Authors: Cindy Bell
Murdering the Roses
A Heavenly Highland Inn Cozy Mystery
Copyright © 2013 Cindy Bell
All rights reserved.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and locations portrayed in this book and the names herein are fictitious. Any similarity to or identification with the locations, names, characters or history of any person, product or entity is entirely coincidental and unintentional. All trademarks and brands referred to in this book are for illustrative purposes only, are the property of their respective owners and not affiliated with this publication in any way. Any trademarks are being used without permission, and the publication of the trademark is not authorized by, associated with or sponsored by the trademark owner.
Table of Contents
The blood curdling scream that carried through the grand old inn was enough to draw the attention of every living creature with the ability to hear in the nearby area. The Heavenly Highland Inn was fairly isolated from the rest of the small town where it was located, but there were plenty of wild animals in the woods that surrounded it that went scampering for cover. Vicky looked up sharply from all of the swatches and brochures that were spread out across her desk that she was reviewing. The bride to be that had booked the upcoming weekend wedding at the inn had some very specific requests. But as she heard the commotion, her stomach tightened with fear as she recognized the scream as belonging to her Aunt Ida.
jumped up from her desk and raced out of the small office in her apartment. Vicky's shoulder length, dark brown hair bounced as she moved so fast. Her deep green eyes were wide with fear and uncertainty as she wondered what could be happening that was so horrible. She ran out into the hallway of the main floor of the inn, following the sound of the shrieking. The inn was three stories with guest rooms on each floor, aside from the main floor, which only housed Vicky's apartment, the lobby, the kitchen and the lounge. When she reached the bottom of the stairs that led up to Aunt Ida's room, her older sister, Sarah, joined her.
“What is it?” she asked. She looked just as panicked as
Vicky felt. The two women were five years apart in age but at that moment they felt like two little girls about to find a monster under the bed.
“I don't know!”
Vicky frowned. “But we need to find out.” The wail came again and both women rushed up the sprawling staircase to the second floor. Sarah and Vicky were both rather tall and slender, but Sarah had their mother's wavy, blonde hair and dark brown eyes, while Vicky's looks took more after her father. The inn was very old, and had retained its original character despite many attempts at renovating and redecorating it. It was as if it had its own personality and memories. Even the wooden railing, that Vicky slid her palm along to keep her balance as she moved quickly, had the same nicks and grooves that she could remember inspecting as a child. She didn't have to think about it, she had them memorized. Hours spent running up and down the stairs, just for the fun of it, before her mother would insist that she stop because her running back and forth was making her dizzy. The inn had been the sisters' playground as children, and now it was their last remaining connection to their parents.
Vicky shouted as they neared the door to her room. Aunt Ida lived in one of the guest rooms in the inn, but most of the time she was out wandering around, spying on the guests or snooping on Vicky to see what she was up to. If she wasn't spying or snooping, then she was in the lounge, flirting with every man she could find. When Vicky tried to turn the knob on the door, it wouldn't budge. But Aunt Ida was still screaming.
Vicky called out again and banged on the door so hard that the wooden surface shook. Sarah pushed her gently aside and withdrew the set of keys she kept on her at all times. As the manager of the inn she took her job very seriously. She was always watching out for the guests and making sure that everyone was taken care of. It came naturally to her as she was a mother of two rambunctious boys, and knew how to multi-task for the sake of her sanity. When she unlocked the door, Vicky braced herself for what she might find inside. Was there an ax murderer? Was Aunt Ida dangling from one of the outside windows?
She pushed past her sister and into the room, expecting to find the worst case scenario. However, she didn't find anything at all, except for Aunt Ida's collection of outlandish furniture that clashed wi
th absolutely everything anyone could imagine. She had a red leather couch paired with a plush black recliner that eased onto an oriental rug. Aunt Ida's strange fashion sense really made the eyes hurt when someone first looked at it. But Aunt Ida was not on the couch or in the recliner. Her screams were coming from the bathroom.
Vicky, is that you?" Aunt Ida called out in a trembling voice. "Vicky please help me! It is absolutely horrifying!”
was not one to ever deny her aunt aid so she opened the door to the bathroom, while Sarah peered curiously over her shoulder. They were both used to their aunt's overly dramatic antics, but neither really knew what to expect. They looked towards the tub, and there they saw something that neither really wanted to see, their aunt, with the shower curtain wrapped around her, standing in the bath tub.
"Are you hurt?"
Vicky asked with confusion, she didn't see any blood or obvious injury. Had the shower curtain somehow attacked Aunt Ida? Maybe she had watched a scary movie.
"I can't get out," Ida huffed, her screams finally ceasing now that she saw
that both of her nieces had come to her aid. "I'm so glad you're here, I thought I would be stuck in this tub for days if no one heard me screaming.” She shook her head, water dripping from her short hair.
"Why were you screaming?"
Sarah asked in an even tone as she tried to keep her frustration at bay. She was trying to figure out just what was going on here. Aunt Ida was a very important person to the sisters. Four years before, their parents had been killed in a tragic car accident. It was so sudden and so heartbreaking to lose both parents on the same day. Sarah had a young child and a young marriage, and Vicky had just graduated from college. Both were in transitional stages of their lives and were not prepared to be left with no guiding force or support from the parents they adored. Aunt Ida, who had lived in the inn even when her sister and brother-in-law were alive, had stepped in as a motherly figure after the sisters decided to split the responsibilities of running the famous get away for the rich. Since then she had been a part of their daily lives, and she really did make an effort to show them how much she cared for them. She also managed to make an effort to be very dramatic at least once a day.
, obviously because of that," Ida pointed across from her at the bathroom mirror, her extended finger shaking. At first all that Vicky saw was the steam from the shower that had caused the mirror to fog. Then she noticed something rather massive curled around the edge of the mirror.
Sarah gasped out with irritation. "That's what all of that screaming was about?" She looked absolutely enraged as she stalked over to her aunt with a towel. "Really, it's not like this isn't an old building, spiders are going to get in now and then."
shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot as she stared at the large brown and hairy creature that seemed to be staring right back at her.
, it is very big," Vicky said in a trembling voice. She was not afraid of many things, but massive spiders watching her take a shower just might make the list.
"Humongous!" Aunt Ida squeaked out as she nervously took the towel from
Sarah and wrapped it around her. Aunt Ida was a very beautiful woman, despite her age. She was older than her sister who had passed, and in her late sixties she could easily pass for much younger. She took very good care of herself and always had some new beauty treatment or lotion for Vicky to try. They shared a love of décor and fashion, even if it didn't always match. Where Vicky preferred things to be a bit more subtle Aunt Ida had a preference for the outlandish, as was demonstrated by her taste in furniture, and her abnormal reaction to a spider that surely couldn't have caused her too much harm if she had just stepped out of the shower.
"Get rid of that thing,"
Sarah muttered to Vicky as she escorted Aunt Ida out of the bathroom to help her settle down.
Vicky gasped, her eyes wide as she shook her head firmly at her sister. "I'm not going near that thing!" she insisted.
"Someone has to get rid of it!"
Sarah called back with clear annoyance. "It's not going to be me," she added. "Maybe I can get Phil to come take care of it," she said thoughtfully. Phil was her husband, and though he was rather straight laced and far too traditional for Vicky's taste she had to admit that if Sarah asked him to he would probably drop everything at work and come right over to take care of the spider. He had been a strong source of comfort for Sarah when their parents passed, and even Vicky had leaned on him a few times for some stability and the promise that things would eventually get better.
g on here, I heard screaming?" a voice said from the doorway of the room, which had been left ajar in their panic to save their aunt from whatever horrible assailant was attacking her. It was Bob, the newest hire at the inn. Bob and Vicky knew each other from high school. They hadn't really known each other well, just attended the same grade at the same time. But when she was growing up she knew his mother quite well as she was involved in Vicky’s volleyball team. So when Bob came to Vicky looking for any kind of work he could get his hands on, she had decided to take a chance on him.
It was a decision she
had made out of sympathy and something she had regretted ever since. He was lazy, not very good at his job, and always sneaking drinks from the lounge. Henry, the chef for the inn had already come to her three times, livid that the fresh vegetables he was supposed to serve straight from the garden, were wilted or rotten. Sarah had insisted that Vicky needed to get rid of Bob, since she was the one who had hired him, but Vicky just couldn't bring herself to do it. No matter how bad an employee he was, he was still a person. She hated to think of him living without any kind of income, as she had been his last resort for a job. She kept hoping that he would simply start doing better and she could drop the whole idea of firing him.
Bob wasn't a looker either. He had scars on his face from past acne, and his skin was dark from working in the sun for so long, but instead of looking tanned, it just looked dirty. His hair was always greasy as if he didn't shower very often, and the scent he carried pretty much proved that theory time and time again. It was no different today as
Sarah shielded their aunt from his presence, considering she was still only in a towel. However, for the first time since Vicky had hired him, she was happy to see him.
"Bob we need you to do something for us,"
Vicky said quickly. While Sarah was shielding Aunt Ida, Vicky led him into the bathroom and showed him the massive intruder.
"Would you look at that," Bob clucked his tongue with admiration. "I've seen a few of these in the garden shed, but none this big," he reached up as if he might grab the spider with his bare hand.
"Ugh! Use something, like a towel, or toilet paper, or at least a cup," Vicky pleaded, her stomach churning at the very idea of those long, hairy legs scraping against skin. He laughed a little and snatched up a paper towel from the counter. The paper towel looked fairly small in comparison to the size of the spider.
"This should do it," he said quietly as he reached for the spider again. He seemed to be fas
cinated, rather than frightened by it.
Vicky squealed in terror as he was about to grab it. "Wait until I get out of the room!" What if it escaped and chased after her?
"Okay, okay," he grinned with a devilish glint in his eyes.
Vicky wondered if he was considering throwing that arachnid beast at her. She hurried out of the bathroom and climbed up onto her Aunt Ida's bed. Sarah rolled her eyes, but when they heard Bob give a shout from the bathroom, Sarah also pulled her feet up onto the bed, with a grimace.
"Got it!" Bob finally said as he came out with the balled up paper towel. He held it up in the air triumphantly.
"Is it in there?" Aunt Ida asked, her eyes huge with fear.
"Sure, want to see it?" Bob offered and held the paper towel out to the cluster of women.
"No!" Aunt Ida shrieked and waved her hand wildly in Bob's direction. "Go get rid of that thing! Put it out of its misery!"