New Calendar Mystery Story!

TWO BIRTHDAYS

An Old Kansas City Story

June 22, 1899

Price Investigations Office

Kansas City, Missouri

The office door opening that afternoon startled Minty Wilcox and she almost looked up to see who it was. But then she thought, I’d better keep my head down and look busy. It won’t do for Mr. Mathison to catch me reading a mystery novel when I’m supposed to be hard at work. Indeed, George Mathison, the manager of the Kansas City branch of the Price Investigations Agency, was quite strict about the office staff keeping busy, especially Minty, the newest member of the staff.

Not that there was much work to do at the moment, no one there to take dictation from, no operative reports to type, no papers to file.

Still, Minty closed the black book, a favorite of hers that she liked to reread that time of year, and hid it in her top desk drawer. After that, she began typing furiously at her ancient blind-strike Remington typewriting machine. As a precaution earlier, she’d loaded a blank piece of paper in the typewriter. A quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog, she typed. A quick . . .

“Where’s Mrs. B?” a man asked.

After Minty lifted her hands from the keyboard and looked up, her heart started going pitty pat.

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Two Birthdays, an old Kansas City story

After Minty Wilcox has worked for six months or so at Price Investigations as a stenographer/typist, the dashing detective Daniel Price appears in the office and carries her off to take notes on a new case the agency has been hired for. But once he starts filling Minty in on the details of the case, some of the information sounds strangely familiar. And she begins to wonder what he’s really up to on her twentieth birthday, June 22, 1899.

Praise for January Jinx, Book 1 in the Calendar Mystery series

The delightful, creative, and charming January Jinx introduces a terrific character in Minty Wilcox, a good old-fashioned cozy mystery persona who will surely be able to carry the planned-for series. It’s Minty who drives the readable narrative, and author Juliet Kincaid keeps the pace steady and fast at the same time for quite a readable experience. The writing is appropriate for the historical setting without ever being gimmicky or archaic . . . The unique setting of 1899 Kansas City is full of flavor that never overwhelms the story and the characters. With a terrific, original, but still comfortable series concept, there are certainly big things afoot for Juliet Kincaid and Minty Wilcox’s Calendar Mysteries.

“Two Birthdays,” a Calendar Mystery short story featuring Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price getting to know each other, is now available for your Kindle for $0.99 (and always free from KindleUnlimited)* at www.amazon.com/dp/B076JS3D2Y

*This fun story will be available for free to all on October 20 through 22, and October 26 and 27.

 

 

Hollyhocks and Tomatoes

Like Hector Jones, a character in “The Barn Door,” my father always had tomatoes and hollyhocks in his gardens, no matter how large or small. He must have done this sketch from memory because it’s dated 11-16-39 in his neat civil engineer’s hand.

“The Barn Door,” a prequel story to my calendar mystery series set in Kansas City a hundred years or so ago is still FREE today, 07/08/2017, at www.amazon.com/dp/B073G7ZXMP.

 

 

A New Calendar Mystery Story

When Hector Jones needs a detective on the 4th of July weekend in 1898, he hires Daniel Price, in “The Barn Door,” a NEW prequel short story to my calendar mystery series. It’s FREE July 4 through 8th  at www.amazon.com/dp/B073G7ZXMP

 

The Gardener

Recently, while working on a prequel story for my calendar mystery series called “The Barn Door” that takes place on the 4th of July weekend in 1898, I decided to give one of the characters a vegetable garden. And that led me to think about my dad and his gardens. Here’s my piece on that subject, originally published on my website in 2011 as “My Father’s Gardens.”

My father, Homer Dale Willman, Sr., used to say, “When the Corps hired me, they took a great farmer and made him into a half-assed engineer.”

Still, though he worked over twenty years for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, my father always had a garden if only three strips around the patio. Until his last summer, he grew at least a little something, maybe vibrant begonias, a geranium in a big pot, a climbing rose, possibly hollyhocks, usually mint so he could watch the telecast of the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May with an icy julep in hand. And always, always, he had a tomato plant or two.

Back in the fifties and sixties, the prime years of his backyard gardens, he put lots of effort into his tomatoes. We lived in the tri-state region of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia where winters were mild (though Dad always hoped for some snow to put nitrogen into the dirt). After the ground warmed and softened along about Easter, Dad took his shovel out to his garden patch to prepare the soil.

My mom used to kid my dad about “digging to China” because to him preparation meant digging a pit eighteen inches across and three feet deep for each tomato plant. He partially refilled each hole with compost, manure and other nourishing substances mixed with loose dirt.

The newly planted tomato plants–named Big Boy, Better Boy, Early Boy and Rutgers–looked scrawny so far apart, their sparse leaves insufficient to fuel growth. They did grow though. Usually by the Fourth of July, Dad would push aside those leaves, releasing the acrid odor that set our stomachs to growling, and with a gentle tug, pick the first tomato of the season. Mom, Dad, my brother Dale, and I fought over that first tomato, so ripe the skin peeled off clean and biting the tongue with its acidity. By late summer, the plants, lovingly tied to their stakes with strips of old sheet, stood eight feet high and loaded with tomatoes Mom canned, made juice with or begged neighbors to haul away.

Maybe the secret of Dad’s tomatoes lay in his compost pile that he researched, built and maintained like a true engineer. The compost pile I remember best was a four-foot cube of vegetable peels and melon rinds, musty grass clippings, twigs, lime, and goat manure he got as partial payment for a ship model he built for a friend who owned a herd of goats.

Dad made a hole in the center of the compost pile so air got inside and furthered the controlled decay. Once, out of curiosity, he tied some string to a thermometer and lowered it into the hole. In less than a minute, the thermometer broke. Later, with Mom’s candy thermometer, Dad discovered that the compost pile had reached 135 degrees.

Usually, Dad scaled his gardens small, but back in the late forties when we lived in the aptly named Garden Court, he almost filled the back yard with his vegetable plot. Forty by sixty feet, it ran from the house back almost to the tree-lined creek. Pieces of string stretched between sticks defined the plot so meticulously it looked like Dad had laid the garden out with a surveyor’s transit.

Dad bragged about that garden having fifty different varieties of plants. They included tomatoes of course, potatoes, corn, green peppers, red peppers, scallions, onions, cucumbers, and Black-seeded Simpson leaf lettuce. Instead of cantaloupe, that Dad said didn’t prosper in our climate, he grew muskmelons. Radishes started the growing season and beets finished it. Many of the vegetables I’ve forgotten now, but I still love to recite exotic names like zucchini, kohlrabi, and cocazelle.

We all got involved in Dad’s gardens. One year we had so much cabbage that Mom canned it. Dad paid Dale a penny a hundred head to pick bugs and beetles out of the garden. Dad never let me forget that those pretty yellow hollyhocks I picked one year were actually squash blossoms. Once, we tried to shell tough-hulled soybeans by putting them through Mom’s washer wringer. The beans popped out the other side and Dale and I chased them as they bounced around the kitchen floor.

My father’s gardens . . . Whenever I think of them, I see a picture of him in my mind.

Small-boned, with a mustache, my father wears a billed cap to keep his scalp from burning, a tan shirt dark with sweat under the arms, tan pants cut off and neatly hemmed above his knobby knees, and muddy shoes too worn to wear to work anymore. He leans against a shovel stuck into a pile of dirt. And dreaming of fresh tomatoes by the Fourth of July, he grins.

I don’t have a picture of my dad in his gardening togs, but here’s one of him, taken around 1973 when he was 70, that shows his wonderful grin.

January Jinx, Fatal February, and Mischief in March, the first three calendar mysteries set in Kansas City a hundred years or so ago, are available as eBooks and trade paperbacks from Amazon.com. Look for “The Barn Door,” a calendar mystery prequel short story, coming soon as a Kindle eBook.

Great Read only $0.99

From the Kansas City Star Tuesday, 6 February, 1900

A CAR KILLS A SCHOOL GIRL

Little Hortense Petty Horribly Mangled

On the Northeast Line

Hortense, the 12-year-old daughter of Wilfred Petty of 4116 St. John Avenue, was killed by an electric car at St. John and Jackson Avenues, almost directly in front of her own home at 8:30 o’clock this morning.

The little girl was on her way to school with her brother, Willy, 9 years old. They attended the Scarritt School, the little girl being in the fifth grade. There is no sidewalk along the north side of St. John Avenue west of Jackson and the two children were walking westward in the street along the north side of the track. The little boy says they heard no car coming. The cars run swiftly there, the neighbors say.

Just before the children reached Jackson Avenue, the little girl being at the left of her brother and a little in advance, started across the first car track. Just as she was stepping over the last rail of the first track the westbound car, running at high speed, struck her.

The man reading the previous evening’s newspaper lowered it to his lap. Across the bedroom a woman huddled against the wall. The lamplight transformed her red skirt into a pool of blood on the carpet around her.

That would work and well, the man thought. People constantly blundered onto the tracks of Kansas City’s streetcars, cable cars, and railway trains. The schoolgirl was the first of the month to die in that way, but undoubtedly not the last.

Not if he had anything to say about it at least.

He glanced over his shoulder at the rumpled bed and then at the girl. “Get up. You’re not hurt all that bad.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I’m not sure–“

“I told you to get up.”

“Yes, sir,” she said in her light, pretty voice and began a long, slow climb to standing, first her left foot, then hands flat on the floor as she got her right foot under her, but also on the hem of her dress. Still crouching, she yanked the red cloth out from under her scuffed shoe, and straightened, but never fully. Propping herself against the wall, she folded her arms across her hips and moaned softly.

“Quit your belly aching.”

“Okay.”

When she glanced toward the door, he said, “You’re not leaving until I’m good and ready.”

“But, sir,” she blubbered.

“Don’t worry. I’ll see that you get home.” It wasn’t his plan to take her home, but she wasn’t to know that.

He’d made a mistake with this one.

The others hadn’t mattered. But someone might care about this girl, a pretty thing with red hair. People might come looking for her, and if they found her alive, she might tell them what he’d done. That would never do.

Besides, she was ruined now, quite ruined. Why, if she knew what he planned, she’d probably thank him for ending her misery.

But evening was hours away and he needed darkness. Meanwhile, there was the bed and there was the girl. The newspaper dropped to the floor as he stood.

Then, quite by chance, somewhere nearby a train sounded its whistle, its great metal wheels rumbled on the tracks, and he smiled.

She surprised him by smiling in return.

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That morning, at her desk at Price Investigations, Minty Wilcox pounded the keys of her old Remington typewriter. She stopped and lifted the carriage of the blind strike machine to check the date on the report from earlier in the week that she was typing.

Did I get it right? she asked herself. Yes, she had. She had typed Wednesday February 7, 1900, and not the 1899 that she’d typed more times than she cared to admit so early in the year . . .

It’s February 1900, and a young woman has gone missing from a Kansas City garment factory. Price Investigations has been hired to find the girl, who may have come to harm. Minty Wilcox longs to help, but her boss doesn’t approve of women sleuthing. He also forbids any office romance at all, especially with the dashing detective, Daniel Price. When Minty decides to defy her boss and go undercover to find the girl, Daniel helps her, but he also hinders her with outrageous flirtation and other ploys. And, as she digs into the case, Minty comes into danger herself. Will Daniel rescue her? Will Minty even let him try? Read Fatal February to find out.

From January through December, the Calendar Mysteries tell the story of Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price from newly met to newly wed and beyond in Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a century or so ago.

Buy Fatal February from February 14 through February 20, 2017, for only 99 cents at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM.

Praise for January Jinx

Book 1 of the Calendar Mysteries

Mystery and romance in old Kansas City

By Juliet Kincaid

What fun it is to read a mystery set in a different locale, Kansas City in this case. Set at the turn of the last century, the book is well-researched and the details of daily life are woven into the story so expertly that you are transported. The characters are lively and everything they do and think is suitable for the era. The main character, Minty Wilcox, is the kind of young woman you root for: gutsy and daring for her time while still trying to maintain her manners. The love interest is fun, the plot engaging and the ending a surprise. Jump into another century with a rich variety of characters and have a good read.

The story moves with no dead spots at all. One little surprise after another triggers the wonder when the next in the series will arrive. Overall, an enjoyable few hours of reading. Cleverly done.

Sometimes a girl just can’t catch a break and that’s certainly true for Minty Wilcox. Everything just keeps getting worse, but Minty knows she’s not a murderer and she’s bound to prove it. January Jinx is a great mystery and a great kick-off for this series.

The delightful, creative, and charming January Jinx introduces a terrific character in Minty Wilcox, a good old-fashioned cozy mystery persona who will surely be able to carry the planned-for series. It’s Minty who drives the readable narrative, and author Juliet Kincaid keeps the pace steady and fast at the same time for quite a readable experience. The writing is appropriate for the historical setting without ever being gimmicky or archaic . . . The unique setting of 1899 Kansas City is full of flavor that never overwhelms the story and characters. With a terrific, original, but still comfortable series concept, there are certainly big things afoot for Juliet Kincaid and Minty Wilcox’s Calendar Mysteries.

 

January Jinx, special price

JANUARY JINX

The First Book in the Calendar Mystery Series

by Juliet Kincaid

The first chance Minty Wilcox gets in January 1899, she sets off to find a stenographer’s job in Kansas City. But her search is jinxed from the start. And in spite of her efforts to clear her name, eventually bad luck spreads like a nasty cold from Minty to her mother, her brother, her younger sister, and to Mr. Daniel Price, their mysterious lodger, as well. Minty feels that she brought all these troubles to her family and friends, so she must set things right. This won’t be easy in Kansas City where, a hundred years or so ago, living could get downright deadly.

January JInx is available from January 11 until January 18, 2017 for only $.99

Buy the eBook now at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4

Good deal for readers

MW

Here I am, all dolled up as Minty Wilcox, the heroine of my Calendar Mysteries, might have been if she went to a party in 1900. January Jinx, the first in the series, is available as an eBook for only $.99 from April 21 through April 27 at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4.