Pineapple Land War
When real estate tycoon Bucky Bloom is found stuck to the end of a sailboat mast, a land war erupts in Pineapple Port. Amateur sleuth Charlotte Morgan is commissioned to solve Bucky’s murder, but soon finds herself embroiled in a competition masterminded by her boyfriend’s crazy ex, the ever-nefarious Stephanie.
The Pineapple Port Mystery Series is both sweet and edgy, and always hilarious! Fans of Lillian Jackson Braun, Carl Hiaasen and Jana DeLeon won’t be able to stop reading the Pineapple Port series until it is done!
Release date: February 14, 2017
Publisher: Vansant Creations
Print pages: 214
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Pineapple Land War
William “Bucky” Bloom leaned against the roof deck railing, staring down at his enormous sailboat in the marina below. He liked to enjoy his evenings away from home with a view of the Gulf of Mexico and a glass of Scotch.
Arms encircled his waist and he jumped with surprise, sloshing a mouthful of Scotch twenty stories down to the decks below.
His girlfriend, Shawna, moved like a cat. He found it unnerving.
“Where are we going for dinner, sexy?” she asked.
He twisted his neck to glare at her. “Don’t sneak up on me, you’ll give me a heart attack.”
“You’re not going to have a heart attack. You’re as strong as a bull.” She reached down and rested her cupped hand on his little bull and he offered her a wistful smile.
She was lying about his sexual prowess. At sixty-seven years old, he was lucky to feel anything stirring down there but the urge to pee. He needed help from pharmaceuticals to achieve much more, but he did appreciate her flattery. That was their unspoken agreement after all—he provided material gifts, she made him feel young again.
He shooed her away. “All right, enough of that. We’ll go to the Sundowner for dinner. Go get ready.”
She stepped beside him and leaned over the railing, arms outstretched. The diamond bracelet he’d bought her a week before glimmered beneath the setting sun.
“Look! I’m queen of the world!”
“Get down off of there.” He jerked the waistband of her yoga tights and she stumbled back, giggling, before scampering off to dress for dinner.
Bucky took the last sip of his Scotch and closed his eyes.
The younger my mistresses, the more annoying.
Maybe it was time to find someone closer to his age.
Maybe twenty-somethings were fine. He just needed one with a little more sophistication. Like that feisty blonde he was still determined to get—that one was a tease.
* * *
“Go mind the bow line.”
Barb glared at her husband as he motioned to her from behind the wheel of their forty-two foot Farr cruising sailboat. The Farr was too much boat for Lyle. Barb told him as much two or three times an outing. Yet here they were, screaming at each other again, as he frantically attempted to dock the damn thing.
A relaxing end to an equally relaxing day of wrestling with sails and jibs and whatever the rest of the crap hanging off this stupid boat is. Barb gritted her teeth and vowed to sink the thing, an oath she swore at the end of every trip.
She shimmied toward the bow as the dock loomed into view. I should be somewhere sipping a cocktail, if it wasn’t for this—
A low boom! cut short Barb’s thought. Something flashed in her peripheral vision. She swiveled her attention toward the marina apartment building and squinted, but whatever she’d seen was gone. Probably a bird. All she saw now was the bobbing sailboat docked adjacent to the residence tower, the aptly named Landlubber. It was always docked, she’d never seen it leave—
Something odd was mounted at the top of the Landlubber’s mast.
Had a heron swooped in and perched there?
No...the object appeared connected to the side of the mast.
Some sort of sonar? But so oddly shaped. Something about it—
That’s not a sonar. That’s a—
Her husband plowed their sailboat into the pier. Distracted by the Landlubber’s mast, the sudden jolt tossed her forward without resistance, her face narrowly missing a piling as she tumbled, legs and arms akimbo, grasping for anything that might stop her fall. Her hip clipped the edge of the dock and she ping-ponged from the dock to the boat to the water.
A moment later she surfaced, sputtering.
“Barb!” Lyle stared down at her from the side of the boat, his face twisted with anger. “What the hell are you doing? You have to pay attention—”
“The sailboat,” she said, pointing with a broken nail.
Lyle rolled his eyes. “Oh, right. It’s the boat’s fault you fell.”
She slapped the water in frustration and swam to the ladder at the end of the pier. Scrambling to the top, she continued to jab a finger in the direction of the Landlubber, eyes locked on its mast. She needed to know she hadn’t dreamt it. Rubbing her bruised hip, she spotted the object that had distracted her from her duties.
She turned to Lyle and snapped her arm like a whip, pointing. “Not our sailboat, you jackass; the one by the residences. Look at the mast.”
Lyle tracked her gesture, his gaze tracing the line of the Landlubber’s mast upward.
Something of interest caused his chin to cease rising. His head tilted to the right, eyes narrowing and neck craning forward like a zoom lens.
“Do you see it?” asked Barb.
Lyle’s jaw fell. “Is that—?”
She nodded. “You do see it.”
She wasn’t crazy. Those were legs, bent at the knee, arms splayed on either side, head lolled back, mouth opened wide as if the man were trying to catch rain.
She hadn’t dreamed it.
A man was impaled on the top of the Landlubber’s mast.
“But how—” Lyle stopped short as his chin began to rise again.
Barb’s gaze shot to the tower’s rooftop deck as a young woman with long dark hair appeared at the railing and stared down at the skewered man.
Lyle looked at Barb. “Did she push him?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. But makes you think maybe you should be nicer to me, doesn’t it?”
The young woman shrieked.
“Did you hear?”
Penny threw her swim bag onto a lounge chair and wrestled out of her hibiscus-print cover-up, elbows poking everywhere.
“You missed water aerobics,” said Darla, climbing the pool stairs with Mariska and Charlotte on her heels.
“Yeah, it was a good one, too,” said Charlotte. They’d done water aerobics to the same tape for three years. Her comment was sarcastic, but the chances anyone would notice were slim.
“Oh, it was a good one,” said Mariska.
Case in point.
“Forget that nonsense,” snapped Penny. Penny’s disdain for water aerobics bordered on pathological. It was as if her whole family had been killed in a freak water aerobics accident. The only time she participated was when she felt like she’d fallen behind on neighborhood gossip, because Pineapple Port aerobics involved a lot more yapping than swimming.
“You look like you’re bustin’ at the seams to share something,” said Darla, squinting at her.
Penny nodded. “I am. Bucky’s dead.”
The others stared at her with blank expressions.
“I knew someone with a cat named Bucky,” said Mariska after a moment.
“Bucky’s your cat?” Charlotte asked Penny.
Penny’s expression twisted with what appeared to be disgust. “Why would I get a cat?”
“Bucky would be a good name for a hamster,” said Darla.
“Or a rabbit,” chimed Mariska.
Penny huffed. “You idiots. Bucky Bloom is dead.”
Mariska gasped. “No. How?”
“Probably overdosed on Viagra, horny old dirtball,” said Darla, reaching for her towel.
Penny shook her head so violently Charlotte feared she might lift off like a helicopter. “No. That was my first guess, too, but he fell onto the mast of a sailboat. Can you believe it?”
“You mean he hit his head on it?” asked Darla.
“No, he fell on it. Fell off the rooftop deck of his marina sex pad right on to the mast.”
“On to it?” echoed Charlotte, poking her finger into her flattened palm.
“Like a cocktail olive.” An enormous grin spread across Penny’s face.
Charlotte immediately knew something was up. Penny was never that happy about anything.
As the owner of the Pineapple Port fifty-five-plus retirement community, Penny had been kind enough to allow Charlotte to remain after her grandmother—who’d served as her guardian after her parents’ death—had died. Other than that unusual stroke of benevolence, Charlotte couldn’t think of a single thing the community’s matriarch had ever done to warm the cockles of anyone’s heart.
Still, the sheer width of the smile plastered on her face as she told the sad tale of a man impaled on a sailboat mast...that was warped, even for her. Penny’s ears were about to shake hands on the back of her head.
“Why do I get the impression Bucky’s death benefits you somehow? Or do you just have a thing for a good skewering?”
Mariska winced. “Skewering. Oh my. What a word. This is terrible.”
“Bucky owns Cow Town,” said Darla before Penny could answer. Penny nodded and clapped her fingers together with glee.
Cow Town. That explained it. Cow Town was a piece of land on the outskirts of Pineapple Port that Penny and her husband, George, had wanted to buy for as long as anyone could remember. The owner—who Charlotte now knew was Bucky Bloom—rented it as grazing land for cows, probably waiting for the tract to become even more valuable.
If the owner of the land was dead, Penny finally had a chance to grab it.
“Have you talked to Cora?” asked Darla.
Penny snorted with disdain. “That idiot. I’m not worried about her. Her husband’s body was found by his twenty-seven-year-old mistress, last in a string of who knows how many. Everyone knew what a cheater he was except her. She’s a moron.”
“How did he fall?” asked Mariska.
“Who knows? Probably drunk.”
“Does Pussy Galore know yet?” asked Darla.
Charlotte watched the blood drain from Penny’s face.
“Oh, I don’t know.”
Penny grabbed her cover-up, shimmied her collection of bones back into it and snatched her swim bag from the chair. She ran from the pool area without another word.
Charlotte turned to Darla. “Does she always run away when people mention James Bond girls? Isn’t that something you should have told me a long time ago? It could have come in handy.”
Darla wrapped her towel around her waist. “Pussy Galore owns Silver Lake. She wants Cow Town every bit as much as Penny does for all the same reasons...expansion.”
“They’re slum lords,” said Mariska. She giggled, and then slapped her hand over her mouth, eyes darting toward their water aerobics leader, Jackie, whose late husband had been an actual slum lord. “Whoops.”
Charlotte chuckled. “I’m going to hate myself for asking, but is this woman’s real name Pussy Galore?”
“No. Her name is Tabitha and she goes by Tabby, like the cat. Somewhere, years ago, Penny started calling her Pussy Galore and it stuck.”
“Does she know about this nickname?”
“She knows, but she doesn’t like it.”
“I can’t imagine why.”
Charlotte had an odd feeling and paused to put her finger on the cause of it.
Chatter, growing to a healthy din around the pool since the beginning of water aerobics, had stopped as if someone had cut the gossip faucet. She peered down the line of the Olympic-sized pool and found all gazes pointed behind her.
She turned to find her boyfriend, Declan, walking towards her, towel casually thrown over his square shoulders. His swimmer’s body was visible, broad-chested and tapering at the waist. He had abs like the underside of a turtle shell. He smiled and she swore she could hear the retired ladies sigh in unison behind her.
“Hello everyone, how are you?” he asked.
“Surrounded by a bunch of randy old ladies, apparently,” mumbled Charlotte as he pecked her on the cheek and shook hands with Mariska and Darla.
“What brings you here?” asked Charlotte.
Before he could answer, Darla interjected.
“I’m so glad you decided to take me up on my invite to use the pool.”
Charlotte scowled. “Hey, I’ve invited you a million times and you’ve never come.”
He shrugged. “I decided my lap pool can get pretty boring.” He strolled toward a chair to set his towel on it and called back to Charlotte. “Darla said today was the day to come.”
One of the ladies who had been on the opposite side of the pool a moment earlier, bumped into Darla as she passed. Charlotte spotted her slide cash into Darla’s hand as she passed, grinning at Declan with eyes so flirty Charlotte thought her lashes might flit away and mate with the nearest butterfly.
Charlotte gasped. “Darla! You pimp!”
Darla’s mouth contracted into the shape of an O. “Missy, I’m sure ah don’t know whut you’re talkin’ about.” Her Southern accent always became more pronounced when she was lying.
“What’s in your hand?” Charlotte demanded to know.
Darla held out an empty palm. “Nothin’?”
“The other one.”
She unrolled her clenched fist, revealing a crumpled five dollar bill. “Oh that? Patty owed me money from the, uh, last bake sale.”
Mariska cocked her head. “From the last bake sale? You said Patty offered you five dollars to get Declan here without his shirt—”
Darla cut Mariska short, nearly shouting to drown out her friend. “That’s right I did talk to her about a darling shirt that I thought would look good on Declan.”
Charlotte shook her head. “You ladies are awful. And as for Panting Patty—” She turned and saw Patty had moved to the fence, studying Declan from a new angle.
“Did I miss something?” asked Declan, returning his attention to the group.
Charlotte sighed. “Maybe. But Patty isn’t missing a thing.”
“Charlotte!” Penny came pounding back into the pool area, grabbed Charlotte by the wrist and began dragging her toward the parking lot.
Charlotte planted her feet to stop the momentum. “What are you doing?”
“You’re coming with me.”
“Because I have to go talk to Cora before Pussy gets to her and—”
“I really wish you would stop saying that—”
“—and I just remembered she loves orphan kids. Cooks orphan kids porridge in her free time or some such crap.”
“What’s that got to do with me?”
“You’re an orphan.”
“But I’m twenty-six years old.”
“Close enough. Plus, I want you to suss out my best angle. Maybe help me find some dirt on Pussy.”
“Ew.” That was even more horrific.
“You don’t understand. I need you there from the get-go. I’m hiring you.”
“Oh.” Charlotte flashed a smile back at the group and allowed Penny to lead her toward the gate. “Why didn’t you say so?”
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