Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Missing Mabel; The Weight of Shadows

Missing Mabel: A Curl Up and Dye Mystery

By Nancy Mehl

Hilde Higgins knows hair, and she knows the hair on her client doesn't match that of the person originally identified as Mabel Winnemaker. How can she make the funeral director acknowledge the mix-up when they think she is creating a distraction to cover for stealing for stealing Mabel's diamond ring? Now her reputation and career are on the line. The only way to salvage her future is to find the missing Mabel. Can an old boyfriend be of help, or will he just add to the complications in her tangled life?


I glanced at my watch. I was supposed to meet my mother at one o'clock. Just enough time to do Mabel's hair and get to the restaurant. Lunch with Mother. Not something I looked forward to. My mother still couldn't understand why I'd left college to go to beauty school and ended up working on "dead people's hair, for crying out loud." Mom is a successful neurosurgeon who is absolutely horrified by my career choice. I'd tried once to explain to her how it happened, but her dazed look told me that she was either taking a quick, open-eyed nap, or she was thinking about the next skull she planned to crack open. At least we were both concentrating on the same end of the body.

No matter how I tried to express myself when it came to my present job, she couldn't understand it. To be honest, I wasn't exactly certain myself how it happened. Fresh out of beauty school and accepted into one of the top salons in Wichita, I was in a position to make good money while doing something I thought I would really enjoy. I knew my mother had pulled some strings to get me hired by Monsieur Maximilian, who owned Maximilian's Salon de L'Élégance. Although it's the premier salon in the city, I was L'Miserable. Most of my clients were rich, older women who wanted to look like Julia Roberts. When they stared into a mirror and saw crow's feet, double chins, and loose skin, somehow it was always my fault. My hairstyles were supposed to perform miracles, it seemed. Unfortunately, God didn't see fit to fill my combs and brushes with miracle-working power.

My life changed one afternoon about a year ago when Monsieur Max grabbed the back of my coat and screeched, "Ah, ma petite chérie, you must grab your combs and go right now!"

Assuming I was fired, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. However, that was followed by a rush of terror when I understood that I was being sent to a local funeral home to fix the hair of a recently departed patron. The family insisted that their dear mother's hair be styled by the same salon that had been taking care of her for years. Surprisingly, no one else wanted to go.

Feeling that my career, such as it was, was hanging by a thread, I drove to The Sweet Slumberland Funeral Home, shaking like a leaf. I was scared stiff (no pun intended) as I was led down the hall to my client. But once we were alone, something happened to me. I felt a real

peace in that room, and before long, Gertrude's hair was beautifully coiffed.

A couple of days later, I slipped quietly into the back of the church where her funeral was being held. Because she and her family were well known in the community, the church was packed and no one noticed me. After the service, I followed the procession of mourners who filed past her

open casket. Two women in front of me stopped to stare at their late friend.

"Oh my goodness," one whispered to the other. "She looks lovely. She always had the most

beautiful hair."

"Yes she did," the other acknowledged. "Her daughter was worried that her mother wouldn't look right. Gertie was very fastidious, you know. But I understand Carol was so comforted when she saw her mother at the funeral home, she broke down and cried with relief. I'm glad she'll be able to remember Gertrude this way."

Anyone seeing me would have thought Gertrude Maitland and I were close friends. Maybe the tears I wept weren't from a relationship with the elderly woman while she was alive, but we still had a bond. She had needed me to help her say good-bye. As I stood over her casket, I realized that I'd found something I wanted to do. I could use my skills with clients who wouldn't be voicing silly complaints, while I brought comfort to grieving families. I'd accidentally found my calling. I hurried back to the salon and quit my job that very afternoon. After listening to a stream of French phrases I'm pretty sure were dancing on the edge of profanity, I said good-bye to Monsieur Max, who was actually raised in Boise, Idaho, and set off on my new venture.

Within two weeks I had work. After a couple of jobs, the word spread quickly throughout the mortuary community. Even homes with their own cosmetologists called me. Applying makeup to the faces of the deceased was one thing. Fixing their hair was quite another. It took a level of skill most mortuary employees didn't have. One thing that helped me tremendously was that I always asked for a picture of my client so I could style their hair the same way they'd worn it when they were alive. I still remembered my great-aunt Edna's service. Her long hair, which was always worn in a bun, had been cut and tightly curled. She didn't look at all like herself. My grandmother was devastated.

"I don't know who that is," she'd declared at the viewing, "but that is certainly not my sister!"

I was determined that would never happen at one of my funerals.

Do not reproduce without permission.

Nancy Mehl is the author of "Simple Secrets," book one in The Harmony Series - Mennonite romantic suspense mixed with mystery. "Missing Mabel" is book one in her Curl Up and Dye mystery series. Book two, "Blown Away," will be released in the fall of 2010.

Her Web site is: and her blog is located at:
Her books can be ordered on , Barnes and Noble , - or

can be found in local bookstores.

* * *

The Weight of Shadows

By Alison Strobel

The Weight of Shadows is, "moving," "engrossing, "complex," and "impossible to put down." After a difficult childhood, Kim finds everything she needs in Rick---including a way to pay for her sins. A gripping, gritty novel, The Weight of Shadows explores how the choices we make and the risks we take for those we love can touch the lives of others forever.

Is it truly a birthday party when the guests don't even know it's
your birthday? Kim pondered the question as she slipped on the
slacks she'd borrowed from her roommate Corrie. Certainly it was
an improvement over eating a store-bought cupcake alone in front
of reruns. She'd done that more times than she cared to remember.

Corrie's voice rang out over the stereo, welcoming whoever had
arrived and bringing Kim back to the present. She bit her lip, de-
bating whether or not to go out yet. These weren't her friends, she
wasn't good at small talk, and with only one guest there was no
way for her to disappear into the crowd or avoid interacting. Three
strikes. She'd better wait.

A pair of black flats, their toes and heels repaired with a marker,
were the finishing piece to her ensemble. She gave her red blouse a
tug at the bottom and examined herself in the mirror, happy with
what she saw. It was possible she wouldn't talk to anyone all night,
but at least she looked nice. In fact, part of her hoped no one would
talk to her - she'd met a few of Corrie's friends before, and they
were all out of her league. The thought of trying to hold a conver-
sation with any of them resurrected the butterflies. She frowned at
her reflection as the familiar self-doubt crept in. The less she said
tonight, the better.

Kim hated battling the voice of inadequacy that resurfaced
whenever she met new people. She reminded herself of the same
things she told her Club girls and gave her head a shake to dislodge
the negative thoughts. Your roots may form you, but they do not define
you. You are not less of a person because you lack the things most people
have. Your worth as a person is not determined by what you have, but
by who you are. When she talked to the girls, she was referencing
money, social standing, academic success, the perfect body - the
things teen girls usually stressed over. When she gave herself the
pep talk, though, she was thinking of family.

Six people had arrived, an equal mix of men and women who
had the same casual sophistication as Corrie, though two of the
women had a sort of polished hippie look that Kim envied, know-
ing she lacked the fashion sense to be like them. Her coordinating
abilities ended with slacks and blouses.

Corrie propped open the front door and returned to her conver-
sation. Kim walked to the snack table and began to load a plate with
some veggies and dip. She really wanted the chocolate chip cookies
Corrie had baked the night before, but she wanted to make a good
impression, and these folks looked like veggie people.

The next wave of guests entered, and instantly the party felt
more like a party. More talking, louder calls of "Hello!" across the
room, and, to Kim's great relief, less sophisticated dress. The last
one in shut the door behind himself and handed his scuffed leather
jacket to Corrie as he greeted her. Kim couldn't peel her eyes away
from him. He doesn't seem to belong with these people any more than I
do. Who is he?

The guest who had entered with Scuffed Leather Jacket intro-
duced him to Corrie. Kim was too far away and the room too noisy
for her to hear any of what they were saying, but Corrie, ever the
gracious hostess, made the universal mi casa es su casa arm-sweep
with a bright smile before carting the coats to her bedroom.

He stood with his hands half-jammed into his pockets and
looked around the room. When his gaze neared Kim she ducked
her head, though what she really wanted was to look him in the eye,
smile and welcome him, and commiserate. When he appeared at her
side, she almost couldn't breathe.

"The snack table is my favorite place to hide at a party too," he
said. She couldn't tell if he was sympathizing or making fun of her.

But his face, when she glanced over at him, was open and honest-
looking. There was no twinkle of teasing in his green eyes nor the
tug of a smirk at his lips. She laughed faintly and searched in vain
for something clever to say.

"My name is Rick, by the way."

"I'm Kim. Nice to meet you."

"You too. How do you know, um . . ."


"Yeah, Corrie."

"She's my roommate."

"Oh!" His face brightened. "Wow, this is your place?"

She slid her eyes back to her plate. "No. I wish. I just rent a room
from her."

"Oh, that's cool." He leaned in a little closer. "It's a nice place,
but not my style, you know? A little too . . ." He waved the hand that
wasn't holding a snack plate. "Calculated. Like those model homes
that are so decorated it's like walking into a design magazine."

"I've never thought about it, but you're right." She swirled
a carrot stick in a puddle of dip. "It's not really my style, either, but
I'll take it over just having a room any day."

They crunched on their respective vegetables in silence for a few
minutes before Kim got up the courage to speak again. "So who did
you come with?"

Rick pointed to the couch with a celery stick. "Guy I work with.

Adam. I think he knows Corrie from college or something like that.

Life has kinda sucked lately, so he invited me to cheer me up."

"That's a shame. I hope it works."

"It already has."

Kim felt her cheeks heat. She smothered the smile that stretched
across her face with a long sip from her soda. the Weight of Shadows at Amazon, ChristianBook, or your favorite bookstoreCopyright Alison Strobel 2010

No comments: