... and a pig that digs up a body.
When JT McCord jilted Molly Lawford she survived and moved on to marry twice. But her first husband died and her second husband ran off with a hairdresser. Molly gave up on romance and settled down in Tangle Butte, Minnesota, as a small town reporter.
Now JT is back in town as the Chief of Police. His first official act is to investigate how Molly's thought-to-be-vanished husband turned up buried next to the septic tank in Molly's back yard, dug up by a neighbor's pig.
Molly sets out to solve that mystery with the help of Mr. Sex's Ladies (her book group), her newspaper editor, her Tarot reader and her color-sorted M&Ms. If she can survive a couple of attempts on her life she might find the love of her life—all because of a pig and some plumbing.
JT smiled at me as he shucked off his jacket and tossed down his leather gloves. He ran a hand over his cropped hair, then walked into the kitchen, sniffing. "Smells good in here. I didn't believe you could do it, but maybe you can cook, Molly. I'll have to taste it to believe it, though."
I was tongue-tied with sudden infatuation. He was very masculine, so tall and broad-shouldered with his face red from the cold and his hair tousled from working outside, the white curls clipped short but springy. I wanted to wrap my arms around him and hug him, just to feel all that male body against mine.
"You just wait," I managed to say, then I went back into the kitchen, my face flaming with color. Yolanda and Kathy exchanged a smug look but I ignored them, not anxious to examine what I was feeling.
JT fit right in with our group, joking with folks as we ate, then helping me decorate the fireplace mantle, bookcases, and windows. I've always had pets, so have never had a Christmas tree, but I always find plenty of other spots to display my Christmas bangles. JT was impressed with my M&M ornament collection, which I'd been collecting for years and which numbered in the dozens. We lined them up in the windows from oldest to newest, setting them carefully onto the sills high above Mr. T's elderly paws. And JT provided the height when it came to stringing my M&M Christmas lights above the fireplace and in the china cabinet.
My brother Don called as we were decorating. He and his family usually came for a visit in the summer, when travel weather was somewhat predictable. He and JT had a long chat, which I covertly tried to overhear, but Yolanda circumvented me by coercing me into the kitchen to dish out Ike's pie. I wasn't able to shake free in time to pick up any juicy gossip. We ended the afternoon with coffee and pie in the living room. I was feeling drowsy with turkey-drug and good cheer, not to mention the several glasses of wine I'd consumed.
"I was wondering how much you remember about the flower show that day Sam disappeared," JT said.
He was stretched out on the other side of the couch from me. We were sharing a hassock, his long legs almost drooping over the end while mine were comfortably propped up on the edge. The other guests were on the other couch, the love seat and in armchairs. JT's gift to me was in the center of the coffee table, like a magical pot sitting next to my Northern Gardener magazine and the latest copy of Writer's Digest.
"Flower show?" I sipped coffee, willing my brain cells to work.
"I know it's been a long time, but I'd like to put together a time line of what happened that day." JT glanced at Yolanda. "Did you go to the show?"
She nodded. "I've volunteered every year for the past twenty years or more. If I recall correctly, I accepted entries that morning at the main building, then I helped set up displays in the barn. It was hot that day. I remember that. I was afraid the flower arrangements would wilt before they got judged."
I nodded sleepily. "It was one of those Indian summer days. It's really stuck in my mind, because when I found Sam and Bobbi Jo in the shed, I remember thinking it was so hot in there, how could they stand it?"
"Shed?" JT's coffee cup paused on the way to his mouth.
"The shed out at the fairgrounds that the Garden Club used to store supplies—you know, potting soil, tools, stuff like that."
"Insecticide?" he asked.
Something in his voice made me sit up a bit. "Yeah. Why?"
"Were you at the flower show all day?"
I heard something again in his voice, an insistent quality that bothered me. "I was there from about seven in the morning," I said. "I was in charge of the show that year. Shirley was Garden Club President, but she didn't do shit." I frowned at my coffee. "Typical of her, she always delegated everything so other people ended up doing all the work. Anyway, I had to be there from seven in the morning until dark every day of the show. It was a long week of preparation, then the show, all capped off by Sam pulling his little stunt, then leaving." I leaned back on the couch. JT was staring into his coffee cup, his long face thoughtful. "What's up, JT?"
"Can someone verify that you were at the show all day and that you didn't see Sam?" He turned to stare at me. I was surprised by the intent, somber look.
"I can," Amelia said immediately.
"Me, too," Paula confirmed. "We were on the committee with Molly. We all spent each day of the show out at the fairgrounds."
"Do you know who Sam had lunch with that day?"
"Lunch?" I struggled to think back to a day five years previously, but soon gave up. "I have no idea, JT. Let's see, it was a Friday. The Garden Show always went from Thursday to Sunday, and Sam left—" I revised myself, "—Sam disappeared on Friday. I figured he'd just taken a room at the motel, since I didn't think he'd leave town on a weekend." I saw JT's puzzled expression. "Sam was a realtor, he was always showing houses on the weekend. After our fight, I figured he'd go to a motel, then maybe come back, pack up more thoroughly, and move out." I sipped my coffee, remembering JT's original question. "Lunch?"
JT nodded. "I've got his Day Planner from that year. I've read through it, but he must have used abbreviations for his clients or something. He's got a notation in his calendar, but I can't figure out who he was meeting that morning at eleven."
"Why is that important?" Ike asked.
JT stared down at his hands. I followed his gaze, seeing the rough chapped skin and the big knobby knuckles. He stared at me. There was something assessing in his gaze, as though he was trying to make up his mind about a decision he had to make.
"What is it, JT?" I asked.
"Sam didn't die from the pitchfork," he said. "He was poisoned."
... and a pig that digs up a body.