UNION JACKED

Style in a Small Town Mystery #9
Paperback ISBN: 9781939197597
eBook ISBN: 9781939197580

Royally Screwed!


When a British investment company buys Samantha Kidd's troubled retail employer, she finds herself torn between her role as management and the unionized employees picketing for better pay. Her only distraction is the retirement party she's planning for Detective Loncar on the side. But when a shooter fires into the crowd outside the store and injures two men, Samantha's priorities shift. One victim is the head of the union. The other is DetectiveLoncar.

The detective warns Samantha to stay out of the investigation ... and then slips into a coma. Head his warning? Not bloody likely. With two possible victims, Samantha finds herself lacking direction. Was the strike captain playing dirty with his negotiations? Or are those rumors about Loncar's personal life true? Between a cop bar, a life coach, a possible pregnancy, and a blue line that's anything but thin, Samantha's teacup runneth over. One thing's for sure: after this case, nothing will be the same.

Union Jacked is the ninth funny cozy in the Style in a Small Town mystery series. If you like loyal characters, questionable cops, and stylish drama, then you’ll love Diane Vallere’s chic mystery.

Get gobsmacked with Samantha Kidd today!

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Excerpt:

1: Simontha

 

This wasn’t my cup of tea. I mean, technically, it was my cup of tea. Technically, all eight of the cups on the table were my cups of tea. But I’m more of a coffee person, and if I had to sample any more of the eight corresponding pots of tea on the table, I was going to float away.

“Simontha, it is imperative that you decide quickly,” the woman from the British Embassy said. “It’s a matter of life and death.”

Victoria Pratt, the woman pressuring me to be swift and decisive, wasn’t really from the British Embassy. And choosing a flavor of tea wasn’t a life-and-death matter. But ever since Nick Taylor, my husband of less than a year, had left for an extended business trip to Asia to outsource a new designer sneaker collection, my active imagination had been given room to run wild. Pretending Victoria and I were on a mission of some importance helped me focus on the outcome (and ignore the way she said “Samantha”).

I sometimes think I would have made an excellent secret agent.

“The blue teapot,” I said. “Definitely the blue one.”

“English breakfast. Brilliant. Next, we choose scones.”

Victoria was the sales executive for Piccadilly Group, a British investment company that had bought Tradava, the department store where I worked. She wore a white shirt under a teal sweater under a tweed blazer over flat-front, camel-colored, narrow-legged pants tucked into riding boots. Her hair was strawberry blond and bobbed at chin length, and her skin was creamy with a touch of pink in the cheeks that looked one hundred percent natural. If I rubbed a magic lantern and conjured up a British sales executive, I couldn’t have imagined a better manifestation.

She took her tea very seriously.

I was less interested in the tea selection than I pretended to be. When Victoria heard I was planning a party for—let’s call him a colleague—in addition to the grand reopening party for Tradava, she approved my request to host my side party right here. That decision solved the problem of location but left me with the unique challenge of explaining a British-themed retirement party for a homicide detective.

Considering it was a surprise party, I had at least a week to figure something out.

While Victoria poured our next mug of tea, fireworks testing commenced. The bright sun made the display undetectable by sight, but the sound of cannons followed by pops made it impossible to ignore.

Piccadilly Group was the financial savior who had swept in and saved Tradava, the department store where I worked as the buyer of special assortments. (It’s a bogus title.) They consolidated our inventory, which we sold off in a clearance sale, and they remerchandised the store into novelty departments based on the whims of their buying team on the other side of the Atlantic. I was assigned to spend the week with their senior sales executive who’d been tasked to train me on the British way of thinking.

How hard could it be? Did they think I’ve never read Bridget Jones’s Diary?

The fireworks quieted down, and I flipped a white folder open and pulled out the top sheet of paper. “Victoria, I don’t think you’ve locked in entertainment yet, right? I found a band that could liven things up—”

“Simontha,” she said, putting her hand on my upper arm. “You’re precious. But remember, this grand reopening is about shopping. We want to offer our customers something they didn’t know they needed. If they want to listen to a band, they can go to a pub. Do you understand?”

She asked this last question as if I were a small child learning new vocabulary words.

“But this isn’t just any band. It’s an all-female, punk rock cover band called The—”

“Simontha,” she interrupted.

“I understand.”

“Brilliant.”

While Victoria refreshed her tea (Darjeeling? Oolong?), an attractive man with a swarthy complexion, dark hair, and one-inch sideburns jogged toward us. He wore a hooded sweatshirt under a blazer with well-worn jeans and Converse sneakers. “Hi,” he said to me. “You work at the store, right?”

“Yes,” I said.

He tossed a folder onto the table next to mine and held out his hand. “Harvey Monahan. I’m the strike leader.”

“Kidd,” I said. “Samantha Kidd.” I shook his hand.

“How come you’re not with us?”

“I was needed out here.”

Harvey shook his head. “Management is taking advantage of you. Tradava lays off three-quarters of the store staff and thinks everybody will show up for a paycheck. They’re working you harder than the law allows. And for what? You deserve a voice.”

“My job is interesting. Every day it’s something different.” Like six months ago when they sent me to Las Vegas to cover the lingerie market. The trip had ended in a spontaneous wedding ceremony and a honeymoon in Paris. I doubted that would have been in the job description if my job were more official.

“Are you sure everybody wants to be picketing?” I asked. “Some people are probably happy the store isn’t going out of business. Maybe they don’t want to rock the boat.”

Harvey scowled. “They don’t know how it works. I’ve coordinated strikes at retailers from here to New Jersey. Our actions will show Piccadilly Group they can’t walk all over us. I have a ninety-nine percent success rate in negotiating for better compensation packages.”

“Why not one hundred?”

He waved his hand dismissively. “We got hung up on parking spaces in Cherry Hill.” He pulled his phone from his pocket and smiled at something on the screen. “Management is about to cave, and they won’t be able to ignore me after today.” He winked, and despite my newlywed status, I blushed.

Harvey turned to Victoria. He tapped the folder on the table. “These are for you,” he said.

Without stopping, her eyes darted from the biscuits to the shiny white folder and back to the biscuits. “Not necessary.” If I hadn’t been paying attention, I might not have noticed the faint blush that crept up her neck.

Victoria checked her watch—an expensive-looking timepiece with Roman numerals and a leather strap that wrapped around her wrist several times—and sighed. “Simontha, I need to pop into the store for a liaison with human resources. Can I trust you to carry on until I return?”

“Sure,” I said, though the carrying on part seemed vague since we’d already chosen our tea.

“Why don’t I follow up on that band I mentioned?”

She gave me a tight-lipped smile. Harvey grabbed his folder from the table, and they walked toward the store. The two of them made an odd pair as they crossed the lot: his dark, Mediterranean good looks and mostly black attire, her peaches-and-cream complexion and English countryside ensemble. Yet I sensed Victoria wasn’t inexperienced when it came to negotiations and wondered if Harvey’s record was about to take a hit.

I waited until Victoria was out of sight before pulling a bag of pretzels out of my handbag and biting into a loop. My stomach had been queasy all morning, and I figured pretzels were a close cousin to saltines. I chased the pretzel with a swig from a small silver flask filled with coffee.

A dark-blue sedan pulled into the parking lot. The car stopped in front of me, and my favorite homicide detective got out. (What? Don’t you have a favorite homicide detective too?) I quickly capped my flask and hid it behind me.

“Detective Loncar,” I said. I considered asking what brought him there but was afraid to jinx any possible interest in him updating his wardrobe.

Detective Loncar and I had an interesting past. He was in his mid-sixties, wore ill-fitting suits, was going through a divorce, and investigated homicides around Ribbon. I’d say he’s the person I’d call if I ever got arrested, but the more likely situation is that he’d already be there.

This was bad. This was worse than bad. Not because it may have appeared to the detective that I was day-drinking in the open parking lot outside my employer, but because in addition to my job responsibilities, I had a secondary secret agenda.

“I’m organizing the grand reopening for Tradava,” I said tentatively. “There are a lot of decisions to be made. Decisions that require my unique knowledge of, um, stuff.”

Loncar crossed his arms. “Are your plans going to cause problems that could tax the police department resources unnecessarily?”

“This party is as much for you as it is for them,” I said without thinking.

Loncar’s expression changed from mildly tolerant to understanding. And in this case, understanding translated to a probably correct—let’s face it; he was a detective—suspicion of what I meant.

“You’re not—”

I winced. “I am.”

He shook his head. “I don’t believe this.”

“Just to be clear, what do you think I’m doing here?”

“Ms. Kidd,” he said. The people on the other side of the parking lot could probably sense his annoyance.

“Right. Technically, I am out here working for Tradava.” Oh, bloody hell. “But I’m planning your retirement party too.”

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