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Mistletoe and Missing Persons by Teresa Michael is a Christmas in July Fete pick #mystery #freebie



Title: Mistletoe and Missing Persons – A Mariposa Café Holiday Mystery Novella


Author: Teresa Michael


Genre: Mystery, Holiday Mystery


Book Blurb:


It’s the holidays and Libby Marshall and the Mariposa Café have a new neighbor – gallery owner Steve Devereaux. But, as the Mariposa Beach shopkeepers begin decorating their stores for the holidays there’s a lot more than crystal ornaments with mistletoe to focus on. Mr. Devereaux has a skeleton in his closet… literally. Could it be the remains of a teenage girl who disappeared from the town over forty years ago?


A former prosecutor, Libby finds herself in the middle of yet another murder investigation. And no worries, she’s still involved with super-hot detective Jack Seiler. Will they be able to solve the identity of the skeleton before ringing in the New Year? With the help of their quirky, but talented friends, they just might be able to figure it out.


Excerpt:


Libby heard hammering and banging coming from the open door of Eleanor’s Gifts.


“Hello,” Libby called out from the door.


Steve Devereaux turned. “Hello there.”


“It looks bigger without all the stuff in here,” Libby said, surveying the empty, dusty store.


Steve shrugged. “The last truckload got hauled away yesterday. I’m glad Mimi was able to find a few things she liked.”


“A few things? She came back with two bags of stuff. It was very nice of you to give those things to her, but I have no idea what she’s going to do with a whole box of mistletoe balls.”


“I’m sure Aunt Eleanor would rather Mimi have them instead of an anonymous reseller, and I think the box said they were crystal ornaments adorned with mistletoe.”


“Looks like demo day,” Libby said, gesturing to the half-disassembled storage closet.


“I decided to start breaking down that closet. Once I get it cleared out, I want to go ahead and open up this room.”


“I have a few minutes before I need to get back to the café,” Libby said. “I can give you a hand. It looks like you could use one.” She reached for the hammer.


“That looks like a fresh scar on your hand. Are you sure you’re up to tearing out this drywall?”


She slid her hand behind her back. “I cut myself with a knife back in August. It’s healing fine. Besides, it would probably be good rehab for me. Mimi hasn’t let me handle anything sharp since the accident.” Libby left out the part where she was held hostage and that she’d cut herself in the process of stabbing her captor.


“If you’re sure, I could use the help.”


Steve tossed her a pair of work gloves, and Libby gripped the board he had been trying to remove. He hit the other side with a hammer, and the nails came loose. They removed the drywall, revealing an open space between the framing and a brick wall, the connecting wall between Steve’s building and the clothing boutique next door.


“What’s this?” she asked.


“What?”


“There’s a good deal of space in here,” she said, stepping inside the area between the brick wall and where the drywall had been. “This is a false wall. Maybe it had to do with the way the closet was built.”


“Wow, look at that brick. That would be an awesome accent wall.” Steve ran his fingers across the red brick. “Let’s pull off more and see what we have.”


Continuing to pound and pull off drywall, they soon uncovered insulation bunched together inside a four-by-four-foot framed-in section. They removed the boards and pulled out the insulation. When they’d finished, they stopped and surveyed what remained—rolled-up plastic inside the smaller framed-in area. It was as if someone had built a compartment just for this roll of plastic tarp taped up with silver duct tape.


“What are you two doing to Eleanor’s store?”


“Fletcher Smith,” Libby gasped, her hand coming to her throat. “You scared the living daylights out of me.”


Fletcher, in his early seventies, wore a golf shirt and a cap from the Mariposa Beach Country Club pro shop. He had just come from the café after having lunch with his three companions whom Libby called the ‘The Company’ as she was almost sure they were retired spies.


Smith introduced himself to Steve and offered his hand.


“Steve Devereaux.” He pulled off his glove and shook Smith’s hand.


“What have you uncovered?” he asked, moving past them to take a closer look.


“I’m not sure. I was helping Steve remove these boards when we uncovered this plastic tarp. I’m almost afraid to go any further,” Libby said.


“It’s probably just a bunch of junk stuck in there.” Steve pulled at the duct tape that was wound tightly around the plastic tarp. “Just like every other bit of space in this building.”


“Wait,” Smith said.


“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Libby asked. Before moving to Florida from Ohio more than three years ago, she had worked in the County Prosecutor’s Office.


“I think so,” Smith said. “Let’s proceed very carefully.”


“I don’t understand,” Steve said, giving the tarp another yank.


“Stop,” Libby called out. “We think it could be a body.”


“A dead body?” Steve asked, turning from Smith to Libby. “What would a body be doing inside my wall?”


“Good question.” Smith picked up a box cutter from the work table and started slowly slicing through the first layer of the tarp.


“Just open it up enough for us to see what’s in there,” Libby said. “If it’s nothing, we’ll have a good laugh.”


“It’s probably some junk my aunt stuffed in there maybe when they built that storage closet.”


“We don’t know what it could be or how long it’s been in there. It could have any kind of bacteria growing inside it,” Smith said.


“Seriously? Why would you two think it’s a body?” Steve asked.


“Past experience,” Libby said. “Recent past.”


“Oh, my,” Steve said. “Would that have anything to do with your injured hand?”


“Inadvertently,” Libby murmured, watching Smith as he carefully continued to slice the tarp, taking care not to cut too deeply while making meticulous slices with the box cutter. Finally, he cut through the edge of the tarp and the duct tape. He carefully pulled apart the edges.


When Smith uncovered an empty eye socket, Libby gasped, and Steve turned away.


A dusty, earthy, rotting smell emanated from the opening. Steve covered his mouth and choked. Libby stepped backward as her hands flew to her face covering her nose and mouth. Smith cut the tarp a little higher to reveal a skull with strands of long, blonde hair attached to a scalp that was barely clinging to the bone.


“Libby, what has taken you so long? I should have…” When she realized what she was seeing in the wall of Eleanor’s gift shop, Mimi let out a blood-curdling scream.


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What I love most about the holiday season:


I love all of the festive get-togethers with family and friends and the holiday food that you only get once a year—never mind the extra 5 pounds you have to deal with in the New Year.


Why is your featured book a must-read to get you in the holiday mood?


It’s a short, fun mystery with familiar characters, a new guy in town, a hidden skeleton, a link to Southwest Florida’s circus past, all with the holiday season as the backdrop.


Giveaway –


One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon US or Canada gift card:



Open internationally.


Runs July 1 – 31, 2023.


Drawing will be held on August 1, 2023.



Author Biography:


Teresa Michael is an award-winning mystery author. Her Mariposa Café Mystery, “Murder in Mariposa Beach,” received the Firebird Book Award in the mystery category. Teresa enjoys reading, writing, chocolate chip cookies, a great cappuccino, good food and wine, and traveling with friends and family. She was the Team Manager for US Archery at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, has visited 49 states and many foreign countries. She is a member of Florida Writers Association, Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, Women Fiction Writers Association, and is a past president of Florida Gulf Coast Sisters in Crime. Teresa lives in Sarasota, FL with her husband and two cats and hopes to someday visit that 50th state. https://teresamichaelwrites.pubsitepro.com/


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