Sweet Friend of Mine (A Sweet Cove Mystery Book 8)

BOOK: Sweet Friend of Mine (A Sweet Cove Mystery Book 8)
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Sweet Friend of Mine
A Sweet Cove, Massachusetts Cozy Mystery Book 8
Sweet Friend of Mine
A Sweet Cove, Massachusetts Cozy Mystery Book 8
J. A. Whiting

C
opyright 2016 J.A
. Whiting

Cover copyright 2016 Susan Coils at
www.coverkicks.com

Formatting by Signifer Book Design

Proofreading by Donna Rich

T
his book is
a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, or incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to locales, actual events, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from J. A. Whiting.

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o hear about
new books and book sales, please sign up for my mailing list at:

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For my sweet family and friends,

with a heart full of love

1

T
wenty-nine-year
-old Angie Roseland stood in the backyard with her hands stuffed into the pockets of her navy blue wool coat. The bright sun felt good on her face, but a chilly breeze kicked up every few minutes and bit into her skin. Although the early January weather had been cold without much snow, a dusting of white powder could be seen here and there around the rear gardens. She moved off the stone patio and took a few steps across the lawn so she could see the side of the carriage house. Glancing up into the tall, old oak tree, she scanned the bare branches and let out a sigh when her eyes lingered on the singed sections of the trunk.

Less than three months ago, the carriage house had been set on fire with Angie and her three sisters held captive inside and Angie still couldn’t believe that the family’s two cats, Euclid and Circe had a hand, or a paw, in saving the young women. The rebuilding of the carriage house was almost complete and Tom and his crew had done beautiful work.

Since the holidays, things had been quieter in the seaside town of Sweet Cove, but Angie’s bake shop was doing well, Ellie’s bed and breakfast in the Victorian mansion was still busy with travelers staying at the inn on their way north to ski resorts, Jenna’s jewelry business was booming especially with online orders, and Courtney and Mr. Finch had recently branched out with an online presence selling their candy confections during the off-season. In ten days, the sisters and their boyfriends, Mr. Finch and his girlfriend, Sweet Cove Realtor Betty Hayes, and the two cats were heading off on a three-day vacation to a Vermont ski resort.

Angie shifted her feet from side-to-side trying to keep her toes warm and she reached up and pulled her scarf tighter around her neck while lifting her honey-colored hair over her collar. Movement near the corner of the carriage house caught her eye and Euclid, a bundle of orange and white fur, sauntered over to Angie. He jumped up onto the stones of the fire pit and his green eyes bored into her.

“The cold doesn’t bother you at all, does it?” Angie scratched the huge cat’s cheeks and his heavy fur helped warm her fingers. She ran her hand over the orange boy’s back and tilted her head slightly to the side. “Do you feel it, too, Euclid?”

The cat shifted its gaze out over the backyard and then stood up and turned towards the front of the property with the fur on his back standing up. A growl grumbled low in his throat and then he looked up at Angie.

“Yeah.” She moved her hand back to the cat’s cheeks and scratched. “I’ve been feeling it for a few days. I think it’s coming closer.”

The back door of the Victorian opened and Angie’s youngest sister, Courtney, stepped outside. “What’s cookin,’ Sis?” She walked over to the fire pit and sat down on the stones next to Euclid.

“Not much.” Angie shoved her hands back into her pockets to keep them warm. “I was just checking out the carriage house. It’s looking good.”

Courtney smiled. “We wouldn’t expect any less from Tom.”

“Did he and Jenna go out for lunch?” Angie asked.

Courtney chuckled. “Jenna said it was too cold out. She’s making Tom a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich with a bowl of beef barley soup.”

Hearing about the food, Euclid took off for the door of the house and Angie and Courtney watched the streak of orange fur race across the lawn. The feline went inside through the cat door that had recently been installed.

Courtney laughed. “You know how Euclid loves grilled cheese.” She looked up at the oak tree. “The mistletoe isn’t growing back, huh?” Mistletoe had been growing in the old tree and had played an important role in the last case the four Roseland sisters were involved in.

Angie followed her sister’s gaze. “No, it’s too cold for it to grow.”

Courtney said, “Maybe in the spring.”

“Maybe. I don’t know if that would be a good thing or a bad thing.”

“You ready to go?” Courtney slid off the short stone wall surrounding the fire pit. “Is Louisa holding down the fort in the bake shop?”

Angie nodded. “It’s quiet now. She’ll close up in an hour.”

The two headed down the driveway that ran along the side of the Victorian and turned right onto Beach Street on their way to the center of town.

“Thanks for helping us get these candy orders out. Mr. Finch and I had no idea the online candy would take off like it has. Once the good weather comes back, we’ll have to hire some people to handle the internet orders.”

Angie smiled. “You could have worse problems.”

“Oh, I know. We’re thrilled.” Courtney put her arm through her sister’s. “Wait until you taste Mr. Finch’s latest concoction. It’s delicious. Honestly, I don’t know how he comes up with all these new flavors and ideas.”

They opened the door to the candy store and the little bell tinkled as they entered. Mr. Finch was bent behind one of the glass candy cases and he raised his head when he heard the girls come in. Greeting them with a warm smile, Finch said, “It’s a good thing we made another batch of the new fudge. It’s selling like hot cakes.”

“You must be a marketing genius, Mr. Finch.” Angie took off her coat and the three went into the back room of the store. “I should have you give me some tips for bringing more customers into the bake shop.”

“Your shop doesn’t need any more business, Miss Angie. You’ve got your hands full every day.”

Angie put an apron over her head and tied it behind her back. “We’re busy enough. It’s just right, really. The off-season gives us a break from the craziness of the summer.”

Orders were piled high on the desk near the door and white candy boxes were lined up on the far counter. Courtney explained how the orders were filled and where to put the completed orders.

“I think I need to taste that new fudge before we get started.” Angie eyed Mr. Finch who was at his coffee machine preparing beverages. “It will go nicely with my cappuccino.”

“No samples until the orders are done.” Courtney lifted a box, opened it up, and placed six chocolates inside. “That will be your reward.”

Mr. Finch shrugged a shoulder as he handed Angie her small white coffee cup and winked. “Miss Courtney runs a tight ship.”

Angie picked up an order sheet and looked over at her sister. “You
do
remember that I’m a volunteer here. I need to be paid in fudge.”

“We’ll see how well you work.” Courtney kidded her sister.

The three talked about the upcoming trip and the activities that they planned to do at the resort.

“I want to try snowboarding.” Excitement bubbled in Courtney’s voice.

Angie taped a little white box closed and placed a gold “Finch and Roseland Confectioners” label on the front. “I’m looking forward to the snow tubing.”

Mr. Finch looked over the top of his black-rimmed glasses. “I will enjoy sitting in the lodge in front of the roaring fire with a hot toddy.”

“Don’t you want to do any of the winter activities?” Courtney lined up the completed boxes of candy orders.

“No.” Mr. Finch grinned. “I am content to sit by the fire with Miss Betty.” Finch cocked his head. “Although, a ride together in the horse-drawn sleigh sounds quite romantic.”

Courtney and Angie smiled at each other.

“Funny.” Finch said thoughtfully. “I’ve had the oddest dream. Something prevented us from going on our little vacation.”

A chill ran over Angie’s skin. She stopped what she was doing and turned to the older man. “Why didn’t we go?”

“I don’t know why. It was so dark in the dream.” Mr. Finch gazed across the room, deep in thought. “It was hard to see where we were. But someone needed our help and we couldn’t abandon them so we had to postpone the trip.”

“It better not be a premonition.” Courtney placed the candy boxes into shipping containers. “I need this mini-vacation.”

Angie made eye contact with Mr. Finch. “Did you only dream this once?”

“No.” Finch shook his head, his face was serious. “I’ve dreamt it every night for a week.”

Angie’s heart sank.

Finch’s bushy eyebrows knitted together. “Do you feel something, Miss Angie?”

Angie gave a little nod. Mr. Finch and the Roseland sisters each had the power to “sense” things.

“What?
You
feel something, too?” Courtney almost shouted. “No way.” She faced Angie and Finch with a hang-dog expression. “Don’t ruin this. We haven’t been away for ages.”

“You know it’s nothing that we can control.” Angie looked at her sister. “You don’t feel anything?”

Courtney sighed. “I’ve been trying to avoid it.”

Angie felt slight relief that she wasn’t the only one who had some sense of trouble brewing. It had been nearly three months without anything raising its head and she knew that after what they’d gone through with the fire in the carriage house, they all wanted to keep things quiet and peaceful. Angie forced a smile. “Maybe it’s nothing at all. Maybe we’re all just tired of winter and we’re feeling out-of-sorts and we need a break from our routines.”

“You know that isn’t it.” Courtney carried a load of boxes to the far table where they would later be picked up by the shipping company. “But, I am going to put my head in the sand and try to ignore it.”

Just as the words were out of her mouth, the door opened in the shop’s front room causing the bell to chime. A man’s voice called. “Anyone here? You in back?”

Angie, Courtney, and Mr. Finch shared a look with one another.

Courtney rolled her eyes. “So much for trying to ignore it.”

Before anyone could reply to the man who had just entered the shop, a head popped around the corner and peeked into the back room.

It was Police Chief Martin. And he wasn’t smiling.

2


H
ello
, everyone.” The chief removed his hat and held it in front of him while he shifted a bit on his feet. “May I come in?”

“Of course.” Angie went over and took the chief’s coat. “Would you like to sit?”

Chief Martin made quick eye contact with Mr. Finch, Courtney, and Angie. “I’d better. Unless you’re too busy. I can come back later.”

“We’re never to busy to talk to you.” Courtney cut a piece of fudge and put it on a white saucer that she carried over to him.

Mr. Finch went to his coffee machine. “What can I make you?” He held a large white cup in his hand ready to make whatever the chief felt like drinking.

“How about a black coffee?” The chief’s face muscles seemed to droop a little and the corners of his eyes wrinkled. “I need it.”

Angie carried chairs over to make a small circle so they could all sit and talk with the chief. She glanced at the man and thought he looked like he’d been up all night.

“You know I love it when you have something for us to help you with.” Courtney winked at the chief. “And just to remind you, none of us, including me, have received a silver police badge for assisting on cases.” She sat down next to him. “Whatever you have to talk to us about, can our involvement wait until we get back from vacation?”

A worried look passed over the chief’s face. “You’re going on vacation? All of you?”

Angie sat down on the other side of the man. “It’s only a few days and just to New Hampshire, but we can certainly postpone it. It’s no big deal.”

Mr. Finch leaned on his cane with one hand and carried the coffee mug to the chief. “Here’s a nice hot coffee to warm you on a cold day.”

Chief Martin took a long swallow and leaned back against the chair, closing his eyes for a moment. “Just what I needed.”

Despite her eagerness to go away to the resort, Courtney was bright-eyed, keen to hear what the chief had to say. “So. What’s new?”

“I was up all night. We were called at 4am. Usually we wait on a missing person for a bit because the person is often just out with friends, forgets to call home, or takes off for a few days without letting family know. That sort of thing. But when the report came in and the dispatcher called me, I had a bad feeling.” The chief rubbed the stubble on his cheek. “I still have a bad feeling.”

“Hence, your visit here.” Mr. Finch nodded.

“Yes.”

“Tell us what happened.” Angie encouraged the man.

“The call was from a frantic parent. Bob Allen. He and his family live on the outskirts of town, half his property is in Sweet Cove and the other half is in Silver Cove. Mr. Allens’ twenty-year-old son called home shortly after midnight last night. His car had gone off the road and he was stuck in a ditch. The young man claimed that he had no injuries. He was on his way home after being out with a buddy. The boy told his dad that he couldn’t budge the car and he wondered if his father could come and pick him up.”

Courtney tilted her head and narrowed her eyes. “But?”

“Mr. and Mrs. Allen drove out in the direction where the boy said the car was ditched. The son, Ryan, told his dad that he would walk towards Silver Cove and that his father should look for him along the road.” The chief took another long swig of the hot coffee.

“They didn’t find the young man?” Mr. Finch asked.

“They did not. The parents drove around for some time trying to locate the boy. They drove to where the son reported the car went into the ditch.”

“No sign of him with the car?” Angie leaned forward.

The chief sighed. “No sign of the car at all. Nothing.” He held his hands up in a helpless gesture. “Authorities are pulling cell phone records to determine the location of the son’s original call to his parents. We should have that information soon.”

Mr. Finch held the top of his cane in front of him with both hands on the top and turned it slowly as he thought. “Where did the young man tell his parents he was when he went off the road?”

“He said he was in the town just north of Silver Cove, Mission River. He has a friend who lives there. They were home from college for the winter break. Ryan drove up to hang out with his friend for the evening.”

“So he said he was in Mission River when the car went off the road?” Courtney was trying to piece things together.

“Yes.”

Angie speculated. “Maybe Ryan was disoriented. Maybe he hit his head when the car left the road. He could have been confused about where he was. Maybe he walked off in a direction other than towards Silver Cove.”

“We wondered the same thing. It’s a definite possibility.” Chief Martin let out a sigh. “There’s something else. When Mr. and Mrs. Allen were driving to pick up their son, Mrs. Allen was talking to Ryan by phone. She didn’t like him walking along the road alone so late so she wanted to keep him on the phone as they drove. When they reached the spot where Ryan said he’d gone off the road and they didn’t find the car or their son, they drove a little further north. Still nothing. Ryan described the road where he was walking as being wooded on both sides.”

Courtney moaned. “All the roads up that way are wooded on both sides.”

“There’s something else, isn’t there, Chief Martin?” Mr. Finch looked at the man with worried eyes.

“There is.” The chief gathered himself and straightened. “While Mrs. Allen was speaking to her son on the phone as they drove around looking for him, she asked Ryan something and he didn’t answer right away. Then she heard him curse and the phone went dead.”

Courtney’s jaw dropped. As Angie and Mr. Finch stared at the chief, they heard the door of the candy shop open.

Ellie called. “You in back?”

Jenna and Ellie entered the back room of the candy store.

Jenna’s blue eyes glanced around at the foursome. “We saw your car out front,” she told the chief.

Ellie nervously pushed her long blonde hair over her shoulder. “We can tell by the looks on your faces that the chief isn’t here on a social call. What’s wrong? What’s happened?” She and Jenna pulled up chairs and joined the circle. Their sisters, Chief Martin, and Mr. Finch took turns recounting the tale of the missing young man.

“Oh.” Ellie’s face paled and she rubbed at her temple. “How awful. What could have happened to him?”

“I knew something was about to happen.” Jenna took off her jacket and hung it on the back of the chair. “I could feel it. I’ve had weird dreams, too.”

Mr. Finch raised an eyebrow.

Jenna’s long brown hair had a few snowflakes in it. “The dreams are dark. I can’t see anything, but I’m trying to find something. Someone needs our help and we’re searching everywhere.” She noticed the look on Mr. Finch’s face and she asked, “You, too?”

Finch gave a slight nod and Ellie let out a groan. Some of the family members had experienced the exact same dream not long ago when they were involved with another case.

Jenna went to Finch’s coffee machine and made two lattes. She brought one to Ellie just as Chief Martin’s phone buzzed.

He stood, took the call, and listened, occasionally saying a few words. Clicking off, he turned to the group, his face serious. “Want to take a drive? They’ve found Ryan Allen’s car.”

“And the young man?” Finch asked hopefully.

Chief Martin shook his head. “Just the car.”

“Where was it found?” Angie asked.

“About three miles north of where Ryan said he went off the road. The car is on the north side of Mission River.”

“So Ryan was mistaken about where he was.” Courtney’s forehead wrinkled in thought.

“Ryan could have been drinking.” Jenna rinsed her cup in the sink. “That could be why he was mixed up about where he was and could also be the reason why he drove off the road.”

“We’ll have to talk to the parents again and have a visit to Ryan’s friend. Find out if Ryan was drunk or not.” The chief shrugged into his wool coat. “It might be helpful if some of you could sit in on the conversations.” He raised an eyebrow as he made eye contact with the four sisters and Finch.

“Not me.” Ellie reached into her bag for the keys to the van. “You know I’m no good in those kinds of situations.”

“Courtney and Angie should sit in,” Jenna told the chief. “They have experience doing that with you and are good at picking up on what people say. I can help in other ways.” Jenna had a sixth sense and could often feel or see things that had happened ... and sometimes, she could see ghosts.

Ellie downed her coffee and stood up. “My van’s outside. We may as well all drive together.”

The group gathered their things and headed outside. Before locking the shop door, Mr. Finch turned the sign to “Closed.”

As he opened the van door, the chief asked sheepishly, “Can we pick up the cats?” Chief Martin understood that the cats were able to sense things, too. He was still uncomfortable talking about it because it seemed so impossible, but he was fully aware that there were things in the world that couldn’t be explained.

“That’s probably a good idea.” Angie opened the passenger side door and waited for Jenna to climb in.

One side of Jenna’s mouth turned up in a half-grin. “So much for peace and quiet.”

“I have to admit that things were getting boring.” Mr. Finch winked. He held Courtney’s arm as he pulled himself into the van. “Much better to be needed.”

“Yeah, and who wants a mini-vacation anyway?” Courtney smiled.

BOOK: Sweet Friend of Mine (A Sweet Cove Mystery Book 8)
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