked blotchy from the cold. And I’d chewed my lips until I could taste the blood in my mouth.

I took tiny sips from the glass of water the detective had offered and swallowed repeatedly to dislodge the lump in my throat. I tried to focus on a far-off object, as I blinked back tears. There were so many questions. Part of me didn’t want to ask, didn’t want to know. But a voice inside reasoned it was better to hear the worst of it here, from an impartial officer of the law, than in a public place from a “friend.” I thought about the mothers I’d left at the scrapbook store and shuddered.

Detweiler sat across from me patiently, silently.

Obviously, someone had made a mistake. That was all there was to it. This man couldn’t be talking about George. Not my George.

“How can you be so sure? I mean … don’t you need someone to identify the body? You probably just think it’s George. As soon as he answers my call, we’ll get this straightened out.” I reached for my cell phone and punched in his number one more time.

The phone rang and rang.

Suddenly, my whole body grew heavy, and I was incredibly tired. All I wanted was to go home and sleep for a million years.

Maybe this had all been a bad dream.

Detweiler sighed. “We got hold of your husband’s business partner, Mr. Ballard. I was there when he made the ID. If you’d like to see the body …”

I shook my head vehemently.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Lowenstein.” He didn’t press the issue. He could tell I was queasy. Or maybe he worried I’d make a scene.

Poor Bill. A part of me felt guilty that I hadn’t been the one to take on this intimate and final task of marital life. It seemed, in some way, the least I could have done for George. And Bill had done it for him. For me. For us. It seemed wrong. It felt like one more failure. I put a hand to my stomach and pressed hard to control the revolt within.

A strand of chestnut hair fell over Detweiler’s eyebrow, a dark accent mark to his unwavering gaze. “There’ll have to be an autopsy. The law requires one in these circumstances.” Detweiler took a sip of his coffee and set the mug down gently on the battered Formica tabletop. A circle of brown indicated the depleted level of the liquid. It reminded me of George’s wedding ring.

I fingered my own gold band. I was trying desperately to take in what the detective was saying. George. Was. Dead. What was I going to tell Sheila, my mother-in-law?

“Does George’s mother know?”

I did not want to be the one to tell Sheila her son was dead.

“Mr. Lowenstein’s mother has been notified.” The detective cleared his throat. “Evidently our police chief is an old friend.”

Thank God, I thought. She didn’t have to hear the news from a stranger.

“A woman at your house,” he turned to a page in his steno pad, “Mert Chambers told us where to find you.”

A thought flittered across the tickertape of my mind and fell on the floor in a pile of other ideas. How could we have Thanksgiving? George always carved the turkey. And what about Hanukkah? He loved shopping for his daughter. How would Anya learn about her Jewish heritage? Who would teach her golf? Take her to Cardinal baseball games? Help her cheer on the Rams on Monday Night Football?

An endless stream of problems presented themselves.

“You brought us here? Rather than talking to me at home? Why?”

“We have a few questions.”

I was afraid to guess what that might mean. Time stood still. I was at the top of the roller coaster looking down, suspended, waiting.

In my peripheral vision, I saw Detweiler rub his mouth. He was struggling, trying to decide what to say. I did not look up. I was bracing myself for what was to come.

But I got it wrong.

“Mrs. Lowenstein, did your husband’s partner tell you money was missing from the business?”

My head snapped up. “What?” Stars danced in my field of vision.

Saliva flooded my mouth. I struggled not to bolt from my seat. I looked around desperately for the nearest trash can. Any second now, I’d heave my guts all over the floor. Where was the ladies’ restroom? I swallowed hard.

“Money? Missing? How much?”

“A half a million dollars.”

I jumped up and ran, praying I’d make it to the john.

~Continued~

Remember: You’ve only got two days to get this great price on Paper, Scissors, Death!

eorge. Not my George.

“How can you be so sure? I mean … don’t you need someone to identify the body? You probably just think it’s George. As soon as he answers my call, we’ll get this straightened out.” I reached for my cell phone and punched in his number one more time.

The phone rang and rang.

Suddenly, my whole body grew heavy, and I was incredibly tired. All I wanted was to go home and sleep for a million years.

Maybe this had all been a bad dream.

Detweiler sighed. “We got hold of your husband’s business partner, Mr. Ballard. I was there when he made the ID. If you’d like to see the body …”

I shook my head vehemently.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Lowenstein.” He didn’t press the issue. He could tell I was queasy. Or maybe he worried I’d make a scene.

Poor Bill. A part of me felt guilty that I hadn’t been the one to take on this intimate and final task of marital life. It seemed, in some way, the least I could have done for George. And Bill had done it for him. For me. For us. It seemed wrong. It felt like one more failure. I put a hand to my stomach and pressed hard to control the revolt within.

A strand of chestnut hair fell over Detweiler’s eyebrow, a dark accent mark to his unwavering gaze. “There’ll have to be an autopsy. The law requires one in these circumstances.” Detweiler took a sip of his coffee and set the mug down gently on the battered Formica tabletop. A circle of brown indicated the depleted level of the liquid. It reminded me of George’s wedding ring.

I fingered my own gold band. I was trying desperately to take in what the detective was saying. George. Was. Dead. What was I going to tell Sheila, my mother-in-law?

“Does George’s mother know?”

I did not want to be the one to tell Sheila her son was dead.

“Mr. Lowenstein’s mother has been notified.” The detective cleared his throat. “Evidently our police chief is an old friend.”

Thank God, I thought. She didn’t have to hear the news from a stranger.

“A woman at your house,” he turned to a page in his steno pad, “Mert Chambers told us where to find you.”

A thought flittered across the tickertape of my mind and fell on the floor in a pile of other ideas. How could we have Thanksgiving? George always carved the turkey. And what about Hanukkah? He loved shopping for his daughter. How would Anya learn about her Jewish heritage? Who would teach her golf? Take her to Cardinal baseball games? Help her cheer on the Rams on Monday Night Football?

An endless stream of problems presented themselves.

“You brought us here? Rather than talking to me at home? Why?”

“We have a few questions.”

I was afraid to guess what that might mean. Time stood still. I was at the top of the roller coaster looking down, suspended, waiting.

In my peripheral vision, I saw Detweiler rub his mouth. He was struggling, trying to decide what to say. I did not look up. I was bracing myself for what was to come.

But I got it wrong.

“Mrs. Lowenstein, did your husband’s partner tell you money was missing from the business?”

My head snapped up. “What?” Stars danced in my field of vision.

Saliva flooded my mouth. I struggled not to bolt from my seat. I looked around desperately for the nearest trash can. Any second now, I’d heave my guts all over the floor. Where was the ladies’ restroom? I swallowed hard.

“Money? Missing? How much?”

“A half a million dollars.”

I jumped up and ran, praying I’d make it to the john.

~Continue~

Remember: The 99 cent price is good for two days only, Aug. 23 (Wed.) and Aug. 24 (Thurs.)
 

 

Excerpt from Handmade, Holiday, Homicide

Book #10 in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series

 
by Joanna Campbell Slan
 
 
 

 
People think that being pregnant is
all about your growing belly, but the truth is, it also messes with your head.
It’s like for every inch my waistband expands, I lose ten points of my IQ.
Maybe it’s because I don’t get much sleep anymore. My skin itches, the baby
pokes me with his feet, and the indigestion causes a burning in my throat.
Don’t even get me started on the hormones. Whatever the scientific reason for
my brain fog, I’m just not as sharp as usual.

My fiancé Detective Chad Detweiler
and I were lying in bed talking one night a couple of weeks before Christmas,
when he said, “I’ve been thinking about baby names.”

“Oh, you have?”

“Yes, in fact, I’ve been giving
it a lot of thought. I think we ought to name our son Helmut Detweiler.”

Thank goodness it was dark. I could
feel my mouth flop open. I couldn’t believe what he was saying. “Name our
son what?”

“Helmut Englebert Detweiler.
That’s a good, strong German name.”

I couldn’t even respond; I was that
stunned.

Detweiler continued, “We could
call him Mutt for short.”

I gasped.

“Mutt Detweiler. It has a
certain ring to it,” he said.

The bed started shaking.

Detweiler was laughing.

“You!” I pummeled him with
my fists. “You had me going.”

“Yeah,” he said,
chuckling. “You believed me!”

I sighed. “Wow. For a minute
there, I was really worried.”

Detweiler rolled over and raised
himself on his elbows so he could stare down at me. “You shouldn’t have
been. You know I can’t name our kid without your approval.”

“And you guessed I wouldn’t be
in favor of Mutt.”

“Yeah, I guessed.”

I raised my head to meet his lips
and kissed him. “Well, you guessed right.”


Chapter 2

Wednesday, December 1

 

“My fingers are crossed,”
I whispered, holding up my right hand, while Ester grabbed my left. I leaned
over my friend to tell her granddaughter, “Good luck, Caitlyn!”

All eyes watched the front of the
room, as the representative from the St. Louis Art Museum stepped to the
podium.

“Now the moment we’ve all been
waiting for. I’m pleased to announce the winner of this year’s Demski Award,
including a four-year scholarship to Indiana University in Bloomington,
Indiana,” he said, smoothing his red and navy silk tie nervously. A
volunteer handed him an envelope, and I sneaked another peek at Caitlyn. Like
her grandmother, Ester Field, she has a round face and vivid blue eyes. Caitlyn
was biting her lower lip in anticipation, and I couldn’t blame her. This
scholarship meant the world to her. It also meant a pile of money, as it would
trade the winner’s piece of art for a four year, all expenses paid scholarship.

Caitlyn had inherited her
grandmother’s love of crafting. In fact, it was Ester who started the Crafting
Cuties twenty years ago, two years before Caitlyn was born. Since then the
number of members had dwindled to four regulars, but even so, the CC enjoyed
themselves. They got together once a month to work on projects and to share
craft ideas. Okay, some of their end products were corny, but many were very
nice. The women offered each other a great support network. Caitlyn had grown
up at her grandmother’s knee, trying her hand at all sorts of crafts.

Eventually, she’d settled on
sculpting.

To the left of us was Caitlyn’s
entry for the Demski Award, the highest honor you could achieve as an art
student in the metro-St. Louis area. On a three-foot high plinth sat the
sculpture of a girl walking beside a lion as her one hand rested on its mane.
How Caitlyn had pulled off such a remarkable piece was beyond all my
imaginings. Ester told me that her granddaughter had spent day after day at the
St. Louis Zoo watching the lions, studying them, and sketching them as they
moved around their enclosure. I wouldn’t doubt it. A lot of student work is
derivative, and frankly, it looks second generation, but Caitlyn’s “Girl
with a Lion” fairly vibrated with life. She had managed to capture both
the majesty of the king of beasts, and the innocence of the young woman.

Rising above us on its column, the
statue was truly breath-taking.  Since
I’m short, I found myself staring up into the jaws of the lion, admiring the
sharp teeth and the curl of his tongue. The details impressed me, from the
furled edges of his lips as they bordered his mouth to the way his heels
hovered over the platform. Lions are digitigrades or toewalkers, so the backs
of their feet never touch the ground. Caitlyn had taken such care with his mane
and the tuft of his tail that you could make out the individual strands of
hair. Unthinkingly, I leaned in, trying to see her work more closely.

“Please stand back,
ma’am,” said a guard wearing a navy blue uniform.

“Sorry.” I stepped away
from the artwork and turned my full attention to the presentation. The small
meeting room was packed with people, all waiting to hear who had won the
scholarship. The work of six students was represented, but Caitlyn’s was the
only three-dimensional piece of art. That alone made it a winner in my book,
but honestly, I couldn’t imagine that the judges weren’t impressed by her
effort.

 The presenter jammed his finger under the flap
of the envelope. No one made a sound. Even Eudora, Ester’s sister, was quiet
for once. That’s really saying something, because Eudora needs to be the center
of attention. When I tried to teach the Crafting Cuties about Zentangle, Eudora
had refused to shut up. I had to talk over her to give my instructions.

But that had been the least of the
problems that Eudora had caused. When I asked her to be careful and move away
from the display table, Eudora laughed. Two seconds later, she dumped a large
plastic cup of cola all over my work, carelessly pouring her favorite beverage
over my pen and ink drawings.

I glanced over to see what Eudora
was up to. She sat perfectly still in her motorized scooter on the outskirts of
the crowd. When the gentleman stepped to the podium, the group had taken two
steps forward, closer to the front of the room. Everyone wanted to hear what he
had to say, and even with a microphone in front of them, sometimes people
forget to talk into it.

I studied Eudora for a minute and
noted the surly tilt of her chin. Given how nasty she was, it was hard to
believe that Ester and Caitlyn were part of the same family. Like her sister
and her grand-niece, Eudora had a round face, but her eyes were a cross between
green and blue. But none of Eudora’s features could be thought of as kind,
because as far as I could tell, she didn’t have a kind bone in her body.
Thinking back, I couldn’t remember hearing her say one kind word to anybody.

Fortunately, Eudora seemed to have
realized this was Caitlyn’s time to shine, because for once, her lips were
sealed. She sat there pouting on the padded seat of her motorized scooter and
stared straight ahead.

The ripping of paper took my
attention back to the man on the podium. He’d jammed his finger under the flap
of the envelope. Now he extracted a notecard and scanned the message. Clearing
his throat, the presenter said, “I’m pleased to announce that this year’s
Demski Art Scholarship goes to—”

I squeezed Ester’s hand.

“Caitlyn Robinson!”

“Oh! Oh! Oh!” Caitlyn
threw her hand over her mouth. Tears sprang from her eyes as she turned to
Ester. “Bubbie, can you believe it? Thank you, thank you for encouraging
me. I would have never tried for this without you!”

The two women, old and young,
grabbed each other in a happy embrace.

Over the hubbub of the crowd, I
heard a motor rev.

What
idiot chose to vacuum the carpet?
I wondered.

“Congratulations,
Caitlyn,” said another young artist, a young woman coming up from behind
to give Caitlyn a hug.

The motor revved again. This time louder.

“Way to go, Caitlyn!” said
a spotty-faced boy as he clapped the winner on the back.

Caitlyn blushed a deep crimson.
“Thanks, Eitan.”

“Stop it, ma’am,” said a
deep voice behind us.

I didn’t care to turn around and
look at the mischief maker. Instead, all my energy was focused on Caitlyn as
she graciously accepted one congratulations after another. To my joy, the
losers all seemed happy for the girl. Most of them even admitted that she was
by far the most worthy candidate for the Demski.

“Can you believe it?”
Ester wiped her eyes with a shaking hand. “My grandbaby’s work will be
here in the art museum for everyone to see and enjoy. Best of all, she’ll be
able to go away to college. She’s been wanting to go to U of I ever since I
took her down to Brown County to see all the artists. I hate to have her so far
away, but she’ll get a good education there. Maybe even be able to make a
living doing what she loves.”

“It’s unbelievable,” I
agreed, thinking back and remembering the beautiful album Ester had made of the
trip she and her granddaughter had taken together. “That statue is
fantastic. I took a few good photos of it. I can’t wait to show my fri—”

But my sentence was interrupted by a
loud crash.

All of us turned toward the noise.

“Ahh!” screamed a woman.

The crowd parted.

On the floor, in a million pieces,
was Caitlyn’s statue.

Right beside the mess sat Eudora Field.
She had both hands on the steering wheel of her scooter, and she wore a great
big grin on her face.
 
< > < > < >
 
Pre-order your copy today! Go to http://www.tinyurl.com/HandmadeHH for a December 15, 2014 release.

Monday's the Last Day to Get INK, RED, DEAD Absolutely Free!

An excerpt from Ink, Red, Dead, newly revised and expanded, by Joanna Campbell Slan. (Grab it before the price goes up to $9.99! Go to http://tinyurl.com/inkred )

 
“You
need a Diet Dr Pepper?” asked Dodie as she set one at my elbow.

          “You read my mind,” I said.

          “Whatever it is that’s bothering you,
Sunshine, you’ll feel better about it when you’ve gotten more rest. Things
always look their worst when you’re tired.” Her large hand patted my shoulder
as she scooted a cold aluminum can my way. I took the cold Diet Dr Pepper and
then realized, this behavior was totally out of character for Dodie.

          “Sheila called you.”

          “Yes, she did.” My boss didn’t even
have the good grace to look embarrassed.

          “That’s not fair!”

          “She was worried about you.”

          “I bet.”

          “You ran over her neighbor’s mailbox,”
said Dodie. “And you kept on going.”

          “I wondered what that
bumpity-bump-bump-bump noise was.”

          “Now you know. That was the sound of a
once sturdy four-by-four being dragged along a city street. In Ladue.”

          “Argh,” I groaned and rested my
forehead on my arms again. “That’ll be an expensive fix.”

          “Not really. Robbie and the neighbor
discussed the damage. Seems that the neighbor has wanted to put up a brick
mailbox stand for years. Robbie offered to help. You’re in the clear,
Sunshine.”

          “Argh,” I groaned again, but the Diet
Dr Pepper was definitely lifting my spirits. “Dodie, do you think there’s only
one person in the world for each of us? A soul mate? Just one?”

          She fiddled with her Coke can. “That’s
what I tell Horace. That he’s my one and only.”

          “So you do believe it.”

          “No, but I’m a good liar. Especially
when it counts. There’s no reason for Horace to think he’s replaceable. He’s
not. And I’m not about to go looking. But do I really believe there’s only one
person for each of us? No. There are millions upon millions of people in this
world. I think you could love and live with at least a handful.”

          I wiped my eyes and took a big drink
of my Dr Pepper. “A handful.”

          “At least. Now get to work. I’m not
paying you to sit around and wax philosophical.”

          She’d almost made it back to the stock
room when I called out, “Dodie? Thank you.”

          “It’s okay, Sunshine. My therapist’s
license never came through. The advice I gave you is worth exactly what you
paid for it.”

         

Book Excerpt from PHOTO, SNAP, SHOT

Book Excerpt from
Photo, Snap, Shot:
A Kiki Lowenstein Scrap-N-Craft Mystery

By Joanna Campbell Slan

Photo, Snap, Shot
is now available for pre-ordering at Amazon.com Release date is May 2010, so why not order it now and surprise yourself?

It’s the 3rd book in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series. Paper, Scissors, Death is the 1st and Cut, Crop & Die is the 2nd.

Chapter 1

“Anya is all right now,” said my daughter’s advisor, “but you need to come pick her up…please. Immediately.”

Three phrases guaranteed to panic any mother: 1.) The babysitter called and there’s a problem. 2.) There’s something on the back of your skirt. 3.) Your child is all right now.
If Anya was all right now, what on earth had happened earlier?
“Whoa. What’s up? Is Anya okay?” I spoke as I waved my keys at my boss, Dodie Goldfader, who owns Time in a Bottle, St. Louis’s premier scrapbook store.
“Ye—es.” The advisor hesitated. “Anya’s okay. But…she found a body.”
My world came to a skidding halt. I froze in the middle of the store and yelled, “She found a WHAT?”
“A body. A corpse. Uh, someone died. Was killed. In the balcony of the Delacroix Theatre here at school. Could you come get her?”
I smacked my cell phone closed and ran, sprinted really, through our stockroom, doing high hurdle jumps over boxes of scrapbook supplies. My co-worker Bama followed me with her eyes.
I heard Dodie calling behind me, “Do you need me to drive?”
Bama yelled, “Kiki? You all right?”
Gracie, my harlequin Great Dane, jumped to her feet and yodeled as I ran past.
But I didn’t pause for a second.
My daughter needed me. Twelve-year-old girls should not be stumbling over dead bodies.

Chapter 2

Okay, I said to myself, calm down. Anya is fine now, I repeated under my breath. I flipped on the radio to hear the dulcet tones of the local NPR broadcaster announcing the next program. If they weren’t breaking in with a news bulletin, it couldn’t be a crisis. Or could it?
I had this sneaking suspicion something was rotten at CALA, Charles and Anne Lindbergh Academy, the hoity-toity private school my mother-in-law Sheila shells out big bucks for my daughter to attend. CALA is the educational stomping ground of the veddy, veddy rich here in St. Louis. I bet there was no news about a death at the school because the “powers that be” had decided to keep this quiet. You can do that—at least for a short time–when you occupy the top rung of the food chain.
Taking a corner with my ancient red BMW, I thanked the good lord for its superior handling ability. The car was too old to have Blue Book value, which was exactly why I’d hung onto it after my husband met his untimely demise and I’d been plunged into poverty. I did a couple more two-wheel screeching turns, ran a couple of orange lights (that’s when yellow turns red on you), slipped between two parked police cars, and slid into a parking spot near the portico that marked the Upper School Office of the school.
On my way in, I stepped on the school seal.
I was supposed to bend down and kiss it.
Uh, no.
My Keds gripped the marble of the hallowed halls as I barreled past the dean’s office. A tight knot of crime scene investigators carried cameras and miniature yellow cones with numbers on them. And yeah, I heard them yell at me to stop, but what did I care? I needed to find my daughter. So I ran through the open double doors of the balcony and didn’t give one moment’s thought to the crowd on my heels. Nor did I stop when I saw the yellow crime tape. Instead, I did a hurdler’s jump right over the top of the plastic barrier. Out of the corner of my eyes I noticed the expression on the nearest cop’s face. He was impressed.
As well he should be. I’d cleared the tape in one and not broken stride. I’m not naturally athletic, but because I was concerned about my child, I was super-charged. So, I came down on the other side of the barrier and didn’t miss a step. I took two long strides into the balcony and nearly stumbled over the medical examiner and an assistant. (I recognized the M.E. from pictures in the paper.) They were carefully flipping a corpse onto its back.
The expression on Sissy Gilchrist’s face was one of pure surprise. I probably looked pretty shocked myself. The difference was I’d get over it, and Sissy wouldn’t, seeing as how she was dead.
“Who are you?” The M.E. glared at me. “This is a crime scene. Get her out of here.” She gestured angrily to a cop who now had me by the forearm. His grip hurt.
“My daughter…” I sputtered. “My child found…her.” And I pointed to the dead woman on the white sheet. “The school called. I’m Kiki Lowenstein. Anya’s mother.”
The cop pulled me away. “Your daughter’s fine. We have her in an office.”
But before I turned away, I got a good look at Sissy…or her remains. The back of her head was a pulpy, bloody mess. Atop her long blonde hair sat a crown of carmine. Moving her body had created an uneven streak of red which bore a strong resemblance to Picasso paint stroke.
The cop led me toward the hallway. “Ma’am, you need to come with me.”
“Right,” I murmured. A wave of dizziness hit me suddenly, and I felt a little sick. Then came a thought: “Someone killed my husband last year. And he’s still on the loose. Are you sure my daughter’s okay?”
“She’s fine.” A familiar voice answered. I stepped away from the cop who was towing me along and stared up into the eyes of Detective Chad Detweiler.
He sighed and rubbed his chin. His Heineken bottle green eyes with their gold flecks regarded me sadly. “I got here immediately after they called. I’ve been talking with her. She’s shook up, but she’s okay.”
I nodded. Detweiler and I stood there. Motionless. Silent. Industry continued around us, with investigators marking spots, taking photos, making notes. We were two rocks in a creek, dividing the flowing water.
I hadn’t seen him in months. In fact, I’d purposely avoided him. I’d dodged his phone calls and torn up his letters. I’d fallen in love with him after he investigated my husband’s murder. He’d been a frequent visitor to my home, a friend to Anya, and very nearly something more to me. But when I discovered he was married, that was it. The end. C’est fini. Cut!
But here’s the truth: I was glad, really glad, that he’d come to my daughter’s rescue. There was no one else on earth who could have handled this situation better than he. Of that I was sure.
Now I was certain Anya was safe. At least temporarily.
“Where’s Anya?”
“She’s in the middle school nurse’s office.”
“What happened?” I asked.
He took my elbow and guided me down the halls. “Two girls—Anya and Matild
a Earhart–were in the hall on their way to class. Coming back from a session in the library. They are working on a project together. They heard a scream. They ran into the balcony area and found the nurse, Thelma Selsner, bent over the deceased.”
“Sissy Gilchrist.”
“You know her?”
I gave a so-so wiggle-waggle of my hand. My fingers shook a little.
“The girls immediately went for help.”
“Why was Nurse Selsner in the balcony? Did she hear or see something?” As I spoke, my stomach flipped over. I had a delayed response to seeing a body. “Uh, excuse me,” I said and did a fast trot down the hall and around the corner to a ladies room, all the while praying I’d make it in time. Which I did.
When I returned, Detweiler acted like nothing happened. He handed me a Diet Coke. “They were out of Diet Dr Pepper.”
He’d remembered!
I sipped the spicy blend gratefully and tugged at my blouse self-consciously. Over the summer, I’d embarked on an ambitious plan to forget Detweiler. I called it my “eat my way to nirvana” scheme. The plan including eating everything and anything that wasn’t nailed down. (I did draw the line at dog yummies. Gracie, my Great Dane, had kept a worried eye on me.) I wasn’t a “Rats, I ate an entire carton of ice cream” type of girl. I was more of a “Gee, I started at the top shelf of the refrigerator and ate my way through to the chiller drawer” sort of snarfing fool.
Twice I’d made myself physically sick by overeating. Once I’d had food poisoning. But those were minor inconveniences. Mainly, I just kept chewing and swallowing. And now all my clothes were too tight. I bet I looked like a sausage ready to split its casing.
Ugh.
“Mrs. Selsner heard voices from the theatre. She’s the Upper School Nurse. Her office is kitty-corner from the balcony. She wondered what was up and decided to check things out.” Detweiler sighed. He wiped his face. A crease was forming between his eyes. It would be one of many.
“When the nurse screamed, the girls had just left the restroom and were in the hallway right outside the theatre. The kids ran in to see what was happening.”
That was all the police had. No one had seen Sissy go into the balcony. It was supposed to stay locked unless there was a program.
No one had seen anyone leave the balcony. There were no bloody footprints to follow—and none on the carpet. At least, not prints obvious to the naked eye. Now the crime scene folks would be busy charting, gridding, photographing and examining the area, but unlike forensic teams on television, the fruits of their work would take weeks, even months.
“The girls didn’t see much. Just Mrs. Selsner screaming and bent over someone.” Detweiler had read my mind. “Maybe some blood spatter on the carpet.”
Thank heavens for small favors.
No one suspicious had been reported by the teachers. Or the janitorial staff. Or the administration. The murderer had somehow blended into our tight St. John’s Knits community.
What would happen next? How would the school respond? What would CALA do?
“How did she die?”
He shrugged. “Too early to tell.”
I reached past him for the handle of the Middle School Nurse’s Office. “It was murder, wasn’t it?
And the killer is running loose, right?”
He nodded.
Through some superhuman effort, I managed to keep myself from falling into his arms and sobbing.
Oh, but I wanted to.
I did not need this. Anya and I had been through so much with the murder of her father, the burglarizing of our home, and the ongoing threats from the person who had master-minded my husband’s death. We’d recently moved. It had taken us all summer to “normalize.” And we’d turned our backs on Detweiler after I’d discovered he was married—a “small” fact he’d neglected to mention although he’d been a frequent visitor to our home and my fantasies.
Okay, it was good that he’d been here for Anya. But it was bad for ME that he’d shown up. I wasn’t about to let down my guard. Not when it had taken me all summer to put him out of my mind.
Right. Who was I fooling?

—30—

Photo, Snap, Shot (release May 2010) is now available for pre-ordering from Amazon. Go to: http://www.amazon.com/Photo-Snap-Shot-Lowenstein-Scrap-N-Craft/dp/0738719765/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1261193377&sr=8-6


Photo, Snap, Shot: A Kiki Lowenstein Scrap-N-Craft Mystery
by Joanna Campbell Slan © 2009. Midnight Ink, an imprint of Llewellyn Publications, 2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125. Used with permission and the best wishes of the publisher.