When Hattie’s family approaches Brighton to take over the local bed and breakfast because they heard “she doesn’t have a job”, she’s not quite sure what to say. Then, they flash a stack of cash, and Brighton figures it can’t be all that bad. And it isn’t… until someone has to go and turn up dead.
The last thing Brighton expects is for convicted murderer Hattie’s sister, Lucy Driggs, the current Inn owner to come looking for her. Apparently, Cassidy who was running the Inn ran off with a bartender and left them with no notice. Brighton was recommended since she doesn’t work. To entice her to take the position, Lucy offers her ten thousand dollars in cash to cover her salary for the first month. After that her pay would be by check.
Brighton was trying to figure out what she wanted to do and decides this might be the answer, so she accepts. She starts the next morning and gets breakfast out and cleaned up before the housekeeper, Jessica arrives. She’s been cross trained by Cassidy, so she knows the routine.
Brighton has plans for the breakfasts, so she needs to clear out the freezer and offers what’s in there to Jessica. Jessica accepts since her brother is out of work and the food will last them a while. Her brother would come and get everything, and Brighton offers to pay for his time. That afternoon the guests checking in are a corporate retreat, and it seems they got started early on the bus the company rented. Jessica stays late to help get everyone checked in and safely to their rooms. The last one to check in is the CEO Jack Maynard, and he’s not exactly pleasant, wanting to know if she ‘got the stuff’. Turns out he was expecting a package of candies from Prue’s to be waiting for him. Fortunately, Jessica was aware, and the package was in the pantry.
Arriving the next morning to cook up the new menu, the first thing she notices is the smell. Meri tells her not to freak as she turns on the light to find Jack Maynard dead on the kitchen floor.
What a way to start a new job. Gunner lets her leave to get breakfast and coffee for the guests at the Bubble and Brew. This way the guests might be more receptive to answering the questions that would be coming their way.
When she returns, Gunner tells her she can come back once the coroner is finished with the scene. So, she heads over to see Annika. He finds her there and let’s her know the search left a bit of a mess.
This is a favorite scene.
I’d expected a mess, but when I got back to the inn, I was shocked. They’d completely torn the place apart. Even the guest rooms were wrecked.
Jessica came down the stairs while I was in the office picking up papers that had been strewn all over the floor. She immediately knelt down and helped me collect them all.
“Do you still want my brother to come today?” she asked softly. “I can tell him it’s not a good day.”
“No, of course you should have him come. He can start on the landscaping I was thinking about, if he doesn’t mind, and we might need him to move some heavy stuff around in here too.”
I didn’t need her brother to help me move the furniture and appliances the deputies had displaced, but I couldn’t do magic in front of Jessica. We were in for a long day of actual hard labor, but perhaps I could use a little magic if I split us up into separate parts of the inn.
“All right, I’ll text him. I’d sent him a text earlier to wait until he heard word from me.”
Once she was back upstairs cleaning the guest rooms, I did use magic to sort the papers. There was no way I was going through all of that by hand. With that task accomplished, I headed into the kitchen.
The fridge was moved halfway out of its spot, but at least they’d left it plugged in. I opened it up and checked the temperature. It was still cold, and all of the groceries I’d purchased were good.
While I was scooting the stove back into place, I heard it. A loud thump from upstairs that sounded like a body falling on the floor. It was right above the kitchen.
“Jessica?” I called out.
“What the heck?”
“You want me to go check it out?” Meri asked.
“You have to remember not to talk while we’re here,” I said. “Someone could always be around the corner.”
“You can come with me. I’m going up.”
I walked up the stairs quickly and found the room that I thought was above the kitchen. There was no one in there, and while it was a mess, I didn’t see anything body-sized that could have been dropped by… the wind? If it wasn’t Jessica, then what had made the noise?
Then, I heard the thump again, but this time it came from below me in the kitchen. So I ran back down the stairs and into the kitchen. It was empty. After rushing down the basement steps and finding no one in the old rooms, I knew.
A ghost who was making such loud noises was either trying to get my attention or they were angry. It could have been both.
I was about to go check on Jessica when I heard someone stumbling down the main stairs. Their foot slid across the riser, and then thumped onto the one below.
Half expecting to see nothing when I went out there, I was surprised it was Jessica. “I wasn’t thinking,” she said. “I don’t feel so good.”
At first I didn’t recognize what was in her hand, but I quickly realized it was the box of licorice. Jessica held it out to me, and I took it.
In that short span of time, she went from looking as white as a ghost to a sickly shade of green. Something was wrong with the licorice.
“Come sit down,” I said and led her over to one of the catawampus sofas in the parlor area.
As she sat down, I called dispatch. “I need an ambulance at the Coventry Inn. I think she’s been poisoned, please hurry.”
“Do you know what kind of poison?” the dispatcher asked. “I can get poison control on the line.”
“I don’t have any idea,” I said. “Please send Gunner over here too.”
The ambulance took almost fifteen minutes to get to us, and by the time they arrived, Jessica was unconscious, and her breathing was very shallow. She would have been dead, but while we were alone, I’d used what healing magic I could. Her brother had arrived just after I’d done my spell, and he ended up going with her in the ambulance.
“She was eating these,” I said and handed the box to Gunner.
“Do you need a sample?” Gunner asked the paramedic stabilizing Jessica.
“They’ll test her blood.”
“Okay, I’ll have these in evidence lockup.”
The paramedic just gave him a nod and then closed the ambulance door. I found myself holding my breath as it pulled away. All I could do was hope the magic was enough. Or wait, I could do more.
“Excuse me for one moment,” I said to Gunner.
“I need to talk to you,” he responded.
“I know, just one second.”
I retreated into the bathroom so he wouldn’t follow me, and I called Remy.
“Hey, Sweetie. Are you doing okay?”
“Oh, man. I assume you heard?”
“Yeah, I was going to call you here in a bit. I knew you’d be dealing with a lot and I didn’t want to interfere.”
“It’s okay, but I do need something.”
“Anything,” Remy said.
“I think the victim was poisoned, and for some reason, the deputies didn’t take the candies that poisoned him when they did the search. My housekeeper here at the inn ate some of them. She said she wasn’t thinking. Anyway, she’s in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. I did what healing magic I could to keep her alive, but I don’t know if it was enough. I might have just bought her enough time to die at the hospital.”
“I’ll get one of the Aunties to go,” Remy said. “Don’t worry, Brighton. We’ll make sure she’s fine.”
“Love you,” I said.
“Love you too.”
I felt a lot better knowing that one of the Aunties would go work their healing magic on Jessica. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in the doctors, but if the poison in those candies were what killed Jack, it was a gruesome death.
“Better?” Gunner asked when I emerged from the bathroom.
“Much,” I said. “Sorry, I just needed a moment to collect myself.”
“So, she ate these candies, and that’s when she got sick?” Gunner asked.
“It appears that way. She came down the steps saying she didn’t feel well and handed them to me. By the time the ambulance got here, she was unconscious and barely breathing. Jessica said she wasn’t thinking.”
“What was she doing at the time?”
“I was down here, but I assume cleaning the victim’s room. I wonder if she was just in the groove cleaning and popped one in her mouth, without thinking, like she said.”
“I’m going to have to have a talk with my deputies. I can’t believe they just left something like this behind given the cause of death.”
“So, it was poison?” I asked.
I knew Gunner wouldn’t want to talk about the case with me, but we were already on a roll. I just had to keep him talking.
“The coroner won’t know until they get the toxicology back, but he said it looked like poison. There weren’t any other obvious signs that would point to another cause of death.”
“Interesting,” I said.
Gunner bristled. Oops, he’d realized he’d been talking to me.
“Where did the candies come from?”
“They were here when I started working. Jessica found them in the pantry when Mr. Maynard checked in. It was a special request he made to the owner, but specifically, they came from Prue’s Chocolate Treasures.”
“I’m going to have to have a talk with Mrs. Jenkins. Thank you,” Gunner said. “Stay out of this.”
“Yes, sir,” I said, but I had no intention of staying out of it.
Bourgeois, Sara. Wicked Witches of Coventry: Books One – Eleven. Kindle Locations (9320-9376). Kindle Edition.
Not only was there a mess but as she’s cleaning Jessica eats one of the candies from Prue’s that was left in the victim’s room. Turns out they are poisoned, and Jessica is rushed to the hospital. This corresponds with the preliminary findings of the coroner.
Brighton is surprised when Gunner approaches her the next day to talk about the case. He figures she has the knowledge of the town and the people to maybe point him to some suspects, but he doesn’t want her interfering.
Two more people show up in Coventry, Mrs. Maynard who wants to stay in her late husband’s room and Lucy who’s ranting and raving about Jack’s murder and the effect it will have on the Inn.
This one is pretty straightforward until it’s not. Did not see that coming.
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Sara Bourgeois is a Midwesterner through and through. She spends her time writing, reading, herding cats, and standing in her driveway during tornado warnings. (You can’t see them from the basement.)