Authors: T. Sue VerSteeg,Elizabeth Ashby
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KILLER CLOSET CASE
A DANGER COVE
T. SUE VERSTEEG
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Copyright © 2015 by T. Sue VerSteeg
Cover design by Janet Holmes
Gemma Halliday Publishing
All rights reserved. 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 above publisher of this book.
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. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
This book is dedicated to the real Janet & John. Thank you for allowing me to borrow you for the book and take a bit (okay, a lot) of creative license with your characters. LONG LIVE THE QUILT! It’s been a blast.
And Nick? Yeah, I’d like to say I’m sorry. I’d really like to, but I’m not. Thanks for being a good sport! ;)
I'd failed at modeling, wasn't cut out for acting, and had evidently hit the trifecta of "what not to do" when it came to following my father's vague driving directions.
During several unsuccessful attempts to find the Ocean View Bed & Breakfast on Cliffside Drive, my BFF, Cristal, and I were treated to the highlights of the pleasant town of Danger Cove, Washington. I made a mental note to check out the enticing aromas coming from the Cinnamon Sugar Bakery we passed at least twice in our search. I was impressed with the adorable shops and charming eateries the town had to offer, and the pier looked pretty amazing as well. Cristal had nodded back off after the first couple of failed attempts to find the B&B, just as she had most of the trip.
The trees were just starting to show off their fall foliage, with pops of bright orange and yellow mixing in with the lush green, making this little adventure a bit more enjoyable as we wound up a hill toward Cliffside. Perhaps it wasn't a bad omen after all that my Camry's GPS wasn't getting a signal. Plus, with three years of getting lost in Los Angeles on a fairly regular basis, it was a nice change to know that there were only so many wrong turns I could make before eventually finding our destination or driving right into the Pacific Ocean.
A few minutes later, I finally claimed victory and pulled up in front of my parents' latest project. My stomach instantly filled with butterflies.
I turned to Cristal, who was now wide awake. Her contorted facial expression said more than her words had all day as she took in the old Victorian.
"Not as impressed with small-town life as you thought?" I asked.
Her blue eyes rounded. "It's…quaint." She flipped a perfectly pink manicured hand at me. "As long as I don't have to stay
long," she added.
I grinned. "No. You can take off as soon as you want." I'd agreed to let Cristal borrow my car to go wherever she wanted for a few months, which she'd decided during our drive over would be New York City. She had hopes it would be far enough away from her latest bout of Hollywood celebrity-status drama she'd been battling. She just had to drop me off at the bed and breakfast my parents ran first.
The official story for my stay with the 'rents? I was coming for a "little" visit to take over the day-to-day of the B&B while Dad whisked Mom away on a birthday trip to some concert down south in their RV. The truth? That "little" visit was more like, after failing to land any big acting jobs, I'd run out of money to stay in LA any longer and was moving back in with Mom and Dad. A fact I was pretty sure they'd be as thrilled about as I was. Don't get me wrong; I loved my parents. I just loved them the most with a thousand-mile buffer between us.
Cristal needed to get away, and I, sadly, had nowhere to go until I had some sort of career epiphany.
"But you'll want to stay the night at least and rest up, right?" I asked her.
She bobbed her head, tucking disheveled blonde strands behind her ear. It'd been a long drive for us both, but Cristal had never traveled well, unless it was in the back of a chauffeured limo. Or so I'd heard during one of her many tales of glitz and glamour from the life and times of an up-and-coming model-slash-actress during my stint as her roommate. I'd tried the lifestyle on for size myself, but I'd never quite been able to see myself in the celeb role. Of course, I wasn't exactly sure small-town life had my name written all over it either. But at least the rent was free.
Cristal was now on a break, an involuntary sabbatical of sorts. She'd been headlining the runways from New York to Los Angeles and even the coveted catwalk in Milan for several years. Her popularity had then landed her a pretty big recurring part on a beloved soap opera. Unfortunately, with that sort of fame, every last gory detail of her affair with her married agent had been splashed on tabloids nationwide and probably beyond. With her blacklisted, out of work, and all of her assets frozen in a majorly messed-up lawsuit, it pretty much left us homeless. You couldn't pay for her lifestyle on my paycheck.
I patted her arm. "Wait here. I'll make sure they're home."
I got out of the car and climbed the moss-covered stairs to the gorgeous rock-lined front garden full of huge, leafy hostas and various bedded flowers shaded by large maple trees and dotted with dogwoods. Staring up at the beautiful three-story Victorian bed and breakfast, I had flashbacks of my childhood, much like a veteran reliving horrors of war. Okay, so kind of like that, only without gunfire and dead bodies. My parents were what you'd call rehab addicts, and the bed and breakfast was their latest conquest. Moving from small town to small town along the Pacific coast about every year or two, changing schools each time just so my parents could take on the latest project that
spoke to them
, had been hell on me growing up. It was probably what drove me to Los Angeles instead of college right out of high school—a big city with unlimited potential for me to be whatever or whoever struck my fancy. My parents had wanted me to have the college education they'd never had. I'd wanted pretty much the opposite just out of spite. Teenage angst was a bitch. At least my older brother, who so drew the long stick with a normal name like Bradley (instead of the name I'd gotten courtesy of my parents' short hippy phase, Summer Breeze. But please never call me that.), followed their wishes and marched off to law school at the University of Washington right out of college a few years ago.
I was briefly distracted by the amazing view of the Pacific Ocean as I made my way up the winding steps. The sun glittered on the water as waves broke across the craggy rocks in the cove.
I remembered the old picture my folks had sent of the house I now stood before, along with a list of all they'd planned to do. It had been run for decades by an older couple who had just started renovations when some sort of health condition forced them into retirement. Mom had gotten a flyer in the mail, from one of her many rehab contacts, with this place listed for sale. She'd said it was the saddest Victorian ever. Seriously, she cried while carrying on about how the house had good bones and needed her love. I honestly never remembered that many tears, even when my brother broke his leg during football practice. Wrong kind of bones, I supposed.
The old picture had shown the ancient wooden clapboard siding had obviously weathered many a harsh storm, bearing visible holes and faded to almost white from more than its share of Mother Nature's abuse. The roof was missing shingles that'd allowed a rainstorm (or a hundred) to ruin the ceilings and mess with the structure. Mom even went on an hour-long tirade over the phone with me about how no one should have to stay in a bed and breakfast with burnt-orange wallpaper.
That had undoubtedly been the first thing to go.
It appeared the exterior makeover was pretty much complete. It now sported shiny new gray siding with white accents. The tiny, dilapidated front entry had been scrapped altogether to accommodate the massive covered porch, spanning the entire front of the house and wrapping around both sides. White Adirondack chairs were situated in groupings that spread out along the expanse, and a matching porch swing was near the front door. Large, brightly colored flowerpots hung from each support post along the railing, adding a splash of color.
I climbed the steps, then hovered my finger over the doorbell, giggling at the
sign. In small letters underneath it touted the exception
unless you're selling wine
. This was my mother's attempt at humor, no doubt, as she did love a good glass or bottle on occasion. A sign on the other side had the check-in desk hours and phone number to call for reservations if the office was closed.
I stood taller, taking a deep breath in hopes of tamping down the butterflies at thoughts of my parents' reactions when I told them I was moving in for a while. No luck. It just made them beat their little wings harder and call in backup. I looked over my shoulder and down the incline I'd just climbed, considering Cristal as
backup. I could see inside the car. Her sleep mask was back in place, and the seat was fully reclined.
Instead of ringing the bell, I opened the screen door and barged in. I expected a clerk behind the sleek mahogany desk that filled the far wall of the lobby. The light from the modern silver lamp illuminated a placard on the desktop.
Back in fifteen minutes.
"Hello?" I called out, spinning about the cozy lobby, checking the wrought iron railed staircase and loft area for any movement. Behind the desk was a door marked
. I briefly contemplated opening it. I was family of employees, so surely I was grandfathered in, right? Instead of taking my chances, I made myself comfortable on the overstuffed couch. I admired an old book on the coffee table in front of me. It appeared to be about the same age as the house, the timeworn leather cover cracked in a few places, the pages a bit yellowed. On the cover, the word
filled the space in a curvy, bold script. I gently pulled it open and read some of the names and dates. The page in particular was from the seventies and many had followed their signatures with smiley faces. I flipped to the last page, and it had several names with the current date. It was a beautiful old book. I could see why they left it for people to keep using. When I heard a door slam at the top of the stairs, I jumped to my feet and spun around to look. The couple leaving the room had either just been married or were still so madly in love they couldn't be bothered with reigning in their affection. Whatever the situation, they were entwined in a kiss the entire time they descended the stairs. He backed carefully from one step to the next, guiding the woman he adored while simultaneously attempting to suck her lips from her face. I tried to look away, but I found my gaze shifting back toward them until they were out the front door and making their way down the steps in much the same manner. Driving was going to pose a serious problem.
"Let's hope they're walking," I muttered aloud, forcing myself back to the task at hand.
I dug my phone from my pocket and tried my parents' cell number. I might as well have been trying to squeeze water from a rock, only instead of tearing up my hand, I ended up with a message about the user not setting up voice mail, just like ninety-nine percent of my other attempts to call them over the years. They would birth kittens if my brother or I did this kind of thing. But it was yet another futile venture to get them to realize
were in the wrong.
About pretty much anything.
They claimed to be free spirits, not wanting to be tied down by technology. Not even for their kids. I called it being stuck in the eighties.
I wandered back onto the porch, after waiting a sufficient amount of time for the lip-locked couple to have at least wandered off, and dialed the office number listed on the sign. But that just rang at the empty desk I was now staring at through the screen.
The employee door popped open and my mother emerged, a blur of poufy red hair, leopard print, and spandex on spike heels. Thankfully, her clothes were actually coming back in style, even though this had been her normal wardrobe for decades. I felt a smile crawl across my face and the warmth and safety only a mother can evoke wash through my body.
She picked up the phone. "Thank you for calling the Ocean View Bed & Breakfast. This is Janet. When can we expect you?"
"Uh, now," I stated into the phone and through the screen door.
She dropped the receiver onto the cradle and threw her arms open wide, the myriad of thick, brightly colored plastic bracelets clacking to a stop at her wrists, as she clip-clopped across the hardwood lobby floor. "Summer Breeze, I'm so glad you made it safely!"
I rolled my eyes at the sound of my real name, the name I'd desperately hidden the past few years due to the trauma imposed at each new school throughout my childhood by every kid who'd ever seen a Summer's Eve commercial. Most were too young to remember the seventies song I was actually named after, not that some kids hadn't known it and pestered me with the verses just the same. My parents' momentary hippy phase would haunt me my entire life or until that company went bankrupt. If only I'd been born a year or so later when they were safely in their eighties phase. I'd have a cute name ending with an
"Please," I drew out as I opened the door, "I'm begging you. Call me Bree. That's what most people know me as now."
Towering over me in her stilettos, she bent and enveloped me in a big hug. "I named you that because I knew you'd be a free spirit. What's more free than a summer's breeze?" She pushed me to arm's length. "Is everything okay? You seem off to me."
"Everything…" My tone was serious, stern, ready to spill my woes of homelessness while seriously wanting to be back in the safe cocoon of her embrace, but Mom's smile was so bright and cheerful. Why ruin the moment, right? I pushed away the doom and gloom, smiled, and lied through my teeth. "Everything is fine. It was just a long drive." Which so wasn't a lie. I put my arm around her waist and dropped my head on her shoulder. Close enough. I felt myself letting go of some of the stress.
"Your father is going to be so glad you made it okay." She grabbed my hand and led me through the forbidden employee door.
It appeared that the wall had been put up to split the old living room into two. One to use for a lobby and one for Mom and Dad, evidently so Dad didn't have to wear pants. He dropped his newspaper and pulled an old Guns N' Roses throw-blanket from the back of his recliner, draping it over his tighty-whities.