Saturday, December 3, 2016

Kiki Lowenstein and the Missing Gift, Part III

By Joanna Campbell Slan

Read Kiki Lowenstein and the Missing Gift, Part I here

Read Kiki Lowenstein and the Missing Gift, Part II here—

Author's Note: Something is wrong with Margit. She parked her car at a crooked angle in the parking lot of Time in a Bottle, Kiki’s store, and that’s not like at Margit at all. The older woman is a stickler for having everything just right. Clancy and Laurel confirm they’ve seen signs Margit is losing her hearing and her sight. Is this a manifestation of stress? Margit’s mother is in a care facility designed to cope with her Alzheimer’s. And if it is due to the stress in Margit’s life, what—if anything—can Kiki do about it?

“Did you ask her what’s wrong?” My husband Detective Chad Detweiler’s voice was muffled as he nuzzled my neck. I rolled over and faced him in our big bed. The kids were asleep, the nanny had retired for the night, and finally we had time to catch each other up on our days.

“I wanted to, but the store got so busy so fast.”

“That’s good, right?” He kissed the tip of my nose. “You’re making money. It’s the holiday season. I don’t know much about retail, but I’ve always heard that’s why they call it ‘Black Friday.’ Stores are finally in the black, making a profit because of Christmas.”

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“Yes, but I am really worried about Margit. When Laurel, Clancy, and I walked in, she was on all fours. Somehow she’d dumped everything off one of the shelves in the back. Stuff was all over the floor.”

“Hey, babe. You sell paper. It’s not like your merchandise can break.”

“No,” I said with a sigh. “But that particular shelf was designated as the place I’ve been hiding the kids’ Christmas gifts. I caught Anya and Erik snooping in our closet, so I moved all their presents onto that shelf in the back room of my store. It’s right next to Margit’s desk. They would never dare look there, because she’s such a grouch about her territory.”

Detweiler hugged me. I buried my face in his shoulder and inhaled the fresh scent of his cologne. 

“Look,” he said. “Make a date with her. Take her to lunch. Be kind but direct. Ask her what gives.”

“Yup.” I closed my eyes. That had been my plan all along, but it was nice to hear him agree with it.


Clancy blocked the back door of Time in a Bottle, my scrapbook and craft store. “I am going with you.”

“No.” I tried to slip past her, but she wouldn’t budge. “It’s better for me to go alone. I don’t want to make a big deal of out this. If Margit is having problems, her pride will keep her quiet. I’ll have a real time of it, trying to pry the truth out of her. If you’re there, she’ll really clam up.”

“If I’m not there, you won’t have the nerve to confront her.” Clancy’s eyes flashed with irritation. In her beige cashmere turtleneck and brown faux suede pants, she was dressed for a nice lunch out with the girls. A necklace of heavy gold links set off her auburn hair.

I looked the part, too. I’d put on a pair of black pants and a white blouse, topped with an evergreen cardigan. On my collar,I’d pinned a candy cane pin that Erik had made for me out of bread dough clay.

Laurel stuck her head into the back room. “Ladies, quit fighting and get going. If you’re late meeting Margit, she’ll be in a rip-roaring bad mood. You know how upset she gets when people don’t show up on time. I’ve got the store covered. Now, shoo!”


Margit had already gotten us a table at Canyon Cafe. As Clancy and I approached, she checked her Timex watch. Fortunately, we were right on time. Unfortunately, she’d only expected me. That meant she had to signal the waiter and ask for another place settings. Although she tried to look pleased to see Clancy, a prissy pout of her lips suggested she was not happy that plans had changed.

Sometimes Margit could be a real pain in the backside. She and Clancy were both inflexible but in different ways. Clancy prided herself on self-discipline. She didn’t care too much about other people’s bad habits, as long as they didn’t impinge on her organized world. Margit wanted to control everything and everyone, everywhere. She was confident she knew best.

After the server brought the chips and salsa, we placed our orders. Margit wanted the South Texas Tortilla Soup, I had the Chicken Quesadilla, and Clancy got the Orange-Glazed Tilapia Salad.  I also ordered a glass of ice tea, Clancy wanted a Diet Coke, and Margit a cup of coffee.

I had billed this as a management meeting when I approached Margit.  Therefore, I started the conversation by talking about how our sales were going. After our food arrived, I switched subjects. “Margit, I’ve noticed you aren’t yourself lately.”

Peering at me through her cat-eye glasses, she said, “Who else would I be?”

The question took me totally by surprise. I chewed the air and struggled for a response. But Clancy, bless her heart, was ready, willing, and able to jump into the fray.

“We don’t know who you are, but you sure aren’t Margit Eichen! What the heck is going on?”

To be continued....

I'll post Part IV next week, here. Please stick around to see what happens--it'll be a surprise to me, too!

Don't miss this special pricing! My newest book--Love, Die, Neighbor: The Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series Prequel-- is available now for pre-ordering at a special price of only 99 cents. Reserve your copy today by going HERE, or copying and pasting this address:


Tricia Conner said...

Aghhh! What a cliffhanger!

Joanna Slan said...

That's my job, ma'am!

MyHappyPlace said...

I love these stories you put out for us!! Be kind to Margit, it is the holidays 😊

Billie Jackson said...

You are going to send my anxiety into overdrive but I am loving it!!! Thank you!!

Joanna Slan said...

Dear MyHappyPlace, so funny you'd say this. I had to promise a reader that Gracie, the Great Dane, would never ever die. I guess characters need to live forever, right?

Joanna Slan said...

Billie, trust me. Just trust me.