Hayley Powell, a small-town Maine food-and-wine columnist turned sleuth finds herself caught in another murderous mystery, this time at Christmastime.
Food and cocktails columnist Hayley Powell has never cared much for Bar Harbor’s grouchy town librarian, Agatha Farnsworth. But that doesn’t mean she wishes this Christmas would be her last!
Unfortunately, after the Scroogy senior has a fatal—and suspicious—allergic reaction to supposedly non-dairy eggnog. And now it’s up to Hayley to put her sleuthing skills to work and ladle out some justice . . .
[*Previously published in Eggnog Murder]
Release date: September 26, 2023
Publisher: Kensington Books
Print pages: 96
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Death By Eggnog
“What? No! Of course not!” he said, running a shaky hand through his wavy brown hair nervously. “Is that what you thought?”
“It sure sounded like you were asking me out on a date,” Hayley said, swiveling her office chair around to face him head-on and folding her arms.
It was going to be fun watching him squirm out of this one.
“I just . . . I mean, I was curious to know . . . if you were going to this year’s Restaurant Association Christmas Dinner. . .” Bruce stammered, red-faced, scooting over to the coffeepot to pour himself another cup just so he had something to do.
“You know I’m going. I go every year and cover it for the paper.”
“Yes, right. That’s your job. Of course I know that.”
“And that’s when you asked me if I would like to go to the dinner with you,” Hayley said, smiling, though slightly weirded out by the prospect of a date with Bruce Linney. Just a few months ago they couldn’t even stand being in the same room with one another. Then they teamed up to investigate a baffling murder case and discovered to their surprise that they actually worked well together.
“Okay. I’ll give you that. But you completely misread my intentions!”
“Yes! I know you’ve been single for quite some time now that you’re no longer seeing the vet. . . .”
“How do you know that?”
“Well, I just assumed . . . You mean you’re not? You’ve been seeing someone?”
“Well, no. But how dare you think I spend my Saturday nights all alone with my pets and eating a plate of homemade peanut butter oatmeal cookies and watching some cheesy Hallmark Channel show with Andie MacDowell playing a small-town judge?”
Which was exactly how she spent last Saturday night.
But did Bruce really have to know that?
“Okay, I won’t think that,” Bruce said. “Though I have to give you credit for painting such a remarkably detailed picture of your hypothetical Saturday night at home.”
“You were asking me out, Bruce,” Hayley said, unfolding her arms and turning back to her computer. She had a lot of work to finish before quitting time.
“No, I wasn’t! I just thought because you cover the dinner for the Times you usually get comped two tickets, and I wondered, if you weren’t taking one of your friends . . .”
“So this is all a ploy to get yourself a free meal?”
“Not just one meal. Every restaurant in town is going to be there,” Bruce said, smacking his lips. “Mexican, Italian, Thai, Lebanese . . . It’ll be like a trip around the world!”
The Restaurant Association Christmas Dinner was an annual event where every holiday season all the restaurants in Bar Harbor open during the winter months catered their signature dishes to the year-round residents who paid a fee to attend. All the proceeds went to a local charity that bought Christmas presents for needy families.
“So what do you say?” Bruce asked, a sweet smile on his face.
“For your information, the Association always gives me two complimentary tickets, but I always buy my own because the dinner is for such a good cause.”
“You mean you’ll give me both tickets so I can bring a date?”
“No! Buy your own ticket, Bruce! For the love of God, it’s for charity!”
“What the hell is going on out here?” Sal Moretti bellowed as he barreled out from his office. “You two are like one of those Hepburn and Tracy romantic comedies my wife binge watches on Turner Classic Movies!”
“Believe me, Sal, there’s nothing romantic about Bruce being too cheap to buy a disadvantaged child a toy for Christmas this year!”
“Fine. Point taken, Hayley. Forget I said anything,” Bruce snarled, slamming down his coffee cup and heading for the back bullpen.
Sal grabbed him by the arm as he tried to pass. “I can’t go to print until I get your column, Bruce.”
“You’ll have it, Sal. Before the end of business today. I promise.”
“It was due last night. What’s the holdup?”
Bruce sighed and rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. “I’m having a little trouble coming up with something to write about.”
“Again?” Sal asked, scratching his belly before glancing over at Hayley with a raised eyebrow.
The exchange was not lost on Bruce, who quickly became defensive. “It’s just a quiet time of year. Nothing much happens around the holidays. It’ll pick up at New Year’s, especially with all those DUIs the cops will be handing out!”
“Maybe we need to revisit cutting your column down to once or twice a week instead of every day,” Sal said offhandedly before quickly changing the subject. “Do we have any snacks around? The ball and chain has me on a new low-carb diet! Can you believe that? During the holidays! Merry Christmas!”
“I think we may have some leftover Halloween candy in the supply closet,” Hayley said.
Hayley had never seen a man with Sal’s heft move with such agility. He was gone in a flash. She turned to Bruce, whose face was a ghostly white.
“I can’t afford to lose any columns,” he stuttered. “You know that means he’ll cut my salary after the first of the year. I can’t afford that!”
“Don’t worry, Bruce. It’ll work itself out.”
“I need a dead body to turn up and fast!”
Hayley’s jaw dropped open.
It took a second for Bruce to notice.
“I’m kidding. It’s not like I want somebody to die, but if a body does turn up, it would be nice if it was under suspicious circumstances. . . .”
Hayley watched him backpedal.
He wasn’t very convincing.
“I mean, I’ll settle for a cottage break-in or a car theft. Something less serious. Although a murder investigation would give me weeks of material. . . .”
Hayley had heard enough. She focused on the classified ads for tomorrow’s edition displayed on her computer screen and tuned out Bruce’s rambling voice.
Little did she know, nor Bruce for that matter, that his wish was about to come true.
In a way nobody in town would ever have expected.
“Turkey meatloaf. Pretty much the only thing I can make.” Gemma laughed as she set the salad aside and crossed to give her mother a hug. “I nixed the twice-baked potato because your glucose number was up at your last physical so we’re cutting down on carbs while I’m home. You’re going to have to settle for a side salad.”
“I love you,” Hayley said, squeezing her daughter tight, not wanting to let go. It had been a tough adjustment after Gemma left for college. Hayley missed not having her around. So she was thrilled when Gemma. . .
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