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 12 in the series, Lacy takes over as director for the local Thanksgiving Pageant after the director they had appointed is bitten by a snake. The pageant seems to have met with bad luck from the beginning but when the star is found dead in the trap-room Abby becomes convinced the entire production is cursed.
Meanwhile new guests check into the inn including three half sisters, all the same age, who never even knew of the existence of their half siblings prior to the reading of their grandmother's will. Their grandmother left each granddaughter a third of her extensive fortune but in order to collect the inheritance the sisters must work together to find answers and make decisions in the ten days allotted them to do so.
Release date: November 3, 2020
Publisher: Kathi Daley Books
Print pages: 207
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Turkey in the Trap-Room
“Someone cue the turkey,” my good friend, Lacy Parker, yelled as she tried admirably to salvage what she could from the fragments left after a series of truly bizarre incidents had plagued the annual Thanksgiving Pageant.
“The turkey is MIA,” someone called back as the first of a series of dress rehearsals Lacy had prayed would go off without a hitch, segued from astonishingly strange to downright bizarre.
“MIA? What do you mean, MIA?” she yelled back toward the voice beyond the curtain.
“I mean gone. As in, absent from his cage. Nada. No more. Missing,” the voice responded.
Lacy put her hands over her face. It looked as if she was on the verge of tears, but I suspected she was simply trying to regain a bit of control over the outburst I was sure had been building all evening.
“Abby,” she called, lowering her hands to her sides. “Abby Sullivan, are you here?”
“I’m here,” I said, taking a step from behind the heavy red curtain where I’d been watching the rehearsal.
She blew out a breath. “It seems that Tom has flown the coop. Do you think you can look around and see if you can find him?”
“Sure. No problem,” I answered. I figured I was here for one reason and one reason only — to help Lacy get through the next couple of weeks with at least a remnant of the sanity she’d started out with when she took on this project.
“I left his cage in the storage room next to the cast room, so he should be in that general vicinity.”
“Oh, and see what happened to the cornstalks. I told the boys to stay put and wait for their cue, but they seem to have flown the coop as well.”
“Okay. I’ll look for them too. Anything else before I leave?”
“Check in with Ariella and make sure she’s feeling better.” She wrinkled her nose. “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen puke in quite that color before.”
I suppressed a smile. I suspected that Ariella had been bogarting all the green jelly beans that Lacy had brought to use as a nonperishable representation of a green vegetable presented on the first Thanksgiving table, which was probably what was behind the projectile vomiting.
“I’ll check on her,” I said before turning and heading toward the hallway that led to a series of storage and dressing rooms as well as the cast bathrooms, prop room, and rehearsal stage. Deciding to check to make sure the bird actually was missing and not just lounging in his cage, I headed toward the storage room that had been used to house the large foul. As I expected, Tom’s cage was empty, and the door leading out of the room and into the hallway had been left partially open.
“Here turkey,” I called, hoping he was just hiding behind one of the dozens of stacks of boxes in the room. “Are you hiding? It’s time for your grand entry. Here turkey, turkey,” I cooed.
Once I confirmed that Tom was, in fact, not in the room and was, as Lacy suggested, MIA, I headed to check on Ariella. She’d been resting in the room we’d been using as a cast room. “Hey, there,” I greeted the ten-year-old who was curled up on a cot. “Feeling better?”
“A little,” she groaned, still holding her stomach. “I think I ate too many peas.”
“They weren’t peas; they were jelly beans. I think we both know that.”
“Mrs. Parker called them peas,” she argued.
“The jelly beans represented peas and were being used as a prop. I don’t think anyone was supposed to actually eat them.”
“Then I guess someone should have said as much,” she shot back.
I smiled. Ariella was about as precocious and cheeky as they came. I really liked that about her. “Yeah, I guess someone should have.” I looked around the room. “Have you seen Tom? He seems to be missing.”
She shook her head. “No. I haven’t seen him. Did you check with Ricky? I saw him in the storage room, messing around with his cage earlier.”
“I haven’t talked to Ricky, but I will. Thanks for the tip.” I paused before I left. “Do you want me to call your mother?”
“No, she’ll be mad that I ate the peas. I’ll just lay here for a while longer, and then I’ll return to rehearsal.”
“Okay. If you need anything or change your mind about going home, just let me know.”
After I left the cast room, I returned to the long dark hallway and began opening each door. For the tenth time in as many days, I had to wonder if curses were real, and, if they were, I suspected that someone high up the food chain for the annual production of the Thanksgiving Pageant had royally ticked someone off. Rehearsals for the annual event had been underway for the past two weeks, but during that time, it seemed like everything that could go wrong had gone wrong. It began with a nasty flu bug that had taken a third of the cast out after only four days of rehearsal, and had culminated this evening when a section of overhead lighting had fallen. It hadn’t hurt anyone, but it really could have been catastrophic. I had to admit that I was worried about what might happen next.
As I walked down the hallway, I listened intently for any sign of the bird, which, if you ask me, had been a bad idea from the get-go. When I heard rustling behind door number three, I found Ricky, Robby, Timmy, and Joshua using arrows as lightsabers. The boys had made a mess while playing in the admittedly interesting room filled with props, and my first instinct was to launch into a tirade about following directions, but they were still dressed in their cornstalk costumes, and they really did look adorable.
“Hey,” I said in as stern a voice as I could muster. “Didn’t I hear Mrs. Parker tell you to stay put and wait for your cue?”
“We got bored,” Robby said.
“Being bored is part of the Thanksgiving Pageant experience,” I assured them. “Now put those arrows back and hightail it to the stage.”
“Yes, Miss Sullivan.”
“Wait.” I looked at Ricky but addressed all the boys. “Have any of you seen Tom? He seems to have escaped.”
“Ricky let him out,” Joshua tattled.
“He was feeling dizzy and needed air,” Ricky defended his actions.
“There was air in the cage,” Joshua argued.
“But not enough.”
“Do you know where he went?” I asked, wondering what sort of insanity had possessed Lacy to cast so many children in this production.
All the boys agreed that Tom had been walking around close to where his cage was the last time they’d seen him. They had no idea where he might have gone off to after that point. Rather than sending the boys back toward the front of the theater, I decided to deliver them myself. After making sure that Lacy had them in hand, I stopped to talk to the assistant director, who was the one who had reported the bird missing in the first place. She told me that she’d planned to head back to the storage room to fetch the bird when the scene in which he would be utilized was imminent. When she arrived at the cage, she found it empty. She’d hurried back to the front of the building to let Lacy know what was going on and had just made her way to the stage where the majority of the cast had congregated when Lacy had called for the turkey to be cued.
That’s where I came in.
After I double-checked to make sure the boys were still with the group Lacy had assembled, I returned to the hallway and continued my search for Tom. The bird wasn’t exactly tiny and should be easy to find, but there was a lot of stuff stacked pretty much everywhere, making the search much harder. As I silently looked through each dark room along the hallway, I cursed the helpful volunteer who’d suggested using a live turkey in the first place. Not only did it seem problematic to use livestock in any local pageant, but using a live bird in a pageant that had been riddled with accidents almost since day one was truly insane.
What had Lacy been thinking?
I’d tried to talk her into using a prop rather than a real bird, but after she’d been asked to replace the director who’d been bitten by a very poisonous snake that had somehow found its way into the costume closet, she’d announced that this year’s pageant was going to be the best one ever. She’d gone more than just a bit overboard trying to achieve her goal.
“Here turkey, turkey, turkey,” I called after entering the rehearsal room, which was actually a second stage used for rehearsals when the main stage was occupied. The room was only a portion of the size of the main theater and was comprised of a small stage and a single row of seats for a few spectators. It was a good place to go over your lines, and I knew when the annual magic show came to town, the magicians took turns using the room to perfect their acts.
I supposed that Tom could be in any one of hundreds of places, but the door to this room was closed when I arrived, so I doubted he was in here. I was about to turn around and head back down the hallway when I heard a noise. Standing still, I looked around the room. I didn’t see anything, but with all the props, sets, and boxes stacked around the perimeter of the stage, there were tons of secluded and dark places to hide. As I’d headed toward the doorway, I heard a scratching sound.
I slowly made my way around the room, using the flashlight app on my phone to look behind things so as not to scare Tom off if he did happen to be hiding nearby. I know turkeys look all cute and cuddly, but the turkey Lacy had procured for the play was a mean gobbler, and I was afraid if I startled him, the dang bird would leap out and attack me.
After I’d looked pretty much everywhere, I was about to give up when once again, I heard a scratching sound.
“Tom?” I called out in a slightly louder voice than I had the first time. “Are you here?”
Of course, he didn’t reply, but the scratching continued this time and had gotten louder. I walked across the stage, trying to isolate the origin of the noise, which seemed to get louder toward the center. Despite the noise, it seemed unlikely the bird was in the same vicinity as the scratching sound seemed to originate from since there was nothing to camouflage the dang bird out here in the middle of the stage.
Maybe the sound had carried. I looked around and still didn’t see a thing. I closed my eyes and listened. It really did sound like I was standing right on top of the noise.
“The trap-room,” I said aloud to myself.
I took several steps toward the trap door used by the magicians who occasionally practiced here and was rewarded with the sight of Tom waving his wings, pacing, and making quite a ruckus.
“How on earth did you get down there?” It was clear that someone had put the bird in the little escape room under the stage. There was no way he’d lifted the trap door and crawled down on his own. I watched as the turkey walked in circles while I decided what to do. Simply reaching in and grabbing him seemed like an injury waiting to happen. I supposed I could head back to the cast room and find a blanket to toss over him. Once I’d secured a barrier between my arms and his claws, I could lift him out. I was trying to decide whether or not I should close the door while I went for the blanket when I noticed something, or I supposed I should say someone, in the room with the bird. Upon closer examination, I could see that the someone with the bird was not only a very dead someone, but a local attorney who’d been moonlighting this November as the very handsome Miles Standish for the holiday production of The First Thanksgiving at Holiday Bay.
“Dashwood Hollander was the attorney I spoke to the other day about the Rosewood sisters,” Georgia informed me after I’d filled her in on the final curtain call of the night.
“They’re the sisters who share a father but have never met either the father or each other, yet are about to share an inheritance.” I verified. We’d settled in to wait for my boyfriend, Police Chief Colt Wilder, who’d promised to come by to get my statement after he finished up at the theater.
She nodded. “Hollander called and spoke to me a few weeks ago. He wanted to know if I could arrange for three suites close in proximity to each other, yet isolated enough from the other guests to ensure privacy. A family who’d initially booked rooms for a family reunion had to cancel due to a medical crisis in the family, so I had three open suites for the dates he requested. I was going to start calling folks on the waiting list in order to fill the rooms, but Hollander’s story was so interesting that I decided to move things around and rent the suites to him instead.”
“I remember that you mentioned that you planned to rearrange things so the sisters could have suites four, five, and six. They will also have exclusive use of the sitting room on the third floor between suites four and five.”
“That’s right,” Georgia confirmed. “The sisters, who are all twenty-four years old, were born during the same twelve-month period, yet on different dates and to different women. According to Hollander, none of the sisters had ever met their father, and Hollander wasn’t certain if they even knew about each other. But despite the very odd setup, their paternal grandmother, Henrietta Rosewood, who happened to have been a very wealthy woman, remembered her three granddaughters in her will. Hollander didn’t say how much they would inherit, but he made it sound like it would be a substantial amount.”
“Do the sisters know why they’ve been summoned to Holiday Bay?”
“I’m not sure how much they know,” Georgia answered. “They must know enough since they all seem to have been willing to drop everything and come to Holiday Bay for ten days. I’m not sure if Hollander explained about the sisters and the codicil.”
“Apparently, there’s a codicil to the will requiring each of the named heirs to show up in person to make their claim. If they don’t show up in person, they forfeit their share of the estate, which, as I mentioned, appears to be substantial. In addition to showing up, there’s some sort of project the three sisters must work on together before the funds they’ve inherited will be released. Hollander was vague about what the project entailed, but he did want to make sure that the sisters would have easy access to each other and a private place to meet and work. When I told him about the three suites on the top two floors as well as the private seating area, he thought that was ideal. He wrote me a check for the entire ten days he needed to rent the space, and he even included a nice bonus for our staff.”
“That’s wonderful.” I frowned. “Or at least it was wonderful. I wonder what will happen now that Hollander is dead.”
Georgia frowned. “I don’t know how things will be handled now that Hollander is dead, but the three sisters are due to arrive tomorrow, so I hope his office figures something out before then.”
“I’m sure they will. Do you know the sisters’ names?” I asked.
She nodded. “Shelby Morris will be booked into suite six, Sage Wilson will be in suite five, and Sierra Danielson will be in suite four. I don’t know much about each sister since I haven’t spoken to any of them. I guess once they arrive, we can get the rest of the story.”
I knew that Georgia generally made a point of getting some background information on each guest at the time of booking. Doing so helped her get a feel for the guest, which allowed her to provide a personal lodging experience.
“So, do we know what happened to the father?” I asked. “Is he still in the picture?”
“I don’t know,” Georgia admitted. “All I was told was that the man fathered three daughters twenty-four years ago, but that he’d never had a relationship of any sort with any of them or their mothers. I don’t know if he’s dead or alive at this point, although it seems if he was alive, he might be entitled to his mother’s estate.”
“Unless she specifically excluded him.”
“I suppose that might be the case.
I got up and poured myself a cup of coffee. “I love a mystery, and a mystery involving a rich old woman and grandchildren she’d never met is fascinating. As for the project, I imagine she must have felt it was important that the sisters meet and get to know one another. Requiring them to work on some sort of project together before they get their inheritance should satisfy her desire. It will be fun to see if they are alike or all really different, both in terms of looks and personalities.”
“They share a father, but they do have different mothers and were brought up totally differently, so I suppose it could go either way.”
“The interaction between sisters who have never met should be interesting.”
Georgia smiled. “It does sound like the plot for a fun movie.” She paused and then frowned. “You don’t think that the death of the attorney is in any way related to the sisters or the grandmother’s will, do you?”
Now it was my turn to frown. “I hope not.” I paused and then continued. “I mean, it seems sort of unlikely. The sisters aren’t even here yet. I really can’t see why anyone would kill the man who simply represented the grandmother’s estate.”
“Yeah, I guess it is unlikely. Still, the timing is odd.”
I had to agree with that. “I wonder if the sisters know what happened. If they do, I wonder if they’re still coming.”
“I hope so. If I had to guess, Hollander had someone in place to take over his active cases in the event of his death. The sisters may not have even been notified. It’s not like they care who they work with. As far as I know, they’ve never met Hollander.”
“True, but they probably spoke to him on the phone and are expecting to work with him,” Georgia pointed out.
“Perhaps. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens, but I suspect the reading of the grandmother’s Last Will and Testament will proceed as planned.”
Georgia got up from the sofa in front of the fire where we’d been sitting and headed toward the little kitchen in our cottage. “Top off on your coffee?” she asked.
“No, I’m good.”
She nodded and poured herself a cup.
“How did dinner go?” I asked about the dinner Georgia had prepared for the guests currently staying at the inn I owned, and she ran.
“It was fine. We only have three rooms booked tonight. The couple from Newark had dinner in town, and the Valentines went to have dinner with their son, so it was just the Nordstroms tonight. I served them in their room, which is what they requested after learning that they were the only guests in residence this evening. Annabelle had soccer, so Jeremy decided they’d just go out for pizza after. I fed the Nordstroms, came back to the cottage, and heated up some of that leftover split pea soup. Are you hungry? Do you want anything?”
I got up. “I think I’ll just make a sandwich. Colt should be here soon, and I don’t want to bother with anything that will take a lot of prep work or clean up.” I opened the refrigerator to view the options. “Are the Nordstroms with us for the weekend?”
“No. All three couples are checking out tomorrow morning. The Valentines talked about extending, but then their son convinced them it might be best to just come back for a longer stay closer to Christmas. I got the feeling there was some tension in the relationship.”
“I suppose that happens. It’s a good thing they’re trying to work it out.”
“Yeah. The couple seems to be trying.”
“Any other arrivals tomorrow?”
“Just the sisters. We may get a walk-in, but at this point, the sisters are our only guests until Thursday.”
Georgia sat down at the kitchen counter, so I took my sandwich to the counter and slid onto the stool beside her.
“I had lunch with Tanner today,” Georgia shared. Tanner Peyton was Georgia’s boyfriend. “He wanted to know if we all wanted to have Thanksgiving dinner at his place. I know that if we dine with him, we’d need to figure something out with the guests, but it would be nice to be able to sit down and let someone else serve the meal.”
“If Tanner is willing to eat late, I think we can make it work. Last year, we served the meal for our guests early, and then provided leftovers for anyone who was hungry later. I don’t see why we can’t do that again. We’ll let the guests know that Thanksgiving Dinner will be served at four and that the pies will be left out on the sideboard along with coffee and maybe a few other treats the guests can help themselves to. Dinner should be over and the kitchen cleaned up by six, so if Tanner wants to eat around seven, that should work. Do you know who he’s planning to invite?”
“Everyone. Nikki will be there, and she has a new boyfriend she wants to invite. He also plans to invite Jeremy, Mylie, and Annabelle, as well as Noah, Christy, and Haley. He mentioned Velma and Royce, and you and Colt, of course. He even talked about inviting Lonnie and Lacy, but they usually have parents’ homes to visit, but I think he still plans to invite them just in case they want to come by when they are done with the family visits.”
“Let’s do it,” I said.
Georgia smiled. “Great. I’ll let Tanner know.” She looked toward the drive. “It sounds like Colt’s here. I wonder what he found out.”
As it turned out, Colt didn’t know a lot. He knew that Dashwood Hollander had been hit from behind with a blunt object. The blow to the head had been hard enough to kill him, but probably not right away, although he may have been knocked unconscious right away. It appeared that someone dumped him in the trap-room and then cleaned up any blood or other bodily fluids that would have been left on the floor. He hadn’t been dead long when I found him. I remembered seeing him arrive after rehearsal had already begun. He’d come in through the front entrance and poked his head in, apologized for being late, and then headed down the hallway. He said something about needing to change his clothes. Lacy told Colt that she’d been working on a scene that hadn’t involved Miles Standish, so when he finally showed up, she’d waved at him but otherwise had paid him little attention.
I verified that Dashwood showing up, poking his head in, and then disappearing was what I remembered as well.
“So someone there at the theater killed him,” Georgia said.
“It looks that way,” Colt confirmed.
Georgia looked at me. “How many people were just hanging around?”
“Quite a few,” I said. “Lacy was working with a group of kids who were playing the children of either the Pilgrims or the Native Americans. A few of the adults were in the scene in the beginning, but then a group of kids wandered off, and the scene she was working on when she asked me to find the turkey only included children playing specific roles. There were a bunch of adults mingling around. Most were watching from the seats normally reserved for the audience until a scene they were to participate in was called.”
“Did you see anyone in the hallway or rooms when you went to look for the bird?” Colt asked.
“Ariella had been sick earlier in the evening, so she was lying down in the cast room. I went in to check on her, and then I found Ricky, Robby, Timmy, and Joshua playing in the prop room. I escorted them back to the front of the building. Other than the five children, no, I didn’t see anyone in the hallway or any of the rooms while I was searching for the bird. Although…”
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