Shedding Light on Murder

Chapter One

Grace Tolliver inserted her key in the lock and with a little push, the door gave, a bell jingled and she stepped into a small hallway. She reached up and tugged on a faded red ribbon. The bell came loose at once and she shoved it into the pocket of her leather jacket.

Shedding Light on Murder - Cover DesignKicking off her boots, she stepped into a pair of black clogs, hung her coat in a closet and ran upstairs to her shop, Pearl’s Antique Lamps and Shades. Ducking into her small office, she placed her purse in the bottom drawer of a battered metal filing cabinet, reached behind a ruby tinted shade and fumbled for the thermostat. Last night’s storm had dumped almost twenty inches of snow on Cape Cod, and temperatures were in the high teens. Grace rubbed her hands together and blew on her cold fingers. At least the power was on. She hadn’t been so lucky at her own house, which sat on the edge of a great marsh a short distance from the harbor, and about a half mile from the town center. Around midnight, gusty winds had felled an old ice laden maple, sending it crashing into a power line, and cutting off electricity to the aptly named Freezer Road.

As she circled around the shop, turning on lamps she heard the door downstairs slam shut followed by thudding, slapping noises on the stairs. “Life sucks.” muttered Duane Kerbey as he leaped over the top three steps and sped by her, his wet hair plastered under his wool ski cap. A blue jacket was zipped up to his chin and he carried a Dunkin Donuts bag. His tennis shoes dripped water on the wood floors as he headed for the kitchen area, mumbling something that sounded like “Gotta help mink.”

Grace decided to ignore whatever it was he said, for the time being at least. Knowing Duane, his foul mood might reflect a major life crisis or simply the lack of jelly donuts at the nearby coffee shop. It was difficult to imagine her new employee worried about the mink population, but she would talk to him later, after he had a few minutes to chill out.

The phone rang. “Pearl’s,” she said.

“Grace, it’s Danielle Whitney,” she purred in what, Grace thought was an appealing French accent. “I wonder if you could send someone over to pick up a lamp I want to have cleaned and rewired. Would it be a bother?”

“Of course not, Danielle, I’ll send Duane right over.” Matt and Milo, the former owners of Pearl’s, had introduced her to the attractive woman not long before they retired, when Danielle had come into the shop to get a new liner for a shade.

“An excellent customer,” Matt had said.

"But picky,” Milo had added.

“I want you to make a new shade as well. I’m sure when you see the lamp and finial you will come up with something special and unique. It’s going to be a Christmas present, so I must have it back by next week. Wonderful storm isn’t it? I’m afraid my front walkway is deep in snow, the young boys who shovel it haven’t come by yet.”

“That’s okay,” Grace assured her, at the same time wondering how she was going to complete all of her special orders by Christmas, which was just two weeks away. “Duane can walk through the snow if he needs to. And we’ll get that lamp ready in plenty of time for the holidays.”

As she hung up the phone, Grace felt a ripple of unease. The annual Barnstable Village Stroll was Saturday. There was a stack of orders of hand painted shades to finish. She had to figure out what kind of refreshments she would serve and spruce up the shop for the crowds that would descend on the one block town. This would be the first time that Grace had participated in the event and she wanted everything to be perfect. More than perfect. She wanted to make a killing. After all, there were bills piling up, and the kind of renovations she was planning would not come cheap.

“Duane, I need you to go over to Mrs. Whitney’s house and pick up a lamp for repair. It’s just down the street. A big brick house with black shutters. Finish your coffee, then go. Okay?”

“Yup.”

Duane took a few gulps of coffee, shoved half a donut in his mouth, and headed down the stairs, trailed by a cloud of powdery sugar.

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