Ainsley Holloway had come to Gooseberry Bay to find answers about her past. She’d come to find an explanation for the dreams that haunted her after the death of the cop who’d both rescued and raised her. And she’d come to identify the family she couldn’t remember but knew in her heart she’d once belonged to.
Ainsley hoped that by finding these answers, she’d also find healing. She hoped that once she’d resurrected the memories buried deep in her mind, she’d find peace.
The Cottage at Gooseberry Bay is a series about, not only finding answers, but finding hope.
It’s a series about family and friendship.
It’s a series about shared holidays, festivals, and celebrations.
It’s a series about shared heartbreak and hardship.
And it’s a series about the bond that can be forged amongst strangers when tragedy binds two or more individuals with a common goal.
In book 13 in the series, it's Halloween in Gooseberry Bay and the ghosts and goblins are out in force. The whole gang turns out to help with the haunted house and related community events until someone close to them turns up dead.
Release date: September 12, 2023
Publisher: Kathi Daley Books
Print pages: 135
Reader says this book is...: entertaining story (1) escapist/easy read (1)
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Cottage on Gooseberry Bay: Halloween Bay
“Vote early and vote often,” Edna Jenkins, my business neighbor to the left, said as she
breezed in through the back door of Ainsley Holloway Investigations from the hallway the two
of us shared with two other businesses. Edna co-owned Then and Again, an antique shop and
secondhand store, along with her sister, Beverly Drummond.
I couldn’t help but laugh at the burst of enthusiasm that seemed to accompany the petite
woman with a stack of fliers clutched between her forearm and chest. “I plan to vote early, but
I’m pretty sure that I, like everyone else, can only vote once,” I responded.
Edna puffed out a short breath. “Yes. That is unfortunate. After Fergus O’Malley had that
heart attack and decided to give up his seat on the council mid-term, and a special election was
deemed necessary, I figured that the third time would be the charm, so I threw my hat in the ring,
anticipating that I’d have little to no competition. As you know, that has not turned out to be the
Edna had run for office two times prior to this bid for an open seat, and she’d lost by a rather
large margin both times. Of course, that didn’t dissuade the determined woman. Edna had some
radical and often unsupported ideas, but she felt strongly about the opinions she held close to her
heart and seemed determined to win a seat on the council no matter how many times she had to
run. I didn’t personally agree with her uncompromising zero-growth platform and didn’t actually
plan to vote for her. She was my friend and neighbor, however, and I didn’t want things to be
strained between us, so I listened to her pitch and pretended to show interest despite the fact that,
in my opinion, she didn’t have any more of a chance of winning this time around than she had
the first two times she tried.
Edna handed me what appeared to be several dozen fliers from the large stack she was
holding. “If you would be so kind as to hand these out. The election is in just a few days, you
I accepted the fliers, wondering the whole time what I would do with them since I had no
intention of handing them out. “I think it’s odd that the town council decided to hold the election
on a Tuesday in October. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to add the town council seat to the
annual ballot circulated in November dealing with the various propositions the community needs
to vote on?”
Edna puckered her lips. “It is a bit odd. I have to admit that I wondered the same thing. I
think Harrison Davenport has something up his sleeve. I guess you know that he’s campaigning
for Jasper Smitherson. If Jasper wins the seat vacated by Fergus O’Malley, Davenport will be
unstoppable. He already has almost all of the board under his thumb.”
That much was true. If the only choice was between Edna and Jasper, I’d likely vote for Edna
despite her determination to run my good friend, Remington Beckett, out of town, but luckily
there was a third choice, a very levelheaded and open-minded woman named Olivia Cotswold.
“I guess I can understand why you might think Davenport is behind the election occurring in
October, but I’m not sure what difference a few weeks would have made,” I said.
“I don’t disagree with you, but if there’s something odd going on, you just know he must be
behind it.” Edna turned and headed toward the front door of Ainsley Holloway Investigations,
which led out onto the sidewalk and boardwalk. “I still have a lot of fliers to distribute, so I best
get to it.” She looked out the window and frowned. “I’m not sure what to make of the man with
the green truck selling pumpkins across the street from our shops.”
“It is rather festive and timely given that the Halloween Festival is just around the corner,” I
said since I enjoyed the festive boost to the scenery.
“I guess the truck is decorative,” Edna admitted, “but the thing is so large that it totally
blocks my view of the bay. I think I’ll go and talk to him about moving.”
“Moving? Move where?” I asked. “Vendor space on the boardwalk is booked through the
Edna shrugged. “I really have no idea where the man might move to, I only know that he’s
blocking my view, and as far as I’m concerned, that is not okay.”
She headed out the door and across the street. I really hoped she didn’t put up too much of a
fuss. The man selling the pumpkins was very amicable, and while his truck did tend to block the
view of the bay, he was a seasonal vendor who would be gone the day after Halloween. Allowing
him the only spot left along the boardwalk seemed the neighborly thing to do.
After Edna left, I set the stack of fliers she’d handed me on my desk. I supposed I’d take
them home and dispose of them there. I certainly didn’t want to add them to the recycle bin
utilized by all four businesses on our block since there was a good chance she’d happen across
them, which would naturally lead to questions and hurt feelings.
“Bold choice,” said Remington Beckett, Remi to everyone who knew and loved him, as he
entered my office through the back door, crossed the room, and picked up a flier from my desk.
“Edna dropped them off, and I didn’t want to ruffle her feathers, so I accepted the fliers, but
at no point did I actually agree to circulate them.”
He looked around the room. “Where are the kids today?”
“They’re with Jemma.” I usually bring my dogs, Kai and Kallie, to work with me. Today, I’d
had an appointment with a new client, so I’d left the dogs with my good friend, Jemma
Hawthorn. Jemma’s cats, Stefan and Damon, loved playing with my dogs, so I actually left them
with her fairly often. “I thought you were leaving for Los Angeles today.” Remi owned video
game arcades up and down the west coast, so he traveled a lot.
“I am. I’m on my way to the ferry now. I wanted to say goodbye before I left.”
I tucked a lock of my long blond hair behind my ear. “I’m glad you stopped by. How long
will you be gone this time?”
He shrugged. “I’m hoping this will be a fast trip, but I’m having some permit issues with the
location in Laguna Beach, so it may take a little longer than I’d planned. I’ve been looking
forward to helping with the haunted house, and I plan to be back in time for the Halloween
Festival on Friday of next week.”
The entire peninsula gang had volunteered to help with the annual haunted house sponsored
by the high school as a fundraiser. Jemma, her boyfriend, Coop Fairchild, and roommate, Josie
Wellington, planned to join Remi and me as zombies for the event. Newspaper reporter, Parker
Peterson, and her boss, Sawyer Banning, volunteered to work the ticket booth, and our other
peninsula mate, Tegan Walker, and her boyfriend, Jackson Davidson, planned to work in the
snack bar. I knew that my good friend, Adam Winchester, would also be helping, but as of the
last time I spoke to him, he hadn’t committed to any specific volunteer duty.
Remi glanced at the clock on the wall. “I guess I should get going. If I miss the ferry, I’ll
miss my flight.”
“Okay. I appreciate you stopping by. Call me and let me know how it’s going. Hopefully,
your permit issues will get cleared up, and you can make it back sooner rather than later.”
“That’s what I’m hoping for as well.”
After Remi left, I decided to straighten up my office and then head back to the peninsula.
When I’d dropped the dogs off with Jemma this morning, she’d mentioned that Josie was going
out with some friends and Coop had a charter, so she asked if I wanted to come over and have
pizza with her. I agreed that sounded great and planned to head to her place once I got off.
When I arrived at Jemma and Josie’s place, I found Jemma sitting on the deck with Josie and
the four animals.
“I thought you had plans with friends,” I said to Josie after I greeted the dogs, who had
trotted over to say hi the minute they saw me.
“I did, but they fell through. I suppose it’s just as well. The fellow waitress, who was trying
to arrange the get-together, wanted to take the ferry to Seattle, go to a club a friend who lives in
the city told her about, and then charter a plane to return to Gooseberry Bay at the end of the
evening. I realize I sound like an old woman, but that’s just too much effort, especially for a
“Well, we’re glad to have you spend the evening with us,” I said.
Josie leaned back in her chair and looked up into the sky. I had no idea what she was looking
at, but she eventually sat up straight and looked at the bay. It really was a gorgeous fall day. The
trees had turned, bringing a pallet of color to the bay, and the daytime temperatures had settled
into the mid-sixties, which made spending time by the water all that more pleasant.
“I ran into Adam at the Rambling Rose,” Josie said, referring to the bar and grill Tegan
owned and she helped manage. “He said that the Geek Squad had decided not to come home
until Thanksgiving break. Adam seemed pretty bummed about the situation but said that he
understood. It’s a long way for Skeet to travel since he only had a few days off, and the others
seemed to have had plans with their college roommates or friends.”
“I’m sorry to hear they won’t be here for Halloween,” I said. “I know that Adam misses
them, but he does have twenty boys to hang out with.”
“Adam mentioned that he gave the boys attending Winchester Academy next week off since
several of them had mentioned wanting to be home with their friends for Halloween. He also told
me that not all the boys planned to leave, so he was thinking of doing something seasonal with
those who remained. Maybe a costume party or a similar event. He didn’t seem to have anything
specific in mind, but if he does manage to pull something together, I hope he’ll remember to
invite his good friends on the peninsula.”
I had to laugh at Josie’s wishful tone. She’d been looking for the opportunity to hang out at
the mansion since Hudson Hanson, the new math and computer science teacher the brothers had
hired, had moved in. I had to admit that Hudson was a nice-looking man. Tall with thick brown
hair and broad shoulders. I didn’t know Hudson well, but I generally headed out to the mansion
to hang out with Adam several times a month, so I’d had the opportunity to speak to the new
professor on a few occasions. Opening a prep school for youth who had the intelligence to make
it in college yet might not have the opportunity due to socioeconomic factors had been a dream
of Adam’s for the past few years. After years of planning, Adam and his brother, Archie, finally
opened phase one this fall with twenty students and limited staffing.
“I ran into Archie at the bank, and the new history and literature teacher was with him,”
Jemma added to the conversation. “I wasn’t sure at first if a tiny woman who looked more like a
high school homecoming queen than a college professor was the best choice for a school filled
with adolescent males, but, according to Archie, Andi seems to be holding her own just fine.”
“I would agree with that,” I said. “And I agree with your initial impression of the woman.
When Adam told me they planned to open the academy with a male-only class since the second
dorm hasn’t been completed yet, I figured he’d hire all male professors. I’m not sure why I
thought that, but that was my impression, so when Adam introduced this young and stunning
professor as the one he’d chosen to handle literature, history, and the social arts, I will admit that
I was taken aback, but Andi appears to be very good at her job, and the boys seem to respect
“The woman does seem to have a presence,” Jemma agreed. “So, who did they end up hiring
to teach science? I know Adam hoped to find someone who could handle physics, chemistry,
biology, and related subjects. At least for now.”
“He ended up hiring a man named Gunther Oppenheimer,” I said in response to Jemma’s
question. “Gunther only signed on for this first year, and Adam isn’t sure if he’ll be willing to
stay beyond that. He’s a retired physicist who understands the other branches of science well
enough to teach at a high school level.”
“So he’s the older stodgy professor I imagined when I first heard about Hudson,” Josie said.
“Basically,” I confirmed. “Gunther is a very nice man. I guess he must be close to seventy,
but he’s traveled widely, is exceptionally intelligent, and has the ability to engage the
imagination of the young men he has been tasked with educating. Adam said the guy is creative
and utilizes a unique hands-on technique for his classes. I guess the boys love him.”
“That’s good,” Jemma said. “It seems as if Adam and Archie did a good job picking their
I had to agree with that.
“So, did Ruth and Moses both stay on?” Josie asked.
Ruth had been Adam and Archie’s cook and housekeeper for many years, and Moses was the
“They did,” I confirmed. “Ruth loves to cook and is over the moon to have a huge group to
cook for, and Moses mostly stays in his cabin when he isn’t tending to the grounds. I’m not sure
he’s thrilled with having the boys underfoot, but he seems to enjoy spending time with Gunther.
When I was at the mansion the other day, Adam told me that Gunther and Moses had been
engaged in a chess tournament all week.”
“I’m so happy to hear that it sounds as if, at least so far, things are going as Adam and Archie
imagined,” Jemma said. She turned and looked directly toward me. “So, how did your day go?
Didn’t you have a potential new client coming in for a consult today?”
“I did have a meeting with a potential new client, and my day went fine,” I responded.
“Initially, I wasn’t sure about the circumstance Dianna Long, my potential client, presented since
it isn’t the sort of thing I normally deal with, but after hearing the woman out, I decided to accept
“So, what sort of situation is your client dealing with?” Jemma asked. Jemma had helped me
with numerous jobs in the past, so while I did need to be mindful of sharing confidential
information without client approval, I generally filled Jemma in with a blurry watercolor image
of each case I decided to tackle.
“Dianna lives in an older neighborhood south of town. While many of the homes in the
neighborhood are in need of repair, the development where my client lives was well planned out,
and the homes were built on large lots, which are carefully nestled along one of the prettiest
inlets in the area. In its heyday, the area was considered prime real estate, but with the passage of
time, many of the homes have decayed, and a few are almost uninhabitable.”
“I know the area you’re talking about,” Josie said. “The parents of one of my friends from
the bar and grill live in a shoddy old house on a gorgeous parcel of land at the end of the inlet.
I’m sure that while the house is a tear-down, someone would pay a pretty penny for that
“Someone does want to pay a pretty penny for that property,” I said. “According to my new
client, she and her neighbors have been approached by a land developer who seems intent on
buying up all the old houses and parcels of land, tearing the houses down, and then building
upscale condos. I guess this condo complex will be exclusive and expensive. We’re talking units
that will go for seven figures a piece.”
“So, just a bit out of my price range.” Josie laughed.
“Just a bit,” I agreed, although I could afford a condo in this complex if I wanted one, which
I didn’t. “Anyway, while the land developer has entered into contracts with some of the
homeowners to buy their homes, these contracts are contingent on his being able to buy all the
homes in the geographic area he has selected for his project.”
“He needs a hundred percent of the current owners to sell in order to execute the plan for the
gated community,” Jemma said.
“Exactly. Dianna is a resident of the neighborhood. Her family has lived in the same house
for three generations, and while the land developer seems to be offering folks quite a bit more
than what these homeowners would be able to sell their homes for if they sold to a private party,
she isn’t interested in selling.”
“I don’t suppose the land developer can force her to sell,” Jemma pointed out.
“No, he can’t. But as you already pointed out, in order for him to accomplish his goal, he
needs all the land. The entire development will be a no-go if even one homeowner holds out. As
I’ve already stated, all the offers he’s made to this point have been contingent upon one hundred
percent of the residents in the area agreeing to sell. So far, the land developer has secured signed
contracts that include a contingency clause for roughly half the houses and parcels of land. My
client feels that of the fifty percent who haven’t signed, maybe half of those homeowners plan to
sign but are waiting to see if they’ll get a better offer if they hold out. Additionally, a handful of
residents have stated that they have no plans to sell, no matter how much money is offered.
These residents are being pressured by their neighbors to get on board so they can all cash out.”
“It is a tricky situation,” Josie said. “Potentially, all it will take to ruin the deals their
neighbors have already made is a single holdout.”
“Exactly. My client understands the free enterprise system, and while the situation has caused
her a great deal of grief, she realizes that the land developer has the right to try to buy the land he
needs for his project. The thing is that Dianna thinks that someone, she isn’t sure who at this
point, is using illegal means to scare the folks who have refused to sign the contracts into doing
so. Dianna wants me to gather the evidence required to present her case to the appropriate law
“What sort of illegal activity are we talking about?” Jemma asked.
I paused briefly to take a sip from the bottle of water Jemma had handed me and then
responded to her question. “About a month ago, one of the homes in the area burnt to the ground.
The incident that destroyed the Venway home was attributed to faulty wiring. The homeowners
weren’t home when the fire started, so no one was injured. Since the fire was determined to be
caused by the wiring and no one was physically injured, it didn’t turn out to be a high-profile
incident. I’m not even sure it made the newspaper. The thing is that after the home was destroyed
by fire, the land developer upped their offer and was able to convince the family who owned the
home to sell rather than rebuild. According to my client, prior to the fire, Bob and Becky Venway
had voiced their intent not to sell. While the whole thing might have been a terrible accident, my
client has wondered since the beginning whether or not the fire might actually have been set.”
“She thinks the land developer or a representative of the land developer burned the house
down to get to the land,” Josie stated.
I nodded. “That’s exactly what Dianna thought might be the case, but she had no proof. Then,
two weeks ago, one of the homes, which had been empty while the family was away on vacation,
suffered major damage due to a broken pipe. No one noticed the flooding until major damage
occurred since no one from the Norris family was home and because this particular house is
positioned at the end of a dead-end street. As with the home that burnt to the ground, Ned and
Nancy Norris were offered a very nice incentive to sell. In the end, they signed the contract.”
“So the families involved in these incidents have contracted with the land developer to sell
their property, but their homes have been destroyed, and they can no longer live in them. I guess
in this situation, these two homeless families are stuck since they aren’t able to actually close the
deal unless all the holdouts get on board,” Jemma said.
“Exactly. The families who have continued to hold out are not only getting pressure from
families who are still in their homes but would like to sell, but now they are getting pressure
from these two families who have lost everything and need the cash from the sale of their
property to start over. Dianna indicated that after Bob and Becky Venway and Ned and Nancy
Norris lost their homes, a neighborhood meeting was held to discuss the situation, and two
additional families who initially didn’t plan to sell jumped on board. At this point, my client
thinks that there are only five or six families standing between the land developer and the land he
wants. As I said in the beginning, Dianna and her family are one of those families.”
“So I take it that your client wants to know the truth about the fire and the broken pipe before
deciding how to proceed,” Jemma said.
“That’s basically it in a nutshell. Dianna isn’t insensitive to the needs of her neighbors who
have lost their homes, but she told me that she won’t be tricked or bullied into selling a home
that she’s emotionally attached to and has no interest in selling. My client indicated that a
handful of others are currently on the fence. This particular group had been dead set against
selling before their neighbors lost their homes, but they hate to stand in the way of these families
getting the buyout they need if both the fire and the flood really had been accidents.”
“What a complicated situation,” Jemma said.
“It really is. The folks who would prefer not to sell are in a tough spot. My client believes
that the homeowners who are left deserve the truth. If the land developer is behind the fire and
the broken pipe, they want him prosecuted. If the land developer is innocent of those crimes and
simply taking advantage of an unfortunate situation, they may look at it differently.”
“Has anything else occurred?” Jemma asked.
“Not so far. The first thing I intend to do is research the status of each property in the
neighborhood. I’d like to know which properties are already contracted for sale to the land
developer, which properties are classified as maybe’s but likely to sell once the homeowners are
certain they’ve held out long enough to get the best price, and which homes have owners who
have made it clear that they have no intention of selling. Once I have a feel for that, I plan to take
a closer look at the fire and the broken pipe. There should be incident reports on file with the
insurance companies, which I hope to be able to get my hands on. The fire should have not only
a report from the insurance company but from fire investigators as well.”
“It sounds like this could be a dangerous case,” Jemma said. “If this land developer is so
desperate to get his hands on the land he’s trying to buy that he is willing to burn down one
house and flood another, there is no telling what else he might do.”
I frowned. “Yeah. I’ve given some thought to that. My client seems to think the land
developer is behind the fire that destroyed one neighbor’s home and the broken pipe that has
rendered the home of the Norris family inhabitable. But I’m not as sure as Dianna is that’s what’s
going on. I mean, the area where the land developer wants to build these luxury condos is very
nice, and the inlet that has been selected is one of the prettiest in the area, and there are all those
gorgeous bluffs and thick forests. Having said that, this land developer appears to have deep
pockets, and since there are other areas in the Pacific Northwest that are just as pretty, I’m
having a hard time with the idea that the land developer would engage in illegal activity when it
would make much more sense to move the upscale condo complex to another location.”
Josie bobbed her head. “I guess it doesn’t make a lot of sense that the land developer would
go to so much trouble to own this specific tract of land unless there’s another reason he wants
“Another reason? Like what?”
She shrugged. “Maybe the homes in the area were built on top of an oil field, or perhaps the
homes are built on top of buried treasure or a gold mine.”
I smiled. “Buried treasure or a gold mine?”
She laughed. “It happens in the movies.”
By the time election day rolled around, I think almost everyone in town was sick of the
constant bickering and campaigning and more than ready for it all to be over. Not that it would
be over. The special election for the town council seat was today, the fourth Tuesday in October,
while the general election to deal with proposals before the town was scheduled on the second
Tuesday in November. I still had no idea why the vote for the town council seat hadn’t been put
on the November ballot, but I guess they’d had their reasons.
“I’ve been covering the election for the newspaper, and to my utter surprise, Edna has a
slight lead over Jasper,” Parker said as we nibbled on hamburgers on the boardwalk.
“You’re kidding,” I said as I cut a plain burger on a bun and gave Kai and Kallie each a half.
“I honestly didn’t think Edna would place in the top three.”
Parker took a bite of her burger and then responded. “I figured that James Brandywine would
likely come in dead last. James is a nice guy, but he has zero experience in politics, and he didn’t
throw his hat in the ring until weeks after everyone else had already announced their candidacy.
It seems that the only reason he even decided to run was because he had an issue with the new
construction created by the cable company as they bury their lines in some of the more affluent
“Yeah,” I agreed. “It did seem that James only ran so he could deal with a personal issue,
which in my opinion, is no reason to take on a job like that. What about Lois Renner? She’s new
to politics but seems to have a good handle on the issues.”
“My prediction is that she will come in fourth place. Surprisingly, she’s currently in third,
just a few votes ahead of Olivia Cotswold, who I predicted would come in second after Jasper.”
“So you figured it would be Jasper, Olivia, Edna, Lois, and then James,” I clarified.
“That was my prediction. Currently, Edna is in first place, followed by James in second. Lois
is currently in third, and Olivia is in fourth. James is in fifth place, as predicted. Keep in mind
that it’s still early, and only a small percentage of the votes have been counted. The polls don’t
close for seven more hours, so while the current ranking is not what I expected, anything can still
“I will admit that this is turning out to be an interesting race,” I said. “I voted early this
morning, so I guess at this point, all I can do is wait it out.”
“Yeah, me too,” Parker said. She raised a hand and waved at Jemma, who was walking
“Hey, all. Am I interrupting?” Jemma asked as she bent down to pet the dogs.
“No. Have a seat,” I said. “Parker was in town and stopped by my office to say hi, so we
decided to grab lunch on the boardwalk since it’s such a nice day.”
“We were chatting about the election,” Parker added. “So far, we are looking at an interesting
battle to the finish line.”
“Really?” Jemma sat down across from us. “I figured Jasper would take an early lead, which
he would likely maintain until the end. Not only has he been campaigning like crazy, but he’s the
only candidate with enough money to run radio promos.”
“As of the last time I checked, which I guess was maybe an hour ago, Edna was in the lead,”
Parker informed Jemma.”
“Of course, she has been running around telling everyone to vote early, so just because she’s
in the lead now doesn’t mean that she’ll remain in the lead when all is said and done,” Parker
“It is true that Edna has been telling all her supporters to vote early,” I said. “I’m not sure
what difference it makes when a person votes. As long as you vote before the polls close, your
vote will count the same as everyone else’s.”
“Maybe Edna figured if the rumors about her lead started early, those who hadn’t yet voted
might throw their hat in her ring in order to support a winner,” Jemma said. She frowned. “I’m
somewhat surprised that the rankings have been made public. The polls opened at eight, and it’s
around one now. The polls close at eight, so we’re not even halfway through the day yet. A lot
could happen between now and eight p.m. Folks who had to work and are likely to vote after
they get off wouldn’t even have had the chance to get to the polling booth yet.”
Parker responded. “I don’t think that an official statement has been made. In fact, I know that
the newspaper isn’t supposed to report any of our findings until after the polls close. But I have a
contact at city hall where the vote counting is taking place, so I’ve been kept apprised of the
“Are you going to wait to report the rankings?” I asked. I loved Parker, but at times, she took
all sorts of joy in ignoring the rules.
“The newspaper may run a short column about predictions based on exit polls, but we won’t
publish anything official until we have something official to report.”
I was glad to hear that and said as much. Jemma suggested that we might want to walk down
the boardwalk to where they were selling Halloween Ice, which was really just a snow cone with
black syrup on one half and orange syrup on the other.
“We should all get together to carve pumpkins,” I suggested. One of the things I loved the
most about the community I’d found on the peninsula was that we often got together as a group
to celebrate things.
“We have the haunted house and Halloween Festival on the twenty-seventh and twenty-
eighth,” Jemma reminded us.
“Halloween is the thirty-first, so maybe the thirtieth,” Parker suggested.
“Adam mentioned to Josie that he might have a get-together next week, so I called and asked
him about it. He said he was kicking around the idea of doing something on Halloween, but at
this point, it seems far from a sure thing,” I said.
“Will Winchester Academy be closed next week, or will all twenty teens be there if he does
have this get-together?” Parker asked.
“Adam plans to close for the week, but I’m not sure all the kids will be leaving. Adam
mentioned that he left it as optional. Those who want to head home for Halloween can, and those
who want to stay are welcome to do so.”
“Twenty high school-aged boys under one roof.” Parker shook her head. “I just can’t
imagine. It must be total chaos all the time.” She glanced at her watch. “Thanks for the burger
and the company, but I need to pass on the Halloween Ice because I have an interview scheduled
with the owner of the bakery, who came home from an out-of-town funeral and found her
business infested with raccoons. Apparently, the little buggers totally destroyed the place.”
“Raccoons?” I asked. “I hadn’t heard.”
Parker typed out a text and hit send. Once she had finished her message, she slipped her cell
phone into her pocket and looked in my direction. “I guess if one raccoon finds a way in, others
will follow. I haven’t been by the bakery yet, but I understand the damage is extensive.”
“Wow. That’s too bad,” Jemma said.
“It really is,” Parker agreed. “I heard the bakery will be closed for at least several weeks. As I
said, however, I haven’t been by to look for myself, so at this point, I’m working off hearsay.”
Parker paused and then continued. “By the way, I heard that Remi was out of town. He does plan
to be back for the haunted house, doesn’t he?”
“He said he would be back in plenty of time to cover his volunteer shift,” I assured her.
“Good. I volunteered to do the ticket booth last year, the same as this year, but when some
zombies didn’t show up last year, I was asked to portray one after all. It took forever to wash off
all that makeup once my shift ended.”
I wrinkled my nose. “I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe I should have volunteered for the ticket
booth instead of agreeing to zombie duty.”
“No way. Sawyer and I have the ticket booth. I suggest that you go heavy on the moisturizer
under the makeup. It will make it easier to wash off at the end of the night.”
“Thanks for the tip.” I supposed having to apply all that heavy makeup would be a chore and
that taking it off would be even worse, but running around chasing screaming kids sounded like a
blast. I imagined that sitting in a ticket booth all night would be boring after the first thirty
Parker commented about needing to go again, waved, and hurried down the boardwalk.
Jemma and I began strolling with the dogs at a much more leisurely pace. It was a gorgeous day,
and since the schools were still in session, it wasn’t all that busy.
“Coop has another charter tonight,” Jemma informed me. “That’s three in the past week. I’m
glad he’s busy and making money, but these late-in-the-day charters that run past dark are getting
“I guess you need to take the work when you can get it when you have a job like Coop’s.”
“I guess that’s true. I was thinking about maybe going out for dinner. Josie’s shift is over at
four, so maybe the three of us can go.”
“That sounds like fun. Did you have anything specific in mind?”
“No. I just felt the need to get out of the house. The Bayside Bar and Grill has fun Halloween
decorations. Maybe we could try that. I’d suggest the Rambling Rose, but Josie doesn’t generally
like to go there to eat after working there all day.”
“I can understand that. I’m sure it feels a bit like being at work, even if your shift is over.
How about I meet you at your place at five.”
“That sounds good. I’ll call Parker and ask her if she would like to join us. I’d invite Tegan,
but she already mentioned having a date with Jackson.”
“I’m happy that the two of them are making it work. I wasn’t sure that Tegan dating Booker’s
best friend, or I guess I should say ex-best friend, was the best idea when I first heard that Tegan
had asked Jackson out, but it really does seem to be working for them.”
“It does,” Jemma agreed. “Tegan deserves to be happy. Booker really did a number on her.
The whole thing was pretty rotten, so I’m glad Tegan has been able to move on.”
“You know…” I said, starting my thought and then reconsidering and pausing.
“You know what?” Jemma asked.
“I’m not sure I should say anything, but Adam told me that he heard from his buddy who
anchors his yacht in the bay that Booker might return to Gooseberry Bay once his contract is up.”
Jemma raised a brow. “You don’t say.” She paused. “I thought his initial contract was up this
past April or May.”
“I guess it was, but he agreed to stay through the summer. I haven’t said anything to anyone
other than you, and I definitely won’t say anything to Tegan, who finally seems really happy, but
I figure that if he does show up, there is bound to be fireworks, and maybe we should have a plan
ready to help offset things.”
“Tegan will literally lose her mind if Booker shows up,” Jemma agreed. “I was really sorry to
see him go. He was a good friend for a long time, and I miss him, but after the way things
worked out, I really think that the best thing he can do is stay away. I’m talking forever.”
“I don’t disagree, but knowing Booker, he’s going to do what he is going to do, and nothing
anyone says about it will make any difference.” ...
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