The Inn at Holiday Bay: Poison in the Pudding
A heartwarming cozy mystery series about losing everything, taking a chance, and starting again.
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 17 in the series, Abby joins Colt as he investigates the death of a local man who died after eating pudding dosed with poison during a community dinner. Was the man targeted or was the poison in the pudding a random act set into motion by a madman intent on murder?
Meanwhile, Thanksgiving is only a few days away and several guests who've visited the inn in the past return to spend the holiday with Abby, Georgia, and the rest of the Inn at Holiday Bay family. In addition to the return cast, a couple is looking for their runaway granddaughter and another is trying to make the best of things after tragedy struck his family.
Release date: November 16, 2021
Publisher: Kathi Daley Books
Print pages: 136
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The Inn at Holiday Bay: Poison in the Pudding
I felt certain that when the events committee for the town of Holiday Bay decided to throw a Thanksgiving dinner as a fundraiser for after-school arts and sports programs, they couldn’t have known it would end in the death of a highly respected Holiday Bay resident. In retrospect, I supposed that given the history of town-sponsored Thanksgiving events, the committee should have proceeded with caution, but a tragic end to a well-lived life in front of over a hundred witnesses wasn’t the sort of thing anyone could predict.
As I stood at the back of the room waiting for the men from the county to arrive, I had to wonder what exactly had occurred to leave the man dead. For the majority of the day, I’d been busy getting the food ready to serve, so I hadn’t been paying all that much attention to the guests, but everyone I’d spoken to since the death agreed that the mayor had seemed perfectly fine when he’d first arrived. He’d greeted the room, hung his jacket up, shook a few hands, and then began sampling the appetizers that had been set out for the meet and greet portion of the evening. As the large man with a voracious appetite liberally grazed on the various food offerings, he mingled with friends and generally looked to be having a wonderful time.
When it had been announced that dinner would be served and that everyone should take a seat for the five-course meal, the mayor sat down toward the center of one of the long tables. As everyone had, once the first course, consisting of festive pumpkin bisque, was served, he focused on his food. Shortly after the mayor had taken the first few bites of the creamy soup, he’d begun to slur his words, and after that, he grabbed his stomach, let out a loud groan, and began to sweat. He vomited quite explosively and then fell forward and landed face down in his bowl before anyone could react. My boyfriend, Police Chief Colt Wilder, had rushed over to the mayor, where he lifted his head from the bisque and wiped his face with a napkin. He took his pulse and then gently laid him on the floor. Once Colt confirmed that the mayor’s heart wasn’t beating, he’d begun doing compressions while Georgia’s boyfriend and my neighbor, Tanner Peyton, called 911.
When retold, it almost felt like the whole thing had happened in slow motion, but the truth of the matter was that the events unfolded very quickly. In reality, few people in the room even noticed anything was going on until after the man had passed.
“It looks like the guys from the county are here,” my best friend and business partner, Georgia Carter, whispered into my ear.
I glanced toward the front of the room, where four men dressed in neatly pressed uniforms casually wandered in. The tallest of the four men seemed to be in charge. I watched as he scanned the room as if looking for someone. After a moment, he said something to the slightly shorter and much plumper man next to him and headed in my direction. “Are you Abby Sullivan?” he asked in a deep voice that was so unique I wondered if he might have had a career doing voiceovers in Hollywood.
“Yes, I’m Abby. You must be Deputy Rayson.”
He smiled and nodded. “I was told you might be able to fill me in as to the whereabouts of Police Chief Wilder.”
I glanced to my left. “After Mayor Wallace fell face down in his soup, Chief Wilder ushered everyone next door to the Baptist church. He left me and my friends, Georgia Carter and Tanner Peyton, behind to make sure no one disturbed the scene while we waited for you to arrive.”
The man looked toward the long cafeteria-style table where the mayor had been sitting when he’d become ill. His body, covered with a white tablecloth, was laid out next to it. “Were you a witness to the death?”
“Not really. I was helping with the food, so I was in and out of the room during the course of the evening. I’d just delivered baskets of bread to the tables moments before Mayor Wallace was served the bisque, and I’d been in the room just as everyone sat down to dinner, but I wasn’t actually in the room when the mayor died. I did, however, come in immediately after the mayor fell forward. I watched Chief Wilder lay him on the floor and attempt to revive him, but he was already gone.”
He nodded as if satisfied with my response. “My men will take over at this point. You and your friends are free to join the others in the church.”
I nodded, and then Georgia, Tanner, and I headed next door as instructed. Georgia and I sat down on a pew in the back of the room while Tanner headed over to talk to my friend and contractor, Lonnie Parker. Since no one knew with any degree of certainty how Mayor Wallace had died, Colt had thought that it was imperative to speak to each and every dinner guest over the age of eighteen before releasing them to leave.
“This whole thing seems surreal,” I said to Georgia, who was busy wiping a smear of soup from the sleeve of the forest green dress she wore. “I saw the man sitting at the table with his face in his soup bowl with my own eyes, yet I still half expect him to walk through the doors at the back of the room any minute now.”
“Yeah.” Georgia sighed. “I still can’t figure out what happened. Admittedly, I was in the kitchen the entire time and didn’t actually witness the mayor’s movements leading up to his death, but based on what I’ve overheard, it doesn’t seem as if anything odd was going on.”
“I’ve asked several people who spoke to the man during the meet and greet portion of the evening, and they all seemed to agree that the mayor showed no signs of being ill,” I agreed.
One of the women who was sitting in the pew in front of Georgia and me turned around. “I spoke to the mayor just moments before we were all told to find a seat. He seemed perfectly fine. Jovial even. He told our group about a grant he’d been working on that would provide funds to help redevelop the older parts of town, and he seemed really excited about the direction his beautification plans were going. He certainly didn’t act like a man who was minutes away from death. I really can’t imagine what might have happened. Did the county guys say anything when they arrived?”
“No,” I answered. “The guys from the county didn’t say a thing. Of course, when I spoke to them, they hadn’t even had an opportunity to view the body yet. I imagine they’ll look around for possible clues as to what happened as well.”
“From where I was sitting, it looked like the guy was drunk,” another one of the women sitting in front of us said.
“Drunk?” I asked.
She nodded. “The mayor seemed fine when he first arrived, but after he sat down to dinner, I noticed that he’d begun slurring his words. He really looked bad. His face turned red, he seemed to be having a hard time breathing, and then he was sweating quite profusely. This all occurred over just a few minutes, so the change was dramatic, to say the least. My initial reaction was to assume that he was drunk and that the alcohol had taken a while to really hit him, but then he fell face forward in his soup, and I changed my diagnosis from drunk to a probable heart attack.”
“Do people normally vomit when they have a heart attack?” the first woman asked.
“I really don’t know,” the second woman answered, looking around the room. “What I do know is that this is going to take all night, and if the man did die of natural causes, then all of these interviews are completely unnecessary.”
I supposed the woman was correct in her assumption that we’d most likely be here for the long haul, but somehow complaining about a minor inconvenience seemed wrong when a man had just died.
“I heard the group sitting up in the front near the podium discussing the idea that perhaps the guy might have been poisoned,” a third woman commented after a brief pause in the conversation. “I’m not sure how that could happen, and I certainly can’t think of a single person who would want Mayor Wallace dead, but I will admit I’ve never seen anyone vomit quite as forcefully as the poor man did just before he died.”
Georgia raised a brow. “Poisoned?”
“In a way, it makes sense,” a woman wearing a brown wool coat added. “I know the two of you were working in the kitchen most of the evening, so you may not have seen everything that was going on, but shortly before the mayor fell forward, he grabbed his stomach, let out a groan, and then vomited. When you consider the intestinal upset, combined with the sweating and slurred speech, it seems that some sort of toxin might have come into play.”
“Where on earth would the mayor come into contact with a toxin capable of doing all that?” a woman in a red dress asked.
“I really don’t know,” the woman in the brown coat answered. “I’m just describing how things looked even though I have no idea how they came to be that way.”
The women continued to debate the issue as my good friend, Lacy Parker, was escorted out of the room where Colt had interviewed her. She said something to her husband, Lonnie, who headed in for his interview, and then she sat down with her six children in a nearby pew. The group of women who’d been sitting in front of us got up and went to join Lacy. They probably figured she’d have updated information since she’d just been in to speak to the police chief. Based on the looks of disappointment on the faces of the women who’d joined her, I suspected Lacy didn’t know anything more than the rest of us did.
“You don’t think someone actually murdered Mayor Wallace, do you?” Georgia asked after the women had walked away.
I frowned. “I hope not. I will admit that based on the sequence of events witnessed by others in attendance, it does appear possible that the man may have eaten something that made him ill, but I do think that nausea and even vomiting might be a symptom of a heart attack. I guess we’ll have to wait to see what Colt has to say about things. He probably has a much better idea than we do as to what actually led to the man’s death.”
I watched as Lonnie came out of the interview room after only a few minutes. He joined Lacy, who was still talking to the small group of women. They chatted for a while longer, and then Lacy gathered up her six children and headed toward the side door leading out to the parking area. Lonnie headed over to the pew where Georgia and I were sitting.
“Aren’t you going home with Lacy and the kids?” I asked.
He shook his head. “I’m not sure what’s going to need to be done at this point, but I decided to stay behind in the event Colt needs help with something. Annabelle,” he referred to my full-time employee, Jeremy Slater’s, niece, “is going to go home with Christy and Haley, which frees Jeremy and Mylie up to stay and help as well.”
Christy Baldwin was engaged to Pastor Noah Daniels, who was out of town today and hadn’t attended the dinner. Christy and her daughter, Haley, lived with Jeremy’s girlfriend, Mylie Sanders, so the two were close. I was sure that Annabelle would be quite happy spending the night with Christy and Haley, and I’d welcome Jeremy and Mylie’s help for whatever was to come.
“The guys from the county showed up,” I informed Lonnie. “I imagine they’ll take care of things next door, but I agree with you that Colt might need our help before this evening is over. Did Colt say anything to you about what he suspects might be going on?”
“No, he didn’t say anything. I guess he’s in full cop mode at this point, although he didn’t ask a lot of questions when I went in to speak to him. In fact, he only asked if I’d noticed anything unusual during the hour or so between when Mayor Wallace showed up at the dinner and when he died. I told him I hadn’t, and he told me I could go. I guess he knows where to find me if he has additional questions.”
Given the fact that Lonnie and Colt were best friends, I knew that to be true.
“It looks like Velma and Gilda are having a heated discussion,” I said as I watched Tanner wander over to speak to the owners of two of the most popular eateries in town.
“I spoke to Velma earlier, and she said it was her opinion that the mayor had been poisoned,” Lonnie informed Georgia and me.
“The women who were sitting in front of us when we first came over from next door were talking about the same thing,” Georgia said. “The thing is, if that’s what happened, how exactly did it happen? Mayor Wallace was eating soup when he fell face forward into his bowl. The soup was made in a communal pot and ladled into bowls just before it was served.”
“That means if the man was poisoned, it had to be the person who served the soup who added the poison,” I said as I tried to remember who’d served Mayor Wallace.
“What about before the soup was served?” Georgia asked. “Might the man have eaten something else that made him ill?”
After a brief moment, Lonnie answered. “When Mayor Wallace first arrived, he was working the room and talking to a variety of people. He was eating from the appetizer table, but I didn’t notice him eating anything that wasn’t being consumed by everyone else in the room. Of course, I wasn’t watching his movements the entire time. I suppose someone could have offered him something that had been tainted. Maybe a beverage. I’m afraid it’s going to be hard to pin down exactly when the man might have consumed poison, assuming that’s even what occurred.”
“Who was sitting next to Mayor Wallace at dinner?” I asked.
“Della Tollhouse,” Lonnie answered.
Della Tollhouse had been Mayor Wallace’s right-hand woman for years. Not only did she serve as his secretary, but she often served as a friend to the childless, unmarried, and at times lonely man.
“I’m not surprised Della made sure to claim her spot next to the mayor,” Georgia said. “I’ve heard talk that she hadn’t been getting along with the new assistant Mayor Wallace hired.”
“Assistant?” Lonnie asked. “I thought Della was his assistant.”
“I think this new woman, Laurinda Westinghouse, is more of a deputy mayor. She seems to be above Della in the pecking order,” Georgia informed Lonnie. “I don’t have all the details, but it sounds as if the mayor was looking to cut back on the number of hours he works each week, so he made a deal with the town to take a cut in pay if the town used the difference to hire someone to help him. Della has been Mayor Wallace’s secretary for years, but she doesn’t have the education to represent the town at council meetings and during contract negotiations.”
“Mayor Wallace was getting on in years, so I understand his desire to cut back a bit,” Lonnie said. “But Della has been queen bee for decades. I imagine the introduction of a new right-hand woman hasn’t set well with her at all.”
I found I had to agree with Lonnie. If Laurinda Westinghouse had been the one who’d died, I might even suspect Della, but Della adored the mayor. There was no way she’d ever hurt him.
I continued to watch the dinner guests file into and out of the room where Colt was conducting the interviews. I knew that it would be a while until he got around to interviewing Georgia and me. The longer we waited, the more anxiety I began to feel. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to feel that way.
“I really have a bad feeling about this,” Georgia said after the conversation lulled. “Since we brought up the idea of this being an intentional poisoning, I’ve been going over things in my mind. It really does seem that the only person who could have added something toxic to the soup, if that’s even what occurred, was the person who served it, and I’m certain the only servers we utilized were those kids from the high school.”
“You don’t think one of the kids…” Lonnie began.
“I hope not.” Georgia frowned. “This whole thing is just so bizarre.”
“We don’t know for certain that the mayor didn’t die of natural causes,” I pointed out. “I know everyone is talking about poison, and I suspect that rumor got started due to the nature of the vomiting and obvious abdominal pain, but we don’t really know whether or not vomiting and a heart attack go hand in hand. It seems to me that abdominal pain might actually be a symptom of heart failure.”
“Let’s look it up,” Georgia suggested, taking her cell phone out. She opened Google and typed in symptoms for a heart attack as the search phrase. The search engine came up with several answers. “It looks like pressure, tightness, pain, a localized squeezing sensation, nausea, abdominal pain, and shortness of breath are all symptoms.”
“So maybe nothing more than a heart attack has occurred,” I said. “If you really stop and think about it, any plan that might include poisoning a single person in a crowded room has to contain within it an extremely high degree of uncertainty.”
“Abby’s right,” Lonnie said. “What if someone did add poison to the soup only to find that the mayor didn’t like pumpkin bisque? What if he had passed his serving along to someone else after the poison was added to the bowl?”
“It does seem that if there actually was someone in the room who wanted the man dead they would have done things in such a way as to avoid putting everyone in attendance at risk.” I paused as Jeremy headed in our direction with his girlfriend, Mylie, and a guest at the inn I owned, Amy Hogan. “Did you get Annabelle off okay?” I asked Jeremy.
“Yeah, she’s going to spend the night with Haley. Mylie, Amy, and I plan to stay for the duration.”
“I’m sure Colt will appreciate that,” I said.
“Have you heard anything?” Georgia asked the trio who’d just joined us.
“Not really,” Jeremy said. “There are a lot of theories floating around, but I don’t think anyone actually knows anything.”
“I heard the rumor about the soup being poisoned, but I spoke to Velma and Gilda, and both agreed that there was no possible way the soup could have been tampered with,” Mylie added. “If the server added something to the soup between picking the bowl up in the kitchen and setting it down in front of Mayor Wallace, it seems unlikely that it would have killed the man so quickly. We’re only talking about a few minutes at the most. I will admit that I don’t know anything about poison, but doesn’t it take longer than that?”
I really wasn’t sure how long it would take for a toxic ingredient added to the soup to kill a person. I guessed that it would depend on what was added as well as the amount that was added in relation to the body mass of the person ingesting it. Mayor Wallace was a large man. He liked to eat, and he didn’t seem inclined to restrain himself despite his age. This lack of adherence to a stricter diet had caused a significant weight gain over the past several years, so as sad as it was, a heart attack, or another weight-related disease, seemed to have been inevitable at some point.
“I noticed Velma go in to talk to Colt,” Amy said. “Now that the adults with children, as well as the high school students who volunteered to serve, have been released, I think Colt plans to begin interviewing those who have been here the longest.”
“I didn’t get here until just before dinner,” Lonnie said. “Who showed up to volunteer this morning?”
“Georgia and I, along with Mylie and Amy, were here at eight a.m.,” I answered. “Velma and Gilda showed up shortly after one o’clock, and Christy came in shortly after that. Hazel Hawthorn,” I referred to a longtime local and frequent volunteer, “came by around three o’clock, and Serena Unger and Stephanie Thomas came by shortly after that.”
Lonnie looked around the room. “I don’t remember seeing Hazel here this evening.”
“She left shortly after Mayor Wallace died,” I informed him. “Poor Della was hysterical once she realized that Mayor Wallace wasn’t going to wake up. Hazel volunteered to take her home. Based on the hysteria Della displayed, I have a feeling Hazel likely stayed with her.”
“I guess if Colt wants to interview the two women, he can go by Della’s home,” Jeremy added.
“Did anyone else arrive early?” Lonnie asked.
I wasn’t sure why he felt that knowing when folks arrived was important, but I had a feeling we were going to be here for quite a while, so a conversation filler was appreciated.
“Riva Long was here early,” Georgia added, referring to the president of the local chamber of commerce. “And I remember seeing Shelby come in around four.” Shelby Morris and her two half-sisters had recently inherited a seaside mansion, and Shelby had permanently moved to Holiday Bay.
“I remember seeing Vanessa Blackstone come in early as well,” Mylie added. Vanessa was the owner of the local bookstore.
I watched as the couple who owned one of the local bakeries entered the room where Colt was conducting interviews. Velma, who’d just exited the room, stopped to say goodbye after her interview was completed. She shared that she felt terrible about leaving rather than staying to help, but she had a restaurant to open at six a.m., which required her to get up no later than four a.m.
The interviews continued, and as each resident was interviewed, they were allowed to leave. Most didn’t stop to talk to anyone as they grabbed their belongings and hurried out the door. Once most of the locals had dispersed, Tanner came over to where Georgia and I were sitting with the others. By the end of the evening, it was just Georgia, Tanner, Lonnie, Jeremy, Mylie, Amy, and me.
“I’m exhausted,” I said, stifling a yawn.
“Me too,” Georgia agreed.
“I’m sure Colt won’t mind if the two of you want to go,” Jeremy said. “You’ve both been here the longest.”
“No,” Georgia said. “I plan to stay as long as it takes for Colt to do whatever it is he still needs to do.”
“Me too,” I agreed.
Eventually, Colt entered the main room where we were waiting and sat down across from the seven of us.
“So?” I asked. “Did anyone say anything that might provide a clue as to what happened?”
“No.” Colt ran a hand through his hair. “Pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that Mayor Wallace showed up around six o’clock, which was when the meet and mingle portion of the evening commenced. He arrived alone and quickly began working the room. He spoke to a couple dozen people while everyone was mingling and eating the appetizers that had been set out. No one remembered the man arguing with anyone, and no one remembered him leaving the room. Of course, almost everyone admitted that they didn’t have eyes on him the entire time. No one knew that anything would happen, so everyone was simply paying attention to their own conversations.”
“Have you heard from the coroner?” I asked. It had, after all, been a few hours since the body had been taken away.
“He called just before I came to join you. He’s waiting for the lab results, but based on his initial examination of the body, he feels that the mayor most likely ingested a poison or toxin, which caused his heart to stop. He won’t know more until he completes his autopsy, but I should have a full report tomorrow.”
“So, did someone intentionally kill the man?” I asked, shocked at the idea.
“Perhaps. Keep in mind that the coroner has only examined the condition of the remains to make that determination. Once he gets the results of the bloodwork back, we’ll know more.”
“I noticed the crime scene guys from the county left around ten,” I said to Colt. “Are they done?”
He nodded. “They took a lot of photos, dusted for prints, and took samples of all the food. They did what they could to preserve any evidence that might have been left behind, but the reality is that with so many people in attendance, there wasn’t a lot for them to find other than the food samples, of course.”
“So, we can clean up?” I asked.
He nodded. “I’m sure it’s fine, but let me call and confirm before you get started.”
“You do realize that all the food we spent the entire day making is still sitting out in the kitchen, don’t you?” Georgia asked, stifling a yawn much the same way I’d been stifling yawns all evening. “I’m exhausted, but if we don’t dispose of the food and clean the dishes, it’s going to smell really bad in the community center by tomorrow.”
Everyone jumped in and agreed to help clean up. It was tempting to just leave it until the following day, but I knew we’d be glad we’d done it tonight when we awoke in the morning.
“Someone is going to need to get up early to prepare breakfast for our guests,” I said as we walked back toward the community center. I looked at Georgia and Jeremy. “One of you should head back.”
Both friends hesitated.
“I can take care of breakfast,” Amy said. “That’s if the two of you want to stay and help here.”
Amy was a guest, but she was also a chef, and she had helped in the past.
Georgia looked at me.
I shrugged. “Fine by me. I don’t care who makes breakfast as long as someone does.”
In the end, it was decided that Amy would take my SUV and head back to the inn. She’d take care of prepping for the following morning’s breakfast while Lonnie, Jeremy, Mylie, Georgia, Tanner, and I stayed behind to help get things cleaned up here this evening.
After Amy left, Colt returned from making his call to the county. He confirmed that it was okay to clean up and that he had permission to bag up all the uneaten food and set it aside for disposal.
“Let’s take our own photos before we begin,” he suggested. “I’d like photos of the kitchen as it sits now as well as all the tables. There may come a time where we need to look back and try to figure out where someone or something might have been at a specific point in time.”
We all took our cell phones out and began taking photos. There were bound to be multiple photos of the same things, but having multiple photos taken from differing perspectives wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It really was sad that the food Georgia and I had spent the day preparing would never be eaten. The turkeys, which were still sitting on trays on the counter waiting to be carved, were a gorgeous golden brown, and the mashed potatoes Amy had whipped up looked almost too good to eat.
Once photos of everything, including the tables set with seasonal centerpieces, had been taken, the six of us went to work cleaning up. There were a lot of dishes to do and a lot of food to dispose of. It was after three a.m. by the time the food was disposed of, and the kitchen was presentable.
“Does anyone know whose purse this is?” Lonnie asked after we’d cleaned up the majority of the mess.
“I think it’s Della’s,” Georgia said. “The way Hazel whisked her out of here. I doubt she had time to think about grabbing her purse.”
“I’ll take it to her this afternoon,” I offered. “I doubt she’ll be looking for it before then.”
“Do we need to clear out the food in the second refrigerator in the staff room at the back of the building?” Jeremy asked.
“No,” I said. “I don’t think anything in there is directly related to the Thanksgiving dinner. All the food for the dinner came in while Georgia and I were in the main kitchen. If there’s food in that back refrigerator, it was brought by staff and not related to the event.”
“Okay, then let’s head home,” Georgia suggested. “I’m exhausted.”
Jeremy gave Mylie a ride home, and Tanner went home with Georgia, so I headed back to Colt’s place with him. I figured he’d have a lot of work to do the following day, so I’d stay the night with him and then go home early in the morning.
“You spoke to most of the people who were in attendance this evening. Did anyone stand out as having a motive to want Mayor Wallace dead, assuming, of course, that he was poisoned and hadn’t simply had a heart attack?” I asked as we made our way through the dark town.
“No,” Colt answered, merging to the left. “Each person I spoke to seemed to be as shocked and appalled as everyone else was. The whole thing is bizarre. I honestly don’t even know where to start with this one. If the man was poisoned, it would seem that the most likely candidate to do the poisoning was the person who served the soup. I identified the student who handled that table as Joran Ellington, who swears that the only thing he did was to place the bowls of soup that he’d randomly taken from the kitchen in front of the men, women, and children who were sitting at the table that was assigned to him.”
I frowned. “You don’t think the poisoning was random, do you?”
Colt’s brow furrowed into a tight worry line. “I hope not. That would be even worse than a targeted attack.”
“I just don’t see how the killer pulled it off if, in fact, Mayor Wallace was the target and the server didn’t do it. I was in the kitchen when the soup was served. I think Amy was the person tasked with ladling the soup into bowls and then setting them on the long counter along the back of the room. The high school students were coming in, grabbing two bowls at a time, and then taking them out to the tables before returning for two more. Each long table had sixteen guests, so each student made eight trips. It was really very random. The pot of soup couldn’t have been tainted since Mayor Wallace was the only one to be affected. I suppose something could have been added to one of the bowls after Amy ladled the bisque into the bowl before it was served, but if that’s what happened, there wouldn’t have been any way to guarantee where any specific bowl would end up. The only two scenarios that make sense is either that the server added something after picking up the bowl from the kitchen or someone randomly poisoned one of the bowls after it had been filled, but before it had been delivered.”
“If it was a random attack, then I guess we’re looking at some sort of seriously deranged thrill killer,” Colt said, leaving the highway for the neighborhood in which he lived. “I really hope that is not what’s going on, although I can’t honestly think of a single person who would intentionally target and kill Mayor Wallace even if they found a way to do it. The guy was a politician, and it is true that he was involved in issues from time to time that have been known to cause controversy, but he’d been mayor for a long time, and it seems like everyone really liked him.”
“There was that whole thing with the new development up by Stillwater Lake,” I said, turning slightly. “Mayor Wallace did a good job attempting to keep everyone pacified with the process, but he did make a few enemies along the way. And then there was the new local tax that has been on the ballot the past two elections. So far, it hasn’t passed, but a group of residents has been diligently campaigning for the amenities that having the tax would allow the town to offer. I heard talk that the pro-tax committee has been leaning on Mayor Wallace to jump over to their side.”
Colt turned onto his street. “Yeah. I guess there is always something to get folks stirred up. And there have been changes down at town hall. Mayor Wallace hired that new assistant, and I know that while the woman seems perfectly lovely, there are those who see her presence as a wasted expense.” Colt pulled into his driveway and parked.
“I heard about the new hire, but I also heard that at least part of her salary is being covered by a salary decrease Mayor Wallace agreed to. Georgia said she heard that Della wasn’t thrilled to have to share her boss, but I doubt anyone would have too much of an issue with the mayor’s desire to cut back, especially since he was willing to cut his pay to help cover hers.”
“The reality is that nothing we’ve mentioned seems like a good enough reason to kill a man. In fact, all the issues we just spoke of really don’t equate to anything more than minor irritations.”
I had to agree with that. “If someone poisoned the man during a community-sponsored fundraising dinner, then the killer we’re dealing with was not acting from a place of logic and sanity. If Mayor Wallace was intentionally targeted and killed in such a random manner, then it seems to me that the person responsible for the killing might have a random motive as well.”
“I guess that’s true,” Colt agreed as we both got out of his vehicle and stumbled into the house. I kept pajamas, a toothbrush, and a couple changes of clothes at Colt’s place the way he kept stuff at my cottage.
“This really has me worried,” I said as I changed into my pj’s. “I’m horrified that the mayor is dead, but I’m even more horrified when I consider the idea that the substance that led to the man’s death might very well have been delivered in a random manner.”
Colt turned down the covers, and I climbed into the bed next to him. He put his arm around me and pulled me close to his body. “There isn’t anything we can do to figure this out at this moment. I’m going to suggest we both try to get some sleep and tackle this in the morning.”
“I guess you’re right,” I said, closing my eyes. Colt started snoring before I’d settled in the rest of the way, but even though I was fatigued, I tossed and turned for a while. Unfortunately, a mystery to be solved was just the sort of thing to occupy my imagination and ignite my insomnia.
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