In 1962, Dot Morgan was told the best thing she could do besides being a nurse or teacher was to learn to type. While attending secretarial school, she decides to rub elbows with an elite ladies' club to help her father with a struggling campaign for city council. Instead of getting the help she sought, Dot is thrown into a world of adultery, deceit and murder when one of the town's sons is found dead. Time to put that 45 on the record player and bring out your best dance moves in The Twist and Shout Murder.
Barb's heels clicked on the sidewalk as she approached the
porch of Arlene's white two-story frame home. The orange and yellow marigolds
looked a little droopy this morning, and I regretted not offering to water
them. The Texas summer heat had settled into the low 90s, and it was taking its
toll on everything including Arlene's marigolds.
She turned on a smile fit for a beauty queen. "Hello.
You must be Dot Morgan." Barb Manning fanned herself with long slender
fingers, "It's getting warm for it to be only June."
"Come on inside." I opened the door, and she
stepped into Arlene's front room, her glance taking in her surroundings. She
pursed her lips, looking as if she were trying to be diplomatic as she eyed the
furnishings. Arlene had chosen tones of yellow and burnt orange, including a
pair of throw pillows with owls she needle pointed to pick up the colors in the
wallpaper. The room had always felt cozy to me. Some nights Ellie and I sat in
this room watching television with Arlene. Now I couldn't escape the feeling it
looked like a bad day at the thrift shop. Maybe those handmade owls looked
tacky to someone like Barb. Maybe the people of her set considered orange and
yellow too folksy and brash.
"I'm glad you had time to meet with me today." She
glanced around the room again, but this time she looked closer to the floor.
"You can imagine it surprised us when you approached us about joining our
little group. We have so few single girls."
"I know, but I thought it might be fun." I hoped
that sounded convincing, hiding my true motive of promoting my father's
campaign in their influential circles.
"Well, even though it is unusual to have an unmarried
member of the club, I figured you were just the woman for the job we need to
have done. Your new membership couldn't have come at a better time."
It was wonderful they wanted me in their club, but there was
something about her evaluation of my availability that worried me. Being single
didn't mean I had nothing to do. "What kind of job did you have in mind,
"Oh, please, darling. Don't call me Mrs. Manning. Call
me Barb." She wrinkled her nose playfully like we were old buddies from
the country club. "We're friends now, aren't we?"
"Barb," I repeated obediently if not
"From looking at your lovely outfit, I can see you have
an eye for color." Her eyes shone as her eyebrows went up.
A compliment? Maybe the dress still looked good after two
years? I began to feel better about our meeting. Could it be I misread her
signals all along? I began to embrace the possibility that just because
somebody lived in a nicer neighborhood didn't mean that they couldn't be a
"That's why I know you'll be the perfect club member to
make the flower arrangements for the Founder's Day Banquet."
The banquet was only two days away. When I attended the last
meeting at the Camden Ladies' Club, they were planning food, speakers, a guest
list, and decorations. It was much more involved than I would have ever
imagined. Assuming I would play a minor role at the banquet, I had thought
little about it. I was in my fourth and final semester of a two-year program at
the Hudson Secretarial School and was hoping the ladies' club wouldn't take
from the time I needed to devote to finishing up my classes. Volunteering was
important for my dad's brand-new campaign, but school was my top priority, and
I was looking forward to graduating, and beginning to apply for secretarial
Barb squinted at me and then questioned. "You've made
flower arrangements before, right? I'm sure it's a part of the Home Ec course
they teach at Camden High."
"I guess so, but I'm not a florist. I've put flowers in
a vase, if that's what you mean."
Her eyelids lowered as if hiding her disappointment. Maybe I
could fit it in around studying for my next test.
"How many flower arrangements were you thinking
of?" I was almost afraid of her answer, but how bad could it be?
She clapped her hands together, taking my question as a
"yes." "Not too many. Thirty would do it."
"Thirty? You want me to make thirty flower
arrangements?" I tried to hide my shock at this last-minute request, but I
could feel my cheeks heating, not something I could hide with my fair skin.
"As I said before, I'm a full-time student. As much as I would like to
help you out, I have a big test coming up, and don't have time to create thirty
Barb Manning tapped her deep red fingernails on the coffee table and licked her teeth behind a coat of matching red matte lipstick. Her expression was one of pity. "I guess I'm the one who's sorry. I thought you wanted to be a part of our civic organization. I must have been wrong."
About the Author
Teresa Trent writes historical mysteries, cozy mysteries, romance and short stories. She lives in South Texas with her husband and son and splits her time between writing and caretaking.