Southern hospitality with a smidgen of homicide
USA Today bestselling author Tonya Kappes brings you southern and quirky characters in her mystery series. Her stories are charged with humor, friendship, family and life in small southern towns.
Welcome to Normal, Kentucky where nothing is normal!
When Hank Sharpe asked me in the laundry club ladies to join him in an undercover investigation to help find a missing person, me and ladies grabbed our sleuthing notebook without hesitation.
As undercover Forest Bathing Therapist trainees we were bound and determined to find out with happened to Kyra Tenney. When we did find her body in what appeared to be an accidental forest fire, we thought we were finished with our undercover act.
Only the coroner's report came back that our missing person had been killed before the fire.
Put on your sleuthing caps and join Mae West along with the Laundry Club Ladies as they take their investigation skills to a whole 'nuther level! Especially after Mae finds herself in the fire!
Release date: April 28, 2022
Publisher: Tonya Kappes
Print pages: 171
Reader says this book is...: action-packed (3) entertaining story (5) satisfying ending (3) suspenseful (2) escapist/easy read (2) realistic characters (2) unputdownable (2) terrific writing (1)
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Adventure, Abduction, & Arrest
Start of excerpt
“Good morning!” I greeted Betts Hager, Abby Fawn Bonds, Queenie French, and Hank Sharp as each one of them boarded my little camper. “Dottie is in Trails Coffee grabbing us some much needed caffeine.”
I’d parked the small RV in the parking lot of the Laundry Club, the meeting place for our next great adventure. Or should I’ve said our next investigation where Hank Sharp had asked us to assist in his new missing person case.
“What’s she doing in there?” Betts Hager blew her bangs out of her eye as she stooped down and peered out the windshield. Her shoulder-length wavy brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She had on a pair of pink yoga pants and sweatshirt to match.
I’d seen that same outfit in the window display over at the Tough Nickel Thrift Shop just a few days ago. Buck had made the display to match the spring activities going on and around the Daniel Boone National Park, where we lived, with mannequins in hiking gear sitting in a kayak as well as a pup tent with a mannequin who now had to be missing her yoga outfit.
“There can’t be that long of a line.” Betts shook her head and moved to the back to sit on the small couch with Queenie and Abby.
Queenie was dressed in her usual going out outfit. Her eighties silky jumpsuit that swished with every move and matching headband that kept her short blonde hair pushed off of her face.
“Good morning.” Hank Sharp’s green eyes sent a bolt of lightning to my heart when he looked at me. He bent down and kissed me before he took the driver’s seat. “I’m guessing you’re staying there and letting me drive?”
“You’re so smart Hank Sharp.” I winked. “She was talking to Violet Rhinehammer,” I groaned and pointed when I saw Dottie coming out of the local coffee shop.
“And she’s smoking.” Abby had turned herself around, leaning on the back of the couch to see out the small RV windows behind them. When she swung back around, she hit Queenie in the face with her high swingin’ brown ponytail.
“Pft. Pfft.” Queenie spat, smacking it away from her face.
“When she smokes that early, it means Violet stressed her out.” Abby sighed and put her hand out when she noticed I was passing the missing person file back to her.
“I sure hope she didn’t tell Violet what we were up to.” Hank adjusted his seatbelt.
“No kidding.” I reached over my shoulder to get my seatbelt. “Or she’d have I plastered all over the Normal Gazette and Channel Two news.”
Violet Rhinehammer was probably a decent human being if I’d gotten to know her outside of her journalist personality. We’d become well acquainted over the years that I moved to Normal, Kentucky and worked on a few things together but we weren’t one to call each other up and hang out.
Not like I did with the Laundry Club Ladies. Those were the ladies right here in my camper. My tried and true girlfriends along with my amazing boyfriend Hank. Of course I couldn’t forget Fifi.
Fifi was my little white poodle who was still sleeping on my bed in the back.
Yep. I loved in a drivable RV and owned Happy Trails Campground in the heart of the Daniel Boone National Forest in Normal, Kentucky. Literally this was my home on wheels that for a lack of time, had been forced to live in but it took the better part of a year to remodel it into the cute little RV it was today.
Ninety-nine percent of the time the RV stayed parked at Happy Trails Campground but not this week.
Hank was now a private investigator and when he asked for my help along with the Laundry Club Ladies to go off to a different part of the Daniel Boone National Park to use our very good and keen amateur sleuthing skills to help him locate a missing woman.
“According to the file, Kyra Tenney went missing two weeks ago. Her cell phone’s last ping was,” Abby rattled off the location while Betts put the address in her phone.
“Y’all ain’t gonna believe this crap.” Dottie Swaggert had swung open the door. Smoke rolled out of her mouth with each word before she took one last drag.
Queenie got up and took the coffee holder with all of our coffees in it so Dottie could snuff the cigarette out before she got in the RV.
“I don’t know if it’s a lie or not.” She got in and slammed the small door behind her, locking it so Hank could start driving. “But Violet Rhinehammer claims she’s quit the Normal Gazette and Channel Two news to go off to Calee-fornia for some big hot shot job out there. Somethin’ ‘bout making it big time. Career startin’ off.” Dottie shrugged.
“You mean to tell me she finally got the call?” I asked with slacked-mouth.
“I reckon. I don’t know.” Dottie waved her hand in the air before she adjusted one of the pink sponge curlers in her hair as she took as seat at one of the chairs at my little café table.
Dottie apparently wasn’t ready for the day, or should I say her hair wasn’t ready for the day.
“You know Violet. Sometimes she’s all hat and no cattle.” A lot of Dottie’s vernacular was southern phrases. Most of them I understood and to say that she kept me entertained all the time was an understatement.
She literally kept me entertained practically all of my time due to the fact she was manager of Happy Trails Campground, she lived next to me and she was one of my dearest friends.
“I don’t think she’d lie about such a big thing.” Abby looked around for some agreement. “Would she?”
“Do you still follow her on social media?” Queenie asked Abby since Abby was the social media expert of our group.
“I’m sure she put something on there.” Queenie made a really good point.
Betts rattled off some directions for Hank, though by the way he pulled out of the parking lot and did a U-Turn when he got to the end of the grassy median so he could drive in the other direction since downtown was one way on each side.
We passed Trails Coffee on my side and I couldn’t help but try to see in to check out Violet Rhinehammer. I admit I was curious because she’d tried so hard to find the next big story that would get her national attention with the Associated Press and I racked my brain for what stories she’d done lately but came up short.
The conversation moved back to why we were all here in the first place.
“Kyra Tenney is twenty three years old.” Betts had dropped the Violet chatter and focused on the file since Abby gave it to her so Abby could take notes in the spiral notebook we’d used for times such as this.
Those times were what lead Hank asking for our help. It was no secret that I had enlisted the Laundry Club Ladies to help prove I was innocent when my ex-now-dead-husband’s body had turned up floating in the campground ground lake with me as Hank’s number one suspect. At the time Hank was involved in law enforcement and of course I looked guilty. The spouse was always the prime suspect. Only I didn’t do it.
I had found these ladies as a great group of women to lean on and well we just had a knack of snooping around, listening to gossip and narrowing down the clues that lead to real criminals. This wasn’t our first rodeo.
“According to the file her mom said she was trying to get her life back on track since Kyra’s relationship had broken up. Also her mom reports Kyra had started therapy at Forest Bathing Therapist.” Betts read it again before she laid the file in her lap. “Hank, you’re making us do therapy?”
“I’m not making you do anything.” He glanced back in the rear-view mirror at the ladies. “I asked if you wanted to help me and each one of you jumped at it.”
“What is forest therapy?” Dottie rolled her eyes. “Now, I ain’t gonna hug no trees and talk to the plants like you see them tree-huggin’ hippies do. If I wanted to do that I’d join Tex’s commune out by the Old Train Station Motel,” she grumbled.
I snickered just thinking about Dottie out in the woods with Tex, the bare-chested chiropractor who had a successful business doing his work among the trees in the woods.
“You want me to let you out?” Hank wasn’t about to take Dottie’s orneriness impede the investigation.
She shook her head and crossed her arms over the bedazzled shirt she’d made for just this occasion.
“Keep reading.” I looked at Betts.
“Forest therapy is sometimes referred to as ecotherapy, forest therapy, forest bathing, grounding, earthing, where one gets in touch with their feelings through techniques or treatments to use nature to improve mental or physical health.” Betts had read off of her phone where she must’ve used the internet to look it up.
“Hell fire,” Dottie jerked up. “We all should have no problems because we live in the forest.” She shook her head, her lips pinched. “Who ever heard of such things as forest bathing? Heck. I’m a teacher of that stuff.”
“That’s right.” I agreed. “We do sit outside in the chairs with our face to the woods while we bath in the sun.”
“You dang right we do.” Dottie liked that.
“Seriously.” Betts had a wide-eyed look. Her finger kept scrolling on her phone. “It’s honest to God a real thing.”
“Tree therapy or forest bathing has been proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, not to mention reduce stress, and boost the immune system.” She continued to read. “The idea is to relax in nature away from the stress in your life. Even five minutes a day helps.”
“Then we should all have perfect lives.” Dottie just couldn’t stop with the comments.
“You should be able to be a model client.” Hank wasn’t about to let Dottie’s sour attitude about the thing get the group down.
“Client?” Dottie let go of a huge sigh. “We mean to tell me you’re gonna make me hug a tree?”
“Yep. You will become one with the tree.” Hank joked.
“Anyways, Kyra’s mom also said they knew she was going to this retreat. Kyra had called every day until the last few. She called the retreat and they said Kyra had left and not come back. Her things are still there but she’s not. The therapist, Robin Michaels, also told Kyra’s mom that it wasn’t unusual for clients to pack a bag and hike for a couple of days. Going off the grid is what she called it.” Betts looked at Abby to make sure Abby had gotten a lot of the major bullet points.
Abby picked up her phone, typing in something before she turned her phone around to show us the screen.
“Seriously though, these cabins at this retreat place is cute.”
I turned around in my seat to take a look at her screen.
They weren’t cabins, they were yurts. I kept my mouth shut. Dottie would have a fit if she knew we were staying in what appeared to be pretty authentic tent type dwellings that didn’t look to have running water in them.
“That is really cute.” I did love how the photo she was showing was decorated. There was a really neat owl photo on the wall with a cool wooden frame that stood out. The bed was dressed in what I’d consider that boho style with all the browns and cream colored designs. There was a rug at the foot of the bed along with small cloth couch up against the round structure.
“Here’s what I’ve got so far.” Abby put her phone down in exchange for our clue notebook.
We had a certain way of doing things and even though we could refer back to the file, it was much easier for Abby to put it all in the grid so we could just glance.
“I have Kyra’s name in the big circle.” Abby turned the notebook around. The diagram looked like a sun. Krya’s name was in the circle of the sun while she had rays with other names like Robin Michaels and boyfriend. “Do we have the boyfriend’s name?”
“I don’t think so but I can get it from the mom.” Hank had made it to the entrance of the interstate that would take us the hour away from our home.
The Daniel Boone National Park was over seven hundred thousand acres, spanning several towns. Though we lived in the area, most of it was woods without the main roads that took hours to take us around.
The hour would give us the groundwork to start our little snooping brains in the direction before Hank unleashed us to go our way into this therapy group and see if in fact Kyra had taken a hike or a little trip into the woods.
Either way, I knew we would find her.
END OF EXCERPT
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