Saturday September 19 11:00 AM / 10:00c

This Old Homicide: A Fixer Upper Mystery Book Excerpt - Chapter 1

I wanted her new home to be spiffed up, as she put it, in record time.

“Looking on the bright side,” she said with a cheerful grin, “at least there won’t be any dead bodies in the basement. I checked.”

I swallowed uneasily. “That’s good to know.” A few months ago, I had come across that very thing. A man had been murdered in the basement of a home I’d been refurbishing. I was the one who had discovered the body, and our new chief of police had not been amused. For a short while, my name was at the top of his suspect list, until the killer decided to focus on me. I never wanted to go through anything like that again.

“I’d better be getting back to the tea shop,” Emily said with reluctance, her simple dark ponytail swaying as she turned to walk to her car. “I really appreciate your coming out here to take a look with me.”

“I’m glad I did. I can’t wait to get started.” But as I opened the car door, I took one more look at the old Rawley Mansion and shivered.

I had a sinking feeling that raccoons would be the least of her problems.

Two weeks later, I arose early, threw on old jeans, a sweatshirt and tennies, and left the house to meet my dad for breakfast. I’d made it as far as the sidewalk before I woke up enough to realize that Lighthouse Cove was enveloped in a gray fog so thick I couldn’t see the house across the street. It was mid-January on the Northern California coast and I should’ve expected fog at the very least. I counted myself lucky that it wasn’t pouring rain. I jogged back inside to grab my quilted vest for an extra layer of warmth, pulled a warm knit cap over my unruly red hair, and set out again for the Cozy Cove Diner.

Anytime Dad and my uncle Pete were in town, they met for breakfast at the Cove to chitchat with friends and neighbors and catch up on town business. Meaning gossip, of course. My dad and uncle, like everyone else in our small town, thrived on gossip. And wouldn’t you know it? I always got the juiciest tidbits from those two men.

I rubbed my arms briskly to chase away the cold as I walked to the town square. Dad and Uncle Pete had just come home from a weeklong shing trip at the Klamath River. They’d returned last night, dirty, exhausted, and happy to be back. Dad had parked his Winnebago in my driveway and dropped off six large, beautiful Chinook salmon for my freezer. It looked as though we’d be eating fish for the next few months. I wasn’t complaining.

While the two men sat at my dining room table enjoying a beer after their long drive, I had lled them in on the most current scuttlebutt around town: Emily’s purchase of the old Rawley Mansion; the latest round of in infighting among the town’s Festival Committee members; MacKintyre Sullivan’s new book landing on the bestseller list. I promised to make homemade pizza for them sometime over the weekend since they’d called from the road to say they’d built up a powerful craving for pizza.

Odd cravings could happen when you hung out with a bunch of fishermen all week. Pizza was fairly normal, compared to some hankerings Dad had come up with in the past. The pizza request reminded me of some of his funny old sayings, or truisms, as he called them. One of his favorites went like this: building a house is like building a pizza. It took skill and artistry, the right tools, and strong wrists to pound nails into wood—or throw dough up in the air.

It wasn’t the smoothest of axioms, especially the part about artistry, but it worked for him.

The thing was, not only had Dad signed this house and his business over to me after he suffered that mild heart attack five years ago, he had also turned over to me his longtime ritual of making homemade pizza. Once the task was safely passed on to the next generation, namely me, he was lavish in his praise of my culinary abilities. Oh, I knew I made a good pizza, but he liked to lay it on thick because he never wanted to have to make one for himself again.