Table of Contents
Alsoby Ann B. Ross
Miss Julia Renews Her Vows
Miss Julia Delivers the Goods
Miss Julia Paints the Town
Miss Julia Strikes Back
Miss Julia Stands Her Ground
Miss Julia’s School of Beauty
Miss Julia Meets Her Match
Miss Julia Hits the Road
Miss Julia Throws a Wedding
Miss Julia Takes Over
Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind
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First published in 2011 by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Copyright ⓒ Ann B. Ross, 2011
All rights reserved
Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are 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.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA
Ross, Ann B.
Miss Julia rocks the cradle / Ann B. Ross.
eISBN : 978-1-101-47626-0
1. Springer, Julia (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. City and town life—North Carolina—
Fiction. I. Title.
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This one is for all those who talk about, laugh with, share,
recommend, buy, borrow, and read the Miss Julia books.
“Miss Julia, Miss Julia!”
The sound of Lloyd’s voice bounced from one end of the house to the other as the back door slammed closed with a crash.
His feet pounded through the rooms downstairs, and with a lurch of my heart, I quickly threw aside my Christmas and New Year’s thank-you notes for all the parties, dinners, and fruitcakes that had come our way, and hurried out on the landing.
Leaning over the railing, I called, “Up here, Lloyd! What’s the matter?”
He raced up the stairs and came to a sudden stop, his tennie shoes screeching on the waxed floor. Breathing fast and hard, his face pale and his hair flying around his head, he caught his breath, gasping out, “Guess what just happened.”
“I have no idea. Calm down, now, and tell me.”
“Yes’m, I’m trying to.” He took a deep breath, his eyes still big and wild looking. “You won’t believe it, but it’s all over school. Everybody’s talking about it.” He leaned closer and in a hoarse voice said, “They found a body in Miss Petty’s outhouse.”
“Yes, ma’am. Dead as a doornail.”
? I didn’t know anybody had outhouses these days.”
“Well, I guess it was more like a toolshed or something. Maybe an out
like that. Anyway, we were in our social studies class—that’s what Miss Petty teaches—and she was asking us questions about General Custer at Little Bighorn, and Mr. Dement came and got her. He didn’t say why, just told us to keep doing our work and stay in our seats until the bell rang, but Billy Hedley looked out the window and saw some cops putting Miss Petty in their car.” He stopped and patted his chest, still struggling to control his breathing.
“Come sit down,” I said, leading him back into the bedroom where I’d been trying to recover from the holidays and prepare for the advent of his mother’s twin babies. “Now get yourself together and tell the rest of it.”
“Well,” he started again, “when school let out, everybody kinda hung around, trying to find out what was going on. And Joyce McIntyre had been in Mr. Dement’s office—she gets sent to the principal’s office every day, seems like—and she heard it all. These two deputies showed up, asking for Miss Petty, and Mr. Dement made his secretary take Joyce out in the hall, but not before she heard about that dead body. But nobody knows who it is or how it got there or anything, except we’re all afraid that Miss Petty knows something. I mean,” Lloyd said, looking at me with eyes wide with wonder, “why would they come get her? What if she put it there?”
“Oh, I wouldn’t think so. There’re a lot of reasons a body might be found in somebody’s toolshed, like, well, I guess a vagrant could just curl up and die. We’ve had some cold nights lately. So, see, it doesn’t necessarily mean someone’s at fault. The deputies could’ve come to get your teacher just to ask questions and, of course, to tell her what they’d found. She may know nothing about it.”
“I hope she doesn’t. She’s a good teacher—not my favorite, but if you have to take social studies, which we do, then she’s all right. Except when she yells. Then she’s mean.”
“She yells? Why?” I asked, thinking how unattractive it was for a teacher to yell at children, and also thinking that the boy needed a little distraction.
“Oh, when somebody doesn’t have their homework or when people talk in class or when you get snapped with a rubber band and you can’t help but yell yourself. Like that.”
“Well, under those circumstances, maybe she can’t help raising her voice. But,” I mused, unable to distract myself, “I wonder who it was who met his end in her toolshed?”
“Me too. Actually, though,” he went on, “we don’t even know if it’s a man or a woman. Could be either one, I guess. Anyway, I was wondering if you’d heard anything.”
“Not a word. It’s been quiet all afternoon, what with Lillian out grocery shopping and Mr. Pickens taking your mother to Asheville for her checkup.”
“Well, I sure would like to know what’s going on,” Lloyd said, frowning. “Maybe something’ll be on the news tonight or in the paper tomorrow.” He thought it over for a few seconds, then went on. “You reckon you could call Mr. Jones and ask him?”
“Who? You mean, Thurlow Jones?”
“Yes’m, Miss Petty lives right behind him on that street that parallels his. I bet he’d know something.”
I did a little thinking it over myself. “I expect he would, Lloyd. He seems to know everything that goes on in this town. But he can be, well, a little on the eccentric side, so I hesitate to get mixed up with him again. Let’s wait a while and see if Sam knows anything when he gets home. And Lillian might’ve heard something at the grocery store.”
“Okay,” he said, nodding judiciously. “That’d probably be better. Mr. Jones kinda scares me too.”
After assuring Lloyd that the sheriff’s deputies would have the matter well in hand, I encouraged him to turn his mind to his homework until we heard more. But I couldn’t turn
mind to anything else, and instead of finishing my thank-you notes, I worried at it, wondering who in the world could be in a teacher’s toolshed, deader than a doornail, and hardly six blocks from my own toolshed.