What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…
Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.
Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?
Leith let out a theatrical courtroom sigh, well practiced but over the top for his audience of one. “You haven’t really been listening, have you, Calamity?”
I was forced to admit I had not, although he now had my undivided attention. Marketville was a commuter community about an hour north of Toronto, the sort of town where families with two kids, a collie, and a cat moved to looking for a bigger house, a better school, and soccer fields. It didn’t sound much like me, or my father.
“You’re saying my father owned a house in Marketville? I don’t understand. Why didn’t he live there?”
Leith shrugged. “It seems he couldn’t bear to part with it, and he couldn’t stand living in it. He’s been renting it out since 1986.”
The year my mother had left. I’d been six. I tried to remember a house in Marketville. Nothing came to mind. Even my memories of my mother were vague.
“The house has gone through some hard times, what with tenants coming and going over the years,” Leith continued. “I’ve done my best to manage the property for a modest monthly maintenance fee, but not living nearby…” He colored slightly and I wondered just how modest that fee had been. I glanced back at the photo of his vibrant young family and suspected such treasures did not come cheap. There was probably alimony for the other trophy wives as well. I decided to let it go. My father had trusted him. That had to be enough.
“So you’re saying I’ve inherited a fixer-upper.”
“I suppose you could put it that way, although your father had recently hired a company to make some basic improvements when the last tenant moved out.” He flipped through his notes in the folder. “Royce Contracting and Property Management. I gather the owner of the company, Royce Ashford, lives next door. But I’m not sure much, if anything, has been done to the house yet. Naturally all work would have stopped following your father’s death.”
“You said he wanted me to move into the house? When was he going to tell me?”
“I think the initial plan was that your father was going to move back in there. But of course now—”
“Now that he’s dead, you think he wanted me to move there?”
“Actually, it’s more than wanted, Calamity. It’s a provision of the will that you move into Sixteen Snapdragon Circle for a period of one year. After that time, you are free to do what you wish with it. Go back to renting it, continue to live there, or sell it.”
“And if I decide to sell it?”
“Homes in that area of Marketville typically sell quickly and for a decent price, certainly several times your parents’ original investment back in 1979. You’d have to put in some elbow grease, not to mention some basic renovations, but your father left you some money for that as well.”
“He had money set aside? Enough for renovations?” I thought about the shabby townhouse, the threadbare carpets, the flannel sheet covering holes in the fabric of the ancient olive green brocade sofa. I always thought my dad was frugal because he had to be. It never occurred to me he was squirreling away money to fix up a house I didn’t even know existed.
“About a hundred thousand dollars, although only half of that is allocated to renovation. The balance of fifty thousand would be paid to you in weekly installments while you lived there rent-free. Certainly enough for you to take a year off work and fulfill the other requirement.”
Fifty thousand dollars. Almost twice what I made in a single year at my call center job at the bank. Leaving there would definitely not be a hardship. And my month-to-month lease would be easy enough to break with thirty days notice. “What’s the other requirement?”
Leith leaned back in his chair and let out another one of his theatrical sighs. I got the impression he didn’t really approve of the condition.
“Your father wants you to find out who murdered your mother. And he believes the clues may be hidden in the Marketville house.”
Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016.
Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri.
Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.
Find Judy on her website/blog at www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.
Find Judy’s books on Amazon: amazon.com/author/judypenzsheluk