An excerpt from Poisoned Petals, the third book in the Peggy Lee Garden Mystery Series.
Berkley Prime Crime
ISBN13 - 978-0-425-21581-4
Release Date: May 2007
Peggy tried to honk the horn to see if Darmus was home. It didn’t make a sound. For some reason, she was having trouble getting it to work. She got out of the truck slowly, stretching out the kink in her back as she did.
Darmus had crippling arthritis in his hands and feet. She didn’t know how he got so much accomplished and never complained about being in pain. She knew there were times he had to suffer with it. He’d actually had to quit teaching for a while because it was so debilitating. Then he found some wonder herb that allowed him to go back. It was the happiest day of his life.
She brushed her hand over some young Bracken ferns starting to sprout in a shady spot beneath a flowering plum tree. No doubt someone would have them in their salad soon. They were edible while they were young fiddleheads, but only ornamental when they got larger. The pink plum flowers seemed to float above her head as she looked through their open branches at the clear blue sky.
It had been a perfect day to collect the sunflowers. The area needed rain badly but she was glad it held off for another day. When it started raining, the ditch where the sunflowers were growing was going to be even more of a muddy mess, swimming with young snakes and turtles. The turtles she could get along with. It was the snakes she wasn’t crazy about. She knew they had their place but they gave her the shivers.
Once when she was a child on her family’s farm outside Charleston, she’d pulled down a big piece of moss hanging from a live oak to give her mother as a present. She found a cottonmouth curled up in it. The snake hissed at her. She dropped it and ran back to the house. She was lucky it didn’t bite her. But she never forgot how scared she was that day, looking so closely into its eyes.
It made her shiver just thinking about it. Her hands were cold when she knocked on Darmus’ front door.
There was a peculiar smell coming from the house. She thought it was something cooking at first. Whatever it was, she didn’t want to taste it! Darmus had a habit of making all kinds of strange foods he liked to share with his unsuspecting guests. She decided to plead exhaustion if he wanted her to stay. She was filthy and tired. She couldn’t possibly—
Then Peggy realized she wasn’t smelling food. It was natural gas or propane. The scent was very strong standing in front of the door. She tried the handle, but it was locked. “Darmus!” She pounded on the door then moved to the window to try to see inside. “Darmus!”