Tigers Love Bubble Baths & Obsession Perfume (who knew!)
by Mary K Savarese
Genre: Cozy Mystery
But the celebration is ruined by a cheating husband, and Angie’s life devolves into a living nightmare—until serendipity brings her to Birdsong, Maine, as recreation director at the Home of the Little Flower.
A church-run nursing home that is slowly wasting away with its nonagenarian inhabitants, the Home could use a miracle . . . or maybe a facsimile of one. A bit of creative advertising prompts Angie to buy a bouquet of “magical” dandelions, and in a flash of inspiration, she knows exactly how to bring light to these dark days. After all, no one is ever too old for wishes.
But then people start dying, and the only thing they have in common is Angie. Harangued by a distrustful elder and under suspicion by the police, Angie must fight to clear her good name as she seeks out the truth: Is this a miracle or murder?
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Stopping the car, she stepped into the freezing air. Standing next to the large words, she read out loud, “Welcome to Birdsong. Population, 3,130.” Made it. It’s now, population 3,131.
As she stared at the sign, her mind wandered back to what she’d read on the internet. In 1888, wealthy New York financier Kerr Bird Song established the small town only fifty miles from the Canadian border. Buying 30,000 acres in the middle of northern country from the state of Maine, he placed his estate on the ridge that overlooked the valley. He christened the town by financing a small chapel. He offered free land to those wanting to live in the new Birdsong Township.
Arriving almost an hour later than planned, snow flurries greeted Angie as she coasted down the main street. All was good. With her adrenaline flowing, she was anything but tired. After checking into the hotel, she could start looking for a job.
Glancing around inside her car, she laughed. Soda cans and hamburger wrappers littered the floor. Patting the dashboard, she said, “Good boy. We made it.”
The good-boy car blasted smoke as it limped into a parking space.
Shaking, Angie turned off the engine. As the smoke cleared, she stared at the small chapel filling her vision. With its brightly lit stained-glass windows, it was almost as if it was waiting for her to arrive.
“At least I made it into Birdsong city limits.”
Opening the car door, a blast of Artic air sent shivers through her.
Maybe she could find someone inside to help. The hotel couldn’t be too much farther down the road. The place looked friendly enough. Surely, no one would mind if she left her car there for just one night.
Bracing against the torrential wind, Angie marched toward the chapel’s entrance. The sign, barely visible through the thick veil of snow, greeted her.
WELCOME TO THE CHAPEL of THE LITTLE FLOWER
Angie shivered. Lately, chapels were not a good omen.
Five elders knelt in novena prayer in front of the wooden statue of Saint Therese. The statue was also known as the Little Flower. Scattered amidst the pews, the men in various stages of balding whispered into their hands. Sitting behind them, a steely-haired woman stared up at the statue.
Together, they whispered, “Little Flower, please send us the help we need.”
Sitting back, they waited.
“Let’s hope we get an answer soon.” The gray-haired woman glanced over her shoulder at the door. “We’re running out of time.”
“We have one more day,” replied the man with black-rimmed glasses.
“We’re in day eight of our nine-day novena.”
“No,” she replied. Sitting up straighter, she clasped her hands together. “I’m quite sure this is the ninth day.”
“It is,” the other three responded.
“You should learn how to count,” laughed the man with a saucershaped bald spot bordered by salt-and-pepper hair. A large crash echoed through the chapel.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” a man from another room cried out.
“He’s in the house,” said the quiet man, partially bald with platinum strands that ran down his neck. His ruddy complexion and bulbous nose
gave him the appearance of a Christmas bulb.
Wearing a brace on his right leg from the ankle up past his knee, Father Joe Methuen hobbled out the sacristy door with his crutches. Dressed in black pants and shirt, he wore his ever present priestly white collar. Simply known as Father Joe, his youth followed him even though he just celebrated his seventieth birthday. Still owning a full head of lightbrown hair with only a slight touch of gray, he wore frameless glasses that accentuated his long thin nose.
Over the last thirty years, his chapel experienced both good and bad times. Currently, they were bad. Reconstructive knee surgery due to a black ice fall added more weight to his otherwise heavy cross. His once
robust flock of parishioners had dwindled to meager numbers over the last decade with no relief in sight. The parish properties had been folded into the auspices of the Caribou Diocese. A dreaded call from the bishop
announced the sad news. “We’re selling the Home. We don’t have a choice.”
At least the bishop was allowing their residents a little dignity by keeping the doors open until the last one passed on to heaven. Approaching the elders, Father Joe thought about how many the Home of the Little
Flower had served throughout the years. Kerr Bird Song had deeded his 25,000-square-foot mansion to the chapel, and the Home, as it came to be known, cared for many of Birdsong’s local residents.
“What do you want to hear first?” Father Joe sighed as he stood before the elders. “The good news or the bad?”
“What did you break now, Father?” the woman asked.
“Nothing, Mary. I just knocked over a small table.”
“Just another little thing for me to clean up,” she replied, shaking her head.
“What will it be? The good or the bad?” Father Joe glanced over at the woman. “Mary?”
“Let’s get the bad over with,” she replied.
“The bad it is. Our recreational director just quit. The good . . .”
His eyes trailed upward and into the heavens. “The diocese is sending a temporary administrator to replace the one who resigned last month. But only part-time.”
“Let’s face it, Father,” the bald man said. “We’re a sinking ship. Parttime is probably better than no time.”
They all laughed.
The bald man added, “Now we only need the person heaven is sending us. Two for the price of one would be a winner for all.”
A squall of Artic air along with a burst of snow blasted into the chapel.
A woman, looking raggedy and forlorn, almost fell to her knees. Grabbing onto the back pew for support, she grinned over at them. Fighting with her feet for balance, the woman turned around and pushed the door shut.
She wore blue jeans and a heavy coat. Shaking her head, the snow fell around her to the floor. As she dusted off her coat, her eyes widened.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt,” the raggedy woman said, dusting off her legs. “My car broke down. I’m in your parking lot. Is that’s okay?”
To Father Joe, the woman resembled a lost puppy. “Why, yes, my dear. Perfectly fine.” Father Joe hesitated for only a moment. “Are you Catholic?
. . . Not that it matters. All are welcomed here.” Glancing into the heaven as if hoping for an answer, he sighed. “I’m Father Joe, and you are?”
“Hello, Father Joe,” the woman said, grinning. “I’m Angie, Angie Pantera.” Angie took a step toward the small group. Snow fell to the floor.
Father Joe chuckled. “Are you here on business or pleasure, Angie?”
“Both.” Taking two more steps, more snow fell. “I decided to make Birdsong my home. Looking for a job. Bookkeeping. I’m a bookkeeper.”
Again, more snow fell around her.
The elders glared at each other.
“I was raised a Catholic.” Angie took several more steps and reached out.
Father Joe grabbed onto her cold hand and smiled. “Welcome, Angie, welcome.” Pointing to the elders, he chuckled. “This is Matthew, and this is Mark and Luke and John.”
Looking at the wispy-haired woman, Angie mused, “And you’re Mary?”
“Why, yes,” Mary answered. “How did you know?”
“What else could it be?” Angie laughed, and her face turned bright red.
“Gets them every time,” Matthew replied.
Glancing up at the Little Flower statue, Angie frowned. “I really should be on my way. But my car broke down in your parking lot. Could anyone give me a ride to the hotel?”
No one replied.
“I’ll have my car towed tomorrow. I promise. Know of a good mechanic?”
“Jared’s Garage,” Mark said, his eyes wide. “But sorry, no ride.”
Angie tilted her head and frowned.
Pushing his glasses up higher on his nose, John said, “The Holiday Inn closed. Had a kitchen fire just this mornin’.”
“Must’ve missed that email.” Angie sat in the pew across from the small group. “Is there another hotel or motel around?”
“Maybe we can help,” Father Joe said, glaring down at his small congregation. “Maybe in more ways than one.”
Angie tilted her head. “How so, Father?”
The elders glanced up at the statue of Saint Therese. Was Angie the answer to their nine-day novena?
“No, Father!” Mary stood. “She’s not the one.”
Father Joe winked over at Mary. “It’s okay. Please sit down.”
Turning to Angie, he grinned. “You see . . . we need an employee.
A recreational director for the Home of the Little Flower. Doesn’t pay much. Three hundred a week. Gives you the use of the caretaker’s cottage. You can move right in. And you can eat all your meals at the Home.”
After clearing his throat, Father Joe added, “You’ll have to distribute Holy Communion to the eight residents for me. They’re in their nineties. Just three times a week. Would that be a problem?”
Angie shook her head as if disoriented.
“I’ll be out for a few weeks.” Father Joe pointed to his braced leg.
“Knee surgery and rehab.”
“The diocese is short on priests right now. None available to say Mass while I’m away. We’re basically shut down. Temporarily, I might add.”
Angie’s eyes widened. “Oh, I don’t know, Father. I –”
“If you have your heart set on a bookkeeping job, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but jobs are a bit scarce up here. We’re still fighting our way out of a recession. What if you give it a try? Let’s say, for a few months or so while you pursue other options.”
“It’s not the position that concerns me.” Angie lowered her eyes.
“Then what is it?”
“I appreciate your offer and all, but—”
“It’s the Communion part,” she replied.
“You did say you were Catholic?”
“I am, Father, but . . .” Angie stared down at the floor. “I’m recently divorced and I haven’t been much of a churchgoer lately.”
“See!” Mary said, standing again.
Father Joe raised his hand, motioning her to sit back down. “How long have you been divorced, Angie?”
“Only a few months.”
“Did you request the divorce, or did he?”
“I guess you could say I was forced into it,” she replied. “By my husband. I mean, ex-husband—”
Father Joe grinned. “I had a feeling you were the innocent one. You will make confession and be just fine, my child, to receive and distribute Our Lord as a commissioned Eucharistic minister.”
Angie’s eyes widened.
“I’ll see to it,” Father Joe said, glancing over at Mary and winking.
Angie stared into her hands.
“Great meals at the Home,” he said. “A warm, dry place to sleep. And new friends.”
Jumping to her feet, Angie stood tall and firm. “Okay, Father Joe. I accept!”
The men smiled. Mary frowned. Father Joe chuckled, understanding that Mary always expected the worse.
I have spent thirteen years as a religious education teacher and have lived and worked in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. For the past decade, I have served as a Eucharistic minister at my local Catholic church, bringing the Eucharist to community nursing homes. After raising a family in CT, my husband and I became Florida Residents though continue to spend time in CT where I continue in my ministry
My debut novel is a contemporary Spiritual Mystery that transcends three genres: Mystery, Spirituality, and Romance. I love to write imaginative stories for all ages! I hope you enjoy this story and look out for more to follow!
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