Crime and Poetry (A Magical Bookshop Mystery #1) - Amanda Flower

ONE

“Grandma! Grandma Daisy!” I called as soon as I was inside Charming Books. There were books everywhere—on the crowded shelves, the end tables, the sales counter, and the floor. Everywhere. But there was no sign of my ailing grandmother.

Browsing customers in brightly colored T-shirts and shorts stared at me openmouthed. I knew I must have looked a fright. I had driven from Chicago to Cascade Springs, New York, a small village nestled on the banks of the Niagara River just minutes from the world-famous Niagara Falls. I’d made the drive in seven hours, stopping only twice for gas and potty breaks. My fingernails were bitten to the quick, dark circles hovered beneath my bloodshot blue eyes, and my wavy strawberry blond hair was in a knot on top of my head. Last time I caught sight of it in the rearview mirror, it had resembled a pom-pom that had been caught in a dryer’s lint trap. I stopped looking in the rearview after that.

A crow gripping a perch in the shop’s large bay window cawed.

I jumped, and my hands flew to my chest. I had thought the crow was stuffed.

The bird glared at me with his beady black eyes. He certainly wasn’t stuffed. “Grandma Daisy!” he mimicked me. “Grandma!”

I sidestepped away from the black bird. I thought parrots were the only birds that could talk. The crow was the only one who spoke. None of the customers made a peep. A few slipped out the front door behind me. “Escape from the crazy lady” was written all over their faces. I couldn’t say I blamed them.

A slim woman stepped out from between packed bookshelves. She wore jeans, a hot pink T-shirt with the bookshop’s logo on it, and, despite the summer’s heat, a long silken scarf. Silk scarves were Grandma Daisy’s signature. I could count on one hand the number of times I had seen her without one intricately tied around her neck. Today’s scarf was white with silver-dollar-sized ladybugs marching across it. Her straight silver hair was cut in a sleek bob that fell to her chin. Cat’s-eye-shaped glasses perched on her nose. She was a woman in her seventies, but clearly someone who took care of herself. Clearly someone who was not dying.

My mouth fell open, and I knew I must look a lot like those tourists I’d frightened. “Grandma!” The word came out of my mouth somewhere between a curse and a prayer.

“Violet, my girl.” She haphazardly dropped the pile of books she had in her arms onto one of the two matching couches in the middle of the room at the base of the birch tree, which seemed to grow out of the floor. “You came!”

I stepped back. “Of course I came. You were dying.”

More customers skirted for the door. They knew what was good for them. I wouldn’t have hung around either. The only one who seemed to be enjoying the show was the crow. He was no longer in the front window, but on the end table to my right. Great. A crow was loose in my grandmother’s bookshop. I wished I could say this surprised me, but it didn’t.

Grandma Daisy chuckled. “Oh, that.”

“‘Oh, that’? That’s all you can say?” I screeched. “Do you have any idea what you’ve put me through? I left school. I left my job. I left everything to be with you at your deathbed.”

Grandma had the decency to wince.

“Look at you. You look like you are ready to run a marathon. When I spoke to you on the phone last night, you were coughing and gasping. You sounded like you were at death’s door.”

Grandma Daisy faked a cough. “Like this?” Her face morphed into pathetic. “Oh, Violet, I need you. Please come.” Fake cough. Fake cough. “The doctor said I don’t have much more time.”

Heat surged up from the base of my neck to the top of my head. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been this angry. Oh yeah, I did—it was the first time I’d left Cascade Springs, twelve years ago. I had promised myself that day I would never come back, and look where I was, back in Cascade Springs, tricked by my very own grandmother.

“You were dying,” the crow said.

“Quiet, Faulkner,” Grandma Daisy ordered.

The large black bird sidestepped across the tabletop. Seemed that the crow was a new addition to the shop. It’d been twelve years, but I would have remembered Faulkner. I wondered why Grandma Daisy had never mentioned the bird. I would