The Trouble with Harriet 4/9

This entry is part 4 of 9 in the series The Trouble with Harriet
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If people will stop holding meetings and dropping bombshells at work, I’ll have this done today. If not, I’ll post the ending on the free day, July 1.

The next chapter will be up on my afternoon break.

Title: The Trouble with Harriet
Rating: PG
Warnings: WIP
Disclaimer: All series characters and good stuff belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc. I am responsible for some original characters (although I stole names from Hitchcock) as well as the lame dialogue and most of the plot. The idea, of course, is stolen from the classic movie, The Trouble with Harry.
Summary: Buffy really needs a vacation, so when the chance arrives, she takes it, even though with a wandering corpse on the loose it’s almost, but not quite, a busman’s holiday. This is set in my cheerful, AU version of Season 6 where everyone sort of gets along and Spike and Buffy are a couple.

Thanks: to keswindhover for the beta and to enigmaticblues for maintaining the comm.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2

Chapter 3


After she was sure Sally was gone, Buffy went into the kitchen, found the coffee maker and put it to work. That necessity dealt with, she opened the fridge and cabinets, assembling a basic breakfast of milk and cereal. While she ate, she looked around the room.

Buffy knew the difference between a good and a bad housekeeper. Her mom had been good; Buffy herself was bad. Sally was bad too. There were things in the back of the fridge that should have been cleaned out at least a week ago. The floors had been mopped, but there was a sticky spot in a corner almost but not quite out of sight. Sally hadn’t bothered scrubbing that. There were crumbs on the counters and a stain on the window curtains. Buffy suspected things would have been worse if Harriet hadn’t nagged Sally or perhaps done some of the work herself.

Even though she was angry about having to work as a maid, Sally wasn’t the kind of person who would ever think she deserved to be fired for doing lousy job. Buffy wondered how much Sally disliked Harriet. Then she wondered if someone who couldn’t be bothered mopping a floor properly had the energy to kill someone and dump the body 40 miles away. Probably. After, all Buffy would kill a dozen demons to get out of mopping a floor.

Buffy was about to go upstairs to look around when someone knocked on the back door. She opened the door to reveal a balding man wearing jeans, a tool belt, and a blue shirt with his name embroidered on it.

“You the caretaker Charly hired? She called me about changing the locks. I’m Phil.”

Buffy wondered if everyone in town was on a first-name basis. More than that, a nickname basis. “Thanks for coming so soon.”

He lumbered into the kitchen. “That’s a funny thing. I already had this on my schedule. Harry’d asked me to come out here and change the locks a couple of days ago.” He bent to examine the lock on the door. “That’ll be no trouble. Have this done for you in a jiff.”

“Huh. Did Harriet say why she wanted new locks?”

“Nah, but it was easy to guess. She’d probably caught Sally Gravely taking stuff again, and given her the boot.” He picked up his huge toolbox.


“Sally’s been in trouble for stealing since she was arrested for shoplifting back when she was in middle school with my youngest boy. And she was posting notes saying she was available to take new clients at the grocery and the gas station day before yesterday.”

Buffy reflected that she’d always considered Sunnydale a small town, but at least she had to be more specific when referring to a place than “the gas station.”

So Sally had been fired…Buffy followed the locksmith to the front door, where he lost no time exhibiting an impressive plumber’s crack while removing the existing deadbolt. Averting her eyes from his backside, she asked, “Did you know Harriet well?”

He shrugged without looking up. “No better than anyone. She left after high school but came back when her parents got sick. Wasn’t around town much even then. Sherry at the garden center probably knew her best. Harry loved her garden.”

When Phil left, Buffy decided to have a look at the beloved garden. She’d checked the shrub box back when they’d taken those tests in high school, but the closest Buffy ever came to gardening was yelling at Dawn to mow the lawn before the Weed Police showed up and fined them for having a hayfield instead of a front lawn. But even she could see that a lot of planning and work had gone into the elaborate flowerbeds that surrounded the house and the vegetable garden behind the garage. She couldn’t figure out how that added up to a clue, though.

Maybe she should check with Sherry at the garden center. Phil hadn’t mentioned the center’s name, but Buffy supposed it was like the gas station and the grocery and would be easy to find. There seemed to be some rule about having more than one of any kind of business in Craftsbury.

Failing to find anything of significance in the yard, Buffy went into garage. There was a big workbench full of tools and gardening equipment. She supposed some of the things in the boxes and plastic jugs could be used to poison someone, but since she didn’t know how Harriet had died, they weren’t much help.

There was space for three cars, but only two were parked there. When Buffy pulled a dusty cover off the first one, the Ferrari Jim Rogers had wanted to take the evening before gleamed scarlet and sleek. Beside it lurked a pickup truck that had never been sleek and probably hadn’t gleamed for years. She peeked into the rusty truck bed and confirmed that it had been used for hauling things. Dirty things. Not dirty like needing to be washed, but as if they were things that grew in dirt.

Sally said Harriet had always had everything she wanted. But she doesn’t seem to have wanted designer clothes or an expensive car.

Chapter 5

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