We are not buying a camp.., p.1
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       We are NOT Buying a Camper!, p.1

           Karen Musser Nortman
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We are NOT Buying a Camper!


  We are NOT Buying a Camper!

  A prequel to the Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries

  by Karen Musser Nortman

  Copyright © 2017 by Karen Musser Nortman. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the author.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is purely coincidental.

  Cover Design: Aurora Lightbourne

  Thank you for downloading this ebook. This book remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be redistributed to others for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy from their favorite authorized dealer. Thank you for your support.

  Also by Karen Musser Nortman

  The Time Travel Trailer

  Trailer on the Fly

  The Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries

  Bats and Bones

  The Blue Coyote

  Peete and Repeat

  The Lady of the Lake

  To Cache a Killer

  A Campy Christmas

  The Space Invader

  Table of Contents

  Prologue

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Happy Camper Tips

  Thank You

  The Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries

  Prologue

  Occasionally late at night, Larry and Frannie Shoemaker and Mickey and Jane Ann Ferraro depart from their usual analyses of national politics and rehash of local gossip around the campfire to reminisce. Their voices low and laughter subdued, they stare into the flames with occasional burst of sparks and recall earlier trips, parties, family events, and how they became camping buddies twenty or so years earlier.

  They were related ever since Mickey married Larry’s sister. But the Shoemakers were very reluctant to join the Ferraros on their camping weekends.

  There’re the bugs, they said. And unpredictable weather. And all of the preparation. And, oh yeah, the bugs. Larry and Frannie said it couldn’t possibly be worth it.

  Yet here they are, after years of camping adventures together—some more exciting than they needed to be—stirring the fire and the memories.

  Sometimes Larry blames Mickey for all he has spent on camping and Mickey retorts that those memories are priceless. Other times Larry claims that the Ferraros would have given up camping years ago if the Shoemakers hadn’t been there to enhance the events. And Frannie reflects that she wouldn’t trade these experiences—even Larry and Mickey’s arguments—for anything.

  But always the four end up agreeing that it is a marvel that the Shoemakers ever came back after the first two trips.

  Chapter One

  “Mrs. Shoemaker?”

  Frannie turned from the filing cabinet. “Yes, Hayden?”

  “Um, we’re going to be gone on vacation the last week of school and my mom said to ask if I would miss anything.”

  Frannie smiled sweetly. “Why, no, Hayden, if you aren’t going to be here, we won’t be doing anything.” Sometimes sarcasm was the only way of getting through to eighth graders.

  He looked skeptical. “You’re kidding, right?”

  Frannie sat down at her desk. “Yes, I’m kidding. We’ll be reviewing the whole semester for the final test the last day.”

  “So, I can’t really make that up, right—except the test?”

  “Sure you can. The last week you are here, we can meet after school every day for review and you can take the test on that Friday.”

  “But I have the track banquet that week and I need to get my driver’s permit after school one day.”

  “You need it for some job or something?”

  “Nooo—but otherwise I can’t get it until we get home.”

  Frannie sighed. “Sometimes I’ve substituted an alternate assignment, especially if you’re going to visit a historical site. Where are you going?”

  “Disney World.”

  “Okay, we’d better stick with the review and the test. I’ll give your mom a call this weekend and we’ll work out a time for the review.” One of the advantages of teaching in a small town was knowing most of the parents.

  Hayden grimaced and slouched out of the room.

  When she reached the teacher’s lounge of the Perfection Falls Middle School, the laughter bubbling out of the door indicated that Mickey Ferraro was holding his usual Friday afternoon court. The small room, used to store supplies in its previous life, was ringed with utilitarian metal-framed chairs, a small refrigerator, and a wooden table holding a typewriter with a dusty plastic cover. Red-faced Kristi Burns, an attractive blonde first year teacher, seemed to be the target of Mickey’s relentless teasing, but she also struggled to contain her laughter.

  “Mickey, leave the poor girl alone,” Frannie said.

  Don Whitey, one of the coaches, said, “You should have heard him, Frannie, he said—“

  “Aw, she knows I’m kidding and she’s a good sport,” Mickey interrupted.

  “Well, after I call Hayden Brown’s mother tonight, I’ll call Jane Ann and have her straighten you out.”

  It didn’t faze Mickey. He leaned forward in his chair. “Hey, that reminds me, Jane Ann wanted me to ask you what you guys are doing Memorial Day weekend?”

  “Lord, I don’t know. That’s three weeks away. Why?”

  “We’re going camping at Honey Lake and we want you guys to go along.”

  “Camping? Are you kidding? Larry hates camping.”

  “Jane Ann says he camped all the time with the Scouts when he was growing up. You guys have a tent, don’t you?”

  Frannie pushed her hair back from her face. “Somewhere. We’ve never used it except a couple of times when the kids had sleepovers in the back yard. I’ll mention it, but don’t count on us.”

  “Think about it. It would be great.”

  As Frannie folded laundry that evening, Larry walked in from the garage. He unsnapped his holster from his belt, put it and his police revolver in a small cabinet and locked it. His Perfection Falls Police Department shirt was rumpled and stained. He looked at Frannie’s face.

  “Rough day?”

  She straightened up from trying to separate fifteen-year-old Sam’s and fourteen-year-old Sally’s athletic socks. She couldn’t tell the difference, although they always knew if they didn’t get the right ones. Giving up, she dumped the pile in an empty basket. Let them work it out.

  “The usual end-of-the year craziness. One kid, Hayden Schultz—you know, Diane and Gary’s kid—told me they’re going on vacation the whole last week of school. So the week after next, I’m going to have to review him and give him his test before he goes. They couldn’t wait a week? And,” she laughed and shook her head, “Mickey wanted to know if we want to go camping with them Memorial Day weekend. I told him not likely.”

  Larry put his hands on his hips and looked at the calendar hanging above the clothes dryer.

  “Damn.”

  “What?” Frannie said.

  “Well, a month or so ago, he asked me about it during golf. It’s Jane Ann’s fortieth birthday that weekend so I told him we’d think about it.” He grinned sheepishly at her. “I forgot to mention it to you.”

&nbs
p; “And I forgot about her birthday coming up. But I thought you always said you hated camping...”

  “I don’t hate it—but there’s a lot of things I would rather do.”

  “Like golf.”

  “Like golf,” he agreed.

  “But what about the kids? I mean Sally can hang out with Mona and Justine, but Sam would kind of be outnumbered.” Mona Ferraro was a year older than Sally, and Justine a year younger. The girls had always been close, and Sam the odd man out, literally.

  “He could take a friend. Trent would probably love to go. It is a six-person tent, you know.” He grinned.

  Frannie couldn’t believe they were having this conversation. “We don’t have enough sleeping bags for all of us.”

  “We’d have to borrow a couple. Let’s think about it anyway.”

  As they expected, Sally was thrilled with the idea; Sam not so much.

  “The pool is supposed to open that weekend and Ashley said she’s going to have a pool party.”

  “If it wasn’t Aunt Jane Ann’s birthday, we probably wouldn’t even be thinking about it,” Frannie told him. “Summer’s barely started—there’ll be more parties.” It was hard encouraging him to be enthusiastic when she wasn’t excited herself.

  “I suppose,” he said.

  Over supper with the Ferraros on Saturday night, Jane Ann practically begged them to go.

  “Honey Lake is a great park. It’ll be the perfect chance to relax with the end of school and all. You’ll be amazed. And they have all kinds of activities planned for the kids because of the holiday.”

  Frannie didn’t expect it to be relaxing, but she couldn’t turn Jane Ann down. They had been best friends ever since Frannie and Larry were married.

  Jane Ann, a surgical nurse who reminded Frannie of Grace Kelly, had welcomed Frannie into the large, boisterous Shoemaker family. Frannie had been an only child and was a little overwhelmed with the noisy, teasing bunch. Jane Ann became her protector, warding off her siblings when she could see a shell-shocked look come in to Frannie’s eyes.

  She had come to Frannie’s rescue when Sam was born, and Frannie had lugged food and lent support when the Ferraros adopted their two daughters as toddlers. Mickey taught English and Frannie Social Studies to the same group of eighth graders. The two couples had been virtually inseparable. Thus, her capitulation.

  On Sunday afternoon, Larry found the box with the tent in the back of the garage, and he and Sam dragged it out into the yard. Frannie took a glass of iced tea out to supervise from a lawn chair.

  Larry hung onto the box while Sam pulled the smelly mass of canvas onto the ground.

  “Ew, gross! Looks like it’s got mildew all over it. Stinks, too.”

  “It’s not too bad,” Larry said. “We’ll set it up and scrub it down with bleach. A couple of days in the sun, and it’ll be fine.”

  Frannie decided to go back inside.

  They assigned Sally to scare up more sleeping bags. Mickey, an accomplished cook, made up menus and gave Larry a grocery list. Frannie buried herself in end-of-the-year grading, going to the kids’ concerts and ball games, and keeping a minimum of order in the house.

  She had just finished frosting a cake to take to the Fine Arts Banquet when Sam came in, reached over, and swiped a finger full of frosting from the cake.

  “Sam! I have to take that tonight and I don’t have time to refrost it!”

  He licked his finger and picked up the frosting knife from the counter. With a flourish, he tried to repair the damage. When he was done, the cake looked like it had been hit by a meteor, but he seemed pleased by the result.

  “Trent said he can go camping with us. That’ll make the truck pretty crowded, so I was thinking I could drive your car, and we could follow you guys.”

  “You don’t have a license. Does Trent have his yet?”

  “No, but I have my permit and if we follow you, you’ll be able to keep an eye on us.”

  “You know one of us has to be in the same car when you’re driving. Get out of here!” She grinned at him, but after he left, sadly surveyed the cake.

  By the Thursday before Memorial Day, Larry had cleaned out three coolers and Frannie organized her fridge with packages of hot dogs and steaks, containers of fruit, and condiments for the trip.

  Friday was the last day of school. By the time Frannie got home, she was exhausted. She dumped her briefcase full of tests in the home office. They could wait until her return from what she mentally labeled That Disastrous Camping Trip. She wondered for the umpteenth time why she had agreed to this. Even the thought of staying home and kicking back in her recliner to grade papers had more appeal.

  Larry filled the coolers with ice and sent Sally to collect the refrigerated food. They loaded the coolers into the back of the already-stuffed pickup bed. Sam and Trent arrived and added gym bags sprouting their Walkmans to the mix, shoving and poking each other.

  Sally watched them with disgust. “Do I have to ride with them? Can’t I ride with Mona and Justine?”

  Frannie nodded. “If they have room.”

  They arrived at the Ferraros. Their SUV sat hooked up to their popup trailer.

  Sally bolted from the truck and raced up the driveway. “Aunt Jane Ann! Can I ride with you guys?”

  Jane Ann glanced at the Shoemaker vehicle, saw the two boys wrestling in the back seat, and smiled. “You bet. I wouldn’t want to ride in there either.”

  Sally ran back for her bag. By the time she returned, her cousins had made room and beckoned her in, giggling of course. The girls presented a contrasting picture. Sally was a strawberry blonde, compliments of her father, with Frannie’s fair skin. She looked more like she could be Jane Ann’s daughter. Mona and Justine had dark eyes, deep brown skin, and curly dark hair.

  Mickey came out of the house and sauntered down to talk to Larry.

  “It’s only about an hour. Just follow us.”

  Finally on the road, Frannie recalled the only time she had been to Honey Lake. The kids were little and they had gone for a family picnic. She remembered bugs.

  “Larry,” she said, “I forgot to bring any bug spray.”

  “Relax, Jane Ann will have some.”

 
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