Til Dice Do Us Part
As the Bunco Biddies decorate for a wedding shower, Ethel falls from a ladder, is rushed to the ER, and from beyond the curtained divider, overhears a hushed conversation about a crime.
When the Bunco Biddies get the antsy groom involved in their sleuthing, his chances of making it to the church dwindle, and that’s when the way to the altar gets dicey.
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“Look out!” Janie Manson waved her arms over her head. “The ladder is wobbling.”
Ethel spun toward the direction of her friend’s shrill voice, streamer in one hand, and dispenser of cellophane tape looped over her finger. As her heel swiveled, it caught on the seventh rung.
The next two seconds dragged in slo-mo for Janie as she screamed―half a room away.
Mildred turned as she swooshed a plastic pink cover, etched with doves and bells, over the rectangular gift table. Her hands froze in mid-air.
Babs let loose a tray of white and black disposable salt and pepper shakers, which rolled across the floor like tiny nuns tumbling down a hill.
Annie Schmidt, sporting her new Florida tan, squealed with her palms slapped to her cheeks.
Janie dashed to the ladder, arms extended…a second too late.
Ethel’s leg flipped into the air and, in a half-twist somersault which would’ve scored a 9.5 in an Olympic diving competition, landed shoulder first on the tiled surface. Plopped on her back and laid there. Very, very still. Only the silver-gray curls on her forehead moved in the breeze generated from the ceiling fan’s soft whirs.
Everyone halted, as if afraid to breathe.
“Is she…?” Betsy Ann whimpered, fist to mouth, as the idea of wearing black in the morning and white in the afternoon in four days’ time sank in.
The Bunco Biddies had gathered to decorate the recreation hall at the Sunset Acres Retirement Community for her wedding shower.
“I‘m not sure.” Janie knelt by Ethel and pressed two fingers on the carotid artery in her neck.
About that time Ethel groaned. “Ow. I see stars.” She clasped her hand to her shoulder. “Is it out of joint?”
Janie rocked back on her knees. “I don’t know. It is kinda angled funny.”
Ethel jerked to a half-sitting position, propped with her good arm. “Don’t you dare pull on it, Janie Manson.” Her face paled as her eyes rolled into her forehead. A long moan escaped from her lips. She melted to the floor like a marshmallow off a stick over a campfire.
Babs’s rubber-sole shoes squeaked across the linoleum. “She’s sinkin’, folks.” She cupped the back of Ethel’s head nanoseconds before it hit the ground.
“Don’t just stand there, people.” Janie grabbed her cell phone from her slacks’ pocket and pressed 911. “Someone fetch a wet rag for her brow. Elevate her feet. Cover her in one of those linen tablecloths.” With the mobile device wedged between her chin and shoulder as she waited for the operator to answer, she clapped rapidly. “Move.”
Nine other elderly ladies scurried around the center, bumping into each other in the process. They reminded Janie of newly hatched sea turtles scrambling toward the surf.
“Janie, you sound like my second-grade teacher calling us in from recess.” Betsy Ann huffed a sigh and knelt to wipe a stray curl from Ethel’s clammy forehead. “Oh, this is all my fault.”
“No, it’s not. I decided to climb that stupid ladder.” Ethel’s whispered voice shook with emotion. “Ohhh. It really, really hurts.”
“I understand, dear.” Janie patted Ethel’s hand, the unhurt one with white knuckles clutching onto her arm. “Help is on the way.”
Ethel nodded and closed her eyes.
Annie pressed a wet paper towel to her hurt friend’s forehead as Mildred and Babs tucked a cream-colored cloth around her body. Betsy Ann bowed her head. “Oh, my sweet Lord. Take care of Ethel. She’s one of my bridesmaids. And one of my very best friends.”
The other ladies huddled over the limp figure of their companion and mouthed, “Amen.”
Outside, the whine of a siren grew louder, and then shut off with a whop-whop.
Roseanne and Josephine dashed to the double glass doors to usher the emergency medical technicians inside.
“The EMTs are here.”
A medical crew with bright orange cases rushed in. “Back away, people. Let us through.”
After a few minutes of blood pressure taking, pin lights flashing in her pupils, and latching a foamy brace to secure her neck, they slipped a board under Ethel. Next they lifted her onto a gurney.
Janie trotted by her side as the ambulance workers wheeled her outside to the parking lot. “Do you want me to come with you, Ethel?” Janie slid her glance to the emergency medical technician she assumed to be the team leader. “It is allowed, right?”
“Are you next of kin?”
Janie narrowed her eyes and cocked her right eyebrow into a sharp arch. “Close enough, young man.”
The EMT took a step back. “Well, um. OK.”
Ethel smiled through a shimmer of tears. “Thanks, Janie.” She motioned with her hand for Janie to come closer. “See? Nothing like an emergency to draw a crowd of senior citizens. Reminds me of the day you found Edwin in the dumpster.”
Janie rose to view at least forty of her retirement community neighbors gathered on the curb, either clasping the front of their shirts or murmuring to the person next to them.
“Yep.” Betsy Ann’s voice appeared on the other side as the techs lifted the gurney into the back of the ambulance. “Like kids around the ice cream truck.”
Ethel gave her a thumbs up sign and a weak grin as she disappeared inside the emergency vehicle.
Betsy Ann tugged Janie’s arm. “Call us the moment you learn anything.”
Janie winked and squeezed her hand, the one with George’s diamond solitaire on it. “I will. Don’t worry. Go finish decorating. Ethel’s hard-headed enough to be back here on that rickety ladder again within the hour.”
“I heard that.” Ethel stuck out her tongue.
Betsy Ann laughed.
One of the rescue crew offered his hand as Janie crawled into the back. She waved as they shut the doors. She peered through the dirty windows of the van at the recreation center’s parking lot, and her fellow residents, her fingers pinched by Ethel’s tight grasp.
With a jerk, the ambulance pulled away.
Janie toppled, but the technician caught her by the waist. “Here sit. It’s often a bit bumpy back here.”
Janie perched on the narrow metal bench as he took Ethel’s vital signs again. Her eyes were wide and wild with pain. Janie blinked back the tears and nodded with the most reassuring smile she could muster. With a sigh, she lifted up a quick prayer as they peeled out of the gated retirement community and down the highway to the hospital.
She hated ambulances. They made her stomach twist backwards. She recalled her grandson, Jamie’s, five-year-old comment ten years ago. “Ambulances take people away to die, don’t they?”
The one which transported her Jack after he’d been shot ten years ago did. Dead on arrival. But Ethel was not in that bad of a condition. She’d be up and about, and walking down the aisle as an attendant, be it in a sling, in a few days. Nothing to worry about.
Question 1: Does anyone believe Ethel really overhead a crime plot?
Answer 1: Even Janie questions if the meds they gave her might have affected her juudgement
Question 2: Who are the Bunco Biddies?
Answer 2: They are quirky and active seniors who live in a 55 plus community and play Bunco on Thursdays, in between helping the local police solve crimes.
Question 3: Can you read this book without having read the other three?
Answer 3: YEs, each mystery stands alone and here are plenty clues to help the reader catch up without revealing the plots of the other three.
Question 4: How helpful is Janie's son-in-law, Chief Detective Blake Johnson?
Answer 4: Janie often puts him between a rock and a hard place. She has valid insights but her unorthodox ways challenges his job.
Question 5: Who are Janie's trusted friends?
Answer 5: Ethel, Betsy Ann and Mildred, and they become bit by the sleuth bug, too.
Question 6: Why did you include romance in these cozies?
Answer 6: Perhaps as a widow , part of me wants to believe true love can happen at any age.
Question 7: What gave you the idea to set these in a retirement community?
Answer 7: Most cozies are set in small towns where he ametuer sleuth has inside knowledge. I thought it might be fun to show active and vital seniors as sleuths.
Question 8: Is there humor?
Answer 8: Absolutely. These women are fun, and love life...and murder solving.
Question 9: Why is Janie a sleuth?
Answer 9 Her late hubby was a detective and he often biunced his cases off her brain because she sees things at different angles.
Question 10: Are the characters patterned after anyone?
Answer 10: My mother had life-long firneds, and in their seventies and eighties they still loved life and were a hoot to be around. All have passed on now, including mom. I guess they were my muse.