• Marshmallow Mayhem

 

MarshmallowMayhem front coverIn this sequel to BANANA BAMBOOZLE, all Cassidy Dunne wants is a road trip to bond with her niece and some gooey campfire s’mores. What she gets is an extra serving of mayhem — marijuana brownies, creepy locals, an ardent admirer, a precocious canine cohort, and a dead body.

Driving an RV from California to Colorado in winter poses plenty of challenges, some of which can be solved, at least temporarily, by her secret stash of candy. But nothing can sugarcoat the clues pointing to her involvement in the murder.

In print wherever books are sold. Kindle edition at Amazon.

ISBN 978-1-5060-1911-6

Here’s the first chapter … it’s got a dog!

Chapter One

Shouting outside the Georgie Boy RV made Cassidy quit scrubbing the already pristine microwave. “Did you hear that?” She clicked off the CD player then bushwhacked through the jumble of cleaning supplies, pantry items, and clutter, using her crutches as machetes. Her friend, Dan, sprawled on the floor, so she hopped over him, shoved his legs to one side, and flung open the door. Sticking her head into the frigid Colorado night, she listened again. Definitely shouting. Man. Woman. Another man? Yosemite Sam? No, that can’t be right.

Every nerve buzzed, like her tongue when she pressed it to a fully juiced 9-volt battery at age seven. She felt on the verge of a superpower she couldn’t identify, but doubted it involved hearing cartoon characters in the woods.

Remembering her craving for s’mores made her forget the shouting. She tried, but failed, to stay within the area that had been cleared of snow as she made her way to the fire pit. She grabbed a stick and scrambled the embers in the campfire. The fire sputtered back to life with a whoosh of piney smoke. Sparks danced skyward. Cassidy stared, transfixed even after they disappeared. Trippy. More shouting brought her gaze toward the campground manager’s office a couple hundred yards away, at the edge of the woods. It was dark, and the light above the office door glowed like a beacon, reminding her of something she couldn’t quite put her finger on.

“Dammit! I forgot to pay for the campsite.”  A wispy image of her dad materialized in front of her, scolding with a wagging finger. She suspected it might be a marijuana-induced hallucination, but replied anyway, just in case. “Okay! I’m going.”

She hurried — which was just a tad faster than Amish NASCAR — back to the Georgie Boy RV but couldn’t locate her purse in the disarray. Keen eyesight had not somehow become her superpower, despite the buzzing behind her eyes. Dan’s hip pointed toward the ceiling, pocket bulging with his wallet, so she plucked it out and shoved it in her own pocket.

Dan mumbled something. Mario, his boyfriend, laughed and patted Dan’s head.

Cassidy’s eye caught the marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers on the small counter between the sink and stove. She swept it all into a plastic grocery bag, added one of the long skewers, then looped the handle over her wrist as she made her way outside again.

She shoved four marshmallows on the skewer and held it deep in the fire. They immediately burst into flame. She lifted them skyward, briefly mesmerized by the burning confection. She blew them out with one breath and wondered if plus-sized lung capacity might be her new superpower.

Shivering, she expertly layered graham crackers, chocolate and burnt marshmallow into four sweet sandwiches. Ah, now there’s a superpower worth having.

Leaving the extra ingredients on the picnic table, she placed the s’mores in the grocery bag, looped it over her wrist again, and headed for the campground office. After a few steps, she turned back to the RV. She froze when she heard a noise nearby. Footsteps? Wild animal? Yeti?

The moon glowed bright and every star sparkled, but couldn’t quite pierce the gloom of the forest. She concentrated on making hearing her superpower, but gave up and decided she was simply paranoid from the pot. Just the campfire crackling, she decided. She stuck her head in the Georgie Boy. “I need to go pay for the campground before they throw us in jail. I’m taking s’mores to the office and begging Bea for mercy.”

Dan mumbled.

“What?” she asked.

Without opening his eyes, Mario said, “He wanth you to turn the muthic back on.”

“Really?”

Dan nodded, ever so slightly.

Cassidy tapped Dan’s foot. “Seriously? You want the music back on? The Christmas music?” She asked it as a statement, like clarifying a bizarre request. You want me to drop a piano on you. From the roof. Wearing a clown nose and Elvis jumpsuit.

Dan nodded again.

“Fine. But I don’t want you yelling about it later.” Clearly, marijuana changed Dan’s musical tastes and rendered Mario unable to say an ess sound. Their budtender never mentioned those side effects. Cassidy lurched over Dan, turned on the CD player and smiled. Dan hated “Silent Night.” He couldn’t get past the idea of a round yon virgin.

“Thilent Night. That’th the betht.”

Dan got a goofy grin on his face that faded immediately. Clearly the effort was too much. “Wait. I get it now. Round. Yon. Virgin. So … transmission. No. Transcendent.”

Cassidy opened the door. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

“Where are you going?” Dan struggled to open an eye then gave up.

“I told you.” She wiggled the plastic bag on her wrist. “Trying to stay out of jail with a well-timed bribe.”

“Whatever. I’m going to sleep in heavenly peace now.”

“Fine. You do that.” She rolled her eyes, again feeling the prickly buzz in her ocular nerves. As an experiment, she stopped on the road and did it twice more on her way to the office, trying to determine why keen vision wasn’t her superpower.

The bag of s’mores dangled from her wrist, distracting her. She reached in and pulled one out, devouring it. She felt around the bag and pulled out another. Before she knew it, she was licking her fingers and only one s’more remained in the bag. “Hmm. Thought I made four.” She shrugged and continued to the office.

A figure in a red parka hurried out the office door and disappeared around the corner. Before Cassidy could call out, something nudged her hand. She yelped and lunged forward, breathing hard, scanning the darkness. Bea’s incredibly silent dog danced and hopped at her side. “Dammit, Soso! Not cool.” After a quick, high-pitched laugh, Cassidy proceeded toward the office. Every few steps Soso ran toward the woods, then back to Cassidy. The closer they got, the more the dog bounced. Her golden fur shimmered whenever the moon peeked from the drifting clouds.

“I’m not going to play with you. It’s cold. And dark. And I have stuff to do.” At Cassidy’s refusal, the dog turned her brown eyes upward. Cassidy felt Soso’s keen disappointment in her.

When Cassidy reached the office, her breathing remained labored. Altitude combined with exertion took its toll. She opened the door and Soso squeezed ahead of her. No one manned the front counter.

“Bea? Hello?”

Soso nosed Cassidy forward. They stumbled and tripped over each other through the small vestibule. Cassidy bumped a tall wooden coat rack ingeniously created from antlers. It crashed against the counter then clattered to the floor. She gasped at the noise. Soso scampered to the hallway and stood watching her under a sign that said Office. Cassidy recognized Bea’s pumpkin-colored jacket, its sleeve caught on one of the antlers. “I’m so sorry, Bea!” she called. “I knocked over the coat rack.” Bea didn’t answer. Maybe she’s on the phone or stepped out for a minute. Cassidy balanced herself then grabbed one of the curvy antlers. After three tries she was able to set the rack upright and re-hang Bea’s jacket. Would she step out without her jacket? Or was she wearing the red parka?

Cassidy followed Soso down the wood paneled hallway toward the office. The dark paneling and the worn carpet contradicted the fresh aerosol scent of Spring Mountain Peak Blooms or Vibrant Bright Wholesome Sparkle, or whatever the marketing flavor du jour was.

Soso danced and bounced all around Cassidy.

At the end of the hall, just inside the doorway, stood a tall filing cabinet that blocked the view of the interior. No voices. I guess she really did step out.

“Good Lord, dog. Fine. I’ll pet you.” Cassidy flung the s’more bag on top of the cabinet, her back to the office. “But just until she gets back.”

Cassidy lowered an arm to pet Soso who reared up, planted her front legs on Cassidy’s boobs and pushed her backwards across the office. “Oh, geez, I forgot you always—” Cassidy lost her balance, grabbed for the dog and fell against Bea’s desk. A pile of papers toppled into a cardboard box marked “Recycling.” Soso scooted out of harm’s way.

Cassidy pulled herself up using the edge of the desk. “Really? That’s what I get for trying to be conscientious and pay for our—” She stopped mid-sentence when she saw Bea slumped over her desk. Cassidy glanced at Soso who looked up at her with solemn eyes. Cassidy’s nerves again felt like a 9-volt battery. She came around the desk and poked Bea on the arm.

Then she saw the blood oozing from the wound on the back of Bea’s head.