Chapter One

I hadn’t expected to spend a month in Washington, but sometimes unexpected situations cross our paths. In this case, my pregnant friend, Felicity Hawks, decided she wanted to have her baby in Washington instead of California. I have no idea where that decision came from, but I’ve heard that hormones can play with your mind. I don’t know if that’s true or not. On second thought, I have a menopausal mother and I’d seen what her hormones could do to her and those around her.

Thankfully, my husband and I have a second home in Washington, and there’s also a guest house on the property.

Stanley, Felicity’s husband, had reached a point where he’d go along with any decision she made. If she decided he needed to jump off a bridge, he’d probably do it. Her hormones again? Maybe, but he was a docile man to begin with, although he’d never admit it.

Pete and I are private investigators in Los Angeles. We decided we deserved a break, so we closed the office and the four of us took off for Battle Ground, Washington. We caravanned because my dogs, Bubba and Clementine, rode in the back of our Jeep. That didn’t leave a lot of room for a month’s worth of luggage plus our friends.

By the time we reached Northern California, it had started raining. The farther north we drove, the heavier the rain, and by the time we reached our house we started seeing lightning and hearing thunder. A portent of things to come?

Clementine hated thunder and did her best to climb over the back of my seat. I took pity and turned, picking her up and setting her in my lap. She immediately climbed up my chest and onto my shoulder. She would have tried to wrap herself around my neck, but the headrest was in the way. She took the alternate route and started licking my face. I returned her to the back seat where she licked Bubba.

Felicity’s parents passed on many years ago, so my mother, Livvie Brewster, decided she wanted to be the baby’s surrogate grandmother. She and my stepfather live in Arizona and run a bed and breakfast. He said he’d take care of the business while she and my Aunt Martha met us up north. My aunt wanted to fill the role of a great-aunt when the baby arrived.

I got a chill every time I thought about being near both my mother and my aunt at the same time. Like I said, my mother is menopausal and my aunt is… Well, she’s kind of a terror. She got married not long ago to Griz, a man who’s her match. I hoped she’d calmed down a little. They were coming up about two weeks before the baby was due. The saving grace was that they’d be staying at a bed and breakfast down the road from our vintage farmhouse.

Looking back, I never expected to become involved in a mystery while we were away from the office.

Let me tell you how this all came about.

~ * ~

It was a long drive up to Washington, but we took our time, mostly because my closest friend and her husband were along and she was very pregnant, about eight months along. The weather we ran into didn’t help.

Felicity had already made contact with a doctor in Vancouver, near Battle Ground, and she’d flown up to meet with him earlier in the pregnancy. Her regular doctor in Los Angeles and the doctor in Vancouver kept in close touch. There aren’t any hospitals in Battle Ground, so Vancouver was the place to go. It wasn’t a typical situation, but there ya go.

Pete and I had stayed at the B&B located down the street from our house before we bought it and we ended up solving two old murders. Some people thought the B&B was haunted, but you couldn’t prove it by me.

A couple who’d been staying there at the same time we were there ended up buying it from Bea, who owned and ran the place. Phil and Gloria Stewart played up the haunted house stories to attract visitors. Surprisingly, it seemed to have worked, although there was no mention of the supposed ghost returning or any sightings. Gloria had been beside herself with joy over the idea of a resident ghost.

We arrived at our house and while Felicity and I unpacked, Pete and Stanley went for a walk in the country – or tried to – in the pouring rain.

Everything was starting to bloom in our yard, although things looked a little water-logged, and May was turning out to be a good month. I’d hired someone to take care of the yard while we were away, and he’d done an excellent job.

After unpacking, I walked back to the guest house to see how Felicity was doing. I knocked and waited for her to answer.

Bubba wandered around the yard and sniffed, well, everything.

Clementine waited on the guesthouse porch.

Lightning flashed and thunder roared across the sky.

Fel opened the door and Clem ran inside, ears back and her tail between her legs. Obviously she didn’t like the noise.

My friend is about four feet, ten inches tall, or thereabouts, and her baby belly looked huge on her. The doctor had told her she could probably expect a fairly large baby, and looking at her made me have second thoughts about pregnancy. She kept her long, almost black hair pulled back now. Her face had filled out with the pregnancy, but her dimples still made their appearance from time to time.

I ran my hands through my own long light brown hair, and ended up pulling it back, too.

“Are you ready to go to the store?” I asked.

She waddled out to the kitchen to grab her purse. “Let’s get it over with.”

“Fel, I can do the shopping if you’d rather stay home. You look so uncomfortable.”

“I’m fine, and you’d never be able to find everything I want. I’m eating for two, you know.” She sounded a little snippy, but I ignored her. I felt like I should wrap her in my arms and tell her everything would be okay, but I was half afraid she’s slap me.

Hormones and discomfort.

“Let’s sit down for a few minutes before we leave. It’s been a long day.” I sat down on an over-sized easy chair.

She sighed and sat down on the couch. “I guess I could use a few minutes off my feet.” She glanced toward the front door. “Can you believe those idiots are out for a walk on a day like this?”

Thunder clapped overhead again and Clem jumped up on my lap, climbed up my chest and onto my shoulder, and pulled on my hair. I pulled her off my shoulder and set her on my lap. “No.” She was frightened and I wrapped her in my arms.

The door opened and Stanley and Bubba hurried in, with the dog madly sniffing the legs and shoes Stanley was wearing. His waterproof jacket hadn’t helped a lot. The pant legs of his jeans were soaked, and his shoes were wet and muddy. His thinning brown hair was dripping water.

“Stop right there, buddy! Don’t you dare drip water on the floor. I’m not cleaning it up.” Felicity sounded close to tears.

“Now, honey bunch, don’t you worry. I’ll do all the cleaning while we’re here.” Just the same, he turned and walked back outside where he furiously wiped his feet on the doormat. He took off his shoes and carried them back inside. Bubba was on his trail and Stanley kept pushing him away.

“What’s the matter with you, Bubba? Leave Stanley alone.” My dog ignored my command.

Stanley ran through the house, trying to get away from Bubba while also trying not to drip on the floor. Clem was on their heels. “I’ve got a story to tell you after I change into something dry. Pete and I discovered…” His voice was muffled when he closed the bedroom door. Clem had managed to squeeze through the space before he closed it.

Felicity twisted and turned and tried to finagle herself off the couch.

I reached out to help her and she took my hand. I pulled while she pushed herself up.

“You’ll have to save your discovery until I get back from the store,” she called out.

Stanley opened the door and stuck his head out. “But – “

“It’ll have to wait. I’m running out of energy.”

The door closed. Another thunder boomer claimed our attention and I heard Stanley tell Clem to get down. I imagined her climbing up his chest while he was probably sitting on the bed, trying to put on dry shoes.

Felicity waited on the porch while I pulled the Jeep around.

Pete was walking out the backdoor heading for the guest house. He waved and motioned for me to put down the window.

The wind had picked up, and when I rolled down the window I got a blast of rain water in my face. I rolled it back up and looked at Pete, shrugging.

He saw Felicity standing on the porch and hurried over to help her into the car.

With the door open, he said, “Stan and I discovered something that I know will whet your appetite.”

“It’ll have to wait until we get home,” I said.

We drove to the store where I intended to drop my friend off at the door before parking the car. I’d seen her struggling and hurried around to help her out of the car. Grabbing a basket, I pushed it to her so she could hang onto it and balance herself.

What a day this was turning out to be.

I walked through the store with her and we each loaded our baskets with enough food to get us through several days. I tried to pay attention to what she was buying so if I had to come alone next time I could pick up the kind of things she liked.

Interestingly, she’d pick something up, study it, and put it back. Her face lit up when we reached the bakery. Still, she managed to load her basket with some healthy food as well as desserts.

“I wonder what the boys found,” I said.

“With them, there’s no telling. I’m sure we’ll find out when we get home. I hope Stanley builds a fire while we’re gone. I’m so hot all the time, but today I’m cold. It’s kind of a welcome relief, and yet… Sandi, this is no picnic.”

“I know. It’ll all be over soon, Felicity. And just think of the little baby you’ll be holding in your arms in a month.”

She started to cry.

Desperation took hold. “Maybe they’ve found something exciting.”

Something to distract us all from the coming event, I thought.






One Adventure Too Many

A Sandi Webster Mystery

by


Marja McGraw

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