Today on 5 Questions, I welcome the character Hortense, Imogene Duckworthy's mother and a retired librarian, featured in the cozy mystery BROKE. Whereas previously threatened by the male characters I've interviewed, Hortense offers me a cunning linguistic dance. More like a Jitterbug than a Tango I'm afraid.
Imogene Duckworthy is twenty-two and has a job (PI assistant) and a new car (used). She loves her mother, but it's time she was on her own. The problem is her daughter Nancy Drew Duckworthy’s pet potbelly. Not a lot of rentals in Wymee Falls will permit a pig, even one as cute and charming as Marshmallow. Jersey Shorr of Shorr Realty manages to find something but there are rumors that the house is haunted. Immy tells herself she doesn’t believe in ghosts. She signs the contract and plans to move in before Halloween. What she doesn’t plan on is the very real, very dead body in the bathtub. And the fact that the most logical murder suspect is her Uncle Dewey, fresh out of prison. Immy can’t allow her long-lost relative to be railroaded for a crime he (possibly) didn’t commit, can she?
1. If one of my characters told you "I ain't fixin' to do nothing," you would tell them...
This is an opportunity for edification, not to be passed up. I would
comment that it’s admirable that you are commencing to accomplish
something. When responded to with a blank look, I should launch into a
lesson on double negatives.
I think you're going to get a lot of blank looks. Maybe some threats, too.
2. Garden party or Hen party?
I do not consider myself an avian. Neither am I flora, but I would
prefer to have horticulture at my festivities than fowl.
I get the feeling you don't like simple answers.
3. If I had to write a singles ad for you, what would it say?
Erudite, discriminating, mature woman seeks suitable companion.
Fortune-hunters need not apply. That is an inside joke, you
understand. My pecuniary position is not one which would attract gold
I get the feeling you don't date much.
4. Your daughter and granddaughter are held captive by a pirate. The police are of no use to you. You only have the use of two items from your kitchen (your choice).What do you do?
If brigands of the high seas were to abduct Imogene and Nancy Drew, I
should be in absolute despair, devastated and distraught. If I could
recover sufficiently to gather my scattered wits, I should arm myself
with a large butcher knife and the fire extinguisher. I understand
that the latter could serve am implement of suffocation. It would also
be necessary for me to convey, with myself, a remedy for the nausea I
incur when my vestibular region is disturbed due to the horrid rolling
motion of waves, were I to board the actual vessel myself.
Brigands, I like that. I have no idea what you just said, so I'm pretending you answered the question. Moving on...
5. As a retired librarian, the book you would recommend that best
represents you is...
It would have to be a weighty tome, as I carry a bit of poundage on my
person. Perhaps the complete works of William Shakespeare?
Oh my goodness, you are too funny. And...I don't think you realize it.
Let's play Madlibs! I need a:
action verb to eviscerate
type of furniture Louis XV
The butterfly felt ebullient that night, after Immy had eviscerated time in the mellifluous old pachyderm, even if it did have an unwanted dead body in the Louis XV.
Wow, you're middle name must be thesaurus! I love words with double l's. You eviscerated that sentence pretty good(which the readers can track down in the excerpt below).
BROKE is available in paperback on Amazon, Untreed Reads, and in ebook on Kindle, Nook, Sony, and Smashwords.
Kaye George is a short story writer and novelist who has been nominated for Agatha awards twice. She is the author of three mystery series, the Imogene Duckworthy humorous Texas series, the Cressa Carraway musical mystery series, and the FAT CAT cozy series with Berkley Prime Crime (the last two will debut in 2013). She reviews for "Suspense Magazine", writes for several newsletters and blogs, and gives workshops on short story writing and promotion. Kaye lives in Texas, near Waco. You can find her at http://kayegeorge.com/
And now for a sneak peek at BROKE!
The singlewide felt cramped that night, after Immy had spent time in the spacious old mansion, even if it did have an unwanted dead body in the bathtub.
"You have a perfectly good abode right here, you know. Are you sure your fiduciary situation permits you to lease such a place?" Hortense asked. She tucked her topmost chin into her others to create a stern look toward her only child.
"It's the cheapest one I looked at, Mother," said Immy. She handed her mother the listings page Jersey had given her for the house.
"This photograph is not flattering," Hortense said.
"I wanna see!" Drew jumped onto the green plaid couch beside her Geemaw. She pressed her chestnut curls into the soft, pliable flesh of Hortense's upper arm. "It's a haunted house."
"It's, well, it looks very nice on the inside," said Immy. "It has a Great Hall." She emphasized the grand words so her mother and daughter could both appreciate the place. "The owner, Mr. Tompkins, will let me do anything I want to it. I can have Ralph put up a fence for Marshmallow."
"Are you certain you wouldn't become ill in such a domicile? Is it drafty?"
"No. I didn't feel any openings. And I can't even see how those men got in."
Her mother gave her the Librarian Look. "What men?"
"Oh, I didn't tell you?" Immy perched on the edge of the recliner and twisted a strand of hair between her fingers.
"You just arrived home. You haven't told me anything, except that you signed a rental agreement for this, this...."
"Haunted house," supplied Drew.
"Well, it does need painting," Immy admitted. "And some porch railings are missing."
"And others precipitously leaning. Does the roof leak?"
Immy assured her mother that it didn't, although she had no idea. If it did, Ralph could fix it.
A distinctive knock sounded on the door.
"Unca Ralph," Drew squealed. She squirmed off the couch and ran pell-mell toward Ralph Sandoval, who had opened the door and stepped inside after knocking.
He used to wait for us to open it, Immy thought. He's more and more like family, which isn't a bad thing.
"You failed to make it in time for the evening repast," Hortense said. Ralph was a huge fan of her cooking and often dropped in for supper.
Immy's mother had resumed cooking not long ago, after many years of fast, frozen, and canned foods. Not only Immy, Drew, and Ralph, but his boss, Saltlick Police Chief Emersen, were the beneficiaries of Hortense's rediscovered kitchen talents. The police chief was developing a fondness for her cooking, but Immy thought he was also sweet on Hortense herself.
"The Yarborough twins were taking pot shots at possums," Ralph said, "and managed to put out two of the neighbor's windows. Had to take them in to sleep off their drunk." His broad, placid face looked tired.
"The Yardburr twins drunk?" Drew said. "Again?"
"Drew, dear," said Hortense, trying not to laugh. "Would you like to show Ralph your Barbies' new outfits? Run and get them, please." Drew ran to get them.
Immy gave her mother a weary look. "You bought her more Barbie stuff?" Immy didn't think Barbie was a good role model for a four-year-old, but she seemed to be the only person in the world to hold that opinion.
"She gets such joy from them," Hortense said.
"Yeah," Ralph said. "She's fine. Let her be. By the way, I think we have a relative of yours at the jail."
"What do you base that supposition on?" asked Hortense. She turned her head so sharply her chins swung and wobbled.
"Well, his name's Duckworthy."
"He's in Saltlick?" asked Immy.
"The Wymee jail is overflowing this week. We said we could take him. He should go before the judge in a couple days."
He caught sight of the listing page Hortense had laid on the coffee table. "What's this?"
Drew returned with an armful of tiny clothing and gave the picture a glance. "A haunted house," she said.
"It apparently comes pre-supplied with men," said Hortense.
Ralph looked confused. It wasn't too hard to confuse Ralph. But Immy quickly took that thought back as unfair to Ralph.
"I was just about to explain that to Mother."
"Yes, please do," Hortense said, leaning back and folding her fleshy arms to receive Immy's answer.
The situation brought to mind the chapter on Interrogation in her dog-eared, second-hand copy of The Moron's Compleat PI Guidebook. She had to be careful when being questioned with Ralph around. Being a Saltlick cop, he knew all the tricks. The best tactic here, she decided, would be to use chapter four, to turn the tables and answer with questions.
"Why have I never known that I had an Uncle Dewey? And that he was in prison?"
Hortense unfolded her arms and sat forward. "Uncle Dewey? Dewey was in your house?"
"I have another Unca?" asked Drew. "Is he a ghost?"
"No, he's a real person. He's Mommy's uncle," said Immy. "Would your Barbies like to wear some of their new clothes?"
After Drew ran back to her bedroom for some Barbies, Immy told Ralph and Hortense about finding Dewey Duckworthy sleeping in the house.
"He was hauled in for trespassing, unfortunately. That Jersey Shorr is mean."
"I was there once, when I was ten," said Ralph. "There was a rip tide or something."
"Jersey Shorr," said Immy, "is the real estate agent that showed me the place. She didn't have to call the cops. He was leaving."
"How do you know he wouldn't have come back?" said Ralph. "How did he get in?"
"I can't figure that out. There's a lockbox on the front door and I didn't see any broken locks or windows. But we didn't finish looking after we found the dead guy."
"The dead guy?" Hortense's voice rose.
"The dead guy?" echoed Ralph. "Your Uncle Dewey was dead? I thought he was the guy we have in jail."
"No, there was a dead guy in the bathtub. It looked like he had a broken neck. Vance called the cops that time and they chased us outta there."
"Who's Vance?" asked Ralph.
"Oh, just one of the other real estate agents."
From Ralph's suspicious raised eyebrows, Immy figured she hadn't pulled off the casual air she had hoped for.
"I had to go back to look at the house again and Jersey couldn't come with me, so Vance offered. Naturally, him being a real estate agent, too, I took him up on it. He had to get the lockbox off and...." She was babbling.
"What's he look like?" asked Ralph.
He must have sensed something in her talk about Vance.
"Oh, I didn't notice much. Just a guy."
Drew saved the moment by returning with three Barbies dressed in crisp new clothing. Two in bathing suits, one in fur coat and hat with knee-high boots.
Ralph admired the dolls for a few minutes until his beeper went off.
"Gotta go. It's the chief."
"Good heavens," said Hortense. "It's a busy evening in Saltlick."
"Yeah." Ralph grimaced. "There's something about Friday nights when the high school has an away game. Nothing to do."