Trick or Treason

 

It’s Halloween once again and Zoe is on the trail of the killer responsible for the death of a long time friend. Check out this preview of the annual Halloween installment of the Zoe Donovan Cozy Mystery Series.

 

Chapter 1
Monday, October 23

 

“I think I first realized I was in trouble when the marshmallow ghost decided to lead an attack against the Milky Way king. I remember grabbing my candy corn shield as I prepared for what was to come, but when the Raisinets began to rain down on the entire candy kingdom, I knew a shield made of candy corn wasn’t going to be nearly enough.”

“Sounds terrifying,” my best friend, Ellie Denton, replied as she tossed a bag of Snickers into her basket. We were shopping at the Halloween store in preparation for the upcoming holiday.

“It really was,” I confirmed, my heart still racing at the memory of the dream I’d had the previous night.

Ellie handed her six-month-old son, Eli, one of the small stuffed pumpkins she’d picked up from a nearby bin. “So what did you do once you realized the entire world was about to be covered in Raisinets?”

“The only thing I could. I dove into the chocolate sea and swam for my life. What do you think it means?”

Ellie turned toward me with a smile. “I think it means Catherine wants you to lay off the Chinese takeout so close to bedtime.”

I put my hand on the small bump under my loose-fitting T-shirt. “You think?”

Ellie laughed and grabbed my hand in hers. “I do. I have to hand it to you, Zoe Donovan-Zimmerman; you’ve been experiencing the most entertaining pregnancy symptoms of anyone I’ve ever met.”

“Lucky me.” I groaned as I pressed my hands into the small of my back.

“Is your back still hurting?” Ellie asked with genuine sympathy in her voice.

“It has been. I guess I knew back pain would be part of the pregnancy package, but I’m only a couple of weeks into my third trimester. If my back hurts this badly so early in the game I can’t imagine what it’s going to feel like when I reach my ninth month.”

“Have you talked to your doctor?”

I nodded. “He told me to slow down a bit. Like I can even consider doing such a thing. Haunted Hamlet is next weekend and I don’t have nearly enough volunteers lined up for the kiddie events, the Halloween dance at Zimmerman Academy is on Friday and I still need to get Alex a dress, and Scooter’s soccer team entered a tournament that starts on Wednesday.” I referred to Scooter Sherwood and Alex Bremmerton, the two thirteen-year-olds who lived with my husband Zak and me.

“You do have a lot on your plate,” Ellie admitted.

“If that was all I had to worry about I might be fine, but to top it all off, the guy from the county is coming this week to do his final inspection on the remodel at the Zoo,” I said, referring to the wild and domestic animal rescue and rehabilitation shelter I owned. “I know Jeremy is on top of things, but still, I worry. We have two additional bear cubs coming in two weeks to winter with us and we’re already at capacity. I don’t know what we’ll do if we can’t open the new wing.”

“It’ll be fine,” Ellie assured me. “Jeremy is a fantastic manager and he knows what he’s doing.”

I did agree that Jeremy Fisher had matured quite a lot from the nineteen-year-old I originally hired five years ago when I still worked for the county.

“Do you think these leaves will look good around the front window of the boathouse?” Ellie asked.

I looked at the garland of red, yellow, and orange leaves. “I think they’ll look really nice. You might want to put some around the door as well.”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea.” Ellie tossed the leaves in her basket and then continued on to the costumes. Now that the remodel on the boathouse was complete, this was going to be her first Halloween in her new home and Ellie was going all out, it seemed.

“Zak is in the midst of his usual decorating crazies. The exterior of the house looks like a haunted wonderland, but there’s still a lot to do on the inside. Personally, I hope he scales back a bit. I’m exhausted just watching him do his magic and we’ve barely entered the holiday season.”

“Zak does tend to go all out with the decorating,” Ellie said. “Of course, he goes all out in everything he does. Now, I want to concentrate the rest of my energy on a costume. I think I might dress up as Elvira this year. Last year I needed to cover up my figure, but this year I think I’ll show it off. Carrying Eli around has done wonderful things to my arms.”

“That’ll look nice,” I said enviously. I had no idea what I was going to dress up as this year. I was pretty much to the point in my pregnancy where I simply looked fat, which wasn’t a good look on my small frame, so I supposed I’d go as a ghost or some other figure-forgiving costume.

I watched as Ellie picked up a fuzzy costume and held it up in front of her adorable offspring. “You aren’t going to dress Eli as Elmo, are you?”

Ellie looked down at the costume. “I was thinking about it. Is there a problem with Elmo?”

“He’s just so red.”

“And that’s bad because…?”

I let out a long sigh. “Red is just a darker shade of pink.”

“Are you still duking it out with Mother Zimmerman about the color of the nursery?”

“The woman is definitely a paint swatch away from sending me over the edge,” I grumbled.

Ellie returned the Elmo costume to the rack and picked up a Cookie Monster one. “How do you feel about blue?”

“Blue is fine. I’ve always liked blue and I used to like red. I’m actually fairly outraged that Mother Zimmerman ruined red for me.”

“And how did that happen exactly?” Ellie placed a black wig on her head and studied herself in the mirror.

“She designed a nursery decorated entirely in pink and white and then surprised me with an interior designer who just showed up on our doorstep with a van full of paint, wallpaper, bedding, and furniture. You know how I feel about pink?”

“I do. Pink is the devil. I thought Zak talked to his mom and explained the whole pink-is-evil thing.”

“He did. I thought it was taken care of until the designer showed up with all the same items, only in a deep rose shade. Mother Zimmerman insists it’s red, but I know dark pink when I see it. There’s no way my daughter is going to spend the first months of her life in a prissy pink room.”

Ellie placed her hand over her mouth. She pretended to cough, but I could see she was suppressing a chuckle.

“It’s not funny,” I insisted.

“Actually, it kinda is.”

“What am I going to do? The woman is driving me crazy and she hasn’t even shown up yet for her live reign of terror.”

“When is she coming?”

I let out a long breath. “I don’t know exactly. She keeps moving it up. First it was going to be after Christmas, and then she decided that as long as she was making the trip she may as well be in Ashton Falls for the holiday. The last I heard she was planning on arriving in mid-December, but I won’t be surprised if she’s in town by Thanksgiving. I don’t know how I’m going to deal with her once she does arrive. I know she’s Zak’s mother, and I know I need to find a way to make peace with her, but she’s just so dang nosy and bossy. No matter how hard I try to keep my cool she turns me into a crazy woman. Combine that with the pregnancy hormones and I actually think I might be capable of committing murder.”

“You might not want to say that quite so loudly, but I do agree that she seems to have a way of pushing your buttons.”

“Catherine is my daughter. I want to design the nursery. With Zak’s input, of course. This should be a fun project we can work on together, but instead the whole thing is giving me indigestion.”

Ellie replaced the wig and continued to the aisle with orange lights and rubber spiders. “Have you talked to Zak about your desire to decorate the nursery on your own?”

“I have.”

“And…?”

“And he said he’ll handle his mom.”

“Is there any reason you don’t believe him?”

I picked up a large rubber bat and tossed it into my own basket. “No.” I sighed. “He told me to choose any color I want and he would make sure nothing other than that color touched the nursery walls.”

“It sounds like your wonderful, thoughtful husband has it handled, so I really don’t see the problem.”

I started to cry.

“You have a counterpoint?”

“I don’t know what color to choose,” I sobbed. At that moment it really hit me hard that Zoe Donovan-Zimmerman had officially given in to the baby bump blues.

 

******

“Better?” Ellie asked me a short while later after she’d ushered me out of the Halloween store and led me down the street to Rosie’s, where she ordered us each a cup of soup and a loaf of warm bread to share.

I glanced at Eli, who was sleeping in his stroller. “I’m better, but I’m pretty sure your baby is a felon.”

Ellie frowned until I pointed to the fuzzy pumpkin Eli still clung to but Ellie hadn’t waited to pay for. “Oops. I guess I’ll need to go back when we’re done here.”

I took a sip of my soup, sat back in the booth, and felt myself relax. It was nice to be out with my best friend on a weekday evening with nothing more to do than look at the fantastic decorations the town had put out. “I have the strangest feeling of déjà vu, only last year it was you having the meltdown in the Halloween store and me ushering you out the door and down the street to Rosie’s.”

“I guess we have come full circle,” Ellie said. “Let’s just hope we don’t receive a cryptic message leading to a murder mystery this year.”

“Yeah. I could do with a murder-free holiday for once. I don’t know why I’m letting everything get to me. I love Halloween. I should just sit back and enjoy the season.”

“I agree, you should. Catherine needs you to relax a bit.”

“That’s exactly what my doctor said, and Zak has been worried that I’m so on edge all the time. I think if I can make a decision on the nursery once and for all I’ll feel a bit more settled.”

“Okay, so let’s talk about it.” Ellie buttered a piece of the bread and popped a corner of it into her mouth. “I know pink is evil and you’ve lost your fondness for red, but there are a lot of other very nice colors.”

“Yeah, but which one?”

“Maybe you should start with a theme.”

I considered that. “That might be a good idea. Maybe something with animals. I think a room filled with soft, fluffy stuffed animals would be fun. Maybe Noah’s Ark or the zoo. Or maybe an enchanted forest with cute baby animals.”

“I love that idea.” Ellie smiled. “You can have a mural painted on one wall. There could even be fairies hidden among the trees. That would give it a girly feel without suffering a pink explosion, and maybe the other walls could be a neutral color that would complement the forest scene, like pale blue or pale green. And Mother Zimmerman already bought white furniture, which would look very nice, and it wouldn’t clash with the animal theme.”

I smiled. “While I find myself resisting using Mother Zimmerman’s crib, it really is very nice, and it has a matching dresser, changing table, bookshelf, and rocking chair. I love your suggestion for the mural, and using her furniture would help to smooth things over with her.”

“It would be fun to shop for cute bedding for the crib. I can even make something if you can’t find exactly what you want.”

I grinned. “Okay. It looks like we have a plan. Thank you. Suddenly, I feel much better. In fact, I think I’m going to splurge on dessert. Order me a piece of pumpkin pie. I need to run to the ladies’ room.”

“Whipped cream?”

“Of course,” I answered as I slipped out of the booth.

Spending the evening with Ellie was exactly what I’d needed. She knew me well enough that she always said exactly what would make me feel better. Not only did I finally have a vision for the nursery that I loved, but I felt more relaxed than I had in weeks. When Zak and I had decided to try for a baby I’d promised myself that I wouldn’t be one of those weepy, emotional women who stressed out over every little thing, but so far that was exactly what I’d been. But that ended today, I decided, as I walked down the hallway to find a line at the bathroom door.

“I hope you aren’t in a hurry,” the woman I fell into line behind commented. “There are two teenage girls in there and despite our frequent knocks on the door they seem to be taking their own sweet time.”

“Are you sure they’re okay?” I asked.

“They’re fine. Every now and then I can hear giggling.”

There were two women in front of the woman in front of me. I didn’t want to wait around for the girls to finish and the three women in line to have their turn. After a moment of indecision, I decided to sneak out the back through the door leading from the kitchen to the alley, and then head next door to Bears and Beavers, where I knew store owner Gilda Reynolds would let me use her ladies’ room.

I stepped out of the kitchen door and into the alley, where I almost tripped over something laying just beyond the threshold. I bent down to take a closer look at the item, which appeared to be a blanket with something wrapped inside, when I noticed a human foot peeking out the other end. I slowly lifted the edge of the blanket closest to where I knelt, before taking my phone out of my pocket and calling Sheriff Salinger. It looked like a murder-free holiday wasn’t going to be in my future after all.

 

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How to solve a Kathi Daley Murder Mystery

 

I did a four week murder mystery through my newsletter. This is a detailed explanation as to how to solve it for those who had a problem doing so. I will be doing another murder mystery through my newsletter during October as well as a murder mystery during my Kathi Daley Books Halloween Spooktacular so even if you didn’t participate in this murder mystery you might want to check out the helpful hints which can be extrapolated and used in the future.

 

First off here was the setup:

Twelve guests were invited to a murder mystery weekend. One of the guests was killed for real on the first night in the old mansion. Follow the clues provided each week to determine who the victim was, who the killer was, and what color shirt each was wearing.

The answer should include the name of the killer and the name of the victim as well as what color shirt each was wearing.

Guest Names:
Wilma
Walter
Tiffany
Toby
Sarah
Steven
Ronald
Regina
Peter
Patricia
Mike
Molly

Color of shirt worn by guests:
Blue
Green
Red
Pink
Black
Brown
Yellow
Orange
Purple
White
Silver
Gold

 

At this point I make two list. One is labeled Killer and one Victim.

Killer                                                       Victim
Guest Names:                                       Guest Names:
Wilma                                                    Wilma
Walter                                                    Walter
Tiffany                                                    Tiffany
Toby                                                        Toby
Sarah                                                      Sarah
Steven                                                    Steven
Ronald                                                   Ronald
Regina                                                   Regina
Peter                                                      Peter
Patricia                                                  Patricia
Mike                                                       Mike
Molly                                                      Molly

Color of shirt worn by guests:       Color of shirt worn by guests:
Blue                                                     Blue
Green                                                  Green
Red                                                      Red
Pink                                                     Pink
Black                                                   Black
Brown                                                 Brown
Yellow                                                 Yellow
Orange                                                Orange
Purple                                                 Purple
White                                                  White
Silver                                                   Silver
Gold                                                     Gold

 

Here were the first set of clues:

The Killer did not wear a Green shirt.
The victim was not Molly.
The Victim did not wear orange or red.
The Victim was not Ronald who wore blue

 

We now know – Red Eliminated

Killer                                                       Victim
Guest Names:                                       Guest Names:
Wilma                                                    Wilma
Walter                                                    Walter
Tiffany                                                    Tiffany
Toby                                                        Toby
Sarah                                                      Sarah
Steven                                                    Steven
Ronald                                                   Ronald – Blue
Regina                                                   Regina
Peter                                                      Peter
Patricia                                                  Patricia
Mike                                                       Mike
Molly                                                      Molly

Color of shirt worn by guests:       Color of shirt worn by guests:
Blue                                                     Blue
Green                                                  Green
Red                                                      Red
Pink                                                     Pink
Black                                                   Black
Brown                                                 Brown
Yellow                                                 Yellow
Orange                                                Orange
Purple                                                 Purple
White                                                  White
Silver                                                   Silver
Gold                                                     Gold

 

Here are the second set of Clues:

Toby, who wore a red shirt, was not the killer.
Peter, who wore a yellow shirt, was not the victim.
While the bad guy often wears black and the good guy wears white in this case the killer did not wear black and the victim did not wear white.
The killer did not wear Blue or Purple.

We now know – red eliminated
Killer                                                       Victim
Guest Names:                                       Guest Names:
Wilma                                                    Wilma
Walter                                                    Walter
Tiffany                                                    Tiffany
Toby                                                        Toby – Red
Sarah                                                      Sarah
Steven                                                    Steven
Ronald                                                   Ronald – Blue
Regina                                                   Regina
Peter                                                      Peter – yellow
Patricia                                                  Patricia
Mike                                                       Mike
Molly                                                      Molly

Color of shirt worn by guests:       Color of shirt worn by guests:
Blue                                                     Blue
Green                                                  Green
Red                                                      Red
Pink                                                     Pink
Black                                                   Black
Brown                                                 Brown
Yellow                                                 Yellow
Orange                                                Orange
Purple                                                 Purple
White                                                  White
Silver                                                   Silver
Gold                                                     Gold

Here is the third set of clues:

Steven, who was not the victim, wore a brown shirt and Sarah wore pink.
Walter, who was not the victim, wore a black shirt, and Regina wore Purple.
Mike and Molly did a couples theme with Mike wearing Gold and Molly wearing Silver
The killer was not Patricia who wore white and Wilma who wore green was not the victim.

We now know – red eliminated
Killer                                                       Victim
Guest Names:                                       Guest Names:
Wilma                                                    Wilma – Green
Walter                                                    Walter – Black
Tiffany                                                    Tiffany – (Orange) 
Toby                                                        Toby – Red
Sarah                                                      Sarah – Pink
Steven                                                    Steven – Brown
Ronald                                                   Ronald – Blue
Regina                                                   Regina – Purple
Peter                                                      Peter – yellow
Patricia                                                  Patricia – white
Mike                                                       Mike – Gold
Molly                                                      Molly – Silver

Color of shirt worn by guests:       Color of shirt worn by guests:
Blue                                                     Blue
Green                                                  Green
Red                                                      Red
Pink                                                     Pink
Black                                                   Black
Brown                                                 Brown
Yellow                                                 Yellow
Orange                                                Orange
Purple                                                 Purple
White                                                  White
Silver                                                   Silver
Gold                                                     Gold

**NOTE – at this point you need to refer to old clues and make some inferences. First of all we can figure out that Tiffany wore an orange shirt because orange is the only color left. Since the victim did not wear orange we can figure out that Tiffany was not the victim.

Additionally, in the first set of clues we learned that the killer did not wear green – We learned that Wilma wore green in this set of clues so Wilma cannot be the killer – The clue also says that Wilma is not the victim so Wilma and Green are off both lists.

Another example is in the second set of clues we find out that the killer did not wear black. In this set we find out that Walter wore black. It also says that Walter is not the victim so both Walter and Black are off both lists.

We learned that the killer was not Patricia who wore white – we learned in the second set of clues that the victim did not wear white so Patricia and white are off both lists.

(If you don’t have everyone crossed off by this point that I do pause and go back to look at earlier clues)

Final set of clues
The killer did not wear silver or brown.
The victim was not Mike.
The killer was not Tiffany who wore orange.
The victim did not wear purple and the killer did not wear Gold.

We now know – red eliminated
Killer                                                       Victim
Guest Names:                                       Guest Names:
Wilma                                                    Wilma – Green
Walter                                                    Walter – Black
Tiffany                                                    Tiffany
Toby                                                        Toby – Red
Sarah                                                      Sarah – Pink
Steven                                                    Steven – Brown
Ronald                                                   Ronald – Blue
Regina                                                   Regina – Purple
Peter                                                      Peter – yellow
Patricia                                                  Patricia – white
Mike                                                       Mike – Gold
Molly                                                      Molly – Silver

Color of shirt worn by guests:       Color of shirt worn by guests:
Blue                                                     Blue
Green                                                  Green
Red                                                      Red
Pink                                                     Pink
Black                                                   Black
Brown                                                 Brown
Yellow                                                 Yellow
Orange                                                Orange
Purple                                                 Purple
White                                                  White
Silver                                                   Silver
Gold                                                     Gold

 

*NOTE – when we learn that the killer did not wear silver or brown we also learned that Molly who wore silver and Steven who wore brown were not the killer.

The Victim was not Mike so Gold was also not worn by the victim.

The killer was not Tiffany who wore orange – so eliminate both Tiffany and orange from the killer – we also know from the first set of clues that the victim did not wear orange so Tiffany is not the victim.

The victim did not wear purple – we know from the third set of clues that Regina wore purple so Regina is not the victim.

The killer did not wear gold so we know that Mike who wore Gold was not the killer.

At this point the killer can either be Sarah who wore pink or Peter who wore Yellow. However the only person who can be the victim is Sarah who wore Pink and the victim and killer cannot be the same person so The Victim was Sarah who wore Pink and the Killer was Peter who wore Yellow. 

Respond below and be entered to win a $5 Amazon Gift Card.

Last weeks gift card winner was Linda Davis. Please email me at kathidaley@kathidaley.com to collect your gift card.

 

 

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RV Lifestyle – Sort Of

 

Last winter Tahoe got like 800 inches of snow. It was seriously the craziest winter I can remember. Given the fact that I have been dealing with some back issues and didn’t want to risk a slip and fall, I mostly stayed at home and wrote while Ken took care of all the errands. Suffice it to say that by the end of winter I was ready to get out of the house.

 

Ken and I have talked about having a beach house for years but so far the idea hasn’t been economically feasible. Then my sister told me about a RV resort right on the beach only a half a days drive from Tahoe. The Pismo Beach area is not one we have visited in the past, but we took a trip down to check it out and realized that having a place to go for part of the winter really would make another hard year, should we have one, all that much more tolerable.

While in Pismo this past spring we took a day to look at RV’s and ended up buying a 5th wheel even though we don’t even have a truck to tow it. Luckily we don’t really need to tow it to use it the way we intend. We hired a service to transport it directly from the dealership to a storage lot, and then we will have the same service deliver it to the resort each time we stay. It really does seem to be a perfect solution to the cabin fever we had last year, and is close enough we can go back and forth as often as we want so as to spend time at both locations.

We leave this weekend for our first trip to the 5th wheel. We have been collecting items to outfit our home away from home all summer so I think this trip will be all about getting set up. Still I do plan to walk on the beach between writing sessions so check in over at my Facebook page for photos as we spend our first week at our new ‘beach house.’

I plan to turn the dining table into my office away from home. I think I’ll get a lot of good writing done there. Our plan at this point is to spend 10 days out of every month at the coast which I hope will only heighten my ability to focus on the awesome books I have planned.

 

In order to be entered to win a $5 Amazon Gift card comment below. If you have been to Pismo and know good places to eat let me know that as well.

 

The randomly chosen winner of last weeks gift card is Debbie S. (I guess this is Debbie Steele?) Please email me at kathidaley@kathidaley.com to collect your gift card.

 

 

 

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The Haunting

 

The Haunting is book 7 in the Seacliff High Mystery Series. The book published on September 5th and I wanted to provide those of you who have not tried the series a peek at Chapter 1.  http://amzn.to/2w8gpIt 

Alyson has three things to deal with in this story: A haunted house, a reoccurring dream which could be portence, and Chelsea’s stalker.

 

Chapter 1
Thursday, October 19

 

My life is a lie. Everything about me—my name, my past, even my future—is shrouded in secrets and half-truths. At my core, I’m basically an honest person, so it pains me that I must deceive the people I care about the most. My birth name is Amanda Parker. Prior to my death and very public funeral, I was a popular student, heiress to millions, and a well-known socialite. Only a handful of people in the entire world know that my death was staged in order to protect me from the men who threatened to kill me. When Amanda Parker died, Alyson Prescott was born.

As far as names go, I’m rather fond of Alyson, but after more than a year in witness protection, I find the line separating Amanda from Alyson has begun to blur. Despite the insanity that has become my life, I was dealing with the changes, until five months ago, when my handler whisked me away from my new life after an unconfirmed tip threatened my very existence.

Four months ago, my mother and I made the decision to return to Cutter’s Cove, Oregon, despite the danger that may exist. The nightmares, which would come to overshadow my life, began the very next day. Although the intensity of the dream has escalated over time, the script for each dream is the same. I’m standing on the porch of a dilapidated old house looking at a dark-colored door. I instinctively know that my destiny resides beyond the threshold, but I’m paralyzed with fear and hesitant to enter. I gather my courage and fight the instinct to flee as I cautiously turn the handle and take a step inside. In the instant before I wake, I experience the terror and helplessness that has come to dominate even my waking hours.

“Earth to Alyson,” my best friend Mackenzie Reynolds said as she snapped her fingers in front of my face.

I glanced at her, dazed, as I wondered where I was and why I was there.

“Class is over,” Mac informed me. “We need to go.”

“Was I sleeping?” I asked.

“I’m not sure. Your eyes were open, but you certainly didn’t seem to be listening to the lecture.”

“Did I drool?” I wiped the side of my mouth with one hand.

“Just a little. Don’t worry; you didn’t snore. I don’t think anyone else knew you’d dozed off. That’s the third time in a week. Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” I said as I closed my book and slipped it into my backpack. “I just haven’t been sleeping well. I guess everything is catching up with me.”

“Still having the dreams?”

I nodded. “Almost every night.”

I slipped out of my desk and followed Mac out the door and into the crowded hallway of Seacliff High. Only one more period until lunch, when I could head to the library, find a table in the back, and have a proper nap.

“Do you think maybe you should talk to someone about what’s going on?” Mac asked.

“Who would I talk to? We both know the dreams began after I returned to Cutter’s Cove from Madrona Island. We both know the root of the dream stems from the fact that very bad men are trying to kill me and I have no idea whether they’ve actually found me and are waiting for the right opportunity to strike, or if Donovan’s intel is wrong and my cover is secure.”

Mac stopped walking. She turned to look at me, her dark eyes mirroring her concern. “I know this is a crazy way to live and I can’t imagine how difficult this must be for you. You know I missed you desperately when you were away, but are you certain coming back to Cutter’s Cove was the right decision?”

“Honestly?” I tilted my head to one side, causing my long blond hair to cascade over my shoulder. “I’m not sure. I do know that unless I want to run forever, at some point I need to make a stand.”

Mac took my hand in hers and continued down the hall. “You know I’m here for you. Whatever you need.”

“I may need to copy your history notes.”

“You got it. In fact, why don’t we get together after school and I’ll help you study for tomorrow’s exam?”

“There’s an exam tomorrow?”

“Midterm. Remember, we were given a study guide on Monday.”

“Oh, that exam.” I groaned. I had to admit it was beginning to feel like I actually was losing my mind. “I do need to study, but I promised Caleb I’d go over to the house the Halloween committee has selected for the Haunted Hayride to see if I can get a sense about what’s going on.”

“Is weird stuff still happening?” Mac asked.

“The weirdest.”

“Poor Caleb.”

Caleb Wellington was the event chairperson for the Haunted Hayride and he took his responsibilities to the school and the town very seriously. “Not only are there all sorts of strange sounds and slamming doors, but some of the props were moved from one location to another, and there’s been a fair amount of vandalism as well. Based on what Caleb has told me, I’m going to go out on a limb and say the house really is haunted.”

Mac furrowed her brow. “Can ghosts do that? Move things?”

“As far as I know, no. In my experience to date ghosts aren’t corporeal and can’t move things, but things are being moved and there doesn’t seem to be an earthly explanation, so for the time being I’m going to suspend disbelief and see what I can discover. Caleb is a smart guy and he’s pretty much convinced the problems they’ve been having are paranormal in nature.”

“Even if that’s true and ghosts are behind all the problems, is there anything you can do about it?”

I shrugged. “I’m not sure. If the house is haunted I’ll need to see if I can determine why the spirits are hanging around. If I know why they failed to move on maybe I can find a way to help them resolve their issues. And if I can’t do that maybe I can at least find a way to appease them so they’ll quit messing with Caleb’s props. I don’t suppose you’d want to come with me?”

Mac looped her arm though mine as we continued down the hallway. “You know I will. And I’m sure Trevor will come as well if he doesn’t have football, although he did say something about extralong practice sessions this week because there’s a home game tomorrow.” Mac had referred to Trevor Johnson, the third member of our awesome threesome. “I have next period with him, so I’ll ask him. Do you want to meet for lunch?”

“I’m going to head to the library instead. Tell Trevor I’ll meet him in the parking lot after school. If he has football ask him to text me. Either way, I’ll swing by and pick you up from your internship on my way out to the house.” Mac was a computer genius who worked for a software company as an intern during fifth and sixth periods.

A look of concern crossed Mac’s face. “Are you sure you don’t want to have lunch with us? You’re looking a little thin.”

“I’m sure. I have a granola bar in my backpack. I’ll nibble on it between classes, but right now my body is demanding sleep over food.”

“Okay. I’ll see you after school. And maybe we can study after we check out the haunted house. I have a feeling this midterm is going to be a tough one.”

“I need to study and I need to pass that class. Why don’t you plan to come over for dinner? Trevor too. I’ll text my mom to tell her to expect you.”

“That sounds good.”

Somehow I managed to stay awake through my fourth period computer science class and was looking forward to a power nap in the library. I’d been spending my lunch hour napping more and more often lately, and I was sure someone was going to notice and say something at some point. When that happened I guess I’d have to alter my routine and maybe nap in my car, but for now the library provided a warm, quiet place to catch some Z’s.

The library at Seacliff High was actually a pretty awesome place to hang out even when you weren’t looking for a place to nap. The room was quaint and cozy, with two levels, each containing mahogany bookshelves and hardwood tables and chairs. The ceiling was high in the center of the building, allowing for the levels to be open to each other. I’d settled in on the second floor at a table in the back that provided the best place to nap unnoticed. I took my sweater out of my backpack, folded it to use it for a pillow, and lay my head down on the table in front of me.

“Alyson,” I heard Chelsea Green say just as I was drifting into unconsciousness.

I opened one eye but didn’t lift my head from where it was resting. “Yes?”

“Are you okay? You haven’t shown up in the lunchroom all week.”

Chelsea and I weren’t all that close, so I was surprised she’d noticed. It wasn’t that we didn’t get along; it was more that she was an A-list cheerleader and I was a no-list weirdo who saw ghosts and solved mysteries. “I’m fine. Just a little tired. Did you need something?”

Chelsea sat down on a chair across from me. I groaned as I opened my other eye and raised my head. It looked like I wasn’t going to be able to avoid finding out what was on Chelsea’s mind no matter how much I really wanted to drift into a dreamless sleep.

“Because you’re awake anyway I do have a teensy problem I could use your help with.” Chelsea tilted her head so her long dark hair brushed the table as she spoke.

“And what teensy problem might that be?”

“I have a stalker.”

“A stalker?”

“For the past couple of weeks someone has been sending me photos. They’ve been taken in different locations, but all of them are of me during the day. At first I just thought it was one of my so-called friends pulling a prank, but now I’m not so sure.”

“These photos—were they taken at school?”

“Yes, initially, either at school, at cheerleading practice, or at a school-related event. But lately I’ve been receiving photos taken at home, the most recent at my dad’s birthday dinner two nights ago. It’s really beginning to irritate me.”

I sat up straighter. “Have you told anyone else what you told me?”

Chelsea shook her head. “I’m not sure who I can trust. The photos have to have been taken by someone who knows me well enough to know my routine. And they’ve been sent to me via both text and personal email, which means they also know my phone number and email address.”

I narrowed my gaze. “Are any of the photos inappropriate?”

“Not really. There were a few without makeup, which terrified me, but so far, I haven’t been sent any photos of me getting dressed or in the shower. Still, I’m starting to feel violated. I find myself looking over my shoulder all the time. It’s creepy.”

“I agree; it is creepy. You should tell your parents. Or maybe even the police.”

Chelsea crossed her arms across her chest. “No. I can’t do that. If I tell my parents they’ll probably keep me under lock and key until they find out who’s behind the photos, and if I tell the cops they’ll interrogate all my friends. For all I know, this really is just some joke, and I don’t want to look like I give a rat’s ass if it’s just one of my stupid friends pulling a prank. If it got out that I ran to my parents over a joke it would destroy my popularity ranking. What I need is for someone like you who likes to play Nancy Drew to look into this quietly.”

I paused but didn’t answer.

“Please. I can pay you.”

I frowned. “I don’t want your money, but I’m worried. Being stalked is nothing to take lightly. The person behind the photos could be dangerous.”

“Maybe, or it could just be Cora Lee trying to make me look like an idiot. You know she was mad when I beat her out for homecoming queen. It would be just like her to come up with a lame prank to embarrass me.”

I frowned as I considered Chelsea’s request. While having a stalker was serious business, Chelsea was a self-serving snob who was both the most popular girl in school and one of the most hated. I could totally see someone sending her the photos just to mess with her. If it was just a prank and she let it be known that the photos had gotten to her I did see how it could affect the way she was perceived by others; she was famous for trying to pretend she didn’t care in the least when others tried to retaliate against her for one slight or another.

“Please, Alyson. I’ll be nice to you and everything.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Don’t do me any favors.”

“Okay, then, I’ll totally ignore you if that’s what you want. You’re the only one who can help me with this.”

“Okay,” I eventually said. “I’ll look in to it, but I have some conditions.”

“Such as?”

“You show me all the photos you’ve received so far as well as all you receive in the future. If I suspect at any point you’re in actual danger we tell your parents what’s going on.”

Chelsea paused and then answered, “Okay. I guess I can live with that.”

“I’ll also need to bring Mac in on this. I know she isn’t your favorite person, but she can help us track down the origin of the texts and emails.”

Chelsea let out a loud sigh. “Oh, all right. But no one else.”

“I can’t guarantee Trevor won’t find out. The three of us are a team. We spend a lot of time together, he’s helped in the past, and quite frankly, it will make it easier for me if I don’t have to keep it from him. Besides, if your stalker is male he might have a better chance of getting a confession, if we even get that far.”

Chelsea hesitated.

“You know Trevor cares about you, and you know he can keep a secret.”

Chelsea groaned. “Oh, okay. You can bring Mac and Trevor in it, but that’s it. If you need to bring my name into a conversation with anyone else I need you to promise you’ll check with me first.”

“Agreed.”

Chelsea smiled. “Great. So where do we start?”

I jotted down my email address and slipped it across the table to Chelsea. “Forward the photos to my personal email, not my school one. Once I get them I’ll talk things over with Mac and we’ll come up with a strategy. The easiest way to figure out who’s doing this to you will probably be to backtrack the photos to the phone number the texts were sent from or the IP address the emails were sent from.”

“Okay I’ll do it after school, and thanks, Alyson. I know I haven’t always been nice to you, so I do appreciate your helping me.”

“No problem.”

I started to lay my head back down when Chelsea spoke once again. “You know, you’re looking a little ragged. If you aren’t going to get the sleep you need some concealer would be a good idea. The dark circles under your eyes are going to begin to attract attention and I sense attention isn’t what you’re after.”

Chelsea was right about that. Attention wasn’t at all what I was after. “Thanks. I’ll keep your suggestion in mind. Now if we’re done…”

“Certainly.”

Chelsea stood up and I lay my head back down on the desk. Unfortunately, the bell for fifth period rang before I had a chance to even close my eyes. Despite how desperately I needed it, it looked like I wasn’t going to get my power nap after all.

 

 

 

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The Fall Line Up

September represents a change in season to most of us. Summer fades to fall, new shows premier on our favorite television stations, and we put away our shorts and flip flops in order to make room for sweaters and tennis shoes.

September also brings to mind the new line up of Halloween themed cozy mysteries from all your favorite authors. While there are a lot of good seasonal mysteries on the horizon I am going to use this blog to highlight a few of mine.

The first mystery with a Halloween setting was actually Second Look, book 2 in my new Writers Retreat Mystery Series. Jack and Jill and the entire gang from the writers retreat agree to take a second look at a five year old investigation involving a murder that took place at a Halloween party thrown by a rich movie star five years prior.  http://amzn.to/2vND0MK

The second Halloween Book to debut this year has also published. Frankencat is book 13 in my Whales and Tails Cozy Mystery Series. Cait and Tara are holding a book club meeting at Coffee Cat Books the week before Halloween. There are twelve participants reading Frankenstein as a storm rolls in. The storm intensifies and the lights go out thrusting the store into darkness. By the time the electricity is restored one of the book club members will be found dead.  http://amzn.to/2vcpbWV

Up next is The Haunting, book 7 in my Seacliff High Series. In this seventh book in the series, the gang from Seacliff High are busy planning their annual Haunted Hayride. When strange things begin to happen Alyson suspects the house they have selected to host the party at the end of the hayride might actually be haunted. Alyson decides to pay a visit to the mischievous ghosts who are causing such a ruckus only to find that the ghosts who live there are not at all who she expected to find. Alyson sets out to discover how the ghosts came to be trapped in the house, how they died, and who killed them in a mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. The book publishes on September 5 but is currently available for presale.  http://amzn.to/2vcPxbl

And it just wouldn’t be Halloween without a visit from Zak and Zoe and the Gang. In this 27th book in the series Zak has gone Halloween Crazy, while Zoe is trying to overcome the baby bump blues and harness some enthusiasm for the annual Haunted Hamlet. Things seem to be on track for a Spooktacular good time until Zoe stumbles onto a Halloween mystery even she didn’t see coming. Trick or Treason will publish September 26 and is available for presale.  http://amzn.to/2vcsH3y

And rounding out our fall lineup is Murder at Midnight, book 7 in the Sand and Sea Hawaiian Mystery Series. Luke is dealing with a personal crisis, layoffs are imminent at the Dolphin Bay Resort, Lani finds a body early one morning while surfing, and in spite of it all the gang are trying to make the best of things by planning a Halloween blow out.  Murder at Midnight will publish on October 3 and is available for presale.  http://amzn.to/2hDckIA

To be entered it win a $5 Amazon gift card comment below and let me now which Halloween themed mystery you are the most excited about.

The winner of the gift card from last week is Pam Jacobsson Perkins. Please email me at kathidaley@kathidaley.com to collect your prize.

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It’s All About The Dots

 

Now that summer is drawing to a close it is time to look back and see how we did. I know that to some it seems sad that a couple of nature lovers living in the middle of nature, would be reduced to keeping track of our ‘fun’ time in an effort to remind ourselves to get outside and enjoy the bounty of the beautiful place we live, but sometimes life takes over and we forget to take a moment to relax.

It all started a few years ago when the first snow hit early and Ken and I looked at each other and said, “Where in the heck did the summer go?” We’d been right here in one of the most beautiful spots on the planet and yet we’d barely taken a moment from the hustle and bustle of our lives to enjoy it.

We decided the next year to create a graph and list all the things we really wanted to do such as taking a hike, going out on the boat, and taking dinner to the beach. We found that by keeping track we actually were more active so we have been doing it ever since.

That first year we included all sorts of things which did become somewhat of a burden to keep track of, but this year we decided to only track hiking, boating, dinner at the beach, and watching the sunset. My back has been bothering me so I didn’t do a lot of boating but Ken went out wakeboarding 2 – 3 times a week, we both enjoyed hiking, dinner at the beach, and watching the sunset, at least three times per week.

In conclusion, treating having fun as a task to check off may seem crazy to most but to us it works so I a have a feeling that counting the dots will be a strategy we employ for years to come.

 

To be entered to win a $5 Amazon gift card comment below and share with me an activity or two you would put on your summer chart if you had one.

The winner of last weeks gift card is Kathy Peel . Please email me at kathidaley@kathidaley.com to collect your prize.

 

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Wild for Wildflowers

 

Prior to the winter of 2016/2017 Lake Tahoe, and California in general, has been experiencing a major drought. Last winter was the biggest winter we have had in years and the wildflowers in the area this summer have been fantastic.

The nice thing about living in the mountains is that you don’t really have to go anywhere to experience the summer color. The meadows at lake level tend to bloom in early summer while the meadows in the higher elevations bloom late in the season, but if the winter was heavy and the spring wet, there are plenty of flowers to be found right up until the leaves change color in the fall.

For those who are willing to take a long trek into the higher elevations, the flowers are simply spectacular. I hope you enjoy this selection of photos brought to you by me and my friends.

Comment below and let me know if you live or have ever lived in an area with an abundance of wildflowers during the spring and summer in order to be entered to win a $5 Amazon Gift Card.

 

The winner of the gift card from last week was Candy Kennedy.  Please email me at kathidaley@kathidaley.com to collect your gift card.

 

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