Death Under Glass (A Stained-Glass Mystery)

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9780425267967: Death Under Glass (A Stained-Glass Mystery)

In the latest novel from the author of Ill-Gotten Panes, Georgia Kelly has made a home for herself and her stained glass business in Wenwood, New York. But not everything in the sleepy Hudson River town is as transparent as it seems...
 
While Georgia has come to love her new hometown, her stained glass windows haven’t exactly been raking in the dough. So when her best friend, Carrie, offers her the opportunity to create a made-to-order window for Wenwood’s latest bed and breakfast, Georgia jumps at the chance.
 
But when Carrie’s ex-husband’s office suddenly burns to the ground and Carrie’s own office and apartment are robbed, Georgia has to put down her glass and cutter to get to the bottom of the trouble. Carrie insists she doesn’t have enemies, but Georgia is determined to do everything in her power to find out who’s targeting her friend—and why—before anyone else’s life is smashed to pieces...

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About the Author:

Jennifer McAndrews is also the author of Ill-Gotten Panes. Her love of mystery began in middle school, and despite the occasional foray into romance fiction, she is happiest when weaving puzzles on the page and leaving a trail of clues for the reader to follow. She resides in the greater New York metro area with her husband, children, four cats, and three rescue dogs.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1

“It was not my idea,” I said.

“Yes, Georgia, it was.” As Carrie removed the keys from the ignition, I pushed open the passenger door and stepped out onto the curb. Creeping past the midpoint of August, the sunny, dry days and warm nights of early summer had progressed to rainy nights, hazy mornings, and steamy afternoons. We had arrived at the large blue pseudo-Victorian home during that atmospheric sweet spot between clear sky and muggy, with patches of ground still damp and soft after an overnight storm.

“You said,” Carrie continued, slamming the driver’s door behind her, “that I shouldn’t be spending all my time at the antiques store.”

I waited for her to join me on the newly poured sidewalk. Mud pooled in the gullies on either side of the pristine concrete, spicing the air with a sweet, moist-earth fragrance. Near the apron of a neighbor’s driveway, a trio of chickadees splashed in a curbside puddle. “I never said that. Why would I tell you that you were spending too much time in the shop you own? That’s crazy. When did I allegedly utter this craziness?”

Carrie sighed and resettled her purse on her shoulder, careful to avoid catching her soft brown curls beneath the strap. “I don’t remember exactly. It was during that whole to-do with Pete.”

“Ohhh.” While the whole town of Wenwood called my grandfather Pete, to me he would always be Grandy. A couple of weeks after I’d moved back to town and into Grandy’s spare bedroom, we’d suffered a little misfortune that Carrie was being kind in downplaying as a “to-do.” The whole story involved Grandy being unfairly accused of murdering the owner of the local hardware store. In all the anxiety and heartache of those days, I could have said any number of crazy things before the real murderer was locked up. “That explains why I don’t remember. But I still don’t think I should be held responsible for anything I said during that time. I was under duress.”

Carrie stifled a chuckle. “Duress or no, you said it and it got me thinking and now here we are.”

She gestured toward the old Victorian, and I gazed up at the sprawling house at the end of the long, straight walkway. Like so many homes in Wenwood, this one had seen better days. Missing balusters gaped like lost teeth on the porch, and gutters hung low in places beneath a much-patched roof. As with very few homes, the owner of this one was investing in bringing the house back to its original beauty, what with the new sidewalks and unpainted patches framing newly installed windows. Revitalization and renewal. The new battle cry of Wenwood.

Carrie took in a deep breath and started up the walk. “The reality is, there’s no reason for me to be in the shop every day. Weekends, sure, but Tuesdays? Wednesdays? They’re just not big days for antiques hunters. Not really worth the cost of air-conditioning, you know?”

As I trailed along behind her, the front edge of my flip-flop scooped up a wet mimosa blossom, its delicate pink stamens slipping under my toes like bubble-gum-colored seaweed. Funny how even the simple act of walking up a path proved problematic for me. “What about all the online sales?” I asked, wriggling my toes and tapping my foot in a foolish attempt to dislodge the blossom. “I thought that was a big piece of the business.”

She shrugged, tossed me a too-bright smile. “Nothing wrong with expanding. This could be a whole new revenue stream for me, working with renovations, finding just the right luminaire or even a fainting couch.”

Though she sounded much like she was trying to convince herself, I couldn’t argue her reasoning. In fact, she was probably onto something. The town of Wenwood had steadily grown smaller and older after its main industry—the riverside plant that had churned out building and paving bricks for nearly a century—had closed. For years residents had moved out and moved on, leaving crumbling roads, empty houses, and shuttered businesses behind.

But nearly a year ago, the Stone Mountain Construction group had bought up the property on which the old brickworks sat and started building a marina in its place. Many remaining residents were hoping a marina would generate tourism sufficient to reenergize the town. A number of folks, in fact, were banking on it, including the woman on whose property we stood. In their quest to bring homes back to their former glory—or, perhaps more accurately, back to their turn-of-the-century roots—who better to advise owners on their decorating or to acquire those hard-to-find pieces than the local antiques expert?

As we climbed the steps to the porch, Carrie pointed to the transom above the door. “That’s the window Trudy and I thought you could do something special with.”

By “something special,” Carrie meant a custom stained glass piece. I gazed up at the window, at the beams of wood keeping the sun off the porch and keeping the heat from our heads. Stained glass was at its most brilliant when sunshine streaked through bringing the spectrum of color to life. Here, where the sun’s rays were blocked, artificial light would be needed to make the glass burst with color. But once the lighting was in place, the effect might possibly be stunning.

“Custom glass was your idea?” I asked.

Carrie nodded and rang the bell. Before I could count one Mississippi, a furious barking erupted on the other side of the door. Neither the yap of a small dog nor the deep timbre of a large dog, the mid-range noise was filled nonetheless with ferocity.

Heart rate instantly increasing, I slid backward a step.

“Don’t worry,” Carrie said. She smiled reassuringly, but I decided the safest place was behind her.

“I’ll wait here,” I said, as a woman’s voice carried through the door, saying hush, hush. The dog did no such thing.

The knob rattled moments before the door swung inward, and a flash of tan and white flew at us.

“Fifi, no,” the woman shouted.

The bulldog ignored her command. With her jaws gaping and her weight vibrating the porch boards, she rushed straight for Carrie. Before Carrie could grab the dog’s collar, Fifi skirted around her and mashed her muzzle against my shin.

I skittered sideways, half fearful, half shocked by the cold nose. But Fifi backed and came at me again, hindquarters rolling side to side in doggie glee while she snuffled at my feet.

“She’s quite harmless, I assure you,” the woman said. “Fifi!” She clapped her hands twice, but Fifi ignored her, preferring instead to drool all over my bare feet.

“She smells that creature,” Carrie told me.

“Friday is a kitten,” I said, defending the now four-month bundle of mischief I’d found behind Carrie’s store. “She’s not a spawn of the underworld.”

“Your opinion,” Carrie muttered.

“I’m so sorry.” The woman—slender and tall with gray hair and a somewhat pinched expression—advanced, crouching and reaching for the dog’s collar. “She’s not accustomed to heeding my commands.”

The dog had settled into sniffing my feet, and I reached down to pat her head. “She’s fine, actually,” I managed to mutter. My heart rate slowed and I could once again draw full breath as I stroked a hand across the silky fur of the dog’s head. Thus alerted to my attention, Fifi gazed up at me with huge brown eyes that would put a stuffed animal to shame. I might have mumbled something about her being a good girl but not loud enough for Carrie to hold against me in the future.

Presumably seeing that the dog was no threat to me nor me to it, the woman abandoned her quest for the dog’s collar and straightened.

Her gaze scraped me head to toe, her lips tightening at the sight of my unruly red hair, kitten-holed T-shirt, and dog-slobbered plastic flip-flops. “Have we met?” she asked, blinking.

I couldn’t find words to answer. Seeing her that still, that formally posed, made me pretty sure I’d seen her play the evil stepmother in a Disney cartoon.

Carrie stepped into the breach. “Trudy, you remember I told you about my friend who does stained glass, right? This is Georgia.” As she introduced me, she turned in my direction and held both palms to the heavens in the manner of a spokesmodel presenting a car.

“Georgia Kelly,” I said, reaching a hand toward the woman.

Trudy laid the tips of her fingers against mine, and I ended up clutching her hand as though I were about to kiss it rather than shake it. She repeated my name, a deep furrow forming between her eyebrows, emphasizing the wrinkles she’d earned in her lifetime. “You seem so familiar and yet I don’t recall your name at all.”

“But I told you,” Carrie said, a note of patience coloring her voice.

The older woman waved dismissively. “Yes, yes, I mean aside from that, dear. Well, no matter.” She stepped backward into the house, sweeping her arm toward the interior in invitation. “Please come in. Fifi, you come inside, too.”

Fifi trotted along beside me as I followed Carrie inside. My flip-flops smacked against the worn wood floor, Carrie’s low heels clicked, and the dog betrayed us both by padding along soundlessly. As Trudy tended to the door, we waited in the small entry foyer, cool air washing over us and the scent of lemon cleaner tickling my nose.

The front door clicked shut, and Trudy strode between Carrie and me, with a simple, “This way” as she passed.

She led us out of the foyer to our right, through an arched doorway and into the sort of space I’d only ever seen in magazines . . . or hotel lobbies. Three tall and narrow windows faced the front of the house, bathing the room in light, while the yellow painted walls helped create the illusion the room sat directly at the end of a sunbeam. I walked slowly through the slanted rays to the couch Trudy pointed us to, and sat on the low-backed ivory couch with the sun warming my back. Ahead, French doors with floor-to-ceiling windows on either side provided a view of an abundance of roses in the backyard.

Fifi jumped up onto the couch beside me, eliciting a “Fifi, no!” from Trudy. But Fifi ignored her, stretching out, and Trudy sighed. “I just can’t make that dog listen.”

“Try giving orders to a cat,” I said.

She gave no indication of hearing me. “It would be different, I suppose, if I had raised her from a pup,” Trudy said. “But her original owner was a bit more—how should I put it?—indulgent.” She lowered herself into one of the striped damask wingback chairs facing the couch, her spine straight and her head tipped to the side. “Georgia Kelly,” she said again, that same pinch across her brow announcing that she was forcing her mind to a question.

I shot a look at Carrie, who leaned forward and smoothly drew Trudy’s attention. “Georgia repaired a Tiffany lamp for me,” she said.

“Tiffany-style,” I said, “not the genuine article.” Repair a real Tiffany piece? I did that in the same dreams in which I was independently wealthy and had a glass workshop in the south of France.

“Still beautiful,” Carrie said, while Trudy gazed appraisingly at me. “And of course I’ve sold several of her other pieces. Stunning, really. So naturally when we talked about that window over your door I thought of her and those roses you have out back. I thought it might be a nice idea to carry that motif into the transom.”

Afraid I might start squirming if Trudy kept staring at me like I was some sort of specimen prepared for dissection, I sprang from my seat and crossed to the French doors. In the center of the little slate patio ringed by roses sat a wrought iron table and a pair of chairs I recognized from the back room of Carrie’s antiques shop.

“And would the name of my business be incorporated into this motif?” Trudy asked.

I looked over my shoulder and met Carrie’s eye, certain she would share my bemusement over motif, but she only raised her brows in question. “What do you think?” she asked. “Can you work it in?”

“Depends on what exactly the name is going to be,” I said, wandering away from the doors and toward the fireplace yawning along the western wall. “Whether you’re going to go with simply Trudy’s or Trudy’s B&B or—”

“Oh, my dear,” Trudy said, managing to get a shudder into her words. “There will be no B&B, thank you very much.”

I bit my lip to keep back a giggle. For someone who didn’t get too distraught by a dog on the furniture, Trudy seemed to be working awfully hard at being classy.

Carrie shifted forward in her seat. “Did you have another name in mind?”

Trudy’s chin lifted a notch and her tone carried a melody of pride. “I’ve registered the business as Magnolia Bed and Breakfast.”

From where I stood I tried to peer through the white sheers on the windows to see if there was, in fact, a magnolia tree on the property that I had failed to notice. But all that was visible was the fronds and blossoms of the mimosa, all pink and green and looking like the nineties exploded on the lawn.

“What do you think, Georgia? Can you do magnolias in stained glass?” Carrie asked.

Pausing to admire the collection of china knickknacks above the fireplace, I caught sight of myself in the mirror hung above the mantel, heartlessly reflecting an image of my hair. The humidity was not being kind. I looked like I Love Lucy’s home perm episode.

I turned my back on my image. Out of sight, out of mind, right? “Magnolias are one of the classic flowers in stained glass,” I said. “Tiffany frequently featured magnolias in their windows and lamps because they’re so lovely. I could bring some designs by and some examples.”

“Tiffany’s did?” Trudy didn’t sit up straighter as much as her neck sort of elongated. I supposed Tiffany was the perfect antidote to B&B.

I smiled and nodded, not bothering to educate Trudy on the difference between jewelry store founder Charles Tiffany and the stained glass innovations of his son Louis. It was all in the family as far as I was concerned. A Tiffany was a Tiffany. And it seemed to please Trudy.

“That sounds marvelous,” she announced. “What color can you make the blossoms?” She shifted her attention to Carrie. “Can we bring the color into this room? Drapes? Pillows? Throw rugs?”

As Carrie and Trudy batted ideas back and forth, I reclaimed my seat next to Fifi. The pooch had rolled onto her back and let out a grumbling whimper as I sat. She stretched and pushed her nose against my thigh. Hoping it was attention she wanted and not some flesh to nibble on, I reached out and carefully rubbed her exposed belly while admiring the rhinestone-ringed name tag hanging from her collar. The sparkle stirred my mind, and I belatedly wondered where Trudy was getting the money for the renovations to the house. Of course it wouldn’t be impossible that she simply had a good deal of money socked away somewhere. And perhaps the hints of neglect outside and in were the result of frugality rather than financial limitations. But Wenwood had been known more for its work ethic than its wealth, and yet there Trudy sat, spine straight in her wingback chair, gold watch heavy on her wrist and precious gems winking over her fingers.

The theme song from Mission Impossible blared from Carrie’s purse, making her flinch, wide-eyed, an...

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