Authors: Olivia Stowe
This book is copyright © Olivia Stowe 2010
First published by Cyberworld Publishing, in 2010.
Cover design by S Bush © 2010
Cover Photo BAY BOATS AT SUNSET ©
All rights reserved.
ISBN Ebook 978-0-9808011-3-2
ISBN Print 978-0-9808011-1-8
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review or article, without written permission from the author or publisher.
This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share it with a friend please purchase them a separate copy.
All characters in this book are the product of the author’s imagination and no resemblance to real people, or implication of events occurring in actual places, is intended.
Other Books by Olivia Stowe:
The Charlotte Diamond mystery series:-
- By The Howling
- Retired with Prejudice
- Coast to Coast
- An Inconvenient Death
The Savannah Series:-
- Chatham Square
- Savannah Time
Olivia’s Inspirational Christmas collections:-
- Christmas Seconds 2011
- Spirit of Christmas 2010
By the Howling
By The Howling
Table of Contents
Other Books by Olivia Stowe:
Charlotte looked around as she nosed the Penguin into the ramp and hauled herself unceremoniously—and, she was sure, quite clownishly—up on her belly onto the rough and splintery wooden planks of the pier adjacent to the ramp.
“Feel one with the boat,” she muttered to herself as she pulled on the small sailboat, repeating the instruction she’d been given in the crash course on sailing she’d taken back in Annapolis. The problem, however, was that she felt like she was more than her share of that “one” with the small, single-person sailboat—not more than a dinghy, really. She was sure, though, that if she was going to get the hang of this sailing business, it was going to be in a Penguin-class sailboat. She was much too heavy for the lighter Sunfish, and the sleeker and faster Laser was something she knew, with a mind to how difficult it had been for her to move from typewriter to computer, that she couldn’t handle no matter how hard she tried. And anything requiring more than one person was utterly out of the question. She was definitely, unequivocally a one-person person now.
With a grunt and several groans she struggled up to her knees on the rough surface of the pier. This wasn’t easy to do while being careful not to let loose of the line attached to the Penguin, which was bumping gently against the thick wooden poles holding up the pier in the waters of the northward bend of the Choptank River.
On her two feet now and sloughing off the slight vertigo she felt at being on dry land, she looked around into the yards of the neighbors on either side of her to make sure she wasn’t putting on a show worthy of admission before she worked to haul the small craft up the ramp and onto the grass and saw, in half dismay, that she wasn’t alone after all.
“What are you looking at?” she asked in mock belligerence.
But Sam just sat there and looked at her, his tongue hanging out, and a silly grin on his face.
“This isn’t going to be a pretty sight, Sam,” Charlotte said. “I suggest you stay well back. In fact, I’d retreat all the way back to Susan’s back porch, if I were you.”
The Siberian husky just sat there and watched her with baleful eyes. Then he raised his head, eyes planted in the sky, and took a deep breath, preparing to howl.
“And we’ll have none of that, young man,” Charlotte said sternly. “You’ll wake the dead with that howl of yours and the whole neighborhood will come running to watch Charlotte Diamond make a fool of herself yet again.”
Sam must have gauged both the tone of Charlotte’s voice and her admonition as serious stuff, because he lowered his head again and remained silent.
He also, however, remained planted in the observer’s section of the back lawn and seemed to enjoy immensely Charlotte’s huffing and puffing efforts to pull the Penguin up onto the grass of her yard.
“They said I’d find sailing out on the river restful and calming,” she muttered to no one in particular. “I guess what they meant by that was that it would send me to my final rest—in the grave.”
Still, she felt pleased with herself that she had actually gotten the boat out into the river and not only was able to maneuver away from the dock but was able to reach home again. She’d always said she’d rather be sailing; it had been a roving joke in the department—especially after the lads had discovered she’d been on no boat smaller than the Queen Mary. And now that she had the time on her hands—time weighing her down at every corner, actually—she was determined to enjoy sailing if it killed her. Which, the way she felt now as she tried to stand up straight again, it might.
She turned to give Sam’s ear a playful tug before she walked up the steep path to the back door of her cottage—knowing that the dog the neighbors, the Wellses, had left behind for their house sitter to take care of while they were gallivanting off on an archeological dig in Turkey, enjoyed this attention and that Susan, the house sitter didn’t like or understand dogs well enough to render the service. But Sam was gone.
That was so like the husky Charlotte had become accustomed to the six months since she had retired to the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. The hound was so strong and powerful-looking, almost wolf like, always seeming to be taking a pose, ready to take a leap and yet rarely moving a muscle. And yet, if you turned your eyes aside, it will have taken a silent bounder half way across an open field, looking back at you with laughing “catch me if you can” eyes. It was so much like some scoundrels Charlotte had come into contact with in her professional life that, if Sam were hers, she would have named him Bandit.
As she trudged up the short hill and past the screened porch that jutted out on the back of her clapboard cottage, Charlotte wondered if she’d really have the courage to continue with the sailing routine. It was hardly a routine, of course, as this was only the third time she’d ventured out onto the river. But Charlotte wasn’t anything, if not determined. And she was resolved to have fun no matter how painful it was, and she steeled her resolve to go out on the river again on Wednesday, this being a Monday—or maybe on Thursday or Friday. She wondered how many times she’d need to have this fun before the cost of the Penguin was justified.
Charlotte was having a hell of a time settling on just what she wanted to do with herself in retirement. She had agreed to take on the position of mayor of her small Eastern Shore Maryland village, Hopewell on the Choptank, within a few weeks of moving to this idyllic setting—which was one week longer than it had taken her to become totally bored with retirement life. But that lofty position had been no more than becoming a sounding board for gripes by people who hadn’t changed their pet peeves and feelings of injustice and outrage in three-quarters of their lifetime. She wasn’t in the position for more than a couple of days before it became obvious to her that it was a sucker job that was foisted off on all newcomers to the village.
Not that Hopewell on the Choptank—Hopewell for short, of course—was one of those rural riverine villages lost in time and place, where the locals made fun of and preyed on city slickers moving to a sleepy paradise where time moved slowly and everything was roses and clover. Indeed, almost the whole Eastern Shore was like that. But Hopewell was an enclave, where everyone seemed to be an artsy-fartsy interloper who had done something fabulous in world capitals before retreating here. So the village in its entirety was held at arm’s length by the grinning locals, who shook their heads at all of the arts and crafts and expensive simple-life hobbies the folks of Hopewell came up with to pretend that they were having fun. And of course they could never stop trying to achieve, to reach the top of some status heap.
Sailing had been one such fantasy for Charlotte—but it wasn’t the only new “meaningful” activity she was trying to master to make up for having become an instant nobody the day she had driven out of Annapolis. And as she approached the kitchen door to her cottage and looked up into her dining room window, she remembered that her sailing had been just to fill in the time before the meeting of her book club—which was to happen within a half hour—in her own parlor.
What jolted her memory about the impending meeting was what she didn’t see in her dining room window. In planning for the book club meeting, Charlotte had organized in her mind what she would use to serve refreshments. And the antique Japanese porcelain tea set she had placed on the table in front of the dining room window when she’d moved in leaped to her mind—the set that had belonged to Sydney’s mother and that both he and his secretary, immersed as she was in the tacky modern vinyl style, had refused to take when they trotted off and left Charlotte in the dust.
Her former mother-in-law, Gladys, had always said that reading was a waste of anyone’s time. She had even tried to haul off all of Charlotte’s nineteenth-century novels to a jumble sale that time Charlotte and Sydney had taken the Atlantic cruise on the Queen Mary—the trip that was so confining that it dawned the revelation in Charlotte that there was little about Sydney that she could tolerate any longer, and in Sydney that his secretary was a lot more fun than Charlotte was. Which was neither here nor there, of course, except that Charlotte liked Sydney significantly more than she’d ever liked his mother, and had thought that using Gladys’s prized Japanese tea set for her reading club was just too delicious to resist.
Trotting into the dining room from the kitchen had similar results to what Charlotte hadn’t seen from the back stoop. The Japanese porcelain tea service still wasn’t there. And now, not only did Charlotte have to take a quick sponge bath and find something to wear that didn’t make her look like a whale, but she also had to come up with another idea on what to serve the tea in—and she didn’t have time to sleuth the mystery of the missing tea pot. Which, if truth be known was the most comfortable activity she could have been engaged in. But she simply didn’t have time for that now. She was too busy enjoying her leisure time.
Charlotte wasn’t nearly as upset that the tea set wasn’t there as she was at the probability that she had moved it someplace else and forgotten to tell herself where it had gone. That was precisely why she had been out sailing that morning, was hosting a book club meeting within minutes, and later in the afternoon was scheduled for a preliminary meeting of the art show judges panel she, as mayor—and certainly not as someone with an eye for art—had agreed to sit on. Before she had retired—forcibly so, by the law of her trade—Charlotte had made the mistake of reading a magazine on retirement. One article had assured her she couldn’t afford to retire, even though she had no choice in doing so, while another one that stuck in her mind cheerfully reported that most retirees drifted off into dementia soon after leaving their jobs because they no longer had anything meaningful to occupy their minds with.