Sheila and I were visiting friends down in the Florida Panhandle last week and saw firsthand the famous beaches and emerald green water they had raved about on the phone. Honestly, they had undersold both. The view of the water is remarkable, and the white sugar sand is so fine that it’s a pleasure to walk on, bum legs and all.
Three days into the trip, we passed a place on the beach called the Sea Glass Saloon. Sheila and I both saw crime scene tape flapping around the dumpster out back and skidded to a stop. Well, no real skidding can happen on sand, but we did stop pretty quickly. Sheila looked at me, eyebrows raised and asked, “Feel like getting a drink before lunch?” She knows me well.
We entered the empty bar and sat ourselves off to the side. Our waitress’ paper name tag said, “Chloe,” and since it was written in magic marker, she was probably new to the job. We tried to be polite and avoid the Crime Scene Tape Topic, just in case Chloe was jittery about whatever had happened, but Sheila couldn’t stand the suspense anymore than I could. We introduced ourselves and Chloe laughed.
“Nice to meet you. I could tell as soon as you came in that at least one of you was a cop.”
I was surprised and said so.
Chloe grinned and waved to the still empty room. “You’re the first people in here today and you chose a table with your backs to the wall, not the table with the best view like most tourists do. I’m Chloe Jackson, former children’s librarian in my hometown of Chicago, now a waitress in a bar in Emerald Cove, Florida. Life has a funny way of laughing at my plans.”
The bartender called her over and she told us she’d be right back, but after they bent their heads together at the bar, she wasn’t smiling anymore. Something was bothering that young woman.
Meet Chloe Jackson:
“Why do I know anything about cops? I read a lot of mysteries and they all seem to mention cops and their backs to the wall so there must be some truth to it. Also, both of them took a good look around like they wanted to know where the exits were and assessed Joaquín the bartender and me. Apparently, they decided we weren’t a threat because they didn’t get up and leave. I almost walked over to them with my hands up. They were pleasant when I asked what they’d like. He ordered a Guinness. She wanted a mimosa.
I had to call the police more than once about the patrons at the library – not the kids I work with but sometimes their parents or nannies. As I walked back to give Joaquín their orders, I thought about yesterday morning. I had to call 911 yesterday when I found the body of one of our patrons back by the dumpster behind the Sea Glass Saloon. Elwell Pugh, the man I found murdered with a channel knife sticking out of his neck, was a bit of an odd duck, but a good tipper and never caused me any problems.
On the other hand, he wore an armadillo shell as a hat which seemed really odd to me, but I’d only been in the panhandle of Florida for a little over a week. What did I know? Maybe lots of people wore armadillo shell hats down here. What worried me more is I’d overheard the owner of the Sea Glass, Vivi Slidell, arguing with a man last night after the bar closed.
I was mopping floors when I heard the raised voices back in the kitchen. I couldn’t make out their words or see them and I’m not certain it was Elwell that Vivi was arguing with. After a door slammed Vivi came into the bar and grabbed a bottle of bourbon and a glass before she noticed me mopping. I’d never seen Vivi drink anything stronger than sweet tea up to this point.
She told me to leave and to go out the front which faced the Gulf of Mexico. I complied but was uneasy about the whole thing. However, when the deputy questioned me yesterday, I left the bit about the argument out. It might not have anything to do with the Elwell’s death. If it did, it might mean I was working for a murderer.”
We told Chloe to keep the drinks and sweet tea coming, if she could call next door to the lunch place for sandwiches and tell us more of the story. And what a jaw-dropping story it was. You can read all about it in “From Beer to Eternity.”
Sherry Harris, an Agatha nominated author, writes the brand new Chloe Jackson Sea Glass Saloon Mysteries. “From Beer to Eternity” features Chloe and a cast of wonderful characters – some of them mentioned in the teaser you just read.
Her first series, Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries, is non-stop terrific. Don’t worry, it’s still continuing, with “Absence of Alice” scheduled to appear in December, 2020.
Many thanks to Sherry Harris/Chloe Jackson for stopping by the Visiting Detectives corner. 🙂 We always love a great crime scene tale!
Please visit www.sherryharrisauthor.com for more information about her books and where to buy them. Get every single one. 🙂
Check out Sherry Harris’ Author Profile here.
*Photos courtesy of Sherry Harris.
Sheila and Charlie Kerrian thoroughly enjoy their cross-country road trips, and besides taking loads of photos of the breathtaking landscapes, have met some truly intriguing people in law enforcement. There was the newspaper owner/editor Ava Logan; the psychic puzzler, Lexi Sobado; the 1880s midwife, Rose Carroll; the vegetarian detective, Becky Greene; and the time traveling sheriff, Will Denton – an eclectic bunch of crime fighters to be sure.
This trip was all about seeing the Pacific Northwest. Sheila’s parents had lived in Tacoma, Washington, for a while and spoke fondly of their time in the area. The plan was to fly out to Seattle, stop in as many coffee shops as they could (Charlie ran out of time well before running out of coffee shops to visit) and then travel by rental car through Oregon and on to California. A break in the drive in the middle of Oregon’s majestic scenery took them to the Cascade Kitchen.
Meet Rainy Dale and friends, in ranch and horse country Oregon:
“Twenty-seven hundred miles from home, Charlie and Sheila marvel at Oregon’s land between the Cascade Mountains and the high desert. Traveling through the central part of the state showcases the transition of coastal fir, spruce and cedar giving way to pine and sage. Black-ribbed buttes thrust out of the sandy loam. The last road sign announces their entry into (fictional) Butte County.
Hunger calls and they pull off the two-lane highway in the pokey little town of Cowdry where they find an unlikely-looking diner called the Cascade Kitchen. Farmland abuts the back of the truck-choked, gravel parking lot. A gleaming red horse stands at the hitching rail. Yes, there’s a hitching rail behind the diner and this horse’s reins are loosely swirled around the thick wood crossbeam. The animal seems perfectly happy to wait there, head low, eyes half-closed, one hip cocked. Maybe the restaurant offers oatmeal to go, perhaps with extra brown sugar.
Inside, garden variety décor screams mere diner, with a wooden sign suggesting they seat themselves. The vinyl booths are dinner-rush-full, but wow—at the first table, a good old boy in overalls and a baseball cap bearing the John Deere emblem is ripping into a ruby red bell pepper with fork and knife. Wild rice, sugar snap peas, and sausage spill out. Stuffed peppers in a diner!
Two seats are open at the lunch counter next to a young woman in jeans and a flannel shirt.
Why is she biting into a hamburger when better food is served here? Charlie and Sheila wonder as they climb onto the last available twirly stools.
The young woman makes eye contact via the mirrored wall facing the lunch counter, then turns to face them.
“You’re new here. Are you moving in? D’you have horses?” She pulls a business card from her shirt pocket and slides it down the counter in front of them.
Sheila and Charlie inspect the card together.
Rainy Dale, horseshoer.
“You’re a horseshoer?” Charlie asks.
A chuckle erupts from the uniformed deputy on the other side of the young woman. Charlie and Sheila look at the mix of people sitting on Rainy Dale’s other side. Two uniformed deputies, a middle-aged man with a crew cut and a young woman with a tight French braid who looks about Rainy’s age, probably young twenties, are finishing their plates. The chuckle came from the male deputy, who nods and says, “She thinks she’s a horseshoeing detective.”
“A horseshoeing detective?” Sheila asks. “That’s a thing?”
A ponytail keeps Rainy’s long brown hair out of her plate as she leans forward and uses both hands to stuff the last bite into her mouth. She looks at Sheila in the mirrored wall and nods.
Charlie reaches for the laminated menu. One burger option is local, grass-fed beef.
A tall, blond young man in a chef’s shirt comes through the swinging doors from the kitchen, plates in each hand. “A sample of blackened spears of butternut squash drizzled in maple-infused vinegar.”
Rainy smiles and wrinkles her nose. “Guy, that looks and sounds suspiciously like vegetables.”
“I’ll try it,” the male deputy says.
Charlie studies the man’s uniform—it’s slightly different from what the woman is wearing. The man’s shoulder patch reads Deputy above the shield, Butte County below. The young woman’s sleeve has two lines above the cloth badge. Reserve Deputy.
The horseshoer and the reserve deputy give each other the stink eye in the mirror. What kind of ire lurks between them?
Guy, the cook, fires up a tiny butane hand torch that hisses as he caramelizes sugar on a small, perfect-looking crème brulée. The scent of browning sugar wafts over them, making Charlie and Sheila think of eating dessert first. Guy carries the dessert to the man at the first table.
Charlie wonders how many homicides the deputy has investigated.
“How many sworn officers are in your Sheriff’s Department?” he asks over Rainy’s head.
(This is how law enforcement officers compare department size—by the number of sworn and non-sworn employees.)
The regular deputy nods as though recognizing he’s likely talking to a brother officer. “Twelve deputies in a county of seven thousand square miles. About as many people as square miles.”
Charlie whistles. “That’s not really enough personnel for full twenty-four-hour coverage. How do you patrol that much land with so few deputies?”
The deputy jerks a thumb to the young woman seated beside him. “With reservists like her.”
The reserve deputy quits making faces at the horseshoer and sips her soda.
This is the modern American West. More going on than would appear at first glance. Maybe Charlie and Sheila will stay a night or two.”
Many thanks to Lisa Preston for stopping by and introducing Rainy Dale, horseshoer, to the Kerrian’s Notebook readers. Rainy is a truly original voice, with a talent for sizing up people and their horses. Horses kick and people get dead around her, but….. 🙂
Click on the link and let Rainy tell her story in “The Clincher.”
“The Clincher,” is the debut novel for Preston’s Rainy Dale horseshoer series. An important scene in the book mentions a practical application of the sport of “Ride & Tie,” and the photo above shows Preston competing in a real life Ride & Tie race. Although her experience and love of horses and other animals did not start out to be research for any of her books, the knowledge gained throughout her globetrotting life flows richly on the pages.
Lisa Preston began writing after careers as a fire department paramedic and a city police officer. She was first published in nonfiction, with titles on animal care, such as The Ultimate Guide to Horse Feed, Supplements and Nutrition. Her debut novel, Orchids and Stone, (Thomas & Mercer, 2016), has been described as a book club thriller, or domestic noir. Her psychological suspense novel, The Measure of the Moon, (Thomas & Mercer, 2017) was also a book club pick. The Clincher (Skyhorse Publishing, 2018) debuted her mystery series featuring a young woman horseshoer. She lives with her husband in western Washington.
Please visit www.lisapreston.com for links to her bestselling books and more about this multi-faceted author of both non-fiction (animals and their care) and fiction.
The carved wooden Hope Chest had been stuck in a corner of the attic, forgotten for decades behind boxes of antique glassware and vintage baseball cards, neglected while the family focused on the present – school plays, golf tourneys, soccer games, Sunday dinners with the grandparents, and the occasional Antique Fair.
We were getting ready to sell the old place for Sheila’s Mom and rather than take all the boxes to her new (smaller) home, it was time to sort through it, sell the stuff that Amelia had no interest in anymore, and keep the treasures Sheila knew to be up there. Sheila’s parents had been antique dealers for a time and the vintage piece must have been acquired back then – a good twenty years before.
Sheila was right. The chest yielded a gold mine – items much older than the chest itself. A floor length, deep red dress from a bygone era, complete with covered buttons, and a tatted lace collar probably meant to be worn with the dress, lay at the top. Sheila lifted them carefully, the simple fabric in great shape considering its age, and set it aside, excited to find what lay beneath the tissue paper separating the outfit from the rest.
Her search yielded an old pocket watch, a pair of woman’s slippers, a simple bonnet, and a fabulous find: a journal from the late 1880s. The ink in the journal was faded, but still definitely readable.
We expected to find the details of someone’s daily life, telling about flower gardens and new babies and cousins coming to visit, but instead found the details of the life of somebody quite unexpected – a midwife who because of her special situation, happened to be a lady detective.
Meet Visiting Detective Rose Carroll, in a page from Rose Carroll’s Journal:
“4 Third Month 1889
As part of my calling as a midwife over the past year, I have somehow found myself drawn into investigating murder, of all things. And more than once, right here in our lovely town of Amesbury, situated on the Merrimack River in the northeast corner of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Now that I have had a week of respite from being called out to attend women’s labors in their homes, I find myself musing on exactly why these investigations should have come to pass.
After all, I am only a betrothed woman in my mid-twenties, an independent businesswoman, and auntie to five fine nieces and nephews. I am not a trained officer of the law, nor would I care to be. Imagine a member of the Religious Society of Friends being expected to carry a firearm, and worse, use it to inflict violence upon a threatening member of the citizenry!
And yet…when, as happened last summer, a young (and pregnant) member of Amesbury Friends Meeting was brutally shot under cover of the Independence Day fireworks, I became drawn into looking for answers. My midwifery mentor, the elderly Orpha Perkins, has said I have the gift of seeing, as had Friend John Greenleaf Whittier, who lives closer than a mile to my own abode. A former slave John had befriended was then arrested – falsely, I was certain – for the crime. How could I not do whatever was in my power to assist Detective Kevin Donovan in his search for the true criminal?
I am not certain what the “gift of seeing” means, but I have been told on more than one occasion that I am a good listener. As well I might be! Caring for a woman during her pregnancy, birth, and post-natal period requires as much counseling skill as it does medical expertise. Of course, I also can travel places Kevin never could – women’s bedchambers – and hear secrets revealed during their travails a man would not be able to eavesdrop on in the same manner.
In recent months Kevin has grown more accepting of my occasional assistance, even seeking me out for my opinions – well, until his new Captain put the kibosh on that a few months ago. Luckily I am also Kevin’s wife’s midwife, and Emmaline is delighted to serve as go-between for our messages.
Now, if only solving the problem of the obstacles to my beloved’s and my marriage were going as smoothly!
I do find it helps me to write to thee, dear journal, about these mysteries. I am able to better sort and arrange my thoughts, and thus better able to advise the dear detective. With that thought I shall rest, until I address thee about the next case. Because there will surely be one.”
Many thanks to Edith Maxwell for visiting the Kerrians through a page in Rose Carroll’s journal. What a delight to peek into the past this way. 🙂
You can read much more about Rose Carroll in Edith Maxwell’s Quaker Midwife series. In addition to containing great mysteries, the series is rich with historical details. Rose is undeniably, a marvelous new character.
Delivering the Truth, the first in the series, has been nominated for a Macavity Award, for the Sue Feder Award for Best Historical Novel! Winners are announced at the Bouchercon opening ceremonies in Toronto in October. See my review of Delivering the Truth here.
Agatha- and Macavity-nominated and national best-selling author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. As Maddie Day, she writes the popular Country Store Mysteries and the new Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. She is president of Sisters in Crime New England, lives north of Boston with her beau, two cats, and an organic garden, and blogs at WickedCozyAuthors.com and elsewhere. Find information about all her work at https://edithmaxwell.com/.
Look for book #2, “Called to Justice,” in stores and online now.