Julienne has her ideal job as an event planner at a prestigious resort. During a luncheon event she coordinated, a renowned celebrity pastor is killed next to the buffet. All eyes turn to her as the suspect. If she wants to stay out of jail or even keep her job, Julienne needs all the help she can get to solve the crime.
She has her work cut out for her with a vengeful high school rival now reporter, the public demanding she be fired, plus family who know what’s best for her, and a boyfriend who doesn’t understand her. She turns to friends and a new ally to uncover who wanted to put the pastor on ice.
Julienne goes undercover and investigates a local swingers group as she follows the trail of clues before they go cold. Can she gather enough suspects and motives to convince the police to her widen their investigation? Can she do it before the killer sets his murderous sights on her? Will her personal life ever be as simple as unveiling a murderer?
Today everything in my life changed.
I’m the events coordinator and membership manager, in training that is, at a five star resort in Colorado. Some days, like today, it feels like I was sacrificed to some sadistic little idol somewhere. Coordination of conferences and meetings of all sizes in the resort’s convention center facility was part of my training. But this particular event, a Leadership Luncheon that brought together the town’s community leaders to network, was a challenge from the first minutes this morning.
“Julienne, this event must be executed with precision and perfection.” Those are the favorite words of my boss, Chad. This particular event is a daylong exercise in patience.
Every job has its great parts and it’s not so great. Today encompassed one of the more unpleasant aspects of my job. Occasionally, okay usually, the hardest part of my job is the customer relations and today was particularly difficult. Some customers just can’t be satisfied and some events are riddled with issues.
We were only serving a modest seventy-five attendees, but I had already been assailed with special requests and numerous complaints. Picky doesn’t begin to cover it.
“How hard would it be to setup for a video presentation with a large screen and surround sound?”
“There are windows. It’s too distracting, people will be watching the hotel guests walking around.”
“Can we change the setup of room C from an L configuration to a U shape? But only for that one session, then move it back.”
“Can we get the Lobster for the buffet flown in that morning? Scallops are out….Can we have the scallops after all?”
“Music piped in during the breaks?”
“No music piped in at all.”
“Red tablecloths with white napkins.”
“Royal blue tablecloths with white napkins.”
“White tablecloths with yellow napkins.”
“Candles on mirrors for lunch centerpieces.”
“Fresh flowers for centerpieces.”
The changes continued even after the event started.
The Convention Center, with its classic European décor had a small lobby area with a few potted trees and plants on column stands. The rest extended down a hallway with two large areas on each side that could be divided into smaller rooms via partitions that extend from the walls as needed. The space could be up to eight small rooms, four on each side, or any combination from one to four rooms per side of the hallway.
The hallway was wide with several half-circle console tables including marble tops holding large dried floral arrangements and a few elegant chairs. The walls displayed large paintings of the Italian countryside and vineyards with carved gold gilt frames.
I was in a partitioned room overseeing the set up of the lunch buffet. The Italian Renaissance architecture was accentuated with interior details and décor that created a European elegance, all lit with the warm glow of a massive amber glass chandelier.
The room was a rectangle with the entrance from the hallway to one end and the door to the catering staging area at the opposite end. The buffet table was along the wall next to the staging door so wait staff could easy restock food items. The six-person round tables covered in rich golden linens were scattered strategically throughout the room to allow easy traffic flow. The thick carpet felt plush and cloud-like under foot.
I was surveying the buffet table with a critical eye. The five foot long ice sculpture of a swordfish occupied the center of the table and looked as though it was caught in mid leap, frolicking in a wave and ready to dive back into an unseen ocean. My stomach growled as the succulent smells of seafood teased my nose. The attendees would be returning to this room for their lunch and keynote speaker shortly.
“Brad, where are the crab leg metal crackers and little forks? Can you grab a few dozen and bring them right away?” Brad, slim and serious, had joined the team only two months ago and was picking up extra hours at every opportunity. He had asked to work this event as soon as I blocked out the time on the schedule. This would give him a good paycheck. He was lanky and took off with an easy loping stride to the staging area through the back door.
The door to the staging area had barely closed when I felt a hand grab hold of my derriere with an iron hard grip.
“This is more like it honey. I haven’t had any fun today.”
I whirled around and stumbled back. “Don’t touch the staff. That includes me Pastor Tom.” I practically shouted. Pastor Tom Drake was well known around town, and getting national attention lately with his mega church. He was included in the luncheon due to his influence, but he was just Pastor Tom since he was a local guy who started his church and radio ministry from his garage.
I had contended with bad behavior before, but never this grabby. I think I was going to have a bruise left from his vicious hand.
“You’re not being very fri…friendly.” I noticed his eyes were droopy and then I caught a whiff of the scotch he must have gotten at the Gilded Hornet pub next to the convention center building.
I decided to alert security we needed a person to monitor the rest of the event and turned to go. His iron hand grabbed hold of my arm and yanked me to him. Without a thought I took my knee to his groin and enjoyed watching his mouth form an “O” as his breath whooshed out. I broke free and backed away. I wasn’t turning my back on him again.
“I will see you fired for that you bitch.” He whispered with a jagged voice.
He couldn’t do that, at least I was pretty sure he couldn’t. I guess I’d find out. I rubbed my still smarting arm where he grabbed it. Brad would be back or the event participants would start to wander in so he couldn’t do much more, but I didn’t want to stay and find out. I backed out the door to the hallway toward the lobby and took my cell phone from my pants pocket.
“Hey Ron, we have a person under the influence at the luncheon in Convention Center. Can you spare someone for the afternoon?”
“I’ll make sure somebody’s there immediately Julienne. How bad is this guy?”
“Well, I’ll probably have a black-and-blue handprint on my arm and …my backside.” I took a deep breath.
“Son of a … I’ll be right there. You stay away from him.” Like I would go near that Neanderthal again, pastor or not.
The other participants were starting to exit the smaller break out session rooms and meander to the banquet room and bathrooms. The noise level began to creep upward from multiple conversations competing to be heard.
There was a loud crash of metal from the banquet room and a participant jerked open the door and froze in place. “Oh sh…” The participant’s mouth gaped and his eyes were large circles.
I ran over to the open door and saw Pastor Tom impaled through the chest with the sharp end of the Swordfish ice sculpture, from his back right through to the front. His head was forward against his chest. Blood, running down the swordfish tip that jutted from his chest, dripping to the carpet. Drip, drip, drip in a macabre but surreal scene.
Excerpt from Iced by Avery Daniels. Copyright © 2017 by Avery Daniels. Reproduced with permission from Avery Daniels. All rights reserved.
Avery Daniels was born and raised in Colorado, graduated from college with a degree in business administration and has worked in fortune 500 companies and Department of Defense her entire life. Her most eventful job was apartment management for 352 units. She still resides in Colorado with two brother black cats as her spirited companions. She volunteers for a cat shelter, enjoys scrapbooking and card making, photography, and painting in watercolor and acrylic. She inherited a love for reading from her mother and grandmother and grew up talking about books at the dinner table.