Minister's wife Faith Fairchild is excited about catering her church's restoration campaign kickoff at historic Ballou House. But when a beautiful young woman dies moments after finishing dessert, Faith is suddenly in serious trouble. Not only is her business in jeopardy -- but Aleford's wagging tongues are suggesting that Faith herself laced the goodie with cyanide, having discovered her husband Tom's perhaps overly pastoral interest in the victim. Faith's world feels steeped in poison and never before have her amateur sleuthing skills been more crucial -- especially when another body is found in the moonlight carrying an unmistakable warning: you're next!
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February 05, 2002
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Excerpt from The Body in the Moonlight by Katherine Hall Page
"Patsy, sorry to wake you. It's Faith."
Fully awake, even though it was only 6:30, Patsy Avery got out of bed and walked into the hall, away from her sleeping husband.
"What's wrong? I can hear it in your voice. What's happened?"
"I think I may need you; that is, I think I may need a lawyer."
"Don't say another word. I'm on a cell phone. Get over here -- or do you want me to come to you?"
"I'll come, but I'll have to leave in time to get ready for church."
"Heavens above," Patsy said mockingly, "I certainly wouldn't want to be responsible for the minister's wife missing the service."
Faith said good-bye without either laughing or responding to the quip with one of her own.
Things must be very bad.
Patsy pulled a dressing gown over her large frame and debated whether to awaken Will. He was a lawyer, too. She'd wait and ask Faith.
She went downstairs to the kitchen, pausing at the thermostat to hike it up several degrees. It was October, and she knew that by New England standards she shouldn't even have the heat on until the first snowstorm forced a grudging acknowledgment that it could be a mite nippy out. She went back and flicked it again, hearing the furnace respond with a satisfying rumble. She was from New Orleans, and as far as she was concerned, it started getting cold up north just about the time you thought summer might finally have arrived. Damn cold.
The days were getting shorter and by the end of the month daylight saving time would end. It would be dark when they got home from work. It was dark now, but an early-morning dark already starting to thin to gray. The birds were up and creating their usual bedlam. Traffic noise didn't bother her, yet when they'd left the city for bucolic Aleford, it had taken months for Patsy to learn to sleep through this avian chorus.
Her eye fell on the calendar hanging near the phone. There would be a full moon tonight. The house gave an appropriate groan. Just the wood expanding and contracting, the Realtor had hastened to explain when a bansheelike wail accompanied their ascent up the attic stairs. Patsy didn't believe in ghosts, especially northern ghosts. She chuckled to herself, remembering her mother's comment: "Don't worry, honey, from what I've heard, those old Yankees don't like giving space to tenants who don't pay any rent."
Patsy had spent most of the fall traveling back and forth to the Midwest on a case, returning from the latest trip only on Friday. She and Will had spent the day before getting reacquainted -- and that did not include a trip to the market -- but she knew Will would never let them run out of coffee beans, and their freezer was always full of food. She quickly brewed a large pot, then dug around for some of the sticky buns her mother-in-law regularly sent up, along with vats of gumbo and the occasional sweet-potato pie. Faith Fairchild wasn't just the minister's wife but also a successful caterer. Besides a whole lot of other things in common, she and Patsy shared the sincere belief that food was an antidote to misfortune, easing the pain as well as loosening the tongue.
Why on earth would Faith need a lawyer? A criminal lawyer? Patsy worked mostly with juveniles, but she kept her hand in with a few adult cases now and then. She put the rolls in the microwave to defrost and poured herself a cup of coffee. Despite the urgency in Faith's voice, Patsy knew it would take her a while to get to the house, although they lived within walking distance. The parsonage was one of the white clapboard houses tidily arranged around the Aleford village green, a hop, skip, and a jump through the old burying ground to the First Parish Church, where the Reverend Thomas Fairchild held forth.