April 18, 2011

The Town Gossip

by Sue Fineman

In THE MITCHELL MONEY, a Wild Rose Press release, one of the most memorable secondary characters is Mavis Bidwell, town gossip and all around pest.  Mavis lives on the edge of sanity.  Some folks in Maystown, Arizona, call her Mad Mavis.  The kids call her Mrs. Bitchwell, because she’s always complaining about something. 

Mavis has had a major crush on Gary Martinson since high school.  His wife died fifteen years ago, and she’s still hopeful, still determined to marry him someday.  But Gary would rather shoot her than marry her.  Mavis is not just in love with Gary, she thinks she owns him, like a puppy or a pair of shoes. 

Gary can’t stand her and tries to avoid her, but every time he drives his old pickup to town, there she is, fawning over him like a lovesick teenager.  No wonder he’s frustrated and surly.  Seeing Mavis nearly every day would do that to a man.

When Mavis learns Rachel is living at the ranch and cooking for Gary and his son, she’s determined to chase her off the ranch and out of Gary’s life, just as she’s chased every other woman away from him. 

Before his death, Rachel’s husband hid their money, and the only man in Maystown who can help her find it is the surly ex-cop who owns the ranch next door, the man who drives an ancient pickup and talks on his cell phone instead of paying attention to his driving.  She doesn’t want to accept Gary’s offer to trade his investigating skills for her cooking, but if she doesn’t find the money soon, she could lose her new house. 
Gary is reluctant to get involved with the rude woman who backed into his truck, but she needs his help, and he needs a cook at the ranch.  He suspects Rachel’s husband hid more than his money.  Can she handle the truth about the man she’d been married to for so many years? 

(There’s a rogue wildcat roaming the area, attacking pets and threatening small children.  Rachel is staying at the ranch with Gary and his son, Joe, until someone catches or kills the animal.  Johnny, her husband’s bastard son, is also living there.  They hear the cat yowl and know it’s nearby.)

Gary heard something brush against the door and turned to see Rachel standing there in her robe.  The nightlight in the bathroom cast enough light to see the fear in her eyes.  “Bouncer has to go out,” she said.  “Is it safe to go out front?”

“Not by yourself.”  Gary took the gun from the nightstand, checked to make sure it was loaded, and followed Rachel and Bouncer downstairs. 

Joe followed them with his rifle.  Gary stood in a dark corner of the porch, scanning the dark hills, looking for any sign of movement.  He spotted the rogue cat about a hundred yards from the house.  Joe already had a bead on it.  Gary spoke quietly.  “Wait for a clean shot, son.”

A low growl came from Rachel’s little dog.  “Hold on to him, Rachel,” Gary said.  She was less than ten feet from the porch.  The cat must be desperate to come this close.

Rachel reached down to pick up Bouncer and Joe’s first rifle shot rang out.  He fired again, and Gary flipped on the flood lights.  Rachel stood frozen, holding the dog in her arms, as Joe walked past her and out to the big cat lying near the driveway.  He fired one more shot, as Gary had taught him, to make sure the animal was dead. 

Gary walked out to Rachel and put his arm around her shoulders.  She was shaking, and so was the dog, so he pulled them close and rubbed her back.  “It’s over.”

Joe called, “Looks like he got caught in a trap and chewed part of his foot off.  It’s a mess.  That’s why he couldn’t hunt.  The guy who set the trap should be shot.” 

They’d had discussions with other ranchers in the area about setting traps.  Some said it was necessary, but Gary disagreed.  It was like setting out poison.  You never knew what you’d kill or injure, and a wounded animal was always more dangerous than a healthy one.  If they couldn’t hunt for their food, they had to find it in other ways.

Gary still had his arms around Rachel, and it felt so good he didn’t want to let go.  Johnny came outside to examine the cat, and Gary stayed right where he was, holding Rachel’s soft, warm body in his arms, with the little dog shivering between them. 

He didn’t want to stop holding her, but he needed to make a phone call, so he walked inside with Rachel and called the police station. 

Ten minutes later, an officer came out, followed by a pickup and a car.  The pickup was driven by Harvey Spinnaker, who did skinning and taxidermy.  In shooting the cat, Joe had earned the pelt, if he wanted it.  One look at the car and Gary groaned.  He stood in front of the house wearing pajama pants, slippers, and a T-shirt.  Rachel stood beside him, wearing a robe.  Great time for the town gossip to show up.

Mavis ran from her car, past the dead cat and police car, straight to Gary.  “I just heard.  Is everyone all right?”  As Mavis pawed at Gary’s arm, Rachel backed up a step or two.  He glanced at her and tried to push Mavis off him.  Rachel’s lips twitched with suppressed laughter. 

“Let’s get you inside, where it’s warm,” said Mavis.  “Why, you’re not even dressed.”

“Why are you here?” Gary asked.

“To help, of course.”

“Joe,” Gary yelled, “Mavis wants to help.”

“Okay, but there’s a lot of blood.”

Mavis put her hand on her chest as her eyes widened.  For a minute, Gary thought she might faint.  Then she caught sight of Rachel and that sharp nose went up a notch, along with one eyebrow.  She eyed Rachel as if she was something to take out with the trash, but Rachel smiled.  The smile didn’t have any warmth, but at least she was polite. 

Fighting an impulse to escape into the house and lock the door, Gary stood back and watched the two women.  Mavis extended her hand to Rachel.  “I don’t believe we’ve met.  I’m Mavis Bidwell.  Gary and I have been close friends since high school.”

Rachel took Mavis’s hand.  “Rachel Woods.  It’s nice to meet one of Gary’s old friends.”

Mavis stiffened and scanned Rachel from head to toe, and Gary knew the gossip would be flying tomorrow, if not tonight.  The way Rachel was dressed, it was obvious she was living at the ranch.  Did Mavis think he was sleeping with Rachel?  Did he care what Mavis thought?  Not if she kept it to herself, but she wouldn’t.  She never kept anything to herself. 

Ignoring Mavis, Rachel asked, “Gary, would you like me to make a pot of coffee?”

“No, Joe should be finished soon, and if I drink coffee now, I’ll be awake all night.”  He took Rachel’s arm and steered her toward the porch steps, hoping Mavis would magically disappear, but he should have known better.  She followed them onto the porch and into the house.  It was late, he was tired, and now he had to deal with Mavis.

“Go on up to bed, Gary,” said Rachel.  “I’ll take care of the boys.”

Boys?” said Mavis.

“Joe and my son, Johnny.”

Mavis cocked her head and Gary could almost hear the wheels turning.  “Your son?  I thought you had daughters.”

“And a son.  Here he comes now.”

Johnny came in wet and shivering.  “Go upstairs and get in the shower,” said Gary.  “Right now, before you freeze to death.  Is Joe about finished?”

“The cat is on the pickup and he’s talking to the cops.  Oh, there’s a car out there that needs to be moved.  The pickup can’t get around it.”

Rachel and Gary both stared at Mavis.  “Oh, yes, well, I’ll go move my car and I’ll be right back.”

“Go home, Mavis.”  Gary knew he was being rude and he didn’t care.  “It’s late and I’m too tired to play host.”

“Perhaps Mavis would like to come out for dinner one night,” said Rachel.  Her eyes sparkled and Gary could have strangled her on the spot.  

“I’ll call you, Mavis,” said Gary.  “Goodnight.”  He held the front door open. 

Slamming the door behind Mavis, he turned his anger on Rachel.  “I’ll thank you to mind your own business.”

“She’s the one, isn’t she, the one who wants to marry you?”

“Nobody in their right mind would marry that woman.”

“You’re no prize yourself.”

Unable to allow her to have the last word, Gary said, “Some women think I am.” 

He thought he heard her say, “I can’t imagine why,” but she said it so quietly he wasn’t sure he heard her correctly.  Gary clamped his jaw closed, walked upstairs, and went back to bed. 

He punched his pillow, trying to get comfortable.  Alice loved me,” he whispered to himself.  Or at least she used to, but years of grief and loneliness had changed him.  It didn’t matter if he’d make a poor husband now, because he didn’t intend to marry again.  He had a good life, and he was happy. 

Wasn’t he?

I really couldn't put it down. As a divorced woman, who kept finding out unpleasant things about her ex for a long time, I really related to the heroine in the book. Your writing was actually therapeutic. I didn't feel so alone and unique, and I while I am still working on forgiveness (because forgetting is out of the question), I am further along than I was before reading your book. Thank you so much!

The printed version of THE MITCHELL MONEY is available NOW from Amazon.com and The Wild Rose Press.
ON THE RUN and ON THE LAM are available from BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com.  If you like romantic suspense with a little humor, these books are for you.


Joyce Henderson said...

Sounds wonderful, Sue. Right up my alley for a good read. Best of luck with the book! Thanks for showcasing Sue, Anna Kathryn's work.

Joyce Henderson said...

Fiddle-faddle! I meant, Thanks for showcasing Sue's work, Anna Kathryn. :)

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for The Mitchell Money!!!! I have read Sue's books and love her work!!!!!

Vonnie Davis said...

I just read the rogue cat scene last night in bed and chuckled. Loved it. Much success, Sue!!!

Sue Palmer Fineman said...

Thanks for your comments, Joyce, Tess, and Vonnie. The Mitchell Money was the first book I wrote, and I love the characters. Gary and Rachel are thrown together out of need, not because they like each other. She needs someone to help her find the money her husband hid before he died, and he needs someone to cook for him at the ranch, so he doesn't set off any more smoke alarms.

Robin Haseltine said...

I enjoyed reading the preview for "Mitchell Money" and can't wait to read it. I've enjoyed all of Sue's work and have all her other books on my shelf. Congrats, Sue, on your releases, and thanks, Anna Kathryn for an interesting interview.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Sue, that's an interesting blurb and great excerpt. Can't wait to see the book.

Autumn Jordon said...

Sue, You have such a wit. I can't wait to read Mitchell Money.

Sue Palmer Fineman said...

Thank you, ladies. I hope you all enjoy reading about Gary and Rachel. And poor Mavis, who will never get the man she loves!

Sue Palmer Fineman said...

Anna Kathryn, thanks so much for having me on your blog today. It's been a delight!

marybelle said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the excerpt for THE MITCHELL MONEY thank you.