This post was contributed by author Leslie Nagel. Her cozy mystery, The Advice Column Murders, is currently on tour with Dollycas Escape into a Good Book.
Email Sent: April 8, 2:49 a.m.
To: Francesca Cartolano Bright <BrightGirl@hotfox.com>
From: Charlotte Elizabeth Carpenter <Charley@oldhat.com>
Subject: Insomnia Sucks
You can see from the time stamp that I am awake in the middle of the night—again. There is so much rattling around in my brain right now, I’m surprised the noise hasn’t awakened Daddy and Lawrence. Writing things out helps clear my head, and since you are the world’s best listener/reader of late night confessionals, here goes.
First of all, I’m growing more and more concerned about the renovations to Old Hat. It’s nothing to do with the workmanship; Dale Penwater and his crew are the best. But it’s all these delays. I haven’t said this to another soul, but I’m beginning to suspect sabotage. Missing equipment, mysterious power outages that only affect my building, misdirected deliveries, and now a CORN SNAKE in the wall? I mean, seriously. No one’s luck is this bad.
Also, I think something’s up with Duncan, our carpenter. He’s been distracted and even quieter than usual for nearly a week now. I’ve caught him watching me several times, almost as if he wants to tell me something. The look in his eyes today—could it have been fear?
Speaking of fear, the second thing on my mind is that strange girl I told you about. Sarah Weller showed up at the house next door about a week ago, presumably to visit her mother, Judith. If possible, the tension level emanating from the Sharpes’ house shot up even higher. Paxton Sharpe has been treating the neighborhood to extra helpings of yelling since his stepdaughter arrived. What a jerk. Doesn’t he know we can all hear him?
I wish Judith would give me the time of day. She seems like she could use a friend. I feel badly for their twin boys, too. Four years old is too young to endure all this grown up drama. Hank seems well adjusted, but Pippo, the smaller twin? He hardly says a word, lets his brother do the talking for him. That is, he would if Judith allowed them out of her sight. Lawrence tried to give the kids some fresh baked cookies, and you’d have thought he came after them with a chainsaw. Judith dragged them indoors with hardly a thank you. What’s she so afraid of?
On top of all that, Paxton’s teenage son is home for spring break. Too bad Brandon’s fancy military school hasn’t taught him any manners. If anything, that kid is even moodier and more abrupt than his dad or his stepmother. A couple of days ago, I caught him staring at Sarah in the oddest way. She was helping Judith unload groceries, and he watched her like a hungry dog hoping for some table scraps. Sarah’s got to be at least ten years older than Brandon, but I guess the heart wants what the heart wants. So, tensions galore.
Anyway, a few hours ago I was out in the front yard on the off chance some fresh air might calm my thoughts enough for sleep. Out of the shadows stepped Sarah! I jumped two feet, no kidding. Frankie, it was the oddest conversation. She said she knows who I am, that I’m the girl who helps the police. Then, I swear, she seemed like she wanted to ask me something, just like Duncan. Come to think of it, he started acting oddly about the same time she arrived in Oakwood. Hmmm.
The problem is, I don’t know what Sarah wanted, because Judith bellowed for her, and she ran indoors like a scared rabbit. There’s another woman who could use a friend. I’m going to head over there tomorrow and see if I can get her to talk to me.
Okay, third and final thing. Marcus has been gone for five days, and it feels like five months. Why do these cop conventions always have to be in places like Chicago? We have perfectly nice hotels right here in Dayton, Ohio. The thing is, I’m a little rattled to discover that I can’t seem to sleep without him anymore. Hell, we’ve only been seeing one another for a few months. How could I be that hung up on a man in such a short time? It makes me feel . . . at a disadvantage, somehow.
Do NOT roll your eyes, young lady. And don’t deny that you totally rolled them when you read that. The fact is, things between Marc and I are great, but . . . what if it doesn’t last? What if he visits all his buddies and old haunts in Chicago and decides he wants to move back? The police chief has offered him a job with a promotion if he’ll return to their homicide division. Marc says he’s not going anywhere without me, but . . .
So, it’s three a.m. and I am wide awake. I guess I’d better call it a night. Or morning, to be accurate. I like to meet with Dale before eight o’clock to review progress and sign off on things. Hopefully tomorrow will be free of mysterious sabotage-ish developments.
Call me tomorrow? Maybe we can grab lunch at Ground Zero.
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