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:: Angel Sleuth by Lesley A. Diehl
Angel Sleuth by Lesley A. Diehl
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Kaitlin Singer needs time off—from a philandering husband, from a writing career stalled on a buzzard as a main character, and from the stash of chocolate in her lingerie drawer. Her decision to return to her childhood home might seem like the perfect way to get her life back together were it not for her mother foisting two visitors on her, guests who claim to be guardian angels. Perhaps not all is lost, for the angels might just be the companions she needs to help her solve the murder of a local newspaper columnist. To uncover clues to the crime, Kaitlin takes over the dead woman’s work, writing the column as well as volunteering in the senior center, moves that put her in the path of the killer. She and her guests will need assistance from a pot-bellied pig and some pool skills to bring the murderer down.
Kaitlin was lining up her next shot when the door opened, letting in the cool evening air and a new customer, a tall, broad-shouldered woman who stopped just inside to let Kaitlin finish her shot.
She was nervous knowing a stranger was watching. She missed. “Nice try,” said the woman. She continued around the table and headed for the bar.
“Okay, Barney.” The woman spoke to a guy lying with his head on the bar’s surface. “Time to pack up and go home.” He stirred a little, gave her a tiny smile, and let her shuffle him out the door. “Be back in a minute, Kenny. Meantime set me up with a rum and coke.”
“Bye, Barney,” called the patrons sitting at the bar.
“Every other Thursday like clockwork,” said Mac to Kaitlin and Mary Jane. “Barney wanders in here to spend part of his paycheck from the gas company, has a couple of beers, dozes on the bar, and his wife Barbara comes in to get him. She loads him into the back seat of the car to sleep it off while she shoots a game or two of pool. She’s pretty good, too.”
Barbara reentered and heard Mac’s comments. “I’m better than pretty good. I beat your ass enough times, Mac.”
Mac gave one of his lopsided grins. “Let me introduce you to a couple of my friends, Mary Jane and Kaitlin.”
“How about a game?” Mary Jane asked of Barbara. For the first time since they entered the place, Kaitlin saw Mary Jane’s attention diverted from Mac. Kaitlin figured Mary Jane liked pool a bit more than she liked Mac, but, of course, she’d met him only recently and, from what she’d told Kaitlin, pool had been a companion for many years.
“Say, you look familiar.” Barbara turned her attention to Kaitlin as she chalked her cue. “You play too?”
“No, I’m just learning from her.” Kaitlin nodded toward Mary Jane. “But I grew up here. I’m back for the summer.”
“I remember now. I was several grades in front of you. My name was Dawson then. Now it’s Bartlet.” Barbara took her time with her next shot, put good back spin on the cue ball, hit it straight on and sunk the seven. The cue ball teetered on the edge of the pocket, but held.
“Nice shot,” said Mary Jane.
“Thanks. You new around here?” she asked.
“My son and I are staying with Kaitlin.”
“So I guess everyone has heard about poor Leda?” Barbara tried a bank shot and missed. “Darn.” She dropped the butt end of her cue stick on the floor. “I heard through the grapevine that you’re taking over her column, Kaitlin. As I remember you were always interested in writing.” She leaned her broad hips back against a chair and watched Mary Jane as she began running the table.
“My dogs are killing me. I spent all day at ARC. I’m the supervising nurse in the Alzheimer’s wing there, and Mr. Delt, who’s got a real eye for one of the new residents, about ran my feet off me. He followed that poor woman around from ten this morning until I left at four.
“Leda volunteered there as an ombudsman, and I got to know her a little. Let me tell you. That woman had more money than anyone realized. But it makes sense when you think about it. Her husband’s grandfather was one of the investors in the Kinderkill Bottling Company, you know, the one that served up Kinderkill water to the people of downstate.”
“But that operation went bust in the nineteen twenties,” said Kaitlin.
“Right. It also opened several spas here in the village.” Before anyone could interrupt, Barbara grabbed the chair, spun it around, sank into it with a weary sigh, and rushed ahead with her story. “And they went belly up soon after, but old Great Grandfather Pippel was smart. He saw it all coming and had the other partners buy him out before the businesses went south. He bided his time and finally took his money and bought IBM stock, a lot of it, when it was only pennies a share.”
“You mean…” said Kaitlin as Mary Jane called the eight and tapped the side pocket
“I mean that his son inherited it all and willed it to his son, Leda’s husband. And Leda and Robert Pippel never had children. She was a mighty wealthy woman. And now so is her nephew. Well, maybe.”
Kaitlin was spellbound by her story. In all the years she and her mother had known Leda Pippel, she appeared to be a woman who lived modestly, well within the means her small salary at the newspaper would have provided her.
Barbara crunched the last ice cube in her glass and scrutinized Kaitlin’s face. “Talking sure does make my mouth dry.” She peered into the bottom of her empty glass, then waggled her eyebrows at Kaitlin, who flew to the bar.
“She got you, right?” said Kenny.
“Huh?” said Kaitlin.
“She’s good at weaving tales, especially if the audience is as appreciative as you seem to be.”
Oh, she was appreciative all right. She knew Barbara had more to tell. And she now wondered if Leda’s wealth might have played a role in her death.
Kaitlin set the drink down in front of Barbara who took a long sip and smiled her thanks. “I was in ARC when Will showed up and confronted Dr. Baldo about Leda’s heart. They had quite a row. Dr. Will said there was nothing wrong with Leda’s heart, and Dr. Baldo told him he’d give him a copy of the autopsy report to read if he didn’t believe it.”
“Wait a minute.” Until now Mac had been listening on the sidelines. “Back up a little. You said maybe Will would be wealthy.”
“I meant maybe nephew Will’s gonna need all that money. He has some debts it seems. Gambles a bit and has borrowed from the wrong people I hear.”
“Who told you that?” asked Mary Jane. She was now attentively listening to Barbara’s story.
“Oh, folks at ARC. The people there know everything.”
Maybe not everything, decided Kaitlin. They didn’t seem to know who was stealing from them.
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