Uh-oh, I just spotted Detective Palmer. He’s down at the end of the row, talking to someone at the organic fudge booth. Today marks the beginning of the first ever Blossom Valley Green Living Festival, and I’d like to think he’s here to handle crowd control, but there’s never much of a crowd in a town this size, and he’s not a patrol officer. He’s a homicide detective.
I’m trying not to stare, but I’d swear he’s wearing the same grim expression he used when he questioned me about some murders I got involved in a while back. Not that it was my fault, as I’ve told the detective — more than once — but he never seems to believe me. And now he’s here at the festival.
As the sole marketing person for the O’Connell Organic Farm and Spa, I suggested the green living festival to the Blossom Valley Rejuvenation Committee as a way to generate business for the town. They jumped at the idea, certain it would prove more popular than the cricket chirping contest they’d roped me into helping with a few months ago. Before I knew it, we’d lined up a man who creates mushroom-dyed sweaters, a woman who makes all-natural skin care products, and even a guy selling his dog’s, um, let’s just say, “fertilizer.” Don’t ask me how that one slipped through the selection process. I think I’ll sneak a peek down the street again while I straighten these photos of the organic vegetable garden, guest cabins, and new spa enclosure we have out at the O’Connell Farm.
I shouldn’t have looked. Detective Palmer is getting closer. I can feel my palms starting to sweat. He’s talking to the mushroom-dying guy and writing something in his notebook. Has someone shoplifted a scarf? Started a protest that beets make better dyes than mushrooms? Or has something more serious happened? We really don’t need any more tragedy connected to the farm.
Last year, my boss, Esther O’Connell, plowed her life savings into opening the bed-and-breakfast, and business has been shaky from the get-go, especially after a guest was killed opening weekend at the farm. We’ve been working to save our reputation ever since, which is why I’m standing here in the booth, trying to convince festival attendees to book a stay at the farm, or at least sign up for a free massage to demonstrate our new spa services. No one has made a reservation yet, but I’ve passed out most of the travel mugs I ordered for the event. I’d like to think it’s because everyone is interested in learning more about Esther’s place, but I suspect people just like free cups. As long as they remember my booth and tell their friends, I’ll pass out all the free cups in the world.
But for now, I think I’d better forget about the cups. Detective Palmer is only one booth away. It won’t be long before he reaches me. I’ll hand one of these pens with the oinking pig on top to this woman walking past. Maybe that’ll distract me. She frowns like I might try to sell her something and scurries away. A man takes her place, and I convince him to take a brochure along with a pen. The picture of Wilbur the pig on the front might make him decide to visit.
He wanders off, nodding, and I look up to see Detective Palmer heading straight for me. And he’s not smiling. I should have run when I had the chance. Maybe if he threatens to arrest me, I can bribe him with a travel mug. Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.
You can read more about Dana in Green Living Can Be Deadly, the third book in the “Blossom Valley” mystery series, published by Kensington. The first book in the series is Going Organic Can Kill You. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.
GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by noon EST on February 18, and you will be entered for a chance to win a copy of Green Living Can Be Deadly. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.
Meet the author
In my former life, I was a technical writer at computer software companies. Now, I’ve traded in my cubicle and coworkers for diapers and carpool duty. You can find me online at www.stacimclaughlin.com and at the LadyKillers blog, where a group of fellow mystery and crime writers post their thoughts on writing, reading, and life in general at www.theladykillers.typepad.com. I currently live with my husband, two kids, and various pets in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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