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One more piece. Or seven.

The young man took a sip of Malbec and fitted the puzzle piece shaped like a fish into the larger work that created a sitting fox. A fox with a strange, knowing grin on his face. It was a long time since he’d done a jigsaw puzzle. The rental cabin had a stack of them, all wooden, with shaped pieces. This one was close to complete.

Rise was grateful to his manager for renting this Adirondack cabin. He’d flown across country from Los Angeles three days early, to rest, re-center and dismiss any jet lag. In Los Angeles there was a pile of scripts on his desk—he’d only brought the three most promising along to read—constant calls and texts, a demanding personal trainer, and, oh yeah, four stalkers, two of whom required restraining orders.

Ah, the life of a star.

Except he wasn’t a star, only a guy who’d grown up on television in three different series. Enough folks were so comfortable with him in their living rooms they figured they should be married. To him. And became violent when he didn’t agree.

It had been a wonderful couple of days. His assistant, Con Allred, had laid in supplies, his favorite food, and he’d been able to cook for himself. Con had then gone ahead to join Rise’s agent, manager and publicity crew to lay the groundwork for the premiere of his new feature film.

A car would be sent for Rise in the morning, his hiatus over.

The tall actor ran a hand through his golden blonde hair, snapped another piece into the puzzle and groaned. Two pieces were missing. Why would you rent a cabin and offer your guests puzzles with missing pieces?

He took another large sip of wine. The fire was burning down, a bed of orange embers lined the fireplace floor. Add another log, or let it go out?

If he wanted to be fresh and rested for the film festival, he should probably take some melatonin and read awhile, then get some sleep.

Rise drained the wine glass, washed it out and put it to dry by the sink. The cabin was made of wood with antlers everywhere. He stepped outside onto the small porch, then sat in a dark-green Adirondack chair. Rushing water of the nearby Ausable River spoke of recent rain; the piquant, calming scent of pine melded with the loam of the earth. He breathed deeply.

Back in Los Angeles, his house was a fortress, alarms everywhere. Even so, one enterprising woman, a teacher for god’s sake, had left a note on his bed when he was away filming. His agent had gotten a letter from another of his stalkers, a psychologist, explaining they were uniquely psychologically suited for each other. Therefore, if she couldn’t have Rise, she’d have to hurt him. A young man had stopped his mother in the grocery store and introduced himself as Rise’s fiancé. Someone had followed and confronted his mom. His mom!

Rise hated being on guard all the time. Which was why he was sorry to leave the solitude of the cabin to rejoin the world in the morning. It was rented under his manager’s brother’s secretary’s son’s name. No one knew he was here.

The actor stood and stretched, then went back inside, and locked the door. He headed into the bedroom where he pulled on pajama pants and a t-shirt. He scrubbed his face in the master bath and popped two melatonin gummies.

The queen-sized bed had a quilt with an Adirondack design featuring bears dancing around a campfire. Rise picked up a script from the bedside table at random, put on his glasses, and began to read. Within ten minutes, he couldn’t keep his eyes open.

It was all he could do to turn off the light before falling into a dreamless sleep.

His phone rang at seven the next morning.

“The car’s on its way. It’ll be outside in twenty,” said Isobel, his agent. “See you at the hotel for breakfast.”

“Roger. Wilco,” said Rise.

He wiped sleep from his eyes and went to shower and dress. He was already packed. It wasn’t long before the crunch of tires arrived outside the cabin. A glance out the bathroom window showed it to be a Range Rover driven by Castor, Isobel’s favorite driver. Rise was grateful she hadn’t sent the stretch.

Castor knocked on the door and Rise came through the room, pulling his suitcase. The shorter, stockier man gave Rise a friendly nod and took the bag. Rise walked around the living room, doing one last visual check. The puzzle. Should he rebox?

He stood in front of the table. And stared.

Castor was saying something, but Rise didn’t hear him.

The puzzle was complete. All the pieces were locked in. None missing.

The paper towel next to the puzzle, which had a small rim of Malbec from Rise’s glass the night before on it, now also had a tiny heart, drawn by pen. Filled in with lipstick.

Castor came and stood next to him, looking at the puzzle and the paper towel. A knowing smile crossed his face. “Fun night?” he asked. “Come on, we’ve got to go, or Isobel will have our heads.”

Rise grabbed the paper towel and stuffed it into the pocket of his jeans.

It was only when he got into the car that he began to tremble.


Tranquility, New York, held a new spark of energy. I felt it as I walked the nearly-empty sidewalks at 11:30 p.m. on that clear September Tuesday evening. A brisk chill seasoned the air around old-fashioned streetlights whose bulbs flickered merrily as if the lamplighter had recently come by. The shops of Main Street also spoke of an earlier day. They were brick or clapboard, one story or two, although the Adirondack Adventure Hotel had dared climb to four floors, the village’s version of a skyscraper.

The Tranquility Film Festival was opening that weekend and I was looking forward to it. First, because I had friends whose documentary was certain to create a stir. Second, with the first festival screening on Thursday, actors, directors, publicists, and journalists were beginning to descend in their limos and fancy rental cars. Their imminent arrival excited the locals, even those who claimed disinterest, and the crowd at the pub I manage and bartend was buzzing with anticipation. Food, drinks, and high spirits flowed freely all evening.

MacTavish’s, the Scottish-style inn that housed that pub—formally named That Ship Has Sailed, but universally called the Battened Hatch—was on the south end of Main, while my cottage was nestled in a hidden glade called Mill Pond off the northern end. I’d decided to walk to work that afternoon, in the late-summer heat with the teasing hint of autumn leaves. Tonight, the mountains that rimmed town loomed as a backdrop, purple and protective. We’d closed the bar at 11. My barback, Marta, and I took some extra time swapping out the next day’s drink specials in the holders on each table. Marta then hurried off on her bike, and I headed home, savoring the pre-festival calm by strolling the walkways of my adopted home.

Most businesses, including restaurants, were closed, their nighttime illumination offering a soft glow over wares displayed in shop windows. There was one notable exception: the Orpheum Theater, where the festival was soon to begin. Outdoor lights shone and the marquee was aglow.

I paused to study the listing of films with the dates and times of their screenings. Salty Sally and Pepper: Truth Be Told, the documentary featuring as yet unknown stories about two screen idols of Hollywood’s Golden Age who’d lived in Tranquility, would show on Saturday afternoon, a prime slot.

Glancing inside the hall that led to the lobby, I saw posters for the festival’s other films lining the walls. It was kind of odd that the lobby doors were still open. Surely the night’s final screenings of regular movies were done by now? As I entered to study a poster for an independent feature, Kyle, the lanky teenager who ran concessions during the week and usually closed up, walked into the lobby. He saw me and waved. I waved back.

“Just perusing,” I said, signaling my willingness to leave.

He joined me in the outer hall. “You work around here, right?”

“Yes, I’m Avalon. Nash. I bartend at the Battened Hatch. In MacTavish’s.”

“Could you help me for a minute?” He looked nervous.

“What is it?”

“The last movie’s over. I need to close up. But some girl fell asleep in the theater.”

“You can’t wake her up?”

“I tried saying, ‘wake up,’ but it didn’t work.”

“If she slept through an action movie, I’m not surprised. Did you try shaking her shoulder?”

Kyle looked uncomfortable. “I don’t want to touch her or anything. We’ve had harassment training.”

“Okay.” How could I not help such a well-meaning kid?

The Orpheum was a grand movie palace back in the day. Now it was carved into three theaters, the largest of which was downstairs, in the footprint of the original. The once-commanding balcony was split in half to create two smaller screening spaces, but each remained large and raked with the original stairs going down each outside wall.

The sleeper was in theater three, upstairs. I trotted up the carpeted steps behind Kyle, who was obviously eager to get on with things.

All the theater lights were on, including the harsh work lights, which took away any golden veneer of the magic of storytelling. I headed down to where the young woman was seated, fifth row center, and walked across row four to be squarely in front of her.

The movie-goer was petite, perhaps in her mid-twenties, with the carefree good looks of youth, wearing a form-fitting white cashmere sweater that showed off her flawless tan skin, and jeggings. Her small popcorn was settled into the seat beside her. She hadn’t enjoyed much of it before dozing off.

“Excuse me,” I said. No reply.

“Miss?” I put my knee onto the folded seat bottom in front of me and leaned forward, reaching out and shaking the young woman’s leg. I shook harder. Her naturally curly brown hair jostled, but she didn’t move. “Hello?”

I glanced up at Kyle, who shrugged, see what I mean?

Willing myself not to think the worst, or even the second-worst, I walked back a row and across it. I put a hand firmly on the girl’s shoulder and shook her. “The movie’s over.”

She fell forward.

Her popcorn spilled over her seat and onto the floor.

That’s when I thought the worst.



Fresh whole orange (peeled and pulled apart, save peel)

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric 

2 oz honey (preferably local)

2 cups of water

1 1/2 oz Bourbon/Whiskey of your choice 


In medium saucepan add water, turmeric, one large piece of orange peel and honey.  Let simmer for about 10 minutes and stir occasionally.  In large mug add Bourbon or Whiskey and then add a ladle or two of hot toddy mixture.  

Relax, sip and enjoy going into dreamland.

Click here to download and keep reading! https://www.amazon.com/Death-Gravity-Sharon-Linnea-ebook/dp/B08NHNPRS7/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=death+by+gravity&qid=1606579922&sr=8-1

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Explore the Bartender’s Guide to Murder website for fun recipes!

Sharon Linnéa is the bestselling author of the Eden Thrillers (Chasing Eden, Beyond Eden, Treasure of Eden & Plagues of Eden) with co-author B.K. Sherer, following the adventures of Army chaplain Jaime Richards. She is also the author of the Movie Murder Mystery These Violent Delights, and the YA spy thriller Domino 29 (as Axel Avian). Sharon wrote the Carter Woodson Award-winning biography, Princess Ka’iulani: Hope of a Nation, Heart of a People, and Raoul Wallenberg: The Man Who Stopped Death. She began working on The Bartender’s Guide to Murder mysteries after a catastrophic house fire made her decide to do something a bit more fun for a while. She enjoys visiting book clubs virtually and in person. Sharon@SharonLinnea.com

Visit Her Author Website  SharonLinnea.com

In medium saucepan add water, turmeric, one large piece of orange peel and honey.  Let simmer for about 10 minutes and stir occasionally.  In large mug add Bourbon or Whiskey and then add a ladle or two of hot toddy mixture.  

Relax, sip and enjoy going into dreamland.