Merry Wives of Maggody

BOOK: Merry Wives of Maggody
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Also by Joan Hess



Malice in Maggody

Mischief in Maggody

Much Ado in Maggody

Madness in Maggody

Mortal Remains in Maggody

Maggody in Manhattan

O Little Town of Maggody

Martians in Maggody

Miracles in Maggody

The Maggody Militia

Misery Loves Maggody

[email protected]

Maggody and the Moonbeams

Muletrain to Maggody

Malpractice in Maggody

Merry Wives of Maggody



Strangled Prose

The Murder at the Murder at the Mimosa Inn

Dear Miss Demeanor

Roll Over and Play Dead

A Diet to Die For

A Really Cute Corpse

Death by the Light of the Moon

Poisoned Pins

Closely Akin to Murder

Busy Bodies

Tickled to Death

A Holly, Jolly Murder

A Conventional Corpse

Out on a Limb

The Goodbye Body

Damsels in Distress

Mummy Dearest

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

MERRY WIVES OF MAGGODY. Copyright © 2009 by Joan Hess. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Hess, Joan.

Merry wives of Maggody : an Arly Hanks mystery / Joan Hess. —1st ed.

  p. cm.

ISBN 978-0-312-36361-1

1. Hanks, Arly (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Maggody (Ark. : Imaginary place)—

Fiction. 3. Sheriff s—Arkansas—Fiction. 4. Golf—Tournaments—Fiction.

5. Murder—Investigation—Fiction. 6. Arkansas—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3558.E79785M47 2010



First Edition: January 2010

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


till water may run deep, but the rapids will leave you bruised and battered in Maggody, Arkansas (pop. 755). That is, if the locals don’t get you first. Some of them are devious, some are stupid, and some are merely annoying. My mother falls into that last category.

I kept my eyes on the far bank of Boone Creek as she approached the hickory tree. “I came here for the solitude,” I muttered.

“I reckon you can come here for what ever reason tickles your fancy,” Ruby Bee said as she plopped down beside me. She does not plop with grace, being a short and sturdy sort with a deceptively benign face. Her blond hair is sensibly short; anyone who mentions the gray roots is liable to regret it long after the chickens have come home to roost in a condo. “Being that I heard tell you’ve been sitting out here for nigh onto four hours, I thought I’d have myself a nice lunch while I checked up on you. You can have some or not.” She opened a picnic basket and started pulling out plastic containers. “Lemme see now, I got fried chicken, pimento cheese sandwiches, dill pickles, potato salad, and a couple of chunks of fudge cake. How ’bout some lemonade, Arly? I made it just the way you like it.”

“No thank you.”

“Suit yourself, Miss Sulky Pants.” She kept shooting sly glances at me while she munched on a drumstick. “You intending to sit here the rest of the day?”

“Maybe. Is there a reason why that’s any of your business?”

“Can’t think of one. Dahlia’s looking for you, but it’s on account of Jim Bob won’t let her park in the handicap space at the SuperSaver Buy 4 Less.”

I couldn’t stop myself from wincing. “She’s not handicapped.”

“She claims she is, what with the twins and baby Daisy. Not that having a baby should qualify somebody for a handicap sticker. Having babies is normal. If people didn’t have babies, well—there wouldn’t be any people to not have babies, if you follow me. Sure, it’s a chore those first couple of years, but it ain’t that hard as long as you got family nearby to help you. I’ve been there.”

“I know you have,” I said, relenting enough to pat her on the knee. I relented a little more and poured myself a cup of lemonade.

“That’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about. If you don’t mind, I’d really prefer to be alone. I’ll come over to the bar and grill for supper. Okay?”

Ruby Bee does not respond well to subtlety. “You talked to Jack?”

“Yes, I have. Go away, please.”

“What did he say?”

I felt like a hapless hiker being stalked by a mountain lion (although the hiker would have had a better chance than I). “Jack called a couple of days ago to tell me about a fantastic opportunity to join a National Geographic Society team headed for the Brazilian rain forest. Their photographer broke an ankle, so Jack’s going to be in charge of filming. He won’t be able to get in touch with anyone for six weeks, maybe longer.”

“And you let him go?” gasped Ruby Bee.

“I didn’t
him do anything. He didn’t call to get my permission, just to let me know where he’ll be and why I won’t hear from him.” I threw a hickory nut into the water and waited for it to surface. It did not oblige. I wondered if piranhas were feasting on it.

Ruby Bee wasn’t interested in nature. “What did you say to that?”

“I told him to watch out for headhunters.”

“But not a word about your… condition? Are you as plumb loco as Dimson Buchanon?”

I raised my eyebrows. “Is that what we call it these days? A condition?”

“Yes, missy,” she said as she picked up the picnic basket, “we call it a condition. We also call it a predicament. You can’t spend the next seven months sitting here like a wart on a widow’s chin, you know.”

“Sitting here’s a lot more amusing than peeing on strips of plastic. I have enough of those to build a model of the Eiffel Tower. Run along and let me decide what I’m going to do about this so-called condition.”

For a moment I thought she was going to whack me with the picnic basket. She managed to get herself under control, then said, “You ain’t thinking about…?”

“I am thinking about all of my options. If I have to climb all the way to the top of Cotter’s Ridge to get some privacy, I will—even if it means I’ll end up covered with chiggers and ticks.”

Or tiggers and chicks, if you prefer.

I watched her stomp back toward the highway, smiling when I noticed that she’d left the containers of fried chicken and fudge cake next to the tree. For the record, Jack is a charming man with a lopsided, contagious grin. His hair is shaggy, and whenever he runs his fingers through it, I melt. His favorite attire, except in certain adult situations, is denim. He makes divine blueberry muffins and shares the Sunday newspaper. Neither of us can solve a sudoku puzzle, but we make a helluva team tackling crossword puzzles. Most importantly, he was the sperm donor.

It takes two to tangle.

• • •

Dahlia Buchanon grunted as she tried to lift the double stroller onto the porch. It was heavy to begin with, but even more burdensome with bulgy diaper bags hanging from the handle and boxes of juice in the back pocket. Kevin kept telling her to leave it on the lawn, but she didn’t trust that filthy ol’ fool Raz not to steal it from under her nose. She was pretty sure he’d stolen her pan ties off the line a few weeks back.

Kevvie Junior and Rosemarie were racing around the yard, yapping like wolf pups. Her precious Daisy was snoozing in the playpen, although it was a wonder how she could do it with all the commotion. Dahlia wheezed sadly as she remembered what it was like before she’d had the twins, and then Daisy. She and Kevin had used to sit on the porch swing and spoon, or even sneak off to do the sort of things that Brother Verber railed about from the pulpit every Sunday morning. Back then, she’d been Kevin’s love goddess, his honey bunny, his beloved for all eternity. These days she was a short order cook, a janitor, a nurse’s aide, and a full-time employee at a launderette.

She almost squealed when a male voice right behind her said, “You want some help, pretty lady?”

It sure weren’t Raz, she realized as she reeled around to gape at the man. He was tall like Kevin, but his hair was slick like a televangelist’s and he was dressed right nice in trousers and a short-sleeved shirt with a tiny logo. He had a funny little mustache that could have been drawn with a crayon. He looked to be a few years older than Kevin, but there was something familiar about him.

She squinted more closely at him. “Do I know you?”

“You sure do, Dahlia O’Neill. Well, Mrs. Kevin Buchanon now, ain’t it?”

“Mebbe,” she said suspiciously.

Chuckling, he picked up the stroller and set it on the porch.

“Got a couple of wild ones, I see,” he said, gesturing at Kevvie Junior and Rosemarie. “Me and their daddy were little hell-raisers, too. Many’s the time we’d get into mischief, and his ma would tan our behinds with a switch. Kevin would blubber for hours like the devil hisself was pinching him.”

She chewed on this for a while. “You’re kin, ain’t you?”

“I’m Bonaparte Buchanon, Kevin’s third cousin. His great-grandpa and mine were brothers. There was bad blood between them, and my family ended up outside of Neosho. In Missouri.”

“I know where Neosho is.”

“You ask Kevin about his cousin Bony, and how I used to yank down his pants in the co-op in Starley City. Uncle Earl got so fed up that he stopped taking us with him on Saturday mornings.”

Dahlia didn’t much like his smarmy grin. “Kevin’d kick your butt if you tried that now. You best be on your way, Bonaparte Buchanon. I got to fix supper.” She looked over his shoulder.

“Kevvie Junior, don’t make me come over there! Don’t think for a second that I can’t see what you’re aimin’ to do to that poor cat. Rosemarie, I don’t know who taught you to tie a noose, but you untie it right this minute or I’ll paddle your behind until you can’t sit down for a month of Sundays!”

BOOK: Merry Wives of Maggody
12.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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