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

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

I pushed the diner door open and was greeted with shouts of welcome along with the savory smells of bacon and warm syrup. I suddenly craved something yummy, even though I’d promised myself a healthy bowl of oatmeal.

“Over here, honey,” Dad said, and scooted closer to the wall to make room for me in the booth he shared with Uncle Pete. Cindy the waitress arrived seconds later to pour a hot cup of coffee for me.

“Thanks, Cindy,” I said, smiling at her. Today her name tag handkerchief corsage was a lacy oral concoction, which covered half her chest. If they were handing out prizes at a waitress convention, Cindy would win the corsage-name-tag competition hands down.

“You know what you want, hon?”

“I’ll need a few seconds.” I frowned at her. “I had my mind made up until I came inside and smelled bacon.”

“Rocky’s French toast is excellent today,” she said with an evil wink before walking back to the front counter.

“Great,” I muttered. So much for my noble attempt to start the day with a healthy breakfast. Cindy knew my weaknesses and exploited them gleefully.

A minute later, she was back to take my order of French toast, a side of bacon, and a fruit bowl. The fruit bowl was my nod to healthiness. It was a pitiful little nod, but it was enough to let me enjoy the rest of my order without feeling too guilty.

While I drank my coffee, Dad and Uncle Pete filled me in on all the latest happenings around town. It was mystifying how two men could go away for a week and come back knowing so much more about my neighbors than I did.

“Have you seen Jesse lately?” Dad asked, referring to Jesse Hennessey, the man who’d been our next-door neighbor for almost as long as I’d been alive. Most mornings, Jesse could be found sitting at the end of the counter reading his paper and nursing the one blessed cup of coffee he was allowed to drink each day.

“Cindy says he hasn’t been in here in a few days,” Uncle Pete added.

I glanced at the counter where Jesse usually sat and realized I hadn’t seen him recently, either. “I hope he’s not sick.”

Uncle Pete wiggled his eyebrows. “Maybe he’s shacked up with his little sweetie.”

I almost choked on my coffee. “What’re you talking about? There’s no little sweetie shacked up at Jesse’s house.”

Pete shrugged. “So maybe he goes to her place.”

“We’re talking about Jesse, right? He doesn’t have a girlfriend,” I assured them. “I would know.”

“But he told us all about her,” Dad said. “She’s supposed to be a hottie.”

Good grief, Jesse Hennessey was seventy-seven years old. What was he doing with a hottie? “You know how he likes to embellish the truth. Maybe this is one of those times.”

“Could be,” Dad admitted. “I know he’s told some whoppers in his time.”

As I sipped my coffee, I started to feel a little less certain. “I guess he could be dating someone, but I’ve never seen another car next door. He rarely has visitors. I would notice.”

Uncle Pete shrugged again. “He’s a private guy. Might not want the neighbors talking.”

Private didn’t come close to describing my neighbor. Paranoid was more accurate. He’d always been a bit of a conspiracy theorist and Jane and I used to be amused when he’d claim that people were watching him. But in the last few years, I had to admit he’d grown to distrust everyone except for his niece Jane, who was one of my best friends. Especially when it came to business and money. I liked to think he trusted me, too, but he’d never introduced me to his hottie girlfriend—if the woman even existed, which I doubted. I would have to ask Jane about her.