Sometimes escape was the best way to avoid thinking. When she awoke, afternoon shadows cast their light across her living room. She jumped to her feet. Tonight was a big undercover night and she had to be ready. With a glance at her kitchen and her unfinished strawberry cheesecake smoothie recipe, she headed for the shower.
An hour later, she stood in front of the mirror. “How do I look, Muffins? Ready to blend in with the crowds?” Her plan was to dress plainly, almost camouflaged so no one would notice her, so Judy Schilling and Joel Atherton wouldn’t give her a second glance. And if they did? They’d pass her over as a lonely single out to have dinner by herself.
She fiddled with makeup and last minute touch-ups. She pulled out her mega purse from the back of the closet and filled it with a small notebook, pens, and a granola bar—for Charlene’s sake. Before leaving, she placed her purse on the floor. “Okay, in you go.”
Muffins barked, hopefully in approval, and climbed into her purse as if he knew the seriousness of tonight’s mission.
The only problem was that Holly didn’t know where Judy and Joel were dining, and she didn’t know what car they’d be driving. Her plans that night were laughable. She started her car and stayed in the small lot attached to her apartment building. She thought about Joel, and the charming snake Ann claimed him to be. Where would a guy like that take a date? A date he wanted to impress, to flatter, so she would spill information?
She crossed out Oodles . Not expensive enough. She crossed out any restaurants that lacked character and depth even if the food was tasty. The Fairview Bar and Grille , even though often packed, offered lots of character. She didn’t want to return there not after last night but it seemed a good choice. Casual. Comfortable. A good place to draw information from an unsuspecting, grieving widow.
With Muffins hidden safely in her bag—who said she was dateless?—she entered and took a corner table. On a sudden impulse, she ordered a glass of wine, something to sit and sip. When that was gone, she ordered an appetizer of mozzarella sticks. Eventually, they turned cold. The waitress subtly asked her if that was all, after glancing at the throngs of people waiting for a table.
Holly ordered a cheeseburger and fries. Still no sign of Judy and Joel. Had Holly been wrong? She was just about to give up and check out a different restaurant when the waitress guided a couple over to the table directly behind Holly. Her heart sank, doubts flooding.
Millicent giggled, her hand on Trent’s arm as they scooted into their seats.
Trent and Millicent? Had he lost interest in Holly that fast? Thank God for the high-backed bench seats, which offered privacy, and kept her hidden. Should she stay and listen? Or leave for her own sanity?
Muffins poked his nose out of the bag, and she fed him a piece of cheeseburger. Of course she would stay.
“Trent, you must be so exhausted just thinking about the upcoming festival while in the middle of a big murder case.” Millicent sounded more like a dove cooing.
“Oh, it’s part and parcel with the job. This time of summer, my job, with tourists and crowd management, is always busy.”
At the sound of Trent’s familiar voice, Muffins yipped. Holly glanced around and fed him another piece of her dinner. Thankfully, the noise level in the restaurant had covered his bark.
Holly whispered, “Shh. I know you hear a familiar voice. But not now.” That same familiar voice made Holly sad too.
“And how are you dealing with your big bad bossy wossy?”
Holly grimaced picturing Millicent stroking Trent’s hand or tracing her knuckles down his cheek. Again, she felt uncomfortable, at the rage, simmering.
He chuckled. “It’s not that bad. She’s just doing her job. It’s a lot of stress to enter a new job in a small town which should be fairly quiet and then get hit with not one but two
Brooke Cumberland, Sommer Stein, Rogena Mitchell-Jones