Book Title: Murder at Mistletoe Manor
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Release Date: October 12th, 2016
Author: Holly Tierney-Bedord
Klarinda Snow is the innkeeper of a beautiful, historic bed and breakfast in Windy Pines, Idaho. Guests come to Mistletoe Manor to escape from their troubles while enjoying the scenic mountain town.
When all seven rooms of the inn get booked on a Tuesday night in December, Klarinda is excited about having so much business, but a little confused as well. After all, her inn normally isn’t exactly a destination hotspot.
The guests have barely settled in before strange things begin happening. Is this the most accident prone group of travelers ever, or is someone out for revenge?
There were seven guestrooms at Mistletoe Manor, and it was strange for more than one to be booked on a Tuesday in December. Yet here was the appointment book with all rooms confirmed, a week in advance, no less.
Klarinda Snow chewed on the eraser of her pencil, pondering the odds. Unable to make sense of this anomaly, she brought up the Windy Pines online calendar of events to see if there was something special going on around town that night. Aside from the Christmas market, which happened throughout the holiday season, there was nothing special on the calendar.
“Must be some kind of a reunion,” she said aloud. But if it was a reunion, wouldn’t at least one of the guests have said so? And wouldn’t they have booked their rooms all together, at once? But she could tell from the different colors of ink in the appointment book that Myrtle had written them at separate times. She flipped the page over to the notes section, but there was nothing written there.
Just then the door swung open and her Jill-of-all-trades came in, carrying a pile of snow-dusted firewood.
“Hello, Klarinda! It’s getting nasty out there!” Myrtle said, setting the pile of wood on the old bench just inside the foyer by the front door. She removed her mittens and hat and set them on the radiator. “Do you want the fireplace in the dining room going yet, or should we hold off until later in the day?”
“Let’s hold off for now,” said Klarinda, anxious to ration as much firewood as possible. Unfortunately, running Mistletoe Manor meant scrimping on the luxuries, and sometimes even the necessities, at all times. “Myrtle, did all these bookings for December thirteenth come in at the same time?”
“Throughout the day yesterday, when you were up in Winter River getting new snow tires put on your truck.”
“Seems a little funny to have every room booked, doesn’t it?”
“I certainly thought so,” said Myrtle.
“And none of them paid in advance?”
“Come to think of it, I guess not.”
“Strange. We may need to change our policy on allowing bookings without prepayment. I feel like we’re being scammed,” said Klarinda.
“You’re such a cynic,” joked Myrtle.
“Perhaps. Or maybe I’m a realist. Did any of them mention one another?”
“No. Each seemed to be unrelated and random. It happens, I suppose. All the rooms getting booked at once like that.”
“It doesn’t happen, though,” said Klarinda. “I wish it did! But I can’t remember the last time all seven rooms were booked at once.”
“Don’t look down on good luck,” Myrtle advised.
“I’m not,” said Klarinda, smiling to prove it. Nearly twenty years younger than Myrtle, she received her fair share of sometimes-wise and often-overbearing pearls of wisdom from the older woman, despite that she was Myrtle’s boss. Still, she appreciated Myrtle’s work ethic and experience, so she usually bit her tongue when Myrtle doled out her advice. Not to mention, sometimes Myrtle was right.
“Oh, bother! This means we’re going to have to get the toilet working in the purple guestroom,” said Myrtle, remembering the project Klarinda had been reminding her about for two months.
“So… You got that?” asked Klarinda.
“Yes, boss. I got it,” said Myrtle, shaking her head good-naturedly. “While I take care of that, you need to call The Christmas Company. They can bring a tree here, with lights and non-breakable red ornaments, and have it all set up for just two hundred ninety-nine dollars. It could be here by the end of the business day today.”
“Nice try,” said Klarinda, “but it’s not in our budget.”
“You’re the boss,” sighed Myrtle.
With Myrtle upstairs, plunging away, or whatever it was she was doing, Klarinda went back to the appointment book, checking to see if any of the names were familiar to her.
In the master suite at the front of the inn were Alanna Winthorpe-Newcastle and Tom Newcastle. In the yellow room at the front corner of the inn, was Caroline Bradbury, alone. In the blue room across the hall from her was Tessa Wycliffe, also alone. Next were Jacob Reese in the green room and Christopher Murdock across the hall from him in the gray room. The last two rooms were the least used, often unbooked for weeks on end. Benji McKellar had reserved the orange room and Sara Byers was across the hall in the purple room. Klarinda didn’t recognize any of these names as those of previous visitors.
“Seems a little strange that single people have booked six of our seven rooms,” Klarinda noted aloud to herself. Mistletoe Manor was, unquestionably, a romantic escape for couples. There were no conference centers or large corporations in the tiny mountain town of Windy Pines, population 3,259. It was nearly twenty miles from the closest large highway, and forty miles from the nearest small airport. This wasn’t the kind of town or inn where people came for business, or while stopping off in the middle of traveling. It was a destination in itself, and single bookings were rare.
Befuddled, she closed the appointment book and headed back to the kitchen to check on Pierre, her chef. On slow days like this, he only made soup and a couple varieties of sandwiches for lunch, and a few pasta dishes and steak for dinner. Weather permitting, the Windy Pines Bake Shoppe brought in fresh bread and rolls each morning. Despite the limited menu, the inn’s dining room was considered the best restaurant in all of Windy Pines.
“Did Myrtle mention to you that we have a full house next week?” Klarinda asked Pierre.
“Can’t say that she did,” said Pierre. “You mean next weekend?”
“Next Tuesday, actually. The night of the thirteenth.”
“What’s the occasion? Some kind of family reunion?”
“I don’t think so,” said Klarinda.
“One of those ladies’ crafting parties?” asked Pierre, offering Klarinda a taste of some new salad dressing he had created earlier in the day to go with the evening’s menu.
She nodded in approval. “Good stuff. But no, it doesn’t look that way either. Maybe it’s just a coincidence.”
“You think so?” asked Pierre, unable to hide his skepticism. He looked around them at the empty dining room. They hadn’t had more than three or four tables filled at one time since late September.
“I don’t know, Pierre. It’s weird, but I ought to be excited about it. We certainly need the business around here.”
“You can say that again,” said Pierre. Like Myrtle, he was single, in his fifties, and lived on the premises, in one of the two apartments in the old carriage house behind the inn. Neither he nor Myrtle had gotten a raise in years. When Klarinda purchased the inn two years earlier she’d been lucky enough to inherit Pierre and Myrtle… along with all the items she hadn’t been lucky to inherit. Like a leaky roof, outdated furniture, and atrocious utility bills. She’d had big dreams of freshening up the inn, advertising more, and turning it into the showcase she knew it could be. After all, it was a beautiful old inn in a picturesque setting. But so far, she’d only gotten as far as reshingling the roof, purchasing some new bedding, and creating a new website for the inn. Now, out of extra money, she was waiting for a miracle. Perhaps all these guests showing up at once were the start of that.
“You know we’ve got a big storm rolling in on Tuesday night,” said Pierre.
“Which means they may all end up canceling,” said Klarinda.
“Or, if you’re really lucky, maybe they’ll all stay another night.”
“Wouldn’t that be something?” All seven rooms booked for two nights in a row could mean getting the snow blower they needed and some new drapes for the dining room, and maybe even a new toilet for the purple room’s bathroom. “Running an inn certainly isn’t as romantic as people think it is,” Klarinda remarked.
Pierre raised his potato masher and sighed. “Tell me about it.”
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