Frightfully Fortune (Miss Fortune Mystery #20) by Jana DeLeon


Chapter One





The theme song from Jaws echoed through my house and I couldn’t help but grin. It was Halloween time in Sinful and I had to admit that I’d been looking forward to it ever since that first cold front blew through in late September and dropped the temperature to a very tolerable eighty degrees. Now it was actually even better—in the low seventies—which was a definite plus when you were covered in costumes, masks, and makeup.

Every year, Sinful had a weeklong Halloween celebration, starting seven days before and culminating on October 31. It had a horror maze made from hay bales, with scary scenes set up with adults in costumes all the way through it, movie night, games, and tons of food. There was a different main activity every night, even on weeknights. And as teachers weren’t permitted to give homework during the festivities, the kids could stay out later, load up on candy, and not have to worry about missing schoolwork the next day.

Years ago, Gertie and Ida Belle had steamrollered the highly religious then-mayor into doing the event by pitching it as an alternative festival for warding off evil rather than a celebration of it. It was so popular that it became a regular event, much to the dismay of Ida Belle and Gertie’s archrival, Celia Arceneaux, who had protested it from the start. Celia dressed up as Rose Kennedy every year, thinking that inserting a famous Catholic in the mix somehow gave it decorum. I’d bet no one under the age of forty even knew who Rose Kennedy was.

Gertie had arrived before Ida Belle and now stood in my kitchen staring at her best friend as she entered the room. Clearly, she was not impressed.

“That is not a costume,” Gertie said. “It’s what you usually wear except it’s a god-awful dress sort of thing instead of pants.”

“This is definitely a costume,” Ida Belle said. “It’s a pinfold dress and green sweatshirt.”

I had never heard of a pinfold dress, and one look at Ida Belle and I knew why. It was sort of like overalls but with a skirt. The drab brown dress thingy combined with the forest-green sweatshirt might have rivaled Celia in some of the ugliest clothes I’ve ever seen. Not that I was about to mention it. The dress had suspiciously big pockets and Ida Belle could still draw like Doc Holliday.

“What kind of costume is it then?” Gertie persisted.

Ida Belle grinned. “I’m Annie Wilkes.”

I frowned. “Is that the crazy woman who battered that author’s ankles in Misery?”

She held up a sledgehammer. “The one and only.”

“Okay,” Gertie said. “I’ll grant you that it’s a costume now that you’ve shown the hammer, but why in the world would you pick that? The last time you wore a dress was your wedding. The time before that was when you were three and hadn’t learned to shoot yet so couldn’t draw on your mother for putting you in it.”

“Well, since we’re not working scenes in the maze this year, my usual chain-saw killer idea is being used by someone else,” Ida Belle said. “And Walter’s been making noise lately about writing a book, so I figured I’d mess with him.”

Gertie shook her head. “Why that man waited around his whole life for you, I have no idea.”

“Me either,” Ida Belle agreed. “And while we’re critiquing costumes, Gertie, what are you trying to accomplish?”

“She’s opting for a go-straight-to-hell card,” I said. “Do not pass purgatory. Just walk on in.”

Gertie was dressed as a nun, but not a regular nun—an evil, demonic nun from the movie by the same name. I had to admit, the makeup that made her look like a partially decaying corpse combined with the bright yellow contacts was pretty creepy.

“I’m trying to make Celia as mad as possible,” Gertie said. “That witch got Francis banned from the park.”

“Francis got loose and snagged french fries and a hot dog, and made off with an ice cream cone before you managed to catch him,” Ida Belle said. “The sound of preschoolers crying was probably heard all the way in Canada.”

“He’s a bird,” Gertie said. “A hawk could swoop down and do the same thing.”

“But a hawk wouldn’t do that because they are afraid of people,” Ida Belle said.

Gertie waved a hand in dismissal. “Let’s talk about what’s really important, and that’s Fortune’s costume.”

I grinned and put on my relatively expensive, very detailed, Freddy Krueger mask.