Payne and Misery by Catherine Leggitt
Catherine Leggitt is the author of the cozy mystery novels, “Payne & Misery,” The “Dunn Deal,”and “Parrish the Thought.” She is also an inspirational speaker presently residing in northern California. During her first career–after raising children and before caring for her aging parents–Catherine worked as an elementary school teacher, where she developed her flair for playacting and storytelling. Struggling with retirement, Catherine needed a distraction. She found it at her keyboard.
In addition to writing and speaking, Catherine is the mother of three brilliant children who have collectively produced six incredible grandchildren. An avid Bible student, she sings in the church choir. Catherine is passionate about reading.
“Payne & Misery,” a Christine Sterling Mystery, won second place at the Orange County Christian Writer’s Conference in 2010. “Parrish the Thought” made the quarter finals in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest before Ellechor published the the trilogy starting in 2011. The remaining books, “The Dunn Deal” and “Parrish the Thought,” were published in 2012. Also, visit her at http://www.catherineleggitt.com/.
About the book:All that glitters is not gold for Christine Sterling. The luster of her shiny Golden Years dream fades when Christine’s newly retired husband, Jesse, becomes obsessed with a hobby requiring extra time away from her.
Christine develops a bad reputation for conjuring wild tales and being chief complainer. Then she meets someone who has true reason to complain, if anyone does.
Lila Payne’s life is the mirror opposite of ideal. The plight of this seemingly abused woman gnaws at Christine, but the authorities turn a deaf ear to Christine’s pleas for help on Lila’s behalf. Spurred into action when her beloved dog Molly and Lila both disappear on the same night, Christine dives into a scary pool swirling with muddy secrets and misery. Sensing God at work in the situation Christine continues to search and pray, but even with God’s help, can they save Lila and Molly before it’s too late?
Dark—the word fit him like a bad guy’s black hat—complexion, glasses, expression, knit cap pulled low over his ears, tufts of curls poking out underneath. I concentrated on memorizing his suspicious features as I observed him through the plate glass window of the Humpty-Dumpty Restaurant where my husband Jesse and I often ate brunch after Sunday morning church. The man’s lurking worried me.
“Maybe he’s an Arab.” Not that I’d know an Arab if I bumped into one on the streets. Except for Hispanics, Grass Valley, California, maintained a mostly snow-white population, much like most small towns in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Around us, flatware scraped stoneware, glasses clinked, voices swelled and ebbed interspersed with occasional laughter swirling through the appetizing breakfast smells, but I couldn’t pry my eyes off the shady man in the parking lot. Nevertheless, I would guess Jesse didn’t so much as look up from his breakfast when he answered. “Who?”
“Out there.” I jabbed a finger toward the culprit.
I let out the anxious breath I’d been holding in and pointed again. “See the man hiding behind that forest green car?”
Jesse frowned as he chewed a few more bites of chili bean omelet. “Honestly, Christine. If he’s behind a car, how can I see him?”
“He keeps popping up. There he is! Look, look. Now.”
Jesse dutifully followed my pointer and then sustained a long stare before turning his attention back to his food. “Okay, I see him. So?”
“He staked out that car. He’s been waiting the whole time we’ve been here. He paces behind it, trying to stay out of sight. When the driver comes back, he’ll jump out and mug her—take her cash and jewelry and who knows what else. Bet he has a gun or a knife in that pocket where his hand is. Watch him.”
Jesse rolled his eyes. “Give it up, will you? You’re jumping to conclusions again. How do you know a woman drives that car? Even if there is a man driver, maybe he’s in a hurry to get home and his wife is taking too long in the restroom.”
“Then why doesn’t he unlock the car and get in?”
Jesse stopped chewing and blinked.
Ha! I got him there. I went back to studying the perpetrator in case I got called on to identify him in a line-up.
Jesse’s delayed answer mumbled out between chews. “Maybe his wife has the car keys.”
After being married to this man for thirty-five years, I should expect Jesse’s reaction to my gift of observation. He never took it seriously. “You’re going to be sorry when you read in tomorrow’s paper that some poor woman got murdered in the Humpty-Dumpty parking lot while you gobbled down a chili omelet.”
Jesse didn’t look up, just harrumphed and kept on eating.
I returned to surveillance, thankful for last year’s laser surgery, which had given my vision razor-edge clarity. The man stood in the shadow of an overhanging oak, but from the direction of his head, I could tell his eyes remained fixed on the front door of the restaurant. My stomach knotted into a pretzel. Danger! I narrowed my eyes. Would Jesse run out to save the woman when the man attacked her? Jesse, my hero, the love of my life.
I’d be right behind him, swinging my heavy purse.
Just then, a woman in a leopard-print Spandex dress exited the restaurant and minced across the parking lot toward the man. I held my breath and then whispered, “Jesse!”
Neither of us moved while the woman’s rectangular bag flopped from side to side on its thin strap in rhythm with her swaying hips. Like a lamb to the slaughter, she sauntered closer to her fate without a trace of fear in her walk.
A gasp escaped my lips when the dark-complexioned man popped from the shadows directly in front of his victim. After a short verbal exchange, the woman opened the door of the green sedan and slid in. The mysterious villain hurried to the other side and settled in the passenger seat. Back-up lights flickered. The automobile reversed out of the parking space and sped away.
Without so much as a punch or a yell. He didn’t even grab her bag.
I leveled my gaze at Jesse and blinked. He opened his mouth. I held up one hand. “Don’t say it.” Instead, he shook his head and grunted again before returning to his omelet.
I gulped coffee and fidgeted with my napkin. “He did look suspicious. You can’t deny that.”
Jesse buttered his biscuit, took a big bite, and chewed. I felt the lecture building in his brain like a sudden summer thunderstorm. He stared at me with a curious expression—as if I’d grown a second head—swiped his mouth with his napkin and sighed. “You never give up, do you? There’s something sinister happening everywhere we go. Face it, Chris. This is an ordinary small town in northern California. Good people live here. Bad things don’t happen. That’s why we retired here. Remember? Extremely low crime rate. But you insist on seeing evil everywhere we go. You won’t stop snooping into other people’s affairs. Looking for ...”
His shoulders sagged and he waggled his head once more. “If it wasn’t so sad, it would be funny.”
“Funny? What would?” Do I dare ask?
“Your imagination.” He leaned forward and pointed his fork in my face. “Someday, that wild imagination of yours is going to get you into real trouble.”
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