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Sue Hollowell

Kettle Korn and Kerfuffle (PAPERBACK)

Kettle Korn and Kerfuffle (PAPERBACK)

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Cue Balls, Cowboy Boots, and Covert Clues

Tilly and Justin embark on a romantic getaway to the picturesque town of Cedarbrook. As they immerse themselves in the whimsical charm of the Treehouse Hotel, little do they know that their idyllic escape will take an unexpected twist.

Eager to experience the local flavor, Tilly and Justin make plans to visit Stella's Saloon, a renowned cowboy bar known for its lively atmosphere. However, their excitement turns to shock when they stumble upon a lifeless body amidst the spirited crowd.

As Tilly peels back the layers of this perplexing case, she realizes that the secrets held within Stella's Saloon run deeper than she ever imagined. Dark motives and hidden agendas come to light, weaving a treacherous web that threatens not only Tilly's safety but the harmony of Cedarbrook itself.

Can her keen perception and unwavering determination untangle the twisted threads of this enigma? Or will the secrets lurking within the saloon's rustic walls remain buried, forever casting a shadow over the once-peaceful town of Cedarbrook?


 Paperback pages
 Dimensions 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches (127 x 12.7 x 203 mm)
 Publication date February 8, 2024
 Publisher Free Heart Productions


"Welcome to the Treehouse Hotel! I'm Chloe." The exuberant woman greeted us with a warm smile as we approached the check-in desk.

Justin squeezed my hand as I gazed around at the expansive lodge. The wilderness was a pleasant change from our beach lives. I inhaled the sweet smell of pine. The tension in my muscles immediately left. I felt our time here would no doubt be memorable. Now married to the man of my dreams. How did I get so lucky?

All checked in, Chloe said, "Let me show you to your home away from home."

The moment we stepped out of the car, I knew we'd picked the perfect place for our honeymoon. The Treehouse Hotel was a charming, whimsical escape nestled among tall evergreen trees. With Justin by my side, I gazed up at our treehouse unit, the Crabapple Chalet, perched high above the ground like a magical hideaway.

As we climbed the wooden staircase, Chloe described the unique features of our treetop dwelling. "We've designed each chalet to have its own character. Yours has a cozy little reading nook, perfect for curling up with a good mystery novel," she said with a wink.

"Sounds perfect," I replied, thinking about how genius somebody was to create this sanctuary.

"Ah, here comes Max," Chloe called out as an adorable cocker spaniel bounded toward us. His tail wagged excitedly, and his intelligent eyes seemed to take us both in with a single glance.

"Hey there, buddy," Justin cooed as he bent down to pet him. But Max seemed more interested in me. He nuzzled up to my leg with his soft fur, making me giggle. "I think he likes you, Tilly," Justin said with a grin.

"Seems so," I agreed, stroking Max's head.

"Chloe," I began as Justin deposited our bags into our room, "do you have any recommendations for dinner? We've had a long drive."

"Absolutely!" she replied enthusiastically. "I know just the place."

"Stella's Saloon is just down the road." Chloe beamed, pointing toward a warmly lit building. "It's got the best comfort food in town. Mabel and Maude should still be there; they love hanging out at Stella's."

"Thanks, Chloe!" I said, as she and Max headed back to the lodge.

Plopping down onto the bed, I closed my eyes, soaking in every moment. My new life since moving to Belle Harbor couldn't be any better than if I designed it from scratch myself. A successful bakery honoring my late grandmother Luna, my Uncle Jack as my biggest cheerleader, and now a husband that was a perfect match for me. My old life in Boston felt like several lifetimes ago.

"Are you happy?" Justin asked, gently joining me on the bed.

A lump lodged in my throat. I could only nod, or I would release the waterworks.

I sat up, gazing around the unique lodging.

"I'm glad we decided to come here. It will be fun to run into Mabel and Maude again," I said, gazing through the window at the expanse of trees.

Justin and I grabbed our jackets and set off for a cozy dinner.
The door to Stella's swung open with a creak, revealing a room filled with laughter and the smell of delicious home cooking. It didn't take long for us to spot Mabel and Maude, their animated conversation drawing us toward them like moths to a flame.

"Look who we have here!" Mabel exclaimed, her eyes twinkling as she recognized us from their vacation to Belle Harbor. "Tilly and Justin!"

I held out my left hand so they could see my wedding ring.

"Ooooooo," Maude squealed. "Smart guy, Justin. You did good!"

My husband blushed. "Chloe mentioned you two might be here," he said, grinning. "We're on our honeymoon and staying at the Treehouse Hotel."

"Ah, congratulations!" Maude chimed in, her dry wit immediately evident. "I hope you find Cedarbrook as enjoyable as Belle Harbor, although hopefully with fewer corpses."

"Let's hope so!" Justin laughed, shaking his head at the memory of our last encounter with Mabel and Maude.

Mabel pushed out a chair next to her. "Would you two lovebirds like to join us?" She looked at Maude. "Or will us two grannies hold you young-uns back?" She snickered.

Justin and I glanced at each other at the same time. "Of course," I said. Those two women were a travelling entertainment show. Who knew where the conversation would go?

"You'll never guess what we've done," Maude said.

"Believe it or not, we've officially started a detective agency," Mabel announced with pride, taking a sip of her tea. "We thought it was about time we made our hobby official."

"Really?" I asked, genuinely surprised by the news. Their age seemed an unlikely match for such a venture. But then again, I'd learned not to underestimate these two.

"Yep," Maude confirmed, her no-nonsense tone contrasting Mabel's playful enthusiasm. "We figured, why not put our skills to good use? Cedarbrook has its fair share of mysteries, and we're just the duo to solve them."

"Wow, that's fantastic," I said, my mind reeling with the thought of these two formidable women tackling mysteries as a profession. "You two are incredible."

"Thank you, dear," Mabel replied, her cheeks flushing pink with pride.

As the evening wore on, filled with hearty food and lively conversation, I couldn't help but feel incredibly lucky. My tomato basil grilled cheese, along with homemade potato chips, filled me to the brim. The walk back to the Treehouse Hotel would hopefully allow my stomach to settle. We snacked on the kettle korn in the middle of the table. The sweet, crunchy treat was irresistible. We reminisced about our meeting of Maude and Mabel in Belle Harbor, and their solving of a murder. I wondered if that in some way prompted them to open their own agency.

I couldn't help but laugh as I recalled the events that had unfolded during their visit. "You two were certainly persistent."

Mabel said sagely. "That's why it's so important to dig deeper and uncover the truth."

"Speaking of digging," Maude interjected, "Mabes, tell them about the garden gnomes."

Mabel grinned, clearly relishing the chance to tell another story. "Well, it all started when several Cedarbrook residents began reporting that their garden gnomes were mysteriously changing positions overnight."

"Really?" I asked, my curiosity piqued.

Maude continued, "After a thorough investigation, we discovered the culprits were none other than a group of local teenagers."

"Apparently, it was a dare," Mabel explained, shaking her head in bemusement. "One of those silly games teenagers play to prove their bravery. They had no idea they were causing such a commotion."

Just as Maude finished recounting the gnome tale, a sudden rustling in the corner of Stella's Saloon caught our attention. Max bounded through the swinging doors, his tail wagging furiously. He made a beeline for me, nuzzling my leg as if we were long-lost friends.

"Max!" Chloe exclaimed, hurrying after him and looking slightly flustered. "I'm so sorry. He slipped out of his leash when I turned my back for just a second."

I chuckled, reaching down to give Max an affectionate scratch behind his ears. "No need to apologize, Chloe. He's absolutely adorable."

Chloe took a seat as Max settled on my foot under the table.

Mabel and Maude launched into more stories about their hilarious investigations.

"Tell them about the case of the missing parrot," Maude urged Mabel, a mischievous glint in her eyes.

"Ah, yes," Mabel began, rubbing her hands together with glee. "The Case of the Pernicious Parrot, as we came to call it. A woman came to us, distraught over her missing parrot. She insisted it couldn't have simply flown away from her store, as its wings were clipped."

"Turns out," Maude chimed in, "a rival pet store owner had bird-napped it. He wanted to breed it with his own parrot to create some rather exotic offspring."

Mabel added, shaking her head, "We found the bird in a hidden room above the rival's shop. The poor thing was traumatized. It took weeks for it to stop squawking obscenities at its former captor."

My iced tea had been working its magic on my bladder, and I realized it was time for a break.

"Please excuse me for just a moment," I said, rising from my seat and smoothing my blouse.

The ladies' restroom was tucked away in a small alcove near the back of the bar. As I approached, I couldn't help but notice Max standing outside the men's restroom door. He was scratching at the wood with his paw, whining softly. I hadn't even noticed he had left the table.

"Max, what are you doing over here?" I asked, concern creeping into my voice.

His big brown eyes met mine, and he let out a plaintive whine. He continued to scratch at the door, growing more insistent by the second. A sense of unease settled in my gut, like a heavy stone weighing me down. Something about Max's behavior told me that this was more than just canine curiosity.

"Alright, boy," I muttered to myself, taking a step closer. "Let's see what all the fuss is about."

Despite the nagging feeling that I might intrude on someone's privacy, I reached for the men's restroom door handle.

"Here goes nothing," I whispered, and pushed the door open.

The door creaked open, and the dimly lit men's restroom revealed itself. My heart pounded in my ears, drowning out even the sound of Max's whines as I hesitantly stepped inside.

"Hello?" I called out tentatively, hoping to give anyone inside a fair warning of my entrance. There was no response, only the steady drip of a leaky faucet echoing through the otherwise silent room.

As I rounded the corner, an eerie sight greeted me. A man lay sprawled on the vintage tiles, his limbs splayed at unnatural angles. His eyes were wide open, staring blankly at the ceiling, and his complexion had taken on a sickly pallor. The world seemed to freeze around me, the air suddenly thick and suffocating.

I gasped, my voice barely audible. I rushed to his side, my breaths coming in short and shallow. "Can you hear me?"

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