Poisoned Pin: A Cozy Mystery (Brenna Battle Book 2) (7 page)

BOOK: Poisoned Pin: A Cozy Mystery (Brenna Battle Book 2)
5.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

My little sister is brilliant. She managed to make me feel like a hero, as well as ignite some compassion for Harvey, lessening the parents’ fear of this admittedly odd, crazed looking man barging in on their children’s very first judo class.

Harvey looked like he could use all the sympathy he could get. His eyes bugged out behind his rain-streaked glasses. Rain water dripped from the ends of his white curls and down the tip of his nose. He wore a flannel shirt and jeans, both hopelessly sodden and sagging heavily on his frame. His feet were bare. His breathing was as wild and ragged as his appearance. He looked every bit like a man running for his life.

I took his arm and shot a nervous smile over my shoulder at the parents and kids. “What is it, Harvey? What’s the matter?” I spoke softly, hoping that when he answered, he’d copy my tone. Nope. He caught his breath—unfortunately enough of a breath to bellow, “Help! They’re trying to kill me, too! I can’t believe it. They’ve turned on me.”

I put a hand on Harvey’s arm and tried to get him to look at me. He did, and let me tell you, it was just a little bit scary. There was no mistaking the sheer terror in his eyes. “Who’s trying to kill you?” I whispered.

“Moira! All of them. She’s got them all on her side.” Harvey still didn’t get my whispering hint.

“We’ll get this all figured out, Harvey,” I said. But how? How do you figure things out for a guy who’s deathly afraid of people who don’t exist? Or at least, people who don’t exist anymore, outside of the afterlife.

Blythe rounded the kids into a circle on the mat as I walked Harvey further away, toward the door. Sofie continued to cling to her mother by the benches, but the rest of them let Blythe distract them.

“Who can show me how they might get out of the pin we just did?” Blythe said.

Hands shot up, and I breathed a sigh of relief. My kids weren’t going anywhere yet. Whether they came back tomorrow was another matter.
My kids
. Wow, those words felt good.

The bell on the door jingled again. “Someone called 9-1-1?”

I recognized Will’s pleasantly rough voice in an instant. Speaking of an instant, that was pretty fast. One of the parents must have been right on it. And Will must have been close by. The Bonney Bay PD was one officer smaller now, since my meddling—ah—sleuthing had landed one of them in jail last week, but typically not much happened in this little town. Or so I was told. Things had been rather eventful since Blythe and I had arrived.

“I think Harvey needs to talk to you.”
Please, get him out of here
, I begged Riggins with my eyes. I wanted to suggest they go outside, but the already pounding rain had increased to an absolute torrent. I looked around the dojo, as if by some miracle a separate room that had never existed would materialize. The former dance studio was one large room, with the apartment Blythe and I shared above it. The only place to go was the bathroom or the stairwell that led to our apartment. The bathroom was no good, and I had a feeling we’d still hear Harvey in the stairwell.

“Why don’t you take Harvey upstairs to our apartment?” I suggested. “It’s unlocked.”

I was so desperate to get Harvey—and the scene he was making—out of my first real class. But Will Riggins was going to be in our apartment. Without supervision. My heart bounced in my chest at the thought. Not that he was the type to nose around and get into things—at least I hoped he wasn’t—but I was pretty sure I’d left a load of clean, unfolded laundry on the living room floor. I tried to recall which underwear was included in that load. With my luck, something ratty and comfortable. Maybe he’d think they were Blythe’s. I know, that was awful of me.

But who am I kidding, anyway? Blythe’s underwear is all in great shape. Every pair has a bra that matches. If you’ve known her for more than ten seconds, you can guess she’s not the type to keep faded, holey granny-panties lying around. Not that Riggins would think about Blythe’s panties. Ugh, I hope not. That was the last thing I needed right now. A guy that made my heart flutter opting for my sister instead of me. Even if I had no intention of starting a relationship with him in the next century, I really didn’t want to go there. Never again.

Riggins led Harvey up the stairs. It took a little reassuring from me, but Harvey went along with him once I convinced him I’d arranged for Riggins to take care of things. Before I got back on the mat, I texted Riggins. “After you talk him down, do you think you could get Harvey out the back door without a commotion? Kids are scared.”

“I’ll try.”

Great.
Do not try, Riggins.
Do.
Or I’m do-o-o-omed
.
 

“I’m so sorry about the interruption,” I told the parents. “Harvey just lost his nephew. I think he got a little attached to me because I tried to help when he—” A four-year-old looked up at me with big, gray eyes. I was about to say
was dying
. I switched to, “wasn’t breathing.” Hopefully that sounded less scary. I was going to give these kids nightmares if I wasn’t careful. “But Officer Riggins is going to take care of everything,” I finished with a great, big smile.

“I seen Crazy Harvey be crazy lots of times,” Annalisa, a six-year-old who seemed to be the resident know-it-all, announced.

“Great. Well. Let’s use nice words, okay?”

I joined Blythe in getting the kids to practice escaping from the pin. About ten minutes later, as I was high-fiving my little ones good-bye and the middle ones were arriving, I heard the back door open and shut. While we welcomed the new batch of kids onto the mat, I saw Will’s cruiser drive by the front of the dojo, Harvey in the passenger seat. Will must be taking him home. I let out a breath of relief. But still, I couldn’t completely shake a nagging worry about Harvey.

I texted Will. “Can you come by around 9:15? Want to talk bout Harvey.”

“Ok.”

“Thanks.”

I put my phone away, just a little disappointed. Why had I hoped he’d have more to say than that? Why couldn’t I shake this silly crush?

11

Blythe embraced me with a squeal and we did a little hug-dance. “Aside from that little interruption, that was awesome!” she said.

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge we kept in the dojo, stocked with bargain ice packs Blythe and I had made, using baggies and a huge bag of ice from the Cherry Bowl, Bonney Bay’s only grocery store. Ice makes everything better. Or, at least it makes kids and parents feel like you’ve done something to make their bumps and lumps better. You know that saying about taking your lumps? In judo we definitely learn how to do just that.

In five minutes our last class of the night would start. We’d scheduled things pretty tight, back to back, so that families with kids in two different classes wouldn’t have to wait around too long, or leave and then have to come right back. Also to get them all in during the prime evening hours. We happened to not have any siblings in both the middle and the last class, so we had a nice couple minutes to ourselves.

There were just four girls in the oldest group, which was no surprise. It’s hard to get older girls to try something like judo for the first time. The little kids were fun, but I was really looking forward to working with this group. To tell the truth, though it’s great fun to watch little ones do judo, this was really the ideal age to teach. They were young enough to be flexible, both physically and mentally, but they were mature enough to have an attention span of more than five seconds. They were like sponges. Like clay, ready to be molded, like—you get the idea.

We started on time, with three out of the four girls we were expecting. Oh, well. One no-show wasn’t bad. Blythe asked Sammi to demonstrate one of the falls she’d learned the night before, and I swear, I thought I saw a tiny bit of a smile when she got her moment to shine in front of the others.

I said, “Perfect.”

Then she remembered to scowl.

We had the girls in a line, falling one after the other, when a car drove by, just a tad too fast, skidding through a puddle and spattering our newly cleaned front windows. The car door opened and a kid jumped out, holding her jacket over her head against the downpour of rain. I guess she didn’t notice the curb right in front of her. Or maybe it was her brand-new, unwashed and unshrunk judo pants that caught under her foot as she ran.

All I know is that I sensed impending disaster and instinctively lunged forward, as though I could fly halfway across the dojo and reach through the glass and save the girl from the calamity unfolding before my eyes. She lurched at the curb, then her momentum won out over her arm-flailing efforts to regain her balance and she flew forward and slammed against the glass with a horrible smack-bam. For a second, she was frozen there, face plastered flat against the glass, eyes stuck in widened surprise and horror, palms spread on the window in an attempt to mitigate the impact. Then, like broken egg goo, she slid down the glass and crumpled into a puddle.

Literally, right into a puddle. In her pristine, never worn, white judo gi.

Worse than the muddy rainwater, there was a blood streak on the glass. Oh, crud. I flew out the door and to the kid. I squatted next to her and found her looking stunned, but conscious. She had an impressive nosebleed going on. Blythe ran out after me, waving her hands and trying to get the attention of the car that had dropped her off.

I pulled the girl partway onto my lap.

Behind me, three girls pressed against the window. I could hear their muffled voices through the glass, but I couldn’t make out their words. Sammi tentatively opened the door. “Umm … ”

“I’m coming,” Blythe said to Sammi, and she hurried back in, leaving me with the wet, bleeding basket-case.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

Big blue eyes blinked up at me. “Can we pretend I’m not?”

“What?”

Her pale, peachy cheeks turned scarlet. “Did everyone just see me run into that glass?”

“Uh … everyone except your mother. Was that your mom who dropped you off?” More like dumped her off.

“Yeah, she was in a hurry,” the kid mumbled.

“So were you,” I said, offering her a smile and trying to lighten things up.

“I knew I was late. I didn’t want to be later. Sorry.”

She hung her head, not bothering to pull her hood back up. It looked like she was going to cry. I’m not good with criers. That’s why I had Blythe. She should be out here, and I should be in there teaching class.

“It’s okay,” I said. “You’re here. That’s what matters.”

“I wish I’d never come here!”

Great. The dam broke, and she started giving the rainstorm a run for its money.

I gave her back a clumsy pat. “Look, I do stupid stuff all the time.”

Her head jerked up and her look said
Did you really just say that to me?

Yes, I really just said she did something stupid. “Like that!” I said. “Like what I just said. Incredibly stupid, right?”

The girl pushed herself up with a chubby arm. “I have to go.”

“Go? I can’t just let you go by yourself.”

“This is Bonney Bay. I walk around here by myself all the time.”

“In the rain? At least wait until the rain stops.”

“This is Western Washington State. You’re new here, right? When it rains, it doesn’t just stop.”

Right. I had to think of something else, quick. “Your nose might be broken.”

She paused. Yes! Apparently that got her attention.

“Really? Do you think it’ll need surgery? Maybe they can give me one of those cute little button noses.”

Good grief! “You have a perfectly good nose, you know, aside from all the swelling.”

“Trust me, it’s not all the swelling.”

I tried to think of something a good coach would say, but all that came to mind were things that Jake would say. Which would’ve been fine, if thinking of Jake didn’t make me feel like a beat up, clumsy puddle of a little girl, too.

“There are worse things in life than not having a perfect nose.”

“Yeah, like being a complete klutz and bashing yourself into a window!”

“Look, even if it’s the most awful thing in the world, the sooner you put it behind you, the better, right? Come on. Let’s get you inside.”

“I really don’t want to go in there.” Big fat tears accompanied the rivers of rain.

I switched gears and tried to channel Blythe. “They’re pretty nice girls. I’m sure this’ll be the kind of thing you laugh about together, once you get to know them.”

“Oh, I know them. And they know me. From ballet, you know?”

“Oh. I don’t remember seeing you at the going-away party. But there were a lot of new faces, all at once. Were you in the recital?”

“Uh, no. I quit ballet after I ruined the Christmas recital two years ago. I was so bad, I literally broke it. Into a million pieces.”

Curiosity got the better of me. “How do you break a recital?”

“Technically, I broke the set. And a few of the ballerinas. I knocked over the gigantic Christmas tree and sent it flying through the sugar plum fairy and up into the lights. Then I tripped on a cord and there went more of the lights. The stage went dark and everyone was screaming and crying and trampling eachother until someone finally found the main light switch. It was a nightmare.”

“Ouch,” I said.

“I thought judo might be different, but … I guess I’m still Klutzy Katie.”

“That wasn’t judo, that was Girl versus Window. Come inside and we’ll get some ice on your face.”

Judo gets a lot of misfits—kids who want to be athletic, or whose parents want them to be more active, and who haven’t found a sport that isn’t a complete disaster for them. I wasn’t as naturally gifted an athlete as Blythe. She’d just lacked the competitive fire, which I had more than my share of. But I’d never been a truly awkward, unathletic kid. People were often disappointed to realize that yes, judo was a sport, too, and athleticism mattered.

But many of the less athletically gifted found that they enjoyed it anyway. Some of those gawky kids had been my best friends growing up. They’d fallen in love with judo, and they’d grown in coordination, fitness, and the ability to push themselves. Some had actually been solid athletes who just needed to find the right sport. I have to admit, handling any sort of ball flying through the air is not my strong point. I prefer people flying through the air. A much bigger target. Though, unlike a ball, they tend to fight back. I said a little prayer that judo really would be different for Klutzy Katie.

BOOK: Poisoned Pin: A Cozy Mystery (Brenna Battle Book 2)
5.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

BOOM by Whetzel, Michael
Summer of Love by Emily Franklin
Fall of Heroes by Kraatz, Jeramey
Ooh! What a Lovely Pair Our Story by Ant McPartlin, Declan Donnelly
Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg
Quest For Earth by S E Gilchrist
Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin
Blood Orange by Drusilla Campbell