Holiday Cozy Mystery series is a spin-off of Tonya Kappes' popular A Camper and Criminals Cozy Mystery series! You do not want to miss Violet Rhinehammer's journey and some appearances from our beloved Laundry Club Ladies and favorite characters from A Camper and Criminals Cozy Mystery crossover series!
Sometimes Mama doesn't know best!
It's Mother's Day in Holiday Junction, and Violet Rhinehammer is covering all the Mother's Day events in the holiday town and not alone! Her mother, Millie Kay Rhinehammer, drops in for a visit unannounced to see exactly why her daughter decide to stay in the small town instead of coming home to Kentucky to their beloved Daniel Boone National Park.
Millie Kay is easily charmed by Mother's Day Festival, but her sweet Southern charm doesn't go over well with everyone. While Violet is running all over Holiday Junction to report for the Junction Journal, Millie Kay is joining in on the festival activities.
Millie Kay and local Sally Westin get into a public fight over a dessert Millie Kay says she won fair and square in the cake walk.
And when Sally Westin is murdered, everyone is pointing the finger to the non-local in town, Millie Kay Rhinehammer.
Everyone but Violet.
Holiday Cozy Mystery series is your one-stop enjoyment for cozy mysteries set during the holidays. Some of them will be released before the intended holiday, but most won't because Tonya writes these exclusively for her Patreon group and releases them as she sees fit. If you'd like more information on the Patreon group, you can go to Tonya's website in her Amazon bio to check it out.
Release date: July 2, 2022
Publisher: Tonya Kappes Books
Print pages: 176
Reader says this book is...: entertaining story (4) action-packed (1) escapist/easy read (3) realistic characters (2) satisfying ending (1) terrific writing (2)
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Mother's Day Murder
“Hey! Don’t I know you?” It was the first thing I heard before I’d been able to take a sip of the steamy hot cup of coffee I’d gotten from the Brewing Beans, the local coffee shop in Holiday Junction.
I’d not even gotten the toe of my shoe on the first step of the trolley before I heard the familiar voice.
“You!” The trolley driver shook her finger at me.
“Yes. I’m the new reporter for the.” I started to rattle off my new job at the Journal Junction the local newspaper.
“No. No. No.” The visor she wore on her head had blinking lights on it.
Of course it did. Everything in Holiday Junction was lit up, glittered, sparkled or shined. And if it didn’t, the residents of the small town made sure it did somehow.
“It’s me.” She took her hands off the trolley wheel. “Goldie Bennett!”
My eyes narrowed as I looked at her trying to recall any sort of memory of her but I was pulling a blank.
“You know Joey, Chance and Lizzy’s grandmother,” she said it like I should know these people. “Duh,” her mouth was open. “From the airplane. We were seatmates.”
“Oh.” The horrible memory popped into my head. “Yes. I’m sorry.” I held up my cup of Joe. “It’s still a little early.”
“It’s ten o’clock a.m..” she told me like she didn’t believe my excuse. “Different strokes for different folks,” she muttered and put her hand back on the handle before she said, “Are you riding or not?”
“Yes.” I took the last step up into the trolley, barely making it inside before she whipped the door shut nearly catching my heel, which would’ve hurt if it did get caught since I was wearing flip flops.
I eased down, careful not to spill my coffee, and put my briefcase in my lap.
“Well aren’t you going to ask about Joey, Chance, and Lizzy?” Goldie asked out of the side of her mouth as the trolley rattled down the Main Street before it hung a left down Peppermint Court, a row of really cute cottage style houses that not only had the feeling of living in the city but also a nice view of the dunes and sliver of the seaside.
“How are your grandchildren?” I was having déjà vu all over again from the first time I’d met Goldie. My hands started to tremble thinking about it.
No. She wasn’t terrible to sit by now that I knew what had come after. Of course I was in a different mindset when I stepped on the airplane that morning. I thought I was headed to my dream job in California as a big-time new reporter for a national news station. Little did I know when I sat down next to Goldie, I would excuse myself to get away from looking at photos of her grandchildren to go to the bathroom. I had to be in the zone for the shot at the big time but when I found a dead body in the airplane’s bathroom, my life took a turn that I never saw coming.
Just like this morning. I never in a million years thought I’d see Goldie again. At least she didn’t ask me about the body or worse, seen all the social media memes that’d been created of me after I’d gotten the brilliant, not so brilliant, idea to go live to show off my reporting skills since I was the only reporter in the locked down airport.
Reporter 101 tip, if you do go live on the spot make sure your eye make-up hasn’t bled down your face creating a stream of black tears. Not a look viewers want to see.
“You know, we are in full swing of tee-ball. Lizzy. Whooo-wee that Lizzy. She can rock a pink tu-tu better than any of them dancers down at the Groove and Go.” She whipped the trolley down a back alley before she took a right back on Main Street so we could head the opposite direction. “Elvin isn’t happy with her going down there because he said Tricia Lustig don’t need all the money,” she tsked. “You know they’ve got that Lustig Spring everyone goes on and on about.”
“Lustig Spring?” I wondered.
The trolley came to an abrupt stop. Goldie leaned to the right and grabbed the handle, pulling the trolley door open.
“Your stop.” Her chin swung over her right shoulder and she looked at me.
“Already?” I looked up and saw we were already at the office of the Junction Journal. I stood up about to take those steps off the trolley. “I didn’t know I told you where to stop.”
“Now, now, Violet.” She tsked again, only a little louder this time. “Everyone knows who you are in Holiday Junction. They can’t say that they really know you like I do.”
I stood on the side of the road staring back at her wondering exactly what that meant.
She slammed the trolley door shut and took off heading to the next stop.
After I stepped off the trolley and watched as it pulled away, I shook my head along with any notion what Goldie had just insinuated about my reputation in this town so I could do the job I’d stayed in Holiday Junction for, a reporter at the Journal Junction.
In truth, there were two elder sisters, Marge and Louise, who owned the Junction Journal and from what I’d learned over the past couple of months since making Holiday Junction my home, they wanted to get rid of the paper and no one in their family wanted the dying rag.
Me. I was a journalist. It was in my veins and though my true longing was to be a big-time television reporter, I knew I could be satisfied with owning and operating my own newspaper.
For the time being.
Things in the industry changed so much and so fast, there was no better way to learn than to jump feet first. That’s just what I did. When the sisters had offered me a job, since I’d found myself without one due to a dead body or two, I honestly didn’t have a better offer.
I’d told myself then I’d look around and take my time while I stayed in Holiday Junction instead of tucking my tail and admitting failure by going back home to Kentucky. It’d been two months and here I stood outside of the practically dilapidated seaside house I’d talked Rhett Strickland into letting the Junction Journal lease since the office was in his aunts family home.
It was a hard sell for the aunts to buy my reasoning to move the paper but when I told them how much it would make for an easier transition when they did go to sell Junction Journal and the fact I’d be working all hours of the night since I had nothing better to do, I didn’t want to keep them up at night. Plus I wasn’t comfortable coming and going from someone’s actual home when I did go to work.
Rhett was an altogether different sell. He didn’t want to rent the place, he said he’d loan it for free because it did need a lot of work and he could do most of it even though he was coming up on his busy season at the Holiday Junction Airport where he worked as the one and only security guard to the one room building airport.
By busy season, I meant the flurry of holidays around the summertime. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July were just a few to name and the major ones I’d seen on the town council’s docket for upcoming issues where I needed to report on them.
That also meant I wasn’t able to go home for Mother’s Day which left Millie Kay Rhinehammer, my mama, in a bit of a tizzy, as we’d say in the south.
“Toto, we ain’t in the south.” I shoved the key into the lock of the front door of the house and did my best impression of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. “Nope. We are in the middle of nowhere USA.”
I stepped inside of the house, with my hand on the door handle I paused to look out over the seaside laying out in front of me.
The water shimmered with each slow passing wave and glistened with little twinkles of light as the sun hit it perfectly.
I giggled at just how different my life was now that I’d moved away from home where I was surrounded by mountains. Holiday Junction was like no other town I’d ever seen or known of in the states.
There were literally four types of different terrains in the small town. There was the seaside, the mountain side, the countryside and the town. It was definitely a place that filled my creative well which actually was what gave me peace during this transition in my life.
The seaside gave way to the small beach area and a long concrete sidewalk big enough for the street carts and vendors that had been erected since the temperatures had gotten warmer. There were also shops where tourists loved to visit.
My phone chirped deep in my journalist bag.
“Time to work.” I shut the door and headed inside to the one and only room that was actually completed with a desk and view of the seaside. I’d found myself many times over the last month staring out, coming up with all sorts of ideas for the Junction Journal and how I could save it.
Time would tell.
I put the bag on top of the old desk the sisters had let Rhett bring over for me to work and opened the zipper where I kept my phone tucked in one of the inside pockets.
“Hhmm.” My brows knotted. “What does Vern McKenna want?” I questioned since I had no business with him other than him being the Merry Maker, which no one knew about.
The Merry Maker was a unique undercover job in Holiday Junction. I shouldn’t’ve even know he was the Merry Maker and I’d like to think it was my journalistic instincts that’d uncovered this little secret but it wasn’t. He’d ended up telling me due to the fact I had done my own investigation into a murder a couple of months ago and pointed to him as a possible suspect.
Boy was I wrong.
Vern had an alibi, being the secret Merry Maker.
Holiday Junction loved holidays. The town went all out for every single one with a full parade, beauty queen and festival. It was the Merry Maker’s job to secretly name where the big festival finale would take place.
There was a large sign for each holiday, and wherever it was posted was where the big festival ending took place. For instance, the first holiday I had the pleasure of spending in Holiday Junction was St. Patrick’s Day.
A huge wooden leprechaun showed up at the end of Rhett Strickland’s street one day. No one knew how the Merry Maker did it, but somehow the Merry Maker—Vern in this case—would come up with the location and put up the leprechaun without anyone in the community noticing. Or they just acted like they didn’t notice.
Once the sign for the particular holiday was put up, the townsfolk in that particular area had to come up with the final send-off of the holiday.
With Mother’s Day approaching, I wondered if Vern was calling to ask me how I was going to cover the Merry Maker, or if I was going to spill the beans that he was the Merry Maker.
My lips were sealed. I wasn’t telling a soul Vern was the one who had the ability to sprinkle the joy around for the holidays.
Instead of checking the text, I would wait until after I got some research done about the Lustig Spring that Goldie had mentioned. It got my attention.
There were many things to explore in Holiday Junction, and I knew I’d not even scratched the surface of things to do. But the Lustig Spring and the reason for Goldie’s husband not wanting little Lizzy to take dance lessons from Tricia Lustig at the Groove and Go really had sparked my interest, and my gut told me to investigate.
I put the phone down and got out my laptop and paper and pen before I sat down.
The first thing Rhett did was install internet for me since we’d just recently taken the paper online, where residents could get the daily news. Things important to them were like the daily lunch specials at the local diner, today’s fresh coffee selections at Brewing Beans, any birth announcements, death notices, and photo opportunities with Mayor Paisley, who just so happened to be a Boston Terrier dog.
She was the most sought-after celebrity here in Holiday Junction. Since I currently resided in the Jubilee Inn, where Mayor Paisley kept office, I was blessed with the opportunity to know her full schedule.
“Today Mayor Paisley will be sitting for photos at noon before her one p.m. nap.” I tapped on my computer to update the online “today” section before I moved to the “sponsored by” part of the update. “Be sure to head over to Emily’s Treasures. Tell Emily you saw this in today’s paper.” The cell phone rang, taking my attention for a moment. I continued to finish so I wouldn’t lose my train of thought. “You will receive ten percent off your full purchase.”
The phone rang again.
“Good morning, Vern,” I answered without looking. “I’m sorry I haven’t called you back. I was a little late getting to the office. What did you need to see me about?”
“Vern?” Mama’s voice questioned.
My stomach dropped. I’d been so careful screening my calls from her over the last couple of days, I hadn’t even thought of looking down at my phone to see who was calling.
“And why is he texting you?” There was concern in her voice. “I told your daddy there was going to be some pervert out there trying to hit on you and you needed to come home where you have family and friends who love you. Look out for you when some man tries to hit on you. Texting you at all hours of the night and day.”
Mama always assumed the worst when it came to me and taking care of myself.
“Mama, I wish you’d go see Betts Hager. She’d love to have you on the Bible Thumper—um, the prayer team.” Mama had nothing to do now that I was gone. I was their only child, and she’d made it her job to tell everyone back in our hometown where I was going to be and what channel I was on and made sure everyone tuned into my local broadcast.
Now that I didn’t live there for her to keep those tabs on me, she’d spent the better part of her waking day calling me, texting me, and emailing me when she couldn’t reach me the first two ways.
“I don’t want to be in no prayer meeting. I’ve got my own prayers to worry about rather than mix it up with other people’s problems.” Mama sounded out of breath. “Are you sure you won’t be coming home for Mother’s Day?”
“Mama, you know I love you so much. I miss you and I wish we were together, but I simply can’t be home. I’m under a huge deadline.” I typed “Lustig Spring” into the Google search engine and was surprised at all the hits it got. “I promise I will get back before summer ends.”
There were some birds chirping in the background, and I wondered if she was on a hike in the Daniel Boone National Forest, where my hometown was located. My stomach clenched again hearing the familiar sounds of home.
“Summer ends?” Mama cried out. “That’s just not soon enough, Violet Rhinehammer. I’m your only mama, and one day you will regret this.”
“Now, now.” I hated when she used her southern mama guilt on me. “You are the one who taught me to follow my dream.”
“I didn’t mean for you to follow it out of town,” she cried out.
I pushed myself back in the chair and got up. All the information I was about to dive into about the Lustig Spring made me excited. I knew there was a story there I wanted to visit, which was going to require all of my time.
This meant I needed to get off the phone with Mama.
“And you also taught me to be the independent woman with my own job, career, and future.” I walked to the back of the office, which used to be a kitchen, and looked out over the landscape where the mountains stood tall in the distance.
There was a knock at the door of the office.
I jerked back to look over my shoulder, wishing I’d had a glass door to see who was on the other side.
“Mama, I’ve got to go. I promise I’ll call you back.” I clicked off as Mama was saying something. I walked back to the front door. “I sure hope it’s not Marge or Louise,” I said under my breath since I’d yet to have anything prepared for them this morning. “You’ve got this,” I told myself with confidence, knowing it was something my mama would’ve told me.
I rolled back my shoulders and smiled before I flung the door open.
“Remember how you just said I taught you to be independent?” Mama stood on the other side, the sound of waves lapping behind her. “I’m taking my own advice. Your daddy and I are getting divorced.”
I didn’t know what I was shocked about most. Mama standing right there in front of me or her news about my parents’ future.
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