Authors: Elisabeth Crabtree
A Grace Holliday Cozy Mystery)
opyright © 2013 by Elisabeth Crabtree
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without the written permission of the author.
First Printing, December 2013
Book cover designed by San at
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters and situations are completely fictional and a work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead is purely coincidental.
by Elisabeth Crabtree
Books in the Grace Holliday Cozy Mystery Series:
Table of Contents
“It’s all fun
and games until someone dies.” Grace Holliday propped her elbows on the balcony and gazed out at the little pink Victorian gingerbread house in the distance.
Until someone loses an eye,” Kyle Drake corrected automatically, as he attempted to leaf through the papers in his hands. Unable to thumb through the programs with his gloved fingers, he lifted his fingers to his mouth, pulled off his leather gloves with his teeth, and stuck them in his pocket. “Okay, we’re all set to go to Murder Manor.”
Smiling, she turned around and faced him. “We got in? I thought it was booked.”
“It took some convincing, but I managed to secure two tickets.” He held up a couple of brochures with small blue tickets stapled in the corner.
Grace took the paper
s out of his hands. “I’m amazed. How did you manage it?”
“I talked this really sweet couple into letting us take their
Grace looked at him doubtfully.
Since arriving at the resort the night before, she had quickly discovered that the Crystal Palace Resort was legendary for putting on a huge murder mystery extravaganza the week before Christmas, and the week after New Year’s Day. In addition to the many varied amenities and events offered by the resort located high in the Colorado mountains, guests could also take part in one of several two-day murder mystery games, and out of all of the games, the one at Murder Manor was by far the most popular and the most expensive. For two nights, guests would stay at the charming Victorian mansion in the back of the resort surrounded by a gigantic hedge maze. Tickets were usually sold far in advance of the event and were greatly sought after. “They just gave up their places?”
“Well,” he said with a smile, “I’m very convincing
“Yeah, how convincing?” she asked
, wondering how much money he paid them for their tickets.
out, they’re huge magic fans.”
“I put on a little magic performance for them and then gave them four tickets to one of my father’s magic shows. It sometimes comes in handy being the only son of the Great Ilya Dragovich.”
Grace tucked an errant strand of her red hair behind her ear.
“And that was it?”
Kyle’s fingers joined hers as he ran them through her hair.
“I also promised them backstage access, and that my father would perform a show next year for their son’s sixteenth birthday party.”
r father’s going to love that.”
I checked with him first. He agreed only on the condition that I’d come home for a few weeks. I think he wants to have another little talk about my future.” He wrapped his arm around her waist and glanced across her shoulder at the manor. “You wanted Murder Manor, so I got you Murder Manor. You’re very lucky they were magic fans. We almost lost out to another bidder, and I heard this was the Manor’s last year.”
“No one knows. I asked the event coordinator, but she said it was just a rumor. But when I asked to book next year’s event, she said that they were booked solid.”
“I’ve heard that it’s very
popular. I tried for the next year, and the year after that and then after that. I think there might be some truth to the rumor.” He looked down at her. “I’m surprised. I thought you would have wanted to go with the Haunted Theater.”
Grace wrapped her arms around his waist and smiled
up at him. “There’s just something about that house. I’ve been dying to get to it since I saw it last night.” She turned around in his arms and looked back at the Victorian.
his head down and whispered in her ear, “Why? What’s so special about Murder Manor?”
“I think I saw them setting up for the mystery a few minutes before midnight last night. Get this
, I saw someone in the attic and then a few seconds later, I’m almost positive that I saw a man standing on the roof. Then just a few seconds before the fireworks started, all the lights went off inside and surrounding the house.”
“You saw someone on the roof
at midnight on New Year’s Eve?” Kyle asked doubtfully.
Grace chuckled. “Well, I’m not a hundred percent
sure, but it was definitely spooky. I think I caught a sneak peek of tonight’s coming attractions.”
“I can’t believe I missed that. Why didn’t you say something last night?”
Smiling, she tilted her head back to look at his handsome profile. “Well, someone was trying to distract me at the time. I guess I could have stopped you and pointed out what was going
on, but . . .”
Realization dawning, he grinned down at her. “Oh
, no, you did the right thing. I’d much rather be surprised, anyway.”
“So, how does this type of thing work? Do we watch the actors
perform sort of like a dinner theater?”
, it’s much better than that. We get to participate.”
“That should be fun!”
“I can’t wait to find out who I’ll be playing. I hope I get to play the detective.”
“Yeah, that would b
e a nice change of pace for you,” she said with a grin.
Kyle answered her
grin with one of his own. “I think I’ve had plenty of practice at it,” he said, referring to his new career as a private detective. “I wonder who you’ll play.” He looked down at her thoughtfully. “Have you ever acted before?”
Her enthusiasm beginning to drain away, Grace groaned. “Act?
I have to act?” At Kyle’s nod, she added, “I can’t act.”
“You’ll do fine
.” He looked up reflectively. “I changed my mind. I hope I can be the murderer, because they’re usually much more fun to play. I played Horatio in Hamlet, you know.”
Grace’s brow furrowed as she tried to remember her Shakespeare. “H
oratio wasn’t a murderer.”
“He was when I played him,” he said with a wicked
smile. He glanced at his watch. “Time to go.” Taking her by the hand, he led her down the stone steps and toward the maze. The snow underneath their boots made a loud crunching sound as they walked toward their destination, stopping every few seconds to admire the large snow covered shrubs cut into the shape of various animals. Off to one side of their path, was a colorful village filled with shops and restaurants. A constant stream of people filtered past them on their way to or from the shops and the ski lifts, or the skating rink nearby. On the other side, further away from the hotel, was an ice-covered pond. Grace could just make out a crowd huddled together on the far side of the pond. Their heads were bent over as if they were looking for, or at something on the ground. A couple of people were taking pictures of the ground. She was just about to point it out to Kyle when they came up to a large rabbit shaped shrub. Suddenly reminded of Kyle’s pet rabbit that had surprised them both by stowing away in his luggage, she asked, “What are you going to do with Abry?”
“It’s all taken care of. Management said I
could bring him with us to the manor. I even bought him a nice new little home to stay in.”
“I don’t know why you bother. He’s escaped from every crate you’ve ever bought him.”
“Not this one. I checked it out myself. There is no way he’s getting loose again. The thing’s made of steel and there’s only one exit.”
“Uh huh,” she said
, as her mind returned to the mystery game. Frowning, she asked, “Do we have to memorize lines?”
I don’t think we’ll actually have lines, per se. We just have to play a part. Don’t worry, we’ll help each other.”
She stepped down onto the pathway.
“You don’t need my help.”
“I do,” Kyle insisted
, “I haven’t acted in several years.”
“You’ve been acting for the last three months,” Grace s
coffed. Kyle had been putting on an act ever since he followed her to her hometown in an attempt to apologize for getting them both fired from their jobs at the Straker Toy Company. Kyle had managed to track her down at her high school reunion, where a mistaken belief in their employment had everyone convinced they were private detectives. Grace wasted no time in trying to convince everyone that they were wrong. Kyle, on the other hand, spent the night and every night since, convincing everyone that they were right. He told anyone who would listen that he was a seasoned private detective, and since she refused to play along, that she was his assistant. Within days, her friends were throwing money at him to solve the reunion queen’s murder. And he did, with her help, of course. Since then, he had partnered with a local detective named Steve Mattingly, and had continued the ruse.
“But this is different.” He grinned. “I hope we get costumes.”
Perking up at the mention of costumes, she glanced at the papers she had taken out of his hand a few minutes before. “What is all of this?”
“Instructions on h
ow to play the game. What to do. Where to go. That sort of thing. Basically, we meet near the entrance to the maze, get our invitations, go back to our rooms, pack and then follow the game host to the manor.” He dropped her hand to clap his hands together and rub. “I can’t wait! I’ve been looking forward to this all night.” He turned around and began walking backwards. “We have to test our skills and try to figure out whodunit before anyone else. The person, who discovers the murderer, will get this huge trophy and a plaque with their name on it. This is going to be so much fun.”
Grace smiled at his enthusiasm.
She hopped forward, grabbed him by the arm, and turned him back around before he had a chance to back into a small open gazebo near the pond. “We already discovered a murderer on the train ride up to the resort. I don’t recall you being this excited about it.”
“Yeah, but this is different. No one is really going to die.
There’s absolutely no danger. It’s just good, clean fun.” He made a guttural sound in the back of his throat. “I hope I’m the killer. If you get picked to play the murderer role, don’t tell me. I want to figure it out.” He looked down at her excitedly. “Promise me that you won’t tell me.”
Grace was just about to assure him that she
wouldn’t, when a young woman walked up to them. She was a very pretty girl, who was perhaps a few years younger than Grace, with curly black hair and big brown eyes. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t help but overhear. Are you two going to the Murder Manor?” she asked hesitantly. At their nods, she asked, “Do you mind if I walk with you?”
“Absolutely not,” Kyle said
quickly before introducing Grace and himself.
Smiling, the young woman said,
“My name’s Molly Ryder.” She suddenly gasped before clamping a hand across her mouth. “We aren’t supposed to tell each other our real names, are we?” She reached into her purse and pulled out a mystery game brochure. “I think we’re just supposed to go by our character’s names.”
“Oh, I don’t see the harm,” Grace
said. “I think it would be more fun to get to know everyone.”
“Me, too,” Molly said with a relieved smile. “I feel kind of out of place and it hasn’t even started, yet. I just hope I don’t make a fool of myself.”
Grace nodded in agreement. “I hope I don’t, either.”
“What brings you to M
urder Manor, Molly?” Kyle asked.
“I’m on my honeymoon.
” She hesitated. “Well, sort of. Mike—that was my fiancé—was a huge mystery buff. We’d been planning this since he proposed last year.”
Grace and Kyle exchanged a quick look. “Was? Is he not with you?” Grace asked hesitantly.
Molly shook her head sadly.
“Oh,” Grace said softly, “I’m so sorry.”
Seeing their sudden concern, Molly smiled. “It’s nothing tragic. Well, it is, but it’s not what you’re thinking. He’s fine. He’s back home in Louisiana, planning to marry my best friend. Ex-best friend.” She took a deep breath and blew it out. “I figured, why waste the honeymoon. We’d already paid for it, so I might as well enjoy it.”
“Good for you,” Kyle said.
Molly nodded. “It’s for the best. I’m just glad I found out what a jerk he was before we married. I just wish I hadn’t wasted a whole year of my life planning our wedding.”
“If you like, you can hang out with us
,” Grace invited, as they rounded past a large shrub trimmed into the shape of a dragon. The hedge maze loomed up ahead of them.
Molly grinned. “Thank you so much. Have either of you
played one of these mystery games before?”
Kyle shook his head. “No, this is our first
. What about you?”
“Mine, too,” Molly said
, “I’m looking forward to it.”
They fell silent as they approached a giant wrought iron gate
, separating the resort grounds from the interior of the maze and the manor hidden within. A group of people was waiting near the entrance.