It’s autumn in Chelsea, and that brings a new, bigger and better OktoberFest. The Inn has several guests, all on hand to be a part of that event. And for once, no one staying at the Inn is there with a nefarious purpose in mind! However, that doesn’t mean everything is fine.
Mem and her daughter Diana must deal with Mem’s ex-husband, in town and needing money. As always. How far will he go to get it?
The bully boys are back. Out of jail with nothing but time on their hands, and…well…Halloween is coming. Will their pranks turn into something more sinister?
A sweet cat finds his way to the Inn, looking for detective cats to help his human. His life is changed forever.
Henrie, who keeps his personal life buttoned up and private, has a new love interest. But does this person share the same feelings? And if not, why not?
Come visit with the folks of Chelsea for a while.
Excerpt From Pumpkin Squash
Chapter 1: Pumpkins And More
Monday morning wasn’t lookin’ good. Annie walked up The Avenue with her kids – most of them, five of her seven rescue cats – as they made their way to “work.” A gray mist clung to everything. The October morning was chilly and drizzly.
Sassy Pants skittered to a halt at the door of Sassy P’s Wine & Cheese, looking back at the unusual sight.
Mr. Bean lingered in front of Mr. Bean’s Confectionary. As he looked at the strange thing, he was almost run over by a customer, who was leaving while eating a cream cheese Danish.
Mo looked not only at the thing on the street, he looked up and down to see if others were there as well. Seeing nothing, he turned and went through the cat door to Mo’s Tap. The blues bar would open for business in an hour or so.
Little Socks, on her way into L’Socks’ Virasana, the yoga studio, walked to the offending sight to take a sniff or two of large rubber tires.
Tiger Lily recognized the truck. She ran into Tiger Lily’s Café and headed for the kitchen to tell Felicity to take care of it.
Annie followed Tiger Lily into the kitchen. “Felicity, did you know a delivery truck is taking up five parking spaces?”
Felicity, the manager and chef of the Café, threw a plate on the serving counter. Very un-Felicity-like.
“Yep. He can’t get in the back.”
The delivery man pushed a cart through the kitchen and said to Annie, “You need to clean that mess up.”
Annie walked through the kitchen door to the alley, Tiger Lily on her heels. George and Candice, instead of getting the bar ready to open, had a shovel and broom, cleaning up a sticky, stinky, awful mess. Jesus, from the winery, and Jerry, from the Confectionary, were also working on piles of gooey garbage, strewn around the alley and into Annie’s private park, in and out of mud puddles left from last night’s rain.
The dumpsters for each business, usually neat and behind privacy fences, were on their sides in the alley. Apparently, the vandals weren’t satisfied with the garbage that spilled from the overturned bins, heavy from a weekend of business.
The lids had been pried open, and, well, they must have used hoes or rakes to pull the debris from the insides and deposit it outside. Everywhere.
Annie closed her eyes, looked down at her new shoes, and heaved a sigh. She picked up a shovel leaning against the wall of the Café and waded in. The drizzle continued and became the perfect description of her feelings.
By the time they had finished, just in time for the garbage truck to make its Monday morning stop, she was soaked. Pumpkin seeds dangled from her straight, graying hair, and spots of what looked like squash or pumpkin pie dotted her new shoes. Her jeans looked like she had worn them for a week while wading through a muddy river, and her top, usually flowing and colorful, was wet, clinging to everything, and drably colored by whatever each eatery had served the weekend before.
The trash men helped move the dumpsters back into place as they talked about the weekend vandalism.
“They musta waited ‘til Sunday night, cuz nobody called us ‘til taday.”
“Yup. We’s late getting’ here cuz we been helpin’ folks all over town get their stuff cleaned up. Thanks for havin’ most of it done fer us.”
“They’s gettin’ worst, that’s fer shur. Las’ week, we only had ta pick up rotten punkins and stuff like ‘at. Taday, we’s had ta git things put right, jus like here.”
“Yup. It’s gettin’ worst, alright.”
The garbage men finished and left, the truck lumbering down the alley. It was followed by two delivery trucks. The drivers looked agitated; they had waited for the alley to clear out so they could get to the bar and the winery.
Annie looked around. The humans helping were just as wet and dirty as she. Worse, she supposed. Five cats and one small dog sat a fastidious distance away from the stink. They remained under cover of the Café’s second floor deck, “supervising” the operation. Dry and comfortable.
Annie shrugged and smiled at Tiger Lily, who seemed to think that perhaps the work was not yet done.
George put his shovel against the wall of the bar. “I’ll get a hose and wash down the walls and garbage pads. Then I’ll take a shower. Or two.”
“I’ll get one and start from this end,” added Jesus. “Glad I live close. I couldn’t stand myself if I had to get into a car.”
This was not a typical day in Chelsea. Chelsea, a resort community on the sunset bank of a great lake, was generally quiet and peaceful or filled with the happy laughter of tourists. Not this. This was a side of Chelsea that Annie had not yet seen.
Annie lived on Sunset Avenue, known to most who lived here as just “The Avenue.” She was a recent resident of the community. A few years ago, she inherited several businesses from her father. She moved from Chicago, leaving her old life behind, and embraced the life of a small business entrepreneur in this quaint lakeside town.
The town sprang to life during and following the Civil War, growing around the lumber industry. Later, after the harbor was excavated to allow for deep water access, it became a shipping center.
Annie lived in a Civil War-era house reminiscent of a southern mansion that was now a bed and breakfast. Situated on a white sand beach with lakefront access, the Inn was the largest and most prominent of the many B&Bs in the community. Annie now
stood behind a long, brick two-story building that was built to accommodate businesses that kept the lumber industry moving. Today, the businesses supported the tourist trade of the community. The second story was divided into several apartments used by her management staff.
They paid a more-than reasonable rate, and Annie didn’t have to worry about staff not being able to make it in through bad weather. It was a good deal all around. In fact, it was hard to tell who was getting the better deal, the renters or the owner.
Annie sighed again. “I’m going home the back way.” She made her way down the alley and entered the yard of the B&B from the back of the Winery. Henrie, the B&B’s manager, chief cook, bottle washer and toilet bowl cleaner, looked cool, clean, crisp and dry as he stood on the porch, watching her approach.
Henrie gave Annie a large, thick washcloth that had been soaked in warm water. Grateful, she rubbed it over her face and neck before cleaning her arms and hands.
“How did you know?”
Henrie handed over a thick bath towel. Annie dried her hair, face and neck and put the towel around her shoulders.
“Felicity sent a text and suggested I might want to clean you up a bit before you tracked garbage through the Inn.”
Henrie pointed to a pair of clean sandals waiting at the door. “Please take your shoes off.”
Kali and Ko, the last of her seven cats, poked curious faces out the cat door; they sniffed the air around Annie. Evidently, they didn’t like what they smelled, as they turned to run in the opposite direction.
“It was such a mess, Henrie. I didn’t think to take pictures of it. Gosh. I should have called Pete.”
“Felicity took care of that. She took photos this morning and sent them to Pete. Evidently, he and his officers were busy all over town this morning.”
“I suppose they don’t have much to go on. I should put cameras back there. Oh, well. Nothing was damaged, really. They left a mess, but in the long run, we haven’t suffered a loss. Just time. And dignity.”
Annie pulled another pumpkin seed from her hair and threw it to the ground. “Maybe a pumpkin will grow there next year.”
Henrie took Annie’s offending shoes and placed them in a paper bag. “I will take these to the cleaner today. Perhaps they can salvage them. Too bad. These look like the ones you purchased this weekend?”
Annie nodded. “Who knew I should dress to sling garbage in the rain?”
Annie left the washcloth and dirty shoes for Henrie to handle as she went to the third floor and a long hot shower.