Book Two in The Kate Lawrence Mysteries: Small-town gossip can be murder, especially when a ruthless blackmailer is involved. As the Autumn Festival gets under way in Old Wethersfield, reluctant amateur sleuth Kate Lawrence and her partner Margo race to discover the truth before a local business owner is unjustly convicted of murder, or even more unthinkably, Kate’s daughter falls under suspicion. Kate’s romance hits the rocky shoals of culture shock, Margo is caught up in an unlikely romance of her own, and Emma is intrigued by a man in uniform. Can Kate identify the murderer in time, or will someone’s slip of the tongue make her the next murder on Old Main Street?
This title is published by Mainly Murder Press and is distributed worldwide by Untreed Reads.
It’s not that I don’t understand why people smoke. I do. I myself enjoyed cigarettes for some twenty years, on an off. The “off” part was during the two pregnancies that had produced my son Joey and daughter Emma, so obviously, I always knew that smoking was an unhealthy indulgence. But it took the sudden and untimely deaths of my father and mother, both lifelong smokers, to get me to lay that lighter down for good.
First Dad, a pack-a-day man since World War II, suffered a massive coronary at the age of sixty-three. After lunch one day, he just fell to the floor of the warehouse he managed, and the paramedics abandoned their attempts to resuscitate him after half an hour. A few years later, Mother’s heart gave out as she was clearing snow from the sidewalk in front of the house where I grew up. The exertion triggered the attack, said the nice young resident whose job it had been to break the news that Mother hadn’t survived emergency surgery, but the real damage had been done over the previous decades, one cigarette at a time.
“That’s what people your mom’s age can’t seem to get,” he said sadly. “Every time she lit a cigarette, she was holding a gun to her head. It just takes longer for the bullet to kill you.”
My decision to quit wasn’t a conscious one. I simply holstered my lighter and never had another cigarette after that day. My habit had been moderate. I had smoked only half a dozen cigarettes a day, so quitting wasn’t really a big deal. I was one of the lucky ones who hadn’t become physically or psychologically addicted, which made it all the more incomprehensible that I had ever taken it up. But I did, and then I lost my parents, and then I stopped. End of story, right?
Fast forward seventeen years. It’s a new millennium, and the war between smokers and nonsmokers is in full spate. There’s no avoiding the issue; you have to choose a side. Because of the overlapping rights of both groups, there’s no middle ground to occupy, no way to live and let live. The obese woman shoveling down a banana split at the next table is endangering only her health, not yours, so it’s her life, her choice. The smoker who’s dangling his Marlborough out the window of the car in front of you is a different story, however. It’s his choice to inhale the deadly toxins, but the secondhand smoke he huffs out the window pollutes your air almost as lethally. His rights have to end where yours begin. That was at least part of the reason underlying the local business association’s recent proposal. Smoking inside eating establishments was already prohibited by law throughout Connecticut. The business association now proposed to ban smoking anywhere in the historic district of Old Wethersfield, indoors or out, as of October fifteenth.
“Why do smokers do that anyway?” choked my partner Margo, waving away the fumes emanating from the Bronco idling in front of us at the light.
I had collected Margo and her constant companion, a chocolate Labrador retriever named Rhett Butler, at the dealership where her ancient BMW had been left for servicing. Rhett accompanied Margo nearly everywhere, asking nothing more than to be allowed to walk adoringly by her side. He had been enjoying the morning breeze through an open window, but now Margo raised it. He whined in protest and flopped full-length across my back seat, which meant he took up all of it.
“I know, Sugar, but what can I do?” Margo told him. “If that silly Yankee wants to smell disgustin’, let him roll up his windows and keep the smoke all to himself, but I just had this suit dry-cleaned, thank you.”
I could understand Margo’s concern. The understated Donna Karan in shades of taupe and black set off her southern belle good looks to a fare-thee-well. Definitely worth not stinking up. I, on the other hand, could safely drop my easy-care Susan Gravers into the washer and dryer.
I’m Kate Lawrence … well, Sarah Katherine Lawrence, actually, but who wants to go through life tagged as an Ivy League institution? Margo Farnsworth is one of my business partners, as well as my dearest friend, and we were on our way to work on a crisp, late September Monday. In the year since we had opened our new real estate brokerage in historic Wethersfield Village, where we shared office space with my daughter Emma and her lawyer boss in a renovated barn on Old Main Street, business had grown steadily. It hadn’t been easy, but we hadn’t expected it to be, and the problems had been far outweighed by the excitement of launching a business of our own. That was the point, after all: to create something that was our own.