Gently Used, Still Works
Psychic Consignment Mystery Book 2
Are the Concordia sisters about to get burned?
Running One Woman’s Junk consignment shop, with its constant stream of quirky characters stopping in, is a lot for Winnie and her sisters Bea and Amanda to contend with. So is dealing with each other.
Are their psychic powers a curse or a gift?
Wrestling with the psychic compulsion to sketch people and things she’s never even seen, Winnie goes head-to-head with the fire inspector who wants to shut down the store. And that’s before she stumbles into an arson case and finds herself cozying up to a hot neighbor who leads a secret life of his own.
Will Winnie and her sisters discover who killed their beloved godmother, or will their new life go up in flames?
“Letty wasn’t a thief,” Beatrice, the youngest of the three Concordia sisters insisted, staring at a hollowed-out cookbook that contained a wad of cash. The way she was pouting, sticking out her lower lip, she looked more like a three-year-old than a woman of thirty.
“Nobody said she was,” Amanda, the oldest of the sisters, soothed while simultaneously glaring at their middle sister for daring to upset the baby of the family.
Winnie shrugged. At thirty-five, she was unwilling to be cowed by Amanda’s wrath or swayed by Bea’s unshakeable faith in their recently deceased godmother. “The money had to come from somewhere.”
“We have more important things to worry about than that.” Amanda snapped the book shut, pressing down on the cover like she wanted to punish it for the secret it held. “Like who killed Letty.”
The three sisters looked from one to the other for a long moment, Amanda’s declaration hanging in the air, a specter of death. Bea looked stricken, Amanda appeared determined, and Winnie? Winnie felt overwhelmed. She was in the business of advertising, not investigating, and quite frankly, the constant company of her sisters was wearing her out.
Not that she dared to say any of that. She chose to utter much safer words. “We need to open the store. I’ll put this upstairs.”
Amanda scowled but handed over the book.
Winnie snatched it up and climbed the flight of steps to the apartment above the One Woman’s Junk Consignment Shop. The scruffy brown rescue mutt, Nutmeg, followed, practically colliding with her heels. She wished she’d never found the hidden money. She shoved the cookbook back into its camouflaged-in-plain-sight hiding spot in the kitchen and listened as her sisters below moved about the store, preparing to welcome in the public.
As a creative, Winnie chafed at the confines of working in the shop, but both Bea and Amanda seemed to have a real talent for it. Bea was a whiz at understanding the value of and displaying merchandise, and Amanda had an aptitude for connecting with customers.
The apartment over the shop was a long studio, with a bedroom area, a kitchenette with a bistro table and two chairs, and a living room section that featured a desk and a sleeper sofa. Amanda, being the oldest, had laid claim to the bed, but Winnie had taken over the desk.
While the space may have served their godmother well, it wasn’t really big enough for the two oldest Concordia sisters, who’d threatened to kill each other more than once when they’d shared a room as teenagers.
Winnie was glad to be in the apartment alone. She needed breathing room. Both she and Amanda were being as respectful as possible of the other’s needs, but privacy was impossible to attain in a place where the only door was to the bathroom.
Sinking into the chair at Letty’s desk, Winnie settled in to do the kind of work she was best at in this scenario, crunching numbers. Nutmeg lay at her feet, the stray seeming to have adopted her as his human for the day. She fiddled with the amethyst bracelet Letty had bequeathed her, admiring the purple stones against her skin, as she waited for the laptop to boot up. She wondered, not for the first time, how her life had turned out like this. How had she ended up living in an apartment over a storefront, running a shop with her sisters that sold used goods in Sarasota, Florida?
Fate had taken her plans for a perfect life and put them through a shredder. First, she’d lost her advertising company because she’d trusted the wrong people. Then, Letty, her godmother, the woman who’d raised Winnie and her sisters, had been taken from them.
By a killer, if one was to believe Beatrice and Amanda’s theory.
It had been easy to discount the ramblings of sisters she didn’t know that well when Beatrice had been talking about getting visions from touching objects and Amanda claimed to talk to a ghost. Winnie had thought they were both reacting badly to the shock of Letty’s passing. That, combined with the unfortunate episode of all three of them being struck by lightning on the beach while scattering their godmother’s ashes, could have explained their questionable beliefs.
On top of that, Beatrice had recently been in an accident that had left her in a wheelchair for a while, and Amanda was traumatized by a recent divorce.
It wasn’t a stretch for Winnie to ignore her sisters’ crazy theory.
But then Detective Tom Keller, who seemed to be a perfectly logical and sane human being, had started poking around and declared that Letty’s death seemed suspicious. Suddenly, there was some legitimacy to the claim that their godmother had been a victim of foul play.
The shop bell jangled below, jolting Winnie out of her dark thoughts.
A smile played at the corners of her mouth as she heard Piper, one of their store owner neighbors, ask, “Why isn’t Angus outside?”
“Because he’s too heavy to wrestle out there,” was Amanda’s terse reply.
She couldn’t make out the rest of the conversation, but she heard Bea’s distinctive laugh.
“Never underestimate the power of caffeine and carbs,” Winnie muttered to herself.
A moment later, she heard footsteps on the stairs and then a tentative knock against the wall. She turned in the direction of the sound. “Come on up, Piper.”
The perky pigtails of Piper Woodruff appeared first, making it seem like the owner of the local coffee shop had antennae sticking out of her head. “Can’t stay. I left a couple of muffins downstairs, but you’ll have to act fast if you want to get one.”
As though the dog understood what she’d said, he leapt to his feet and galloped down the stairs in search of food.
Chuckling at his antics, Piper handed Winnie a cup of steaming coffee and a manila envelope. “I found the contract you asked for.”
“Thanks,” Winnie said, placing both on the desk.
Piper was already disappearing back down the stairs, the ties of her apron flapping behind her.
“I’ll bring it back this afternoon,” Winnie called after her, but Piper was already gone.
She sipped the coffee and then slowly opened the envelope. She might not know how to get her own life back on track, or who had killed Letty, but she was determined not to let Peter Perkins, the owner of the strip mall where both their shops were located, evict Piper just so that he could sell it and earn a tidy profit from developers who wanted to put up condos.
Winnie knew that Letty would have wanted her to help her neighbors. That was the kind of woman she was; leading by example, she’d modeled kindness and generosity like they were the noblest of callings. Letty had been the sort of woman that sacrificed her life plan to raise three orphaned sisters.
The least Winnie could do was to uphold her legacy.
And maybe help solve her murder.