Read Dirty Little Murder Online
Authors: Traci Tyne Hilton
Your encouragement has meant the world to me.
This is a work of fiction. All characters, places, and incidents are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons either living or dead is completely coincidental
Dirty Little Murder: A Plain Jane Mystery
Proverbs 31 House LLC
Copyright 2013 by Traci
All rights reserved
Cover Design by Andrew Rothery
Cover Photo by
Jane Adler scraped the gunk
out of the u-shaped pipe and flicked it onto the newspaper on the floor. She spread it thin with her gloved fingertip, but the missing wedding ring wasn’t hidden in the blob of gunk. Either it hadn’t fallen down the drain or it had washed away. She wasn’t a plumber, so she couldn’t vouch for the ring’s ability to wash away, but it seemed unlikely. Especially with the huge diamond attached.
A tight knot had formed at the base of her neck, so she rolled her head from side to side. The sink parts had to go back together before her client came home, no matter how her neck felt.
Jane rocked back on her heels. According to the Youtube video on her phone, the plastic pipes should go back together without any kind of putty or tape. Jane started with the pipe from the drain to the pea trap. Despite the slippery sliminess of her gloved hands, it fit. So far, so good. If the pea trap would connect to the drain from the other side of the double sink, she was good.
It almost did.
She pushed it gently toward the back wall, and snapped it into the receiving end of the other pipe. She let go of it, and slid the screw connector into place, but the threads were crossed and it wouldn’t twist on. She slid it up again. The pipe that led from the pea trap to the drain popped out.
Jane’s phone beeped.
It was Isaac.
She tried to take the call, but the phone wouldn’t read her latex and slime covered finger. She pulled her glove half way off, then changed her mind. Time was short, her boss was picky, and her boyfriend could wait.
She forced the PVC pipe back into place, but that made the pea trap pop out of the first connection she had made. She tried to slip it back up into the cap, but it wouldn’t go.
She took a deep breath. She relaxed her shoulders. She thanked God that she wasn’t the one who had dropped her client’s wedding ring down the sink.
With slow, measured movements, she unconnected the twisty connection ring that supposedly held the pea trap in place, and slid it back onto the pipe in the right order, noting how much easier things came apart than they went back together.
She tested all of the connections. They were solid.
Then she pulled her gloves off and called Isaac back. “Sorry about the delay. I was plumbing.”
“You know how to live.”
“My client dropped her ring down the sink and wanted me to get it out.” Jane crumpled up the newspapers she had used to protect the marble floor.
“And you tried, because you are awesome like that.” Isaac had a chuckle in his voice, but the phone call was breaking up.
“Let me guess, you taught a class of eager, enthusiastic young seminarians under the shade of a grass roof, and then went to the beach to swim in the clear waters.”
“Close. After class we went out back and kicked the ball around.”
“Are you in heaven?”
“Are you kidding? You’re not with me. It’s paradise, at best, but it’s not heaven.”
Jane flushed. “I wish I was there.” She mopped up the drips of grimy water that had missed the newspaper. “Only forty more days until you come home.”
“Man, I do wish it was the other way around.” Isaac’s voice sounded far away, which was fitting since he was more than four thousand miles from home.
“You wish you were forty more days away from going away?” Jane rubbed her forehead. She wanted to engage in romantic banter, but she had limited time to get the plumbing mess put away.
“I wish you were coming here in forty days.”
“I see! Sorry.” Jane pushed the box of organic home cleaners back under the sink. “I’m thinking the
de Costa Rica doesn’t approve of girlfriend visits, though.”
“They’d keep a close eye on us, that’s for sure. But…”
Jane smiled. “But I could come, say, just for a week, right before you head home?”
“Do you know how many houses I would have to clean to afford a trip to
?” Jane swept the kitchen, though at first glance, it looked clean.
“Are about as excited for me to run off to
with my boyfriend as your employers would be.”
“Point taken. But I miss you.” The phone crackled again.
“I miss you, too.” The worst part of their summer apart was the patchy international phone calls.
“And I love you.”
“Jane, I’m serious.” Isaac’s phone crackled.
“I know. I’m just up to my armpits in
and about to face a client who isn’t going to be happy with me.” Jane hedged. Love. Sure, she “loved” him, or she couldn’t have spent the last year dating him. But after a point, love means the rest of your life, and that’s where she hesitated.
again. “I do, too, Isaac. You know I do.”
“I’ve got to run. Call me later?” His voice was distant. Jane wanted to blame the phone, but she was pretty sure it was her own fault.
“Definitely.” Jane racked her broom in the pantry. It was a balancing act, and no one knew it better than Isaac. Island life was getting to his brain, and she couldn’t blame him. She hoped his summer away would light a fire for missions in his heart that matched her own, but only time would tell.
In the meantime, Caramel Swanson wasn’t going to like it, but there was no ring in the kitchen sink pea trap.
Jane checked the house room by room to make sure all of the lights were out before she let herself leave for the day.
A bright red convertible pulled into the driveway just as Jane was locking the door. She had hoped to get out before Caramel returned, but she was a moment too late.
“Jane! I’m so glad you are still here.” Caramel swept out of her little car, her heels clacking on the brick driveway. “Did you find the ring?”
Jane grimaced and shook her head.
“Did you take the sink apart to look?”
“Yes.” Jane never knew what to say to Caramel. Isaac’s mom had recommended Plain Jane’s Good Clean Houses to the Swanson family, to replace their regular housekeeper while she was on vacation for the summer, but the thirty-something Caramel was as different from sixty-year-old Mrs. Daniels as a yappy little
was from an Airedale.
“Did you check the mudroom sink?”
“You said you dropped it down the kitchen sink.” Jane checked herself before she said, “Ma’am.” Caramel’s husband may well have been sixty years old and a former mayor, but Caramel was clinging to her youth at all costs.
“This is a very expensive ring, Jane. I assumed you would stop at nothing to find it.”
Jane snuck a peek at the time on her phone. She wished with all her heart that she had to rush back to class, but nope. Her first year of business school was over and done. She had no reason to rush away.
Jane weighed the missing ring on a quickly manufactured scale of emotional importance. Her personal goal was to treat each family like the mission field, serving them with the heart of Christ… but finding a trophy wife’s missing diamond didn’t resonate with her.
“You were hoping that I would keep checking even if I didn’t find it where you thought that you lost it.” Jane went with “reflect so they will feel listened to” to buy herself some more thinking time.
“Indeed I did. And since you claim you didn’t find it, I hope you have good insurance.”
“Excuse me?” Jane took a step backwards.
“You claim you didn’t find the ring. It went down the drain of my sink last time I saw it, so if it’s not there now, there is only one reason.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Jane couldn’t reflect that sentence. “Are you accusing me of stealing your ring?”
“You tell me. Did you ‘find’ the ring in the sink or not? I would think if you honestly didn’t find the ring you would have kept looking. That ring is worth half a million dollars.”
“But, ma’am.” It slipped out. Jane didn’t intend to make Caramel angrier than she already was. “You told me to check the kitchen sink because you thought you dropped your ring down it. I took it apart, cleaned it out, and didn’t see anything. You didn’t ask me to look anywhere else.” Jane’s hand went to her pocket, where her instruction notes were folded carefully in a wallet, just for that purpose. Isaac Daniels’ father was a small claims court judge, and getting to know the family over the last year had made Jane wiser and more paranoid. Apparently, just in time.
“You can get back in that house and find my ring, Jane, or you can leave, and hear from my lawyers.” Caramel’s cheeks were flushed pink, her red lips were parted and puffy, as though they had recently been shot full of fillers. Her eyes had done the buggy, crazy-eye thing they did when she talked about her husband’s ex-wife or her neighbors.
Jane prayed again, begging God for the right words. “If you would like to have me come back tomorrow to help look, I can schedule you in.” She exhaled slowly. “But I think you could get all of the sinks checked faster with a plumber.”
Caramel stood between Jane and Jane’s car. Jane measured the distance with her eyes. At least twenty steps, if she tried to barrel past her, but double that, or more, if she attempted to swing wide, walking around Caramel.
“My husband won’t put up with this.” Caramel put her hands on her hips. “When I tell him what happened here, you’ll never work in this town again.”
had half a million people, or more if you counted all the surrounding towns, Jane didn’t take the threat seriously.
“Don’t underestimate me,
My husband may think you are the cutest thing ever, but that won’t stop him from putting you in your place.”
Jane doubted that Douglas Swanson thought she was the cutest thing ever, as she had never met him, and didn’t have a picture of herself on her website or flyers.
“So, would you like me to come back tomorrow or will you be calling a plumber?”
Caramel narrowed her eyes. “My husband won’t be back for another two weeks, you know.”
Jane nodded. “What time would you like me to arrive?” She attempted to smile. If she truly was coming back to dig through every sink in the Swanson house tomorrow, she’d be bringing Holly, her new employee, with her. When half million dollar rings were at stake, a witness seemed super important.
“Be here at
sharp.” Caramel swept past Jane, pushing her into a concrete angel. “I’ll be home the whole time, so don’t think you can get away with putting the ring back. I’ll be watching you.”
Jane ran to her car. She drove away from the Swanson house as fast as she could. “Quirky,” “spirited,” and “particular” were the words Mrs. Daniels had used to describe the new Mrs. Swanson. They must have been synonymous for utterly bonkers, otherwise Mrs. Daniels was at risk for false representation.
The Swanson paycheck was a welcome addition to the bottom line, but Jane was willing to forego name brand coffee and other luxuries if it meant she could quit this job tomorrow morning, as soon as all of the sinks in the six-thousand square foot mini-mansion had been put back together.
Jane parked at the apartment she shared with her cousin. She had to take off her house-cleaner’s hat now, even if the current situation seemed to call for some serious planning.
In a few short hours, she had coffee and dessert with her church’s Mission Coordinator. Jane decided to spend as much time as she could this afternoon praying, listening to God, and reading the Bible.
Jane didn’t know what Paula Ehlers had in mind, but a coffee and dessert get together with a couple of other mission-minded people and the woman in charge of the church missions program was something she needed to prepare for.