Under Cold Stone: A Constable Molly Smith Novel #7

Under Cold Stone: A Constable Molly Smith Novel #7

Passionate environmentalist, old-time hippy Lucky Smith and Paul Keller, Chief Constable of Trafalgar, British Columbia, are an unlikely couple. Their vacation to the Rocky Mountains is a chance to explore ...

About The Author

Vicki Delany

Having taken early retirement from her job as a systems analyst in the high-pressure financial world, Vicki Delany is settling ...

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A CAFÉ. BANFF, ALBERTA. FRIDAY MORNING.

The scent of warm baking and fresh coffee was enticing enough to have Lucky Smith willing to endure the café’s long line. She rubbed her hands against the chill and shuffled forward. Another couple of paces and she’d be through the doors at last.

Paul Keller had taken one look at the orderly crowd of tourists and locals in search of caffeine and cookies and said he’d meet up with Lucky later. He wanted to check out the sports store a few doors down the street. Lucky’s interest in fishing equipment was about the same as Paul’s interest in five-dollar, custom-made chai, so they arranged to go their own ways for the afternoon and meet back at the hotel in time to dress for dinner.

Dress for dinner. Such a quaint concept. But it did suit this vacation, their first as a couple, and the historic Banff Springs Hotel in which they were staying. Lucky was a firm believer in not spending time in your partner’s pocket. Paul took his coffee black and liked Tim Horton’s just fine—although in this town the Tim’s could have quite the line-up for coffee and donuts— and his passion was fishing. Lucky thought a chai latte one of the finest benefits of civilization, and she couldn’t imagine anything more boring than fishing—unless it was discussing the merits of various types of fishing equipment with the store clerk.

She was almost inside. She should have worn a coat, but as she’d planned to spend her day getting a start on her Christmas shopping and exploring the town, she’d thought a thick handwoven sweater would have been sufficient.

The Rocky Mountains in October. As a mountain resident herself, Lucky should have remembered how changeable the weather could be.

The person in front of her, a fashionably dressed woman pushing a chair containing a dozing toddler, made it to the doors. The chair holding the child was, Lucky thought, almost large enough to house a third-world family. When did children’s chairs become homes on wheels, anyway? When she was a young mother, more years ago than she cared to remember, Lucky had a push chair for her children that folded up into the size of an umbrella. A seat on wheels with a handle. That was all. This one had plush seating, padded sides, a folding canopy, two cup holders (for the parents, not the child). Wide enough to fit toys, drinks and snacks, and shopping bags, as well as a toddler. With an extra bag slung on the back in case of an emergency purchase. The woman wrestled her child’s mobile home over the ledge and into the shop. Lucky held the door. The young mother didn’t bother to thank her. Lucky considered saying something but bit her tongue. She was on vacation, after all.

Deep in thought about the lack of manners these days, she was almost knocked off her feet as a man shoved against her. She stumbled and fell into the door. The man attempted to force his way past Lucky, but she thrust her arm out, blocking the entrance. “There’s a line.”

He was in his thirties, tall but scrawny, with scraggy blond hair and hostile blue eyes that bored into her. Thin lips, a scab in the right bottom corner, formed the words: Fuck off, lady.

She blinked in surprise. “There’s a line up here,” she repeated, “please wait your turn.”

“Where are you from?” he snarled.

“I doubt that’s relevant.” Her heart started beating faster. She studied his eyes for any sign of current drug use. His pupils were normal sized, the whites slightly red but more perhaps from a late night than overindulgence. His eyes would be an attractive dark blue if they didn’t overflow with aggression and a sense of entitlement.

The young mother glanced over her shoulder to see what was going on, and then she dipped her head and shoved her child further into the café. Lucky couldn’t blame her. She had a child to care for.

Lucky stepped forward to stand on the threshold, blocking the entrance. The man lifted his chin and thrust his chest out. He was considerably taller than she—at five foot nothing, most people were—and loomed over her.

Bitch, he mouthed.

She broke eye contact to glance around, seeking some sup- port. The young couple immediately behind her had their arms wrapped around each other, heads close, eyes for nothing but the objects of their affection. The head of the man behind them was bent, thumbs moving rapidly as he tapped out a message on his smartphone. The line snaked down the sidewalk: Couples chatted and people listened to their iPods or sent vitally urgent messages on their own phones. The space in front of Lucky was now clear. She did not move. No point in standing her ground and risking confrontation if the rude man would then slip in behind her.

A second man, shorter but beefier, stood slightly behind the first. “What’s your problem?” he asked, his voice low, deliberately pitched not to carry. “I’d guess time of the month, but you’re too old for that.”

“Never too old,” the tall one said.

Lucky was no longer worried about being cold. Sweat ran between her shoulder blades and she could feel dampness on her forehead. She almost stepped back. Let the bullies pass. Not worth fighting over.

But that wasn’t Lucky Smith’s way. If he’d even bothered to say excuse me before pushing through, she would have let it go.

“There’s a line up,” she repeated. “You’ll be served in your turn, like everyone else.”

“Hey.” The texting man snapped his phone shut and returned to the real world. “Let’s move it. Haven’t got all day here.” He was also young, and large, and looked as though he spent a good part of his day in the gym.

The two men hesitated. Then, with another whisper of “bitch,” the taller one broke away. His friend looked at Lucky for a long time. She returned the stare.

“I’ll see you around sometime.” He leaned over, and she could smell stale beer, unwashed clothes, and far too much testosterone. He licked his fleshy lips. “Maybe there won’t be so many people around then.”

He caught up to his friend, slapped him on the back, and they disappeared into the throng wandering the street.

Lucky exhaled. Her legs wobbled. She reached out a hand and leaned against the door.

“You okay?” the young female lover asked. “Yes. I’m fine. Thank you for asking.”

“Well, in that case,” her boyfriend said, “will you keep moving?”

 

Chapter Two

TOCEK-SMITH HOME. OUTSIDE TRAFALGAR, BRITISH COLUMBA. FRIDAY AFTERNOON.

Molly Smith eyed the turkey. It did not eye her back.

It was frozen solid and had no head.

Now, what was she supposed to do with it? The Internet said the safest way to defrost a turkey was to leave it in the fridge. Unfortunately, it also said that this twenty-pound beast would take five to six days to fully defrost. She didn’t have five to six days. She had forty-eight hours.

Her mom had left her with instructions for cooking the turkey as well as recipes for her favorite side dishes and desserts. She’d said to go to the butcher to order a fresh, organic, free-range turkey. Her mom hadn’t told her to put the order in a month ahead of time, and when Smith showed up this morning—Friday—to buy one, expecting to pick it up on Saturday, she was told she was too late. All those birds who had only days ago been happily pecking in the weeds of their spacious enclosures surrounded by green fields overflowing with organic produce ripening in the sun were accounted for.

She wasn’t too disappointed. A free-range turkey was always nice, but plenty of people bought a factory-farm-raised bird from the supermarket, and they seemed good enough. Unfortunately, the supermarket in Trafalgar didn’t stock fresh turkeys, only frozen ones.

She wondered if Adam would mind having his Thanksgiving dinner on Tuesday.

He wouldn’t. He’d told her he didn’t see the point in preparing a big feast for just the two of them. But she was determined to do it right.

She’d propped her iPad on the kitchen table. Back to the Internet to search for plan B. Okay, apparently you could defrost the turkey in cold water. That method seemed to suit a cook who had nothing at all to do for an entire day as the water should be kept cold and constantly refreshed. Smith was scheduled to begin a twelve-hour shift in two hours. It might have been doable if she still had her apartment above Alphonse’s bakery on Trafalgar’s main street, to which she could slip every few hours to replace the water. But now that she was living a good half-hour outside of town, it was unlikely her shift supervisor would approve of her driving back and forth all night.

She twisted the square-cut diamond ring on her left hand. She could tell Adam that as they were going to her mom’s sister’s place in Seattle for American Thanksgiving at the end of November, she’d decided one huge turkey dinner a year was enough. Two, if you counted Christmas, and Molly’s mother, Lucy Smith, whom everyone called Lucky, always did a turkey at Christmas. A fresh, free-range, organically fed turkey.

But then what would she do with this monstrous slab of frozen beast?

Ah, what the heck. They were young and healthy. A bit of improperly defrosted turkey wouldn’t kill them. She wiped out the sink, dropped the heavy bird into it, and ran cold water.

It would be just the two of them for dinner on Sunday. Adam Tocek and Molly Smith. Their first Thanksgiving together and she wanted to cook a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Lucky had given her the family’s favorite recipes—stuffing (not dressing!), butternut squash casserole (sweet with a hint of maple syrup), mashed potatoes, gravy, roasted Brussels sprouts, and pecan pie. She eyed the pile of grocery bags spread out across the counter. Even if she did have time to defrost the turkey in the fridge, she’d have trouble finding room.

She put away the groceries and thought about her mom. Lucky and Paul Keller had gone to Banff to spend the holiday weekend at the Banff Springs Hotel. Lucky had balked at first, not wanting to be away at Thanksgiving. But it was the shoulder season in town—between the departure of summer hikers and kayakers and the arrival of skiers—so things were slow at the store, Mid-Kootenay Adventure Vacations. Besides, Lucky and Paul had never been away together, and he was anxious to treat her to a luxurious, although short, vacation.

At the beginning, Smith had been unhappy about her mom’s new relationship. Paul Keller was Chief Constable of Trafalgar. Smith’s dad, Andy, had died two years earlier and the chief was divorced, so that wasn’t the problem. It was just that her mom was, well, her mom, and Keller was her boss. But they seemed good for each other—the office staff gossiped about how nice it was now that the chief wasn’t so cranky all the time—and Lucky was happy. All of which was good enough for her daughter.

She checked the recipes one more time to make sure she hadn’t forgotten to buy something important. She was on afternoons this week, would get home at three on Sunday morning, nap for a few hours, and then get up and start cooking. Fortunately, Sunday was the start of four days off, so she didn’t have to squeeze the preparation and then the meal into between-shift time.

Adam wasn’t a bad cook—heck, he was a lot better cook than she was—but he was working all weekend and as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police dog-handler for the district, he could be called out at any time, with no notice, so she’d volunteered to do it all.

She headed upstairs to get ready for work. She showered, washed her hair and tied it into a ponytail, put on her uniform, struggled into her equipment-laden belt, went to the gun safe and retrieved her Glock. Last of all she slipped off her engagement ring and tucked it into its box in the table on her side of the bed. She never wore the diamond to work.

Back downstairs, she drained the sink and added fresh cold water. She studied her efforts—the bald white turkey looked mighty unappealing. Then, feeling like a proper fifties-era housewife, she shifted her gun belt, settled the weight of the Glock into a better place on her hip, and left for work.

Mystery Delivered Monthly

The Poisoned Pen Press Newsletter

FacebookTwitterEmail
Goodreads