Murder & Mayhem Week: Day Five

Day Five of Murder & Mayhem Week brings a special treat. I asked the author, Amy Metz, to select some of her favorite passages from her novel and she picked some great excerpts for our reading pleasure. In case you missed our previous posts, here's what Murder & Mayhem in Goose Pimple Junction is all about...

When Tess Tremaine starts a new life in the colorful town of Goose Pimple Junction, she thinks she's moved to a quiet little burg. Curiosity leads her to look into a seventy-five-year-old murder, and suddenly she's learning the foreign language of southern speak, resisting her attraction to local celebrity Jackson Wright, and dealing with more mayhem than she can handle.

If brains were dynamite, Willy couldn't blow his nose. Could a murderer be that stupid? Jack can charm the dew right off the honeysuckle. Surely a fine southern gentleman isn't a murderer. But Tess is determined to find out, and Goose Pimple Junction will never be the same.

A bank robbery, murder, and family tragedy from the 1930s are pieces of the mystery, which Tess attempts to solve. As she gets close to the truth, she encounters danger, mystery, a lot of southern charm, and a new temptation for which she's not sure she's ready.

(From Chapter 5. Tess meets her sixteen-year-old coworker for the first time.)

“You must be...Pickle.” She’d never forget his name, that was for sure, but she’d have a hard time calling someone “Pickle,” even though Lou assured her everyone called him by his nickname.

“Yes’m. Can I hep you?” He had a thick southern accent and a friendly smile.

“I’m Tess Tremaine, I think we’re co-workers now. Lou hired me yesterday.”

Comprehension rose on his face. He wiped his hands on the side of his shorts and stuck out a hand in greeting. Pickle looked to be fifteen or sixteen-years-old with blond, almost white, hair and a cowlick at the top of his head. He had big brown eyes and freckles across his nose. Tess shook his hand, thinking he was polite but shy.

After an awkward silence she asked, “Is the boss around?”

Just then, Lou came out of the office. “Tessie!” She had on the brightest yellow blouse Tess had ever seen and lime green pants. Her hair was particularly bouffant, and her rouge and lipstick were bright and freshly applied, highlighting, instead of disguising, her many wrinkles. She took one look at the pineapple muffins and said, “Well I’ll be. You are definitely hired, honey. What a sweet thing for you to do. Now come on back and we’ll have us a chat. Peekal, mind the register,” she called over her shoulder.

“What’s Pickle’s real name?” Tess whispered, walking alongside of Lou.

“His given name is Dylan.”

“How did he get the name Pickle?”

Lou looked up at the ceiling like she was pulling an answer from the air and finally said, “I think it was his daddy who first called him that on account a the name Dylan remindin’ him of dill pickles. I think his mama liked the name Dylan, his daddy didn’t, they had a coin toss, and he lost. He never took to it, though, and started callin’ him ‘Peekal.’ I guess it just sorta stuck. He’s a hard worker, but dumber ‘n a bag of hammers, so I’d rather not leave him out there by himself for long. Let’s go over some things right quick.”

(From Chapter 6. Tess is telling Louetta, the owner of the bookstore, about finding an old key.)

Lou turned to Tess. “I thought he’d never quit bumpin’ his gums. Now what was it you were sayin'?”

“Oh. Yes. Well, last night I was peeling the wallpaper off of the master bedroom walls, and I found a key that had fallen into the floor register. It had a label attached that said, 'trunk,' and I wondered if it might belong to your family. It's a thin, copper key, and looks pretty old.”

Lou’s face went white underneath her bright rouge. “Ya don’t say,” she mumbled, pulling Tess behind the counter. Tess noticed she suddenly wouldn’tlook her in the eye and began to shuffle papers around on the desk.

“Seeing that it was your family's house, I thought maybe you'd have an idea of what it belonged to...”

Tess let her sentence taper off when she saw the strained look on Lou's face.

“Lou, is everything all right?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, honey, everythin’s just fine and dandy. There was actually an old trunk in our attic that we could never find the key to. But we were able to get another one. I 'preshade you tellin' me 'bout it, but why don't you keep it? Make it yer good luck charm or sumpthin'. I’d just as soon not think about that trunk."

(From Chapter 24: Tess & Jack go to question a man, but are greeted by two huge Rottweilers and an unfriendly man named Tank.)

Tess turned too fast and her right foot bobbled on her sandal. Only I could fall off a one-inch heel. She wobbled and then righted herself, and the heavy purse fell off her shoulder. Jack came up behind her, grabbing her purse and her arm. “Come on, Grace.” He pushed her into the car. She scrambled over the console and into the passenger seat, and he followed, practically sitting on top of her so he could close the door tightly.

With both of them safely in the car, the dogs stood barking ferociously just a foot away, as Tess and Jack cowered inside.

The front door opened, and a huge man stepped out onto the porch, pushing mirrored sunglasses over his eyes. He had a confederate flag do rag on his head, and a cigarette poking out of his lips underneath a pencil-thin mustache. A grey wife beater shirt revealed tattoos on each bulging bicep, and his torn denim jeans were tucked into black biker boots. He stood with his hands on his hips and a menacing look on his face.

"Good gravy, he could be the Mr. July for a biker dude calendar." Tess stared, slack-jawed and wide-eyed.

The dogs continued their protective stance and enthusiastic greeting.

The man took the cigarette from his lips and hollered, “Cain’t you folks read? Sign says no trespassin’.” He paused for a beat, then added, “That means you.”

Tess opened the car window two inches, and called out, “Are you Crate Marshall?”

“Folks call me Tank.” He took a deep drag of his cigarette. “State your bidness.”

“My name’s Tess Tremaine, and this is Jackson Wright. We’d like to talk to you for a few minutes about your family history, if that’s all right.”

“What fer?” he called out guardedly, over the barking dogs.

Jack opened his car door and stood with it as a shield. The dogs moved forward slightly, but kept their distance, emitting a low growl. “I’m writing a book on some events in Goose Pimple Junction’s history. I’d like to talk to you about your grandfather; hear his side of the story on the bank robbery of ‘32.”

Tank stood on the bottom step of the porch, staring at them for a full minute, smoking his cigarette. He finished it, dropped it to the ground, and stomped it out with his booted foot. Jack turned to get back in the car.

“Foghorn! Leghorn! Freeze!” The dogs stopped growling and sat down, tongues hanging out as they panted.

Tess looked at Jack, not sure what to do. Finally, Tank said, “Well come on, if yer comin’. I ain’t got all day.”

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