Note: My friend Alyssa Maxwell has a new mystery, Murder at the Breakers. Thanks to her generosity we have an except below--and one lucky person will win an autographed copy.
Your friend, Joanna
approached. At twenty minutes to twelve, liveried footmen and hired waiters
began moving like a silent army through the Great Hall, wielding trays filled
with glasses of Uncle Cornelius’s finest champagne. In the confusion, I lost
sight of Neily. I spotted Grace’s rich, bejeweled coif across the room, but
only briefly. Then she, too, disappeared from view, though she might merely
have been obscured by the crowd. If the two were up to something, Aunt Alice
would have to catch them at it herself. I had more pressing concerns.
Alice herself fueled my unease when she appeared at my shoulder. “We’re nearly
ready to toast Gertrude and I can’t find Cornelius anywhere. Did you see which
way he went?”
no. I’d been so concerned with Neily, Reggie, and Katie, I’d let Uncle
Cornelius slip away. With less than twenty minutes now before midnight, surely
he’d return any moment. But if he didn’t . . .
might just then be making his way up one of the service staircases. Should I
try to warn him that Uncle Cornelius was nowhere to be found? But how could I
do that when I had no idea which room marked Brady’s destination? I thought
back to what he’d told me that morning. He wished to return something he’d
taken . . . borrowed . . . stolen . . .something to do with railroad business. Then it had to have come from
either of two places: Uncle Cornelius’s office, or his bedroom, both on the
might have gone running up the grand staircase to search for Brady, but the
second-floor rooms all opened onto a gallery that looked down over the Great
Hall. I couldn’t risk being seen and followed, especially by a family member.
Alice gave me the perfect excuse to leave the Great Hall and devise a plan.
“Emmaline, be an angel and check the billiard room. Tell that husband of mine
if he doesn’t come at once he’ll spoil Gertrude’s night.”
set off at nearly a run, my haste raising numerous eyebrows. Several men
occupied the billiard room, but Uncle Cornelius wasn’t one of them. Instead of
seeking him elsewhere on the first floor, I slipped quickly out through the
double doors onto the rear piazza and then down the steps onto the lawn. The
day’s rain had left the grass sodden, and moisture instantly soaked through my
embroidered dancing slippers. They’d be ruined, but I hadn’t time to lament the
fact. Toes squelching, I circled the side of the house, looking up as I neared
the front. The second story was dark except . . . there! A beam of light passed
across the windows of Uncle Cornelius’s bedroom. Brady must be inside.
was about to hoist my skirts, scamper around to the front door, steal inside
and up the service stairs when the light suddenly went out. I waited, staring
into the darkness, my ears pricked. “Brady,” I whispered—stupidly, for at that
distance and through the closed balcony door he could not have heard me. A
minute or two passed. I decided my best course was indeed to run inside, but
just then a sharp thwack from above rooted me to the spot. Two or three more
clunks followed. Moments later, the balcony door swung open and sounds of a
scuffle burst from inside the room.
You!” a man’s voice exclaimed.
I cried out hoarsely, too frightened now for discretion.
came a grunt, more scuffling, another thwack—louder and sharper now, like a
gunshot piercing the quiet—and then the thud of something or someone hitting
the stone balustrade. My heart pounding, I scrambled backward to get a better
view, and as I looked up again, a dark silhouette tumbled over the railing and
plummeted to the ground at my feet.
cried out, then pressed both hands to my mouth. My heart pummeled inside my
chest, and I stood motionless, breathless, staring down at the black heap
before me, my brain thrashing to make sense of what had just happened.
trembling fingers I lifted my hems from the wet ground and tiptoed closer,
afraid to look, unable to turn away. The night closed around me like a fist,
blocking out the house, the lawns, the nearby drive crowded with sleek horses
and posh carriages. The music and lively hum of voices drifting from the piazza
doorway faded. The crickets were silenced. I heard only the distant rumble of
the ocean striking the cliffs at the base of the property.
haze swam before my eyes, and through it I could make out scant details about
the figure sprawled facedown on the ground: the formal tailcoat and tapering
black trousers, the buffed dress shoes, the dark but graying hair. A notion
rose like bile to choke me.
Editor’s Note: The
Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series features a scrapbooking mom whose creativity
isn’t limited to papercrafts. Part I of Kiki Lowenstein and the Penny Pincher first appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Chicagoland Scrapbooker. Now we're sharing it with you!
saw this online and bought it for the store. I thought it appropriate,” said my
friend Clancy Whitehead, as she handed me a wrapped present. In her tailored
brown slacks, ivory silk blouse, and camel-colored cardigan, Clancy was the
picture of elegance.
I’m still wearing my maternity pants with the elastic panels. Although I tell
myself that eventually the weight will come off, it’ll probably take forever.
I’ve been a little down lately, feeling a touch of the post-partum blues. That’s
probably one reason that Clancy bought me a gift.
low mood is silly, because I have so much to be thankful for. My name is Kiki
Lowenstein, and I own Time in a Bottle, a scrapbooking and crafts store in St.
Louis. I’m the mother of three adorable kids, including three-week-old Tyler
George, whom we call “Ty.” And my other half is a hunky cop, Detective Chad
is good, mainly.
starts the first of our Double-Dip Classes. Like the old Doublemint Gum
commercials, we’re offering not one but two fantastic learning experiences. I’m
excited about the projects I have planned for our scrapbookers. But I’m also a
tad worried, because Iona Lippman has signed up for both classes, since she can
be a bit rough around the edges.
on,” prompted Clancy. “Open the gift.”
my fingers carefully pried apart the pink polka dot tissue paper, I discovered
an adorable sign nestled inside: “All our guests please us. Some by their
coming, and some by their going.”
is definitely a ‘goer,’” said Clancy. “You can’t please her, Kiki. She’ll
always find something to complain about. That’s who she is. So just relax about
the classes tonight and try to have fun. Don’t let her ruin the evening.”
you,” I told my friend, “for everything.”
got all your prep done?” she asked. “Anything I can do?”
fine,” I said. “First we’re doing the Keepsake Recipe Album. The assignment was
for each scrapbooker to bring in a recipe that her family enjoys. A main dish.
She should also have a photo of the food. Of course, if that’s not possible,
we’ll work with just the recipe and leave a place on the scrapbook page for the
photo. I assume all of them have been in to choose their albums?”
Iona came in Friday. She doesn’t like the 8- by 8-inch size. She also didn’t
like the color of the album cover.” Clancy pulled up a chair across from my big
desk. Resting her face on her hands, she shrugged. “I told her you might have
suggestions for customizing the cover.”
the second class?” asked Clancy.
called Tips from Interior Designers,” I said, withdrawing my handout from the
bottom desk drawer. “Many interior designers use a 60-30-10 rule when working
with colors. The dominant shade should cover 60 percent of the page, then two
other colors would be 30 and 10 percent. I’m also showing the scrapbookers how
they can ‘translate’ a photo of an interior design into a scrapbook page
idea,” said Clancy. “I’m glad I’m staying for the evening.”
am too,” I said.
it happened, Clancy was a lifesaver. Two hours later, after listening to Iona
complain non-stop about her album, I was happy to have someone there with a
only do I hate everything about this album,” she said, “I don’t want a recipe
book full of main courses. My specialty is dessert.”
gritted my teeth. “Good. Since Valentine’s Day is next week, your assignment is
to bring your favorite dessert and its recipe.”
bring red velvet cake,” said Lisa Ferguson.
way!” shouted Iona. “I have my great-great-grandmother’s special red velvet
cake recipe. It’s been passed down from the oldest daughter to oldest daughter.
No one outside the family has ever seen it.”
I spread my hands in what I hope was a placating gesture. “You can both bring
your red velvet recipes. Since these are your personal cookbooks, duplication
won’t be a problem.”
won’t be any duplication,” sniffed Iona, as she tugged her sleeves over her
hands. Her fingers were chaffed and red from the cold. “My family recipe is
simply the best. It’s never been copied. Not even close.”
yourself,” said Lisa, as she adjusted her cowl neck sweater. The weather had
been unseasonably bitter. Most of my customers wore boots and gloves. Lisa was
no exception. She’d arrived bundled up in a parka.
contrast, Iona had worn a lightweight wool coat and kept her bare hands shoved
deeply into her pockets.
two women couldn’t have been more different. Iona bragged about every aspect of
her life from her husband’s upcoming retirement plans to her own free time for
crafting. Lisa had said nearly nothing. I knew she’d come straight from work,
and she kept checking the time because her babysitter had to leave promptly at nine.
that we have the matter of next week’s recipes settled,” I said, “Let’s turn
our attention to Part Two of our Double-Dip. If you’d open your page kits,
you’ll see I’ve already chosen your embellishments and paper for this cute
scrapbook page. Clancy is passing around a copy of HGTV Magazine with a picture
of the room that inspired this page.”
does it,” snarled Iona. “Kiki, every layout you do involves expensive
right,” added another customer, Avery Ailes. “I love scrapbooking but, gosh,
it’s so expensive. I’ve priced these embellishments. They aren’t cheap.”
shot me a look over the heads of our customers. I could read my friend’s
thoughts as easily as if she’d spoken to me: “Great…now what?”
Part II will appear in the Summer 2014 issue of Chicagoland Scrapbooker. Later this summer, we'll also post it here on this blog, so be sure to become a "follower" of the blog. To find out where to pick up your copy go to Chicagoland Scrapbooker (www.ChicagolandScrapbooker.com)