Author: Vinnie Hansen
Book Title: Lostart Street, a novel of mystery, murder and moonbeams
Release Date: May 31. 2017
Synopsis: Cecile Knutsen abandons her old life in San Francisco to accept her first teaching position in a small California coast town. She rents an apartment in a newly integrated development for old and handicapped people, across from a woman she never sees. Mysterious thefts and a budding romance tug the lonely Cecile into this community of strange inhabitants. Blinded by the busyness of her new career, Cecile doesn’t see impending danger.
Not a soul stirred except the two of us. The mustard-colored apartment units could have been empty.
“It’s quiet,” I murmured.
“Yes, very quiet.” The manager, Bobbi Headland, was a tiny woman with tinted red hair and spiky eyelashes. Humans are already anatomical wonders, slender stalks balancing twenty-pound heads. Bobbi Headland added to this miracle with twiggy legs and large, Barbie-doll breasts. As we walked up the asphalt drive, all logic argued she should tip over, which perhaps accounted for her charged up, nervous air.
The alluring quiet of the place contrasted sharply with my life of MUNI buses rumbling past the flat I rented with my friend Imogene. Behind the three rows of apartments, birds fluttered in the ice plant covering a hill. A song sparrow on the tip of a stunted juniper threw open his beak and shattered the silent heat.
A humongous cat on the step of unit four, next to the vacant one, lazily lifted its head to acknowledge us.
“Hi ya, Buddha Belly,” Bobbi Headland chirped. “That’s Mrs. Bean’s cat and folks here call it Buddha Belly. Not in front of Mrs. Bean, of course. She’s very sensitive about her cat.”
The vacant apartment and Mrs. Bean’s stood alone, like individual houses. A nice feature.
Bobbi threw open the door. I weighed the plusses and minuses of the place: clean with new carpet and knotty pine in a minuscule kitchen. The rent was unreasonable, but affordable given my new salary. And with my first day as a high-school teacher looming in two days, I had no time to shop. I still faced the move from San Francisco.
As I peeked about, Bobbi scrutinized the place as though trying to fathom what a single, twenty‑eight-year-old would want in such a dead place. Why not choose hip downtown Santa Cruz instead of this little village? She chattered away, giving me the history of the apartments and telling me about the woman who lived across the asphalt drive in unit six. “She doesn’t come out much in the day. You might not ever see her.”
I should have paid more attention to this information, but it winged by.
Bobbi ducked into what I’d already decided was my bathroom. She stayed for a long time, but emerged seeming calmer. I should have paid more attention to that, too.
About the author: Vinnie Hansen fled the winds of the South Dakota prairie and headed for the California coast the day after high school graduation.
As a child, she read books while huddled on top the dryer. Vinnie grew up to write numerous short stories and the Carol Sabala mysteries. MURDER, HONEY is available in the bestselling e-collection: SLEUTHING WOMEN: 10 FIRST-IN-SERIES MYSTERIES.
Her story, MISCALCULATION, is forthcoming in SANTA CRUZ NOIR (Akashic Books).
Still sane after 27 years of teaching high-school English, Vinnie has retired and lives in Santa Cruz, California, with her husband and the requisite cat. Find her at http://www.vinniehansen.com.