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Sue Hollowell

Birthday Cake and Burglary (PAPERBACK)

Birthday Cake and Burglary (PAPERBACK)

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Scrumptious sprinkle cake, bookstore chickens, and seeing double...

Tilly Griffin is on top of the world. With her newfound freedom in quaint Belle Harbor she is learning to love life again. Her plans for an epic birthday bash for her cherished and kooky Uncle Jack are almost complete.

Tilly’s joy and whimsy soon turn to horror as she discovers the death of Poppy, a beloved local business owner. Rumors swirl about likely culprits that put the coming annual Arts Walk, which brings millions to the town coffers, in jeopardy.

As Tilly collects clues in the suspicious death, she learns of scandalous schemes, petty people, blackmailing busybodies, and snobby store owners, all who have a reason to want Poppy dead. Can Tilly put the pieces together in time to catch the killer and save the Arts Walk or will she be forced to pack up and find a new place to call home?


 Paperback 86 pages
 Dimensions 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches (127 x 12.7 x 203 mm)
 ISBN 979-8543063392
 Publication date May 6, 2021
 Publisher Free Heart Productions


The midday sun bathed my bare skin in warmth like a cozy blanket. On a short break from baking, I decided to take a spin on the Ferris wheel at the end of the wharf. As the wheel stopped to load passengers, I sat in the carriage at the top with a view of the entire Belle Harbor waterfront. The blue sky was clear as a bell. The only remnants from the early morning storm were the waves crashing loudly against the shore. The thunder had awakened me last night and seemed to greatly disturb my neighbor’s chickens. I didn’t know if that was good or bad for egg production.

The carriage began to sway as the wheel resumed turning to allow the next set of passengers to board. I panned the skyline, surveying the place that had become my home. Uncle Jack’s Checkered Past Antiques shop was nestled among other quaint locations along the boardwalk. He and Uncle Frank had run that business for over forty years. It was a blessing beyond measure that he had taken me in and carved out a little space for my baking kitchen. My fledgling dream to open my own bakery like my Grandma Luna was coming true because of him and his belief in me.

The wheel jostled, bringing me back to the present. I literally felt on top of the world and was learning to love life again. My move away from Boston—and my cheating ex—was the initial step in liberating the new me. I was choosing myself for probably the first time in my life. The pain of my divorce ran deep. To say I was surprised by the series of events that led to the separation would be an understatement. It hadn’t ever occurred to me that I wouldn’t be married to the man who at one time had been the love of my life. The therapy of the beach and the support of Uncle Jack were the salve for my pain.

The beach teemed with vacationers and locals soaking up the tropical atmosphere. The palm trees waved in the distance, beckoning all to partake in the ambiance. I breathed in the fresh salt air, watching the kids build their sandcastles. One little boy dug a hole that filled with water from the encroaching waves. He splashed his sister and a water fight ensued with shrieks of pure joy.

As I gazed further down the beach to my left, an unnatural motion caught my eye. Uncle Jack told me the top of the old lighthouse had been transformed into a small restaurant. Next to the other side of the fixture, a large object fell from the railing of the nearby trail. I rubbed my eyes and squinted. I shaded the sun with my hands and stretched my neck. The wobbling of the carriage made it hard to focus on a destination that far away. It couldn’t be. At least I hoped it wasn’t so.

The shorebirds were quite active after the storm had passed through. I must have seen them hugging the shore and the rocks below the lighthouse. I turned away, allowing my eyes to rest. I twisted back and scooted to the edge of the carriage and stared. Now there was no doubt. Someone had fallen from the upper ledge. A body was sprawled on the sand—and they weren’t moving. I pulled out my phone to use the zoom on the camera to get a better look. It appeared to be a woman with shoulder length brown hair, a blue shirt, and grayish pants. Still no movement. I looked up from where she had fallen but didn’t see anyone else nearby. There was nobody to help her.

I was four stops away from getting off the ride. What could I do? The lighthouse wasn’t far from Fiona’s bar at the far end of the boardwalk. Perhaps I could call her to take a quick look. The wheel continued stopping and starting for passenger loading and disembarking. I looked toward the fallen woman another time, hoping with each glance that I would see her push herself up. Instead, I spotted what appeared to be a large man in a T-shirt and shorts running from the same location. A baseball cap covered some of his face, but not the brown beard and glasses. He skirted the base of the lighthouse and disappeared down a path away from the boardwalk toward Main Street.

I peered over the side of my carriage, now one stop away from the bottom. I briefly contemplated jumping out to go investigate the body. My muscles tensed, ready to spring forth when the door was opened.

“Thank you for coming,” the young ride attendant said with a big smile.

I returned the gesture and took several steps, glancing around as I called Fiona. She was located a lot closer to the lighthouse and could get to the lady much quicker than I could. On ground level, the body was obscured from my view by the rocks and shrubs at the bottom of the cliff. With every breath I hoped the lady’s head would pop up above the border. I began walking that direction waiting Fiona’s answer, navigating between the many families enjoying their time.

“Hey girl,” I heard from the other end of the telephone connection. Fiona’s exuberance was contagious. She had late nights working at the bar, but that never kept her from being extremely chipper first thing in the morning. Likely Mocha Joe’s extra-large coffees contributed to her level of energy. “What’s up?”

“Fiona,” I started but second-guessed myself. “It’s probably nothing.” I paused.

“Where are you?” she asked.

I stopped and looked back at the Ferris wheel. “I’m halfway between the Ferris wheel and the lighthouse.” I stood on my toes to see if I could see the body. Not yet. “This is going to sound outrageous. I’m pretty sure I saw someone fall from the cliff next to the lighthouse.” I trudged through the thick sand, sweat now dripping from my brow.

“You mean at the Belle Harbor Beach Park? Are you sure?” she asked.

“I’m on my way there now. Can you meet me?” I asked, stopping to catch my breath.

“Maybe it was a branch or something that slipped loose from all of the rain last night,” she said. “I’m walking that direction.”

“No, I saw a person,” I said. “Nobody else must have seen it. They’re all immersed in their own business.” Beach goers were reading, building sandcastles, on their phones, laying on towels soaking up sun, all in their own world. “Oh, I hope she’s OK. Fiona we have to help her.”

“I can see you now. Pink shirt, right?” Fiona waved.

“Yes,” I said and waved back, beginning a jog. I ran the final hundred yards to Fiona’s side.

She hugged my clammy body and took my hand, leading me in the direction I pointed.

“Stacy is covering for me,” Fiona said, answering my unasked question. She pulled me along as we reached the base of the lighthouse. We circled the building to the other side where the beach park was situated. A steep trail ascended from the beach to the location where I had seen the woman fall from. Fiona looked at me.
I stopped and pointed. A broken rail from the fence lay on the ground.

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