Title MAD MONEY MURDER
Author Leslie Langtry
Genre Cozy Comedy
Publisher Gemma Halliday Publishing
When Merry Wrath inherits an urn of cremains, she isn’t sure which is more surprising—that she was now the owner of a body or the fact that her family’s mythical Aunt June actually existed. Besides the urn and the deceased’s collection of lethal pets, from an assassin caterpillar to a deathstalker scorpion, the ex-CIA agent turned Scout Leader also inherits a mystery: “If you’ve received this, it means that I need you to find out who murdered me.”
With her best friend and five mischievous little Girl Scouts, Merry takes a trip across the state to her aunt's tiny, rundown hometown of Behold, Iowa. Though, in hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best for the troop to stay at a famous scout camp that has a history of ghosts and aliens. Or to bring the precocious, ten-year-old Betty who has started mastering some very sophisticated (and alarming) magic tricks. Was Aunt June murdered? Most in Behold think the death was an accident involving June's pet brown recluse spider, but Merry isn’t so sure. There are far more questions than answers about who Aunt June really was. Between a late-night dash for her life over a high ropes course, and dangerous interactions with deadly critters, Merry needs answers before a killer silences her questions…for good.
"What do you mean I've inherited a dead body?" I repeated into the cell phone.
"It's not a body, kiddo," my mother said in her usual calm, measured tone. "They're cremains."
"That kind of makes it worse," I insisted. "And technically, it's still a body."
"Anyway," Mom continued, "the urn with Aunt June's remains arrives today, so make sure you are home to sign for it."
"Why didn't they just send it to you?" I asked.
"Because Aunt June left them and everything else to you. They just called me to get your address. You should expect a call from her lawyer soon."
"So." I whistled. "There really was an Aunt June. And even though I didn't know her, she left me her cremains in her will."
For years there had been a running joke in our family about the mysterious Aunt June. My grandmother would occasionally mention her to Mom, but no one else had ever met her, knew anything about her, or believed she existed. If we didn't know who'd said something interesting or done something unusual, it was attributed to Aunt June. Who said May comes in like a Methodist lime Jell-O mold and goes out like Catholic Tater Tot casserole? Aunt June. Who once rode a tricycle to Des Moines for a chance to meet Richard Nixon? Aunt June. And now an urn with the ashes of a folk saying Nixon lover was going to be delivered to my door at any moment.
We ended the call, and I sat in the living room with my pets—Philby (a rotund, tyrannical cat who looked like Hitler), Leonard (a sweet Scottish deerhound who was terrorized by Philby), and Philby's daughter Martini (a narcoleptic cat on her best day who believed Leonard was nothing more than a scruffy piece of furniture to nap on).
"What am I supposed to do with somebody's ashes?" I grumbled to the animals.
Philby looked me in the eye, smacked me in the face with her paw, and farted. I guess that's what she thought about that.
"Bobb," I said meanly. The fat cat closed her eyes and hissed so hard that she flew backward across the glossy surface of the coffee table, landing on the floor on her side. It took a while for the tick-like cat to right herself. Once she did, she glared at me and fled the room. I shouldn't have done that.
Philby had once been owned by a man named Bobb who'd turned up dead on my doorstep a long time ago. Whenever you said his name, the feline führer had the same reaction. I was about to seek her out and apologize with albacore tuna when the doorbell rang.
Glancing at the window, I spotted the delivery van in the driveway. An obnoxiously happy young man who couldn't have been any older than eighteen greeted me cheerily at the door with a big box.
"Howdy! I'm Jason! Sign for this, please!" I signed, and Jason handed it over. It was so heavy that I nearly dropped it. I guess the ashes of an entire body would be heavy. Hopefully the box itself wasn't the actual urn.
"Have a wonderful day, ma'am!" Jason saluted me for some reason before bouncing back to his van, where he saluted me once more before starting it up and driving away.
"What are you so happy for?" I shouted at the receding truck. "This is a dead body! Show some respect!"
A woman pushing a carriage in front of my house stared at me in horror.
"It's not like I killed her. I didn't even know she existed until she was dead," I insisted before taking my body inside.
At least, I didn't think I had. As a spy, you never really knew if one of your actions eventually led to an accidental death. It was just par for the course, and when I was in that line of work, I never thought about it.
My name is Merry Wrath, and I used to be a CIA field agent. I say used to because, a few years ago, I was "accidentally" outed by the Vice President as a rebuke to my father, who is a senator. Back then I was Fionnaghuala Merrygold Czrygy—or Finn. The outing took place on CNN while I was undercover with a Chechen group. We all happened to be in a dive bar, drinking cheap, warm beer with dubious expiration dates, when the story broke. I barely made it back to the USA in one piece. When I did, the Agency gave me early retirement, a huge settlement, and proceeded to scrub all files of my existence.
My parents were big deals in Washington DC, and I didn't feel like my life made sense there. So I packed it in, changed my name to Merry Wrath (my mother's way cooler maiden name), and came back home to the small town of Who's There, Iowa. My best friend, Kelly Albers, insisted we start up a Girl Scout troop, and we did. Surprisingly, many of my spy skills translated to working with a bunch of precocious little girls.
After setting the box on the dining room table, I opened it. There was a letter inside addressed to me in shaky penmanship. I set that aside and pulled away what seemed like miles of bubble wrap to uncover the urn. It was the ugliest thing I'd ever seen. And I've seen Putin, shirtless, riding a bear.
No, I'm not talking about the meme of that. He really did ride on the back of a giant bear. Shirtless. I'd been tailing him and a few members of the politburo for a couple of hours walking in the Siberian countryside—something I would never recommend that anyone do because it's freezing even in summer. After making some joke I couldn't hear to flunkies who could laugh convincingly on demand, he tore off his shirt, climbed aboard a passing bear, and rode off into the sunset.
The urn was a sickly acid yellow peeking out between hundreds of tacky and fake jewels. Someone had given Aunt June a BeDazzler at some point. On the back were the words Hot to Trot in Heaven! Who was this woman? My family had believed she was just a figment of Grandma Wrath's imagination or an invisible friend triggered by dementia. But now I'd inherited the remains of someone who, in spite of having appalling taste in afterlife containers, seemed kind of fun. I unscrewed the lid and looked in, wondering if this was all some sort of elaborate hoax.
Smashwords - https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1028602
Leslie Langtry is a USA Today Bestselling Author of cozy comedies including the Merry Wrath Mysteries, Bombay’s Greatest Hits series and the Ukulele Mysteries of the Aloha Lagoon series.
Leslie loves puppies and cake (but she will not share her cake with puppies) and thinks praying mantids make everything better. She lives with her family and assorted animals in the Midwest, where she is currently working on her next book and trying to learn to play the ukulele.
Leslie's favorite color is orange and her favorite flavor is sugar.
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