BY: PINKIE PARANYA
Edwina Hartley is a housewife in her early sixties, a recent widow after thirty-five years of marriage where she filtered all of her thoughts and ideas through her husband, George’s, eyes. She now has to think for herself, and it doesn’t come easy. When George died, he left behind a chaotic swamp, and Edwina is completely lost. He turned out to be a closet gambler, cashing in their insurance policies and mortgaging their palatial home. No doubt, he thought when he retired in a few months, he could recoup some of what he’d lost. Apparently, he didn’t count on dying. Then the CEO of the accounting firm where George worked for twenty-five years comes to tell Edwina that they suspect George of embezzling $50,000 and, of course, they won’t be honoring his retirement. And a threatening bookie begins to call, telling her that just because George is dead, it doesn’t excuse his gambling debts, which she is now expected to pay. Next, the banker calls to say that George was in arrears, and she has to catch up the mortgage or they will have to foreclose. So now she not only has to prove that he never embezzled any money—or else find another source of income to make up for his lost retirement—she also beings to suspect that George didn’t die of natural causes…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In When Angels Sleep by Pinkie Paranya, Edwina Hartley is devastated at the death of her beloved husband George. But she is appalled when she discovers that he was a compulsive gambler, had mortgaged their house and cashed in their insurance policies, and is accused of embezzling from the accounting firm where he worked. Not only is she about to lose her home, she is being hounded to pay his gambling debts, and if she can’t prove he was not an embezzler, she will lose his retirement, which is her only source of income.
Cute, clever, and full of surprises, this story is a cozy mystery of the first order. A really great read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: When Angels Sleep by Pinkie Paranya is the story of a middle-aged housewife recently widowed. Edwina Hartley discovers shortly after her husband’s death that George was a compulsive gambler, and he owed a ton of money to his bookie. She soon learns that he mortgaged their palatial home and cashed in his insurance policies to pay his gambling debts, so not only is she widowed, she is destitute. Not only that, but his bookie isn’t inclined to forgive the debt just because George is dead, and he comes to Edwina, expecting her to pay. With what, she doesn’t know. Then, as a last straw, executives at the firm where George worked show up at her door, telling her that he embezzled from the firm and so they are withholding his retirement. Edwina is devastated, but she is also angry. Whatever else her husband may have been, he was not a thief, and she intends to prove it—if she lives long enough.
Filled with marvelous characters, some hilarious scenes, and lots of nail-biting suspense, When Angels Sleep will keep you entertained from beginning to end.
“I miss George, but at the moment, I’d kill him if he wasn’t already dead.” I shook my head, trying to clear my thoughts. Thirty-five years is a long time to invest in a husband and then find out he had a secret life. Crying for days, I was running on empty. “Poor George, we needed more time together. He was just on the verge of retirement, and we’d made so many plans.”
“I know, sweetie.” Fern patted my back as if I’d been one of her grandchildren. “Are you sure you don’t have any money left?” she asked, trying to get me off the subject. Fern had repeated that same question until I’d lost count, but then she was like that. I loved my best friend, but she was a repeater, always had been. Anything worth saying once was worth repeating at least five times. It had been the same since our college years.
It was two weeks since George passed on. My shock and grieving had evolved into numb acceptance—until today, when panic set in. I’d never been alone in my life and it frightened the heck out of me.
“George Junior was here for the funeral. Didn’t you tell him any of this?”
“No, and don’t you dare tell him. I don’t want Junior to know about his father.” No one had ever called our son Junior to his face, not even when he was a child. He was always George Two.
Fern looked shocked. “Edwina Hartley! I can’t believe you said that. He’s what, now? Twenty-nine going on forty? Junior’s earning a ton of money. He still dabbles in stocks, doesn’t he? He could help you.”
“Absolutely not! I never want him to know his father should have been a charter member of Gamblers Anonymous.”
“Why not? That is so dumb. First your parents spoiled you rotten and then George took over the job. And you let him,” Fern accused. “You should have insisted on knowing about your finances. Then you wouldn’t be in this pickle. Junior would ignore the innuendos against you.”
Fern was right, even if she was prone to making up her own words. This time I didn’t know what she meant by innuendos but since that wasn’t part of her normal vocabulary, I let it pass. Had I asked George, he would have patted me gently on the head and ignored my questions. He had balanced the checkbooks, helped me grocery shop, suggested our menus, and had our cars serviced at the proper time. He would have felt challenged if I’d ever asked him about finances. It was just easier to let him lead.
Even so, I suspected a little of Fern’s nagging was sort of Venus envy. If George had put me up on a pedestal, her husband was the opposite. As a retired Marine, now a city fire fighter, Joe insisted everyone had to pull his own weight.
“What’ll you do?”
“I’ve got a house full of antiques to sell.”
Fern almost jumped up and down in sudden excitement. “I know, I know! In the Antique Merchandiser, it lists all kinds of markets. We could rent a U-Haul, travel over the country, peddling antiques. Joe wouldn’t mind. He’d enjoy the peace and quiet. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”
I raised an eyebrow to give that look she called “supercilious” when she was showing off her crossword puzzle proficiency. “Ugh! I hate to travel. Waking up in a strange hotel room in an unfamiliar place is not my idea of a fun thing to do. By the way, have you ever pulled aa trailer?”
“You’re an old poop,” she scolded, folding her arms over her skinny bosom.
“So, I’m not the adventurous sort.” I agreed. “But maybe I’d better start looking for a job.”
“Yeah. You’re qualified for what?” She made imaginary tickings off her fingers, coming up with zero. “I know! You could be one of those senior Wal-Mart greeter persons.”
I snorted, none too politely. Senior at sixty and three quarters? I think not. I’ve never accused Fern of subtle sarcasm, but she was right. I had no talents. I met George during my third year of college. I was a late starter, living at home there was no pressure to find my niche in the world. Finally I’d decided to go to college. George Hartley was the professor of economics, a remote, handsome icon to his young, female students. I majored in art. Definitely not a good career move, I discovered later. Immediately I became attracted to George’s stable, secure personality. The fact that he was twelve years older than me never mattered during our marriage. My parents had been older when they had me and tried to cushion me from any of life’s hardships and indulged me unconditionally. When they died in a head on crash with a drunk driver, I fell into a deep hole. George turned out to be my life saver.
“God knows, I didn’t want all this.” I included the expensive antique living room furnishings in the sweep of my arm. “I’ll have to give the house back to the bank.”
“That’s tough. I love this place. My neighborhood’s getting really dumpy. Transitional, they call it.”
She was exaggerating, of course. Frankly, I envied her. She lived in a typical blue-collar neighborhood with white picket fences, rose bushes, dogs barking in the front yards, and bikes and toys all over the sidewalks. Nice people lived on her block, not like on mine. I didn’t know anyone on this cul-de-sac street. The real estate woman had called it upward mobility and all the young execs stayed only long enough to transfer somewhere new, dragging their families behind like tails on a kite.
“That damn chandelier in the dining room will be the first item in my yard sale,” I pronounced. “When I think of how many times I’d climbed up a ladder to clean that sucker with a toothbrush before George had the remote mechanism installed.”
“Yard sale!” Fern’s voice squeaked up a couple of octaves until her plucked eyebrows receded into her bangs. “You wouldn’t dare have a yard sale in this neighborhood.”
“Who do I need to impress? Our country club dues expire this month. Word got around fast. Everyone but me, it seems, knew about George’s addiction to gambling.”
They hadn’t ever been friends of mine but I could have sworn they liked George. I hated to admit it, but it hurt to realize their congeniality over the years was only like a thin layer of dust that had vanished already.
Fern looked smug. She always was a little resentful of our country club crowd. I caved in and told her what she needed to know. Should have done it years ago.
“They were George’s buddies. I wouldn’t trade a dozen of them for one of you, girlfriend,” I said.
“Gee—Eddie,” she stammered and looked away.
Being friends for so many years, we never translated our feelings into words. We had met in college and our friendship was just always there.
“You know I don’t like the name Eddie.”
“I could call you Weenie.”
“You wouldn’t dare!”
She laughed. “Well, I’ve told you a few several times that’s a dumb name. Who would name their kid Edwina?”
“And I’ve told you a dozen several times that it’s a family name. Being an only child and my parents wanting a son so badly, they named me after my father and grandfather, Edward.”
“Silly idea. It’s a wonder you didn’t tack that name on Junior.”
I had to laugh at that idea. It hadn’t occurred to me at the time.
“How are your neighbors doing? They must know George passed on.”
“They cluck their tongues and try to look sad when we meet. They accepted George’s gambling as an eccentricity, I suppose, but our strained financial circumstances are not tolerable. Everyone we used to know avoids me like the plague.”
“Good riddance, I say. I always told you they were a bunch of phonies. You can make a killing on this place; real estate is sky high. Why take some crummy job you’re going to hate?”
“Haven’t you heard a word I’ve said? The property is mortgaged to the roof. George owed a lot of people. Judging from the phone calls I’ve received since he’s been gone, I hope I never meet some of them.”
“Someone’s threatened you? George’s bookies? My lord, you’ve unplugged a hornet’s nest.”
I wondered how much I dared tell her. She might get Joe involved, and her husband had a temper fuse about the size of a birthday candle. You couldn’t throw tantrums at the kind of people George had been dealing with.
“No, of course no one’s threatened me, you’re watching too much TV again,” I lied. Ever since George’s passing, a gravely-voiced man had called, wanting to know how his bets were going to be paid off.
“Can bookies collect on a dead person’s gambling debts?” Fern’s question told me she was as ignorant as I had been about that subject, but the man on the phone set me straight in a heck of a hurry.
“Apparently, they don’t forgive gambling debts just because someone has the audacity to die.” That sounded cold, but George had left me in such a mess that I was becoming very annoyed with him since his hasty departure, and I was beginning to think he got the better deal. I swiped at tears that traitorously crept from under my closed eyes. I did miss him so. We might not have had what a romance novel would call a tempestuous love affair, but we had a solid, caring, nurturing, and sometimes great enthusiasm that surprised both of us. Of course eagle eye Fern noticed the stray tears.
“Aw, Eddie, I know how much you two loved each other. But you have to go on.” She hugged me, and I wanted to bawl, but gritted my teeth and thanked her.
George’s double life had destroyed my sense of well-being, leaving me feeling as secure as a Chihuahua in a yard full of pit bulls. How could he fool me like that? How could I be so trusting? Worse, how could he not confide in me, ask me for help or at least comfort? Was I such a completely useless person? I recall several times wandering into his study, when he worked late at the computer, and asking him what he was doing. He gave me the same cryptic answer.
“When angels sleep, men bring on the demons.”
I often wondered what he meant and always thought I’d ask him. Now it was too late.
I could close my eyes and hear him say that and then wave his hand to tell me to close the door behind me. Now, when I took time to think about it, that was very uncharacteristic of him, since he was always so steadfastly pleasant to be around.
“Okay, strip the house, sell the furnishings, let the bank take the property, and then what? Then will you tell Junior?”
“He idolized his dad. You know how close they were.” A wave of sadness washed over me when I thought of the contradiction in using a word like “close” to describe either George or Junior. I felt a nervous giggle erupt.
“What’s so damn funny?”
“I’m just jumpy. Everything’s moving so fast, I feel like my nerves are perched on the edge of my skin, waiting to fall out.”
“It’s got to be hell, sweetie. You’re the laid-back, calm one. Hang in there. You can get through it. I always say once a bad thing starts, it’s like a snowball rolling down hill, building up steam. But at the bottom, it will all float away.”
She could make me smile through anything. “The problem is, I can’t sell any of it until after probate. It still galls me to know that George made his lawyer executor of the estate. Couldn’t even trust me to do that right. Junior is upset. He thought he should be the one. But I see why George did it. He didn’t want Junior to know about the canceled insurance policies and the debts.”
“Won’t Junior find out when the lawyer reads the will?”
“Don’t think so. No reason for any of that to come out.” Yet.
“I bet Junior is going to want some of this old stuff. George told Joe and me how much he paid for that Hepplewhite sideboard in the dining room. All the furniture in our house didn’t cost as much.”
“Tell me about it. And now the very people he tried so hard to impress are looking right through me as if I’m invisible. Do wives turn invisible after their husbands die?”
She shrugged. “Depends. I’ve heard it happens. Whoever does that to you is no great loss. You’re a much finer person than any of them.”
“Ah, you’re a dear, Fern. Don’t know what I’d do without you.”
We subsided into a vacuum of embarrassed silence. With Fern I knew it wouldn’t last long.
“When do you start working on your problem then?” she asked.
I looked at her, not getting the connection with the rest of our discussion. Fern is like that. Totally from the sky, she can pull out a topic we’d been discussing the day before, a week before, and take off with it.
But it only stumped me for a second. I was proud of my ability to catch her loose ends. “Looking for a job? I don’t know. Soon. If I can forestall the bank from foreclosing until I find a place to live, if I can keep the bookies from fitting me with cement overshoes…Problem is, everything needs to be done yesterday. I’m working against time.”
That conversation over, she went home to watch her talk shows, and I sat down to try and figure out what to do with the rest of my life.
© 2018 by Pinkie Paranya
Author Jannifrer Hoffman:
“I’ve enjoyed all of Pinkie’s books, but she hit a home run with When Angels Sleep. It engaged my interest on every page. Funny and suspenseful, Edwina is witty and wise. So fun to read.” ~ Jannifrer Hoffman, author of Secrets of the Heart, Random Fire, and romantic suspense
Author, R. L. George
“Some marriages are riddled with secrets, and Edwina’s husband left many after his death. In this story of surviving widowhood with a sense of humor, only Edwina’s tenacity—and a determined detective—can unravel the mysteries of money, the mob, and how to serve a subpoena to a tattooed biker.” ~ R.L. George, author of A Thousand Reasons
Author, Ellynore Seybold:
“When Angels Sleep by Pinkie Paranya is the best one of the many I have read. I love the characters. They are so vivid and believable. When I did put the book down, the characters stayed with me, and I eagerly picked it up again. Well done, it’s a great read.” ~ Ellynore Seybold, Author of Love’s Dangerous Challenge, Sigrit, and Released
Author, Debbie Lee:
“Pinkie Paranya has done it again! Her latest novel is well written and entertaining with a mix of humor and mystery. Go along on the adventure with Edwina to solve the clues to what really happened to her husband, George, and all that money. A definite must-read!” ~ Debbie Lee, author of The Journey to Jordan and To Love A Marine
“I first met the character of Edwina Hartley in a short story that was included in Paranya’s Life in a Nutshell. I said then that I wished there was a novel in the future for this character as I didn’t want my time with her to end so quickly. When Angels Sleep fulfilled that wish beyond expectations. This starting-over-late-in-life story that takes the Chanel-clad Edwina from pampered housewife to process server to kidnap victim and more is a fast-paced heart-warming adventure filled with a cast of kooky characters and brilliant dialogue to match, as only Paranya can dish it up. Delicious!” ~ Wendy Morgan
“I’m a prolific reader of thousands of books but When Angels Sleep had me enthralled from the beginning to the end. Edwina’s sense of humor and courage at times when she might have been scared spitless, her remarkable friendship with her side-kick Fern, her ability to begin a new life, all intrigued me. I chuckled out loud in places and held my breath in others. Paranya outdid herself.” ~ Donna Garrett