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FESTIVE MAYHEM 2
Seven Holiday Culinary Cozy Mysteries
BY CAROLYN MARIE WILKINS, FRANCELIA BELTON, BARBARA HOWARD, ANGELA HENRY, RHODA BERLIN, PAIGE SLEUTH, & STELLA ONI
Seven crime writers of color have teamed up for the second year running to offer you the gift of escape this holiday season. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, Halloween to New Year’s, cozy mystery fans are bound to find a favorite holiday represented in this limited-time collection of exclusive, never-before-published seasonal short stories.
What you’ll find inside:
- “Nefarious New Year” by Paige Sleuth. A suspected poisoning leads Cherry Hills, Washington animal rescue maven Imogene Little to spend New Year’s Eve 1999 tracking down a would-be murderer.
- “The Brotherhood of Tricks and Treats” by Francelia Belton. A young man wants to fit in with his older brothers, but gets in over his head.
- “Cookies, Lies & Homicide” by Angela Henry. When lonely widow Mercy Davenport finds a lost dog, she has no idea searching for its owner will land her in the middle of a murder mystery, putting her in the crosshairs of a killer and on the radar of a grumpy local police detective.
- “Last Bite” by Rhoda Berlin. When Emily introduces her fiancé to her family, Thanksgiving comes to a fateful end.
- “A Praline for Pepe” by Carolyn Marie Wilkins. Carrie McFarland’s psychic powers are tested when a showboat featuring a racist revue brings a handsome stranger, a new cuisine, and a cold-blooded killer to Aaronsville, Indiana in 1921.
- “A Cup of Secrets” by Barbara Howard. Debutante Chelsea Parker’s birthday celebration launched his catering business into an overnight success, but Milo is thrown into the center of a murder investigation before dawn with his business partner and love of his life as the primary suspect.
- “The Jollof Rice and Crayfish Mystery” by Stella Oni. Elizabeth Ojo senses trouble when billionaire businessman Chief Arowolo, his wives and family come to celebrate his 75th birthday in the Mews, and she is not wrong as Chief collapses on the day of his celebration.
Bonus recipes are included for each story!
This anthology is only available for a short time, so grab it now before it’s gone. It would be criminal to miss it!
Vincent liked to think of himself as a forthright and trusting fellow. But he probably should have been suspicious when his brothers asked him to come with them to the Silver Sax’s Halloween costume party later that evening.
They had never invited him to go with them anywhere before.
It was around 3:00 that chilly October afternoon in 1961. He remembered it clearly because he ‘d escorted his mom to Union Station that morning, and didn’t have time to make his special Halloween treats for the neighborhood kids until later in the day. He was measuring the caramel sauce when the back kitchen door opened.
Roger and Silas strode into the tiny kitchen, as though it was an everyday occurrence. Which it wasn’t, because neither of them ever came around their mom’s house unless it was Thanksgiving or Christmas. They somehow must have known their mother was out of town.
Silas brought his longtime girlfriend, Connie, and she gave Vincent a quick smile before taking a seat at the table. Her gaze lingered on the bag of marshmallows, nuts, and bowl of popcorn before picking up a copy of Good Housekeeping magazine.
Silas headed straight to the pale blue Frigidaire and opened the door. Bottles and jars clinked and clattered as he rummaged through the shelves. “What is there to drink around here?”
Roger replied, “Nothing you’re looking for.” He leaned against the counter sink, watching Vincent to see what he would do.
Vincent didn’t know what to do. His mom didn’t tell him that Roger and Silas weren’t allowed over. It was just expected they wouldn’t see them for a few weeks.
Silas sighed and grabbed the bottle of milk. He unscrewed the top and started drinking from it. Vincent took an involuntary step forward, aghast. He had been a little boy the last time he had witnessed Silas try that stunt. Their mom popped Silas up the side of his head saying, “Boy, how many times have I told you to use a glass?” Watching Silas drink the milk now, without a care in the world, confirmed what Vincent suspected. Roger and Silas knew their mother wasn’t home.
She’d gone to Texas for a few weeks to care for her ailing sister. Before she boarded the train, she had said to Vincent, “You be a good boy and stay out of trouble.”
He ducked his head and shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “Geez, Mom! I’m not a kid anymore.”
She chuckled. “Okay, then, young man, stay out of trouble. Call your Aunt Velma’s house collect if you need anything.”
Then, she stared into his eyes, bringing a hand to his still smooth cheek, her expression contemplative. “I’m not playing. Be careful.” She’d been extra protective of him after Trenton, his other brother, died.
Now, his two eldest brothers were here, asking him, Vincent, to hang out with them tonight. For the first time – ever – in his entire life.
Being in elementary school while your brothers were either in high school or junior high did not allow for brotherly bonding. Only Trenton made the effort. He was in the middle and closest in age to Vincent, with only a four-year gap.
Trenton passed away earlier that year. So Vincent didn’t have anyone else, except his mom.
Now that Vincent was eighteen, maybe he was finally old enough to be on Roger’s and Silas’ radar. Or, maybe they only cared to include him now because Trenton, their third compadre, was gone, and they needed to fill the void.
Silas finished off the milk and tossed the empty bottle in the sink. “Just so you know, the party is starting late. Probably way past your bedtime.”
Vincent knew what was about to come out his mouth would sound petulant, but out it came anyway. “I’m not a baby. I’m up late all the time.”
Roger contemplated Vincent for a moment. “Maybe we shouldn’t have been so dismissive of him before. It’s kinda worrisome that he’s always in the kitchen – baking.”
“Yeah, he’s a real mama’s boy, alright.” A smirk came on Silas’ face. “Still holding on to her apron strings.”
Vincent’s whole body burned hotter than cornbread baking in an oven. He protested, “There’s nothing wrong with baking.”
“Maybe for some people, but no brother of mine is going to be a sissy.” Roger walked up to Vincent and grabbed him by his neck, forcing Vincent to look him in the eye. “You hear me?”
Vincent could only nod.
“Good.” Roger let him go and went back to the counter he was leaning on. “We don’t understand why you would want to be in the kitchen all the time anyway. Don’t you want to get out there and live life?”
Vincent muttered, “I planned to open a bakery one day.”
Roger and Silas guffawed.
Vincent’s face broiled and he turned back to the mixture he was stirring.
Connie didn’t laugh. “I don’t see anything wrong with that. We all have dreams. I want to be a dancer.”
Silas walked up behind her chair and put his arms around her. “Not if I have anything to say about that.”
“You don’t. I’m my own woman. I don’t need anyone telling me who I can or can’t be.”
”You keep talking like that and you’ll be looking for a new man.” He said it in an attempt to sound teasing, but clearly wasn’t.
It didn’t faze Connie, and she said with no hesitation, “That’s okay. I’ll find a man supportive of my dreams.”
The smile on Silas’ face fell away and he dropped his arms from Connie, but he did kiss her cheek, roughly, before he stepped back. He stood next to the refrigerator again, in a stance that conveyed he was still in control and it didn’t matter what Connie said.
This whole situation was beginning to get much too uncomfortable for Vincent. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea after all. He said, “You know, the more I think about it, the more I think I shouldn’t go. Like you said, I’m the kid brother who bakes cookies and cakes. I’d just be bringing your game down.”
Roger joked, “Believe me, kid, nothing you did could bring our game down. But you do gotta think about what you’re going to really do with the rest of your life.”
Silas crossed his arms and feet, studying Vincent with half-lidded eyes.
It made Vincent squirm, so he turned his attention back to the stove and lowered the blue flame under the pot.
Silas said, “You know, maybe he’s right. We shouldn’t bring him. Trenton always said V couldn’t be one of us.”
Vincent’s throat constricted. Did Trenton really say that? The brother he admired and looked up to said that about him?
The melted marshmallows, butter, oil, and caramel sauce bubbled and roiled in the pot, mimicking the confusion and thoughts flaring up inside of him. The mixture rose higher and higher almost reaching the rim. Before it was too late, he removed it from the heat, stirring it with his wooden spoon to keep the gooey mixture from sticking to the bottom. The concoction cooled, returning to its previous calm state. He set the pot on one of the unlit burners and turned to face his brothers. He blurted, “I’ll do it.”
Connie looked up from the magazine.
Silas raised an eyebrow.
Roger looked pleased.
In a calmer voice, Vincent continued, “I mean, I’ll go with you guys to the party. I want to go. You’re right, all I do is bake. I need to get out and do things.”
Roger clapped Vincent on the back, nearly knocking him off his feet. “We’ll make a man out of you yet.”
Vincent just nodded. He would show them. He wasn’t just the baby brother anymore.
But most of all, he would show Trenton. The one brother who Vincent thought cared about him. Trenton who played with him when he was little. Trenton who encouraged him in his baking. Turned out it was all a ploy to keep him away from Roger and Silas. He wanted them all to himself.
Francelia Belton’s love of short stories came from watching old Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents television shows in her youth. Her fiction has appeared in various publications and she was a finalist in the 2020-2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Competition. You can read more of her stories at https://Francel.Be/Writing-Stories.
Links to Francelia’s website, blog, books, #ad etc.:
Available at: Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo
Learn more about the rest of the Festive Mayhem 2 authors by visiting their websites:
Paige Sleuth: https://www.marlabradeen.com/
Angela Henry: https://angelahenry.com/
Rhoda Berlin: https://rhodaberlin.com/
Carolyn Marie Wilkins: https://www.carolynwilkins.com/
Barbara Howard: https://www.barbarahowardmedia.com/
Stella Oni: https://stellaonithewriter.com/
Special Giveaway: In celebration of their new release, the authors are hosting a multi-book giveaway. Visit the Rafflecopter Giveaway page (below) through October 29th for a chance to win some books! http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/f0f9d74e25 and tell the authors, what is your favorite holiday? 😊
Thanks, everyone, for sharing your stories with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!