by: Kelle Z. Riley
Series: Undercover Cat Series
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Release Date: November 22, 2016
Publisher: Curtis Brown Unlimited
Science is about solving puzzles. Why should solving a murder be any different?
Dr. Bree Watson (aka Gabriella Catherine Mayfield-Watson) is comfortable solving chemistry problems. She isn’t comfortable finding her boss dead and being a suspect in his poisoning. Now she’s juggling:
- A sexy marketing manager—who may, or may not—be a contract killer.
- A handsome lead detective whose interest goes beyond the case.
- The dead man’s cranky cat.
- A goose-chasing dog in hot water with an animal rights group.
- The search for the perfect cupcake recipe.
- And, of course, someone who wants her out of the picture.
And she thought getting a Ph.D. was hard.
When Bree arrived at Buckster’s office, Norah intercepted her as quickly and quietly as a ghost, despite her skin-tight black sheath and scuffed combat boots. Bree bit the inside of her lip to keep from commenting on—or worse laughing at—the outfit of the day. Buckster’s twenty-something administrative assistant looked like a walking Halloween prop with her pale skin and artificially dark hair. But as much as she tried to appear hard and aloof, her natural warmth always shone through the cracks in her disguise.
“Like I said, Bree, chill. He’s been quiet as a corpse all morning. No demands of any kind. It makes me wonder if caffeine wasn’t his problem all along.”
“Caffeine? The man lives on coffee.”
“He did.” Norah smirked, causing her lip piercing to torque upward at an odd angle. She tipped her head toward the office. “While you were out last week, he decided to decaffeinate himself. Talking to him was like trying to pet a crocodile—you risked losing an appendage.”
So caffeine withdrawal explained the tantrums Kiki had told her about. “I’m glad I wasn’t here last week.”
“You’re lucky you weren’t. Tuesday he lit into me for not setting the auto brew feature on his fancy personal coffeemaker before I left on Monday night. So it’s his own fault if his coffee tasted like crap this morning. I’m never going to come in at five A.M. to get coffee for his early-bird butt, so I set it up on Friday night.” The grin she sent Bree had a touch of evil in it—or would have, if her bright red lipstick hadn’t smeared and faded. “At least he didn’t complain about it. Maybe he fell asleep from lack of caffeine.”
Bree let out a sigh of relief and stepped over to the office. She peered through the window but didn’t see Buckster. She rapped on the door. No answer. “Buckster? It’s Bree. We had a meeting set up for this morning.” She rapped harder.
Still no answer.
Unease tickled the back of her neck, and her hands felt cold again. Something wasn’t right. “Norah, are you sure he didn’t step out for a minute?”
Norah pointed to the do-not-disturb sign with a black lacquered fingernail. “I haven’t moved from this desk since I arrived. No one’s been in or out of that office.” Her lips curled into another smirk. “Trust me, I’ve been watching that door all morning.”
Bree’s apprehension mounted as she looked at Norah. The wannabe Goth girl seemed ill at ease, too. Bree shrugged it off and turned back to Buckster’s office. She tried the knob. The door opened easily. The minute she stepped inside, the odor of burned coffee assaulted her nostrils. She glanced at the credenza, by the door. Buckster’s coffee mug sat on the polished surface next to a nearly full pot of coffee. The hot plate on the coffeemaker sizzled as a drop of liquid splashed onto the exposed surface.
Bracing herself against the smell, she took a tiny breath, only inhale more eau de burned-coffee, now unpleasantly laced with something that resembled sulfurous sewer gas. What was going on?
In front of her, Buckster’s desk was in disarray, the computer asleep, but emitting a soft series of beeps.
As she rounded the desk, she kicked an overturned coffee cup—the kind used for high end brew like the coffee Tugood had brought her—and liquid sloshed out of the paper. A sweet, nutty-cherry scent wafted up before being drowned out by the noxious sulfur and coffee stench.
She peered under the desk and froze, the chill from her hands now encasing her whole body. “Norah, call 9-1-1.” Bree’s voice sounded shrill in her own ears, but she didn’t stop to think. She dropped her computer and notes on the desk and rushed to Buckster’s prone body. He lay facing the wall, halfway under the desk, one arm outstretched, as if he’d fallen while reaching for something. She put her fingers on his neck, praying she’d feel a pulse, but the stiffness of the flesh—not warm, yet not cool either—told her she wouldn’t.
Buckminster Davis was dead.
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Kelle Z. Riley, writer, speaker, Ph.D. chemist, safety/martial arts expert, and world traveler has been featured in public forums that range from local Newspapers to National television. Her work was featured in the April 2014 “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias.” A former Golden Heart Finalist, Kelle resides in Chattanooga, TN. She has been a director for the Chattanooga Writer’s Guild, as well as a self defense instructor, a Master Gardener and a full time chemist with numerous professional publications and U. S. patents.
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