Thirty-Four and a Half Preciaments
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Book seven in the New York Times and USA Today bestselling
Rose Gardner Mystery series.
Rose Gardner hates seeing her normally flamboyant best friend Neely Kate struggle with depression. So when Rose stumbles onto a piece of evidence indicating her birth mother might have been involved in a crime, she does the one thing guaranteed to cheer Neely Kate. She convinces her friend to help her solve a mystery. Though their penchant for investigating has gotten them into plenty of pickles in the past, what can go wrong if they’re looking into a case that went cold a quarter of a century ago? But the deeper they dig, the more dirt they unearth.
While she’s busy unraveling the past, Rose must also reprise her role as the Lady in Black as part of her ongoing agreement with the king of the Fenton County underworld. In so doing, she discovers a mysterious enemy is intent on attacking her friends, and her assistant DA boyfriend might be next on the list.
As both situations reach a boiling point, Rose must face the possibility that certain secrets were meant to remain buried and not even her special talent can get her out of every predicament.
“I thought you’d been banned from the Piggly Wiggly.”
I turned around to see my former neighbor standing in line behind me. The octogenarian looked the same as ever—cranky—only there were some new faint blue streaks in her white hair.
I lifted my chin. “I guess that’s just proof you can’t believe everything you hear.” I pulled a bag of pasta out of the cart. “I like what you’ve done with your hair.”
She patted the top of my head. “What happened to my hair is none of your business.”
Fair enough. I turned my back to her.
“Are you still living in sin with the assistant DA?”
“I could argue that the answer to that question is none of your business, but I have nothin’ to hide. So if you’re asking if Mason and I are still living together, the answer is yes.” I set a container of strawberries on the conveyor belt. “What have you been up to, Miss Mildred? Have you stalked any other neighbors lately?”
“The neighborhood has been remarkably quiet since you left. Murder and mayhem are at an all-time low.”
“You can’t blame Miss Dorothy’s death on me. That was Jonah Pruitt’s mother.”
“And then there was the bank robbery.”
“I was an innocent bystander. Besides, you weren’t even there.”
She pointed her finger at me. “I heard about your job at that stripper club. God rest your poor momma’s soul.”
“I never stripped! I never even took my clothes off!” I protested louder than I’d intended. She didn’t need to know Neely Kate had taken a disastrous turn on the stripper pole.
A mother with two small children was rounding a corner just then, about to head down another aisle. Her mouth dropped open and she gave me the stink eye as she shoved her poor preschool-aged boy on the other side of her, away from me, as though my presence might somehow infect him. Only she pushed him a little too hard and he crashed into a cereal box display on the endcap. An avalanche of boxes came crashing down on him and his mother.
“Look what you did!” Miss Mildred shouted, louder than any loudspeaker could hope to be. Every person in the front of the store turned their attention to her.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake!” I shouted. “I wasn’t anywhere near that display!”
The store manager walked toward the cash register as Bennie—who was sacking my groceries—stared, taking everything in.
Miss Mildred narrowed her eyes and pointed her finger at me. “You are a menace to society. I’m gonna start a petition to have you kicked out of town.”
“You can do that?” If so, maybe I could somehow get Hilary kicked out on her rear. But my excitement over possibly evicting her was short-lived. I quickly remembered Joe saying if he had the authority to force her out of town, he would have done it by now. “Well, I guess that’ll give you some excitement to take your mind off how boring the neighborhood’s become without me.”
That wasn’t the reaction she’d wanted, but she clamped her mouth shut.
The mother of the boy was trying to dig him out from under a pile of boxes while her little girl started sobbing. “I lost my brother!”
The store manager had rushed over to help, but he kept throwing glances my way that clearly said he was trying his best to figure out how to blame me for the latest mishap.
Thankfully, the cashier said, “That will be one hundred and thirty-six dollars and fifty-nine cents.” Her tone let me know she was just as eager to be done with me as her boss was.
Bennie was bagging the last of my items. “Look, Miss Rose. I was careful with your eggs.”
“You did a great job, Bennie,” I said as I dug through the cash in my wallet. The girl was crying louder and her brother had joined in the chorus, although not because he was hurt—he was upset his mother had dug him out of his new fort. The afternoon had gone from bad to worse and I just wanted to go home. When I realized I didn’t have enough cash, I handed the cashier Mason’s credit card.
She glanced at it and turned it over. “This isn’t your card.”
I rested my hands on the small shelf near the conveyer belt, wondering why I hadn’t just slid the card through the card reader. “It’s okay. It’s my boyfriend’s.”
“But it’s not yours.”
“Well, no. But he gave it to me to use.”
She looked over her register toward the fracas behind me. “Ed.”
But Ed was too busy tripping over boxes and dealing with the irate mother to hear her.
“Ed!” she shouted, and when she got his attention, she continued. “We got a case of identity theft at register four.”
“What?” I gasped.
The mother looked up at me like I was one of the horsemen of the apocalypse.
Bennie’s eyes widened like saucers. “You’re a thief, Miss Rose?”
“What? No!” I turned to the cashier. “I didn’t steal his identity. If you’ll just call Mason, he’ll tell you it’s okay.”
Miss Mildred gave me a smug grin. “I knew you were wicked since you were little. It was only a matter of time before you were put away in prison.”
“I didn’t steal Mason’s identity!”
The cashier’s frown deepened and it was a wonder she hadn’t set permanent lines in her face. “You can tell it to the Henryetta Police.”
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Denise Grover Swank was born in
Kansas City, Missouri and lived in the area until she was nineteen. Then she became a nomadic gypsy, living in five cities, four states and ten houses over the course of ten years before she moved back to her roots. She speaks English and smattering of Spanish and Chinese which she learned through an intensive Nick Jr. immersion period. Her hobbies include witty Facebook comments (in own her mind) and dancing in her kitchen with her children. (Quite badly if you believe her offspring.) Hidden talents include the gift of justification and the ability to drink massive amounts of caffeine and still fall asleep within two minutes. Her lack of the sense of smell allows her to
perform many unspeakable tasks.
She has six children and hasn’t lost her sanity.
Or so she leads you to believe.
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