The Popsicle Tree (A Dick Hardesty Mystery, #9) (paperback) by Dorien Grey

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ISBN: 9781611878578
Pages: 260

Following the death of the parents of Jonathan’s four-year-old nephew Joshua, Dick and his partner find themselves in a new role: parents. As if fatherhood didn’t bring enough of a set of challenges, the mother of one of Joshua’s new friends is murdered, sending Dick on a trail to find out who killed her and why. With a list of suspects ranging from a lesbian ex-partner to the boy’s race-car-driver father, Dick is soon embroiled in a case so complicated that child-rearing begins to look easier than solving the case.


 “Come on, Kelly,” Jonathan said extending his hand. “Let’s go for a walk.”

Kelly scrambled up off the floor, picked up his dump truck and, tucking it under one arm, took Jonathan’s hand with his free hand.

“Can we get candy?” he asked, staring up at Jonathan.

“We’ll see,” Jonathan said, leading Kelly to the door. “But if we do, you can’t eat it until after supper, okay?” He looked at Carlene for approval, and she nodded.

When they’d left, I took the chair across from Carlene.

Returning the paper to her, I asked, “So, what’s this all about?”

She shook her head. “I’m sorry to bother you with this, Dick. I never would have, but we’d just walked in the door and I found it sticking out of my mailbox. It just upset me so that I started crying, and just then Jonathan came in and…well, here I am.”

“Did the envelope have a postmark?”

“No. There wasn’t any envelope. It was just folded in half and slid partly into the slot on the mailbox door.”

“Do you know who wrote it?”

She nodded. “It has to be Jan.”

“Jan is…your ex?” I asked, and she nodded again.

“Has she ever done anything like this before?”

She sat back on the couch. “Not like this, no, but…she was my very first lesbian experience. My parents were both dead, and Jan was very protective of me—too protective at times—and after Kelly was born, protective became possessive, of both me and Kelly. We always referred to Kelly as ‘our’ baby, but it got to the point where Jan was taking control of our lives. It was as if she wanted to raise him on her terms, and my opinion really didn’t matter.

“We began to argue more and more frequently, and the arguments became more intense. And then, during our last argument, she slapped me, and that was it. I just couldn’t take any more. The next day I just wrote her a long letter explaining how I felt, and I left.

“Of course I felt terribly guilty about it in a way, for abandoning her. Her father was involved in gambling and loansharking, and was killed when Jan was three. Then when her mother met another man, she just dumped Jan onto an aunt. The aunt raised her as her own, but Jan’s never forgiven her real mother, and I can’t blame her. What a terrible thing to do to a child. And now I’ve abandoned her, too, and taken Kelly with me!

“But now she’s found me, and I really don’t know what to do! She wants Kelly back, and I know she really loves him, and I’m sorry, but I just can’t….”

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