A Most Curious Murder - Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli

Chapter 1

“Oh dear,” said a little voice from behind Jenny Weston, who knelt in the wet grass, in drizzling rain, early morning light making long shadows of the destruction around her.

“‘Like jars of strawberry jam.’ That’s from Alice in Wonderland, you know. But everyone knows that,” the voice, belonging to a little girl, said.

“Go away,” Jenny mumbled. She wished the kid would leave her alone to face the ruin of her mother’s Little Library by herself.

All the books her mom loved were scattered over the grass, each soaked and swollen, some covers empty, pages torn and tossed everywhere, now giving the weak rustle of dying weeds when the chilly wind blew in off Lake Michigan.

And the library box that held the books—special to so many in Bear Falls, Michigan, especially to her mother, Dora—smashed and splintered into jagged red, green, and white shards. The post it once stood on was split in two. Jenny squeezed down her feelings—all the hurt and anger and outrage.

She knew immediately when she drove in after her all-night ride that there wouldn’t be any happier or sunnier days back here in Michigan than there’d been in Chicago. This wasn’t a return to Eden, after all, only another war zone.

She reached out to retrieve a large, wooden splinter near one knee. Red—part of a chimney. And another piece—a green step to the screened porch. Her father had built the Little Library, an exact replica of the house they lived in. All of it gone.

“What I mean to say is,” the squeaky voice came again, “‘The day was wet, the rain fell souse, like jars of strawberry jam.’”

“Go home. It’s too early for you to be out,” Jenny said without turning. “You should be in bed. And anyway, I’m busy here.”

She sniffed to emphasize the busy and then wrapped her arms around herself, shivering in her wrinkled shorts and yellow shirt. Although it was June, it was a damp and gloomy morning, with rolling dark clouds overhead and a fine drizzle among the pines separating the houses along Elderberry Street.

Jenny moved from one knee to the other, reaching out to touch remnants of the little house. A last gift for mom before dad was killed out on US 31, his car struck and sent into a ditch, then into a tree. Dad was left to die by the faceless, nameless driver who hit him. The Little Library had been an anniversary gift for Dora, his wife—a one-time librarian who followed her husband to this disappointing place, a Northern Michigan town without a library.

“Awful that the house is nothing but splinters,” the voice talked on. “I liked it just the way it was. Looked like Dora’s, with the red chimney and the dormers and all. And such fun that the roof opened the way it did and books were tucked inside like little soldiers in their cots.”

Jenny squeezed her eyes tight enough to hurt. She wiped rain from her face. Maybe, she thought, if I keep my eyes closed and click my heels, this smart-aleck kid will disappear.

So many memories bubbled up. Good memories and bad memories. Her life mixing in sudden, independent scenes: running through the sprinkler under a hot July sun; barely escaping when she and her older sister, Lisa, stole kohlrabi from Adam Cane’s garden; Dad calling her mom out to see the surprise he’d built for their anniversary . . .

“Come out, dear Dora, and see what your man has wrought.” Jim Weston, a large and powerful man, stood at the curb so proudly six months before he died. A flourish of the cloth he’d