Authors: Theresa M.; Jarvela
The Tales of a Tenacious Housesitter
Home Sweet Murder
Home for the Murder
Bring Home the Murder
Bring Home the Murder
Theresa M. Jarvela
North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc.
St. Cloud, Minnesota
Copyright Â© 2015 Theresa M. Jarvela
Cover image Â© iStock/Getty Images
Print ISBN: 978-0-87839-809-6
eBook ISBN: 978-1-68201-006-8
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
First Edition: September 2015
North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc.
P.O. Box 451
St. Cloud, Minnesota 56302
This book is dedicated to those who enjoy reading about Meggie's housesitting adventures as much as I enjoy writing about them.
aby-boomer Meggie Moore squeezed a wedge of lemon into her iced tea. “Molly plans to leave for North Dakota at the beginning of July to visit Michael.” She sat back against the cushioned booth in Pine Lake CafÃ© and glanced out the window. The small town of Pine Lake bustled with tourists. “She'll return to Minnesota by the end of the month.”
“I can't believe you're actually going to do it.” Shirley Wright grimaced and straightened her cherry-red top across her wide girth. “Just when I think you can't get any wackier, you do something beyond wacky. I seriously wonder about you.”
Meggie's lean frame stiffened. She set her drink down and looked at her longtime friend. Shirley's short stature contradicted her vocal abilities. “What do you mean you don't think I'm actually going to do it? I gave them my word.” Meggie picked up her paper napkin and opened it to dab her mouth. “Michael's been working in North Dakota for months. It's not easy for either of them being apart so long. They need this time together. Besides, housesitting their hobby farm will be a dream come true.”
“You and your word.” Shirley clicked her tongue. “I've known you for how many years?”
“Too many to count, I'm afraid.” Meggie's lips curled. “I lost track somewhere between a lot and too many.” Meggie tucked a scattering of highlighted tendrils behind her ear. She recalled the first time they met, their high school years together and their first gray hairs.
Audrey Peterson, petite and unassuming, looked from Meggie to Shirley and giggled. “You two are such fun. Your friendship is definitely one of a kind.”
“Miss Goody Two-Shoes never goes back on her word. You could get out of it if you wanted to.” Shirley looked at Audrey for support.
Audrey, not usually one to get involved, smiled at Meggie. “Shirley could be right. You might find it uncomfortable if . . .”
“If the house is haunted?” Meggie rubbed the back of her neck. “I'm not sure I believe in ghosts. Besides, if Molly believes the house is haunted, it doesn't seem to bother her, and as for Michael, he's on the fence about it.” She looked at both her friends. “I promised the Rileys I'd housesit, and that's what I intend to do.”
“I can see it now.” Shirley raised her hand palm out and moved it from one side to the other.
“Eccentric Baby-boomer Frightened to DeathâGhost Suspected
.” Shirley added extra sugar to her iced tea, gathered the empty packets together and leaned forward. “I think that husband of yours needs to keep you on a short leash. Before you or somebody else gets hurt.”
Meggie raised her eyebrow. “Short leash? Believe me, Walter's tried. Unfortunately for him, I never learned to heel.”
Shirley stirred her tea and took a sip. “Well, lose my phone number if you get scared out of your wits. I've risked my life more than once for you, and I have no intention of any more repeat performances. BFF or not.” She flicked a crumb off her ample bosom and chuckled. “I would love to hear what your hubbie has to say about your next little adventure. I bet he doesn't even know about it.”
“Housesitting a hobby farm? At your age?” Walter, slightly overweight, crossed his arms and leaned against the kitchen counter. He glared at Meggie. “What are you thinking?”
She opened her mouth to speak but he cut her off. “Oh, that's right. I forgot. You don't think.”
“Walter, just listen.”
“I never approved of your harebrained idea to housesit for extra money in the first place. You know that. But did you consider my feelings?”
“Three housesitting jobs, three murders. No, let me correct that.” He held up four fingers. “Four murders. I forgot you doubled up on that last housesitting adventure and set a record.”
He shook his head. “My gosh, Meggie. You barely escaped with your
the last time. Not to mention the lives of your sidekicks. But you just keep on truckin'.” Walter carried his coffee to the kitchen table and sat down. He rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Don't you want us to enjoy our golden years together?”
Meggie wiped her hands on the dish towel, sat down next to him and took his hand. She had never seen her husband so frustrated. “What could possibly go wrong on a hobby farm?”
Walter's eyes grew round. “With you involvedâanything and everything.”
“Hon, do you remember how good it felt when you started your bucket list?” She paused. “That bucket list gave your life purpose, didn't it?”
Walter squirmed in his chair, then nodded slightly.
“Shouldn't I have the right to a bucket list?” In a softer voice she added, “You know I've always wanted to live on a hobby farm. At my age, this is the closest I'll ever get to that dream. It's only for a month.”
Walter didn't say anything right away. Then he straightened his back and smiled at his wife. “I suppose you deserve to live out your dreams, too.” He patted her hand. “And if it's your dream to wake at the crack of dawn, feed the chickens, slop the hogs and shovel manure, who am I to stop you from living that dream?”
Meggie ignored Walter's sarcasm and threw her arms around him. “I knew you would understand.”
“Besides,” Walter whispered in her ear, “you won't be alone out there.”
A spark of hope flitted inside her. She leaned back and looked him in the eye. Had he changed his mind about joining her on the farm? “What do you mean?”
Walter grinned, raised his camouflage-colored coffee mug and winked. “The place is haunted, right?”
The bell tinkled above the door at Hearts and Flowers Gift Shop in downtown Pine Lake. Meggie stepped inside and glanced at her wrist watch. To her surprise she had made record time.
“Good morning, dear. You're early.” Vera Cunningham, a spry gray-haired lady in her seventies, stood behind the till and glanced up at Meggie. “It was so good of you to come in this morning and help out.” Her pen scratched across a note pad. “I know I didn't give you much notice. I would've understood if you couldn't make it.”
Meggie smiled and held her hand up. “That's perfectly fine. I didn't have any plans for today. Walter left the house early, and I don't imagine he'll return until late this afternoon.”
“Golfing?” Vera closed the till and walked around the counter. Her shoes clicked across the tiled floor. She placed a hand on Meggie's arm and her eyes sparkled. “A man should leave his castle occasionally and enjoy himself.”
Meggie slipped off her windbreaker. “I agree. However, his castle has a lawn that needs mowing, and the queen doesn't intend to mow it.” She grinned at Vera, walked to the back of the shop and pushed aside the breakroom curtain.
She hung her windbreaker on the coat tree and stepped over to deposit her purse in Vera's desk. A book lay inside the desk drawer. She picked it up. Her brow puckered when she read the title. “I didn't know you were interested in ghost tales, Vera.”
Vera's eyes darted towards the book. “Would you like a cup of tea before the day begins? I do believe we have time.”
“Tea sounds wonderful.” Meggie set the book down and closed the drawer. “I didn't have my caffeine this morning. Would you like me to serve the tea?”
“No, you just sit down. Let me wait on you for a change.” Vera poured steaming water into a blue-and-white teapot. She reached into the cupboard and took two cups off the shelf.
Meggie sat down at the table and lifted the vase of pink carnations. She sniffed the floral fragrance, positioned the vase in the center of the table, and twisted it until a bright pink carnation faced her.
Vera set two cups of tea on the table and a plate of scones. “I stopped by Swenson's bakery this morning. They have the most delicious orange nut scones.” She pulled her chair close to the table and avoided Meggie's eyes. “This organic chai tea's good, don't you agree?”
“It's very good.” Meggie waited for a response to her statement but when she failed to receive one said, “Vera, are you avoiding my question?”
Vera set her teacup down. She reached for a scone, broke it in half and brushed the crumbs from her fingers. “Dear, you know I'm not one to interfere in anyone's business.”
“I know that.” Meggie studied Vera over the rim of her teacup.
“But you see I had good reason to check that book out of the library. I'm not at all familiar with ghosts.” She wrinkled her nose. “Truth be told, I don't believe in them.”
Meggie bit into her scone and waited for her friend to continue.
“I suppose curiosity got the better of me when you volunteered to housesit at Molly and Michael's hobby farm.” Vera patted the corner of her mouth with a napkin. “While I may not believe in ghosts, I thought it a good idea to see if anyone claimed to be injured by them.”
Meggie suppressed a giggle and cocked her head. “Are you worried about me?”
“Please don't take this the wrong way, dear.” Vera twisted the napkin in her hand. “It's just that I worry about you when you houseÂsit.” She cleared her throat and seemed to have a difficult time continuing. “While I can't foresee anything untoward happening at Molly and Michael's farm, I thought it pertinent to learn all I could about the supernatural.”
She looked to Meggie for a response. When there wasn't any, she continued, “I'd then be able to impart the information to you in the unlikely event there's anything to this ghost business of Molly's.” Stumbling over her words, Vera quickly added, “And if need be, you'd be prepared to defend yourself.”
“I'm sure I'll be fine.” Meggie patted Vera's hand. “Besides, to my knowledge ghosts don't hurt people. They just scare the living daylights out of them.”