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Poisoned by the Pier - Mollie McGhie #3

Poisoned by the Pier - Mollie McGhie #3

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Mollie McGhie Cozy Mystery - Book #3

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 signed the two of you up for an extreme diet?

Mollie thought she had enough problems to deal with when her husband threw out all of her chocolate and junk food. But when someone is poisoned during a cake baking competition, she’s thrust into another murder investigation.

While she tries to identify the killer, Coconut Cove’s annual boating festival is in full swing. In between getting ready for her first sailing race and cheating on her diet, Mollie and her cat, Mrs. Moto, uncover clues, interview suspects, and do their best to avoid rutabagas.

Can Mollie nab the murderer before someone else is poisoned?

Chapter 1 Look Inside

Chapter 1 - Dumpster Diving

What would you do if your husband announced that he had signed the two of you up for a strict diet program and tossed all your chocolate, cookies, potato chips—even your red wine—into the trash?

Would you:
(a) feel his forehead to see if he had a fever;
(b) search your purse to make sure he hadn’t thrown out your emergency supply of M&M’S;
(c) start to think living on a dilapidated sailboat wasn’t the craziest idea he’d ever had; or
(d) go dumpster diving?

I began with (a)—checking his forehead. The only rational explanation for Scooter’s behavior was that he was ill. Seriously, we’re talking about a man who’s addicted to sugary cereal and steals french fries off my plate. He wouldn’t last a minute without regular infusions of junk food.

After determining that he wasn’t sick, at least not physically (although thinking a detox was a good idea made me wonder about his mental health), I opted for (b)—rooting through my purse. Thankfully, he hadn’t found my stash of M&M’S. I was definitely going to need them to deal with this crazy food regimen of his.

While I munched on my candy, I reflected on (c)—all the other harebrained schemes my husband had come up with over the years. Of course, presenting me with a sailboat named Marjorie Jane on our tenth wedding anniversary and thinking I’d be happy about it topped the list. But this ridiculous diet was coming in a strong second.

Just think about it for a minute—what’s the first part of the word “diet”? Die. Would you really want to go on a “die-it”? I’d much rather be on a “live-it.” And living for me involved all the things Scooter had chucked in the trash—chocolate, potato chips, cookies, and wine.

After I finished the last M&M, I looked around my home and sighed. You would have sighed too if you lived where I did—on a rundown sailboat in the noisy, dusty, grimy boatyard at a marina in Florida. The yard was where repairs and maintenance were done while vessels were out of the water, their hulls supported by metal jack stands. Seeing them propped up like nautical tree houses always made me more than a little nervous, especially living in a hurricane zone. Sure, the boats were tied down with straps, but I still wondered how many would remain standing should a serious storm blow through.

We had hauled Marjorie Jane out of the water the previous month when we discovered a leak on board. Once she was on land, we’d realized that fixing the leak was the least of our problems.

The list of boat projects we needed to tackle was endless. We were in danger of becoming long-term residents of the boatyard—the type of people who spent years working on their boats and ended up running out of money and/or enthusiasm before they ever got to use their vessels.

Yeah, you’re probably thinking we’re crazy. I don’t blame you. I think we’re crazy too. Why would anyone live on a boat? Trust me, it certainly wasn’t my idea. We used to have an adorable seaside cottage—the ocean views were to die for. Unfortunately, we ended up losing our sweet little place.

Please don’t ask me what happened. Every time I tell the story, I get teary-eyed. Chocolate was the only thing that helped me feel better, and that, at this point in time, appeared to be in seriously short supply.

After the cottage fiasco, we had sublet a place at the Tropical Breeze condos. I fell in love with the spa tub and luxury kitchen. The fact that there were a couple of fast-food places around the corner didn’t hurt either. Sadly, it was a short-lived love affair, as the owners unexpectedly came back to town, leaving us homeless again.

That’s when Scooter had come up with the idea of living on our sailboat as a temporary solution. I did mention that he was the king of harebrained ideas, didn’t I? If not the king, at least he had a seat on the royal court.

It was downright depressing thinking about it all. I definitely needed more chocolate. It was time to enact option (d)—dumpster diving.

After carefully climbing down the ladder attached to our boat, I walked over to the trash bin at the far end of the boatyard. Turns out I wasn’t the only one with the same idea. Ben Moretti, one of our friends who lived at the marina and made ends meet by working in the boatyard, was standing next to the dumpster holding a very familiar-looking bottle of wine and a bag of Hershey’s Kisses.

“Look what I found, Mollie! Major score, don’t you think?” he said, grinning from ear to ear. He pointed at the plastic garbage bag by his feet. “There’s even more good stuff in there. Come on, I’ll share with you. What should we celebrate? That you’re finished painting the bottom of your boat?”

I thought about saying we should celebrate the fact that he had rescued my vino and candy before I had to dig through the trash personally, but I didn’t want to admit to him that I’d been so desperate for chocolate that I’d been about to resort to dumpster diving myself. So, I did what anyone would do in that situation—told an itty-bitty white lie.

“You don’t really think I’d eat something that came from the garbage, do you?”
The young man kicked at the ground. “Well, beggars can’t be choosers. Things are a little tight until payday.”

I bit my lip. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”

He shrugged. “It’s okay. Besides, I figure it’s like the ten-second rule.” I stared at him blankly. “You know how when you drop something on the floor, if you pick it up within ten seconds, it’s okay to eat? I figure when it comes to fishing something out of the garbage, it’s more like a ten-minute rule. And I saw Scooter toss this in here just a few minutes ago, so we’re good.”

“Food wouldn’t last on our floor for even a second,” I said. “Mrs. Moto would pounce on it and gobble it down in no time.” I smiled at the thought of our Japanese bobtail cat’s love of human food. Well, most human food. She did turn her nose up at asparagus. But then again, so did I.

Ben popped a Hershey’s Kiss in his mouth. “Sure you don’t want one?”

I refused his offer. I know, you must be in awe of my willpower. I was even impressed…for exactly five seconds. Then I grabbed the bag from him and unwrapped the chocolate morsels as quickly as I could. The bag seemed clean—no dirt or stains on it. Maybe there was something to Ben’s ten-minute dumpster rule after all.

After a few more Kisses, Ben glanced at the garbage bag, then looked at me before it slowly dawned on him. “Hey, wait a minute. If Scooter threw this out, isn’t this your food?”

I sighed. “Yep, it’s mine. See that bag of chips right there? They’re delicious with some sour cream dip.”

“Why did he throw it out?”

“He’s got this crazy idea that we should go on a diet.”

Ben frowned. “Why? Scooter doesn’t really have a beer belly, and you look pretty good for a middle-aged woman.”

“Gee, thanks,” I said, popping another piece of chocolate in my mouth. “It must be my frizzy hair. People are so entranced by the rat’s nest on my head they don’t notice the laugh lines by my mouth and the crow’s feet around my eyes.”

“Your hair looks fine to me.” Considering Ben’s hair was pulled back in a greasy ponytail, I took this compliment with a grain of salt. He stood and wiped his hands on his tattered khaki shorts, adding to the decorative pattern of stains he had going on. “You should take all this back with you.”

“I want to, but I’m afraid Scooter will just throw it out again. I need a place to stash it temporarily until he forgets about this diet and begins eating his Cap’n Crunch cereal for breakfast again like a normal human being.”

Ben’s eyes grew wide. He shook his head and put his finger up to his lips in a shushing motion. I felt a pair of hands squeeze my shoulders. “What’s this about Cap’n Crunch?” Scooter asked after he leaned down and gave me a quick kiss on my cheek.

“Boy, you’re stealthy. I didn’t hear you sneak up on me,” I said. “Ben was just telling me about his favorite cereals. Doesn’t a nice bowl of cereal sound good right now?”

“No, that sounds awful,” he said. “All that sugar and other processed ingredients—do you have any idea what that does to your body? Like Trixie Tremblay says, ‘Live Healthy, Live Long, Live Strong.’”

“Who the heck is Trixie Tremblay?” I asked.

“Is she the lady on TV?” Ben asked. “The one who wears those brightly colored leotards and legwarmers?”

“That’s the one,” Scooter said. “She used to be overweight and would get out of breath walking from her car to her front door. Now, thanks to science, she’s unleashed the power of rutabagas and created a meal plan designed to help everyone ‘Live Healthy, Live Long, Live Strong.’ These days, she’s slim, powerful, and full of energy.”

“Did you say ‘the power of rutabagas’?” I was gobsmacked. “You realize they’re just root vegetables, right?”

“Ah, but that’s where science comes in. Turns out rutabagas are more than just root vegetables. They’re the secret to a healthy, long, and strong life.” Scooter had a dreamy expression in his eyes. “Trixie is so inspiring!”

“What you call inspiring, I call brainwashing,” I said. “Why else would you throw perfectly good food away and replace it with rutabagas?”

“She didn’t brainwash me. She helped me see the truth—people who love themselves care about what they put in their bodies.” He put his arm around my shoulders. “And if you love someone as I love you, then you care what they put in their bodies too. I’m really doing this for you.”

I narrowed my eyes. “I know what this is really about. This is because you just turned fifty.”

“Ah, so it’s like a midlife crisis,” Ben said. He cocked his head to one side. “But didn’t Mollie tell me that buying Marjorie Jane was your midlife crisis?”

“Hah, that’s right!” I said. “One midlife crisis per customer.” I turned to Ben. “Wanna hand me that bag? I’ll be taking my potato chips and chocolate back home with me.”

Scooter’s shoulders slumped. “Come on, my little Milk Dud. Just give it a chance. It’s really important to me.” He stared at me with those dark-brown puppy-dog eyes of his that I always had trouble resisting.

“Did he call you his little Milk Dud?” Ben asked.

“Yeah, it’s his latest pet name for me,” I said.

“There’s been so many that it’s hard to keep track,” Ben said. “Didn’t he used to call you his little sweet potato? And before that, what was it—” He tightened the ponytail at the back of his neck while he tried to remember.

“Panda bear. He called me panda bear.” I glanced at my husband. “Guess you won’t be able to call me Milk Dud anymore. You can hardly refer to me as a chocolate-covered caramel candy while you’re on this diet. What’s it called, anyway?”

“Rutamentals.” Ben and I both broke out laughing. Scooter frowned. “What’s so funny? It makes perfect sense. It’s all about getting back to the fundamentals of healthy eating, and that begins with embracing the power of the rutabaga. Get it—‘Ruta’ for ‘rutabagas’ and ‘mentals’ for ‘fundamentals.’ Rutamentals.” He wrapped his arms around my waist and gave me a squeeze. “So what do you say, my little… Actually, I’m not sure what to call you now. How about my little ruta—”

I stopped him before he could finish his thought. “Why don’t you stick with Milk Dud. It sounds like there are already enough root vegetables in your life.”

He shrugged. “Okay. Can you at least try Rutamentals for a week?”

“Fine, I’ll give it a week.” I crossed my arms and gave Scooter an appraising look. “Although, it’s funny how you decided to start your new diet after you polished off that entire German chocolate cake I made you for your birthday.”

“I love German chocolate cake,” Ben said.

Scooter shook his head. “I don’t really think you could have called it that. There wasn’t any coconut in the frosting, and that’s pretty much the hallmark of the cake.”

“Coconut is gross,” I said. “I did you a favor by leaving it out.”

“You did yourself a favor.” Scooter stared at me pointedly. “You wanted to help yourself to some cake too. If there had been coconut in it, you wouldn’t have eaten it.”

I decided I didn’t like the way this conversation was going, so I steered it in another direction. “I wonder why German chocolate cake isn’t the official town cake, considering this place is called Coconut Cove.”

“Oh, actually it is,” Ben said. “The two of you have lived here for almost a year now—I’m surprised you didn’t know that already.”

I shrugged. “I’m constantly learning new things about this town. Like, did you know that if you go to Alligator Chuck’s BBQ Joint on your birthday, you get free nachos?” I nudged Scooter. “Aren’t you glad you weren’t on your diet then? And speaking of which, I have a few terms and conditions before we start Rutamentals. First, cake is allowed. Don’t forget that I’ve entered the cake competition at the Coconut Cove Boating Festival. So, I have to bake a cake. And not just any cake, but the winning cake. Second—”

Scooter put his finger on my lips. “Terms and conditions? You sound like a lawyer.”

“That reminds me,” Ben said. He fished a crumpled-up envelope out of his pocket and handed it to me. “This came for you at the marina office.”

I smoothed the envelope out. “It’s from a law firm,” I said as I ripped it open. As I scanned the letter, my jaw dropped. “You won’t believe this. Our old neighbor at the Tropical Breeze condos is threatening to file a restraining order.”

“A restraining order against us?” Scooter asked incredulously.
“No, not us. Against Mrs. Moto.” I handed him the letter. “How do you file a restraining order against a cat?”

Ben laughed. “Especially a cat like yours. She’s always wandering around the place and jumping on people’s boats.”

“That’s because everyone is always giving her cat treats,” I said. “They love it when she comes to visit.”

Scooter folded up the letter. “Everyone except this lady. I guess she didn’t like it when Mrs. Moto climbed through her window and made herself at home. Let me see that envelope,” he said. “Hmm. This came from Mike’s firm.”

“Mike Wilson, the guy who just bought that new sailboat?” I asked.

“That’s the one. Hey, there’s something else in this envelope.” He pulled a piece of paper out, then scowled. “This is ridiculous—a bill for a cat-hair removal service.”

“Want some Hershey’s Kisses?” Ben asked. “That might cheer you up.”

Scooter reached into the bag, then stopped himself. “No. I think I’ll go back to our boat and have a Red Ruta Smoothie instead. It’s designed to energize you. It’s made out of radishes, radicchio, ginseng, and concentrated rutabaga extract. You guys want one?”

“Yeah, I’m going to pass,” I said.

“Uh, I think I’ll have to give it a miss too,” Ben said. “I’ve got a bit of a tummy ache.”

“You go on ahead. I’ll be right there,” I said. “I need to catch up with Ben about something.”

After Scooter was out of earshot, I playfully punched Ben in the arm. “Tummy ache? Yeah, right. Faker.”

Ben rubbed his stomach. “I’m not faking it. Did you see all that chocolate I ate? Not to mention I polished off the potato chips when you weren’t looking.”

“Lightweight,” I said with a smile. “Now, listen, I need you to do me a favor and stash the rest of this stuff on your boat.”

“You mean until after you’re finished with the diet?”

“Huh? That doesn’t make sense. I’m going to need as much wine and junk food as I can get my hands on to make it through Scooter’s diet.”

“And I suppose you don’t want your husband to know about our little arrangement.”

I carefully reached into the garbage bag, pulled out a bag of Doritos, and handed them to Ben. “Is this enough to buy your silence?”

“Throw in that Kit Kat bar, and we’ve got a deal.”

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