Another Ever After book has been released! Denise Barela’s Silencing the Siren is finally available, and in honor of this fun book, the ladies of the Ever After Mysteries Series are doing another fun blog hop! Start HERE with Rebekah Jones’s story to find out what happened to the disappearing poster.
What on earth had possessed Chautona to bring her dog to the auction? Seriously… Neville would have been happier at home, chewing on the jumbo bone he got in his Christmas stocking. Between you and me, I think Chautona just wanted to show off their matching sweaters. Nutcrackers, you know, because of her latest book. A gift from an adoring fan, no doubt, but IMHO a little tacky for this snooty auction house.
I admit… she never actually claimed he was a service dog. She’s a scrupulously honest woman. But she did slip on a pair of dark glasses as we approached the building.
“You won’t be able to see the poster with those on,” I said. I’m afraid I sounded a little snappish, but really… that woman’s creative genius had gotten us into trouble before. We’d come a long way for this auction, and I didn’t want to get kicked out before it started.
I wanted that poster. Joshua Markey’s artwork for Denise Barela’s latest book was brilliant. It would have looked fabulous in our game room, if it was within my budget. It wasn’t.
“No, no. I have a plan.” She leaned close. “The poster will be hidden until the very last second. They’ll sweep back the curtain theatrically after everyone is seated and ready to start bidding.”
I stopped to face her. “You said we’d be able to see it first.”
She nodded vigorously. “Right. We’ll just sidle up to the easel and I’ll take a peek under the curtain. You can look, too, if there’s time,” she added generously. “I don’t think they’ll suspect a thing.”
Because they’d think she was blind. Honestly… I scowled and trailed after her as she entered the auction house trying to look like Neville was leading her instead of being prodded from behind.
As a famous author, Chautona always drew a lot of attention. This time, in the dark glasses and that gaudy nutcracker sweater, being led around by a coordinating pooch… people stared for a different reason. Only a few of them even recognized her. Two women squealed, stopped, and asked for her autograph. I chafed at the delay. Time was slipping by, and we still hadn’t seen the poster.
Neville wasn’t a very convincing seeing eye dog. He didn’t like crowds, and these fans were noisy. One of them even patted him on the head and told him he was an adorable little fuzzy wuzzy furbaby. I could tell he was embarrassed.
As soon as she could disengage her admirers, Chautona and I resumed our mission. The poster, draped in red velvet, stood on a wood easel by the auctioneer’s podium, roped off by a ridiculously flimsy cord. Seriously… did they think that would deter the kind of people who wanted that poster?
Even more surprisingly, no hawk-eyed staff members stood guard. I looked around, suddenly aware of that familiar sensation of alarm that so often overcame me when Chautona and I did things together. There they were… three security guards stood around Denise Barela, holding out books for her to sign. It was the perfect opportunity.
Unexpectedly and just on cue, Neville got into his role. He even seemed to know where he was going. He tugged on the leash, and Chautona followed him forward. I followed, too, feeling like the stereotypical loyal sidekick, praying that we wouldn’t get arrested.
He stopped in front of the easel, considered it with his head tipped to one side, and lifted a leg. Chautona didn’t even notice. She thrust the leash at me and neatly slid out of sight behind the poster. We weren’t as inconspicuous as Chautona had all-too-blithely assured me we would be. (Did I mention the sweaters?) Several people gasped, and the security guards turned.
“Hey!” They headed toward me. Me. Chautona was hidden by the poster. There I was, all alone… standing in front of the easel and holding the dog’s leash. It wasn’t his fault. We’d dragged him through town without stopping at a single hydrant.
“Chautona,” I hissed. “We’ve gotta go.”
“I’ll meet you at the car. Go!” The words were faint, as if she might be calling back over her shoulder as she hastened away.
I tugged on Neville’s leash and ran, shoving through groups of elegantly-clad collectors. They exclaimed indignantly, giving the guards direction. Panicked, I sought an exit sign. If we tried to leave through the lobby, we’d get stuck at the door.
“Down there, on the left.” Someone pushed me in that direction. Was that Sandy, Chautona’s publisher? I stopped, confused. She pushed again, and I took off. Neville finally seemed to realize we had a problem, and he was pulling ahead of me by the time we made it through the side door and back to the car. He jumped inside and I followed, slouching down in my seat, scanning the street for pursuers. None. I shuddered in relief and turned to face Neville.
He barked and pawed at the door.
Really? “No! You’ll have to hold it!”
He whined. I looked around. No one appeared to be looking for us, and the nearest fire hydrant was only a few yards away. “All right. You’d better be fast.”
He seemed to take forever, but it couldn’t have been more than forty seconds. I waited, wishing Chautona had given me the keys. Where was she? Had she been caught? Back in the car, with Neville curled into a ball and snoring in the back seat, I fretted. She should be here by now. What should I do? As dearly as I would like to, I couldn’t abandon Neville and go in search of her. I might not be spotted if I went alone, but if he was with me… no, I’d just have to wait a little longer.
I watched anxiously for sight of a red and green sweater, sliding down in my seat every time a car or pedestrian passed, but she caught me off guard. I jerked upright at the pounding on the driver door window, realizing even as I unlocked it that she’d shed the sweater. Smart move. Without the nutcracker sweater and oversized dark glasses, she would have looked just like all the other attendees.
She had the key in the ignition even as she closed the door behind her. “We’ve gotta go.”
Yes, I told her that an hour ago. “Where have you been?”
She busied herself with buckling up, adjusting the rear-view mirror, flipping on the turn signal with more vigor than necessary and backing up. I inhaled. What had she done?
I knew the look she cast at me. It was mostly guilt, but this time, there was something else. Anxiety? I fixated on the guilt. “What did you do?”
“We have to get out of here,” she said. “They’re looking for you.”
“Me? For all of us, right?”
“Well,” she said cautiously, “for you and Neville and a woman in dark glasses and a nutcracker sweater.”
I looked at her black knit top and guileless, glasses-free eyes. “And that woman disappeared into a crowd of buyers at the auction? Did that woman win the auction?”
“No one did,” she said. She pulled into traffic, dodging around like a professional race car driver. “That’s the problem. Once things settled down and they got the auction started, they pulled away the curtain and…” she gulped. “The poster was gone.”
I sat upright. “Gone? What happened to it?”
“The general idea,” Chautona said, “is that it was stolen. People jumped to the obvious conclusion.”
Alarms blared in the distance. I flinched. “They think we stole it? Neville peed on the easel to stage a diversion, and then…” It sounded absurd even from her. Neville wasn’t that well-trained.
“The woman in the nutcracker sweater absconded with the poster while everyone was chasing you,” she finished my sentence. “It could have happened that way. It didn’t,” she hurried on, “but it could have.”
Did she sound regretful? I eyed her. There had to be more to the story. She must have been wearing the sweater over the black shirt all along, prepared to remove it if necessary. “Did you plan that?”
She made a last-second left turn, and I glanced behind us. No one was in sight. “What did you do?” I asked again. I didn’t believe she would have stolen the poster. She might contrive at some other kind of escapade, but not theft. She’d used me as part of her scheme, though, without telling me. That hurt.
“It was Sandy’s idea,” she finally said. “She really wanted to win the auction, since it’s her daughter’s book, but she heard a rumor that an anonymous buyer was prepared to bid whatever it took to win it. Rather than starting a bidding war and jack up the price, she decided to let that person win and talk them into selling later.”
“She heard a rumor about an anonymous buyer?” I asked. “And she believed it?”
Chautona nodded without taking her eyes from the road. “We’re pretty sure it’s Marji Laine. She snatched up an advance copy of Silencing the Siren and has been obsessed with it ever since.”
“Marji’s so sweet,” I objected. “I’m sure she’d let Sandy have it if she knew it was important to her.”
“Ha,” Chautona said darkly. “Like I said, obsessed. That’s why she’s doing it anonymously, and she’ll never display it in public. And besides, it might not be her. We don’t know for sure. So, I put a tracking bug on it.”
The last few words came out in a rush, and it took me a minute to decipher them. “A tracking bug?”
“So, whether it’s Marji or someone else, we’ll be able to find it.” Chautona had a gift for making the outrageous sound sensible. That’s what made her a great fiction writer. “Oh.” She rubbed her jaw. “I suppose that the police could use that, huh?”
I rolled my eyes. “Uh huh. And then they wouldn’t be looking for us.”
She glanced over her shoulder. “I’d better get that sweater off of him.”
“Watch the road!” I snapped. “You don’t need to drive like a maniac. You’re fleeing when no one is pursuing.”
She grinned. “Good one. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you what we were doing. It would have been simple, if Neville’s… er, natural instincts hadn’t led to a more exciting situation than I’d anticipated. I mean, I figured we’d just get kicked out, not arrested. You did great. No one else would have done it as well as you. You think on your feet. I knew you would.”
I should never have told her that “words of affirmation” was my love language. “It’s over. You are going to the police, right?”
“Maybe Sandy should do it,” Chautona said. “She’s the one with the tracking code.”
“You could do it anonymously.” As much as I’d like to throw Chautona to the wolves at this moment, she was still working on the book covers for my new series. She couldn’t do that from jail. And… well, it really was a funny plan. We’d laugh about it later. Not now, but later. Maybe next year.
“You were great,” Chautona repeated. “I’m sorry for not telling you. I thought we’d go in, get kicked out, and then have a good laugh about it.”
“You owe me,” I said.
“Big time,” she agreed. “You don’t think Marji stole the poster, do you?” She wrinkled her nose. “No, Marji wouldn’t do that. I wonder who did.”
I wondered, too. The poster had never been in my budget, but it sure would look good in my game room. If I could get hold of the tracking code… I squashed the budding plot. I’d get caught.
I heaved a sigh and leaned back in my seat. We rode in silence. Eventually, I realized I was grinning. I’d survived another adventure with Chautona. She kept life interesting.
“By the way,” she said suddenly, “I have an idea. It’s a little out of the ordinary, but I think we should…”
Yep, she keeps life interesting.
I guess you’ll have to visit Marji Laine to find out what she has to say about it.
Silencing the Siren
The indulged son of wealthy parents, Andrew has always gotten whatever he wanted almost before he knew he wanted it—clothes, gadgets… even a car! What more could a young man desire?
Enter Annabel Thompson. Freakshow mermaid extraordinaire… in a wheelchair!
Of course, her beauty attracts him. How could it not? Add to that a kind heart, and Andrew can’t help but fall for her.
Annabel’s connection with the freakshow repels his parents and their society friends. They want him to sever all ties with her and his new friends. Oh, and marry the “right” girl with the “right connections.” But he won’t do it. He’ll defy them and marry his little mermaid.
When Annabel turns up missing, declared dead, things don’t add up, Andrew begins asking some difficult questions, the most important being, “What happened to the little mermaid of the Coney Island freak show?”
Find out in this next book in the Ever After Mysteries, combining beloved fairy tales and mysteries. Silencing the Siren offers a retelling of “The Little Mermaid” that will keep you gripped to the edge of your seat as you watch the story unfold.
Pick up your copy of Silencing the Siren by Denise Barela. I know you’ll enjoy it! Then enter the giveaway HERE and visit all the other authors’ websites to read their stories (and enter their giveaways, too!)
Check out all of the Ever After Mysteries on Amazon!
All the books in this series are so fun! They’re 1920’s mystery novels inspired by fairy tales, written by Chautona Havig, Marji Laine, April Hayman, Cathe Swanson, Rebekah Jones, Denise Barela, and Liz Tolsma!
Find more information about my contribution, Murder at the Empire, HERE. Happy reading!