Wendy Meadows Cozy Mystery Peppermint Chocolate Murder (EBOOK)
Maple Hills Mystery Book 2

Peppermint Chocolate Murder (EBOOK)

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An amateur sleuth, a handsome detective, and a dead body found in their cozy town… Can Nikki and Hawk solve this mysterious murder?

From the moment Nikki first made Maple Hills, Vermont, her home, she has had a dark and dangerous cloud follow her. First she discovered a web of underground Mafia members and now there is a dead body at The Lodge – a dead body that just happens to hail from her own home town of Atlanta. As the newest, and arguably the nosiest, neighbor in the area, she knows all eyes will soon turn her way and tongues will start to wag.

Nikki has no choice but to garner her new friends and put her extensive experience as a big city reporter to use, playing a modern day Nancy Drew against a backdrop of gorgeous hills and the Canadian border. Along with her pseudo partner and maybe love interest, Hawk, a local cop who just happens to be the Chief’s son, the duo must unravel a mystery that gets more complex by the minute – all the while trying to stay one step ahead of a murderer with murky, yet dire, motives.

And to think… all Nikki really wanted to do when she moved to the quaint town was make chocolates…

Chapter One

The Elk Horn Lodge stood sixteen miles northeast of town. It sat next to a lake, its shore lined with canoes, rowboats and paddle boats. Large, healthy and lush trees surrounded the lodge and lake like a loving mother holding her children tightly against her bosom. Having never been to the lodge before, Nikki couldn't believe how incredibly beautiful the landscape was; the trees were much more verdant and thick than those in her own yard. It seemed to her, as Hawk tugged his jeep off a narrow, two-lane back road onto a long dirt driveway leading down to the lodge, as if the entire world had changed right before her eyes. “It's so beautiful.”

“The lodge sits only three miles from the Canadian border,” Hawk explained, easing the jeep down the driveway. “The lodge is owned by Mr. and Mrs. Snowfield. I don't know that much about them except that they built it in 1978 and have been here ever since.”

Nikki spotted the lake, sparkling like diamonds through a set of thick trees. Then she noticed a lot of vehicles. It was tourist season, after all, and all of the hotels in town were booked solid. “Is this lodge very popular?” she asked Hawk.

Hawk shrugged his shoulders. “I can't really say,” he answered, glancing at Nikki. “Listen, Pop isn't going to like you being here. You're not going to get first dibs on this case, okay? At best, you're going to get some leftovers. I'll give you whatever information I can.”

Nikki understood. She appreciated Hawk being honest with her. Reaching her left hand out, she examined his damp shirt. “I won't be any trouble, partner.”

Hawk sighed and then grinned. He liked Nikki, but having her partner with him on cases sure was going to cause him some grief. Spotting Chief Daily's car parked in front of a log cabin that served as a lobby, Hawk brought the jeep to a stop. “Okay,” he said, “get out and stay out of sight for now. Walk down to the lake. I'll come and get you when the coast is clear.”

“In other words, when Chief Daily leaves,” Nikki told Hawk. “I understand.”

“Listen,” Hawk turned to Nikki, “Pop and I, well, we're getting to know each other, but the ground we're on isn't exactly stable, you know. I admit I don't make it too easy on Pop, and he returns the favor often enough. If he sees you here, well, the sky just might fall. For now, you're my silent partner.”

“You got it.” Nikki smiled at Hawk. Opening the door, she got out and quickly jogged between a set of trees and disappeared. Hawk watched her vanish into the trees and then drove up to the lobby.

* * *

Peering out from behind a tree, Nikki watched Hawk park next to Chief Daily's car and then get out. She counted two police cars, a coroner’s car and a brown Wagoneer, all parked in front. Behind the lobby stood the lodge, sitting like a cozy dream waiting to be entered. The lodge was a large, long, two-story wooden building that suggested nights filled with cozy fires and hot chocolate. Even though the weather was warm, she envisioned the lodge covered with snow, people out on skis, kids ice skating on the lake. “But where are the people?” she asked herself, spotting only a single white BMW parked at the side of the lodge. 

Watching Hawk glance in her direction, Nikki stayed out of sight until he opened the front door of the lobby and vanished inside. Wanting to make a dash to the BMW to get the license plate number, Nikki bit down on her lower lip. If she was seen by anyone, that would be all she wrote for her. It seemed that everyone was in the lobby area. Nikki searched the lodge but couldn't see a single person. “If I'm fast…” she said, taking a daring chance. 

Exploding out from behind the tree she was hiding behind, Nikki ran at an angle across the warm grass toward the white BMW. Feeling her feet leave the grass and hit gravel, she picked up her speed. Looking toward the lobby, she ran to the BMW, slid to a stop, read the license plate number, and then, like lightning, disappeared back into the trees just as Chief Daily walked out of the lobby. Breathing hard, she eased her head out from behind a tree and watched. A tall, thin man with a plump belly followed Chief Daily out of the lobby. Nikki listened.

“Take the body to the morgue,” Chief Daily told the man, “after my son takes a look around. I'll be back in town.”

“Are you sure it was a heart attack?” the man asked Chief Daily. 

“You're the dang coroner,” Chief Daily snapped as two police officers walked out of the lobby with Hawk. Chief Daily motioned for them to drive back into town. “You two get back in town. Detective Hawk will take over from here. And you,” he said, pointing at the coroner, “I want an autopsy performed by tonight.”

“I was going to take Alice out to dinner tonight,” the coroner objected, slapping at a bug. Nikki shook her head. The coroner was dressed like he’d never left the seventies. 

“By tonight,” Chief Daily grumbled as he walked to his car, got in, and drove away like a mad hornet. 

Nikki watched the coroner scratch the back of his head and walk back into the lobby. When the coast was clear, Hawk walked to the white BMW and then waved his hand at Nikki, obviously knowing she was watching him instead of hanging out at the lake like he’d asked her to. Nikki smiled and ran to him. “The license plate is from Georgia, of all places,” Nikki told Hawk. 

Hawk bit the inside of his lip. “The tourist found dead is a man named Jack Johnson, age sixty-five,” Hawk said, pulling a driver's license from his front pocket and handing it to Nikki. “He's from Atlanta.”

Nikki studied the driver's license. Wishing she had her reading glasses, she squinted down at the print. “Doesn't ring a bell,” she said and then focused on the address posted on the license. “Hey, I know where this address—well, the area is a real posh part of Atlanta.”

“He was staying on the lower floor in room two, the Deep Woods room. Each room has a theme,” Hawk said, a little embarrassed.

Nikki nodded her head. “I love theme rooms,” she said, focusing on the face on the driver's license. But then she suddenly looked up at Hawk. “Every room has a theme?” she asked.

“Yeah, why?” Hawk asked.

“Mr. Johnson was here by himself, I presume? I don't see anyone standing around crying. Plus, his car seats only two.”

“Yeah, he checked in alone,” Hawk told Nikki, wishing he were down at the lake doing some fishing. 

“Theme rooms,” Nikki said, feeling her gut tug at her. “Hawk, when did Mr. Johnson check in?”

“Last night, late...about 12:40 am,” Hawk explained. “He didn't have a reservation, if that's what you're getting at.”

“Are there any other guests staying here?” Nikki asked, looking around at the vacant parking spaces.

“The lodge is reserved for a ladies’ club that's coming in a few days from now, so Mr. and Mrs. Snowfield have stopped renting rooms. They do all the cleaning themselves, from what they told me, and they didn't want the rooms they have ready to be messed up.”

“Then why did they rent a room to Mr. Johnson?” Nikki asked.

Hawk shrugged. “Mr. Snowfield said the man looked like he needed to rest.”

“I wonder if Mr. Johnson was traveling toward Canada or coming back?” Nikki asked Hawk, handing him back the driver's license. “You said the border is three miles north of here. If he didn't have a reservation, it's obvious he was coming back or heading toward the border.”

Hawk stuffed the driver's license back down into his pants pocket. “Come on,” he told Nikki, walking to the Deep Woods room. “The body is still inside, so don't get sick on me, okay?”

“I'll...be okay,” Nikki promised in a quick but uncertain voice.


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