Eaves of Destruction
Chapter 1 continued
Because we were also rebuilding the short wall in front of Emily’s home where some erosion had occurred during the rains, I had gone to the building-inspection office to apply for a permit to do the concrete work. The last thing I wanted was a job slowdown due to inspection issues, especially with the tour coming up so quickly.
While I was at the inspection office, I had also applied for a permit to renovate my friend Jane’s garage starting next month. She wanted to turn the old structure into three new suites for the Hennessey Inn and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I had helped her refurbish her grandmother’s Victorian mansion a few years ago and it was now considered one of the most elegant places to stay when traveling along the Northern California coast.
My company had several other jobs around town that Wade, Carla, and I were taking turns supervising. We were super busy and that made me very happy. Well, except for the unpleasant prospect of having to work with cranky-pants Petsy Jorgensen next week. But I could handle it. And once we got through that job, we would all be able to rest easier.
It was the following Monday afternoon and I had just called it a day at the Spaulding house. I had started to pack up my tool chest, ready to head for home, but had run into a snag while rearranging my screwdrivers.
That was the moment when Wade approached.
“Look at this,” I said, holding up my claw hammer. “Why can’t I get this to fit? It squeezed in here just fine earlier today, but now I’ve got to move all these screwdrivers around to make room.”
“It’s a question for the ages,” he said, leaning one shoulder against the wall. “Listen, I’ve got news. I think I might’ve found us a carpenter.”
I stared up at him. “Are you serious?”
I stood and rested my fists on my hips. “A good one? Not just a hammer-and-nails guy, but someone with actual artistic ability?”
He smiled. “Yes.”
It was almost too much to hope for. “Do you know him?”
He grinned. “It’s a woman.”
“Really?” I blinked in surprise. Sadly, there just weren’t that many women working in construction.
“Yeah, really. Rumor has it, she’s at least as good as you.”
I laughed at his teasing tone. “No way. Who is it?”
“Do you know Bob Clemons?”
“The brick guy? Sure.” But he’s a brick guy, not a carpenter, I thought as I unbuckled my tool belt.
“I ran into him up at the hardware store and mentioned that we’re looking for a highly skilled carpenter. He recommended a gal he’s been working with over in Flanders. She’s supposed to be fantastic. A real artist, he says.”
I lifted my tool chest and walked with him out to the street. “Could we get that lucky?”
“Why not?” He shrugged. “Bob swears she’s amazing. What do you think?”
“I think I’d like to see some of her work. What’s her name?”
“I wrote it down.” Wade glanced at a piece of scrap paper. “Amanda Walsh.”
I thought for a moment. “I don’t think I know her.”
“According to Bob, she just moved to the area a few months ago. He gave me her number. Do you want me to call her?”
With all the jobs we were picking up in preparation for the town’s annual Victorian Home and Garden Tour, I had already hired some extra crew. I wanted experienced workers, though, so I was being picky. It was one of those good problems to have.
“Do you trust Bob?” I asked.
“He wouldn’t lie to me about this.”
I nodded slowly. “In that case, I wonder if Amanda can start tomorrow.”
Wade grinned. “I’ll give her a call and see if she’s available. Unless you want to make the call.”
I checked my watch. “I’ve got to meet my dad in fifteen minutes.” I hefted my tool chest into the back of my truck. “Why don’t you call and ask if she’s interested in the job? And if she says yes, then find out when she’s available to start. We’ll give her a try on one job and if she works out . . .” I held up my crossed fingers.
“If she works out, this Amanda Walsh could really make all of our lives easier.” He started to walk away, but then turned back. “Will we see you at the pub later?”
“Definitely.” My crew and I had a standing reservation once a week at the pub on Main Street for dinner and shooting the breeze. They were a good group of guys, but after going through some scary moments recently, I’d made it my goal to check up on them and make sure things were going well in their lives. The casual pub atmosphere made for easy talking—and it didn’t hurt that I picked up the tab.
And that gave me an idea.
“Hey, Wade, why don’t you ask Amanda if she’d like to meet us at the pub tonight? We can make sure we all get along before bringing her onto the jobsite.”
He chuckled as he shook his head. “Talk about a trial by fire.”
I smiled. “We’ll see if she can stand the heat.”
“You’re tough, boss.”
I blinked at him, slapped my palm dramatically to the center of my chest, and said innocently, “What? I’m a pussycat.”
“Yeah, right.” He laughed. “See you later.”
“What do you think? Isn’t she a honey?”
“She’s a beauty, Dad. But are you sure you want to buy a boat? It’s a lot of work, isn’t it?”
“I’m not afraid of a little work.”
No, but I am, I thought. Ever since his heart attack, I lived in fear that my father would overextend himself and end up in the hospital again. I knew the doctors had said he was fine. And Dad was continually reminding me that he was the parent here and perfectly healthy to boot. But no way did I want to relive rushing to his bedside in that cold, sterile hospital setting.
Still, did it matter that he was alive if my hovering kept him from living?
We stood on the dock of the marina, admiring the shiny blue hull and the clean white trim. The boat really was a beauty. It slept three people comfortably, plus a few more out on the deck on a warm night. It had a fully equipped galley and a remarkably large bathroom—or head, as Dad called it. I could picture my father and Uncle Pete and the rest of their pals having a grand old time on this floating man cave.
“And working on a boat isn’t like work at all,” Dad insisted. “It’s a labor of love.”
I knew that wasn’t exactly true, but there was no way I was going to rain on his parade. “Is Uncle Pete going in on it with you?”
He shot me a sly smile. “He’s got a little invested in the project.”
“I hope so. You guys are lifelong fishing buddies. He would want in on a deal like this.”
“You know it. But Pete’s not going to live on the boat like I am so he’s only going in for thirty percent.”
“Sounds reasonable.” But then I played back what he said. “Wait. I didn’t realize you were going to live on the boat. Are you giving up the RV?”
“No way,” he said with a wink. “That’ll always be my original man cave.”
“Pretty deluxe for a man cave.” Dad had originally bought the luxury RV with the idea of traveling the back roads across America. Once on the road, he quickly realized that while he loved spending time in the RV, he didn’t enjoy traveling all by himself. So he came home, turned the family home over to me, and moved into the RV instead. When Dad wasn’t using it to go fishing with Uncle Pete, the RV was parked in my driveway, which was fine with me.
“Yeah.” He turned and gazed longingly at the sleek, thirty-seven-foot cabin cruiser. “But this baby opens up a whole new world. Heck, I could catch my own dinner every day.”
I gave him a hug. “As long as you’re happy, I’m happy.”
He wrapped his arms around me. “I love you, sweetheart.”
I drove home to change clothes and feed my critters. Pushing open the back gate, I glanced up at the apartment over my garage and worried for a few seconds that there were no lights on—until I remembered nobody lived there anymore.
MacKintyre Sullivan, the well-known mystery author, had lived upstairs for over six months while my crew and I refurbished the old lighthouse mansion. He had just moved a week ago and even though his new home was only three miles up the coast, I missed him.
Sighing, I climbed the steps and opened the kitchen door—and was instantly greeted by an adorable, barking Westie and a fluffy, striped orange cat who wrapped herself around my ankles. “Hello, my darlings.”
I set my tote bag and purse down on the kitchen table and picked up Tiger for a quick cuddle. The cat purred loudly and I relished the warmth of her soft fur against my cheek.
“Woof!” Robbie protested, as if to say, What am I, chopped liver?
With a laugh, I set Tiger down and lifted Robbie up to give him a hug. “I love you guys.”
A minute later I was cleaning and refilling their water bowls. Then I filled their food bowls and placed them on their individual mats.
My cell phone rang and I checked to see who was calling. It was Mac Sullivan so I quickly answered. “Hi, Mac.”
“Hey, Irish. I’m going stir-crazy. Do you want to save my life and grab a bite to eat with me?”
I smiled. Mac wrote the Jake Slater thrillers and was in the throes of finishing his latest adventure.
“I would love to,” I said. “But since today is Monday, would you mind if we went to the pub?”
“Oh, right, you’ve got dinner with the guys tonight. Guess I lost track of the days.”
“That’s understandable.” I’d seen for myself that when the man was on a tight deadline, he often forgot to eat. Or shave. Or sleep. It wasn’t pretty.
“But yeah,” he said, “I’d love to join you. How about if I pick you up at six thirty?”
“Sounds perfect. I’ll be ready.”
“Can’t wait to see you.”
“Me, too,” I said, then ventured to ask, “Is the book going well?”
“I’ve got two more chapters.”
“Wow, you’re writing this one fast.”
“I’m motivated. I want to have it finished before the Home and Garden Tour starts.”
“Then why are you still on the phone talking to me?” I teased.
He chuckled. “I’ll see you in an hour.”
We hung up and I ran upstairs to take a quick shower and do something with my hair.
This year the town council had voted to make Mac the official celebrity judge of the fifteenth annual Home and Garden Tour. I was pretty sure Mac considered it a greater honor than any writing award he’d ever won. Personally, I thought it was because writers were inherently nosy, and as a judge, he would be invited to poke his nose into everyone’s house and wander around their gardens without anyone questioning why he was there. Mac would love that. As far as “judging” duties went, basically he would be helping to count the ballots and announcing the winner. The actual voting was done by all of the people taking the tour.
While I was getting dressed, my cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number but answered anyway. “Hello?”
“Is this Shannon?” a woman asked.
“Yes, it is.”
“This is Joan Derry. I live over on Cranberry Circle.”
I was pleasantly surprised. She lived in the house with the beautiful and authentic orangery.
“Oh, hello, Mrs. Derry. Your house is beautiful.”
“Thank you, and please call me Joan,” she said. “I spoke with my neighbor Petsy Jorgensen a few minutes ago and found out that your company is installing her orangery.”
“Yes. I understand she was so enthralled with yours that she wanted one for her very own.”
“Enthralled is one way to put it,” she said wryly, and chuckled. “Anyway, I was wondering, since you’ll be in the neighborhood tomorrow, if I could beg you to run over and take a look at our basement. I’m scared to death we might be dealing with dry rot down there.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that.” I did a mental check of my schedule. “I’ll be happy to stop by in the morning. Is seven o’clock too early for you? If that doesn’t work I can make it around ten a.m.”
“I’m an early riser so seven is perfect. Thank you so much. You’re a lifesaver.”
I smiled into the phone. After dealing with Petsy Jorgensen, it was nice to talk to an appreciative client. “No problem. See you then.”
A half hour later the doorbell rang. I opened the door and Mac stepped inside and pulled me into his arms. “Hi.”
“Hi.” I held on to him a few seconds longer than usual since I hadn’t seen him in almost a week. “Do you think you’ll get the book finished in time?”
He leaned back to look at me. “That’s the plan, but don’t jinx it.”
“You’re forgiven,” he said, rubbing my shoulders. “Seriously, though, I would hate to have to turn down my first chance to be a celebrity judge of such a prestigious event.”
“That would be horrible.” I rested my head against his chest. “But don’t worry. You’re going to be the best celebrity judge our town’s ever had.”
“Pretty sure I’m the first celebrity judge the town’s ever had.”
I thought for a moment. “You’re probably right.”
Since the pub was only two blocks away, we decided to walk. It was staying light later in the day and kids were still outside playing basketball, the rhythmic thump of the ball sounding like the heartbeat of the block. With summer coming, the tourists would start streaming into town soon. There would be more noise, more traffic, more people, and just when it was all starting to make me a little grumpy, fall would arrive and sanity would return to the Cove.
As we walked, I told Mac about the run-in with Petsy Jorgensen.
“She sounds like a character. I can kill her in a book for you if you’d like.”
I laughed, but it wasn’t such a terrible idea.
“What sort of work are you doing for her?” he asked.
“We’re redoing the wainscoting in her dining room because it’s rotting. And we’re building an orangery for her.”
“An orangery? You mean, like a sunroom?”
“Oh, never say that word,” I said, laughing. “She insists that we call it an orangery. Or I suppose you could get away with calling it a conservatory.”
“Doesn’t it? Her neighbors the Derrys have a real one, built back in the eighteen hundreds. And it’s gorgeous.”
“So she’s trying to keep up with the Joneses.”
“Exactly. But you see, last year the Derry house won the grand prize. So Mrs. Jorgensen has decided that if she only had new wainscoting and a beautiful orangery, she could be the big winner this year.”
Mac laughed and tucked my arm through his. “Do people honestly plot and plan that way? Why not just plant a pretty garden and maybe paint a room or two?”
I frowned as I thought about how some of my friends and neighbors had turned into cutthroat competitors over the last few years. “It’s because of the prizes.”
“I guess having your house featured on the cover of Northern Home magazine would be pretty awesome.”
“And don’t forget the ten thousand dollars that goes along with it.”
“Oh yeah,” he said, nodding sagely. “People would kill for a lot less than that.”