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1st Suspense Novel category 2017 IDA Contest
A Dinner Club Murder Mystery
Recent widow, Jane Marsh, is determined to recapture a rich, full life. She strives for youthful fun by riding a bicycle downtown on her lunch hour in a suit and heels, smoking cigars, eating at hipster restaurants, and re-entering the dating scene, even if her dates prove to be peculiar.
Her most fervent desire, though, is to join an exclusive dinner club. She auditions, but is barred when her housekeeper is found murdered, and she and her guest list become the suspect list. Her, a killer? So what if her two late husbands died under suspicious circumstances. It doesn’t make her a killer.
Having passed off a store bought Bundt cake as her own creation, she may have committed a culinary crime, but never murder!
The butter dish crashed to the kitchen floor, the glass shattering and the yellow stick slipping and sliding across the hardwood.
Moments ago, Jane had been rushing around gathering ingredients, but now she stood staring at the mess of broken glass and the stick of butter still gliding across the boards. In her haste, the dish had slid from her hands when she tried to grab it from the refrigerator.
“What’s the matter with you?” Cheryl walked over to the pantry for the broom and dustpan. “You’re as nervous as a newlywed cooking for her mother-in-law.”
“I want to wow the dinner club. What if they decide to reject me?” Jane pulled the broom out of Cheryl’s hand and swept up the broken shards. “If the dinner’s perfect, maybe they won’t pay any attention to the rumors.”
Cheryl giggled. “You’re worried about that?”
Jane bent over to scoop the fragments into the dustpan, then straightened. She dumped the broken bits into the trash can and poked the stick of butter down the garbage disposal. “You know it’s all over the Internet. Anyone can figure out how my husbands died.” Jane took a deep breath, her brows furrowed. She missed the calming effect of her first husband Craig. And her second husband had been such a help in the kitchen. To top it off, Hugh had died at the same time her youngest son moved out and the empty nest stage moved in.
As she stepped back over to the kitchen sink, her heel crunched down on a walnut shell. “Ouch! That hurt.” Jane squeezed her eyes shut and touched her fingertips to her wrinkled brow. “My house is a disaster…”
“Quit fretting. But maybe it wasn’t such a good idea for the new cleaning lady to start work on the day of your party.” Cheryl lobbed pieces of walnuts into a bowl.
“You’re the one who told me every woman who worked should have a house cleaner. And you recommended Monica.” Jane’s knife chopped down on a garlic clove with a loud whack. “Do you think she’s still coming? She’s over an hour late.”
Cheryl brushed her long bangs out of her eyes with the back of her wrist as she gazed around the room. The faucet dripped into the dirty bowls filling the sink. The clock ticked to one o’clock. The doorbell rang.
Cheryl looked at her friend with a knowing smile. “Here she is.”
Jane let out a sigh of relief. She put her paring knife down on the cutting board, dashed to the door, and opened it, ushering Monica inside. Jane wondered if Monica was late because she’d taken a great deal of time over her appearance—the woman wore heavy eye makeup and bright red lipstick.
Jane hustled her back to the empty kitchen. Cheryl had disappeared. Jane’s eyes swept the hall and took in the basement door standing open. She peered down the stairs into the dark recess below.
“Looking for me?”
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