Address For Murder
Book 2 in the Mail Carrier Cozy Mystery Series
Mail Carrier Bernadette Butler makes sure she checks on all of her elderly customers on her mail carrier route during the colder months. It makes her feel good and lets face it, she’s trying to keep her mind off the feelings she’s having for her deceased husband’s best friend, Mac Tabor. Which makes putting everyone before her is easy.
Until she notices one particular customer’s dog is on the loose, Bernadette takes the dog back and something isn’t right. The door is open. Bernadette goes in to check on her customer only to find him murdered!
Bernadette knows someone knows something about the murder in the small knit community. Now that she’s help solve one murder, she can’t resist to try her hand at it again…of course not without the help of the FRONT PORCH LADIES and Vince!
Address For Murder
Book 2 in the Mail Carrier Cozy Mystery Series
Address For Murder
“Mornin’, Bernie.” Vivian Tillett greeted me as soon as I walked through the sliding double doors of the nursing home, the first stop in my mail route. “It looks like the weather is going to cooperate for you today.”
“Yes.” I smiled and took the mail bag off my shoulder. I set the bag on the floor between my legs. “I heard from Lucy Drake’s weather report it might actually be the turn we’ve been waiting for.”
The weather was finicky in our small town of Sugar Creek Gap. One minute it could be sunny, and the next it might be raining. Bursts of snow were not unusual. Even though I had a walking route, I really did enjoy the change in seasons, but the transition from winter to spring always did seem to be the most confusing as far as deciding what to wear for my job.
“I’ll put your usual mail in your office, but you did get some magazines I know you like to keep out here for people to thumb through.” I dug down into the bag and pulled out the newest editions of Southern Living Magazine, Country Living, and Kentucky Senior Living.
“Oh, I think we have a spotlight in here.” Vivian flipped through the magazine. “Since we have gone all out for this Make Kentucky Colorful spring campaign, they featured the nursing home.”
“That’s so cool.” I had to force myself to come up with a positive comment about this whole spring campaign that put the entire town on the crazy train.
Especially the Sugar Creek Gap beautification committee. Every time I walk past someone on the committee, they ask me questions about the citizens on my route and if they’ve planted the flowers, cleaned up their yard, or taken down ugly yard ornaments.
“I-32!” my friend, Iris Peabody, shouted from the main dining room of the nursing home, which was adjacent to where I stood with Vivian. “I-32!”
“Bingo?” I asked Vivian, hoisting the bag off the ground and up on my shoulder.
“Yes. Everyone is in there today.” Vivian’s attention turned from the magazine to the opening sliding glass doors.
“Hey, Luke,” I said with a nod when Luke Macum walked up to me and Vivian.
He was a big man, full-chested and brown-haired. He looked very distinguished with sparkling blue eyes. Today might be the first time I’d ever seen Luke Macum dressed down in a pullover sweater with three large wooden buttons. Though they weren’t buttoned, he still looked very dapper.
“Hey there, Bernie.” He gave a hint of a smile. “Have you been by my uncle’s yet?”
“No. This is my first stop.” The nursing home was right behind the post office, making it easier for me to stop here since I had so much mail to deliver to both the residences and the low-maintenance housing for senior citizens without any health problems, who lived in the condominiums on the property. “I’ll head over his way in a couple of hours.”
“I’m getting ready to head on over there if you just want to give me his mail.” Luke made a nice gesture, and his idea would have been good if it weren’t slightly illegal.
“That’s nice of you, but I don’t even have Little Creek Road’s mail in here.” I patted the bag dangling off my shoulder.
I had a three-mail loop every day. The first loop in my bag was the nursing home. The second loop consisted of all the shops located on Main Street and Little Creek Road residence because there were only a few houses on the dead end street. Then I finished my day with the neighborhood located behind the Old Mill downtown.
Since my route was downtown and the houses were located around here, it was easier for me to walk back to the post office between loops than to drive an LLV, a lifelong vehicle.
“Thanks anyways.” I tapped the counter and turned back to Vivian. “I’m going to head in and see everyone before I go fill up the mailboxes.”
“B-12! B-12!” Iris’s voice carried into the hallway. She was looking around the large dining room when I leaned up against the door taking in all the folks who were busy with their eyes on their bingo cards. I’d never seen such a large group of women be so quiet, but when a bingo was up for grabs, it was a big deal around here. “B-12!”
When our eyes caught, I waved, half expecting a wave back, but instead she gave a huge hand gesture for me to come up there.
“Come here,” she mouthed. Then she realized the microphone was still in her hand. “Come here, Bernie,” she said into the device.
I pushed off the door jamb and couldn’t help but overhear Luke talking to Vivian.
“I don’t know what the signs are, but he’s starting to misplace things. He’s not keeping himself clean. I don’t even think he’s eating.” Luke sounded very concerned. “I’m the only kin he’s got, and I’m worried.”
He was obviously talking about his uncle, Mr. Macum, who he’d offered to take the mail.
I’d made a mental note to grab something homemade from my parents’ diner when I delivered their mail and offer it to Mr. Macum when I dropped off the mail for him. The weather wasn’t what made my job as a mail carrier hard. Seeing my customers grow older each year was what tugged at my heart.
Instead of standing there eavesdropping, I weaved in and out of the big round tables on my way up to the front to talk to Iris.
“What did she call?” a woman at one of the tables asked her friend.
“B-12!” her friend yelled into her ear.
“D-12?” she asked and ran her finger along her card.
“No. B! B as in boy!” The friend grabbed the card and held it up close to her eyes.
Apparently, one could hear and the other could see. Each helped the other with the skills she had lost in her elderly years. They were exactly how I pictured Iris and me.
“Bernadette, is that you?” I heard a small voice call to me when I passed by.
I looked over, careful not to hit anyone with the mail bag, and noticed one of my customers from the last neighborhood I delivered to.
“Mrs. Clark.” I was shocked to see her here. “What are you doing here?”
“Oh, honey. Them young ‘uns of mine. They figured I needed some help after I took a few tumbles over the winter.” She shook her head, making the blue tint of her hair glow from underneath the lights in the dining room. “Instead of them fussing over who was going to take care of me and whose house I was going to live in, I just called Walter Ward and had him put my house up for sale and decided to move myself in here.”
“I’m so glad to know you’ve done what you think is best for yourself.” I could count over a dozen elderly people in this very room whose families had them placed in the nursing home. “I’m sure your house is going to sell very fast.”
It took every part of my being not to ask why she put her beloved home in the hands of Walter Ward. He was a good real estate agent but didn’t have a moral bone in his body.
“I hope so.” She looked up and over the edges of her glasses. “This place ain’t cheap.”
“I’ll be sure to make an extra special stop when I’m delivering mail to come visit.” That was why I made the nursing home my first stop.
The residents of the nursing home were always up before the rooster crowed, waiting for their mail, and always eager for company. Plus, the place was always open, unlike the shops, which all opened at nine a.m.
“You do that, honey.” Mrs. Clark went back to her bingo card.
There were a few hellos and how-are-yous as I continued to make my way up to Iris, who was still calling out the bingo letters.
“Tell me why I volunteer for this?” she asked me, putting the microphone down on the table next to the cage with the bingo ping-pong balls in it.
“Because we might have to be in here one day and we want to be taken care of like you take care of them.” I held true to the idea that if you gave out goodness, it came back to you tenfold.
“Speaking of being taken care of…” Her eyes grew bigger. She had that look.
“Oh no.” I put my hand up and shook my head. “I don’t want to know.”
You see, Iris claims to get these feelings. Feelings about people. She’s not psychic or anything, but she’d ask about someone we hadn’t heard from or even thought of in a long time, and then either we’d run into that person or hear something about them. It was something very strange, but it was Iris.
She’d been doing it since we were in grade school. Only a handful of times had she gotten it right. The first was when my husband Richard had been killed in a car wreck. Over ten years ago she got a feeling that something was wrong with him. Dead wrong.
Then there was an unfortunate event last year when she had a bad feeling about Mac Tabor, which turned out to be somewhat true. Still…I didn’t have time to hear this today.
“There’s something about Little Creek Road.” She shifted, sticking her hands on her hips. Her long, curly brown hair had elegant gray streaks and was pulled up in a top knot on the crown of her head. “My last feeling…”
“Don’t remind me.” Again, Mac lived on Little Creek Road. “I’ll keep an eye out on my way over there.” I gave her a quick hug, knowing this feeling was why she’d called me up here in the first place. “I’ve got to get hustling or I’ll never get the mail delivered.”
“Fine. Don’t forget you said you’d help me finish off the cookies for Carla Ramey.” She reminded me how Carla had hired Pie in the Face, Iris’s bake shop, to make the cookies for the big reception for the Make Kentucky Colorful spring campaign. Carla had also hired the shop to make the cake for her retirement, which was going to be celebrated at the same reception. Carla was the president of the beautification committee and had been for as long as I could remember.
“I didn’t forget,” I called over my shoulder on my way back out of the dining room.
“Take a look around,” Iris blurted out. She gestured a circle around the room with her finger. “This is going to be you and me in twenty years.”
I laughed. Iris was always reminding me we were now in our fifties.
Luke and Vivian had moved from the entrance to her office, which was just on the right side. Her office was glass, and the blinds were pulled open, allowing me to see the inside, where she was showing him some brochures.
Then… I couldn’t help but wonder if Iris was talking about Mr. Macum. Was it a coincidence Luke was here and that Mr. Macum lived on Little Creek Road?
I shoved out any bad thoughts out of my head and headed to the community mailboxes to finish up my time there at the nursing home.
“What on earth is she doing?” I asked Monica Reed as we stood in the parking lot of the post office. I’d just filled my mail bag with the second loop, which consisted of the downtown shops and government offices along with the dead-end neighborhood of Little Creek Road.
Monica craned her neck around me to look at Carla, who had jumped out of her car with her hand gripped around the handle of some sort of bottle. With her other hand, she sprayed something out of that bottle into the cracks of the sidewalk.
“Is she spraying the weeds in the cracks?” I narrowed my eyes to get a good look, pushing back a strand of my auburn hair that’d fallen out of my low ponytail. “Oh my God, I think she is.”
“This whole beautification thing has made her lose the good sense God gave her.” Monica tsked and went back to checking out the LLVs for the carriers who did drive.
Monica was the post-office clerk. She was always the first one there, sorting mail and certified letters that needed to be delivered. She also helped the drivers each morning check out their LLV before they headed out on their routes.
“I swear.” I shook my head and headed off in the direction of Main Street. “I’ll see you in a few hours.” I waved goodbye to Monica but couldn’t help but laugh when I saw Carla jump out of her car again to squirt more weeds.
The street was starting to come alive with cars and a few citizens walking down the street. I quickly delivered the mail to the Doctor Building, which was next to the post office, and then the Sugar Creek Gap Bank next to that. Next, I crossed the street to deliver the mail back to back to the locally owned shops.
“Good morning, Bernie.” Leotta Goldey greeted me when I walked into Social Knitwork. “It’s going to be a gorgeous day,” she called from over her shoulder from the display window of her the yarn shop. She pointed. “Can you hand me the tape? It’s on the counter.”
I dropped my mail bag next to the counter and picked up the tape. Then I took it to her.
“Carla dropped off this participation certificate and wants all of us to tape it on our display windows for the judges to see.” She drew a long breath. “I’ll be so glad when this is over.”
“I swear I just saw her jump out of her car and put weed killer on the sidewalk cracks.” I went back to my mail bag, dug out Leotta’s mail, and then placed it in the basket next to the register.
“No weed will live from Carla’s determined-to-win eye,” Leotta joked, only it was true.
“No outgoing?” It was common for the shop owners not to have gotten their mail ready before I’d arrived, since I was there when they first opened.
“Not a thing.” She backed out of the display window.
“Your window is amazing.” My eyes feasted on the old bike.
The bike had a wire basket on the front filled with various bright colors of yarn balls. Tin flower holders filled with yarn flowers in the colors of spring hung off the bike’s back wire shelf. She had made at least eight butterflies of different sizes out of yarn and hung them with fishing wire from the ceiling. The sight was amazing.
“Thank you. I spent a lot of time on it because I didn’t want to have Carla on my back like she’s been doing to all the neighbors.” Leotta rolled her eyes. “How is Julia’s blanket coming along?”
“I forgot all about that. I don’t know.” Over the past couple of months, Leotta had kept asking me about a blanket Julia, my daughter-in-law, had been making in one of Leotta’s knitting classes. “I’ll be sure to ask when I see her this morning.”
As the mail carrier of most of the businesses in Sugar Creek Gap, I tended to see everyone every day, including my parents, who owned Wallflower Diner, and Julia, the secretary for Tabor Construction.
The bell over the shop door dinged. A few women with a bag filled to the top with yarn and knitting needles sticking out headed straight to the next room, where Leotta taught classes, and sat their bags down on the table.
“Good morning, ladies. Are you ready for class?” Leotta turned her attention to them while I headed out the door and got back on the sidewalk, where I quickly delivered mail to Tranquility Wellness, the locally owned spa and yoga studio.
I always gave myself a good minute while I was in there to take a few deep breaths, since the place smelled so good, even though I knew the perfect spa smell that made me feel all zen was chemically made and piped into the ventilation system.
But it was the smell of my mom’s freshly made biscuits that really made me feel at home when I walked into the Wallflower Diner.
It was a typical diner with metal tables and red vinyl metal chairs that took up the interior flooring. They had saltshakers filled with salt and a few pieces of elbow macaroni—which kept the salt fresh, according to my mom—along with matching pepper shakers. They also had fresh cream on the tables for the coffee drinkers. A small bud vase with a plastic red rose and the menu pushed between the bud vase and shakers.
“There’s my baby girl.” My dad waved me over to the counter, where he was having his morning meeting with the local men who gathered there every day.
“Y’all solving all the world’s problems?” I asked and pulled my mail bag around to my front so I could get the diner mail out. I handed it to my dad.
“Just trying to figure out what we are going to do with Carla.” Dad nodded swiftly over to the few tables that’d been pushed together. “She’s over there telling them they need to go door to door in all the neighborhoods to make sure everyone has a flyer in their window and their yards all dolled up with flowers.”
Carla was over there with what looked like the members of the beautification committee.
“Hi, dear.” Mom walked out of the kitchen pass-through, rubbing her hands off on the apron tied around her waist. “How are you this morning?”
“I’m good, Mom.” We hugged and kissed cheeks. “How about you?”
“You know, kneading the dough.” She winked and grabbed a ceramic mug from behind the counter. In one fluid motion, she’d set the mug down in front of me and already started to pour me a cup of coffee. “Go on. Sit down. Warm up your bones. It might look nice outside, but there’s still a chill in the air, and I can’t have you catching cold.”
I was never one to protest against my mom. She always won.
“And I’ll get you a fresh biscuit.” She didn’t even bother letting me decline the biscuit. She headed straight back into the kitchen and soon came back with a golden-brown biscuit topped with a pat of butter that was melting faster than she could set it down in front of me. “Tell me what you’ve been up to,” she said and leaned on the counter, like we didn’t see each other a few times a day.
“Same thing as last time I saw you.” I picked up the biscuit and took a bite. “Can I get a few biscuits to go? I want them for Mr. Macum.”
“Put some arsenic in those biscuits. Then he won’t be the bane of my existence.” Carla came out of nowhere and nudged me with a giggle.
“Carla Ramey, that’s not so nice,” I told her and looked into her black eyes to determine whether she was kidding or serious—or what even possessed her to say something so mean. “He’s a nice man.”
“Nice man? He and I are at odds, and if we lose the Make Kentucky Colorful campaign, it’ll all be because of him.” She put her money and food bill on the counter next me. “Mark my words.”
“You know that old washtub leaning up on the side of his house?” One of my dad’s friends leaned on his forearms to look down the counter from the stool he was sitting on. He continued, “That was my old washtub from five years ago.”
“Mmm-hhhmm.” Carla’s lips pinched. “He picked up any old thing when he was picking up trash, but now that he’s retired, he needs to clean up that yard. I can’t tell you how many times the city has cited him.”
“From what I heard, he picks up just enough not to be in violation.” The man shrugged and picked up his coffee cup to take a drink. “No problem to me. He ain’t hurting no one.”
“His hoarding is hurting my legacy. I’ve spent my entire life for this community, and here is my last hurrah to get some sort of award before I retire. I’ll be dang sure it won’t be Lee Macum who keeps me from it.”
Carla turned on the toes of her shoes and stalked straight out of the diner, leaving me, Mom, Dad, and a few others shaking our heads until the door shut.