Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The Corpse In The Gazebo by Debra Sennefelder Read An Excerp

 Welcome today I am featuring Author Debra Sennefelder and her new release . . .

Debra kindly shared an excerpt just for you guys! 

Hope Early had her Explorer’s windows rolled down and the sunroof open so she could inhale the sweetness of spring blooms and feel the gentle breezes that rolled through swaying trees on her drive to Cleo Sloane’s house.

Clusters of daffodils stretched along the side of the road as far as she could see. The bright orange flowers were a definite sign that spring had arrived, and summer wasn’t too far off. Everywhere she looked, Hope saw the stirrings of homeowners as they emerged from winter hibernation. Winter wreaths were traded out for spring florals, hanging planters were added to porches, and lawns had their first cuttings.

Spring has always been a season of transformation, and for Hope it was more so than ever before. Life had taken some unexpected turns over the past year. Some were welcomed, while others had been interlopers in her life. But she chose not to dwell on the past. No, she embraced the season of optimism.

At an intersection, she eased to a stop. To her left was a fenced field of Jersey cows, and to her right was a rambling ranch-style house with a flower stand set up on the property line. There she spotted Cleo loading potted plants into a cart. The president of the Jefferson Garden Club had been selling her cuttings to help offset her daughter’s college tuition.

Hope flicked her blinker on and eased her vehicle onto the edge of the Sloane property. After shutting off the ignition, she got out and walked toward Cleo.

She surveyed the flower stand, a simple wood table with price a list for the gallon-sized containers.

“Hey there, Hope. Good to see you.” Cleo dropped a pot onto the cart and then removed her work gloves. She was a thick-set middle-aged woman who always had dirt under her nails and a random fact about insect control on the tip of her tongue. “Beauty of a day, isn’t it?”

“Speaking of beauty . . . this hosta is stunning.” Hope moved to the cart for a closer inspection. The plant’s green leaves were highlighted by a creamy central pattern that made for a striking two-tone design.

“Angel Falls. She prefers light shade. Did you know grasshoppers enjoy dining on hostas? It’s important to inspect their leaves for holes, gaps, and tears at the edges. Early detection is crucial.”

“I have so much to learn about gardening.” Hope could bake a soufflĂ© blindfolded, but garden? It was a talent and skill she didn’t possess. Not like Cleo. She was an expert. “Are you closing for the day?”

“Actually, I’m closing down for good.” Cleo trudged to the table and grabbed the sign. “I can’t even have a going out of business sale.”

“Why? What happened?”

“Birdie Donovan. That’s what happened. She reported me to the town, and since I don’t have any permits, I can’t sell my plants. Turns out, my little nursery is illegal. Go figure.” Cleo set the sign on the cart.

“Why did Birdie report you?” The moment Hope asked, she realized how silly it sounded. Everyone knew Birdie liked to stir the pot and was the perpetual squeaky wheel.

“Got me! All I can figure out is that she is still angry with me for the disagreement over last year’s Mother’s Day Flower Sale. Remember, we sold bouquets of flowers and gallon pots of perennials?”

Hope nodded. What she remembered was dropping a lot of money that weekend. When she bought her farmhouse, not only had the home been neglected, but so had the gardens. Her garden beds had desperately needed perennials.

“There was a disagreement? About what?” Hope browsed the pots remaining on the flower stand, awed by the healthy and flowering plants.

“She wanted us to buy the plants from a greenhouse she’d dealt with but we’d already agreed to get our plants from Timmy’s Garden Supply out on Old Saw Mill Road like we’d done for years. A big brush-up ensued, and she left the club. Well, I said, good riddance. She’s been nothing but trouble. And now this.” Cleo gestured to her almost empty flower stand.

“Have you explored getting a permit?” Hope knew little about business permits and what restrictions there were to running a retail business from home. Her blog didn’t require any such things.

“Even if I could get one, it would be expensive. The whole point of selling my cuttings was to earn some extra cash to help pay for the expenses not covered by Julia’s scholarship. But, it turns out, according to zoning, I’m not supposed to be operating a retail business in this area.”

“I’m so sorry this happened.”

“Thanks . . . I’m sure I’ll figure something out. Maybe I can scrape enough money to get a booth at a flea market.” Cleo put her gloves back on and then lifted the Angel Falls Hosta off the cart. “Take this. It’ll look real nice in your garden.”

Hope raised her hands to protest. “That’s so nice of you. Let me pay you.”

“Nope. I can’t take any money because I need to keep this all legal. It’s a gift. Take good care of her.” Cleo thrust the pot into Hope’s hands. “Consider it my thank you for that delicious monkey bread recipe you shared last week on your blog.”

“You’re welcome. And thank you for this plant. I promise to take care of her.”

“You do that. And I’m going to get these back to my greenhouse.” Cleo grabbed the handle of the cart. “Let me tell you, I’m doing my best not to hold on to my anger against Birdie, but it’s hard to do. One day, she will come face to face with karma, and it won’t be pretty. Mark my words. She’ll get what’s coming to her.” She turned and pulled the cart behind her as she crossed the lawn toward her backyard.

Cleo’s warning concerned Hope, yet she understood the sentiment. She carried her new plant back to her Explorer. She pointed her key fob at the back cargo door, and when it opened, she set the plant inside. After the door closed, she took a final look at the dismantled flower stand. She wished she understood Birdie’s motivation for causing trouble for people. But more so, she hoped Cleo did nothing in retaliation that she’d be sorry for.

I live this series so I wanted to share it with you. 

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