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I’m moving a bit ahead of schedule on the new Garden Girls -The Golden Years book, “Christmas Crisis,” should be available sometime next week!
Ruth Carpenter is retiring from her position as Belhaven’s postmaster. It’s anything but “smooth sailing” into retirement. If you would like a sneak peek into the new Garden Girl’s adventure, scroll down…
In other news, I’ve started working on the third book, Michigan Mayhem, which will release in January.
I’ve gotten a lot of emails from readers asking about new books in their favorite series, and plan to release a tentative 2021 schedule in next week’s email, so stay tuned.
I hope you’re staying well, staying warm and enjoying my favorite holiday season!
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Take a Sneak Peek Of Christmas Crisis
“You’ve got this, Kenny, my man.” Ruth gave the rural route carrier a hearty whack on the back. “You’re going to ace the interview and soon you’ll be Belhaven’s postmaster. It’s in the bag.”
Kenny cast his boss a skeptical look. “I dunno. Who knows what kind of competition I’m up against? I don’t want to get my hopes up.”
For several weeks now, Ruth had been coaching her protégé, giving him tips on what she was certain it would take for him to secure the coveted position in the small town of Belhaven, Michigan.
Ruth initially believed he was a shoe-in for the job, smoothly transitioning into the position when she retired at the end of the year, but rumors had recently started swirling that several other area postal employees – highly-qualified individuals at that – were vying for her job.
When the post office board invited Ruth to join the review committee for the final round of interviews, she couldn’t believe it. Her excitement was short-lived when she discovered she would be sitting in as an observer only.
There was one glimmer of hope, a development which was working in Kenny’s favor. Ruth had never heard of the “higher-ups” making an appearance and interviewing on site. All of the hiring she’d ever heard of was done at the regional office in Grand Rapids.
Despite her best efforts to find out who Kenny was competing against, she hadn’t had much luck and even Ruth’s boss was tight-lipped about the entire process.
“The interviewers should be here any moment.” Ruth plucked a ball of lint off Kenny’s shirtsleeve. “Why don’t you go spiff up while we wait?”
Kenny made his way into the employee’s restroom while Ruth walked to the window. Despite her optimism, there was a nagging nervousness over Kenny taking her place. Maybe it was because she’d spent decades in the position, and it was more than just a job. The Belhaven Post Office was her second home, the place where she visited with friends, where she had built her career. And if she were completely honest with herself, the job gave Ruth a sense of purpose.
But there were other things Ruth was interested in, namely NASCA, the North American Surveillance and Communications Association, of which she was the Great Lakes Regional Manager.
Ruth’s “Golden Years” were shaping up to be equally as busy as being employed full-time at the post office. It would just be a different kind of busy.
The front bell chimed and Judith Arnett, a Belhaven local, stepped inside. “Hello, Ruth. Did I miss the morning pick-up?”
“Nope. The truck hasn’t shown up yet.” Ruth made her way to the counter and waited for Judith to join her.
“Great. I have some Christmas packages to ship to my cousin in Memphis.” The woman eased the pile of packages onto the counter.
“Are there any flammable materials, lithium batteries, fragile or valuable items that need to be insured?”
“No. No. No and no,” Judith said. “There are some boxes of homemade chocolate-covered cherries and a baby blanket I knitted for my new great-niece.”
Ruth placed the first package on the scale. She weighed and affixed the postage before reaching for the next.
“Any news on your replacement?” Judith leaned an elbow on the counter. “I’m rooting for Kenny.”
“Me too. In fact, we’re waiting for whoever’s in charge of his final interview to arrive.”
While she worked, Ruth and Judith chatted about her retirement and the holidays in general. After finishing, she rang up the total and tapped the top of the credit card machine. “The total is twelve dollars and six cents.”
Judith started to swipe her card and then paused.
“What is it? Did I miss something?”
“I was just wondering if I should splurge and pay a little extra to track the sweater. A friend over in Rockville had a package swiped by porch pirates the other day.”
“It’s bad this time of year,” Ruth shook her head. “You would think with all of the front door cameras out there these days, it would put a dent in the number of thefts that take place during the holidays.”
Unfortunately, the opposite was happening. Ruth had recently received a bulletin from the regional manager, alerting area postmasters to an increase in thefts.
Belhaven had also been hit by the pirates, one as recently as the previous week when an angry resident stormed into the post office demanding to know what had happened to their package. Upon checking the system, Ruth discovered it had been delivered and then mysteriously vanished.
Judith decided against the extra insurance and exited the post office, passing a man and woman who made their way inside.
Kenny emerged from the bathroom, nervously clearing his throat as they approached the customer counter.
“We’re from the United States Postal Service’s human resources department and are here to meet with Kenneth Webber.”
“That’s me.” Kenny raised his hand.
“I’m Ruth Carpenter, head postmaster,” Ruth said. “I was invited to sit in on Kenny’s final interview.”
The man flipped through the file folder he was holding. “Ruth Carpenter. I don’t see your name on my paperwork, requesting to be in attendance.” He peered at her over the top of his glasses. “You typically need to make the request ahead of time and in writing.”
“I was invited by the regional manager, Devlin Zylstra.”
The two stared at each other until finally, the woman shrugged. “I don’t see why you can’t sit in as long as Mr. Webber has no objection.”
“No. I…I would like Ruth to sit in.”
“Then, let’s proceed.”
Ruth hurried to open the half door and led them to a corner table. “Before we get started, I wondered if you could give us any information about the other candidates.”
“Information?” The woman placed her briefcase on the edge of the table. “Such as?”
“How many others have applied for my job.”
“I’m sorry. All applicant information is confidential.” The man nodded toward Kenny. “This includes Mr. Webber.”
“Let’s get down to business.” The woman started the questioning, asking Kenny about post office protocol, rules and policies.
The interview moved at a fast clip. Several times Ruth excused herself to help customers, making quick work of handling the interruptions, determined not to miss anything important in the interview process.
“I think we’re almost done,” the man said as he consulted his notes.
“Almost,” the woman said. “I have one more question. Have you ever observed anyone tampering with government property, either an employee or a customer?”
Kenny shot Ruth a quick glance, a look the female interviewer didn’t miss. “Is there something I should know?”
“I…uh. I. Of course not. I mean, not that I haven’t reported,” Kenny mumbled under his breath.
Ruth could feel the tips of her ears burn and resisted the urge to shift her gaze to the surveillance cameras she had installed a few years back, after taking down the post office’s cheap ones. Several times, she had thought about swapping them back out for the originals, but every time she did, something else would happen and she was glad they were still up.
Looking back, her decision may have been a mistake. Ruth silently vowed to take them down as soon as possible, as in…as soon as the interviewers left.
But it was too late.
An unreadable expression crossed the woman’s face as she arched a brow and pointed her pen toward the ceiling. “The reason I’m asking is because I’m wondering where the surveillance cameras hanging from the ceiling came from. Those are not government-grade cameras.”
End of sneak peek.–Christmas Crisis Coming Next Week!
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List Of Books By Series…Have You Read Them All?
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