“Maria Dolores! Maria Dolores!” My young assistant, Cary Baines, burst through the flaps of the first aid tent to announce, “I found you, Maria Dolores!”
His enthusiasm was so infectious, I had to smile, even as I wished he wasn’t quite so good at finding me. Of course, his ability to track me down had probably saved my life over Labor Day Weekend when I’d confronted a killer. Besides, it wasn’t as if I were in a truly private space at the moment. I was seated in the back of the first aid tent at the folding table that served as the on-site office for the farmers’ market manager.
“The mayor wants to talk to you,” Cary said, before racing back out of the tent.
Mayor Edward Kallakala came through the tent flaps a moment later. “I wish I had half the energy that young man does.”
“Don’t we all?” I picked up my sling bag filled with emergency supplies—from duct tape and coin rolls to chocolate—and hugged it as if there were something in there for responding to an impromptu job performance review. We hadn’t spoken in the two weeks since Labor Day, and I’d been hoping to have some warning before I had to explain why there’d been another murder during my tenure as the market manager.
The mayor settled into a folding chair with as much grace as it were an ergonomic office chair on level ground. “You know that I supported creating the farmers’ market and I supported the decision to hire you as the manager.”
“I appreciate that.” Unfortunately, I could hear a but coming.
“And you know that I’ll be blamed if the market fails.”
I nodded. “But that won’t happen. People are forming strong bonds with the vendors. One woman told me her kids threatened a hunger strike if they couldn’t have fresh tomatoes from Tommy Fordham’s farm.”
The mayor waved his hand dismissively. “I’m not worried about the vendors. They’re amazing.”
Most of them were, at least. There was always a rotten apple or, in the market’s case, a rotten potato farmer, in every barrel. “So what are you concerned about?”
I held my breath, waiting for him to mention the various disasters that had occurred this summer. He couldn’t blame me for the earthquake, but everything else was fair game. Dark secrets, greed and resentment had all combined to result in people dying, and I hadn’t been able to prevent any of it.
“Two things,” he said. “First, a number of people have mentioned their disappointment that there’s no honey vendor at the market.”
“I’m working on it.” I tried to project confidence, but the mayor had hit on a sore spot. I’d been told by my least favorite vendor that my inability to sign a beekeeper to the market was proof that I didn’t deserve the job. “I’ve got some leads, but the local beekeepers are struggling to keep up with demand and don’t need additional distribution points.”
“I’m sure you’ll find someone by the end of the season.”
It was more an order than a vote of confidence, and it made me nervous that his second topic of discussion would be even more challenging. “And your other concern?”
“I wouldn’t ask if I weren’t desperate,” he said. “And I’d appreciate your discretion. It wouldn’t look good if this got out.”
“As long as you’re not asking me to do anything illegal.” My friend Merle was a lawyer. The good kind, not a shyster.
“It’s nothing that Merle would advise you against.” The mayor glanced over his shoulder as if expecting Cove Chronicles reporter Duncan Pickles to jump out from behind the first aid supplies. Satisfied that no one was listening, he nevertheless leaned forward to speak barely above a whisper. “It’s my sister-in-law. She thinks she’s a really good baker, but she’s the sort who mistakenly uses salt instead of sugar. I do love home-made sweets, but I can’t eat hers, and I can’t be seen buying anything at the baked goods stall here. Could you possibly get me a fruit pie?”
“I can do that.” Relieved, I let my sling bag slide back to the ground.
I’d get the mayor a dozen pies if that was what it took to keep my job as the market manager for the next few weeks. After that, my career would depend on my keeping the final event of the season on Halloween weekend from turning into the Day of the Dead. I might need an extra sling bag or two for all my preparations.
You can read more about Maria Dolores in A Death in the Flower Garden, the first in the Danger Cove Farmers’ Market Mysteries, available now, and the second in the series, A Slaying in the Orchard, also available now, as well as in A Secret in the Pumpkin Patch (October 3).
Labor Day weekend starts with a bang in Danger Cove when a dead body is found in the orchard of Maria Dolores’ mentor and maybe-boyfriend, Merle! While it’s clear the murder took place long ago, the police are still keeping Merle tied up, leaving Maria on her own to run the local farmers’ market. She’s prepared for the petty squabbles, disorganized vendors, and even a rowdy group of costumed pirates—it comes with the territory. But what she isn’t prepared for is the fresh body found in an isolated corner of the market!
Maria would like to leave the investigation to the local homicide detective, but he’s stretched thin with two separate murders, and her nemesis—the farmer who lost out to her for the manager’s job—is demanding quick answers or else. With a nearly endless array of suspects, since the victim had upset just about everyone at the market, Maria has her work cut out for her! Can she prevent another murder in the market… or will she end up the next victim?
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Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win your choice of either a digital copy of A Slaying in the Orchard or a digital ARC of A Secret in the Pumpkin Patch. The giveaway ends September 23, 2017. Good luck, everyone!
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About the author
Gin Jones overcame a deeply ingrained habit of thinking and writing like a lawyer in order to write fiction. In her spare time, Gin makes quilts, grows garlic and serves on the board of directors for The XLH Network, Inc. Connect with Gin at ginjones.com.
All comments are welcomed.