Read Death by Killer Mop Doll (An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery) Online

Authors: Lois Winston

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Death by Killer Mop Doll (An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery)

BOOK: Death by Killer Mop Doll (An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery)
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Copyright Information

Death by Killer Mop Doll
© 2011 Lois Winston

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any matter whatsoever, including Internet usage, without written permission from Midnight Ink, except in the form of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

As the purchaser of this ebook, you are granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this ebook on screen. The text may not be otherwise reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, or recorded on any other storage device in any form or by any means.

Any unauthorized usage of the text without express written permission of the publisher is a violation of the author’s copyright and is illegal and punishable by law.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

First e-book edition © 2011

E-book ISBN: 9780738727813

Book design by Donna Burch

Cover design
by Lisa Novak

Cover
Illustration
©
2011 by Mark Tobin

Midnight Ink is an imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.

Midnight Ink does not participate in, endorse, or have any authority or responsibility concerning private business arrangements between our authors and the public.

Any Internet references contained in this work are current at publication time, but the publisher cannot guarantee that a specific reference will continue or be maintained. Please refer to the publisher’s website for links to current author websites.

Midnight Ink

Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.

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Woodbury, MN 55125

www.midnightink.com

Manufactured in the United States of America

Dedication

For Zack, Zoe, and Chase

Acknowledgments

To Terri Bischoff, Midnight Ink acquisitions editor, for offering Anastasia a home, and to all the other members of the Midnight Ink team, including Connie Hill, Steven Pomije, Courtney Colton, Courtney Huber, Donna Burch, and Lisa Novak, for the various roles they’ve played in making Anastasia look her best and giving her such incredible support when they sent her off into the world.

To Carolyn and Ashley Grayson for believing in my abilities.

To Denise Dumars for introducing Anastasia to Midnight Ink.

To my extremely talented son Scott Winston who, even though nominated for an Emmy Award, still has time to design my website and bookmarks and deal with my various computer problems.

To my other incredibly talented son Chris Winston, even though he hasn’t helped me with anything related to Anastasia, but who would be very upset to see his brother mentioned in the acknowledgments and not him.

To Jennifer and Megan, the daughters I didn’t have to raise through adolescence and therefore got the good without the grief.

Special thanks to DorothyL member Pattie Tierney for lending her name to Zack’s ex-wife.

To my fellow founding members of Liberty States Fiction Writers: Gail Freeman, Melinda Leigh, Caridad Pineiro, Kathye Quick, Michele Richter, Rayna Vause, and Anne Walradt, for their amazing friendship, their constant support, and their ability to keep me sane.

And finally, to my husband, Rob, who has weathered many a storm with me over the years, both figuratively and literally.

One

Upstairs, the front door
slammed with enough force to register a five on the Richter scale. Dust dislodged from the exposed basement rafters and drifted down like polluted snow, settling over the basket of clean laundry I’d been folding. The ensuing shouting, barking, and yowling drowned out my muttered curse of choice and yanked my attention away from the now Dalmatian-spotted white wash.


Once more unto the breach, dear friends
,” squawked Ralph, the Shakespeare-spouting African Grey parrot I’d inherited when Great-Aunt Penelope Periwinkle died two years ago. “
Henry the Fifth
. Act Three, Scene One.” He spread his wings and took flight up the basement stairs to check out the action. I raced after him, eager to prevent World War III from erupting in my living room.

“Muzzle that abominable creature, or I’ll have the pound haul him away,” shrieked Mama. “He’s traumatizing Catherine the Great.”

“So shove some Prozac down her throat,” said my mother-in-law, Lucille. “What the hell are you doing back here? And don’t you ever bother to knock? Just barge right in like you own the place.”

“I have more right to be here than you. This is my daughter’s house, you … you
pinko squatter
.”

As I hurried through the kitchen, I glanced at the calendar tacked next to the telephone. Mama wasn’t due back from her Caribbean cruise for another three days. Damn it. I needed those three days to steel myself for the inevitable explosive reaction that occurred whenever Flora Sudberry Periwinkle Ramirez Scoffield Goldberg O’Keefe, my mother and the former social secretary of
the Daughters of the American Revolution, locked horns with
Lucille Pollack, my mother-in-law and current president of the Daughters of the October Revolution. I’d been swindled out of seventy-two hours.

By the time I entered the living room, Mama and Lucille’s voices
had reached glass-shattering decibel range.

“Crazy communist!” yelled Mama. She stood in the middle of the room, cradling Catherine the Great, her corpulent white Persian with an attitude befitting her namesake.

Manifesto, my mother-in-law’s runt of a French bulldog, stood inches from Mama’s Ferragamos, his bark having switched to growl mode as he glared up at his nemesis. With a hiss and a yowl, Catherine the Great leaped from Mama’s arms. Showing his true cowardly colors, Mephisto, as we always called him behind his back and often to his snout, scampered to safety behind my mother-in-law’s ample girth.

Lucille barreled across the room, waving her cane at Mama. “Reactionary fascist!”

“How dare you threaten me!” Mama defended herself with a French-manicured backhand that would have done Chris Everett proud. The cane flew from Lucille’s grasp and landed inches from Mephisto’s nose. Demon dog yelped and dove between Lucille’s orange polyester-clad legs.

My mother-in-law’s rage multiplied into Vesuvian proportions. Her wrinkled face deepened from a spotted scarlet to an apoplectic heliotrope. “You did that on purpose!”

Mama jutted her chin at Lucille as she rubbed the palm of her hand. “You started it.”

“And I’m stopping it.” I stepped between them, spreading my arms to prevent them from ripping each other’s lips off. “Knock it off. Both of you.”

“It’s her fault,” said Mama. She jabbed a finger at Lucille. Her hand shook with rage, her gold charm bracelet tinkling a dainty minuet totally incompatible with the situation. “And that vicious mongrel of hers. She sic’d him on us the moment we walked through the door.”

Highly unlikely. “Mephisto’s all bark and bluster, Mama. You should know that by now.”


Manifesto
!” shrieked Lucille. “How many times do I have to tell you his name is
Manifesto
?”

“Whatever,” Mama and I said in unison. It was an old refrain.
Mephisto
better suited demon dog anyway. Besides, who names a dog after a Communist treatise?

Behind me, Ralph squawked. I looked over my shoulder and found him perched on the lampshade beside one of the overstuffed easy chairs flanking the bay window. A chair occupied by a cowering stranger, his knees drawn up to his chest, his arms hugging his head. I glanced at Mama. Glanced back at the man. “Who’s he?”

“Oh dear!” Mama raced across the room, flapping her Chanel-suited arms. “Shoo, dirty bird!”

Ralph ignored her. He doesn’t intimidate easily. Mama was hardly a challenge for a parrot who had spent years successfully defending himself against Aunt Penelope’s mischievous students. “Anastasia, I told you that bird’s a reincarnation of Ivan the Terrible. Do something. He’s attacking my poor Lou.”

Her Poor Lou
? Okay, at least the man had a name and someone in the room knew him. I stretched out my arm and whistled. Ralph took wing, landing in the crook of my elbow.
Poor Lou
peered through his fingers. Convinced the coast was clear, he lowered his hands and knees and raised his head.

“Are you all right, dear?” asked Mama, patting his salt and pepper comb-over. “I’m terribly sorry about all this. My daughter never did have the heart to turn away a stray.” She punctuated her statement with a pointed stare, first in Lucille’s direction and then at Ralph.

Lucille harrumphed.

Ralph squawked.

Mephisto bared his teeth and rumbled a growl from the depths of his belly.

Catherine the Great had lost interest in the family melodrama and dozed, stretched out on the back of the sofa.

Before Mama could explain
Poor Lou
’s presence, the front door burst open. Fourteen-year-old Nick and sixteen-year-old Alex
bounded into the living room. “Grandma!” they both exclaimed in unison. They dropped their baseball gear and backpacks on the floor and encircled Mama in a group hug.

“Aren’t you supposed to be on a cruise?” asked Nick.

“Who’s this?” asked Alex, nodding toward
Poor Lou
.

Poor Lou
rose. He wiped his palms on his pinstriped pants legs, cleared his throat, and straightened his skewed paisley tie. “Maybe I should be going, Flora. The driver is waiting.”

I glanced out the front window. A black limo idled at the curb.

“Yes, of course.” She walked him to the door without bothering to make introductions. Very odd behavior for my socially correct mother.

“I’ll call you tomorrow,”
Poor Lou told Mama.

She raised her head, batted her eyelashes, and sighed. Poor Lou
wrapped his arms around my mother and bent her backwards in a clinch that rivaled the steamiest of Harlequin romance book covers. His eyes smoldered as he met her slightly parted lips. Mama melted into his body.

I stared at my etiquette-obsessed mother, my jaw flapping down
around my knees, and wondered if she had eaten any funny mushrooms on her cruise. Out of the corner of one eye, I saw my two sons gaping with equally bug-eyed expressions. Behind me, Lucille muttered her disgust. Even Ralph registered his amazement with a loud squawk.

Over Mama’s shoulder,
Poor Lou stole an anxious glance toward Ralph, broke the kiss, and darted out the door.

Mama fluffed her strawberry blonde waves back into place, smoothed the wrinkles from her suit jacket, and offered us the most innocent of expressions as we continued to ogle her. “Is something wrong?”

“Wrong? Why? Just because my mother was doing the Tonsil Tango with a total stranger?”

Lucille stooped to retrieve her cane. “I suppose this means that trashy hussy is moving back into my room.”


Your
room?” asked Mama.

“Hey, it’s
my
room!” said Nick.

Poor Nick. He was none too happy about having to give up his bedroom to his curmudgeon of a grandmother. He didn’t mind the occasional upheaval when Mama came to visit because he knew it was temporary. Besides, the boys and Mama had a great relationship. Lucille was another story. When she moved in with us to recuperate after a hit-and-run accident and subsequent hip surgery, none of us had expected a permanent addition to the household. Then again, I had suffered from quite a few delusions back then.

Lucille scowled at me. “You should teach those boys some respect. In my day children knew their place.”

“Don’t you speak to my daughter like that.”

Lucille scoffed. “Look who’s talking. A fine example you set.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” demanded Mama.

“Strumpet.” Lucille pounded her cane once for emphasis, then lumbered from the living room, Mephisto following at her heels. Lucille habitually pronounced judgment with a pounding of her cane, then departed.

“At least I’m getting some,” Mama called after her. “Unlike a certain jealous Bolshevik who hasn’t experienced an orgasm since Khrushchev ruled the Kremlin.”

“Mama!”

Nick and Alex grabbed their middles and doubled over in hysterics.

Mama brushed my indignation aside with a wave of her hand. “For heaven’s sake, Anastasia, I’m a grown woman.”

“Then act like one. Especially in front of your grandsons.”

She winked at the boys. “I thought I did. Besides, if they don’t know the facts of life by now, they’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”

I glanced at my sons, not sure how to interpret the sheepish expression on Alex’s face or the feigned innocence on Nick’s. After the initial shock of seeing their grandmother in the throes of passion, both seemed quite amused by the drama playing out in our living room. “They know all about the facts of life. What they don’t need is a graphic demonstration from their grandmother.”

The corners of Mama’s mouth dipped down. “Honestly, Anastasia,
just because I’m over sixty doesn’t mean I’m ready for a hearse. When did you become such a stick-in-the-mud, dear?”

I suppose right around the time she morphed from Ms. Manners into Auntie Mame. Other sixty-five-year-old women might behave this way in front of their daughter and grandsons, but up until today, Mama wasn’t one of them. Was Poor Lou
’s last name
Svengali
?

Alex spared me from defending myself. “So who’s the stranger dude, Grandma?”

“Lou isn’t a stranger. He’s my fiancé.”

“Your
what
?” Surely I hadn’t heard her correctly. Had some of that rafter dust settled in my ears? “What about Seamus, Mama?”

“Seamus?”

“Yes, Seamus. Remember him?”

Mama heaved one of those sighs reserved for children who need repeated instruction and explanation. “Seamus died, Anastasia. You know that.”

Of course I knew Seamus had died. He’d suffered a cerebral aneurysm while kissing the Blarney Stone. “But he
just
died. Three months ago.” Within days of losing my own husband, Mama had lost hers.


Well, it’s not like we were married very long. He died on our six-month anniversary. Besides, I’m not Merlin. I don’t grow younger
with each passing year.”

Ample justification for getting herself engaged to a total stranger, no doubt. “Where did you meet this man?”

“On the cruise, of course.”

“So you’re engaged to a man you’ve known for all of one week?”

Mama shrugged. “Time is meaningless when soul mates connect.”

Soul mates?
The now-departed Seamus had been soul mate number five for Flora Sudberry Periwinkle Ramirez Scoffield Goldberg O’Keefe. When Mama finally met her maker, she’d have a line of
soul mates waiting for her at the Pearly Gates. She’d better hope St. Peter allowed polygamy up in Heaven.

“Besides,” continued Mama, “at my age, I have to grab happiness when it presents itself. Advice you’d do well to heed.” She glanced down the hallway toward the bedrooms. “Unless you want to wind up like
her
.”

“No, not that!” Nick grabbed his throat and made gagging noises. “Not my mom!”

Alex fell to his knees in front of Mama, his hands clasped in supplication. “Please, Grandma, save our mom!”

Comedians. I tossed them a mom-scowl. “If the two of you have so much time on your hands, you can vacuum and do a load of wash before dinner.” Nearly seven and I still had to prepare a meal, finish a project for a photo shoot tomorrow, and figure out a way to rob Peter to pay Paul before the bill collectors came knocking. Again.

Alex grabbed his backpack. “Sorry, Mom. Got an economics paper due tomorrow.”

“Bio test,” said Nick, retrieving his backpack from the floor.

“Dibs on the computer,” called Alex as he sped down the hall to the bedroom they now shared. The boys used to have their own computers, but Nick’s died last month. A replacement would have to wait until I won Mega Millions or Powerball.

Nick raced after Alex. Neither bothered with the baseball gear they’d dumped on the carpet. Apparently, it had become invisible to all but me.

I stooped to pick up the discarded duffels of sports paraphernalia. “I’m still in mourning.”

Mama snorted as she followed me into the kitchen. “For a no-good gambling addict who left you without two nickels to rub together?”

“Karl and I were married eighteen years,” I said softly as I hung the duffels on pegs in the mudroom off the kitchen. “He’s only been dead three months.”

Mama regarded me with an expression that hovered somewhere between pity and skepticism. “You don’t still have feelings for him, do you?”

I grabbed the leftover chicken and broccoli casserole from the fridge. There was barely enough left for four, let alone five people. “Not exactly,” I said, reaching for a box of mac and cheese to supplement the casserole. Not after what Karl Marx Pollack had done to his kids and me. I mourned for my former life. Before lies and deceit and death shattered the illusion of our perfect middle-class world.

I brushed my desperately-in-need-of-a-styling-but-can’t-afford-
it hair out of my face and turned to confront Mama. “Besides, I don’t have time for romance. I’m too busy paying off Karl’s debts.”

BOOK: Death by Killer Mop Doll (An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery)
5.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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