Authors: Noreen Wald
Tags: #amateur sleuth books
Praise for Noreen Wald
THE KATE KENNEDY MYSTERIES
“Sparkles like the South Florida sunshine...Kate Kennedy is a warm and funny heroine.”
– Nancy Martin, Author of the Blackbird Sisters Mysteries
“Miss Marple with a modern twist...[Wald] is a very funny lady!”
– Donna Andrews, Author of the Meg Langslow Mysteries
“A stylish and sophisticated Miss Marple, seeking justice in sunny South Florida instead of a rainy English Village, and meeting the most delightfully eccentric suspects in the process.”
– Victoria Thompson, Author of the Gaslight Mysteries
“Kate Kennedy’s wry wit, genuine kindness, and openness to adventure make her a sleuth to cherish.
Death is a Bargain
is another top-notch entry in a great series.”
– Carolyn Hart, Author of the Death on Demand Mysteries
THE JAKE O’HARA MYSTERIES
“Murders multiply, but Jake proves up to the challenge. She sees through all the subterfuge and chicanery, solving a mind-boggling mystery in a burst of insight. All the characters are charmingly kooky and fun…a good beginning for a new series.”
“[Wald] writes with a light touch.”
New York Daily News
“The author keeps the plot airy and the characters outlandish.”
– South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Mysteries by Noreen Wald
The Kate Kennedy Series
DEATH WITH AN OCEAN VIEW (#1)
DEATH OF THE SWAMI SCHWARTZ (#2)
DEATH IS A BARGAIN (#3)
DEATH STORMS THE SHORE (#4)
DEATH RIDES THE SURF (#5)
The Jake O’Hara Series
GHOSTWRITER ANONYMOUS (#1)
THE LUCK OF THE GHOSTWRITER (#2)
A GHOSTWRITER TO DIE FOR (#3)
REMEMBRANCE OF GHOSTWRITERS PAST (#4)
GHOSTWRITER FOR HIRE (#5)
Sign up for Club Hen House | Henery Press updates
and we’ll deliver the latest on new books, sale books, and pre-order books, plus all the #chickenchatter from the Authors of Henery Press.
(Note: we won’t share your email address and you can unsubscribe any time.)
DEATH WITH AN OCEAN VIEW
A Kate Kennedy Mystery
Part of the Henery Press Mystery Collection
Second Edition | March 2016
Henery Press, LLC
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, including internet usage, without written permission from Henery Press, LLC, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Copyright © 2016 by Noreen Wald
Author photograph by Matthew Holler
This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Trade Paperback ISBN-13: 978-1-943390-85-4
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-943390-88-5
Digital epub ISBN-13: 978-1-943390-86-1
Kindle ISBN-13: 978-1-943390-87-8
Printed in the United States of America
To Steve, with love
IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
Hanson for reading, editing, and suggesting, and allowing me to base Kate’s Ballou on the Hansons’ precious Ballou. And to Cordelia Benedict for listening, editing, and encouraging. And to the Rector Lane Irregulars: Carla Coupe, Ellen Crosby, Peggy Hanson, Valerie Patterson, Laura Weatherly, and Sandi Wilson. Special
to my Sunday morning walking pals: Dr. Diane Shrier for helping me understand Kate better and Pat Sanders for asking the right questions. And to Susan Kavanagh and Gail Prensky for listening and supporting.
IN SOUTH FLORIDA
Thanks to Gloria and Paul Stuart for keeping my room ready and for their excellent ongoing advice and counsel. Thanks to Diane and Dave Dufour for always being there. And to Joyce Sweeney’s Writers’ Workshop for critiquing the first synopsis.
IN NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY
Thanks to my I’ll-listen-to-anything-friend, Doris Holland, and my son, Bill Reckdenwald, for cheering me along. And many thanks to my agent, Peter Rubie.
Thanks to the Henery Press team for putting new life into Jake and Kate. A special thanks to my lead editor, Rachel Jackson. The new covers designed by Kendel Lynn are great.
“Charlie, what the
hell am I doing in paradise?” Kate glanced up at a cotton ball cloud bouncing along in a cornflower blue sky, not expecting an answer. Charlie Kennedy, her husband, had dropped dead six months ago, still clutching the pen he’d used to close on their beachfront condo.
Ballou tugged on his leash. Knowing the Westie missed Charlie too, she picked up speed, splashing surf over her bare feet and sending sand flying.
Another perfect day in South Florida. A cliché Kate considered pure propaganda, perpetuated by snow birds and retirees who’d left b
change of seasons, grandchildren, and decent public transportation, and now felt obliged to rave about the weather on a daily basis.
She was more than fed up with sunshine. Palmetto Beach’s six straight days of clear skies and mid-eighty-degree weather, tempered by an ocean breeze, had seriously deepened her depression.
It was raining in New York City. And according to Al Roker, unseasonably cold for October. The frost on the pumpkin. God, how she wished she were up there.
But she couldn’t go home. Charlie and she had sold her beloved house in Rockville Centre. Strangers lived there now. A mouthy financial planner, his rotund wife who favored Lycra leggings and peasant blouses, and two teenagers with multiple pierced body parts and wicked overbites. The new owners had painted the brick Tudor’s front door and shutters a shocking pink. Kate’s former neighbors probably would never speak to her again.
Her current home—a third-floor beachfront apartment in the high-rise condo that had been Charlie’s retirement choice, certainly not Kate’s—was in danger of becoming a parking garage.
Exiting the Atlantic, a slim woman shouted, “Kate!”
Stella Sajak, president of the Ocean Vista Condominium’s Board of Directors, always sounded as if a crisis were coming and only she could stem its tide.
“Good morning, Stella.” Kate, on the other hand, sounded priggish even to herself. A widow’s voice? An invisible shield? A “don’t you dare cross the line and feel sorry for me” voice?
“I hope we can count on you to support us at Town Hall this afternoon.” Stella hopped on her left foot, tilted her head to the side, shook it, then pulled on her left ear. “Feels like half the ocean is in there. Damn, I should have worn a bathing cap. But they’re so old lady-like, aren’t they?”
Kate smiled, as one incipient old lady to another, but Stella missed—or ignored—the silent communication.
Ballou investigated a dead crab, then kicked it onto Kate’s big toe.
“There’s strength in numbers,” Stella said. “We can’t let that Sea Breeze bunch hoodwink the mayor and bamboozle our much too easily influenced city council. I’m telling you, those developers won’t stop until they raze Ocean Vista and leave us all homeless.”
Then, giving her ear a final yank, she added, “It’s your civic duty, Kate.”
The wiry Stella, with blunt-cut steel gray hair, eyes of almost the same shade, and a nose that commanded notice, looked better in a bathing suit than most of Ocean Vista’s residents. A daily dipper, she owned dozens of them. Today’s choice, a crisp white eyelet with sunny yellow daisies, had a halter top and a jaunty skirt
Kate, seedy in sweatpants and one of Charlie’s old t-shirts, knew that her silver hair needed a shampoo and her legs hadn’t been shaved in—she shuddered—since Charlie died. God, could that be possible?
Just to get away, she said, “I’ll be there, Stella. Two. Right?”
Stella narrowed her eyes, then coolly appraised Kate from top to bottom, and sniffed. “Right. I’ll drive. Be in the lobby at one thirty.”
Outwitted, Kate veered south, pulling the indignant Ballou behind her, and headed back to the condo.
Nestled between fast-track Fort Lauderdale and nouveau riche Boca Raton, the once sleepy village of Palmetto Beach had been plagued by progress. A glitzy resort complex, complete with an ice rink, would replace the old fishing pier and its weather-beaten restaurant and sand-strewn stores. Sea Breeze Inc., the resort’s management company, had petitioned the city council to exercise the right of eminent domain and, for the public good and Palmetto Beach’s development, tear down Ocean Vista and build a parking garage.
According to Stella, no one understood why the mayor and council had sold the prime oceanfront property to Sea
Breeze, especially since two other Broward County towns had spurned the company’s offer, but only after accusations of attempted bribery.
Kate didn’t give a damn what happened to Palmetto Beach. And if she did, she’d probably root for the development company. Then Ocean Vista would be razed, and she’d be forced to relocate. But where would she go?
Not to live with either of her sons, that was for sure. She couldn’t picture Kevin’s wife or Peter’s partner gleefully racing around redecorating a guest room in anticipation of her arrival. And much as she loved the boys, that would never be an option.
Her own guest room in the stark white-on-white condo—Peter’s partner, Edmund, a plastic surgeon by profession but an interior designer by passion, had decorated it—was crammed with Charlie’s stuff. Box after box of memories she couldn’t bear to open.
Still annoyed that Stella Sajak had coerced her, Kate blew-dry her hair, shaved her legs, and dressed in tan slacks and a white cotton shirt. Looking at Charlie’s picture on her art deco dressing table, she smiled. “Okay, I hear you. I’ll put on lipstick too.” Then she said goodbye to a dejected Ballou.
Kate stepped out of the elevator and waved at Stella, dressed in a gray linen suit and pacing around a bronze urn filled with fake lilies.
The sea foam lobby was furnished with two overstuffed darker green chenille sofas and several cozy groupings of rattan tables and chairs. Potted plastic plants abounded. Dead center stood a life-size imitation alabaster statue of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, surrounded by a bevy of winged Cupids, mixing Greek and Roman myths in a no doubt unintended but nevertheless real, salute to multiculturalism.
Stella strode over and nudged Kate with her briefcase. “We’re taking Marlene’s car. She’s double-parked with the engine running, so hurry up.”
The front desk, backed by a wall of one hundred and fifty pigeonholes—one for each apartment—was manned by the miserable Miss Mitford, who treated the residents as if they were in sixth grade and slow learners. She’d been hired thirty-four years ago, when Ocean Vista opened and the realtors started bringing in potential buyers. In addition to being the keeper of the keys, rumor had it that Mitford was the keeper of the condo owners’ secrets. And her inside information about their private lives had assured lifetime job security.
She nodded curtly as Stella and Kate passed by.
The circular driveway, edged with royal palms and sweet-smelling hibiscus, led to State Road A1A, known in Palmetto Beach as Ocean Boulevard. Marlene Friedman’s vintage white Caddy convertible blocked its north lane. Horns blared and curses and threats filled the air, as drivers swerved to get around her, only to be thwarted by the southbound traffic.
Marlene stuck her head, topped with a platinum blond wiglet teased into sausage curls, out the driver’s window, and yelled, “Get over it, fellow.”
The object of her attention, who’d been pressing his palm on the horn of his silver SUV, navigated around Marlene’s left rear fin, only to go hood-to-hood with a yellow Rabbit heading south toward Fort Lauderdale.
Stella yanked open Marlene’s front passenger door. “Get in, Kate. I’ll ride in the back.”
Before Kate could fasten her seat belt, Marlene pumped the gas pedal and they lurched forward. “Take it easy, Marlene. That guy’s closing in behind us.”
“Exactly why we’re moving at eighty miles per. Can’t you see that SOB in the SUV is dangerous? And my horoscope said death would visit today.”
Stella groaned. “It’s Halloween. The eve of All Souls’ Day. Death, masquerading as costumed children, visits every Halloween. Of course, I never answer the door. That Key West fortune-teller certainly saw you coming. Fifty bucks thrown away.”
“Madame X is an astrologer, not a fortune-teller, Stella. And your moon is in Taurus. So you’d better beware.” Marlene made a sharp left onto Neptune Boulevard, heading for the bridge.
Marlene Friedman had been Kate Kennedy’s best friend for almost sixty years, including a brief stint during the early seventies in which she had also been Kate’s sister-in-law. Marlene described her second marriage to Charlie’s brother, Kevin, which had lasted less than six weeks, as a long date.
Twelve years ago, Marlene had buried her third husband, moved from Summit, New Jersey to Palmetto Beach, and begun lobbying her former in-laws to “come on down.”
After Charlie had retired from the force, he and Kate visited Marlene often. He loved beautiful beaches and challenging golf courses and Palmetto Beach had both.
Then six months ago, after debating for a decade about where to spend the rest of their lives, they finally moved. The rest of Charlie’s life turned out to be less than twenty-four hours.
Not unexpectedly, the Neptune Boulevard drawbridge was rising. Kate couldn’t recall ever having crossed over to the mainland without waiting.
In the backseat, Stella squirmed. “Damn, we’ll be late.” But today, Kate, who usually ignored Palmetto Beach’s considerable charm, welcomed the delay, savoring the beauty of the dark blue water shimmering under the bright sunshine, and watching as a huge sloop and several powerboats, flanked by the mansions on both shores, lined up to sail under the bridge.
A thump on the Caddy’s rear bumper startled Kate. She turned and spotted the silver SUV just as Stella, adjusting her glasses, peered out the back window, and said, “My God, David Fry is driving that gas guzzler.”
“Who’s David Fry?”
“Sea Breeze’s CEO.” Stella spun around and stared at Kate. “I can’t believe you’re so cavalier about Ocean View’s future. Scandal and deception are the hallmarks of David Fry and his company. I believe that man bribed someone on the city council. He’s the reason we’re fighting Town Hall.”
A tiny ghoul, maybe ten years old, appeared out of nowhere, holding a small Neiman Marcus shopping bag and tapping on the front passenger window. Kate rolled it down.
“Happy Halloween.” The sweet voice belonged to a girl, though the ghastly death mask and ghoul costume completely hid her gender. “My mother says taking candy from strangers is dangerous and I’m on a low-fat diet anyway, so money will be fine.”
Marlene laughed, her deep, rumbling, straight-from-the-belly laugh that Kate knew so well, and said, “Only in South Florida.”
The kid opened her shopping bag, filled to the brim with dollar bills, and stuck out her hand. “Trick or treat.”