The Pancake House Mysteries #5
McKinney to sort through a tall stack of suspects in the latest
Pancake House Mystery. . .
Although it’s a soggy start to spring in Wildwood Cove, the weather clears up just in time
for the town to host an amateur chef competition. Marley McKinney,
owner of the Flip Side pancake house, already signed up to volunteer,
and chef Ivan Kaminski is one of the judges. But when Marley visits
her landscaper boyfriend Brett at the site of the Victorian mansion
that’s being restored as the Wildwood Inn, she discovers something
else pushing up daisies: human remains.
The skeleton on the riverbank washed out by the early-spring floodwaters belonged to
eighteen-year-old Demetra Kozani, who vanished a decade earlier.
While the cold case is reopened, Marley must step in when some of the
cook-off contestants fall suspiciously ill. Stuck in a syrupy mess of
sabotage and blackmail, it falls to Marley to stop a killer from
crêping up on another victim. . .
I was about to set off along the garden path when something small and black streaked toward the tree line. I spun around to follow its progress.
“A kitten!” I exclaimed. “Did you see that?”
The tiny black cat paused at the edge of the woods, its green eyes wide, one ear twitching while the rest of its body remained frozen.
“Does it belong to Lonny and Hope?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Brett said. “I caught a brief glimpse of it earlier today, but that’s the first time I’ve seen a cat around here.”
I took a careful step toward the kitten. It dashed beneath a bushy fern and hunkered down, out of sight except for the tip of one black ear.
“It looks way too tiny to be out here on its own,” I said.
“We can take it up to the house and see if that’s where it belongs. If we can catch it, that is.”
As if it had heard Brett’s words, the little kitten darted out from its hiding place and zipped away, deeper into the woods.
“Catching it might not be possible, but I don’t want to leave it in the woods. Maybe we can at least get it to run back this way.”
“We can try,” Brett agreed.
We moved off in opposite directions, planning to circle around into the woods and hopefully herd the kitten back to the garden. I tried to move quietly as I entered the woods, not wanting to scare the cat farther into the forest. Despite my efforts, twigs still snapped under my feet and the underbrush rustled as I picked my way through the trees.
I could hear rushing water somewhere nearby and realized we were close to the Wildwood River. My concern for the kitten shot up. Although the water level was on its way down now, the river was still higher than usual and could be dangerous for anyone who got too close to the slippery, unstable banks. I didn’t want the kitten going anywhere near the water.
As I moved deeper into the forest, the dirt beneath my feet became soggier. Through the trees, I caught sight of the river, still swollen and muddy, hurtling its way toward the ocean. I swept my gaze from left to right, desperately seeking out any sign of the kitten.
“Can you see it?” I called out to Brett when he came into view. We were almost to the river now, and I had to talk over the sound of the rushing water.
“Not yet,” Brett called back.
At the sound of his voice, something moved slightly a few feet away. I peered at a small, hollowed-out cavity at the base of an old tree. It was dark inside the hole, but I was certain I’d seen movement. I crept closer to the tree, moving slowly and cautiously.
I was about to crouch down in front of the hole when the kitten darted out of the hollow tree. I dropped to my knees and grabbed at the kitten, ending up flat on my stomach, my arms outstretched ahead of me. A fallen tree branch poked at my ribs, cold moisture was seeping through my jeans, and I had a face full of ferns, but I also had a wriggling kitten in my grasp.
“Are you okay?” Brett asked as he hurried over to me.
“I caught it!” I said through the ferns.
I couldn’t see too well, but I heard Brett reach my side. One of his hands brushed against mine.
“I’ve got it. You can let go now.”
I released my firm but gentle hold on the cat and climbed to my feet, brushing pine needles and clumps of mud from my clothes. I smiled at the sight of Brett holding the little kitten against his chest, but when I reached down to brush a clod of mud from my knee, my smile slipped away.
“Are you hurt?” he asked with concern.
I shook my head and stepped back before pointing at the ground.
Next to the patch of ferns I’d landed in, a partial human skull poked out through the mud.
Sarah Fox is the author of the Music Lover's Mystery series and the USA Today
bestselling Pancake House Mystery series. When not writing novels or
working as a legal writer, she can often be found reading her way
through a stack of books or spending time outdoors with her English
Springer Spaniel. Sarah lives in British Columbia and is a member of
Crime Writers of Canada. Visit her online at AuthorSarahFox.com.
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