When a local woman begins searching for a couple she hasn't seen since the 1960s, Redwood Cove Bed and Breakfast manager Kelly Jackson and the crime-solving group, the "Silver Sentinels," are quick to help out. They're also quick to guess that they're in over their heads after the woman is found dead beside the body of a Greek fortune teller-and a fellow Sentinel gets attacked. As Kelly juggles work and her responsibilities at a food and wine festival in town, she and her sleuthing posse must confront a killer obsessed with old secrets . . . and solve a murder mystery more than fifty years in the making . . .
About the Author
Reba Buhr grew up in the Pacific Northwest and now lives in Los Angeles, working in theater, film, and television. She is a graduate of Occidental College. Reba began recording audiobooks in 2012 and has turned her love for performance into a passion for narrating characters that jump off the page.
Read an Excerpt
Murder at the Fortune Teller's Table
By Janet Finsilver
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Janet Finsilver
All rights reserved.
I stepped out of my Jeep and stopped to marvel at the colorful Redwood Cove scene before me. Brightly hued banners rippled in the ocean breeze, and tables covered with multicolored cloths dotted the green lawn. Baked goods, jars of honey and jam, and an assortment of knitted scarves and hats filled the one nearest me. Groups of kids wearing school sweatshirts darted between groups of milling adults. In the distance, the Pacific Ocean glistened in the early-afternoon sun.
"Miss Kelly! Miss Kelly!" Tommy Rogers's frantic waving to get my attention made him look like he was doing jumping jacks. The electric company would make money if they could figure out a way to tap into the blond ten-year-old's boundless energy.
I headed toward him and his mother, Helen. A bit of gray graced her brown hair. "Glad you could make it," she said.
"The guests have all checked in. Redwood Cove Bed-and-Breakfast has a full house tonight," I said.
"The themed rooms you thought up have really attracted people."
"I'm glad Michael liked my idea and decided to give it a chance."
When I had proposed the plan to my boss, Michael Corrigan, owner of Resorts International, he'd raised an eyebrow, tilted his head, and said, "Sure. Let's do it and see what happens." I remembered my excitement. It was my first suggestion as the new manager for the property ... and the beginning of my new career.
"My cell phone works in town, so I left a note on the door if anyone has questions," I said.
"I'll leave in time to get the food and drink ready." Helen lived on site and worked at the inn as a general assistant as well as preparing breakfast and the evening wine and cheese for the guests.
A tall, thin woman with wavy gray hair falling to her waist and a perky yellow daisy tucked behind her ear approached us. Soft hues swirled together on her long, flowing skirt, and she wore an embroidered vest over a peasant blouse. She smiled at me and turned to Helen. "Have you seen Mary Rutledge? She's going to give me a break this afternoon at Auntie's table."
Helen pointed to a row of displays next to a stand of redwoods. "She and Gertie Plumber are at the last table."
"Summer, I'd like you to meet Kelly Jackson. She recently moved here to run Redwood Cove Bed-and-Breakfast."
The woman's gaze was as warm as the season she was named after. Her soft hand reached out and clasped mine with a light touch. "Pleased to meet you. My name is Amy Winter, but everyone calls me Summer."
Her nickname and the serene look she gave me were a perfect fit, reminding me of long, lazy days during the summer.
"Welcome to Redwood Cove," she said. "It's nice to meet you."
Summer floated off.
"Miss Kelly, look at my sweatshirt. My class made the design," Tommy said.
A dark gray whale swam on a light blue background, a white spout of spray trailing it.
"Everyone loved watching the whales migrate and learning about them. We used ideas from our projects for our booth and class banner." Tommy grabbed his mom's hand, tugging. "Come see what my class did."
"Okay. Let's go," Helen said, and I followed along.
Tommy stopped in front of a table decorated in a marine theme, swarming with blue-shirted children as they showed their parents their class display. I admired the artwork, declined a whale-shaped cookie thrust in my direction in the hand of an excited fifth-grader, and then said my good-byes. I drifted down the row of tables as Tommy began to explain a project in extensive, accurate detail to his mother, as he was prone to do with his touch of Asperger's syndrome.
A couple of displays down, I stopped to look at a brown satin banner featuring images of Native Americans. Someone had even added beads to their outfits. My gaze scanned the group, and I saw the back of a girl with straight, blue-black hair standing next to a man with high cheekbones and light brown skin. I recognized Allie Stevens and her father, Daniel. Until recently, he'd been a handyman at the inn. Now he managed a sister property, the Ridley House, and we often worked together on orders and events.
Daniel spied me and waved. "Welcome to our annual fund-raiser and get-toknow-your-school event."
"You have quite the turnout."
"The community is very supportive. We're lucky to live here."
Allie pointed to the flag. "I helped design it, and the class all wanted me to put in one of my ancestors to represent my tribe."
"It's stunning, Allie."
She beamed, a far cry from the angry teenager I'd first heard about when I arrived at Redwood Cove.
I surveyed the event, which was popping with color and action. "I'm going to wander around a bit. I'll catch you later."
"Sure thing." Daniel turned and helped tack up a poster. Another person was standing on a chair, struggling to put the placard in place, an easy task for Daniel with his height.
I strolled between the displays, soaking in the sun, occasionally stopping to inhale the fresh salty air. I stepped over to a row of tall redwoods lining the edge of the function and watched the seagulls soaring overhead. They dipped, dove, and spun on thermal drafts ... a visual representation of my spirits. This was my new community, and I was thrilled at the smiling faces and outpouring of support I saw from the people of all ages before me.
Rejoining the crowd, I spied a couple of pairs of knit baby booties with rainbow designs. I ran my hand over their soft fabric. They'd be perfect for my sister's twins. Next to them, thick woolen scarves made me think of my brothers, and nearby hats brought images of Grandpa and Dad. A Wyoming cattle ranch in winter defined the word cold, and my family would appreciate these cozy items. A few booths down, I found handmade coasters made from wine corks. We opened the ranch to paying guests in the summer, and Mom could use these in their cabins.
I went looking for Mary and Gertie and found them, sun glinting off their silver hair, manning a table full of baked goods. Boxes of coconut-covered cookies and chocolate bars filled the area in front of Mary. Gertie had homemade loaves of a stout-looking bread. No surprise there. Mary loved her sweets, and Gertie's Pennsylvania Dutch background lent itself to hardy food.
"What do you think of our little gathering?" Mary asked, her round face lit with a smile.
"It's great. I've already started my Christmas shopping!" I held up the bag.
"Good-quality items, and the money helps the school," Gertie said. "I helped one class sew a quilt using scraps of leftover material. Maybe some of them will keep it up after this is over."
Two tan furry triangles appeared at the edge of the table next to Mary. They began to rise, revealing two large ears. The top of a brown head emerged, followed by two small dark eyes and a black nose. Then there was the jeweled collar. Rows of large pink crystals glittered in the sunlight.
"Princess, you need to stay in your carrier," Mary said.
Collar, head, and ears slowly sank out of sight.
I leaned over the table to get a better look at the dog — a little Chihuahua.
Mary reached over and petted the dog. "Good girl."
"Princess?" I hadn't seen her before.
Mary nodded. "My sister lived with me until recently, and Princess was her hearing-assistance dog. Princess is beginning to have some hearing problems herself, so she's now retired. We both raised her, and when my sister moved to Sacramento, Princess stayed with me."
"Thanks." Mary glanced at her watch and turned to Gertie. "I need to go relieve Summer in about ten minutes. I said I'd help Auntie out so Summer could look around."
"Who's Auntie?" I asked.
"She's a Greek woman who has lived here for ages. Auntie tells fortunes, reading coffee grounds. It's a fascinating process. She also sells herbal remedies. Auntie used to be a midwife, but she no longer does that."
"Where's her table? I'd like to see how she does it." I wondered what the fortune teller would reveal about this next chapter in my life.
Mary gave me directions, and I headed out to discover my future. Auntie's table was off by itself, some distance away from the crowd. Summer and a pale man sat across from a woman in black, voluminous clothes, a cloth scarf on her head. She was staring into a small cup, and I could see her lips move.
Suddenly, Summer stood, and even at a distance, I heard her loud "No!" She turned to the man, who was now standing next to her, and grabbed his arm. She pulled him away from the table, and they headed in my direction.
The man put his arm around her shoulders as they walked by me. "Mom, it doesn't mean anything. It's coffee grounds and Auntie's active imagination."
Tears had pooled in Summer's eyes.
"You don't know." She shook her head from side to side and looked stunned. "The things I've seen come about."
"Mom, I have no dark secrets from the past that will be revealed," he said, his voice beginning to trail off as they moved away. "And no one is going to die."CHAPTER 2
I turned in the direction of the fortune teller. What had seemed like a fun lark had taken an ugly twist. Did I want to hear what she had to say about me? I was enjoying the beautiful day and was on top of the world with my job. What if she predicted problems? Failure? I'd struggled to find a place where I fit in, and this felt like it. I didn't want anything to mar the experience. I took a step back.
Mary came bubbling up beside me. "Oh, good. You're going to have your fortune told. It's fun!"
She swept me along with her, and the next thing I knew I found myself sitting at a table covered by a white crocheted tablecloth. Layers of black material covered the diminutive form across from me and rustled as she leaned forward. Folds of black formed a headdress atop a deeply lined face. Each wrinkle spoke of a story to be told.
"You would like to know your future, yes?" Her voice was reedy.
I nodded, but my heart was in my throat.
"I am Despina Manyotis. Here I am called Auntie." A smile creased her face. "In my country, we read the patterns in the grounds of Turkish coffee to predict the future. It's a very ancient practice. Some people call it tasseography." She shrugged her shoulders. "To me it's fortune telling."
Mary had been bustling around a one-burner stove a short way behind the fortune teller. "The coffee's about ready."
"My hands, you see ..." Auntie put her crooked hands on the delicate lace cloth. "I cannot handle the briki, the special pot for preparing the coffee, by myself anymore. Summer and Mary help me so I can continue to tell the future."
"It's done." Mary turned the burner off.
Auntie's gnarled hands pulled a white demitasse cup in front of her, and Mary filled it with hot, steaming coffee. "First you drink the coffee," Auntie said.
She pushed the cup over to me as Mary placed the long-handled, triangular-shaped copper pot on the table.
I took a sip of the dark, aromatic liquid. Auntie then nudged a plate of braided cookies in my direction. "These are koulourakia, made like in the old country."
Picking up a delicate braided treat, I nibbled on it. The buttery cookie melted in my mouth.
"You must drink from the same side of the cup for the entire process and leave a little in the bottom. With your last sip, make a wish."
I drank some more, then put the cup down with thoughts for a positive future. "Okay. There's just a little left."
"Now put the saucer on it upside-down, swirl it three times, and flip it over."
I did as instructed and managed to keep everything together when I upended it.
"Now it must rest for a short while." Her voice was a broken whisper, and I leaned forward to catch her words. "The grounds need to flow into their shapes."
She folded her hands and stared at the cup. After what seemed an eternity, Auntie carefully separated the cup and saucer. "The patterns — they tell of your past, present, and future. I see you are right-handed, so we start at the cup's handle and move from right to left."
She peered intently into the cup, moving it around, examining the sides and bottom. Then she inspected the saucer. Auntie nodded slowly.
I flinched each time she frowned, fidgeted when she stared fiercely into the cup and muttered, and cringed when she shouted "ha" a few times. Finally, she sat back. Her dark brown eyes looked at me from their creased folds. Her face transformed as a smile spread across it.
"You are like an eagle that has journeyed to find its aerie, the place it will call home. You landed, tucked in your wings, and have found your destination."
Whew! I almost fell off the chair with relief. Not that I believed in any of this stuff, but then again ...
Mary had stayed in the background but now stepped forward. "What do you think? Did you enjoy it?"
I did now that it was over and the future looked bright. "Absolutely. Thank you, Auntie."
The woman gave a slight nod, then the glow left her face. She looked off in the direction Summer and her son had gone and crossed herself. "I'm through for the day." She rose, slowly unbending each part of her body to stand. "Summer will take care of this for me." A sweeping wave took in the table and the equipment.
She picked up her cane, a polished piece of wood with a knob on the end. "So good to meet you." Slowly she made her way to a trail winding through the grass and shuffled off.
I took a deep breath, glad the strange scene was over and my future looked sunny. My shoulders dropped a couple of inches. I hadn't realized how tense I was.
Mary put the coffeepot back on the stove. "I'll tidy up a bit to help Summer."
"Are the other Silver Sentinels here?" I'd spent quite a bit of time with the crime-solving group of senior citizens of which Mary and Gertie were members. We'd even named the conference room at the inn after them, in honor of the last case they'd helped solve.
"The Professor is helping the logistics team."
A perfect match for his organizational talents.
She then laughed. "Ivan and Rudy have a table where they're teaching people how to tie elaborate rope knots like they use on their boat, Nadia. They have samples and instruction sheets people can purchase."
"I thought I heard the boom of Ivan's voice." I mentally saluted the Russian Doblinksy brothers for their clever contribution to the day.
Mary pointed toward the front of the event. Even at a distance, I could see Ivan's bulk over the crowd.
"Thanks. I'll stop by and see you before I go."
Ivan was bending over the display table. A black cap with an ornate brocade band controlled his shaggy mane of gray hair.
"Ivan, I like your hat," I said.
He straightened up. "Welcome, Miss Kelly. Is my dress Russian fisherman's hat. Wear for special days."
His brother, Rudy, came over and stood next to him. He was a slight man with a neatly trimmed beard. "Would you like to make one?" He gestured at the examples they'd created.
Rows of knots lined the table with name cards. I might be able to figure out the clove hitch, but the rest of them looked beyond me, especially the angler's loop. On the ranch, all I needed was a quick-release knot for tying the horses and a honda knot to make a lasso.
"I'll pass, but I think you have a really smart idea for the event."
Copies of instructions were in a neat pile, weighed down by an abalone shell.
A young boy appeared to have all the fingers of his left hand wrapped in white cord. "Grandpa, what's next?"
The man hovering over him said, "Slip this piece of rope forward."
The two continued working together until the child yelled, "I did it! I did it! Thank you, Grandpa. Let's do another one."
The elderly man's face brightened as he grabbed another piece of twine.
It was a pleasure watching the two interact and to have the boy interested in working with his hands. I saw way too many kids staring at electronic devices instead of engaging in the world around them.
In addition to the examples, the brothers had completed knots, directions, and strands of rope for sale. I bought an angler's loop, instructions, and several lengths of white cord to put in the Maritime Suite at the inn. The guests might have fun trying to create the knot.
I said good-bye to the brothers and went to touch base with Mary and Gertie. As I approached their table, Summer showed up. The now-wilted daisy dangled from her ear.
"Mary," she said, "I need the help of the Silver Sentinels. I don't know how much you charge, but I'll find a way to pay you." She'd put on a shawl and clutched it tightly around her, distorting the knit pattern.
"Oh, honey, we don't charge. It's a service we provide to the townspeople."
Summer pulled harder on the garment; the yarn tightened and looked like the strings of an instrument. I thought the material might snap. "How soon can we meet?"
Excerpted from Murder at the Fortune Teller's Table by Janet Finsilver. Copyright © 2017 Janet Finsilver. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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