Read Murder Close to Home Online

Authors: Elizabeth Holly

Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Amateur Sleuths, #Cozy, #Women Sleuths, #Two Hours or More (65-100 Pages), #Literature & Fiction

Murder Close to Home

BOOK: Murder Close to Home
13.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Murder Close to Home

Elizabeth Holly

Copyright © 2015 Elizabeth Holly

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

All rights reserved.

Sign up to hear about new releases!


“The balloons go by the banner,” I was saying to my best friend Jade Perry.

Jade placed balloons on both sides of the
Happy 63rd Birthday, Taryn!
banner. “The place is coming along spectacularly,” she said.

I looked around Ruby’s Gem, my new event planning business. It was in a building right across the street from the beach, with an ocean view. Jade had an ice cream shop a few stores down from my place.

The main part of Ruby’s Gem was used for events, parties, wedding receptions, you name it. I had streamers and balloons all around for the birthday party. A bingo station was in the middle of the room. I had several tables set aside for refreshments. All that was left was to hire a deejay.

Ruby’s Gem used to be a grocery market. The owner of the building, Laura Becker, had offered me the space for a reduced price in exchange for solving the murder of her husband. She was getting on with life remarkably well and had taken over her husband’s business. The town of Red Palm was grateful that Laura was the one who oversaw the buildings the Becker family owned. She was fair and cut no corners, unlike Rodger Becker, who was the terror of the town.

Red Palm was just getting to know the kind woman with icy blue eyes who had spent her time traveling instead of staying home with her husband and their son, Tim. Laura had thought removing herself from the tense home situation was the best scenario for her family. Upon her return, Laura had realized the time she had missed out on spending with her son.

They were in the process of mending their relationship. It seemed to be working, from the times I saw them interact at A Scoop of Sunshine, where Tim worked part-time after school.

I sprinkled confetti over each of the ten tables. The birthday party was scheduled for tomorrow. It was for Taryn Horn, a spry woman who knew everybody in town — and everything about them. I had only lived here a month and she already knew my life story.

I was twenty-four years old. I had recently quit my job in marketing, ended my engagement, and moved to my best friend’s town on a whim. I had witnessed a stabbing, found the murderer, and managed to make my ex feel all right with the ending of our relationship.

So here I was, starting a new adventure in a business I knew nothing about. The reduced price was for the first six months on the rent for Ruby’s Gem. I either had to make it work or move on after that. I could cover the rent for that time by using most of my savings, so I figured,
Why not?
I wanted to take the risk and try it out. The worst that could happen would be me starting over, and I had already done that once before.

I could do it again.

“I’ve got a meeting with a deejay this afternoon and then I’ll be ready,” I declared.

Jade stepped back from her balloons to get a better look at them. “What if you don’t like the deejay?”

“I’ll play the music myself,” I said. “I could do that anyway to save money, but I want to establish a working relationship with one for weddings and such.”

“Don’t people hire their own wedding band or deejay?”

I shrugged. “If we offer the house deejay to them, then I’ll get some of the profits.”

“Good plan,” said Jade. Her chin-length black hair swished as she knelt to anchor the balloons in place. I had met her at freshman orientation in college and we had been close ever since. “I’ve got to head back to Scoop before my date this afternoon.”

I grinned. Jade and the guy she liked, Corey Devila, were finally going out. “You’ll have to tell me all about it.”

“I will,” she promised as she left.

I dusted my hands of the last confetti pieces. A month ago, I never would have imagined that I would be living in a new town and starting up an event planning business. Life was shaping up to be pretty exciting.

I liked that.

A knock sounded on the door and a tall woman with sandy blonde hair covered with a gardening hat walked in. She was the antithesis of Taryn Horn, who liked wearing artificial flowers and sunhats but never stuck her hands into actual dirt. This woman was a real gardener. She had dirt under her non-manicured fingernails, a freshly plucked rose in her hair, and I bet that if she lifted her sleeves, she’d have a farmer’s tan from spending so many hours in the sun.

“I brought a bouquet for the party,” she said.

“Thanks, Amelia,” I said.

Amelia Lamb and Taryn Horn were in the same social circles and often went to each other’s events and get-togethers, but they were as close to nemeses as two non-superheroes could get.

“Blow some air into the roses when it’s time for the party. That’ll open them right up.” Amelia stuck her nose in the air. “I suppose I should have brought them over tomorrow, but today is good enough. Watch for thorns.”

I carefully placed the bouquet in a vase. I dumped part of the contents of a water bottle into it. “Can’t you and Taryn get along?”

“Not as long as we’re both alive,” she replied. “It’s been too many years and too many overcooked chocolate chip cookies. Have I told you how awful her cookies are?”

I shook my head.

“You’ll have to try them. The soil in my garden is a delicacy compared to her cookies.”

I laughed. “They can’t be that bad.”

Amelia grimaced. “They are.”

“Thanks for dropping the flowers off.” I checked my watch. “I need you to be leaving, though, because Taryn’s scheduled to arrive at any minute.”

“You don’t want us around each other?” Amelia asked with wide, innocent eyes that I didn’t buy for a second.

“No.” I scooted her out the door to her half-hearted protests. She whistled a merry tune as she left.

Taryn Horn arrived a minute later, fanning herself with her sunhat as she stepped into the air-conditioned building.

“I heard a distinctive whistle,” she said.

I said nothing to that because I didn’t want to get in the middle of Taryn and Amelia’s feud. “I have everything set up. How do you like it?”

She cast a cursory look around the room. Taryn’s expression softened as she saw the efforts that I had made to put everything she wanted into effect. “It’s wonderful. You have the roped-off bingo section, the confetti sprinkled on every table, and the yellow balloons I asked for. Yellow is such a happy color, don’t you think?”

“Yes, I do,” I said. “Now, for the order of events, do you want everything to happen at once so people can come and go, or do you want specific times? Like bingo at seven, cake at eight, and so on?”

“I want everything to go on at the same time. I like having the choice of eating cookies, mingling, and doing whatever whenever. We can have bingo playing off and on so the announcer doesn’t get tired of calling out numbers all night.”

I made a note on the notepad I had ready. “Also, Corey’s dance crew will be at a scheduled time because they can’t dance the entire night or it wouldn’t be a performance. They’d be more like background dancers if we had them on a continuous loop.”

Taryn nodded. “That’s fine. Have they come up with a name yet?”

“Not to my knowledge.” Corey Davila was part of a dance crew that regularly performed at a local restaurant, The Parrot Tree. From what I knew, they had been dancing together for a couple of years and still hadn’t come up with a name. “Wouldn’t you be the first to know something like that?”

“Yes,” Taryn admitted. “I’ve got to keep vigilant, though. You never know where you’ll get new information.”

“I finalized the guest list and the invitations were sent out two weeks ago. All the replies are in,” I said. The promptness of the replies had amazed me. I’d thought that I would have to guess at the approximate guest list. This was Taryn Horn’s party, though. Everyone wanted to stay on her good side.

Actually, I think it was that Taryn genuinely cared about everyone. She had her grumpy moments here and there, but at the end of the day, she set aside her hangups and was there for the people of Red Palm. You could always count on her to be where she said she would be, oftentimes early and with fresh gossip.

Her gossip wasn’t like most people’s because it was true. Taryn made sure she had her facts straight before spreading information around. She was like Red Palm’s walking newspaper. No wonder the town’s newspaper had folded a few years ago. Taryn was much more accurate and efficient.

“Almost everyone said yes,” I continued. “There were a few people who couldn’t make it because they would be out of town or had a prior engagement.”

Taryn rubbed her hands together. “Excellent.”

“Also, I noticed that you didn’t have any family members on the list,” I said. Every last person was a friend and it occurred to me that I had never heard Taryn speak of her family.

“That’s right.” Taryn spoke without hesitation. “My friends are my family these days.”

I didn’t press the subject because I wanted Taryn to tell me if she wanted to, not because I was being nosy.

Taryn spotted the vase of roses and sniffed them. “Thorns!” she exclaimed when she saw the prickly thorns on the stems. “These must have come from Amelia. No, it’s fine. We can leave them here. Do you have her reply?”

I pulled out Amelia Lamb’s card from a large stack of replies. Taryn found a pair of scissors I had lying around and cut Amelia’s signature out. She placed it next to the vase and wrote
in intricate, fancy letters.

“That way everyone knows Amelia’s the one who sent the thorny flowers,” she said.


“Ruby Flynn?” A man with wind-swept blond hair, a muscled body, and genuine, kind eyes knocked on the door. Our eyes locked and I grinned. I was a sucker for kind eyes.

“That’s me,” I said. “Come on in.”

“I’m Logan Kelley,” he said.

He was my prospective deejay, who came recommended by Taryn. He was about my age; Taryn had said that Logan had grown up in Red Palm and was trying to get into the “press play on a playlist” business. Her words, not mine. I had chosen to not go into the specifics of being a deejay with her.

“Ruby Flynn.” We shook hands and I showed him to my office. It was simple, with white walls and a build-it-yourself desk. I had hung a few pictures I’d taken of Red Palm. The beach at sunset, my hand holding an ice cream cone in front of A Scoop of Sunshine, and a couple of seagulls in flight. That kind of thing.

I wanted to make my office look presentable and professional without breaking the bank. I think it worked out.

“Tell me about yourself. What makes you want this job?” I asked.

Logan jumped right in. “I’ve been doing the surfing route since college. Well, before that as well, but surfing’s been my main gig these past few years.” His eyes crinkled. “I’m good, but not good enough to make a steady living off it, so I got into deejaying and I’m really enjoying it.”

BOOK: Murder Close to Home
13.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Samurai Code by Don Easton
Sorbonne confidential by Laurel Zuckerman
Should've Said No by Tracy March
Suspicion of Madness by Barbara Parker
Power of the Pen by Turner, Xyla
Long Shot for Paul by Matt Christopher
The Haunting of Toby Jugg by Dennis Wheatley