Murder in Cottage #6 (Liz Lucas Cozy Mystery Series Book 1)

BOOK: Murder in Cottage #6 (Liz Lucas Cozy Mystery Series Book 1)
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Murder in Cottage #6

By

Dianne Harman

(A Liz Lucas Cozy Mystery
Series - Book 1)

Copyright © 2015 Dianne
Harman

www.dianneharman.com

All rights reserved,
including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form
without written permission except for the use of brief quotations embodied in
critical articles and reviews.

This is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely
coincidental.

Website, Interior & Cover design
by
Vivek Rajan Vivek

Paperback ISBN: 978-1508924920

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

First of all, I want to
thank you, my readers, who have made my books so popular. This is the first
book in a new series, and I hope you’ll enjoy this series as much as you’ve
obviously enjoyed my other cozy mystery series, the Cedar Bay Cozy Mystery
Series. There is nothing more gratifying for an author than to have readers
tell them how much they enjoy their books or let the author know by buying
other books in a series that they’ve enjoyed them. Your reviews are always
appreciated. Thank you so much! I’d love to hear from you about this book or
any of the others. Here’s my email address:
[email protected]
.

I want to extend a special
thanks to Vivek Rajan for the fabulous book covers he creates, his unending
sound advice, and his taking the time to answer the multitude of questions I
always have. I not only think of him as my editor, formatter, and marketing
guru, I think of him as a friend and highly recommend him to other authors.

Finally, I want to thank
my husband, Tom, for his support, belief in me, and love. He spends countless
hours reading what I’ve written, and I value his thoughts and connemts. Without
him, I wouldn’t have the time and the freedom to spend doing what I love –
writing! Thank you!

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

Sitting in her favorite chair in the
great room of the lodge, Liz gazed out the large window that wrapped around the
outside deck of the lodge. The view from the window was breathtaking, and she
never tired of simply sitting and watching as the natural beauty of the scene
before her constantly changed and unfolded. She heard the cries of sea gulls
circling overhead, diving and twisting as they rode the air currents looking
for a tasty morsel of food that might be floating on the ocean’s surface.

The lodge and the adjacent
spa were located about an hour north of San Francisco on the outskirts of the
charming little town of Red Cedar. Perched nearly eighty feet above the ocean
on a rocky point that jutted out into the ocean, it was a popular place for San
Francisco residents to visit for some much-needed rest and relaxation. The
great room where she was sitting contained a fully equipped kitchen at one end
and a large wood-burning fireplace at the other end. One area of the great room
contained comfortable upholstered chairs where guests could sit while enjoying
the spectacular view and the surrounding scenery.

The section of the great
room closest to the kitchen was furnished with a massive highly polished red
cedar dining room table that had been hewn from a single slab of wood. The
table easily accommodated twenty guests when the family style breakfast and
evening meals were served.

Sipping her morning
coffee, she heard the roar of the ocean as the waves crashed against the cliff
far below. She turned her head slightly and had a clear view of several of the
ten cottages which surrounded the lodge and spa and were set back among the
towering red cedar trees. The beautiful ancient trees had been the reason she
and Joe had named the spa the Red Cedar Spa when they bought it.

Joe had died almost a year
earlier of a sudden heart attack, and now she was running the spa by herself
with the help of her employees. Bertha was the manager, Zack was the handyman
she relied on to keep things in working condition, and Sarah was the young
woman who came daily to clean the cottages. Additionally, there were numerous
employees that worked in the spa located just a few steps from the lodge. It
was a lot of work, but she’d never regretted the day she and Joe decided to buy
the spa. After he’d died, Jonah and Brittany, her two adult children, wanted
her to sell it, telling her it was too much work for her to do alone.

She had loved the rustic
spa and the surrounding cottages from the first moment she’d visited them when
she and her friend of many years, Judy Rasmussen, had spent a long “girls’
weekend” as guests at the spa. She smiled thinking back to what she’d thought
when she first opened the door to their large cottage.
When the brochure
said “cottage,” I never expected something like this!

Two king size beds were
flanked by cedar chests used as nightstands. A large bathroom with a tiled
shower was filled with numerous amenities from the spa. Each cottage had a view
of the ocean on one side and the cedar forest on the other. Fluffy white towels
and robes were neatly stacked on the marble counter for the guests to use.

She remembered overhearing
the manager of the spa telling one of the employees that the then-owner of the
spa was having financial problems and needed to sell the spa. When Liz returned
to her home in the San Francisco area, she’d convinced Joe to sell his three
auto dealerships in the city and start one in the small town of Red Cedar. The
spa was located within the town boundaries, but the main business district was
about a mile inland from the spa. It hadn’t been very hard to convince him that
the stress that came from owning the dealerships would be gone, and it would
greatly benefit his health. She told him it would also make his doctor happy,
because he was very concerned about Joe’s health. His doctor had prescribed
eight different types of pills for Joe’s high blood pressure, “bad”
cholesterol, and for his constant battle with stress management. But even with
the medication and a strict low calorie diet, the condition of his health
remained guarded.

Unfortunately, the move to
a slower paced lifestyle in a rural area came too late for Joe. He’d been under
extreme business pressure and stress for many years, and according to his
cardiologist, his heart had suffered considerable damage. He died of a massive
heart attack at his car agency in Red Cedar three years after they had moved to
the area and purchased the spa.

Liz walked over to the
kitchen counter and poured herself another cup of coffee as she reflected back
on the events of the last year. Joe had used the services of a large law firm
in San Francisco when they lived there. The attorney Joe worked with had
handled the probate of his will, and one time when Liz was at the attorney’s
office she’d met a senior partner in the firm who specialized in criminal law
cases. Roger was a widower, and one day he asked her to join him for a cup of
coffee. They’d gotten along well, had gone out together on several casual
dates, and he’d even come to the spa to visit her several times. She had mixed
feelings about him. Part of her was very attracted to him, but when he
indicated he’d like to take their relationship to a level that was beyond
friendship, she struggled with feelings of being disloyal to the memory of her
wonderful marriage to Joe. Even though it had been nearly a year since Joe
died, she didn’t know if she was ready to enter into the romantic type of
relationship Roger was hinting at. They’d shared a few kisses, and she couldn’t
deny that there was a strong physical chemistry between them.

I know I’m going to have
to make a decision fairly soon, and I think the answer is going to be yes, but
I don’t have to decide today. Anyway, Judy’s coming up in a couple of days, and
we’re going to try some of the new treatments the spa has started offering. I’m
ready for a little pampering.

Little did she know what
the future held for her and what an important part Roger was going to play in
it.

CHAPTER 2

 

Liz’s reverie was broken
by the sound of someone barging through the front door. She looked up and saw
Bertha shaking and crying. “Bertha, what’s wrong?” Bertha was crying so hard
she wasn’t able to answer.

Liz
put her arm around her and led her to one of the chairs that surrounded the
large cedar dining table. “What is it, Bertha? Has something bad happened?”

Bertha
gulped and said, “I was in my office when I got a call from Delores at the spa.
She said Mrs. Nelson hadn’t checked in this morning for her 8:00 warm stone
massage and asked if I would go over to cottage #6 and remind her of her
appointment. I went over there and knocked on her cottage door several times.
She never answered. You know I have the keys to all the cottages, and I keep
them with me all the time, so I opened the door and saw her lying in bed. She
wasn’t moving. When I walked over to her I realized she wasn’t breathing. She
was dead.”

Liz’s
hand flew up to her mouth. “Oh no! I can’t believe it! Does anyone else know?”

“No.
I came directly here from her cottage. She was in cottage number six. I locked
the door when I left. I didn’t know what else to do.”

“That
was exactly the right thing to do,” Liz said, patting her hand. “Sit here for a
minute and try to calm down. Did you notice anything out of place? Do you think
she had a heart attack or something? I know the last few weeks have been very
stressful for her what with Dave trying to win another term as mayor and the
Red Cedar Tribune writing all those articles about him insinuating he was
illegally skimming money from the city coffers. I didn’t see her when she
checked in yesterday, but she seemed perfectly normal last night when she was
here with the other guests for dinner. She said she’d loved her facial and
massage treatments and was looking forward to having two more today and then
going home after she had her last treatment this afternoon.”

“Liz,
there was a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels on the nightstand next to her
bed. Do you think maybe she mixed sleeping pills and alcohol and committed
suicide? I just don’t know what to think,” Bertha said, her brown eyes large
with fright against her pale complexion.

“Let
me get you a cup of coffee. I really need to call Seth Williams and report
this.”

I
don’t want to have anything to do with that lecherous obese stupid man, but I
don’t have a choice. He is the chief of police and having the mayor’s wife
found dead in one of my cottages is something he needs to know about
immediately
.

*****

“Red Cedar Police Department.
How may I direct your call?” the young receptionist asked.

“I’d
like to speak with Chief Williams. Please tell him Liz Lucas is calling,” she
said, nervously twisting a strand of her auburn hair.

The
receptionist put her on hold, and a few moments later she heard Seth’s oily
voice. “Liz, to what do I owe the pleasure of your call? I’m hopin’ you’re
gonna tell me yer finally goin’ to accept the long-standin’ dinner invitation
I’ve been offerin’ for the last few months.”

When
pigs fly,
Liz
thought
. I need him to be on my side right now, so I better make nice. If
word gets out that someone died here at the spa, it sure could be bad for
business. I need to think about damage control, and Seth can provide that if I
sweet talk him.

“I
wish it was something enjoyable like that,” she said in a sultry honey-toned
voice, “but actually Seth, I have a little problem out here at the spa and need
you to come out here right away.”

“If
it involves you, I’ll be there soon as I can. Wanna give me a head’s up what
this is all about, pretty lady?”

“No.
It can wait until you get here. Can you come in your personal car, not your
patrol car? I really don’t want the guests to see a police car on the premises.
It might upset them.”

“Sure
can. Sounds interestin’. Keep in mind I’m real partial to black lace. See you
in a few.”

Yuck.
I can’t stand that smarmy man, and now I’m going to have to deal with him.

She
ended the call and turned to where Bertha was standing. “Bertha, you heard my
conversation. Seth will be here in a few minutes. Why don’t you tell Sarah
you’ll make the box lunches for the guests who can’t get into town for lunch
because they’ve booked back-to-back treatments? That might help to take your
mind off of what you just saw. I imagine Seth will want to take a statement
from you, and I probably better go into town and tell the mayor that his wife
is dead. Not something I really want to do. Go on into the kitchen and I’ll let
you know when Seth gets here.”

She
walked down the stairs to the lower level of the lodge where her personal
living quarters were located.
I need to get out of these pajamas and robe
.
Black lace? I don’t think so. Jeans and a sweater will work just fine. That
man has a sick mind. Between the mayor and Seth, I am definitely not looking
forward to the next few hours. And how am I going to keep the guests from
finding out?

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