Poisoned Pin: A Cozy Mystery (Brenna Battle Book 2) (15 page)

BOOK: Poisoned Pin: A Cozy Mystery (Brenna Battle Book 2)
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Mrs. Feldman showed me around the dining area, the guests’ sitting room, the library, even the kitchen. At the opposite end of the kitchen were french doors, painted a charming buttery yellow to match the kitchen cabinets. Though they matched, I suspected they were an add-on.
 

Mrs. Feldman followed my gaze. “That’s our private residence.”

“Oh! Of course. I’m sure it’s just lovely, too.”

And locked. There was very clearly a keyhole below the antique-look door handle.
No-o-o
.

She smiled a tight little smile. As I’d expected, there was no invitation to give me a tour of the residence.

“When I looked up the inn online, I noticed there were some rumors about hauntings here.”

“Yes, I assure you, our ghosts are perfectly harmless, though. They’re quite friendly, when they do decide to show themselves.”

“So you’ve seen them yourself?”

“Absolutely!”

“Wow … that must have been quite an experience. Has it happened many times?”

Mrs. Feldman launched into several tales of ghost sightings, one of which involved a perfect plate of cookies mysteriously appearing for her guests, just when she’d burned a batch and was feeling overwhelmed. Sounded more like those helpful little fairies—brownies, I think they call them—than ghosts to me. I wouldn’t mind being haunted by a cookie delivering ghost. I almost told Mrs. Feldman that, then realized that was too
Brenna
.

“How delightful!” I said instead. I fluttered my hand girlishly, for good measure.

Mrs. Feldman was clearly either deceived about these spirits, or a skillful liar, or she saw herself as an actor in the show that was Blackberry Inn. Was that it? Did she really think her guests believed her, or was it meant to be understood that it was all in good fun? Either way, if Harvey was right about the sort of guests they attracted, if they were Jacinda types, some of
them
must think it was real.

Thanks to my last minute reservation and, according to Mrs. Feldman, the surge in guests resulting from the recent “disturbances” at Bonney Bay’s other, more sinister haunted house, I’d gotten the oddball little room, tucked away under the eaves all by itself, just at the top of the stairs.

After Mrs. Feldman left me there with the key, I visualized the house from the outside, picturing the images I’d seen on their website as well as what I’d seen jogging around Bonney Bay. There should be more to the upstairs. There was a hallway to my right, where I could see the doors of the other guest rooms. It seemed like it should also extend to the left, rather than dead-ending. There was a door there, to the left, but I’d assumed it was a closet. Aha! I must be right next to the the second story of the Feldmans’ private rooms. That door must lead to the sealed-off part of the house. But how to get in there, especially unnoticed?

I locked the door behind me, peeled the awful torture devices masquerading as shoes off my feet, and went straight to the bathroom to scrub my face. Once I was me again, I flung myself onto the bed, closed my eyes, and tried to think. I wondered if being an over-the-top beauty queen was as exhausting as pretending to be one.

What now? I was in, and I was incognito. I’d done it. Played my part. The only problem was, I had no idea what cards to play next. So far my plan consisted of waiting until I was sure the Feldmans were asleep, then sneaking around the house, looking in all the cabinets for poison. The problem was, I was pretty sure they wouldn’t keep the murder weapon in the guest portion of the house, and their residence was locked. Of course it was locked! Why hadn’t I thought of that?

More breaking and entering was in store for me. Blythe was just going to love this. Okay, so if I managed to break in somehow and snoop around, what would I do if I got caught? I needed a backup plan. You know, because things had a teensy tinesy tendency to go horribly wrong for me. Sleepwalking! Yes. I’d be a sleepwalking beauty queen. But I’d already washed that horrible disguise off. Great. I was going to have to put it back on. Wouldn’t that be weird, though? Why would a beauty queen sleep with her makeup on?
Grr
. I was screwed.

Creeeaaak!

My eyes flashed open. What the heck was that? It was nothing. Just a creaky old house. Probably one of the other guests banging around. The sound came again, longer, louder. Now
that
was not just a creak. It was more of a groan, and it didn’t seem to be coming from the hallway. And there were no rooms on either side of mine! The sound was so close, almost as though it was … actually in my room.

Was I turning into Harvey? Imagining things?

Another creak, much more sudden and violent this time, came from right behind my bed. From the outside wall. That was no ghost and no figment of my imagination. Someone was out there, trying to get in my window.

Tap-tap
.

I bolted upright. There it was again. Not loud, but a distinct, intentional knock. Someone was outside my bedroom window. I grabbed my phone, ready to dial 9-1-1. Just to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind before I called the police, I pulled the lacy curtains aside, and nearly peed my pants.

A pale face hovered in the darkness. It stared at me, wide-eyed and desperate. I flew backward at the sight. There was a disembodied head floating outside my window.
 

23

I was
this close
to screaming when I saw the pale fingers clinging to the windowsill. So, it had a body. Or at least, bony, clinging fingers. Holy moly! How was that better? The face rolled its eyes, and instantly recognition dawned on me.

“Sammi! What are you doing here?” I tossed my phone on the bed, flipped the latch, and muscled the sticky old window up. As I did so, my bladder threatened to betray me again. Wow, I really did need to pee.
 

Sammi clung to the window sill with trembling, white-knuckled hands. “Shh! You’ll wake the suspects,” she said as she wriggled her belly over the sill. I grabbed her under the arms and hoisted her in. She was dressed in black jeans and a dark gray hoodie, pulled tight around her white face. She wore a small, dark purple backpack, and her pink little feet were bare.

I set her on her feet and said, “There are no suspects here. What do you think you’re doing?” I left off the
young lady
part. I’m not that old yet.

Sammi pushed up her sleeves and rubbed her scratched-up forearms. “Ri-i-ight. That’s why you got all dolled up and checked in here under a false name.”

“How do you know that?”

“You’re not the only sleuth in Bonney Bay.”

Oh. Dear. God. “Have you been watching me? Have you been following me?”

“Maybe? Sort of?”

She smiled at me. I think it was supposed to make me want to forgive her, but all it did was make me want to wipe it off her face. I’d been followed by an eleven-and-a-half-year-old and I didn’t even know it? Was I that oblivious? The real killer could probably have a field day with me. Maybe I should’ve sent Sammi into the residence during the day to look for the poison. No, that would be contributing to the delinquency of a minor! Bad Brenna. I dealt with my fury at myself the way any self-respecting adult would—I redirected it toward her.

“How dare you—” I took a deep breath and tried to channel Blythe. It was no easy task, with my adrenaline still pumping from the ghostly apparition outside my window. “Sammi, this is serious business. I can’t have you here. It could be dangerous.”

She crossed her arms and gave me a smug look. “Look, I wasn’t really spying on you. I was spying on this house. I figured the Feldman’s might know something. Then I saw you drive up. It took me a minute, but I realized it was you. But trust me,” she said cryptically, “you need me here.”

I know I should’ve just thrown her out right then and there, but something about that devious spark in her eye made me have to know. That, and Sammi was famous for her screams, which could put every horror flick female and a whole mass of banshees to shame. Tossing her out the window was highly likely to backfire.

“Why?” I asked. “Why do I need you here?”

She slid her backpack off her shoulder and pulled something out of a small side pocket. “Because I have this.”

“Is that a walkie talkie?”

“My mom got them for when we went to Disneyland. Back before I had a cell phone. Just in case we got separated.”

“Sammi, I have a cell phone. Remember, you stole it a couple weeks ago.”

She rolled her eyes at me again, the cheeky little brat. Sammi waved the walkie-talkie in the air. “Guess where the other one is?”

“I don’t know, where?” I practically hissed. Did I mention I hate guessing games?

“It’s in the Feldmans’ office. With the button taped down, so we can hear every word they’re saying.”

“Wait. You planted a walkie-talkie in the Feldmans’ office?”

“Yup. While they were checking you in. Lots of people in Bonney Bay don’t lock their doors during the day, including the Feldmans.”

I snatched the little yellow and black device from her and turned the volume knob. I could hear the faint sound of a TV in the background. As I turned the device in my hand, I noticed something else. “Sammi?”

“What?”

I felt the blood drain from my face. “This walkie-talkie has your mom’s name and number written on it in sharpie.”

“Yeah?”

I swear, I tried so hard not to hiss. But hissing beats screaming and shaking, right? “So does the other one have her name and number on it? The one you left in the Feldmans’ living room? The one they could find at any moment?”

“Uh … oh.”

“Right.”

“It’s no big deal. I’m going to go back in there and get it. They’ll never know.”

“When? How? What exactly is your plan for that?”

She scoffed at me! Sammi really scoffed at me!

“Well, I don’t exactly have a plan. Who plans?”

Oh, I don’t know, grown-ups, maybe? Which is why Sammi should’ve minded her own business. You know, like I did. “Real sleuths. Sleuths plan, Sammi.”

I squirmed in discomfort, and tried to turn my grimace into something menacing. But my potty dance might have ruined the effect just a tad. The giant frappuccino I’d sucked down in anticipation of a snooping all-nighter was kicking in with a vengeance.

“Stay right there!” I commanded. Then I scurried to the bathroom, walkie talkie still in hand. Hey, if the Feldmans did start talking, I certainly didn’t want to miss it.

Just as the toilet stopped flushing, I heard a
creak-snap-whoosh!
outside.

I flew out of the bathroom, whispering, “Sammi?”

But she was gone. The room was empty.

I peered out the open window and into the darkness, searching for her little ghost face. Nothing. I put my phone on the flashlight app and shined it into the night. Oh. Crud. The trellis was broken. I thought I saw a lump below, but there was no movement. It was hard to tell if it was just a tangle of broken vines and trellis, or if Sammi was lying there underneath it somewhere.

“Sammi?” I hissed.

No answer. I tossed my phone on the bed and grabbed the bedside lamp. I held it out, over the windowsill, trying to get a better look.
Maybe if I shine it just a little farther
. I pulled the lamp cord and felt it catch, then jerk. I barely caught the nightstand before it crashed onto the floor. Unfortunately, I let go of the lamp in order to catch the nightstand. It was a pretty lamp. White with a blue floral pattern. Kind of like the china my mom kept in a cabinet and only took out for special occasions. It hit the hardwood floor and shattered, sounding a lot like that china did when I dropped it one Thanksgiving.

No! No, no, no!

If the Feldmans heard that, they were going to come up here and find me looking nothing like Gabby Young and everything like Brenna Battle, the new girl in Bonney Bay, who couldn’t seem to stay out of trouble.

24

I grabbed the nightstand, picked it up, and moved it in front of the door. That wasn’t going to do it. I took the upholstered antique high-backed chair and propped it under the doorknob. After all, the Feldmans had a key to this room. Okay, so I kind of panicked. Just a little. They could be murderers, after all. I listened to the walkie talkie, but heard only static. No more TV.

I ran to the window and held my cell phone out again, whispering Sammi’s name. Again, I heard nothing—except for the sound of a door opening on the north side—the private residence side—of my room. Footsteps padded to my door and stopped. There was a gentle, tentative rap on my door.

“Miss Young?”

“Yes?”

“Is everything alright?“

“Oh, yes, fine. I just tripped, but it’s all good.”
It’s all good?
That hardly fit Gabby Young’s persona. Good grief.

“Did … something break?”

“Oh! Yes. I’m so sorry. I knocked over the lamp. I’ll have to replace it. But I’m fine.”

“I could come in and clean up the mess.”

“Oh, no. Already taken care of. All swept up.” I hate lying. I’m really awful at it too. Obviously.

“You found the broom in the hall closet?”

The hall closet! I was going to have to figure out which door belonged to the closet and grab a broom from there once she was gone. “No, I have one. I carry a broom. One of those little hand brooms, you know?”

Right. That’s what every beauty queen packs in her suitcase. Right along with her pumps and her tiaras and her carefully selected outfits.

“Let me come in and help you,” Mrs. Feldman said more insistently. “It’s really no trouble at all.” Which I took to mean,
Let me come in and kill you before you can talk, you little snoop
. Or maybe it was,
Let me come in so I can find out who you really are and report you to the police
. Either way, definitely more than a little trouble for me.

No more Miss Congeniality. It was time to pull out the big guns. Time for Gabby Young to assert herself in all her obnoxious queenly glory. I put on my best, snippy, snobby voice. “I’m so tired. I really
must
get my beauty sleep. Please. Some peace and quiet would be nice.”

I cringed. I could’ve slapped Gabby Young. You know, if she were real. If she weren’t really me.

BOOK: Poisoned Pin: A Cozy Mystery (Brenna Battle Book 2)
2.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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