Monday, December 30, 2013

Beach Read: "Best Friends Help you Move the Body"

Well, patient readers, it's finally here!  Virginia is for Mysteries" has finally been printed!  I know, because I have 84 copies sitting here in my office.  But the public release date is January 2, 2014, in both trade paperback and e-versions.

This volume of 17 short mysteries sent throughout the state of Virginia is a great collection of stories.  Here's what advanced readers are saying:  "Virginia is for lovers...except when it's for killers crooks, and criminals."  ~ Mary Miley, author of The Impersonator

This anthology includes a short story penned by moi, titled, "Best Friends Help you Move the Body."  So here is the opening chapter, to get you intersted.  Then use the links posted on the side bar to purchase a copy of your very own to read what happens!   

“The Cape Henry Lighthouse silently guards the entryway into the Chesapeake Bay. Standing near the ‘First Landing’ site of the Jamestown settlers where in 1607 Captain Newport raised a cross to offer thanks for their safe crossing of the Atlantic, the Lighthouse has stood sentinel since it was completed in 1792.”
~ Preservation Virginia

“I could kill Stella Edwards by pushing her down these stairs.” Courtney Danvers’ voice echoed down to me from her position above. She was about a dozen feet higher on the iron steps circling around the inside of the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse in Virginia Beach.
     I’d known Courtney long enough not to be alarmed. Since she’d read her first Nancy Drew, Girl Detective book in fifth grade, she’d aspired to be a mystery writer and was always looking for unusual or creative ways to dispatch her characters. For twenty years she’d been all talk and no action. But since learning her position as a government contractor would be throttled back on account of the sequestration furloughs, Courtney decided now was a good time to investigate other sources of income. Hence her recent commitment to put fingers to keyboard. In true Courtney fashion, she’d developed a business plan, the first step of which was to scout an interesting place to knock off her victim, the beautiful yet diabolical Stella Edwards.
“The way this old iron staircase spirals down,” Courtney continued her fictional murder planning, “Stella would tumble ass over tea-kettle for a long time. All it would take is one smash of her head against these iron steps or a bash against this metal handrail or good hard slam against those old bricks and she’d be a goner. Not a single landing to slow momentum, just one long spiraling fall, ninety feet downward into the abyss.” Courtney let out an excited squeal. “Look here, a steep ladder. One misstep and it’s sayonara, Stella! I love it!”
I suppose I should mention that Stella is not purely a figment of Courtney’s imagination. Oh no. Stella is based—right down to the last blond curl tucked behind a multi-pierced ear—on Courtney’s childhood nemesis, Stacy Evans. This literary murder is payback for Stacy’s close encounter of the sexual kind with Courtney’s boyfriend. I should also mention this happened back in high school. I suppose Courtney offing Stacy in a book is cheaper than therapy.
Still climbing, I rounded the curve just in time to see my friend’s Nike-clad feet disappear through the opening over my head. Her “steep ladder” comment wasn’t an understatement. It was at least twelve-feet high, practically vertical, with the risers being a mere three-inches deep. Up I climbed, slowly and carefully, holding tight to the iron railings so as not to prove out Courtney’s deathly-tumble theorem.
After another short circular staircase, I found myself at the top of the lighthouse, a glass-enclosed landing offering views that took my breath away. Well, what little breath I had after that one-hundred-ninety-step climb. A few hundred yards away stood the conical black-and-white structure of the New Cape Henry Lighthouse, surrounded at its base by a smattering of quaint Coast Guard houses. Buildings that supported the Fort Story military base dotted the sand dunes along the coast, and off to the south you could see the high-rise hotels of the Virginia Beach oceanfront, an area we locals call Tourist Central. Beyond the buildings a blue summer sky met shimmering green waters where the Chesapeake Bay joined the Atlantic Ocean. A few deep-sea fishing excursions sped between the large, ponderous tankers heading into port. Their destinations would be Norfolk, Newport News or Baltimore, Maryland about two-hundred miles farther up the bay.
“Isn’t this view amazing?” Courtney asked.
I had to agree. This was one of those picture-perfect days in Tidewater Virginia. Even though I’d lived here for three years, I’d been a slave to my job and too tired to battle the tourist crowds on the weekends. But as Courtney had pointed out in her plea for me to play hooky from work and join her today, there were fewer tourists on the weekdays, and it was too nice of a day to be holed up in the kitchen design showroom where I worked.
“My parents would love this place.” Courtney stopped to snap a few pictures for her writing journal. “I’ll bring them down next time they visit. Mom won’t be able to make the climb so she’ll have to wait in the car, but dad will just eat all this history up with a spoon. Listen to this…”
I listened with half an ear about how the lighthouse had been commissioned at the first session of the U.S. Congress in 1789, and was constructed of Aquia Creek sandstone from the same quarry as the stones that were used to build Mount Vernon, the U.S. Capitol and The White House. The other half of my thoughts were focused on the next research item on our agenda, A Day at the Beach. No, we weren’t going to spread our towels on the sandy shore (then I would really feel guilty for skipping a day of work). A Day at the Beach was the hottest new drink in town. It consisted of four of my favorite things: coconut rum, Amaretto, orange juice and grenadine. It had to be good, right? Courtney wanted me to take it out for a test drive. All in the name of writing research, of course. She hoped to do for A Day at the Beach what Sex in the City had done for Cosmopolitans. Who was I to refuse?
Courtney snapped enough pictures to fill a dozen writing journals, and then we headed back down the spiral steps.
“Next stop, Twillager’s Tavern for beach beverages,” Courtney announced. “Then we’ll rent bikes and ride along the boardwalk.”
“Can we make a pit stop so I can get a Band-Aid first?” I asked. “These new shoes are giving me blisters.” Note to self: don’t break in new leather sandals when playing tourist with Courtney.
“I’ve got a first-aid kit in my trunk. Here.” She tossed me her keys. “Doctor yourself up while I run back and ask the docent if there have been any deaths in the lighthouse. Won’t it be fabulous if I can layer my mystery with stories of it being haunted? I could scare the bejeezus out of Stacy—I mean Stella—before I knock her off. Oh man, this is going to be the best mystery ever written.”
It would be interesting, that’s for sure.
I used the key to pop the trunk of Courtney’s Hyundai Accent. The smell of death hit me in the face just before the sight of a contorted, lifeless body. The sound of a woman screaming like a banshee pounded my eardrums. But wait! The body in the trunk was incapable of screaming; therefore the mournful shrieks must be coming from somewhere else. A moment later I realized they were coming from me. And yet, I couldn’t stop.
Courtney pushed me to the side and peered into her trunk. “Holy guacamole! A real dead body! In my car! This is the luckiest day of my life!”


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