A Sneak Peak at
Town in a Strawberry Swirl
A Candy Holliday Murder Mystery
by B. B. Haywood
On Sale Everywhere on February 4, 2014
She felt like a fly suddenly caught in a spider’s web.
She backed away, putting some distance between herself and the body, and froze there. She had to take a moment to think, to consider her options—though with all the thoughts racing through her brain, it was difficult to make sense of any of them.
Her first instinct was to flee, to extricate herself from this situation as quickly as possible. She could leave the body where it was at and simply walk away. Drive back to her office, go about her business as usual, pretend none of this had happened. And try to forget what she’d just seen.
She hesitated, though. That was the most attractive choice, but was it the right one?
She could approach the body, put a finger to its wrist and neck, check for a pulse and breathing. But she knew there was no need. From where she stood, the damage looked fairly severe. She wasn’t a doctor but she didn’t have to be. She averted her eyes, not wanting to look too long, lest it give her nightmares for the rest of the week.
She shifted, maintaining tight control of her emotions. This wasn’t the time to panic.
Her eyes fell on the probable murder weapon lying not too far away on the dirt floor of the hoophouse. She dwelt on it for a long moment as her gaze narrowed. Something about it scratched at her senses, making her feel uneasy, but she couldn’t determine what it was. She was tempted to take a few steps closer for a better look, but she remained firmly planted to the spot upon which she stood. She was afraid to move a muscle.
The proper thing to do, of course, would be to call the police and report what she’d found. But she dismissed that idea almost instantly. Warning bells were going off inside her brain, almost physically ringing in her ears. Something about this whole scene was wrong. It looked set up—manipulated. How and in what way, she could not tell. But there were too many unknowns, too much to absorb right now.
She knew somehow, instinctively, that if she called the police right now, she’d wind up in jail before lunch.
She had no idea how she’d reached that conclusion but she felt the truth of it in her bones. If the police started asking questions, she’d have no answers for them—at least, not that she wanted to share right now. They’d ask why she’d come out to the berry farm this morning, and why she’d wandered specifically out to the hoophouse. She’d have to tell them about the e‑mail, and how she’d been instructed to delete it to avoid leaving a paper trail. They’d grill her about the secret arrangement she’d had with the victim, and the rumors flying around town, which would pull her in even deeper.
It was all too messy to explain. It would make her an immediate suspect.
No, the best course of action, she decided, was to follow her first instinct. Leave this place as quickly as possible. Get in her car, drive out of the parking lot, hurry back to town, lock herself in her office, and wait for someone else to find the body.
She might even want to think about an alibi. Maybe she should take an early lunch, get a salad and a glass of iced tea someplace where she’d be noticed and could be seen reacting to the news in surprise like everyone else when the inevitable discovery happened.
But first she wanted to make sure she didn’t leave any traces of her presence behind. Forensics teams could find evidence in just about anything these days—a clump of dirt, a speck of fabric, a fingernail, the tiniest hair follicle. She had to make it appear as if she’d never been here.
She scoured the area visually, but she hadn’t touched anything that she could remember. And she couldn’t see any hairs or fibers that might have fallen off her. There wasn’t much she could do about that anyway. But there was something else she needed to address.
She looked down at her feet. Before she left the car, she’d had the good sense to switch out her new Manolo Blahnik silver sandals for the calf-high black rubber boots she kept in the trunk, in anticipation of situations just like this. Most of her listings were residential homes in nice neighborhoods with paved driveways and concrete walkways, but she handled plenty of farms and rural properties as well. Who knew where a typical day might take her? This little unexpected side trip out to Crawford’s Berry Farm was a perfect example. Every day was different. It paid to be prepared.
She’d bought the Manolo Blahniks at the Neiman Marcus store in Copley Square just a few weekends ago, on a two-day shopping spree in Boston to celebrate a big sale. They’d cost her seven hundred dollars. No sense ruining them tromping around a berry farm. It had been a wise decision to make the switch to the rubber boots, given the farm’s dirt pathways and occasional muddy patches, like the one she’d encountered just outside.
But the boots left distinctive footprints. She’d have to erase them. How to do that?
Turning, searching for an idea, she spotted an old broom that had somehow made its way out here, leaned up against one corner of the hoophouse. It looked like it had been used to clear out spiderwebs and brush dirt off walls and framework.
Just what she needed.
Forcing herself to move, she crossed to the broom and in short order swept away all her own footprints. She used the broom lightly, brushing loose dirt around, doing her best to disguise the fact that she was tampering with evidence at a crime scene. But it couldn’t be helped. It was pure self-preservation at this point.
Once she’d finished her task, she headed outside, down the gentle slope toward the barn, doing her best to keep a low profile as she retraced her steps across the strawberry fields, dashing the broom at the footprints behind her as she went.
Back at the car, she pulled off the rubber boots and tossed them onto the floor behind the driver’s seat. After erasing any trace of the final few footprints, she tossed the broom onto the back floor as well, making a mental note to dispose of it as quickly as possible. Still in her stocking feet, she plopped into the driver’s seat, closed the door, and started the engine.
In a few moments she’d be free and clear, but these were the tensest ones of all, with a clean escape so close and yet so far. As she closed her fingers around the leather-wrapped steering wheel, she noticed her hands were shaking. She was breathing heavily. For the first time a wave of anxiety threatened to overwhelm her and she began to feel lightheaded, but she fought it down. She swept pale blonde hair back from her thin face and turned to look out the side and rearview windows as she backed up and started off.
So far, so good. The place still looked deserted. But as she gunned the engine and started out the dirt lane toward the main road, she noticed in the distance another vehicle turning in toward the berry farm—an old pickup truck, it looked like.
Doc Holliday’s truck, she thought, her heartbeat spiking at the realization.
She cursed and slammed on the brakes, fighting down her panic. She looked to either side, seeking an escape route, and spotted a farm lane on her right. It led off along a line of low trees, cutting past the berry fields that ran down the slope toward the sea.
Without hesitation, she yanked the steering wheel to the right, gunned the engine, and tore across the fields.
End of Excerpt
Available from Berkeley Prime Crime, February 2014
Copyrighted material, used by permission.
For more information on the Candy Holliday Mysteries, visit www.hollidaysblueberryacres.com.