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

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

“Shannon might be right, Pete,” Dad admitted. “I wouldn’t be surprised to find out Jesse was pulling our legs. He’s always liked the ladies well enough, but he likes his privacy more.”

Uncle Pete looked skeptical. “More than the ladies?”

Dad winked at me and I smiled. I knew how much he and Uncle Pete liked the ladies, too.

“So, who are we voting for in the mayor’s race?” Dad asked, changing topics radically.

I gave him my two cents, and the subject grew lively as the couple in the booth behind us joined in. Even Rocky the cook tossed out a few salty comments from the kitchen. Local politics had a way of energizing a room.

Uncle Pete abruptly switched topics again. “So, what’d you and your Festival Committee come up with for Valentine’s Day this year?”

I almost slid under the booth.

“Yeah, how’s that going?” Dad said. “I’m still gonna drive the Hammer Construction oat, right?”

“Oh, you bet,” I said quickly. “Things are going great. No worries.” Seeing Cindy, I added gratefully, “Oh, look, here’s my breakfast.”

As Cindy unloaded three full plates in front of me, I flashed her a look of appreciation for helping me cut off that avenue of conversation.

Unfortunately she ignored my look. “Is that true, Shannon?” she said, her voice registering skepticism. “Because I heard that Whitney Gallagher and Jennifer Bailey demanded to join the committee.”

“Oh no,” Dad muttered.

“Yes.” Cindy nodded enthusiastically. “And I hear they’re causing all sorts of heartburn for y’all.”

From across the aisle, Mrs. Schuster gave me a sympathetic nod. “I heard a bunch of vendors dropped out and the festival is going to be a disaster.”

All conversation ceased as each person in the place turned to look at me. And herein lay the essential problem with small towns: everyone knew everyone else and we all thrived on gossip. We sucked it up like chocolate marshmallow cream on a hot fudge sundae. It was our lifeblood. And frankly, the more painful or scandalous the news, the more we slurped it up. And nothing was more painful to me than having to deal on a weekly basis with Whitney Reid Gallagher and her BFF, Jennifer Bailey, my worst enemies from high school.

The Festival Committee was headed by my friend Jane and I was her second-in-command. Two years ago, we had stepped up and volunteered to run the committee. It was a little scary putting ourselves out there, but we’d decided it was our turn to give back to our community. Luckily our good deed was rewarded and our eight-member team got along well. We’d been having a great time planning the parades and festivals and events that occurred every month in Lighthouse Cove, and each one had turned out better than the one before.

But a month ago, our luck had run out. Whitney and Jennifer had insisted on joining the committee. They’d heard it was fun. And it was. Until they joined. I truly believed that those two women thrived on draining every last ounce of joy the rest of us—especially me—had found working together.

And boy, that burned me up. You’d think that both women would be nicer to me after I saved their sorry butts a few months ago. They would both be goners—I’m talking dead—if not for me and my quick action. And while I hadn’t been sitting around waiting for the owners and candy and maybe a thank-you note to arrive, I certainly hadn’t expected everything to go back to the same old rotten status quo. I was wrong, sadly. So now the entire committee had to suffer from their obnoxious presence. I blamed myself because it was clear that they were only here to torment me.

Fortunately it wasn’t just me who thought the two women were meanies. The others agreed. A good thing, too, because if I was the only one bothered by Whitney and Jennifer, I would’ve considered seeking professional help for my victim complex.