An unexpected side effect of the murder of Miss Holly was that Dixie’s Beauty Maven business was dropping off. It took her by surprise, and she wanted to know what the local gossip was. For that reason, she called her high school friend, and the youngest town gossip, Savannah Goodwin. Not only was Savannah eager to share what she knew, but she was also ideally situated as the cake decorator at the grocery store.
“Everyone is talking about Miss Holly’s murder over at the store” Savannah gushed. “Some of the ladies are afraid that they will be next. Many of them are heading over to the hardware store to buy stuff to lock up their houses.”
“Do they talk about who they think did it?” Dixie asked.
“Yeah, they do a lot of that. Everyone could be a suspect for one reason or another. The odds are pretty high on Harold Langtree. He seems to hate everyone and has a reputation for being angry, especially about people who didn’t like the work that he did on their plumbing. Apparently, Harold and Holly have had an ongoing disagreement about the work he did on her house a few years back. She didn’t pay him what she owed him, and he took her to court,” Savannah said.
“If he bothered to take her to court, I don’t think he would make a good suspect. He sounds like someone who would let the law handle it,” Dixie replied.
“Well how about the Grant family? Holly’s family owned a bunch of rentals on the other end of town, and there was a very public eviction this past summer. The police had to physically remove them from the property because they refused to leave,” Savannah said.
“Well, that sounds like a good revenge scenario. When is the last time anyone saw the Grants?” Dixie asked.
“No one has seen them in months, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t do it,” Savannah said.
“Anything else? Have you heard anyone suggest that Holly deserved it?” Dixie asked.
“Well, there were a few people mumbling about her, but mostly it was just sour grapes,” Savannah replied.
“Like who?” Dixie said, trying to pry it out of her.
“I shouldn’t say, but yesterday Pauline Swinton was saying that Miss Holly wasn’t very nice to her and that maybe she had finally met her match,” Savannah said.
“Pauline? Wasn’t there a Pauline in our chemistry class at school?” Dixie asked, furrowing her brow.
“Yes, she was the one who always got A’s in class and liked to rub it in,” Savannah replied. “I remember that she didn’t like you especially.”
“Why me?” Dixie asked.
“Don’t you remember? She accused you of stealing her boyfriend at the junior prom. Everyone knew you didn’t though,” Savannah replied.
“I barely remember prom, and I don’t remember stealing anyone’s boyfriend,” Dixie said, trying to remember something that had happened over a decade ago.
“Well, I wouldn’t waste any time worrying about it. Anyway, the murder is way more interesting. I mean from a ‘news of the weird’ kind of way,” Savannah said.
“I still can’t believe it. Who would do such a thing to a little old lady?” Dixie said. Immediately her thoughts turned to her Aunt Angie. She hoped that no one would want to hurt her.
“Savannah, if you hear anything else, please call me,” Dixie said, feeling the urge to call her aunt.
“Of course. Talk to you later Dixie,” Savannah said, and then she hung up.
Dixie picked up her cell phone and dialed Angie. After three rings her voicemail answered.
“Hey Angie, it’s me. Please give me a call. I’m worried about you, so please call me as soon as you get this message,” Dixie said before disconnecting.
Louie, who normally could sleep through a bomb going off, raised his head and chirped at her. He looked at her with one eye open as if to say ‘what’s up?’
Dixie walked over to his resting place on the counter and stroked his fur. “Lou, there is trouble in town. Nothing you should worry about, though. Go back to sleep,” Dixie said, scratching him behind the ears.
Louie stretched, yawned, and closed his eyes again. He purred for a few moments before falling back to sleep.
“I wish I could be like you, Lou. No worries, right?” Dixie said and headed for the cupboard for a mug. Some chamomile would soothe her jangled nerves, she thought. As she boiled a cup of water in the microwave, the phone rang, making her jump a little.
Dixie looked at the number but didn’t recognize it. She hoped that it was a new customer and not another telemarketer. After taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, she answered the phone.
“Hello,” Dixie said and waited. She could hear someone on the other end, but they didn’t say anything.
The caller made some muffled noises, some heavy breathing, and then they hung up.
“Weird,” Dixie said. A knot was forming in her stomach. She walked back to the microwave, retrieved the hot mug, and put a tea bag into it. Once she had sat down, she sunk the bag into the bottom of the cup with a spoon and left it there.
A few moments later, the phone rang again. It was the same number as before. Dixie answered it out of curiosity.
“Hello?” Dixie asked.
“Yeah, I was looking for Dixie the Beauty Maven,” the woman said.
“This is she. How can I help you?” Dixie asked.
“Well, I’m looking for a representative, and I’m not crazy about the lady who used to sell it in town,” the woman said.
“Oh?” Dixie asked, wondering who that had been.
“I’m looking for someone who is a little more hands-on and doesn’t mind making house calls from time to time. Did you know the other representative?” the woman said.
“I’m not sure that I do. I’m a new representative in town, and I’d be happy to be your Beauty Maven. Would you like me to drop a brochure off?” Dixie asked, hopeful that she had a new customer.
“No, that won’t be necessary as I’m not home often. I was hoping you could drop one in the mail for me instead,” the woman said.
“Of course I can do that. What’s your name?” Dixie asked, her pen poised to write down her information.
“Um, Debbie Fillmore,” the woman replied. She then gave Dixie a local post office box address.
“I’ll get that in the mail for you this afternoon. You should have it in a few days. Can I send you any samples?” Dixie asked.
“Yes, that would be great. I’m looking for some new lipsticks, particularly pink shades. I’ve recently run out of Rosebud Pink,” Debbie said. “So, if you’re new, do you have many customers yet?”
“I’m still building my customer base, but I do have quite a few ladies from church. Without any other representatives in town, I think I’ll be able to build a respectable business,” Dixie said.
“I see. Well, we can all dream, right?” Debbie said.
Dixie thought that was an odd thing to say, but she didn’t press the woman. “Is there anything else I can do for you?” Dixie asked.
“Do you have an email address? ” Debbie asked.
“Yes, it is [email protected],” Dixie replied.
“Great, thanks,” Debbie said, and then disconnected.
Dixie shook off the weird feeling she had and turned her attention back to her tea. She sipped it slowly and willed herself to relax.
Several sips later, the phone rang again. The sound jolted her, making her hand shake. Her tea sloshed, and some spilled onto the table. “Damn it,” she muttered to herself. She checked the caller ID and saw it was Angie.
“Angie, I’m so glad you called,” Dixie began. “You know, I’m a little worried about you now. There’s a maniac on the loose killing little old ladies in town.”
“Who are you calling old?” she asked. “I’ll have you know that I may have my AARP card, but I could still run circles around you.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it. I just meant older women in general, okay?” Dixie replied, hoping to head Angie off at the pass before she got angry.
“Don’t you worry about me, honey. I’ve taken martial arts classes, fencing, and Zumba at the senior center. Age is just a number, and in my case, that number is irrelevant,” Angie said emphatically.
“Okay, okay, you made your point. You’re Angie, Warrior Princess and no one is going to mess with you, I got it,” Dixie said.
“You got that right,” Angie said. “Kiddo, I have to run. I’m getting calls from the other girls. We’ve got a bingo game to get to. Try not to worry about me, okay?”
“Alright. Call if you hear anything at Bingo,” Dixie said.
“Sure thing,” Angie said, and then she disconnected.
Dixie was nervous too. She knew what it was like to be stalked by someone, but at least she knew who it was. This time, no one knew who was preying upon the residents of her town. Anyone could be next.