GRAINY DAY BAKERY’S BISCUITS ARE TO DIE FOR.
Dead bodies are expected in cemeteries, but not simply thrown into an open grave. The newspaper’s notorious food reviewer had plenty of enemies in the small town of Oak Hill, Georgia. Unfortunately, it’s Emily Buchanan’s good friend Trish who is the prime suspect since the biscuits that killed him came from her bakery.
As Emily tries to balance running Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast and working to bring her late husband’s spirit home, she also has to help clear Trish’s name. After all, someone Emily knows and trusts could never be a killer… could she?
BREAKFAST INCLUDED, the fifth novel in the Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast series by paranormal cozy mystery author Beth Dolgner.
Breakfast Included by Beth Dolgner
SERIES Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast | GENRE Adult Paranormal Cozy Mystery
PUBLISHER Red Glare Press | PUBLICATION DATE June 1, 2022
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An Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast Novel
© 2022 Beth Dolgner
The funeral home had given out paper fans. Emily was waving hers frantically toward her face, convinced that hot, humid air that was moving was somehow better than hot, humid air that was stagnant. Her black dress felt stifling under the June sun, and her low black heels were slowly sinking into the perfectly manicured green grass that covered Oak Hill Memorial Garden.
It’s hard to feel sad when you’re sweating so much.
Emily nearly laughed at the thought, since it was also hard to feel sad when the deceased was someone who had once threatened her with a shotgun. The brief moment of levity was quickly replaced by genuine sadness, not for the man whose coffin sat poised above an open grave, but for the man standing next to it.
Trevor had known his dad didn’t have long, since his cancer treatments could only buy him some time, not save his life. Still, the end had come sooner than expected for Mr. Williams, and Emily knew that even though he had once tried to kill his two sons, they were both grieving their loss.
The crowd of black-clad people shifted a little, and Emily briefly got a clear view of Trevor and Dillan Williams. Both of them had their eyes fixed on the casket, their expressions stoic. Their sister, standing between them, had her face buried in a handkerchief.
Emily heard a quiet, impatient sigh to her right, and she glanced over to see her best friend, Sage Clark, fanning herself with equal gusto. Sage, at least, had thought to put on a sun hat, though she had explained to Emily it wasn’t for sun protection as much as it was to hide her pink, spiked hair. “There’s going to be enough gossip about this funeral without people being shocked over my hair color!” Sage had quipped.
Sage leaned toward Emily and whispered, “I’m hot, and I’m hungry! Is this preacher ever going to wrap things up?”
Emily simply responded with a little shrug, but she was feeling as impatient as Sage. The service at the church had been a long one, and Emily had gotten the impression the preacher hoped he could make up for the bad things Benjamin Williams had done in life by talking longer than usual. Apparently, he didn’t feel like he’d talked quite enough yet, because the graveside service was lasting an unusually long time, too.
After another ten minutes, during which Emily only caught about half of what the preacher actually said, since she was so far back in the crowd of people, the casket was lowered on ropes into the ground, and the funeral was over.
“Finally!” Sage said, loudly enough that a few people nearby threw disapproving glances in her direction. “Jen suggested we go get salads at The Depot for lunch. It’s too hot for cooked food!”
“I’m in,” Emily said. “I just want to say hello to Trevor and Dillan before we go.”
“Oh, of course,” Jen chimed in. “We want to offer our condolences, too.” Jen’s red hair was pulled up in a French twist, and paired with her well-tailored black dress, she looked like she belonged at a cocktail party instead of a funeral. Only the beads of sweat across her forehead ruined the illusion.
Sage yawned widely, then said, “Remember old Mr. Thatcher? He’s the guy who owned the barbershop on the square for about fifty years. He came to the funeral, too!”
“My dad was devastated when Mr. Thatcher retired,” Emily said. “He claims he hasn’t had a decent haircut since. I wonder if he used to cut Mr. Williams’s hair, too?”
“That would be my guess. Mr. Thatcher died, what, ten years ago or so? My dad went to him, too.” Sage looked toward the edge of the crowd and gave a little wave. Emily couldn’t see Mr. Thatcher’s ghost, but she knew Sage saw him almost as if he were just another funeral-goer.
“Are there a lot of ghosts here?” Emily asked.
“No, not a lot. I find cemeteries to be less haunted than most people expect them to be.”
“All right, let’s work our way up there,” Jen said. She took Sage’s hand and began moving forward, snaking her way among the knots of people who were talking together. As she followed, Emily looked around at the sea of faces. She recognized many of them since she had lived in Oak Hill, Georgia, her entire life. She wondered how many of the people were there to honor Mr. Williams, and how many of them were there simply to gawk at the spectacle. It wasn’t every day the small town had a funeral for a convicted murderer.
I’ll have to tell Kelly about this and ask her what she thinks of it. Kelly Stern had been Dillan’s girlfriend when the two of them were teenagers, and Mr. Williams had killed her years ago. Her restless ghost had remained behind, hoping to get justice one day. Once Kelly’s ghost had helped bring the details of her murder to light, though, she had opted to remain at Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast with Emily and the house’s other resident ghosts.
There was already a long line of people waiting to talk to the Williams siblings, so instead, Emily headed toward her friend Reed Marshall, who was standing nearby. His dark-green suit looked expensive, and it perfectly set off his dark skin and eyes. Before she could stop herself, Emily blurted, “You look so handsome!”
One side of Reed’s mouth turned up in a little smile, and he winked at Emily. “Thank you. I know I do, because three women have already given me their phone number.”
“Seriously? At a funeral?”
“You’d be surprised how often it happens.” Reed shrugged good-naturedly. “A lot of people come to funerals because they have to, not because they want to. They’re not grieving, and they know I’m not, either, since I’m just the sexton.”
Emily let the information sink in for a few moments, then said, “Are you going to call any of them?”
Reed chuckled quietly. “No. I don’t date where I dig.”
“Nice line.” Emily rolled her eyes, though she failed to look very disapproving since she was also trying not to laugh. “Speaking of lines, I’d better go get in the one for Trevor and Dillan. I don’t want to keep Sage and Jen waiting.”
Emily joined the line, and after just a few minutes, she was extending her hand to Dillan Williams. His dark-blond hair and beard were neatly trimmed, though his green eyes looked tired.
Dillan took Emily’s proffered hand, then abruptly let go and wrapped his arms around Emily in a tight hug. “Thank you for coming,” he said, his voice cracking. “You and Sage know better than anyone in this town how little my dad deserves this fanfare, and I know you’re really here for me and Trevor.”
Emily felt her throat tighten. “You have my support and my condolences.” It felt like such a generic thing to say, but in that moment, Emily couldn’t think of anything else. Still, it seemed to be enough for Dillan, who relaxed his arms and gave Emily a grateful smile.
The next person in line was Trevor and Dillan’s sister, whom Emily had never met. Emily shook her hand, said a few kind words, then stepped toward Trevor.
Trevor was just saying goodbye to the man who had been going down the line in front of Emily, and when Trevor turned his blue eyes toward hers, Emily felt her chest tighten in sympathy for her friend. Trevor’s eyes were red from crying, and he wiped at his tanned face self-consciously. Emily knew Trevor had moved back to Oak Hill to take care of his dad, and even after his arrest—even after trying to kill his own sons—Trevor had continued to show his dad love and forgiveness.
Emily bit her lip as she felt tears of her own beginning to well up. She had talked to Trevor several times since his dad’s death a few days before, but between his family obligations and her busy schedule at Eternal Rest, this was the first time she had actually seen him. Instead of trying to say anything, Emily simply reached up and wrapped her arms around Trevor. He knew how well she understood grief, and there was no point in trying to say it in that moment.
“Thank you for coming, Emily,” Trevor said softly. He gave a sad laugh. “At least this time, it’s not a murder for you to solve!”
Emily turned her head so Trevor’s sister wouldn’t see her little smile. She appreciated Trevor’s attempt at humor, and she knew it was probably a nice distraction for him. She answered quietly, “For us to solve, you mean! I’ll talk to you soon, okay? Maybe you and Dillan can come over to my house one night for dinner.”
“He’s heading back Thursday morning.”
“So soon? It’s already Tuesday! Well, you can come over one night, then, if you like. My guests will be doing some ghost hunting in my cemetery tomorrow night, but after that, I’m up for cooking.”
Emily gave Trevor one last squeeze and waved as she moved away, heading toward Sage and Jen, who were now talking to Reed. As she approached, Emily saw a woman in a surprisingly slinky dress for such a somber occasion sidle up to Reed and lean in to whisper something to him. Emily caught the flash of a white business card before the woman walked away, looking pleased with herself.
“Another one?” Emily asked, not even bothering to hide her smile this time.
Reed straightened his shoulders proudly. “What can I say? Ladies are dying to meet me.”
Jen and Sage groaned in unison as Emily waved her hands and said, “No! That’s two terrible jokes you’ve made today. No more funeral humor!”
Reed smiled. “Sorry. I’ve had to be so composed all morning, so now I’m letting off steam—decomposing, you could say—by telling sexton jokes. They’re like dad jokes, but much more grave.”
“Oh, that’s it,” Sage said, one hand over her mouth to stifle her laughter. “We’re going to lunch, now. Reed, talk to us when you’re back to normal!”
As Sage and Jen turned toward the line of parked cars snaking along the main road through the cemetery, Emily caught Sage’s arm. “Do you two mind going ahead to get a table? I’ll be there shortly.”
“Of course we don’t mind,” Sage said, “but tell Scott you can’t linger too long, because your friends are starving!”
Emily promised to be quick, then turned and walked in the opposite direction. She didn’t really like Oak Hill Memorial Garden, but she was especially critical of it when she was hot and sweaty. The wide expanse of lawn was peppered with only a few trees, so there was no shade to provide relief as Emily walked to Scott’s grave. She knew her late husband’s spirit wasn’t there. Instead, it was trapped outside a mysterious psychic barrier that surrounded the town, but Emily still felt comfort in visiting his burial spot.
“Hey, Scott,” Emily said as she walked up to the low granite marker that read Scott Buchanan, Beloved Husband and Son. “Sage and Jen send their love. I was so relieved to see your ghost last month, and I know we’re getting closer to being able to help you. Kelly says she’s spotted you a few times since then and that you’re looking stronger. That’s great! You’d be happy with how busy things have been at Eternal Rest. I’ve got another new assistant: Trish’s boy, Clint. Remember him? He’s grown up a lot, and he’s already been working for me for two weeks. So far, he’s doing great. Well, I can’t stay long. For one thing, I think I’m going to melt if I don’t get somewhere air-conditioned soon! For another, I’m meeting Sage and Jen at The Depot for lunch. Oh! Before I go, you should know that I—”
Emily cut off abruptly as a woman screamed. Several people began running toward the sound, and Emily’s eyes followed them as they dashed toward the woman in the slinky dress who had given Reed her number. Her hands were clutching her face, and her mouth was open in an expression of horror.
“He’s dead!” she shrieked.
Well, of course he’s dead, Emily thought, even as she realized the woman wasn’t looking at the grave of Benjamin Williams. The woman pointed toward the ground and wailed, “There’s a dead body!”
BETH DOLGNER writes paranormal fiction and nonfiction, and she gives presentations about Victorian death and mourning traditions as well as Victorian Spiritualism.
Beth’s debut book was Georgia Spirits and Specters, a collection of Georgia ghost stories. That was followed by Everyday Voodoo, a look at the Voodoo religion and its practitioners.
From there, Beth ventured into fiction with the Betty Boo, Ghost Hunter paranormal romance series. Beth has also written two young adult novels with paranormal elements, including the steampunk Manifest and the urban fantasy A Talent for Death. Her work has been featured in various anthologies, too. Currently, Beth is writing the Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast paranormal cozy mystery series.
Thanks to her nonfiction work, Beth got to enter the world of ghost hunting, and she was a longtime guide with the Roswell Ghost Tour. Beth also coordinated a ghost tour for Atlanta Bicycle Tours, and she has given many presentations at Atlanta’s Historic Oakland Cemetery.
Currently, Beth, her husband, and their three cats live in a possibly-haunted Victorian bungalow in Tucson, Arizona.