Authors: Lyndsey Cole
Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Flower Shop - Vermont
The door jingled and they
were all startled and turned to see who was entering.
Walter’s normally pleasant, neat appearance was gone. His face was drained of color and his shirt was buttoned wrong like he
’d gotten dressed in a hurry, focused on something much more important than his clothes. “Lance has just been arrested for murder,” he blurted out.
Lily jumped up. “What? I know he was a suspect but what evidence did they find to connect him to the murder?”
Walter slouched down into a chair. “He only had a minute to tell me anything. Emma wasn’t even home when they came. The detective searched his SUV and found a horse blanket that they say was used to wrap the body before it was dumped.” Walter pulled himself together. “I know he’s not perfect, far from it, but he’s a terrible liar and I believe him when he said he didn’t murder that girl.”
Tamara patted Walter’s shoulder as she walked by. “Emma is at the beauty parlor, shall I go tell her what happened?”
Walter put his hand on Tamara’s. “Would you do that? Lance needs all the support he can get.”
After Tamara heaved herself out the door on her mission, Walter looked at the three Blooms sitting with wide eyes. “What are we going to do? How can we help Lance?”
Lily pulled out her phone. “I have a phone call to make, then I’ll tell you my plan.” She walked to her office for a little privacy and called Nina Baldwin, keeping her fingers crossed that she would answer and Lily wouldn’t have to leave a message. “Nina?… Did you get my message? … There’s someone I’d like to introduce you to. What do you think about going trail riding? … Perfect, meet me at my shop as soon as you can.”
Returning to the front of the shop, Lily was all business.
“Walter, you have to deal with Lance since he’s your friend, and Mom, you can console Emma if she needs it. Take her to your house if you can. Daisy and I are going to the Black Horse Farm to go trail riding with Nick, and Nina is meeting us here to go too. I’m introducing her to Nick so maybe she can get some information from him. If Anna’s around, I’ll see if she can give me any more details about Gabe. At the moment, he’s acting quite suspicious so he was either involved or maybe he knows something he hasn’t shared yet. The same with Kari, I know she’s hiding something.
Iris shook her head. “I don’t even know half the
people you’re talking about, but I can see you’re focused so we’ll do whatever you want. I know Lance and Emma so Walter and I will work on that end and let you know if there are any knew details.”
The door slammed as Emma rushed in followed by Tamara huffing and puffing to keep up. “What the heck is going on?” She looked from one face to another trying to read their minds.
Lily offered Emma the chair she had been sitting in. “Sit down, maybe you can help us figure some things out, like, where did you and Lance go after the wedding?”
Emma sank into the chair. “Let me think back,” she said as she leaned back and gazed up toward the ceiling. “I had a migraine and took my medicine which always makes me tired so I went to bed early. Lance took a shower and said he was going out to see a friend. I don’t remember who or if he even told me. That’s really all I remember before I fell into a deep sleep. Why
, do the police think Lance had something to do with that girl’s murder?”
Lily took a deep breath. “Amber
, the victim, was out with Kari and Gabe when she got a text from someone with the initials L.T. and Gabe dropped her off to meet that person. That’s the last time she was seen alive. A blanket was found in Lance’s car that was used to wrap the body before it was dumped in the woods between the trail and the road, about a mile south of the Stone House Inn.”
Emma stood up. “That’s ridiculous. There
have to be other people with the initials L.T., Lance doesn’t even know that girl. What would the motive be? Maybe it was Gabe who killed her.” She looked at all the faces with the hope that she had just offered a good alternative to her husband being the guilty party.
All Lily offered was, “Maybe. It might help if we could look at the messages on his phone, see if there was more to the conversation.”
Emma smacked her forehead. “I forgot, but he lost his phone after we left the wedding. Someone else must have found it and texted that girl.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Yeah. After he took his shower and was getting ready to leave, he asked me if I had seen it. You know, he’s always misplacing that thing but it usually turns up at some point. I had no idea where it was so he borrowed mine for the night. It couldn’t have been him sending that message.”
The door jingled and Nina strolled in looking sleek in her jeans and
brand new looking cowboy boots. “What’s going on here? Did someone just get some bad news or something?”
Emma glared at her. “Who are you?”
Nina backed up slightly. “Excuse me?”
Emma brushed past Nina. “Oh, never mind, I need to call our lawyer.”
Nina’s head swiveled around. “What just happened?”
Lily got up. “I’
ll fill you in while we drive, but first I need a few minutes to organize here and lock up. Daisy, are you ready?”
“Can we stop by my house so I can change?”
Lily looked down at her skirt and comfy shoes. “That’s a good idea. Do you have something for me too?”
Daisy rolled her eyes. “Again? You never gave me back the last stuff you borrowed.”
“Never mind, we’ll stop at my house first, it’s close and I’ll bring Rosie. You go home and change and I’ll pick you up in about fifteen or twenty minutes.”
She got ev
erything done in the store, shooed Walter and Iris out, locked up and told Nina to leave her car and ride with her in the minivan.
Nina pulled the door closed
and looked at Lily. “That was a whirlwind, and I thought
life was crazy. So, what’s going on? Who’s this guy you’re introducing me to, hope he’s not as uptight as your hot cop.”
“Have you been harassing Ryan for information again?”
“Of course, it’s my job.” She smirked. “He finally gave us a statement, just the bare bones though—the victim’s name, where the body was found, that kind of stuff, so I have to start digging on my own.”
Lily pulled into her driveway. “I’m
just going to run in and change, come on.” Rosie was all over Lily and Nina, so excited to get some company. Lily changed and got Nina up to speed on what had just happened with Lance Turner. “So, Nick works at the Black Horse Farm as Lance Turner’s helicopter pilot.”
Nina perked up. “I see where this is going. We’ll be having fun
“If we’re lucky we’
ll get some information, and if you’re lucky you might get a hot date. This guy will make your toes curl. Try not to come on too strong with the questions or you might scare him off. He’s looking for someone who’s fun.”
Nina pouted. “I’m fun, aren’t I?”
“We’ll find out.” Lily pulled into Daisy’s driveway and she hopped into the back seat with Rosie.
“I haven’t been riding for a long time, I
hope these horses aren’t crazy,” Daisy said.
“Nick told me that Lance has the fancy horses he breeds but he
also has several horses good for riding.”
Daisy tapped Lily’s shoulder. “Don’t you think it’s a little weird to be going trail riding when this guy just got arrested for murder?”
“Yeah, a little, but I don’t want to waste this opportunity to see if we can figure anything out. When we were looking at those aerial photos, did you notice that The Black Horse Farm isn’t very far from The Stone House Inn if you go through the woods?”
Nina looked at Lily. “So you think Lance Turner is the murderer?”
“I’m not sure. My mom’s new husband, Walter, who is a close friend of Lance’s, thinks he’s innocent but there’s an awful lot of evidence pointing right at him. Or to someone else at the Black Horse Farm.”
When Lily turned into the driveway for the Black Horse Farm, Rosie sat up alert and started to quietly whine. “Rosie knows where we are. I hope it’s okay that I brought her.”
Silently, she thought,
I hope Emma isn’t here
The three women and R
osie got out of the car, feeling energized by the dry cool Indian summer weather. The late afternoon light made the colors in the trees glow in all their beauty of reds, oranges and golds. Nina sucked in a deep breath and looked around, taking in the property for the first time. “This is stunning. I didn’t grow up in New England and these beautiful fall days get me every time.”
Daisy took Nina’s arm. “We grew up here but it’s special every year, you never remember exactly how beautiful the trees can look after going through a long winter, short spring and hot summer. The fall has always been my favorite season, especially when we are blessed with one that lingers into October.”
Lily started walking toward the horse barn. “We’re a little early, let’s see if we can find Nick.”
Rosie rushed in first, sniffing around along the stalls as the horses leaned over the stall doors, curiously watching her.
“Hey, who are you?” Lily saw Gabe crouched down patting Rosie as she smiled her goofy grin at him.
that’s Rosie. Is Nick around? He invited us to go trail riding with him.” Lily explained.
Gabe abruptly stood up, glaring at Lily. “He’s out back with the horses. Don’t you think this is an awkward time to be coming here to ride Mr. Turner’s horses?”
Lily let her body relax and soften. “Why is that Gabe? I’m trying to help Mr. Turner. Is there anything you know that you want to tell me?”
Gabe opened his mouth to say something but changed his mind and turned around and left just as Lily heard Daisy and Nina walking up behind her.
, she thought,
he was ready to tell me something, they must have spooked him off.
Nina and Daisy were whispering and giggling together like a couple of teenage girls.
Wait until Nina meets Nick, she’ll probably faint. “
Nick is out back with the horses, come on.”
Emerging from the barn, they saw four horses tied to a split rail fence with the Green Mountains in the background. It was a
spectacular view and they all gasped, in awe of the beauty.
“I hope that reaction is for me.”
They turned their heads in unison and saw him next to the horses
, all ready with western saddles and bridles. Nina gasped again, unable to control her surprise at how sexy Nick looked in his cowboy boots and hat. He walked over to the ladies with his hand extended toward Nina. “Hi, I’m Nick, or as Lily likes to think of me, I’m the mysterious pilot.”
Lily felt her face flush as she noticed Nick look at her with a twinkle in his eyes. Nina took his hand in hers as her eyes s
lowly scanned him up and down. “Lily didn’t exaggerate. Nice to meet you, Nick.”
Lily decided to get the awkwardness over and done with. “How is it around here? Have you heard how Lance is doing?”
“His lawyers are working on getting him out. I don’t think that horse blanket will be enough evidence to keep him in jail.” Nick looked directly at Lily. “He wasn’t even driving that car the night Amber was murdered, Gabe was.”
Lily’s hand covered her mouth. “Do you think it was Gabe?”
Nick shrugged. “I don’t know. Anyone could have thrown that blanket in the car.” He turned back to Nina and Daisy. “Ready for a ride?”
, who else could have put the blanket there?
Nick noticed Rosie sitting patiently next to Lily. “Is that your dog?”
“Oh, yeah, this is Rosie. I hope it’s okay that I brought her along.”
“Sure, as long as she’s well behaved and doesn’t take off after anything.
There are lots of white tail deer in the woods around here.”
Lily patted Rosie’s head. “She’ll be fine. She always stays with me.”
“Great. Lily, you’ve met Midnight, you’ll be riding her today. Nina, this is Star and Daisy, you’ll be on Smokey. They’re all well trained trail horses so even if you haven’t ridden in a while, you shouldn’t have any problems. I’ll be riding Emma’s trail horse, Willow, Midnight’s sister, but not quite as well trained. Gabe has been working with her and he wants me to see how she’ll do out on the trail.”
Everyone mounted and Nick, on Willow, led the way to the trails. The clip clopping made a hypnotic beat on the hard packed dirt trail under the canopy of trees. Rosie trotted alongside the horses, occasionally
charging off the trail to chase a chipmunk or squirrel, but she never went far.
Nick turned around, motioning for Nina to come abreast since the trail was wide enough for two horses next to each other. Lily saw Nick put his charm on but she couldn’t hear what they were talking about. She let herself relax
with the peaceful rhythm as her mind processed the information she had about Amber’s murder.
Lance was arrested, Gabe is hiding something, and Kari acts like a deer caught in the headlights.
, the trail opened up and they were in a small clearing behind the Stone House Inn and the cottages. Nick stopped and the other three horses plodded alongside him before stopping as well. “There’s an outdoor patio at the Inn we could sit at if you want to take a break and get a drink before we loop back to the farm.” He sat half way turned around on Willow waiting for a reply.
“Sounds like a great
idea,” Lily said. “What do we do with the horses? And Rosie?”
“I’ll hitch them to the post on the other side of the clearing, then we have a short walk
to the patio. This is a horse and dog friendly Inn so Rosie is welcome to sit outside with us too.” Nick led the way to the patio after making sure the horses were secure. “Make yourselves comfy, I’ll go in and let Betty know we’re out here.”
Lily chose a table at the edge of the patio so Rosie wouldn’t be in the way. They sat in the dappled shade of a big maple tree glowing in its red fall colors. As her eyes surveyed the area they stopped at the sight of a back that she recognized. Ryan was sitting at a table with someone, jotting in his notebook.
Lily nudged Daisy. “Who do you think that guy is with Ryan?”
Daisy turned around and shrugged. “I don’t know but I remember seeing him last night when I was sitting be myself inside before dinner. Maybe it’s the owner? Or the manager?”
Nick returned with a bowl of water and a dog bone for Rosie and a beautiful tray of sliced fruit that he placed in the center of the table. “Who are you talking about?” he asked as he pulled out a chair and sat down next to Nina.
Lily nodded toward the table closest to the door. “Who’s the guy with the police chief?”
“That’s Bob, the owner of the Inn. It looks like he’s getting the third degree from that cop. Must be something to do with the murder. I heard that the body might have been moved from one of the cottages.”
Nina was leaning in so as not to miss a word. “Who did you hear that from?”
“I think it was Anna, Mr. Turner’s house manager, who told me. Everyone is throwing ideas around but let’s not spoil this wonderful day. Betty will be right out with drinks for all of us.”
Lily saw that Ryan was gathering his things together and was starting to stand up. The other man got up also and gestured for Ryan to follow him around the side of the Inn and they disappeared into a shed.
Betty arrived with a tray of cold lemonade and some paper thin crispy cookies covered with dark chocolate. “Here you go. Shall I put it on Mr. Turner’s tab?” She asked as she looked at Nick.
“Sure. I’ll let him know when I see him.”
“That poor man. I can’t believe he was arrested. I never saw him come to the cottage that night but someone was inside. I saw lights and heard voices sometime after midnight.”
“How often does that cottage get cleaned?” Lily asked.
Betty rubbed her arm. “That policeman asked the same thing. I think my husband is taking him to look through the bags of trash for any evidence. Such a shame.” She leaned in closer. “I’m just glad the body wasn’t found here.” She shivered from the thought before heading back inside.
They drained their drinks quickly and sampled the cookies and fruit. Lily licked
some melted chocolate off her fingers. “Nick, do you come here often?”
“Often enough. It’s an easy ride and a nice place to take a break on a nice day like this.
I love riding through the woods on all the trails around here, a real perk of my job.”
“How about Lance’s private cottage? Do you ever stay there?”
“I have,” he answered and looked away from Lily’s piercing stare. “Well, we’d better get going so we aren’t back too late.”
Lily took one more look to see if Ryan was anywhere to be seen, but he was either still going through the trash or had gotten to the parking lot another way.
I wonder if he found anything.