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A missing woman, a suitcase buried in a ceiling, and a rare manuscript. Who hid them? And why? And who wants them now?
Margie Hanson sighed and sat back from the ream of papers scattered on her dining room table. So much work, and so little time. And money. Granted, sales of rare and vintage books had increased since she inherited the shop four months before, but the day-to-day grind of selling used mystery books for a couple of dollars apiece wouldn’t pay the rest of the bills.
Or for the much-needed electrical upgrade to the entire building, brought to light on a recent inspection by the friendly guys at the local fire department.
I wish Grandma Carly could visit. Again.
She sipped her coffee to settle her nerves. And her thoughts. She could run this small business. And spearhead the needed renovations. As a college graduate in library and information sciences, she might not have much life experience yet, but surely she had enough intelligence to figure out who to hire.
What had the pastor said this morning in his message? I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
She exhaled. “Lord, give me strength, please.”
Of course, Ted Bloom, her Great-Aunt Rosella’s former love interest—that relationship having been nipped in the bud due to the woman’s untimely death in May—had already offered to do the work for a good price, but she wasn’t sure. His bid, certainly the lowest of the four she’d received to date, didn’t include some of the work the other companies had, including hauling off trash and moving or covering furniture. And when she asked, he admitted not carrying liability insurance. Meaning that she couldn’t sue him if something went wrong on the job. Or after, with his workmanship.
All of which boiled down to saving money and doing that part of the project herself, or forking out the additional money and leaving everything in the truly capable hands of a professional team instead of a one-man band. Either of which she could manage financially.
Still. . . with his bid at less than the cost of a new laptop—plus materials, of course, as were the other three estimates—while the others started at around the price of a used she-shed, perhaps she should go with cheap and roll up her sleeves. Sweat equity, and all that.
Not that she was a big fan of sweat.
She picked up her cell and dialed Ted’s number before she talked herself out of her decision. “Hi, Ted. It’s Margie Hanson.”
“Hi there. Made a decision? I could start tomorrow. I’ll email a list of materials. You can call the order in and I’ll pick it up on the way in.”
“Before I commit, what’s your anticipated schedule?”
“We’ll start in the binding room and work our way toward the store so that we get there on Monday, when you’re closed. I should be able to do the retail area in one day.”
“Sounds like a plan.” She sat back in her chair. His plan of action made perfect sense, which relieved a load of worries. “
“And you can work straight through? Excepting Sundays, of course. No other jobs planned?”
“Nope. I’ve been putting some folks off until a little later hoping you’d call.”
“Appreciate that, Ted. What do I need to do to be ready for you, besides the materials?”
“Choose your new paint colors, if you want to do that at the same time.”
“I’m going with a dove grey on the walls, white trim and ceilings and doors.”
“Ah, traditional, I like it. Rosella wouldn’t, of course.” He chuckled. “Oh, I miss her so much.”
Margie believed him. A few months ago she wouldn’t have. Not when she suspected him of killing her great-aunt. But now that she knew him better, she saw some of what Rosella did. “Anything else?”
“If you want to arrange a roll-off dumpster for tomorrow, that will be perfect. Shouldn’t fill it but the once for the project.”
She made a note. “Got it. What else?”
“Cover or move anything you don’t want getting dusty, including anything flammable. And if you feel comfortable working on the ceiling, you could take down the light fixtures. Just make sure the switches are off. And no standing in a puddle of water.”
This time a guffaw filled her ear.
She forced a half-smile. Must be an old electrician’s joke. “I can probably manage that. See you at nine tomorrow, okay? That gives me time before the shop opens. In case you need something else.”
Another laugh. “A pot of coffee, and a box of pastries from the bakery, and I’m good to go. See you then.”
She finished her java and considered her next move. A call to the dumpster company for the roll-off. She left her name, number, address, and asked for a unit to be delivered the next morning. By that time, Ted’s list waited in her Inbox. She called the local home improvement big box store then followed their directions on how to place her order online. Which she did.
That much accomplished, she checked her list. Right. Demolition work. Well, not really. Fluorescent fixture removal. Shouldn’t be difficult. She’d helped her dad around the house while growing up. Small stuff, to be sure, but, after all, she was a college graduate.
She could do this.
Leeann Betts writes contemporary romantic suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical romantic suspense. Together she and Donna have published more than 30 novellas and full-length novels. They ghostwrite, judge writing contests, edit, facilitate a critique group, and are members of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Christian Authors Network, Pikes Peak Writers, and Sisters in Crime. Leeann travels extensively to research her stories, and is proud to be represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary LLC.
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