I think I’ve mentioned before that I love writing cozy mysteries for a living. 😍 Launching this collaborative project while we’re all practicing social distancing, however, has made the experience so much more fun than I could have ever imagined. Today, I’m very excited to release the first few pages of our collaborative cozy mystery writing project: A BRUNCH WITH DEATH. ☠️
You’ve helped choose our sleuth, the murder weapon, the victim, and more for our Bakeshop Mystery spin-off. Now, it’s up to you to help choose where things go next! I’ve left things off with a cliffhanger, so your assignment now is to help come up with the concept for what comes next. What is it I need from you? You’ll just have to watch to find out!
Just a note: Be sure to keep your suggestions moving forward within the parameters of cozy mysteries. No gratuitous violence, sex, or language, because I’ll just have to remove it. 😉
I’m so excited to see where we go from here, so let the ideas and suggestions commence. Be sure to share with friends & family. The more the merrier! 🖊️🖊️🖊️
Now, on to the first pages:
A BRUNCH WITH DEATH
A Bakeshop Mystery Collaborative Short
A gust of wind kicked leaves in the air. Lithia Park was alive with the vibrant colors of fall. Deep red Japanese maples, brilliant orange and yellow oaks, and towering evergreens offered a glimpse of fall’s perfect palette. I twisted a paper-thin cashmere scarf tighter around my neck and made my way down the Shakespeare stairs that led to the plaza.
A quick glance at my wristwatch informed me that I was late. Typically, I loathe lateness in every form, but today I had an excuse. My meeting was with the dreaded Richard Lord, the owner of the chintzy Merry Windsor Inn. I had demanded that the meeting not take place, but my director of development had insisted.
“Lance, listen. Please just hear me out on this,” she had tried to appease me earlier. “Like it or not, Richard Lord has money. Lots of money and we need money to bring your vision to the stage. You know as well as I do that the past few summers of wildfire smoke have left us in the red. Deep in the red. Our donor campaign has been successful, and I know that you gave up your salary, but things are tight. Richard has a proposition for you. Promise me you’ll go to the meeting. Richard isn’t first on my list of people I want to partner with either, but desperate times call for desperate measures.”
“Fine, fine. I’ll go, but I won’t like it.” I had brushed her off. Not that it was her fault.
She was right. The festival had taken a huge hit with having to cancel show after show due to the suffocating wildfire smoke that rolled into our quaint valley and refused to loosen its grip for weeks on end. The thought of taking so much as a dime of Richard Lord’s money made me nauseous. One thing I knew for sure was that this clandestine meeting would go with me to the grave. There was no way I would tell Juliet, my bestie, that I was stepping foot into the Merry Windsor, let alone listening to Richard’s mysterious proposal.
I sucked in the earthy fall air and my stomach as I made it to the base of the stairs. Richard’s hotel sat at the corner of the plaza next to the entrance to Lithia Park. Everything about the Merry Windsor oozed cheapness. The façade had been designed to resemble a grand Elizabethan building, but nothing about the hotel was grand. Richard had tried to paint over the dilapidated boards on the porch and fill the window boxes with fake geraniums. His attempts to mask the disrepair just made things worse.
Inside was no better. Green carpeting ran the length of the hallway. Imitation busts of Shakespeare had been placed on styrofoam pedestals. A musty smell assaulted my nose, followed by an overpowering scent of chemical air freshener.
I coughed and waved my hand in front of my face.
“Checking in?” A surly man in his mid-20s wearing ridiculous pantaloons and a puffy shirt asked from behind the reception desk.
“I have a meeting with Richard.”
“Oh right. He told me that you were coming. You must be Lance? Lance Rowsow?”
“Rousseau,” I corrected him with my meticulous French accent.
“Sorry. Let me call Mr. Lord.” He placed a call to his boss and once again butchered the pronunciation of my last name.
“Go ahead. He’s waiting for you in his office. It’s the third door on your right once you pass the pool. You can’t miss it. There’s a large gold plaque with his name on it.”
I took my time meandering down the hallway. It was littered with more Shakespearean kitsch. The Bard would roll over in his grave at the sight of Richard’s collection of plastic scrolls and bobble heads. Chlorine fumes poured from the pool room like a thick steam. I coughed again. How did anyone stay here?
I shuddered at the thought and continued to Richard’s office.
“Come in,” he boomed when I rapped on the door.
Be on your best behavior, I cautioned myself and plastered on my best stage smile. “Richard, dearest, how are you?”
Richard stood from behind an ornate walnut desk, revealing his portly body. His outfit choice did nothing to flatter his full frame. As usual he was dressed in golfing attire that should be reserved for the Scottish Highlands. A red and black plaid shirt stretched across his belly. White and black checkered pants and a matching cap completed the look. “Lance, have a seat.” He motioned to a backless chair on the opposite side of the desk.
I acquiesced. What was I doing? This wasn’t desperation. This was selling my soul.
“Can I get you something? A cup of our delicious brew?”
I tried not to gag. The Merry Windsor was known for having the worst food in town. I could only imagine that Richard’s delicious brew likely originated in a can. “Thank you for such a gracious offer, but I’m fine.”
Richard sat. He leaned back in his swivel chair and stared at me.
Obviously, he was loving this.
“So, do tell. I hear you have some sort of proposal for me?”
His beady eyes lit up. “Yep. I have an offer that is going to completely revolutionize OSF.”
I highly doubted that was true. Not to come across as anything less than humble, but I had received numerous awards over the years for my vision and innovation when it came to our beloved theater. What could Richard possibly have to offer?
“Well, do you want to hear about it?” Richard sneered.
I swallowed the bile building in my throat and pursed my lips tighter. “Yes. Do tell. What did you have in mind?”