Body between the Stacks: First Chapter

Amorette Anderson

Here's a sneak peak at my latest paranormal cozy mystery, Body between the Stacks: Gemini Sister Sleuths (Book #2). I loved writing this book because the crime occurs in a library. As a fan of all things book related, I adore spending time in libraries. In writing this story I had the pleasure of hanging out in the fictional Silver Ridge Library, where a body turned up—you guessed it—between the stacks.

GSS2 stacks image 1 Body between the Stacks: First Chapter

Chapter One 

Maginty Gemini Aster placed her hands on her hips as she surveyed her twin sister Belinda’s kitchen. “I don’t come over for a week and this is what happens?” 

There were coffee grounds sprinkled on the countertop near the pot, an overfilled trash can, and a sink full of dishes. 

She ignored all this. Priorities. In situations like this Maggie had found that the most important thing was to get to a window and open it. 

As she crossed the small apartment’s sitting area she added, “Come on, Belinda. We’re grown adults for goodness sake. You don’t have to live like some clueless college guy. I know you’ve been preoccupied lately with that paper Tomasso sent you, but you could at least take care of some of the basics.” 

Belinda muttered something. 

Maggie didn’t have to look that way to know sister’s nose was still buried in her reading material. She’d barely looked up since Maggie had arrived. 

This will get her attention, Maggie thought, as she yanked on a string and the cheap slatted blinds rattled upward. 

Bright September sunlight flooded in.

“Hey! What did you do that for?” Belinda scowled as she removed her wire rimmed glasses and then rubbed her eyes. She wrinkled her nose and squinted in the blindingly bright light. “I’m working here. This is a research paper on quantum gravity.” 

“Put those papers down, will you? It’s time to go outside and get some fresh air. We’re going for a walk.” 

Belinda continued frowning. Her short, dark hair, sprinkled with silver in a few spots, stood up on all ends. She finished rubbing her eyes and put her glasses back on. “No thanks. You know, you could call before stopping by to see if it’s a good time.” 

“Belinda… I’m not asking you. I’m telling you. We’re going for a walk.” Maggie bustled over to the couch and pulled the blanket off her sister’s lap. As she suspected, Belinda wore sweatpants and a sweatshirt, both wrinkled and dotted here and there with coffee spills and buttery smudges. “Go take a shower, get dressed, and meet me back here. I have to tidy this place up.” 

Carrying a stack of crumb-strewn plates to the sink she added, “You’ve got to get out of this apartment. When was the last time you got some exercise?” 

“I don't have time for exercise lately. This new research is absolutely fascinating and I’m busy studying it. It’s going to revolutionize physics as we know it.” Belinda looked stiff as she headed for her bedroom. “What day is it, anyway?” 

“Wednesday, September seventh. Charlotte started the eighth grade a week ago and she’s loving her classes so far. Not that you’ve asked.” 

“And what time is it? You always come over so early.” 

Maggie groaned. She knew her sister tended to forget all else when immersed in research or a compelling problem of some sort, but this week had been a real doozy. It wouldn’t be so upsetting except for the fact that Belinda had been doing so well lately—coming out of her shell, it seemed to Maggie. Actually thinking of others on a regular basis; even showing kindness and courtesy. But this week, she’d slipped back to her old ways. 

“It’s not early at all,” Maggie snapped. “It’s 9:05. No, wait, 9:06 now.” She swatted a dishcloth in her sister’s direction. “Go, go! I don’t have all day. I have a million and one things to do. Shower up. You look like you’ve just survived some kind of apocalyptic event in those clothes. Put something decent on, will you? What about those new jeans I brought over the other day? They were cute.” 

Belinda muttered something about how she was sure no one hassled Albert Einstein about putting on cute jeans while he was working on his theory of relativity. As she reached her bedroom she added, “This latest research is a real breakthrough, Maggie, yet hardly anyone understands it. It seems that on the quantum level, time and space are not fundamental units—which is no small matter, pardon the pun. Don’t you understand how important this is?” 

“Not really, to be honest with you.” Maggie finished stacking the dishwasher and flicked it on. “But what I do understand is that you’re looking pale as a ghost and you need sunshine. Vitamin D. Go!” She checked her watch for what felt like the hundredth time and adjusted her hopes for the distance they would cover on their walk, given how long it was taking to simply drag her sister out of the house. 

Over the next fifteen minutes she whipped the entire apartment into shape. She scrubbed the counters, stocked the fridge with a few essentials she’d brought over (including a half-dozen of her meal replacement muffins in Belinda’s favorite flavors), swept the kitchen floor, cleaned the coffee table, and even dusted the blinds. With all the windows wide open, sunlight and fresh air removed the staleness that had gathered. 

Belinda emerged from the bedroom dressed in clean khakis and a sweater, her hair damp and still mussed up from her shower. She looked around in surprise and satisfaction, and then grabbed a muffin from the fridge. “Thanks.” She peeled back the wrapper and took a big bite. “I can’t remember the last time I ate.” 

Outside, they crossed the apartment complex parking lot beneath a blazing blue sky, and stepped onto the Silver Ridge bike path. The wide stretch of pavement followed a river. Trees on either side provided a canopy of green and butter-yellow aspen leaves. Maggie had always relished fall in the mountains of Colorado. On crisp, sunny days like this her mountain town felt practically perfect. 

As Maggie eyed the dappled sunlight on the pavement before her, she used her thumb to feel the band of the silver ring she wore on her right index finger. It had been a gift from her grandmother on her fortieth birthday, five months prior, and it was very valuable due to its sentimental—and magical—qualities. The gesture had become a habit and it reassured her that the ring was right where it was supposed to be. 

At the touch of the cool silver, she considered the family lineage that she’d been informed of on the night she inherited the ring: witchcraft. Apparently, every other generation of Aster women had magical abilities, Maggie and her twin sister included. 

Maggie cast a sideways glance toward her sister’s hands, and saw that, as was usually the case over the past five months, Belinda was not wearing her matching ring. 

She was about to ask about this when Belinda spoke in a murmur, as if mumbling to herself. “Yes, yes. He just has to make a few adjustments to the magnetic field strengths for the equations to work.”  

“Who does?” 

Belinda looked up as if startled that she was not alone. She blinked a few times and adjusted her glasses. “Tomasso, of course. Tomasso Russo, my astrophysicist friend. I told you he sent me his latest research, right? It’s very good. But I’ve discovered that one of his equations could be written in a much simpler way. If he used my model of the infrared cooling in space relative to the—” 

“I remember Tomasso. You still have a crush on him, don’t you?” Maggie interjected with a smile. “Even though he moved away.”

“Excuse me?” 

“You liked Tomasso. A lot.” 

“I’m talking about his work in theoretical physics, Maggie. And my math equations that have to do with infrared activity in space, which I’ve been working on for years.” 

All this meant little to Maggie. She continued grinning. “He’s handsome, that Tomasso. In a kind of bookish way… Nice face. At least he was back when he was staying in Silver Ridge. Remind me… Where’s he living these days?” 

“Rome, Italy. He’s a professor of physics at the Rome Institute of Aerospace Technology.” 

“I’m sure you miss him. You two got along so well when he was here. What was that, a couple years ago?” 

“Two years.” 

“But you’ve kept in touch.” 

“We keep each other informed of interesting developments in scientific thought. Research papers and that sort of thing.” 

“Hot stuff,” Maggie kidded. “Yeah, he was handsome alright, but I remember wishing  he wouldn’t wear turtlenecks or those tweed jackets of his. If you ask me, that look doesn’t work on anyone.” Her phone rang before she could voice any more thoughts on Tomasso’s lack of style. 

It was a client. “Maggie’s Meal Replacement Muffins, this is Maggie… Hi, Brianna. Yes, I plan to be over at 11:00 today. I’m just out on a walk with my sister… Sure, I can do that. I’ll deliver to another customer first and then get to you after that. Sound good?” 

By the time she got off the phone she realized she’d walked quite a ways while on the phone, and Belinda was no longer at her side. Nor was she anywhere on the path behind her, which had just curved around a sharp corner. 

Maggie waited impatiently for her slowpoke sister to catch up. When Belinda didn’t appear around the bend, Maggie retraced her steps only to find Belinda stopped in her tracks and gawking at something happening off to the side, in the direction of the plaza that contained the public library, police station, and town hall. 

Maggie beckoned. “Come on! What are you doing?” 

“There’s something going on at the library.” 

“What is it, a kid’s story hour or something? I seriously don’t have much time for this walk and I want us to get at least a mile in.” 

“No, not a story hour. Maggie, I think something happened. Something bad.” 

GSS2 graphic 1 Body between the Stacks: First Chapter

Maggie joined her sister and caught sight of two police cruisers parked in front of the glass double doors that led into the Silver Ridge Library. Both had their lights on. Behind them there were two more vehicles: a white SUV that read “Silver Ridge Fire Department Battalion Chief”, and a black SUV that had the Colorado State Patrol logo plastered on the sides. In the distance sirens wailed, meaning that one or more cruisers were on the way, and possibly an ambulance as well. 

Before Maggie could protest, Belinda headed for the plaza parking lot. 

Curious about what was going on, Maggie followed. 

About a dozen people milled around on the sidewalk near the library entrance, eyeing the double doors and the two officers positioned just outside of them. 

A thin, pale young woman dressed all in black perched on a picnic table, busily typing on her phone.

Belinda headed toward her. “That’s Avril,” she said. “One of the staff. She’ll know what’s going on.” 

When they reached Avril, the young woman looked up. She seemed to recognize Belinda, and the two greeted one another. 

With that done, Belinda got right to the point. “Why are the police here?” 

Avril’s eyes widened. “It’s because I called them. About Evan.” Her chin trembled. 

Maggie realized that Avril wasn’t just pale in the way Belinda was—a washed out, too-much-time-on-the-couch sort of look. Instead, Avril’s pallor was more severe, and there were splotches of red near her eyes as if she’d cried recently. 

She’s upset and possibly in shock, Maggie realized. She pulled out a package of Kleenex from her purse just in time: a tear spilled over Avril’s lower lid and down her cheek, carrying black mascara and eyeliner with it. 

Avril accepted the tissue and used it to furiously swipe at the stain. “Sorry. I’m trying to get my mom to come pick me up. I’ve never seen anything like that. What a morning. Sheesh.” She squished the tissue in her palm. Her phone beeped. “That’s her. She can come get me. I can’t even think about riding my bike. I can’t stop shaking; I don't think I could steer.” She glanced over at the library entrance, swiped her long, black bangs from her face. 

“Who is Evan?” Maggie asked. “And is he okay?” 

Belinda bit her lip. “Evan’s part of the library staff. He works Monday through Thursday.” 

“He used to,” Avril said. “Not anymore. He’s dead… and based on the knife I saw sticking out of his chest, I’m pretty sure he was murdered.”

Read on...

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peak! To read more, pick up Body between the Stacks today. I'd love to hear from you. Do you visit your local library? What do you like about it? Drop a comment below. Where I live now, the library is clean and quiet. I am grateful that the librarians can help me track down books that I'm interested in. I also love that I've never stumbled upon a dead body between the fiction shelves 😉

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