I’m not a gossip. Really, I’m not.
I can’t help it if I get caught up in the goings-on in River Bend. When you live in a town this small, everyone seems to know everyone else’s business. That’s just the way it is.
Besides, how could I have ignored my dear friend Clara Foley standing in front of the Historical Society, arguing with the sheriff’s wife, Sarah Biddle? It was my duty to intervene and find out what was going on.
I was startled to hear that Luann Dupree, the director of the Historical Society and Sarah’s best friend, no less, had apparently run off in the night with an Internet beau. But how could that be, I wondered, when Clara and I were set to volunteer just that morning, sorting through old photographs that were part of a big project Luann had instigated?
Sarah insisted that Luann would never have done something so impulsive, though Clara reminded her—quite snarkily, I must say—that love made people act downright stupid sometimes.
It’s true that the heart doesn’t always follow a path of logic. But calling Luann stupid? I wasn’t so sure about that. I had heard Luann speak several times on subjects she knew well: the Mississippi River Valley and its history, the myth of the Piasa Bird, and the rumor that Lewis and Clark had been waylaid in River Bend during their famous expedition. Ms. Dupree had not seemed flighty to me. Beyond that, I believed that she loved her job, and it was more her passion than anything.
So I deigned to ask. “Am I missing something?”
“That’s what we’re debating.” Clara glared at the sheriff’s wife. “Are we missing something, Sarah, or did this something wander off on its own two legs? You said her car was gone. . .”
“Just because the Fiat’s not here, doesn’t mean she went of her own free will,” Sarah insisted, cheeks inflamed. “For all we know, she was drugged and put in the trunk.”
“In the trunk of a Fiat?” Clara’s eyes widened and she let out a coarse laugh. She waggled her bulging tote before her. “I doubt you could even fit a bag of groceries in the back of that car. It’s no bigger than a toy. Although I’m sure it could hold plenty of clowns.”
“This isn’t funny!” The sheriff’s wife tightened hands to fists.
Still, when the town council received an email from Luann, resigning her position as head of the Historical Society, it appeared that Clara was right and Sarah was wrong.
Only the sheriff’s wife was too stubborn to let it go. If she wanted to play Nancy Drew, who was I to stop her? I’d done it a few times myself when people I loved were in trouble.
But I wanted her to leave me out of it. I had other things on my mind, like the floodwaters that kept rising daily. The Mississippi had overflowed its banks as it did every spring, effectively cutting off the town from the River Road. Beyond that, I was anxious about Clara and her family. My friend had been acting strangely withdrawn and cranky, not like her usual chirpy self. Soon enough, I knew why: Bernie Winston, husband to Clara’s older sister, Betty, had wandered off and couldn’t be found.
Bernie had Alzheimer’s. He couldn’t recall how to tie his shoes much less swim. What if he slipped into the creek and was caught beneath its current? Betty was beside herself.
Of course, I volunteered to search for Bernie. I didn’t realize at the time that looking for an old man with dementia would have anything to do with the abrupt departure of the Historical Society’s lovelorn director.
It’s funny in a town like River Bend, how odd circumstances, no matter how disparate, seem to ultimately intersect. Just like the swollen creeks that run through it.
You can read more about Helen in Come Helen High Water, the fourth book in the “River Road” mystery series.
Helen Evans returns in Susan McBride’s fourth River Road Mystery!
Spring has sprung, the river is rising, and when Luann Dupree, the head of River Bend’s Historical Society, vanishes into the night, everyone in town is convinced she’s run off with her Internet Romeo. But her lifelong friend, Sarah Biddle, is convinced Luann is the victim of foul play. No one believes her—not even her husband, the local sheriff, so she turns to Helen Evans for help.
As River Bend’s resident puzzle-solver, Helen’s tackled many a local mystery before. So she agrees to help Sarah, even though she’s not so sure herself that Luann is really in trouble. But as the town’s flood waters slowly recede, dead fish and muck aren’t the only things Helen finds. She begins to uncover town secrets, false identities. . .and the very real chance that Luann might not be discovered alive. . .
“Packed with small town charm!”—Denise Swanson
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About the author
Susan McBride is the USA Today bestselling author of the Debutante Dropout Mysteries and the River Road Mysteries, both from HarperCollins Publishers. The fourth book to feature senior sleuth Helen Evans, Come Helen High Water, was released in digital format on June 27. Audio and print versions will follow. For more on Susan and her novels, visit her web site at susanmcbride.com.
Giveaway: Two people selected at random will receive a digital (Kindle or Nook) copy of Come Helen High Water. Leave a comment below for your chance to win. The giveaway ends July 4, 2017. Good luck everyone!