A Charming Crime
Book 1 in the Magical Cures Mystery Series
***2013 eFestival of Words Fantasy Novel Winner from USA Today Bestseller Tonya Kappes***
June Heal has always believed in the power of homeopathic remedies to heal the body and mind. So when she decides to relocate her shop, A Dose of Darla, from the flea market booth in her hometown to the quaint and cozy town of Whispering Falls, Kentucky, she’s excited to share her natural cures with a new community.
But June’s fairy god cat, who’s always been her lucky charm, may not be enough to keep her out of trouble when a member of the community is found murdered and June becomes the number one suspect. With the help of her new friends and her belief in the power of healing, June sets out to clear her name and uncover the truth about the mysterious murder.
If you love small town mysteries with a touch of magic and a dash of romance, you won’t want to miss A Charming Crime. So grab your copy today and join June on her journey to solve the murder and save her shop!
A Charming Crime
Book 1 in the Magical Cures Mystery Series
A Charming Crime
“I know, I know.” I waved my hands in front of me trying to stop anything that was about to come out of Oscar Park’s mouth, but I knew it was useless.
He slammed the door of his patrol car, took his hat off, and then waved it towards my shed. . .my burning shed. “You know what?”
Truth be told, I didn’t know much, but I did know how to handle Oscar Park. Especially when it came to personal matters. “I know I went a bit too far this time, but I really need to figure out this new cure.”
Oscar grew up across the street, raised by his uncle, Police Chief Jordan Parks. Like me, well sort of like me, Oscar’s parents got killed in a car accident while my dad was shot in the line of duty.
“A bit?” Oscar shook his head and pointed to the flames shooting up in the air. “Unless you want the new cure to blow someone up, I think you were using the wrong ingredients.”
“Now, Oscar.” I shuffled out of the way of the zipping fire truck, and took a bite of the Ding Dong in my hand that I had grabbed on the way out of the shed when I knew it was going to combust. “Was it necessary to call in all of Locust Grove’s finest?”
“Yes, June Heal.” Oscar wasn’t the ten-year-old boy who created havoc with me in that very shed while experimenting with my mom Darla’s homeopathic cures. Though his crystal blue eyes were sincere, I knew he meant business. “But you’ve done it this time. It’s a total loss.”
I held the uneaten round end of the Ding Dong up to him and he took a bite. A big bite. I grumbled under my breath. He knew Ding Dongs are my go-to comfort food.
Old Mac McGurtle came running through the herb garden I had planted after Darla died, screaming, “I told you she was going to set this whole town on fire if she kept mixing those chemicals.”
Mr. McGurtle was always spreading gossip since Darla died about how I had turned A Dose of Darla, my homeopathic cure shop, into a fire hazard by putting all sorts of crazy concoctions together.
“Settle down, Mr. McGurtle.” Jordan Parks snuck up behind us. “Thank you for calling us, and helping Ms. Heal save her business.”
“Hhmph.” Mr. McGurtle threw his hands in the air and mumbled something under his breath.
“He’s the one who called?” I huffed, my bangs flew out of my eyes, and I crossed my arms. “He needs to mind his own business. And stop walking through my herb garden!”
For a moment Mr. McGurtle and I stared at each other until Jordan stepped between us.
The shed looked like it was going to be a total loss this time. All the other twenty times I set it afire I was able to save it. Luckily, I only used the shed to create new homeopathic cures using Darla’s old remedies. I kept the main ingredients in the basement of our old house. . .my house now.
“I think you did it this time,” Jordan warned, half serious. He walked away shaking his head. He stopped briefly to talk to one of the guys from the fire department.
“Not only have you done it this time, you’ve really pissed off a lot of your neighbors.” Oscar put his hat back on his head, and looked around at the neighbors gathering on the other side of the fence in my front yard. “They think you are as crazy as Darla was.”
Darla Heal, my mother, was the creator of A Dose of Darla, homeopathic cures. And everyone called her Darla, even me, because she didn’t like to be referred to as Ms. Heal, Mrs. Heal or even Mom.
“Well, the old saying is right then.” I snarled, studying every face gawking at me. They were just being nosy like always.
“And what old saying it that?” Oscar asked.
“The apple,” I pointed to myself, “doesn’t fall too far from the tree.”
Oscar’s face split into a wide grin. “And we sure did have some fun times in there. But you’ve got to admit you’ve outgrown this place and selling your cures at the flea market.”
I wish I had another Ding Dong. I listened to what he had to say. He was right. The retail space for A Dose of Darla had started in the shed until Darla moved it to a booth at the local flea market. She had all sorts of people coming to get her homeopathic cures. And she had been good at it.
I spent most of my teenage years working Darla’s booth at the flea market with Oscar right next to me, and hated every moment of it. I always swore I’d never take over Darla’s business. As they say, never say never. When Darla died from an apparent heart attack, I did the only thing I could to take care of myself. I took over A Dose of Darla and began to experiment.
Most of the remedies needed to be updated, and since I had always been good in chemistry, I knew I could make them better. Making them better meant doing a lot of combinations of different things and not getting them to explode. Unfortunately, today was not a good mix of ingredients.
“You know I don’t want to live in the country with all those scary noises.” I knew what Oscar was hinting at.
For weeks, he’d been begging me to get rid of this old house and move to a farm where I could make a real lab, so I could create my remedies the right way. Not in a shed.
“Not in the country.” He leaned in a little closer, and said words tentatively as if testing the idea, “I stumbled upon a little village about thirty minutes from here when I went to check out a job opening. I have a good feeling about it. But keep it on the down low.”
I drew back to take in his expression. “You can’t leave the police department here.” I was pretty good at reading him all these years, almost psychic, but the sun cast a shadow on his face, making it hard for me to see if he was serious.
“Shhh.” He held his finger up to his lips. “I said down low, not out loud. I will be by tonight to tell you about it. And it really is something you need to consider.”
He definitely had my wheels turning as I stood in a puddle of water created by the fire department in their efforts to save the shed, only their efforts had been a waste. Jordan informed me that the fire chief told him the shed was a total loss. As if I needed to be told. All that was left was the cement foundation. Who knew that Thea Sinensis mixed with Camellia was so flammable? I did now. Thank God, because the cure I had been making had been for me. I could really see Mr. McGurtle’s face if I had been blow up.
I swear I saw Mr. McGurtle smiling all the way from his front yard.
“Excuse me! Excuse me!” a woman yelled from the other side of the fence. She waved when she caught my eye. “Yes, you!” She pointed at me.
I was glad to see everyone but she had left. The show was finally over and I could get back to work. . . except I couldn’t. Not without the shed.
The lady was someone I didn’t recognize. The floral A-line skirt was throwing me off a bit, but the black, lace-up booties were definitely awesome. The closer I got, the more she reminded me of a younger version of Meryl Streep, the blond hair was long and wavy like Meryl’s. Even her nose was small and pointed, only she had hazel eyes and sweeping lashes.
“Are you Darla from A Dose of Darla?” She pointed her lace gloved fingers towards my home.
“I’m Darla’s daughter, June Heal.” I put my hand out, but she didn’t take it, so I pretended to rub them together. “Darla passed away a few years ago. Are you a friend?”
It wouldn’t have been unusual for someone out of the blue to show up and visit with Darla. She had friends from all over. Darla was sort of a gypsy type. She believed in free spirit, holistic living, and open imagination. Darla taught me to be kind to everyone and everything.
“No.” She scrunched her nose. “Did you take over the business?”
“I did.” Something in my gut made me wearily suspicious of her.
“You sell something I might be interested in.” She lowered her thick dark lashes, and stared at me.
“I, um, sell homeopathic remedies,” I muttered uneasily.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Mr. McGurtle making his way back across the yard, as fast as his short legs could carry him. Through the herb garden. . .again.
“I was interested in selling them in my store.” She pulled a business card out of the top of her glove. “Please come pay me a visit if you are interested. Good day.”
I took the card from her fingers and we held a gaze for just a moment. Her eyes wandered over my shoulder. I turned around to find Mr. McGurtle giving her the wonky eye, which was his signature “don’t mess with me” look.
When I turned back around, the strange woman was already in her car, pulling away from the curb.
“Do you need something, Mr. McGurtle?” I sighed walking past him toward the house.
Meow, Mr. Prince Charming sat on the top wooden porch step, dragging his tail back and forth. He batted at the cicada darting in the air.
The bottom of his tail was always black from all the wagging he did. It amazed me how, otherwise, he was always pristinely white. I’d assume keeping clean would be difficult for most outdoor cats. But Mr. Prince Charming was not like any other cat I’d ever come across.
“I promised Darla I’d keep a close eye on you,” Mr. McGurtle said, stomping after me.
Rolling my eyes, I made it up on the porch before he yelled, “I think you are causing more trouble in your adult life than when you were a kid.”
For a moment I stood still, trying to think of an answer while Mr. Prince Charming did figure eights around my ankles, but decided to bite my tongue. It was easier not to argue with Mr. McGurtle.
“Oh, Mr. Prince Charming, must you?” I bent down and flicked the dead cicada into the grass next to the steps with all the other dead ones he had killed. I swear he’s on a mission to whack every cicada in Locust Grove. If the cat only knew the town was named after the nasty bugs—he’d be in heaven.
I flung the screen door open, and Mr. Prince Charming ran into the house before me. I closed the door behind me. This was generally how Mr. McGurtle and I ended all of our conversations.
“You created quite a stir today,” said Oscar from the other side of the front porch screen door with a brown sac of food from our favorite Chinese restaurant in his hands.
He looked so different without his uniform on. It was hard getting used to seeing Oscar turn from a scrawny, lanky boy into the muscular hunk he’d become.
Sometimes it was kind of awkward thinking about how it would feel to run my hands through his close cut dark hair, and squeeze a little bit of those muscles. And then I remember how weird it would be since he was really like a brother more than a friend. Still. . .he was easy on the eyes, and single.
I opened the door, and took the bag. I could already taste the egg roll.
“That’s how you greet me? Don’t you even care how I’m doing or how I feel about my chemistry lab going up in flames?” I stuck my nose in the bag and smelled the yummy goodness.
“I’m sure you’ll be just fine, June.” He snatched the bag from underneath my nose and took it into the kitchen. “Tell me, were you careless or tired?”
The wooden floors moaned when Mr. Prince Charming jumped off the old radiator that sat just inside the door. He was a sucker for good chicken fried rice. He danced down the hall with his long tail wagging in the air.
“Neither.” Inwardly I shuddered at the thought of my carelessness. Though I knew he was right. I hadn’t been sleeping well. “I’m just a tad bit tired.”
“Are you having nightmares again? Or should I say the dark circles under your eyes tell me you are having nightmares again?” He dropped down on the built-in bench and the cushion made a swoosh sound when all the air flew from its seams.
Mr. Prince Charming took it as his cue to jump up and see what he was going to have for dinner, never mind the full bowl of cat food on the floor.
“It’s that apparent?” I leaned and looked at my reflection in the microwave. I tapped underneath my eyes to see if it would help blood flow.
“Is it the same?”
“Yep, the usual.” I got a couple of sodas out of the refrigerator, careful for him not to see my face. If I knew Oscar, he was going to study my every move, just like Darla did.
As far back as I could remember I was having the same nightmare of me standing at the edge of a foggy lake looking down into the green murky water and seeing hands wrapped around someone’s neck. I always wake up before I can make out whether the person was a man or woman, and it was always the back of the person. The hands are never attached to arms, which really freaked me out.
No matter how much “fairy dust” Darla gave me, the nightmares still came in full force.
“And what are you doing to do about it?” Oscar popped open the can, and then pushed Mr. Prince Charming off the sturdy farm table.
Hiss. Mr. Prince Charming batted air in front of Oscar.
“That is what I was trying to do when I blew up the shed.” I snickered as I remembered that I had folded the paper with Darla’s “Mr. Sandman Sprinkles” recipe and stuck it in my pocket right before the explosion. “I might’ve used a little too much Aconite.”
I took the paper out, unfolded it and ran my hands over top it to try to get the creases out. Thank goodness I put it in my jeans, or it would’ve been ashes by now. I glanced over at the counter where Darla kept an old journal with all her remedies written in it, thinking I should probably either memorize them or make another copy just in case.
30 c of Aconite, 6c Kali phos, 6c Nat suph, 3x passiflora, I continued to count the six ingredients needed on my fingers before Mr. Prince Charming batted at my egg roll while standing on his hind legs.
“No, no,” I shooed him away. “Go eat your food.”
That was the problem. Since it had always been the two of us, and it was hard to cook for one person, I had always included Mr. Prince Charming.
“How old is he anyway?” Oscar scowled.
“Good question.” I thought back to first time I’d ever laid eyes on Mr. Prince Charming.
Actually, it was a long time ago. It was on my tenth birthday. We didn’t have a lot of money and Darla had gotten me a birthday cake that read Happy Retirement Stu. She didn’t even bother scraping Stu’s message off. She was good at pretending it wasn’t even there, and the fact that there was a manager’s special sticker on it.
All the same, it was a treat because Darla never let me eat any type of sweets growing up. Anyways, Mr. Prince Charming was unlike any other stray cat in our neighborhood, in which there were a lot of stray cats. He had on a faded collar with a tiny turtle charm dangling off it. The turtle had one green emerald stone for an eye and the other one missing. I didn’t care. It was beautiful.
Oscar and I asked around if the cat belonged to anyone, but no one claimed him, and he just continued to hang around. Darla didn’t mind so he stayed. I got him a new collar and kept the charm for myself. Oscar had given me his mom’s old bracelet and I hung it from there. I’ve never taken it off my wrist.
“Well, he’s definitely defied the nine lives belief.” Oscar couldn’t resist Mr. Prince Charming rubbing his tail along his calf. He bent down and ran his hand along the cat’s back.
“Yes, he has.” I smiled remembering all the times Mr. Prince Charming had beat the odds over the past fifteen years and didn’t seem to age a bit.
“I see Izzy stopped by.” Oscar put Isadora’s card back on the table, and then continued to work on his chopstick skills, but wasn’t having any luck. “Where’s a fork?”
“How do you know her?” I asked as I pointed to the card after I gave him a fork.
“That’s what I was going to tell you about,” he said as he stuffed his mouth with a big forkful of rice.
“She showed up after the fire debacle.” I picked up the card. I still hadn’t decided if I was going to see her or not. I knew I had to make a business decision whether to grow A Dose of Darla or keep it small. “She wanted to talk to me about putting my remedies in her shop. How do you know her?”
I didn’t even know where she was located. The business card said Whispering Falls, but I’d never even heard of the place. I had even tried to Google it early in the day, but nothing came up.
“It was the strangest thing. I was driving and came upon this small town.” Oscar’s strong jaw line clenched, he grew serious. “Whispering Falls is nothing like I’ve ever seen. It’s its own village of houses, shops, visitors, and is nestled in the woods.”
“Where is it?” I asked. He shrugged, but still didn’t answer my question. “I tried looking it up and couldn’t find it.”
If it was really as happening as he thought, maybe it was something I should check out. Going into one store wasn’t much work. How many homeopathic remedies could one little village sell?
“It’s only twenty or thirty minutes away. Depending on how fast you drive.” He smiled, showing off those pearly whites his uncle Jordan had spent so much money on. “And you drive fast.”
He was lucky. Darla did good taking me to the dentist every other year. Thanks to Oscar and his uncle, they kept me in floss and toothbrushes. Luckily, I had pretty straight teeth. According to Darla, I had gotten that quality from my dad.
“I don’t let grass grow under my feet, that’s for sure.”
“I pulled into Whispering Falls to check it out. Izzy’s place was the first place I walked in. She was asking all sorts of questions about my uniform. She said the council was looking for a cop. We talked a little bit. She asked if I knew anyone who was into home remedies and I told her about the booth at the flea market.”
Meow, meow. Mr. Prince Charming was begging for attention. I put a little rice in my fingers and let him lick it off.
“So you gave some strange woman my address? I thought you were supposed to protect and serve?” I nervously laughed, half kidding, half not.
Meow, meow. Mr. Prince Charming jumped up on the table and curled his tail around my nose.
“What is wrong with you tonight?” I grabbed him and put him on the floor. He batted at the dangling charm from my wrist. “Stop.”
My eyes narrowed, and I studied him for a moment.
“What’s up with him?” Oscar tilted his head to the side to get a better look at my disgruntled cat.
“I have no idea. He’s been acting strange all afternoon.” I ignored Mr. Prince Charming. I wanted to get back to this Izzy person.
Oscar stood up to throw away his trash.
It sucked that Isadora came on the day of the big fire. After seeing all the trouble I’ve caused the town, she might’ve changed her mind. No wonder she high-tailed it after she handed me her business card.
“Did you take the job?” There was no way his uncle Jordan was going to hear of him leaving the Locust Grove police department.
“Did you tell Jordan?”
“Nope. No need to just yet.”
Now who was being aloof?
“Are you really thinking about it?”
“What if I am?” His blue eyes narrowed speculatively. “I’m a big boy.”