First chapter of Santa’s Helper Bytes the Dust: Beach City Cozy Mysteries- Patsy- Book Two

Santa’s Helper Bytes the Dust: Beach City Cozy Mysteries-Patsy- Book Two is available for pre-order with a release date of October 15th. The audiobook will also be available soon.

Here’s the description:

Patricia Garret (a.k.a. Pat) and Shirley Martinez are walking their dogs at a park in Beach City, California, when they discover a body. It’s a Santa’s helper from the outdoor shopping mall. Pat’s detective son, Byron, warns the two sleuths to stay out of the investigation, but when the victim turns out to be the boyfriend of Abi, Pat’s niece, they feel they must conduct their own research. As the list of possible motives grows along with the potential suspects, will they find the murderer before anyone else gets hurt . . . or worse?

Here’s the first chapter:

“All I’m saying is you cooked the heck out of that turkey, Pat. And your turkey salad sandwiches are the best. You should open a restaurant,” Shirley Martinez said to her lifelong best friend as they each walked their dogs on Main Street in Beach City, California. They were heading to the park.

“Well, thank you for saying that, Shirley, but I don’t have any business opening a restaurant. I’ll just stick with creating meals for the people I love most,” Patricia Garret said with a smile as she brushed a loose dark brown curl behind her ear with her hand. She preferred to keep her natural peppered with gray hair color while Shirley dyed her curls an ash brown monthly. This month Shirley added a purple tint that only appeared in the sunlight.

Pat glanced down at the dogs. Shirley’s dog, Raven, was a black Pekinese with beige paws, while Pat’s dog, Chelsea, although also a Pekinese, was multicolored with tan, black, brown, and white all over. “Raven and Chelsea are determined to get to the park, aren’t they?” Pat and Shirley had adopted the puppies from a lady at the same park a few months ago.

Shirley laughed and said, “They know good things happen there.”

A cool, salty breeze brushed up against them; Pat tugged her powder-blue sweater tighter around her. “I just wish it wasn’t so chilly out. Geesh.”

“Well, it is December. It’s always colder. So what plans do you have for Christmas?” Shirley asked.

“Not much. My niece was talking about staying with me during her break, but she’s fickle.”

“Is she the one that’s attending Cal-State University here in Beach City?

“Yep,” Pat said. “All I’m saying is you cooked the heck out of that turkey, Pat. And your turkey salad sandwiches are the best. You should open a restaurant,” Shirley Martinez said to her lifelong best friend as they each walked their dogs on Main Street in Beach City, California. They were heading to the park.

“Why is she dorming when she could have stayed with you in the first place?” Shirley asked.

“She’s young. She wants to experience living on campus,” Pat explained. “I just wish she’d tell me what her plans are for the holiday. Is she staying with me or not?”

“She just wants to keep her options open in case something better comes along. You remember how we used to be at that age?”

“I guess. But it’s inconsiderate. I may be retired, but I like to plan my days. I don’t just sit around and do nothing,” Pat complained.

“I hear you.”

They were finally across the street from the park. Pat pressed the street-crossing button, and they waited. Chelsea began to wag her tail faster and barked excitedly. Raven copied her sister but added a little howl for good measure. Finally, the light changed, and they were able to cross to the other side.

“So other than that, what else do you have going on?”

Pat shrugged her shoulders.

“Augie will be back from Atlanta on Sunday,” Shirley said, referring to her cousin. She gave Pat a sideways glance to gauge her reaction.

Pat swallowed as her cheeks turned pink. “Oh, is he?”

“What’s going on with you two?” Shirley asked curiously.

“Nothing. We’re friends. We told you that a million and one times.”

“Mm-hmm,” Shirley said doubtfully.

They had just passed a set of picnic tables when another breeze brushed up against them. This time, a foul smell reached their nostrils. Pat scowled. “Bleh, what is that smell?”

“It smells like something died,” Shirley said with her nose scrunched up.

“Don’t say stuff like that,” Pat said. “All we need is to find another body. Byron still chews me out for the candy store.” She crinkled her nose too, then added, “Let’s not stay too long. I don’t think I can take the smell for very long.”

Chelsea and Raven each stopped walking for a moment and sniffed the air. Then they tried to charge toward a giant oak tree in the middle of the park at the same time. It was a good thing they were small dogs; if they had been bigger, they would have dragged Pat’s and Shirley’s five-four frames with them.

“What in the world . . . ,” Shirley started.

“I don’t know,” Pat said. “Let’s let them lead where they want to go.”

Shirley nodded in agreement. As they got closer to the oak tree, Pat pointed and said, “They must want the bell on that shoe sticking out.”

There was a solitary green shoe with a bell on the tip lying on its side. “Looks like one of the elf shoes the helpers wear at the mall,” Shirley said.

As they got closer, the dogs tugged harder, and the smell was more pungent.

“Oh, my Go . . .” Pat couldn’t get the last word out. She bent over and threw up on the grass below her, just barely missing her shoes.

Shirley stood frozen while the dogs tried to get closer. Finally, she pulled out her cell phone and called 911. “Someone was stabbed at the Beach City Park. The body is under the oak tree,” she said. Her throat was dry. She picked up Raven and held her close. She glanced at Pat as she tried to comprehend what the operator was telling her. Pat wiped her mouth, then picked up Chelsea and held her close too.

“Who could do that to another human being?” Pat asked. Her voice was shaky, and her normally caramel complexion was pale.

“He must have pissed off the wrong person,” Shirley said after she got off the phone.

“Ya think?” Pat replied sarcastically. “There couldn’t possibly be any blood left in the body.”

“Let’s go stand over by the table until the police get here.”

“Byron is working today, so he’ll probably be here,” Pat said, referring to her son, a detective with the Beach City Police Department.

Sure enough, ten minutes later, a burly man who was at least five inches taller than the two women approached them and asked in a deep voice, “Mom, what are you doing here?”

She closed her brown eyes. “Trying not to throw up again.”

“Are you okay?” he asked with concern in his dark-brown eyes

Pat and Shirley both responded, “No.” Then Shirley explained, “We found the body. He looks as if he were stabbed a gazillion times. The dogs are the ones who found him.” She gestured to the oak tree. A few officers were already there. One was using crime-scene tape and cones to block off onlookers.

Byron held up an index finger and said, “Wait here for a bit. I need to see the body and talk to my guys. I’ll have to ask you both a few questions.” He didn’t wait for them to respond but walked to the oak tree.

“Do you think he was robbed or mugged?” Pat asked.

“I don’t know. I didn’t see anything but blood and his shoes,” Shirley said.

They watched as Byron moved around the scene and chatted with some of the officers. He crouched down and examined the body. Then he stood and talked to the officers some more.

“I wish I could hear what they were saying,” Pat said.

“Me too,” Shirley whispered.

The dogs were getting restless. “We should take them home,” Pat said.

“But Byron told us to wait,” Shirley said.

Just then, Byron turned and headed back toward them. “Was anyone else around when you arrived?” he asked.

“No,” they answered in unison. Pat asked, “Was it a robbery?”

“His wallet, cell, and smart watch were still on him. It was most likely someone he knew.”

“He must have worked at the mall, right?” Shirley asked.

“Looks like it. The victim had an employee ID with a mall discount card in his wallet.”

“What’s his name?”

Byron held up his hands, briefly closed his eyes, and said, “I am not giving either of you any more information. I do not want you two involved in this investigation under any circumstances. You understand me?”

Shirley and Pat were quiet for a bit, then Shirley said, “I wasn’t planning on doing anything. Were you, Pat?”

“No. I could barely handle the smell, then to see the body. . .” Pat started, then shivered.

“But now that your son is threatening us, what do you think?”

Pat grinned. “It sounds like a challenge.”

“Yep, it sure does,” Shirley said.

“Challenge accepted,” Pat said.

Byron closed his eyes again as if he were trying to conjure up a dose of patience or were praying. Maybe he was doing both. After a few long seconds, he opened his dark-brown eyes with the thick, long lashes and said, “I repeat: do not interfere with this investigation. You saw that man’s body. I don’t want the same thing happening to either of you.”

“Mm-hmm,” Shirley said with her arms crossed.

“What does that mean?” Byron asked, perplexed.

“It means that as concerned citizens of Beach City, we will conduct our independent investigation. She who found the body will find the killer or killers.”

“No, no, no,” Byron said. “Stop that line of thinking now. I will arrest you both.”

“For what?” Shirley asked with a scowl on her face.

Byron ran his hand over his dark-brown, curly hair from frustration. The sides of his head were cut short, but he left the top with a quarter-inch worth of curls. “Look, I have enough to deal with. I don’t need to add worrying about the two of you to the list. Can you two please stay out of this?” he nearly begged.

“We’ll think about it,” Shirley said.

“Will you at least tell us his name?” Pat asked.

“No,” Byron said. “Go home.”

“You can’t talk to me that way,” Pat said with a scowl. “I’m your mama.”

“I’m protecting you. Go home.”

“Come on, Pat.” Shirley looped her arm around Pat’s, then tugged on Raven’s leash. “We’ll figure it out on our own.”

Byron grunted, then turned to head back to the body.

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