Once Upon a Crime: “Sweet Voodoo Magic”

We teamed up with five cozy mystery writers to create a short story in real-time. The end result was “Sweet Voodoo Magic” which you can read in full below! A special thank you goes out to the participating authors (in order of appearance): Hannah Dennison, S.C. Perkins, Donna Andrews, Diane Kelly, and Ellie Alexander.

The full replay of the event is available below.

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“Sweet Voodoo Magic”

Lavender Tinker was bored. For the last two days, no one had come into the store. She hadn’t been working there for very long. It was a far cry from when she worked at a proper museum in New York but hey, sometimes you just had to get what you could after being fired for … well, let’s not go there.

And then the bell rang and this old lady walked in. “I need something to get rid of my neighbor.”

“What exactly?” I asked.

“Poison. I want to get rid of my husband.”

“What are we talking? Arsenic? Something more lethal?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “Whatever sounds good to you. Plus, throw in a voodoo doll if you would, please. The thought of sticking some pins in him in all the fun places sounds like my kind of Saturday night.”

“Okaaay,” I said, unsure of where to go next. “How about you tell me what your husband did? Or, is he your neighbor?”

“That’s the problem. He’s my husband, but he just bought a house next door, so he’s also my bloody neighbor!”

I didn’t know if “bloody” was the word we should be using here, but I went with it.

“Well,” I said. “I hate to break it to you, but we don’t actually sell poisons here in the Voodoo Emporium.”

“Then what good is this place, anyway?” she demanded.

“Not physical poisons,” I said. “But we have all kinds of spells and potions and—”

“Poisons!”

The little old lady and I both jumped as a trap door in the floor fell open and a skeleton hopped out of it into the floor of the shop. Not a real skeleton, actually—a tall, thin man wearing a marvelously creepy skeleton costume, with glow-in-the-dark white bones on a black background. In the gloom of the shop, it looked wonderfully realistic.

“Poisons! You want poisons,” he chanted. “Come into my parlor.”

“Wait,” I said. “Who are you, anyway? And where did you come from?”

Maybe I shouldn’t have said that, but until the trap door in the floor popped open, I hadn’t realized the shop had a basement. In fact, I didn’t know New Orleans buildings ever had basements—I thought the high water table made them impossible.

“You can give me a poison to deal with that creep of a husband?” the little old lady asked.

“Poisons are my business,” the skeleton said, with a bow.

The little old lady stepped forward and began descending into the trap door.

The skeleton followed her and pulled the trap door closed behind them.

“What the hell just happened?” I said aloud as I ran out from behind the counter. And what had happened to the trap door?

I decided then and there that I had to stop drinking my potions. Clearly, they were making me delusional. The lady and the skeleton man hadn’t really been in my shop, had they? I knelt down on the floor, made a fist, and rapped. The floor sounded solid. Yep, I’d been hallucinating. Right?

I turned around and went back behind the counter. My cat, Harry, named after Harry Connick, Jr., stalked out of the storeroom, as if on a hunt. Prowling, he went directly to the spot where the trap door had been. He sniffed and hissed, and the door reappeared, the woman coming up the steps with a shopping bag in hand. She gave me a wave. “Off to kill my husband. Thanks!”

I was at a loss what to do. Should I stop her? I ran after her. “Why did you two separate? And why do you want to kill him?”

“He left his underwear on the floor one time too many. I couldn’t take it anymore.”

I decided to let her go. It would be a justifiable homicide in my opinion. “Be sure to cover your tracks!” I called. The last thing I needed was the police coming to my shop and implicating me in the murder. How could I say I had nothing to do with it? The trap door once again disappeared. If the cops came here, they’d be looking at me, not the skeleton man who seemed to be able to appear and disappear at will. I danced a jig on the floor. “Are you there?” I called. “Who are you and where did you come from?”

My heart skipped a beat as the trap door creaked open. A voice called from deep below. “Come down and find out!”

“Should I, Harry?” I pet the silky cat and tried to channel my inner jazz singing swagger. Without overthinking, I held my breath and trudged down the stairs.

Deep underground there was a damp smell and the sound of rushing water. How had my museum career turned into this?

“Hello? Hello?” I called with a trembling voice. Maybe this was a bad idea.

No, Lavender, you have to get to the bottom of this. Harry trotted behind me as I followed the sound of running water.

To my surprise, as a dim light began to shine, illuminating my way through the tunnel, I ended up in a large cavern. There were studio lights, cameras, sound and video editors, and an entire cast of characters, including the creepy skeleton.

“Uh, hello?” I stood back wondering what was happening.

Then a ruggedly handsome man turned from behind a camera. It was Harrison Ford.

“Oh my God! What are you doing here?”

He tipped his cap to me. “We’re filming Indiana Jones and Last Crypt. Hope we weren’t making too much noise up there.”

“Of course not,” I replied.

“Go help yourself to Voodoo Doughnut.” He pointed to craft services.

I made my way there, ate a gooey bite of the raspberry-filled doughnut, hoping it wasn’t blood and wondering if it was all a dream.

* * *

For more information on the participating authors’ books, click here. And once again, thank you to the authors for joining us, and stay tuned because we’ll be hosting another Once Upon a Crime very soon. Until then, keep reading!

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