Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Halloween Short Story - Disco Donna

  

Disco Donna
By Shari Randall

Enjoy this Halloween treat - a short story that was chosen as Story of the Week by Robert Lopresti's Little Big Crimes blog when it was first published in Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays

I'm fascinated by urban legends and dreamed up one for myself - and Disco Donna was born. 

Enjoy!



 “Hippies?”
“It’s a Halloween costume emergency,” I said. Mrs. Maven nodded and pushed her way through racks of vintage clothes. I figured if anyone could help Berks find a costume at the last minute, it would be Mrs. Maven.
Eunice and I had our bell bottoms and flower power ready to go. Berks, however, complained that hip huggers hugged her hips too hard. She had a point. She’s definitely curvy.
“Not much in here,” Mrs. Maven said. She owns the storefront on Elm Street that houses both Roseport Retro Rags and Cookie’s Bakery. There isn’t much else in Roseport. It’s a bucolic village, or at least that’s what it says in the real-estate brochures. Cookie’s is the place where everyone meets, and Retro is where high-school kids shop for cool stuff. Since Mrs. Maven is the world’s biggest gossip, she keeps the door between the two shops open, so occasionally you’ll see teachers from the high school come in for coffee and pastry, which is awkward for kids like us if we’ve just skipped school. Aside from that, though, the combination is heaven. Pastry and vintage clothes: two of my favorite things.
“Just got a box of new stuff in. Looks hippyish to me.” She waved at a box on the counter. “Came from some people who said they bought a house in Hamilton Park. They’re living with friends while they gut it. They found some boxes in a crawl space.” She opened the cardboard box. “They took a box of books to the library book sale and brought the clothes here. Doesn’t look like any mice got at it. Help yourselves.” She waved a vague peace sign and left us with the box.
Berks and I dug in, giggling at the headbands, tie-dye shirts, and patchwork skirts, draping ourselves with macramé necklaces and beads, and posing in front of a cloudy floor-length mirror making peace signs.
“Some of these clothes are a bit more seventies,” I said. I held up a pair of Frye boots and hot pants. “Not so much hippie. Kind of disco.”
Berks tugged a polyester halter dress over her jeans and T-shirt, pulled up her curly black hair, and twirled. “Very Saturday Night Fever, don’t you think?”
Berks danced over to Cookie’s door, waved to Mrs. Maven, then danced back. I shook my head. Berks had a very big comfort zone. I shrugged into another silky dress but it hung slack on me. Curvy I’m not.
“That dress works for you, Berks.” I took off the dress. “You’re about the size of whoever owned these clothes.”
“Maybe you could wear this skirt.” Berks tossed a denim mini to me, then perched some pot-leaf sunglasses on my nose.
I frowned. “Too short. My mom would never let me out of the house in this. Cool patch pockets, though.”
I put my hand into one of the pockets and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. “Hey, what’s this?” I smoothed it. “It’s a study hall pass from Roseport High! ‘Please excuse Donna Demonte from gym class.’”
Berks’s face clouded. “Oh, my God. Donna Demonte.”
“Who?” I tossed the skirt back in the box.
“You don’t know Disco Donna?” Berks shrieked and clawed ather dress. “Eew! I’m wearing a dead girl’s dress!” She stumbled backward into a mannequin, sending it tumbling to the floor.
“Oh, my God! The Disco Donna!”
The commotion drew Mrs. Maven. “Girls! What is it?”
“Mrs. Maven, do you remember that high-school girl who waskilled? Disco, er, Donna Demonte?” I handed her the hall pass.
Mrs. Maven’s eyes widened as she studied the paper. “How could Iforget? That poor girl was murdered.” Mrs. Maven and I helped Berks pick the mannequin up off the floor.
We peeled the dress off Berks while she continued to shudder and moan. Several customers from Cookie’s Bakery poked their heads in to see what the commotion was about. In the crowd, I saw the disapproving face of our high-school principal. Time to go!
We thanked Mrs. Maven and hurried from the shop, leaving Mrs. Maven to share this delicious nugget of news with the folks at Cookie’s.
“I cannot believe I touched a dead girl’s stuff.” Berks passed me a bottle of hand sanitizer as we ran to our volunteer gig at the Roseport Library. Her mom makes her take sanitizer everywhere. “You wore a dead girl’s glasses, too.”
I shrieked, then started giggling. Nerves, probably, but it was kind of exciting. Some towns had haunted houses, or a ghostly black dog, or the Bunny Man who killed partying teens. We had Disco Donna, our unsolved crime, our urban legend.
Donna had been queen bee of Roseport High back in the seventies. Head cheerleader, bad rep, too hot to care. The morning after Halloween, she was found laid out on her bed real peaceful, with a red rose in her clasped hands, bruises around her neck. People said a madman had escaped from the sanitarium in Springfield, climbed in her window, and strangled her. Or it was the star quarterback or the president of the student council? Everyone had a theory. People whispered. They said her mom went mental when she found her and left her room unchanged like a shrine for years. If a girl told the story, they always mentioned the rose. If a boy told the story, they always said she was naked.
Her killer was never found.
“You know what?” Berks gave me the one-eyebrow-raised smirk that was a sure sign she was about to make a bad decision. “That dress would make an awesome costume!” She spun on her heel. “I’m buying it. It fit me perfectly. I’m going to be Disco Donna for Halloween tonight!”
“That’s a monumentally gross idea,” I said. “What if the dress is haunted?”
Berks shrieked with laughter. “I’ll catch up with you later.”
I ran up the steps of the Roseport Library, a gray stone building on the edge of Hamilton Park. The library was the other town hub, so I didn’t mind volunteering there. The librarians were nice, with one exception. Mrs. Davis-Keen, The Dragon Queen. She could make a table of teen delinquents pack up and leave with a single death-ray glance, so when she was there we were on our best behavior.
I waved to Mrs. Day, the cool children’s librarian, and hurried into the staff-only area to get a book cart, praying that Mrs. Davis-Keen wouldn’t notice that Berks was late. A half hour later, Berks dashed in, face flushed, holding her bag with The Dress. We hurried into the staff room. Tillie Thompson, a tiny older lady, was there sorting through some boxes. I stopped short.
“Remember what Mrs. Maven said?” I whispered. “She said the people who brought in the clothes also dropped a box of books at the library.”
“Oh, my God,” Berks whispered, grabbing my arm. “Dead girl’s books!”
Mrs. Thompson reached into a canvas bin so deep that her toes barely touched the floor. “Need some help?” I asked.
“You girls are the best.” Mrs. Thompson smiled. “I’ve got to run, but if you can just get the boxes on the table, I’ll sort through them tomorrow. Could you finish up for me?”
Could we ever. As Mrs. Thompson twinkled out, we hefted the remaining three boxes of books from the bin.
Keeping an eye peeled for the Dragon Queen, we rooted quickly through the boxes. One box held paperback romances, cover after pink trimmed cover, with shirtless men and half-naked women. We rolled our eyes and moved on to the next box. Ludlum, Benchley, Jacqueline Suzanne. That left one box. It almost vibrated with— what? It was just an old cardboard box, but my hands shook as I pulled the flaps open. I could tell Berks was holding her breath.
High-school textbooks. Very old high-school textbooks. Earth Science. Algebra and You. “Oh, no!” I gasped. “Should we be wearing gloves?” We were huge fans of CSI.
“Her killer probably didn’t handle her textbooks, unless he was a complete weirdo,” Berks said.
I unfolded a poster of a skinny, bare-chested rock singer with amazing blond hair. Frampton Comes Alive.
“Kind of hot.” Berks put the poster back in the box. “Look! A Roseport yearbook.”
We flipped it open and thumbed through the pages. “Look at those glasses! And those prom pictures. Ruffles!”
Mrs. Day’s whisper came over the intercom. “Mrs. Davis-Keen’s heading your way.”
“Quick!” Berks grabbed her shopping bag and thrust the yearbook inside. “Let’s put the other books back in the box and get this later.”
My hands shook as I put the textbooks in the box. In my haste, I knocked the huge algebra book off the table. It fell open. We gasped.
The pages had been glued together, then hollowed out. Tucked in the hollow was a pink notebook.
I pulled it out. On the cover, someone had written in purple looping handwriting: Diary. I felt like it was burning my hand as I pushed it into the shopping bag, too. Berks shoved the bag onto a shelf just as Mrs. Davis-Keen entered the room.
“Hi, Mrs. Dra— er, Mrs. Davis-Keen. We were just helping Mrs. Thompson with those donations,” I stammered.
Mrs. Davis-Keen swept her laser beams over us but evidently was too busy thinking about important library business to detect our nervous energy.
She powered over to the boxes we had rifled. “These came in today.”
“Um, that’s what Mrs. Thompson said.” We edged toward the door.
“Move along, girls. Get back to your shelving,” she murmured as her beautifully manicured hands lifted the flaps on one of the cartons.
We pushed our book carts into the children’s room. “Why is she going through those boxes? She never looks at donations,” I whispered. When Mrs. Day popped around the corner,I almost died.
“She’s there because someone told her the books were donated by people who bought the old Demonte house,” she said. “You know how people are. If anyone hears that we have books from Disco Donna’s house, they’ll cause a disturbance. And you know how Mrs. D-K feels about disturbances.”
We finished our shift, hurried to the back room as casually as possible, and grabbed Berks’s shopping bag. When we ran out, I was certain that the bag was glowing radioactively and we had “Stealing Disco Donna’s Diary” in a huge thought bubble over our heads.
We ran to my house. I texted our friend Eunice. She had to see the diary and yearbook A.S.A.P.
Berks and I sat in my room staring at the plastic bag, which sat on the floor in the corner. It seemed to breathe. I didn’t want it on my bed. I was dying to look at it but knew that Eunice would kill us if she learned Berks and I had gone ahead without her.
I heard Eunice’s mom’s van wheeze to a stop in front of the house, and then the sound of footsteps as Eunice pounded up the stairs.
“What’s this all about?” Eunice exclaimed. She was wearing a perfectly coordinated hippie outfit, including a purple pimp-like hat. “What’s this about Disco Donna?”
“Shhhh!” I grabbed her arm and pointed at the bag.
“Disco Donna’s shopping bag?” Eunice deadpanned. We dissolved into shrieks of laughter, but I shushed everyone again.
“This is for real,” I said.
“Really real,” Berks whispered. I filled Eunice in. Our eyes turned again to the bag. Berks grabbed it, and we flung ourselves on the floor. We opened the yearbook first, flipping to the D’s.
“That’s her,”I whispered. Donna looked out at us with dark, almond-shaped eyes ringed with heavy eyeliner. She wore huge hoop earrings. A mane of dark curls. Her smile was flirtatious, almost a smirk.
“She kind of looks like you, Berks,” Eunice whispered.
Berks snorted. “Maybe she looks like me with way too much makeup and attitude. Supposedly she was pretty slutty, right? That’s not me.”
Eunice flipped open the diary. “Look, she dots her I’s with bubbly hearts. My auntie says that means you’re weak minded.”
“She doesn’t look weak to me,” I said.
I could hear my mom answer the doorbell downstairs, but the voices of little kids yelling “trick or treat” faded into the background as Eunice read the diary entries. Donna noted big events, which sounded pretty wild. Fights with her mom, whom she called a “slut,” “fat pig,” and “jailer.” Donna never mentioned girl friends, but she had a lot of boyfriends. Occasionally she’d doodle hearts, flowers, and peace signs, and after most entries she’d write “Keep my secrets safe, Peter! SWAK.” Page after page describing make-outs with Jimmy, Paulie Sugarboy, Billy, Chris, Scott the Hickey King, and some nameless boy she did IT with in the janitor’s closet after a basketball game. We were riveted. September of her junior year, she started mentioning Mr. X.
“Dear Diary, I’m calling him Mr. X because if that Fat Pig sees this, we’ll get in trouble. Mr. X is an older man. So much more mature than those high school boys. A REAL Man. He says I’m his Special Lady. I can’t wait to see him Saturday. I’ll have lots to tell you when I get back!” Hearts, hearts, hearts.
“He climbed the trellis last night. He said it was time to make me HIS WOMAN. He touched my dirty word with his dirty word and then he dirty word dirty word dirty word,” Eunice read.
“Give me that!” Berks snatched the diary from Eunice’s hands and began to read.
In October, things had changed. A few pages were ripped to shreds, evidently by Donna digging in with her pen.
“Dear Diary: It’s REALLY REALLY true. How could he do this to me? He said we’d move away and he’d get a job in another school.”
“Another school? He was old enough to work in her school?” Eunice gasped.
“A teacher? That’s gross!” I shuddered. “Creep.”
Berks flipped the page.“Cindy Pertaki. Why her? She’s a total slut. She thinks she’s hot stuff with that Camaro. How could he do that? Why!!!!! If he won’t leave her, I will tell EVERYONE. Because he promised we’d be together. Forever.”
“That’s the last entry,” Berks said, leafing forward through some blank pages just to make sure.
I grabbed the yearbook and pawed through it until I found a picture of Cindy Pertaki. A blonde with soft eyes and a lot of cleavage stared soulfully at us.
“That’s the freshman section,” Berks said. “Mr. X was a cradle robber.”
“The last entry was two days before Halloween,” I noted. “And Disco Donna died on Halloween.”
Eunice stared. “So that means—”
Berks looked from me to Eunice. “What? What does it mean?”
“Mr. X had to hide his games with his students. When Donna threatened to tell on him”-
“He had to shut her up,” Eunice finished my sentence.
Berks whispered. “Mr. X killed Disco Donna.”
Silence settled on the room. Eunice twirled her hair. Berks bit her fingernails. I flipped through the yearbook to the teachers’ pages. Row upon row of serious-looking men and women stared back, black and white pictures of respectable, middle-aged educators. Berks stabbed a photo of a blond man with aviator glasses. “There. The gym teacher.They’re always so full of themselves.” We contemplated the gym teacher, Cale Smith. “He’s not my type,” Eunice declared.
“Mine either.” Berks turned the book, squinted. “He looks a little like our Principal Smith, doesn’t he? If Principal Smith were a lot more handsome and had hair? I wonder if that’s him.”
“Doesn’t matter about our types, it had to be Disco Donna’s type.” I flipped back to the student section.
Berks gasped. “Wait! That’s—” she jabbed the page. “My uncle Paul. Paul Sugarman.”
A skinny boy with long black hair, braces, and a mangy moustache grinned from the page. Everyone knew Berks’s uncle. He was on the town police force. Now he weighed twice as much and had half as much hair as the boy in the picture. Thankfully, he no longer had the moustache.
“Your uncle was Paulie Sugarboy?” I started giggling. Berks blushed.
“Well, this probably means that your uncle’s a psycho killer, Berks,” Eunice said. “Even though he seems pretty nice now. Maybe it was a crime of jealous passion.”
Berks shot Eunice a killer look.
“Wait, wait,” I said. “You’re forgetting. Disco Donna practically points the finger at Mr. X. Seems like she and Paulie, er, Uncle Paul, whatever, were just a passing thing. It was probably a teacher.”
It was hard to see what any teenage girl would see in these guys, since the clothes and glasses and hairstyles were so unflattering. We flipped through, muttering “How about him?” but didn’t get killer vibes from anyone other than the chemistry teacher, who looked like he’d spent way too much time with the formaldehyde.
“We should call the police. We have new information that could crack the case,” Eunice said.
“Correction. We stole information that could crack the case,” Berks said.
“We didn’t know it was Donna’s. Oh wait, we did,” I said.
We paced, bit our nails, twirled our hair, and avoided each other’s eyes.
“Wait a minute.” I picked up the diary. “She keeps mentioning this guy Peter who keeps her secrets safe. Maybe he knew.”
“What if Peter was the killer?” Eunice’s eyes glowed. “Peter gets to hear from this hot girl about other men, but secretly he’s in love with her? It might drive him wild with jealousy.”
“That’s a good theory. I saw a movie like that on Lifetime,” Berks said.
“But the timing,” I said. “This Peter has heard about all these other guys and never did anything except keep listening.... Doesn’t seem likely.”
“He might have cracked,” Eunice said.
We nodded. People cracked. That happened on Lifetime all the time, too.
“Listen.” Berks stood up. “We’ve got to do the right thing. Let’s take the stuff down to the police station in the morning. My uncle’s there. We’ll tell him and we won’t get in trouble because he does everything my mother tells him to, and she won’t want me to get in trouble.”
“We do have that Halloween party to get to. I don’t want to waste my costume,” Eunice said.
Berks and I shrugged into our hippie clothes. A Halloween party with a bunch of other kids our age suddenly seemed pretty tame.
“I’ve got a better idea.” I pulled on a sweatshirt. “Let’s drive by Disco Donna’s house.”
I have no idea why it seemed like a good idea to go to Disco Donna’s house or what we’d do when we got there, but five minutes later Eunice parked her mom’s van in a pool of hazy gray light from the streetlight directly in front of the old Demonte house. Two Dumpsters filled with rubble sat in a tangle of weeds. Someone had left a lawn mower, gas cans, and a pile of junk by the front door. There were only a few houses on this side of the park, and the laughter of trick-or-treaters on the main road was swallowed by the shadows lurking beyond the streetlight. We all had flashlights we’d found in the van, thanks to Eunice’s mother, a Girl Scout leader.
“I am so not okay with this,” Eunice said.
“Come on, I just want to take a look,” I whispered as I approached the house.
“Cluck, cluck.” Berks pulled Eunice through a pile of dead leaves.
Vines twisted up a trellis to the Demontes’ second floor. I aimed the flashlight at the trellis, spotlighting blackened petals and curved thorns. “Roses! The killer probably got a rose from the trellis when he killed her!”
“I am waaay creeped out.” Eunice shivered.
“Now that we’re here, I want to see her room. Who’s coming in?” In the light from my flashlight, Berks’s eyes glowed.
“No freaking way.” Eunice folded her arms.
“Okay, Eunice,” I whispered. “You can be the lookout. Down here. Alone. As in all by yourself. With the ghosts.”
Eunice punched my shoulder but followed close behind as we crept into the backyard. We tried the door; it was locked, but being tall has its advantages. We pushed a trash can under a window. I climbed up on it and managed to slide a window open. I swung into the dark house and then opened the kitchen door for my friends. Inside, we bunched together and made our way down the hallway. Pale gray fingers of streetlight clawed at the dirty windows.
We OMG’d up the stairs.
Everything creaked. We peered into gutted rooms. The emptiness magnified our every gasping breath. As we passed a derelict bathroom, Eunice moaned, “I’ll never get into Harvard with a rap sheet.”
Berks hugged her. “No way my uncle will let this get out. Even if we get arrested, no worries, Eunice. Trust me.”
I stopped at a door at the end of the hall. “I bet this was her room. It’s on the side with the trellis.”
“A psycho could climb up the rose trellis again. And kill an innocent high-school girl. What are we doing here again?” Eunice’s voice wavered.
“We’ll look fast.” I turned the knob and the door creaked open.
“Two minutes,” Eunice said. “I mean it.”
Three beams of light crisscrossed silently in the empty room. I don’t know what I expected—to see her room as it was? I had imagined a ruffled bed and painted furniture, hippy, rainbow colors, posters on the wall.
“Berks, what was that poster she had? The blond rock guy?”
“Frampton Comes Alive?” Berks whispered. Her fingers clamped so tight on my arm they were cutting off my circulation.
“Frampton Comes Alive? Peter Frampton? My dad listens to him all the time,” Eunice said.
Berks’s fingers tightened. “Maybe Peter...”
“Peter was the poster!” I said. “But how would a poster keep her secrets?”
“If this were my room, I’d put the bed here.” Berks waved her hand like a game show spokes-model. “There are all these eaves and windows, so the only wall for a bed is here.” She turned. “And if I had a poster of a hot guy I wanted to see all the time, I’d put it...there.” She waved to the wall with a built-in bookcase.
“It would’ve fit there,” I said. We hurried to the empty bookcase and stared at the three-foot gap between the two middle shelves.
“Uh, what’re we looking at?” Eunice’s voice was getting shrill. “Bookshelves. Nothing to see here, people. Let’s go!”
“Wait!” I started knocking on the back of the shelves. “On TV there’s always a hiding place behind the wall.”
Berks crouched down, aiming her light so I could see as I knocked. The back of the bottom shelf made a different, hollow sound. “No way!” Berks said. Eunice knelt too, her eyes wide, aiming her flashlight at the bottom shelf. Eunice pulled a Swiss Army knife from her key chain. “Finally something I can use this for.” She knelt down and angled the knife into a seam at the back of the shelf. “It’s coming away. It’s just cardboard painted like the wood!” The flashlight beams wavered as we jockeyed to see better. I pulled away crumbling cardboard. There was a narrow, hollowed-out space behind it. In it sat a small white gift box.
Berks reached into the bookcase. “Don’t touch it,” I said. “I’ll get gloves—”
A loud thump came from downstairs.
“What was that?” Eunice said in the loudest stage whisper I’d ever heard.
I’d heard it, too. Berks jumped to her feet. “The lights,” I said. We switched off the flashlights. The thumping continued.
I could barely breathe. I could just see Berks’s wide eyes in the pale light coming from the window. Eunice babbled. She reverted to Korean, which she did only when she was completely unhinged or in gym class. There was more thumping, and then a pungent smell, and then a whoosh and a reddish glow from the hall. Eunice and Berks jumped and shouted, “Fire!”
I ran to the door. A red glow and a cloud of white smoke surged toward us. I slammed the bedroom door and ran to the window. “If a psycho killer can climb the trellis in, we can climb out.”
“You first!” Berks shrieked as I struggled to raise the sash.
The window groaned open. I swung one leg over the sill and aimed my flashlight beam onto the trellis. “Doable,” I said. Eunice and Berks held my arms while I hung from the rotting sill until my feet found the trellis. I prayed it would hold me.
Smoke gathered behind Eunice and Berks.
I was halfway down when I heard sirens shrieking. A police car swung into the driveway, followed by a fire engine. Firefighters leapt from the truck. A radio squawked, and one of the firefighters pointed to the side of the house. I hurried to the ground, then waved my flashlight and shouted. The firefighters reached the base of the trellis as Eunice neared the bottom. Berks quickly followed, touching the ground just as a police officer jogged up.
Berks shone her flashlight on her own face. “Hey, Uncle Paul, it’s me, Berks.”
Uncle Paul rubbed his face. His shoulders slumped. “I know,” he muttered. He pulled us aside as firefighters placed ladders and started hoses. “Your mother tracked you on your cell phone. When she saw you weren’t at the Halloween party, she called me.”
Berks swore. “I am so dead.”
A few minutes later we were hustled into the back of an ambulance, its back door left open, while the cops and Uncle Paul decided what to do with us. The firefighters quickly contained the fire. Nobody would tell us what was happening, but we caught words like “accelerant” and “dumbass prank.”
Eunice moaned. “I guess I can kiss off Harvard.” Her eyes searched mine. “They can’t pin this on us. Right?”
“Absolutely not,” I said. “We didn’t do it.” I meant the fire. We had definitely broken into the house.
“Oh, my God.” Berks pointed. “It just got worse. Look who just showed up. Principal Smith! He’s over there talking with the cops.”
We could see Principal Smith standing under the street lamp. He had smoke smudges on his shirt and bald head. A firefighter leaned into the ambulance and told us we were lucky. Principal Smith had been driving by and saw the fire. He’d gone into the house to make sure no one was trapped inside. Passing trick-or-treaters called the fire department.
Eunice moaned.
“We’re doomed,” Berks said. “And the worst part is, we’ll never know what Disco Donna hid in the bookcase.”
“Oh, I almost forgot.” I pulled the cardboard box, now slightly crushed, from beneath my tie-dye T-shirt.
“Gloves!” Berks said.
“Screw forensics,” Eunice said. “Open that box.”
Berks pulled the door to the ambulance shut. My hand shook as I lifted the lid of the box.
Inside was one dried rose, brownish gray and moldy. A cassette tape. And a shiny old-fashioned Polaroid photograph. “Oh, my God,” Berks exclaimed. “It’s a naked guy! It’s, it’s...”
“Looks like he’s asleep,” Eunice whispered.
As I set down the lid of the box, I noticed something written on its underside.
The door jerked open. Uncle Paul looked in. “Well, what do you ladies have to say for yourselves?”
I turned the lid of the box so Berks and Eunice could see it.
Berks smiled. “Uncle Paul, you’d better get ready to make an arrest. We know who killed Disco Donna.”
Uncle Paul didn’t look too pleased, but he climbed in, closed the door, and listened. We told him what we’d done, from the moment we found the hall pass. He kept rubbing his hand over his face, especially when we told him about entering the house, but then we showed him the box. With the rose. And the cassette. And the photo. And the lid of the box, where Donna had practiced her signature. Or what she thought would be her new signature.
Mrs. Cale Smith.
****
Two nights later, Berks called to tell me the details of what Mrs. Maven had already reported at Cookie’s. Brave Principal Smith, who had tried to rescue a bunch of honor-society arsonists, had been arrested.
The man in the photo, the man heard during a “romantic exchange” on the tape, was our principal. He’d been a gym teacher at Roseport High all those years ago. He’d left town shortly after Disco Donna’s murder, but had returned to take a promotion to principal, thinking that no one would remember his brief time as a gym teacher at the same school nearly forty years before.
He’d been in Cookie’s when Mrs. Maven made her broadcast about the hall pass. Creepiest of all, he confessed that he’d followed us after seeing the “vision” of Donna in Retro Rags—my friend Berks, of course, wearing Donna’s old dress. When he saw us going into the Demonte house and feared we might have found some evidence, he decided to burn the place—and us— down.
Needless to say, we all got grounded, except for our appearances on Crime Solvers and The Today Show.
We still tease Berks about the vision thing.
Eunice wouldn’t speak to me for days, until Berks convinced her that our crime-solving adventure would make a killer college application essay. Emphasis on killer.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Giveaway!


I'm giving away a copy of Curses, Boiled Again on CD! Just head over to my Facebook page and comment with your favorite thing about fall.  I'll choose a winner on October 18. US and CAN only, please.  Good luck!
https://www.facebook.com/sharirandallauthor/

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Discussion Questions for Curses, Boiled Again!


I love book clubs! It's so much fun to talk books, especially when you can snack on good food and sip wine while doing so. Here are a few questions about Curses, Boiled Again! to get your book discussion off to a good start.


1) Two sets of sisters (Allie and Lorel and Juliet and Contessa) are central to the story, and in both pairs, there was sometimes friction - or worse.  Why do you think the sister bond is so complicated, in the story and in real life? Are you more of an Allie or a Lorel? 

2) Female friendships play an important role in the story. How do the relationships between Allie and Verity, Aunt Gully and Aggie, and others move the story forward?

3) Allie recognizes that “Juliet” is Contessa when she sees her ear, recognizes her dancing, and identifies her as the murderer when she sees the burning Food Festival pass. When did you know whodunnit? Who else did you suspect and why?

4) Kahunas and the Lazy Mermaid serve two very different approaches to a classic New England dish - the lobster roll. Whose lobster roll would you rather try? Do you tend to enjoy tried and true or updated or fusion twists on the culinary specialties of your region?

5) Discuss what we learn about characters from their cars, like Verity’s “Tank” or Ernie’s beloved sports car. Whose vehicle would you like to take for a spin?

6) Were you surprised to learn that Aunt Gully knew Rio long before the food festival? How did that relationship change or increase your understanding of either character?

7) Some reviewers have said the theme of the story is resilience. Which characters do you find most resilient?

8) Which characters do you most hope to see return in the sequels and why?

Feel free to add your own discussion questions in the comments! Happy reading!


Monday, October 1, 2018

Curses, Boiled Again! Is Available on Audio!

Thrilled to share that Curses, Boiled Again, the first of my Lobster Shack Mystery series, is now available on audio! If you check it out, be sure to let me know what you think. Big thanks to the folks at Tantor Media and the wonderful narrator, Tiffany Morgan. The other books will be available on audio soon.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Connecticut Author Trail 2018

I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the Connecticut Author Trail and visiting my "stop" was so much fun.
The wonderful librarians at the Saxton B. Little Library in Columbia, Connecticut invited me to speak a bit about mysteries, my writing journey, and the things that have inspired me. The best part was being able to chat with fellow mystery readers and I had a chance to do that while munching the delicious treats that the library had provided.
The Trail wraps up with a stop at the Mohegan Sun Casino Cabaret Theater on September 20. The event kicks off with a talk by best-selling author Amy Bloom at 6:30 p.m. and signings from all the authors who have been on the trail will follow. Stop by and say hello!



Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Event Calendar

Please stop by and say hello! I'll be signing my latest Lobster Shack Mystery, Against the Claw!



Sunday, August 6, 1-3 PM
Bank Square Books Signing
53 W. Main Street
Mystic, CT 
860- 536-3795


Tuesday, August 7, 6:30 PM
Connecticut Author Trail appearance
Saxton B. Little Library
319 Route 87
Columbia, CT 06237


Sunday, August 12, 2-5 PM
Barnes and Noble Signing
12193 Fair Lakes Promenade Drive
Fairfax, VA 22033
703-278-0300



Saturday, June 2, 2018

A Perfect Summer Dessert - Pavlova



Time for a sweet treat. I love desserts and this is one my friends who are gluten intolerant can enjoy, too. It’s called a pavlova, in honor of the great ballerina, Anna Pavlova. It makes a delicious sweet base that’s perfect with any kind of summer fruit. The best part is that it looks fancy but the ingredients are all ones you probably have in your kitchen already.

Pavlova

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar (superfine is best but you can use what you have)
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 tsp almond extract
½ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp cornstarch
Preheat oven to 200 degrees



Use hand mixer to beat egg whites until soft peaks appear

Add sugar and lemon zest until stiff peaks appear
Add almond extract and beat until stiff peaks appear - really stiff. Make sure it clings to the beaters.
Fold in cream of tartar and cornstarch

Spread mixture onto nonstick parchment paper in a 8-9 inch circle. Make a dip in the middle – that’s where your fruit and cream will go when it’s baked.

Bake about 90 minutes then allow to cool in oven. It will be crisp on the outside - a little bit brown at the edges is okay - and soft and marshmallowy inside.


Now the fun part - fill the dip with any fruit and whipped cream you like. Slice and enjoy!
Full disclosure: I used a stunt baker, my daughter Charlotte, who is a baker extraordinaire. She recommends candied lemon peel and blueberries for the fruit topping and I have to agree it's delicious.