Executive LunchEver since Steve Huntington hired me to work undercover, my life has been chaos. The assignment was supposed to be simple: Just act rich and in need of illegal side deals to keep my wealthy lifestyle. It wasn’t my fault the wrong people were attracted to the deals!

Even though I helped catch a few executives emptying the cookie jar, Huntington hasn’t gone away. His latest project was supposed to be fun: “Just attend a garden party and obtain a copy of the guest list.”

I envisioned spring flowers in bloom, Buckingham Palace tea and elegant cakes. What I got was shoveling composted turkey manure for one of the elderly members of Dave’s Gardening Club. The head volunteer, Dave of Dave’s Garden, diligently wrote down names as we arrived. There was no hope of getting my hands on that paper unless I added pickpocket to my list of charms. He had stashed it in his front breast pocket, where it mocked me by hanging half out.

I shoveled turkey poop from the trailer into a wheelbarrow. Peter, a guy twice my age with a nicely trimmed beard, wheeled it to Dave. Dave and Alice spread the dirt in the raised garden bed. Several other ladies sat on the porch with Beatrice, the owner of the not-quite-garden. The ladies were enthusiastically helping Bea choose plants from Dave’s Garden catalog. Bea was not serving tea, but everyone was eating the chocolate chip cookies I had baked before I realized this was not an hors d’oeuvre type party.

As I waited for the wheelbarrow to return for a refill, a newcomer showed up. Eagerly, I hopped out of the trailer. I’d get his name and offer to add it to Dave’s list since he was busy shoveling.

The newcomer strode right past me and addressed the porch. “Beatrice?” He held a clipboard in one hand. His long, stringy hair didn’t hide the tattoos running up and down both arms.

Odd looking gardener. I was the youngest member by twenty years at twenty-seven. This guy looked early twenties, and was dressed like a rogue teen.

“I can add his name to the list,” I said to Dave, my hand outstretched.

“I’m here to fix the computer. It sent out a distress call,” Tattoo guy said.

His words set off dire warning signals. Not only was I a confirmed geek who worked at a computer company, I was well aware of scam artists who bilked little old ladies with fast-talking techno-babble. Computers didn’t send out distress signals. Once inside, no doubt he intended to rob her blind.

My plan to help Huntington obtain his list would have to wait.

“What’s the latest iPhone release?” I demanded.

“Hah?”

A true geek would not only know the answer, he would rattle off a comparison between it and the closest competitors.

“What kind of computer sent this call? Laptop? Tablet?”

The guy blinked behind his taped-together glasses. True geeks did not dress like rejects from Austin Powers.

“I can, uh, come back later.” He glanced nervously at the ladies on the porch. Two of them had caught on that he might not be legit. Both picked up garden trowels.

Dave stabbed his shovel in the dirt pile. “Mebbe you ought to show us your ID. Bea, you sign up with any computer services?”

Beatrice frowned, adding wrinkles she didn’t need. “I have an e-reader. Did it call?”

One of the ladies raised her hand trowel like a cavalry leader giving the order to charge. “He’s a fake!”

Tattoo guy threw the clipboard at Dave. I lunged, missing the tattoos, but snagging a handful of hair instead.

He yelped and took a swing at me.

One of ladies flew down the steps, but Dave, dodging the clipboard, stumbled into her. The lady behind the first crashed into them.

Tattoo guy shoved me into Dave.

I would have released his hair, but I needed something to cling to in order to stay upright. His hair wasn’t strong enough. We toppled like dominoes.

The ladies dove on the pile like crazed football players, swinging garden tools and purses.

“Hey, don’t throw the cookies!” I yelled.

In a mad scramble to avoid injury, I twisted around. An enticing white beacon flashed before my eyes. Carefully, oh so carefully, I slipped the list from Dave’s pocket as I rolled away from the group.

I stuffed it deep into my pocket.

Tattoo man didn’t have a chance. The ladies buried him under a pile of manure and called the cops. I was filthy from head to toe. But I had the list. Case closed. Well, Huntington had never said what he needed the list for, but it probably didn’t involve me. Right?


You can read more about Sedona in Executive Lunch, the first book in the “Sedona O’Hala” mystery series, published by Bear Mountain Books. The other books in the series are: Executive Retention and Executive Sick Days. Executive Dirt is due out in 2015.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on January 7 for the chance to win a digital copy of EXECUTIVE LUNCH. The giveaway is open to everyone.

Meet the author
Maria Schneider is the author of the humorous Sedona O’Hala mystery series. She loves to garden and cook, but she cannot sew. She sometimes wonders if her cats are part dragon, and she often consults with them on plot points because, dragon or not, they have mystical powers. Visit her blog at: www.BearMountainBooks.com or her Amazon author page.

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