Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Excerpt from the cozy mystery Murder in Cottage #6 by Dianne Harman



Fifteen minutes later Seth came swaggering through the front door of the lodge, his thumbs hooked just inside his dark blue uniform pants that hung below a large belly which was threatening to pop the lower buttons of his blue uniform shirt. Gray, oily hair hung in tufts below a battered black police chief hat with a silver emblem inscribed “Red Cedar Police Chief.”
          Liz couldn’t help but notice the big yellow stain on his shirt. “See yer lookin’ at that spot on my shirt,” Seth said. “Egg yolk slipped off my fork this mornin’ when I was havin’ my usual breakfast of ham and eggs at Gertie’s Diner. Jes’ one of those things that seems to happen all the time to me. Ya’ know what I mean?”
          “Seth, thank you so much for coming out here on such short notice. I have a little problem, and I’m not real sure what to do about it. Please, follow me.”
          “Ain’t seein’ any black lace on ya’. I’ll git ya’ some if ya’ like. I read the Victoria’s Secret catalogue from cover to cover every month. You’d look good in some of them things they got for sale.”
          Ignoring Seth’s uncouth remarks, Liz walked out the door and almost tripped over what she privately called the “spa dog,” even though his name was Brandy Boy. A massive St. Bernard, weighing over one hundred sixty pounds, he was a favorite of the guests who visited the spa.
          Although the original St. Bernard dogs were bred by Augustine monks as rescue dogs in the snowy and cold Swiss Alps, Brandy Boy had little interest in any type of task that involved physical activity. The previous owner who sold the spa to Joe and Liz had asked them to keep Brandy Body because he couldn’t take the big dog with him. Despite his seemingly constant slobbering and drooling, Liz had grown attached to the big loveable brown and white giant who spent most of his time sleeping on the porch. He rarely acknowledged anyone going in or out the door other than to open his eyes when it slammed.
          Occasionally a guest wanted to take a hike on one of the many trails that led into the forest from the lodge. Liz always recommended that he or she take Brandy Boy along to act as an informal guide. Even though he was the easiest going dog in the world, he knew which trails were safe to travel and which ones weren’t. Many a guest had returned to the spa from their hike marveling that Brandy Boy had physically led the way and showed the guest which trail was the right one to take to return to the lodge.
          Just like the famous rescue dogs in the Swiss Alps, the prior owner had equipped Brandy Body with a dog collar that had a small wooden cask attached to it. If a guest was in a cottage and wanted an after dinner brandy, he or she could call the lodge, and Brandy Boy would be dispatched to the cottage with the “rescue” brandy. When given the proper command, he even knew which cottage needed the delivery. Each cottage had a supply of dog treats that were to be given to Brandy Boy as a reward after he made his delivery.
          When they first bought the spa, Joe thought Brandy Boy was too big to sleep indoors, and he’d asked Zack, the handyman, to build a dog house for him. The huge dog house was located next to the lodge and at any given time you could find Brandy Boy either sleeping in his dog house or lolling around on the front porch of the lodge. Having the dog house near the lodge was an arrangement which worked out well for everyone. With his ancestors having come from the Swiss Alps, Brandy Boy was happy and content to stay outside in his dog house year round, regardless of any inclement weather conditions.
          After nearly tripping over Brandy Boy, Liz and Seth walked past the large rustic spa building with flowers spilling out of containers on either side of the front door and down the steps. Each of the ten cottages located on the premises was a smaller version of the spa, constructed as log cabin type structures with bright colored flowers surrounding them. Liz wanted the spa and cottages to project a warm welcoming feeling for the spa guests when they came for their stay, each of them hoping to leave refreshed and rejuvenated.
          She stopped at a cottage with a brass #6 on the front door. “Seth, Dave Nelson’s wife, Barbara, is in here. Dave told her she’d worked so hard on his campaign he was giving her a two day stay at the spa as a thank you gift. He wanted her to come here, have some treatments, and relax. My manager found her this morning. She’s dead.”
          “What the…?”
          “I know, Bertha and I are as shocked as you are. I don’t know what happened.”
          “Sheesh. I was jes’ with Dave and Barbara night before last at his victory party down at the Elks Lodge. Barbara seemed fine then. She was probably jes’ glad his girlfriend didn’t show up at the celebration. When did Barbara get here?”
          “She checked in yesterday morning, had two spa treatments, and ate dinner at the lodge with the other guests last night.” Liz put her key in the lock and opened the door. They both stared at Barbara lying in the bed. Liz noticed the half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels on the nightstand that Bertha had told her about.
          Seth walked over to Barbara. “Yup, she’s deader ‘n a doornail. Better call the coroner. Ain’t nothin’ no one can do fer her now.”
          “Wait a minute. What kind of a vehicle will he come in? I really would like to avoid having to tell the other guests about this until we know more.”
          “He drives a big white van. Looks kinda like a bread delivery truck. Guess it kinda is, if ya’ know what I mean. Ain’t much difference between deliverin’ a loaf of bread and deliverin’ dead bodies,” he said laughing obscenely. “Yer’ guests’ll just think someone’s deliverin’ somethin’ to you.”
          Liz steeled herself not to comment on his insensitivity. This man is disgusting, she thought. Is he the best the city of Red Cedar can do? And what was that reference to Dave’s girlfriend all about?
          “Go ahead and call him. How long do you think it will be before he can come out here?”
          “Don’t know. I’ll call him now, and then I need to call Leroy, my deputy chief. Need to figure out what in the blazes happened out here, although it looks pretty obvious to me.” He punched in a number on his cell phone and she heard him say, “Wes, got a cold one out here at the Red Cedar Spa. Dave’s wife. How soon can ya’ be here?” He hung up and turned to Liz. “He’ll be here in about fifteen minutes. Give me a minute while I call Leroy, then I’ll need to ask ya’ some questions.”
          He spoke with Leroy who carried the ceremonial title of deputy chief, which had been bestowed on him by Seth in exchange for passing on a pay raise, but he was actually nothing more than a patrol deputy on the small six man Red Cedar police force. After talking to Leroy for a few minutes he turned to her. “Sorry, Liz, but he’s gonna have to drive a police car over here cuz his personal car broke down this mornin’ while he was drivin’ to work. No big surprise there. Dang thing’s been smokin’ like a chimney for the last two weeks.”
          “Well, I guess that can’t be helped. Hopefully, the guests will be in town or having a spa treatment.”
          Seth took a stubby pencil and a tattered notebook out of his shirt pocket. He flipped the notebook open to an empty page that appeared to have a catsup stain on it and asked Liz, “Who discovered the body?”
          “My manager, Bertha.”
          “Wouldja call her and tell her to get over here? Gonna need to get a statement from her. Ya’ said Barbara had two spa treatments yesterday. Need to talk to the people who gave her them treatments.”
          Liz called Delores, the spa receptionist.  “This is Mrs. Lucas. Would you check the reservation book and tell me what treatments Barbara Nelson had yesterday?”
          She listened for a moment. “Are Gina and Cindy free, or are they busy with clients?” She waited while Delores checked the reservation book. “Good. Please ask both of them to come to cottage #6 immediately. I also want you to have them bring the spa registration form that Barbara Nelson filled out yesterday. Thanks.”
          A few minutes later Bertha came to the cottage, still clearly shaken by the morning’s events. She was followed by Gina and Cindy who handed Liz the spa registration form for Barbara Nelson.
          “Good morning, Seth,” Bertha said.
          “Hey, Bertha. Liz tells me you was the one who found Barbara. Need ya’ to tell me everything.” Bertha related to Seth essentially what she’d told Liz earlier.     
          When it was obvious that Seth wasn’t going to ask Bertha any more questions, Liz said, “Bertha, you can go now. I think he’s through with you. I’ll stay here while he talks to Gina and Cindy and I also want to be here to find out what the coroner has to say about the cause of death.”
          “Ladies,” Seth said to Gina and Cindy, “wanna know what kind of treatments Barbara had and if she seemed to be okay when you saw her yesterday.”
          “I saw her yesterday morning at 10:00,” Cindy said. “She’d requested the stress-releasing massage. She was fine while she was with me and was feeling good when she left. She didn’t say or do anything that seemed unusual to me. There’s really nothing more I can tell you,” Cindy said
          Seth turned to Gina. “How about you?”
          “Pretty much like Cindy just said. I saw her at 3:00 yesterday afternoon. She had a facial and purchased some beauty products from the spa that I recommended. She was quiet during the facial, thanked me when I was finished, and left. Other than that, I don’t know anything about her.”
          “Thank you ladies. You can go back to the spa now. If I got any more questions, I’ll get back to ya’, but I’m pretty sure I know what happened to her.”
          He had just finished getting statements from Cindy and Gina when a white van drove up the narrow lane that led to the lodge and spa followed by a Red Cedar police car. They pulled to a stop next to cottage #6.
          “Hey,” Seth said as they got out of their respective vehicles, “Wes, Leroy. Stiff’s in there. Got a statement from Liz and Bertha as well as the two wimmin who treated her at the spa yesterday. Leroy, you go in, and see what you can find. Probably better wear gloves, but there’s not much to dust. Maybe ya’ oughta do that Jack Daniels bottle in there. When you finish with it, take it back to the station. We oughta send a sample of the contents to the state police lab for testin’, but I reckon me and you might have to do a little testin’ of that Jack Daniels ourselves. Hate to let good booze go to waste, if ya’ know what I mean. Wes, like to know what ya’ think caused her death, but it seems purty black and white to me. Be willin’ to bet she decided to buy the farm when she found out Dave had the hots for Darcy. Whole town knows they’ve been getting’ it on. Maybe she jes’ found out. Decided to come out here and mix a little Black Jack with a handful of night-night pills and bingo, the deed is done.”
          Who is this Darcy woman? Liz thought. I wonder if Barbara knew about the affair? And if she was going to commit suicide, why would she buy beauty products from the spa? Could Seth be right, that she came here to end her life? If that’s true, sure wish she’d gone to another spa. I don’t need this kind of publicity.
          Liz took a couple of deep breaths and a few minutes later followed the men into the cottage. She walked over to the coroner and asked, “Wes, do you have any idea what caused her death?”
          “No. There’s no sign of a struggle or foul play of any kind. Leroy quickly examined the door, and he said he didn’t see any signs of forcible entry or that the lock had been tampered with. I’ll know more after I do an autopsy on her. Maybe it’s like Seth thinks, that she took some sleeping pills and combined it with the alcohol, although I don’t see any prescription bottles. I understand she ate dinner at your lodge last night. Did you serve anything that might have caused her to suffer an allergic reaction? Sometimes a severe allergic reaction can lead to anaphylactic shock and death.”
          “I don’t think so. I served the guests wine with several different kinds of cheeses and crackers. Dinner consisted of lamb chops baked in a wine sauce, broccoli with almonds, a rice pilaf, and an ice cream sundae with caramel sauce. When guests come to the spa they have to fill out a registration form and one of the things they’re asked is if they have any food allergies. I know people can have life threatening allergies to things like peanuts or shellfish, so I’m very careful to always check each guest’s registration form and make a note if they have any food allergies. Barbara wrote on her registration form that she wasn’t allergic to anything. The people who work in the spa also have each guest fill out a general health form, and one of the questions asked is if they’re allergic to any beauty products or chemical substances. According to what she filled out on her form, she wasn’t allergic to anything.”
          “Well, we probably won’t know anything until I complete the autopsy tomorrow. I have another one I need to do today. Dave been told yet?”
          “No. I wanted to wait until I talked to you. I’m planning on going to his insurance agency and telling him shortly.”
          “Liz, be happy to do it for ya’, course you’d owe me somethin’ in return, if you know what I mean,” Seth said suggestively.
          “No. Since it happened on my property, I should be the one to tell him.”
          Wes took a gurney out of the back of the van and rolled it into the cottage. He and Leroy carefully transferred Barbara from the bed to the gurney and then pushed the gurney out to the van and loaded her body into it through the open rear doors. When they were finished, Wes drove back down the lane to the highway leading to town with Leroy following.
          “I’ll be goin’ now, Liz,” Seth said. “Ain’t no more I can do ‘til I get the results of the autopsy from Wes. Nice seein’ ya’, and don’t forget about that invitation to dinner or my offer to get ya’ a little somethin’ from Victoria’s Secret.”
          “Believe me, Seth, I won’t forget. Thanks for getting out here so fast.”
          Liz looked around as he drove down the lane, thankful that it looked like no one had seen the police car or the unusual activity going on at cottage #6.
          When she returned to the lodge, she called Bertha. “Would you please tell Sarah to clean up cottage #6?”


A Liz Lucas Cozy Mystery from Amazon All Star Author - Dianne Harman. 

Liz Lucas, a 52 year old widow, is beginning to think she’s been given a second chance at life by owning a successful spa located in a beautiful forest area on the coast north of San Francisco. 

What could possibly go wrong? Well, for starters, discovering that a guest staying in cottage #6 at the spa has been murdered. 

In order to save the spa’s reputation, Liz, along with her two dogs, Brandy Boy and Winston, sets out to find the killer. The cast of characters includes a handyman, spa employees, the bumbling police chief, the owner of Gertie’s Diner, the dead woman’s husband (the mayor), his girlfriend, and a Tiffany glass collector. One of them probably committed the crime, but it’s up to Liz to quickly find the culprit. 

About the Author:

Dianne Harman draws her stories and characters from a diverse business and personal background. She owned a national antique and art appraisal business for many years, left that industry, and opened two yoga centers where she taught yoga and certified yoga instructors. She's traveled extensively throughout the world, most recently dividing her time between Huntington Beach, California and Sacramento, California, where her husband was a Senator. An avid reader, Dianne brings the richness of her life experiences to her novels, Blue Coyote Motel, Coyote in Provence, and Cornered Coyote - all of which are available now in the Coyote Series. 

Being a dog lover and having attended numerous cooking schools, she couldn't resist writing about food and dogs, thus the Cedar Bay Cozy Mystery series, which includes family recipes! Kelly's Koffee Shop, Murder at Jade Cove, and White Cloud Retreat have been on the top of the culinary, cozy, and animal charts within a week of being published, Kelly's Koffee Shop was recently voted as one of the top 30 Best Self-Published Books of 2014.

An Award Winning Bestseller, Blue Coyote Motel was selected as a quarter finalist in Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award contest, Goodreads Psychological Thriller of the Month Book, and e-thriller Book of the Month. Blue Coyote Motel and Coyote in Provence were finalists in Chanticleer's CLUE awards contest.

Blue Coyote Motel is a suspenseful love story which begins in the barrios of Southern California and spans the globe in such diverse locations as Provence, South America, and the Himalayas. The beautiful Latina, Maria, and her husband, Jeffrey, a scientist fired from a prestigious laboratory, struggle to build a new life in a remote Southern California desert area as owners of the motel.

Along with the anti-aging hormone, Jeffrey invents a "feel-good" wonder drug to help Maria with her depression. As Jeffrey becomes insane, he begins to experiment with the wonder drug. Six wayward travelers, including an alcoholic priest, a couple who own gold mines in Brazil, a depressed widow, a struggling salesman, and a Native American pediatrician, find themselves spending the night at the small motel. The next morning they wake up feeling better than ever. Has Jeffrey's miracle drug delivered? Or is the nightmare of addiction only beginning?

Coyote in Provence and Cornered Coyote complete the trilogy which spans the globe and introduces a character, Slade Kelly, a loveable irascible private eye, who many say has become their favorite literary character. The Mafia, food, wine, art, Provence, courtroom drama - all find a place in these books. 

Visit Dianne at her web site:

on Twitter: @DianneDHarman
or email her at:

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