Authors: Shelley Freydont
“How come those three guys went off with another agent?”
“Commercial property,” Janine said, the words dripping with disdain. She started to walk past Liv.
Liv turned around and walked with her. “Don’t you do commercial property?”
“Yes, but Jerry takes the really big deals. I really should go off on my own. Open my own office.”
“What are they looking for?”
Janine’s nostrils pinched together. “How should I know? I didn’t get the listing.” She brushed past Liv and headed toward the municipal parking lot.
Liv ran to catch up. “Well, you must know what kind of property they were looking at and where.”
“They’re taking a look at the old cannery today.”
“The cannery?” They couldn’t have the cannery. Liv had plans for the old brick building. “What do they want the cannery for?”
“Really, how should I know?” Janine shouldered away from her.
Liv stepped in front of her.
Janine sighed dramatically. “If you must know, it’s some sports thing.”
“An arena?” Liv imagined snarled traffic. Where would all the ticket holders stay? The Inn and B and Bs already operated at full capacity. They would have to build big hotels, which would mean more traffic, more security problems; they would lose their reputation as a quaint family destination town. It would be disastrous.
“Football or hockey arena? Theme park? Putt-putt?”
“A gun club.”
Liv stared at her. “A gun club? Like a firing range?” Men were going to be shooting three blocks away from Main Street? There had to be an ordinance against that.
“Well, bigger than that. A private resort for gun people. Hotel, restaurants, bars . . . Those kinds of things. I guess it’s a real popular pastime.”
It would destroy the character of Celebration Bay, not to mention the influx it would bring of firearms and the possibilities of more accidents like the one today. “Janine, does the mayor know?”
“Of course. He thinks it’s a great idea. A real boost to the economy.”
“Do you know what will happen to property values around here?” Liv asked.
“Commercial property, maybe. But the price of homes . . . ? How many people do you know who would want to raise their children near a gun club?”
Janine stopped, looking genuinely horrified.
“People visit here and move here for the safety of small-town America. They bring their families here because it’s quaint, Norman Rockwell stuff. But with guns in use within the town limits, I think the residents will have a fit. The tourists will stay away in droves. It’s bound to impact downtown businesses. I don’t think gun enthusiasts, even exclusive ones, will spend their time shopping at places like A Stitch in Time and Bay-Berry Candles. I wonder if the mayor thought about that?”
Liv let her question trail off, leaving Janine to surmise the rest. From Janine’s mouth to the mayor’s ear. No one understood the influence she had over him, but maybe she’d use it for good for a change.
In the meantime, Liv was going to check things out for herself. She cut through the parking lot that ran behind the shops and broke into a jog as soon as she had cleared the main drag.
It took only a few minutes to reach the old cannery, whose closing years before had put most of the town out of work. The town had moved on, turning to tourism and gradually becoming one of the most popular destination spots on the East Coast. The cannery had not fared so well. It sat empty and forlorn in a deserted section of town. Its windows were broken out, the walls were spray-painted with graffiti, and it was surrounded by a huge employee parking lot, now unused except by the weeds that pushed their way through the cracks in the tarmac.
But Liv never passed by without seeing it as it could be revitalized—in a town-appropriate way.
. Shops. Fine dining. Indoor activities for winter. Skating rink? Children’s activities. But not a gun club open to exclusive members from out of the area who would stay in an exclusive hotel and eat in the exclusive hotel and shoot the place up and leave town.
No way. That was not part of Liv’s vision. She had left exclusivity behind and she wouldn’t see it try to get a foothold here. And she knew that others would feel the same way.
She slowed down when she saw a black sedan parked at the entrance. Making sure the men were inside, she jogged over to the building and tried to look in a window, but years of neglect and grime made it impossible to see what was going on inside.
She carefully made her way over the rubble, taking mental notes to have the area cleaned up, until she found a broken window that looked into the main room.
She heard their voices, the vaulted ceilings and brick walls echoing every word.
“It is zoned for commercial use.” Jerry Harper’s voice. “You’ll have to get variances for hotel and any firing ranges.”
Liv scooched closer and looked inside.
“Not a problem,” Pudge said. “I have a number of shares that I’m willing to open to local investors. I think we can handle any problems that arise from zoning.” He looked from Eric to Joe.
They both nodded and Liv got a flash of one of her former clients who had muscled, literally, another convention group out of a hotel with a little help from his friends.
Things were looking bleaker by the minute as she listened to them reel off a list of things that would be included in their big plans. And there was the dead guy. Maybe that would make them think twice about opening a business here. Or maybe they had . . . No, that was crazy. Murder was an extreme way to get rid of an unreliable partner. They could just buy him out. Or were Max’s shares the available ones that Pudge had just mentioned?
“Well, I’ll have to get my accountant to crunch some numbers,” Pudge said. “Send in an inspector, a contractor, some investors and see what we can work out.”
“Good, good,” Jerry said. “I can get to the paperwork immediately.”
There was handshaking all around and the men turned toward the door. Liv took off around the back of the building and ran along the shore back to town.
• • •
“I thought you were going home to change,” Ted said when she burst into the Events office, out of breath and with a stitch in her side to beat all stitches.
“I was, but we’ve got problems.”
“To do with the dead man?”
“Not sure about that.” Liv huffed out a breath. “But his colleagues have plans for the cannery.”
“I was walking home when I saw them go into the real estate office, and a few minutes later they came out with Jerry Harper. They went to look at the cannery.”
“Uh-oh. Your baby.”
“Yes,” Liv said, rubbing her side and finally getting her breath under control. “I ran into Janine and she said they’re planning to open a private gun club, high-class, a whole closed community. They have investors.” She sat on the edge of his desk. “What kind of people belong to a private gun club outside your general effete BBC English aristocrat?”
“Sportsmen and rednecks?” Ted ventured.
“They’d have to be. The cannery is abandoned but the property is worth a chunk of change. The owners haven’t budged in the thirty years it’s been closed.”
“They said something about getting local investors.”
Ted’s eyebrows lifted. “For a private gun club? Around here? Seems far-fetched.” He frowned. “Most of the people around here practice out-of-doors with tin cans. Even the rich ones then hang out at a local watering hole. Are you sure about this?”
“Pretty sure. It’s more than just a firing range. Evidently this is some posh upscale do. They’re planning a big hotel, cigar bars, pampered wilderness trips, skeet, and competitions. Competitions! Are they crazy? We can’t have guns everywhere. Celebration Bay is a family-oriented destination town.”
“No, we can’t. But how do you know this?”
“Janine told me some of it, against her will, I have to admit.”
“Janine? Maybe she was just trying to rile you. Was blood drawn?”
“Of course not. She was pretty upset that she hadn’t gotten the client. Clients. That’s probably why they came here in the first place: not to run the race but to mingle with the locals in order to promote their plans for the cannery. Ugh. I knew they didn’t look like runners.”
“Wow,” Ted said. “That would certainly change the face of Celebration Bay.”
“It will destroy it. This is a disaster.”
Ted rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “There was talk a while back about turning the cannery into a convention center. But people around here were against it. There’s no way we could accommodate the crowds. The traffic problem alone was overwhelming. It never got off the ground. No wonder Janine was upset about not landing the deal. She could retire on the commission.”
“To be honest. I’m not sure she knows the breadth of the deal.”
“What do you mean? You didn’t learn this from Janine?”
Liv hesitated. “Not exactly.”
“Well, I figured as long as I was dressed for running I might as well run over and check out what they were doing. When they went inside I found a broken window and eavesdropped.”
“Are you crazy? What would you have done if they’d caught you?”
“Say I was jogging by and wondered why a car was parked outside.”
“Well, don’t do it again, please.”
Liv sighed. “Maybe when they find out their partner is dead, they’ll change their minds and pull out.”
“We can but hope.”
“Oh, Janine said Mayor Worley knew about it and thought it would be good for business.”
“What a numbskull.”
know about it?”
“You always know everything.”
“Thank you, but I only know everything as soon as it hits the grapevine.”
“And this hasn’t?”
Ted shook his head; he was still frowning. “So either it was very hush-hush or it’s in its beginning stages.”
“The latter, I think. It sounded like they hadn’t even gotten zoning information.”
Ted hoisted himself out of his chair. “Well, nothing can happen before Monday. Why don’t you call it a day? I have to go out to Dexter’s and then I’m going home.”
“I thought you already went.”
“Never made it.”
“Because Bill was telling you the details of the case?”
“I don’t know where you get these ideas. Come on. Let’s lock up.”
“What has he learned?”
Ted took his jacket down from the coatrack and put it on. Held the door until Liv had no choice but to walk through it. She hadn’t bothered to take off her coat, so she followed him down the hall.
He didn’t elucidate, and she knew better than to ask. Ted was a consummate storyteller and he knew how to build the suspense before spilling the beans.
When they were standing outside, Liv stopped him. “You’re not leaving until you tell me.”
“Tell you what?”
Liv crossed her arms and shifted onto one hip.
Ted grinned. “On your information, they tracked the four men to the Lakeside Inn. Corinne Anderson confirmed they were staying there. Evidently she wished they weren’t. I could hear her in the background while Bill was on the phone. Seems they closed down the bar last night, and Max, the no longer, started a fight with one of the locals and had to be restrained by his friends.”
“With a local? Did she say who?”
“No. But I don’t think it was a cause for murder. You tend to forget that most of the populace still settle their differences the old-fashioned way.”
“There’s a huge difference between a few punches and a hole blasted in someone’s chest.”
“True. Bill will figure it out.”
“I hope so. At least there’s no big event tomorrow. Maybe they’ll leave town and forget about us.”
“I don’t think anyone will be leaving town until Bill gets to the bottom of who killed Max Bonhoff.”
Liv glanced sharply at him.
“They searched his room and found his passport.”
“He’s from Toronto.”
“And the others?”
“Don’t know. Corinne is supposed to call Bill when they return to the Inn.”
Liv turned down a ride offer and started off across the green toward home . . . again.
The wind had kicked up and the temperature was dropping. And Liv was more than willing to accept the cup of tea the sisters offered her when she went to pick up Whiskey.
“Come in, come in,” Miss Edna said. “We’re just steeping a pot of Constant Comment.” She hustled Liv inside as Whiskey came charging down the hall from the kitchen.
“Hey, buddy,” Liv said, leaning over to give him a good scratch.
“Go on in the parlor and make yourself at home. I’ll just tell Ida to bring another cup.”
Liv shrugged out of her coat. She was still wearing her running gear and sweatpants. Not exactly teatime attire. She sat gingerly on the edge of her chair, worried that she might be tracking leaves and dirt and who knew what else into their immaculate Victorian home.
Whiskey immediately rested his paws on her knees. Liv stifled a yawn. Now that she was sitting down, exhaustion overcame her. She was nearly nodding off when Ida and Edna came into the room with a tray containing a teapot, cups and saucers, and a platter of warm scones.
“Here we are,” Miss Ida said, putting down the plate of scones. “Now, you just help yourself. I bet you didn’t even stop for lunch today, did you?”
Liv shook her head. Between the race, the murder, and the development plans, she’d been pretty busy.
Miss Edna poured tea and handed Liv a cup. “I don’t suppose you know what all the fuss was about this morning during the race?”
“Was there a fuss?” Liv asked, wondering if something else had happened while she was out in the woods looking at a body.
Miss Ida pursed her lips and gave her an understanding look. “Mum’s the word. Did Bill tell you not to discuss it?”
Edna frowned at her sister. “Ida, don’t bother Liv. Can’t you see she’s tired?”
Liv’s tired brain clicked into normal time. “What did you hear?”
“Well,” Miss Ida said, handing Liv a plate and conveniently ignoring her sister. “We heard a man died in the woods this morning and Bill arrested Henny Higgins for killing him.”
Liv nearly dropped her plate. How did people learn these things so fast? Especially Miss Edna and Miss Ida, who spent most of their time at home—listening to their police scanner, Liv reminded herself. She was probably the only person in town who didn’t own one.
“That Henny,” Miss Edna said. “It was just a matter of time before he hurt somebody. He gets more ornery every year.”
“He said he didn’t do it.”
“Hmmph. If it was a hunter, it’s not someone from around here. They know better than to trespass on Henny’s property.”
“Well,” Ida said, “I was on the phone today with Corinne Anderson over at the Inn confirming our reservation for the Presbyterian Ladies Christmas Bazaar Committee. We have our kickoff breakfast there every year.”
“Sister,” Edna said, “get to the point.”
“Well, she was very upset. Seems Bill Gunnison had been there looking for four of her guests. She wasn’t exactly surprised. I guess they were rather boisterous at the bar last night.”
“That’s what you have to contend with when you run accommodations for the public,” said the practical Edna.
“Well, I know. And so does Corinne, but she usually has a family-oriented clientele. It says right on her website, ‘Come spend a quiet, comfortable holiday at the Inn.’ Doesn’t say anything about drinking too much and causing a scene.”
“What kind of scene?” Liv asked.
“One of them got in a scuffle with one of the local boys.”
“Did she say which one?”
Ida shook her head.
“It seems odd,” Edna added. “Most of the locals don’t come to the Inn to drink. They go to McCready’s or one of the places out on the highway. The Inn attracts an older, more sedate crowd. I wonder what the ‘scuffle’ was about?”
So did Liv, and whether it had anything to do with Max’s death. “I’m sure Bill asked. He might want to question whoever it was about his whereabouts.”
“You mean Henny didn’t kill him?”
“Oh, I don’t know. It’s just that I’m sure Bill will do a thorough investigation.”