Sunday, June 23, 2019

Hiccups


by Janet Marsh, from the Highland Bookshop Mysteries, by Molly MacRae


Hi, Janet Marsh, here. I’m the retired American librarian who, along with my daughter and a couple of friends,  bought a bookshop on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands. We’ve been here about six months, now, and despite a few hiccups I’d say moving here was the right decision. By hiccups I mean finding a few dead bodies. That's not something we could have foreseen, but I think we’ve proved ourselves quite capable of dealing with the new and unusual situations.

Now there’s something else I’m out to prove. I bought a bicycle and I’m going to prove that I can get in shape and ride in the next Haggis Half-Hundred. It's a fun ride, not a race, cycling fifty miles through the Highlands and celebrating with a plate of haggis at the end. I know. I hear you. Can haggis really be considered a celebration, or is it more of a hiccup? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

I’ve started out small, taking short rides and only tackling a few hills. This morning I got a bit carried away and made it all the way to an old bridge outside of town - barely made it to the bridge. By the time I reached it, I didn’t think I’d stay standing if I got off the bike. My legs felt like a quivering blancmange. But the bridge looked just wide enough for a car to pass me safely, so I stopped at the crown of the span, close to the lichen-covered wall, and leaned myself and my bike against it. The top of the wall was a perfect height to rest my elbow on, and I was glad for the strength of the rough, cool granite.

I pondered “bridge” and “strength” as my breath caught up with me. Age had nothing and everything to do with the strength of that bridge. Built by whose hands, I wondered, and how long ago? Made of stones, the bones of the earth. Not like the abandoned bridge I’d walked across with a group of birders back in Illinois. I hadn’t enjoyed that experience. I don’t like heights with poorly guarded edges. Remembering the creaking and groaning of the arthritic planks as we’d skirted holes in the deck of that bridge, I shuddered. It wasn't the smartest thing I’d ever done. That poor stretch of wood and iron was barely more than a century old and already left to rust and rot.

I patted the side of this bridge, like patting the flank of a trusty steed. Your strength has been, it is, and it will continue to be. It was also the only thing keeping me from toppling into the burn below. I chanced a look over the side to see where I would go if I did topple. Headfirst onto rocks the size of Shetland ponies and Highland cattle. 

I shuddered again and made myself focus instead on the gurgling water, letting my eyes follow the burn wending its whisky-colored way beyond the rocks and between banks of frost-killed thistles. There were more rocks farther along. But rocks on their own aren’t threatening. Except—what was that?

On the nearside of the burn, near the largest nonthreatening rock—what was that in the thistles? A bike wheel? And beyond the wheel, half in the burn—plastic? A bag? Cloth. A sleeve, an arm. Not moving.

Another hiccup. 

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Look for Thistles and Thieves, book 3 in the Highland Bookshop Mysteries, in January 2020!


Molly MacRae writes the award-winning, national bestselling Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries and the Highland Bookshop Mysteries. Visit Molly on Facebook and Pinterest, connect with her on Twitter @mysteryMacRae. 


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