Yappy Hour: New Excerpt

Yappy Hour by Diana Orgain
Yappy Hour by Diana Orgain
Yappy Hour by Diana Orgain is the first cozy in a new series about a local bar and it's furry regulars (available November 3, 2015).

With side-splitting humor, an irresistible cast of characters-both human and canine-and an intimate small town setting, Yappy Hour is sure to delight fans of Rita Mae Brown and Diane Kelly. Every Friday night in the idyllic seaside town of Pacific Cove, CA, the Roundup Crew, a group of dog-loving friends, meet at a neighborhood wine bar for Yappy Hour. When Rachel, the owner, mysteriously leaves town and asks her sister, Maggie (who is neither pet friendly nor business savvy), to run the bar in her absence, things get complicated fast. Maggie arrives to open up and finds a body sprawled on the floor, and even worse, an incriminating letter with Rachel's name on it nearby. On impulse, she hides the letter from the hunky detective, Officer Brad Brooks, who's dispatched to the scene.

When Rachel is declared the top suspect by the police, Maggie decides to investigate on her own. She reopens the bar and gets to know the members of the Roundup Crew, including chief organizer Yolanda, who never goes anywhere without her signature strappy stilettos or her Yorkie Beepo. Maggie juggles searching for clues, trying to locate Rachel, and serving up Doggie Daiquiris, Muttguaritas and homemade Arf D'Oeuvres-until another body turns up. The Roundup Crew must step in and save the bar, and it seems the only way to do that will be to solve the mystery and turn Maggie into a dog-lover in this charming, light-hearted cozy.

Chapter One

“What do you mean, you fired her?” I said into my cell phone as I brushed sand from the beach towel.

It was at least the fourth time I’d had the same conversation with my great-uncle Ernest. Grunkly-E we called him, which morphed into Grunkly, but on occasion turned into Grouchy or Grumpy. He was one of the reasons I’d recently relocated to Pacific Cove. He and my sister, Rachel, not to mention the fact that my stint as a financial advisor in New York had come to an abrupt end after the market had crashed.

It was time to hit the reset button on my life. What I needed most was some fresh seaside air, and when I’d learned that the Soleado Mexican Riviera Cruise Line had opened a new port in town, the position of bookkeeper/purser practically shouted out my name.

“Well, Maggie, she was real mean. She wanted me to walk around and stuff,” Grunkly said.

A few months back, Grunkly suffered a mild heart attack. He’d been hospitalized and on the verge of “the great beyond” as he called it, but he’d battled back from the heart attack and the case of pneumonia he’d contracted. Actually, at his age of eighty-four, the doctors all considered it a miraculous recovery. Now our biggest obstacle was finding him a day nurse that he liked, or rather, wouldn’t fire at the drop of a hat.

“You’re supposed to walk around! Breathe some fresh air. That’s how you’re going to get better.”

“I’m already better. Plus, she didn’t like Benny. Actually told him I wasn’t home, when I was.”

I laughed. Benny was Grunkly’s longtime bookie. If anyone got in the way of Grunkly’s gambling they were sure to get the ax.

“I wanted to place a bet on Winged Arrow. The odds are seven to two. Is he there now?” Grunkly asked.

“Here? I’m at the beach,” I said.

“I know the trainer, Aaron, was going to take Winged Arrow out there, to walk in the salt water. It’s good for the hooves. I thought maybe Benny might be with them.”

I glanced up and down the beach. There was a couple near me perched on a plaid blanket, a platinum blonde who looked like an escapee from America’s Next Top Model with her Ken-doll boyfriend. Then in the distance was a group of people walking their small dogs.

I figured the group had to be the Roundup Crew, or at least part of them. I knew from my sister, Rachel, that this group met every Friday on the beach for a walk that ultimately ended up at her bar, The Wine and Bark, for Yappy Hour. My sister was as happy-go-lucky as they came, and I was glad she found her calling running a bar; it seemed the perfect fit for her personality.

“No, Grunkly. I don’t see Benny or Aaron and Winged Arrow.”

“That’s too bad.” He paused. There was a small sound as if he was lighting a cigarette.

“You’re not smoking, are you?”

Grunkly had smoked for over sixty years.

“No,” he said, almost too fast. “I’m not supposed to be smoking, Magpie!”

“I know you’re not supposed to be smoking! But it kind of sounded like you just lit a cigarette.”

“No,” he said again.

“So, what I’m figuring is that the nurse who came over today wasn’t letting you smoke and—”

“Sweetheart,” he said quickly. “I’m wondering if I could bother you to run an errand for me.”

I smiled to myself. He’d do anything to get me off the topic of his smoking.

“What errand? I’m not buying you a carton of Lucky Strikes,” I said.

A seagull landed on my towel and thrust its beak out at me, accusingly. No doubt looking for crumbs. I pulled a roll of Ritz Crackers out of my bag, the motion scaring the bird away.

“I was thinking you could pick me up a nice cut of steak. Go to the Meat and Greet. They always have some nice filet mignons on hand.”

The Meat and Greet was a locally owned shop that sold quality cuts of meat and hand-painted greeting cards. The downturn in the economy had hit Pacific Cove so hard that it seemed almost every shop or storefront did double billing just to stay in business. There was Bradford and Blahnik—which was a law firm selling designer shoes in order to keep their practice open. Dreamery Creamery, the ice cream shop that sold kids’ clothes, and Magic Read, which was part magic shop and part bookstore/café.

Even Rachel was running a semi-double business with a wine bar that catered to dog owners and their beloved beasts.

“Sure, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my Grunkly,” I said, breaking up a cracker and dropping the bits on the sand next to my towel. The seagull returned followed by a flock of its friends. I crumbed the rest of the package and stood. It was getting too hot to sit at the beach, anyway. Sweat was dripping down my face. I needed some shade. “I’ll pick up a couple of steaks and be over later.”

*   *   *

After dropping my beach bag at my apartment and taking a quick shower, I frantically checked messages. There was no update from the Soleado Cruise Line. Well, after all, it was late Friday afternoon. I couldn’t be too disappointed.

Didn’t most hiring managers reach out early in the week?

Yes, Monday I would surely get a call to schedule an interview. I just had to stay optimistic, and there was nothing like shopping to keep one’s spirits up. I slipped my credit card into my jeans pocket and headed downtown.

It was a short walk on a small cobblestone path. The town should have been called Pacific Charm, because that’s exactly what it exuded. There was a fountain in the center of the town square with a marble statue of a man on a horse. It was rumored that the statue was of the town’s founder, yet the placard had mysteriously disappeared ages ago, and nobody I talked to could remember the founder’s name. The statue looked remarkably like John Wayne. The only way I could reconcile this in my mind was that either the Duke had founded Pacific Cove or the artist who had created the statue had been a fan.

The town square was flanked by restaurants and little shops. In one corner of the square was a sundial and opposite that was Rachel’s bar. I glanced at my watch. It was early, still only 4:00 P.M., but Rachel might already be there prepping for Yappy Hour. I decided to pop in on her after picking up the steaks for Grunkly. From another corner, the smell of homemade waffle cones wafted through the air.

Ah, the Dreamery Creamery!

First the steaks, then I’ll splurge on a cone before dropping in on Rachel.

I stopped in front of the window of Designer Duds. There was a handbag in the shape of a chicken prominently displayed. I stifled a giggle. The jacket on the mannequin next to the chicken bag, however, was what caught my eye. It was navy blue with little white anchors embroidered on it. I imagined showing up to an interview with Soleado Cruise Line wearing the jacket.

Too overzealous?

Probably.

I walked on toward the Meat and Greet and entered the small butcher shop, a bell going off as I stepped on the welcome mat.

A voice called out from the back. “I’ll be right with you.”

“No problem,” I called back, marveling at the selection on display. There was a large butcher counter filled with prime cuts, and in front of the counter was a delectable-looking collection of gourmet cheeses and chutneys.

I noticed a small rack of greeting cards and picked one up. It was a hand-painted watercolor rendition of the beach. Another was a watercolor version of the town square. The sundial was depicted in various cards. Some cards were of parts of the cove itself that I had yet to visit, but most were studies of sea creatures. My favorites were a close-up of a starfish, and another of a jellyfish, its luminescent colors splashed across the card. They were all done by the same artist, someone named Coral.

Something stirred inside me. Years ago, when life was simple, I’d loved to paint. I probably was never as gifted or dedicated as Coral—whoever she was—but maybe it would be a nice pastime again. Life had been so busy in New York that I’d felt I’d almost lost myself; maybe painting would help me put some pieces back together.

“Thanks for waiting.” A middle-age woman in a butcher coat appeared from the back of the shop and hustled to her place behind the counter. She had unruly dark hair and dimples when she smiled, making me smile back at her.

“No worries,” I said. “I just came in for a cut of meat for my uncle.”

The woman studied me a moment. “Your uncle? Who’s that? I know everyone in town and I don’t think we’ve met yet.”

“My great-uncle Ernest—”

“Oh! Are you Maggie? Ernest has told me so much about you! His little Magpie. He is so proud of you, and of Rachel, too. Well, the whole town is proud of Rachel. What a doll, an absolute doll. How do you like Pacific Cove?”

“Just getting settled in—”

“Yes, it takes some time. Are you staying at the Casa Ensenada Apartments? Ensenada means cove in Spanish, did you know? Those little apartments are so charming. Do you have one with a little patio and ocean view?”

I laughed. After living in New York City for a stint, it seemed unreal that a perfect stranger would not only know where I was living, but actually know the layout of my apartment. “I do have an ocean view.”

The woman smiled. “Lovely. Lovely. You’ll have to have a housewarming! We could do something fun,” the woman continued. “Like a stock-the-bar party.” She wiggled her eyebrows at me.

“If I manage to get hired at Soleado, I’ll schedule a party immediately,” I said.

“Oh! Have you applied to the new cruise line?” she asked.

“Yeah. Bookkeeper, but I guess in ship lingo it’s called purser.”

“Right. I hear you’re a financial whiz!” she said.

“I don’t know about that—”

The woman laughed, a low deep satisfied rumble that would make anyone in earshot vibrate. “You’re just being modest! Rachel raves about you. You should have her put in a word for you. They need someone sharp. You have to deal with foreign currency and whatnot. Now what can I get for you? Is Ernest feeling any better? We had such a scare a few weeks ago. Is his appetite back?”

“He’s requesting a filet, so I think we can safely say he’s on the road to recovery.”

The woman took a tray of meat from behind the counter and placed a few cuts onto butcher paper. “I know he likes the marbled ones. How many filets?”

“Two,” I said.

I hadn’t officially been invited to dinner, but I suspected Grunkly would want me to stay. Besides, I didn’t have any other plans except to hover over my phone waiting for a call from the cruise line. It’d be good to get my mind off it for a while.

The woman wrapped up the meat and placed it into a pink plastic bag. I paid and headed out into the bright sunlight, a cool ocean breeze sweeping over my face. Thankfully the heat of the day was finally relenting a bit.

My phone buzzed.

Soleado!

I pulled my phone from my pocket and glanced at the screen. It was a text from Rachel.

Maggie, I’m going out of town unexpectedly. I know it’s short notice, but can you tend to The Wine and Bark until I get back? Yappy hour is at 5pm. You have a key, don’t you? If not, ask Dan, the manager at DelVecchio’s. xoxox

How strange. This wasn’t like Rachel at all.

She was going out of town? Where?

Why hadn’t she said anything about it to me earlier? While I had no problem helping out my sister, I hesitated over dealing with the dogs, as they never seemed particularly friendly to me.

I checked my watch; it was almost four thirty now. I fumbled with my phone and dialed her number. I did have a key for the bar on me, but something in my gut began to buzz with worry.

Her voice mail clicked on.

I left a quick message, “Hey Rach, what’s going on? I’m on my way to the bar now. Hope you’re okay. Call me.” I made my way across the cobblestone walkway toward The Wine and Bark. I dialed Grunkly next. He picked up on the first ring.

“Hi, Grunkly, I got a message from Rachel. She needs me to cover for her at the bar.”

“Oh, uh huh.”

It was his distracted voice. “Grunkly, are you watching a race?”

“No, it’s ten minutes to post,” he said.

That explained it.

“Have you seen Benny?” he asked.

I laughed. “Well, I didn’t run into him at the Meat and Greet.”

“Uh huh,” Grunkly said.

“I got your steak, though.”

“Great,” he said.

“But I have to go to The Wine and Bark—”

“No problem, honey. I’ll have a can of Dinty Moore stew.”

“All right. Should I save the steaks for tomorrow?”

“That’d be really nice,” Grunkly said with such a flat tone that I knew he wasn’t listening to a word I said.

Nevertheless, I insisted on asking, “Do you know where Rachel is?”

“Oh, Magpie, I got a call beeping in. I have to get it. It could be Benny.”

Before I could say anything else, Grunkly hung up on me.

I sighed as I stood in front of the antique wooden door of The Wine and Bark. It was painted blue and orange and had “happy vibe” practically pulsing right through it. I had to give Rachel credit, she’d built the place from the ground up with limited funds and now the business was thriving.

I laced the pink plastic bag around my wrist, then dug for the key in my pocket. When I shoved the key into the lock, the first thing that struck me was that I hadn’t needed the key after all. The door wasn’t even locked.

Now that really isn’t like Rachel.

The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I pushed open the door and stepped into the darkened bar. My eyes adjusted slowly, the outline of the great L-shaped mahogany bar coming into view, then a few tables with stools perched on top to facilitate mopping the floors, and then near the back of the bar, right in front of the small corridor that led to HIS and HERS, the silhouette of a woman standing over a body slumped on the floor.

Rachel, what have you got me into?

 

Copyright © 2015 Diana Orgain.

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Diana Orgain was born in San Francisco, CA. As a child she loved Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries and dreamed of being a writer one day. She went on to earn her B.A and M.F.A. in Creative Writing from SFSU with a minor in acting. Diana has acted professionally in many theater roles and national commercials. She' wrote several plays, which were produced in San Francisco State University. Bundle of Trouble: A Maternal Instincts Mystery (pub Berkley Prime Crime) is her first novel.”

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