Chapter Four of Entitled to Murder: A Cozy Mystery Short Story
Hello, Book Lovers!
It’s finally here. I know I promised more frequent updates, but life snuck up on me and got in the way.
But, here it is the fourth chapter of my cozy mystery short story titled, Entitled to Murder. Yes, I’m still calling it a short story, even though I suspect the story will be the length of a novella or short novel.
Every few days, I will release a chapter from Entitled to Murder on this blog throughout the next few weeks. If you want to receive notifications via email, then sign up for updates by filling out your first name and email address in the opt-in form below, and you’ll receive an email from me, letting you know the latest chapter is available, plus a copy of the ebook when the story is finished. By the way, the story you will receive will be professionally edited just like the copy I plan to sell on the various ebook retailers.
Before, I dive into the opening chapter of this cozy mystery short story, here’s a brief description of the story.
About the Short Story
Bookworm and recently widowed, Lucy Hobbs has lived a sheltered life. The only danger she has ever faced was turning the pages of a murder mystery novel. All of that is about to change.
It’s Halloween, Lucy’s favourite time of year, but it’s more than just a holiday—it’s her grandfather, Alfred’s 87th birthday. After months of grieving this is the one thing, she has been looking forward too. But, little does Lucy know she is walking into a family feud, a lost sheep, and murder.
On the day of Alfred’s Will reading, Lucy learns of some unexpected changes that cause her to look at the events of the birthday party under a new light.
Can Lucy figure out who the murderer is before they strike again?
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information, address the publisher at: hello at ameliadhay dot com.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
After taking several deep breaths, Lucy leaned against the door with her shoulder as she clutched the white tray laden with blinis. A soft squeak cried out from the hinges, causing the chatter in the room to subside. As the door slid open, Lucy surveyed the room. Her family had divided up into their usual small clicks, and to her surprise, Uncle Arthur had not joined his brothers, Thomas and Clarence. Instead, he stood next to his daughter Nicola, looking over her shoulder at the bright green mini console in her hands. A melodic digital beep called out from the Zelda Game and Watch as Nicola struck the buttons. These days the game consoles had gotten smaller and smaller.
As she recalled the evening when Christopher came home one rainy day in October 1977, with an Atari VCS, a tear welled up in her eye. She was furious that he had made such a frivolous purchase. They had just gotten married and brought their first home together, and as per usual, she was obsessing over budgeting and the mortgage. Christopher was happy and stress-free. She smiled.
Out of the corner of her eye, her father’s beaming face jolted Lucy back to reality. He had spotted the blinis. As she ambled towards her father George, who was standing with her mother Jane and her uncles Thomas and Clarence, she spotted a red-faced Grace, rolling her eyes and shaking her head at Rose. More drama. Why can’t they just get along?
Lucy sighed as she held out the tray to the group. ‘Blinis with cream cheese and smoked salmon.’
Thomas raised his right eyebrow at Lucy, then picked up the small canapé and shoved it into his mouth. ‘I’m impressed that my mother not only let you in the kitchen but is letting you serve the food.’ Thomas mumbled as he chewed the bite-sized pancake. ‘Getting a snack from that kitchen is like being in a cage fight with a wolverine. I almost lost an arm this afternoon while getting a snack from the fridge.’
A pinched expression swept across Clarence’s face as he adjusted the collar of his black turtle-neck sweater.
Trying not to laugh, Lucy’s mother Jane patted her princess Diana haircut, then slid her hand down her cream cable-knit sweater. She fixed her eyes on Lucy. ‘How did you talk your grandmother into letting you help in the kitchen?’
Lucy shrugged. ‘Right place, right time, I guess?’
‘Hmm,’ Jane said as she stared at the white platter in Lucy’s hand.
Reaching across between Thomas and Jane, George picked up a blini off the plate. ‘You’re doing a good job, sweetheart.’
Thomas grimaced, then turned to Clarence. ‘I’ve just realised if I had continued to search for that damn sheep, we could be eating mutton tonight.’
Clarence glared at Thomas as he took another sip of his beer as if he was blissfully unaware of the trouble brewing beside him.
Jane raised her eyebrows at Lucy. ‘I’m going to help Mum, too. And I’m not taking no for an answer.’
George smirked as Jane made a beeline towards the door and silently sipped at his scotch as he watched the drama unfold in front of him.
Taking a few steps back, Lucy nodded at her father and sauntered over towards her Aunts, who were assembled by the window that overlooked the side lawn. As she drew closer, the twelve-seating outdoor dining setting, highlighted by the garden lights, came into view. It was far too cold to have a family barbecue outside and enjoy the outdoor entertainment area.
Rose opened her mouth, then closed it again and let out a heavy sigh as Margaret turned away from the conversation and eyed the platter of blinis in Lucy’s hands.
‘Darling, you’re such a doll for helping your grandmother.’ Margaret picked up a blini from the platter.
Lucy smiled politely. She never understood why Margaret, who was Thomas’s second wife, talked to her like a small child. At thirty-five, Margaret was three years younger than Lucy.
With a sympathetic smile, Grace picked up a blini off the plate. ‘When I saw that Henriette had brought the smoked salmon from the local Woolworths, I hoped that she was going to make these.’
‘Even though my poor Arthur has lost faith in himself, I’m still encouraging him.’ Rose reached across and grabbed a blini off the tray. ‘He has a lot of transferable skills. And he has a keen interest in politics.’
Clenching her jaw, Grace side-eyed rose as she continued to babble on about Arthur’s work situation. Sensing another fight brewing, Lucy turned and smiled at Margaret. Her eyelids fluttered as she stood next to Grace. While holding her four-year-old daughter Victoria’s hand with her left, Margaret placed a protective hand over her growing bump and snoring. Her blue-eyed cousin Victoria had a freshly cut bob, courtesy of her grandmother Henriette, and looked like her mother’s twin.
The small girl tugged on Lucy’s trousers. ‘Lucy, I want cake.’
Lucy smiled. ‘Not yet, sweetie. You need to wait until after dinner. Granddad has to blow out the candles first.’
The little girl twirled around and surveyed the room for her grandfather.
‘Grace, the farm does not have room in the budget for another farmhand,’ Margaret said as she forced her eyes open.
‘Yes, I’m very aware.’ Rose snapped back at Margaret. ‘Your husband has told me, rudely, I might add. He has no desire to help his younger brother, who served in that awful war.’
Little Victoria broke free from her mother’s grip and ran straight toward her grandfather. With Lily following closely, Alfred sauntered across the room from the fireplace and sat at the table. Victoria climbed up onto the chair next to him with a beaming smile. Lily’s long mane of red hair swished behind her as she pulled out the chair next to Victoria and sat. A few seconds later, a look of recognition swept across Alfred’s face. As he lifted his body off the chair, Thomas dashed across the room.
‘Dad, sit down. I’ll get your insulin from the study.’ Thomas patted his father on the shoulder as he sat.
Bang, the door slammed shut. The chatter dwindled as Henriette and Jane strolled across the room, holding white platters laden with canapés. With his widened eyes, Thomas turned around to find his mother standing behind him.
‘Alfred Chambers. Are you telling me you’ve been keeping your insulin in your study with that fire blazing and not in the fridge?’ Henriette narrowed her eyes as she glared at her husband.
Thomas shrugged. ‘Mum, calm down. It’s okay to leave the insulin at room temperature, provided the room stays below 25 degrees Celsius, and the fire is far away and doesn’t heat the study properly. It’s very draughty in there.’
‘Hmm,’ Henriette muttered as she ambled past Peter, Colin, and Arthur, who were loitering near the door watching Nicola play her video game.
Pausing next to the table, Henriette lowered the platter and let Lily grab a few canapés off the tray. In the opposite direction, Jane strolled towards the table, then paused as she placed the white serving tray in the middle of the polished wooden dining set.
‘We should put the platters in the centre of the table. That way, everyone can help themselves.’ Jane smiled as she whirled around and disappeared through the dining room door into the hallway.
Henriette shrugged and shook her head at her husband as she left the room. Still holding the platter, Lucy ambled across the room towards her cousin Peter and her brother Colin, who had split from their original click and were whispering among themselves.
‘Hey, trouble makers.’ Lucy smirked as she held out the platter in front of the boys.
Colin grimaced. ‘What are you suggesting?’
Lucy smiled. ‘Oh, nothing. I’ve just noticed that nothing good ever comes from you too whispering, that’s all.’
Peter slipped away and strolled towards Alfred, who was seated at the end of the table. Colin snatched a blini from the tray and sprinted after his cousin.
‘I saw something this week that would look great in the drawing-room,’ Peter said as he patted Alfred on the shoulder.
Alfred looked up and narrowed his eyes at Peter. ‘No television. It will rot your brains.’
‘No, granddad TV isn’t that bad,’ Colin said as he slipped into the seat next to Alfred. ‘There are educational documentaries on the BBC with David Attenborough. You’ll love them.’
With her head bowed, Lucy slipped between Peter and Alfred and then placed the platter of blinis in front of the elderly man. As Lucy slipped away, she smiled at Nicola, who was hunched over and leaning against the wall, too engrossed in her game to notice the drama. Arthur devotedly watched over her shoulder. Her chocolate brown whale-spout ponytail and bangs concealed part of her face from view.
The faint screams of little victoria refusing her usual bedtime routine echoed through the house as the family sat around the dinner table. Henriette and Jane stood, then cleared the plates away. Thomas stared at Margaret’s empty seat as he recoiled at the sounds of his young daughter’s cry.
Thomas stared at this empty wine glass. ‘I should go up and help.’
Alfred stood. ‘You’ll only make it worse.’
‘Dad, sit down. It’s your birthday, I’ll fix you a gin and tonic.’ Thomas stood and walked towards the drinks on the mahogany buffet sideboard.
Peter tapped on the wooden table. ‘I bought a new charades game. Anyone want to join me in the drawing-room?’
Nicola shrugged, then slumped back in her chair. ‘Sorry, Peter, I need to study.’
Lily and Colin looked at each other and nodded. Peter stood, then turned around and walked out of the dining room, followed by his cousins.
Alfred turned and smiled at Lucy. ‘Pumpkin carving?’
‘Yes,’ Lucy said as she leaned forward and kissed her grandfather on the cheek. ‘Mum wants to join us this year.’
Fifteen minutes later, Lucy, Jane and Alfred sat at the kitchen table, ready to carve pumpkins. Three orange pumpkins sat on the table with a series of kitchen knives. Poor little Victoria continued to wail in the background. Behind them, the country-style kitchen sink was neatly stacked with dishes and overflowed to the countertop.
‘Poor little pet,’ Alfred said as he pulled a pumpkin towards him.
Thomas shook his head. ‘She needs to go to bed. Otherwise, she’ll make us all pay for it tomorrow.’
Excited for the carving to start, Lucy rolled her eyes as Thomas took an unusually long time to mix Alfred’s gin and tonic. It was the one thing she looked forward to since her husband died. But this year, it felt different. Christopher wasn’t at the table with her. Blinking her tears away, Lucy looked down at the table and sighed. With an unsteady hand, Thomas ambled toward the table and placed the drink in front of Alfred.
‘Dad, I used the new tonic water mum purchased.’ Thomas patted Alfred on the back as the elderly man stared into the glass.
‘Hmm.’ Alfred leaned forward and sniffed the drink.
Reaching across the six-seater wooden table, Jane squeezed Lucy’s hand. Thomas leaned forward and whispered in Alfred’s ear. As she listened to the murmuring between Alfred and Thomas, Lucy’s heart sank. Biting her lip, Lucy pushed back the resurfacing memories of her last conversation with Christopher. It was a silly fight, one that she regretted. She wished her last words to Christopher were kind instead of uttered out of anger about the time he spent at work.
Thump, Alfred slammed his fist on the kitchen table. ‘My decision is final. I will not be changing my mind, nor will I be persuaded to do so.’
Lucy reached across and grabbed Alfred’s hand.
Thomas shook his head as he adjusted his posture, then turned around and walked out of the kitchen. ‘You’re making a terrible mistake,’ Thomas said over his shoulder as he disappeared into the hallway.
I hope you enjoyed reading the fourth chapter of my cozy mystery short story, Entitled to Murder. As I’m writing this blog post, I’m taking a short break from writing chapter five. There’s a part of me that’s super excited to dive back into the writing because I’m reaching the point in the story where the body is discovered. Now that I’ve written that I realise it’s crazy to say out loud, let alone write on a blog. But you get it; I’m excited to write the next chapter in the story.
As I mentioned earlier, over the next few weeks, I write and edit the subsequent scenes and chapters. At the same time, I will be sharing chapters over on Wattpad, so be sure to follow me if that’s how you prefer to read.
Once I draw closer to pressing the publish button on this story, I will remove everything after the first chapter, depending upon whether I choose to enrol this book in Kindle Unlimited or publish it on all ebook retailer platforms. But that’s a long way off in the future. If you are interested in receiving email updates alerting you of new chapters plus a free copy of the ebook, Entitled to Murder when it finished, subscribe for updates by filling out the opt-in form below.
I’m Amelia. I write mystery and thriller novels under the pen name A. D. Hay and I’m the author of Missing the first book in the James Lalonde series. I’m the host of the Book Nerd Podcast and The Authorpreneur Podcast. Right now, I’m editing my soon to be published mystery novels, The Candidate, Duplicity, 24 Hours, and Immunity. When I’m not writing, hosting my podcasts or coaching aspiring authors, I love to travel around Europe with my Husband Roland, drink tea, and eat pizza.