Read Hope Callaghan - Garden Girls 06 - Magnolia Mansion Mysteries Online

Authors: Hope Callaghan

Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Senior Sleuths - Michigan

Hope Callaghan - Garden Girls 06 - Magnolia Mansion Mysteries (10 page)

BOOK: Hope Callaghan - Garden Girls 06 - Magnolia Mansion Mysteries
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Andrea opened the garbage bag. Gloria dropped the nail in the bag first and the burlap bag on top.  Andrea sealed the bag shut and set it next to the house.

They headed back to the shed for another look around.  Tyler was standing outside the door now.  He turned to his grandmother.  “Did you see anything else?” she asked.

“Nope.” He shook his head. 

“How did you think to lift that board?” Andrea wondered.

Tyler shrugged his shoulders.  “I dunno.  We were running around the shed and then we decided to see if we could find more bodies inside like the time you and Grams found one.”

Ryan interrupted.  “And the floor was really creaky so I pulled on the board.” He flung his hand in the air. “It popped up just like that.”

Andrea shifted her gaze when she heard tires on the gravel drive.  Her parents were back. 

Gloria tapped Tyler’s shoulder.  “Go inside and wash your hands,” she told them.

Andrea headed to the front to greet her parents while Gloria tucked the garbage bag behind a bush and out of sight. 
No sense in giving Andrea’s parents even more ammunition to convince her to move back to New York
, she decided.

She headed up the back steps and into the kitchen.  When she opened the door, she spied Ryan standing next to the counter.  He had pulled one of Libby Thornton’s surgical masks from the bag and was now wearing it.

Her eyes darted to Tyler.  He was wearing a pair of the surgical gloves.  “C’mon.  Let’s go operate on Brutus,” Tyler told his brother.

“You need to…” Before Gloria could get the words “take those off!” out of her mouth, Andrea and her parents rounded the corner and entered the kitchen, coming face-to-face with Tyler and Ryan. 

Libby’s eyes widened.  Her hand flew to her mouth.  “What on earth…”

Gloria snatched the mask from Ryan’s face and the gloves from Tyler’s hands simultaneously. 

Libby’s eyes narrowed, her lips thinned.  She shoved her hand on her hip.  “And just
who
are
you?”
Her eyes were boring holes – first into Ryan, then Tyler.

Gloria stepped forward.  “I’m sorry.  These are my grandsons.  They didn’t mean any harm.”

Libby stomped over and grabbed the mask that Ryan had just had on and the gloves that Tyler had been wearing.  She marched over to the trash can and tossed them inside.  “You have contaminated my perfectly-sterile items!”

Andrea walked over to the trash can.  “Now, Mom.  They’re just boys.  They didn’t hurt anything.”

Libby whirled around, her eyes like 4
th
of July firecrackers. She glared at Gloria.  “They should be taught manners.  Something they’re obviously lacking,” she hissed.

Gloria put a protective hand on the boys’ shoulders.  She ignored the wrath of Libby and turned to Andrea.  “We should be going now.  I’ll talk to you later.”

Without waiting for a reply, Gloria and the boys headed out the back door and down the steps. 

“That lady is mean,” Ryan told Gloria.

“Yeah.  We were just playing,” Tyler piped up.

“I know, boys.  It’s okay.”

Tyler turned sorrowful eyes to his beloved Grams.  “You think we have manners, don’t you, Grams?”

Gloria felt her blood begin to boil.  There was no reason for Andrea’s mother to go off like that!  It was a flimsy surgical mask and a cheap pair of gloves!  The stupid things couldn’t have cost more than a couple bucks!

She was still fuming as she snapped her seat belt in place and started the car.  It took her until she was almost back at the farm before she calmed down.  She was certain of one thing.  She would
not
be visiting Andrea again until her parents left!

Chapter 11

 

The boys flung open the car doors and raced each other across the drive and into the house.  Gloria followed them in. She dropped her keys and purse on the table and glanced over at the answering machine.  The light was flashing.  She pressed the button.  It was Andrea.  “Gloria, I am so sorry!  My mother doesn’t normally act that way.  Can you please tell the boys I’m sorry?”

Gloria could tell by her voice she was near tears.  “They’re leaving in the morning,” she whispered.  “I’ll call you after they’re gone.”

The boys had already forgotten about mean-old Libby.  They were ready to ride the tractor.  Gloria compromised.  “Go play in the barn for a little while and I’ll be out in less than an hour,” she promised. 

After they scampered out into the yard, she picked up her cell phone to call Paul.  She wanted to tell him what the boys had found in the shed.

“Forensics should have the results back in the morning,” he told her.  “I’ll stop by later to pick those things up.”

Gloria glanced out the window.  The boys had opened the barn door.
They must be inside
, she thought.  “Great.  Maybe you’ll make it in time to watch me show the boys how to drive the old tractor.”

“Wouldn’t miss that for the world.” He chuckled.  “I’ll be there in an hour,” he promised.

After they hung up, Gloria decided to wait until he got there. It might be a good idea to have someone around just in case something went wrong…

She slipped on her yard shoes and headed outside to check on the boys.  The barn was quiet.  Too quiet.  She looked around.  “Ryan? Tyler?” Nothing.  A sudden motion caught her eye.  She looked up.

The boys had managed to climb into the tractor and were sitting behind the wheel.  They waved at Gloria when they saw her.  She waved back.

Tyler opened the door and leaned out.  “Can we drive it now?”

She shook her head.  “We’re going to wait for Paul to come over,” she told them.

His eyelids drooped and he shoved his chin on his fist. 

“It shouldn’t be long,” she promised.  “Why don’t you see what you can find left in the garden while we’re waiting?”

That seemed to make both boys happy.  They scrambled out of the tractor and raced across the yard.  Mally was right behind them, her tongue hanging out of her mouth as she chased them to the garden.

Gloria wandered back into the house.  In all the excitement, she’d completely forgotten about the journal that Andrea had found in the box.  She plucked it from her purse, opened the closet door and placed it on an upper shelf - safe and sound from little hands that might decide there was a better use for the old book than to read it.

She closed the closet door and watched as Paul’s unmarked police car pulled in.  Her heart skipped a beat and she glanced down at the ring.  A small smile reached her lips as she headed outside and over to the car. 

She shoved her hands in the front pockets of her capris and leaned back to watch as he climbed out.  “Howdy stranger.”

He grinned, grabbed her arm and started to pull her close.  “Careful of the little eyes watching,” she warned.

Paul glanced over at the garden.  “Whoops! I almost forgot!” He gave her a quick peck on the lips and let go of her hand.

The boys spied Paul and darted over to the car.  “So now we get to drive the tractor?” Tyler asked.

Gloria slowly nodded.  Her word was her word. “Yes, now is the time.”

Paul smacked his hands together and rubbed them in glee.  “This I have to see!”

The four of them made their way over to the open barn doors.  “You stay out here until I get the tractor out of the barn,” she told them. She didn’t wait for a reply as she stepped into the barn and hoisted herself up the three metal steps that led to the cab door. 

She opened the door and slipped inside.  The keys were in the ignition.  She never bothered to take them out but now that the boys were learning to drive it, she made a mental note to keep them in the house after today.

The tractor fired up on the first try.  She pressed down on the clutch and shifted into low gear.  The tractor lurched forward and slowly rolled out of the barn.  When the tractor cleared the barn doors, she slipped it into neutral and put both feet on the brake.

She decided it was best to take them one at a time. She pushed the door open and motioned for Ryan to climb up first.  He clambered up the steps and scooched into the small cab. “Where do I sit, Grams?”

The seat was small - really only large enough for one person.  “You’ll have to sit here on my lap,” she told him. He nodded and climbed into her lap then grabbed the steering wheel.

Paul and Ryan stepped to the side as Gloria took her foot off the brake, pressed in the clutch and put it in the lowest gear possible.  The tractor jerked forward and began a slow crawl across the yard.  She let out the breath she’d been holding.  Since Ryan was younger, he was happy with the slow meandering.

“Steer to the right,” she told him.

Ryan grabbed the wheel with both hands and pulled.  They slipped in between the garden and the garage as they headed toward the open fields back behind the barn. 

They chugged over to one of the harvested fields. The tilled earth was a bit bumpy. The tractor wandered up and down the field.  Back and forth for several trips.

Ryan jerked his head around, his small hands holding tight to the wheel.  “Can we go any faster, Grams?”

Gloria nodded. She didn’t see the harm in moving the tractor into the next higher gear.  She glanced around. The coast was clear. 

She inched it into second gear and they bounced along the rutted field, which Ryan thought was hilarious. Every time they hit a bump and lifted off the seat, he burst into a fit of giggles.

Gloria wished she had a camera to capture the moment.  The look of sheer joy on his face was priceless.  They rode back and forth several more times before she told him it was Tyler’s turn.  Gloria was certain her oldest grandson was chomping at the bit.

They circled around the drive and stopped in the same spot they had started.

Ryan climbed out and Tyler climbed in.  Tyler was taller than his younger brother was.  Soon he would be taller than Gloria.  Even now, there was no way he could fit on her lap. 

She scooched to the edge and motioned him to sit beside her.  They both teetered on the outer edge of the narrow cushion as Gloria once again slipped the tractor into gear and the two of them headed for the field.

Tyler was much more impatient than his younger brother was and first gear wasn’t fast enough.  “We’re barely moving,” he complained.

Since Ryan had managed in second gear, Gloria didn’t hesitate to move it up a notch, which seemed to make him happy for a few minutes.  “One more speed higher, Grams.  I can do it,” his bright eyes begged.

Her eyebrows furrowed as she studied her grandson.  They were still a safe distance from any sort of objects so she nodded her head and moved the gear up one more.  The tractor jostled up and down.  Gloria felt as if she was bouncing up and down on a pogo stick. It was beginning to make her dizzy. “We better slow it down and head back.”
Before I throw up,
she thought to herself.

She shifted the tractor down a gear and Tyler steered the tractor towards the house.  They were close to the spot where they had started. Everything was going fine until Tyler decided it would be great fun to jerk the wheel in Mally’s direction and chase her down with the tractor. 

With a look of determination on his face, he set his mouth in a straight line and zeroed in on Gloria’s beloved pooch.  Mally saw the tractor turn and darted out of its path.

“Tyler!”

It was as if he didn’t hear Gloria as he jerked the wheel again and they careened past the garden, once again bearing down on poor Mally!

She gave a quick glance in Paul and Ryan’s direction. She could see the fear in their eyes as they ran behind the large oak tree, a safe distance from the tractor-gone-wild.

Gloria did the only thing she could think to do. She slid down in the seat and jammed her foot on the clutch. She grabbed the steering wheel with one hand and twisted her body to the side.  With her other hand, she switched the ignition to the “off” position.  The tractor came to a screeching halt. 

Tyler jerked forward, his chest hitting the center of the wheel.  His eyes slid to the side, as he peeked over at his grandmother.  One look and he knew he was in big trouble.

Gloria opened her mouth but it was too late. Tyler had jerked the cabin door open and jumped to the ground. 

Gloria gave him a dark look before she started the tractor and slowly backed it into the barn.  She was still upset as she climbed out of the tractor, the keys clenched tightly in her fist.

She marched over to her eldest grandson. She opened her mouth to let him have it. 

Tyler lowered his head. “Sorry, Grams.  I don’t know what came over me,” he confessed.  “I got carried away.”

She stuck one hand on her hip and ran the other through her frazzled hair.  “
Carried away
?  You could’ve hurt Mally, young man! Or us,” she added

Paul opened his mouth to speak but quickly closed it.  He wisely decided it was probably best if he not get into the middle of this one.

“On top of that, you scared me half to death!  My life flashed before my very eyes.” That part was a bit of an exaggeration, but he had scared her. 

She lifted her hand and shook her finger at him. “Just for that, the next time you come over, Ryan gets to drive the tractor but you don’t,” she told him.

Tyler hung his head and shuffled his feet as he made his way up to the house.  Ryan and Paul followed quietly behind.

By the time they were inside, Gloria had cooled off a bit.  She found Tyler lying on the bed, staring at the ceiling.  She sat down on the edge of the bed.  “I’m done being angry.”

“I shouldn’t have done that,” he admitted. 

“No, you shouldn’t have,” she agreed. “But it’s over now so we’ll put it behind us.”

His head whipped around to face his grandmother.  “So that means I can drive the tractor next time I’m here?”

“Nope.” She shook her head firmly. “You lost that privilege for now.”

She leaned forward and kissed his forehead before heading back to the kitchen. Tyler followed her out. 

She reached into the pantry and pulled out a Tupperware container. “I made brownies the other day.  Who’s hungry?”

“Me!” replied three male voices in unison.  The group settled in at the table with four large glasses of milk and a container full of brownies that quickly vanished.

The boys headed back outside as Gloria cleaned the dish and put it back in the cupboard. Paul helped by rinsing the dirty glasses and putting them in the dishwasher.  “You have that bag of stuff you found out at Andrea’s place?”

Gloria wiped her hands on the towel and hung it on the front of the stove. The bag was still in the trunk of her car. 

“I’ll be right back.” She wandered out to Annabelle and pulled the garbage bag from the trunk.  Paul met her on the porch. She handed him the bag and sat down on the rocker. She watched while he untied the bag and peered inside.  “Tell me again where you found this.”

“The boys found it.” Gloria went on to explain how the boys were playing out in the shed and remembered when Andrea and Gloria had found the first body. 

That the boys decided to search for more when they lifted the floorboards that were loose and found the burlap bag spread out on the dirt.

He pulled the drawstrings and turned the bag for a better look.

She jumped up from her chair.  “Here, let me get a glove.” She ran out to the garage and grabbed a pair of gardening gloves she kept on the small bench near the door.

When she returned, she handed him the gloves and sat back down.

He reached into the garbage bag and pulled out what Gloria thought looked like a nail.  He turned it over in his hand.  “This looks like an old nail.”

She nodded.  “That’s what I thought.  An old roofing or barn nail.”

He set the nail on the table before reaching back in and pulling out the burlap. He grabbed the top corners and held it out for inspection.  “That sure does look like some kind of stain.” He glanced back at Gloria.  “Wouldn’t that be something if it matched the DNA on the skeleton in the dumpster?”

Gloria nodded.  She wouldn’t bet her life on it, but she had a strong hunch the two were connected.

Paul put the two items back in the bag and pulled the drawstrings. He pulled the gloves off and laid them on the table before leaning back in the rocker.  “Paul and Tina are gone.”

She smiled.  “I’m glad. For everyone’s sake.”

“Me too.  Although it’s mighty quiet around the house now,” he admitted.  “Except for Dorito. He’s quite a stinker.”

Gloria’s eyes scanned the yard and came to rest on the boys who were out near the barn. She shook her head.  “Good grief!”

Paul followed her gaze and then burst out laughing.  Mally was sitting upright inside the wheelbarrow. Tyler was pushing her around the yard.  She looked happy as a clam, her tongue hanging out as air blew back tufts of brown fur.  “What those boys don’t think of.”

BOOK: Hope Callaghan - Garden Girls 06 - Magnolia Mansion Mysteries
3.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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