The Inn at Holiday Bay: Hint in the Hashtag
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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 19 in the series, it's spring in Holiday Bay and new guests have arrived to enjoy the plentiful sunshine. Lonnie has begun construction of the four new cottages and decisions relating to color and design keep Abby hopping. Abby's most recent manuscript has been turned in leaving time in her schedule to pitch in as a volunteer for the annual spring events and everything is as it should be with the exception of the disturbing emails Georgia has been receiving. So far Colt isn't too concerned chalking it up to an obsessive fan, but when the emails migrate from her work email to her personal account Colt decides it's time to put a stop to it.
Release date: June 28, 2022
Publisher: Kathi Daley Books
Print pages: 178
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The Inn at Holiday Bay: Hint in the Hashtag
“This email is different,” I said to my best friend and inn manager, Georgia Carter, as she and I, along with our good friends, Shelby Morris and Amy Hogan, sat at the kitchen table of the inn I owned and Georgia operated, drinking coffee and eating cookies.
“I think Abby’s right,” Amy agreed. “This one does have a different feel to it.”
“It’s specific and direct, while the others had more of a general feel to them,” Shelby jumped into the conversation. “I feel like this guy is getting bolder.”
“I get what you’re all saying,” Georgia said. “The email I received today does have a different tone than the others, plus this email was sent to my personal email address while the other emails I’ve received from my mysterious stalker have shown up in my Cooking with Georgia inbox.”
“I know you’ve had a wait-and-see approach to these emails, but I think it’s time to take a harder look at things,” I offered.
“Look into things how?” Georgia asked as she got up, opened the refrigerator, and took out a bowl of fresh strawberries. “None of us are tech wizards, and therefore none of us have a clue as to what needs to be done to figure out who’s sending these emails.”
“There must be someone in town with the skill needed to trace the emails and figure out who might be sending them,” Amy suggested as Georgia set the strawberries on the table next to the plate of cookies.
“I know someone,” Shelby offered as she leaned over to stab a strawberry with the fork she picked up from the stack. “He used to work for the NSA, but his real love is songwriting, so he quit and moved to Holiday Bay. He’s worked as a bartender at the Bistro ever since I’ve lived here.”
The Bistro at Holiday Bay was a popular hangout with the locals. “The bartender at the Bistro used to work with the NSA,” I clarified, trying to wrap my head around the idea. I’d only eaten at the Bistro a couple times and hadn’t spent any time in the bar, but the image of a very good-looking man with wavy brown hair, a flirty nature, and an infectious smile flashed through my mind.
“Yep,” Shelby said as she took a bite of the strawberry and then set the other half on her plate. “He’s real smart, and he can hack into anything. Not that he will, but he has the skills needed to hack into anything.” Her blue eyes sparkled with amusement. “I was in town with Nikki last week while she took care of some last-minute errands before leaving to visit her mother in Texas.” She referred to our part-time employee, Nikki Peyton. “While we were in the drugstore, we happened to run into Dawson, who was out doing errands of his own. Nikki asked him if he’d be willing to hack into the social media account of one of her friends in order to remove an embarrassing photo of Nikki with a guy she hooked up with at a party, and he refused.” She tucked a lock of her long red hair behind her ear. “Still, if you can convince him that the reason you need him to perform the hack is important, I know he has the skills to do it.”
“I think you should talk to him,” Amy voiced her opinion. “The emails are creepy. I really think this stalker has the potential to be dangerous. I’m not normally one to condone any sort of illegal hacking, but it seems to be warranted in this case. I’m surprised Colt hasn’t been able to do anything to track down the author and put an end to things.” She referred to my boyfriend, Police Chief Colt Wilder.
I answered. “The way the recent emails are worded allows the meaning of the message to be interpreted in more than one way. The emails started off by complimenting Georgia on something such as the sweater she’d worn on the show, the way she wore her hair that day, and that sort of thing. No crime there. Sure, the emails weren’t signed, but let’s face it, a lot of spam makes its way into our inboxes each day. Then after several chatty emails complimenting one thing or another, the context of the messages changed just a bit. While the first set of emails provided a compliment and only a compliment, the next set came in the form of a compliment veiled as a thinly disguised threat.”
“Such as?” Amy asked.
“Such as an email complimenting me on my shoes, but then warning me that I should watch my step lest I trip and injure myself while wearing such high heels,” Georgia provided.
I jumped back in. “Colt is keeping an eye on things, and he is concerned about the emails to a point, but emailing a public figure to compliment their shoes and then warning them to be careful while walking around in those shoes so as not to fall, isn’t against the law. Colt doesn’t have the skills needed to track the emails himself, so he’d have to turn things over to the county office, and he’s assured us that they won’t want to get involved when there isn’t a bona fide threat.”
“Have you tried blocking the guy?” Amy asked, tucking her jean-clad legs up under her body.
“Many, many times,” Georgia answered. “The email addresses used to deliver the messages seem to change as needed. No sooner do I block one email address than the same creepy notes pop up from another email address.”
“I really think you should talk to Dawson,” Shelby said. “I’ll even go with you. It’s dinner time, so he’ll be working, but we can sit in the bar and eat while we chat. The food in the bar is really good. In fact, I tend to sit in the bar when I go in for a meal.”
“I’ll go with you,” Amy seconded. “I’ve been hearing a lot about their crab cakes and want to try them.”
“We’ll all go,” I suggested. “Just give me five minutes to change my clothes and brush my hair.”
When we arrived at the Bistro, we found Colt in the bar chatting with a local lobsterman named Harvin Waterson. Harvin owned one of the largest lobster operations in the area. I didn’t want to intrude, so I made my way to a booth toward the back of the quaint and cozy lounge. Amy came with me while Shelby escorted Georgia up to the bar to speak with Dawson.
The Bistro at Holiday Bay was the sort of place where blue-collar locals liked to gather after a long day at work. Its location near the commercial fishing marina was well off the beaten path. When first built, the building was used as a processing plant for the fish and shellfish the fishermen who lived and worked along the central coast hauled in each day. In nineteen sixty-two, a new processing plant was built further down the coast, and the large two-story building near Holiday Bay was converted into a garment factory. The garment factory became one of the major employers in the area until it closed in the mid nineteen eighties. In nineteen ninety-nine, after the building sat empty for over a decade, a woman named Dorinda Coverston, affectionately known as Dory, purchased the building and opened the bar and bistro that exists today.
“I wonder what’s going on,” Amy commented as we watched Colt jot down notes while Harvin ranted about someone going nuts.
“I’m not sure, but based on the blood dripping from the man’s nose, I’m going to go out on a limb and say someone hit the guy.” I looked around the room. “It doesn’t appear anyone else is bleeding, so perhaps the second guy left before Colt arrived.”
Colt was standing near the stage area that was used for live entertainment and karaoke. Since live music wasn’t provided on weekdays, the area nearest the stage but furthest away from the bar was mostly deserted. I noticed that most of the patrons had returned to their drinks, so I supposed whatever had been going on was over by this point.
Colt said something that caused Harvin to nod, and then Harvin headed to the bar where Dawson had something waiting in a short wide glass. Harvin downed the amber liquid in a single gulp, grabbed his jacket, and left. Colt walked over to the bar and said something to Dawson before heading toward the table where Amy and I were sitting.
“So, what’s going on?” I asked after he slid into the booth next to me.
“I guess Harvin came in with his crew for a cold one after they’d tied up for the day. The men were sitting in the back next to Beck’s booth when Lewis Keaton stormed in and punched Harvin in the face.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Harvin claims not to know. He claims that he was just sitting there, minding his own business, when Lewis entered the building, approached the table, punched him in the face, and then left. Harvin claims that he never said a word. The men he was with have backed him up on this.” Colt let out a long sigh. “Lewis can be a hothead, but this sort of behavior seems extreme even for him unless, of course, he was provoked. I’m heading over to his place next.” He glanced toward the bar where Georgia and Shelby were engaged in an animated conversation with Dawson. “What’s going on over there?”
“Georgia got another one of those disturbing emails. This time, it came to her personal email and not the email associated with the cooking show,” I answered. “Apparently, Dawson is some sort of computer whiz. Shelby suggested that Georgia talk to Dawson about helping her track down the source of the emails so that we know exactly who we’re dealing with.”
“Dawson is a computer whiz?”
“According to Shelby, who seems to know quite a bit about a lot of people, he is.”
“The girl has managed to make a lot of friends in a short amount of time. Is this new email more direct, or did the guy simply compliment her shoes as he has in the past?” Colt asked.
“Like the others, this email isn’t penned to deliver a direct threat. In fact, this one is a bit more flowery and poetic than the others. Still, like the others, there’s underlying darkness. I’m really beginning to worry.”
Colt’s lips tightened. “I need to head over to Lewis’s place and talk to him, but I am interested in hearing about the outcome of Georgia’s conversation with Dawson.”
“Come by after you finish unraveling the assault on Harvin. We plan to eat here, but I’m sure there are leftovers in the refrigerator I can heat up for you.” I paused to think about my promise of leftovers. “Actually, since the inn is closed for construction, Georgia hasn’t been cooking much, so there might not be leftovers. I’ll order something for you from here and get it to go. What do you want?”
“The chicken fried steak is really good. I’ll have that with extra gravy on the side.”
“Any idea when you might be by?”
He shook his head. “I guess it depends on Lewis and how willing he is to cooperate.”
I watched Colt leave and then turned back to Amy.
“So what’s the deal with the permanently reserved booth Colt mentioned?” Amy asked.
“Beck Cage is a retired homicide detective from Boston who moved to Holiday Bay and opened his own PI business. He wasn’t sure how busy he’d be and didn’t want to fork over big bucks for an office, so he started meeting clients here in the bar. By this point, I think the guy is doing well enough to justify the expense of an office, but he’s become a fixture in the bar, and everyone knows where to find him, so he continues to hang out here.”
Amy smiled. “That’s just one of the reasons I love Holiday Bay. I feel like the folks who live here are just one big family. If there was any way I could swing it, I’d love to open my own restaurant here in town rather than working for someone else in the city.”
I gave her hand a squeeze. “Maybe something will work out. In my experience, as long as you know what you want and are patient, dreams usually find a way.”
“I hope so. I really feel at home here. More than anywhere I’ve ever lived. That’s why I’ve been taking advantage of your charitable nature and have accepted your invitation to stay at the inn whenever you have openings.”
“We consider you family, and you always help out.” I looked up as Georgia and Shelby got up from the bar and headed in our direction. “I wonder how that all turned out.”
Once Georgia and Shelby had joined us, an adorable young woman with long blond hair headed in our direction. “Hey, Shelby. Are you ready to order?”
“Hey, Kennedy,” Shelby greeted the Bistro’s long-time employee, Kennedy Swanson. “Not quite. Are there any specials?”
“The featured soup is lobster bisque, the featured salad is mixed greens with goat cheese, candied pecans, and apple slices, and the featured entre is apple stuffed pork chops with asparagus and your choice of potato.”
“I’d like a bowl of the lobster bisque and a featured salad as my entre,” I said. “I’d also like the chicken fried steak with extra gravy to go.”
Georgia chuckled. “Are you hungry?”
“The chicken fried steak is for Colt. He’s coming by after he finishes up for the day.”
“If the to-go order is for Colt, it’ll be on the house,” Kennedy said. “I did, after all, call him in to handle the situation with Harvin just as he was getting ready to head out for the day.”
“Do you have any idea what happened?” Shelby asked. “Dawson shared what he knew with me, but he had no idea why Lewis would do such a thing.”
Kennedy lowered her order pad as she considered Shelby’s question. “Lewis didn’t say a word, so I don’t know what prompted the assault, but the men have never really gotten along. Or at least they haven’t gotten along since Harvin moved to Holiday Bay and the men became direct competitors.” She used a thumb to click her pen open and closed. “I get the drive to compete, but I feel like both Harvin and Lewis have crossed a line. Based on what I’ve heard, Harvin accused Lewis of cutting some of his lobster traps loose, causing a real ruckus, and no sooner had that died down than Lewis accused Harvin of moving some of his.”
“It does sound childish,” I responded to the petite blond woman.
“The professional rivalry between the two men has been going on for years,” Kennedy continued, “but the latest gossip has Lewis’s wife cheating on him with Harvin. Keep in mind that I have no idea if that bit of news is true, but there has been chatter about the situation for the past few days.”
“Wow,” Shelby said. “No wonder Lewis punched the guy. I wonder if the rumors are true.”
Kennedy shrugged. “Who knows. You know how folks like to have something to talk about. Addy recently mentioned that one of her classmates, Lewis’s daughter, Tammy, told her that her parents were getting a divorce, so I imagine the rumors could be true.” She raised her pad back up and asked Shelby what she wanted to eat. Kennedy headed toward the kitchen to turn in our order after Shelby ordered the fish and chips, Georgia ordered the soup and salad, same as me, and Amy ordered the filet with scampi.
“I take it Addy is Kennedy’s daughter,” Amy stated.
Shelby nodded. “Kennedy is a single mom with a brilliant ten-year-old daughter named Addison.” She turned to me. “Have you met Addy?”
“No. Addy was here doing her homework when I was in for lunch with Lacy a few months ago.” I referred to my good friend, Lacy Parker. “Lacy mentioned that the girl sitting in the booth was Kennedy’s daughter, but I didn’t actually talk to her.”
“Addy likes to write,” Shelby informed me. “I’ve been thinking that the two of you should meet. Apparently, she’s already written a series of books about a teenage sleuth named Phoebe. She hasn’t done anything about publishing them, but I read part of one of the stories she was working on while she was here waiting for her mother to finish her shift, and it was really good.”
“I’d love to meet her,” I agreed. “The ability to complete even a short story when you’re only ten is pretty amazing.”
“Addy is some sort of genius,” Shelby informed me. “I guess she will be attending the high school next year. In the meantime, Kennedy tries to provide extra work for her to do on her own time. Kennedy has three brothers and a sister, and apparently, they all help out as well, although not all of them live here in town.”
“Do any of them live in Holiday Bay?” I asked, fascinated by the idea of a ten-year-old savant.
“Kennedy’s sister, Reagan, is a local real estate agent, and her youngest brother, Lincoln, lives in town as well. I think she mentioned that Truman and Cleveland both live in Baltimore.”
Amy laughed. “It sounds as if Kennedy’s parents were really into presidents.”
Shelby looked confused and then laughed. “You know, I never put that together before, but you make a good point.”
Once our meals had been delivered, the conversation segued to topics of a general nature, such as the flowers the local craft store had planted in front of their shop and the new construction going on down by the park. It was nice to be sharing a casual meal with friends, and I was grateful that I’d thought to invite Amy to stay with us during the weeks we’d decided to close the inn. We weren’t originally planning to close during the construction, but since we really wanted to have the four new cottages available to rent this summer, my contractor, Lonnie Parker, convinced me that if we were looking for speed, it would be best to close the inn and allow his crew to extend their workday beyond the limited hours we’d agreed on. Amy had stayed with us multiple times in the past and didn’t mind a bit of dust and noise. We weren’t charging her for her stay, and in return, she didn’t expect regular meals or daily maid service.
Just as our meal was wrapping up, Colt texted to let me know that he was done for the day and would be heading out to the cottage. I shared that I had placed a to-go order for him and would head that way as soon as it came out. Georgia, Amy, and Shelby were ready to go as well. Dawson had agreed to try to trace the emails, but he wanted Georgia to bring her laptop in. It sounded as if Georgia, Amy, and Shelby planned to pick the laptop up and then come back into town, but I was looking forward to staying home and hearing about Colt’s day.
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