I thought I’d share another chapter today from my cozy mystery Gladwynn Grant Gets Her Footing which releases on July 18.
I’m posting this very late today because I’ve been running around most of today, cooking dinner, putting away groceries, etc. I’m posting so late today it’s almost not Friday any longer.
You can catch up on Chapter 1 by clicking here.
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Glawynn woke with a start the next morning, heart pounding.
A horrible grinding noise had jolted her from a dream. It stopped almost as quickly as it started and now she wondered if it had been part of the dream, which she could remember very little of. There’d been a court jester and a young Frank Sinatra. The rest had faded into oblivion.
The room she was looking at reminded her of something someone might see on the set of a regency film. She let out a breath, blowing hair out of her face and struggled to remember where she was.
A solemn woman with her hair high on her head in a tight bun scowled at her from a gold-framed picture on the wall above a full-length mirror opposite her. To the woman’s right there was a full-bearded man wearing a Quaker-style hat staring at her from out of another framed picture. Both photographs were black and white.
It was all coming back to her now.
Grandma’s house in Brookville. Her home for the foreseeable future.
She winced as she moved her legs, stinging pain shuddering through the bottom of her feet, reminding her of her stupid decision to wear high-heeled boots to work.
Downstairs the noise that had woken her up had started up again. Some kind of grinding and squealing, like maybe a cat caught in a wood chipper.
What was her grandmother doing?
Or maybe it wasn’t her grandmother. She hadn’t actually seen her grandmother when she’d come home last night. Lucinda’s bedroom door had been closed. Gladwynn had tiptoed past it and crawled into bed without even changing into her night clothes.
Now fully awake, she tossed the thick quilt off her and reached for the flashlight next to the bed, weighing it in her hand.
Yeah, that would work if there was a chainsaw wielding maniac downstairs instead of her spunky grandmother.
She inched her way into the hallway, then slowly to the top of the stairs, ancestors watching her with stoic stares from ornate and vintage frames along the flower wallpapered walls.
Making her way down the wooden staircase with one hand on a banister that dated sometime in the early 1900s, she winced as the grinding noise grew louder. It was clear now that the sound was coming from the kitchen.
Amidst the grinding she could hear Dean Martin crooning away and just as loud, Lucinda’s voice joining in.
Gladwynn set the flashlight on a small table against the wall next to the staircase , under a framed image of the Grant coat of arms that a distant relative had brought back from a trip to Scotland.
She paused to look through the kitchen doorway, unable to keep from smiling at the sight.
Lucinda, wearing a silky, bright pink bathrobe, had her back to her. Her light gray hair was swept back in a messy bun and her plump hips swayed from side to side as she sang while pouring something bright green from a blender into tall glasses.
Gladwynn stepped up into the doorway just as her grandmother looked over her shoulder.
Lucinda smiled, belted out the end of the song, and then flicked off the CD player.
“Hey there, girl! There you are! You were passed right out when I got home. That must have been some crazy second day.”
When she got home? Where had her grandmother been last night at 8 p.m. if not curled up in bed asleep?
Gladwynn flopped in a chair at the kitchen table. “Yeah. It was a little crazy.”
“Different than library work, huh?”
“That’s an understatement. It’s like walking from Brigadoon into Saigon.”
Lucinda sat a glass of the green concoction in front of Gladwynn and winked. “Glad to hear you referencing a classic movie we used to watch together.”
Gladwynn smirked. “Brigadoon or Platoon?”
“Very funny, kid.” Lucinda winked. “You know we never watched Brigadoon together.” She sat at the table across from her granddaughter, taking a sip from the glass. She smacked her lips. “Oh yeah. That’s the good stuff.”
She sighed and folded her arms on top of the table. “It’s been nice having you here, you know. I’d honestly been considering moving to Willowbrook before you called. This place is too big for one person.”
Gladwynn studied the green substance with suspicion. “You? In a retirement community? Can’t really imagine that.”
Lucinda shrugged. “I’m there enough as it is and almost all my friends are there now so it probably wouldn’t be a huge adjustment. Plus, it’s not easy for this old lady to take care of this big house anymore.”
“What were you going to do with the house?”
“Sell it, probably.”
She couldn’t be serious. This house had been in the family for over a hundred years. “Sell it? Why? Wouldn’t dad or mom or Aunt Margaret or Uncle Phil and Aunt Harriet have wanted it?”
Lucinda shrugged again and took a swig from her glass.
“None of them are interested in keeping up this old place. They’ve all got their own lives and responsibilities. Your cousins are too wrapped up in their own worlds to care about it.” She smirked. “Except for Trudy. I overheard her at Christmas last year tell her friend, or whatever he is, that she would love to turn this house into a bed and breakfast one day.”
Yeah, that sounded like Trudy.
Gladwynn scoffed. “She would have abandoned that idea as soon as she realized it would require her to actually do work.”
Lucinda revealed a faint smile over the rim of her glass but quickly let it fade again.
Gladwynn twirled the glass around in her hands and made a face. “What is this stuff anyhow?”
“It’s a green smoothie. All the rage and very good for you. ”
Gladwynn sniffed the glass and set it down again. “Green things aren’t really something I eat. Or drink. Ever. But especially in the morning.”
Lucinda lifted an eyebrow. “Being healthy doesn’t interest you? Well, then, by all means go ahead and pour yourself some cereal that resembles cardboard or throw some heart attack causing butter on a piece of toast and toss a piece of cholesterol raising pig in the frying pan.”
Gladwynn stood. “Don’t mind if I do. Bacon sounds amazing right now. Also, I think it is the butter that raises cholesterol and the pork that can lead to the heart attack. Not sure about that, though, since I really don’t care.”
She felt her grandmother’s eyes on her as she walked to the fridge, but the woman luckily changed the subject. “So, how did your first couple of days go?”
Gladwynn shrugged. “They were okay. The job is just different than I expected.” She slapped a pack of bacon on the counter. “I caught a couple of the staff gossiping about me yesterday. I don’t think they like me very much.”
Lucinda turned in her chair. “Gladwynn are you listening to yourself? You’re not in high school. ‘They don’t like me.’ Who cares! You don’t have to be best friends with these people. It’s a job. Work the job and come home. You young people today are too stuck on thinking you have to like your job or the people you work with. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about making money to pay your bills and put food on the table.”
The bacon sizzled in the pan. “Yeah, I know, but it would be nice if my co-workers at least liked me.”
“Did your co-workers at your last job like you?”
“Well, yeah, but we were all similar. A bunch of weirdos spending half of our lives with our noses in a book.”
Lucinda chuckled. “You’re so much like your dad. That boy always had a book in his hands.”
Gladwynn tensed at the comparison. She was nothing like William Alexander Grant or her mother, Penelope Fitzwalter-Grant, which was probably why she was always butting heads with them.
Lucinda reached for Gladwynn’s glass over and poured half of the mixture into her own glass. “I’m going to the community center tonight to play Pitch. You want to come along?”
“No, my shift starts at three today. I have to go to a meeting with one of the other reporters.”
“Oh, yeah, which meeting?”
“Some little township about a half an hour away. Beachwood or something.”
Lucinda finished the smoothie in her glass. “Oh Birchwood. Good luck with that. Those people are always arguing.”
“About anything and everything. Sometimes it’s about zoning, sometimes about the shape of the roads. Sometimes someone looked at someone else funny. Who even knows. Lately the paper had been writing about some beef going on with the volunteer fire department and the township board or a resident of something. I don’t know. I really don’t have time to read the paper these days.” She put her glass in the sink. “I certainly don’t envy you, young lady. Now, before you go, I’ll need you to help me pick out my outfit for tonight. It’s so wonderful having someone here that can help me choose.”
“What about Doris?”
“I love Doris, honey, but you know she has no taste. No taste in music. No taste in men and definitely no taste in clothes.”
Gladwynn shook her head, placing a couple slices of cooked bacon onto a plate. “Now, Grandma, is that any way to speak about your best friend? And her husband for that matter? Bill is a good guy.”
“Doris isn’t my best friend. She’s just a friend. My best friend was your grandfather and he’s not here anymore.”
Gladwynn flipped a piece of bacon. “So, Doris will have to do.”
Lucinda sighed. “Yes, I guess so. She is a very good friend so I guess she can be my almost best friend. As for Bill – well, that’s another conversation for another day.” She snatched a piece of bacon off the plate. “Now you finish that bit of smoothie I left for you. It’s good for you. I’ve got to get to the post office and then I’m heading up to the Y for a swim. I’m going to swing by Judy’s Market on the way home. Can I get you anything?”
“Grandma, don’t you ever slow down? I want to know how your date went last night. More importantly, I want to know who it was with.”
Lucinda bumped her hip into Gladwynn’s and winked. “There will be plenty of time for that conversation, little lady.” She took another bite of the piece of bacon. “You just get yourself some food and relax until you have to go to work.”
Heading toward the doorway, Lucinda started to hum another Dean Martin tune.
Gladwynn placed a hand to her hip and scowled at Lucinda’s retreating form. “I thought you said bacon wasn’t healthy.”
Lucinda glanced over her shoulder waving the bacon above her head. “It isn’t but it sure does taste good.”
After breakfast was finished and her grandmother had left to run her errands, Gladwynn made her way to her grandfather’s office, which was also a library with floor to ceiling cherrywood bookcases built into the walls.
Little had been changed in the room since Sidney William Grant had passed away six years ago. The top of his mahogany desk had been cleared of papers, but family photos still remained. Rows of books from a variety of eras filled the bookshelves and oil paintings of scenes from the area along with various photographs from his 50 years as a minister lining the walls.
Gladwynn paused and breathed in deep. She was amazed the room still smelled so much like her grandfather’s aftershave. It was as if the day he died her grandmother had closed up the room to lock in all the smells, feelings and memories. It was clear, though, that Lucinda, or someone else, had been in the room since then by the lack of dust on the desk and shelves.
She sat in her grandfather’s chair and rubbed her hands along the black leather of the armrests. An old-style radio she’d been told was her grandfather’s when he was young sat across the room on a small table. It was probably built in the early 1950s, maybe earlier. She remembered sitting on her grandfather’s lap as a child in this office, listening to the oldies radio station.
The songs from the 1940s and 1950s had always been her favorite. She still listened to them when driving in her car or while reading.
Though there was a time that sitting in this office had made her feel sad and acutely aware of her loss, she felt an odd sense of joy and peace sitting here today, grateful for the memories of him.
She stood and looked at the books on the shelves, choosing one her grandfather had read to her when she’d used to visit in the summer.
She sat back at the desk with it and opened it, the crack of the spine sending a delightful shiver up her spine. She’d always loved the hand-drawn illustrations inside.
An hour later she looked up at the clock and yawned. She didn’t want to leave the refuge of the room, but she should probably get a shower and start putting her clothes away in the wardrobe in her room, something she hadn’t yet done since moving in last week. She laughed softly, thinking of the first time she’d stayed in that room and how she’d felt all the way to the back of that wardrobe to see if it felt cold, as if it might really be a portal to Narnia, which she had been reading about at the time.
Walking back toward the staircase, she marveled, once again, at the size of the house. To get to the main staircase to go upstairs she walked past two parlors, a living room, a sunroom that included a mini library filled with her grandmother’s classic book collection, a dining room that was bigger than her first apartment, and a full-size bathroom. Inside the living room was a stone fireplace her grandfather had built.
Upstairs there were four bedrooms, a room that used to be a nursery but was now a den, two porch balconies outside two of the rooms, a full bathroom that Lucinda had installed a hot tub in three years ago and an attic on the third floor.
Outside, massive granite stairs with grapevine mortar sidewalls lead up to a wrap-around porch and porte-cochere that led to a three-car garage at the side of the house, at the end of the drive, that had once been a carriage house.
The home, built in 1894, had originally belonged to her grandfather’s grandfather, a prestigious county lawyer and then judge. The woodwork inside was original and Gladwynn ran her hand along it as she walked to her room at the end of the long hallway, which was lit by lanterns that resembled those from the early 1900s but had actually been installed in the 1960s.
This home had always fit her personality more than the modern two story house she’d grown up in with her parents, two older sisters and older brother in upstate New York.
Unlike her older sisters she’d somehow never felt like a modern girl. Instead, deep down she felt as if she’d been meant for a different decade – anywhere from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s. She loved the music and movies of the 1940s and 50s especially, and had even set aside modern clothing for more vintage outfits since high school.
“You’re a girl with an old name and an even older soul,” Lucinda had once told her as they sat on the metal bench in the middle of her grandmother’s overflowing flower garden.
Gladwynn heard her cellphone ringing as she reached the end of the hall. She took her time getting to it, knowing who it would be.
She glanced at his name on the lock screen, pushed the call to voicemail, and once again questioned why she hadn’t yet blocked his number, knowing deep down it was because she hated leaving anything unresolved. Someday she’d have to resolve that situation, but for now, she was going to enjoy a long bath before work.
Gladwynn wasn’t thrilled that Liam had assigned her to shadow Laurel Benton, the reporter she’d heard talking about her with the copy editor the night before, but she was the only one free to show Gladywn the ropes, so to speak, when it came to covering municipal meetings.
Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, Gladwynn examined her dark brown curls and reapplied her signature bright red lipstick. She pulled the hem of the canary yellow sweater she’d had since college down to the top edge of her black slacks and took a deep breath before giving herself a pep talk.
“Come on, Grant. Suck it up. You can do this.”
Laurel was waiting for her in the hallway, arms crossed across her chest. She had tucked her hair under a blue, knitted cap, but one strand – light brown with light-gray streaks – had fallen loose. She’d already zipped her black winter coat up to under her chin. Small lines crinkled the skin along the corners of her eyes as she offered a tense smile.
“Ready to go? We need to leave now if we want to get a good seat.”
Gladwynn reached for her coat, a hot pink tumbler filled with hot coffee, and a reporter’s notebook that she’d sat on a chair outside the bathroom door. She zipped her coat up to her chin and flipped up the gray-faux fur lined hood. It was less stylish, but warmer, than the one she’d been wearing the day before. She’d decided she needed to be ready for the conditions since she’d be out in them more than her last job, even if the coat clearly clashed with her style.
She gestured toward the door. “Lead the way.”
As she walked, she wrapped the bright red scarf her grandmother had handed her earlier that day around her neck and pulled it up across her mouth and nose.
Snow crunched under her winter boots, reminding her how glad she was that she’d stopped by the local shoe store on her way to work to pick out a pair of cute, yet still practical, winter boots.
Laurel’s steps weren’t as long as Liam’s, thankfully, and it was much easier to keep up with her. Her blue Honda was parked in a church parking lot two blocks from the newspaper office. The car was definitely a lot older than Liam’s BMW. Dents along the passenger side of the car hinted at some sort of collision at some point – possibly with a guiderail or tree limb.
The door groaned as it opened, and the ripped seat definitely wasn’t heated.
Laurel slammed the driver’s side door shut. “Sorry about the car. It’s pretty beat up but gets me where I need to go.” She smirked. “Working for a smalltown newspaper isn’t exactly a lucrative gig, if you haven’t realized that already.”
A smile tugged at Gladwynn’s mouth. “I’ve started to figure that out, yes.” Her breath turned the air in front of her white and she hoped the car at least had heat.
The engine rolled over with a reluctant growl. Shifting it into reverse resulted in a loud grinding noise. Laurel grimaced and squeezed her eyes shut. “Stupid car.” She shook her head briefly. “Anyhow, Birchwood is about 20 minutes away and in the middle of nowhere so you can help me watch for deer.”
Laurel slowly edged the car out of the parking lot and onto Main Street. The sun hadn’t yet set, and the drive gave Gladwynn a moment to take in the town, as little as there was to take in. Brookville had probably been a bustling center of activity at some point, but these days many of the buildings were shuttered up or housing businesses that probably wouldn’t survive the year. There were more “used” signs than she could count. Used clothes, used books, and used video games just to name a few.
The one standout gem of Main Street was the old Cornerstone Theatre, which her grandmother had told her had once been an opera house, built in 1875. She remembered many trips there as a child and teen when she’d spent summers with her grandparents.
Gladwynn watched two churches slide by. One church was a Catholic Church with light brown stone and a tall bell tower. This must be the bell that rang four times a day, including 6 a.m., waking her up this morning way before she’d wanted to.
“How you settling in?”
Laurel’s question pulled her gaze from the impressive brick façade of the Covenant Heart Church her grandfather had used to pastor at and that her grandmother still attended. “Okay, I guess. I mean, do you mean at the office or at my grandmother’s, which is where I’m staying for now?”
Laurel shrugged and smiled briefly. “Both I guess.”
“I would say I’m settling in with Grandma better than I am at the office, honestly.” The business district of town began to fade into a series of lovely homes, many of them Victorian like her grandmothers. That was one thing about Brookville. Part of it demonstrated that the area had fallen into disrepair and poverty, while the other half showcased the wealth that had once ruled the town and, in some cases, still did.
Gladwynn glanced at Laurel. “By the way the word is coif not quaff.”
Laurel looked over at her with one eyebrow raised. “Excuse me?”
“The word you were looking for yesterday was coif. Coif is a hairdo. I was wearing a 40s coif in your opinion. Quaff means to drink heavily, which I don’t do.”
Red crept into Laurel’s cheeks. She frowned briefly. “Sorry about that.”
The town disappeared into a less sparsely populated area with only a few houses, a gas station and a mechanic shop passing by.
Gladwynn sighed. “Maybe it is a silly hairdo.”
“No. Really. It isn’t.” Laurel glanced at her. “We were just being petty. It happens in a small office. Especially among the women. Not to run our sex down but we do tend to get caddy when we are in small groups. Maybe it’s because our hormones sync and we’re all having PMS at the same time.”
Glawyn laughed softly. “Yeah, that actually happened at the library too.”
The gears in the car groaned again as Laurel shifted. “If you don’t mind me asking – I mean, maybe I shouldn’t ask — but what brought you here? Have you worked in papers before?”
Gladwynn kept her gaze on the road in front of them, groves of trees, interspersed with small farmhouses and farms. “Only at my college newspaper almost six years ago now. I do write. I don’t know if I would call myself a writer, though. I write short stories sometimes.” She slid her gloves off as the heat in the car started to kick in. “I was laid off at my last job. It was at the college library in a town near where I grew up. I loved the job, but enrollment has been down at the college for a couple of years now and they finally started making cuts. I was one of those cuts.”
Laurel winced. “Ouch. Sorry to hear that.”
“I’m actually surprised Liam hired me. Grateful but surprised.”
Laurel snorted a laugh. “Of course, he hired you. Liam is a sucker for cute brunettes. His last three girlfriends were brunettes. He also needed a warm body to fill the seat and get Lee off his back.”
“The publisher. You’ll meet him eventually. He and his wife spend most of the winter in Florida with his kids and grandkids.”
Gladwynn glanced at her reflection in the passenger side window. Cute? She’d always thought of herself as plain. She’d never really described herself as skinny even when others did. She was just boney and awkward, though she sometimes wished she could be tall and lanky instead.
She’d definitely taken after most of the women on Grandma Lucinda’s side of the family in the height department. Her short stature had always been an irritant to her, though she was glad she at least had grown past the 5 foot 3 inches of Lucinda. Only by an inch, but still. It was an inch she’d prayed hard for over the years.
She took a sip from her tumbler, closing her eyes briefly at the sweet taste of coffee her grandmother had made her earlier. “So, what about you? Are you from here originally?”
Laurel gave a quick nod. “Yep. Born and raised.”
“Have you been at the paper long?”
Laurel rolled her eyes. “Too long. Twelve years next month.”
“Is this what you thought you’d always do? Like, did you go to school for journalism?”
“I did, but always imagined I’d be at a much bigger paper. I came back here after college to help my parents on the farm. They retired and sold it last year and moved down South to live with my grandmother, but here I am, still stuck in good ole’ Marson County.”
Gladwynn thought she heard a twinge of resentment in Laurel’s voice. “Is the job the only thing keeping you here?”
Laurel pressed her mouth into a thin line for a few seconds before answering. “It is now.”
She didn’t elaborate and Gladwynn didn’t ask her to.
“The job’s not that bad of a gig really,” Laurel said after a few seconds of silence. “The hours stink, and I feel like I’m always on, ready to cover something even when I’m supposed to have a day off, but I like the people, the writing, and most of the time I like my co-workers. Except that little upstart who thinks he’s God’s gift to journalism. I’d like to give him a real swift kick in the butt.” She snorted a quick laugh. “Maybe when I decide to quit and get out of this county once and for all, that will be my last act.”
She turned her car onto a road to her right and the conversation faded for the rest of the drive.
5 thoughts on “Fiction Friday: Gladwynn Grant Gets Her Footing Chapter 2”
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This sounds like there will be lots of great characters to get to know, along with some great history from the area too! I’m looking forward to more!