Listed and Lethal Mysteries

Murder on Moon Mountain (#2)
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Murder On Pea Pike (#1)
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Murders By Design Mysteries

The Design Is Murder (#5)
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Rooms To Die For (#4)
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Killer Kitchens (#3)
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Monet Murders (#2)
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Designed For Death (#1)
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The Barefoot Queen

In The Lion's Mouth

     I knew she was trouble the minute she stepped in. It wasn’t just her big hair. In Eureka Falls, Arkansas, big hair’s a tradition, kind of like pecan pie. Her shoes—like some I used to wear--were the give-away. Silver stilettos with ankle straps that crisscrossed up to her knees, those boots were made for mischief. I ought to know. So was her little scrap of a skirt.
     As I watched through my open office door, she strolled over to Mrs. Otis at the reception desk out front by the plate glass window. “Morning, Ma’am,” she said. “I’m Tallulah Bixby, and a while ago I dropped my car keys nearby. I’m hoping someone here in Ridley’s Real Estate may have found them.”
     Mrs. Otis’s eyes took on a shine. “As a matter of fact, I did find a set of keys earlier. Right next to an automobile.” She opened her desk drawer and paused. “You live here in town?”
     “No, Ma’am. I’m from Fayetteville.”
     “Oh, I see. Well, what kind of car do you drive?”
     “A big ol’ Caddy. A present from my daddy.”
     “The prettiest sapphire blue you ever did see.”
     “That’s right where I found them,” Mrs. Otis said, and reaching into the drawer, she took out a set of keys and handed them over to the girl.
     “Thank you, Ma’am. If ever I can return the favor, I surely will.”
     “I appreciate the offer, young lady” Mrs. Otis said with a sniff, “but I’ve never lost a key in my life.”
     “Neither have I,” Tallulah replied, quickly adding, “except for now.”
     The “except for now” sounded like a hasty cover-up, and though Mrs. Otis was trusting enough to believe the story, I wasn’t so certain this Tallulah girl owned that Cadillac. If she did, the daddy she mentioned might be made out of sugar—a subject I had no business messing with—but a stolen car meant a lot of grief for somebody.
     I came out of my office, and acting on that uneasy feeling, jotted down the Caddy’s license plate number. Wasting no time at all, Tallulah pulled out of a parking slot and shot down Main Street ten miles over the speed limit.
     “What’s a sweet girl like that doing in those shoes?” Mrs. Otis wanted to know.
     Pretending I didn’t hear the question, I went into my cubicle and closed the door. Problem was, Mrs. Otis thought everyone was sweet, maybe because she was so sweet herself.
     Out of loyalty to me, she’d quit Winthrop Realty when I did and came to work at Ridley’s. The last thing I wanted was to upset her. But as officer manager and sole sales agent, other than my boss Sam, of course, who happened to be in New Orleans for the week, I felt responsible for what had just happened and wasted no time dialing Sheriff Matt Rameros.
     In his own calm way, he’d been hitting on me since my Saxby Winthrop days ended. I’d never given him any encouragement and didn’t want to give him the wrong idea today either. But with a possible car theft in the works, I figured I’d better make the call.
     “Honey Ingersoll,” he said the instant he picked up, “as I live and breathe.”
     “Mighty glad to hear you’re alive and well, Sheriff. I have a number here for you to check out.”
     “Your phone?”
     “You wish,”
     “No wishing about it, Honey. I’ve had your number for over a year now. Memorized it too. One of these fine nights I may give you a ring. Most likely between midnight and three a.m.”
     “Why three a.m.? So I’ll think somebody up and died?”
     “No. That’s when the longing for you gets intense.”
     I took a deep breath. We weren’t having what you might call telephone sex. That was against the law, and Matt was a law-abiding man. But the conversation was heating up in a way I didn’t quite favor. “Here’s that number, Sheriff.”
     “Oh we’re getting formal, are we, Miss Ingersoll? Well let’s have it, and then suppose you tell me what this is all about.”
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