For those who have asked about the status of the next Melanie Hart Mystery, here’s the scoop. It’s well underway. The book is called Murder on the Slopes. I’m having a blast telling this story. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.
This post contains the First Chapter. I offer it with the warning that the piece is subject to revisions. Feel free to offer your comments on the story, the writing, whatever.
“I thought you made our reservation at least a week ago.” Ginger Black snapped. Her face was thunderous. The toe of her right shoe tapped out an irritated beat.
“But I did,” I protested.
Ginger and I stood before the front desk at the Cherry Hill Ski Lodge. We were on a getaway weekend, seeking to recover from our most recent round of murder and mayhem.
“So if you made the reservation,” Ginger complained, “why is this dear fellow saying he can’t find one?”
“I don’t know. It must be a glitch of some sort.” I only wished Ginger would keep her voice down. This was an upscale resort. Glancing around me at the well tailored people passing by, the British stiff upper lip seemed more the norm here.
The man behind the desk glanced over at me. “I can call around. See if there are any rooms to be had.”
I stared at him, sizing the man up. His name tag identified him as Troy Draper. He stood about six foot two, and he looked as though he’d been born to fly down a ski slope. But for now, he simply offered us a sympathetic smile.
“But I have reservations here,” I complained. I’d splurged on this trip. It was my thank you gift to Ginger for saving my life. Not two weeks ago I’d been under attack by a crazed killer. Only Ginger’s quick thinking had saved my hide. For her sake, I wanted this weekend to be perfect. I could hardly believe my plans had been so frustratingly derailed.
“I’m sorry,” Draper said, “but if you made a reservation, it’s not showing up on our computer.” He reached for the telephone beside his right elbow. “Tell you what, I’ll make a few calls. The problem is, see, we’re so close to Valentine’s Day, the whole town may be booked up. But if there’s a free bed to be had anyplace in town, don’t worry, I’ll find it.”
That would be all well and good if our weekend weren’t special, but since it was, I wanted to stay here. I stiffened my spine and demanded to speak with the manager. I feared Ginger would grouse for two years if we got shunted off to some noname motel on the outskirts of town.
Draper returned his attention to me. “Umm… our General Manager Mr. Conan is on duty. Would you like to speak to him?”
“I’d appreciate that, yes,” I said, trying hard to squeeze the venom out of my voice. After all, this probably wasn’t Draper’s fault. The responsibility was more likely due to some poor, overworked creature, who’d failed to key our reservation into the computer. Glitches happened. But they also should be freely admitted and fixed.
Draper pushed a button on the house phone. Soon another tall, good looking man joined our threesome. This one was about ten years older than Draper. And there was also a subtle suggestion in the way he held himself as he gazed at us that told me he enjoyed being in charge.
“I’m Kurt Conan, General Manager around here. How may I help you?” He was a broad man with a smooth voice, a chiseled chin, and a cold hand.
“I’m Melanie Hart.” I outlined our problem and pointed out that I’d been a satisfied guest here many times — which was an outrageous lie. But I knew repeat customers often scored perks with management-type folks. At that moment, I’d have lied to St. Peter if I thought it would get me a room here.
“Yes, well….” Conan straightened his tie, and in his eagerness practically hip checked his assistant out of the way. He started clicking computer keys. “Ah…” he said a short time later, “you are in luck. We have a couple who are going to check out today, but not until late this afternoon. It’s not our usual arrangement, but they’re good customers.” He smiled at me sweetly.
“Anyway,” Conan continued, “their room should become available around six tonight. We can store your bags in the office until the room opens up. How does that sound?”
I nearly kissed the man until Ginger’s voice rose up from beside me.
“Just where am I supposed to change?” she demanded. “I certainly don’t intend to head out onto the slopes dressed like this.” She glanced down at her stylish slacks and sweater and jacket.
“No, of course not.” Conan laughed nervously. Ah… how about using the employee restroom to dress? I can assure you complete privacy for as long as you like. Would that do?”
“I guess it will have to,” Ginger replied with a huff. She hated giving up on a righteous head of anger.
“And of course,” Conan added, “we’ll comp the first night of your stay as an apology for your inconvenience.”
“Thank you,” I said. Just because my father owned the small newspaper I worked for, didn’t mean I was flush with money.
Ginger merely grunted.