Hey there, book buddy! Thanks for stopping by. This is a deleted scene from my upcoming book, Just Getting Started, which features Lizzie Painter and Chase Carpenter. It hasn’t been edited or proofread, because there just wasn’t room for it in the book. If you prefer, you can also listen to my podcast below, which is the same material (with significantly less eye strain). Hope you enjoy it!
“There’s a small matter that I need taken care of, quietly,” Captain Hansen said, sliding her a yellow slip of paper. “That’s the address. There’s reports of a prowler.”
“Who’s going with me?”
He smiled. “If it’s who I think it is, I don’t think you’ll need backup.” He looked at his watch. “Yep, the timing is about right. And if I’m retiring, you might as well get used to this part of the job.”
Lizzie pondered his words all the way to the house. She got out of the cruiser and frowned. This was the right address, but this was…Hattie’s house? She looked down at the handwriting, but she’d gotten it right. She opened the chain-link gate and walked up the sidewalk.
“Hello.” A male voice out of the darkness startled her, and Lizzie put a hand on her chest involuntarily, resisting the urge to reach for her service weapon.
“I’m Deputy Painter. And who might you be?”
“Stuart Bagsby, at your service.”
“At my service?”
“Of course,” he said, getting to his feet from where he’d been sitting against the house. “Any friend of Hattie’s is a friend of mine.” He wobbled a little bit, and Lizzie reached out a hand to steady him. His hand was cold despite the summer weather. She glanced up at the porch light, wondering why Hattie hadn’t called her to change it if it wasn’t working. Surely she didn’t know this man was out here or she would’ve been more hospitable. “It’s my semi-annual visit, you know. Was Captain Hansen busy tonight?”
Lizzie cocked her head. She had no idea what this guy was talking about, but then, his last name rang a bell. “Wait, Bagsby? As in, Hattie Meyer-Bagsby?”
He took off his hat and made a little bow to her. “That’s exactly right. Davis was my brother.”
“I see.” She squinted through the stained glass in the front door. “Does Hattie know you’re out here?”
“Oh yes,” he chuckled. “She certainly knows. I believe that’s why she’s called you.”
“You’re the prowler?” Lizzie looked him up and down; he was wearing Bermuda shorts that weren’t doing his wrinkly knees any favors and a rather loud Hawaiian shirt with red parrots printed all over it, but other than that, he seemed perfectly harmless.
“Why are you out here? Is she not going to let you…” Lizzie’s voice trailed off as she noticed the sadness behind his eyes. She straightened her shoulders. How ridiculous. She was getting to the bottom of this right now. Lizzie knocked on the front door, using the horseshoe knocker that she’d always admired. No one came. The lights were on; Lizzie could even hear the television on softly through the open bedroom window at the front of the house.
“Hattie?” She called, backing up until she could see the upper level. “You home?”
“Nope,” a curt voice responded. She didn’t come to the window.
Lizzie rolled her eyes. “Your brother-in-law is here.” There was a long silence, and Lizzie wasn’t sure if she should yell louder. The drumbeat of Hattie’s bare feet against the wooden stairs just inside the front door felt ominous, and the front door whipped open.
“No, he’s not. My husband died, therefore, I don’t have a brother-in-law.”
“Every year,” he muttered, rubbing a hand over his short silver hair. “Every stinking year.” He raised his voice. “Look, Harriet–”
She pulled herself up ramrod straight. “It’s Hattie, you know it, Stu!”
“I promised him, Hattie. I promised Davis I would check on you from time to time. So here I am. That’s all.”
“Lizzie, would you please teach this man about telephones? Or the internet? Or letters?” The mention of letters had Lizzie’s heart picturing Chase’s perfect handwriting on yellow legal paper, and she hoped she wasn’t blushing.
“You wouldn’t answer if I called,” Stuart predicted with a grin, as if he was enjoying this exchange.
“You should go somewhere else and try it.”
“You’re really not going to let me in?”
“That’s correct. I told you six months ago not to come back. I don’t need checking on. Haven’t for years.”
“I know he was old-fashioned, but he was my brother. It’s the only thing he asked of me when he died. Don’t make this difficult, please.”
“Lizzie, can you please call Maggie to give this nice man a ride back to the airport? I’m sure he can find a flight to Orlando tonight.”
“Oh, for God’s sake,” Stu laughed. “Are you really that mad about it? Still?”
Hattie looked the man in the eye for the first time, then she silently turned on her heel, went back into the house and shut the door.
“I really thought she would’ve gotten over it by now,” he murmured, as he stroked his stubble thoughtfully.
“Oh,” he said, waving a careless hand, “I told her I’m in love with her.”
Lizzie’s jaw dropped. “And she kicked you out?”
He nodded ruefully. “Hasn’t spoken to me since. Turns out, it’s a mortal sin.” He chuckled to himself. “Sorry to have troubled you, miss. Pardon me; sorry to have troubled you, deputy.”
“Can I drive you to a hotel? I think Rhea Devereaux sometimes rents a room to visitors…you’d get good Southern hospitality at her house.”
“Oh, no.” Stu sat down on the porch swing. “If I leave now, she’ll just get even more set in her ways. No, I’m not leaving.”
Lizzie frowned. She’d been called about a prowler, but he clearly did not mean Hattie any harm. Still, maybe she should take him to the station if he was trespassing. She knocked on the door again.
“What?” Hattie called down faintly.
“Do you want him arrested for trespassing?”
Another long silence. “I suppose not.”
She turned back to Stu. “Do you want the emergency blanket from my cruiser? I have several.”
“Well, that’s very thoughtful, deputy. Thank you.” He walked with her to the car, and Lizzie felt her pocket buzz.
Hattie: Is he leaving?
It was rattling, seeing a woman who had self-assurance in spades so anxious.
Lizzie: No. Just getting him a blanket.
Hattie: For what?
Lizzie: I think he’s going to sleep on your porch swing. Unless you want him arrested.
There was another long silence. This one lasted long enough for Lizzie get him a granola bar, her green wool army blanket that she hoped she wasn’t giving up permanently (though he didn’t seem the type), and a bottle of water.
Hattie: No. Let him be. Maybe after a long night out there, he’ll finally leave me alone.
Lizzie: Is your porch light out?
Hattie: No. Why?
Lizzie: Just wondering. I’m taking off now. Give me a call if you need me again.
Hattie: Okay. Have a good night, Lizzie Lou.
Lizzie: You too.
She put her phone away and gave the man on the porch a long look before getting back into her cruiser. Would wonders never cease…a secret admirer for the mayor? At her age? Lizzie chided herself immediately. Hattie was a wonderful person, and any man would be foolish to pass up a chance with her. Not that she was handing them out, apparently. As she backed out of the driveway, Lizzie saw the porch light go on, and Stuart called, “Thank you, Harriet!”
“Drop dead,” she yelled.
“Don’t tempt me,” he yelled back.
If you want more Lizzie, you can find her love story in Just Getting Started–it’s just $0.99 until it goes live in ten days, and you’ll get to meet her dog, Pancake! He’s my second favorite animal I’ve ever written.