Our collaborative cozy mystery, A Brunch with Death, is really starting to flow! I know I say this every week, but I am having the BEST time writing this spin-off with all of you. 🥰 I may just have to branch out into a whole new line of cozy mysteries that are community-driven. Who knows? 😉
Is anyone up for some new pages? If so, you won’t be disappointed! Be sure to watch the video to find out what your next assignment is. As with all cozy mysteries, this week’s questions can take us down many different paths. I’m counting on you to come up with some excellent material, so I can’t wait to see your creativity this week. 🖊️✏️
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Have a wonderful weekend and happy plotting,
I waited for Brady to respond, but instead he shifted uncomfortably in his chair.
I leaned forward. “Trust me, your secret is safe with me. I am a model of discretion. It comes with the territory. An Artistic Director has to guard his company.”
Brady bought my lie. “Okay, yeah I guess you’re right. And, if I’m going to take the part, I’m going to have to figure out a way to deal with Pierre.”
“I will gladly offer you my services in any way I can.” I was laying it on thick for the poor kid. Juliet would chastise me, but I had to know what he wanted to tell me about the Merry Windsor’s new chef.
“Well,” Brady hesitated again before spilling his secret. “The thing is, Pierre can’t cook.”
“What?” My jaw dropped. If only Juliet were here. What sweet irony. Richard had hired a chef who couldn’t cook. Classic.
“No. I mean, I guess. I don’t know for sure. But I don’t think he can cook. He has me and the rest of the kitchen staff doing everything. He’s rarely even in the kitchen. Every once in a while, he’ll sweep in and do this big show of tasting stuff. The other day Mr. Lord came into the kitchen and Pierre freaked out. He grabbed a wooden spoon out of my hand and tried to use it on cinnamon roll dough that the pastry chef had rising.”
I cleared my throat. “Forgive me for being naive, but I’m assuming one does not use a wooden spoon on dough?” Baking had never been my domain. That was one of the many reasons it was fortuitous that Juliet and I had become thick as thieves. Having a best friend who happens to be a world class pastry chef has its rewards, namely in the form of always having an abundance of delicacies at my fingertips.
“No.” Brady scowled. His features had the makings of a leading man with his strong jawline and bold forehead. “You knead dough either with your hands or in the mixer. You don’t stir it with a wooden spoon, and this dough was already proofed. It was the size of a basketball. Pierre ruined it.”
“How interesting.” I pondered my next move.
Brady wrung his hands together. “You won’t say anything though, right? I really need the extra income.”
“Oh, not to worry. Your secret is safe with me, and I’ll handle Pierre. You should scoot up to costuming and give them your measurements. Then you have some lines to learn, Petruchio. I’ll see you at five o’clock sharp. Congratulations!” I stood to shake his hand and usher him out of my office.
What a revelation. Everything about Richard’s new chef was fake. He wasn’t French, he wasn’t named Pierre, and he couldn’t cook. If only I had time to dive deeper. Alas, duty called. I spent the remainder of the afternoon preparing costumes, gathering sketches, and casting the remaining roles. Before I knew it, my smart watch buzzed a reminder that it was time for happy hour.
I grabbed a coat and my cashmere scarf and made my way to the Merry Windsor. The front desk clerk greeted me with nothing more than a grunt.
“I must apologize. I don’t believe I caught your name earlier.”
He glanced up from the magazine he was reading. “Hank.”
“Hank, excellent. I’ll be popping in and out more frequently with the upcoming production. You’ll likely be seeing members of my cast coming and going as well.”
“That’s fine.” He didn’t sound particularly interested.
“Hey, quick question, what do you know about Pierre?” I hoped my tone reflected my casual manner.
Hank set down the magazine and folded his arms across his chest. “I don’t know anything about him, why?”
“No reason. I always like to learn as much as I can about anyone with whom I’ll be working.”
“I don’t know why you’re asking me. I just check guests in and send housekeeping to deliver towels. You should talk to the kitchen staff.”
It was clear that he wasn’t going to be more forthcoming, and was it my imagination or was he defensive? He and Peter had argued earlier. There was definitely more to the story.
“Thanks for the tip. I’ll do that.” I gave him wave and walked to the dining room. The green carpet and cheap Shakespearean décor continued in the dining room. Gaudy gold curtains hung from the windows and matching shimmering satin tablecloths lined the tables.
Richard sat at a large rectangular table at the far end of the room. Toni was seated next to him. “Lance, come on over.” He raised a glass of red wine.
Platters of appetizers had been placed in the center of the table. There was an indistinguishable dip with crusty bread, mini meatballs on toothpicks, cheese and crackers, and a fruit plate. This was Richard’s new happy hour menu? The food looked fine, but certainly not high-end or artisan.
“What are you drinking, my friend?” Richard clapped me on the back.
“I’ll take a martini—dry.”
Richard snapped his fingers at a waiter. “Get my friend a dry martini.” Then he turned to Toni. “Do you need a refresher, sweetheart?”
Toni batted her fake lashes at Richard. “Yes, dearest.” She handed the waiter her empty wine glass.
“Well, what do you have there?” Richard’s beady eyes focused on my files.
“Don’t you think we should wait for the rest of the cast?” Toni gave him a knowing look. “Plus, we’ll want to make our big announcement before we start talking business.”
“Announcement?” I raised my brow.
Before Toni could answer, Brady and the other cast members arrived, followed shortly by Juliet, and Peter. Richard made awkward small talk while waiting for everyone’s drinks to arrive. Peter, who was decked out in his chef’s coat and hat, called Brady to his side. I noticed they had a brief exchange before Brady shrugged and left in the direction of the kitchen.
He returned a few minutes later with a tray of champagne and glasses.
“Good, good,” Richard said, pushing to his feet. “If you all will take a glass of the Merry Windsor’s finest champagne, I’d like to make a toast.”
Brady passed out glasses of the bubbly champagne.
“To our new French chef Pierre who has put together this amazing spread.” He caught Juliet’s eye and gave her a gloating grin. “To our outstanding cast for the Merry Windsor’s first brunch fête, and to…”
Toni cut him off. She jumped to her feet. “Let me share the news, dearest.” She held out her left hand to show off a sparkling ring. “Richard popped the question shortly before you all arrived. Isn’t this the most beautiful diamond ever?”
I leaned closer to Juliet. “Not a diamond. Cubic zirconia. For sure.”
She chuckled but motioned for me to keep quiet.
Richard puffed out his chest. “Toni is making me the happiest man alive by agreeing to be my leading lady for life. To my new bride-to-be.” He lifted his champagne glass.
“To Toni,” everyone said, toasting to the couple.
I glanced around the table. It was an odd mix to say the least and the most muted celebration I’d ever witnessed. Peter didn’t appear to be taking the news well. His cheeks swelled with red. He slammed his glass on the table, spilling champagne. He stood, but swayed and caught himself at the last minute.
Was he drunk?
The next thing I knew he clutched his throat and collapsed face-down in the dip.
Juliet raced around to the other side of the table. She knelt next to Peter.
“What a lush,” Richard laughed. “I guess our new chef can’t handle his liquor.”
Juliet shook her head. “No. Something’s wrong. He’s not breathing.”
Toni screamed and dropped her glass.
Brady turned ghostly white.
Juliet looked to me. Her eyes were wide with fear.
I had to act. I reached for my phone and punched in a number I knew well.