A Crime of Poison

December 2017

The Silver Six are known for their arts and crafts—but they’re about to be tested in the art of catching a crafty killer.

It's early October, time for the Fall Folk Art Festival and Bake Sale in Lilyvale, Arkansas. Leslee Stanton Nix, known as "Nixy," is in charge of making the event run smoothly. The festival will benefit the Handcraft Emporium, the store Nixy manages with her aunt and her five sassy housemates, collectively known as the Silver Six. Delicious baked goods, beautiful crafts, and time with friends—Nixy is confident that the festival will be a success.

But things become knotty when local troublemaker Cornell Lewis is found dead with a plate of Snickerdoodles from the bake sale. Two members of the Silver Six are accused of cooking up a murder plot, but Nixy knows that the cookies weren’t literally to die for. With time running out, Nixy and company must catch the actual killer... before the Silver Six find their number permanently reduced to four.

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The critters and I were fed and out the door by six forty-​five for our morning jaunt. We walked up Fairview, one of our customary routes, but instead of crossing at Troost to loop back, we went another three blocks to cross at Moccasin, and then turned left on McKinley headed for home. Amber sniffed everything in sight. The grass, the sidewalk, the gutter, the dirt, every tree, even the air. Nothing escaped her notice. T.C. batted at and pounced on bugs, a fallen leaf, a rock. Entertaining as they were to watch, the start-​stop pace sure wasn’t giving me aerobic exercise.

On McKinley I noticed an older-​model sedan parked whopperjawed midblock under one of two oak trees. The front angled into the curb while the back stuck out into the street. Not enough to impede traffic, but nowhere near parallel to the curb. The paint might’ve been a cream color at one time, but now the car had more rust spots than not.

Amber and T.C. lifted their heads and sniffed as we approached. The closer we got, the more my critters fidgeted, whining and meowing, all the while testing the air for scents. When we pulled even with the passenger door, they sat at the edge of the sidewalk. Amber bayed her odd barkaroo, and T.C. screeched a reeoow. All the windows were open a few inches, the back windows more so. They weren’t tinted, and I noticed a man in the passenger seat. He looked to be asleep, his head tilted back, resting partly on the window, partly on the headrest.

I tugged gently on the leashes, planning to walk away, but my pets refused to budge. They gave me the big eyes and pitiful whimpers as if to say, Aren’t you going to do something?

I sighed and carefully stepped nearer to the car window for a closer look inside. I didn’t want to touch anything, but now I saw the man clearly.

A white floppy hat sat off-​center over thin graying hair. Bruises colored his face. A split lip. White shirt smudged with dirt and blood droplets, and something else.

In spite of the cool morning, I suddenly felt clammy, and my knees shook. I swallowed and bent lower to see his eyes, then clamped my free hand over my nose and mouth as a foul, sour smell seeped from the window. The man wasn’t sleeping; not unless he slept with his eyes open and fixed on something he could no longer see.

Sure enough, Cornell Lewis was dead.






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