Authors: Kari Lee Townsend
Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Paranormal - Clairvoyance - New York
|Kari Lee Townsend - Sunny Meadows 04 - Perish in the Palm|
|Number IV of|
|Kari Lee Townsend|
|The Story Vault (2015)|
|Tags:||Mystery: Cozy - Paranormal - Clairvoyance - New York|
|Mystery: Cozy - Paranormal - Clairvoyance - New Yorkttt|
a Sunny Meadows Mystery
Kari Lee Townsend
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Perish in the Palm
Copyright © 2015 by Kari Lee Townsend
All rights reserved.
Cover Design by Kelly Crimi
Interior Book Design by Bob Houston eBook Formatting
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.
Published by The Story Vault
To all of my children: Brandon, Josh, Matt & Emily. Thank you for keeping life interesting and fun.
All I do, I do for you.
As always to my amazing husband, Brian. You make life a joy. And to the rest of my family: the Harmons, the Russos and the Townsends. And to my critique partner, Barbara Witek, who truly is a goddess! And last but never least, to my agent Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency.
ou’re doing it wrong,” my mother said, as she looked over my shoulder and inspected my work on a Friday afternoon in October. The leaves had started to turn brilliant shades of orange and red and gold, but the temperatures had risen to unseasonably mild.
It was the day before my best friend Joanne Burnham’s wedding. Joanne was marrying our local carpenter, Cole West, on the outskirts of town at Divine Inspiration—a charming inn on Inspiration Lake. I was the maid of honor, but my mother and Jo had bonded since the day she’d met her, so of course Jo had invited her to the wedding.
Vivian Meadows was a highly respected lawyer back in New York City and the queen of high society. She was as chic as she was sharp, but here in the small, quaint, old-fashioned, upstate New York town of Divinity, she was simply a big ole’ pain in my behind. Being miles away didn’t stop her from interfering. She had pretty much given her input on every possible task that had been assigned to me; and frankly, I’d had enough.
I finished tying a red silk bow to an old-fashioned oil lantern flanking the aisle in the center of the rows of chairs beneath the wedding tent, then stood and faced her. Nothing I did would meet her high expectations about everything in life, so I ignored her comment. “Hello, Mother. Did you have a nice flight?” The city was only around a four hour drive from Divinity, but my parents wouldn’t dream of getting behind the wheel. In fact, they didn’t even own a car. No need to where they lived.
She waved off my question with her immaculate manicured hand and then patted her chicly styled blond hair. It was a perfect complement to her tailored pale pink suit. “Trust me, darling, there’s nothing nice about flying these days. Your father and I should just move here since you insist on staying in this
little town. Life would be so much easier if we were close by.”
My jaw fell open and stomach flipped as acid churned, making me nauseous. If I didn’t know better, I would swear my eyes were popping right out of their sockets no matter how hard I tried to hide my anxiety.
“Relax, darling.” She arched a golden blond brow, knowing me too well. “I’m kidding.” She bent down and retied the bow I had just fixed, even though there wasn’t a thing wrong with it.
I blew out the air in my lungs, trying to be discreet, but I was certain my make-up free fair cheeks were blazing red. “Oh, I, well….” I adjusted my burnt orange flowy skirt and cream colored peasant blouse, then curled my bare toes in the ends of my black flats. This was about as dressed up as I got.
“Sylvia speechless. Will wonders never cease?” She stood and faced me once more, smoothing her hands over non-existent wrinkles.
I snapped my mouth closed, stilled my fidgety fingers, and said through a stiff smile, “It’s Sunshine now, Mother. Or Sunny if you prefer.”
“What I would prefer is that you hadn’t changed your name in the first place. You are our only child. Your father and I worked hard to come up with that name. We even waited until you were born to pick something that fit.”
, I wanted to say. Instead I counted to ten and relaxed my features. “And I appreciate that, but the truth is, that name didn’t fit me any more than living in the city did. I wish you could understand that.”
She looked down at her hands for a moment. “I’m trying,” she finally said in a rare moment of honest vulnerability.
I blinked and then felt an actual genuine smile blossom across my face. “I can see that, Mom. And for the record, I’m trying too.”
She sniffed, then straightened quickly, back to her usual self. “Well, dear, I suggest you try harder. These bows are all wrong.” She knelt down and redid another perfect red bow on the lantern across the aisle. The rows of white chairs were covered with satin, leading to a gorgeous archway encased in roses. Beyond that was a beautiful white reception tent adorned with twinkling lights with crystal chandeliers hanging from beneath.
And she’s back
, I thought. “Where’s Dad?” I stepped out from under the tent before my mood was ruined completely.
Donald Meadows was a world renowned cardiologist and king of his domain. He had gray-streaked perfectly coiffed brown hair, was highly respected among his peers, and had an impeccable reputation. The only blemish on his bio was having a daughter who made a living as a fortune teller. He didn’t believe I was psychic any more than my mother did, but at least he had come around to admitting there were things that had happened even he couldn’t explain.
“Oh, he’s around here somewhere. Probably talking to Detective Stone, making sure you’re not in any more trouble these days.”
First our local librarian had been murdered, and I had been accused of the crime. Then the detective’s ex-girlfriend had been killed, and he had been accused of murder. And finally the local baker had been murdered while my grandmother and her arch nemesis had been the prime suspects. I couldn’t really blame my parents for worrying. I hadn’t even lived here a year, yet a crime spree seemed to follow me, making it hard to win this small town over. But everything had died down, and even the mayor was on my side. He was a huge fan of psychics. My business had picked up, and I had a boyfriend. Life was good.
My gaze shot over to the back deck of the Inn, and sure enough my father stood in deep conversation with said boyfriend.
“That can’t be good,” I muttered.
I took in Mitch’s ink black hair, dark brows and eyes, slightly crooked nose, and long jagged scar that ran across his square whiskered jaw. He was so ruggedly big and strong. Not handsome per se, but captivating and mesmerizing. All I had wanted was for Mitch to ask me out on a real date, and instead he’d asked me to marry him.
Mitch was an all or nothing sort of guy. Once he made up his mind about something, he went after it full throttle, consequences be damned. I’d convinced him to give living together a try first, but with Granny Gert and my cat Morty underfoot, I was afraid the honeymoon phase of our brand new relationship would be over before it had even gotten started.
“Trouble in paradise already?” My mother’s questioning tone broke through my thoughts. She sounded concerned. My parents were fond of Mitch and worried I wouldn’t find anyone else who would accept my “uniqueness.” He wasn’t exactly a true believer, but I knew he cared about me a lot. After almost losing him, I’d come to realize his belief in my abilities wasn’t as important to me as I had once thought.
“Not trouble exactly, just not what I was hoping for when I asked him to move in with me,” I admitted.
“Not everything in life is sunshine and flowers, dear. Your father and I are no exception.” My parents might drive me nuts, but I knew they loved me, and they truly adored each other. I envied what they had and couldn’t help wanting that for myself.
“I’m not expecting sunshine and flowers, but I certainly didn’t expect storms and thorns, either. After the mischief Morty and Mitch caused with losing Cole’s heirloom wedding rings a while back, they have called a truce of sorts, but it hasn’t been easy. And Granny Gert is always underfoot, trying to take care of everyone. Mitch and I don’t have
time alone.” I blew out a breath. “Maybe moving in together wasn’t such a good idea.”
“Don’t even get me started on that demon cat of yours.” My mother shuddered.
“Mom, please don’t start.” I rubbed my temples, easing the headache that nagged me whenever my parents were in town.
“I’m just saying if you’re ever going to get married and give me grandbabies, you might have to make some compromises.”
“I don’t know if marriage is in our future, but compromising shouldn’t have to mean choosing between them.” I huffed out a frustrated breath.
Morty was a big beautiful mysterious white cat with jet black eyes and my kindred spirit. He knew what it was like to be different and alone. He had come with the ancient Victorian house I’d bought and nicknamed Vicky. Everyone in town thought the old place was haunted, but I’d quickly surmised the cat was the guilty culprit of scaring people away. He moved lightning fast and seemed to appear out of nowhere. I never saw him eat or sleep either, making me wonder if he was immortal, hence the name Morty. He didn’t like most people, but for some reason, he’d let me stay. I was more
than he was mine, and we both knew it.
That didn’t mean he had the right to misbehave and put a claw in my love life.
“As far as your grandmother goes, she can always come back to the city with your father and me. You and Detective Stone need your space.”
“I couldn’t do that to her. She loves it here, and flirting with Captain Walker keeps her young.”
“Young and scandalous.” My mother sniffed, making her pinched nose look even more narrow. “Why, the man is young enough to be her son.”
“He’s in his sixties and she’s in her seventies. That isn’t that much of a difference. Besides, it’s harmless and it makes her happy. I haven’t seen her this happy since Grandpa Frank died.”
“It’s a sin, I tell you,” my mother hissed. “Speak of the devil.” She shook her head and tsked as she watched Granny Gert flounce over to the captain, who had joined Mitch and my father, and offer them all a cookie.
The rehearsal was only for the wedding party and people who were helping out. Granny had invited Captain Walker as her date. She was an attractive woman with snow white hair and snappy brown eyes. She was dressed in a classy, pretty, floral dress, but that didn’t stop her from wearing her usual ruffled apron made from old flour sacks with her ever ready wooden spoon sticking out of the pocket. Granny held onto and reused everything, firmly believing in
waste not want not
. No doubt she’d taken over the inn’s kitchen, insisting on baking cookies for the rehearsal dinner party.
According to Granny, there was a cookie for everything.
Peirce Theodore, the tall thin innkeeper with a spotless white suit and slicked-back sandy blond hair, came out onto the back deck, looking like something right out of The Great Gatsby. He frowned at Granny serving cookies before dinner from her orange pumpkin cookie jar—she swore that jar was the secret—and then he motioned everyone inside.
His gaze swept the grounds for any stragglers, stopping when it fell on us. He nodded at me then stuck his nose in the air and ignored my mother. The entire town knew they didn’t get along. While she adored his inn, she despised him and constantly criticized him publicly over the way he ran it.
Four and a half stars out of five wasn’t good enough for her.
My mother harrumphed. “Did you see that?”
“Mother, be nice for Cole and Jo’s sake.”
“Oh, don’t you worry, I’ll be nice. But mark my words, I’ll have the last laugh. See if I don’t. One way or another, I’ll take that man down a peg or two and teach him a lesson he won’t soon forget.”
“You have to do something now!” Jo stood beside me at the dining room table inside the inn. She was a tall, buxom, burgundy haired woman in a forest green dress. Her hair was swept up into a fancy do, but her ladylike appearance wasn’t fooling anyone. A warrior lurked beneath and was ready to pounce on anyone who ruined her day. “They’ve argued over every course so far,” she continued. “I can’t take it anymore. And the chef, Pierre Desjardins, is ready to quit. What am I supposed to do if he quits? Who will cook the wedding meal tomorrow?”
“You’re the one who invited her,” I pointed out, tossing my hands up.
her daughter,” she snapped back, poking me in the shoulder. “And my maid of honor, might
A crash came from the kitchen, followed by a string of angry French. Sally Clark the crisply starched elderly maid went flying by, her gray dress fluttering behind her and her feather duster dropping tiny bits of feathers with every rapid step.
I sighed. “Well, I’m stuffed.” I stood and looked at the wedding party, Jo’s family, Cole’s family, my family, Father Moody and Captain Walker. Pretty much everyone except for Pierce Theodore and my mother, of course, because they were too busy causing all this chaos. “Why don’t we retreat to the living room for the evening’s entertainment?” I gestured toward the other room, coming up with an idea.
Everyone stood and gladly made their way to the living room, the relief in the air evident.
Jo grabbed my arm, looking panicked. “Entertainment? But we didn’t book any entertainment for tonight.”
“Lucky for you I know a fortune teller, and I hear she’s pretty good.” I winked.
She wilted, looking ready to cry. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I’ve got the guests. You handle the kitchen.”
“Oh, I’ll handle it all right.” She whirled around and marched away, looking like a fiery redheaded Amazon Warrior Queen. My mother wasn’t intimidated by many people, but she hadn’t seen Joanne Burnham truly angry.
would be entertaining.
I walked into the contemporary living room with its elegant furniture and classy accessories to a crowd of curious people. Stage fright didn’t usually hit me, but then again the people who came to see me were believers and the sessions were private. This group looked more than skeptical.
What was I thinking? I didn’t have any supplies with me. I was psychic, but I used fortune-telling tools to help me see the past as well as the future. My visions always came true, though sometimes there were a few bumps along the way to the truth. Usually I let the person’s aura dictate which tool would be best for reading them. I always got a gut feeling when I held their hands.
Thinking of hands gave me an idea, and suddenly I knew exactly what I was going to do, no supplies necessary. I smiled and rubbed my palms together, ready to get this show on the road. “Okay, folks. Who’s ready for a little palm reading?”
No one spoke.
Many looked excited yet hesitant, and still no one spoke. I didn’t dare look at Mitch—not up to him publicly acknowledging he was a non-believer—and I knew Cole was too stressed-out. I met Captain Walker’s eyes, but he turned his gaze to the floor. I knew he was a believer, but I also knew he wasn’t comfortable with being in the spotlight. Granny Gert was flapping her arms excitedly like the resident swans in our pond, but everyone would think the reading was fixed if I chose her. For that same reason, I couldn’t read Sean or Zoe either. I really needed a guest I wasn’t that close to.