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Conched Out (eBook)

Conched Out (eBook)

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Sun, sand, and secrets collide in Key West when antique shop owner Beth uncovers a priceless piece of local history in this charming new cozy mystery!

From breathtaking sunsets to the sunny streets of Key West, this heart-pounding whodunit transports readers to the lush tropics of Key West.

The tropical tranquility of Beth's Key West antique shop is shattered when a killer strikes and Beth is the police’s number one suspect. Determined to get to the bottom of the mysterious death and clear her name, Beth teams up with a quirky cast of locals to unravel a complex web of lies and deception.

With her sassy cat Agatha by her side, can Beth uncover the truth before the killer strikes again?

Main Tropes

  • Amateur Sleuth & Sassy Cat
  • Escape to Key West
  • Antique Store & Tea Shop


When Beth Fletcher's greedy landlord turns up dead at an estate auction, she finds herself suspect number one. Determined to clear her name, Beth teams up with her quirky circle of friends and family to get to the bottom of the mysterious murder. With the police hot on her trail, she races to uncover clues hidden in the dusty pages of an old diary she discovered in a locked dresser drawer. The diary reveals sinister secrets about the deceased former owner of the dresser, leading Beth to wonder if this cold case murder is connected to her landlord's untimely demise.

Adding intrigue, a handsome stranger insert himself into Beth’s investigation. Detective Aaron Gallagher seems to be tailing Beth’s every move. Is it a budding romance, or does he consider her a prime suspect?

The stakes heighten when Beth uncovers shady business dealings that suggest the murder may have been motivated by money. More suspects emerge from the island’s dark underbelly as Beth pieces together threads from the past and present.

Will Beth solve the mystery before the killer silences her forever?

This romp through tropical paradise will leave cozy mystery fans hungry for the next installment.

Intro Chapter One

Beth shook her umbrella closed and stepped inside. She crossed the cafe, leaving a trail of water behind her. She slid onto a barstool at the bar in the back of the tea shop.

“Morning, Sis!” Sarah tucked her long brunette hair behind her ear. She placed a stoneware mug with a mermaid’s tail for the handle in front of Beth. “Poppy seed or blueberry?”


“Why did I waste time doing my hair this morning?” Beth ran her hand through her damp blond hair and let out an exasperated sigh. “I thought I was going to get blown down Thomas Street. It’s just awful out there. Summer in Florida is like a toddler who has eaten too much sugar, completely erratic.”

Sarah glanced at the tables in the front of her shop filled with customers enjoying her pastries. She raised her finger to her lips. “Shh! I have muffins to sell!”

“Your muffins are irresistible. What happened to the warm, sunny weather? I didn’t uproot my life and move to the Keys to have weather as bad as back home.”

“The perfect weather will return. This is just Mother Nature’s way of keeping things interesting! We’ll be biking, picnicking, and enjoying 90-degree weather again soon.”

“Enjoying 90-degree weather, huh? You hate it when it’s that hot. Why are you in such a good mood this morning?” Beth studied her sister over the rim of her mug.

Sarah’s hazel eyes sparkled, “No, I guess it isn’t my usual. I finally made a decent profit last month! I did my accounts last night! Things are working out with the tea shop!”

“That’s wonderful! I’m so proud of you!” Beth jumped up and hugged Sarah. “The Mermaid’s Mug is just what Key West needs. I knew people would support you. It would just take time!”

Both Sarah and Beth jumped as they heard, “What’s up, ladies?”

“Jen! Mary! Good morning! Glad neither of you melted!” Beth giggled.

Jen waved Sarah’s comment away with a shake of her head, her red curls somehow dry despite the downpour. “We haven’t had enough rain this summer.”

“We usually get 5.9” of rain during the month of August in Key West. We’ve already gotten 4.6” so we’re actually ahead of what is expected.” Mary patted her forehead with a napkin, wiping away the water dripping from her blunt black bangs. “Irish tea with cream?”

“Already have it made for you.” Sarah put a lid on the to-go cup and handed it to Mary. “Anything new and exciting in the world of accounting?”

“Everything is quiet, just the way I like it.” Mary flipped through her appointment book. “I have an appointment with a new client today. I’m looking forward to meeting them.”

"Congratulations on your new client!"


“Isn’t this weather fabulous? I love tropical storms! All of this water makes me want to run through the puddles!” Jen plopped down on the barstool between Beth and Mary. “We must meet on the beach tonight and enjoy this while it lasts! What do you say?”

Beth raised an eyebrow. “Why not? Who doesn’t want to get completely drenched, chilled to the bone, and then catch a cold?”


“I was being sarcastic.” Beth raised an eyebrow.

“I’m immune to sarcasm,” Jen winked at Beth and took her to-go cup from Sarah. “Well, I must be off to get the art gallery open. My customers will be eager to peruse my new shipment!”

“Oh, goodness.” Mary folded her hands in her lap. “I don’t even want to think about what you ordered this time.”

Jen pushed the door open. “Oh, you love your quilt. You wrap yourself up in it every night when we’re watching television.”

Mary turned the lid on her cup until the opening was lined up with the logo, “I enjoy how cozy it is despite its……inappropriate design.”

“Sure, cozy. That’s why it’s your favorite. See you tonight!” The bell jingled as the door shut behind Jen.

“Are we stuck going to the beach in the rain now?” Beth took a sip of tea.

Sarah shrugged.

Mary pointed towards a puddle forming on the floor of the tea shop. “Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it looks like you have a leak.”

The puddle grew bigger with each drop that cascaded from the ceiling.

“Oh no, another leak!” Sarah ran and grabbed a mop and bucket.

“And another one!” Beth motioned toward a new puddle in the hallway near the restrooms.

“Every time it rains, this place turns into a swimming pool. I am so fed up with this battle. The landlord has repeatedly refused to fix the roof.” Sarah lowered her voice. “I’m afraid the health department might see this and close me down.”

Beth took the mop from Sarah. “Donald Jordan is a real jerk. My shop has leaks, too. He refuses to fix anything. We’re paying a lot for rent. It is so frustrating!”

“You might need a lawyer to help you,” Mary picked up her to-go cup of tea. “I know an attorney. I’ll be glad to refer you if you need help. Well, I have to get to work. I’ll see you all at the beach tonight!”

“Bye!” the sisters chimed together.

“Ugh, I guess we are meeting at the beach in the rain tonight.”

“Hopefully, the rain will slack off by then. I am so upset right now.” Sarah put a bucket under the leak. She took a deep breath in through her nose and let it out through her mouth. “I need to relax. This is beyond my control.”

“You’re right. Getting upset won’t fix the leak,” Beth looked at the clock on the wall behind Sarah. “I wish I could help you more, but I have to run and get my shop open. Agatha can’t open the shop by herself! Love you!”

“Love you!” Sarah blew Beth a kiss.

Beth caught the kiss in the air and blew it back to her sister.

Sarah went back to mopping.

The bell jingled as the cafe’s door opened. A gust of wind flew through the shop, sending the napkins on her counter flying. Sarah grabbed the napkins and attempted to hold them down until the door closed behind her Aunt Diana and Diana’s dog.

“Oh, goodness! Not again!” Diana kicked at the bucket on the floor of the shop. “Let me help you clean this up.”

Meesha trotted down the hall, pushed the broom closet door open, and grabbed a towel. She carried it back to Diana.

“Good girl. Thank you.” Diana patted Meesha’s head. “Meesha and I will have this mess cleaned up in no time.”

A customer approached the counter, ready to place an order.

Diana waved Sarah away and dropped the towel onto the floor. She stepped on it and swished it back and forth, wiping up the water.


Agatha rubbed against Beth’s legs. Her body vibrated with purrs as she circled through Beth’s legs in a figure-eight pattern.

“I get it. You’re ready for your breakfast. I’ll feed you after I get the shop open for customers.”

Agatha’s golden eyes blinked at Beth.

Beth threw her shoulder against the storeroom door, but it wouldn’t move.

Agatha batted under the door with her paw. She meowed and reached under the door with her paw as far as she could. Agatha pulled her paw back and licked between each toe, paying special care to each of her sharp claws.

Beth rammed the door a final time with her hip. “Stupid door!”

Agatha walked over to her dish and meowed insistently.

“Fine. Let me get your breakfast.” Beth scooped Agatha’s pate out of the can onto an antique plate. She fluffed it with a fork, the way Agatha liked it.

Agatha took two bites and licked her whiskers. She strutted across the shop and stretched out on an old Persian rug beside the counter.

“I need to put new price tags on some of these items that have been here a while. Maybe marking down the price will help me sell them. You aren’t helping Agatha. Someone could trip over you.” Beth sighed.

Agatha raised her back leg and began her morning bath.

“Very lady-like,” Beth rolled her eyes.

A gust of wind rattled the front window.

“Probably won’t have many customers until this storm dies down anyway, so go ahead with your bath.”

Beth made her way through the shop, tagging items for sale.

The morning passed slowly as she dusted the shelves of antiques.

Just before lunch, Beth glanced up and caught sight of Jen running down the street, fighting her umbrella.

Beth giggled to herself, “Even umbrellas don’t want to be outside today!”

Jen flung open the antique store’s door, tossed her umbrella into the umbrella stand, and yelled, “That jerk!”

“Who are you talking about?” questioned Beth.

“That… jerk…... the landlord came by my shop just as I was finishing putting out my new art, and gave me this!” Jen slammed a yellow sheet of paper on the antique writing desk beside Beth.

Beth reached out and picked up the damp piece of paper. “As of September 1st, rent will increase thirty percent.”

“He can’t do that! That’s an insane price hike!” Beth’s hand shook as she put the paper down. “How will we afford that?”

“Well, honey, I don’t think he cares. Rumor has it he wants everyone out. A big developer has eyes set on our shops and is willing to pay big bucks. Any guess who will get those big bucks?”

“Donald Jordan.”

“Right, the jerk, Donald Jordan.” Jen crossed her arms and scowled.

Beth caught a flash of movement out of her plate-glass window. “Oh no, here he comes, Jen. What should I do?”

Jen shrugged, “What can you do? Nothing.”

Donald waddled into the antique shop. His tan raincoat dripped water on Beth’s wood floor.

“Oh, you again, Miss Whitley,” Donald ran his hand over his thinning, damp hair.

Jen tossed her hair over her shoulder, crossed her arms, and glared at him.

“How may I help you, Mr. Jordan?” Beth stepped in front of Jen before she said something they would both regret.

“I stopped by to give you notice of a rent increase that goes into effect on September 1st. If you have any questions, call my office.” Donald handed Beth the notice.

“Actually, I do have a question. How can you do this? Why are we expected to pay more rent, but you do nothing to maintain these buildings?” Beth stomped her foot in frustration. “Every time I need to go into my storeroom, I have to fight with the door to get it opened. If it’s raining, or humid, which is most of the time, I can’t get the door to budge! I’m paying for that space, I should be able to use it. My sister’s tea shop is leaking water and you do nothing. Why should I pay you another dime until you fix what’s broken?”

“I’m sure you can find a shop to rent on South Street or Duval. But you’ll pay ten times what I charge you for rent. Good day, ladies.”

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