Bidding War Break-In A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy Mystery

Bidding War Break-In A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy Mystery

IN A SMALL TOWN, EVERYONE IS IN YOUR BUSINESS

When Bramblett County Realtor Lily Sprayberry puts her deceased client’s townhome, the last in a sought after mixed-use development community, on the market, she winds up in the throes of a bidding war.

Knowing a portion of the money will go to a scholarship in her client’s name, Lily schedules a realtor only open house to raise the bids even higher. But on the day of the event, she discovers the home’s been vandalized, and every potential offer is taken off the table.

Someone is out to stop the sale, and ruin Lily in the process.

With her reputation hanging by a thread and the community up in arms, Lily sets out to fix things, and lands right in the middle of a hot mess of vandalism, lies, theft, and cheating. Lily soon discovers that some people don’t want their secrets known, and they’ll do whatever it takes to keep them under wraps.

Available on Amazon.

I had This Idea Pop Into My Head!

I had This Idea Pop Into My Head!

Sometimes the writing muse takes over and boom! I get going and can’t stop. I’m supposed to be going over the final edits of Bidding War Break In, but well, the muse always wins. I think I might keep up with this one, too. What do you think?

PS: It’s not edited, so don’t judge!

 

My German Shepherd barked next to my bed, waking me from a dizzying and deep dark slumber.

My dead German Shepherd.

I must be dreaming, I thought, closed my eyes again and shook my head to clear the fog.

Magnum was still there, his brown and beige muzzle and big dark eyes centimeters from my face. So close, I could smell him. He licked my cheek, and I felt his smooth, wet tongue slide up my right cheek.

I had to be dreaming. Magnum died of bone cancer three years ago. Yes, I missed him terribly, and I’d dreamed about him before, but never like this, never so real.

I shifted my body to him, wanting desperately to touch his wiry, thick hair, and my body screamed in pain. When I moved my left arm, something pulled on it, stopping me it from going any farther. The pain having awaken me completely, though my brain was still foggy, I clearly saw the tube attached to the top of my left hand.

“Where am I?” It even hurt to speak, and I’d barely said that over a whisper. “What’s…how…what’s going on?”

My best friend Carrie Hutchinson stood next to Magnum. “You were in an accident. Well, we were in an accident. You’re in the hospital, but don’t sweat it. You’ll be out in no time.”

My entire body hurt. I wiggled my toes to see if they worked, and breathed a sigh of relief when they did. “I…I don’t understand. What happened?”

Carrie’s long red hair was pulled into a ponytail on the top of her head, her standard go-to ‘do, and her face, free of makeup, sparkled in the light of the room. “Do you remember the drive home from the movies?”

I focused hard on what she was saying, but none of it was familiar. “Movie? I don’t…I don’t remember going to a movie.” I tried to move again, but the pain overwhelmed me. “My body hurts. I…I don’t understand.”

I cried, and Carrie held my hand, squeezing it ever so lightly. Bright a halo of bright light shined around her. “Honey, you need to rest. You’re pretty beat up, but nothing’s broken. You hit your head hard on the dashboard and got yourself a bad concussion, but with rest, you’ll be fine.”

I closed my eyes and a scene played out in my head. Carrie laughing. Me, head down, staring at my phone as she drove, a deafening sound, and then darkness. My eyes popped open. “I…I remember.” I paused, trying to force the images to continue in my head. “Sort of. You were driving, laughing, and then something loud, like a bang, but that’s it.”

She sighed. “That’s about right. That loud something was the semitruck smashing head on into us. You know how you always scrunch down in the seat when I drive?”

I wanted to nod, but it just hurt too much. “Yeah. You drive like a maniac. I don’t want to see what’s coming.” I laughed and my chest hurt from the effort.

“Well, that scrunching saved your life. Had you been upright, you’d be dead.”

I gazed at her, confused and concerned. “You…you’re okay.” I focused my tired and very likely drugged eyes on Carrie. “You look fine.”

“Well, that’s what happens when you die, I guess. You don’t spend an eternity looking like a crunched mass of blood and…and other body parts.”

I didn’t understand. “That’s not funny. My head hurts, don’t mess with me now.”

She leaned toward me and sadness filled her eyes. “Al, I’m not messing with you. I didn’t survive the crash. When the truck hit us, I died instantly. My neck flung backward and then my head hit the steering wheel, and my neck snapped. The good news is I didn’t feel a thing. The bad news is…well, you’re going to have to deal with my mom. She’s on her way to town now.”

I stared at her, my head pounding, and my heart hurting because something inside of me told me she wasn’t joking.

She smiled, and glanced down to her side. She patted Magnum on the head. “I sure missed this guy.”

I thought for sure I was dreaming, or maybe on serious pain meds.

The next thing I remember is a nurse gently nudging me awake. “How’re you feeling this morning, Ms. Albertson? You got pretty banged up, but it looks like you’re going to be just fine.” She straightened the blanket on top of me and checked the tube in my arm. She pointed to a large sign on the wall in front of me. It had several different colored smiley emoji-like faces on it with numbers below them. “Pick one and I can give you some more pain medicine if you need it.”

“That one. Second to the end.” I tried to point to it, but she held down my arm.

“It’ll hurt if you move this one, sweetie. Just try to stay comfy and relax. I can get you some juice and crackers if you’d like. Your right hand is free.”

“Where’s Carrie?”

“I’m sorry, who?”

“Carrie. My friend. She was driving the car.” I struggled to speak coherently, my words coming out like a slurred, jumbled mess. “She was just…just here.”

She raised an eyebrow, but just told me to relax and that the doctor would be in soon to talk with me.

“Is she in the waiting room?” I coughed and the sharp, stabbing pains in my chest made me want to cry.

“Honey, just rest. The doctor will be in soon.”

I don’t know how long it took for the doctor to arrive. Time stood still in that sterile hospital room. They’d turned on the TV to a news channel, but I floated in and out of sleep, and didn’t pay attention. When he finally did show up, he sat on the rolling stool on the side of my bed, and his breathing woke me.

“Miss Albertson, I’m doctor Harley. How’re you feeling?” He’d been looking at a clipboard and I caught a glimpse of his shiny bald head. “Looks like your numbers are good.” His eyes met mine. “How’s your head feeling? That’s quite a bump you got.”

“I’m okay, I guess,” I mumbled.

He flipped the papers on the clipboard and set it aside. Smiling at me, he said, “I think another night here will do the trick. I’ll check on you again in the morning, but I see no reason as of now to keep you longer than that.”

“Is Carrie still here?”

He raised his eyebrow. “I’m sorry?”

“My friend, Carrie Hutchinson. She was in the accident with me.”

He scanned through the pages on the clipboard again. “Miss Albertson, I’m sorry to have to tell you, but the other person in the car with you died at the scene.”

Carrie’s voice whispered in the back of my mind.My neck flung backward and then my head hit the steering wheel, and my neck snapped.

“No. I…I was dreaming. She didn’t…she’s not…”

The doctor made shushing sounds, but they didn’t stop me from crying, from screaming.

“No, I just saw her. She was just here with Magnum. I saw her.” I struggled to sit up, but the pain overwhelmed me, and I couldn’t. “Where is she? I need to see Carrie.”

He called for a nurse and mumbled some garbled mess I didn’t understand, and the next thing I knew, I was asleep again.

 

* * *

 

“Hey, Allie. Wake up.”

I opened one eye and smiled when I saw Carrie at the side of my bed. I tilted my body toward her and a lightning bolt of pain shot through the left side of my head. “Oh, wow. That hurts.”

“Don’t move silly, you’ll just make it worse.”

Suddenly, I remembered what she’d told me, and what the doctor said, and I jerked my head her direction in spite of the pain. “The doctor said the other person in the car didn’t live, so how…what?” My mind struggled to understand, but it just didn’t make sense.

“I told you that already, remember?”

A tear slid down my cheek. “My head hurts so much. I can’t think clearly. Everything’s so foggy and jumbled.”

She held my hand in hers, and spoke in soft, sincere voice. “Honey, the doctor wasn’t making anything up. Like I told you, you hit your head, hard, on the dashboard, and I…” She smiled and her eyes sparkled. “I died.”

I don’t know why, but suddenly, I believed her. “How…wha—how are you here? Are you in my imagination? Am I dreaming?”

“That would be a pretty cool trick now, wouldn’t it? Me inside your head? I wonder if I can actually do that?” She released my hand and waved hers in the air. “Abracadabra. Put me inside Allie’s head.” A few seconds later she grunted. “Well, that stinks. I guess I can’t.”

I blinked.

“Honey, you’re a little slow to the game today, probably because of the big ol’ bump on your head, so I guess I have to spell it out for you. I’m dead, and I’m a ghost.”

I blinked again. “What?”

“Met my maker. Kicked the bucket. Gone to the great beyond. You know, dead. Like my Aunt Dollie, the one that up and croaked earlier this year? Her son found her on the bathroom floor? That kind of dead. Only I’m back as a ghost, and you’re the only one that can see me.”

My eyes popped open and it hurt my brain.

She rubbed her hands together. “This is gonna be so much fun.”

Read Chapter One of Signed, Sealed and Dead A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy Mystery

Read Chapter One of Signed, Sealed and Dead A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy Mystery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signed, Sealed and Dead

A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy Mystery

Chapter One

 

Small town folk don’t always take care of their own.

“It’s perfect.”

I swiveled my head toward my best friend and business partner, Belle Pyott. “What—oh, my gosh. It is.” I gawked at the large, framed painting. “Carter would love this.”

“Uh, obviously. Why do you think I’m putting a hold tag on it?” She stuck a pink sticky note on it with a hold for Belle Pyottlabel already applied to it.

“How many of those did you make?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know, maybe fifty or two hundred?”

“Bless your heart, you’re so cheap.”

“I prefer to think of it as thrifty.” She wiggled her head. “Or efficient. Yes, efficient.”

“Belle, the community sale hasn’t even started yet. Technically, we’re supposed to be making sure everything is ready to go, not shopping, and you’ve stuck, what, at least ten of those sticky notes on items already? That’s cheating.”

She stuck another one on a gray pillow with white script that read, Welcome Home. “It’s more like seventeen, and it’s not cheating, it’s supporting a good cause.”

“You have a problem.”

“If we end up buying a flip, we’re going to need things to stage the place anyway, so consider this a business opportunity.”

She did have a point, but I wasn’t going to give her credit for it. We’d been discussing the possibility of purchasing a house and flipping it, but it was just a discussion, nothing serious, to me at least, so snatching up décor at the community sale and fundraiser for the Bramblett County High School sports programs for possible staging was a reach, and a big one at that.

I chastised myself for searching the rest of the items in that particular section for the flip after she mentioned it, but I couldn’t help myself and continued doing it anyway. I found myself scanning over the other over-sized portrait and wondering if Carter would like one of Michael Jordan, too. I ran my finger across a wooden vase, fought the urge to pick it up and lost.

The chips on the top made me wonder about its story. How old was it, and what hidden secrets did it hold? Who’d first bought it, or was it ever even bought? I flipped it over and read the small engraving on the bottom. Handmade by JC. Who was JC? A professional vase maker, maybe, or perhaps just someone who’d lived in Bramblett or nearby and made vases for a hobby? The wood was white hickory, that much I knew. I’d spent years sitting on my front porch whittling the stuff with my father and brothers, so I’d recognized it immediately. I glided my hand along the smooth surface, wondering who had touched it before me, what their lives were like, who they loved, what had mattered to them.

So much had happened recently, and it had touched my heart in such a profound way, I’d changed, or at least, I felt as though I had. And that little vase represented something more significant to me than just a knick knack. It was a piece of someone’s life, their history, maybe even their soul, yet there it sat, in the Bramblett County High School gymnasium on a cold and rainy Saturday morning along with thousands of other items, ready to be sold to a stranger, for a measly two bucks.

“Hey, may I have one of your stickers, please?”

Belle chuckled. “I knew it.”

I didn’t argue. I placed the sticky note on the vase. I didn’t want or feel the need to explain that I wasn’t saving the vase because of a possible house flip, but for myself, because I felt a need to save the vase to retain its integrity and value, to appreciate its history. I couldn’t quite make sense of it myself, so how could I explain it to Belle? Instead, I smiled, and let her think she was right. “Hey, I’m going to go find Carter and let him know about the painting. I’d rather not keep it on hold if he doesn’t want it. It’s a big ticket item.”

The painting, one of the football greats, Walter Payton, was a dark wood framed thirty by forty inch of his upper body, mostly his head and shoulders, but with his trademark number, 34, well displayed on the side of his shoulder. Even though I was born and raised in Georgia, and my loyalty was to the University of Georgia Bulldogs, I didn’t dislike professional football, but I didn’t much care about it either way. I understood the impact of the late Walter Payton, though, and how people from all parts of the country loved him.

Carter Trammell was a recent real estate client and a new friend for both Belle and me. He’d moved from Chicago and into one of the recently built condos on the old Redbecker property a month before taking a position at the high school as both a teacher and the new head of the lacrosse program. The position also included the varsity head coach position, which, from what I’d heard, was a big deal.

Lacrosse was a growing sport in the South, and highly competitive from what he’d said, and the school paid a lot of money to bring on a coach with actual playing experience. Mike Longley, the previous coach, and the assistant varsity football coach, had his knickers in a knot because of it, too. At least that’s what I’d learned through the grapevine, and by grapevine, I meant the local gossip shop, Millie’s Café, and the head gossip herself, Millie, the café owner.

One didn’t have to be the county sheriff to find out relevant information in a small town, or like me, date one either, at least not in Bramblett County, Georgia. In Bramblett County, Georgia, when someone needed to know something, they just had to grab a cup of coffee or an iced tea and a freshly made scone and chat up Millie, and they’d get an earful of the who’s who and the what’s what.

And that was that.

But a word to the wise, don’t ever call Millie a gossip, not if you ever planned on sticking around town. Crossing Millie was like crossing a railroad track when two trains were heading toward each other, and standing there like a deer blinded by headlights. You just had to be crazy to do it.

The school principal stopped me on my way to Carter’s office. “Hey, Lilybit, how’re things shaping up?

Everyone in town that knew me growing up called me Lilybit. I wasn’t a fan, but I’d learned to deal with it. My brothers had started it, and though most people thought of it as a term of endearment, I’d considered it more of a, look there’s little Lily who’s still a kid and hasn’t grown up, kind of thing. I was almost twenty-seven, owned my own real estate business, and I had worked hard to establish myself as a professional in the community. Being called Lilybit seemed so unprofessional. It yanked my cord at times, but I did my best to let it go. “Looking great, sir. We should be ready when the doors open.” I checked my iWatch. “In twenty-two minutes.” I wave of panic rushed through me, though there was no reason for it. The event was set. I’d been a part of this for three years in a row already, and it had been going on for as long as I could remember before that. It would be fine, and I knew that. “Have you seen Coach Trammell? I wanted to run something by him.”

“Not recently, but I’m sure he’s around here somewhere. Have you checked his office?”

“On my way there now, thanks.”

The high school was one of the older buildings in the county, but with the recent growth in suburban Atlanta and the surrounding counties, Bramblett had seen a surge in new residents, too. Our small county had a twelve percent population increase over the past year, which of course, was great for businesses, including real estate, but change didn’t come easily to the people of my small community. One of the benefits, though, was the planned and already completed upgrades to the high school.

I walked through the backside of the gymnasium and straightened my shoulders as a feeling of Bramblett County Bulldog pride came over me as it always had when I saw the hard work of the Bulldog athletes that came before and followed after me displayed on the gym walls. The rows of regional and state championship banners for basketball and cheerleading hanging from the white and red painted cinder block walls showed true sportsmanship and dedication.

A nightmarish image of my sweaty gym uniform, the one our evil gym teacher, Mrs. Settles, God rest her soul, picked out, came rushing back to me. I despised that thing. Somewhere in her late sixties when I was a freshman, and entirely out of sync with anything in fashion, Mrs. Settles fought for the old-school gym uniforms and won. I spent my freshman year in a one piece jumper style, zip up gym uniform with horizontal stripes. Our particular colors were light blue and white, but Mrs. Settles called it sky blue, like the crayon, as if that made it any less horrifying. My mother, for reasons I’d yet to understand, had saved her gym uniform and had we been the same size, would have offered hers because it was the same exact one.

The exact same one.

Bad gym uniform fashion aside, I’d had such fun there with my friends cheering on the basketball teams and being a part of pep rallies for the football teams. Mostly, I cheered for my boyfriend, Dylan Roberts, who, as fate would have it, was my significant other again, too.

I found Carter next to the front side of the bleachers in a somewhat heated conversation with Ginnie Slappey, the lacrosse booster club president. They stood face to face, barely inches apart, so I scooted off to the side and did what any polite person would do; I gave them a moment to finish their conversation.

Carter whispered, but his tone was forceful, and I watched the veins in his neck bulge. “You fix it, or I’m going to the principal.”

Ginnie touched the finger where her wedding ring should have been but wasn’t. She must have forgotten to put it on that morning because if her marriage had hit a tough spot, the rumor mill would have already processed that tasty bit of information and spit it out within seconds of it happening. The skin around her eyes tightened, and I knew then something was up. She hadn’t just forgotten her ring. How she’d kept that secret must have taken a miracle. “I just need a little more time to take care of a few things, Coach. Please.”

“Two days, Ginnie. You hear me? Two days.”

I didn’t want to just walk up unnoticed, so I coughed as I stepped out from behind the bleachers. The two of them separated as I approached, and both smiled like they’d been best friends for years. “Hey Carter, Belle found this great painting of Walter Payton. It’s pretty big, but we thought it would be perfect for your family room wall. Do you want to come take a look?”

His eyes shifted to Ginnie’s. He spoke to me, but clearly, he was talking to her. “Sure. We’re done here.”

“But Carter, we still need to talk about—”

“I said we’re done here.”

Ginnie nodded, and as she walked away, I couldn’t help but wonder what their argument was about. We walked back to the community sale and the table with the painting, chatting along the way. “Everything going okay with the new job?” It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to ask, but I didn’t want to be nosy.

He nodded. “So far, so good. Can’t officially start coaching just yet, but I do have the team coming in for workouts in the mornings a few times a week, and I’m observing their box lacrosse games, so I’ve got an idea of their strengths.”

“Box lacrosse?” Lacrosse was utterly foreign to me. Back in my day—that wasn’t something I was accustomed to saying since I hadn’t yet reached thirty—lacrosse wasn’t a school sport, or even one played anywhere in the South as far as I knew.

“Indoor lacrosse. It’s basically the same but still a bit different than field lacrosse.” He sort of smiled, but more to himself. “So, really, it’s not the same, but it’s the same concept.” He laughed. “You just have to know the sport to get it.”

I nodded. “Ah, got it. I guess. Maybe.”

“You really don’t know anything about lacrosse, do you?”

“Not a thing.”

“Why don’t you come to a game? We’ve got one this evening. It’s fun to watch. I promise you’ll love it.”

His face lit up when he saw the painting. “Is that it?”

I nodded. “Do you like it?”

“It’s perfect.” He flipped over the tag and grimaced. “Ouch. That’s a lot on a teacher’s salary.”

“Don’t sweat it. Belle is a wiz at negotiating at these things. Trust me.”

He tapped the pink sticky note. “She’s already got it saved. Is that for me?”

I nodded. “I’ll let her know you want it. What’s the minimum you’ll pay?”

He shrugged. “It’s for a good cause, and you did get me a good price on the condo.” He rubbed his stubble-free chin. “You know what? I’ll pay the seventy-five.” He patted his flat stomach. “I can afford to go without a few beers for the rest of the month anyway.” He removed his wallet from his back pocket and searched the area for someone to pay.

“Oh, you can’t buy it just yet,” I explained how the sale worked. “You take one of those stickers over there.” I pointed to the sold stickers. “Write your name on it, stick it on the item, and when the sale officially opens, you can take it over to the registers and pay. If you want to negotiate, you’ll have to come back and do that with the person who’s selling the item individually.”

“Got it.”

“If you see anything else you like, I’d mark it quickly because as you can tell, Belle’s got her own personalized hold stickers so she can negotiate her own prices once the sale officially starts. I think she got here late last night to check everything out.”

He laughed, but cut it short when I didn’t laugh, too. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”

“The woman doesn’t play around when it comes to saving money. The county commissioners asked her to review the annual budget before it was approved for 2019.”

“Seriously?”

I crossed my heart.

“Wow.”

“You have no idea.” I checked my watch. “Oh, wow. I have to run. Fifteen minutes till blast off.”

“About tonight, you really should come.”

“I’d love to. Text me the details.”

“Will do.”

* * *

“I can’t believe I let you drag me here.”

Belle tapped the ignition button on her car, and the engine shut off. “Come, it’s not as bad as it seems. Consider it a diamond in the rough.”

“I’m not sure that’s the right comparison I’d make. How are we supposed to get inside, squat jump over the holes in the steps?”

“Well, you haven’t gone to spin class a lot lately, so…” She let that dig trail off for full effect.

“I’ve had a pulled calf muscle because of the dog you got me for my birthday. The dog I didn’t want, remember?” A twinge of guilt pinched my heart for bad mouthing Bo, my Boxer mix, and the sweetest dog ever. Ugh. Bo was the bomb, and I was a horrible person for using him as a guilt weapon like that. I apologized to my smelly buddy, even though he wasn’t there.

“And you’re a better person because of him.”

“That’s not the point.” I stared up at the monstrosity of a house, or what was left of the house, in front of us. “This is practically a teardown. We’d have to start from scratch. That’s a little more than I’d planned. Not that I’d actually planned any of this.”

We’d spent a few nights munching on potato chips and M&Ms, chatting about buying a fixer-upper, maybe doing some of the work ourselves, but definitely hiring out most of it, and selling the property. Belle had thoughts of owning a bed and breakfast or becoming the next Chip and Joanna Gaines, minus the Chip part, but neither of those options worked for yours truly.

The metropolitan Atlanta area had spread far and wide, and counties like Dawson, just one county over from Bramblett, was quickly becoming a hot spot for families that wanted the comforts of small town life with the convenience of suburbia. Bramblett hadn’t been hit quite yet, but some of the locals feared it was coming, while others prepared for the excitement of the possibilities.

Belle and I had researched those possibilities, noted the trends, and saw the potential. We expected growth, but nothing compared to what counties like Dawson and Forsyth had experienced. Bramblett was just too far north of Atlanta, and the state’s infrastructure couldn’t support the increased volume, not without substantial improvements, anyway, and those weren’t even yet planned. I was happy to know our county would stay a close-knit community with a small town feel indefinitely.

Belle groaned. “Look at those columns though. Aren’t they beautiful?”

I gazed up at the long abandoned Civil War era home. “They are, but I don’t think it’s the right place for us. And we agreed we both need to be one hundred percent in to do this, remember?”

She nodded, and as she did, she pressed the start button on her car. The engine hummed back to life. “On to the next property we go.”

“Hey, Carter asked if we’d like to go to a box lacrosse game tonight. You up for it?”

She backed down the long, gravel driveway. “He asked us, or he asked you?”

“Well, technically he asked me, but we’re a team, so that means us.”

“Did you mention you’d ask me to go?”

“I can’t remember. Why?”

Belle turned left onto Highway 369 and headed further away from town. “Because if you didn’t mention me, then I don’t have to go, and I won’t feel bad about it.”

“You’re so going now.”

“I have to wash my hair.”

“Honey, that don’t work with me, and you know it.”

“Do my nails?”

“You get manicures.”

“Pay my bills?”

“It’s the digital age.”

“Take out the garbage?”

“They don’t collect on Sunday.”

“Walk the dog?”

“He’s my dog.”

She pounded her steering wheel with her fist. “I don’t know a thing about lacrosse. Why doesn’t he coach football? That’s a sport I know.”

“He’s our client and our friend. Besides, he’s new in town. It’s a nice thing for us to do.”

“I know. It just sounds so intimidating.”

“What does?”

“The game, or learning it, I mean.”

“It’s not that hard to understand,” I lied. “It’s kind of a mix of hockey, soccer, and basketball, but you know, different.”

“Bless your heart, you don’t have a clue either.”

“Not a bit.”

“And it sounds boring.”

“How would you even know that if you don’t know a thing about it?”

She ignored me.

“Well?”

“Fine, I don’t know that, but I couldn’t think of anything else to say.”

“You are a hot mess for sure.”

She made another left and pulled off onto a dirt and gravel mixed road. There were so many potholes, my voice sounded the way it did when I was a kid and I talked into a fan, vibrating and humming. “Where are you taking me now?”

She pointed ahead and to the right. “There.”

I glanced at a white mini-mansion. “Uh, no. You might as well turn back around and go home.”

“What? Why? I love this place.”

“We talked about this already.” I crossed my arms over my chest. “I’m not backing down on this one.”

“But it’s a true antebellum style home, and you love them.”

“I do, but it’s not a flip. These homes don’t sell well, and you know that.”

“But it would make a perfect bed and breakfast.”

“Belle, I’m not opening a bed and breakfast.”

“Can we just look inside? Please? Just for fun?”

“Fine, but just for fun.”

The sprawling mini-mansion must have been a looker during its prime, but it was way past its prime. What was left of the place was a skeleton of its past, like a dead tree in the woods left to rot through the seasons until it became a pile of dust and dirt. Only the house wasn’t a pile of dust and dirt just yet. The wide front steps and large round columns with intricate carvings on their tops framing the base of the front porch needed work, but still held their historic beauty, and showed that once upon a time, someone had loved the home enough to pay attention to detail. The wrap-around front porch with its mini columns serving as banisters was the perfect match for the civil war era home, and it didn’t take much of my imagination to picture the daily happenings of the people that had once lived there.

I saw children playing with wooden blocks and cards like in old Southern movies. I imagined debutantes in fluffy hoop skirted gowns with big bows, flitting around the porch, laughing and drinking from expensive crystal, at least until the war. During the war soldiers had stolen most everything, they’d taken to hiding what they treasured, or sold what they needed to for money, and women made due with what they’d had. They’d made their own dresses from drapes, bed covers, and other materials. They’d lost so many of their belongings, things they’d never recover. Even as kids we’d find things buried deep in the ground, things the women hid from Union troops—silver, china, family photos, things they cherished but never came back for, or maybe couldn’t come back for.

I had to admit, the home kidnapped my heart at first sight, but that didn’t mean I wanted to own a bed and breakfast. Just the thought of that made my pulse increase, and I started to sweat.

“So, what do you think?” Belle draped her hand along the old stair railing. “Isn’t it amazing? I mean, seriously. Think of the history. We could restore it to its original design, and it would be incredible.”

All I saw were debt collectors knocking on that beautiful door, not guests. “Exactly where do you think the money for this would come from?”

She sighed. “I’m not sure, but I’m sure we could finagle it somehow.”

I headed toward the door. “When you figure that out, I’ll come back.” I glanced at my iWatch. “In the meantime, we have a lacrosse game to get to.”

She lagged behind me dragging her feet like a child in a toy store during the holiday season. “But you have to admit it’s beautiful.”

“Yes, it is, but I’m a real estate broker, not a bed and breakfast owner.”

“You’re right, but gosh, I really love the idea.”

“In theory, it sounds great, but in reality, I’m just not the bed and breakfast owner kind of person.”

“I’m probably not either, but couldn’t we own it and have someone else run it?”

“Did you answer one of those internet scams where the person wanted to leave you all of their money and it actually worked or something?”

She laughed. “I wish.”

“Then, no, we can’t own it and have someone else run it.”

Pop a Squat with Millie from Millie’s Cafe!

Hold on there, sweetie, that’s an expensive skirt you got on, did you get that at Macy’s? I’ve been at the one down in Atlanta, at the Lenox Mall, but I don’t go there no more. I hear the traffic is terrible out there, and I don’t do city traffic anymore. Nope. Let me wipe the chair off before you pop a squat.

There, that’s better.

Okay, Lily and Belle, they’ll be here right quick, but Lily told me you’d be here before them. They’re finishing up with a client. She asked me to get you one of my secret recipe raspberry scones and a mocha latte. You’ll love ‘em. You want that scone warmed? It’s a bit chilly out there this morning. I can heat it for you.

I’m Millie. See that sign above the door? I own the place, that’s why it’s called Mille’s Café. Been in town here since the day I was born, but I won’t tell you how long that’s been. A lady never reveals her age.

You have any questions about anything in Bramblett County, you just come to me. Millie’s is the place, and I’m not talking just about breakfast and lunch or sweet tea and coffee. Millie’s is the town spot for information, too.

We don’t gossip here in Bramblett because that’s ugly, gossip. We might talk a bit about our folk and what we’ve got going on, but we don’t like to get ugly. Though I will say when those few murders happened, we did talk a bit about those. Now, don’t you worry your pretty little head about them murders. They weren’t that big of a deal. Well, I mean, murder is a big deal, but they weren’t Lily’s fault or anything. Just because she found the bodies doesn’t mean her job is cursed or that she is. I mean, they were her clients and all, but that was just bad luck on her part. It wasn’t because they were her clients.

You okay? Let me get you a glass of ice water. You sit and relax. Like I said, Lily and Belle will be here right quick.

Hello from Lily Sprayberry in Bramblett County, Georgia!

Hello from Lily Sprayberry in Bramblett County, Georgia!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey y’all! My name is Lily Sprayberry. Some of you might know me, and you might know me as Lilybit. I prefer Lily, but you can call me Lilybit if you want. Most everyone here in Bramblett County does.

I hear you’re interested in buying a house here in Bramblett County. Well, I’m your girl. My business partner, and best friend, Belle Pyott and I own the number one realty in the area, Bramblett County Realty, so we can definitely help you out!

Let me just say, you’ve come to the right place, and you’re going to love it here! The northern part of Georgia is just beautiful, especially in the fall. The changing colors of the Blue Ridge Mountains are prettier than a rainbow. Really, you have to see it to believe it.

We do get some snow, but mostly if we’re trapped inside, it’s because of ice, and when that happens, we just sit back and make French toast. I say that because the stores run out of milk, bread, and eggs, and that’s the recipe for French toast, right? Of course, come the following fall, and the hospitals are filling up with new mommas delivering babies, so French toast isn’t the only thing we’re making during the Bramblett County winters!

My momma would wash my mouth out with soap for saying that, but it’s true.

I own the biggest real estate agency in the county along with my life-long friend, Belle Pyott. When I say biggest, I mean that in the loosest sense of the word because there really aren’t any other real estate agencies in town. Okay, there’s one or two, but they don’t really do much business, so we’re the biggest by default. Having grown up in the county makes it easy for us to get business from the locals, but we work hard to market our agency to the growing number of people coming from the Atlanta area, even though our residents aren’t thrilled about what they like to call the invasion of the city people.

Sometimes, I can’t help but agree with them.

Bramblett County is a special place, and when people come here, they don’t want to leave. We celebrate the holidays like we invented them, with Santa living right here in town, and have the most fabulous fall festival ever, and if you think your momma makes the best apple pie ever, well you just haven’t tried Millie’s pie yet, and honestly, you’re missing out.

So, why don’t you tell me a little about yourself? It’ll help me choose a few of the available properties to show you. We’ve got some great new builders in town, from townhomes to condos to some fancy new lofts—though, between us, the townspeople aren’t too thrilled with those. Either way, many of the older homes are on the market, also. People aren’t moving away from town, they’re building new homes on their land.

While you’re telling me about yourself, I’ll go ahead and order you a sweet tea and a raspberry scone from Millie. Trust me, you’re going to love them. Her secret recipe is to die for.

Oh, I better not say that. Unfortunately, I’ve had a few too many deaths linked to my real estate business lately.

But don’t you worry. I’m sure it’s not a thing or anything like that.

I hope.

Local Realtor Threatened by Community in Bramblett County, GA

Local Realtor Threatened by Community in Bramblett County, GA

Local Realtor Threatened by Community

Involvement in Recent Murders has Locals Questioning her Actions

By Rufus Fulton

EDITOR, Bramblett County Gazette

We all know Lily Sprayberry, or as she’s been called for years, Lilybit. Many of us have bought and sold properties with her successful realty business, Bramblett County Realty. She’s a local, and comes from good stock.

Sprayberry’s been involved with the recent rise in murders in town, but not in a bad way. She’s simply been at the wrong place at the right time, and people are talking. Some are concerned Lily’s cursed, while others fear she’s secretly involved. I met with Sprayberry to discuss and possibly dispel the rumors.

“Involved?” she asked. “Of course, I’m not involved, and I’m most certainly not cursed, though admittedly, the thought did cross my mind.”

When asked how she feels being the target of discourse in Bramblett, Sprayberry said it’s been tough on her emotionally.

“I’ve grown up in Bramblett. People know me, and they should know I’d never be involved in a purposeful death. In fact, my involvement is just to help find justice and do right by the people in my life.”

She said discovering Myrtle Redbecker’s body was shocking, but she doesn’t have a link to any of the murders in town. “Myrtle wasn’t the most liked resident in town, but nobody deserves to be murdered. And with a cast iron skillet? I can’t even imagine how tragic that must have been, but I’m innocent in what’s going on here.”

Sprayberry didn’t intend to start her own investigation into the old woman’s death, or cause trouble in the recent murder in town.

“It’s my own natural need for answers—my curiosity. That’s the reason I’ve attached myself to each of these tragedies.”

She said losing her lifelong friend a few short months later was shocking. “She was so young. Such a tragic way to end such a promising, young life.”

But why then, did Sprayberry get involved in the recent murder here in Bramblett?

“Because it was the right thing to do, for my client.”

Sprayberry goes on to state the victim, Carter Trammell, was attempting to do right by his students.

He wanted them to succeed academically. That was his priority, and it should be their parent’s priority, too.”

She said she’s been shocked by the behavior of certain parents associated with the school’s athletic program.“This insanity needs to stop. Sports aren’t everything, and neither are scholarships, but an education can last a lifetime. And no one, no one deserves to die, especially for wanting to help kids succeed.”

Some people don’t see Lily’s actions that way.

“She might could stop interfering in the lives of others,” one local who requested to remain anonymous, said.

“She’s hurting the community by sticking her nose where it don’t belong,” another commented.

But Sprayberry has a lot of support in Bramblett, too, and people don’t want to see her reputation damaged for being a faithful community member.

“I just don’t get it. Lilybit’s family to us, and we got to protect our own. Whoever killed that coach needs to come out of hiding and do what’s right,” Old Man Goodson said.

Locals Bonnie Bass and Henrietta Harvey agreed.

“She ain’t done nothing I wouldn’t have done,” Bass said.

“Me, too,” Harvey agreed. “And you can tell all of Bramblett I said so.”

County Sheriff Dylan Roberts is working on the case, but said things are moving along in the investigation, and they are satisfied with the suspect they’ve arrested.

“We’re confident this case will go to trial, and the killer will be held accountable for their crimes.”

Keep up with this case in follow up articles in the Gazette at carolynridderaspenson.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deal Gone Dead A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy Mystery

Deal Gone Dead A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy Mystery

Meet Lily Sprayberry. Selling homes is her career. Solving murders, her calling.

There’s money buried somewhere on Myrtle Redbecker’s property, and people are dying to find out where.

Literally.

When Bramblett County, Georgia’s number one realtor Lily Sprayberry finds her cantankerous older client dead on the kitchen floor, she lands herself smack dab in the middle of a long-running property battle and a one-hundred-year-old rumor.

Lily made a promise to sell Myrtle’s land whether her client’s alive or not. But whoever wants that money doesn’t want the property to sell and will do whatever’s necessary to stop her. Can Lily keep her promise, or will she wind up another victim in this deal gone dead?

Available on Amazon Kindle  here

Decluttered and Dead A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy Mystery

Decluttered and Dead A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy Mystery

 

Every time the Bramblett County Georgia body count rises, so does realtor Lily Sprayberry’s popularity

And these days, she’s very popular.

When a member of her decluttering and staging class winds up dead, Lily takes it personally and sets out to find the killer.

Saddled with guilt, she struggles to accept that the killer just might be someone from her past.

The problem is figuring out who before the killer catches on.

Available on Amazon here

 

The Scarecrow Snuff Out A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Halloween Novella

The Scarecrow Snuff Out A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Halloween Novella

It’s fall, y’all and it’s time for the annual It’s Fall Y’all Festival in Bramblett County Georgia!

And that’s a big deal!

The It’s Fall Y’all Festival is the biggest festival in the tri-county area, and everyone in Bramblett County is geared up for a great time!
Pumpkin carving, bobbing for apples, a petting zoo, and of course, a good old-fashioned BBQ are just a few of the events scheduled at Abernathy Farm.
But the big event, the one Lily Sprayberry is most excited about, is the haunted corn maze.
When bad things happen to scarecrows scattered throughout the maze, county residents run screaming, threatening the success of the festival. Determined to figure out what’s going on, Lily decides to check it out for herself and fears the corn maze just might actually be haunted.

Available on Amazon here

Signed, Sealed and Dead A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy Mystery

Signed, Sealed and Dead A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy Mystery

Small town folk don’t always take care of their own.

As Bramblett County, Georgia realtor Lily Sprayberry preps for the annual community yard sale fundraiser, she discovers the body of the newly hired lacrosse coach lying in the high school gym.

At first, all signs point to natural causes, but when Lily finds an empty syringe lying under the bleachers, the coroner decides the coach was murdered.

Lily learns the coach wasn’t liked by the lacrosse parents, and when word got out about his murder, the state athletic association suspended the program entirely.

When a few of the lacrosse moms decide to take matters into their own hands, they threaten someone close to Lily—her county sheriff boyfriend and his reelection status–by bullying Lily herself.

And soon, Lily’s had enough. As she searches for answers, she’s dragged deeper into an angry mob of high school sports parents all seeking revenge and gunning for their kids to sign with the most elite schools offering the best scholarships.

And some of them are willing to do whatever it takes, including murder.

When the killer figures out Lily is close to cracking the case, things take a dangerous turn, and Lily’s life is on the line. Can she save herself, or will she be the next victim in Bramblett County?

Available on Amazon here