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Will Abigail become a hostage to fortune?
Independent Abigail Beanblossom finally has the tearoom of her dreams, even if it is chock full of eccentric Tarot readers. But when her Tarot reading business partner, Hyperion Night, becomes embroiled in a rival’s murder, Abigail discovers that true partnership is about more than profit and loss.
Fortune Favors the Grave is a fast, fun read in the Tea and Tarot cozy mystery series. Download this FREE book and escape into this hilarious caper today!
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Some people have the cockeyed idea running a tearoom is an elegant and genteel profession. I’d thought it would be elegant and genteel.
Some people haven’t met my Tarot-reading business partner, Hyperion Night.
“For Pete’s sake, get down.” I glared at Hyperion, perched like a Victorian acrobat on a piling at the end of the pier. If I could peer into the future, I might have known what my afternoon had in store. I might also have known why he was dressed like Oscar Wilde in a cravat and tailcoat.
On the other hand, ignorance was usually bliss.
A seagull soared low above his head. Hyperion ducked, and I sucked in my breath. He wobbled and tightened his stranglehold on one of the taller pilings.
To hide my moment of panic, I checked the clock on my phone. The work day was mostly done, and my staff could deal with any lingering customers in our Tea and Tarot room. I didn’t like leaving my staff in the lurch for Hyperion-hijinks. But once my grandfather and his best friend, Tomas, had dropped by to tell me what my business partner was up to, I had to see for myself.
Hyperion’s massive tabby perched on the railing. His tail flicked across a sign warning against fishing off the pier. His massive tabby cat, Bastet, glanced at the pier’s nearby fish restaurant with barely concealed fascination.
“I'm not getting down until this law is banished to the repository for bad ideas,” Hyperion shouted. “A license for Tarot readers makes no sense. It’s a scam by San Borromeo’s own modern Mephistopheles, Trevor Amalfi. The fiend is a fraud, a shyster, a criminalite. A pimple on the backside of the psychic community. That parasite only wants licensing to cut back his competition. Amalfi will run the licensing school, making money at both ends. It's a diabolical conflict of interest.”
A small crowd had gathered, pointing and laughing. I suspected they were more interested in whether Hyperion would plunge into the greenish waves than in his cause.
I shook my head. He should have stopped at fiend. Or maybe given up his Lovecraftian Word of the Day calendar. I muttered and squinted against the June sun. It glinted between the clouds behind him and set a patch of the Pacific ablaze. “Would you please get down before you fall down?” I shouted. Or before I shove you in? The two of us had just started Beanblossom’s Tea and Tarot. Hyperion's imminent arrest would not be good for business. And he would get arrested. Pilings had to be off limits, and that was just the way our luck tended to run. Murder. Mayhem. Arrest. Neither of us could afford the legal bills.
“Power to the people!” A dreadlocked blonde in a headscarf and jingly skirt, punched her fist in the air.
Hyperion looked at her askance and slipped on the piling.
My heart clenched.
He made a wild grab for the taller piling and steadied himself. My hyperventilating resumed.
“Er, yes.” Hyperion gasped. A bead of sweat trickled down his finely chiseled face. With his high cheekbones and Eurasian good looks, he could model for men’s magazines. “It is a sulfurous, maggoty proposal.”
Gramps and his BFF from the USAF, Tomas Salazar, ambled to a halt beside me. My grandfather’s teenage mallard duck, Peking, waddled behind the two.
My grandfather adjusted the checked cabbie’s hat over his thinning white hair. “Is he going to jump?” Gramps wore his usual browns: beige-y sweater vest, saggy khaki trousers, and brown loafers. He liked to keep things simple, steady, predictable.
His pet duck quacked and tilted his head, questioning. The young duck had imprinted on my grandfather and followed him everywhere.
“No,” I said over Hyperion's anti-licensing rant. “He's protesting the proposed licensing for fortune tellers.”
Tomas’s brown eyes twinkled. “Can we push him in?” He rolled up one of the sleeves of his navy blazer.
I sighed. Tempting. “No.”
“You couldn't reach him anyway,” Gramps said.
“I could use a stick,” Tomas said.
“Where are you going to get a stick?” Gramps asked.
The duck quacked his skepticism.
“I once killed a man with a bottlecap,” Tomas said. “I can knock a Tarot reader off a pier.”
“He's not exactly on the pier,” I pointed out. The trio of pilings stood at least five feet from the pier's end. How had Hyperion gotten on top of them?
Bastet hopped from the railing and prowled closer, whiskers twitching.
Peking rustled his feathers. Impossibly, the cat and duck were friends, though I didn't trust Bastet for consistency.
“How'd Hyperion get up there?” Gramps scratched his bristly jowls.
“That is one of life’s many mysteries.” I growled.
The gypsy fortune teller sidled up to us. Her tanned skin was wrinkled by the sun. “I see dark forces surrounding your partner.”
I started. How did she know Hyperion and I were business partners? We hadn’t been at it for long.
“I see a cold swim in his future.” Tomas barked a laugh.
“You know Hyperion?” I asked the woman, uneasy.
Her slash of orange-y lipstick curled into a smile. “We live in a small community.”
I shivered, because I didn't think she was talking about San Borromeo, our tiny beach town. She meant the woo-woo psychic/fortune telling community. I may have partnered with a Tarot reader, but I was conflicted about the New Age.
A local reporter, Susan Wilkinson, emerged from the growing crowd. She jammed her phone in my face and sniffed. “Abigail, what's going on?” Susan was my physical opposite – tall and willowy and platinum-blond, while I was somewhat vertically challenged, with mid-length, wavy brown hair. She also had a bright red nose and her voice was a little rough today.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Summer cold. What’s the word?”
I motioned toward Hyperion. “He's protesting the proposed fortune teller licensing law.”
The wind ruffled the feather in Tomas’s fedora. “There’s money in licensing for the town,” he said. “Your partner’s got an uphill battle.”
The duck waddled closer to Gramps and quacked.
The reporter pulled a tissue from the pocket of her brown slacks. “It's a slow news day. He'll make page three, at least.” Her eyes narrowed. “Unless this is all a publicity stunt for your tearoom.” She blew her nose.
I rolled my eyes. “Come off it, Susan. I didn't know he was planning a stand-in.”
“She speaks the truth,” the faux-gypsy intoned.
Susan's nose twitched. “Esmerelda La Rue. I suppose licensing would put you out of business, you old charlatan. Trevor's said he wants you gone.”
The woman drew herself up, the bangles on her wrist clanking. “Charlatan? He wants me gone, because I’m a reminder of his perfidy.” She sputtered. “And your third eye is clouded with cynicism.”
The reporter tapped her phone on her chin. “So, you and Hyperion Night are together on this?”
“In this,” Esmerelda said, sticking her long nose in the air, “I stand with Hyperion.”
“Wait,” I said. “Together?” Because even I'd heard of Esmerelda LaRue. She'd been accused of swindling old people out of their money. Hyperion and Esmerelda would never team up. He had ethics. Though Esmerelda had never been convicted… “I don't think—”
“Are you bringing psychics into your tearoom, Abigail?” Susan asked.
“Well, some of the fortune tellers are psychic, but—”
“I meant her.” Susan tilted her head toward Esmerelda.
The Pacific sloshed loudly beneath us.
“Hyperion manages the Tarot side of the business,” I hedged.
A siren hiccupped at the other end of the pier, where pastel houses cascaded down the hillside to the beach.
I groaned. The cops had arrived. Now Hyperion really would get arrested. He’d probably enjoy being in handcuffs, I thought sourly.
“The police are here,” I shouted over the wind rippling my floral-print blouse. “Get down before you get arrested.”
“No,” Hyperion said. “The city of San Borromeo provides no useful service by licensing fortune tellers. How can they know if a psychic’s any good or not? This is a money-making scheme for that pestilent reptile, Trevor Amalfi.” He raised his voice. “Who, by the way, is the real fraud.”
“Hear, hear!” Esmerelda pointed a dramatic finger toward the police car at the end of the pier. “Karma has a way of working things out. Mark my words, Trevor Amalfi will pay for his perfidy.”
Another police cruiser, lights flashing, joined the first.
I clawed my whipping hair from my face. “Hyperion, we're running out of time. Get down!”
“No.” He lifted his chin and turned to present a dramatic profile. The wind tousled his hair. Even in his Victorian getup, he looked heroic. It was irritating.
“Come on,” I said. “You’ve made your point. You don’t need to get arrested.”
“Er,” he whisper-shouted, “it’s not that I won’t. I can't.”
“What do you mean you can't?” I asked, exasperated. “You got up there. You must have had a plan for getting down.”
“I chained myself to the piling.” He lifted his frock coat, exposing the padlock around his middle.
“Well, unlock it!”
“I accidentally dropped the key in the water.”
Gramps and Tomas burst into laughter. The duck hopped onto Bastet's back.
I smacked my forehead. Of all the… “Seriously?”
“I might be able to wiggle out,” Hyperion said. “This piling is slippery.”
And he might end up head-first in the drink. I glanced over my shoulder. The cops were taking their sweet time getting to our end of the pier. Maybe they didn't want to deal with Hyperion either.
“I've got a hacksaw in my trunk,” Gramps said.
“What are you doing with a hacksaw in your trunk?” Tomas asked.
“Just in case,” Gramps said blandly.
“In case of what?” Tomas asked.
“You never know. Some of those damned protestors might chain themselves to the bridge again. I’m not going to sit in traffic for hours because the cops are too namby-pamby to kick ‘em off.”
The two elderly men bickered. The reporter snapped photos of Hyperion with her phone. Esmerelda… I looked around. Esmerelda had vanished into the crowd, and my shoulders released. Unfair or not, I got a bad vibe from that woman.
A tall, sinewy figure strode down the pier, and my shoulders returned to their hunched position. Detective Chase. He'd rescued me from a killer once, so I was usually well disposed toward the transplanted Texan. But today…
“Get the hacksaw,” I hissed to my grandfather.
“What?” he asked. “Oh. Right.” He hustled down the pier. The duck hopped off Bastet's back and waddled after him and Tomas.
Detective Chase stopped beside me and gazed at Hyperion. He thumbed his cowboy hat higher on his forehead, exposing his golden hair. “So,” he drawled. “What do we have here?”
“Hyperion's protesting,” I said quickly, folding my arms over my chest. “But he's just leaving. He dropped the key to his chains—”
“Chains?” His eyes glinted.
“Holding him to the piling. My grandfather is getting a hacksaw to free him — he lost the key. Honestly, he'll be gone soon. It's no big deal.”
“What's he protesting?”
“Trevor Amalfi!” Hyperion shouted. “He's conned the San Borromeo city council into a licensing system for fortune tellers. Its sole purpose is knocking off Amalfi’s competition and accruing crony capitalist profits. Free the fortune tellers! Tarot cards or death!”
The detective stared at his snakeskin boots and shook his head. “I really wish you hadn’t put it that way.”
The reporter muttered into her phone.
“He's paraphrasing William Travis,” I said.
“I'm familiar with the history of the Alamo,” the detective said.
Gramps huffed up to me, the duck fluttering behind him. “Abigail! There's a body under the pier.”
I froze. A body? I’d misheard. That couldn’t be right.
“Tell Hyperion to—” Gramps snapped his jaw shut and shot the detective a wary look.
“A body?” The reporter whirled toward Detective Chase. “Whose body? Was it foul play?”
Detective Chase edged backward. “Are you sick?”
“It’s nothing.” Susan coughed.
The detective clapped a handkerchief over his nose. “It sounds like something to me.” He motioned toward Hyperion with his free hand. “Get him down from there. Hyperion Night, we need a word.”
“Why?” Bewildered, I squeezed my arms tighter. “You're worried about a tiny protest when there's a body under the pier?”
“Abigail,” my grandfather said, “they’re saying it's that psychic fellow, Trevor Amalfi.”
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About Kirsten Weiss
“When threatened with a hairbrush by a vicious woman, remain calm and speak in cold level tones.” - Nancy Drew
With that sort of advice, is it any wonder my first book friend was Nancy Drew? I wanted to be Nancy. But when I realized becoming a girl detective probably wasn't practical, I was determined to be the next best (in my mind) thing: a mystery writer.
I love mystery, and I love spending time with whimsical characters. I hope you enjoy reading these mysteries as much as I loved writing them.