From Murder at Yappy Hour
“What do you mean, you fired her?” I said into my cell
phone as I brushed sand from the beach towel.
It was at least the fourth time I’d had the same conversation with
my great-uncle Ernest. Grunkly-E we called him, which morphed into
Grunkly, but on occasion turned into Grouchy or Grumpy. He was
one of the reasons I’d recently relocated to Pacific Cove. He and my
sister, Rachel, not to mention the fact that my stint as a financial
advisor in New York had come to an abrupt end after the market had
It was time to hit the reset button on my life. What I needed most
was some fresh seaside air, and when I’d learned that the Soleado
Mexican Riviera Cruise Line had opened a new port in town, the
position of bookkeeper/purser practically shouted out my name.
“Well, Maggie, she was real mean. She wanted me to walk around
and stuff,” Grunkly said.
A few months back, Grunkly suffered a mild heart attack. He’d
been hospitalized and on the verge of “the great beyond” as he called
it, but he’d battled back from the heart attack and the case of pneu‐
monia he’d contracted. Actually, at his age of eighty-four, the doctors
all considered it a miraculous recovery. Now our biggest obstacle was
finding him a day nurse that he liked, or rather, wouldn’t fire at the
drop of a hat.
“You’re supposed to walk around! Breathe some fresh air. That’s
how you’re going to get better.”
“I’m already better. Plus, she didn’t like Benny. Actually told him I
wasn’t home, when I was.”
I laughed. Benny was Grunkly’s longtime bookie. If anyone got in
the way of Grunkly’s gambling they were sure to get the ax.
“I wanted to place a bet on Winged Arrow. The odds are seven to
two. Is he there now?” Grunkly asked.
“Here? I’m at the beach,” I said.
“I know the trainer, Aaron, was going to take Winged Arrow out
there, to walk in the salt water. It’s good for the hooves. I thought
maybe Benny might be with them.”
I glanced up and down the beach. There was a couple near me
perched on a plaid blanket, a platinum blonde who looked like an
escapee from America’s Next Top Model with her Ken-doll boyfriend.
Then in the distance was a group of people walking their small dogs.
I figured the group had to be the Roundup Crew, or at least part of
them. I knew from my sister, Rachel, that this group met every Friday
on the beach for a walk that ultimately ended up at her bar, The Wine
and Bark, for Yappy Hour. My sister was as happy-go-lucky as they
came, and I was glad she found her calling running a bar; it seemed
the perfect fit for her personality.
“No, Grunkly. I don’t see Benny or Aaron and Winged Arrow.”
“That’s too bad.” He paused. There was a small sound as if he was
lighting a cigarette.
“You’re not smoking, are you?”
Grunkly had smoked for over sixty years.
“No,” he said, almost too fast. “I’m not supposed to be smoking,
“I know you’re not supposed to be smoking! But it kind of sounded
like you just lit a cigarette.”
“No,” he said again.
“So, what I’m figuring is that the nurse who came over today
wasn’t letting you smoke and—”
“Sweetheart,” he said quickly. “I’m wondering if I could bother you
to run an errand for me.”
I smiled to myself. He’d do anything to get me off the topic of his
“What errand? I’m not buying you a carton of Lucky Strikes,” I
A seagull landed on my towel and thrust its beak out at me, accus‐
ingly. No doubt looking for crumbs. I pulled a roll of Ritz Crackers
out of my bag, the motion scaring the bird away.
“I was thinking you could pick me up a nice cut of steak. Go to the
Meat and Greet. They always have some nice filet mignons on hand.”
The Meat and Greet was a locally owned shop that sold quality
cuts of meat and hand-painted greeting cards. The downturn in the
economy had hit Pacific Cove so hard that it seemed almost every
shop or storefront did double billing just to stay in business. There
was Bradford and Blahnik—which was a law firm selling designer
shoes in order to keep their practice open. Dreamery Creamery, the
ice cream shop that sold kids’ clothes, and Magic Read, which was
part magic shop and part bookstore/café.
Even Rachel was running a semi-double business with a wine bar
that catered to dog owners and their beloved beasts.
“Sure, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my Grunkly,” I said,
breaking up a cracker and dropping the bits on the sand next to my
towel. The seagull returned followed by a flock of its friends. I
crumbed the rest of the package and stood. It was getting too hot to
sit at the beach, anyway. Sweat was dripping down my face. I
needed some shade. “I’ll pick up a couple of steaks and be over
After dropping my beach bag at my apartment and taking a quick
shower, I frantically checked messages. There was no update from the
Soleado Cruise Line. Well, after all, it was late Friday afternoon. I
couldn’t be too disappointed.
Didn’t most hiring managers reach out early in the week?
Yes, Monday I would surely get a call to schedule an interview. I
just had to stay optimistic, and there was nothing like shopping to
keep one’s spirits up. I slipped my credit card into my jeans pocket
and headed downtown.
It was a short walk on a small cobblestone path. The town should
have been called Pacific Charm, because that’s exactly what it exuded.
There was a fountain in the center of the town square with a marble
statue of a man on a horse. It was rumored that the statue was of the
town’s founder, yet the placard had mysteriously disappeared ages
ago, and nobody I talked to could remember the founder’s name. The
statue looked remarkably like John Wayne. The only way I could
reconcile this in my mind was that either the Duke had founded
Pacific Cove or the artist who had created the statue had been a fan.
The town square was flanked by restaurants and little shops. In
one corner of the square was a sundial and opposite that was Rachel’s
bar. I glanced at my watch. It was early, still only 4:00 p.m., but Rachel
might already be there prepping for Yappy Hour. I decided to pop in
on her after picking up the steaks for Grunkly. From another corner,
the smell of homemade waffle cones wafted through the air.
Ah, the Dreamery Creamery!
First the steaks, then I’ll splurge on a cone before dropping in on Rachel.
I stopped in front of the window of Designer Duds. There was a
handbag in the shape of a chicken prominently displayed. I stifled a
giggle. The jacket on the mannequin next to the chicken bag, however,
was what caught my eye. It was navy blue with little white anchors
embroidered on it. I imagined showing up to an interview with
Soleado Cruise Line wearing the jacket.
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