A heartwarming cozy mystery series about losing everything, taking a chance, and starting again.
After suffering a personal tragedy Abby Sullivan buys a huge old seaside mansion she has never even seen, packs up her life in San Francisco, and moves to Holiday Bay Maine, where she is adopted, quite against her will, by a huge Maine Coon Cat named Rufus, a drifter with her own tragic past named Georgia, and a giant dog with an inferiority complex named Ramos. What Abby thought she needed was alone time to heal. What she ended up with was, an inn she never knew she wanted, a cat she couldn't seem to convince to leave, and a new family she'd never be able to live without.
In book 14 in the series, spring in Holiday Bay is interrupted by a category 2 hurricane, an inn filled with stranded motorists, an unexpected delivery, and a murder, which on the surface, doesn't make a lick of sense. Add to that the fact that the small plot of land that was linked by deed to the land where the inn now sits turns out to be a burial ground for a serial killer, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Release date: March 9, 2021
Publisher: Kathi Daley Books
Print pages: 126
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Details in the Document
There was a time when I had experienced life as a journey that was both linear and predictable. I understood the tasks before me and took comfort in the fact that the path I traveled was both well-defined and clearly marked. Knowing exactly who I was and where I was going allowed my days to unfold easily and naturally. So easily and naturally, in fact, that I’d barely noticed the passage of time as I progressed from one ordinary moment to the next.
And then, in the split second that it took for a single person amongst the billions who populate this planet to make one tiny error in judgment, everything changed. The easy passage of time I’d once enjoyed was stripped from my life only to be replaced by a grating existence where each moment was so acutely raw that it demanded to be consciously and agonizingly experienced. I’m honestly not sure how I got through those first days of darkness, which, at the time, seemed to stretch endlessly into a cruel future I no longer recognized. There are those who say that time heals all wounds, but I’ve pretty much decided that isn’t really true. Wounds that dig into your soul and change you forever never really heal. They scab over and cease to ache every moment of every day, but every now and again, an unrelenting itch reminds you of their presence, and with that awareness comes a wave of grief that momentarily pushes you into the darkness once again.
In a way, I supposed that I’ve learned to live with that darkness. I can’t speak to the experience of others who’ve suffered loss, but for me, the passage of time has allowed for the presence of more ordinary moments in my life, and with an increase of ordinary moments, life has mostly returned to normal. Of course, the word normal is a tricky one. I imagine each individual must define it in their own way, but for me, normal is a state in which the moments of my life count down silently and uninterrupted, until the next unordinary event affects their flow, sending me careening toward the darkness once again.
As I closed my eyes and listened to the rain pelting the roof of the seaside cottage I shared with my friend and roommate, Georgia Carter, I willed the darkness to recede. When I’d awakened with a knot in my stomach and a pounding in my head before I’d even opened my eyes, I should have known that today was going to provide something unexpected which would once again upend my ordinary life.
“I got the mail,” Georgia said as a gust of wind seemed to blow her into the warm and cozy living room where I’d been working when I received the call. She held up a large envelope with the name Abagail Sullivan printed in large letters on the front. “I’m not sure what this is, but it appears to be some sort of official-looking document, so you might want to look at it right away.” It was then that she paused and really looked at me. “What’s wrong?” Based on the panic in her voice, I had to assume that I looked as stunned as I felt.
I glanced at the cell phone I still held in my hand. “After you and Ramos left to get the mail, I received a call from a woman who works for the district attorney’s office in San Francisco.”
“The DA?” Her brow puckered. I knew that she knew that I’d not only lived in San Francisco before losing my husband and son in an auto accident three and a half years ago but that my husband, Ben, had been a homicide detective at the time of his death and echoes from the cases he’d worked on seemed to continue to find their way into my life. “Has something happened? What did she want?”
When I didn’t answer right away, Georgia tossed the mail on the table, pulled off her rain slicker, and sat down beside me. “Abby?” she asked again, taking my hand in hers.
I swallowed hard and answered. “Apparently, the woman who ran Ben off the road three and a half years ago has turned herself in.”
Georgia looked as shocked as I felt. “Turned herself in?” I could sense that she wanted to be supportive but was as confused as I was and probably had no idea what to say.
I nodded. “According to the woman I spoke to, a twenty-one-year-old woman named Verica Davis walked into the police station and asked to speak to someone who could take her confession. Verica told the officer that she’d been involved in an accident when she was seventeen that caused the deaths of a man and his infant son. The officer asked Verica if she had reported the accident at the time, and she said that she hadn’t. She admitted that everything had happened so fast and that at the time of the accident, she was totally freaked out and didn’t stop. Verica confessed that she now knows she should have done things differently, which was why she’d decided it was time to right a wrong and confess.”
I glanced toward the window, needing to focus on the rain before I continued. In a way, it was pretty amazing that I was as calm and coherent as I was. I was sure that I was in shock and that the real impact of what had occurred would hit me later.
“Abby,” Georgia said. “I don’t even know what to say.”
I swiped at a tear that trailed down my cheek. An image of a smiling Ben holding Johnathan just days after his birth flashed through my mind. Ben hadn’t wanted children. Truth be told, I hadn’t either. But from the moment that dark-haired little boy entered the world, I knew that I would love him until my dying day. “I don’t suppose there really is anything to say.” After a brief pause, I continued. “The call was so unexpected. I guess I’m still trying to wrap my head around everything.”
Georgia leaned in and gave me a hug. A long hard hug that clearly conveyed the depth of her caring. Georgia didn’t speak for quite a while, but she eventually asked the question that had been on my mind for the last three and a half years. “Did this Verica say what happened? How the accident occurred?”
I nodded. “Verica admitted that she’d received a text and had looked down at her cell phone, causing her to swerve into Ben’s lane. She said it all happened so fast, and that one minute, she had her eyes glued to the road, and the next minute, she noticed the driver in the oncoming vehicle swerving to avoid her. I know, based on the investigation after the accident, that Ben overcorrected and ran into the guardrail, which caused the car to flip. Verica told the woman she spoke to that she wasn’t even aware that her actions had caused an accident until she was quite a way down the road and noticed cars screeching to a halt in her rearview mirror but didn’t know that anyone had been injured. She told the police officer that she had no idea that anyone had died until she saw a report about the accident on the news the following day.”
“Which is when she should have gone to the cops,” Georgia said.
I nodded slowly. “Yes. That is exactly what the woman should have done. But she didn’t. She was young and scared and somehow convinced herself that it hadn’t really happened. She pushed the whole thing to the back of her mind and continued on with her life. Or at least she tried to, but according to her confession, the fact that her miscalculation had caused the death of a man and his child has haunted her ever since.”
I watched as Georgia’s brow creased and her eyes narrowed. She appeared to be searching for the right thing to say, although I was pretty sure there wasn’t actually a right thing to say. Still, I appreciated her effort. If our roles were reversed, I’d have no idea what to say either. I mean, what can anyone say that would make this particular situation easier? Sometimes words aren’t enough. Sometimes you just need to be there.
“Why now?” Georgia finally asked. “It sounds like Verica made a choice three and a half years ago that, while wrong, given the woman’s age at the time, might be understood. But even if this seventeen-year-old was haunted by her decision, as she indicated to the police officer she gave her statement to, she did seem to get away with it. It’s been three and a half years, and the police had given up trying to ID the driver who killed Ben, so why is this woman turning herself in now?”
That, I realized, had been the exact question I’d asked the woman who’d called. “The woman I spoke to at the DA’s office told me that Verica told the police officer that she’d just had a baby of her own. A little boy who is just a month old. I guess the guilt of knowing that she had a son she could love and find joy in, while her actions had led to the death of someone else’s child, was more than she could bear. She told the officer she’d turned herself in to that she didn’t want to live her life as a coward. She wanted to do the right thing and actually be the sort of person her son deserved to have as a mother.”
Georgia slowly shook her head. “Wow. Are they going to prosecute her?”
I shrugged. “I’m sure there will be some consequences. I was told that Verica’s attorney is trying to work out a plea deal that will allow her to avoid prison and keep her baby. I think the reason I received the call from the DA’s office is because the DA wants to know how I feel about the situation before working out the terms of her plea bargain.”
“How do you feel about it?”
I wiped a tear from my cheek. “I really have no idea.” I took a breath. “On the one hand, the woman was barely more than a child when the accident occurred. I know that a lot of teens drive distracted, and while that makes them dangerous, it doesn’t necessarily make them horrible people. Verica did leave the scene of the accident, although based on what she said, she didn’t realize the seriousness of the accident she’d caused until later. Still, she certainly could have turned herself in before this, but I can see how the whole thing got away from her.”
I paused to let the situation sink in a bit. The whole thing was so unexpected. I supposed I hadn’t had time to process everything. “On the other hand, my son and husband are dead. Johnathan was robbed of his life. His entire life. Because of this woman, he will never have the opportunity to grow up, get married, or have children of his own. There is nothing this woman can do to fix that. I do realize that punishing her won’t change anything, yet there is still a tiny part of me that wants her to experience the agony that comes with losing your baby the way I suffered the loss of Johnathan.” I glanced out the window at the rain that continued to fall from the dark clouds overhead. “But then I think of Verica’s baby. The woman I spoke to told me that Verica is a single mother and that the baby’s father isn’t in the picture, so if Verica goes to prison, the baby will likely end up in foster care.”
“Isn’t there a relative who can take on the care of the child?” Georgia asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe. To be honest, I didn’t ask.” I blew out a slow breath. “I don’t suppose it really matters. The woman I spoke to shared that after the accident that killed Ben and Johnathan occurred, Verica was so overcome with guilt that she began to drink and was actually a pretty big mess for quite a while, but when she learned she was pregnant, she stopped drinking. She joined AA, and according to the woman I spoke to, she has worked hard to turn her life around and be a good mother to her baby. When I take all that into account, I really can’t see how doing jail time will help. The woman is obviously sorry about her part in the death of my family. She seems to want to make things right to the extent that she’s able to. I want to be the sort of person who will take all of this into consideration, and I don’t want any petty feelings I may harbor toward the person who took my son from me to result in her son growing up without a mother.” I looked Georgia in the eye. “I needed a minute to work through everything, but even before I hung up, I knew what I was going to say.”
“So what did you tell the woman who called?”
“Just that I needed to process things and would call her back.”
“So, are you going to agree that the woman should be shown leniency?”
“I am.” I felt the darkness that had overtaken me with the call begin to recede as I said the words. “And not just for Verica’s sake. For mine as well. I’ve been hanging onto the anger I felt toward the nameless, faceless person who took my family from me for so long, and I have, on many occasions, vowed revenge. But as I sat at this table and was faced with enacting that revenge, I realized that the only road to freedom from the darkness was through forgiveness.” I looked at Georgia. “I’ve hung onto my hatred long enough. It’s time for me to let it go.”
She squeezed my hands. “I think you’re right. You deserve to be happy, and knowing what a tender heart you have, knowing that you were responsible for taking a mother from her baby would never allow you to move on.”
I glanced at the cell phone that I’d set on the table in front of me at some point. “I’m going to call the woman I spoke to back now. I really do want to put this whole thing behind me once and for all.”
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