It’s July Fourth and the citizens of Crescent Falls are ready to celebrate the occasion. The public park has been transformed into festival central with food tents sponsored by local churches, music provided by the high school band, and a carnival midway with games and a dunking machine.
Amateur sleuth Adelaide McBride and her fiancé Vernon Dexter are ready to work a shift at the ice cream tent, sponsored by their church. The newly formed Crescent Falls Auxiliary Police Force, made up of volunteers, will be keeping the peace. But when a murder victim is found in the woods adjacent to the park, the celebration comes to an abrupt halt.
Chief of Police Daniel McBride already has a missing person’s case on his hands. Reverend James Preston mysteriously disappeared a week ago and all efforts to find him have failed. Now, Daniel is faced with the brutal murder of a woman he recognizes as Felitia Mason, an out-of-town escort.
To make matters worse, days later a skeleton is unearthed in the mayor’s back yard and the town librarian is attacked in the same manner as the escort.
As Daniel tries to unravel both twisted cases and find justice for the victims, he has no idea the price some of those involved will have to pay.
“It’s going to be a perfect day for the Fourth of July festival,” Adelaide McBride told her fiancé, Vernon Dexter, as they finished eating a late breakfast. “Not a cloud in the sky and no prediction of rain.”
She’d decided to wear a pair of blue cotton slacks for the occasion and a sleeveless red-and-white striped shirt. Vernon, in a show of unity with some of the other men from the church, wore a pair of Bermuda shorts and a cotton golf shirt.
“It’s going to be a scorcher. The weather report says it’ll get into the low nineties. If customers choose a cone instead of a cup, the ice cream will melt so fast they’ll be licking it off their hands and arms before they’ve cleared the tent.”
He was referring to the fact that their church, Crescent Fall United Methodist, would again be sponsoring the ice cream tent at the annual celebration. Members were scheduled to work in shifts.
“Look, let’s not worry about it. We had enough to deal with when we had to decide which new flavor to add,” Adelaide said.
“I don’t see why the usual three weren’t good enough all of a sudden. Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry. Who can argue with those?”
“Evidently Reverend Wallace agreed with the committee members who felt we needed to add another flavor so things wouldn’t be boring.”
Vernon huffed. “Peach, of all things. Let’s see how that goes over. My bet is chocolate will outsell it by a mile.”
She studied him across the table and again felt grateful he’d survived the attempt on his life the month before. He’d lost weight because of the ordeal and had vowed not to gain it back, stating he liked his new “lean and mean” look. A trip to the local barber yesterday had left the fringe of brown hair around his bald pate looking neat and tidy.
He glanced at her and smiled. “Did I forget to tell you this morning you’re very beautiful?”
Adelaide had never thought of herself as a beauty. In her youth, she’d always been taller than the other girls her age. Her mother used to describe her as statuesque. She’d always felt her best features were her thick auburn hair and her expressive emerald-green eyes. “You never forget. You’re looking quite handsome yourself today.”
“Even with these shorts exposing my knobby knees?” Vernon carried his dirty place setting to the kitchen counter.
Adelaide laughed. “Oh, Vernon, sometimes you crack me up.” She followed him and began filling the sink with water and dish detergent.
“You know, Addy, we can afford to install a dishwasher.”
Adelaide looked around at her 1930s retro-style kitchen with its large yellow-and-green double-oven gas stove, soapstone counters, and porcelain sink. “I think the microwave is enough of a modern convenience. I don’t want anything else to destroy the ambiance.”
He picked up a dish towel and began drying the plates, cups, and silverware.
“By the way, I drove by Buck’s Market yesterday. The reconstruction is moving along nicely. He’s planning to reopen August first,” Vernon said. “They’re doing a good job, but it won’t be the same.”
“The fire destroyed more than a building. A lot of history went up in smoke that night.”
A loud, plaintive meow sounded from the kitchen doorway. Adelaide looked over and saw Oscar, her gray tabby, staring at her.
“What’s wrong with him?” Vernon asked. “He’s been grousing around since we got up.”
“Misty and Ashley are probably hiding. It’s a new game they’ve devised to aggravate him.” Adelaide glanced around the kitchen, hoping to spot the two Russian Blue females, but they were nowhere in sight.
Oscar flounced into the room and rubbed against Vernon’s leg. “The ladies giving you a hard time, buddy? I can relate. I’ve been down that road a time or two.”
Adelaide sighed. “He probably wants treats. The vet said he needs to lose weight so I’ve cut back on them.” She let the dishwater out of the sink, wiped her hands dry and picked up the cat. He immediately began to purr. “See, he’s fine.”
Vernon reached over and stroked Oscar’s back. “We’re outnumbered in this house. Get used to it.”
Adelaide lowered Oscar to the floor. “We need to get going. The festival opens at eleven. We have first shift at the ice cream tent, along with Carl and Harold.”
“I still can’t believe Harold and Dora eloped.” Vernon said, referring to funeral director Harold Purcell and Dora Carmody, owner of the local diner.
“After what happened last month at the pastor parish meeting, I think they made the best choice.” Adelaide still recalled with horror the awful scene that erupted when their minister, James Preston, was called to account for his inappropriate behavior and ended up resigning in anger. The result was a period of unrest within the congregation as associate pastor Andrew Wallace took the reins and tried to calm the waters.
“Speaking of James, I wonder when he’s going to resurface?” Vernon asked as they left the kitchen.