In Like Flynn (Molly Murphy Mysteries, #4)
This book is dedicated to my friends in the mystery community, especially to my not-so-evil twin Meg Chittenden, who has to suffer being mistaken for me, and to Lyn Hamilton, with whom I have shared touring adventures ranging from pigs to lobsters.
The mystery community is composed of warm, witty and in-credibly generous people. I consider it a privilege to be part of it.
As always my special thanks to Clare, Jane and John for taking the time and trouble to help me polish my work.
Spring? Was there any spring this year?” the man in the jaunty brown derby asked. “Oh, that’s right. I remember. It was on a Wednesday, wasn't it?”
This remark produced titters of laughter from the women standing in line at Giacomini’s Fine Foods. The speaker was the only man in the store, other than old Mr. Giacomini behind the counter. He stood head and shoulders taller than the rest of us and his presence had caused quite a stir. It was unusual to see a man in a grocer’s shop, seeing that cooking was women’s work. He was well turned out too, with a smart hounds-tooth jacket, white spats and well-polished shoes, unlike the short, round peasant types who frequented this little store in what was still mainly an Italian neighborhood just south of Washington Square. However he seemed quite happy to join in the chitchat as we waited our turn to be served.
“He’sright,” the woman ahead of me said, nodding her head. “There was only one springlike day that I remember this year. In my recollection we had howling gales until the middle of April.”
“Then overnight it got hotter than Hades,” the man finished for her.
There was general agreement to this last remark, although there was also a gasp from some of the ladies at this almost-cuss word. It had been a terrible spring, followed by a hot spell for which we were unprepared. Usually I didn't mind waiting in line in Giacomini’s cramped little store where the smell of spices and herbs stirred half-forgotten childhood memories. But today it was almost too hot to breathe and the smells were overpowering, especially when mixed with the not-so-pleasant odors of stale perspiration and garlic.
“They say there’s typhoid over on the Lower East Side,” one woman said, lowering her voice.
“You wouldn't catch me going over there, even when there’s no epidemic,” another woman muttered. “Packed in like sardines they are in those tenements. And they never wash. Serve themrightif they get sick.”
Mr. Giacomini poured sugar into a paper triangle, twisted it shut and handed it to the woman at the front of the line. “Anything else then, Signora? That will be one dollar forty-five, please.
Money exchanged hands. The stout lady loaded her purchases into her basket, then attempted to squeeze past us down the narrow center aisle. Good-natured chuckles were exchanged as close contact couldn't be avoided. As each person in turn attempted to flatten herself against the bins and shelves, I saw something I could scarcely believe. That man had reached into die open basket of the woman just behind him in line and taken her purse. My heart started racing. I wondered if I had imagined it and what I should do next. He was clearly too big and strong for any of us to tackle.
The line moved forward. The next customer made her purchases. I had to act soon or the man would reach the front of the line and be out of there before the poor woman discovered her purse was missing. I couldn't just stand there and do nothing. It went against my nature, even though similar bold and imprudent actions had landed me in hot water more than once in my life. I leaned across to the woman and tugged on her arm. She turned and stared at me in surprise.
That man just stole your purse,” I whispered.
She looked at me incredulously, then down at her basket.
“You're right. It’s gone,” she whispered back in a horrified voice. “Are you sure he took it?”
I nodded. “I saw him.”
“What should I do?” She turned to stare up at the big fellow.
“You stay where you are. 111 go and find a constable and well have him trapped like a rat.” Before she could answer, I muttered an excuse about leaving my shopping list at home, then I pushed my way out of the store and ran all the way to Washington Square. There were always policemen to be found on the south side of the square, because that was the home of New York University, and stu-dents were known to be of unpredictable behavior. I found one easily enough.
“Come quickly,” I urged. “I've just witnessed a man stealing a lady’s purse. If we hurry hell still be in the store.”