Chapter One of PINK IS THE NEW BLACK
An inept witch. A talking pink iguana. A town trying to solve a lawman’s murder.
Hi, I’m Glinda Goodall—the Good Witch of the South—and I want to welcome you to Witch’s Cove, Florida, a delightful beach town where witches and humans reside in peace and harmony. Sounds perfect, right? Yeah, that’s what it says on the billboard, but here’s the real scoop.
My aunt, who runs the Tiki Hut Grill where I work, sees ghosts—or rather sees one of them—namely her dead husband. My mom, a funeral director, is addicted to all things that have to do with The Wizard of Oz. She even has a terrier named Toto. And then there’s my familiar, Iggy, who is a very disgruntled pink iguana who fancies himself a detective.
As for me, I’m a problem solver. My flaws are that I’m way too nosy for my own good, and I rarely say the right thing at the right time.
This week’s exciting news? Our not-so-beloved law enforcement officer was murdered, and my best friend’s brother was accused of the crime. I have to help find the real killer, right? How could I not?
Stop in to Witch’s Cove and grab a meal at the Tiki Hut Grill. You just might see me and my familiar in action.
“Glinda, can you take table eight? Penny has an emergency phone call,” Aunt Fern called from behind the restaurant’s cashier’s counter.
When I looked over and saw that Sheriff Duncan and his creepy son, Cliff, were sitting there, I held in a groan but painted on a smile. “Sure thing!”
It wasn’t as if I could say no. After all, my Aunt Fern owned the Tiki Hut Grill. I had no real beef with Duncan Donut, I mean Sheriff Duncan, but I did with his son, Cliff, his deputy. The guy was always trying to grab a feel or making some snide comment about my outfit. It was none of his business if I liked to wear pink and only pink. It also was none of his business if I had gained weight or not.
With my pad in hand, along with my pink pencil, I weaved my way around a few tables toward the sheriff and his son. Before I could get there though, an arm reached out and stopped me. “Honey, can you refill my coffee?”
I faced him and smiled. When I began waitressing at the Tiki Hut Grill close to three years ago, I was a bit offended by the endearing—or not so endearing—term of Honey, but after a while I got over it. “Sure. Let me get you some.”
I’d never seen this man before, but I was happy for the delay. Considering I knew a lot of the residents in Witch’s Cove, he had to be a tourist—a tourist we were happy to have.
At the coffee station situated against the south wall of the restaurant, I grabbed a half-full hot pot and rushed back to him. He wasn’t sitting at one of my assigned tables, but I served him anyway. Penny, my best girlfriend, was still by the kitchen on the phone. It was her table, but from her serious expression, she might be a while.
Once I poured the man his drink, I hustled over to the sheriff’s table. Trying to act professional and not give Cliff any excuse to make a snarky comment, I set the coffee on the empty table next to them and lifted my pad, ready to take their order. Since either the sheriff or Cliff came in here nearly every day, I could guess what each might order. “Hi, Sheriff. The fried cod and French fries with extra gravy?” I asked.
“Sounds perfect. Your Aunt Fern sure has trained you well.”
“Thank you.” I scribbled down his order. “To drink?”
“It’s a bit hot today, so how about some cold lemonade?”
“You got it.” Now for creepy Cliff. “For you?”
“You sure are a sight for sore eyes, Glinda. How about a smile for me, darlin’?”
Gag me now. So help me, if he reached out and grabbed me around the hips one more time, I would stab him in the eye with my pencil.
When he lifted his arm, I jumped backward.
“What’s gotten into you? Your outfit too tight or something?” He laughed at his own joke.
I eyed the hot pot of coffee a few feet away and was really tempted to grab it and accidentally on purpose spill it on him. “Everything is peachy, Cliff. A hamburger, medium rare, with all the trimmings?” I asked, wanting to get away from him as quickly as possible.
“You bet.” Cliff instantly switched back to his good old boy mode, probably hoping to soften me up. Fat chance of that.
“Do you want a root beer with that meal?”
“You know me so well.”
Sadly, too well. Everyone in town was convinced the only reason he had been given the position of deputy was because his father, the sheriff, had appointed him.
His dad leaned back in his seat and nodded toward Aunt Fern. “How’s your aunt doing?”
Aunt Fern had lost her husband two years ago and was still grieving. She’d been married to Harold for thirty-years and swore on her pearl necklace that he was still here—as in his ghost visited her every day to chat. I looked over at Aunt Fern, and there she was, bless her heart, talking to the air—I mean to the ghost of Uncle Harold. My mother could communicate with the dead, but she never claimed she could see the person.
“The same. She misses her husband.”
“She dating anyone?” the sheriff asked, his eyebrows wiggling in interest.
Really? “I don’t know. Why don’t you ask her?” I refused to get in the middle of that! Wanting to leave before he asked me to speak to my aunt on his behalf, I spun around, picked up the pot of coffee from the next table, and rushed over to the kitchen to place the order.
As I passed the cashier’s counter, Aunt Fern stopped her ghostly chat and turned to me. “Everything okay, Glinda? You look a little peaked.”
“Never better.” I glanced back over my shoulder, pleased to see the sheriff and Cliff were in deep conversation. “Heads up. Duncan Donut over there is on the dating warpath again.”
Her aunt waved a dismissive hand. “Don’t worry about me. I can handle him.”
And I bet she could too. Many considered Aunt Fern a bit batty, but I knew better. She was one smart lady.
I placed the lunch order for the sheriff and his son before checking on my other four tables. Penny rushed over and stuffed her phone in her pocket. “Thanks for covering for me. Did Duncan Donut order yet?”
That made me laugh that she’d adopted my nickname for the overly large sheriff. “Yes. Order is in. Everything okay?”
Penny was a single mom with a seven-year old son. “Tommy wasn’t feeling well at school, so I had to ask, or rather beg my loser ex-husband to pick up our son from school and watch him. He has the day off, so he shouldn’t have complained so much.”
Sam was a rather unreliable ex-husband who had difficulty when it came to paying child support on time. I rubbed her arm. “I can cover if you want to be with Tommy.”
Penny tossed me a weak smile. “I appreciate that, but you’ve covered enough for me.” Her gaze shot to the back entrance that led to the porch. She sucked in a breath and then smiled. “Well lookie who’s here.”
Being eternally curious, I turned around. “It’s Drake!”
I didn’t expect to see him this early in the day. Being the proprietor of the Howl at the Moon Cheese and Wine Emporium and its only full-time worker, he never stopped in for lunch unless his assistant, Trace, was working, or if it was Sunday, which was Drake’s day off.
Penny touched my arm. “Go chat with him. I’ll check on your tables. He looks like the weight of the world is on his shoulders.”
“Thanks. I won’t be long.” Penny knew which tables were mine, since together we had the whole room.
I rushed over to Drake. “Hey, fancy meeting you here, stranger.”
“Can we talk?” he asked.
Ooh, that sounded serious. “Sure. Table one is free.”
We sat down. Drake and I were both twenty-six and had gone through grade school and most of high school together. No surprise, we became best friends. “What’s up?”
I didn’t see that coming. I needed a moment to decide if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Drake’s older brother, Jaxson, had been caught robbing the Liquor Mart in town eleven years ago. Once he was convicted, the entire Harrison family moved to Orlando. Then three years ago, Drake returned to Witch’s Cove sans family. “You don’t seem happy about that.”
That was slick of me to avoid responding to Jaxson’s reappearance. About all I knew for sure was that he’d served his time and then stayed away from Witch’s Cove for obvious reasons.
“No, no. I’m happy. Despite what the town thinks, Jaxson is a good guy.”
Having wanted to support Drake and his family, I’d gone to the trial. Jaxson claimed he was innocent, and that because he’d caught Sheriff Duncan exiting the back staircase on the outside of the Liquor Mart the night of the robbery, the sheriff painted Jaxson as the bad guy. Drake’s brother told the court the sheriff framed him for the robbery. Naturally, the sheriff denied the allegation, saying Jaxson was looking for someone to blame for the theft. I honestly couldn’t say who was telling the truth, but the jury agreed with the sheriff.
I inhaled. “Now, what?”
“I’m trying to convince him to stay.” Drake looked up and smiled. “Oh, good. Here he is now.”
I debated if I should stand and hug Jaxson or remain seated. Because he was six years older than us, I hadn’t known him all that well, so I didn’t move. Or else I didn’t move because I was stunned by the man’s transformation. The bonus to his three-year stint in prison was that he was quite buff. The con—no pun intended—was that his eyes looked a bit cold. It was clear that Jaxson Harrison excelled at pulling off the bad boy look.
“Jaxson,” I said putting as much cheer in my voice as possible.
His eyes widened slightly as he pulled out a chair and sat down. “My, my if it isn’t Glinda the Good Witch. Or are my eyes deceiving me?”
I genuinely smiled. Okay, I hadn’t expected such a positive reaction. “It’s me! In the flesh.” The nickname came about because I am a witch who lives in a beach town on the west coast of Florida. Hence, Glinda the Good Witch of the South.
“You’ve grown up,” he said.
“Well, it’s been eleven years.”
“So it has. Nice outfit, by the way.” Jaxson said and then looked around. “Everyone is in costume, and Halloween isn’t for several months. What gives?”
“The costumes were Aunt Fern’s idea, and I have to say it’s been a boon to business.”
He nodded. “The town does seem to be doing well. When I drove in, I didn’t see any store closings. That’s a far cry from when I was here last.”
“Because times were tough back then, the city council decided to make Witch’s Cove a tourist destination.”
Jaxson laughed. “Other than the sunshine, warm ocean waters, and miles of white sandy beaches, what is the draw?”
I was almost insulted. “Ah, can we say us witches? I mean who wouldn’t want to have their fortune told or be able to communicate with a dead relative?”
His eyes sparkled. “I see. I hope it works out.”
Penny rushed over, her eyes wide and her face flushed as she drank in Jaxson. “Can I get you guys something to eat or drink?”
The Harrison brothers ordered lunch, while I only wanted a sweet tea.
As we waited for the drinks to arrive, I wanted to address the elephant in the room. “How was prison?” It didn’t really matter to me if Jaxson had been released eight years ago.
Drake cleared his throat as Jaxson’s eyes narrowed slightly. Whoops. Not the best starter topic, now was it?
“Good. Lots of parties, you know.”
I had to laugh. “Sorry. Let me try again. Are you passing through town or are you staying?”
Jaxson looked over at Drake. “I guess that depends on my brother as well as on a few other things.”
I wasn’t about to ask what that meant exactly, so I looked at Drake for a clue.
“I hope he stays. I told him I could use the help at the store.”
“You were serious?” his brother asked.
“Of course, I was. I offered you the job.”
“Then I’ll certainly consider it.” Jaxson faced her.
“I, for one, would love it,” I said. “Your brother works really long hours. I almost have to make an appointment just to talk to him.”
“I see,” Jaxson said rather cryptically.
Just as I was about to ask him another question, Aunt Fern growled, if that was the right word. I looked in her direction only to find Duncan Donut leaning over the cashier’s counter, grinning up at my aunt. Oh, boy.
“My Harold would not approve if I went out with anyone,” Aunt Fern said in a loud voice.
I couldn’t hear the sheriff’s response, but he quickly straightened, tossed some cash on the counter, and stalked off. Aunt Fern must have set him straight about her no dating policy. I kind of felt sorry for the sheriff. He seemed lonely too.
When I returned my attention to the lunch guests, Jaxson was glaring at the sheriff. The old saying: if looks could kill, he’d be dead would certainly have applied here.
Drake reached across the table and clasped his brother’s wrist. “Let it go, Jax. It’s in the past.”
His brother swung back to face Drake. “Easy for you to say. You didn’t have to be cooped up with violent men for three years, all the while knowing the good sheriff had something to do with the robbery that I did time for.”
“You have no proof that he was involved in any way,” Drake said.
“Doesn’t mean he wasn’t.”
As if some tension-cutting spirits were looking down on us, Penny pranced over with their drinks and grinned. “Here you go. Your food will be right up!”
Oh, my. My best friend had combed her hair and applied fresh makeup. She even seemed to have fixed some of the loose pennies that she’d sewn on her skirt. Someone seemed to be interested in the newcomer.
“Thanks,” Jaxson said.
Wanting to help Penny out, I introduced them, and Jaxson was kind enough to look up and smile. “I hope I’ll see more of you,” he said.
Penny all but burst. “I’d like that.”
I was drinking in this blossoming relationship when creepy Cliff stepped over to our table. “What are you doing back in town, Harrison?” His tone was anything but friendly.
Drake must have kicked his brother under the table because my sweet tea shook. “There’s no law against visiting my brother, now is there, Cliff?” Jaxson’s lip curled.
“No. Just stay out of trouble, you hear?”
Thankfully, Jaxson merely glared at the deputy as Cliff joined his father outside. As soon as he left though, Drake’s brother grunted and shoved back his chair so hard it toppled over.
“Whoa. Don’t let what he said get to you,” Drake said.
“Seriously?” Jaxson shook his head. “I knew it wasn’t a good idea to come back here. I should have gone with my gut and never returned.”
“What are you going to do now?” Drake asked.
“Get outta of this town. For good.”
Drake stood. “Stay a few days at least.”
Oh, boy. I’d bet my pink Converse sneakers this wasn’t the homecoming either of the Harrison boys anticipated or wanted. Not one to get in the middle of a dispute, I slid back my chair and grabbed my drink.
“I, uh, have to get back to work,” I said, happy to have an excuse to leave this stressful situation. If Jaxson left town, it would devastate Drake. “Don’t worry about the Duncan men, Jaxson. They’re all talk.” I tried to sound encouraging, but I think I failed.
Jaxson glared at me and then picked up his chair. “They were doing a lot more than talking the last time I was here. They were framing me!” His voice had escalated enough for the seven occupied tables to quiet.
Okay, that was the signal for me to leave. I tossed Drake a sympathetic look and rushed off to talk to Penny.