bartender sleuth, bartenders guide to murder, Female protagonist, Mystery, Olympics, recipes included, sharon linnea
Seven-year-old Davy Edison awoke alone in the dark. He had a moment of frightened confusion before he was able to orient himself. He was in a tent that he and his older sister, Misty, had concocted out of sheets and chairs downstairs in the television room.
Davy loved it when their parents went out and Misty babysat. They always thought of fun trouble to get into—like building a fort out of blankets, eating barbecue wings, and watching shows of which their parents didn’t approve.
However, the television was now off and the sleeping bag next to
him was empty. Misty must have gone up to bed. Davy briefly considered going back to sleep, but he had to pee, and his real bed was more comfortable, anyway. He used the downstairs bathroom and walked through silent halls to the staircase in the bedroom wing. To his right at the first landing, the door to the staircase that led to his parents’ floor was closed, which meant they’d come home.
He padded down the long hall toward his room. When he passed Misty’s room, he was surprised to find the door slightly ajar. He pushed against it silently and opened it a few inches to see if she was still awake.
Her bed hadn’t been slept in. One of the French doors to her balcony was open.
“Mist?” he whispered, as he stepped into the room.
The sheer curtain by the outside deck fluttered, and he stopped. He could see shapes outside. More than one. This threw him enough that he didn’t hear the person who stepped up behind him until the man grabbed him firmly with one hand and planted his other hand over Davy’s mouth. Davy heard him kick the hall door closed behind them.
“What the hell are you doing here?” asked an angry whisper.
Davy did the first thing he thought of: he chomped down on the
top of the hand over his mouth.
“Where’s my sister?” he hissed.
“You are in so much trouble, you little freak. You’ve got two choices. You shut up, now, right now, and you stay silent, silent, till morning, or your sister and your parents all die. We have your sister already. I can shoot your parents before they even wake up!”
Davy was thinking fast. He’d heard about kids who were kidnapped and their siblings keeping quiet way too long because they were scared. That wasn’t him. He had to pretend to go along. He nodded his head. When the man took his hand away a few millimeters, he said, “Okay. Okay! I’ll be quiet. Just don’t hurt her! Put me down. Let me go to my room!”
“Fat chance, idiot kid,” said the voice. It sounded rusty, like it had to bounce over lots of nails to get from the voice box to the air.
“Put me down,” he said, with a bravado he didn’t feel.
The man put him down, but awkwardly, so he landed on the dude’s shoe and lost his balance. The kidnapper was suddenly furious. His other hand grabbed something, and suddenly there was steel against the boy’s throat.
“No!” Davy cried.
“First you, then her,” came the raspy reply.
And everything went black.
Davy woke up in Misty’s bed while it was still dark outside. Her balcony door was closed. She was gone. He knew he had to sound the alarm as soon as possible, no matter what the kidnapper had threatened, but his arms were bound behind him and he had duct tape over his mouth. It hurt to have his arms pulled back that way. His shoulders were burning, but there was nothing he could do. The tape over his mouth was sticky, and it smelled like oil. He couldn’t move his lips or open his mouth or swallow his saliva properly.
Worst was that he couldn’t get anyone’s attention. He couldn’t save Misty.
Warm tears traced his cheeks and moistened Misty’s pillow.
By morning, when his parents finally found him, she was long gone.
CHAPTER 1 TORTURING THE NEWBIES
It was the first Saturday night in June. Tranquility, New York, is far enough north that the warm evening breezes over the lake still felt new and intoxicating. Why folks needed further intoxication I do not know, but the Battened Hatch was hopping. Everyone was in high spirits.
Shortly after 8 p.m., Brent Davis and his wife, Susan, took seats at the beautifully carved wooden bar. “Hey, Avalon,” Brent said. He was of British heritage and wore a long-sleeved button-down shirt, sleeves rolled up, the quintessential newspaper editor. His beard was trimmed and comfortably
salt-and-pepper, his glasses wire-rimmed. “Throw me a Stella and a white wine for the wife.”
I smiled at Susan. “Chardonnay?” I asked.
“Perfect.” She nodded.
“When did you get back from LA?” I queried Brent as I poured. “How’s the film shaping up?”
“Got home a few hours ago,” he responded, a spark behind his eyes. He was producing a documentary on the town’s golden-era movie stars, Pepper Porter and Sally Allison, which had some unexpected new plot twists, due to a recent murder investigation. It now looked to be a humdinger, as Pepper might have said. “It’ll be a challenge to finish it in time for the Tranquility Film Festival in August.”
“Can’t wait to see it!” I responded truthfully. Sally Allison was one of my favorite movie stars of all time. Not to mention, my current landlord.
“Thanks for your help,” Brent added, lifting his glass.
“Hope there are no upcoming giant news stories to split your attention.”
Brent was also the editor-in-chief of the local newspaper.
“It’s Tranquility. I think we’re safe,” he said.
The ding of new drink orders came to the bar from the POS on the restaurant floor. I exchanged an eyeroll with Marta, my teal-haired bartender-in-waiting, as the paper continued to scroll. Our new waiter, Davros, shrugged at us from the mid-floor machine.
Olympic medalist Brian Eddings was holding court tonight, and the liquor was flowing. Brian wasn’t the only Olympian who frequented the Battened Hatch. Gillian Petrakov, a former bronze medalist in figure skating, sat at the bar even now, her blonde hair in a bun, fitted pink sweater set embracing her still-taut figure, next to her partner, Callie (non-skater, brown hair, ran a nonprofit).
“Brian is torturing the Newbies again.” Gillian smiled.
Tranquility is one of two places in the United States where athletes can train for winter sports year-round. Brian lived locally. I met him when he turned up here at the Scottish tavern shortly after I came to town. You knew when he was in the room—as did everyone in town, apparently—and they started arriving in groups to join his instant party.
“The Newbies?” I asked.
“Bobsledding is a unique sport,” Gillian said. “Take figure skating—you have to train for decades. But bobsledders—all you have to be is strong, fast, and able to jump. Every year, Olympic scouts head for colleges to entice track stars and even shot-putters to come and try out for Olympic bobsled team.”
“Really?” I asked, wiping down the bar. “Does it ever work out?”
“Yep, there have been times when a college kid shows up in June and has competed in the next Winter Olympics!”
As she said that, a tall man walked into the bar from the door to MacTavish’s Seaside Cottage, the hotel that housed us. It was a sprawling, hundred-year-old establishment that was not seaside (though lakeside) and had no cottages. There was, however, a MacTavish.
The newcomer was European-American, maybe six feet, short brown hair, trim, and wearing a gray polo tucked into gray slacks. His eyes scanned the place and he smiled, as if entertaining memories from his past. I turned, ready to ask if he wanted to be seated, when he saw the group at the back of the room. His smile vanished. He turned on his heel and walked out.
Alrighty, then. I turned my attention back to Gillian. “So how does Brian torture them?”
“He’s not their coach, obviously. He competed in luge. But he can’t resist so many freaked-out, naïve athletes. They’ve been living like monks in Olympic housing for the past three weeks. As soon as they’re allowed out, he brings them here and buys them beer. They—and their coaches—won’t be happy tomorrow morning.”
“So why do they keep letting him do it?”
“Good question.” Gillian sipped her drink. “The truth is monks don’t make very good bobsledders, but the coaches can’t be seen to be condoning this behavior. But—whew—the kids gotta get this energy out somehow! Brian’s like a father figure… but father figures aren’t always the best influences!”
“Tell me about it.”
A huge whoop went up. I looked up—to find the previously full tables suddenly emptied of athletes and their adult beverages.
“What the… ?”
The door to the smoker’s porch was open. Another group cry went up, followed by a loud splash.
Marta followed me to the open door. And there, on the smoker’s porch, Brian Eddings had built himself a luge. He’d put two square tables together with another four-top on it. He’d added a sturdy wooden chair with arms on top of that table. He’d appropriated all my tablecloth clips to attach a long tablecloth to the wooden chair, again to the lower table, and then to the front of the lower level to jerry-rig a mini-luge run. Seriously.
One prospective Olympian stood on the top table, holding the chair solid while two others held the cloth taut lower down. Two young men had already careened down and off into the lake. Another was climbing the rickety contraption even now, holding a bussing tray to ride on his journey.
“Baron McNulty for the win!” crowed the young man, throwing
himself onto the slanted tablecloth, sliding off the porch and into
“Dear God, Brian, what are you doing?” I asked. “MacTavish’s insurance does not cover reckless porch slides!”
“Aw, lassie,” he said, in an affected voice purposely reminiscent of Glenn, the owner of MacTavish’s.
The next young man at the top of the climb pushed off, and hurled down into the lake.
“Back inside! Everyone!” I instructed. “Free buffalo wings. On the house.”
That did it. A different kind of whoop and the portion of young men who had little interest in killing themselves jumping off metal chairs headed back in.
Marta and I dismantled the furniture sculpture and stood for a moment. I have no doubt she was joining me to silently pay respects to my predecessor who had died on this very porch.
The rest of the night slid past quickly, as busy pub nights do. At midnight, a minibus pulled up to return Olympic hopefuls to their apartments at the training facility. Shortly thereafter, a trio of young women left, helping their friend walk between them. They’d each had one drink, and I wondered if their affected friend had an intolerance or allergy. Or if she’d simply downed all three drinks herself.
Brian Eddings stayed to help Manuela, the bus-person, clear, as his group’s tables were in shambles. Brian’s face and chin were square, with an indent in the bulb of his nose, as if someone has pressed a fingerprint to it. His hair was blond and close-cropped, although Olympic photos of him showed it longer and unruly. His eyes were alert, brimming with intelligence and mischief. Living in Tranquility, you hear pretty quickly that life after being an Olympian—medalist or not—is rough going for many athletes. I appreciated that Brian was willing to be a bit wild but truly thoughtful at the same time.
I closed out the POS and came back as Manuela and Brian finished separating the now-cleaned tables.
“Thanks, Manuela,” I said.
“Good night,” she replied and headed out.
“Sorry if we made more work,” said Brian, eyes flashing. “But it’s a rip.”
He was so pleased as he said it, I couldn’t help but laugh. At least no one had broken their neck on his jerry-rigged luge. As we worked together, I noticed that he wasn’t inebriated in the least. He said he didn’t drink, and he stuck to it.
“Good night,” he said. As he passed, he crushed a bill into my hand. “For the extra trouble,” he said. “And the wings.”
I’d comped the wings, figuring they’d be cheaper for MacTavish’s than the bad publicity of a future Olympian breaking his neck luging off the smoker’s porch.
“Night,” I replied, following, turning out the lights. As I locked the door behind him, I glanced at the tip. It was a one-hundred-dollar bill.
That was, allegedly, the last time anyone saw Brian Eddings alive.
TORTURING THE NEWBIES
Add 2 ounces of sour mix to a glass with ice.
Top with seltzer.
Add lime for garnish.
Sip all night and be proud of yourself in the morning.
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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
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