Authors: Lyndsey Cole
Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Flower Shop - Vermont
Lily sat and digested all that Kari
had just told her.
Gabe dropped Amber off at the Stone House Inn to meet L.T.—Lance Turner? Who else might have been there to meet Amber? Who else had access to that cottage? Bob and Betty Mitchell, owners of the Stone House Inn? Of course they would have access. Gabe? Nick? Emma? Anna? Maybe just a random person picked her up. Who did Daisy and I see carrying the body when we were in the hot air balloon? More questions than answers at this point.
Lily watched Kari stroke Sweet Pea
’s fur and listened to the kitty’s contented purring. “I have to call the police, are you ready to tell them what you just told me? And identify the body?”
Kari tensed. “I guess so. Can you stay with me?”
“I don’t know. You can ask and if I’m allowed, I’ll be happy to stay with you. Listen, Kari, I know the police chief, Ryan Steel. He’s a great guy and will treat you fairly. Don’t worry about that.”
Kari nodded. “Okay, I’m ready to talk to him.”
Lily called Ryan and left a message for him, that she had found Kari and to call her back. Next, she called Anna to let her know what was going on. Lily could hear the relief in Anna’s voice mixed with worry for her daughter and what she might be involved in. Lily’s next message was to Nina. “Hey, there’s someone I’d like you to meet. Call me.”
Last, she called Nick and, surprise of surprise
s, he actually answered the phone. “Was Lance home two nights ago? The night before you took us for that balloon ride?”
Hmmm, let me think for a minute. Lance wasn’t on a trip, but I don’t know where he was, I had the night off and went out. Why?”
“Just curious. By the way, is that trail ride offer still open?”
“You bet. Come by around five, I’ll have the horses ready.”
“Thanks, see you then.” Lily closed her phone and smiled to herself
. I think it’s about time to see what’s around that farm and where those trails go.
Kari tapped Lily on her arm. “You’re going riding with Nick?”
“Yeah, is there anything I should know about him?”
“He acted like he liked Amber but I’m not sure how often they hooked up.
She told me he tried to get her to stop seeing other men.”
“Really? How did she react to that?”
“She just laughed at him and told him to get in line.”
“Thanks for that inform
ation.” Lily thought to herself,
If Kari is telling the truth, it means Nick lied to me. But he couldn’t have been the one to move the body since he was the pilot of the hot air balloon. Something to keep in mind, for sure.
Lily realized that Kari was still talking to her. “About that job offer? I am interested.”
“That’s awesome, Kari. After this mess with Amber gets sorted out, I’ll put a schedule together to start training you.”
The front bell jingled and Lily heard Ryan’s deep voice talking to Daisy. Lily motioned for Kari to stay in her office. “I’ll be right back.”
Lily walked to the front of the shop which had been fairly quiet for most of the morning. Daisy kept herself busy making arrangements to fill the few orders that came in.
Ryan stood with his arms crossed and his legs apart. “I can’t believe it took you so long to let me know you found Kari.”
Lily pursed her lips. “Don’t get mad at me Mr. Steele, I have a scared girl sitting in my office and it took some time to get her to open up to me. If you come on all tough and aggressive, she’s going to shut right down again. And besides, I didn’t even know she was here until about a half hour ago.”
Ryan let his arms fall to his side and his shoulders sagged. “Sorry. I need to get that poor victim identified.”
“Alright, come on back to my office, she’s waiting there.”
Ryan followed Lily into the small office space. Kari was still curled up in the chair with Sweet Pea
, her face resting on the soft fur. Lily noticed that she flinched when they arrived, but didn’t look up as she tightened her hold on Sweet Pea as if the cat could protect her somehow.
Lily crouched in front of Kari. “Look at me
, Kari. This is the police chief, Mr. Steele. He needs to ask you some questions. Are you ready?”
She nodded without looking at Ryan.
Ryan pulled a chair closer to Kari, sitting down to be at her level. “Kari, I need your help. Do you think you can help me?”
She nodded again.
“Okay, great. I need you to come with me to identify the body we found. From what Lily told me, I think it might be your friend Amber. I need a positive identification and help finding her family. Can you do that?”
Kari finally looked up with tears glistening in her eyes. “Okay
,” she replied in a tiny voice. “Can Lily come too?”
Ryan looked at Lily, then back at Kari. “That will be fine.
Can you leave now, Lily?”
“Yes, it hasn’t been too busy and Daisy is here
at the shop.”
Lily and Kari followed Ryan outside. Lily looked at his cruiser, thinking it might intimidate Kari to ride with Ryan. “I’ll bring Kari and follow you in my minivan.”
Lily hadn’t been to the hospital morgue before so she kept telling herself it would be an interesting experience. Well, interesting might be a stretch, but maybe educational was the best way to look at it.
An attendant unlocked the door for them and they followed Ryan inside
. Lily pulled her jacket tighter around herself as the cold wind from big fans blew icy air over her. She expected it to have a strong smell, but there was just a faint, not too unpleasant odor. The attendant led them to a stainless steel table on wheels with a shape covered by sheets.
looked at Kari. “Are you ready for this?”
She nodded and hugged her arms around her thin shivering body.
Ryan pulled the sheet down for her to view the face hidden underneath. “Can you identify her for me?”
,” Kari whispered in a barely audible voice. Tears streamed down her cheeks as Lily hugged her to provide comfort and warmth.
“Does Amber have a last name?
Santos. Her name is Amber Santos. She had her own apartment but she visited her mother regularly. I think her name is Maria.”
pulled the sheet back up to cover the dead girl’s face again and nodded to the attendant before guiding Kari and Lily toward the door. “Thank you Kari, this has been a big help.” He put his hand on her shoulder, looking directly into her sad eyes. “Would you mind coming to the station with me and telling me everything you know about Amber?”
“Alright.” She leaned into Lily for support as her eyes darted to Lily’s face. “Are you coming too?”
Lily squeezed Kari’s hand. “Of course.”
They left the basement of the hospital, warming up as the early afternoon sun hit them and rid them of the chill from the morgue.
As Lily followed Ryan back to the police station, she furtively glanced at Kari while she sat silently staring out the minivan window.
She knows more than she’s told me. Something has her spooked and she’s acting like she’ll flee at the first sign of the bad guy getting near her door. Who is that bad guy?
As Lily pulled into the parking lot at the police station she noticed a familiar SUV. Nick was sitting inside while it was idling.
What was he doing here?
She didn’t have to wait long for that mystery to solve itself as Lance Turner walked out the door, his mouth in a tight line and his eyes watching the ground in front of him. Kari flinched when she saw Lance and slid lower in the seat.
“What is it
about Mr. Turner that scares you?” Lily asked Kari.
,” she mumbled as her eyes darted around.
“Okay then, let’s go in and get this over with.” Lily grabbed her tote and walked around the car to walk in with Kari. Kari didn’t budge until the SUV was gone.
Ryan was talking to Adam May and he pointed for them to sit in his office. Kari shifted in the seat, jiggling her foot and wrapping her arms around herself as if that would calm the tension.
sat down and Detective May stood in the back, leaning on the wall. Ryan sat back and calmly asked Kari a few questions about herself, trying to get her to relax a little before he asked about the night Amber was killed. She told him everything she had told Lily—how they went to the club, then left to go back to Amber’s apartment and how Amber got the text message from L.T. Ryan jotted down some notes and asked Kari questions about who L.T. was. Kari hesitated before saying she thought it was Lance Turner. Lily started to fidget from wondering what details Adam had gotten from Lance. It certainly seemed like all fingers were pointing at Lance Turner.
Ryan finished up his questioning of Kari and told her she could leave. He looked at Lily, nodding for her to stay in his office as Ryan escorted Kari to
the front of the police station where Anna was waiting, thrilled to see her daughter and ready to give her a ride home. Anna wrapped her arms around Kari and she melted into her mother’s body as if she never wanted to leave.
returned to his office and sat down with Lily as she waited patiently for him to share what information he could. He tapped his pen on his desk and hesitated before he said anything to Lily. “Adam had a chat with Mr. Lance Turner,” Ryan said as he looked at Lily thoughtfully.
She nodded. “
I saw him leaving when I got here. Did he confess?”
Ryan snorted. “Are you kidding? He ha
d an excuse for every question Adam asked him. He was visiting a friend the night of the murder, but of course he wouldn’t tell me who. He has conveniently lost his phone so we can’t check the text messages that Kari mentioned. He also denied meeting Amber that night or ever having an affair with her. Adam said he actually looked shocked when he asked him about that.”
“So, what do you think?”
“He’s either a great actor or he’s telling the truth. I’m leaning toward the acting scenario but I don’t have enough to arrest him. Yet. I think that’s just a matter of time.”
“What about Amber’s phone?
“No phone was found with the body, just Kari’s driver’s license.”
“Was Amber in that cottage
. Adam found plenty of evidence putting her there even though it gets cleaned every day. What I can’t figure out is why the killer didn’t move her that night when there was less of a chance of someone seeing him.”
Lily folded her hands together under her chin. “How was the body moved?”
“It was wrapped in a blanket which we haven’t found yet. Adam is searching Lance’s car right now to see if the body was in there.”
“But I didn’t even see a car when I saw the person moving the body.”
“It could have been hidden in the trees. Like I said, we don’t have enough yet but Lance must know we’ll be watching his every move.”
“And what about the murder weapon?”
“We found plenty of silk ties hanging in the closet of his cottage which could have been used, but nothing positive yet.”
Lily leaned forward. “
What about a motive?”
Ryan sighed and settled back in his chair, looking frustrated. “This is tough. There’s lots of circumstantial evidence pointing to Lance Turner but the big pieces of the mystery are still, well, a mystery.” He ran his fingers through his hair.
Lily stood up, picking up her tote, glad that Ryan had shared so much with her. “I have to get back to work. Fortunately, Daisy is there taking care of everything but she’s going to be spitting nails if I don’t get back and give her a break. Want to stop at my house after work for a bite to eat?”
Some of the tension drained from Ryan’s face as he smiled at Lily. “There’s nothing I’d like to do more but it will be late, is that okay?”
“Late works for me, how about we plan on eight?”
“I’ll do my best. At least that gives me something pleasant to look forward to.” Ryan stood and walked with Lily out of the office, his hand barely touching her back but she
felt the heat sear right through to her core.
This is the man for me
, she thought happily.
rned her toward him to say goodbye. “You look happy, what are you thinking about?”
He leaned close to her ear, lightly brushing his lips against her cheek. “Now I really have something to look forward to. See you later, my beautiful bloom.”
Lily hurried out to her car and saw Anna and Kari waiting for her.
Anna looked relieved but concerned at the same time. “Did Mr. Turner kill Amber?” she asked directly.
“I think he’s a suspect but he hasn’t been charged with anything yet. There’s still a lot of investigating to do.” Lily looked at Kari. “What would his motive
glanced away. “I don’t know,” she said immediately. Too fast as far as Lily was concerned. She was sure Kari knew more but was still protecting Amber, or someone else, for some reason. Or was she protecting herself?
Anna thanked Lily for helping to find Kari before they all climbed into their cars and headed in opposite directions.
Lily glanced at her watch as she parked in front of her shop to see the time was flying by too fast. She hoped it wasn’t too crazy inside and she would still be able to go for that trail ride. Nick was a good resource for information if she could figure out the right questions to ask.
Iris and Daisy looked up when they heard the door jingle. “I’m so glad
you’re finally back,” Iris said. “Lance is in shock about that poor girl that was found murdered. What’s going on? Is he a suspect?”
Lily threw her tote onto her work table, po
ured herself a cup of tea and sat down with her mother and sister. “As far as I know, he is a suspect.” Lily blew on her tea to cool it down a little. “Mom, remember when Daisy and I told you we saw a body from the hot air balloon, but you didn’t believe us?” Iris nodded. “The person carrying that body was coming out of a cottage behind the Stone House Inn that Lance Turner has reserved for himself.”
Iris’s eyes opened to round saucers as she sputtered excuses. “It doesn’t prove it’s him.”
“Of course not, but you asked if he’s a suspect. That sure makes him a suspect, don’t you think?”
“Walter is so upset about this. You have to do something to help his friend.” Iris looked at Daisy. “We’ll help you. Where do we start?”
Lily finally relaxed. “I like this enthusiasm. I’ll fill you in on what I know and we’ll make a plan. But first, what’s going on here at the shop?” she asked Daisy. “Is there anything I have to deal with?”
“Don’t worry about the shop. It’s been slow today
after that morning rush and everything is under control.”
As Lily slowly sipped her tea, she filled Iris and Daisy in on what Kari had told her about the night Amber was killed.
Iris jumped in. “Maybe it was that Gabe person, he was alone with her.”
e left when I asked him a question this morning. And he was chopping wood like there was no tomorrow when I went to the farm yesterday. He was looking angry and upset. I think Kari knows more than what she has told me and I think I can coax it out of her. She’s scared of something, like she thinks the murderer will come after her too.” Lily put her teacup down. “Oh, and I offered her a part time job here.”
Daisy raised her eyebrows. “Am I fired?”
Lily covered her mouth or the tea would have sprayed out all over her mother and sister. “No, of course not. I just want to have someone to help out so you can have more time for your cake business.”
The door jingled as Tamara waddled
in, dressed in a lime green version of her spandex outfit. She clapped her hands together. “Oh, my goodness, it looks like I’ve come to the right place. Can I have a cup of tea too? I have something interesting to tell you all.” She plopped down in a comfy chair and looked at the three Bloom women staring at her. “Who’s going to get my tea?”
Iris got up since Tamara was her friend, returning with tea for
her. “Here you go. Love your outfit.” Iris said trying not to choke. “What’s your news?”
Tamara picked up the
tea cup. “I just love these spandex workout clothes I got. They are so comfortable.” She looked around. “Don’t you have anything yummy like cookies to go with the tea? I’ve just come from my exercise class and I think I’ve earned a treat.” She sipped the tea.
Frustrated, Iris scolded Tamara. “The point of exercising isn’t to earn a treat for yourself. I thought you were trying to lose some weight.”
“Are you implying that I’m overweight, Iris Bloom?” Tamara glared.
Daisy hopped up and quickly returned with some mini pumpkin cheesecake bars. “Here you go, I brought these in to get some feedback. Let me know what you think before I offer them to my customers.”
Tamara relaxed back into her chair with her tea daintily held in her hand, her pinky finger extended. She chose the biggest of the mini bars and popped it into her mouth. Sighing with extreme pleasure, she mumbled with her mouth still full that it was delicious. “I think I’ll have another.”
Sitting on the edge of her chair, Iris bobbed her knee up and down, waiting for Tamara to satisfy her hunger and get going with her story. “You’ve got some
color back in your cheeks now. What is this fascinating information you have to share with us?”
“Well, I was at the beauty s
alon, getting my hair permed.” She fluffed up her curls and asked the others, “What do you think?”
“Tamara!” Iris said firmly, not letting herself actually shout. “Get on with your story.”
“Calm down, Iris, you know you’re going to get high blood pressure with the way you’re acting. So, anyway, I was getting my hair done, and, of course, all the talk was about that poor girl that was found murdered. At least it wasn’t Anna’s daughter. Everyone seems to have a theory about what happened and the ideas were pretty outrageous until one person spoke up. Guess who was having her hair done two chairs down from me?”
By now, all three women were at the edges of their seat
s and Tamara was in all her glory with this captive audience. She didn’t wait for a guess but blurted out, “Emma Turner.”
Lily slid back in her chair. “And that’s supposed to be big news?”
Tamara pursed her lips. “You haven’t let me tell the good part yet. I heard her talking to Cheryl, the stylist, about how Gabe, her farm manager, likes to go out riding every morning before he does the chores at seven. The day that poor girl was found dead, he didn’t get back until close to ten o’clock, about three hours later than usual.” She sat back with a satisfied look on her face and popped another bar into her mouth.