Undercover with the Undead (Senoia Cozy Mystery Book 7), page 1
Undercover with the Undead
Senoia Cozy Mystery, Book 7
Copyright © 2017 Fairfield Publishing
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Except for review quotes, this book may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without the written consent of the author.
This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual people, places, or events is purely coincidental.
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Felicity blinked her eyes open early in the morning and was nearly overwhelmed by the excessive pink zebra print that coated her old bedroom. Three pink walls, all varying in shade, and a fourth wall that she could recall her and her dad carefully painting into the pink and black zebra patterns. That was only the beginning. The bed comforter, the ceiling fan, throw pillows, and even a giant stuffed pink zebra sitting in the corner all fit the ridiculously tacky design that, as a teen, she had adored. She still loved pink zebra print, but she had certainly toned it down since leaving her parents’ home. A few accent pillows as well as her steering wheel cover were enough of the pink zebra print to keep her satisfied now. This was almost too much.
Rolling over, she saw that the clock on her nightstand read 6:07 AM. “No,” she groaned. Way too early. What had even woken her up? She had actually been having a pleasant dream about Brian. A good one, not a sad one like she had been dealing with over the past three months. Brian, her fiancé, had been murdered by a serial killer who had gotten a bit obsessed with her. Thankfully, the culprit was behind bars now, but that had not stopped the pain. There had been a slight hint of satisfaction at watching that man being hauled off in the back of a cop car, but Brian was still gone. She had been staying away from amateur sleuthing ever since then, and it had been a peaceful three months since that dark day in February. It was mid-May now. Maybe it was the spring flowers or just the fact that time does eventually heal most wounds, but she was starting to feel a little better. Well, apart from being up an hour earlier than necessary on that particular morning.
“Why am I awake?” she growled and heard some noise outside her bedroom window. Ah, the culprit, she mused and then decided she would investigate further.
She threw her legs over the side of her bed and dragged herself across the floor toward her bedroom window. Her old room was on the second floor of her parents’ home. Glancing through the blinds, she could see her father’s truck pulling into the driveway. The thing sputtered a bit due to some of what he liked to call “redneck engineering” that was holding the old thing together. Why is Dad coming home at six in the morning? She wondered, but ultimately decided it was too early to care. She could ask him later when she was more awake.
Felicity threw herself back into her pink sheets and curled up into her old bed. The bed was warm. The rest of the house was not. She had almost forgotten how cold her parents kept the house—her mother had started having hot flashes back when Felicity was still in high school, and the house had become a giant igloo.
She hadn’t lived at home since she was eighteen. For a couple of years, she had stayed in a dorm at college before dropping out to start her own business, but at that time, she was living with roommates. Not long after that, she had purchased her first home. I miss that house, she thought sadly, but she shook away any tears that dared to reproach her. She had sold that house to move in with Brian sometime after New Year’s, and he had proposed on Valentine’s Day. After his death, she had been unable to keep up the large home and expenses that came with it. So now she was back at her parents’ house. Here she was in her childhood home where her parents had left her room exactly as she had left it—pink. Very pink.
“Need sleep…now,” she groaned. She rolled over with her face in the pillow, sprawling all over the bed. Soon she was out cold again as though the sound of her father’s sputtering truck had never been a bother at all. It was a deep sleep she so very desperately needed.
She didn’t wake up again for at least another forty-five minutes, and that was only because she smelled bacon. It had been a while since she had enjoyed a full breakfast, and her stomach growled at the smell. “Bacon…” she moaned and sniffed the air before opening her eyes. I could get use to this, she thought, allowing herself to believe that being back home with the folks would not be the end of the world. Honestly, she needed to believe it to remain her usual perky self.
She opened her eyes, and her mother’s face was right there. Felicity screamed and jumped back, grabbing at her chest. Crazy Ms. O is back, Felicity thought, recalling the childhood nickname her friends had given her mother. Her mother was certainly not clinically insane, but she was eccentric and had zero understanding of certain social norms. Her father had always found it quirky and charming. “Mom! Why!” Felicity shouted, shooting her an angry look.
“I came up here to wake you because I didn’t want you to be late for work,” the sweet southern lady sang. “But you were just too cute sleeping, so I watched you for a minute or two.”
“Don’t do that!” Felicity snapped. “You about gave me a heart attack!”
“Oh, don’t be so dramatic, Felicity” her mother said, walking over to open the blinds. “Hungry? We have breakfast downstairs, and I know you’re going to love it.”
“Starving,” Felicity said, rising from bed. As she stood, she glanced at the dresser where a few framed photos, several, of course, done up with pink zebra print, sat. One picture was of her and her younger sister Iris back when Iris had braces. Amazing how time could fly. A second frame was her and Jack from back in high school, and he was giving her a peck on the cheek. They had broken up after high school, but evidently, the photo had remained. When she had first moved back in with her parents, her initial thought had been to ditch the photo, but there was just something charming about leaving her room exactly as she had left it that caused her to leave it as is. Besides, she and Jack were friends now. Even so, it was a little strange reminiscing on their shattered high school fling.
Felicity followed her mother downstairs where her father was waiting, finishing up with the bacon. “Smells great, Dad,” she said and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. It looked really good too, and Felicity felt her stomach growl for the second time.
“Figured you could use some good fuel,” he said. Her father was a good old country boy at heart. He wore a flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up and blue jeans that morning—his usual attire. He hadn’t shaved in days, leaving behind a dark inkling of a beard, but that was his normal scruffy look.
“Thanks, Dad” Felicity said, eagerly grabbing a plate. Pancakes, eggs, and bacon. “Are those blueberry pancakes?” she asked excitedly as she scooped one onto her plate.
“You bet,” he said, so she went ahead and scooped a second one onto her plate, knowing s
“Where were you at this morning, Dad?” Felicity asked as she sat down. “Saw you pulling in at like six or something?”
He fumbled over his words as though he had something to hide, and the fumbling certainly didn’t go unnoticed by Felicity. “He just went to get blueberries for the pancakes. We know how much you like blueberry pancakes,” her mother said quickly and sat down across from Felicity.
“Oh…okay,” Felicity said, eyeing them both. She was not sure whether or not it was worth prying, so she left it alone for the time being and pretended that they had fooled her.
They sat around the little breakfast nook together, enjoying the freshly made pancakes. “So, any new clients?” her mother asked.
“A few,” she said. “Business is steady as usual, so that’s good. It keeps me busy.”
“We’re so proud of you,” her dad said with a smile.
“This is nice,” Felicity said. “Maybe I’ll still be here when Iris is here for the summer. It’ll feel like high school again, and not just because of the pink zebra print in my room.” Her parents both smiled.
“How have you been, Felicity? I know it’s been a few months since—” her mother began, and Felicity was fairly certain her father nudged her from under the table with his work boot.
“Dad, Mom, I’m okay,” Felicity assured them. “I’m still a little sad when I think about him, sure, but I’ll be all right. I have a good support system.”
“That’s right, you do!” her father exclaimed, and Felicity smiled at him.
“I wish my house hadn’t sold so quickly though, I’ll admit,” she said and winked at them both. “It would have been nice to have my house to fall back on. I had worked hard to be able to afford that place, so I’m a little sad it’s gone.”
“We love having you home, though,” her mother said.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying it too,” Felicity said. “I just miss my house. It would have been nice if I could have afforded to keep Brian’s place too, but that probably would have been too difficult even if I could have afforded it. I’m not really in a huge hurry to get out of here, though, if that’s okay with you two. Especially not if you keep making me breakfast every other morning like you’ve been doing.”
“You’re always welcome, Felicity,” her father said.
Felicity noticed the time. “Oh, wow, I have to get going!” She scarfed down her breakfast and darted back up the stairs to her zebra print room to finish getting ready. She quickly showered, dried her hair, brushed her teeth, and got dressed. She grabbed her purse from the dresser and darted down the stairs, skipping over a step as she went. She rounded the corner and headed through the kitchen where her mother stopped her.
“Slow down,” her mother said and attempted to hand her several envelopes. “Some mail came for you, Felicity. Some of it looks important. One of them is from an Agent Ryan.”
Felicity stopped rushing as soon as she heard the name. “Agent Ryan?” she looked down at one of the envelopes that had clearly been around the world and back. He had sent it to hers and Brian’s address initially, but it appeared to have been forwarded several times before arriving at her parents’ home. Agent Ryan was an FBI agent she had met back in February when a serial killer had made her little town of Senoia his home. Ryan had worked the case that had ultimately led to Brian’s death. They, along with the Senoia Police Department and Felicity’s friends, had worked together to solve the case.
“Is that the FBI guy?” her father asked from the table. Felicity glanced in his direction, smirking slightly to see the man opening the morning paper. He was the last person she knew who still read the paper every morning.
“Yeah,” Felicity said. “I’ll have to open this at the shop. I’m intrigued, but I really have to get on the road.”
“Okay, but slow down,” her mother said again. “You’ll get into a wreck if you’re in a hurry.”
“I know, Mom,” Felicity said. “Thanks for breakfast, you two. Love you both. I’m out.” She darted out the door. She sprinted down the paved half of her family’s driveway toward her car. She tossed the mail in her passenger’s seat and then headed out, eager to get to the event shop on time that morning.
There was a special place in Felicity’s heart for her parents’ home. She loved the small hill it sat on, and she could recall her and her sister zipping down the paved section of the driveway that went from the garage to the base of that hill on their bikes. Then the driveway became gravel, and it looked like something out of an old southern movie. Her mother had worked tirelessly for years cutting and trimming the trees along the driveway just right so that when you drove up and down the gravel part, it felt like you were driving through a slight tunnel made of trees. It had always been a lovely sight and one of her favorite places to run and play as a kid.
She pulled out onto the dirt road, bypassing the cow pasture next door and smiling at the charm that had never left this place. Felicity had always been a “look for the silver lining” kind of person. The year had started off horribly—losing her home, losing Brian, and having to give up the home she and Brian shared and then having to move back in with her parents. But, this was a new start. She smiled. Today, she was determined, was going to be a good day. The sky was blue, birds were chirping, and the ride to work from her parents’ house was scenic. It was less than a ten-minute addition as far as how long it took her to drive to work compared to living in Senoia, so she couldn’t complain. An extra ten minutes in the car was not going to kill her, especially if those extra ten minutes were filled with lovely scenery from her childhood.
She pulled out onto the main road, and about five minutes out, her day took an unpredictable turn. She heard sputtering from under the hood of her car, and then there was smoke. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she moaned as her car came to an undesired stop. She did manage to pull into a neighborhood to keep off the main road, but her prized vehicle was not going anywhere.
Felicity took a deep breath and thought to call Jefferson. He was, of course, already at the shop. The place has my name on the building, but I swear he takes the job twice as seriously as I do sometimes, she thought. “Hey, Jefferson,” she said into the phone. “I had a little hiccup this morning. My car seems to have broken down on the side of the road.”
“What!” he exclaimed into the phone. “Do you need me to come get you? Are you okay?”
She smiled. She loved having such a good friend. “I’ll be just fine. My dad’s not working today, and he’s three minutes down the road. I’ll call a tow to get the car, and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind dragging my butt to work. I may need a ride home tonight though, because I’m not so sure about taking the event van home. I’m not sure yet, though. I know my folks’ place is a little out of the way, but I’d hate to make my dad get out again if you—”
“I got you,” he promised. “You’re not in the middle of the highway or anything, are you?”
“I managed to get turned into a neighborhood,” she assured him. “But thanks for your concern. You just get the shop up and running, and I’ll be there when I get there.”
“Okay, good. I’ll see you soon,” he said as Felicity was hanging up the phone.
She called her father to let him in on what had happened, and his reaction was almost identical to Jefferson’s—though this time, she took up the offer to be picked up. She told him to wait a few minutes before heading that way because she had yet to call a tow. After calling a tow truck, she sunk down a bit into her seat and sighed. Not exactly how I was planning on starting my day, but I suppose it could be worse, she told herself.
The tow truck arrived quickly, even before her father. She wished that she had thought to clean her car out while waiting on the tow, but the man was patient with her. She didn’t have too much junk tossed about—that clutter was normally reserved for the event van rather than her personal vehicle. She threw everything, including t
“I’m good, but thank you,” she said to the driver before he pulled away with her vehicle.
“You all right, Felicity?” her father asked, kindly opening the passenger’s side door for her.
She smiled as they both climbed into the car. “I’ll survive,” she said. “It’s just a car. Lucky for me, I have the event van I can use until I figure out what’s wrong with the stupid thing.”
“Where’s the tow taking the car?” he asked.
“To your mechanic,” she said. “I already called him, and he’s showing up at his shop early this morning to take a look at it.”
“That’s my girl,” he said. “Always keep that level head when you can.”
“I try,” she said.
“You sure you’re all right?” he asked, and Felicity frowned. Her parents had been acting so cautious around her lately, as was everyone else. She was sad, sure, but she kept having to reassure everyone that she was not on the verge of a mental breakdown.
“I’m fine, Dad. Thanks for coming to get me,” she said.
“Anything for you, baby,” he said.
They arrived at her shop in record time thanks to her father’s always speedy driving. She thanked him again with a peck on the cheek and then hurried through the back entrance of the shop. As she made her way to the front, she could see that Jefferson was speaking with a young man and was successfully booking them another party. Felicity grinned. Jefferson had turned out to be quite the salesman. She had initially hired him just to be her labor—carrying party supplies to and from her car during events—but he had really surprised her over the years. The party planning biz had turned out to be perfect for him.
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