Authors: Lorena McCourtney
GO, IVY, GO!
Book #5, The Ivy Malone Mysteries
Cover by Travis Miles, Pro Book Covers
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission from the author. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, incidents, and dialogue are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
I like garlic. Garlic toast. A hint of garlic in meatloaf and spaghetti. A sprinkle of garlic salt on baked potatoes. Delightful!
But after a week of eating everything from garlic scrambled eggs to garlic enchiladas, roast garlic, pickled garlic, garlic won-tons and garlic tea, the drift of that familiar scent as I passed Mac’s motorhome curled my toes. Surely he wasn’t trying that recipe for garlic cheesecake he’d mentioned yesterday, was he?
The motorhome door swung open. “Hey, are you hungry? I’m making Parmesan chicken. It’ll be ready in fifteen minutes,” Mac called.
“A hundred and forty-nine people on the internet say it’s fantastic!
With cheese-garlic biscuits.”
Mac himself, usually odorless except for a nice whiff of some evergreen-y soap he uses, has now taken on a garlic aura of his own. Me too. My breath came close to annihilating a couple of patrons at the local library where I work part-time, and an innocent aloe there went into cardiac arrest when I breathed on it. Although I have to admit Mac’s scent of eau-de-garlic doesn’t keep him from being the most attractive silver fox in the RV park where we’re staying. As evidenced by the number of women using various sneaky techniques to try to lure him into their clutches. I’m sure that redhead in the travel trailer across the street deliberately sabotaged her own hood vent fan so she could ask him for help yesterday.
“I’m going to run home and take a look at my mail.” I waved the oversized envelope that I’d picked up at the RV park’s mail center. “Can I bring anything? Dessert?”
“No, we’re all set. I’m trying a recipe for garlic fudge too.”
Be still, my racing heart.
as if Mac has plunged into some eccentric garlic-geezerhood, I reminded myself. This was legitimate research for a magazine article. That’s what Mac does. Travels around the country and writes about interesting places and events. He’d gone to a big garlic festival for three days, spent every day for the last week at a nearby garlic farm, and was taste-testing all these recipes so he could select a few to accompany the article.
“I’ll be right back,” I called to Mac, hopefully squelching any ideas the redhead, now sneaking surreptitious glances at Mac while she watered the geraniums around her travel trailer, might have about pouncing on the Parmesan chicken - and Mac - herself.
Garlic is good for your health, I reminded myself as the scent trailed behind me like an invisible fog. It’s also supposed to keep vampires away. Actually, I’ve never been troubled by vampires, but if any are lurking around the RV park, I should be safe.
In my own motorhome, four spaces down from Mac’s, I sliced the big envelope open eagerly. I don’t get mail often. It goes first to a forwarding outfit in Missouri, where it’s bundled for sending on to another forwarding location in Arkansas and then on to Oklahoma. When I finally call Oklahoma and give them a temporary address, it’s sent on to me.
All this to thwart any vengeful Braxtons still on my trail, of course. Although there isn’t much to forward these days. I’ve been gone from Madison Street back in Missouri for almost three years now. My monthly Social Security payment goes to a bank account in Iowa, and I don’t have any credit card bills. I never use a credit card that the resourceful Braxtons might be able to track.
Now I read a letter from an acquaintance in Arkansas, and I was pleased to hear from her. Less pleased with a past-due bill for a couple months of water and sewage fees on the house on Madison Street
. How could that be? The house has been empty since the property management company evicted the last non-paying renter a year ago, at which time I’d given up on renting, and all the utilities had been shut off.
Also a bill from the electric company. What was going on? I’d have to call and try to straighten things out.
The next letter had the unfamiliar return address of something called Radison Properties with an address in Springfield, Illinois. Trying to sell me something? Lots of luck, guys. Buying a roll of “forever” stamps before the price goes up again is a big investment for me.
I read the letter with surprise and elation. Radison Properties wasn’t selling. They were buying! It was also quite a generous offer on the house, especially considering the current state of the real estate market. Only ten percent immediate cash, but the balance would be paid in nine months, and they’d pay all costs of the transaction. There it was, a solution to the ongoing expenses of property taxes, insurance bills and worries about vandalism of an empty house! I’d jump on this like my cat Koop - now draped over the passenger’s seat of the motorhome like an elongated orange cushion - on a dish of tuna.
But the enthusiasm fizzled with my next thought.
the house Harley and I had shared for years, the house I’d lived in for more years after Harley passed on? The house where my son Colin grew up? I thought of my roomy kitchen, with all that counter and cabinet space.
bedroom, where the morning sun poured through the big east window. My bathroom, where I could stretch out in the old-fashioned, claw-footed tub.
Unlike bathing in the bathroom of my 24-foot motorhome,
which is much like curling up in a plastic teacup.
A rush of homesickness unexpectedly whooshed over me, an almost fierce desire to go
I’d always figured on going back to Madison Street someday, after the threat from the murderous Braxtons faded away . . .
Several months had passed since I’d had any indication I was still on a Braxton hit list.
No bombs planted under my motorhome. No ominous powder in an envelope. No skulking strangers. No unexplained fires. No murderous threats.
go home now!
An almost overwhelming desire to instantly jump behind the wheel and make a headlong dash for Missouri hit me. I wanted to see the big maple out in front of the house and stick my hands in the garden dirt out back. Okay, I’m not much of a gardener. My tomatoes tend to resemble some mad scientist’s experiment gone awry. But that tree by the garage, cheerfully immune to what my neighbor Magnolia called my “black thumb of death,” always produced a bountiful supply of pie cherries. And those glorious lilacs in the spring . . .
I could be back in Missouri in three days from here in central California. Maybe less if I really put the pedal to the metal.
My enthusiasm dropped a notch when I considered Mac’s probable reaction to this. He’d undoubtedly rain on my homeward parade. Tell me that the only reason the Braxtons weren’t planting bombs under my motorhome or ambushing me in an alley was because they hadn’t been able to find me lately. That showing up on Madison Street would be like waving
flag at them. He’d
advise I sell to this Radison Properties outfit fast, before they came to their senses and withdrew the offer.
A sobering thought: he could be right.
But I really needed
to go back before making a decision on the house, didn’t I? Maybe the place was worth a lot more than Radison Properties was offering. Maybe the Madison Street area had suddenly become retro-fashionable,
place to buy.
And maybe, once I got there, I’d decide to stay. The possibility shimmered like some hidden treasure suddenly exposed to light. Home!
Maybe I’d just not show the letter to Mac right now. No point in starting his downpour. He was headed for Montana in a few days to do a magazine piece on an old mining town, complete with
ghost prospectors, and also to visit his son and family. I’d planned to stay on here in California until funding for my job in the Historical Collection room at the library ran out. We’d talked about meeting later on the Oregon coast. I could call him from somewhere on the road and tell him I’d decided to detour to Missouri first.
That was how my relationship with Mac MacPherson worked. We kept in cell-phone touch regularly, and sometimes we moved our motorhomes in unison. But sometimes we went in different directions. We’d danced around the subject of marriage a few times, but we’d never managed the giant leap into it.
But I couldn’t
tell him what I was thinking about doing, I realized with a heavy sigh. Not telling him wouldn’t exactly be
but it came under a truth-avoidance classification that snagged like a dead fish on my conscience.
I clomped on over to Mac’s motorhome, letter stuffed in the pocket of my blue shorts, feeling a little grumpy with my conscience.
I had to admit both the Parmesan chicken and the garlic-cheese biscuits were great. Even the garlic fudge was passable. Actually, all Mac’s recipes were good individually; it was the garlic
that was getting to me. I waited until after we’d eaten, when we were drinking iced tea, blessedly garlic-free, under the motorhome awning, with the sun blazing a red-gold-purple sunset off in the west, to show him the letter.
“Sounds like a good offer, although immediate cash would be preferable to waiting nine months for the payoff,” he commented in a neutral tone that gave no clue to what he was thinking. He set the letter on the metal table. “Are you going to take it?”
“I’m thinking I should go back before I make a decision.”
The neutral tone vanished. “You can’t be serious!”
He planted his glass of iced tea next to the letter on the little table and peered at me as if looking for my lost marbles. Plenty of clues now about how he felt.
“I guess I’m a little homesick.”
“You aren’t thinking anything more than a temporary visit, are you? A day or two?”
“Sometimes I get tired of roaming the country.”
“Ivy, you know what a . . . propensity you have for getting involved with murder. That young woman right there on Madison Street. The woman you worked for in Arkansas.
That survivalist couple in Oklahoma. The man who plunged from a window in Colorado.”
Well, odd as it may seem for a little old lady, that “propensity” was true. My life does
seem to involve dead bodies and murder more often than the average LOL. Although I’d arrived in Colorado well after that man plunged out the window and I never even saw the body, so he didn’t really count, did he? I made a noncommittal murmur to Mac.
“Murdered bodies followed by killers out to get
” he added.
“I haven’t been involved in a murder for, oh, months now,” I protested.
“But, if you go back to Madison Street, you may very well find yourself involved in one.
You will be the dead body. You do remember the Braxtons, don’t you?”
It was a facetious question. Of course I remembered the Braxtons. They were the reason I’d been on the run all this time. I’d helped capture and convict one of their own for murdering a sweet young neighbor back on Madison Street, and the vengeful Braxton clan had been making a unified effort to eliminate me from the planet ever since.
“I think they’ve forgotten about me. They haven’t tried anything for months.”
“That doesn’t mean they won’t do something as soon as they realize you’re back in town.” A stormy stalk to the end of the awning before he returned to scowl down at me. “When are you thinking about doing this?”
I had to be practical. The library job was paying rather well, and the extra money came in handy.
“Maybe when my job at the library ends next month.”
Mac is generally calm and congenial, not a ranter or arm waver, but he ranted for several minutes about what a bad idea my going back to Madison Street was. Somewhere in the middle of the rant, I made up my mind. Yes, I was going to do it. I was going back to Madison Street. Maybe temporarily. Maybe permanently. After that I tuned him out and studied the
blue motorcycle tattoo on his waving arm. He’s always been . . . well, not
about the tattoo, but definitely not forthcoming. It isn’t gross, as tattoos go. It just seems so puzzling. Mac isn’t really a tattoo kind of guy, and he’s never shown any particular interest in motorcycles. I asked him once if he’d had some fascination with motorcycles when he was younger, and he’d said no. So why a blue motorcycle tattoo?
And why so reticent about it?