Read A VENEER OF MURDER (Mrs. Fix It Mysteries Book 3) Online
Authors: Belle Knudson
A VENEER OF MURDER
Mrs. Fix It Mysteries, Book 3
Copyright © 2015
All Rights Reserved
. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
Table of Contents
Kate Flaherty looked around the wedding reception and wondered when it would be polite to leave. An extrovert at heart, she still liked to be by herself sometimes. Dean and Jessica Wentworth were about to cut the cake. Kate figured she could leave after that.
The ceremony had been beautiful. If Kate knew where her missing husband was, she might be here reminiscing about their wedding. As she discovered more about the man, she wasn’t sure that her wedding or her marriage were nearly as happy as she’d thought.
She wished Scott York, her friend and the chief of police, was here. At least she’d have someone to talk to. And someone to fend off the drunk divorced man who had been keeping an eye on her all night.
He wouldn’t have been invited since Dean, the groom, had been the reason Scott’s marriage had ended in divorce. When the woman wound up dead, Dean decided to settle in Rock Ridge where he met Jessica.
Now they were married and heading off for a short weekend honeymoon, with a bigger trip planned for later on in the year.
Kate sighed heavily. It wasn’t that she didn’t like happy endings. She just was ambivalent until she sorted out her own life. She hoped to find her husband soon, or reach the point where she could declare him legally dead, but neither option was going to happen anytime soon.
Carly, Kate’s best friend, and Larry, her new beau, were just coming off the dance floor that was being cleared for the cake. Kate shifted her gaze to Jessica, who looked beautiful in an off-white gown. Kate thought she should know what it was made of, but she was not a girly girl. No, she was a handywoman who spent most of her time in overalls or coveralls.
Jessica fed Dean first and was nice. She didn’t shove it in his face. It was Dean’s turn next. He put a touch of icing on her nose then licked it off.
Get a room.
Kate chuckled as the rest of the crowd groaned.
Meghan Tully, the town librarian, sat down next to Kate. “I’m in the process of inputting all of the books into the new computer system. I came across something you might be interested in.”
Kate had taken out every home improvement book she could to learn more about fixing things for her handyman business. Her next expansion involved home staging. She was learning how to stage a house to get the maximum price for it. Meghan had been an invaluable resource for her.
They’d also become friends, having dinner every few weeks. Carly had been scarce lately, but Kate couldn’t blame her. She was in love. Kate sighed again.
“I don’t want to say anything here.”
“Is it a new book for me to take out?” Kate said. She was eager to learn more about fixing household items. She had recently learned to fix toasters which made many people happy. No one wanted to throw away the ones they had because they worked so well. Newer toasters were crap.
“No, nothing like that. Just meet me at the library.”
“After the reception?”
Kate was feeling melancholy today and didn’t want to go home to an empty house. Her sons were back in school for the fall. People around her were enjoying themselves, and for some reason, she couldn’t get into this celebration, even though she was happy for Jessica and Dean.
She just wasn’t happy herself. Even if her business was taking off. That should have grounded her. Instead it just reminded her what a mess her personal life was.
“Yes, or it can wait until tomorrow,” Meghan said.
“You have me intrigued now,” Kate said.
She was in no hurry to go home, and if Meghan didn’t mind meeting her tonight, then she would. That way she didn’t have to break up her day of repairs tomorrow. She didn’t used to work Saturdays, but her business was booming, so she had added the sixth day. She didn’t really have any hobbies. She figured she might as well work.
“Don’t worry. I just want to show you something that your husband took out. It might be significant or it might not.”
“Now I’m really intrigued.”
Anything that could point her in the direction of her husband would be good. She needed to close the door on that part of her life. She hadn’t felt the need to move on until recently, but that might have to do with Scott being back in her life.
They’d been high school sweethearts until he left for college. She hadn’t seen him in years, and now he was back in Rock Ridge. She didn’t know what she felt for him, but it didn’t matter. She couldn’t pursue anything until her husband was found. In two years she could declare him legally dead if he didn’t surface by that point.
Originally, she’d hoped to find him, but now she wasn’t so sure she wanted that. The guilt bothered her, but less with each day. Less as she spent more time with Scott.
“After the reception then. I’m going to get some more wine. You want some?”
She didn’t like to drink anything if she was driving. Having to be a role model for teen boys stopped her from being reckless. They only had a mother at this point. She didn’t want them to lose her also.
Meghan left her at the table. Kate looked around. Everyone was having a good time. Jessica and Dean were clearly happy. They were all smiles. Kate was overjoyed that they’d found each other.
Jessica had not been happy with her first husband. Now she was ecstatic with Dean. Everyone deserved a happily ever after. Would she ever get hers?
Damn Greg. Where was he? Why hadn’t he stuck around? His boys needed him. Scott had stepped in this summer during the brief period they’d been home. They liked Scott and that make Kate feel better about spending time with him.
Kate turned her thoughts back to what Meghan had said. She wished the librarian had given her more of an idea of what she was going to show her. Kate’s curiosity was getting the best of her. The cake was being passed out. She’d take a few bites then leave if she saw Meghan leaving.
With a glass of wine in her hand, Meghan returned. She looked harried.
“You okay?” Kate asked.
Meghan waved her hand. Her face looked flush, like she was upset. “Just had a run-in with Celia Johnson. She owes a lot in back fines.”
Celia was a tough woman. Even if she liked you, she wasn’t warm and fuzzy. She’d been a nurse for years. Kate wasn’t sure if she’d spent all of her compassion on that job and had none left, or if she never had any and the job made her even more cynical.
Kate remembered her being a little less that way when she and Carly were younger, but then she’d worked most of the time so Kate hadn’t seen that much of her. Rumor had it that Celia had been asked to retire. Kate didn’t know for sure. It seemed like a tacky subject to bring up with Carly.
“You can stop working at some point,” Kate said.
Meghan laughed. “Yeah? Do you?”
“I’m not working right now,” Kate said.
Her gaze went around the room. “For a change.”
Kate laughed. She really shouldn’t be calling anyone else a workaholic when she was one. She dug into her cake and ended up finishing it. Buttercream icing could make anyone feel better.
“You demolished that,” Meghan said. “And you stay skinny.”
“My job keeps me from gaining too much weight.”
Not that anyone had seen her naked in years. She wasn’t keeping herself fit for anyone; she just had a job that kept her moving. Not that she was concerned about her appearance. When you worked in overalls, you couldn’t be vain.
“Yes,” Kate said.
“I’ll meet you in the library in fifteen minutes,” Meghan said.
Kate waved then went out the door into the warm evening.
Kate strolled down the sidewalk away from the Knights of Columbus Hall where the reception was taking place. She wasn’t in high heels, so it was okay to walk and enjoy the waning summer. The sky was a light blue with a few puffy clouds floating by. Kind of how she felt at the moment—like she was floating.
Not in her professional life. No, she was making strides there, but in her personal life. That part of her life would have to wait. She waved at a few people as she walked toward the Rock Ridge Municipal Complex. The library wasn’t in the same building, but it was across the parking lot from court and the rest of the things a town needed to provide to its residents.
A man and his son were out for a walk and in deep discussion about current events. Kate liked living in a small town. She might not know everyone well, but she recognized most of them. That’s how she knew the man she suddenly saw sitting outside a café and nursing a beer was not from Rock Ridge.
He looked to be staring at her, but his mirrored sunglasses didn’t let her see for sure. She looked away then back. He hadn’t moved, but his head tracked her progress down the street.
Kate was under no illusion that she was a traffic-stopping beautiful woman, so the stranger’s gaze unnerved her. Maybe he knew her and was trying to figure out where from. She smiled at him as she came to the spot across the street from him.
He had a leather jacket on which seemed inappropriate for late August in Pennsylvania. His moustache had gray in it, as did his long hair that was tied back in a ponytail. He wasn’t her type, and she doubted she was his type.
Since he hadn’t moved the whole time she was walking, he didn’t pose a threat. His gaze merely made her uncomfortable. She walked on, but felt his eyes on her as she reached the municipal complex. Shuddering, she glanced back, but no one sat at the table he’d been occupying.
She looked around, but didn’t see him. She shrugged. Her overactive imagination was getting the best of her. Nonetheless, with a few minutes to spare before she was to meet Meghan, Kate opted to stop in the police station.
She was allowed in without questioning. She headed to a familiar office and knocked on the open door. Scott’s desk was covered in paperwork, which was why he was working on a Friday night.
“Reception over?” Scott asked when she seated herself opposite him.
“Almost. They cut the cake then I was done. I’m meeting Meghan at the library. She has something to show me,” Kate said.
Scott, as usual, gave her his full attention. “You two spend a lot of time together. I’m getting jealous.”
“You have no place to be jealous.”
“You haven’t started batting for the other team?”
Kate laughed. She liked men way too much. “Why, because I like to fix things? I don’t dress up?”
His gaze took in her outfit. “You’re dressed up right now. And looking mighty pretty.” He looked her over again. “I think you might be the most beautiful woman in Rock Ridge.”
“Thank you. No, Meghan said she had to show me a book that Greg took out then never returned.”
His face turned serious. “You think it’s significant?”
“It might be. I’ll let you know.” She remembered the guy at the café. “I had a strange encounter just now. Not really an encounter.”
“Then what was it?” His blue eyes studied her intently.
She thought back to her stroll to the police station. “I was walking down Main Street. There was this biker dude at the café. He stared at me openly.”
Scott didn’t get upset. He shrugged. “Maybe he thought you were hot.”
“Really? I was probably at least a decade older than he was.”
“Maybe he likes cougars.”
“Scott, stop. It really made me feel uncomfortable.”
Scott chuckled. “Okay, sorry. There is a group camping outside of town at the campground. I’ve been keeping an eye on them as have the state cops. At this point, they haven’t done anything, but they do have this campout every year around this time.”
“Do they at least spend money in Rock Ridge?”
“They do and thus far there haven’t been any problems. Word on the street is that they have a new, younger leader, so we’ve been warned.”
“No, but a group that operates on the fringe of society, let’s say. They stockpile guns and are prepared for battle.”
Kate mulled that over. “Do they open carry?”