(Booth 303) I'll be at the Indianapolis Hobby & Gift show held at the State Fairgrounds. Scroll down for your coupon. I'll be signing books, doing readings, and giving away swag & other prizes.
Thursday 11, Saturday 13 (3:30-9pm) and all day Sunday
A small gasp drew their attention to the mother who held the toddler against her body with wide eyes as if she and her brother would turn into brain-hungry zombies. Daniel, always faster on people skills, remarked, “She’s a mystery writer.”
“Oh.” The woman’s arm, banding her son against her lower body, relaxed as the hunted look left her eyes, replaced by interest. “What have you written? Maybe I’ve read something of yours. I’m a big mystery fan.”
Yeah brother, what have I written? Daniel recovered well, never letting his distress show even after caught in an out-and-out lie. “Oh, nothing’s published yet. Still, I’m sure an agent will pick up her latest book.”
“Oh.” The minor excitement at meeting an author fizzled out of her as quickly as air escaped an untied balloon. Her husband called, giving her the excuse to leave without any more conversation.
Donna watched the little family leave and head for a minivan. She’d be willing to bet it had a stick family on the back window complete with a dog or cat. “Couldn’t you have made me a successful author?”
The server returned with two thick white stoneware cups and an insulated coffee carafe. She placed them on the table without pouring as she headed off toward an arm-waving patron.
Daniel angled his head in the direction of the server. “I love it when a waitress fusses over me.”
“Yeah, you probably do, but I’m more concerned about the dead man in my inn.” It was hard to solve issues if you couldn’t stay on topic. She picked up the coffee pot and filled both cups. Sweetener packets had been laid on the table, but no cream. A saucer of creamer pods sat on the table the family had abandoned. Using a bent index finger, she pointed without speaking. Daniel retrieved them, proving their connection.
Daniel stirred the cream into his coffee. “Did you get a good look at the man?”
“I did.” The man’s pale face transposed over her brother’s, making her shudder. “He was face down, which made me think he might be sleeping off a drunk. When I couldn’t shake him awake, I ended up rolling him over. Even attempted CPR. Yeah, I got a good look at him.” The stranger’s face faded, leaving behind her brother’s contemplative one as he sipped coffee.
“Was it anyone you recognized?”
He sounded like the police. “Of course, it wasn’t anyone I knew. I could have ID’ed the man if I knew him. No one I knew. Just as well, too. If I had known him, then I’d have a possible motive.”
Her brother glanced over her shoulder, causing her to turn as the server arrived with their breakfast. Daniel’s plate landed with a clatter. Luckily, the eggs had congealed enough not to slide off the plate. Her plate received equally rough treatment along with the added benefit of a glare for each additional side dish. Bowl of grits, stare, pancakes, even more put out, and the bottle of hot sauce, which came with an I hope you choke on it look.
No stranger to snarky attitudes, Donna smiled sweetly. “It all looks so good. Thank you so much for your excellent service. It was a delight being served by you.”
The waitress slowly backed away, picked up her round tray and headed for the kitchen. She threw a backward glance as she went.
“Donna, that was mean. You messed with her head.”
“Yep,” She stared at her hash browns, then the table. “No ketchup.”
Daniel reached over to the other table and retrieved a bottle. “Doubt that the server will come back now. She’ll probably have someone else bring us our bills.”
“I wasn’t scary.” She chewed on the mouthful of sausage, savoring the spicy pork patty since she had lost the conversational thread once she started eating. Fixing, eating, and even analyzing food numbered among her favorite activities. Lucky for her a fast metabolism and being on her feet all day counteracted her hearty appetite. Although lately, she’d noticed a tightness in her uniforms that hadn’t existed previously.
“Un-huh.” Her brother took a bite of his eggs before continuing. “Even though you were smiling, you had that don’t mess with me look in your eyes. The one that lets people know you’ll rip their arms off if they cross you.”
She gave the ketchup bottle a vigorous shake without any result. “I think you got me a dud bottle.” The continual shaking didn’t help.
“Use your knife.” Her brother waved his knife. Did he think she couldn’t figure out what a knife was?
Her hand grasped the knife similar to a chimpanzee in some nature video about apes using tools. The knife served as tool, but not in the usual fashion. After several scrapes against the glass, ketchup trickled out in red splotches. The bottle exhaled, spitting out a bit with each breath. She looked at the red dots coating her potatoes when a realization occurred with such explosive clarity that it resulted in her volume increasing. “No blood.”
A couple of patrons turned their heads, and Daniel kicked her under the table. “Lower your voice.”
A spark of anger flared. She had a strong desire to tell Daniel what he could do with his foot and advice. She tamped it down once she realized a diner was not the place to shout her murder observations. In a sotto voice, she leaned across the table. “There was no blood. Nothing to indicate homicide, but they still put it down as a homicide. The body was still warm when I touched it.”
The fork dropped from her brother’s hand. “I lost my appetite.”
She hadn’t. Picking up the syrup dispenser the server actually brought, she doused her hotcakes. Something was missing. Apparently, the medics had come in and noticed it was a murder immediately. That could just be the blood leaving his skin. “Poisoning.”