a cozy mystery novelette
Copyright © 2015 Marla Bradeen
All rights reserved.
Published by Marla Bradeen.
This book or portions of it (excluding brief quotations) may not be reproduced without prior written permission from the publisher/author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), actual businesses, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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Never Go Back
Murder in White Sands
The Amicable Divorce
Cozy Cat Caper Mystery Series:
Murder in Cherry Hills (Book 1)
Framed in Cherry Hills (Book 2)
Poisoned in Cherry Hills (Book 3)
Vanished in Cherry Hills (Book 4)
Shot in Cherry Hills (Book 5)
Strangled in Cherry Hills (Book 6)
Halloween in Cherry Hills (Book 7)
Stabbed in Cherry Hills (Book 8)
Spring was supposed to be a time of rebirth, Polly Blake thought, staring at the dead body in front of her. Here in Asheville, North Carolina, spring was when trees turned green, flowers bloomed, and birds flew back into town.
Spring was not supposed to kick off with her uncle Larry dropping dead in her backyard.
“Well?” Michelle said, her eyes wild as she looked at Polly. “Tell me Dad’s okay. Tell me you can find a pulse.”
Polly stood up, shielding her eyes from the sun. Although she had been savoring the afternoon warmth moments earlier, now even the sun’s rays couldn’t prevent the chill that shot through her body. “I’m sorry, Ellie.”
Michelle’s eyes filled with tears. She crumpled to the grass, then lifted up Larry’s hand and held it to her face. “No, Daddy, no.”
Polly turned around to give Michelle some privacy as she wept, her heart breaking for her cousin. This wasn’t how the Blakes’ annual spring equinox barbecue was supposed to turn out. In years past, these events had been filled with familiar family stories, old jokes, and excited speculations about when they could stuff their coats in the closet again.
A death was an entirely new twist, one that made her wish she’d never volunteered to hold this year’s party after inheriting her father’s property this past winter.
Polly’s thoughts were interrupted when her uncle Ken ran around the side of the house. “The ambulance is on its way.” He stopped short and frowned when he noticed neither of the women attempting to resuscitate his brother. “Don’t tell me it’s too late.”
Polly spread her hands. “I’m sorry.”
Her aunt Stephanie bolted through the sliding glass door at the back of the house, a crazed look on her face as her eyes darted around. Spotting everyone clustered near the grill, she rushed over.
“What’s happened to Larry?” she screeched, her blond hair flying around her shoulders. “Winnie said he collapsed.”
Michelle looked up. “Mom, he’s…gone.”
“What?” Stephanie lurched closer, then crouched down and shook Larry’s arm. “Honey, it’s me, Stephanie. Your wife. Wake up.”
Polly’s stomach clenched as Stephanie continued her futile attempts to revive Larry. Watching her, Polly felt an overwhelming sense of helplessness.
“Larry!” Polly’s grandfather careened out of the house, the wheels of his walker threatening to pop off. He spotted Ken and made a beeline for him. “Kenny, what’s going on?”
Before Ken could reply, Polly’s aunt Winnie appeared. “Kenny!” She rushed over and grabbed her husband’s arm. “Did you call 9-1-1?”
Grandpa brushed Winnie aside as if she were a pesky gnat. “Son, what’s wrong with Larry?”
Ken just shook his head.
“He keeled over,” Polly piped up. Saying the words aloud made her feel slightly dizzy. She took a deep breath before adding, “One second he was standing there, and the next he was on the ground.”
“Keeled over?” Grandpa scrunched up his nose. “He’s a robust young man!”
“Uncle Larry was fifty-nine,” Polly countered.
“He was still working construction.” Grandpa rotated toward Ken. “How many houses have you and your brother helped build now?”
Ken lifted his shoulders, looking at a loss for words.
“Grandpa.” Polly set her hand on his arm. “Sometimes even people who look fit have health complications.”
“Nah.” Grandpa shook his head with enough force to give himself whiplash. “I don’t believe it. My boy was murdered!”
Polly heard a gasp. Her gaze darted to her neighbor’s yard, where one of old Mrs. Holland’s huge eyes could be seen through the gap in the fence.
Polly repositioned herself between Mrs. Holland and Larry’s body. “Grandpa, he wasn’t murdered. I saw him fall over as I was coming out of the house.”
Grandpa raised his eyebrows as though seeing her in an entirely new light. “How do I know you didn’t kill him?”
Polly suppressed a groan, some of the shock of the afternoon’s turn of events wearing off. “Grandpa, you know I didn’t kill Uncle Larry.”
He stared at her for a moment longer before he relaxed. “Well, somebody killed him,” he said.
Polly snapped her fingers as though she’d had a sudden brainstorm. “Or, he could have died from natural causes.”
“As natural as one human being killing another can be!” Grandpa shouted, drawing another gasp from next door.
Polly spun around and glared at Mrs. Holland’s eye until it shrank away from the fence.
“Besides, he was standing there laughing and talking just a minute ago,” Grandpa said. “You’re saying he died in less time than it took me to use the can? Ain’t no way a man can die that fast from natural causes.”
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Polly Blake never expects her family's annual spring barbecue to kick off with her uncle dropping dead in her backyard. When his death is ruled a homicide, it's up to her to figure out who the murderer is. Previously published as part of the Seasons collection.