Our collaborative cozy mystery just keeps getting better and better! The intrigue is really starting to build thanks to your creative ideas. In case you missed it, this week’s winning idea for A Brunch with Death was option #2: The police found a metal box containing a key and cash behind the drywall.
Because so many of you are big fans of culinary cozy mysteries, two recipes just wasn’t going to be enough to satisfy everyone. That’s why I asked everyone to start thinking of ideas for a coffee, tea, or other drink recipe that will be served at the brunch and also included in our story! You have until the end of the day Sunday to comment with those ideas, as well as the two additional questions I have for you in the video.
Now, on to the new pages and be sure to get those creative juices flowing. I can’t wait to hear your cozy mystery ideas this week! 😊
If you’d like to read the pages after watching the video, they can be found here: https://elliealexander.co/a-brunch-with-death-part-8/
I followed the Professor to the kitchen. The police officer crouched down near the sink.
“Look here, sir. There’s a piece of Sheetrock that must have been replaced after a leak or something. Do you see how this section has been cut out?”
The Professor bent over to see. “Indeed.”
“There’s more. I noticed that this piece was sort of wedged between the studs, and when I pulled on it, it came loose. Take a look.”
I crept closer on my tip toes to peer over the Professor’s shoulder.
The police officer removed the section of Sheetrock and pulled out a metal box. He handed it to the Professor, who slid on a pair of blue rubber gloves.
I held my breath as the Professor lifted the lid to reveal an antique key and a wad of one-hundred-dollar bills.
“Interesting,” the Professor noted, examining the key. “Bag this as evidence. We’ll need to dust it for prints.”
“What do you think it means?” I heard the words escape my lips before I could stop them.
The Professor turned to me and frowned. “Lance, I wasn’t aware that I extended you an invitation to join me.”
“Sorry.” I gave him a sheepish shrug. “Curiosity got the best of me. But since I’m here, do think I can be of service?”
“How so?” He handed the box to his colleague who proceeded to enclose it in an evidence bag.
“I think I know what that key might unlock.”
He waited for me to continue.
“Are you familiar with the old bank vault that’s hidden in the basement of A Rose By Any Other Name? It used to be operational many years ago, and if I’m correct, which I usually am, I believe that key belongs to one of the safety deposit boxes next to the old vault.”
A Rose By Any Other Name was a boutique flower shop that sat next to Torte on the plaza.
“You could be on to something, Lance. Thank you for the suggestion. We’ll look into it.”
“But don’t you think it might be a good idea to bring me along?” I crossed my fingers. “I am well-versed in Ashland history and I might be able to lend some additional insight.”
The briefest smile flashed across the Professor’s face. “I would wish not any companion in the world, but you.”
“Well done, Professor. The Tempest is a favorite of mine too.”
Before we left for the flower shop, the Professor directed his team to continue searching the Merry Windsor and not to allow anyone to leave until he returned.
We headed for the dining room together. He motioned to Juliet. “Would you come with us for a moment?”
Juliet looked to me with confusion. I pretended not to know what was happening as I could feel Richard and Toni’s eyes glaring at me.
The Professor didn’t say a word until we were outside. “I want you two to stay vigilant. I suspect that this case will come to a quick conclusion, but I could most certainly use another set or two of eyes.”
“What happened?” Juliet asked as we crossed past the Lithia Bubblers.
I filled her in.
“And you think the key opens one of the safety deposit boxes?” Juliet asked.
“There’s only one way to find out.” I pointed across the street where colorful bunches of fall flowers and foliage in burnt orange, mustard yellow, and maroon sat in buckets outside of A Rose By Any Other Name.
The Professor led the charge. He flashed his badge at the young college student working behind the counter. “We need to access the basement. I know the way. There’s no need for worry. Routine police business.”
She stared at us with wide eyes, but nodded and pointed to the staircase in the back of the fragrant shop.
I wasn’t entirely sure why she was surprised. Thomas, the Professor’s lead deputy, and his family owned the shop.
I flashed her a three-fingered wave as we descended the basement stairs. A musty smell hit my nose. Juliet coughed. The dim light made it imperative to watch my footing.
The cellar had an old brick floor. It wasn’t even as big as my office, and maybe it was just me, but it felt like the walls were closing in on us. I’ve never been a fan of tight spaces.
“Lance, can you hold my flashlight?” The Professor had turned on an amber light above that was coated in years of dust and cobwebs.
I took the light and positioned it on the wall of antique safe deposit boxes. The Professor tried the key in each box in the top row. No luck. He moved on to the second row. Again, the key didn’t open any of the boxes.
We were down to the last row.
I could feel Juliet’s shallow breathing next to me when the Professor reached the fifth box and the key clicked.
“It worked!” She exclaimed.
“Oh, ye of little faith, did you doubt me?” I asked.
“Never. How could I?” She teased.
The Professor froze. He left the key in the rusty box and turned to face us. “A word of caution, before we proceed. Whatever is revealed in the box stays with us. Understood?”
I gave him my most solemn nod.
“Of course.” Juliet nodded.
“Not a word about what we find can be uttered to anyone. The contents of this box could be directly linked to a murder, so I want your complete and utter assurance that neither of you will share a single detail about whatever we discover here.”
“I swear upon the Bard’s grave.” I made an “x” over my heart.
The Professor scowled. “Lance, I understand that you have a flair for the dramatic, but I couldn’t be more serious. If I can’t trust that you’ll be able to hold this information under lock and key.” He tapped the edge of the key for effect. “I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
“No, seriously.” I inhaled deeply and squared my shoulders. “Swearing on Shakespeare’s grave is no joke. You have my word.”
“He’s not kidding.” Juliet backed me up. “But if you want us to leave, we don’t need to be here.”
I kicked her. Why would she possibly say that? We had to be here. We were getting to the best part.
The Professor cleared his throat. “Thank you both for your assurances. I will hold you to them, and I quite prefer to have you here for reasons that I am not at liberty to explain at the moment.” He placed his hand on the key again. “Shall we?”
With that he turned the key again and carefully removed the box.
“Well, this is unexpected,” he said, holding up the box for Juliet and me to see.