Sentenced to Death
For Jeannie Rigod,
who refused to accept a death sentence.
Long may she live!
Every book is an adventure—for the author and her readers. I couldn’t have survived this adventure without a little help from my friends. My thanks go to Krista Davis, Sandra Parshall, Kelly Raftery, Tyra Blackshear-Dedam, and Pat Remick for assistance with legal, language, police procedures, and local color issues, not to forget my eBay buddy, Nancy Ziefel, and Doranna Durgin, who was very helpful with doggy info.
Michelle Sampson, director of the Wadleigh Memorial Library in Milford, New Hampshire, continues to provide a wealth of useful information and local color.
Leann Sweeney served as my manuscript buddy. Both on tight deadlines, we encouraged each other (and compared notes on a daily basis to see who would finish her manuscript first). Colleen Kuehne kept me on my toes as my first reader.
My pals on the Cozy Chicks blog, www.CozyChicksBlog.com, and all the Berkley and Signet Girls at Cozy Promo have been there cheering me on, too.
My thanks go to my editor, Tom Colgan, his terrific assistant, Niti Bagchi, and the whole group at Berkley Prime Crime. My wonderful agent, Jessica Faust, gives me great advice and keeps me on track.
I hope you’ll visit my Website, www.LornaBarrett.com, and sign up for my periodic newsletter.
Founders’ Day weekend. What else could Bob Kelly, the head of the Chamber of Commerce, come up with to try to draw a crowd to the little village of Stoneham, New Hampshire? Tricia Miles shook her head at the notion and resettled the weight of the warm, sleepy—and sweaty—toddler against her shoulder. “Booktown, NH,” as Stoneham was often referred to, had risen from the ashes of near extinction thanks to Bob’s efforts when he’d enticed some ten or so booksellers to locate to the village. It had put Stoneham back on the map and had made Bob quite a handsome profit, too. Tricia hadn’t done too badly either, with her own mystery bookstore, Haven’t Got a Clue.
A small single-engine aircraft buzzed the town with a long banner trailing behind it announcing STONEHAM FOUNDERS’ DAY—WWW.STONEHAMNH.COM behind it. Trust Bob to think of that, too. However, Tricia wished it wouldn’t buzz quite so close, as it made conversation nearly impossible, and in only minutes her friend, Deborah Black, the architect of the celebration, would be on deck to give her welcoming speech and to open the festivities.
It was Deborah’s child that Tricia held, since Deborah was otherwise occupied. Little Davey wasn’t impressed by all the hoopla, and the warm August morning had sent him straight to dreamland, which was okay with Tricia. A fall had given the toddler a broken right arm, now encased in a purple cast that he sometimes not so playfully used as a club.
Tricia looked around the crowd, hoping Deborah’s mother would soon make an appearance so she could give up the boy, who hadn’t wanted to sit in his stroller—voicing that opinion with tears and screams. He’d found her to be a much more comfortable place to nap.
Tricia stood across the street from Stoneham’s square, home to a Victorian-era stone gazebo with a lovely copper roof that had aged beautifully. The small park was crammed with carnival rides and colorfully tacky trailers with vendors ready to sell greasy, fattening foods. Loitering among them were the local merchants, townspeople, and tourists—exactly the crowd Bob had hoped to attract. Tricia could just picture Bob standing along the sidelines, rubbing his hands together in miserly fashion. That he’d suckered Deborah to do most of the work was yet another accomplishment. He’d share some of the glory with her but would no doubt take the bulk of the credit for coming up with the idea in the first place.
“Quite the turnout,” Russ Smith said, almost in Tricia’s left ear. Where had he appeared from? She stepped to her right and frowned at him. She and the editor of the Stoneham Weekly News had once been lovers, but that had been more than a year ago. Despite the fact he’d originally dumped her, he now wanted what he couldn’t have.
“Shouldn’t you be stationed closer to the action?” Tricia asked. After all, he did have his Nikon camera hanging from his neck. He’d need pictures of Deborah giving her speech for the next issue of the paper. Russ had contemplated selling the Stoneham Weekly News when he thought he could get back into reporting for a big metropolitan newspaper, but that hadn’t happened, either. Still, Tricia found it hard to feel sorry for him—not after he’d stalked her for a time. Thankfully he’d gotten the message, and although he hadn’t completely accepted the fact, his advances had backed off. He was trying for friendship; at least, that’s what he’d said.
Tricia turned to see Deborah’s mother, Elizabeth Crane, hurrying toward her. At last, she could surrender little Davey to another shoulder. He was getting heavy.
“Did that boy sucker you into holding him?” Elizabeth said, and held out her arms for the boy.
“I’m afraid so.”
“He’s an operator,” Elizabeth said, and shouldered the child, patting him on the back. Davey didn’t even stir. “Deborah has spoiled this kid. But then, she works so hard, when she’s not at the shop, she likes to spend every minute she can with him.”
Deborah and her husband both worked hard. David Black had two jobs and not quite so jokingly claimed he held the second one to keep his wife’s shop afloat. That wasn’t exactly true. Sales at Deborah’s business, the Happy Domestic, had picked up since she’d added a line of greeting cards and stationery to the retail mix. She was in the black—not very far, mind you—but any shade of that color was better than seeing red on a balance sheet. Deborah did, however, admit that David got a bit irritated at having to watch the baby on weekends, but they’d both agreed upon it when they decided to start a family. That said, he was nowhere to be found this day.
“Hello, Russ,” Elizabeth said. “Are you going to take pictures of Deborah giving her speech?”
“I sure am.”
“Get her from the right, it’s her best side,” Elizabeth said, and laughed.
The aircraft did another low circuit around Main Street. Russ grabbed his camera and snapped off a couple of shots. It was impossible to hear anything else until it had moved out of earshot.
“Nice banner,” Russ commented. “I hope I got a good enough shot of it to print in the paper.”
“If you didn’t, it’ll be around again in another couple of minutes,” Tricia said, and pulled at the shoulder of her blouse where little Davey had drooled in his sleep.
Russ glanced at his watch. “The show’s going to start in a few minutes. I’d better go up by the podium. See you later, Tricia?”
The man just didn’t give up. “Good-bye, Russ.”
Elizabeth turned her attention back to the gazebo. “I’m so glad Deborah was able to hire Cheryl Griffin part-time in the shop. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this.”
“I admire Deb’s stamina. She’s really worked hard on the whole Founders’ Day event.” Of course, Bob had tried to foist the job off on Tricia—and several other members of the Chamber of Commerce—first, but she’d been more adept at dodging his constant nagging. After much badgering, Deborah had given in just to shut him up.
The aroma of freshly made popcorn wafted on the slight breeze. Tricia noticed Ray Dempsey standing beside his lunch truck, all decorated in red, white, and blue bunting. Despite protests by the owners of Stoneham’s two lunchtime eateries, the Board of Selectmen had approved Dempsey’s permit request to set up shop with what he called his mobile kitchen. That Tricia’s sister, Angelica, was the owner of one of those establishments—Booked for Lunch—brought the dispute a little closer to home.