Lonesome Glove: A Little Tombstone Cozy Mystery

Lonesome Glove is the third title in the Little Tombstone Cozy Mystery series. It is a full novel-length mystery.


Emma Iverson is just settling into her new life at Little Tombstone when one cowboy from a neighboring ranch is murdered and another goes missing.

When Earp, Emma's ancient and irritable pug, drags in a single bloody work glove belonging to the missing man, she knows It's up to her to find the missing ranch hand before the murderer does.

Emma's investigation is complicated by a spate of mail thefts, attempts to turn Earp into a social media sensation, the acquisition of a potbellied piglet, and a local eccentric's insistence that his late mother is sending him cryptic messages through the crossword puzzles in the local paper.

Read a Sample

Chapter One

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to make tamales, but it’s not as easy as it looks; at least it’s not as easy as Juanita, my late grandmother’s closest friend, and proprietress of the Bird Cage Café, makes it look. When Juanita makes tamales, she assembles eight at once.

I stood in the kitchen of the Bird Cage and watched as Juanita slopped masa on the middle of each boiled corn husk, smoothing it with the back of the spoon as she went. Then she added dollops of filling to the middles. Finally, in what took about 60 seconds, for her, she rolled all the tamales into neat little corn husk bundles, ready to go into the steamer.

I’d been rolling and rerolling a single miserable overstuffed tamale in the same time Juanita had made sixteen. In my pitiable version of the classic Mexican dish, the masa mixed with the filling and spilled out of the split husk to decorate the outside of the misshapen bundle.

I’ve never been good in the kitchen, and I had already repeatedly congratulated myself that I’d not dropped anything on the floor or down the front of the sturdy apron Juanita had insisted on tying me into.

I had a feeling that Juanita was regretting that she’d offered to teach me to make tamales. She’d tried to teach me to cook when I was a teenager. It had not been an outstanding success. I think Juanita assumed I’d make a better student now that I was past thirty. Sadly, untrue.

While I disassembled my misshapen abomination against Mexican cuisine in general and corn-based products in particular, Chamomile, Juanita’s head waitress at the Bird Cage, mentioned that there’d been a recent spate of mail thefts in the village of Amatista.

“Stealing the mail?” I asked as I took a spoon and tried to scrape my masa/green chili/chicken mixture back into the center of the husk. “Is somebody stealing mail in general or one person’s mail in particular?”

“Roberta Haskell says the money her son’s been sending her is getting stolen, but my mother has been keeping a lookout for the envelopes in her mailbag and hasn’t seen anything from Roberta’s son come through for months.”

Chamomile’s mother, Katie, is one of my tenants in the trailer court out behind the Bird Cage Café. She’s also the village of Amatista’s sole mail carrier. Katie delivers to the rural postal customers, which, if you subtract the 30-odd people who live in the village proper, is pretty much all of them.

I tried to place Roberta Haskell and failed, which didn’t surprise me, seeing as I’d only been back in Amatista since early November, and it was only the second week in January.

Out in the dining room of the Bird Cage, I heard a small boy yell “Tiiimber,” followed by a crash and the high-pitched barking of our pug-in-residence, Earp.

My cousin Georgia—second cousin, if I’m going to split hairs—had insisted that it was high time to take the Christmas decorations down from the dining room, much to her young son Maxwell’s sorrow.

I suspected the crash had been the aluminum Christmas tree falling over, and doubtless, Maxwell and Earp had had something to do with the toppling of the tree.

“Does Mrs. Haskell get her mail delivered?” I asked Chamomile.

Everyone living in the village proper has to go pick up their mail from the bank of boxes in the tiny adobe post office on the edge of town. I couldn’t imagine how anyone but a postal employee would manage to steal mail from the bank of little boxes inside the post office proper.

“Mrs. Haskell is on the rural route,” said Chamomile. “Mom tells me she’s still getting bills and an avalanche of junk mail. Just the money from her son is going missing.”

“How long has this been happening?” I asked.

Chamomile didn’t know.

“You go to church with Roberta, don’t you?” I asked Juanita, who had been uncharacteristically quiet that morning.

“Last Sunday, at church, Roberta was telling me all about it. I got the impression it has been a problem for several months.”

When Juanita says “church” she’s referring to the weekly Sunday meetings Freddy Fernandez, the devout barber, holds in the back of his barbershop next door to the Bird Cage Café.

“Is her son sending cash?” I asked. “Because if he’s sending checks, wouldn’t anybody else have trouble cashing them?”

Juanita said she didn’t know and moved the conversation on to my own personal troubles. “Has Frank signed your divorce papers yet?”

I told Juanita that Frank had not.

Shortly before Christmas, my soon-to-be-ex-husband Frank had inexplicably and abruptly decided that he could not live without me—this despite having allowed his mistress/office manager Shirley to take the money I’d earned from finally selling a screenplay and blow it on the roulette tables in Vegas.

Frank remained entirely unrepentant about the whole sordid affair, yet vowed he was going to “win me back.” I’d suggested that winning back lost property was more a matter he should be addressing with his ladylove Shirley.

“I was mistaken about Shirley,” Frank had said. “She’s nothing compared to you.”

It was at that moment I realized that Shirley, too, had left him. Frank never has been a man who copes well on his own. He can’t even iron his own shirts.

“Frank will sign the papers eventually,” I told Juanita. “He’ll have to.”

I had no intention of getting back together with Frank, an intention that my divorce lawyer, Mr. Wendell, had quietly affirmed. It was typical, Mr. Wendell told me, for the offending party in a divorce to have last-minute remorse over the consequences of their actions.

This discussion of my messy personal life was cut short by the entrance of Ledbetter.

Marcus Ledbetter parks his trailer on the second of the three occupied spots in the trailer court out back of the Bird Cage.

He’s a bit of a recluse, which my Great Aunt Geraldine always insisted was due to coming back with PTSD after his tour of duty in Afghanistan.

My Aunt Geraldine and Ledbetter had been close in the years leading up to her death, so close that he’d taken my aunt Geraldine’s nest egg and turned it into a small fortune. Ledbetter is something of a stock-picking genius, and nobody knows it but me.

Ledbetter certainly doesn’t look like he’s involved in high finance. He looks more like a member of one of your less-reputable fraternities of motorcycle enthusiasts, but he’s a gentle and generous soul under all that black leather, scowl, and muscle.

Ledbetter shifted from one enormous booted foot to the other and turned his intense blue eyes on me. “I’d like to add an item to the agenda.”

Ledbetter was referring to the agenda for the meeting of the newly formed Little Tombstone Preservation board. Not long after I’d inherited Little Tombstone from my Great Aunt Geraldine, I’d decided to take the bulk of the considerable sum I’d inherited along with the ramshackle roadside tourist attraction and place it in trust to be used for the preservation of the crumbling monstrosity.

The newly formed Little Tombstone Preservation board consisted of the current tenants of Little Tombstone, Nancy Flynn, our neighbor and the mayor of Amatista, my cousin Georgia, and me. For various reasons, the first two meetings of the board had been far less productive than I’d hoped.

“What do you want us to discuss?” I asked Ledbetter.

“Parliamentary procedure.”

I’d rather lost control of the last meeting. When I’d brought up the subject of repainting the row of buildings that fronted Main Street, two distinct camps had emerged. One was strongly in favor of brownish-yellow, and the opposing camp was equally set on a brownish-gray. A minority of one (Hank Edwards, proprietor of Little Tombstone’s Curio Shop and the Museum of the Unexplained) made an impassioned case for grayish-green.

It had been a trying experience, with no conclusive outcome. I was toying with the idea of resigning my position as chairperson and letting someone with a great deal more natural authority take over the role, someone like Ledbetter.

“You won’t reconsider taking over the role of chair?” I asked Ledbetter.

He gave me a barely perceptible nod and an unblinking stare.

“I will not,” he said, “but I do have a few suggestions.”

Chapter Two

After Ledbetter had advised me on how to take a firmer hand on the proceedings of the Little Tombstone Preservation Board meetings, he left, and I gave up on making tamales and wandered out to the dining room of the Bird Cage where my cousin Georgia and Maxwell were still at work taking down the Christmas decorations.

“I always feel a little depressed when Christmas is over,” I told Georgia as we disassembled the massive pink and green aluminum tree (circa 1968 and courtesy of my late Uncle Ricky).

The tree had been Maxwell’s idea. Maxwell is six and perhaps not the best arbiter of good taste. While cleaning out the least rundown of Little Tombstone’s derelict guest cottages in preparation for renovating it into a habitable abode for her and little Maxwell, my cousin had come upon the aluminum Christmas tree, and it had captured Maxwell’s imagination.

Maxwell was bemoaning the putting away of the Christmas tree, but the retirement of Earp’s Christmas costumes was what really had him deep in mourning.

Earp, my late Aunt Geraldine’s ancient and irritable pug, had been bequeathed to me when I inherited Little Tombstone in early November. Eight large boxes overflowing with tiny canine costumes and hideous doggy sweaters had been bequeathed to me along with the pug.

Up until Aunt Geraldine’s death, I don’t think Earp had ever experienced the luxury of being a nudist, but I’d let him go around stark naked practically every day until Georgia moved in with me, and little Maxwell developed a minor obsession with Earp and his accoutrements.

Earp tolerated Maxwell’s enthusiastic attentions remarkably well. That was largely because my cousin Georgia was not of the no-food-between-meals school of thought, and Maxwell seemed to spend most of his waking hours with a snack in his hand. He dropped a lot— sometimes by accident and sometimes on purpose—and Earp was happy to be on hand to snaffle down any little bits and pieces as soon as they hit the floor.

Earp was Little Tombstone’s mascot, and if ever a rundown roadside tourist attraction had needed a lucky charm, it was Little Tombstone.

Back in the 1960s, my Great Uncle Ricky had constructed the whole now-crumbling wooden monstrosity—a truncated version of the real town of Tombstone, Arizona. The place had outlived Uncle Ricky by almost half a century, and it was showing its age.

“What did the estimates on the new roof come in at?” Georgia asked me as we shoved the lower half of the Christmas tree back into its box.

“The lowest bid was $40,576.52,” I told her, but Georgia wasn’t listening.

“Maxwell! I thought I told you to put Earp’s reindeer costume back in that bin.”

Maxwell had wrestled Earp into a tiny sweater that said, “PUGDOLF.” He was having a lot more trouble getting Earp to surrender to the antlers. Maxwell had managed to get the floppy fabric antler apparatus tied under Earp’s chin, but getting them properly positioned on top of Earp’s head was proving to be more of a challenge.

Somewhere back in the kitchen of the Bird Cage, somebody dropped a pan on the floor. Earp is half deaf in one ear and completely deaf in the other, but between the bang and a desire to get away from miniature humans trying to compromise his dogly dignity, Earp decided to make a run for it.

As he bolted from the dining room, Oliver, our handyman about the place, came in through the back door. Oliver tried to cut him off at the pass, but Earp managed to dart between Oliver’s legs and out into the great blue yonder.

I abandoned the bottom half of the Christmas tree and took off in hot pursuit. It’s not that there’s anything in the trailer court out back of the Bird Cage that’s particularly dangerous for dogs, it was just that the last time Earp had gone on the lam, he’d not confined himself to sniffing around the trailer court; he’d headed for the wide-open spaces, gotten himself covered in cactus spines, and then somehow managed to get himself wedged down a hole in the ground. It had been a trying experience for everyone involved, including Dr. Bagley, the vet who’d had to extract all the cactus spines.

There were only three slots in the trailer court with tenants, and Earp bypassed them all. As I rounded the corner of Morticia-the-psychic’s colorfully painted Winnebago, the door swung open, and Hank stepped out.

Hank Edwards rents the storefronts containing the Curio Shop and the Museum of the Unexplained for the princely sum of $10 a month in perpetuity—a condition that was written into my Great Aunt Geraldine’s will.

Hank’s lived in a cramped apartment in the back of the Museum of the Unexplained for almost fifty years. In other words, Hank is a fixture at Little Tombstone and likely to remain so until either Little Tombstone bites the dust, or Hank does.

It surprised me to see Hank coming out of Morticia’s Winnebago. I’d never known Hank to consult the cards about his future. Hank is more receptive to conspiracy theories concerning the fate of humanity at large, rather than the type to try and get a sneak peek into his own personal destiny. I made a mental note to look into Hank’s sudden interest in fortune-telling after I’d recovered the runaway Earp.

Earp is an elderly dog with incredibly short legs, but, for the moment, at least, the pug was outpacing me. I decided to slacken my speed, in the hopes that he would. I didn’t want the poor old thing to suffer from a heart attack.

My plan worked, sort of. Earp kept one eye on me and the other on the horizon. I’d dart forward at intervals hoping to grab him by the collar, but he maintained a six-foot buffer between us at all times.

When we reached the barbed-wire fence that separated Little Tombstone land from Nancy Flynn’s ranch, I gave up the chase. Earp kept going, heading toward the cluster of outbuildings up by Nancy’s house. It was a hard quarter mile uphill to Nancy’s place, under barbed wire, and through the cactus. I saw a plume of dust out on the road, so I scrambled out to the roadside and flagged down Nancy.

“Earp’s done a runner again,” I told her.

“Get in.”

We tore up the road, and as soon as Nancy skidded to a stop in front of her rambling farmhouse, I tumbled out. Earp was just emerging out of the sagebrush. The antlers had shifted around and were now hanging down under his neck. His “Pugdolf” sweater had sustained a rip, but he appeared free of cactus spines, so I considered that a major victory.

I took a dog treat from my pocket and called out to Earp. He started toward me. Apparently, he’d slaked his thirst for freedom and was feeling peckish after his unaccustomed exertion. I was just reaching out to attach the leash to his collar when Nancy started screaming bloody murder.

Chapter Three

I was startled by the screams, and so was Earp. I dropped the dog treat, and Earp skittered away around the corner of Nancy Flynn’s bunkhouse.

Nancy came out the front of the bunkhouse and stood on the porch looking very shaken. It takes a lot to shake Nancy. She’s seen a lot of life—she’s well past sixty—and not much of that sixty-plus years has been pretty. In fact, during my first weeks at Little Tombstone, Nancy had shot someone. There were extenuating circumstances, but I mention it because when a woman like Nancy comes out of a doorway with her hands clasped over her mouth and shaking like a leaf, one tends to sit up and take notice.

“What happened?”

Nancy didn’t answer, she just pointed inside. I came up on the porch and peeked through the open doorway.

It was a long, old-fashioned bunkhouse unaltered since the early days of the ranch except for the fact that someone had built a bathroom into one end of the long, narrow structure. The main room had eight bunks in it.

They were unoccupied except for one, which had a cowboy lying in it, with his face to the wall.

“Sleeping?” I said to Nancy in a hushed voice.

She shook her head. He was not sleeping.

I crept forward to look at the inert cowboy. I stepped back when I saw that his pillow was soaked with blood. He’d been shot in the back of the head.

My hand was shaking as I reached into the pocket of my coat for my phone. I had a hard time dialing.

“Who is it?” I whispered to Nancy, as I waited for dispatch to pick up. I don’t know why I felt the need to whisper; it was not as if we were going to wake him.

“I think it’s Jorge.”

While I was explaining to the 911 operator that the Flynn ranch had a dead man on the premises, Nancy went down to the other end of the room and gingerly nudged open the door of the toilet with the toe of her cowboy boot as if she was afraid she’d find a second body in the bathroom.

She wasn’t far wrong.

Nancy turned back from the doorway and motioned me over. I looked inside. There was no body, but there was blood: a little trail of blood across the black and white linoleum tiles. It couldn’t have been the man lying in the bunk who’d bled on the bathroom floor. He’d clearly been shot as he slept.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” Nancy said and went out on the porch again.

I followed her out and handed off the phone, so she could speak to the dispatcher, then picked up Earp’s leash from where I’d dropped it and went around the back of the bunkhouse in search of him. I called out, but Earp did not come. I passed the small stable, the barn where Nancy parked her tractors, and continued on to the pig shed.

The pig shed was a recent development at the Flynn Ranch. Nancy had decided to diversify by branching out into porciculture. However, these pigs were not ordinary animals destined to end up as ham or pork chops. These were potbellied pigs for the pet trade.

Nancy currently had two breeding sows, one of which had already produced a litter, and it was nestled in amongst the piglets that I found Earp.

He was fast asleep, his head resting on one of the pint-sized pigs. Another piglet was futilely suckling on one of the ridiculous antlers which still encircled Earp’s neck. I would have found the setup highly amusing if I hadn’t been listening for the sound of sirens and trying not to think about the dead man lying on the blood-soaked pillow.

I decided to leave Earp where he was. Even if he did wake up, I doubted he’d stray far from the litter.

I returned to the porch of the bunkhouse and sat down beside Nancy. She informed me that the police were on their way.

“How long has Jorge been with you?” I asked.

“A little over a year.”

“Any idea who might have—”


“How many ranch hands do you have right now?”

“Four. Besides Jorge, there’s Jasper, August, and Hugo.”

I was about to ask if Jasper was the one she’d hired to be her pigman, when, at our feet, a phone began to ring.

I looked over at Nancy. She shrugged.

I got up and crept down the steps and picked up the phone which lay on the ground. The screen was shattered, but the phone itself appeared to be working just fine.

According to the name showing up on the shattered screen, a Janey was calling someone. I wondered if the Janey calling was the same Janey that Juanita had recently hired as a second waitress at the Bird Cage.

I watched the phone until it stopped ringing and went to voicemail. Almost immediately, it started ringing again. The third time Janey called back, I could stand it no longer. I picked up the phone, raised it to my ear, and went out on the porch.

“Who is this?” Janey asked.

“This is Emma Iverson from Little Tombstone. I’m up at Nancy Flynn’s ranch.”

“Where’s Jasper?”

I could hear Juanita singing at the top of her lungs amidst the banging of pots and pans in the background, so I had no doubts I was speaking with that Janey from the Bird Cage Café.

“I don’t know where Jasper is. I just picked up his phone because it wouldn’t stop ringing.”

“Where are you, exactly?”

“On the porch of the bunkhouse.”

“Did something happen?”

I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything. There was silence on the line for a few seconds before Janey spoke again.

“I’m afraid Jasper is in danger.”

“He told you that?”

“Not exactly. He started to say something, and then the line went dead.”

“Did you call the police?”


I wondered why.

“Well, you’d better come up to Nancy’s ranch,” I told her. “I think the police are going to want to talk to you.”

“Jasper’s not—”

“No.” Jasper wasn’t dead, that I knew of. I decided not to bring up that blood in the bathroom just yet. “Jorge is the one who got shot.”


“In the back of the head while he slept, by the looks of it.”

Popular Posts