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Candy canes corpses and.., p.1

Candy Canes, Corpses and the Gothic Haunt, page 1

 part  #4 of  Bohemian Lake Series


Candy Canes, Corpses and the Gothic Haunt

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Candy Canes, Corpses and the Gothic Haunt

  Candy Canes, Corpses and the Gothic Haunt

  Haunted House Flippers Inc.

  Bohemian Lake Series 4

  For all my DIY Mamas who knock down walls while the hubbies are away.

  Rachael Stapleton


  Copyright © 2017 Rachael Stapleton

  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.

  This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and events are the work of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to real persons, places, or events is coincidental.

  Bohemian Lake Series by Rachael Stapleton:

  The Bohemian Lake cozy mystery series is a world comprised of three sets. Each set focuses on a different Bohemian resident(s), although all of the books intersect.

  A Penning Trouble Mystery

  Haunted House Flippers Inc.

  Bohemian Murder Manor Mysteries

  Recommended Reading Order:

  A Penning Trouble Mystery: Murder, She Floats

  Haunted House Flippers Inc. Cookies, Corpses & the Deadly Haunt

  A Penning Trouble Mystery: Murder, She Slopes

  Haunted House Flippers Inc. Candy Canes, Corpses & the Gothic Haunt

  Bohemian Murder Manor Mysteries: Gypsies, Traps & Missing Thieves

  Bohemian Murder Manor Mysteries: Make-Believes & Lost Memories

  Haunted House Flippers Inc. Crumb Cake, Corpses & the Run-of-the-Mill

  A Penning Trouble Mystery: Murder, Ye Bones

  Read all about Rachael Stapleton and her books at



  T he front door of Cookies & Corsets opened just as Juniper Palmer dunked one of the café’s seasonal jolly ginger reindeer cookies into her candy cane latte. Soft, sugary scents wafted into the air as she licked the whipped cream from her lips. Five more minutes and then she’d head back across the road to her Victorian mansion to see how the building inspector had made out. Hopefully, the news would be better this time.

  The sound of Christmas carols mingled with the chatter of the café’s customers. It was non-stop in Bohemian Lake this time of the morning, which was great for the café’s owner, Juniper’s best-friend, Pike Hart; not so great for her own mug of cold coffee.

  “Juniper Palmer, look at you. Beautiful as always,” Eve Banter said, trotting up to Juniper’s table. “How’s that Ghostly Inn coming along?”

  Juniper put down her coffee but before she reply, local journalist Penny Trubble showed up to correct her. “It’s the Gothic Haunt, Eve.”

  “Good morning, ladies.” Juniper got to her feet, wrapped an arm around each of them, and pulled them in for a big hug before answering. “It’s inspection day, so cross your fingers and toes for me.”

  “Consider it done. Penny will cross her eyes for you too, won’t you, Pen?” Eve said with a wink.

  Penny rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to the blackboard of specialties.

  Eve leaned in. “See, told you.”

  Juniper didn’t bother to explain that crossing and rolling were two different things.

  “Anyway, I can’t wait for that taproom of yours to open. It’ll be nice to have somewhere to go for a drink aside from that dive over by the hardware store.”

  “You mean Guitars and Cadillacs?” Penny asked, turning back around.

  “Hell no, I wouldn’t step foot in that place. I mean the alley behind it. It’s cleaner, not to mention the cats screeching on the fence can harmonize better than the bands Evan gets in there.”

  “Eve!” Penny scolded. “Have you no inside voice?”

  Eve peeled her fuzzy mittens from her hands and smoothed down her long reddish-brown hair. “Sure do.” Her big brown eyes were trapped in a perpetual state of amusement. “It says the same thing as the outside one.” She deposited her gloves on Juniper’s table and turned to the barista. “How ‘bout you fix me a tipsy cocoa with extra sprinkles?”

  “I think not. Just the cocoa and make it three, please? I don’t need a tipsy assistant at the paper. You know what happened last time.” Penelope interjected.

  “Oh, you’re such a bah-humbug, Penelope Trubble. I don’t know why I allow you to employ me. And anyway that old man had it coming.”

  “That old man is my father and your boss.”

  “What, it was just a little laxative.” Eve smirked and turned back to Juniper, pulling open her giant handbag. Inside were several suspicious looking bottles and a giant ring of keys. “Ignore her. I brought the tipsy with me. Let’s ditch the Cindy Lou and take a stroll down Main Street? What say you?”

  An unexpected laugh burst from Juniper’s lips just as the door swung open once again, smacking the ladies with an icy burst of wind and snow. Penelope zipped her coat back up and grabbed the tray of drinks from the counter. “Come on, Cratchit, back to work or I’ll dock your pay and Tiny Tim will starve.”

  Juniper waved. She’d take those two over a comedy show any day.

  A surly looking man in a red tweed coat slid inside behind a rosy-cheeked couple just as Penny and Eve slid out. Pike’s poor barista had just mopped and sat down for her break. The man dashed the toes of his boots against the welcome mat impatiently, leaving little tufts of snow to melt at the threshold.

  Juniper felt bad for the barista and was preparing to pitch in when the doors to the back kitchen swung open, and Pike, a cool blonde in a green apron, returned. One oven-mitt-clad hand clutching a tray of chocolate peppermint croissants, the other clutching a steaming mug of tea.

  “Good morning,” bubbled Pike after she’d delivered the order. She smelled of cinnamon buns and cocoa as she whizzed by and Juniper guessed she was baking in that back kitchen of hers. “What can I get you?”

  The rosy-cheeked couple who’d removed their coats revealing similar holiday sweaters, looked over the specialty blackboard, then ordered two eggnog lattes. Juniper couldn’t help but notice that the man behind them rudely tapped his boot the whole time until finally they got their order and moved to a booth by the Christmas tree. The scrooge looked familiar but Juniper couldn’t quite place him. She’d only been in Bohemian Lake for two months but that was long enough to meet people in a small town, especially when you owned the local haunted house.

  “Good morning, Evan,” Pike said, as she returned to the counter and handed the grumpy man his paper coffee cup and a pastry bag. Juniper had gotten to her feet by this time and gave Pike a nod before handing in her dirty dishes and turning to head out the door.

  “What’s so good about it?” Juniper heard the man grumble.

  “Bye, Junie. Good luck on the inspection,” Pike shouted after her.

  “Junie.” The man uttered her name with disgust. Then he bumped her arm as he pushed past her on the way out the café’s front door.

  “Well, Merry Christmas to you, too, good sir,” Juniper shouted after him.


  “What do you mean the exhaust line has been cut?” Juniper said. “That’s not possible.” She paced the dining room floor of her old Victorian mansion, taking in the curved architecture of the room and puzzling over how a house so perfect could be such a headache.

  “I’m sorry. I can show you again.” He set his jaw and pointed back toward the commercial-grade kitchen they’d just put in. “You’re going to have to replace the wiring.”

  He’d shown her twice a
lready, and he was right, the line running to the brand-new stainless steel ventilation system had been tampered with.

  “You’re also missing a vacuum breaker on the outside tap. You’ll have to schedule another inspection after you get these replaced.”

  This should have been the final building inspection. It was one thing after another lately—as if the house was out to get them. The opening of her Inn and Taproom—the Gothic Haunt—was just over two weeks away.

  “Sign here, please, to acknowledge that you didn’t pass.”

  As the inspector passed a clipboard to her, she watched three of her construction workers moving in and out of the house. They were removing the old metal shelving from the basement. Jack and Juniper had put a temperature controlled wine cellar in last week with all new racks.

  The inspector, who had previously dealt with Juniper’s partner and boyfriend, Jack Young, studied the clipboard. “Juniper Palmer, huh? So, you’re Jack’s girl from back in the day?”

  Juniper nodded to the inspector, thinking of her early twenties. She’d heard the term ‘Jack’s girl’ so often, she’d almost gotten it tattooed across her forehead, even after they’d split up.

  Post college—where they’d met through Pike—Jack and Juniper had opened their own company, Spirited Construction. Juniper had still been modeling part-time to help pay the start-up costs and was due to leave on assignment for a month when Jack proposed at his family’s Christmas dinner—of all places. In a moment of panic, she had rejected him. They’d broken up and when she’d returned he was already dating the devil’s hand-maiden, Sally Snaub—or Sally Big-Boobs, as Juniper called her. They remained an item for the next four years while he and Juniper maintained a business relationship.

  Then they bought this old mansion in October. Jack and Juniper had fallen for the house—ghostly baggage and all—and in turn they’d fallen back in love. Or maybe they’d always been in love and they’d just found their way back to each other. Either way, Big Boobs hit the curb along with the ugly siding that had covered part of the Victorian’s brick, and Jack and Juniper began their fairytale dream—or nightmare, depending on which day of this renovation it was.


  Juniper blinked and looked up. “Sorry. I’m dwelling on what will happen if we don’t get this to pass. Everything is all arranged for a New Year’s Eve launch.”

  “Try not to stress too much. Just tell Jack I said to get those things fixed first thing tomorrow, okay, and then give us a call back. We’ll do our very best to fit you in,” the Inspector said as he left.

  Juniper fought the urge to beat her head against the exposed brick wall. What was she thinking, scheduling a big holiday launch without first passing inspection? Thank goodness Jack was an electrician, but still it would cost them time away from their other projects. Right now, he was staying over three hours away in the city, working on a Queen Anne restoration. He’d have to come fix this wiring and then immediately head all the way back to the job site to finish up before the annual Christmas Eve dinner at his parents’, which was only a week away. What a colossal waste of time.

  Juniper’s phone buzzed, and she took a moment to reply to Jack’s text about the beam they’d ordered for an open concept farmhouse renovation in the next town over—yet another job that was supposed to be wrapped up before the holidays.

  The second Juniper tucked the device back inside her pocket, it buzzed again, and she confirmed an appointment for blown insulation. She’d just ended the call when three of her burly workers fled the basement steps, shouting, white-faced with fear. It would have been comical, had they not been clearly terrified.

  “What is it?” Juniper called out following them. “What’s going on?”

  Juniper had been in the construction business long enough to know things could go wrong on a job site. “What happened?” she repeated. Now that they were safe on the front porch, they shrugged. Juniper turned around and marched back down the hall to the basement stairs.

  “Wait, Juniper! Don’t… don’t go down there!” Juniper heard one of the men yell after her.

  Juniper ignored the warning, tromping down the first three steps. As she reached the midpoint on the staircase, she caught a flash of white. The blurry streak had crossed in front of the arched doorway that led into the wine cellar. By the time she realized what she’d seen, it was gone.

  “Another problem?”

  Juniper started at the sound of her chef’s voice behind her.

  Truth be told, Feliz Merlot was more than a chef. He was an old friend from her modeling days. Originally from Spain, he knew just about all there was to know about tapas and wine. He also made the best churros Juniper had ever tasted—not that she’d admit that to Pike. Feliz wasn’t hard on the eyes, either—muscular, dark hair, and brown-eyed. She’d tried to set him up with Pike to no avail.

  “You look like you saw a ghost.”

  A floorboard creaked. “Very funny, Merlot,” Juniper paused. “Upstairs. The vent’s electrical wire is faulty. We failed inspection again.” Juniper followed him back to the kitchen to show him.

  “Mierda,” he swore. “How?” He ran his fingers through his dark wavy hair and examined the wire closely. “Someone did this on purpose.”

  “But how? No one’s been near this kitchen aside from us since it was installed. It probably just broke.”

  “Wires don’t just break. I bet it was that foul mouthed Louise woman from the cheese shop. She was back here the other day arguing with me, but I don’t know when she would have had the chance.” Feliz paused as if he was trying to remember.

  “Arguing over what?”

  “Queso manchego. She hates it. Can you believe that—a cheese connoisseur who dislikes the most popular cheese in Spain?”

  “Oh, you’re being silly, Feliz. People are allowed to have their own opinions.”

  Feliz shook his head. “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like sheep's milk cheese.”

  “Okay, well let’s just pretend it wasn’t the nice lady from across the road. Maybe a mouse chewed it?”

  “It doesn’t look chewed.”

  “That’s true. Maybe it was faulty, so Jack didn’t finish hooking it up.”

  “Does that sound like Jack to you?”

  “Maybe he got interrupted.” At this point, Juniper was simply relieved it wasn’t something deadly like the gas line.

  “Mierda,” he swore again.

  “There’s no other explanation.” Juniper said, ignoring the possibility that it had something to do with the ghostly figure she’d just seen. “We’re the only ones who have been near it.”

  Feliz scratched his head. “And what about the half dozen other little things that have gone wrong here the past few months. I’m telling you, mi amiga, either it was Louise, or that espíritu who lives here is a poltergeist.”

  This wasn’t the first time Juniper had heard his opinion on the matter. Sure there’d been some minor annoyances, but they’d been bound to happen, especially when dealing with an older home. Jack and Juniper were always running into things like this in the historic home construction business. It went with the territory. Then again, the things that were happening here did seem to be intentional.

  “Okay,” Juniper said. “So, maybe I don’t quite believe these things are accidents.” She turned and entered the front foyer. She’d considered bringing in a ghost hunter a couple of weeks ago, a professor of psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, and the son of a local historian, but she’d decided against it. Perhaps it was time to bite the bullet and reach out. Juniper pulled his card from her pocket and studied the name: Professor Daemon Wraith. It couldn’t hurt to get his opinion on things.

  She crossed the wide-plank floor of the taproom and sat down at the bar. She refused to believe it was sabotage. This town was full of people who had become family to her. Thirty-five years of neglect had left the run-down Victorian mansion-turned-duplex looking like a haunted house, and everyone was over-th
e-moon happy that they’d fixed it up.

  Feliz took the stool beside her. “Amiga, it is no coincidence. Someone is sabotaging us.”

  “You don’t know that,” Juniper said. “Everything has been fixable. Don’t you think if someone was out to get us, they’d come up with something a little more complex. And how are they getting in? None of the windows have been broken, and none of the doors have been tampered with.”

  “That means nothing. Perhaps someone stole one of the keys off your friend’s massive key ring.”

  Eve Banter was the unofficial keeper of Bohemian Lake. There was a rumor that she had somehow finagled keys to every business in town. Everyone knew it but nobody really cared.

  Juniper laughed. “If there’s a person in this town who can outfox Eve, then they deserve that key, but I’ll do my due diligence and check with her. Not that she’ll ever admit it.”

  “What about the attic passageway that was used last time to break in and ‘fake’ haunt you?”

  “Jack bolted that sucker up. I helped.”

  “Have you checked to make sure it’s still bolted?”

  “No, but good call. I’ll do that too.”

  Feliz stood. “It’s dinnertime. Why don’t you go home to Jack? I’ll lock up tonight.”

  “Thanks, but Jack is away. He’s staying in the city close to the Queen Anne jobsite. We’ve reached our deadline, so we can’t have the guys slacking off every time we get a dusting of snow.”

  “Go to the café then and have dinner with Pike. I want to work on that Natillas de Leche recipe and I don’t need you underfoot, sticking your dirty fingers in my bowls.”

  “I see. So, you’d rather I stick my dirty fingers in Pike’s pastries, huh? Well, I’ll have you know I only do that for chocolate and, anyway, your custard is delicious already.”

  Feliz shook his head. “I’m working my churros into it. I want it to have a twist for the big celebration.”

  If it turned out half as good as the churro, they’d sell out opening day.

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