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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Cup of Cozy 2--Malicious Intent

Click HERE to see the book on Amazon.
For any of our readers who haven’t heard, the authors of Cozy Mystery Magazine have gotten together to write a compilation of short Christmas stories called A Cup of Cozy 2. As a special treat for our readers, today and every Wednesday until Christmas, the book will be offered free.

Today I’m going talk a little bit about my story, called Malicious Intent. This story is an introduction for a new cozy series I'm working on.

I’m sure by now our blog readers know that I love Agatha Christie’s character, Miss Marple. I wanted an older sleuth in my books, but I also wanted a younger woman and a child. After some debate, I decided the main character would be a younger woman named Lily Kennard who is in her early thirties. She’s personal assistant to a wealthy widow named Daphne Beasley. Her two partners in crime are eighty-year-old Florence Beasley (Daphne’s sister-in-law) and ten-year-old Maddie Beasley (Daphne’s granddaughter).

Lily retired from the Navy. She took on the job of personal assistant because she wanted
a total life change. She has an interesting past that challenges her walk with the Lord. Over a period of time, I’ll be revealing her background and the reasons she struggles emotionally. . .and she also has romance in her future.

Lily is interesting, but it’s Florence who brings life to the stories. She’s the coolest and most interesting not-main-character I’ve ever written. Her personality takes over the pages. And she’s old enough not to care what people think, so she’s fun to write.

Here’s a short excerpt from my story:

Florence frowned. “You say Martin Weatherby will be there? Not just little kids? I don’t feel like listening to a bunch of little girls screaming. Makes me clack my dentures from stress.”

“Yes, Mr. Weatherby will be there,” Maddie said. “It’s the adult and children’s choirs, plus all the people in the play.”

Florence tapped her red polished nails on the granite island top. Maddie stared at her like an eager little puppy. I began humming the theme song from Jeopardy.

“You know what? I think I’ll go,” Florence said.

“Oh, yay!” Maddie clapped her hands, and then began putting dough on a cookie sheet.

Florence’s sudden change of mind made me suspicious, but when Maddie flipped a raw cookie on the floor, I became distracted.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I think I’m too excited.”

“Why don’t you let me finish loading this cookie sheet for you, Half-Pint,” Florence said. “You go get ready.”

“Okay!” Maddie cleaned the dough off the floor then scampered from the room. Florence spooned raw cookies on the last pan, humming Silent Night under her breath.

“I thought that song annoyed you,” I muttered as I removed another batch of finished cookies from the oven.

“That was five minutes ago. As an elderly woman whose mental faculties have been questioned over the past year, it’s my prerogative to change my mind at a moment’s notice. It’s important to be consistent in my inconsistency.”

“Right.” I moved cookies from the pan to a cooling rack. “I forgot about that dementia thing you claim to have. Whatever. So, spit it out. Why are you suddenly so happy and eager to go?”

Florence lifted her chin and put her hand on her chest. “I’m going to do what my dear grand-niece asked. Attend the Christmas party. That way I can miraculously morph from Scrooge to Tiny Tim and bless everyone.”

“The day you become Tiny Tim will be the day I become Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I faced her over the island. “You have an ulterior motive.”    

“You think you know everything, don’t you?”

“I know you.” I stuffed a warm cookie in my mouth and savored the melting chocolate chips.

“Okay, I’ll tell you if you must know.”




Tuesday, November 11, 2014

All Aboard the Chattanooga Choo-Choo

Come along with me for a ride to visit the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. My next book Chilled in Chattanooga will be available to buy from Amazon and Barnes and Noble any day now. Take a look at the cover. Do you see any sites that you recognize?
 
 
 
Back Cover:  Trixie Montgomery, her best friend Dee Dee, and her beloved Nana are out to experience the city of Chattanooga, while Trixie attends a writer’s conference and works on a murder mystery for Georgia By the Way.  But who would have guessed that Trixie would not only uncover a body in the deep freeze, but also end up a prime suspect in the murder case?  With a killer on the loose, Trixie and Dee Dee have to work fast to find out who is responsible for the crime before Trixie ends up getting locked up for a murder she clearly didn’t commit, but is surely being framed for! Join Trixie and Dee Dee as they, along with Trixie’s Nana, sort through suspects and get to the bottom of yet another murder mystery, while still finding time to enjoy the sights in Chattanooga.
 
 
Chapter One: 
Chapter One
“You’re not serious? We were at her house just last night.” I pushed my glasses a little higher. Having just turned fifty I’d decided wearing glasses wasn’t so bad after all. I looked at it as making a fashion statement. I couldn’t believe Sylvia was gone. “I’m serious as a dog after a bone, Skye. Stabbed right through the heart,” Honey said.
Honey’s high-pitched voice shot though the phone and pulled me back to earth. “Skye! I said I thought the Buckhead Diva would live forever. I don’t even think anybody really knew how old she was. She sure wouldn’t tell.” Honey should know because I’d heard her ask Sylvia Landmark her age on more than one occasion – with no success. I guessed she was about twenty years older than me, but seventy-five was still too young to die in my book.
My mind conjured images of the decorating job we’d just finished for Sylvia. I do believe it was one of my best. I’ve been the owner of Stylish Décor for over ten years now and Honey Truelove, my best friend and assistant, has been with me nine of those years. 
I wondered what my husband Mitch would have to say about the turn of events. He spends a great deal of time traveling the world to find unique and distinctive pieces for his antique shop. He was due to arrive today from a trip to Europe.
“Skye! Did you hear me?”
“Uh, yeah, I did Honey. I was just thinking about the work we did for Sylvia. She was quite alive last night at the party. Who would have thought she’d be dead this morning? Well, she had to be close to eighty; one can’t be expected to live forever. Did you say she had a heart attack?”
“Good grief, sometimes I wonder if you don’t tune me out. I said she was murdered.” I pictured Honey with her customary hand on her hip and signature Cherry Red lipstick pout.
I supposed she was right. I did tune her out at times, in my defense that was for my own sanity. Did she ever love to talk. But this is one time I was glad she had the scoop on Sylvia. “Murdered? Who in the world would want to murder an old woman? I admit she could be snooty and condescending at times, but I wouldn’t think that’d be enough reason for someone to kill you.” My glasses slid down again. I need to get these things adjusted.
“Hold on just a minute, Skye, I need to feed Sam.” I heard her rummaging around in the kitchen. Sam is short for Samantha. With Honey’s grown children now on their own, she treated her like a child. I could make out her words over the sound of kibble filling the Yorkie’s bowl. “You have to admit she was on a roll last night at the party. I don’t think there was anyone there she didn’t offend. Except us of course.”
I agreed she took jabs at more than one person. “That’s because we were on her good side since we’ve just finished redecorating her house. She especially loved the Elizabethan sleigh bed.” She raved on and on about our artistic skills and how pleased she was with our work. The party was to show off her newly acquired antiques. She didn’t mind rubbing a few people the wrong way. I imagined by the end of the night they’d wished they hadn’t come.
“Speaking of the job, do you think we’ll still get paid?”
“Honey, how tacky!” I didn’t admit I was wondering the same thing. We’d been paid an advance, but she still owed several thousand dollars. That wouldn’t be the first or the last time I’d associated “tacky” with Honey. She grew up in the mountains of North Georgia where country was cool. You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.  She lived in Vinings, not far from Mitch and me and had been my right hand girl for years.
“Hey, I’ve never said I’m not tacky. Go on, tell the truth, aren’t you worried?”
Honey married into money, but her social skills had never caught up. When I started my business wanting to make a go of it on my own, I could only pay minimum wage. Honey volunteered to help. She didn’t need the money, but her second husband had just died and she was looking for something to keep her busy. She turned out to be a little spitfire and a big asset to me, even if she was a little rough around the edges. With Honey at my side, my business took off and not only prospered, but I was now able to pay her a decent wage.
“I am concerned, but it’s still not appropriate for us to worry about ourselves considering the circumstances. Hey, I need to finish getting ready, how about meeting for lunch at the OK Café.” This well-known eatery was located at the corner of West Paces Ferry Road and Northside Parkway. If traffic wasn’t bad it’d take us less than twenty minutes to get there.
The parking lot packed, I fought for a space, barely beating a little Mini Cooper. I guess I should’ve felt bad, but they say all’s fair in love and parking lots.
 I spotted Honey right away. It was obvious she’d been shopping in the junior department again. She’d donned a sky blue dress that barely reached her knees. She paired the outfit with chocolate high-heeled boots. Being petite, she half-way pulled it off. Was I jealous? Just a little, but then I remembered I wasn’t a teenager anymore and didn’t need to dress like one. My own outfit of brown pants and beige blouse worn with ankle boots were more my style.
“Honey!” Headed in the same direction, I raised my hand and vigorously waved. She did the same and we arrived at the entrance simultaneously.
A myriad of delectable aromas greeted me as I entered. The OK Café was the place to go if you wanted down home, slap-yo-mama cooking, as Honey would say. Black and white fifties décor took me back to my childhood. The walls were covered in old 45 records and posters of singers from a time when a simple way of living still existed.
After a short time, a waitress wearing a white dress and a black and white checkered hat seated us in a booth with enough room to accommodate a family. We’d have plenty of elbow space. “May I help you ladies?”
“Skye, you order first, I want to study the menu.” She put on her reading glasses and raised the menu.
I smiled at the waitress, Dorothy, according to her nametag. She returned my smile, but it didn’t reach her eyes. I could only imagine how tired she must be from standing on her feet all day. “I’ll take a vegetable plate with black-eyed peas, turnip greens, macaroni and cheese, and squash casserole,” I watched her scribble on her notepad, “oh, and don’t forget a piece of your cornbread.” The cornbread at the café was to die for. She took Honey’s order as well, stuck the pencil behind her ear and retreated to place our order.
“What else did you hear about Sylvia?” I leaned in so others nearby wouldn’t hear our conversation. The gesture was lost on Honey. When she spoke in her usual voice a gym teacher would covet, all eyes turned in our direction. 
“Well, I heard that her house was broken into. The side door was busted open. You know, John Abbot, the city councilman who lives next door to Sylvia?” I nodded and she continued, “He was the one who found her.”
I sat back and shook my head. “How in the world did you find that out?”
I’ve got my ways.” She grinned like a Cheshire cat.
The waitress brought out food and the conversation abated while we sated our appetite. Half-way through our meal Honey saw someone over my shoulder and waved. “Over here, Amber.” I turned around and saw Amber Styles, competitor and rival in the decorating business. She’d decorated Sylvia’s house several years ago and let it be known she wasn’t happy we redid her work.
“Honey! Don’t ask her…”
It was too late. Amber marched toward us like a scorned woman on a mission.
“Hi Amber.” Honey seemed unaffected by Amber’s stone-cold stare.
“Fancy meeting you here,” she directed her comment to me. I wasn’t interested in a confrontation, but I’d determined she wasn’t going to get my goat.
“Uh, hi Amber.”
Before she had a chance to answer, Honey blurted out, “Hey, did you hear about Sylvia?”
“Yes, I did. And after the way she acted last night I wouldn’t be surprised if someone clocked the old biddy. Thought she had to cut everyone down to make herself look bigger. Except for y’all. Makes me wonder what you did to wrap her around your finger.”
She looked me up and down. “Love your outfit. You’ll have to let me know where you bought it.” I didn’t think she wanted to know so she could run out and buy one just like it. She turned from me to Honey. “And Honey that was some story you spun about Blackbeard’s writing table.”
A most handsome specimen of the human race came up and stood beside Amber. Her demeanor instantly changed and she shot him a hundred watt smile, “Well, I’ve got to go.” She gave a princess wave as she walked off with his arm around her waist.
“Wow, how did she snag him?” Honey shook her head. “I heard she’s been going to AA meetings. Maybe she met him there.”
I leaned forward again, “AA to meet men?” I mentally slapped myself on the wrist. I’d be the first to admit I’m no goodie-two-shoes, but I tried to do what’s right.
“That’s not what I meant, but I wouldn’t put it past her!”
 Being around Honey made it hard at times. She was a walking gossip mill. It would be easy to blame her for being a bad influence, but I knew better. But knowing better didn’t keep me from struggling every day to keep on the straight and narrow.
“Never mind. Speaking of Blackbeard’s desk, why did you spin that tale last night?” It had been so late when we left for home last night, we hadn’t had a chance to unpack everything that had happened at the party.
“Well, you said it was rumored Blackbeard owned it at one time. I just wanted to liven up the intrigue a little and the distraction was well-timed. Sylvia was getting way out of hand dissing everyone.” Honey looked in her hand-held mirror and applied the Cherry Red shade she wore year round. She smacked her lips together and blotted them on a Kleenex. I think Honey must be the only person left on the planet that still does that.
“Listen, I’ve got to get that desk back to Mitch’s warehouse.” I changed the subject back to our business at hand, more worried than I wanted to admit.
“Why?” Honey asked. “He’s got plenty of other pieces he can sell.”
“I kind of borrowed it from the shop before asking his permission and now he has a buyer for it. I didn’t think he’d miss it. I use artifacts from there all the time and tell him later, but he said somebody called about that particular piece and he couldn’t find it. He finally thought it might be in the warehouse and he was going to look when he got back from his trip. I’m afraid if I don’t get it back Mitch isn’t going to let me use anymore of his pieces. And I rely on his expertise. Sylvia said she didn’t like it anyway and wanted me to take it back.”
“How are we going to do that? The police probably won’t let us in.” She nodded to the waitress acknowledging we were ready for our checks.
“Probably not, but I still have the key.” I held it up for Honey to see.
She shot me a grin. “I’ve got an idea.”
“Oh, no.”  Honey with an idea was as dangerous as a hive of angry bees.
“What do you have in mind?” I waggled a brow, signaling for Honey to wait until the waitress refilled our tea glasses. I didn’t know what she was going to say, but was sure the waitress didn’t need to hear. We were already planning to break and enter a crime scene.
Before Honey could continue, my phone played the song “Redeemed” by Big Daddy Weave. I rummaged around in my pocketbook and looked at the name of the caller. It was Mitch. “Hello, Sweetheart. How are you?”
“I’m doing fine, but I’ve got some bad news. I won’t be able to come home tonight; it’s going to be tomorrow before I’ll make it.” I knew he was sorry he couldn’t come home. My husband loved to travel, but when his business was over he was ready to come back home to our condo on Peachtree Street.
“I’m sorry hon.” And I was sorry, but my mind was whirling like a hamster on a spinning wheel. This would be a great time to get the culprit desk back to the shop. I cut it short so I could tell Honey the news.
“Mitch has to stay another night and won’t be home until tomorrow,” I said.
“Stuck in airline traveler’s vortex?” Honey shook her head.
“His misfortune is our opportunity. It gives us time to get that piece back and return it to the warehouse.”
Honey’s face lit up and I could almost see the light bulb over her head. “Let me tell you about my idea.” She looked around. “Okay it doesn’t look like anybody’s paying attention to us.” She leaned in. “You know those black tights we bought when we signed up for the gym?” 


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Coffee, Tea and Larceny--by Linda Kozar

Jodie and Laureline are best friends and accidental detectives who solve a two-for-one mystery in my short story, Coffee, Tea and Larceny. The two women kick off the twisted tale at an annual Lady's Christmas tea at their church, an event lorded over by Claudia Hofstadter, a manipulative, viper-tongued control freak. 

Laureline decides to accent her vintage outfit with a vintage fur muff, an uber-cool find at an antique store. According to Astor Place Vintage.com, "Muffs were mentioned in text from the 1400s, and one of the earliest images of one is in an engraving from 1588. In the 1600s both men and women used muffs." 

This cumbersome fashion accessory was typically sewn together from sable, ermine or grey squirrel (for women) but some were constructed of silk or satin and adorned with lace and ribbons. The practical use and application, aside from a fashion statement, was to keep the wearer's hands warm. Women used them to hide small items in the interior (a perfect scenario for any mystery writer). Some even used them as pet carriers for small lapdogs!

Available on Etsy

Here's an excerpt from Coffee, Tea and Larceny:

Winnie’s eyes widened. “Now you’ve done it.” Her voice rose to a higher pitch. “You ladies have to move your car immediately. This is spot is reserved.”

“Since when? We’ve never had reserved spots at the church.” But sure enough, I looked up. A new sign on the fence proclaimed the news. This spot was indeed reserved for one--Claudia Hofstadter. Imagine that.

Claudia’s voice roared over the engine. “What’s taking you so long? I’ve got things to do. Move it!” She backed up, her left hand beating an angry Morse code against the driver’s side door.

Jodie gulped, threw the car in reverse and backed out. Without so much as a thank you, the woman roared into the spot and was out the car faster than you can slap a tick.

Face flushed, my friend lowered the window the rest of the way and stuck her head out. “Winnie, where can we park?”

The woman pointed to the farthest reaches of the lot. “There are a few places out that way, to the left of the main lot. You’d better grab one quick though or you’ll have to park next to the cow pasture. Sorry about having to kick you gals out.”

Sure enough we soon found a spot in the area Winnie recommended, but someone else got to it before we did. So Jodie cuddled her Buick Riviera up next to the cow pasture. And winter cut us a break and the smell wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been if the temperature were different. Yay, winter!

Before I stepped out the car, I glanced in the rearview mirror to make sure my hat was straight.

Jodie glanced over. “I love that outfit. And that muff is a crazy nice touch. Where did you find it?”

I pulled my hands from either side and held it up. “Don’t you remember? I bought it last year at that antique shop in Round Top.” I lifted it to my nose, silk tassels swinging. “It kind of smells though.”

“Who cares?” Jodie laughed. “It’s the look that counts.” As we walked, she smoothed her vintage green wool suit and slipped on her gloves. “Ready for our grand entrance?”

A Cup of Cozy 2 offers six cozy mysteries by a variety of super duper cozy authors, my peers and friends! And there's a bonus. This book is a wealth of yummy Christmas event recipes! After you read it, keep this one in the kitchen, girls!




Linda Kozar is the co-author of Babes With A Beatitude—Devotions For Smart, Savvy Women of Faith (Hardcover/eBook, Howard/Simon & Schuster 2009), Misfortune Cookies and Just Desserts (“When The Fat Ladies Sing” cozy mystery series, Print, Barbour Publishing 2008), and Strands of Fate (Hardcover/eBook, Creative Woman Mysteries 2012). Her cozy mystery series again published and expanded as ebooks at Spyglass Lane Mysteries, MacGregor Literary from 2012-2014, and in September of 2014 Linda indie-published and the continues the series: Misfortune CookiesA Tisket, A Casket, Dead As A Doornail, That Wasn't Chicken, and Felony Fruitcake. Her latest foray into indie publishing, produced Alligator Pear, (a gothic historical romance, 2013), Moving Tales, Adventures in Relocation, (a nonfiction anthology 2013), and Doomsday Devotions (an end times devotional 2014). Linda is an active member of Cozy Mystery Magazine, which publishes an annual Christmas anthology of its contributing authors, A Cup of Cozy (Short Mysteries and Holiday Recipes, 2013) and A Cup of Cozy 2 (Short Mysteries and Holiday Recipes 2014). Her speculative fiction story, Aperture, will release in an anthology book titled Out of the Storm (HopeSprings Books 2015), the proceeds of which will be donated to the ACFW Scholarship Fund. In 2003, she co-founded, co-directed, and later served as Southwest Texas Director of Words For The Journey Christian Writers Guild. She received the ACFW Mentor of the Year Award in 2007, founded and served as president of Writers On The Storm, The Woodlands, Texas ACFW chapter for three years and continues on the board. In addition to writing, Linda has served as Lead Host of the Gate Beautiful Radio Show, on the Red River Radio Network/BlogTalk Radio since 2010. She and her husband Michael, married for over 25 years, have two lovely daughters, Katie and Lauren and a Rat Terrier princess named Patches.

CAN (Christian Authors Network), RWA (Romance Writers of American), NHRWA (North Houston Romance Writers of America), ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), Writers On The Storm, The Woodlands, Texas Chapter of ACFW, Toastmasters (Area 56) The Woodlands, Texas, The Woodlands Church, The Woodlands, TX.


Represented by Amanda Luedeke, MacGregor Literary.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Good Old Fashioned Books!

It's no secret that cozy mystery lovers love ebooks, but there is something so lovely and, well, cozy about a big shelf full of dusty old books. In my dreams, I still think maybe I'll get to live in a house with a library like The Beast's someday.

In my prepublished days, when I was scribbling in notebooks and blogging and day dreaming about being a "real writer"  I had kinda low ambitions. I didn't want to get rich, I didn't want to be famous (not that I would turn those down) I just wanted to have a shelf full of my own stories, somewhere in my house. Proof that I really could write books.
Some of these books are actually  mine!

In the movie A House in Umbria the lady who owns the house has a shelf full of the bodice rippers she has written. The characters disparaged her work, but I thought, "Awesome! Look at all she achieved!"

So, though I adore my kindle and the ease of carrying lots of books on it, buying lots of books for it, and of course, reading books on it, and though I love that the cozy ebook audience is out there, reading away, I keep making paperbacks. I never expect them to tear up the market, or hit the best seller lists, but I love them, and I want them on my own shelves.

I put off creating most of the hard copy Plain Jane titles, just because it is time consuming. But, at long last, all of the current Plain Jane Mysteries are available in paperback! And even better, they are all under ten dollars! (I had to work hard to make that happen, but I am really excited about it.)

You can nab them all at Amazon, or pop in to your local bookstore and order them.

 
 
 
Speaking of Plain Jane...I know a lot of you guys really love Isaac Daniels. Well, I do too! And I want great things for him. I also want to torture him more, in the way that we authors get to torture our favorite characters, so I gave him his own series.

The Tillgiven Romantic Mystery Series, to be exact.

Tillgiven Bible School is a (fictional) small, private Bible College in the (fictional) little farming community of Brunn Vatten, Sweden. In an effort to escape a string of bad romantic choices, Isaac finds himself teaching Bible at Tillgiven, and trying hard not to fall in love again.

Enjoy this excerpt from Hard to Find: A Tillgiven Romantic Mystery (Just 99 cents at Amazon!)
 
The first time I was dumped was the hardest, because I really wanted to marry the girl—No, I don’t care to name the one who got away. I’m totally over her.
Honest.
But whatever. She dumped me, and it really stunk.
The second time I was dumped wasn’t so bad. To be honest, it was kind of a relief. Rebound and all that. But even more, I had slowly come to realize that I hated speaking French. So the whole dream job in Montreal with the rebound French-speaking girlfriend really wasn’t working for me. I wouldn’t have minded being the dumper this time, though (who would?). But I didn’t get the away goal that time. She dumped me while I was still planning my indirect attack.
The third time I was dumped, about a month later, was eye opening.
As I watched the girl walk away from me for the last time, I realized I had some serious changes to make in my life.
The first change: get out of Dodge.
As much as I appreciated snagging a summer job on the fly teaching Bible at Little Camp on the Range in Dodge City, Kansas, I wasn’t a cowboy, and God wasn’t calling me to the ranch life. When that opportunity ended abruptly, I focused on jobs that required international travel. I didn’t want to go back home to Portland, where that girl and her new boyfriend were running around solving crimes and making hamburgers or whatever it was they did, but I also didn’t want to settle down.
You don’t get your PhD in theology at twenty-three just to sit at home and mope about some girl who cleans houses, after all.
The second change: no more getting dumped. After a while it begins to wear on a guy.
The third: quit dating my students.
I hadn’t been looking to date students, but I’m twenty-four (finished my dissertation last year). My students tend to be between nineteen and twenty-two, so basically my age. On the other hand, the other teachers, who I am allowed to fraternize with, are usually older than me, by a lot. So, can you blame me?
Getting out of Dodge wasn’t exactly all my idea. The cowgirl, who dumped me, wasn’t a student. She wasn’t a camper—that much I swear to—but the camp doesn’t have a friendly attitude about the directorial staff dating the counselors.
Good things (and catastrophes) come in threes, so I stopped my “massive life changes” list there, hit the road, and landed in Brunn Vatten, Sweden, at Tillgiven Bible School teaching the Bible, coaching soccer, and helping young Christians grow into leaders. It would have been a pretty sweet gig, even if it hadn’t included the blue skies, forested hillsides, and beautiful Swedes in every direction.
Totally owning life changes one and two.
But for the last two months, the brunette sitting in the back of class, with the shiny hair that had a way of swinging around her face when she whispered to the person sitting next to her, and who stared at me with her huge green eyes, had been making it very hard to stick with change three.
It hardly needs mentioning that this job paid well (for a nonaccredited Bible school), was as far away from Portland as I could get, offered basically unlimited European travel, and had a strict no-fraternizing-between-staff-and-students policy.
Which was why, when my office door swung open to reveal the pretty brunette, cheeks red, eyes shining with tears, full lips ever so slightly parted, and smelling like peaches (how do girls do that?) I groaned inwardly.
My office was way too small for the both of us. “What’s up, Dani?”
“I still haven’t heard from my sister.”
“Sit down.” I indicated the folding chair in the corner of the closet the school had set aside as an “office” for lecturers.
Her skirt fluttered as she took her seat, giving me a glimpse of her tan knees.
“Drew’s not back yet?”
She shook her head and sniffled into her sleeve.
“Travel weekend was technically over yesterday.”
“Exactly.” She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “I’ve called, texted, emailed. I’ve tried to call our parents. It’s like she’s just disappeared.”
I grimaced.
It was like she had just disappeared, and seeing as how the last any of us had heard of her was that she was going to hitchhike to Malmo and catch the EuroRail with the goal of seeing how far south she could get in a weekend, it was more or less terrifying.
Dr. Hoffen, the school director, had taken his family to Gothenburg to the amusement park for a long weekend while the students were gone, leaving me, technically, in charge for the next two days.
It wasn’t unheard of for students to come back from travel weekend on their own schedules instead of ours, but I was far from comfortable being the person responsible for the missing girl. “When did you last hear from her?”
Dani took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. “I got this text on Sunday morning.” She held out her phone so I could read the message.
“‘I found it’?” I read the message aloud. “What did she find?”
“I don’t know!” Dani narrowed her eyes and leaned forward. Her misery seemed to dissipate before me, replaced by a kind of intense interest. “It could be almost anything, couldn’t it? Drew likes this cryptic nonsense, and every message she sends me is more obtuse than the last.”
I didn’t like the sound of that. Drew had struck me as trouble from day one, and if she was bent on making us work to find her, she was perfectly capable of it. “Did you go back and read the rest of her messages to see if there were any clues? Or go over previous conversations with her? Things she may have been hoping to do once she got to Europe?” I picked up my mug of strong Gevalia coffee—not the cheap stuff they make in the kitchen, but the stuff the students make for themselves in the lounge. It lived up to my Portland-bred expectations for coffee.
Dani blushed ever so slightly.
I sipped my coffee. Drew had an embarrassing secret, maybe?
Dani pulled her skirt down a little so it fell over her knees again.
“There was only one thing I could think of, but it’s so dumb…”
“To you it’s dumb. It may have seemed incredibly important to her.” Drew was young. I really hoped she had “found” tickets to a One Direction concert.
“I mean, I’d agree it’s important, but it’s dumb to think it was what she was looking for, or what she found.”
“Try me anyway. Think of it as brainstorming.”
“Her last blog post was about finding true love.”
“Er…”
“Exactly.”
“She doesn’t strike me as someone looking for the one.” Far from it, in fact, much to the happiness of the boys at school.
“Not at first, I agree. But when you get to know her…” Dani smoothed her skirt again. I wished she’d stop doing that. “Drew’s a romantic girl. If she believed she had moved overseas to meet the one, then who knows? Maybe she met someone on the train. Maybe she thinks she found true love.”
I scratched my chin. Maybe she did think that. But finding a teenage girl who had run off with some romantic-seeming European man—with the whole continent to search—was not the problem I wanted to have to solve. Finding a student who had missed her ferry and was sitting on the wrong side of the Baltic Sea for an extra day, or someone who had gotten pickpocketed and was stowed away in some Danish police station with an interpreter trying to help her get back to school, or someone who had stayed a few extra days to catch a boy band concert…that was the kind of problem I could wrap my brain around.
Not eloping.
I did not get paid enough to deal with that.
“Yeah, we should dismiss it.” Dani stared at her hands. “I mean, even if she did think she had found true love, what’s the worst that could happen?” She lifted her face and stared at me with those eyes, the button nose, the light sprinkling of freckles. The trust.
I immediately pictured what I might want to do if I had met Dani on a train and Dani thought it was love at first sight. The worst that could happen… “We’d better contact the police.”
Dani chewed her bottom lip and nodded. “Okay. You know, she has the GPS on her phone, so maybe they can find her really easily.”
“Or find her phone, if it’s been stolen.” I stared at the phone on my desk. Who do you call in Sweden when you want to find a cell phone that has gone missing somewhere in Europe? “She was due back last night by nine, so technically she’s only been missing for eighteen hours. Let me call the local police and talk about the problem with them.” I looked at my watch. Afternoon classes would start in an hour. I had time to call.
Dani nodded. She fanned herself with her slender, tan hand. “Thank you. I’ll call my parents again and see if I can get through to them yet.”
I stood up, to indicate that maybe she ought to let herself out.
She did.
Before I called the police, I made my way to the office to talk to the admin assistant, a bombshell of a Swede who had caught my eye when I first arrived. She was the kind of woman I ought to be interested in. And I would have been, if she hadn’t been so scary.
I stood a few feet from her desk and cleared my throat.
She looked up, one blonde eyebrow lifted.
“Drew Honeywell hasn’t called, has she?”
“Nej.”
“What about her folks? Someone from home?”
Stina looked at her watch. “Drew is rather late, isn’t she?”
“She should have been here last night.”
Stina sucked in a breath. “Too bad.”
“What do we do now?”
She shrugged. She was so icy she could have been the model for that Disney princess.
“Getting back late from travel weekend isn’t abnormal, right?”
“Nej. Happens every year.”
“When do we start worrying?”
“We don’t.”
“Er…” I hated to fall back on the monosyllable. I trust I’m a better communicator than that, generally speaking.
“This is Sweden, Isaac. A very safe country. The kids always come back.”
I pulled a chair up to the desk and sat on it backward. “Dani said Drew took the train to Europe to see how far she could get.”
“In a weekend?  What a waste.”
“But Dani said…”
“Sure, Dani said that. But did Drew really do it? Why would she want to spend the whole weekend on the train?” Stina typed while she dismissed my problem, missing kids being a normal kind of problem, apparently.
“For the adventure, I guess.”
“Ja. She might have. The train from Malmo to Copenhagen only takes half an hour.”
“So how far south do you think she got?”
Stina turned her computer screen to face me. “EuroRail travel planner. If she hitchhiked to Malmo, she could get on the train by, say, Saturday afternoon, and be as far as Venice by Sunday afternoon.” She pointed to the map on the screen.
“Venice?” I leaned back. Young American girl alone on a train. Italian men.
This was bad.
Stina nodded. “Or she could get anywhere else she wanted. And then she’d turn around and come back, but it might take her longer than she thought it would, since there are”—she referred to her screen—“at least seven train changes between Malmo and Venice. And anyway, if she made it to Venice, just for example, she’d only be getting back to Malmo now.”
“If she’s just lost on the train, why isn’t she answering her phone?”
Stina would have rolled her eyes at me if it wasn’t beneath her, I’m sure. “Drew Honeywell is twenty years old, Isaac. If she doesn’t want to answer her phone, meet her curfew, or even come back to school at all, she doesn’t have to. If she wants to disappear completely, she can, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“We can call missing persons.”
“Of course.” She paused. “But if she wants to stay gone, she can. She’s not a child.”
“She’s really twenty?”
Stina didn’t answer.
Drew didn’t seem like a twenty-year-old to me. And I did not agree at all that if she wanted to disappear, it was completely her right. Not while I was the one in charge of the school.
“Do you know how long a person has to be missing before you call it in?”
“I’m sure there’s not a time limit.” Stina’s eyes were trained on her screen, and her fingers were flying across her keyboard. She was clearly done with this conversation.
“All right, then.”
I took myself back to my office and dialed 411, the Swedish emergency number. I explained the situation to the patient (and fairly English fluent) operator.
“Ja, I understand,” she said. “A missing student abroad, this is very terrible.” She clucked in a motherly-hen kind of way. “We will contact INTERPOL. We will find her, don’t worry. Our police are very, very good. And we have a group—a very good group called Missing People Sweden. We find missing people very well. So you don’t worry, okay? Your missing student will be found, surely.” She clucked again.
I had Drew’s school application open on my computer and gave the operator all the vitals. I also gave her my cell number and the line to my office phone.
“Very good, Mr. Daniels. We will be in touch. A missing student…very sad and scary for you, but not for us. We will find her, okay?” She had a singsongy, soothing sort of voice. I wouldn’t worry. Stina seemed to think there wouldn’t be a problem. This nice emergency operator seemed to think it would be fine. Only Dani was freaking out, and what did she know? She was just a kid. “Thanks. Tack sa mycket. I really appreciate your help.”
“Oh, not a problem at all.”
I went to the next lecture ready to rock and roll. What at first had seemed like a terrifying dilemma was no big deal, and Drew Honeywell’s situation was safe in the hands of the experts.
Time to blow the minds of the Bible school kids by telling them that their idea of salvation was a modern construct imposed on the current church by the psychological needs of the postwar world. My favorite lecture.