Cover Reveal and 'Scones'!
Yes, the fifth book in the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series is on its way!
You'll find a picture of the cover below this story with a reminder that you're all invited to the book launch/signing at Blue Heron Books.
I wrote the following story for the most recent Uxbridge Writers' Circle Meeting.
The words I had to use are in italics.
I hope you enjoy it!
Phil had often talked about his desire to travel around the world. But I hadn’t paid much attention. I was a stay-at-home type and couldn’t claim to be adventurous or gregarious, although I was a member of the book club Phil belonged to. He didn’t read the book unless it was related to travel—gardens in particular. I was guilty, along with the rest of the group, for turning down all his reading suggestions. We only read fiction—nearly all thrillers or mysteries.
He remained a member because he lived with his brother, Devlin, who had set up the book club. Phil would start off the meeting with his latest discoveries about shrubs, fountains, stones, or other, often exotic, garden features.
That evening, I was washing my buttery hands with liquid lavender soap as the book club members sat in their usual seats in the living room and helped themselves to wine. I’d made raisin scones and decided, at the last minute, that they needed to be cut in half and buttered. I wished I’d taken the time and trouble to find Devon clotted cream and strawberry jam, but it was a miracle I’d actually baked something, so they’d just have to lump it.
I heard a schmozzle of mumbles and exclamations which grew louder as I opened the kitchen door. I placed the blue and white platter—bearing the neatly arranged buttered scones—on the coffee table. Phil’s seat was empty, and all eyes were on Devlin who was laughing. No one else shared his mirth.
“You know he had this wanderlust thing going on,” Devlin said. He leant back with his hands behind his head. A broad grin revealed crooked, stained teeth.
“Where’s he gone?” I asked.
Kia had a deep frown. She was a recent addition and contributed little to the book club discussions. She’d gulp down at least two glasses of white wine in short order, but that evening she hadn’t even poured herself any.
“How should I know? He’s traveling around the world. He could be in any of the fancy gardens he raves about. Come off it. Why are you guys surprised?”
We all stared at him. It’s as if we were wax models in Madame Tussauds Museum. I was still bending over the coffee table with my fingers touching the platter.
“He didn’t say goodbye,” Mark said, breaking the tense silence that had kept us motionless.
“And you, his brother, don’t know where he’s gone?” I asked.
“He’s his own person. Who cares?”
“I care. I think Phil would have told us where he was going and be posting on social media so we could follow his adventure.”
“Oh, he’s probably too busy traveling and he’s not much of a fan of social media.”
“I don’t buy it. I follow him on Instagram and that’s where he posts things he’s discovered.”
“We should find out where he is,” Mark said.
“Let’s spend our book club time trying to track him down on social media sites.”
“That’s a waste of time,” Kia mumbled, as if to herself. She got up to leave. Devlin heaved his bulky body out of the armchair and followed her out of the house.
“Did you notice that long scratch on the side of Kia’s face?” I asked. “It’s nasty. It’ll leave a scar.”
All six of us agreed something wasn’t right. It was as if we’d been thrown into one of the novels we liked to discuss. But the reality of the situation was unnerving. The most unsettling element was that Devlin had brushed it off, claiming there wasn’t anything amiss, laughing at our concern.
“Do you think Dev and Phil would play a prank on us?” Mark asked. “That this is all a joke to make us feel as if we’re in a thriller?”
“No,” Mo said. “Phil is too nice to do something like that. Devlin, I’m not so sure about. He seemed oddly amused.”
Almost simultaneously, we reached for our mobiles. After an hour of fruitless effort, and the scones still untouched, I told the group I was going to report Phil as a missing person. Mike and Mo agreed but said they had concerns for my safety. So, I wasn’t the only one wondering if Devlin had a role to play in Phil’s disappearance. But what could the motive possibly have been?
The talk with the police wasn’t straightforward but I hoped they took it seriously.
That night I couldn’t sleep so, instead of tossing and turning and bashing my pillow in exasperation, I had a shower at three in the morning and started digging up all I could find out about Devlin. There wasn’t much. His landscape business seemed healthy. Phil was the landscape architect. He got ideas from gardens around the world that he visited online and was skilled at introducing surprises into his designs that worked. Devlin was the businessman and manager. Phil was the artist. Neither had married, but I found a pic of Devlin and Kia standing in front of the business—not surprising given Kia worked for Devlin—but they were in an embrace. Kia had been quiet when we were gathered in my house as if she knew something but wasn’t going to share. She went to the washroom twice in the short time she was here, which made me think she could be anxious.
As soon as I’d had my smoothie, I texted Kia to ask if we could meet for a latte on the patio by the park. As I expected, she eagerly agreed and said she could make it in fifteen.
“Mel, I’m so glad you texted me.” She sat down with a thud on a hard metal chair. The rickety table was cool and damp, but she laid her hands on its metal surface.
“Thanks for coming. I’ve ordered two lattes,” I said.
“I’ve wanted to talk to someone.”
“Is it about Phil?”
“I think something awful must have happened, but I don’t want to alarm Dev until I know for sure.”
“What do you mean?”
The lattes were plonked down by a hand that held both mug handles. The milky liquid spilled.
“Dev’s out at a house and garden show. Will you come with me?”
“To the show?”
“No, the business on Gareth Road. I can explain when we get there.”
We each took a hasty couple of gulps of the coffee and left.
Kia trotted over to me as I got out of my car in front of the office building. It was set behind four small demonstration gardens which would have normally had a calming effect on me, but not on that day.
“I have to go into the office for a minute. I’ll meet you behind the building by the new concrete planters.”
The three enormous, ugly, concrete planters couldn’t be missed. They were not the type Phil would have chosen. They were filled with fresh potting soil.
The police showed up as I was standing there. Kia stepped out of the office. “You’re going to be arrested for killing poor Phil,” she said.
Kia had led me straight to the body because she’d read that some murderers revisit the scene of the crime, and she needed me to be found there. She phoned the police when she arrived at the office and emerged to watch the grand finale of her plan.
But Kia had got it wrong. I’d alerted the police of my suspicions—that they might find Phil’s remains on that property and that Kia and Devlin could be responsible for his disappearance.
The cops walked past me and grabbed hold of Kia, rather roughly I thought.
Phil’s body parts were retrieved from the ugly planters. I’m not sure I’d have thought of the planters if Kia hadn’t led me to them. But that’s how the murderer disposed of a body in at least one thriller the book club had read.
I had been wrong about Devlin’s involvement.
Devlin wouldn’t leave Phil. They had a strong brotherly bond and even though Devlin had an attachment to Kia, it hadn’t been enough for him to live apart from his brother and he didn’t want her living with them. So, Kia had seen Phil as standing between her and the man she wanted. She had been infatuated with Devlin and wanted to settle down and have children. She’d just turned forty.
She poisoned Phil with a herb she’d read about in one of the books we’d discussed in the book club. Blood was found on the floor of one of the greenhouses furthest from the office. I didn’t want to know how she chopped him up. But that’s what she did.
Devlin sold the business and left the country.
Kia is serving a long sentence.
Our book club died along with Phil.
And the scones were chucked into the compost. I still don’t have the will to bake again.
Vicky Earle Copyright 2023
This is the cover of the 5th book in the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series!
Of course, it features Kelly (or a border collie that looks like her - she doesn't like her photo taken). She's an important character in the novel, as always.
Just a friendly reminder that you're all invited to the book launch and signing at Blue Heron Books, Uxbridge, Ontario, on Saturday, June 17 between 1 pm and 3 pm.
Everyone's invited, so please let your family and friends know!
Thank you for your support and encouragement. Without you, the readers, I wouldn't have the motivation to write, and Kelly wouldn't have so much fun.