Authors: Keeley Bates
A Saints & Strangers Cozy Mystery, Book One
By: Keeley Bates
Cover Design by:
Go On Write
Formatting by: Polgarus Studios
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Copyright © 2015 by Keeley Bates. All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Kit Wilder did not have moves like Jagger. Quite the contrary, she fully recognized that her moves were more of the Elaine from
variety, which was why her agent, Beatrice Coleman, said she would never be invited to appear on
Dancing with the Stars
no matter how many times Beatrice attempted to cattle prod the producers into submission. This disappointed Beatrice more than Katherine, as Beatrice was a fan of the show and her other clients weren’t attractive or popular enough to qualify.
Kit finished her dance cardio session with a sense of relief, not because she accomplished a full hour’s workout but because she did it without any witnesses. Although she could perform fight scenes with grace and precision, she had no sense of rhythm. She wasn’t sure where this particular dance cardio guru came up with some of her more complex moves. It was like playing Twister while avoiding the hot flames that licked the bottom of your feet. Removing her ear buds, she vowed to get back to good, old-fashioned exercises like spinning. Why did the easy ones tend to fall out of fashion?
She grabbed her iPhone and snapped a photo of herself glistening with sweat and bearing a wide grin. Within two minutes she shared it on Instagram and then tweeted it to her fans along with a message about the number of calories burned so far today. She knew many of her followers would still be asleep in America, but there were more than a few in California who’d still be active at this hour. Her best friend, Jordan, among them.
An instructor entered the studio, surprised to see Kit. The instructor clearly didn’t recognize her, not that she expected to be recognized in London. Unsurprisingly, her show had been more popular in America than anywhere else.
“Are you here for my class?” the instructor asked.
Kit tucked her iPhone into her sports bra. “No, sorry. I just didn’t have enough space in my hotel room for my Tracy Anderson DVD.”
The instructor gave her a quizzical look. “But there’s no television in here.”
Kit tapped the side of her head. “It’s all up here. Like memorizing lines.”
Kit took the elevator from the gym back up to her hotel room. Today was her last day on the set of the period drama and marked the last official day of her acting career, for now. The part was small, a favor owed by a London agent to Beatrice. Kit had a few lines (‘More tea, Madam?’ and ‘Yes, Madam’) and the cast was highly regarded. She’d been highly regarded until recently.
As an eighteen-year-old ingénue, Kit shot to fame as rookie detective Ellie Gold on the hit show,
. She graced the covers of all the major magazines and even had a famous catchphrase – ‘I got your bling right here,’ usually uttered while producing a set of gleaming handcuffs. She still had the T-shirt in three different colors to prove it. Over the course of four seasons, she made one strategic error after another, earning herself the label of diva. Kit was well-acquainted with divas having been raised by one in affluent Westdale, Pennsylvania and she knew that she didn’t fit the bill. Of course, in Hollywood ‘diva’ was code for troublemaker or as the producer had called her before showing her the door — the resident rebel rouser. Okay, so she may have made a few teeny tiny waves after complaining publicly about the treatment of crew members, refusing to wear high heels to a red carpet event, and reporting a line producer for several instances of sexual harassment. Seth, her A-list agent at the time, had tried to talk her out of each action by reciting a long list of those actors who had made similar bad choices — those actors who now languished in acting purgatory. Kit, however, thoroughly believed that her star was on the rise and that the force of gravity was no obstacle. She’d wanted to use her power for good. As a reward for her ‘good’ behavior, her character was killed off and she was blackballed by producers. So much for having a conscience in Hollywood.
Thanks to ballbusting Beatrice, the fairy godmother agent who rescued her after Seth’s departure, Kit briefly attempted to pursue an independent film career. Even they wouldn’t touch her. Blackballing aside, they deemed her box office poison because of the movies she’d filmed during previous hiatuses that had tanked. It turned out that American audiences did not want to see her in rom-coms alongside vaguely attractive comedians-turned-actors. They wanted her in uniform with appropriate cleavage, uttering her catchphrase with a thick New Jersey accent. Lesson learned. Unfortunately for her, indie producers had learned it, too.
As she undressed for the shower, swallowing the taste of regret, the sound of It’s Raining Men startled her. She pulled her phone out of her bra.
“Hi Jordan.” Jordan Newberg was the wardrobe designer for
and Kit’s best friend — the one and only person she was sorry to leave behind when she left California.
“You popped up in my Twitter feed. Are you feeling unloved again? Aren’t you with your mother by now?”
Kit put Jordan on speaker and continued to undress. “First of all, you know perfectly well that my mother and feeling unloved go hand-in-hand. Second of all, I’m still in London. Today’s the last day.”
“Then you’re back to Westdale.” Jordan sighed. “Have you told Mumsy about the house?”
Kit turned on the water for the shower. “Not yet. She’ll figure it out when I leave Greyabbey to sleep somewhere else.”
“When do classes start?”
“Two weeks. That should give me time to get started on the renovations.”
“Kit Wilder doing DIY. I’d pay good money to see that.”
“Pay for a plane ticket and you can have a front row seat.”
“Would love to, darling, but duty calls. Besides, I’d rather have a front row seat to your reunion with Mumsy.”
“Stop calling her that,” Kit scoffed. “I call her Mother and you know it.”
“I thought all rich people said Mumsy,” he teased. “It’s in the Wealthy White Person Handbook.”
“Going now,” Kit said and clicked off the phone. Steam had already filled the bathroom. She stepped inside and closed the shower door, determined to wash away all evidence of failure before her return to Westdale.
Kit yawned and stretched as the cab drove down Standish Street, past Liberty Square, and turned onto Tulane Street. She hadn’t been back to Westdale since she left five years ago, three weeks after her father’s funeral. Douglas Wilder’s heart attack had been a great shock to everyone and, as his only child, Kit was desperate to escape the pain of his sudden absence.
Unsurprisingly, the town looked just the same. The square was as picturesque as ever, with shoppers strolling down Standish Street. Butter Beans, the coffee shop, still enjoyed its prominent position at the front of the square, luring everyone in Westdale with their cozy atmosphere and exotic coffees and teas. In fact, Butter Beans looked really good to Kit right now.
The cab continued down Tulane Street, past the library, and turned briefly onto Keystone Road until turning onto Thornhill Road and Kit’s new home. She’d used the last of her
money to buy the foreclosed house. It needed work, but Kit wasn’t afraid of rolling up her sleeves. She’d grown up a lot during her time in Los Angeles. She only hoped that she could hold on to that maturity now that she was back on childhood soil. Chances were slim.
The cabbie removed her luggage from the trunk and carried the bags to the door.
“I got your bags right here,” he declared, standing on the front porch, the glee evident on his face.
Kit forced a smile. “You’ve seen the show.” He wasn’t the first person to abuse her catchphrase and he wouldn’t be the last.
“I didn’t recognize you at first,” the cabbie confessed. He glanced at the unkempt house. “This is where you’re living now?”
“Yes,” Kit answered a touch defensively. “I’m starting college this semester. I thought it was time to focus on my education.”
The cabbie nodded approvingly. “Well, Westdale College has a great reputation. You must be a smart girl.”
Kit paid him and doubled the tip. No one would ever accuse her of being cheap, at least when it came to other people. “I had a little help.”
Actually, she’d had a lot of help. Her mother, Heloise Winthrop Wilder, had pulled a few strings to get Kit a place in the first year class. Kit’s college entrance scores weren’t recent and her grades at the Shiphay School had been only slightly above average in a sea of ambitious overachievers. This was what her mother wanted, though, and Heloise Winthrop Wilder generally got what she wanted, even if she had to wait five years to get it.
Kit unlocked the front door for the first time and peered inside. Stale air filled her nostrils. Myra Beacon, the realtor had sent a plethora of photos, wanting to be certain that Kit knew what she was getting herself into. She did. Without television money or her trust fund, she needed a fixer upper and this was, quite literally, the only one in town. Her mother had agreed to pay for college but refused to reinstate her trust fund. Kit was still being punished for fleeing to Los Angeles after her father’s death. It didn’t matter that Douglas Wilder had encouraged Kit to follow her dreams before he died. It only mattered that Kit had left Westdale to pursue a career that was, God forbid, beneath the dignity of the Winthrop Wilders. She may as well have announced that she’d launched an online sex video.
There were a few packages to the left of the front door addressed to her, along with a welcome note from Myra. Kit recognized Jordan’s expressive handwriting on a medium-sized square box and smiled. She’d open it as soon as she aired out the house.
Kit set to work opening the windows and touring her new house. Most of her belongings were in a storage unit in nearby Media until she completed the renovations. Beatrice had gone above and beyond the call of duty when it came to Kit’s relocation. She’d organized the moving company while Kit was in London and convinced Kit’s entertainment lawyer to handle the purchase of the house on Thornhill. It was nice knowing that someone was in her corner. By the time she’d shot her last scene on
, she’d felt like all her butt was missing was a footprint.
Kit surveyed the living room with a critical eye. The white wooden mantelpiece was pretty and understated. The walls were a faded duck egg blue — they would need a fresh coat of paint. Her eyes dropped to the blush-colored carpet. It was hideous in its own right, but it looked even worse in a room with duck egg blue walls. Only a straight man who lived alone would conjure up this look. Too bad the carpet looked as good as new. Maybe if she ripped it up carefully, someone else would be able to use it. Kit knew that most Westdale houses had beautiful hardwood floors underneath and she was happy to revive them. She’d spent enough time with the television crew to know how to strip and sand a floor. What she didn’t know, she’d Google. She was pretty sure that was why the internet was invented.
The sound of a screeching violin interrupted her thoughts. The theme from
. Reluctantly, she pulled her phone from her pocket. “Hello, Mother.”
“Katherine Clementine Winthrop Wilder, how long do you expect to hide from me?” Her mother’s sharp voice echoed in her ear and Kit switched to speaker mode.
“I’m not hiding,” she argued. “I’m resting after a long flight.”
“Resting where? That monstrosity on Thornhill Road?” Her mother awaited a response. “That’s right, Katherine. I know all about your purchase. Now why don’t you come up to Greyabbey for dinner so we can discuss it.”
Kit’s stomach clenched. Her mother knew. She shouldn’t be surprised, really. Heloise was more plugged in than electronics in an Apple store.
“And by discuss, you mean lecture me on all the reasons the purchase was a bad idea.”
“Honestly, Katherine.” To the untrained ear, it simply sounded like an exasperated mother. For Katherine, however, that single phrase was loaded with judgment.
“I’ll be there for dinner.”
“Excellent. No need to dress up, darling. Just a casual dinner for our little reunion. Maybe wear those pearls I bought you for graduation.”
Pearls were her mother’s idea of casual. “I’ll be there in an hour.”
“Forty minutes,” her mother said. “You know you can’t keep Diane’s dishes waiting.”
Because twenty minutes would make or break a meal. “Fine.”