A Widow Writer Mystery
Jaynie Floyd, a celebrated mystery writer, has a book on the New York Times
bestseller list. It’s wonderful news and her agent wants to send her
on a book tour to promote it. However, Jaynie is newly widowed and
doesn’t want to go. As she works through her grief, a myriad of
problems arise with family and life.
Once she finally decides to go on the book tour, partially to escape, all
hell breaks loose. One of the other authors on the tour is murdered and
Jaynie’s instincts as a mystery writer are called into action. Soon
she is chasing down leads and suspects, all the while avoiding requests from
police and family to keep out of it. Her skills and curiosity take Jaynie
into dangerous territory, from which she may not escape. Bodies pile up as
she gets closer to the truth. Truth that could make sure she bothers the
killer no more.
Book Tour Madness is a story of survival after the death of a spouse, mixed
with an old-fashioned murder mystery.
No one responded to my single knock on her door, so I pounded on the door.
Still no answer.
My nose twitched. Her
overpowering perfume from the other night drifted my way. There was no
mistaking that pungent aroma. She had to be close by. Without thinking
twice, I headed downstairs to find the hotel manager.
Even before the short,
balding man put a magnetic card into the door lock, I had a sinking feeling
that we weren’t going to like what we found. Chalk it up to writing
murder mysteries for the past ten years, but I didn’t dismiss
feelings. They were a natural part of the selection process and a dogged
reminder of human frailty.
He opened the door
At first, there was
nothing to see, save an unmade bed, clothing and cosmetics scattered around
and a standing ice bucket with a bottle of champagne.
We’d checked into
the hotel at 11:30, Hilda and I had gone to lunch with Marliss begging off.
She was entertaining at noon when we had the signing event at two?
The hotel manager stepped
aside and I walked over by the ice bucket. I was about to pull out my cell
phone to take pictures when a furry pink shoe on the floor by the massive
bed caught my eye. We had been booked into suites with four-poster beds that
occupied seemingly half of our bedrooms. Marliss’ room looked just
I walked two steps toward
the furry shoe with heels too high for me when a leg suddenly stretched out
not far from it. I froze in my tracks when the rest of the body came into
view. Crystal clear.
My stomach pitched with
the mixed aromas of perfume and body fluids. She lay crumpled on the floor
with a small amount of blood oozing from the side of her head. Her eyes were
open, yet unseeing. I didn’t expect to find a pulse.
I turned to the short man
immediately behind me. He rubbed his eyes as if they were deceiving him and
took a step back.
He looked from Marliss to
me and back.
With a shaky breath, he
nodded and backed all the way out of the room, shutting the door quietly
behind him. The idiot.
I snapped to and
remembered I had my phone on me. As I made the call, I was careful not to
touch anything in the room, especially by the body. I had written scenes
like this too many times to be unaware of the liability I had put myself
into just by being here.
Marliss was dead. I knew
that for sure, but my troubles were just beginning.
While waiting for the police to arrive, I stayed away from the body, but my
eyes searched the room. Marliss’ suite, like mine, had a bedroom
separated from a nice sitting area with a table and chairs situated by a
large window overlooking the city. The sleek paneled doors were wide open to
the sitting area. An ice bucket sat by the table, but a chair had tipped
over. It lay on its side pointing the way to Marliss’ body in the next
room. The champagne in the ice bucket hadn’t been opened and had to be
plenty cold by now. Two champagne glasses sitting on the table indicated she
had been expecting company.
The rest of the sitting
room held little interest for me, so my eyes strayed back to the body.
Marliss was wearing lingerie. Sexy lingerie. A frilly lavender number,
I’m sure by a famous designer, with a barely-there bra, thong and tiny
lace skirt. I couldn’t be sure from this distance, but the skirt
appeared to be torn. The whole outfit didn’t cover much and I was
tempted to reach for a blanket. Tempted, but I didn’t. The crime scene
needed to be kept as it was.
Her face was turned to me
and I was sad to see her blank eyes. The Marliss I’d known and, okay,
disliked, had eyes that could look right through you or knock you down with
her deadly glare. Hilda had been the recipient of that look more than
The blood splatter
pattern indicated she’d been killed where she had fallen—yes, I
knew about patterns from years of research—and the red mark on her
face indicated a hard slap. Maybe the slap had caused her fall and she hit
her head on the corner of the bed when she fell.
Maybe her death was an
Maybe. Oh, no. My eyes
saw more than I wanted. A small shaft of sunlight flashed on something shiny
by the bedpost. My feet itched to move closer to see what it could be when
my brain came back online.
No, it couldn’t
I remembered my
conversation with Hilda. She’d remarked that she had left it back in
her room. But her body language belied her words. Her chin dipped to her
chest as she spoke and she’d averted her eyes from mine. I could swear
she was lying, and her comment hadn’t made sense. I knew how much she
loved that ring because Antoine gave it to her.
Maybe Antoine had
returned to the scene and asked for it back. Had he then gone to see
Marliss, killed her and dropped the ring to implicate Hilda?
Food for thought.
Where could I find
I checked back through my
texts from Marliss. She’d mentioned something I was trying to
remember. Ah, here it was. She had to miss lunch because she had a quick
meeting with a secret admirer. Apparently, the “meeting” was
code for a nooner and needed to be quick because the signing event would be
starting at two.
So whatever happened to
her, happened between noon and two o’clock. I glanced at the
door’s heavy security locks. She must have let him in, another
indication she knew the killer. It would have been nice if she’d let
me inn on her little secret, but that was the way Marliss worked. She was always
cloaked in secrecy, which didn’t save her.
The man opening the door
wasted no time.
Detective Sloan from LAPD. You the one who found the
connection to the deceased?”
“I was on a book
tour with her.”
Although the man wore
wire-framed glasses, I could see the squint aimed my way. His fake smile
wasn’t filling me with confidence.
We’re fellow authors at a book signing event.”
I could tell he
didn’t have a clue what I was talking about, so I babbled some
authors go to bookstores to sign books purchased by readers.”
While he stood still
sizing me up, I suppose, I had a good look at him too. A wrinkled jacket
over jeans with a crooked tie. All that was missing from his costume was the
felt hat and he could have been straight out of a Mickey Spillane novel. He
looked more like Spillane’s detective, Mike Hammer, from what I read,
than Stacy Keach from the old television show. A hard-boiled detective faced
me as the color bleached from the hotel room placing me in the middle of a
classic film noir.
I knew there’d be a
holstered gun under the jacket, and a badge peeked out from his belt. He
wasn’t any happier to see me than I was to see him. If more minutes
ticked by, I would be breaking into a cold sweat.
His gaze dropped to the
body and he moved toward it. A uniformed officer stood by the door keeping
me in his sight at all times. What did he think I was going to do? Make a
run for it? I sure did think about doing exactly that, but I was pinned in
place by his steely look. My knees had locked up and I seriously hoped I
wouldn’t tip over. I’d be lying next to poor Marliss.
gaze flicked over Marliss, taking her in. I bet he had a snapshot of her in
his head and details would come back to him as he thought over the scene.
I’d written about detectives like Sloan, so I wasn’t
uncomfortable being around him. I just didn’t appreciate being
considered a suspect because I happened to be in the wrong place at the
When a police
photographer entered the room, Detective Sloan moved me into the sitting
area. His questioning look returned to an otherwise neutral face.
“How did you happen
to find the body?”
“She missed the
signing event today at Book Soup and I came to look for her.”
said anything to you about possibly being detained?”
did.” When I reached for my cell phone in my pocket, the detective
took a step back as the uniformed officer at the door took a step
I said. “I’m getting my phone out.”
exactly relax, but his shoulders weren’t hunched around his ears
I scrolled through my
text messages until I found what I was looking for.
He took my phone and read
the message. His face remained as vacant as a blank chalkboard. I bet
he was a good poker player. He handed the phone back.
to copy all your messages from Marliss Kendall. Could you come down to the
He jerked his head toward
the officer at the door. “Officer Petrie will give you the information
I glanced at Petrie who
embodied those uniformed guards at Buckingham Palace. An expression on his
face was as useless as my presence in a hotel room with a dead body.
“Can you add
anything else to what you’ve told me?” asked Sloan.
I could tell he thought I
knew more than I was saying and maybe he was right. I didn’t mention
the ring because I wasn’t supposed to have seen it. I had been closer
to the body than I should have been and I wasn’t going to tattle on
myself. Besides, Sloan didn’t appear to be a dummy. He’d learn
whose ring it was in due course.
“Yes, sir. May I
He nodded curtly.
“Give your contact information to Officer Petrie and go down to the
central station to make your deposition. I’ll need it as soon as
“I can do
I left as quickly as
possible. Being close to poor Marliss for so long had me rushing back to my
room for a long, hot shower. With soapsuds rinsing off, several things
occurred to me:
1. What was the Detroit connection?
2. Was she being blackmailed? The scene in the alley back
in San Francisco could have been about blackmail. Maybe a rabid fan?
About the Author
SJ SLAGLE started her career as a language arts teacher. When she began
writing, her initial interest was children’s stories, but then she
moved on to western romance, mysteries and historical fiction. She has
published 30 novels. Her website is www.sjslagle.com. SJ has established
Twitter and Facebook fan bases, and a quarterly author newsletter.
SJ Slagle has written several western romance series including: THESE
NEVADA BOYS, RANCHER, and THE WESTERNERS, as well as mystery series: FLOYD
SISTERS MYSTERIES and SHERLOCK AND ME. All her books are distributed in
digital, paper and audiobook formats.
Her first historical fiction novel, LONDON SPIES, was awarded a B.R.A.G.
Medallion in 2018. She was given the Silver Award with the International
Independent Film Awards for her screenplay called REDEMPTION. She conducts
writing/publishing symposiums in her local area.
SJ Slagle lives and works in Reno, Nevada.