Authors: Hope Callaghan
Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Senior Sleuths - Michigan
|Hope Callaghan - Garden Girls 07 - Missing Milt|
|Number VII of|
Garden Girls Mysteries
|Hope Callaghan (2015)|
|Tags:||Mystery: Cozy - Senior Sleuths - Michigan|
|Mystery: Cozy - Senior Sleuths - Michiganttt|
Cozy Mystery Series Book 7
Copyright © 2015
All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Although places mentioned may be real, the characters, names and incidents and all other details are products of the author’s imagination and are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events or actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
No part of this publication may be copied, reproduced in any format, by any means, electronic or otherwise, without prior consent from the copyright owner and publisher of this book. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
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to Peggy Hyndman and Wanda Downs, for taking the time to preview
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Table of Contents
Hope Callaghan is an author who loves to write Christian books, especially Christian Mystery and Cozy Mystery books. Born and raised in a small town in West Michigan, she now lives in Florida with her husband.
She is the proud mother of one daughter and a stepdaughter and stepson. When she's not doing the thing she loves best - writing books - she enjoys cooking, traveling and reading books.
Hope loves to connect with her readers!
for information on special offers and soon-to-be-released books!
Other Books by Author, Hope Callaghan:
GARDEN GIRLS CHRISTIAN COZY MYSTERIES SERIES:
Garden Girls Christian Cozy Mysteries Boxed Set Books 1-4
Who Murdered Mr. Malone? Garden Girls Mystery Series Book 1
Grandkids Gone Wild: Garden Girls Mystery Series Book 2
Smoky Mountain Mystery: Garden Girls Mystery Series Book 3
Death by Dumplings: Garden Girls Mystery Series Book 4
Eye Spy: Garden Girls Mystery Series Book 5
CRUISE SHIP CHRISTIAN COZY MYSTERIES SERIES
Gloria Rutherford rolled her car window down, letting the first hint of crisp fall air whoosh in. The fresh air was most definitely welcome! Summer had been long and hot. To Gloria, it seemed to have gone on forever.
She glanced out the window at the towering oak trees. The tips of the leaves had started to turn. The hint of colors lined the sides of the road as she headed into town. Soon, it would be time for the fall festivals, wagon rides, color tours and pumpkin patches.
The beautiful fall days reminded her that she had promised her grandsons, Tyler and Ryan, that they could sleep over and finish building the tree fort they had started the last time they had spent the weekend.
Brian Sellers, the owner of Nails and Knobs, the small town of Belhaven’s only hardware store, had left a message on Gloria’s answering machine, letting her know that the walls for the fort were ready for her to pick up.
She hadn’t told the boys the fort was ready to go. She needed to talk to her daughter, Jill, first. School had recently started and Jill kept the boys on a tight schedule.
Gloria eased Annabelle into an empty parking spot in front of the post office. She squeezed out the driver’s side door and scooted her way to the front.
The parking lot was full, although from what Gloria could see through the plate glass window, the residents of Belhaven weren’t inside the post office.
She took a quick glance across the street. Many of them were in Dot’s, a restaurant owned by Gloria’s friend, Dot Jenkins, and her husband, Ray. The placed was packed!
Gloria stepped into the lobby of the post office and headed to the counter.
Head Postmaster, Ruth Carpenter, looked up when she heard the doorbell chime. She peered at Gloria over the rim of her reading glasses. “You’re out bright and early this morning.”
Gloria lifted a brow. She wasn’t sure if this was a potshot at the fact that Gloria had been a bit of a recluse lately, since she had been staying close to home, trying to get everything organized.
On the heels of the fall festivals that were right around the corner were the holidays. This year, all of Gloria’s children would be coming home for a visit and Gloria wanted to get a jump-start on whipping the place into ship shape for all of the company.
She set her purse on the counter and dropped a small stack of envelopes next to it. “Yeah, I’m just trying to get some stuff done around the farm.”
Ruth tapped her pen on the counter. “You talked to Liz today?”
“Nope.” Gloria shook her head.
“Liz” was Elizabeth Applegate, Gloria’s sister. “What’s she got cooking now?” Liz had a penchant for getting herself into some sticky situations. When she wasn’t getting into trouble, she was vanishing for days at a time, putting everyone around her in an uproar. Namely, Gloria.
Eventually, Liz would return and wonder what all the fuss was about. Gloria tried to avoid the drama, but somehow Liz always managed to suck her into whatever was going on in her world.
Ruth picked up the stack of envelopes and dropped them in the large metal bin next to her. “Milt is still missing,” she said.
Gloria frowned. Liz had called Gloria one day, out of the blue and in a state of panic. “Milt” was Milton Tilton. He was a resident at Dreamwood Retirement Community, along with Liz and Liz’s best friend, Frances.
Gloria had promised Liz she would look into his disappearance. Gloria ended up sidetracked with other, more pressing issues, and had forgotten. She hadn’t heard anything else so she assumed Milt had been found.
Ruth pointed at the back wall. “Check out the poster.”
Gloria wandered over to the large corkboard. She pulled her glasses from her purse and slipped them on. Sure enough, a glossy 8-1/2x11 poster of Milt’s mug hung on the wall. Below his picture was a plea:
“We desperately need your help! Milt Tilton, a resident of Dreamwood Retirement Community in Green Springs, Michigan is missing and we fear his life may be in danger.
Mr. Tilton was last seen near Dreamwood’s main entrance on Friday evening, September 2
, wearing plaid leisure pants and a gray polka dotted shirt.
If you have any information on the whereabouts of Milton Tilton, please contact Frances Crabtree at 626-1889. A reward of $500 is being offered for any information that leads to the safe return of Mr. Tilton.”
Gloria scrunched her nose. “Huh! Frances is getting desperate. She’s even offering a reward!”
Ruth nodded. “Yeah. She and Liz were in here not 15 minutes ago. I think they were headed to your place to see if you could help track old Milt down.”
Gloria had a bit of a reputation around, not only the small town of Belhaven, but also throughout the entire community. She had managed to end up right in the middle of several mysteries and murders. On top of that, she was good at solving them!
“I’ll have to give her a call.” Gloria stood upright. “I probably passed them on the road.” She flung her purse on her shoulder and grabbed the door handle. “If they come back by, tell them I had to make a stop at the hardware store and then I’m heading home.”
Ruth lifted her hand in a small salute. “Will do!”
Gloria shuffled over to the car, opened the driver’s side door and slid into the seat. She pulled out of the parking lot and veered left, in the direction of the hardware store. She got lucky and found a front row parking spot. Gloria climbed out of the car and made her way to the door.
Brian was standing on the front stoop talking to Carl Arnett, a longtime resident of Belhaven. Gloria stood off to the side and waited while the two of them finished their conversation.
Carl gave Gloria a brief nod then headed down the sidewalk toward Dot’s.
Brian rubbed his hands together. “Let me guess. You’re here to pick up the walls for the tree fort.”
Gloria tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “Yeah. I can’t wait to tell the boys it’s ready to go.”
“Follow me.” Brian waved her around the side of the building toward the back. “I have a surprise for you.”
Gloria kept pace with his long strides as they made their way to the rear of the hardware store.
Brian lifted a metal latch, pushed the wooden gate open and stepped to the side while she followed him in.
The boards for the tree fort were propped up against the wall.
Gloria bent down and lifted one of the particleboards from the stack.
Brian had done an amazing job of cutting windows out on two of the boards, and a doorway for the front of the fort on a third board. On the other side of the wall panels were several long, wooden planks.
“Here’s my surprise.” Brian picked up a board. “I found these up in the attic. The boys can use these to build a railing to go around the fort.”
Gloria studied the boards. “Brian, you went above and beyond what I asked you to do!”
Brian’s cheeks turned pink. “I always wanted a tree fort myself when I was a kid,” he confessed. “Say, I can load these in the back of my SUV and bring them over on my lunch break.”
Gloria was beginning to feel guilty! He could see from the look on her face that she was torn. “Tell you what - you make me lunch and I’ll run by and drop these off,” he bargained.
Gloria nodded. “That would be perfect. Do you think you can take a peek at the base of the fort while you’re there? Make sure it’s sturdy and all.” The boys had done a great job of building the platform but it wouldn’t hurt to have another set of eyes look at it to make sure it wasn’t going anywhere.
“Anything for my girl.” Brian grinned.
Gloria stepped out onto the sidewalk. Brian followed behind. He pulled the door shut and the two of them strolled to the front. “Your sister, Liz, was in here earlier looking for you.”
He gave her a sideways glance. “Something about some guy that’s missing.” He shook his head. “She had another lady with her who was totally off the charts. She came inside the store and bought a long cable and combination lock.”
Gloria chuckled. He must be talking about Frances. “I wonder why she didn’t just call me on my cell phone.”
She rummaged around inside her purse and pulled out her cell phone. Gloria flipped it over and stared at the screen. No wonder Liz hadn’t called. The phone was off!
“Anyways, the two of them were trying to track you down,” Brian added.
Gloria thanked Brian again and climbed into the car. She decided it would be best to wait until she got home to call Liz.
Gloria pulled Annabelle into the drive and made her way up the porch to the side door. She grabbed the handle on the screen door and something caught her eye. Tucked between the frame and the door was a slip of paper. Gloria plucked the folded sheet of paper, unlocked the door, and stepped inside her kitchen.
She dropped her purse on the table and reached for her glasses. She flipped open the note: “Help! Gloria, I am desperate! Please call me ASAP!”
She rolled her eyes. This was typical Liz drama.
Mally, Gloria’s Springer Spaniel, wandered into the kitchen. She held the note out so that Mally could see it. “Liz is in a tizzy.” She peered down at her pooch. “I should probably get this over with and find out what in the world is going on.”
Gloria grabbed the house phone and dialed Liz’s cell number. Liz picked up on the first ring. “Thank God you called! I just left Frances. She’s having a cow!”
Gloria interrupted. “So Milt is still missing and Frances wants me to see if I can track him down.”
Liz let out an aggravated sigh. “It may be too late. When I left her on the sidewalk out front of her apartment a few minutes ago, she had that look in her eye and mumbled something about staging a protest out in front of Dreamwood Eats.”
Dreamwood Eats was the buffet-style restaurant inside Dreamwood Retirement community. It was the hub of Dreamwood – the main gathering place for the residents.
Liz went on. “She took a long cable and combination lock with her.”
Gloria glanced up at the clock. It was already 11:00 a.m. Almost time for lunch. “You don’t think she’s going to…”
“Oh, I do think she’s going to. She’s been threatening for days now that she was gonna chain herself to the front doors of the restaurant. To bring attention to Milt’s disappearance.”
Liz begged her sister. “Can you please come by here and talk to her? I think you’re the only person she’ll listen to.”
Gloria wasn’t sure if chaining herself to a building on private property would get her arrested. Unless, of course, Dreamwood decided to press charges. There was also the chance they might arrest her for disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace kind-of-thing.
“Brian is coming by for lunch with the materials for the boys’ tree fort. After lunch, I’ll head over,” Gloria promised.
“Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!”
Gloria hung up and headed to the fridge. Luckily, she had just gone to the grocery store the day before and stocked up on all sorts of goodies.
She grabbed a package of deli turkey and sliced Colby cheese from the fridge. She set the food on the table and reached back in for the new jar of chipotle mayonnaise she’d been dying to try. She set that on the table along with the other ingredients and pulled the panini press from the top of the fridge. She blew a thin layer of dust from the top and then wiped her hand across the surface.
Mally let out a low whine when she smelled the grilling sandwiches. Gloria looked down. She knew there was no way she could refuse those doleful brown eyes. Right beside Mally was her cat, Puddles, with the same look on his face.
She pulled a slice of meat from the packet and tore it into small pieces. She put the small pieces in a bowl and moved it to the side for Puddles, out of Mally’s reach.
Next, she took another piece of meat and dropped the entire piece in Mally’s dish. The treat lasted but a second and she got the same pitiful look from both her pets.
Gloria shoved a hand on her hip. “Now you know that’s a treat and I can’t give you all of it.”
Instead, she filled their dishes with pet food and added fresh water to their water dishes.
After that, Gloria set the sandwiches on the plates and the plates on the table. She finished up just in time to see Brian’s dark SUV pull in the drive.
She met him at the door. “Right on time. Sandwiches are hot off the press. Panini press, that is.”
She gave Brian a light hug and held the door as Mally trotted over.
Brian bent down to pat her head. “Hey, girl. Haven’t seen you in a while now.” He scratched her chin. “Have you been naughty and Gloria is leaving you at home?”
Gloria frowned. It had been a few days since Mally and she had gone anywhere. “You’re right.” She turned to her beloved pet. “You can go to Liz’s place with me,” she promised.
Brian pulled a chair out and plopped down. “Did you find out what was going on with Liz and her friend?”
Gloria settled into the chair across from Brian. She lifted the lid on the new container of potato salad and scooped a large spoonful onto her plate before passing it to him. “Liz’s friend, Frances, may have chained herself to a building in protest.”