Polly Dent Loses Grip (A LaTisha Barnhart Mystery)


Spyglass Lane Mysteries presents:

Barnhart Mystery

Book Two


Polly Dent Loses Grip



S. Dionne Moore


Copyright 2012

Spyglass Lane Mysteries



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Literary Inc., Portland, Oregon.


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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984
. Used by permission of
. All rights reserved.



For David. Every day with you is an incredible gift of love and commitment, faith and fun. I love you.


Chapter One

A sea of gray headed residents, in various stages of nap-time, greeted me and my husband Hardy as we made our way toward the elevators of Bridgeton Towers Assisted Living & Nursing. Blue walls with one of them fancy rail things halfway down and green paint below, echoed the colors of the carpet. Couldn’t see much else on account of the mattress I was carrying.

Besides a few more boxes, we had almost moved Hardy’s momma, Matilda, into her new home. We’d be spending a week trying to help her get settled in and decorated up before we headed back to our hometown in Maple Gap, Colorado.

“Hurry up, LaTisha. You know how Momma doesn’t like to wait.”

I shot my husband Hardy the hairy eyeball. “You thinking I don’t know that by now? And if you’re in such a hurry, why don’t you high-tail your hind end up the stairs instead of waiting on an elevator?” I hiked the twin mattress higher on my hip and hustled my way faster toward the elevator.

Hardy’s a lot like a banty rooster, and since he’s my husband, I can make such comparisons. Shorter than me by about six inches, he’s as thin as I am
. . .

Um. Next subject.

As his hair has grayed it’s gotten to where it likes to fuzz-up like bad Velcro. I’ll have to get that boy to the barber, and by the looks of him, sooner than later.

The elevator dinged and the doors slid open. Hardy hauled his boxspring straight toward the doors, cheeks all puffed out like it weighed a ton. Reminder—I had the mattress.

He’d drifted out of my line of vision, on account of the mattress glued to my hip, but I heard him shuffling and grunting.

“What you doing?” I pursed my lips and repositioned my grip on the mattress. “Get yourself settled and tell me when

“Don’t get your hose in a twist. I’m hurrying.”

A few of the residents were waking, looking over at the elevator with curious eyes. I let the mattress slide to the ground to
why some were cracking smiles. Hardy’d tried to move sideways and was now wedged in
the elevator
by the stuck boxspring. Never in my life . . . Seven children together and this man was still the biggest one of them all.

I leaned the mattress against a table and lent Hardy a hand. He flashed me a near-toothless smile of gratitude as I gave the boxspring a yank and shove that whizzed it right into place. Mission accomplished, I stroked my hand along his head.

A giggle alerted me to the presence of a little gal
a walker, peering around the corner at us.

got yourself a fan club.”

I nodded toward the lady.

“Mitzi,” she screeched in a high-pitched voice. “Name’s Mitzi Mullins.”

I made it a point to extend my hand to the tiny woman. “How do you do, Miss Mullins? My mother-in-law’s moving in today. Room 207. Come by and we’ll visit.”

Mitzi’s bright eyes shone for a second before she nodded and trundled herself toward a corridor. “Let me get Gertrude. If I can get her to move her feet, she’s the one that you’ll want to meet.”

While I’d had my back turned, Hardy had gotten it into his head to slide the mattress into the elevator by himself. I crossed my arms and watched as he grunted and groaned, tugged and pushed. He’s cute to watch. Pitiful, but cute.

He backed up a pace. Two. I knew his methods. He was going to hurl himself at the thing in hopes of body-slamming
inside. Like a bull scratching the dust, I could almost see the steam coming out his nostrils as he flung himself forward, and promptly bounced backward right onto his rump.

His eyes darted at me. I grunted at him, relented, and gave the bulky thing a mighty heave that sent it slipping right into the elevator. Hardy hopped in after me and punched the button for the second floor, waving as the doors closed to all the residents so entertained by our little display. I even heard a few clapping.

Hardy’s momma waited for us, face set in stone, leaning hard on her cane, as the doors slid open like curtains on the first act of a play. And Matilda Barnhart is quite the character, let me tell you. Recent victim of a stroke that left her weak on her right side, she’s doing a whole lot better, thankfully, but after enduring months of physical therapy to get strong, and me praying for God’s grace to be strong while she was with us during her recuperation, we all decided the time had come for her to be on her own again. She wouldn’t be solo anymore though, giving up her old apartment and agreeing to a future in an assisted living environment. Knowing someone would be here to check in on her gave Hardy the peace of mind he needed, and being on her own gave Matilda the independence she wanted.

If Hardy is a little guy, his momma is even smaller. But I never underestimate those ninety-eight pounds.

“Thought you’d done gone to sleep on my bed,” Matilda spat out.

“No, ma’am,” I assured her.

Hardy mumbled something from behind the boxspring he was pulling from the elevator. He nearly bowled his momma over when he turned the corner, one end of the box spring bearing down on her hard and fast. She did an awkward two-step with her cane and glowered at his back, mumbling what sounded like, “That boy trying to kill me?”

I followed Hardy, turning the corner, my arms spread wide around the mattress, and had a straight shot of the long hallway. Momma’s room, third door on the left, was wide open, and I saw the back of Hardy disappear inside, seconds before a white haired, bun-head blocked the doorway, her back to me, and peered into the room. Since my cheek was plastered to the mattress, I couldn’t turn my head to see if Matilda was close on my heels or not. Maybe she already knew this lady.

“Hey you, whoever you are, you’d better get out of my apartment,”
un-head screeched at the top of her lungs.

She must have seen Hardy slip into Matilda’s apartment. And, since she now blocked the entrance, I let my mattress slide to the floor, wondering if I’d ever get this thing to where it needed to be. “You lookin’ for someone?”

Her sharp brown eyes lasered down the length of me. I felt the burn from head to toe. “You the new resident? You’re stealing my apartment.”

New resident? That scared me. “My name’s LaTisha Barnhart.” Hardy popped out of Momma’s doorway, eyeball to eyeball with
un-head. “That’s my husband
” I
pointed at Hardy
. “That’s his momma, the new resident, Mrs. Matilda Barnhart.”

Hardy pursed his lips, studying our visitor real close and jabbing a finger at me. “Yeah,
my wife
just looks like she belongs here.”

crossed her
arms. “Well, this is my room and I want it.”

Matilda caught up to us, paused to tilt her head at the visitor, then chugged forward, giving Bun
head a chance to retreat a step or get steamrolled.

“You hear me? You better get your scrawny self out of my apartment. Otis promised me this place,” Bun
head threatened as Matilda closed the distance between them.

Now not much gets Hardy riled, but you can guarantee he wasn’t having Bun
head say much more without his tongue doing some wagging. I watched as his posture changed from relaxed to alert. His eyes took on a feral gleam. “I’m sure there’s a way to get this resolved without you calling my momma names, Ms. . .”

“It’s Dent. Mrs. Polly Dent.” But those words didn’t come from the little lady, they came from somewhere over my shoulder. Otis Payne, Director of Administration for Bridgeton Towers, and one of the people we met when filling out all that paperwork to get Momma into the facility, huffed up to us. His beady eyes and thin, strawberry blond hair lent him the look of a sunburned pig. Probably not such a nice way to describe him, but I couldn’t help the impression or the comparison, Lord forgive me.

Otis’s voice stopped M
in her tracks long enough for her to give him the barest of nods. She then slid past Bun
head and through the door. She never did say a word to Bun
head. Must have been her hearing. Selective hearing, that is. Not a thing wrong with her ears otherwise.

Polly, who watched
omma blaze a trail to her bedroom, snapped her head toward Otis. “I can speak for myself.”

“Yes, Mrs. Dent, I’m sure you can.”

Otis jutted a hand out to Hardy. “Good to see you again, Mr. Barnhart.” He then said something in a voice so low I couldn’t catch the words, but his glance at Mrs. Dent let me know for sure who he was whispering about.

Whatever they said, Hardy nodded. Otis turned to me and moved to help with the mattress. I stopped him cold. “Good of you to offer, but I made it this far without help.”

Polly snort
Otis turned her way. “Don’t you forget our agreement, Otis Payne.”

Otis’s smile stretched from ear to ear, but it was
a hundred percent
pure plastic. Before he could say a word, Polly spun on her heel and scampered down the hall like a Chihuahua dog who thought her bark had everyone scattering for cover.

“You get that mattress in here so I can lay these bones down,”
hollered from inside the apartment. “I’m tired.”

Hmph. Lots of scripture verses floated through my head about respecting one’s elders before I dared even open my mouth. Just when things were getting good and a dozen questions had popped into my mind to ask Otis. I gave a mighty heave and slid the mattress inside her apartment. “Coming, Momma, dear.”

It didn’t take too long to settle
omma down after I’d dressed up the bed for her. Neither Hardy nor Otis were anywhere to be found. Strange thing, that.

Instead of searching for them, I opted to bring in more boxes. As I slipped into the hall, I heard a soft scraping sound and looked around to place the source of the noise. Across the hall, someone peered with one eye through the crack of a partially opened door. When our gazes met, the door shut fast-like. A curious neighbor who probably heard Polly screeching and wondered if the sky was falling.

I rode the elevator down, mentally reviewing the scene Bun-head had created and wondering if it was a taste of what Momma would have to face on a daily basis.

The rear of our car sagged low from the weight of all
omma’s things. At least Hardy had disconnected the trailer so I could get to the trunk. I lifted out a box that clanked with the kitchen things she’d need—plates, forks, glasses, pots and pans. Like me, she loved to cook, although she didn’t have to if she didn’t want to since all her meals were prepared for her at Bridgeton Towers.

I shouldered the box and rear-ended the door shut. And that’s when I met Gertrude Herrman.

“That’s why your car’s so beat up.”

I fastened my eyes on the large woman at the front door, Mitzi at her side holding tight to her walker.

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