Authors: Cindy Blackburn
Tags: #Mystery, #Romance, #A Cue Ball Mystery
A Cue Ball Mystery
Copyright © 2012 by Cindy Blackburn
Published by Cindy Blackburn, eBook edition 2012.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.
“Candy Poppe has a poodle named Puddles, and I’m suffering from plot plight,” I informed Wilson the minute he walked through the door.
He set a bag of groceries on the counter. “Excuse me?”
“Candy, Wilson. My downstairs neighbor? Pretty, perky, petite. Prone to miniskirts and stilettos?”
“I know who Candy is, Jessie. She got a poodle?”
“A puppy from the pound. He’s not a purebred.”
Wilson blinked twice. “Have you met Puddles?”
“He came up to play today,” I said, and we both instinctively glanced at Snowflake, who was perched on her favorite windowsill.
“What did you think of Puddles?” Wilson asked my cat.
She yawned abundantly while I answered, “Puddles pranced around, and Snowflake supervised from where she’s sitting right now. All went well until Puddles piddled.”
“She was most displeased.” I waved at the expanse of wood floors in my condo. “Although wiping it up was pretty painless.”
Wilson shook his head. “If I hear one more P-word—“
“You’ll pull out your pistol?” I smiled at my profound powers of alliteration, but my beau the cop was unimpressed.
“Maybe we should move on to plot plight,” he suggested.
I agreed that was probably a good idea and pulled a bottle of champagne from the fridge.
If you ask me, everything works better with champagne. And trust me, the rather unlikely saga of
An Everlasting Encounter
, my latest literary venture, would definitely be easier to fathom with a bit of bubbly. I popped the cork while Wilson got dinner underway.
“Think Cinderella, but with a wicked sister-in-law,” I began. I handed him a glass and found my favorite barstool.
“Sarina Blyss has run away from home. She had to leave because her brother Norwood inherited the family estate after their father died. That shouldn’t have been a problem, but then Norwood married Agnes. And the altogether evil Agnes quickly turned poor Sarina into a virtual slave.”
Wilson tossed a handful of garlic into a sauce pot. “Did you take those meatballs out of the freezer like I asked?”
Of course. If Wilson Rye wants to fill my freezer with all kinds of homemade Italian delicacies, the least I can do is follow a few simple instructions. I pointed him toward the fridge, and he dumped the thawed meatballs into a hot frying pan.
Snowflake hopped into my lap, and together we watched him do his magic. Spaghetti and meatballs here we come.
“So now it’s three years later,” I continued.
“Later than what?”
“Three years after Norwood married the bitch. Now, I don’t actually call Agnes a bitch in the book, but my readers will get the idea.”
“Wilson!” I put down my glass and waved a hand to get his attention. “Agnes Blyss! The altogether evil sister-in-law. Sarina got tired of scrubbing her floors and left home with a small satchel of all her worldly belongings, including her most cherished possession, the golden necklace her mother bestowed upon her the night she died.”
“Bestowed upon her?”
I nodded solemnly. “Sarina was a mere child when her mother passed away, and then her father died when she was sixteen. The poor thing is an orphan.”
Wilson rolled his eyes, and I suggested he drink some champagne.
“Sarina had an important decision to make the day she left home,” I said. “When she got to the crossroads at the end of the lane, she had to choose between walking to Priesters, the charming village she used to visit with her father, or heading in the opposite direction toward the big town of St. Celeste. She knew St. Celeste was twenty miles away, but she had never been there.”
“So let me guess. She chose the charming village.”
“No!” I jumped a bit. “That surprised me, too. Sarina decided on St. Celeste. She pulled her necklace out of the satchel and clasped it around her neck for good luck. Then she embarked on her journey to St. Celeste, where she knew not a soul, mind you. But after a couple of hours she grew weary and stopped to rest beside the lavender fields.”
“And let me guess again. That’s when she got herself kidnapped by the sinister Lord Snip, or Snap, or Snoop, or whatever.” Wilson twirled his wooden spoon in the air for emphasis. “And now she’s trapped in this guy’s castle, waiting to be rescued by some stupid hunk with a huge—”
“No, Wilson,” I interrupted. “That’s what happened in
Temptation at Twilight
. But we are now discussing
An Everlasting Encounter
. It’s a completely different story.” I tossed my head in a haughty manner reminiscent of one of my heroines. “Adelé Nightingale never repeats a story.”
“Whatever you say, Adelé.” He chuckled over my pen name, but I ignored him and moved on.
“Just as Sarina stood up from the lavender field, determined to finish her arduous journey, a handsome stranger driving a white carriage came along and offered her a ride. And of course, the stranger became smitten with Sarina along the way.”
“Of course.” Wilson shook salt into a pot of boiling water and poured in the spaghetti.
“But unbeknownst to Sarina, the handsome stranger is none other than Trey Barineau, the Duke of Luxley! Can you believe it?”
“The trouble is, Sarina had somehow torn her frock during this whole encounter, and so Trey dropped her off at the dress-maker’s shop in St. Celeste. And then the proprietress Winnie Dickerson shooed him away before he could properly introduce himself or even learn the lovely damsel’s name.”
“Why didn’t the evil baron-guy just kidnap her, Jessie? Isn’t that what always happens in your books?”
“Nooo. That is not what always happens in my books. And Trey Barineau is the hero, for Lord’s sake. He would never kidnap anyone.” I sighed dramatically. “And therein lies the dilemma.”
“Would you please stay with me here? Sarina has found employment with Mrs. Dickerson. Because, despite her delicate hands and fingers, she is quite talented with a needle and thread. And now this lowly seamstress must somehow come back into contact with the Duke of Luxley. Meanwhile, Trey is up in Luxley Manor, simply beside himself with lustful longings for the lovely and lithe Sarina, whose identity he knows not!”
Wilson squinted up at the heavens. Or at least at the skylight.
“So?” I asked. “How will their chance encounter in the lavender field become everlasting?”
“Oh, for Lord’s sake! Trey and Sarina! Any ideas?” I appealed to my beau for inspiration.
My mother refers to Wilson Rye as my beau, and for lack of a better alternative, so do I. Beau may sound a bit southern and old-fashioned, but I was born and raised in South Carolina, and have lived in Clarence, North Carolina for decades, so I am a southerner. And although I won’t claim to be old-fashioned, I am getting old.
Which is why I refuse to call him my boyfriend. I’m fifty-two and he’s forty-seven. Boyfriend seems too juvenile. Lover could work, but since the L-word had yet to be spoken between us, that seemed a bit premature.
My beau was staring at me. And from the look on his face, I assumed he had nary a solution to offer Trey or Sarina.
I reached over and turned off the stove. “Okay, what’s wrong?” I asked. “You’ve had more on your mind than dinner ever since you called this afternoon.”
He frowned and slowly spooned the meatballs onto a plate lined with paper towels. “I was going to ask you to do me a favor,” he mumbled eventually. “But never mind. It’s too dangerous.”
Too dangerous? Well, now he had to tell me.
I hopped up to set the table and began with the most obvious question. “Does it have something to do with your job?”
“It’s kind of complicated,” he told the meatballs as he transferred them, one by one, into the sauce pot.
“Why am I not surprised?” I looked up from folding the napkins. “Is this about what happened at the Wade On Inn? Didn’t I read something in the paper?”
No answer while he pretended his spaghetti sauce required his urgent attention.
“If you refuse to tell me what’s going on, why bring it up at all?” I asked with a pointed glare.
“I keep you in the dark for your own safety, Jessie.”
“Yeah, right.” I dropped the silverware and returned to the stove. “Perhaps things did get a little tricky during the Stanley Sweetzer episode,” I said once he would finally look at me. “But that’s no excuse for you to be so cagey about your work, Wilson.”
“A little tricky? You almost got yourself killed, darlin.’”
I folded my arms and glared. “As I recall, the lead investigator of the Clarence Homicide Squad accused me of murdering Candy Poppe’s fiancé. Forgive me if I got a little carried away trying to prove my innocence.”
“I only accused you that one time.”
Wilson took a deep breath. “Okay, here goes. Two murders at the Wade On Inn. Last week. Both victims were regulars at the pool table.” He stopped and waited for my reaction.
I pursed my lips and decided to stir the pasta.
“You ever play out there, Jessie?”
“Umm, I might have.”
He took the spoon away from me. “That,” he said, “is exactly what I was afraid of.”
“Come on, Wilson. It was a long time ago.”
“What do you know about the game at the Wade On Inn?”
“I know it’s the hottest table in town. They shoot nine ball out there, if I’m not mistaken.”
He squinted at me, suspicion veritably oozing from his pores. “When were you last there?”
“Oh, for Lord’s sake! I haven’t set foot inside the Wade On Inn or any place like it for close to thirty years.
“However,” I added when he seemed a bit too relieved. “If Adelé Nightingale’s books ever go out of style, I do believe I could pop on down there and get enough action to pay my mortgage, no?”
Wilson turned to Snowflake. “That,” he said, “is exactly what I was afraid of.”
“Aggravated assaults, drunk and disorderlies, prostitution.” Lost in a litany of the various and sundry crimes associated with the Wade On Inn, my beau the cop stirred the sauce more and more rapidly with each new offense.
“Okay, okay,” I interrupted a description of a recent drug bust. “We both know the place is the diviest of dives. But what about these murders?”
“The first victim, Angela Hernandez, was killed Saturday night.” Stir, stir. “She worked for the owner Elsa Quinn, did her bookkeeping, and stayed late most nights to close out the cash register.”
“She was killed after closing?”
“Yep. Someone waited for her in the parking lot, shot her, and dumped her into Shinkle Creek. Handy, huh?”
I groaned. The Wade On Inn is located on the outskirts of town and on the banks of Shinkle Creek. The name doesn’t really do it justice, though. Shinkle Creek is more like a raging river, waterfalls and all.
“She was killed two days before her body was discovered downstream,” he added.
I tapped his hand to slow down the stirring. “And the second murder?”
“Same thing, a few days later. The guy was shot in the parking lot and dumped in the water.”
“What about fingerprints or DNA evidence?” I thought I sounded oh so knowledgeable, but Wilson reminded me it had rained a lot that week.