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Moser Mansion's Ghosts

Book By: booksbyfay
Mystery and crime



This book five of the Series of Amazing Gracie Mysteries. Moser Mansion, rest home for women in Locked Rock, Iowa has become a spooky place. Libby Hook sees ghosts in the middle of the night, roaming in the mansion. Gracie Evans is sure the hauntings are the plot of a crooked southern contractor who wants to make a hotel out of the mansion. Melinda Applegate worries that he wants to buy the hotel and throw the residents out into the street. Seems the only one who has the answers to what's going on is Moxie's pet, talking parrot, Turkeyneck.


Submitted:Aug 16, 2008    Reads: 134    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


Chapter 1
Gracie Evans woke up that October morning in 1904 with a down right awful feeling of despair coursing through her veins. She often had premonitions of some eminent disaster about to happen, but not to the degree she just woke up with. The imaginary, black thunder cloud hanging over her head didn't leave as quickly as it usually arrived, either. That made her mood as dark as that invisible life's storm she felt coming toward her. She braided her thin, dark gray hair and crowned her head with the braids. This premonition gave her the impression she should grab hold and hang on for dear life to a solid object. A heck of an ill wind was about to blow over Locked Rock, Iowa's Rest Home For Women. Her premonitions were never wrong.
After breakfast, Gracie, still in a bad mood, limped down the Moser mansion entry hall, grumbling to herself. If that hall got any longer, she would have to forget about walking any farther than the parlor because of her bum knee. Although now that fall had arrived, it wouldn't be long before she would be stuck indoors anyway, sitting as close to the parlor fireplace as she could get. So what would it matter how long the entry hall was then?
The outside temperature was still tolerable for a little while if a body dressed warm enough. She had on a long sleeve, tan blouse and brown skirt with a heavy, cotton slip under it. With the tops rolled over garters just above her knees, her thick, tan stockings kept her legs warm. She hoped her dark brown shawl warded off the chill that would try to creep into her shoulders. Her nine patch, lap quilt was already on the porch, folded and ready for her in her rocker. Given that she felt prepared for the cool of autumn, Gracie was determined to rock away the morning in the frosty air.
Actually, she felt she had no choice. She best keep out of everyone's way for her own sake. At breakfast, Pearlbee, the grumpy cook, batted the air with her cane in a threatening manner as often as she used it to walk around with. Gracie couldn't figure out what had gotten into that cranky, old woman. She didn't bother to ask. She wasn't dumb enough to aggravate Pearlbee into a greater frenzy than she already was. The rambunctious youngun Orie and Molly Lang adopted, Shana Shanasey, got on Gracie's nerves more all the time since the child had warmed up to the place. She raced around the house non stop, giving Gracie the feeling at any time the little girl would run over her if she wasn't fast enough to dodge out of the way. That was a real worry, because the older Gracie became the slower her pace. She figured one of these days, she wouldn't be quick enough to avoid colliding with that child. When Shana did stand still for a brief moment, the youngun asked more questions than any other human being Gracie ever knew.
One of the residents, Libby Hook, always irritating and uppity in Gracie's book, had been acting more unusual of late. Her actions were even stranger then the time she was scared by a former neighbor, Mavis Jordan. Mavis stalked the residents of Moser mansion, Gracie, Melinda and Libby, because they knew she killed Rachel Simpson, the prostitute, who lived across the street. After all that, Libby's actions being stranger now was saying some in Gracie estimation. If she noticed something wrong with Libby surely Melinda Applegate, another resident and Gracie's friend, had seen Libby acting peculiar. As soon as she had a chance, Gracie intended to bring the subject of Libby up to Melinda.
The front porch, where Gracie headed, was as far away as she could get in the over populated mansion. She hadn't seen Melinda since breakfast. More than likely she had the same notion and beat Gracie to the Amish, handcrafted, porch rockers. As different as the two of them were, Gracie figured Melinda and her thought were alike more times than not. How they handled a problem was as different as night and day, but since they became friends, Gracie usually talked Melinda into seeing the solution her way.
A wild, piercing squawk echoed down the quiet hall. Gracie jumped. Flattening her hand over her fast beating heart, she froze in her tracks and stared at the naked man, plant statue. The noise sounded like it came from that ugly statue. Glaring at the pint sized pygmy, she silently vowed she had never liked that nasty, little African man, and she never would. Every time she walked by him, he leered obscenely at her through the large Boston fern's fronds that dangled down around his face.
Another sharp squawk rent the air. Now Gracie's hearing was more tuned in. That didn't come from the naked man statue. She edged toward the library door. Repeated sessions of loud hisses reminded her of a startled snake. The sounds ushered her back to an autumn on the farm. One cool evening, a king snake, looking for a warm place, slithered under the screen door at her farm house. The varmint wound up under the kitchen table. Didn't take her long to back out the door and run for her garden hoe. She make short work of that snake. Up until now she hadn't seen many snakes around the mansion. Except for those grass snakes that lived in the back yard like the one who managed to get stuck in Mavis Jordan's shoe at the garden party that time. That one ended up dead for his trouble. Certainly a snake had never made it under the mansion's tight doors. Gracie peeked cautiously around the library door frame, surveying the hardwood floor. She didn't see a snake.
At the next long hiss and shrill squawk, Gracie focused her attention over in the corner by the wall of book shelves. Irish lass, Moxie McEntire, the Langs permanent house guest, had a finger placed to her lips. She leaned her short frame over a large, wicker birdcage on stilted legs. Her bushy, red hair hid her face as she hissed another drawn out shush. Inside the cage, a cobalt blue parrot flapped his wings in a speedy fashion, hurling himself from one side of the cage to the other. Obviously, he wanted to escape before Moxie struck at him like he expected any food hunting snake from his native country would do.
Gracie slipped across the room to stand behind Moxie. In her brassy voice, she snapped, "What's going on in here?"
Moxie straightened fast and whirled around to face Gracie. "Saint preserve us, what are ye doin' scaring me out of a week's worth of growth like that by sneakin' up on me?"
"You would have heard me come in if you hadn't been hissing like a locomotive letting off steam at that - that…," Gracie hesitated to inspect the parrot.
"Sure and it tis a parrot, Miss Gracie." Moxie's Irish, blue eyes took on excited brightness.
"I know that," scoffed Gracie, glaring into the cage. "I also see plain as day, you're scaring the noisy thing."
"I was just trying to quiet him down. He's a wee bit nervous from the move to a strange place," Moxie defended.
Eying the two women distrustfully from the far side of his perch, the parrot shook himself. He puffed his feathers up to twice his size. Giving one last shutter, he settled down his fluffed up feathers. Now that Moxie quit hissing at him, the parrot calmed down. Picking up his foot, the bird busied himself, scratching the side of his bright, yellow beak.
"What's it doing in here?" Gracie demanded. Pointing at the cage, she gave Moxie her full attention.
"Tis me new pet. Jeffrey, me love, heard the poor thing was goin' to be put to death." At the mention of Jeffrey, Moxie's face took on a dreamy look.
"I might have known that man would have been involved in this scheme somehow," Gracie sighed. "No offense since he's Melinda's nephew, but he don't have a lick of sense."
'Now hear me out, Miss Gracie. The man who owned this lovely bird died. No one else wanted him. He would have been killed if I hadn't said yes. Isn't he the prettiest bird ye ever saw? Smart besides," Moxie boasted, trying to win Gracie over to her way of thinking.
As if on cue, the parrot screamed at Gracie, "Awk! I'm Turkeyneck. Who are you?"
Startled, Gracie flinched.
"See isn't that smart of him?" Moxie bragged proudly. "Tell him your name, Miss Gracie."
"I'm not talking to that critter like he's human. For one thing, I rarely speak to strangers. I don't know this bird well enough to talk to him. For another, I have no intention of getting acquainted with him. Besides you're wrong. That bird don't seem one bit smart to me. He just said he thinks he's a turkey," barked Gracie, eying the bird disdainfully.
"Oh no! Sure and he doesn't. Turkeyneck really is his name," Moxie defended, blinking her eyes lids furiously.
Gracie's head jerked back. "Why?"
Moxie shrugged her shoulders. "Sure and I don't have the slightest notion. That's what his owner named him."
Gracie stepped up beside Moxie and gave the bird a good once over. The parrot craned his neck as far up as he could and tilted his head, inspecting the elderly woman right back. She twisted her head to the side just like the parrot and speculated, "Might be cause his neck is twice as long when he stretches." Pointing an arthritic finger at the cage again, she got her thoughts back on track. She centered her attention on Moxie. "Does Miss Molly know this thing is in the library?"
"No, but me thinks she won't mind," Moxie said casually.
"I see, but you don't know that for sure," persisted Grace.
Moxie clasped her fingers and laid her hands on her waist. She said calmly, "Not yet. I just got him. I'll tell Molly soon as I see her."
Gracie narrowed her eyes and warned, "Best yet, does Libby know this bird's in the library? You know how snippy Libby is about being around any kind of critter. I'll bet she's going to have a hissy fit."
"Oh, maybe not." Moxie tried to sound sure of herself, but her forehead suddenly furrowed in worry wrinkles at the thought.
Sidestepping across the wooden perch to get closer to the women, the parrot flapped his wings and let out a squawk as loud as he could.
"What on earth is that poultry doing in here?" Snapped Libby, peevishly from the doorway. She had her hands clamped over her ears.
"The bird ain't poultry." said Gracie in disdain.
"Top of the morning to ye, Miss Libby. Come see me new pet." Moxie motioned to her to come over.
"No thank you," Libby said, staying in the doorway.
"Awk! Awk! I'm Turkeyneck. How do Snippy Libby." Then the parrot ducked his head low and squalled, "Look out for Snippy Libby. She's has hissy fits."
Moxie's complexion reddened to match her flighty hair. She looked helplessly from the parrot to Gracie. When she saw Libby's face contort, Moxie looked at her with a mortified expression. In the doorway, the woman's long, thin face twisted and flushed with anger. Putting a hand over her mouth, Gracie turned her back to Libby, trying her best to contain the laughter welling up inside her. To begin with, Libby had abhorrence of the parrot written all over her face. That bird sure didn't help his cause when he tried name calling on Libby. Now she was down right mad.
Insulted at being spoken to like that, Libby grew huffy. "Well, I never." It crossed through Gracie's mind Libby puffed up just like the parrot. The insulted woman accused Moxie in a caustic tone, "Why would you teach that creature to say such a thing about me?"
Wringing her hands, Moxie crossed the room to stand by Libby. "Horse feathers, Miss Libby, I didn't teach him anything. I don't know what has possessed me parrot. I am so sorry," She apologized.
Libby screeched, "That talking chicken is the devil in disguise. Get it out of this house before it insults me again."
"The bird isn't a chicken," explained Moxie quietly.
"Well, I know a turkey when I see one. She's certainly not a turkey. You're not going to convince me she is," Libby's voice kept rising up as she spoke. Her breath came short and fast.
"Awk. Look out! Libby's having a hissy fit," the parrot declared.
"If you don't get rid of her, I shall never use the library again," huffed Libby, her head high in the air. She moved her hands in a rolling grip. "Miss Moxie, I shall never speak to you again if that bird stays here. On top of that, I shall tell Miss Molly about this awful chicken." Her nose aimed at the ceiling when she backed away from the door.
"Well, maybe that bird's good for amusing us after all. Look on the bright side. Libby not talking to you might be a good thing." Gracie whispered to Moxie and giggled behind her hand.
Distraught, Moxie peeked out the door after Libby to make sure she was out of earshot. She came back to the cage and spoke softly to keep Libby from hearing. "Sure and that's not funny. This predicament all be your fault. Me parrot picks up words real easy. I told ye he's a smart one, he tis. All he had to do was hear ye call Miss Libby ----." The parrot cocked his head to one side. His beady, black eyes, set in circles of white feathers, eyed Moxie. He listened to her every word. "Sure and ye know. Now he thinks that tis Miss Libby's name. I told ye he's a smart one. Ye have to be more careful what ye say."
"Tell you right now, I'm not waiting to hear the next words out of that bird's mouth. He's nothing but pure trouble." Gracie snatched the Locked Rock Weekly Newspaper off the writing table. "I'm going out on the porch where it's quiet. You best be talking to Miss Molly right quick before Libby gets to her. You shouldn't disrupt the household any more than you already have. Miss Molly sure don't need any excitement or worries these days feeling like she does."

Chapter 1
Gracie Evans woke up that October morning in 1904 with a down right awful feeling of despair coursing through her veins. She often had premonitions of some eminent disaster about to happen, but not to the degree she just woke up with. The imaginary, black thunder cloud hanging over her head didn't leave as quickly as it usually arrived, either. That made her mood as dark as that invisible life's storm she felt coming toward her. She braided her thin, dark gray hair and crowned her head with the braids. This premonition gave her the impression she should grab hold and hang on for dear life to a solid object. A heck of an ill wind was about to blow over Locked Rock, Iowa's Rest Home For Women. Her premonitions were never wrong.
After breakfast, Gracie, still in a bad mood, limped down the Moser mansion entry hall, grumbling to herself. If that hall got any longer, she would have to forget about walking any farther than the parlor because of her bum knee. Although now that fall had arrived, it wouldn't be long before she would be stuck indoors anyway, sitting as close to the parlor fireplace as she could get. So what would it matter how long the entry hall was then?
The outside temperature was still tolerable for a little while if a body dressed warm enough. She had on a long sleeve, tan blouse and brown skirt with a heavy, cotton slip under it. With the tops rolled over garters just above her knees, her thick, tan stockings kept her legs warm. She hoped her dark brown shawl warded off the chill that would try to creep into her shoulders. Her nine patch, lap quilt was already on the porch, folded and ready for her in her rocker. Given that she felt prepared for the cool of autumn, Gracie was determined to rock away the morning in the frosty air.
Actually, she felt she had no choice. She best keep out of everyone's way for her own sake. At breakfast, Pearlbee, the grumpy cook, batted the air with her cane in a threatening manner as often as she used it to walk around with. Gracie couldn't figure out what had gotten into that cranky, old woman. She didn't bother to ask. She wasn't dumb enough to aggravate Pearlbee into a greater frenzy than she already was. The rambunctious youngun Orie and Molly Lang adopted, Shana Shanasey, got on Gracie's nerves more all the time since the child had warmed up to the place. She raced around the house non stop, giving Gracie the feeling at any time the little girl would run over her if she wasn't fast enough to dodge out of the way. That was a real worry, because the older Gracie became the slower her pace. She figured one of these days, she wouldn't be quick enough to avoid colliding with that child. When Shana did stand still for a brief moment, the youngun asked more questions than any other human being Gracie ever knew.
One of the residents, Libby Hook, always irritating and uppity in Gracie's book, had been acting more unusual of late. Her actions were even stranger then the time she was scared by a former neighbor, Mavis Jordan. Mavis stalked the residents of Moser mansion, Gracie, Melinda and Libby, because they knew she killed Rachel Simpson, the prostitute, who lived across the street. After all that, Libby's actions being stranger now was saying some in Gracie estimation. If she noticed something wrong with Libby surely Melinda Applegate, another resident and Gracie's friend, had seen Libby acting peculiar. As soon as she had a chance, Gracie intended to bring the subject of Libby up to Melinda.
The front porch, where Gracie headed, was as far away as she could get in the over populated mansion. She hadn't seen Melinda since breakfast. More than likely she had the same notion and beat Gracie to the Amish, handcrafted, porch rockers. As different as the two of them were, Gracie figured Melinda and her thought were alike more times than not. How they handled a problem was as different as night and day, but since they became friends, Gracie usually talked Melinda into seeing the solution her way.
A wild, piercing squawk echoed down the quiet hall. Gracie jumped. Flattening her hand over her fast beating heart, she froze in her tracks and stared at the naked man, plant statue. The noise sounded like it came from that ugly statue. Glaring at the pint sized pygmy, she silently vowed she had never liked that nasty, little African man, and she never would. Every time she walked by him, he leered obscenely at her through the large Boston fern's fronds that dangled down around his face.
Another sharp squawk rent the air. Now Gracie's hearing was more tuned in. That didn't come from the naked man statue. She edged toward the library door. Repeated sessions of loud hisses reminded her of a startled snake. The sounds ushered her back to an autumn on the farm. One cool evening, a king snake, looking for a warm place, slithered under the screen door at her farm house. The varmint wound up under the kitchen table. Didn't take her long to back out the door and run for her garden hoe. She make short work of that snake. Up until now she hadn't seen many snakes around the mansion. Except for those grass snakes that lived in the back yard like the one who managed to get stuck in Mavis Jordan's shoe at the garden party that time. That one ended up dead for his trouble. Certainly a snake had never made it under the mansion's tight doors. Gracie peeked cautiously around the library door frame, surveying the hardwood floor. She didn't see a snake.
At the next long hiss and shrill squawk, Gracie focused her attention over in the corner by the wall of book shelves. Irish lass, Moxie McEntire, the Langs permanent house guest, had a finger placed to her lips. She leaned her short frame over a large, wicker birdcage on stilted legs. Her bushy, red hair hid her face as she hissed another drawn out shush. Inside the cage, a cobalt blue parrot flapped his wings in a speedy fashion, hurling himself from one side of the cage to the other. Obviously, he wanted to escape before Moxie struck at him like he expected any food hunting snake from his native country would do.
Gracie slipped across the room to stand behind Moxie. In her brassy voice, she snapped, "What's going on in here?"
Moxie straightened fast and whirled around to face Gracie. "Saint preserve us, what are ye doin' scaring me out of a week's worth of growth like that by sneakin' up on me?"
"You would have heard me come in if you hadn't been hissing like a locomotive letting off steam at that - that…," Gracie hesitated to inspect the parrot.
"Sure and it tis a parrot, Miss Gracie." Moxie's Irish, blue eyes took on excited brightness.
"I know that," scoffed Gracie, glaring into the cage. "I also see plain as day, you're scaring the noisy thing."
"I was just trying to quiet him down. He's a wee bit nervous from the move to a strange place," Moxie defended.
Eying the two women distrustfully from the far side of his perch, the parrot shook himself. He puffed his feathers up to twice his size. Giving one last shutter, he settled down his fluffed up feathers. Now that Moxie quit hissing at him, the parrot calmed down. Picking up his foot, the bird busied himself, scratching the side of his bright, yellow beak.
"What's it doing in here?" Gracie demanded. Pointing at the cage, she gave Moxie her full attention.
"Tis me new pet. Jeffrey, me love, heard the poor thing was goin' to be put to death." At the mention of Jeffrey, Moxie's face took on a dreamy look.
"I might have known that man would have been involved in this scheme somehow," Gracie sighed. "No offense since he's Melinda's nephew, but he don't have a lick of sense."
'Now hear me out, Miss Gracie. The man who owned this lovely bird died. No one else wanted him. He would have been killed if I hadn't said yes. Isn't he the prettiest bird ye ever saw? Smart besides," Moxie boasted, trying to win Gracie over to her way of thinking.
As if on cue, the parrot screamed at Gracie, "Awk! I'm Turkeyneck. Who are you?"
Startled, Gracie flinched.
"See isn't that smart of him?" Moxie bragged proudly. "Tell him your name, Miss Gracie."
"I'm not talking to that critter like he's human. For one thing, I rarely speak to strangers. I don't know this bird well enough to talk to him. For another, I have no intention of getting acquainted with him. Besides you're wrong. That bird don't seem one bit smart to me. He just said he thinks he's a turkey," barked Gracie, eying the bird disdainfully.
"Oh no! Sure and he doesn't. Turkeyneck really is his name," Moxie defended, blinking her eyes lids furiously.
Gracie's head jerked back. "Why?"
Moxie shrugged her shoulders. "Sure and I don't have the slightest notion. That's what his owner named him."
Gracie stepped up beside Moxie and gave the bird a good once over. The parrot craned his neck as far up as he could and tilted his head, inspecting the elderly woman right back. She twisted her head to the side just like the parrot and speculated, "Might be cause his neck is twice as long when he stretches." Pointing an arthritic finger at the cage again, she got her thoughts back on track. She centered her attention on Moxie. "Does Miss Molly know this thing is in the library?"
"No, but me thinks she won't mind," Moxie said casually.
"I see, but you don't know that for sure," persisted Grace.
Moxie clasped her fingers and laid her hands on her waist. She said calmly, "Not yet. I just got him. I'll tell Molly soon as I see her."
Gracie narrowed her eyes and warned, "Best yet, does Libby know this bird's in the library? You know how snippy Libby is about being around any kind of critter. I'll bet she's going to have a hissy fit."
"Oh, maybe not." Moxie tried to sound sure of herself, but her forehead suddenly furrowed in worry wrinkles at the thought.
Sidestepping across the wooden perch to get closer to the women, the parrot flapped his wings and let out a squawk as loud as he could.
"What on earth is that poultry doing in here?" Snapped Libby, peevishly from the doorway. She had her hands clamped over her ears.
"The bird ain't poultry." said Gracie in disdain.
"Top of the morning to ye, Miss Libby. Come see me new pet." Moxie motioned to her to come over.
"No thank you," Libby said, staying in the doorway.
"Awk! Awk! I'm Turkeyneck. How do Snippy Libby." Then the parrot ducked his head low and squalled, "Look out for Snippy Libby. She's has hissy fits."
Moxie's complexion reddened to match her flighty hair. She looked helplessly from the parrot to Gracie. When she saw Libby's face contort, Moxie looked at her with a mortified expression. In the doorway, the woman's long, thin face twisted and flushed with anger. Putting a hand over her mouth, Gracie turned her back to Libby, trying her best to contain the laughter welling up inside her. To begin with, Libby had abhorrence of the parrot written all over her face. That bird sure didn't help his cause when he tried name calling on Libby. Now she was down right mad.
Insulted at being spoken to like that, Libby grew huffy. "Well, I never." It crossed through Gracie's mind Libby puffed up just like the parrot. The insulted woman accused Moxie in a caustic tone, "Why would you teach that creature to say such a thing about me?"
Wringing her hands, Moxie crossed the room to stand by Libby. "Horse feathers, Miss Libby, I didn't teach him anything. I don't know what has possessed me parrot. I am so sorry," She apologized.
Libby screeched, "That talking chicken is the devil in disguise. Get it out of this house before it insults me again."
"The bird isn't a chicken," explained Moxie quietly.
"Well, I know a turkey when I see one. She's certainly not a turkey. You're not going to convince me she is," Libby's voice kept rising up as she spoke. Her breath came short and fast.
"Awk. Look out! Libby's having a hissy fit," the parrot declared.
"If you don't get rid of her, I shall never use the library again," huffed Libby, her head high in the air. She moved her hands in a rolling grip. "Miss Moxie, I shall never speak to you again if that bird stays here. On top of that, I shall tell Miss Molly about this awful chicken." Her nose aimed at the ceiling when she backed away from the door.
"Well, maybe that bird's good for amusing us after all. Look on the bright side. Libby not talking to you might be a good thing." Gracie whispered to Moxie and giggled behind her hand.
Distraught, Moxie peeked out the door after Libby to make sure she was out of earshot. She came back to the cage and spoke softly to keep Libby from hearing. "Sure and that's not funny. This predicament all be your fault. Me parrot picks up words real easy. I told ye he's a smart one, he tis. All he had to do was hear ye call Miss Libby ----." The parrot cocked his head to one side. His beady, black eyes, set in circles of white feathers, eyed Moxie. He listened to her every word. "Sure and ye know. Now he thinks that tis Miss Libby's name. I told ye he's a smart one. Ye have to be more careful what ye say."
"Tell you right now, I'm not waiting to hear the next words out of that bird's mouth. He's nothing but pure trouble." Gracie snatched the Locked Rock Weekly Newspaper off the writing table. "I'm going out on the porch where it's quiet. You best be talking to Miss Molly right quick before Libby gets to her. You shouldn't disrupt the household any more than you already have. Miss Molly sure don't need any excitement or worries these days feeling like she does."

Chapter 1
Gracie Evans woke up that October morning in 1904 with a down right awful feeling of despair coursing through her veins. She often had premonitions of some eminent disaster about to happen, but not to the degree she just woke up with. The imaginary, black thunder cloud hanging over her head didn't leave as quickly as it usually arrived, either. That made her mood as dark as that invisible life's storm she felt coming toward her. She braided her thin, dark gray hair and crowned her head with the braids. This premonition gave her the impression she should grab hold and hang on for dear life to a solid object. A heck of an ill wind was about to blow over Locked Rock, Iowa's Rest Home For Women. Her premonitions were never wrong.
After breakfast, Gracie, still in a bad mood, limped down the Moser mansion entry hall, grumbling to herself. If that hall got any longer, she would have to forget about walking any farther than the parlor because of her bum knee. Although now that fall had arrived, it wouldn't be long before she would be stuck indoors anyway, sitting as close to the parlor fireplace as she could get. So what would it matter how long the entry hall was then?
The outside temperature was still tolerable for a little while if a body dressed warm enough. She had on a long sleeve, tan blouse and brown skirt with a heavy, cotton slip under it. With the tops rolled over garters just above her knees, her thick, tan stockings kept her legs warm. She hoped her dark brown shawl warded off the chill that would try to creep into her shoulders. Her nine patch, lap quilt was already on the porch, folded and ready for her in her rocker. Given that she felt prepared for the cool of autumn, Gracie was determined to rock away the morning in the frosty air.
Actually, she felt she had no choice. She best keep out of everyone's way for her own sake. At breakfast, Pearlbee, the grumpy cook, batted the air with her cane in a threatening manner as often as she used it to walk around with. Gracie couldn't figure out what had gotten into that cranky, old woman. She didn't bother to ask. She wasn't dumb enough to aggravate Pearlbee into a greater frenzy than she already was. The rambunctious youngun Orie and Molly Lang adopted, Shana Shanasey, got on Gracie's nerves more all the time since the child had warmed up to the place. She raced around the house non stop, giving Gracie the feeling at any time the little girl would run over her if she wasn't fast enough to dodge out of the way. That was a real worry, because the older Gracie became the slower her pace. She figured one of these days, she wouldn't be quick enough to avoid colliding with that child. When Shana did stand still for a brief moment, the youngun asked more questions than any other human being Gracie ever knew.
One of the residents, Libby Hook, always irritating and uppity in Gracie's book, had been acting more unusual of late. Her actions were even stranger then the time she was scared by a former neighbor, Mavis Jordan. Mavis stalked the residents of Moser mansion, Gracie, Melinda and Libby, because they knew she killed Rachel Simpson, the prostitute, who lived across the street. After all that, Libby's actions being stranger now was saying some in Gracie estimation. If she noticed something wrong with Libby surely Melinda Applegate, another resident and Gracie's friend, had seen Libby acting peculiar. As soon as she had a chance, Gracie intended to bring the subject of Libby up to Melinda.
The front porch, where Gracie headed, was as far away as she could get in the over populated mansion. She hadn't seen Melinda since breakfast. More than likely she had the same notion and beat Gracie to the Amish, handcrafted, porch rockers. As different as the two of them were, Gracie figured Melinda and her thought were alike more times than not. How they handled a problem was as different as night and day, but since they became friends, Gracie usually talked Melinda into seeing the solution her way.
A wild, piercing squawk echoed down the quiet hall. Gracie jumped. Flattening her hand over her fast beating heart, she froze in her tracks and stared at the naked man, plant statue. The noise sounded like it came from that ugly statue. Glaring at the pint sized pygmy, she silently vowed she had never liked that nasty, little African man, and she never would. Every time she walked by him, he leered obscenely at her through the large Boston fern's fronds that dangled down around his face.
Another sharp squawk rent the air. Now Gracie's hearing was more tuned in. That didn't come from the naked man statue. She edged toward the library door. Repeated sessions of loud hisses reminded her of a startled snake. The sounds ushered her back to an autumn on the farm. One cool evening, a king snake, looking for a warm place, slithered under the screen door at her farm house. The varmint wound up under the kitchen table. Didn't take her long to back out the door and run for her garden hoe. She make short work of that snake. Up until now she hadn't seen many snakes around the mansion. Except for those grass snakes that lived in the back yard like the one who managed to get stuck in Mavis Jordan's shoe at the garden party that time. That one ended up dead for his trouble. Certainly a snake had never made it under the mansion's tight doors. Gracie peeked cautiously around the library door frame, surveying the hardwood floor. She didn't see a snake.
At the next long hiss and shrill squawk, Gracie focused her attention over in the corner by the wall of book shelves. Irish lass, Moxie McEntire, the Langs permanent house guest, had a finger placed to her lips. She leaned her short frame over a large, wicker birdcage on stilted legs. Her bushy, red hair hid her face as she hissed another drawn out shush. Inside the cage, a cobalt blue parrot flapped his wings in a speedy fashion, hurling himself from one side of the cage to the other. Obviously, he wanted to escape before Moxie struck at him like he expected any food hunting snake from his native country would do.
Gracie slipped across the room to stand behind Moxie. In her brassy voice, she snapped, "What's going on in here?"
Moxie straightened fast and whirled around to face Gracie. "Saint preserve us, what are ye doin' scaring me out of a week's worth of growth like that by sneakin' up on me?"
"You would have heard me come in if you hadn't been hissing like a locomotive letting off steam at that - that…," Gracie hesitated to inspect the parrot.
"Sure and it tis a parrot, Miss Gracie." Moxie's Irish, blue eyes took on excited brightness.
"I know that," scoffed Gracie, glaring into the cage. "I also see plain as day, you're scaring the noisy thing."
"I was just trying to quiet him down. He's a wee bit nervous from the move to a strange place," Moxie defended.
Eying the two women distrustfully from the far side of his perch, the parrot shook himself. He puffed his feathers up to twice his size. Giving one last shutter, he settled down his fluffed up feathers. Now that Moxie quit hissing at him, the parrot calmed down. Picking up his foot, the bird busied himself, scratching the side of his bright, yellow beak.
"What's it doing in here?" Gracie demanded. Pointing at the cage, she gave Moxie her full attention.
"Tis me new pet. Jeffrey, me love, heard the poor thing was goin' to be put to death." At the mention of Jeffrey, Moxie's face took on a dreamy look.
"I might have known that man would have been involved in this scheme somehow," Gracie sighed. "No offense since he's Melinda's nephew, but he don't have a lick of sense."
'Now hear me out, Miss Gracie. The man who owned this lovely bird died. No one else wanted him. He would have been killed if I hadn't said yes. Isn't he the prettiest bird ye ever saw? Smart besides," Moxie boasted, trying to win Gracie over to her way of thinking.
As if on cue, the parrot screamed at Gracie, "Awk! I'm Turkeyneck. Who are you?"
Startled, Gracie flinched.
"See isn't that smart of him?" Moxie bragged proudly. "Tell him your name, Miss Gracie."
"I'm not talking to that critter like he's human. For one thing, I rarely speak to strangers. I don't know this bird well enough to talk to him. For another, I have no intention of getting acquainted with him. Besides you're wrong. That bird don't seem one bit smart to me. He just said he thinks he's a turkey," barked Gracie, eying the bird disdainfully.
"Oh no! Sure and he doesn't. Turkeyneck really is his name," Moxie defended, blinking her eyes lids furiously.
Gracie's head jerked back. "Why?"
Moxie shrugged her shoulders. "Sure and I don't have the slightest notion. That's what his owner named him."
Gracie stepped up beside Moxie and gave the bird a good once over. The parrot craned his neck as far up as he could and tilted his head, inspecting the elderly woman right back. She twisted her head to the side just like the parrot and speculated, "Might be cause his neck is twice as long when he stretches." Pointing an arthritic finger at the cage again, she got her thoughts back on track. She centered her attention on Moxie. "Does Miss Molly know this thing is in the library?"
"No, but me thinks she won't mind," Moxie said casually.
"I see, but you don't know that for sure," persisted Grace.
Moxie clasped her fingers and laid her hands on her waist. She said calmly, "Not yet. I just got him. I'll tell Molly soon as I see her."
Gracie narrowed her eyes and warned, "Best yet, does Libby know this bird's in the library? You know how snippy Libby is about being around any kind of critter. I'll bet she's going to have a hissy fit."
"Oh, maybe not." Moxie tried to sound sure of herself, but her forehead suddenly furrowed in worry wrinkles at the thought.
Sidestepping across the wooden perch to get closer to the women, the parrot flapped his wings and let out a squawk as loud as he could.
"What on earth is that poultry doing in here?" Snapped Libby, peevishly from the doorway. She had her hands clamped over her ears.
"The bird ain't poultry." said Gracie in disdain.
"Top of the morning to ye, Miss Libby. Come see me new pet." Moxie motioned to her to come over.
"No thank you," Libby said, staying in the doorway.
"Awk! Awk! I'm Turkeyneck. How do Snippy Libby." Then the parrot ducked his head low and squalled, "Look out for Snippy Libby. She's has hissy fits."
Moxie's complexion reddened to match her flighty hair. She looked helplessly from the parrot to Gracie. When she saw Libby's face contort, Moxie looked at her with a mortified expression. In the doorway, the woman's long, thin face twisted and flushed with anger. Putting a hand over her mouth, Gracie turned her back to Libby, trying her best to contain the laughter welling up inside her. To begin with, Libby had abhorrence of the parrot written all over her face. That bird sure didn't help his cause when he tried name calling on Libby. Now she was down right mad.
Insulted at being spoken to like that, Libby grew huffy. "Well, I never." It crossed through Gracie's mind Libby puffed up just like the parrot. The insulted woman accused Moxie in a caustic tone, "Why would you teach that creature to say such a thing about me?"
Wringing her hands, Moxie crossed the room to stand by Libby. "Horse feathers, Miss Libby, I didn't teach him anything. I don't know what has possessed me parrot. I am so sorry," She apologized.
Libby screeched, "That talking chicken is the devil in disguise. Get it out of this house before it insults me again."
"The bird isn't a chicken," explained Moxie quietly.
"Well, I know a turkey when I see one. She's certainly not a turkey. You're not going to convince me she is," Libby's voice kept rising up as she spoke. Her breath came short and fast.
"Awk. Look out! Libby's having a hissy fit," the parrot declared.
"If you don't get rid of her, I shall never use the library again," huffed Libby, her head high in the air. She moved her hands in a rolling grip. "Miss Moxie, I shall never speak to you again if that bird stays here. On top of that, I shall tell Miss Molly about this awful chicken." Her nose aimed at the ceiling when she backed away from the door.
"Well, maybe that bird's good for amusing us after all. Look on the bright side. Libby not talking to you might be a good thing." Gracie whispered to Moxie and giggled behind her hand.
Distraught, Moxie peeked out the door after Libby to make sure she was out of earshot. She came back to the cage and spoke softly to keep Libby from hearing. "Sure and that's not funny. This predicament all be your fault. Me parrot picks up words real easy. I told ye he's a smart one, he tis. All he had to do was hear ye call Miss Libby ----." The parrot cocked his head to one side. His beady, black eyes, set in circles of white feathers, eyed Moxie. He listened to her every word. "Sure and ye know. Now he thinks that tis Miss Libby's name. I told ye he's a smart one. Ye have to be more careful what ye say."
"Tell you right now, I'm not waiting to hear the next words out of that bird's mouth. He's nothing but pure trouble." Gracie snatched the Locked Rock Weekly Newspaper off the writing table. "I'm going out on the porch where it's quiet. You best be talking to Miss Molly right quick before Libby gets to her. You shouldn't disrupt the household any more than you already have. Miss Molly sure don't need any excitement or worries these days feeling like she does."

Chapter 1
Gracie Evans woke up that October morning in 1904 with a down right awful feeling of despair coursing through her veins. She often had premonitions of some eminent disaster about to happen, but not to the degree she just woke up with. The imaginary, black thunder cloud hanging over her head didn't leave as quickly as it usually arrived, either. That made her mood as dark as that invisible life's storm she felt coming toward her. She braided her thin, dark gray hair and crowned her head with the braids. This premonition gave her the impression she should grab hold and hang on for dear life to a solid object. A heck of an ill wind was about to blow over Locked Rock, Iowa's Rest Home For Women. Her premonitions were never wrong.
After breakfast, Gracie, still in a bad mood, limped down the Moser mansion entry hall, grumbling to herself. If that hall got any longer, she would have to forget about walking any farther than the parlor because of her bum knee. Although now that fall had arrived, it wouldn't be long before she would be stuck indoors anyway, sitting as close to the parlor fireplace as she could get. So what would it matter how long the entry hall was then?
The outside temperature was still tolerable for a little while if a body dressed warm enough. She had on a long sleeve, tan blouse and brown skirt with a heavy, cotton slip under it. With the tops rolled over garters just above her knees, her thick, tan stockings kept her legs warm. She hoped her dark brown shawl warded off the chill that would try to creep into her shoulders. Her nine patch, lap quilt was already on the porch, folded and ready for her in her rocker. Given that she felt prepared for the cool of autumn, Gracie was determined to rock away the morning in the frosty air.
Actually, she felt she had no choice. She best keep out of everyone's way for her own sake. At breakfast, Pearlbee, the grumpy cook, batted the air with her cane in a threatening manner as often as she used it to walk around with. Gracie couldn't figure out what had gotten into that cranky, old woman. She didn't bother to ask. She wasn't dumb enough to aggravate Pearlbee into a greater frenzy than she already was. The rambunctious youngun Orie and Molly Lang adopted, Shana Shanasey, got on Gracie's nerves more all the time since the child had warmed up to the place. She raced around the house non stop, giving Gracie the feeling at any time the little girl would run over her if she wasn't fast enough to dodge out of the way. That was a real worry, because the older Gracie became the slower her pace. She figured one of these days, she wouldn't be quick enough to avoid colliding with that child. When Shana did stand still for a brief moment, the youngun asked more questions than any other human being Gracie ever knew.
One of the residents, Libby Hook, always irritating and uppity in Gracie's book, had been acting more unusual of late. Her actions were even stranger then the time she was scared by a former neighbor, Mavis Jordan. Mavis stalked the residents of Moser mansion, Gracie, Melinda and Libby, because they knew she killed Rachel Simpson, the prostitute, who lived across the street. After all that, Libby's actions being stranger now was saying some in Gracie estimation. If she noticed something wrong with Libby surely Melinda Applegate, another resident and Gracie's friend, had seen Libby acting peculiar. As soon as she had a chance, Gracie intended to bring the subject of Libby up to Melinda.
The front porch, where Gracie headed, was as far away as she could get in the over populated mansion. She hadn't seen Melinda since breakfast. More than likely she had the same notion and beat Gracie to the Amish, handcrafted, porch rockers. As different as the two of them were, Gracie figured Melinda and her thought were alike more times than not. How they handled a problem was as different as night and day, but since they became friends, Gracie usually talked Melinda into seeing the solution her way.
A wild, piercing squawk echoed down the quiet hall. Gracie jumped. Flattening her hand over her fast beating heart, she froze in her tracks and stared at the naked man, plant statue. The noise sounded like it came from that ugly statue. Glaring at the pint sized pygmy, she silently vowed she had never liked that nasty, little African man, and she never would. Every time she walked by him, he leered obscenely at her through the large Boston fern's fronds that dangled down around his face.




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