Murder Ties the Knot (Haunted Souvenir Shop)

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9780425279243: Murder Ties the Knot (Haunted Souvenir Shop)
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A Haunted Souvenir Shop Mystery from the author of Murder Sends a Postcard--featuring Down-Home Dinner Menus.

It’s winter in Keyhole Bay, Florida, and while the tourist trade is slow, souvenir shop owner Glory Martine is busy with her best friend’s wedding. But between managing preparations, the bride’s in-laws, and a haunted parrot named Bluebeard, Glory makes plans to catch a killer.

As her friends Karen and Riley approach their wedding day, Glory could use a break from the nuptial madness. She takes a peaceful drive to Alabama’s piney woods to pick up the wedding quilt she ordered from a supplier. But the supplier, Beth, has disappeared along with the quilt and her husband, Everett.

Glory learns that two men were found murdered near Beth and Everett’s home and that the couple is wanted for questioning. Believing they are innocent, Glory convinces them to cooperate with authorities. But when they’re thrown in jail, Glory vows to catch the real killer before one happy couple walks down the aisle and another gets sent up the river.

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About the Author:

Christy Fifield is a pen name of Christina F. York. Chris lives on the rugged Oregon coast, with her husband and fellow writer, J. Steven York. She is the author of the Haunted Souvenir Shop Mysteries (Murder Sends a Postcard, Murder Hooks a Mermaid, Murder Buys a T-Shirt).

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1

I stood in the center of my small living room, struggling to remain motionless. I wore a dark green satin dress that clung to me in an unfamiliar way, and tottered on a pair of matching heels far higher than anything I had ever owned.

The sliding door to my miniscule balcony was open a crack, letting in a cool, late afternoon breeze. It was early November, and in the Florida Panhandle that meant seventy degree days. The temperature was dropping and I would have to close the door soon, but for now I welcomed the slight chill. It helped soothe my nerves, and I wasn’t the only one with an attack of nerves.

My furniture had been pushed back to clear the center of the room, and Keyhole Bay’s radio star, Karen “The Voice of the Shores” Freed, paced like a caged animal.

“Glory! Stand still,” Karen snapped. Normally I would find the contrast between her actions and her words amusing. But this wasn’t a normal day.

I sighed, not even trying to hide my exasperation. Ever since I agreed to be her maid of honor, my so-called best friend had started channeling every bad bride I’d ever seen. And as the owner of a gift shop in the Florida Panhandle, I’d seen plenty of them on “destination” weekends, bossing their bridesmaids around and generally acting like what my memaw called “donkeys in horses’ harness.”

“Seriously, Martine?” Karen said, her chestnut curls shaking in disbelief. “This poor woman is trying to mark the hem of your dress, and you can’t stop fidgeting.” She waved at her former and future mother-in-law, on her knees in front of me.

To her credit, Mrs. Freed just laughed. “Easy, Karen,” she cautioned. “Glory already did this for you once, if you’ll remember. Not many friends would do it twice.”

Karen reached down and hugged the older woman. “And not many women would be lucky enough to get you for a mother-in-law. Twice.” She took a deep breath and backed away. “I think I’ll go get us some coffee, okay?”

Mrs. Freed nodded, distracted by the heavy green satin that pooled around my ankles. “Go on,” she said around a mouthful of pins. “I’ll be finished by the time you get back.”

Karen shot me a last warning glance and hurried down the stairs that led from the small apartment to the gift shop below.

True to her word, Mrs. Freed finished pinning the hem and I was comfortably back in my jeans and polo shirt by the time Karen returned.

She carried a cardboard tray of paper coffee cups and a white bakery bag from Lighthouse Coffee next door. Setting the coffee on the kitchen table, she held the bag out to Mrs. Freed. “I really appreciate what you’re doing,” she said. “And Pansy says to tell you hello.”

Mrs. Freed opened the bag and sniffed appreciatively. “Lordy, that woman knows her way around a cruller, doesn’t she?” She took a shiny glazed twist and passed me the bag.

Still warm, the pastry was irresistible.

“Careful,” Karen commanded. “You still need to fit into that dress.”

“Do we really need to do all this?” I knew I was whining, but Karen’s wedding was still six weeks away. A lot could happen in that time.

“Glory!” Karen’s impatience with me was evident in her voice. “We had to book the church a year ago, and the florist wanted more than six months.

“Weddings take time,” she said, as though that was a real answer.

“They don’t have to,” I argued. “People get married without all this,” I searched for a description, and came up with one of Memaw’s favorites, “fuss and feathers.”

I knew better than to continue, but I couldn’t stop myself. “It’s only Monday. You and Riley could go to the courthouse tomorrow, get your license, and get married on Friday. Or we could get on a plane tomorrow morning, fly to Las Vegas, and you’d be married before suppertime.”

“And my mother would never forgive me.” She shook her head. “I did the no-fuss thing the first time I married Riley, remember? Maid of honor and best man as witnesses, with a justice of the peace. I think my mom was still holding a grudge when we got divorced. So we better do it right this time.”

I followed Karen and Mrs. Freed down the stairs to the shop. It was time for my assistant Julie to leave, and I had to relieve her.

We all hugged Mrs. Freed good-bye, then Julie dashed out to retrieve her toddler from Grandma. Anita Nelson doted on Rose Ann, and one of these days she hoped to retire and keep her only grandchild full-time. But that day wasn’t today, or likely very soon.

“Besides,” I continued once Karen and I were alone, “your mother is three thousand miles away.”

“Not for long,” she shot back. “She decided she’s needed, and she’s planning to come for a month before the wedding.”

“What about the latest stepdad? Doesn’t he have a say?”

“That’s the worst of it,” she moaned. “He’s coming with her! Remember she said he was some high mucky-muck in the Navy? He was in charge of that base up in Washington state or something like that. I figured that would keep them there.”

I just nodded. No sense trying to get a word in while Karen was on a roll.

“Well, he might be transferring to Pensacola.” She groaned. “Can you believe it? She wouldn’t just be in the same state, she’d be in the same county.”

Karen paced through the store, dodging around the merchandise shelves and T-shirt racks. I cringed as she waved her arms in distress, imagining a display of mugs and shot glasses crashing to the floor. To my amazement she managed not to knock anything over.

“@!^$#%%$#!!” The string of curses startled Karen, stopping her mid-rant.

“Sorry, Bluebeard,” she muttered.

Bluebeard ruffled his feathers and fixed one beady eye on her. He ruled the roost, and we all knew it.

The parrot had been here longer than any of us, after all. I’d inherited him with my 55 percent of Southern Treasures. Along with him, I’d inherited the ghost of Great-Uncle Louis Georges, the previous owner of my shop.

Uncle Louis had definite opinions about how things should be, and he sometimes used Bluebeard to express his disapproval. In fact, you could say Uncle Louis specialized in meddling in my life. A lot.

“Sorry,” Karen repeated, offering him a shredded-wheat biscuit from the tin underneath his perch.

The treat bought her a temporary reprieve from Bluebeard’s glare, and she turned back to me.

“I do want her to be happy,” she said. “Really. But can’t she be happy somewhere far away from me? Isn’t Admiral What’s-His-Name enough?”

“Is he really an admiral?” I asked. I didn’t think she’d ever told me anything about Stepdad Number Three, except that he was in the Navy.

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “She met him a few months ago, and the next thing I knew she called me from Hawaii saying they got married on the beach.”

“So why can’t you do the same thing?”

Karen rolled her eyes. “Haven’t you been listening? I never had a ‘real’ wedding, according to her. She’s had two—three if you count the one on the cruise ship—and she didn’t want this one to be a big deal.

“Besides, if anyone is going to run off and get married, it should be Felipe and Ernie.”

She had me there. Our friends couldn’t get married in the state of Florida, though I hoped that would change someday. I raised one hand in surrender. “Do what you have to. I’ll do my part.” I thought for a minute before I continued. “But if I ever get married, Vegas is looking pretty good.”

Karen’s eyes narrowed. “Is there something you aren’t telling me? Something I ought to know?”

I shook my head. “No.”

“You sure?”

I shook my head again. My relationship with Jake Robinson had become closer over the last year, but wedding plans were a long way off. I wanted to survive Karen’s wedding before I even considered the possibility.

And I’d meant what I said about Las Vegas; an elopement might be more my style.

Chapter 2

By Thursday morning, I had shoved Karen’s question to a dark corner of my mind and slammed a heavy door on it. I didn’t want to think about anything wedding-related. I was spending the day with Jake, and I just wanted to enjoy our time together.

Julie was watching the store, and Jake had a clerk who could run Beach Books on a quiet weekday. We didn’t often get the same day off, but we’d planned this one several weeks ago.

We headed north in my pickup. The truck was old, a 1949 Ford with a complicated history. Lovingly restored, the truck had once belonged to Uncle Louis, and had come “home” when my old Civic got torched. Elegant gold script on the doors and tailgate made it a rolling advertisement for my shop.

Besides, it was just darned cool to ride around in.

We took the back roads between the fields of scattered farms, and past the crossroads gas stations and tiny stores. Our pace was slow, but it felt right. Driving the vintage truck on the old farm roads felt like we’d gone back sixty years, as long as you ignored the occasional satellite dish and the signs that read “Speed Limit Enforced by Aircraft.”

“Is the quilt supposed to be ready?” Jake asked as we neared the Alabama border.

“I’m not sure,” I answered, watching for the brightly painted fence that marked the turnoff.

The fence stood out in an area of dusty split rails and sagging wire. I didn’t know why the owner kept the posts and rails painted in rainbow hues, but I appreciated the landmark.

I turned off the two-lane highway onto a dusty road that wound through the trees. “Beth told me to check after the first of the month.”

“You could have called her,” he said.

“Yeah, but where’s the fun in that?” I shot him a quick grin before turning my attention back to the winding dirt track. I tried not to think about what the dust was doing to my beautiful truck. I’d wash her just as soon as we were back in Keyhole Bay.

“Besides,” I said, slowing for yet another curve, “this way I get to do some treasure hunting on the way back.”

From the corner of my eye, I could see Jake’s nod. “As long as I get lunch,” he teased. He’d seen me stash a picnic hamper behind the seat before we left.

I laughed. “You had Pansy fill your thermos with coffee, and I know there were at least three muffins in that bag when you got in the truck.” I gestured at the crumpled white pastry bag in the litter sack hanging from the radio knob. “I only ate one of them.”

He quickly changed the subject. “Are you sure it’s okay to just drop in?” He gestured out the windshield at the empty road. Trees closed in on either side, forming a shield for houses hidden down narrow dirt paths. The only evidence of human habitation was the occasional dilapidated mailbox at the side of the road. “Doesn’t look like the kind of place where visitors show up unannounced.”

“She’s expecting me,” I said, with more confidence than I felt. The truth was that we had settled on a date, but when I’d called Beth to remind her of my visit, I’d just gotten her voice mail.

She hadn’t returned my call, or the two others I’d made in the last couple days. Which made me more determined to check up on her. I’d made a sizeable deposit on the wedding quilt Jake and I had commissioned for Karen and Riley, and the wedding date was fast approaching.

I slowed to a crawl, watching for Beth’s mailbox on the right. I spotted it, a tin box painted like a log-cabin quilt on a carved wood post, and turned down the washboard driveway.

Around a sweeping curve about a quarter mile off the road, we spotted the weathered cottage. I didn’t see Beth’s car, but since they only had one, it was possible her husband had taken it somewhere.

“What do they do out here?” Jake asked, swiveling his head to take in our surroundings.

The cottage, little more than a clapboard shack, sat in a clearing surrounded by scrub pine, live oak, and several other species of trees I didn’t immediately recognize. A few yards from the cottage stood a low shed, several times larger than the house. The wide doors of the shed were closed and locked with a heavy padlock. Next to the shed, an oil drum hinted at the presence of a generator, a common sight in the backwoods where power lines didn’t reach.

“Whatever makes them happy.” I shrugged. “She sews and quilts for cash, and he makes furniture. They have a garden around back, grow a lot of their own food. I think they even keep a few chickens for eggs. They told me they wanted to get ‘off the grid’ and live off the land. All very romantic and idealistic.” I smiled and added, “Which is great when you’re twenty.”

Jake chuckled. “You mean you don’t want to go back to the land? Get away from it all?”

“From what?” I shot back. “Indoor plumbing? Air-conditioning? The best coffee in the Panhandle right next door?” I shook my head. “I was born in the twentieth century for a reason.”

I looked toward the cottage, wondering why no one had emerged to greet us. Beth must have heard us drive up.

I stuffed the keys in my pocket and opened the door. “Maybe we better go find Beth,” I said. “So we can get back to civilization and find you some food before you starve.”

Jake followed me up onto the front porch. I knocked on the door and waited, but no one answered. I knocked again, and called out, “Beth! It’s Glory Martine. You around?”

Silence.

We waited a few minutes more, knocking and calling without any response. We left the porch and walked around the cabin. Maybe Beth and Everett were out in the garden, though I couldn’t imagine why they hadn’t heard us, or answered our calls.

Something moved in the woods beyond our view, and I jumped. It was faint, little more than the rustle of leaves, but there was no wind. Undoubtedly an animal, probably a deer startled by our intrusion, or a cat looking for a way into the henhouse.

Whatever it was, I was getting spooked over nothing.

Finally, I had to admit the place was deserted. I even checked the front door, but like the shed, it was firmly locked, and curtains were drawn closed over all the windows.

We climbed back in the truck and Jake looked at me. He raised his brows in question, but waited for me to speak.

“She knew I was coming. We set this up several weeks ago.” I tried not to sound defensive. “Something must have come up.”

Jake nodded, one corner of his mouth quirked up in the hint of a grin. “Clearly,” he said. “Looks like we aren’t going to pick up a quilt today. So how about we find a place to eat and go gather some treasures?”

I was reluctant to leave without finding Beth, but I had to admit I had no idea where else to look. There weren’t any close neighbors, and the couple had only been here a year or so, not long enough to make many friends in this isolated area. Besides, as Jake had pointed out, this wasn’t a place to just go wandering onto someone’s property.

Without a reason to stay, I started the truck, turned around in the hard-packed clearing, and headed back the way we’d come, along the dirt road. We hadn’t seen another vehicle the entire time we were off the highway, which was probably just as well since the road was too narrow for two cars to pass each other.

We reached the county road and turned back toward the highway.

Once ...

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Book Description Berkley Books, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. A Haunted Souvenir Shop Mystery from the author of Murder Sends a Postcard--featuring Down-Home Dinner Menus. It's winter in Keyhole Bay, Florida, and while the tourist trade is slow, souvenir shop owner Glory Martine is busy with her best friend's wedding. But between managing preparations, the bride's in-laws, and a haunted parrot named Bluebeard, Glory makes plans to catch a killer. As her friends Karen and Riley approach their wedding day, Glory could use a break from the nuptial madness. She takes a peaceful drive to Alabama's piney woods to pick up the wedding quilt she ordered from a supplier. But the supplier, Beth, has disappeared along with the quilt and her husband, Everett. Glory learns that two men were found murdered near Beth and Everett's home and that the couple is wanted for questioning. Believing they are innocent, Glory convinces them to cooperate with authorities. But when they're thrown in jail, Glory vows to catch the real killer before one happy couple walks down the aisle and another gets sent up the river. Seller Inventory # AAS9780425279243

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Book Description Berkley Books, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. A Haunted Souvenir Shop Mystery from the author of Murder Sends a Postcard--featuring Down-Home Dinner Menus. It's winter in Keyhole Bay, Florida, and while the tourist trade is slow, souvenir shop owner Glory Martine is busy with her best friend's wedding. But between managing preparations, the bride's in-laws, and a haunted parrot named Bluebeard, Glory makes plans to catch a killer. As her friends Karen and Riley approach their wedding day, Glory could use a break from the nuptial madness. She takes a peaceful drive to Alabama's piney woods to pick up the wedding quilt she ordered from a supplier. But the supplier, Beth, has disappeared along with the quilt and her husband, Everett. Glory learns that two men were found murdered near Beth and Everett's home and that the couple is wanted for questioning. Believing they are innocent, Glory convinces them to cooperate with authorities. But when they're thrown in jail, Glory vows to catch the real killer before one happy couple walks down the aisle and another gets sent up the river. Seller Inventory # BTE9780425279243

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Book Description Berkley Books, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. A Haunted Souvenir Shop Mystery from the author of Murder Sends a Postcard--featuring Down-Home Dinner Menus. It's winter in Keyhole Bay, Florida, and while the tourist trade is slow, souvenir shop owner Glory Martine is busy with her best friend's wedding. But between managing preparations, the bride's in-laws, and a haunted parrot named Bluebeard, Glory makes plans to catch a killer. As her friends Karen and Riley approach their wedding day, Glory could use a break from the nuptial madness. She takes a peaceful drive to Alabama's piney woods to pick up the wedding quilt she ordered from a supplier. But the supplier, Beth, has disappeared along with the quilt and her husband, Everett. Glory learns that two men were found murdered near Beth and Everett's home and that the couple is wanted for questioning. Believing they are innocent, Glory convinces them to cooperate with authorities. But when they're thrown in jail, Glory vows to catch the real killer before one happy couple walks down the aisle and another gets sent up the river. Seller Inventory # AAS9780425279243

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