Parlor Game Mysteries, Book 2
Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Date Published: August 2018
It all started with a haunted Ouija board in Nashville and the cold case murder of Sophie Mathews. Then, Henry Meyer did not commit suicide in his tobacco barn in Columbia and the case went cold. When Olivia Honeycutt takes on the case of Eloise Venable Freeman, she must accept her paranormal proclivities. Eloise and her infant daughter, Andrea, allegedly died in a horrific fire thirty years ago. Her husband, David, is not satisfied with ashes. David wants answers. Olivia travels to Shelbyville, Tennessee, and the world of the Walking Horses to solve her most challenging mystery to date.
Other Books in the Parlor Game Mysteries Series:
Parlor Game Mysteries, Book 1
Published: June 2017
Hanging Tobacco is the first book in the Parlor Game Mystery Series. Olivia Honeycutt solved the cold case murder of Sophie Mathews with the help of Sophie’s Ouija board. Now, Olivia and her Nashville detective boyfriend, Presley, tackle the twenty five year old mystery surrounding the death of Henry Meyer. The old man was found hanging from the neck in the rafters of his tobacco barn in Columbia, Tennessee. Was Henry intent on suicide? Or, was it murder? Uncovering the truth behind Henry’s death proves both challenging and life threatening. Not everyone in Columbia wants to know the truth. Olivia takes the Ouija board on the road.
“. . . I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always -- take any form -- drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!”
EMILY BRONTE, Wuthering Heights
He waits in the shadows as silent and greedy as any panther awaiting its prey. It’s where the game always begins. I approach casually—pretending I don’t know he is there, pretending I don’t know he waits.
I stand with my back against the refrigerator. At five-feet-something my head doesn’t come anywhere near the top of the appliance. After about one minute, he bops me tentatively on the top of the head with one paw and then retreats. Back he comes with another stealthy bop. I imagine he’s giggling with glee as I turn to sweep Toby from his perch. His giggle is a purr of satisfaction. He’s gotten me again. I’m a successful, professional, thirty-four-year-old woman; yet, I delight in playing this stupid game with a short-haired gray cat that I named Toby—short for Tobacco Cat. How on earth did I allow this to happen? I’ve always made fun of people who went stupid over their pets.
Toby is approximately six months old and he’s a strange-looking animal—small for a male cat with round chipmunk cheeks. His mother was a small calico barn cat. His father had been a man of the gypsies. The veterinarian is convinced Toby’s blue-gray coloring, heart-shaped head, and large green eyes are distinguishing characteristics for a Korat. What a cat from the regions of Thailand had been doing fraternizing with a Tennessee barn cat was anybody’s guess.
Five minutes later Presley Warren entered the kitchen with a prowling grace. He’s a big guy. Bull-in-a-china-shop size big. It kinds of ticks me off that he should move so easily and gracefully. I’m a little dinky person and I flail around whatever room I’m in at the time. He leaned into a morning kiss—“Good morning, sunshine!”—smacking his lips afterwards. “Yum, coffee with cream.” Gliding over to the kitchen counter my police detective boyfriend shrugged into the jacket and reached for his to-go cup upended in the dish drainer beside the sink. “Good morning, Toby!” He threw the greeting at the cat. Toby growled into his food dish and I growled into my coffee cup.
I suffer through mornings as a necessary evil. Something to endure until a more respectable hour rolls around. He leaned over to kiss me goodbye with one hand holding his tie flat and the other grasping the now-filled to-go cup. He had that aftershave wonderful man-smell thing going and I thought fleetingly of grabbing his tie and wrestling him to the kitchen floor. I love the clean weekday man-smell. I’m also fond of the Sunday morning scruffy detective in-need-of-a-shave guy. It’s a toss-up. He grinned down at me as though he could read my mind. “I’ve got to go. Big meeting downtown. What are you doing today?”
I sighed. “I’m going to make some calls to see what I can scare up.” In a lot of ways I’m jealous of Presley’s job. In a city the size of Nashville there is never a shortage of crime. Presley has job security. I’m a freelance journalist. There is nothing secure about a career in journalism.
Presley whirled toward the hallway with coffee in one hand and car keys in the other. He called from the front door, “Text me later,” and he was out the door.
I mumbled to the room. “Elvis has left the building.” Toby didn’t acknowledge the comment. Presley’s jeep rests in the driveway when he stays over. It’s my house so my Mini Cooper gets to live in the one-car garage. Setting my empty coffee mug in the sink I headed upstairs. I’d been awake for at least an hour. It was time for a nap. Presley had awakened me early; banging around in the small shower stall off the master bedroom. He could have showered in the bathroom downstairs, but he prefers to bang around and swear. The shower stall is small, perfect for a single professional hobbit-sized woman. The proudest day of my life had been moving into my fifteen-hundred-square-foot townhome. I fell in love with the soaring cathedral ceilings the moment I saw the place. Peter Pan could fly in here.
Somehow a goofy-looking cat and a big-footed detective had burrowed their way into my little nirvana when I hadn’t been paying attention. Presley and I don’t live together. He has a small apartment in downtown Nashville. We are casually committed lovers; it’s complicated. We’ve been a couple ever since we laid eyes on one another last June. He is six feet of beat-up handsomeness. I was hooked immediately.
I snoozed for about a half hour and woke up to Toby sprawled across my ankles in a purring puddle. Leaving the cat on the bed I went to shower and prepare for the day. By the time I re-entered the bedroom, Toby had left to roam the premises. I headed downstairs to the kitchen and my laptop. I was getting antsy for a story. The cold case mystery of Sophie Mathews had sold well throughout Tennessee. If I had included Sophie’s supernatural assistance in the solving of her case via a link with her Ouija board, I probably could have ended up on some national news shows…or even made the front page of the National Inquirer. While I had no problem furthering my career by telling her story, I would never have trivialized it with paranormal shenanigans. Sophie had meant a lot to me.
A few months after Sophie’s case was put to bed I was invited to look into the cold case of Henry Meyer. When I wrote up Henry’s story and shopped it around, it sold like the funnel cakes at Mule Day weekend in the close town of Columbia—which was where Henry Meyer had not hung himself in his tobacco barn.
I was bored. I needed to get busy and sell a story. I had a mortgage, a car loan, and a cat to support. I opened my laptop to search for local happenings that I could twist into a story and was immediately intrigued by a recently received email.
To: Miss Olivia Honeycutt
From: David Owen Freeman
Date: January 19, 2015
I am in need of your help. I was given this email address by Sheriff Lockheed of Bedford County which he acquired via his professional contacts with the sheriff’s office in Maury County. I was assured this was your business email and not personal. My wife and I have read the journalistic pieces you have written concerning the cold cases of Sophie Mathews of Nashville/Davidson County and Henry Meyer of Columbia/Maury County. My dear wife, Betsy, has encouraged me to write to you in the hope that you will look into the thirty-year-old deaths of my first wife, Eloise Venable Freeman, and infant daughter, Andrea Ilene Freeman. I have long suspected their deaths were the direct result of arson; therefore, they were murdered.
I sincerely hope you will consider my request. I will personally cover all expenses you incur due to travel and hotel accommodation regardless of the outcome of your investigation. Eloise and Andrea lost their lives in an inferno at the Venable family estate. The official cause of the fire was never determined. However, I have always believed it was arson. There is a cold case at the Shelbyville Police Department filed away as Eloise Venable Freeman and infant daughter. My daughter’s Christian name isn’t even printed on the case file. The remains of my wife were recovered in the rubble. My daughter’s remains were never recovered. I am haunted by the summary in the report of the Fire Marshall. The remains may have been so insignificant that all traces of the infant could have been incinerated in the extreme velocity of the fire. Assuming it was arson (and I do), no motive was ever established. Eloise’s date of death was August 3, 1985.The fire started in the early morning hours of that date.
Eloise was the daughter of Lawrence Venable. Venable Tennessee Walkers are well known throughout the country for the breed of Tennessee Walking Horses. I can be reached at the phone numbers and email addresses listed below. I will not go into further detail at this time. I sincerely do hope you will consider my request and get in touch.
About the Author
Linda S. Browning is retired from the University of Tennessee, Office of Research and Social Work. She lives with her husband in Middle Tennessee with their thirty-plus year amazon parrot and a young and energetic Bichon/ShihTzu mix. Linda is the author of Leslie & Belinda Mysteries.