#NewRelease: Mean Girl Murder (Merry Wrath Mysteries #8) by USA Today Bestseller @LeslieLangtry #coz
Title – MEAN GIRL MURDER (Merry Wrath Mysteries #8)
Author - Leslie Langtry
Genre – Cozy Comedy
Publisher – Gemma Halliday Publishing
Book Blurb –
The Halloween Parade is coming up, and former CIA agent-turned-suburbanite Merry Wrath’s Girl Scout Troop hopes to repeat a 1st place trophy for the 3rd year in a row. But when they find a dead woman dressed as a witch, a mysterious treasure, and face a ruthless kidnapping, it looks like Merry’s in for a different kind of triple threat.
To add fuel to her bonfire, Mom’s in town—meaning Merry has to replace all that bullet-riddled furniture in the guest room—and with her wedding date approaching, her groom-to-be's twin taxidermist sisters are insisting on doing the decorating.
Between her family fiascoes and a dead witch who was loathed by everyone in town, Merry's head is spinning faster than an apple in a bobbing barrel. Who wanted this mean girl dead? Will this Halloween end with a treat? Or has Merry been tricked?
"No," I said wearily. "We cannot go to the morgue to examine corpses."
"Cadavers," Kelly interjected. Being that she was a nurse and probably knew about these things, I deferred.
"No, we cannot go to the morgue to examine cadavers," I repeated.
A chorus of whines went up that implied I'd denied my troop Christmas presents, Easter candy, and starting fires in one fell swoop. Why did starting fires rank so highly? Because my girls were budding pyromaniacs. Which means they haven't burned down anything yet——but it was just a matter of time.
We were standing in a barn owned by somebody somehow connected to the troop. Why didn't I know who it was? The contact had come through Kelly. Since I was a former spy, it was a good idea for me not to know everything because…plausible deniability. Old habits die hard.
The Halloween parade was a big deal. My troop had won first prize two years in a row, and hopefully, the third year would clinch us as a triple threat. Last year our zombie Girl Scout float was so authentic that more than one kid along the route, in his quest for a sugar buzz, ran away screaming. It had taken me a few minutes before I'd noticed Betty was on the float eating something that looked suspiciously like intestines (they were sausage links) and was tossing out gummy eyeballs. Fortunately, the trophies were awarded before the parade started.
For this year, a flatbed trailer stood in the middle of the room, surrounded by rolls of chicken wire and tissue paper. The theme the school district came up with for the parade was "Through the Ages." It was a strange theme for a Halloween parade, but the girls decided that skulls would be appropriate because your skeletal remains were technically an "age."
"Look." I held up the sign for silence, and it worked—a miracle that never ceased to amaze me. "We all know what a skull looks like. We don't need to see a real one."
"I think we should strive for authenticity," Betty complained. "And I think we should have an eyeball dangling from its socket." She pointed to a drawing she'd made. Betty had a bright future in graphic horror novels.
"Or brains exploding out of the top." Inez nodded.
"We could have maggots crawling around it?" Caterina added.
"This is a Halloween parade for kids!" Kelly shook her head. "It can't be gross. Or, really, even that scary." She shot Betty a look for good measure.
The troop slumped collectively, and a cloud of depression descended around us.
"You guys came up with the skull idea," I said. "And I've already bought the chicken wire and the supplies. We can't change now."
Mostly because I had three thousand sheets of white tissue paper, two thousand sheets of black tissue paper, and bandages on all my fingers from the wire. Who knew chicken wire was so painful? Well…besides chickens, that is.
"What if we sat inside the skull," Lauren said, scratching her chin thoughtfully, "with water blasters filled with ketchup and, as we went along, shot the red stuff out of the eye sockets onto the crowd?"
This suggestion was met with wild cheering usually reserved for the death of a North Korean dictator or if candy and puppies were to fall from the sky for no apparent reason.
Kelly held up the quiet sign again. "We are not spraying people with ketchup. Look, this is just for fun. And we're handing out candy."
"Gummy guts?" Inez asked hopefully.
"Tootsie Rolls," my co-leader announced.
The girls grumbled but went back to work on the giant, decaying brownie beanie that would ride atop the skull. And no, we weren't Brownies anymore, but a beanie would work better than putting a huge green sash over the skull's face.
My best friend since kindergarten gave me a look. "I know the Halloween parade is this weekend, but you've been here 24/7 for days." I'm pretty sure she'd wanted to add so it should all be done by now.
"I just wanted to get this over with," I lied as I shoved a dozen skull ski masks into a bag. The girls were going to be dressed as skeletons wearing troop uniforms. I thought it was an inspired idea.
"Is it because you're getting married in a few months? Or the fact that you've had two job offers and haven't accepted one yet?" Kelly searched my eyes—which was kind of creepy. "Or is it your usual weirdness?"
I considered taking offense to the idea that I was usually weird. But to be fair, she was right. How many ex-CIA agents move to small town, Iowa to start a Girl Scout troop? I was pretty sure I was the only one. And then there was my cat who looked like Hitler, the fact that my original drapes in my house had been Dora the Explorer sheets, and my sincere conviction that pizza rolls were a food group.
"It's nothing," I lied again. "I just think we should keep working on the float. What if something happens and we aren't finished? Like a freakishly early blizzard or an unexpected invasion by Canada? Getting done early would mean that stuff wouldn't slow us down."
Kelly rolled her eyes. "An invasion by Canada? Really? That's the best you could come up with?"
"You have no idea how close we are to that happening." Most people had no idea. But it was coming—it was only a matter of time. I'd tell you about it, but it's classified.
Kelly sighed. She did that a lot around me. I didn't take it personally. My best friend since elementary school was very smart. And she had experience I didn't have, like being married and having a toddler (who she thoughtfully named Finn, after me).
"Merry, you have a problem dealing with reality."
She was right, so I ignored her and continued stuffing white tissue paper into the little chicken wire holes. This was what would take forever to do, mostly because it's hard to move fingers that are covered in bandages. Oh well. At least I wouldn't bleed all over the skull (even if the girls would love that).
Kelly threw her arms up in the air and moved on.
It wasn't the wedding. In the last few months, I'd been seeing a counselor named Susan. For the last few sessions, we'd been talking about how losing my job with the CIA had been affecting me. Now, whenever I thought about my work as a spy, it depressed me.
My name is Merry Wrath. Well, really my name is Fionnaghuala Merrygold Wrath Czrygy. It looks like fee-oh-na-goula, doesn't it? The name is Scottish and pronounced Finella. I have no idea why, but apparently it makes perfect sense in Scotland.
Anyway, up until a few years ago, I'd been a field agent with the CIA. My partner, and ex-one-time boyfriend, Riley, and I had worked all over the world together. And then the Vice President accidentally outed me (as a thinly disguised attack on my father—an influential senator), and I had to retire. So I changed my name to my mother's maiden name and moved back to the small town I grew up in—Who's There, Iowa. Within a couple of months, Kelly snagged me to help run a Girl Scout troop, and the rest is history.
Susan was kind of right about the job thing. In July, Riley had offered me a job as a private investigator with his new business, and Rex (my fiancé and the city's police detective) had gotten the mayor to offer me a part-time job running the local Historical Society. Riley's offer was the most tempting, considering my past. But the city's offer would keep me on my fiancé's good side. There was nothing that aggravated him more than finding out I was investigating one of his cases.
There was no time limit for me to accept. Riley was still getting things ready to open, and the mayor was waiting for some discretionary funding, but this was still a major decision—one that I was avoiding to the point that I was throwing myself into Girl Scout activities with the enthusiasm of an OCD Junior Leaguer at a thank-you note writing party.
My blood pressure started to spike, so I forced the matter out of my brain. The float was my immediate priority. The girls expected a win again this year, and disappointing them was out of the question.
It took a while, but once the kids got the hang of it, stuffing the skull went a little faster. And by that, I mean it took thirty minutes just to get half of the skull's cheek done. Did skulls have cheeks? I knew they had cheekbones. I decided to keep this thought to myself because I wasn't sure I'd like the ensuing debate between the girls.
It was chilly in the barn because it was late October, but no one seemed to mind. Kelly had shot down the idea of a space heater in a dry hay barn. The idea was to distract the girls from thinking about the temperature.
I kept them busy trying to come up with a slogan for our float. I'd shot down a few suggestions, including Death by Girl Scouts and Our Leader Can Kill Your Leader (which I secretly had to admit was my favorite). The four Kaitlyns (that's right, I have four Kaitlyns, all with last names starting with the letter M) were brainstorming with words like skinning, flaying, and threats about your skin dissolving if you didn't buy cookies.
My troop was made up of hard workers, but putting the float together was still slow going. I wasn't confident we'd get this done in time. I might have to come out and work on it during the day. After all, the trophy and our championship status were on the line.
After a couple of hours, Kelly called it, and we waited outside until the girls were picked up. I was impressed that the parents came on time. They never got out of the car or asked how it was going, but that was better than no one picking up the kids at all.
That actually happened once. I had to take the girls to my house, which was on the same block as the school where we met, and things went well until somebody found my stash of truth serum. Little girls should not be totally honest with each other—especially when it comes to personal preferences regarding Disney princesses on backpacks. It took a lot of ice cream to sort out those hard feelings.
However, this was not one of those times, as every parent showed up. Once everyone was gone, I headed home.
It never ceased to amaze me when my troop didn't want meetings to end. This, of course, meant that Kelly and I were amazing leaders. But if Scout events went on forever, I'd probably kill someone. So, whenever the girls wavered about leaving meetings, I'd tell them their parents promised cake when they got home. To my surprise not one girl has ever complained that they didn't get any. Which meant their parents were more amazing than mine were and made me think we'd need to explore healthy eating sometime—whatever that was.
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