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Dead in the Dinghy - Mollie McGhie #4

Dead in the Dinghy - Mollie McGhie #4

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Mollie McGhie Cozy Mystery - Book #4

If you like quirky characters, adorable cats, and loads of chocolate, you’ll love this standalone cozy mystery.

Why You'll Love This Book!

  • Amateur Sleuth
  • Quirky Characters
  • Small Town Florida Setting
  • Adorable Cat
  • Way Too Much Chocolate
  • Clean Read - No Swearing, Violence, or Sex on the Page


What would you do if your husband wanted to turn your cat into an internet sensation?

Mollie McGhie is excited about the upcoming Coconut Cove regatta. She’s looking forward to sailing to Destiny Key, enjoying the Fourth of July festivities, and dressing her cat, Mrs. Moto, up in adorable costumes for her husband’s new YouTube channel. Instead, they lose the race, get caught in a dangerous storm, and find a dead body in their dinghy.

The local chief of police claims it was an accidental death, but Mollie is convinced that a murder took place. During her investigation, Mollie gets drawn into the local art community, worries that her cat is going to turn into a diva, learns more about the mysterious Destiny Key, and even does a waitressing gig in exchange for bacon.

Can Mollie prove that someone was killed in her dinghy, or will the murder be covered up?

Chapter 1 Look Inside

Chapter 1 - Honey-Do Lists

What would you do if your husband decided to start a YouTube channel featuring your cat?

Would you:
(a) Give him a honey-do list because clearly he has too much time on his hands;
(b) Search for a product to tame your frizzy hair in case you end up on camera;
(c) Worry that your cat was going to develop an over-sized ego; or
(d) Start sewing adorable cat costumes?

Option (a) was very tempting. I love creating to-do lists. Doing the tasks on them, not so much. That’s what makes honey-do lists so appealing—you get to assign chores to your hubby while you sit back, relax, and eat chocolate.
If only that was how it worked.

Sigh. In reality, both Scooter and I had huge to-do lists already. Neither of us had time to chill out and eat chocolate. Okay, the part about not eating chocolate? A total lie. I always find time for chocolate. Having lots that needs to be done? That’s true. You see, we live on a dilapidated sailboat named Marjorie Jane. We’ve been spending lots of time and money fixing her up, but it seems like a never-ending battle. How that man is going to manage to find time between the boat and his telecommunications business to turn our cat into an internet sensation is beyond me.

There are days when Marjorie Jane makes me want to tear my hair out, which brings me to option (b)—my quest for a miracle product that will make my tresses smooth and silky so that I would be camera-ready. I can’t tell you how many jars, tubes, and bottles I’ve bought from hairdressers over the years. Nothing has worked so far. I probably should resign myself to my mousy-brown frizz. It does a halfway decent job of camouflaging my oddly shaped skull, the result of one too many crashes back in my roller derby days.

Our cat, Mrs. Moto, doesn’t have to worry about how she looks. She’s a gorgeous Japanese bobtail calico with glossy fur and black markings around her eyes that resemble glasses. While she loves being the center of attention, I wasn’t too worried about (c)—having to deal with a feline diva. So far, her ego seems to be in check, at least by cat standards. After all, don’t all cats already believe they’re the center of the universe since being told they were gods by the ancient Egyptians?

Option (d) was definitely going to happen. Mrs. Moto loved to dress up almost as much as I loved to dress her up. In fact, she had recently won the annual Coconut Cove pet costume competition. Her Princess Leia outfit had wowed the judges. I couldn’t wait to get my sewing machine out and make a little sailor suit for her. Scooter was enthusiastic about the idea. He thought it would be a great look for her debut video.

Which brings me back to this whole hare-brained scheme of his to make Mrs. Moto a YouTube star. Why don’t you grab a beverage and some cookies, and I’ll tell you all about how he sprung this little surprise on me.
There we were, sipping our morning coffee in Marjorie Jane’s cockpit and watching the sun rise over the dusty boatyard. My stomach grumbled loudly. It does that on a regular basis, reminding me that it needs regular feedings. I wasn’t looking forward to breakfast—a piece of whole wheat toast with a poached egg. Yuck. Over the past few months, we had been trying to eat healthier, but there are only so many days in a row you can survive without sugar and bacon. Not necessarily together, but you know what I mean. So when Scooter suggested we go to the Sailor’s Corner Cafe, I was overjoyed. Thoughts of pancakes drenched in butter and syrup made me salivate.

When we arrived at the cafe, I started to walk toward my favorite booth by the window. Scooter grabbed my elbow. “No, not there. We’re going to the meeting room instead.”

“Why’s that?” He steered me through the restaurant to a courtyard at the rear of the building. “You’ll see,” he said with a mysterious smile.

I clapped my hands together. “Ooh. A surprise! I love surprises.”

“That’s not what you said when I gave you Marjorie Jane for our tenth wedding anniversary.”

“Well, rundown sailboats don’t usually top my list of things I want to be surprised with,” I said. “But I’m sure this one will be great.”

He smiled. “I think you’re going to love it.”

The scent of gardenias filled the air as we walked across the brick patio toward the meeting room. As Scooter put his hand on the door handle, I asked, “Should I close my eyes?”

He furrowed his brow. “Why? That would make it hard to see.”

“But it’s customary,” I said, squeezing my eyes shut. “Then everyone yells, ‘Surprise!’ and you open your eyes in astonishment.”

“Uh, I don’t think that’s a good idea. There are a couple of steps down into the room. You could trip.”

I opened my eyes and shrugged. “Okay, we’ll play it your way. At least let me guess what’s inside. Obviously, there’s a chocolate cake and—”

“It’s eight o’clock,” he interrupted. “Why would there be cake so early?”

“You’re the one who scheduled my little surprise for the morning. But that’s fine with me. Cake tastes just as good for breakfast as it does in the evening. Let’s see, what else will there be...” I tapped my finger against my lips. “Clowns,” I said decisively. “There are clowns inside too.”

“Clowns?” Scooter spluttered. “Why would there be clowns?”

“Oh, you’re good. Pretending like you don’t know what I’m talking about.” I squeezed his arm. “I almost believed you.”

“Honestly, I’m not pretending.” He pulled open the door. “We’re going to be late. Let’s head inside.”

As I entered the large room, I noted a distinct lack of decorative touches. A large screen was positioned at the front next to a podium and a small table with a laptop and a pitcher of water. Dotted around the room were round tables covered in plain white tablecloths, with notepads and pens at each place setting. No flowers, no streamers, no balloons, and not a single clown in sight.

Scooter pointed at a buffet at the side of the room. “Why don’t we grab a bite to eat before it starts?”

“Count me in,” I said. “Chocolate cake and coffee. The perfect way to start the day.” As I threaded my way through a group of young men talking about microphones and tripods, I wondered why there were people I didn’t know in attendance. Before I could ask about the invite list, Jim Ferguson, the owner of the Sailor’s Corner Cafe, pulled Scooter aside. Jim’s usual appearance always made me think of what Santa Claus would look like if he were on vacation in Florida. A bushy white beard, a portly physique, bright red cheeks, a Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and sandals.

While Scooter and Jim were deep in conversation—no doubt making sure all the arrangements for my surprise were in place—I surveyed the breakfast options. Miniature seemed to be the theme of the day. I piled mini quiches, mini pigs-in-a-blanket, mini waffles, and mini muffins onto my plate. Fortunately, the bacon strips were full-sized.
As I reached across the table for a mini doughnut, a familiar voice said, “Maybe you should save room for dessert.” I looked up and saw my friend, Penny Chadwick, holding a fruit kebab. As usual, she was dressed head-to-toe in her favorite color, pink. Even her long blond hair was pulled back with a pink bow.

“Only you would think fruit was a suitable dessert,” I said with a smile. “I’ll be having the chocolate cake instead.”

“It’s a little early for cake, don’t you think?” she asked with that adorable Texan twang of hers.

“You’re right. It is too early.” I pointed at Scooter, who was still talking with Jim. “He’s probably arranging for it to be brought out after everyone has had their breakfast.”

“He is?”

I leaned toward her and said in a low voice, “It’s okay. I know about the surprise party.”

“Surprise party?” Penny cocked her head to one side. “Wait a minute, is it your birthday today?”

“No, not until next month.”

“Then why would Scooter throw you a surprise party today?”

“Duh. That’s what would make it so surprising,” I said. “I have to say, he’s been really clever about it. If you look around the room, you wouldn’t think it’s a party.”

“That’s because it isn’t—”

A voice over the speakers interrupted Penny. “Could everyone please take their seats?” A young woman with neon blue cropped hair and ruddy skin was standing at the podium. “We’re going to start the presentation in a few minutes.”

“Who’s that?” I asked, balancing my plate while I poured a cup of coffee.

“She’s the guest speaker,” Penny replied. “She flew down from New York City yesterday.”

“Guest speaker? That’s kind of an odd touch for a party.”

“I think you might have your wires crossed.” After Penny selected an herbal tea, she said, “It looks like Scooter snagged a table up front. Come on, let’s sit down. I don’t want to miss anything.”

After taking our seats, the lights dimmed. Pictures of sailboats flashed across the screen, accompanied by upbeat music, before fading to a shot of the speaker at the helm of the boat and the words, “Olivia Peterson. Sailor. Artist. YouTuber.” Everyone broke into applause as the lights came back on. Everyone except me. I was too busy deciding which miniature breakfast item to eat first.

“Welcome, everyone,” the blue-haired woman said. “When Alan Simpson asked me to give a presentation, he thought five, maybe ten people would register.” She pointed at a short man standing in the corner holding a camera. He wasn’t hard to miss with his obviously-from-a-bottle chestnut hair. “Alan, it looks like you were wrong. Look at this crowd. What a great turnout.” She pointed at the audience. “Give yourselves a hand, everyone!”

While everyone clapped, I looked around the room. Why didn’t I know half of the people Scooter had invited to my party? And why had he asked Alan to organize a guest speaker? Before I could find out what was going on, she continued. “I’m sure you all already know a bit about me and my background, but just in case you don’t, let me give you a little intro. My name is Olivia Peterson. I recently finished circumnavigating the globe on my sailboat, the Anastasia.”

As the room broke out into applause again, Scooter leaned over and whispered, “Isn’t she amazing? That could be us one day.”

“Circumnavigating? Yeah, right,” I said as I dusted crumbs off my shirt. “Let’s just concentrate on successfully sailing in the Coconut Cove Regatta this weekend before we make grand plans to take our boat any further afield.”

“Shush,” Penny said. “I can’t hear her.”

The young woman smiled and held up her hands. “Thank you, but you should be applauding yourselves, not me. You’re the ones taking the first step toward being a creative entrepreneur by setting up your own YouTube channel.” She motioned at Alan. He approached the podium, held his camera up, and panned the room from left to right. “By the way, Alan is going to be taking some B-roll footage during today’s session, which I’ll be using in my next video.”

I frowned. I was okay with pictures of my party, but videos made me uncomfortable, especially since my hair was having an extra unruly day. There’s nothing worse than seeing frizzy hair in motion.

Olivia grabbed a portable microphone, then walked over to our table. “Before we dive into my presentation, why don’t we go around the room and do some introductions? Please tell us your name and what kind of videos you want to create.”

I blinked rapidly. This was starting to seem less and less like a surprise party. Unless it was meant to be a really bad surprise party. When Olivia held the microphone in front of my husband, my fears were confirmed.

He stood and adjusted his tortoiseshell glasses. “Hi. My name is Scooter McGhie. My wife, Mollie, and I are starting a YouTube channel featuring our cat, Mrs. Moto.”

I cleared my throat before asking, “We are?”

“It’s exciting, isn’t it?” Scooter said, his dark brown puppy dog eyes sparkling with excitement. He picked up a large envelope from the table, opened it up, pulled out a stack of glossy photographs, then handed one to Olivia.

“Oh my gosh,” she said, holding it up for the audience to see. “She’s so adorable.”

I grabbed one of the photos. “Are these head shots of Mrs. Moto?”

“They turned out nicely, didn’t they?” Scooter said with a huge grin plastered on his face.
I leaned back in my chair and sighed. My husband certainly had surprised me, just not in the way I had hoped.

While I contemplated Scooter’s new fascination with cat videos, Olivia continued with introductions.

As Penny explained how she wanted to leverage YouTube to drive business to her sailing school and boat brokerage, I grabbed the last piece of bacon from Scooter’s plate. He was so absorbed in looking at the pictures of our cat that he didn’t even notice.

“That’s a wonderful idea,” Olivia said to Penny. “I have a number of friends who use their channels to generate new business leads. The trick is to post interesting content, not just advertisements for your business.”

“I thought I’d start with filming the Coconut Cove Regatta,” Penny said. “People might enjoy watching footage of the sailing races, as well as the other regatta events we have planned to celebrate the Fourth of July.”

Olivia nodded. “Great idea. The regatta sounds like a lot of fun.”

“There’s always room for a famous circumnavigator on my boat,” Penny said. “We’d love to have you on board.”

“I wish I could join you, but I already have plans for the holiday weekend. I’ll be at an artists’ retreat on Destiny Key.”

“That’s where the regatta sails to,” Penny said. “Maybe we’ll see you there.”

“I’ll keep an eye out for your boat,” the young woman replied. “What’s her name?”

Pretty in Pink,” Penny said. “You can’t miss it. She’s all pink.”
I listened half-heartedly during the rest of the introductions, perking up only when someone I knew was speaking. Alejandra Lopez, a waitress at the Sailor’s Corner Cafe, explained how she wanted to do online tutorials on nail art. Ned Schneider, who owned the Palm Tree Marina with his wife Nancy, described his vision for a YouTube channel dedicated to movie reviews. In my opinion, Penelope Pringle had the best idea—behind-the-scenes videos of how she makes the delicious treats for sale at her bakery, the Sugar Shack.
Eventually, Olivia got to her presentation—two excruciating hours filled with more detail than I ever wanted to know about filming and editing videos, establishing your brand, and monetizing your content. Scooter took detailed notes, I played games on my phone, and, to my great disappointment, neither a chocolate cake nor clowns made an appearance.

* * *

“When were you going to tell me about this whole YouTube thing?” I asked Scooter after Olivia’s presentation was over.

He scratched his head. “I did tell you. The other night when we were at the Tipsy Pirate.”

“When was that?”


“Was I even there?”

“Of course you were. Remember, we went to the movies then stopped by for a bite to eat.”

I stared at him blankly.

“You had the egg rolls with the pineapple dipping sauce.”

“Oh, yeah. Now I remember. Those were delicious,” I said. “Didn’t Alan come over and join us?”

“Yes, and that’s when we talked about the YouTube channel.”

“We did?”

“Sure, Alan told us how he set up his own channel. You know, the one featuring his pet mice. Then he suggested Mrs. Moto would be a natural in front of the camera.”

“Did I contribute to the conversation?”

“If you consider saying ‘uh-huh’ and ‘um’ a lot, then you contributed. Guess you were daydreaming again.”

I shrugged. “Maybe.”

“Let me guess. It was about aliens landing on—”

Before Scooter could finish his thought, Jim interrupted him. “Either one of you want this?” he asked, holding out a tray with a solitary mini muffin on it. “It’s the last one left.”

“Is that blueberry?” I asked.

Scooter smiled. “You’re going to try to claim that because it has fruit in it. It’s part of your five a day, isn’t it?”

“It’s called out-of-the-box thinking.” I snatched the treat and took a nibble. “Yum. I can feel the antioxidants coursing through my body already.”

“It’s back to poached eggs and whole wheat toast for us tomorrow, my little stegosaurus.”

“Stegosaurus?” Jim asked as he set the empty tray down on a nearby table.

“Yeah, it’s his latest pet name for me,” I said in between bites. “He’s been watching too many documentaries about dinosaurs lately.”

“That’s, um, different,” Jim said wryly.

“Trust me, it’s an improvement on some of the other ones he’s called me,” I said.

“Speaking of pet names, there’s my ‘sweetie’ now.” Jim pointed at a dapper-looking man and waved him over. “Have you met Thomas before?”

While Scooter introduced himself, I admired the man’s eclectic attire—a green plaid three-piece suit, a crisp white shirt, a brightly colored polka-dot bow tie, and a jaunty red beret perched on top of his salt and pepper hair. Not many people in Coconut Cove dressed so formally, preferring a more casual beach look.

As I shook Thomas’ hand, I wondered how he coped in the intense Florida heat while wearing a suit. Then I looked at his feet and saw that he was wearing flip-flops. I guess if your feet can breathe, it helps cool the rest of you down.

“Thomas is an artist,” Jim said proudly. “He paints these fantastic seascapes. You might have seen some of them on display in the cafe.”

“Ah,” I said. “That explains your cufflinks.”

Thomas held up his wrists. “Aren’t they cute? Little easels. Jim gave them to me last Christmas.”

“I’ve noticed your paintings before. They’re really striking,” Scooter said. “It’s too bad we live on a sailboat. We don’t have any wall space to hang anything.”

“I miss our cottage,” I said with a sigh. “We used to have some really nice artwork. Not to mention a bathtub and a freezer. Do you know what life is like without ice cream at your fingertips?”

“But living on a boat must be so romantic,” Thomas said.

Scooter put his arm around my shoulders. “It’s been tough lately. Marjorie Jane has been in the boatyard for the last few months while we’ve been working on her, and living there has been—”

“The opposite of romantic,” I said, finishing his sentence. “Climbing up and down a ladder multiple times a day, dust and dirt everywhere, tools and parts strewn all about … it gets old after a while.”

“But we’re splashing our boat this afternoon,” Scooter said. “Once she’s back in the water things will get better. And we’re sailing in the regatta this weekend. What could be more romantic than that?”

“I’d love to see your boat some time,” Thomas said. “In addition to seascapes, I enjoy painting all kinds of boats—fishing boats, tugboats, sailboats, even rowboats. In fact, I’m running the artists’ retreat on Destiny Key this weekend.”

“The same one Olivia is going to?” Scooter asked.

He nodded. “If the weather cooperates, I’m planning on taking the group out to the beach to sketch the regatta boats at anchor. I’ll have to keep an eye out for yours.”

“She isn’t hard to miss,” I said. “Just look for the red-hulled boat with teak decks in serious need of varnish.”

“I thought they weren’t fond of outsiders on the island,” Scooter said. “How did you manage to schedule your retreat there?”
“It’s true. The locals are wary of outsiders,” Thomas said. “But I have a friend who’s traveling in Europe for the summer and he offered his house to me. It’s in an absolutely exquisite location. The views are to die for. You feel like you’re on some tropical island in the Pacific, rather than on an island off the Florida coast. It’s an artist’s dream. I couldn’t pass it up.” He leaned in and said in a confidential tone, “My friend is a bit of a Destiny Key rebel. I think he secretly likes the idea of inviting mainlanders to the island because he knows that it makes everyone furious. He especially likes sticking it to his cousin. They had a bit of a falling out a few years ago.”

“But won’t the locals give you a hard time while you’re there?” I asked.

“Nah, it won’t be too bad. We only have to deal with folks on the ferry. Once we get to the island, we’ll head straight to the house. It’s located out at the far end of the island in an isolated bay. No one around for miles. It’s well stocked so we won’t need to go into town for anything. The locals will barely know we’re there. You should hear some of the names they have for us. They aren’t very flattering.”

“Having met someone from there and learned about the island, it actually doesn’t surprise me,” I said.

“Please. Let’s not talk about what happened to her,” Scooter said.

Thomas looked at Jim. “Is she talking about that horrible incident that happened when I was in New York for the art show?”

“Yes, Mollie found the body.” Jim turned to me. “How many bodies is that you’ve found now? Ten? Twelve?”

I scowled. “Why does everyone in Coconut Cove insist on keeping a tally of how many dead bodies I happen to run across?”

Jim chuckled. “Well, you do have a bit of a reputation.”

“For the record, it’s five.” I glanced at Scooter, then breathed a sigh of relief. He didn’t look like he was going to faint. My husband had a hard time dealing with anything gruesome. Even a little bit of blood from a paper cut could send him over the edge. So you can only imagine how he felt when there was a dead body involved. Usually a bit of chocolate helped restore his equilibrium, which is why I always kept an emergency supply of M&M’S in my purse.

“And your record is going to stay at five, right?” Scooter asked.

“Why stop at five?” Jim asked with a smile. “You should try to get into the Guinness Book of World Records.”

“Oh, I already did that,” I said.

Jim was taken aback. “You did?”

“Oh, no. Not for dead bodies or anything like that,” I said. “It was for—”

Before I could finish explaining my world record, the door to the conference room swung open. A man stood regally in the entryway, surveying the room as though he was expecting his subjects to kneel in adoration. Like Thomas, he was also wearing a suit, but whereas Thomas’ outfit was a riot of color, his was all black, including shirt and tie. Even his hair and eyes were black. The only spot of color was a mother-of-pearl handle on the cane he was leaning on.

“What’s Gregor doing here?” Thomas hissed, his face turning the same bright-red color as his beret.

“I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation,” Jim said. “Don’t let him upset you. Remember what your doctor said about your blood pressure.”

Thomas clenched his fists. “I know what he said. But as long as Gregor is anywhere near me, there’s no way I’m going to be able to avoid becoming stressed.”

“Why don’t you practice your breathing exercises?” Jim rested his hand on his stomach and slowly inhaled and exhaled. “Like this. In. Out. In. Out.”

Thomas placed his hand on his own stomach, closed his eyes, and breathed deeply. As his color started to return to normal, Jim squeezed his shoulder. “You’re doing great. Keep going.”

While Thomas focused on his breathing, I noticed the man in black walking across the room, the tapping sound of his cane on the tile floor getting progressively louder as he neared us. “I think he’s coming this way,” I whispered to Scooter.

“Do you know who he is?” Scooter asked.

“Never seen him before. But he doesn’t exactly look like the type to hang out at the marina.”

“Well, I think we’re going to have a chance to find out who he is,” Scooter said. “He’s making a beeline straight toward us.”

As the man stopped in front of us, Thomas’ eyes snapped open, his face flushing again.

“You should be more careful in the sun,” Gregor said with a heavy accent that sounded Russian. “You are very sunburned.”

Thomas narrowed his eyes. “What do you want?”

Gregor reached into the pocket of his suit jacket and pulled out an envelope. “I thought I would hand deliver this. You know how unreliable the mail service can be.”

Thomas folded his arms across his chest. “I don’t want anything from you.”

“Very well,” Gregor said. “I thought I would do you the courtesy of delivering this to you personally, but, if you prefer, I will send it directly to your lawyer instead.”

“Courtesy,” Thomas said bitterly. “What would you know about courtesy? Do you think coming into my town and trying to destroy my reputation is courteous?”

Gregor gave him a slight smile. “I only speak the truth. You Americans are delicate creatures, no? You cannot bear it when someone gives you an honest critique of your talent. Or in your case, your lack of talent.” He waved the envelope. “You are sure you are not the slightest bit curious about what is inside?”

“Give me that,” Jim said, grabbing it out of his hand. He ripped open the envelope, pulling a thick document out. He silently leafed through the pages while Thomas glared at Gregor. After a few minutes, Jim took a deep breath and said to Thomas, “I think we are going to need a lawyer.”

“Why? What does it say?” Thomas asked.

“He’s claiming that you can’t use Coconut Creations anymore for your art-related business. He’s trademarked it.”

Thomas looked like he was going to have a stroke. “What? Coconut Creations is mine. I’ve used it for years on my business cards, my website, and the art gallery. He can’t take it away from me. It’s my brand.”

Gregor shrugged. “When you sold the art gallery to me, you gave up all rights to using the name.”

“I didn’t sell it to you, you stole it!”

“I am a businessman, not a thief. I cannot help it if you are unhappy with the transaction. Some people do not have a head for business.” He tapped his cane on the floor sharply. “You have one week to comply.”

Thomas ripped the document in half and dropped it on the floor. “That’s what I think of your threats.”

“You make mistake. Serious mistake,” Gregor said. “My lawyers will take you to court. You will have nothing left after they finish. Nothing.”

As he made his way toward the exit, Thomas said in a low undertone. “You’ll pay for this. Just wait and see. You’ll pay.”

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