Missing My Heart
After the death of the grandmother Ellie Farrell had lived with since she was sixteen, she is tasked with the job of cleaning out the over-packed house. When Ellie begins to find love notes and money from a Bert to Randi spanning over four decades, she sets out to find out who these people are and what they have to do with her. An unexpected check for $100,000 dollars delivered to her house, ramps up the mystery – especially when death threats begin to arrive.
Patton Trullinger, an investigative reporter, comes to Chandler County to research bootleggers for a book he’s contracted for. As a Vietnam veteran, he’s dealing with PTSD. When he meets Ellie, he finds her mystery too good to pass up.
Who are Bert and Randi? Who is sending death threats? Will Ellie and Patton’s love bloom as the mystery deepens?
Ellie smiled as she leaned against a counter, eating a bowl of her favorite cereal. This was her house now and she could do any damn thing she wanted. And today she wanted to attack the kitchen. The first thing she needed to do was call for a dumpster—a very large dumpster. She glanced around the room. Maybe two dumpsters.
She tapped a finger against her lips. Which cupboard would get the ax today? The door to the spice cabinet bulged open several inches and beckoned for help. Her grandmother loved cooking and trying new seasonings. The only problem was, instead of planning ahead, she’d think of what to cook while at the store. As the years went on, she couldn’t recall what she had at home and simply bought more. Lord only knew how many duplicates nor how old they were.
Several containers spilled to the counter when she opened the door. A mixture of cinnamon, poultry seasoning, nutmeg, and other scents she couldn’t identify wafted over her. Before sorting, she pulled a large garbage bag from under the kitchen sink. Since Miranda never used the cleaning supplies, it was the only organized cupboard in the kitchen.
One-by-one she removed container after container, some tall, some short, and set them in rows by spice on the gray, 1940s oval kitchen table. She’d pulled back the red and white vinyl chairs to make it easier to walk around the table. The chrome legs and table edgings gleamed in the morning light.
The jars in the front of the cupboard were recent. As she moved further into the supply, the dates ranged from 1972 to 1970. Halfway through the cupboard, she came across an envelope. Her breath caught. She dropped onto a chair. Inside were five one-hundred-dollar bills. Why had Grandma kept that much money hidden? There had been times when money was in short supply. Why hadn’t she used it? Had she forgotten it was there? But who would forget that much money? She searched the envelope for a note, but no such luck.
After setting the envelope aside, she went back to the cupboard. The rows of spices on the table grew. Behind the last batch of containers lay another envelope, this one yellowed and brittle.
“What the hell?” She pulled out another five one-hundred-dollar bills wrapped in a narrow piece of paper with the words For M on it. The handwriting looked familiar, but it wasn’t Miranda’s. She placed the envelope on top of the first one. Her grandmother had become absent-minded in the past few years, but both the envelopes looked to be older than that. In fact, the last one seemed to be several decades old. Her grandmother had lived through the Great Depression. Had this been her way of squirreling away money?
Ellie removed the last jar and set it on the table. Geez, Louise. Five jars of cinnamon, four of nutmeg, six poultry seasoning, five meat seasoning, three cilantro. What the hell was cilantro? With the various other spices, there were forty-four jars. Did other people have that many spices? She couldn’t recall what her own mother had used.
After setting aside those whose dates were from the current year, she held the black garbage bag open at the end of the table and, with a sweep of her arm, sent them crashing into the bag. She tied it shut and tried lifting it.
“Damn, this is heavy.” She let it sag to the floor and opened the door to the back yard to haul it out there until the dumpster came. No sense in letting the neighbors see what she was discarding. Then she grabbed the bag, and moving backwards, tugged it out the door, letting it drop to the concrete patio.
She brushed her hands together and surveyed the room. “One down, too damn many more to go. Not to mention having to clean them all.” Before moving to the next cupboard, she wiped the spice one clean and replaced the seven seasonings she would actually use.
The double door pantry was next. She pulled the doors open and gasped. How had she not known how much food Miranda had squirreled away? When Ellie had started making her own money after high school, her grandmother had designated one cupboard for her use, saying she wasn’t going to pay for food that wasn’t good to eat. So, she’d had no reason to go into any cabinets other than her own and the ones for dishes, glasses, silverware, and cups.
Canned fruit and vegetables, boxes of gelatin and cereal, packages of noodles, and cans of soup were stacked haphazardly. Why were there so many boxes of cereal? She couldn’t even recall her grandmother eating cereal. Oatmeal, yes, but not cereal. With a deep sigh, she once again began the arduous task of removing each item, checking the expiration dates, keeping those that were still good, and tossing the rest into garbage bags. Except for the cereal boxes, since these items were heavier than the spices, the bags couldn’t be as full before she dragged them outside.
She tugged a particularly heavy bag across the floor, bumping into the table with her rear. A box of cereal that had been opened who knew how long ago tipped over. The top flap popped open and flakes spilled out like a waterfall onto the floor. A corner of something white caught her eye when she picked up the box.
Hoping no creepy-crawlies were in the box, she used two fingers to pull out an envelope similar to those in the spice cabinet. Like in a magic show, one more appeared, then another. Three envelopes in one box. Each containing a cryptic note and several hundred dollars.
Buy something pretty for yourself. B. When can I see you again? B. If we could be together again, my life would be complete. B. She assumed B was this Bert guy.
Ellie put the envelopes with the others. So far there was close to two thousand dollars. She scooped up the fallen flakes with a dust pan and dumped them in the garage bag, then stopped and raced out the back door. What if this wasn’t the only box containing envelopes? She’d tossed away fifteen opened boxes. Thankfully, the bags weren’t as heavy as the ones with canned goods, so bringing them back into the house was easy.
She flipped open the flap of the first box, the one with a rooster on the side. Anticipating another envelope hidden in with the cereal, she was surprised to find the inner bag still sealed. What the heck? Why would the box be unsealed, but not the sack? She gave it a tug and found an envelope taped to the side. Without bothering to open it, she grabbed the next box, then the next. As if an alien had taken possession of her body, she ripped, pulled, jerked, and tossed envelopes in a pile, not paying attention to the mess taking over the room.
“Ellie. What the hell are you doing?”
Ellie jumped at Pam’s voice. The box jerked in her hand, sending little round, brown pieces of cereal shooting across the room. Pam stood in the living room doorway, eyes wide, fingers over her mouth.
“Have you gone crazy?”
Maybe she was crazy. Scary thought considering her mother had been. She focused on the mess she’d created in her frenzy. Boxes with leprechauns, tigers, silly rabbits, a captain, a dog dressed as a sheriff, and a moose were scattered around the room. Cereal in various shapes and colors littered the floor, making it look like a huge bag of confetti had thrown up in the kitchen.
The cereal crunched beneath her feet as she grabbed Pam’s hand. “You won’t believe what I’ve found.”
“I hope like hell it’s your brain, because I think you’ve lost yours.”
“Look.” Ellie held out the stack of envelopes.
Pam took them, brushed flakes from a chair and sat down. “What’s the big deal?”
“Oh, my gosh. There’s five hundred dollars in here.” She fanned the pile. “There’s at least twenty envelopes here.”
“I haven’t looked through every single one.” Ellie pulled up a chair and sat next to her friend. She swept her hand over the table, sending flakes, pebbles, and marshmallow shapes to the floor. “I found two in with the spices. Then I started on the pantry. I was just throwing away all the old stuff. A box of cereal got knocked over and I found another envelope. Then I figured I should go through all the boxes.” She leaned back in her chair and held back a fit of giggles.
“Every single box had one, if not two envelopes in it. The first ones I found totaled two thousand dollars. Each one has a note like the ones we found in The Horse.”
Pam frowned and opened another one. “Wow. I mean, like wow.” She glanced around the kitchen. “How come you never found them before?”
“Grandma did all the cooking and except for the cupboard that was mine and the one with the dishes and pots and pans, she wouldn’t let me go in them. You know how she was. I didn’t dare touch anything.”
“Yeah. I hate to speak ill of the dead, but she could be quite the bitch.”
“Tell me about it.” Ellie bit her bottom lip. “I simply can’t imagine why she hid this money.”
“Sounds like another mystery to me.” Pam’s eyes sparkled. “Do you think there’s more?”
“Who knows? I mean, this was just from going through the cereal.” She shook her head. The idea of going through the massive amount of food was getting to her. Even the thought of the money didn’t make the job seem easier. “There’s boxes of other junk in there.”
“I came over to ask if you want to go to lunch, but now I want to help. Can I?”
Relief washed through her. “I would love it.”
Pam set the envelopes on the table and rose. “How about it I go grab us a frozen pizza from the store. It can cook while we devise a plan of action. I think we need to be methodic about this.”
“That sounds wonderful. I’ll clean up this mess while you’re gone and try to get a bit more organized.” She opened one of the envelopes and handed Pam a fifty-dollar bill. “Why don’t you get us some wine and soda and more garbage bags while you’re at it.”
When her friend was gone, Ellie stood in the middle of the kitchen, hands on her hips, tears pooling in her eyes. “Geez, Grandma, what were you thinking? Why were we living from hand to mouth when you had all this money? Why did you act like I was such a financial burden to you?”
If it wasn’t for the fact that some of the envelopes were in boxes with expiration dates from the previous year, she’d think Miranda had forgotten about the money. Maybe she had, but why hadn’t she ever used the money? And the biggest questions were, who the hell was Bert and what was his relationship to Miranda?
Set in the 1970’s, Ellie begins finding envelopes with notes and money hidden all over the house after her grandmother’s death. The notes seem to be love notes, although Ellie doesn’t know any of the story.
Patton, a veteran who is also researching for a book, is friends with Ellie’s best friend’s husband, and comes along when they all come over to help her move heavy furniture to the garage to unclutter the house. When she receives a large check from an anonymous sender, she also starts receiving threats.
I enjoyed the original concept, and the suspense builds along with a romance between Ellie and Patton. I was not pulled into the book right away, it felt a little sluggish in the first few chapters. Many secrets will be revealed that will surprise Ellie and the reader. A good suspense that kept me intrigued and turning the pages. Reviewed by Cyrene
4 1/2 Stars