A Deadline Cozy Mystery
“I want to change the name of the inn.” Eve inspected the bottom of a vase and sighed at the hefty price tag. “Yesterday’s Trash must be making a fortune,” she said under her breath. Setting the vase down on the display table, she inspected the other items only to find her attention drawn back to the pretty floral design. It would look lovely in the front parlor… or the library, she thought.
“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that,” Jill said.
Eve smiled. “In that case, I’ll have to repeat myself until you do. I want to change the name of the inn.”
“Why are you even thinking about the inn?” Jill grumbled, “You’re supposed to be enjoying your day off. It’s nearly lunchtime. Go discover a new restaurant.”
Eve switched the cell phone to her other ear. “Do I detect a note of dissension?” She moved the vase over to the back of the display table thinking she might want to come back to it later.
“I know what this is really about. You’ve only been away two hours and you’re already checking up on me,” Jill complained. “Everyone and everything is fine at The Sea Breeze Inn.”
“There it is again. Your voice hitched. I can’t have my loyal employees disapproving of me.” Eve smiled. The inn had been up and running for a solid month without a single mishap. After working without a break, Eve had suggested going for a drive to the mainland. Mira had been complaining she’d written herself into a corner and so had jumped at the idea, saying they should make a day of it. That had triggered a lengthy discussion about what they might find appealing since Mira didn’t care for shopping and neither did Eve.
Jill had come to the rescue saying there were art and craft galleries, cafés and any number of antique stores that didn’t necessarily require them to make purchases.
They had spent a week planning their trip and Eve had thrown in a surprise for Mira. While Eve had promised to immerse herself in the moment and enjoy her outing, she hadn’t been able to resist calling to check up on Jill who’d been left behind to take care of business at the inn.
Eve lifted her chin and smiled. “If I want to change the name of the inn… I will.”
“What’s wrong with the Sea Breeze?” Jill asked. “I like it. It rolls off the tongue.”
“You just shortened it, that’s what’s wrong. How is one supposed to know you’re referring to an inn and not talking about the weather?”
Jill used her warning tone on her, “Eve.”
“Are you bored? Is that what this is about?”
After her recent experiences and close encounters with murder and mayhem, she would welcome boredom with open arms. A third death at her inn… She shook her head and shoved the thought out of her mind. “I made a hasty decision and I should be allowed to rectify it.” Sighing, Eve cast her gaze around the antique store Mira had included on their to-do list. Everywhere she looked, she saw something of interest.
“The inn’s been opened long enough for people to become accustomed to the name,” Jill said. “You can’t change it now.”
“Who says? What if it changes hands? The new owners might want to re-launch it with a new name.”
“Eve, are you selling the inn?”
Before she could answer, Eve heard a bark in the background. “Why is Mischief barking? What’s going on there?”
“Josh is refusing to share his burger with him. Something I would not have to deal with but, of course, you needed your peace of mind. Happy now? We have an off duty police officer on call at the Sea Breeze Inn and a grumpy Labrador.”
Eve heard more barking in the background.
“Make that two grumpy Labradors,” Jill complained.
“Don’t you want to hear my suggestions for the inn’s new name?” Spotting a Quaker chair she decided she simply had to have, Eve strode toward it. When she saw a woman making a beeline for it, she said, “Hang on a second, someone is about to steal my chair from right under my nose.”
“I thought you’d decided you had enough furniture.”
Eve hurried her step and swerved in time to avoid colliding with a display table. She reached the chair a second before the woman. Just to be on the safe side, she clamped her hand on it and mouthed an apology, “Sorry.”
“Are you squabbling with the customers?” Jill asked.
“To think I almost talked Mira into skipping this store and going straight to lunch. I love it. It’s full of gorgeous knick-knacks. Where could we display a collection of old cameras?”
“I never realized they were so beautiful. I’m looking at one. It has this sort of accordion thing happening. I think we could set up a display case somewhere.”
“Put it down, Eve.”
“Because I am under strict orders from you to tell you to put it down. Last week you made an executive decision to keep the inn clutter free.”
“But it’s beautiful.”
Jill chortled. “According to your instructions, I am now supposed to remind you the staff have been told to refuse to dust anything you bring back with you. You told them so at our last staff meeting.”
Had she really said that? “I’m overriding my orders.”
“According to further instructions, quote: ‘In case I suggest overriding the order, feel free to call the bank and cancel the cards.’ End quote.”
“Fine. Have it your way.” But nothing would stop her from buying the chair. Craning her neck, Eve searched for Mira. When she spotted her, Eve waved. She really wanted to take a closer look at the cameras on display but she couldn’t afford to lose her chair. She could see the other interested buyer hovering nearby, no doubt ready to pounce on the chair at the first opportunity. If she could get Mira to stand guard over it, she’d be able to take a closer look at the cameras… and everything else.
“So what name were you thinking of?” Jill asked. “And, yes, I’m trying to distract you away from the cameras.”
“The Carousel. The Sea Breeze is too obvious. We’re on an island and the inn sits right by the sea.”
“Are you dwelling again? It sounds to me like you are. A carousel brings up images of going around in circles. You can’t possibly still think there’s going to be another murder at the inn.”
“Try saying it with more conviction.”
Eve rolled her eyes. “There’ll be no more murders at the inn.”
A woman nearby gasped.
“What was that?” Jill asked.
“The sound of more disapproval.” Spying a shelf full of blue and white vases, Eve took a step only to stop. She couldn’t leave her chair behind…
“I think you should hurry back to the island were you can be contained,” Jill said. “You’re a danger to the wider population.”
“It’s remarks such as that one—” Eve shook her head. “Never mind. Mira and I should be home later tonight.”
“And you will arrive empty-handed,” Jill said, her tone firm.
“Yes, I will.”
“What about Mira?” Jill asked, her tone wary.
“I’ve never heard your mom nag. Where’s this attitude coming from?”
“See what you’ve driven me to become?”
She heard Mischief barking again. “I should let you go. It sounds as though you have some more nagging to do.” Eve disconnected the call and waved to Mira again but she now appeared to be deep in conversation with a woman.
Lifting the Quaker chair, she decided it was light enough to carry, so she made her way over to the vases. Each shelf had a label and description and she spent the next few minutes reading up on the different types of blue and white porcelain.
She picked one up just as her cell phone rang. “Hello.”
“Put it down, Eve.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake. Hello, Jack. Shouldn’t you be busy hunting down criminals?”
“Jill just called to say you’re up to no good. What’s going on?” Jack asked.
“Why did she give me instructions to tell you to put it down?”
“You know Jill. She tends to be overly dramatic.”
“Actually, I’ve noticed she’s acquired that trait only recently. I wonder why?”
“You should ask her yourself. I told her she’d become a nag and she nearly bit my head off.”
Jack chuckled. “So how are you enjoying your day off?”
“So far, so good.” Eve bit the edge of her lip. If she told Jack about all the wonderful items in the store, he’d probably report back to Jill and Jill would jump in her car and hunt her down. Or worse, she’d actually go ahead and have all her cards canceled. “Are you too busy fighting crime to come to dinner tonight?”
“I’ll try to squeeze you in,” he said.
Seeing Mira approaching, Eve disconnected the call, “I’ll see you tonight.”
“Who was that?” Mira asked.
“Jack. He’s missing me.” Eve smiled and pictured Detective Jack Bradford chuckling as he got on with his police business.
“What did he want?”
Eve shrugged. “Jill recruited him to… Oh, never mind.”
“These are pretty,” Mira said.
Eve smiled. “I’ve already mentally selected several of them. They’d look great on the mantelpieces or in a display case.”
Mira laughed. “Jill gave me strict instructions to tell you to put it down, Eve.”
Eve pursed her lips. “I don’t care what either of you say, I’m taking this chair. Do you think it’ll fit in the back seat of the car?”
“You’re forcing me to become an accomplice. Okay, I’m game.”
“Thank you for suggesting this store, Mira. I love it. I should go pay for this and then we can go find a place to have lunch.”
“Oh… Um… The owner recommends The Mill Café across the street.”
“Is that the woman I saw you talking with?”
“Yes. She’s a blow from the past. I’ll tell you all about her at lunch.”
When they reached the counter, Mira introduced them.
Florence Buchanan had a life of the party smile and the habit of tossing her head back when she laughed which she seemed to do for no reason. When she spoke, her husky tone held Eve mesmerized.
Paying for her chair, Eve spotted a box full of old cameras behind the counter. “The universe is taunting me.” She saw no harm in asking to see them.
“Those came in this morning,” Florence said, “I haven’t had a chance to go through them, and frankly, I wish I didn’t have to. There’s already a shelf full of them. You can have the lot for $100.”
“Are you serious?”
Mira cleared her throat and murmured under her breath, “If Jill finds out, she’ll confiscate your cards.”
“I’ll take them.”
* * *
“So where do you know Florence from? She doesn’t strike me as your usual literary friend.”
“We went to school together.” Mira’s smile spoke of secrets and adventures. “Then we followed different paths. Some people write, others are written about. Her father was a successful lawyer, a drunk and, according to rumor, a wife beater. When Florence inherited his fortune, she devoted several years to running through the inheritance. She traveled and, at one time, she became a regular barfly at the Dorchester Hotel in London.”
“A stylish drunk.”
“She’s lived all over the place. Imagine my surprise when I learned she’d eventually settled down to married life. That’s how she came to own Buchanan Emporium.”
“I thought the place was called Yesterday’s Trash.” Eve picked up the menu and studied it, not so much because she was hungry, but rather because she wanted to compare it to her own menu.
“Buchanan Emporium is the original name. Florence renamed it after her husband died.”
“I’ll have to remember to tell Jill about that. I’ve been thinking of renaming the inn.”
“So soon? Why? Has something happened? We’ve only been away for half a day.”
“Why does everyone jump to the same conclusion? With everything going on in my life, I feel I chose the name in haste and, as a woman, I reserve the right to change my mind.”
“But The Sea Breeze is charming.”
“The Carousel is even more charming,” Eve suggested.
Mira tilted her head in thought. “It suggests going around in circles. Remember, you’re trying to avoid certain episodes from repeating themselves.”
“That’s your interpretation. Whenever I think of a sea breeze, I imagine something sweeping through. A carousel, however…” Eve threw her hands in the air. “You and Jill have now ruined it for me.”
Mira chortled. “The voice of reason prevails.” She looked down at her menu. “What do you recommend?”
“I’d like to try the house made Ricotta and Asparagus Ravioli but it’s only available during asparagus season. We’ll have to come back. Oh, look. They have crab cake. Isn’t that a favorite of yours?” Eve looked up and noticed Mira gazing out the window. Ignoring her curiosity, Eve returned her attention to the menu but, despite her efforts, the Cast Iron Seared Scallops couldn’t hold her interest. “Lavender Marinated Duck Breast sounds tantalizing.” Eve turned a fraction toward the window. “How about the Truffled Mushroom Risotto? I think you’d like that…”
Mira clamped her hand over Eve’s hand. “Look.”
Swinging around, Eve’s other hand collided with the glass of water. “Oh.” Eve sprung back and, snatching a napkin, she covered the spill. A waitress approached and without making a fuss, helped Eve, taking away the wet napkin and providing a dry one. “I am so sorry,” Eve offered and turning to Mira, she grimaced. “Something tells me I wasn’t supposed to look.”
“It’s too late now. I swear I saw Florence swinging a baseball bat at someone. Moments before, a man went into the store. I noticed him because he wore a Fedora hat. I haven’t seen one of those in ages.”
“Fedora hats make me think of Cary Grant. When did men stop wearing hats?” Eve repositioned the fresh glass of water, placing it at a safe distance, and turned. “So did the man run for his life?”
“No, he’s still inside the store.”
Eve leaned forward and tried to focus. “I can’t see anything.”
“Florence is behind the counter. She’s wearing a bright orange top. Look, there she goes again, swinging the bat.”
Eve half rose out of her chair. “Should we…” Sit down, Eve. It’s none of your business. “We need to do something. You stay here.” Ignoring the voice of reason, Eve rushed out of the café. Before she could cross the street, a young man erupted from the store and sped away, his hand holding onto his Fedora hat.
Eve hurried and reached the sidewalk just as Florence emerged from the store, her baseball bat still in her hand.
“Are you all right?” Eve asked.
Florence threw her head back and laughed. “That’ll teach him. Come back, you dirty rotten scoundrel and I’ll show you what I can do with this baseball bat.”
“These young fops. They think they can swindle me.”
Fop? Eve made a mental note to ask Mira about fops.
“What did he try to do?”
“He claimed I’d stolen the cameras from him.”
“The cameras on your shelves?” Eve asked innocently.
“No. The ones you purchased.”
“The nerve. How dare he. I hope you gave him a good piece of your mind.” Eve prayed she hadn’t come into possession of stolen goods. “Perhaps you should contact the police.”
Florence snorted. “Oh, no. No need for that. I can look after myself.”
“Is he likely to come back?”
Florence’s shrug spoke of confidence. “If he does, I’ll be waiting.” She smacked the bat against the palm of her hand and laughed. “Thank you for coming to my rescue. You’re a doll.”
“Think nothing of it. Anyone would have done the same.”
“You think? Most people would prefer to cross the street and keep walking.”
“Well, I’m not most people.” She asked if Florence would be okay and quickly returned to the café thinking the less she knew about Florence’s problems, the better chance she’d stand pleading ignorance. She already had a reputation for meddling and landing in the thick of it.
As she entered the café, she looked over her shoulder and thought she caught sight of the man with the Fedora hat hovering around the corner.
It really wasn’t any of her business, but it wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye out…
When she strode inside the café, she had another surprise waiting…
Copyright ©2018 Sonia Parin/All Rights Reserved