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?”
First I want to say, I’m loving your story!
My story suggestion.
Richard’s big idea for Lance is his creativity. He has been “studying screen play.” (Eye roll lol.) A play for the local from the locals. Richard’s play idea was to add a chef who couldn’t cook. The poor chef made countless mistakes. He or she added too much flour or too little and/or added too much salt. But wait! Behold, a wonderful chef from Merry Windsor comes to the rescue for the sad uneducated baker.
Lance is unimpressed with Richard’s revolutionize idea. However, for money sake Lance suggests brain storming and he must take it up with the other board members before any agrement can be made.
Richards ego doesn’t seem to end. Lance is forced to stay longer than intended. Richard shows Lance around the inn, leading to the kitchen. Richard introduces the chef, the hero in Richard’s play. To Lance’s distressed, the chef only cooks greasy meals. As Lance wishes the chef would ask Juliet for cooking lessons, the baker becomes furious when food is return to the kitchen from an unhappy customer.
I hope this wasn’t too long and you enjoyed it or parts of it. Happy writing to you!
Richard will donate money but that implies doing all the catering for OSF (maybe have a restaurant there)
Just read your opening scene. It was fun reading Lance’s point of view. I was trying to imagine what made RL the way he is now.
Richard Lord always wanted to be an actor. He was the big guy on campus and went to Hollywood, convinced that he would made it as an actor. Never made it as an actor and he had to return home to Ashland to run his father’s hotel.
His father worked hard to build a hotel and Richard Lord believed that his ideas were better. His father took pride in his work and unfortunately the son did not inherit that trait.
Richard Lord offers money to Lance with many conditions. RL picks the play and RL gets a starring role. Richard Lord wants something from Lance and I was trying to think of what Richard Lord would want from Lance. A part in the play? Stage a new play? Add chorus girls to the OSF ensemble?
Richard could “bribe” Lance with money for OSF by demanding a part in a Shakespearean play….Richard would be a good Falstaff because he is a portly buffoon. He could be practicing his part at the Merry Windsor and be doing play fighting with a sword. He could die when a sword pierces him at the hotel while he is in costume. The premise could be that someone was helping him improve his technique by “teaching/practicing” the fight with him. This is the perfect pretense to get him alone to kill him.
I love the idea of RL being a frustrated leading man and a self-proclaimed Shakespeare scholar so he wants the lead in a Shakespeare production. He offers in exchange a lavish fund raiser brunch in order to fund the production and whatever is leftover to the OSF. He offers 30% of the proceeds and of course Lance negotiates…
Love Lance as a narrator. Perhaps RL wants to add a dinner or rather a brunch theater element to the OSF. He wants to act as a grand host to the event. Merry Windsor will be the host, do the cooking, and have their name plastered over the event.
Richard’s decidedly uncreative niece Charity has written a comic version of Hamlet and she wants her uncle to push Lance into producing it for her. She believes this play will propel her playwriting dreams and send her to Broadway. Richard has sworn at his sister’s death bed that he would do what he could for the untalented Babette especially because he is great friends with well known director Lance
I love this idea. RL is trying to be the benevolent uncle by getting his niece a playwright opportunity. RL should offer to fund the play, but in return requires Lance to give the Merry Windsor publicity before and after each performance, touting how great his establishment is and promote their new featured breakfast menu.
Richard Lord Knows that his Merry Windsor Inn needs a major overhaul, but he does not have the money to do it. His plan is to have every OSF performance start at the Merry Windsor with brunch and Act 1. He knows the Chamber of Commerce will fund and support this as Richard knows a secret about their President. This will all be done under the guise of business collaborations to promote tourism. Lance will be forced to use his talents and set designers to redecorate every room at the Inn, and he’ll have to humble himself and ask Jules to completely revamp the menu, as Lance’s very reputation is at stake. It’s vile enough to be working with Richard Lord; he will not allow the food and decor to be vile too.
Lord Richard wants something big… nothing is without a price. He thought about using this opportunity to get Lance’s shares of Uva (wouldn’t that just steam Jules). One step closer to having the winery to himself. But no…..you see he wants BIG . Lord Richard is considering running for mayor of this quaint town. And what a better opportunity could there be, but to have Lance’s and OSF’s endorsement! Lord Richard plans to hold a Brunch at the Merry Windsor to make this announcement. He’s sure he has Lance cornered with the promise of funds for OSF that can’t be refused.
Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images on this blog loading? IвЂ™m trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if itвЂ™s the blog. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
Highly energetic article, I loved that a lot. Will there be a part 2?
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