by Angie Curtis from THREADS OF EVIDENCE, second in the Mainely Needlepoint series by Lea Wait
When guys in Arizona asked me where I came from (my Maine accent wasn’t one they heard a lot in Mesa) I used to just say “East Coast.”
Usually they assumed I meant one of the big cities, like Boston, or New York.
Who’d ever heard of Haven Harbor?
Besides. I might have left there when I was eighteen, but that didn’t mean I hated the place.
Sure, I hated that Mama disappeared when I was ten. I hated that boys in high school thought I was a slut, like her. I hated working the lobster steamer at the co-op every summer.
Most of all, I hated that everyone in town knew everyone else. If you didn’t remember what you did yesterday, your neighbor could probably tell you. Or tell Gram.
But now I’m back. Gram needed me. I brought my baby Glock and my sun block and ten years’ experience as assistant to a private investigator. I learned a lot in those ten years, but it’s not all stuff I want to talk about.
Turns out the ocean air and smell of mud flats and screech of gulls haven’t changed. I loved them then, and I love them now. Lobster tastes better when you haven’t been standing over it all day. Gram’s fish chowder still beats anything I ate in Arizona.
But some things in Haven Harbor have changed. Kids I went to school with are grown up. The guy I had a crush on is married and a state trooper. The fat girl from high school is now svelte and working for one of the Portland broadcasters. And Gram, who did her best to raise me after Mama left, now has her own business, doing custom needlepoint for decorators and stores and identifying and restoring needlework for other customers. Strangest of all, she’s getting married.
Yes, I said I’d help her out. But I never dreamed I’d now be managing Mainely Needlepoint. I’ve promised to stay six months. I figure that’s long enough to commit to anyplace.
So I’m back sleeping in my old room in the early nineteenth century home I grew up in, working with the assortment of Gram’s friends who do needlepoint. They’re not all people from my past; Sarah Byrne, who’s not much older than I am, and who has an antiques shop in Haven Harbor, comes from Australia. I’ve never figured out how she ended up on the coast of Maine, but she knows a lot about needlepoint.
Which is good, because I don’t know much about it at all. And we just took on a really big job.
See, there’s this big Victorian place in Haven Harbor that’s been deserted for years. Used to be owned, before I was born, by the Gardeners, a rich family from New York City. But after their seventeen-year-old daughter died there in 1970, Mrs. Gardener never left – and Mr. Gardener never came back. After Mrs. Gardener died the house started falling apart.
When I was a kid I heard stories about ghosts there. People in town said it was an eye-sore; it should be torn down.
But a famous Hollywood star (you’d know her name) and her hunky son (he’s an artist) just bought the old place; say they’re going to restore it. And she’s hired Sarah and me to clean it out, and restore some of the large needlepoint pictures Mrs. Gardener did.
Sure, the actress has money. But why not buy a new, modern, vacation home? Why try to fix up a place that’s falling down? And why is she asking so many questions about who was there on the Saturday night in 1970 when Jasmine died?
It all sounds strange to me.
And that was before the hummingbird died.
Lea Wait lives on the coast of Maine with her artist husband and her black cat. She writes the Mainely Needlepoint and Shadows Antique Print Mystery series, and historical novels for ages 8 and up set in 19th century Maine. Most recently, she’s written Living and Writing on the Coast of Maine, a memoir about leaving the corporate world, becoming an author, and marrying the man she’d always loved. For more information about Lea and her books she invites you to check her website, www.leawait.com, and friend her on Facebook and Goodreads.