Hello! Hello! Oh, my dear readers, I hope you’re healthy and happy and coping. 2020 is nearly over. We just need to get through the flying monkeys, the alien invasion, and the reversal of the poles, and we’ll be over the worst. Then, on to better things.
I have some better things for you right now!
Well, first, let me give you a not better thing. Bad news. Discouraging, disappointing news. But not flying monkey news, so still pretty okay. Amiright?
Here goes: Gored of the Rings, the first book in the Matchmaker Marriage Mysteries (which continues three years after the Matchmaker Mysteries) will be delayed 11 days. It will now be released on September 16.
I’m so sorry! Don’t throw tomatoes at me! Please! (If you have to throw something, throw chocolate.)
A series of unfortunate events has happened, which means that Gladie cannot see the light of day until Sep. 16. You know Gladie…she has a mind of her own.
Gladie is going to peek out a little because she misses you. This is called a sneak peek. Below, you’ll find the first chapter of Gored of the Rings for FREE.
FREE? Am I crazy? No! Those are only rumors, which you should ignore. Don’t pay attention to the woman in a strait jacket in the corner, please. She’s busy writing…
Now where was I?
After you read chapter one, you can get Bounty on sale for only 99-cents today and tomorrow. What??? That’s crazy! Yes. You will LOVE this book. If you don’t love it, something is wrong with you, and you should call your doctor immediately. No, skip the doctor and head straight to the ER.
All right. That’s pretty much my news. Here’s what’s coming your way. To recap:
- Bounty is on sale for 99-cents today and tomorrow.
- Gored of the Rings is coming out on September 16, and will be AMAZING (for proof, you can read chapter one below for FREE)
- Creepy Hollow is coming out on October 30. This is the FINAL book in the Agatha Bright Mysteries. Everything will be answered, and you will have a definite conclusion. No cliffhanger. Either there will be a happy ending, or everyone will die. Just kidding. Stop throwing tomatoes…
- Divided in Crime will come out on December 20. This is the second-to-last book in the Partners in Crime Thrillers You’ll find out more and then a couple months later, Surrender in Crime will come out and then, again…you’ll know everything and either everyone will die or it will be a happy ending. (I know the joke is getting old, but I don’t want to give you spoilers!)
- Then, Slay Misty for Me will come out, which is the second book in Matchmaker Marriage, and then we begin the Second Chances Club Mysteries, which will be a LOOOOONG series of standalone mysteries. I’ve had the ideas for these 13 books for YEARS. What do you think of that idea? Each book will have an older heroine in it whose life is in the toilet and has to find happiness and reboot their life….and someone’s going to die, too!
That’s all for now. Happy reading, my beloved readers!
Love is love, bubbeleh. But sometimes love wants a party. It wants an audience, a disco band, ten bridesmaids, and a fakakta harp. Remember to keep cool under pressure. It’s just a party. The love always shows up…I wish I could say the same thing about the caterers. Anyway, take pleasure in the moment because moments are gone in a blink of an eye. Then, poof! it’s down to the husband and wife and a maxed out credit card.
–Lesson 1, Wedding Business Advice From Your Grandma Zelda
I dressed in jeans and a blue top with no sleeves, pulled my long, frizzy hair into a ponytail, and went downstairs for breakfast. It was only seven o’clock, but my grandma Zelda was already in the kitchen. She was wearing her blue housedress, and her hair was up in curlers. Her plastic slip-on slippers clacked on the linoleum floor as she walked. I watched as she put a few sliced bagels into the old gas oven.
“Why aren’t you using the toaster?” I asked.
“Because your gorgeous husband fixed the toaster.”
Oh. That explained it.
My name’s Gladie Burger, and Grandma was right. I did have a gorgeous husband. His name was Spencer Bolton. He was the police chief, and after three years of marriage, he had decided to fix things. Even if they weren’t broken.
For example, he had fixed the washing machine, the grandfather clock, and the toaster, just to name a few. Now, nothing worked.
“Dolly, we can’t wash our clothes, I have no idea what time it is, and now I have to toast my bagels in the oven. But I still like to look at Spencer’s tushy. Not in a creepy way. In a considerate, approving way.”
“Me, too,” I said. Grandma only got to look at Spencer’s ass fully clothed, though, whereas I got to see it in all its glory whenever I wanted to. It had a lot of glory.
Spencer and I lived with my grandmother in her large Victorian house in Cannes, California. Our small town had a small population of a couple thousand people, but each of those people made a lot of noise. We were nestled in the mountains east of San Diego, and we were a tourist destination for those looking for apple pie and antiques.
Cannes was founded in the late 1800s after gold was discovered here, but the mine dried up pretty quickly. Most of the people left after that, but some—like my great grandparents—decided to stay on.
Opening the refrigerator, I took out the orange juice, eggs, and cream cheese.
“It’s going to be dry today,” Grandma told me, taking the toasted bagels out of the oven.
She had a way of knowing things that couldn’t be known, but I had the same way. We both had the gift, a third eye that was very handy for weather and making love matches. My gift used to be on fire, but it had calmed down to a dull roar.
“I know. I put Chapstick in my purse. I have to meet Susan Bass at noon to go over final details.”
Grandma sighed but smiled at me encouragingly, with some effort. I had decided to branch out from our matchmaking business and go into weddings. Grandma patted my shoulder and sat across from at the kitchen table, which she had bought in 1958.
“I support your efforts to be happy,” she said. She slathered cream cheese on a bagel and took a bite.
I poured coffee into a cup and added whole milk. “I am happy,” I insisted. “I just need something to spice up my life.”
“Did I hear my name being called, Pinky?” Spencer asked, walking into the kitchen.
I sucked in air, and my heart raced. After three years of marriage, just the sight of Spencer could get me going. He was something to behold in his Armani suit. His thick dark hair was purposely slightly mussed, and he had a perfect five o’clock shadow happening at seven o’clock in the morning on his beautiful face that made me want to jump all over him, even though I had just done that in the shower only a few minutes before.
He winked at me with one of his blue eyes and draped his jacket over a chair.
“Gladie was just telling me that she’s happy,” Grandma told him.
Spencer put on his “kiss the cook” apron and slapped a frying pan onto the stove. Every morning, he was in charge of the eggs. Either over easy, scrambled, or an omelet, he was a whizz with an egg and a spatula.
“You can thank me for that,” Spencer boasted. “I aim to please, and I’m very generous with the happy endings.”
He winked at me and smirked his usual little smirk.
“He’s such a darling,” Grandma gushed.
“He’s five years old,” I chastised, but I felt myself blush, and I hid my face with my cup, as I took a sip.
Spencer whipped an omelet together with smoked salmon. “Another beautiful day in paradise,” he mused, as happy as a clam. “Quiet. Peaceful. No cult leaders. No flying donkeys. No one dropping dead. Not even one dead body in a refrigerator, a trash can, or a lobster tank. Have you noticed that? Nobody’s been murdered in a long time.”
“Not for three years,” I said, trying to keep my voice light.
Spencer waved his spatula at me like he was conducting a symphony. “You know what? I think you’re right. Three years.”
“Not since you were married,” Grandma said.
She and I locked eyes for a split second, and in that instant, I knew that she knew what I had kept hidden for so long.
I was jonesing for a nice murder to solve.
Here’s the thing: In the first year that I had moved back to Cannes to help with Grandma’s matchmaking business, I had stumbled on more dead bodies than the coroner at the morgue. I had solved loads of murders, and I had gotten the reputation of a sort of Miss Marple in town.
Then, along with marital bliss, came a lull in the local murders. In fact, there hadn’t been one since after my honeymoon. Nothing. Bupkis.
Not that I hoped someone would get murdered, but c’mon! Without a murder to solve, I didn’t feel quite…like me.
Spencer dished out the omelet and took a seat next to me. “You’re right,” he said with his mouth full. “Look at that, Pinky. You’re good luck for me. My days are peaceful and tranquil. Yesterday, our biggest law enforcement activity was giving Ruth Fletcher a jaywalking ticket.”
Grandma laughed. “I would have loved to see that.”
Ruth was an ornery eighty-eight-year-old woman who owned the local tea shop.
“She kneed Remington in the balls, but he laughed it off,” Spencer said about one of his two detectives. Remington had left town a few years ago but came back a few months later. He and I had had a thing once upon a time, but it was long forgotten.
“Remington has strong balls,” Grandma agreed.
Spencer took a bite of a bagel. “You know what? Come to think of it, not only do we not have murders here anymore, but for the most part, the crazy has left the town.” He kissed me lightly on the lips. “That must be your influence,” he said, generously. “You want me to wash up?”
I shook my head. “No, you head on to work. Grandma and I are still eating.”
He smiled wide and kissed me again, like he was the happiest married man in America. And maybe he was.
After he left, Grandma made a point of staring me down. I knew that look. It was the look she gave me when she wanted me to spill the beans.
“No beans,” I said. “I have absolutely no beans. I’m happy. And there’s no crazy in the town, and killers are taking a much-needed vacation. Or a sabbatical. Or the bastards have up and retired.”
My voice raised at the end of my statement about killers, and I clamped my lips together.
“We got any Entenmann’s Danish?” I asked and got up. I riffled through the pantry, but couldn’t find them.
Grandma joined me in the pantry. “Entenmann’s stopped making them.”
I blinked at her, unsure if I had heard her correctly. “What?”
“And the coffee cake, too. Entenmann’s is in the doughnut business now.”
I stepped back in shock and my shoulders knocked into the shelves. “What? Is this April Fools?”
“No. It’s August.”
“Why do we need Entenmann’s to make doughnuts? That’s Krispy Kreme’s job. And now Walley’s sells Krispy Kreme doughnut holes. Entenmann’s job is to make Danish and coffee cake. Danish and coffee cake!” My voice cracked, and I clutched at my throat.
“There’s Sara Lee in the freezer,” Grandma offered.
“The world has gone crazy,” I continued in a tirade. “Nobody’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”
I took a deep breath and tried to calm down. It was no use. I was head up, but good.
“I’m going to Tea Time for a latte,” I announced.
“You go ahead. Meryl’s stopping by for breakfast. We’ll clean up later.”
I grabbed my purse and walked out the front door. A dry wind hit me in the face. We had had a mild August so far, but today was hot and dry, and I knew it was going to last like this for at least a week.
I walked down the steep driveway, past Grandma’s rosebushes. Across the street, workers were arriving. About a year ago, the famous artist Pablo Cohen had bought the house from Spencer and me and had renovated it from top to bottom. Now, he was focusing on the outside, enlarging the pool and building a pool house.
Pablo had moved here from New York, and he was not concerned about the general belief in town that his house was cursed. So far, he had been right. He had lived happily there since he had moved in, and his career continued to thrive.
Turning right, I walked a couple blocks and turned left onto Main Street toward Tea Time.
Despite the name, Tea Time made the best lattes in Cannes. The shop used to be a saloon during the Wild West days, and there were still a couple bullet holes in a wall, but now it was all about tea, headed by Ruth, it’s dictatorial owner.
I opened the door and walked in. There were two other people in the shop, drinking tea and eating scones at different tables. I slapped my credit card on the counter, which was the saloon’s original bar. Ruth stood behind it in men’s slacks and a starched button-down shirt.
“Latte, Ruth. And make it a double.”
Her eyes flicked to my card and back up to my face.
“You sure play fast and loose with that card these days. Must be nice to be a kept woman.”
“I’m married, Ruth. I’m not kept. Kept women don’t start wedding businesses. Kept women don’t clean toilets.”
Ruth scowled, pulling her lips tight into a straight line.
“I give the wedding thing two weeks, tops. Come back to reality, girl. You’re not froufrou. All of that taffeta’s is going to make you barking mad.”
“Take that back, Ruth. I am froufrou.”
She waved dismissively at me. “Look at you. Jeans and a shirt. You wouldn’t catch Lucy wearing jeans and a shirt.”
Lucy was one of my best friends. She was a Southern Belle with impeccable style. I had never seen her wear anything but a dress.
“Lucy doesn’t own jeans and a shirt,” I said.
“Exactly my point.”
I laid my forehead on the counter in defeat. “Ruth, please. Coffee,” I said into the polished wood. “Don’t make it so hard. I need caffeine. Entenmann’s stopped making Danish, and I have a meeting with Susan Bass to go over last-minute details. It’s my first wedding job, and the wedding is this Saturday.”
Ruth harrumphed. “In four days? Susan Bass? In that case, I see your new business lasting until Sunday. Susan is a piece of work. I still remember her high school graduation party. The mayor had to be airlifted to the closest trauma center because of an incident involving a hatchet and a Teletubby.”
“Latte,” I moaned.
“Keep your shirt on, Il Duce,” she said and turned toward the espresso machine.
I stood up straight. “Do you have anything that resembles an Entenmann’s Danish?”
“No, but I’ve got good cherry Danish that I made this morning.”
“Perfect. Give me two. No, on second thought, give me three.”
I sat at a table, and a couple minutes later Ruth brought me my order. Then, she brought over a pot of tea and sat with me.
“A three-Danish day, huh?” Ruth asked. “Trouble in paradise, or was I right about your new business?”
She wasn’t right on either score, but I was having my share of three-Danish days, lately.
Ruth poured herself a cup of tea and nodded wisely, like she had just finished reading my thoughts, which were written on my shirt in neon pink raised lettering.
“In my day, we would have called what you have as melancholia,” she told me.
“What day was that? Was Nero fiddling on that day?”
“You sure talk a lot of sass toward the woman who touches your food.”
She had a point.
“Sorry. Tell me more about melancholia.”
“It’s what women got when they realized they were doomed to a life of drudgery.”
“I’m not a drudge, Ruth. I don’t even do my own laundry. Besides, I’m a businesswoman with a credit card.”
Ruth barked a laugh. “A credit card that your husband had to co-sign.”
That was true. My bad credit had been so bad that it had followed me into marriage.
“That’s a lie,” I lied.
“Yeah, right. Anyway, you better be careful about melancholia. The only cure is being yourself. You remember what that is, right? Yourself? Or maybe you’ve forgotten who you are.”
She was getting much too close for comfort, so I bit into a Danish and chewed.
Ruth rubbed her hands. “Damned hands. All of a sudden a week ago, they started acting up.”
I sat up straight. “Maybe it’s arsenic,” I suggested with more than twinge of hope in my voice.
Ruth slapped the side of my head. “Would you stop hoping that everyone with an ailment is being poisoned? It’s unseemly.”
I hung my head in shame. “Sorry.”
“Nobody’s been poisoned in this town since you got married.”
“Crazy girl, wanting folks to be poisoned. I have enough to deal with, with the headache from next door.”
The shop next door had been empty for a long time, but someone had leased it and workers had been going in and out of it for weeks, making a lot of noise and a huge mess.
“Any idea yet what’s going in next door?” I asked.
“Not a clue. It’s all been very hush-hush, but a woman owns the business, whatever it is.”
After I left Tea Time, I walked home to pick up my car. Pablo was giving instructions to his workers across the street, and he waved at me in a neighborly way. I waved back and turned into our driveway.
With Pablo’s renovation and the new whatever that was opening next to Tea Time, Cannes looked like it was booming. I didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. I loved our small-town vibe, but an influx of new people might mean more weddings for my new business.
A handful of women of different ages passed me on their way to the front door for the Second Chancers Singles meeting. Grandma stepped out and gestured toward me.
“Don’t forget to pick up the ointment for my bunions at the pharmacy,” she called. “The prescription is ready. And while you’re there, pick up a box of the wart treatment that I like so much. We’re out, and you never know when I need to dole it out.”
“Sure thing, Grandma,” I called back.
I got into my silver Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme and backed down the driveway. I still had plenty of time before my meeting, so I decided to take a little drive. Because of the dry, hot weather, I cranked up the car’s AC and drove out of the Historic District where we lived, toward Lake Indian Springs. It was a beautiful day without a cloud in the sky. And it was quiet.
Very, very quiet.
Just like always.
I didn’t make it to the lake, though. Ahead of me was Cannes Center Park, and across the way from that was Burger Boy. They had recently expanded their full menu hours, and since there was still no Entenmann’s in my stomach, I thought their triple patty bacon cheeseburger would hit the spot. Especially if I got fries, too.
No, I didn’t make a habit of eating that way every day. All right…Yes, I did make a habit of eating like that every day, but not as much of it every day. It didn’t take Freud to figure out that I was trying to fill a hole that even Spencer’s beautiful doodah couldn’t fill.
“I’ll have the triple patty bacon cheeseburger, please,” I shouted into the plastic Burger Boy’s mouth in the drive-thru.
“Will that complete your order?”
“Yes. I mean, no. Fries. I need fries, too.”
“We have a new Burger Boy Larger Than Life size. Would you like that?”
“Yes. My dog really likes fries.”
I didn’t have a dog, but I didn’t want the plastic Burger Boy to know that I was eating Burger Boy Larger Than Life Size fries at ten in the morning.
I paid at the window, and they handed me my bag of food. I drove around to the parking lot and stopped for a moment to shove some fries into my mouth and to partially unwrap the cheeseburger so I could eat it while I drove.
As I unwrapped, the Burger Boy door opened, and four skateboarders rolled out. I had dealt with them in the past. Marijuana had done a number on their brain cells, but they were nice guys.
One of them, who was dressed in board shorts and no shirt, waved to me like he wanted to talk to me, and I opened my window.
“Hey, it’s the babe,” another skateboarder announced.
“Cool. The babe,” another one repeated.
They sounded like a drug-addled singing group. I knew that they could go on like that for a while, so I interrupted. “What’s up?” I asked the no-shirted skateboarder. He was sort of their leader.
He showed me an insulated bag he was carrying.
“I’m a delivery guy these days,” he said with pride.
He stuck his hand in the bag and pulled out some fries. He plopped them into his open mouth and then another guy did the same thing.
“Are you supposed to be doing that?” I asked. “Isn’t that the customer’s food?”
“Yeah, but we only take about twenty-percent. That’s kinda expected.”
“Yeah, expected,” another skateboarder said.
“Yeah, like if they get the ten-piece meal deal at Chick’n Lik’n, we eat two pieces,” the lead skateboarder explained.
Chick’n Lik’n sounded good. Maybe I would get that for lunch. I could bring it back for Grandma to share so I wouldn’t look as bad.
“Those are good math skills,” I complimented him.
He shrugged. “In my previous line of work, I had to know percentages.”
“And grams,” another skateboarder said. “He knows all about grams.”
“Cool,” I said. Oh, no. They were contagious.
“Cool and bitchin’.”
“Well, see ya, babe,” the head skateboarder said. He kicked off across the parking lot.
“See ya, babe.”
I took a big bite of my cheeseburger as I watched them skateboard away. I also made a mental note to never order any food to be delivered.
Pulling out of the parking lot, I drove back to the Historic District and parked in front of the pharmacy.
Normally, I would have snagged a box of Pop-Tarts and a six-pack of root beer while I was in the store, but this time, since I was already eating from a Burger Boy bag that I was carrying with me, I went straight for the long prescription line.
The mayor came in and stood behind me in line. “I’m going to visit your grandmother after I pick up Dulcinea’s anti-anxiety medicine,” he told me.
Dulcinea was his donkey. He had sent her off to Colorado but brought her back to Cannes when he grew too lonely. Ever since she had flown over the town, she had anxiety issues.
I took a bite of my cheeseburger. “Oh, yeah? More meetings about Star Fest?”
He shook his head. “No. We’ve got that pretty locked up. I’ve got something else special planned that is going to knock Cannes on its ear.”
“Is that good? It sounds like it would hurt.”
“No dumber man has ever walked the earth,” I heard Meryl, the blue-haired librarian, mutter under her breath in front of me. She was right. The mayor was dumber than steamed spinach.
“Hurry this line up!” Lou the auto mechanic yelled behind the mayor. “I need my cholesterol medicine pronto. There’s a carburetor waiting for me.”
“Never hurry a pharmacist,” the pharmacist yelled back at Lou. “Otherwise, I’ll lose count of the pills. Oh, damn it. Where was I? One, two, three…”
I shoved a handful of fries into my mouth. The line moved forward at a snail’s pace. I continued eating as I heard the others in line recite a litany of everything that can go wrong with the human body.
Finally, I reached the front.
“I’m here to pick up my grandmother’s bunion ointment,” I told the pharmacist. “And do you have any of the wart stuff she likes?”
“I don’t know,” he said and pushed a button on the microphone that sat on the counter. “Dot! Dot!” he barked into the microphone. The sound bounced off the walls and blared through the store. “Dot! Gladie Burger’s got warts.”
“No, I don’t,” I insisted.
“Do you have the wart kit handy for Gladie’s warts?” the pharmacist bellowed.
“Do you really have to use the microphone?” I pleaded.
“We’ve got two kinds!” Dot hollered back from an aisle. “Where’s your warts, Gladie? You got big ones? Is it some place private? We’ve got a kit for that, too.”
Everyone in line stared at me, waiting, I assumed, to find out if I had warts in my private place. I put more French fries in my mouth.
“Bring up the stuff for genital warts, Dot,” the pharmacist barked into the microphone. It sounded even louder now, if that was possible. “Gladie turned red when you said genital warts, so I think that’s what she’s got.”
“That old hound dog Spencer,” Lou commented. “If you had picked me instead of him, you would be all clean down in your hoochie vajayjay.”
I grabbed the microphone from the pharmacist and pushed the button.
“Attention,” I shouted into it. The microphone complained with a loud screeching noise, but I continued. “I do not have genital warts. I repeat: I do not have genital warts. Dot, step away from the genital warts kit. My hoochie vajayjay is clean as a whistle.”
Just then, the door opened, and a giant chicken walked in.
Not a giant giant. It was average man-sized. But it was giant for a chicken.
“This is a stick up,” the chicken announced and held up a gun with one of its wings.
“Now, there’s something you don’t see every day,” the pharmacist noted. “Dammit. I lost count, again.”