Christine Robertson, here. You’ve heard, a few times, from my dear friend Janet Marsh. She’s told you about our new business venture, Yon Bonnie Books, here in Inversgail on the west coast of Scotland, and I’m sure she’s made it sound completely lovely. Because that’s Janet. Bright side and best foot forward and all that. But she hasn’t told you about the problem she’s having getting the renters out of her house and herself into it, has she? I didn’t think so. She didn’t tell me, either, until I pressed the issue.
Apparently the renters have asked for another few days. And did Janet ask why? No. Again, that’s Janet. But it’s not me, and so I practically dragged her over there this morning to at least walk past the house. We might not be able to figure out what’s going on, but if you ask me, something doesn’t smell right.
Janet and her husband bought the house years ago when they first fell in love with Inversgail. It’s a traditional stone detached cottage with four rooms down and two up, and not such a long walk from the bookshop, over there on Argyll Terrace. Janet didn’t want to appear pushy and didn’t want to intrude on the renters.
“It looks empty,” Janet said. “No curtains at the windows.
“That’s because it is empty,” I said. “But if the renters have moved out, why can’t you move in? You’ve got your keys, haven’t you? Let’s go in.”
“Then let’s look in the windows.”
“At the back,” Janet said, and she led the way around the house.
The back garden slopes down toward the house below on Ross Street. The renters had terraced the slope with three raised beds. We saw Curtis’s garden shed still standing in a corner at the bottom of the garden.
“Do you know,” Janet said, “when Curtis told me he’d bought a shed, I pictured something charming. Something that looked like it could be turned into a little writing cabin. Like something Alexander McCall Smith might step out of and ask for a cup of tea. Instead Curtis brought this ugly thing home. I’ve never liked it.”
I nudged her. “The lettuce is bolting.”
Janet nodded. “Maybe the renters did, too?”
“Why do I have the sudden urge to slink low to the ground?”
“Because you have good instincts,” she whispered in my ear. “We won’t slink, in case neighbors are watching, but let’s go carefully. Let’s stay off the deck, for now, to avoid creaky boards. Head for the kitchen window on the corner.”
We walked to the mullioned window, appearing about as cool and casual as a pair of amateur peeping Toms. And then we lost that little bit of cool when we looked through the window.
“There are no words,” Janet said faintly.
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Plaid and Plagiarism, book 1 in the Highland Bookshop Mysteries, comes out December 6, 2016, and is available for pre-order now wherever books are sold.
Molly MacRae is also the author of the award-winning, national bestselling Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries. Visit Molly on Facebook and Pinterest, connect with her on Twitter @mysteryMacRae, or find her the first Monday of each month at Amy Alessio’s Vintage Cookbooks and Crafts.