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 20 in the series, It's Halloween in Holiday Bay and the whole town has pitched in to ensure that the Harvest Festival is the best one ever. As they do every year, Abby, Georgia, and Jeremy have planned several Halloween themed events for the Inn, which will take place alongside the events hosted by other merchants in town. Things are right on track and expectations are high until the body of a close friend and coworker is found tucked in amongst the vines in the pumpkin patch.
Release date: October 4, 2022
Publisher: Kathi Daley Books
Print pages: 144
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The Inn at Holiday Bay: Pawn in the Pumpkin Patch
Halloween in Holiday Bay, as with all the major holidays, is embraced with energy and enthusiasm as like-minded individuals come together with the intent of celebrating every aspect of the annual event. For my best friend and inn manager, Georgia Carter, and me, the arrival of the Halloween season brought its own kind of madness. A good kind of madness, but madness all the same.
“Georgia, Abby,” bar and restaurant owner, Shelby Morris, greeted us after we walked into the community center from the festively decorated courtyard between the building and the parking area. “I hoped you’d be here today.” She turned to the woman on her left. “Have you met Hadley?”
“No. I don’t think so.” I held out a hand in greeting.
“Hadley Harrison, this is Abby Sullivan and Georgia Carter. Abby owns the Inn at Holiday Bay, and Georgia runs the place,” Shelby explained.
“I’m so happy to meet you both,” Hadley said as she shook each of our hands. “I haven’t had the opportunity to drive out to the inn, but a few folks I’ve spoken to since arriving in town have told me that you have the ultimate location.”
“We do have a very nice spot on the bluff,” I confirmed.
Shelby then turned her attention back toward Georgia and me. “Are you here to talk about the Harvest Festival being held out at the inn?”
“We are,” Georgia confirmed.
“The Inn at Holiday Bay sponsors an annual Harvest Festival with a beer garden, wine tasting, pumpkin patch, and all sorts of kiddie events,” Shelby explained to Hadley. “It usually serves to kick off the holiday season.”
“It sounds fun,” Hadley said with a tone of enthusiasm and a smile. “I’ve always wanted to go to a pumpkin patch, and I certainly wouldn’t say no to attending a wine tasting.”
“Hadley is new to town, so this will be her first holiday in Holiday Bay,” Shelby explained. “She came into the Bistro looking for a job, and we got to talking. She has a lot of good ideas, so somewhere between the interview and her filling out the new hire paperwork, I convinced her to come to this meeting with me.”
“The event committee is always happy to receive any help we can get,” I confirmed, welcoming the short woman with expressive gray eyes, a pert nose, and long brown hair pulled back into a ponytail.
“It’s going to be such a busy month for all of us,” Shelby said, tucking a lock of her dark red hair behind one ear. “You have the Harvest Festival out at the inn on the twenty-second, and I have the Haunted Bistro on the twenty-eighth and twenty-ninth. And I hear there’s a new event this year as well. Some sort of running competition.”
“A marathon on the fifteenth and a Halloween fun run on the sixteenth,” Georgia, who loved to run, answered.
“Is it true that the fun run is a costume thing?” Shelby asked.
Georgia nodded. “The event really is more about fun than competition. I think prizes will be offered for the best costume, scariest costume, and that sort of thing, in addition to the ribbons given to those runners who place in the top tier in their age group. I’ve chatted with some folks in town and have been told that this event is going to be for runners and walkers of all ages.”
“It sounds as if kids, dogs, seniors, and even folks with strollers and on bikes plan to enter the race, so in a way, it’ll be more of a parade,” I added.
“That sounds like a lot of fun,” Hadley said with a genuine tone of enthusiasm. “I love to run. In fact, one of the first things Shelby and I chatted about after the basic employment information was disseminated was our love of running.”
“I’ve been so busy since buying the Bistro that I’ve barely run at all, but Hadley and I are going to meet three times a week and run together,” Shelby informed us.
“That sounds like fun,” Georgia said. “If you want to come out to the bluff once a week, I’ll run with you. I wish I could say I had time to meet up with you in town, but things have been busy at the inn all summer, and I don’t seem to be able to sneak away the way I used to.”
Shelby and Hadley both agreed that heading out to the bluff to run was a great idea. As for me, I liked to walk, but I’d never been able to get into running.
My good friend, Lacy Parker, waved at me from across the room, so I left Georgia with Shelby and Hadley and headed in her direction. Even though Lacy had six children and ran her own business refurbishing furniture, she seemed to be right in the middle of almost every volunteer opportunity. She was a focused and organized woman with a real knack for juggling several projects.
“I was hoping you’d be here today,” she said after giving me a brief hug. “Evangeline is going to suggest to the committee that we skip the kiddie carnival this year since the crafters need to use the community center on the same weekend the carnival is normally held. My kids, and many others, have been looking forward to the kiddie carnival all year, so I plan to speak out against canceling the carnival, and I could use some support. I noticed there seems to be a disproportionate number of crafters here today.”
“Why do the crafters need to use the community center on the same weekend as the kiddie carnival?” I asked. “Don’t they hold their event the week before the kiddie carnival?”
“They have in the past, but I guess the community center will be closed for a couple of weeks while they paint the place, so the only weekend in October available for community events is the last one. The crafters want to move their event to the end of the month since the building will be unavailable in the middle of the month, but the kiddie carnival and costume contest are normally held in the community center the last weekend in October.” Lacy sent an angry glare toward the woman sitting in the front row, waiting for the meeting to begin. “Evangeline is going to argue that the craft fair produces more revenue for the town than the kiddie carnival, which I guess it does, but the carnival isn’t designed to produce income so much as to provide entertainment for the youth of the area. Evangeline is also going to argue that there are plenty of events in town designed to entertain children while the crafters have been working all year on the merchandise they plan to sell to the throngs of tourists who come through, and since this group has a financial investment, they should be given priority if there’s a conflict.”
I had to admit that I didn’t necessarily disagree with the crafters. I knew several locals who had spent a lot of time creating the products they planned to sell to the visitors who blanketed the area every October. One woman, in particular, made the most adorable handmade Christmas stockings, and I knew it took her months to build up her inventory. It would be a shame if the craft fair was canceled.
“There must be another building that can be used by one group or the other. How about the high school?” I suggested.
“The crafters want to be right here in the center of town, which I guess I understand.” Lacy paused. “I guess we could move the kiddie carnival to the high school, but it might not be available. Isn’t homecoming that weekend?”
Actually, I was pretty sure that Lacy was correct about homecoming falling on the same weekend as the Halloween Festival. I seemed to remember my friend, Nikki Peyton, complaining that she was going to miss the big game this year since homecoming was the same weekend as the Haunted Bistro, which, as an employee of the Bistro, she was obligated to help with.
“What about setting up the kiddie carnival in the park?” I asked.
“The community picnic, pumpkin carving, pet adoption clinic, and chili cookoff are scheduled for the park. If we add the kiddie carnival on top of those events, there will be a parking issue. Although,” she said, “we could have folks park at the elementary school and then use school buses to shuttle folks over.”
“That seems like a good plan. And it might be nice to have the kiddie carnival set up right there in the middle of things.”
Lacy glanced at Evangeline, gave her a final glare, and then agreed to suggest the park with shuttle service as an alternative to canceling the event. If I had to guess, there was more going on between Lacy and Evangeline than a scheduling conflict since Lacy was generally even-tempered, but I decided not to open that particular can of worms by asking about it.
“Who’s that guy Peach is talking to?” Lacy asked me about my boyfriend, Police Chief Colt Wilders’ receptionist and right-hand woman, Peach Sherwood. Peach had worked at the police station since before I’d moved to Holiday Bay, and I guessed you could say that we knew each other well, but I had noticed a shift in her personality as of late.
“His name is Max,” I answered. “I don’t know his last name. Peach just calls him Max.”
“Are they dating?” Lacy wondered.
I shrugged. “I guess they might be. The whole thing is somewhat confusing. Max is new to town. I guess he’s only been here a month or maybe even less than that. Maybe three weeks. I’m not sure how Peach even met the guy since Max appears to be more than a decade younger than Peach, who I believe is around forty-five. Initially, I had the impression the two were just friends, but Colt mentioned that he’d seen Peach and Max kissing. He also said that Peach has been late to work a handful of times in the past couple of weeks, which she’s never been before. In his opinion, her tardiness was due to time spent with the new man in her life.”
“So, are they sleeping together?”
I shrugged. “I’m not sure, but Colt seems to think that it’s a possibility.”
I had to admit that Peach and Max didn’t seem like a likely pair. On the one hand, Peach was a middle-aged woman with a rounded figure and purple hair. She’s sweet and quirky and looks after Colt as if he’s her son. She has an oftentimes abrasive personality, and while she isn’t the sort to keep her opinions to herself, most residents know that she’s a real sweetheart beneath the outspoken exterior and simply accept her at face value.
On the other hand, Max was tall and muscular with a boyish face and longish blond hair and looked as if he couldn’t be older than thirty. If I had to guess, Max wasn’t the sort to have trouble getting any woman he wanted, so why hook up with Peach, who was practically old enough to be his mother?
I observed the pair as Max spoke to a man around his age, standing next to them. Peach stood perfectly still as Max chatted with the tall stranger whose dark hair and olive skin gave him a striking look that even had me taking a second glance. As the two men conversed, I noticed that Peach seemed to spend most of her time staring at the floor. If her body language was any indication, I’d say that Peach had taken a submissive role in the relationship. Again, I had to wonder why.
“I heard from Vanessa at the bookstore that Peach has been acting odd since Max has been on the scene,” I commented.
“What did she mean by odd?” Lacy asked.
“Vanessa said that she went into the police station to ask about the permit she’d need to hold an outdoor book signing, and Peach snapped at her and told her that she needed to file online like everyone else. Vanessa said she was taken aback since, while you can apply online, Vanessa has always gone in and discussed her book signings with Peach in person, and until this time, Peach has always been more than happy to help her get what she needed.”
“It isn’t like Peach to be short with people,” Lacy agreed. “Maybe she was having a bad day or didn’t feel well.”
“Vanessa thought it might be something like that as well, so she stopped by the next day with flowers she’d picked from her garden, and Peach told her that she was allergic. Now we all know that Peach isn’t allergic to flowers. She has fresh flowers on her desk most of the time, even in the winter. Vanessa asked Peach if everything was okay, and she assured her everything was fine, but Vanessa said there were dark circles under her eyes. It looked as if she hadn’t been sleeping well. When Vanessa asked Colt about it, he told her that he’d tried to talk to Peach, but Peach was shutting him out, so he let it go. Colt said that Peach has been late a few times, but she’s basically been doing her job, so he didn’t have reason to force the issue. At this point, Colt’s hoping that whatever is going on will work itself out.”
“Wow. I hope Peach is okay,” Lacy said. “Maybe I’ll stop by and try to talk to her tomorrow. Maybe we can go to lunch or something.”
“I think that might be a good idea,” I said. “Peach really seems to like you, so she might talk to you, although you should probably go into this with the idea that she may not.”
The event coordinator called the meeting to order, so Lacy and I took our seats. When Evangeline brought up the crafters using the community center the last weekend of the month, Lacy suggested moving the kiddie carnival to the park. As predicted, the problem with parking was brought up, so Lacy suggested using school buses to provide shuttles. Everyone present seemed to approve of the idea, so the new plan was voted on and accepted.
Once the meeting was over, Georgia and I headed back toward the inn.
“Do we have any check-ins today?” I asked as we made the trip east.
“Brit’s uncle, George, will be checking in for two weeks,” Georgia informed me. Brit Baxter was a part-time resident of Holiday Bay, Maine, and a part-time resident of Gull Island, South Carolina, who’d leased one of our new cottages for the entire summer. Brit had plans to return to South Carolina for the winter, so her uncle had decided to come for a visit before she left.
“That’s nice. I’ll enjoy visiting with George. He’s such an interesting man. It sounds as if other than George, there aren’t a lot of arrivals and departures this weekend.”
She shook her head. “Other than George checking in tomorrow, I only know of two other check-ins this weekend, and both are checking into cottages. Once they check in, I think we’re pretty steady until Monday. The couple from Vermont will be with us through the weekend, as will the two couples from Boston,” Georgia continued. “I think the family from Wisconsin has decided to stay through Monday as well, and Cristo will be with us for the remainder of the month. Next week, however, is another story entirely. Other than Cristo, all of the suites in the inn will have new guests checking in at some point during the week.”
“Has Cristo confirmed that he will need the suite for the entire month?” I asked.
“No, he paid in advance for the first half of the month, and he has the option to stay beyond that up through Halloween, if necessary. If his project comes together quicker than he’s anticipating and he won’t need the suite for the entire month, I have a long waiting list of folks who’d love to spend time with us during leaf season.”
“It sounds like it will work out fine for us either way. I have to say that Cristo is an interesting guy. I hope he shares more about his project with us before he checks out. His mysterious approach to it has me curious.”
“Yeah, so far, he’s been pretty tight-lipped,” Georgia agreed.
Cristo Gravestone was an older gentleman who’d shared with us that he’d retired from his job with the post office to become a treasure hunter. He was probably around sixty-five, still fit, and very handsome. His dark hair and eyes gave him an exotic look, while his tendency to keep to himself provided an air of mystery. I’d had a couple short conversations with the man since he’d been with us, and I had to admit that his life sounded interesting. Apparently, he’d worked for the post office until approximately twenty years ago, when someone close to him died. He didn’t mention who’d died, but I suspected it might have been a wife or significant other. After this unnamed individual died, Cristo quit his job and devoted himself to tracking down lost treasure from around the world. I wasn’t exactly sure about his success rate, but he had reserved a suite at the inn for an entire month, so he must have done okay.
“So who do we have checking into the cottages other than George?” I asked after a brief lag in the conversation.
“One of the two-bedroom cottages has been reserved by two cousins from North Carolina. From what I understand, the women’s grandmother recently passed away. She left each of her two granddaughters a valuable piece of jewelry in her will. Unfortunately, the will’s wording simply stated that the jewelry had been safely tucked away in Cassandra’s special place. Cassandra was the cousin’s great-grandmother. She passed away in nineteen fifty-two, long before either woman was even born.”
“And the cousins have no idea where Cassandra’s special place is located,” I stated.
Georgia shook her head. “I spoke to Hilde when she made the reservation, and she told me that she and her cousin, Gwen, have looked and looked for the jewelry with no luck. Prior to her death, their grandmother, Iris, had been dealing with memory issues, and while it’s Hilde’s opinion that her grandmother likely thought that she’d shared the location of Cassandra’s special place with one or both cousins, both women are sure she hadn’t.”
“And what about Iris’s children? Hilde and Gwen’s mother or father.”
“Hilde’s mother, Sue, died in a car accident a few years ago, and Gwen’s father, Carl, divorced her mother and pretty much disappeared. Hilde believes she and Gwen inherited the jewelry because Iris left her house and most of her other assets to her son, Marshall, and while Sue and Carl were not named in the will, she wanted to leave something of value to her granddaughters.”
“Okay, let me see if I have this straight. Iris is Cassandra’s daughter. Iris had three children. Her son, Marshall, inherited the house; her daughter and Hilde’s mother, Sue, passed away; and her other son and Gwen’s father, Carl, divorced his wife and took off. Hilde and Gwen are Iris’s granddaughters, and each inherited a valuable piece of jewelry.”
“Yes. That’s what I believe to be true. As I mentioned, Hilde told me that she and Gwen had totally searched the house, which now belongs to their uncle, Marshall. Despite their best efforts, they’ve been unable to find the necklaces, which are apparently worth over a hundred grand each.”
“Wow, is right.”
“So why exactly are they coming to Holiday Bay?” I realized that the conversation had veered off in another direction from where it had started at some point.
“Apparently, Tuesday would have been Cassandra’s hundredth birthday had she lived. The thing I find to be most interesting is that she died in our inn back when Jasper and Joslyn Jones used the inn as a resort.”
“And Hilde and her cousin, Gwen, are coming to Holiday Bay to honor their great grandmother on the centennial of her birth.”
“They are. Hilde and Gwen also plan to do a séance while they’re here.”
Georgia nodded. “According to the cousins, they’ve decided that contacting Cassandra and asking her where her special place might be located is the only hope they have of recovering the jewelry. They discussed it and decided that their best bet of making contact would be to hire a professional medium to come to the inn Tuesday night and try to make contact. We discussed the best location for the séance and decided that the room Cassandra died in would be best. Of course, the room the woman stayed in when she passed no longer exists, but we determined the closest location to the room where the woman died would be the library.”
“Do we know how Cassandra died?” I asked.
“She had a heart issue that Hilde believes had been genetic. Iris was only three years old when her mother died. I guess she stayed home with her father while her mother came to the resort to swim in the pool with its purported healing powers. It obviously didn’t work.”
“That’s sad. I hate to think of children growing up without their parents. I’m not sure I believe in the power of séances, but I’m fine with your plans to help these women. I look forward to meeting them.”
“It should be interesting,” Georgia agreed.
“I do wonder, however, how it is that Iris even knew of a place special to her mother. I kind of doubt she’d remember a special place if her mother died when she was only three. Yet for Iris to have hidden the jewelry in her mother’s special place, she would have had to know of its existence.”
Georgia shrugged. “I suppose Iris’s father could have told her about a spot special to her mother.”
I supposed that might have been the case. “And the other cottage?”
“A woman and her niece are checking into the other cottage. I guess the woman’s sister is going through a nasty divorce, so our guest plans to bring her niece to Holiday Bay while her parents deal with courts and attorneys.”
“Divorce is tough. I think the aunt had a good idea to get her niece out of the middle of things. How old is the niece?”
“Ten. I figure the niece should be close enough in age to Annabelle that hopefully, the two will get along.”
“Sounds like a full weekend. Maybe we should go to the pumpkin patch tomorrow,” I suggested. “I spoke to Jeremy, and he and Mylie plan to dig in and get the decorating done this weekend, so it would be good to have pumpkins to work with.”
Jeremy Slater and Mylie Sanders were employees, residents, and good friends.
“I’m up for a trip to the pumpkin patch,” Georgia said. “In fact, I’m available all weekend. Tanner is going to be out of town until Wednesday or Thursday of next week.”
“So, are you going to be alone in the house?” I asked.
Georgia frowned. “I will be. When Tanner asked me to move in with him, it felt right, especially with Nikki moving into town, but when he’s away, it’s just me in that big old house.”
“You can stay in your old room in the cottage if you want. I haven’t done anything to the space, so it’s just as you left it.”
“I’d like that. As long as you don’t think Colt will mind.”
“The cottage is still my space,” I reminded Georgia. “And while Colt does stay over a lot, he still has his house and stays there sometimes as well. If Tanner is gone, I really want you to stay at the cottage. It will be fun. Besides, Colt’s family is in town for a few days, and he’s been staying at his place anyway.”
“Okay. Then Ramos and I will plan on it. In fact, I’ll just bring a bag with me when I come to work tomorrow.”
“We can go to the pumpkin patch and select some uniquely shaped ones for decorations, plus we can order what we need for the pumpkin patch we’ll set up for the Harvest Festival. Then we can have lunch in town and maybe join in and help Jeremy and Mylie with the decorations.”
“I’m looking forward to it,” Georgia said. “Once we get into next week, we’ll be booked solid until after Halloween, so I guess we should take advantage of the downtime while we have it.”
“I agree with that. It’s going to be a busy holiday season. Part of me is looking forward to the quiet days of winter, but I do love this time of the year. There’s so much going on, and the weather is just about perfect.”
“I did hear there might be a storm brewing in the Atlantic,” Georgia shared. “Of course, it may not organize enough to reach land, and even if it does, it may not make it this far north.”
“Are we talking a serious storm?” I asked.
She shrugged. “It’s hard to say. I watched the Weather Channel, and all they’re saying at this point is that there’s a developing system they’re keeping an eye on, and it may affect the northern coastline. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”
I supposed that really was all we could do. Once we arrived at the inn, Georgia headed into the kitchen to start baking, and I headed to my cottage. My huge Maine Coon, Rufus, pounced on me from atop the refrigerator when I walked into the tiny kitchen off the living area.
“What are you doing up there?” I asked the large cat as I picked him up and cuddled him to my chest. “You’ve never been a climber before, but it seems as if you’ve been climbing up on everything lately.”
“Are you bored? Do you need to get out for a walk? The temperature has dropped quite a bit in the past few days, so it isn’t nearly as hot as it has been.”
The cat began to struggle, so I set him on the floor. Not only had Rufus been climbing up on anything that would give him height inside the cottage, but I’d caught him on the mantel in the inn and on the highest bookshelves in the library on several occasions. He wasn’t really hurting anything, but he was a heavy cat. I didn’t want him jumping down onto one of our guests, so I supposed if I couldn’t break him of the habit, I’d have to keep him out of the inn, which I hated to do since he did so love visiting with everyone, and most of the time, our guests loved visiting with the friendly cat as well.
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