By Dorothy Bodoin
Cozy Mystery, 386 pages
Cover art by Pat Evans
Things haven’t been the same for the Lakeville Collie Rescue League since the murder of founder and president Terra Roman. Now they’re faced with a possible lawsuit, the new president having placed a dog in a forever home without the knowledge of the owner. Jennet finds herself in the unenviable position of trying to placate both the new owner and the original one who is determined to get her dog back, no matter what she has to do.
Meanwhile, at the Spirit Lamp Inn, a garden renovation turns up human bones buried in the Inn’s backyard, rekindling interest in the case of a young woman who disappeared from the Inn several decades ago. As Jennet tries to solve this mystery, she doesn’t realize that it may be her last.
“Do you know if Mister Fowler is coming to the Inn for dinner tonight?” I asked.
The red-haired hostess glanced into the dining room which had filled up in the last half hour. “Mr. Fowler doesn’t let us know his plans. Did you find your friend?”
“Not yet,” I said.
I couldn’t stay at the Inn much longer, but how could I leave, without knowing where Miss Isabel had gone?
I’d simply have to find her.
“I’ll check his office,” I said and left before she could raise an objection.
Once again I stood in a silent, deserted hall knocking at a closed door. Once again a door remained closed, guarding its secrets. Apparently this was one of the nights when Brent was dining at Clovers or the Hunt Club Inn, his two favorite haunts.
See if Miss Isabel’s vintage Plymouth was in the lot and alert Brent to her absence. Especially if the car was still there. Because if it was, that meant she had never left the Inn.
Another woman goes missing at the Spirit Lamp Inn. Ironically, she was acquainted with the woman who disappeared from the same establishment several decades ago. That woman met with a tragic end.
I could almost see the story splashed across the front page of the Banner.
No. That was taking irony too far. Nonetheless, an eerie sense of déjà vu tugged at me.
Déjà vu is always eerie.
I left a message on Brent’s voice mail and felt a little better about leaving the Inn. Driving in the dark on country roads that might be growing slick as the temperatures dropped was taking a chance. Crane and the collies depended on me. Still, I wasn’t ready to go home yet.
I realized I’d been looking forward to a cup of hot tea and Louise’s homemade pastries, not to mention the chance to have a private visit with Miss Isabel.
I’d have to leave with my curiosity unsatisfied. Why had Miss Isabel issued that strangely-worded invitation? More important, what happened to her? Where was she now?
I remembered the last time Miss Isabel had vanished on the night of Brent’s birthday celebration. We’d found her shivering at the site of the former grave.
History repeats itself.
Look outside, I told myself.
I backtracked to the Inn’s front door. From the shelter of the porch, I peered around the side of the Inn. The erstwhile gravesite glistened in the fading light with nothing to distinguish it from the rest of the property. No dark figure kept a lonely vigil in the snow. I walked to the other side of the porch and saw her car lightly dusted in white.
She was still here then; she had to be.
All right. There was something else about that night. Marsha Anne and Catherine had found the door to Miss Isabel’s room unlocked. Maybe she was in the habit of going out without locking the door.
It was worth a try.
Back inside, I nodded to the hostess and ascended the stairs once more, hurried to Miss Isabel’s room, and rapped on the door.
There was no answer; I didn’t expect one. Holding my breath, I turned the doorknob. The door opened easily.
A quick look told me that Miss Isabel had indeed planned to invite me to tea: the electric tea kettle on the small table, tarts arranged on a silver tray, and the silver service with a newly-acquired shine in the light of a Tiffany table lamp. The tin was open. Several missing packets told me that she had already sampled the tea.
I thought I was speaking loudly. My voice was a croak, strange and unfamiliar in the silent room and my throat was dry. Oh, for a cup of tea!
As there was no answer, I set about making a thorough search of the entire suite of rooms, including the closet and the enormous armoire, half dreading to find her body crammed into an out-of-sight hiding place.
She wasn’t there, and that was good, but on the nightstand a glint of silver caught my attention. It was jewelry, a small silver heart. Wait a minute! It was the heart, the one that Brent’s painter found in a closet, the one suspected of being part of the charm bracelet.
The traveling heart.