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Authors: Denise Swanson

Murder of a Pink Elephant

BOOK: Murder of a Pink Elephant
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“It’s no mystery why the first Scumble River novel was nominated for the prestigious Agatha Award. Denise Swanson knows small-town America, its secrets and its self-delusions, and she writes as if she might have been hiding behind a tree when some of the bodies were being buried. A delightful new series.”

—Margaret Maron

Praise for Denise Swanson

Her “SCUMBLE RIVER MYSTERIES ARE MARVELOUS.”

—Jerrilyn Farmer

Murder of a Barbie and Ken

“I was thoroughly entertained by the antics of Skye Denison and company and plan to add the Scumble River Mysteries to my ‘must read’ list.”

—Paula Myers,
Old Book Barn Gazette

“As with any good mystery, the action starts early and doesn’t let up. Swanson deftly blends Skye’s compelling personal issues with town gossip and murder clues. Cleverly plotted, subtle and stylish, this one ends with a brilliant bang.”


Romantic Times
(Top Pick)

“The book is well-written, it is humorous in a subtle and self-deprecating way (no slapstick here), and it is eminently readable. I predict you will love a visit to Scumble River.”


Mystery News

Murder of a Snake in the Grass

“Swanson’s Skye Denison, amateur sleuth, is an endearing and realistic character…. A fast-paced, enjoyable read.”


The Herald News

“This book is delightful…. The characters are human and generous and worth following through the series.”


Mysterious Women

“A well-written, nonviolent, enjoyable story that captures the essence of the small Midwestern town.”


Mystery News

Murder of a Sleeping Beauty

“A smooth, pleasant, and ultimately satisfying book.”


Chicago Tribune

“Another cunning, light-hearted story from Swanson. The book keeps pace, reminding us all over again why we have come to know and love that sly, witty Skye—the paradigmatic sleuth.”


The Sunday Journal
(Kankakee, IL)

“Another delightful and intriguing escapade … do yourself a favor and buy it.”


Mystery News

Murder of a Sweet Old Lady

“Superbly written with emotion and everything a good mystery needs…. Shame on you if you miss anything by Denise Swanson.”


The Bookshelf

“Swanson’s writing is fresh and snappy…. Skye Denison [is] one of the most likable protagonists in softer-boiled mystery fiction today.
Murder of a Sweet Old Lady
is more fun than the Whirl-A-Gig at the County Fair and tastier than a corndog.”

—The Charlotte Austin Review

Murder of a Small-Town Honey

“A delightful mystery that bounces along with gently wry humor and jaunty twists and turns.”

—Earlene Fowler, Edgar Award-winning author

“A light-hearted, entertaining mystery.”


Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

“A charming, insightful debut mystery.”

—Carolyn Hart

“A likable new heroine reminiscent of some of our favorite childhood detectives—with a little bit of an edge…. A fresh, delightful and enjoyable first mystery.”

—The Charlotte Austin Review

“Skye is smart, feisty, quick to action and altogether lovable.”

—I Love a Mystery

“A charming debut novel that rings with humor, buzzes with suspense, and engages with each page turned…. An impressive first novel worthy of praise.”


The Daily Journal
(Kankakee, IL)

 

 

Other Scumble River Mysteries

Murder of a Barbie and Ken
Murder of a Snake in the Grass
Murder of a Sleeping Beauty
Murder of a Sweet Old Lady
Murder of a Small-Town Honey
Murder of a Pink Elephant

Murder of a
Pink Elephant
A Scumble River Mystery
D
ENISE
S
WANSON

SIGNET
Published by New American Library, a division of
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,
Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2,
Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124,
Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park,
New Delhi - 110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632,
New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue,
Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

First Printing, July 2004
10 9 8 7

Copyright © Denise Swanson Stybr, 2004
All rights reserved

ISBN: 978-1-101-56754-8

REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA

Printed in the United States of America

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

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.
     The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

To Joan, George, Beth, Tom, Kathy, Kate, and Emily Stybr; and Lynn, Ralph, Allison, and Adam Vanderhyden. Thanks for allowing me to become a part of your family.

In loving memory of Lisa Stybr (1959–1984).
Our time together was too short.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1 Roll Over, Beethoven

Chapter 2 Chain of Fools

Chapter 3 Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

Chapter 4 Break It to Me Gently

Chapter 5 What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Chapter 6 Great Balls of Fire

Chapter 7 Dark Side of the Moon

Chapter 8 Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On

Chapter 9 Beast of Burden

Chapter 10 Blue Monday

Chapter 11 Mama Said

Chapter 12 Material Girl

Chapter 13 You’ve Got a Friend

Chapter 14 That’ll Be the Day

Chapter 15 Stop! In the Name of Love

Chapter 16 Shake, Rattle, and Roll

Chapter 17 Beat It

Chapter 18 Superstar

Chapter 19 Who’s Sorry Now?

Chapter 20 Stairway to Heaven

Chapter 21 Slippin’ and Slidin’

Chapter 22 Tuesday Is Gone

Chapter 23 Fire and Rain

Chapter 24 Born to Run

Chapter 25 Black Friday

Epilogue: Just the Way You Are

Murder of a Smart Cookie

Acknowledgments

Thanks to the “real” Plastic Santas, Al Sefcek, Rick Cole, Tom Johnson, and Greg Votta, who are nothing like the fictional ones—except for their great musical talent. A special thanks to my cousin, Greg Votta, for sharing stories of his band with me.

Thanks also to Julia Alldredge, who told me the story of the rural meth labs and sent me the newspaper clippings to prove it.

Scumble River is not a real town. The characters and events portrayed on these pages are entirely fictional, and any resemblance to living persons is pure coincidence.

  
CHAPTER 1
  

Roll Over, Beethoven

T
he music struck Skye Denison with the force of an ax blow. She stood in the open door of her brother Vince’s hair salon with a cooler at her feet and a picnic basket in her arms, trying to determine if her ears would start bleeding if she ventured over the threshold.

When Vince mentioned his band was changing their name from Plastic Santa to Pink Elephant, Skye hadn’t realized that they’d be changing the type of music they performed, too. Now she understood why her mother had asked her to drop off the food at the rehearsal. Skye had thought it was odd May didn’t want to do it herself. Normally, Skye’s mother used any excuse to get out of the house and go somewhere. Evidently May had already heard Pink Elephant rehearse.

A blast of frigid air blew a strand of Skye’s hair across her face and reminded her that she was standing outside in the middle of one of the coldest Illinois Februaries on record. Steeling herself to the deafening sound, she kicked the plastic ice chest through the doorway and entered the waiting area.

White wicker chairs and settees, which usually held customers waiting for their turn to be cut, colored, or coiffed,
were filled with instrument cases, amps, and cables. The stark black equipment was a jarring contrast to the sofa’s garden print cushions, and the glass coffee table that typically displayed
People, Cosmo
, and
Glamour
was littered with guitar picks, sheet music, and drumsticks.

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