Blowin' Up A Murder
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Welcome to the little town of Cottonwood, Kentucky, a charming town with fun business names like Tiny Tina’s Hair Salon and Cowboy’s Catfish. Sheriff Lowry becomes public-enemy number one when she shuts down a wedding reception after one of the catering waiters is found impaled by a wedding umbrella. The bride is not happy and proceeds to beat Sheriff Lowry with her bridal bouquet! How lucky that Kenni is already there to start her investigation—she’s got a bratty bride, a crass groomsman, and a dead waiter... If the murder at the wedding wasn't enough, she’s got to solve this so that her friend's business isn’t ruined!
Release date: May 19, 2022
Publisher: Tonya Kappes Books
Print pages: 248
Reader says this book is...: action-packed (2) entertaining story (6) escapist/easy read (3) realistic characters (1) suspenseful (1) terrific writing (3) unputdownable (2) satisfying ending (1)
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Blowin' Up A Murder
My heart twirled around just looking at him in the suit and out of his Clay’s Ferry uniform. I’d seen him in that uniform a lot more often than regular clothes.
I never thought it was going to be a shock to see him in the new navy sheriff’s getup since I was used to seeing him in the baby-poop-brown-almost-yellow sheriff’s uniform we wore in Cottonwood.
We being me, Scott Lee, and Betty Murphy. I lump Betty in there only because she didn’t participate in the uniform daily. She claimed the button-up shirt and pants were too stiff for her arthritis. I would’ve believed her if she’d worn some sort of easier outfit instead of jeans and a different buttoned cardigan every day. But who was keeping score?
It was one of those things Mama stuck in my head—obey your elders. That went for work as well, even if my elder was an employee.
“What?” Finn caught me looking at him. His freshly cut black hair was shorter than normal, which was fine by me because his big brown eyes became his best feature. His hand held mine, and both of them were resting on his thigh.
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“You look handsome.” I smiled since this was, like, the umpteenth time I’d told him since he picked me up for the wedding.
A wedding of two people I didn’t know and had no clue who these people were. It was one of those invitations where all the government officials were invited, and since all was right in Cottonwood, Scott was at the department in case any calls came in. Scott got the job since it was Saturday and Betty did not work the weekends. I got all gussied up and dragged Finn with me.
He was sort of a buffer between me and Mama, who, by the way, was sitting next to me, sticking her long fingernail into my ribs and giving it a little twist.
“Aren’t spring weddings so lovely?“ Mama’s nail dug a smidgen deeper.
“Stop,” I warned with a head jerk her way.
“What?” Mama’s Southern drawl came out as if she didn’t know what she was doing. “I was talking to Lulu.”
“You always have to worry about rain, and from what Edna Easterly posted into today’s Cottonwood Chronicles, it’s gonna come a gusher later on this afternoon.” Lulu McClain’s head was stuck up between me and Mama’s shoulders. She had been seated behind us and scooted up to the edge of the bench, where she laid her forearms along the back of our pew so she and Mama could talk about wedding.
Lulu had short black hair and owned Lulu’s Boutique, located on Main Street in downtown Cottonwood. She had very trendy items in the shop that catered to the South, horses, and the state of Kentucky.
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By talk, I meant gossip, and they sure didn’t care who heard them.
“That’s why I think you need to have a summer wedding.” Ruby Smith sat by Lulu and put her two cents’ worth in, along with light touch on my shoulder. Her short red hairstyle was a staple for Ruby, as was her bright-orange lipstick. She, along with Mama and a few of their other friends in Cottonwood, were known as the Henny Hens, though really most of them were part of the Auxiliary Women’s Club, where they’d met years ago.
“Tell her, Viv,” Ruby followed up.
She encouraged my mama to keep playing the fantasy in her head that somehow Finn had popped the question, and he had not. He hadn’t even mentioned the possibility of us getting married. Though his parents had come to Cottonwood to meet me and my family, and that didn’t go over so well.
“Flowers are lovely in the summer. Myra was telling me the other day, when I went down to Petal Pushers to get a spring wreath for the front door, how peonies scream summer wedding with the billowing petals that give off a delightful scent.” Mama’s excitement was oozing out of her with the thought. “Did you know peonies come in several vibrant pink, yellow, and white hues that would go with any color of bridesmaid’s dresses? Plus they are a larger bloom, so you really get more bang for your buck. That’s what Myrna said.”
“I can see it now.” Ruby fanned her jewel-bedecked fingers out in front of her between us. Her arms were filled with bangles that were rattling with the hand swoops. “Gorgeous sunny day with those light pinks on each table in a round glass bowl filled just a little over half with water.”
The Henny Hens didn’t care what I had to say. They had Mama’s back and agreed with her that I was getting older.
If I knew anything about hens, it was they were nosy. Mama and all her friends put their noses in everything. That included everything that was nothing about them. That did make my job a little harder at times, especially when it came to crimes in and around Cottonwood.
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They’d hear something on the police scanner—every household had one—and be at the scene before I could get there. Since I was Mama’s daughter, they felt they could not only get private police information from me but also tell me how to run the investigation.
“I think fall is lovely too.” Mama’s chin lifted as she kept her gaze forward before she shifted her eyes enough to take a gander at me and see if I was looking at her.
“And it would give us a few months to prepare.” Lulu only made the situation worse.
“Mmmhmm,” Mama sighed and looked ahead like I was engaged. “The church is so pretty in the fall too. Myrna did mention how rich and warm fall’s most popular blooms can be.” Mama gave a very satisfying sigh. “What she said made real sense too.” Mama nodded. “She said no matter what the theme of the wedding—like rustic, chic, or classic—all those dramatic orange, red, yellow, purple, and even brown hues found in the fall are gorgeous.”
“I’m thinking dahlias.” Lulu patted my back. I didn’t turn to look at her. “Don’t you love the weather in the fall, Kenni?”
“I thought Finn was Cath-o-lick?” Ruby asked, as if the religion left a bad taste in her mouth.
“Do you ladies not see me sitting right here?” Finn dropped my hand and extended his arm over me and rested it around my shoulder, taking up the back of the pew and forcing Ruby and Lulu to scoot back into their seats.
“We are just talkin’, Finn. You don’t have to act all highfalutin now that you’ve got that big job in Clay’s Ferry.” Ruby’s remarks to him garnered a few snickers.
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“Myrna has done a real fine job with these arrangements, but everyone seems to get married in the spring. Only special weddings are in the fall.” Mama had it set in her mind I was getting married in the fall.
Again I shot Mama a look.
“What, Kenni?” Mama put her hand on her chest like she was appalled at me even looking at her. “I didn’t say it. Ruby did.” She shimmied her shoulders.
The whole religion thing had been a sore topic of conversation, and one Finn and I had both skirted since our parents had had a huge disagreement over which church their grandchildren would attend. Talk about putting the cart before the horse.
Finn and I were nowhere near getting married, much less having children.
“Thank you,” I whispered to Finn and looked over where I heard the side door in the front of the church open.
A man who I assumed was the groom walked out behind Preacher Bing and four other groomsmen. They had on long black tuxedos with tails and top hats.
“My oh my, they’ve gone all out.” Mama leaned over and acted as if she only wanted me to hear, but the Henny Hens behind her moaned an “Mmhhmmm.”
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The traditional wedding song filtered over the speakers, signaling us to stand—a tradition we did as soon as the bride appeared to start her walk down the aisle.
I kept facing forward so I didn’t have to fight to see the tip-top of the bride’s veil over the crowd of people behind me. But the murmurs and gasps along with the clicks of cameras told me she was a sight to behold.
I heard my name in a faint whisper. Behind Finn’s shoulder was Polly Parker Ryland, the first lady of Cottonwood.
“Do you mind moving your head?” She jutted her phone at me, clearly wanting to get a shot of the bride.
I slumped down.
“Those are the family pearls. Antiques.” Ruby had leaned forward and wiggled a finger at the bride when she walked past.
Ruby would know what was antique and what wasn’t because she owned Ruby’s Antiques on Main Street. Treasures to her, but whenever I went in there, it smelled old. That was what antiques were to me. Old.
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“Are they?” Mama danced back and forth on her shoes to see around the people in front of us so she could try to get a glimpse of this family heirloom. “She’s got too much lace on her face.” I could leave it to Mama to find something wrong with the bride. Luckily, she did whisper that, so no one else heard.
Why did weddings always bring out the soft side of people? The entire ceremony, Finn held my hand, squeezing it during the sweet moments that didn’t go unnoticed between the bride and groom. They had all the attention on them.
Not mine. I had assessed the church, locating the accessible exits, since some were blocked by candelabras filled to overflowing with wildflowers.
I’d been to church here a million times and knew the exits. It was by habit that I took in all the surroundings for the just-in-case-there’s-an-emergency situation. While I did so, I couldn’t help but notice one of the groomsmen stood a little further away than the rest and wasn’t really included in the heckling some of them gave the groom, to which the bride was all smiles.
The groomsman who was all business had to have been a relative of the groom. After all, he was the one who had the rings in his pocket and seemed to give the groom more sincere, brotherly-love type of interactions during the ceremony.
After the bride and groom kissed and the final trumpet sent them down the aisle, Mama jumped to her feet.
“We’ve got to go to the reception. I heard it was to die for.” Mama would have ridden on the bride’s train if she could.
“You’ve got to wait until they release the pews one by one, Mama.” I had to hold her back by keeping a fistful of the back of her dress in hand.
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“Now, Kenni, don’t be ridiculous. I know what good manners are, but I’m telling you, you might have to use the siren to bypass all the people going to this reception.” She loved to think she was always within the law, but when it came time to use me for her good, she was willing to break it.
I gave her another look.
“I know you can’t, but it sure would be nice if we got there and got a good seat. You never know.” She plucked the white gloves out of her handbag and smacked me with them before she slipped them on her hands. “You might get some good pointers.”
“Tibbie has already saved us a seat.” I pointed at Mama, me, Finn, and the Henny Hens, which now included Viola White and Myrna Savage, all perched in the row behind us.
Tibbie Bell was one of my best friends, and she was an event planner. When she got the call about this job, we’d heard about it for over a year. Now the big day was here, and honestly I wasn’t there with the hopes that the bride and groom would vote for me in the next election, though that was a real reason to come to these things around here. I was there to support Tibbie.
That was the way it was in Cottonwood.
Weddings were as big as having a baby. Having a baby was as big as a funeral. Funerals, well, those were social gatherings not to be missed, no matter how well you knew the deceased.
In Cottonwood those three events were always happening, which meant we were always together and pitched in whenever we could.
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When I looked around while waiting for our turn to be let out of the pew, I saw a lot of the townsfolk there with big smiles on their faces, talking to one another, and being neighborly. As the sheriff, I loved seeing the community like that.
Cottonwood wasn’t always rosy. I saw a few neighbors here socializing, but if I went to their houses, they’d be bickering back and forth about rose bushes a little over the property line or how someone let their paper sit in their driveway too long.
Not today. Today was a celebration of happiness and love.
“Here you go.” The serious groomsman just so happened to be the one who let us out of the pew. “The bride is very environmentally friendly, so they’re using bubbles to blow instead of rice to throw.” He handed me a clear plastic bottle with bubble water in it.
“Isn’t that clever?” Mama looked over her shoulder at me, tipped her chin down, and lifted her brows. “See? Something you can do.”
“Keep walking,” I told her.
The sunshine filtered through the doors at the back of the church that were spread wide open for us to gather outside.
“Looky there. Clouds.” Lulu pointed off to the west where there were a few dark clouds in the sky. “Sunny one minute. Raining the next. That’s the spring weather for you.”
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By the looks of the moving clouds, the rain was going to be coming rather fast.
“I sure hope they make it to the reception before then,” Finn said and gestured to a white horse-drawn carriage that was open to the elements.
“Smile, you two love birds!” Edna Easterly held her camera up to her eyes.
I was a little taken aback at Edna’s appearance. She wasn’t dressed in her fishing vest with all the pockets that held all her journalist gadgets and her feathered fedora hat with the glued-on note card where she’d proudly written Reporter with a marker.
“A little closer, like you are in love.” She gestured at us to get a little closer. “Look into the camera and smile!”
As soon as she clicked the shutter, a big bolt of lightning broke through the sky.
“That made me shiver.” I shook a bit before the goose bumps crawled along my arms.
“Hmmm.” Mama pinched me. “Someone’s walking over your grave, Kenni.”
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