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Death And Deception At The Codwall Inn
About the Author: Denise Johnson has written several mystery, horror, and science fiction short stories appearing in Kings River Life and Blood Moon Rising magazines, as well as several anthologies including Determined Hearts: A Frankenstein Anthology; Black Buttons Vol. 3: A Family Affair; Buried; Murder of Crows; WhoDunit!; A Warm Mug of Cozy; and Portal: The Inner Circle Writer’s Group Children’s Anthology 2019. “The Cold Truth” was published earlier this year in 518 Pub’s antho.

It took all of five minutes for my frustration to swell.

“Ellie, what kind of place is this? There are no locks on the doors,” I exclaimed, throwing my hands up in the air.

She hurried over to examine the entrance to our room. “This is an odd place.”

I glanced around the tiny room. I’d already taken a nasty hit from the closet door handle, an ancient latch and hook made out of iron, no doubt. I caressed the hard lump on my forearm that was beginning to reveal a tinge of black and blue.

“Can’t we just leave?” I pleaded. “We can give them their gift now. Claim an emergency or something.” I peered at Ellie over my readers.

As her head shook no, ringlets of auburn curls bounced. “Are you kidding? I haven’t seen Dixie since we worked together at the District Attorney’s office.”

Ellie proceeded to change into casual wear for the walk we’d agreed upon earlier. There wasn’t much else to do. The Codwall Inn was the it place to host a wedding. Featured in every wedding magazine in the U.S., the inn was dubbed a “quaint venue for exclusive intimate affairs,” according to one of the latest articles highlighting it. Ellie snipped the story out of a bridal magazine and placed it on my desk upon receipt of the invitation.

Newly married ourselves we’d been traveling quite a bit, as everyone within her age range seemed to be getting hitched. That was the reason for my initial reluctance to attend this wedding, notwithstanding the fact that I’d never met Dixie or her fiancé.

“Okay, all ready.” She hunched down to review her appearance in the tiny mirror that hung over a well-worn writing desk.

“One thing,” I muttered, shuffling around in my suitcase. I pulled out a pair of socks tucked into one another. “There, that’s better.” I placed a sock over each side of the irksome latch.

Ellie giggled.

I smiled, aware of what she must have thought. Fifteen years younger, she often cajoled me for acting like an old man.  But truth be told, I wasn’t acting. The good news was that she seemed to enjoy a curmudgeon for a husband.

I shut the door to our room, still frustrated that I could not protect my belongings.

Ellie pulled me by the hand playfully. “Once we get downstairs, we’ll check to see if they’ve arrived yet. Okay?”

I nodded, though she could not see because she was descending the stairs ahead of me. We rounded the last landing while scanning the pictures along the wall that told the history of this old New England inn. The carpet runner along the stairs was frayed at the edges and appeared to have been a much deeper red at one time.

The downstairs lobby, if you could call it that, was empty. Ellie glanced into the dining wing and shook her head, as if to say, “no one here.”

I followed, as she led me through the double wooden doors outside to the gravel roundabout driveway. We noticed a lovely garden to the left and proceeded on a walking path of stones toward it.

“Isn’t it wonderful out here?” Ellie took a deep breath and exhaled.

It was a beautiful day, sunny with blue skies. Maybe it was my age, but I really didn’t see the difference between a summer day in the Midwest and one spent on the East Coast. Similar trees, grass, and … I sneezed—allergies.

“Oh, poor baby.” Ellie skipped over and caressed my arm. “Did you bring your antihistamine pills?”

I patted my shirt pocket.

She smiled. “What do you want to do on our downtime?”

I noticed a few couples seated on benches in the garden. “We could drive around and see what the town has to offer.”

Ellie nodded. “It seems small. I mean, the rental car agent gave us his car. How did he even get home?”

I laughed. “Yes, I wondered that myself.”

We completed a loop around the fragrant garden. Ellie stopped to smell some basil.

“I wonder if they use their own herbs?”

“I bet they do.” I had to admit I didn’t hate the place. There was some charm to it. I turned toward Ellie for what I thought would be a well-timed private embrace.

“Eleanor! Is that you?”

“Dixie! You look amazing.” Ellie smiled widely.

This story appears in our JUN 2024 Issue
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