In book 6 in the series Abby and Georgia are readying the inn for the Thanksgiving Holiday, when tragedy strikes and one of the guests turns up dead.
Meanwhile, a new group of guests have checked in, each with their own story to tell. Jeremy and Annabelle have moved into the basement apartment, Abby takes a walk down memory lane, Velma has a decision to make, and Georgia must come to grips with her own fear and doubt relating to her relationship with Tanner.
Release date: October 1, 2019
Publisher: Kathi Daley Books
Print pages: 146
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Pilgrim in the Parlor
Milton Standoff was a tall man, with a thin build, long arms and legs, small eyes, and a sharp nose. The first time I met him, I couldn’t help but notice that he looked a lot like a stork or maybe a crane. He moved with slow precision, which mimicked his speech and manner. He was an odd fellow, that was for certain, but despite his arrogant manner, dismissive attitude, and razor-sharp way of speaking, I really couldn’t understand how he’d ended up dead in my parlor.
“State your name please,” a police officer I didn’t recognize instructed. My good friend, Police Chief Colt Wilder, worked out of the tiny satellite office that covered the small town of Holiday Bay, but he’d been out of town for a few days, so emergency calls received by his office were routed to the main switchboard in the much larger town southwest of us.
“Abagail Sullivan, but you can call me Abby.”
“And you own this inn?”
I nodded. “Yes. I own the Inn at Holiday Bay, my inn manager, Georgia Carter, runs the place, and my new employee, Jeremy Slater, lives on the property with his niece, Annabelle. Jeremy helps Georgia with our day-to-day operations. He is the one who discovered Mr. Standoff this morning, and he is the one who called it in. I’m sorry. What was your name again?”
“Are you in town covering for Colt, I mean Police Chief Wilder?”
“I work out of the regional office, and happened to be in the area when the call came through, so I responded.”
“I see.” I smiled so I would appear appreciative, but I really wished Colt were here. The inn had only been receiving guests for three months, and this was our first dead body. I hoped it would turn out to be our only dead body. “So what do you need from me?”
“I need you to walk me through exactly what happened this morning,” the man continued.
I nodded, took a deep breath, and began to speak. “Jeremy opened up the inn like he does every morning. He lives in the basement with Annabelle, so it is easy for him to unlock the exterior doors, start fires in the three wood-burning fireplaces located on the first floor, and open the blinds and drapes before he has to leave to take Annabelle to school. As he does every morning, he was performing these chores when he noticed Mr. Standoff laying on the floor in the parlor. He went in to investigate and found the man dead. It appears he’s been hit over the head with the pilgrim that we had on display on the fireplace mantel.”
Officer James jotted down a few notes while I tried to rein in my sudden need to ramble. Just answer the man’s questions, I reminded myself, as I suppressed the urge to go off on a tangent about how I had bought the mansion sight unseen after my husband and son died in an automobile accident and how I’d not only found a new start but a new family here in Holiday Bay.
“And what time were the exterior doors locked the previous evening?” Officer James asked.
“Ten o’clock. Jeremy always does his walkthrough at ten o’clock. He noted that it appeared that all our guests were in for the evening in the logbook we keep when he locked the exterior doors, banked the fires, and dimmed the lights. When he began opening things up this morning, the exterior doors were still locked, and it didn’t look as if anyone had accessed them since the previous day, although I suppose it is possible that Mr. Standoff hadn’t been in his room during the walkthrough as Jeremy thought.”
“I assume the guests have access to an exterior door after hours?”
I nodded. “The back door leading into the kitchen can be opened with the room keys.”
“Who else, other than you and your guests, has a key to the inn?” Officer James asked.
“Georgia, of course, and Jeremy. We have a part-time employee who helps with the cleaning. Her name is Nikki. She lives next door and is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet. She would not have killed this man.”
“I guess Lonnie has a key.”
“Lonnie Parker is my contractor. He oversaw the renovation of this place, and even though that part of the project is complete, he still pops in from time to time to take care of any repairs that might be needed. I can absolutely assure you that Lonnie wouldn’t kill anyone.”
The officer paused, tapping his pen on his notebook. “Someone did.”
“Well, yes, someone did, but I don’t see why any of our guests would have done such a thing. Yes, Mr. Standoff was an arrogant sort who’d managed to get on everyone’s nerves, but to kill him? I just don’t see that happening.”
Officer James continued to tap his pen against the small pad he held. He had a slow way about him that I found to be very annoying. Finally, he spoke. “I understand your need to protect your guests and employees, nevertheless, as I’ve already mentioned, someone killed this man. I’m going to need information on every employee and each of your guests, beginning with each person’s full name and their reason for being in town.”
“Okay.” I took a breath and told him what I could about Georgia, Jeremy, and Nikki.
“And your guests?” He prompted.
“Let’s see. A man named Gaylord Godfry is staying in unit six, which is the unit on the top floor in the area which previously served as the attic. He has been with us for more than two months. He is a retired history professor who is in the area to work on his novel.”
Officer James jotted down a few notes. “Did it seem as if Mr. Godfry had a conflict of any sort with Mr. Standoff?”
“No. Not really. Well yes, I guess in a way he did.”
He looked at me over the top of his pad.
I elaborated. “As I already mentioned, Mr. Standoff was an arrogant and generally unlikeable sort. I guess his family has been around since the Mayflower, and apparently, he seemed to think that his lineage provided him with a unique knowledge of all things colonial. He would get into arguments with Gaylord over who settled where, when they settled, and how that particular pattern may have contributed to certain developments in United States history.” I took a breath and then continued. “Gaylord has a doctorate in history. He taught the subject at a university level for years; whereas Mr. Standoff was nothing more than a washed-up actor in town to direct the annual Thanksgiving pageant. Of course, Gaylord knew more about the actual history of the area and of the United States as a whole than Standoff ever would, but the visiting director was just too arrogant to see it, so the men did spar from time to time.”
“Verbally. Not physically.”
“In your mind, is it possible that the men may have come downstairs for something to read or perhaps something to drink, and while they were both downstairs, an argument ensued, and Mr. Standoff ended up dead?”
“No,” I answered without hesitation. “Gaylord would never kill one of our guests or anyone for that matter just because they were a self-entitled boob.” I tapped down my irritation with this line of reasoning and tried to remind myself that Officer James was just doing his job. He didn’t know Gaylord the way I’d come to know him, so he couldn’t know that he was perfectly harmless.
“Okay,” Officer James continued. “Go on. Who else was staying in the inn last night?”
“As I already mentioned, Gaylord is staying in unit six. Our victim, Milton Standoff, was in unit five. Unit four is currently empty since the guests who were in that unit checked out yesterday, and no one is due to check in until the weekend. A man named Noah Daniels is in unit three. He is in town to interview for the head pastor position at the church. He is a very nice man, mid-thirties, and he has a calming and serene way about him. I don’t know him well, but I would be willing to bet there is no way he would kill anyone.”
Officer James continued to jot down notes. “Continue. What about units one and two?”
“Christy and Haley Baldwin are in unit two. Christy is in town so that her daughter can visit her grandparents. Christy’s husband, Ron, died just about a year ago and his parents asked Christy to bring Haley to town so they could spend time with their granddaughter.”
“And unit one?”
“Empty as well. We have a couple checking in on Thursday.”
“So, in your opinion, none of the current guests would have been likely to have killed Mr. Standoff?”
I slowly shook my head. “No. As I’ve already stated, I really can’t see any of them doing such a thing.” I glanced at the sheet-covered human form laying on the floor. “I can’t explain how anyone who was not a guest or employee could have gotten in here to kill this man, but I just don’t think the killer is anyone we’ve spoken about.”
“How long has Mr. Standoff been staying with you?”
“Almost two weeks. Like I said, he is in town to direct the pageant.”
“And this pageant, is it an annual event?”
I nodded. If this man didn’t know about the Holiday Bay Thanksgiving Pageant, he must be new to the area since our pageant was a well-known event throughout Northern New England. “The pageant is part of the week-long ‘kick-off to the holidays’ celebration the town sponsors to lure tourists into the area. From what I understand, the town hosts the pageant every year on the weekend before Thanksgiving, but this is the first year they’ve brought in outside talent. Normally, Emma Johnson from the high school directs the play.”
The officer looked at me. “Do you know why the town is doing things differently this year?”
I slowly shook my head. “Actually no, I’m not sure why the committee decided to bring Mr. Standoff in. I suppose he does provide a degree of name recognition. He was just in that movie with Denzel Washington. I can’t remember the title. It is some sort of a thriller that I never did get around to seeing. And I think he did a movie with Will Smith a while back. Both movies were popular, but Standoff just had bit parts. Still, I suppose he has had bit parts in other movies as well. I think he might have been one of the villains in a Marvel movie. I imagine the committee figured that if they brought in a professional actor to direct the pageant, they might attract more spectators from the larger cities west of us.”
“So, in the almost two weeks Mr. Standoff has been staying with you, have you been made aware of anyone who specifically might hold a grudge against him?”
“If you are looking for a list of individuals who will breathe a sigh of relief when they find out Standoff is no longer in the picture, you are going to need a bigger notebook. But wanting the man gone does not mean that the men and women who pour their hearts and souls into the pageant each year necessarily wanted him dead.”
Officer James jotted down a few more notes. He paused and looked around the room. The pilgrim statue was still lying on the floor. He bent over and picked it up with a gloved hand. “It’s heavy.”
I nodded. “It’s made of lead.” I nodded toward the mantel where the female pilgrim still stood. “It’s part of a set. Antiques. I’ve been told they are over a hundred years old.”
I watched as the gloved officer slid the statue into an evidence bag.
“The fact that this man was hit over the head with an object close at hand indicates a crime of passion,” Officer James stated. “If I had to guess, Mr. Standoff either ran into an employee or another guest after he’d come into the parlor for some reason. He argued with whomever he ran into, the employee or guest became angry, grabbed the pilgrim statue, and hit the man over the head with it.”
I wrinkled my nose. “I really don’t think it was a guest or employee who killed this man.”
Officer James began tapping his pencil on his pad once again. It seemed to be a nervous habit. “Okay, if not a guest or employee, then who? According to what you just told me, no one else, except for your contractor, has a key to the place, and we’ve established that the murder occurred after Mr. Slater locked up for the evening.”
“I suppose Mr. Standoff might have asked someone to meet him here. As I’ve already indicated, the doors are locked at ten p.m., but the guests have access to move about at will. All the exterior doors open from the inside, which would allow any guest to invite someone in, and, as I’ve already indicated, the keys to each suite open the back door which leads from the drive into the kitchen. We’ve set things up this way so that anyone who might still be out after we lock up, can get in. So as you see, it is totally possible Mr. Standoff invited someone to meet him here. If that is true, then the killer could really have been anyone.”
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