Swans Nest Inn is about to open, and Kathy Grant solicits
her BFF, Tori Cannon, to help spruce up her property at the
marshy end of Lotus Bay, only they didn’t count on finding
body. Who was he? What’s his connection to their friend
Darcy? Meanwhile, two entrepreneurs with vast business ties
are interested in helping Tori reopen the Lotus Lodge, and
their real motives are as murky as the bay after a storm.
Will Swans Nest open on time? Will the Lotus Lodge reopen
Kathy knew the drill. After all, she’d been interrogated by
the Sheriff’s Department on more than one occasion
following the terrible events of the previous summer. The
bad guys hadn’t yet gone to trial, so there was still that
horror to come.
What she minded most was the suspicion law enforcement
leveled at one when it came to reporting a dead body.
“Detective Osborn,” she said, unable to keep the testiness
from her voice, “The guy in the water has obviously been in
soak for quite a while, so it’s not like we killed him.”
Osborn had been the detective in charge of the Michael
Jackson homicide the year before. He’d been a sour SOB then
and his personality had not undergone any improvement,
although he seemed to have lost the beer belly and gotten a
decent haircut. Maybe he had an upcoming court appearance
and wanted to look good. Kathy couldn’t imagine any woman
actually being attracted to the man. But then he was
middle-aged, and she still had more than a decade to go to
get to that point in life.
“So you say.”
“Are you crazy?” Anissa Jackson asked, giving the detective
the fisheye. “There’s a reason black folk like me don’t
like to talk to white cops like you—” she began even more
testily than Kathy.
Kathy waved her hands in the air as though to erase
Anissa’s words. “Let’s not go there,” she placated. “It was
Tori and I who found the jacket in the water—with the guy
still in it.”
A still-shivering Tori stood nearby. Despite the fact she’d
changed clothes and donned warm shoes, hat, scarf, and
boots, she complained that she couldn’t seem to get warm.
What she needed was to be inside with a lap robe, a cat,
and a big mug of cocoa. “We figured he must have fallen
overboard while hunting or fishing last fall. Or maybe
crashed through the ice on his snowmobile.”
“A very good theory,” Osborn said, “except for one thing.
Nobody around here has been reported as missing.”
“Well, then I’m stumped,” Kathy said wrapping her arms
around herself in an effort to keep warm. She was ready for
cocoa and a lap robe, too. “Is it really necessary that we
stand around in the cold while you guys do whatever it is
Osborn frowned. “I suppose not. But I’m not done
“Fine. We’ll go back into my house and when you’re ready,
we’ll be available to talk.”
“Very well.” He turned, heading back toward the medical
examiner’s team that had arrived from Rochester and was
about to pull the body from the water. It wasn’t something
Kathy wanted to witness.
“Come on, ladies. Let’s go back inside.”
“You don’t have to convince me,” Tori said.
The three women trudged back up the small rise to the large
house, past the big sign that had been erected just the
week before. The name, Swans Nest, Kathy’s about-to-open
bed and breakfast, was raised from the chiseled background
of the pressure-treated wood and filled in with gold leaf.
The image of a mama swan sitting on a nest was situated
above it, and a temporary vinyl banner attached to it
promised OPENING SOON.
They climbed the steps to the newly replaced front porch,
and Kathy opened the heavy oak front door that had been
restored to its former glory. Anissa was responsible for a
lot of the repairs and refurbishments, but Kathy had
invested months of sweat equity as well.
Upon entering the house, Anissa closed the door and she and
Tori followed their hostess into the kitchen, where Kathy
immediately put the electric kettle on, taking out cups,
spoons, and cocoa powder.
“You’re going to make hot chocolate with water?” Anissa
“I made it that way all winter and you never complained.”
“That’s because—” But she didn’t seem to have an answer.
“Then why’s it so chocolatey?”
“Because I add chocolate chips.”
“Are you gonna make it that way for your guests?”
“Probably not. The idea is for them to come here to be
pampered. The three of us merely need to warm up.”
“I’m all for that,” Tori announced and took a seat at the
marble-topped island. She seemed to shudder once again and
blew onto her still-gloved hands to warm them.
Anissa joined her childhood friend at the island. “Got any
“Have I ever not?” Kathy asked, pointedly.
Anissa shot Tori a smug look. She was the ultimate cookie
Kathy scooped half a dozen sunflower seed cookies from the
big glass jar on the back counter, placed them on a plate,
and set it in front of her friends. Neither wasted time
grabbing one—although Tori did at least remove one of her
Anissa took a bite, chewed, smiled in approval, then
swallowed. “Damn, they’re good. Another new recipe?”
Kathy nodded, pleased at her friend’s reaction. “I need to
have an array of options to offer my brides.”
Kathy was gambling that she would be able to throw bridal
showers, and possibly host weddings and receptions, at
Swans Nest. She’d been gathering recipes and testing them
on Anissa and Tori all winter. Catering would be a big part
of her business…she hoped.
“So what do you think the story is with that dead guy?”
“Seems weird that a body washes up when nobody’s been
reported missing,” Anissa commented before taking another
bite of cookie.
“Who do you think he could be?” Kathy asked.
“He could’ve come from Canada,” Tori offered, watching as
Kathy spooned cocoa mix into the mugs. “I mean, he was
wearing a plaid coat.”
“You think only Canadians wear plaid jackets?” Anissa
Tori shrugged. “So do the Scots.”
Anissa frowned. “That’s an awfully long way to float.”
“Yeah, around fifty miles,” Tori said. “But think of how
those waves crash up at the Point.”
“Point nothing—your breakwall,” Kathy said.
Tori nodded. “With a wind from the north, anything’s
“I’m sure the detective will put out a call. I mean, just
because nobody has disappeared on Lotus Bay doesn’t mean
the dead guy wasn’t a missing person. There’s a reason
Ontario’s called a Great Lake.”
“Luckily we’re not going to have to worry about this guy,”
Anissa said and reached for another cookie.
“Oh, no? What if they want us to look at his face? Besides
the normal putrefaction of flesh, you don’t know what else
could have been nibbling on him all these months.”
“You mean like fish and turtles and stuff?” Kathy asked.
Again Tori nodded.
“I certainly don’t want to look at a putrefied dead guy,”
Anissa announced, glanced at her cookie, and decided to put
“Osborn can’t make us do that, can he?” Kathy asked,
Tori shrugged. “Maybe.”
The kettle began to boil and Kathy poured the hot water
into the mugs, stirring each of them before adding a
heaping tablespoon of chocolate chips to each mug, again
stirring until they’d melted and thickened the liquid. She
passed the mugs around.
Anissa blew on her cocoa to cool it. “How long do you think
it will be before Osborn knocks on your door?”
As if on cue, the bell rang.
“Not long?” Tori suggested.
Kathy left the kitchen to answer it. She came back less
than a minute later with Detective Osborn in tow. “Would
you like some cocoa?”
“No, ma’am. I just wanted to make sure I have all your
“Couldn’t you just look it up in your files from last
year?” Anissa asked and Tori gave her a nudge to cool it.
“We’re more than happy to cooperate,” Kathy said sincerely.
Osborn took down their full names, phone numbers, and
“What’s going to happen to the body?” Kathy asked.
“It’ll be autopsied to try to ascertain the cause of death,
and then go into the cooler for a time in hopes someone
will identify it and assume responsibility.”
“And if that doesn’t happen?”
“The county will have to bear the expense of burial.”
“Poor man,” Tori said. “I mean—it was a man, wasn’t it?”
“Apparently,” Osborn agreed. He stuffed his notebook into
his coat pocket. “If you ladies will excuse me. I’ll be in
touch.” He turned for the hall and the front door.
“Aren’t you gonna say thank you?” Anissa called after him.
Osborn pivoted. “What for?”
“For being good citizens and reporting the body.”
For a moment, Kathy thought Osborn might explode. But then
he answered through gritted teeth. “Thank you.”
Kathy saw him out and returned to the kitchen to find her
friends again munching cookies and sipping cocoa.
“Did you have to tease him?” she asked Anissa.
“I didn’t have to—I just wanted to.”
“You could get us all in trouble.”
“I don’t know. Disrespecting authority?”
“I predict the detective won’t bother. The guy drowned. End
“You hope,” Tori said.
The three of them looked at one another.
Kathy knew that she sure hoped that would be the last they
heard about dead plaid guy. And yet … the tight feeling in
her stomach told her otherwise.
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