Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Stubborn Schoolhouse Spirit by Judy Nickles Excerpt

The Stubborn Schoolhouse Spirit (The Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series) by Judy Nickles
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When Penelope agrees to help her best friend Mary Lynn Hargrove, the mayor's wife, renovate the town's first school as a community center, she discovers the old building isn't quite as empty as it appears. Mary Lynn hears voices, and light bulbs and even flashlights go instantly dark at the bottom of the 13 steps leading to the basement. Is the town's founding father Jeremiah Bowden, who built the school, still around? Or his sister, Miss Daisy, the first teacher? Or is it someone—or something—more sinister? Then Sam telephones unexpectedly and tells Penelope to stay away from the place, but he won't tell her why. When she decides not to take his advice, she discovers she's rolled out a blueprint not for remodeling but for disaster.

Excerpt:

Penelope couldn’t look at her son without seeing his father: six feet of handsome with curly black hair and dark eyes that crinkled at the corners the way Travis’s had done, melting her resolve to be a virginal bride. Sometimes she wondered about Brad. He’d dated a lot of girls, even Shana Bayliss who’d taken up with Travis not long before the fire at Pembroke Point.
Now he was seeing Abigail Talbot, the librarian hired to replace Shana. Even her name sounded prim to Penelope. As far as she knew, her son’s bachelor pad in the new Primrose Apartments on Magnolia Street was just that, and she couldn’t help but hope nothing in skirts had ever seen inside of it.
Brad, still sporting his badge, cuffs, and nine-millimeter Glock on his belt, stepped through the door. “Hey, Pawpaw. Hello, Mother.”
“Hey, Brad.” Jake slapped his grandson’s muscular shoulder inside the tan suede sport coat. “Nice threads.”
“You should get one yourself,” the younger man said. “Forty-nine-ninety-five on sale at Blass’s.”
“Maybe I’ll just do that.”
“Don’t go in and blessed ask for threads, Daddy,” Penelope said. “You just don’t look like a hipster.”
Jake’s bottom lip came out briefly. Then he grinned. “Guess you think I’d be more at home singing Young at Heart with Jimmy Durante.”
“He’s dead, Pawpaw.”
Jake pouted again. “I know that, Brad.”
Brad winked at his grandfather. “What’s to eat around here?”
Penelope pushed back from the table. “I’ll warm up the macaroni and cheese and smoked sausage, but Daddy finished up the apple crisp.”
Brad shrugged out of his jacket and dropped it over the back of a chair. “Sounds good.”
“So what’s new in town?” Jake asked and sat down again.
“You should know. I saw you having coffee at the Daisy Café with the Toney Twins this afternoon.”
“I mean underground. Picked up anybody recently?”
“Only Mrs. Lawson’s cat Chester. Charged him with loitering in front of the Garden Market and released him the custody of his owner.”
“That cat is going to get blessed run over if he doesn’t stop wandering around town,” Penelope said, setting a plate in front of her son. The word ‘cat’ brought Abijah, the massive orange tabby, down from his perch in the bay window. He curled around against Bradley’s ankles.
“Don’t do that.” Brad toed the cat away. “Chester’s got a few lives left, I guess, but I’ve warned Mrs. Lawson half a dozen times about getting a city license for him. It smells good, Mother.”
“It is good. Don’t let it get cold.” She went to the pantry and dug out a box of graham crackers and a bag of marshmallows. “I’ll make you some smores for dessert. You want one, Daddy?”
Jake shook his head. “It’s almost time for Law and Order. If Brad doesn’t have anything more interesting to talk about that Lucille Lawson’s cat, I’m going on.”
Brad held his napkin in front of his half-full mouth. “I was teasing, Pawpaw. I have something you’ll get a big kick out of. The Sit-n-Swill is going to reopen.”
“Hot dog!” Jake swung back his chair and plopped himself down. “The Sitton boy finally sold it, did he?”
“The Sitton boy is older than your grandson, Daddy,” Penelope said. “So who bought it, Bradley?”
Brad drained his glass of milk and held it out for a refill. “A couple from Fayetteville. Marion and Millie Dancer.”
“What kind of name is that—Dancer?” Jake asked.
“Marion and Millie?” Penelope asked without finishing her thought.
Brad scowled. “They’re a married couple about your age.”
“From Fayetteville, you say? Why’d they come here?” Jake leaned toward his grandson.
“Not sure,” Brad said, digging into the generous helping of macaroni and cheese. “But I did hear he used to design women’s clothes, and his specialty was lingerie.”

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