Hello Reading Friend,
As promised, here is a short mystery for you to solve. The winner of this reading contest will receive an Advance Reader Copy of my upcoming book, “Faith on the Rocks.”
Here are the contest rules:
- Read the mystery
- Solve the main question of Who Dunnit and how you know this (Check out Women’s World–”Solve It Yourself Mystery” for ideas on this)
- Click this link that takes you to the submission form
- Be quick! I can only send an ARC to the first correct submission
The tall, elegant woman approaching Rita May and Daisy looked none too pleased. Her heels clicked on the white marble floor of the famous Broadmoor Hotel. She took a garment bag from over her forearm, and shoved it toward Rita May.
“Tell me I did not pay $7,000 for this!” said the woman in a thick eastern European accent. Her voice echoed off the walls of the hall leading into the Grand Ballroom. “Rita, I did not stand for over 30 measurements, only to have you produce a dress I couldn’t wear at all, much less for my dance competition in two hours!”
Rita looked dismayed as she started to unzip the bag. “But Annika–Dr. Habsburg–this dress is—” Rita stopped.
“This is my garment bag. You can see my logo on it. But this is not the dress I made for you.” She pulled a poorly constructed Latin dance dress from the bag. “It doesn’t even come from my off-the-rack collection.”
“It is the dress you delivered through the hotel,” said Annika. “Where is the beautiful outfit of pearlescent cream we’ve talked about? I need to waltz and slow Foxtrot in that.”
“I don’t know, Annika, but I’ll find out,” said the dress designer. Rita turned to Daisy, then back to her client. “My friend here has worked with the Littleton police on some cases, and I’m sure she can help me find out what happened.”
Dr. Habsburg turned to look up and down at Daisy. “Well. Maybe there’s more than meets the eye here.”
Just then, a similarly tall young woman walked up to the group in front of Rita’s dress display. “Something amiss?” asked the young woman.
“Mallory!” said Rita. “Just the person we need here. Daisy, Mallory is my assistant. Mallory, Dr. Habsburg’s dress has gone missing. You did stay here and watch over the booth of designs while I parked the van, right?”
“Right,” said Mallory.
“Did you see anyone go near the garment bag with Dr. Habsburg’s dress in it?”
Mallory bit her lip and scrunched her forehead. “Not that I saw.”
“Two hours,” said Annika. “I must have that dress back in two hours!” She stalked off.
Rita wrung her hands. “Daisy, what am I going to do? Dr. Habsburg is one of my best clients. She’s even been invited to dance at the all-famous Blackpool competition later this year. The Glimmer Ball, here in Colorado Springs, was to be her warm up for that competition. If we don’t find her dress, she won’t be able to dance tonight, and that will hurt her chances of high placement at Blackpool.”
“Hmm,” said Daisy. “Someone obviously replaced your real gown for the other. And the good doctor didn’t ask for a loan from your collection here.” Daisy swept her arm toward a line of dazzling dresses on Rita’s rack. “Could it be our dancing diva has cold feet about Blackpool?”
“Your puns are not appreciated right now,” said Rita, but she laughed just the same. “Cold feet. Dance. Seriously, it’s a thought. But Dr. Habsburg is a renowned organ transplant surgeon at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. She doesn’t crack under pressure that I’ve ever seen.”
“The dancing doctor? Impressive,” said Daisy. “Let’s keep in mind though that even the toughest amongst us has a weak spot.” Still she looked around the hall. Other vendors had displays of shoes, jewelry, and more dance dresses. “Perhaps there are witnesses in the other booths. Let’s go ask them if they’ve seen anyone near your collection.”
Together Rita and Daisy spoke to the other vendors. Almost no one had seen anything, as they were busy with their own customers. The last vendor was a young friend of Rita’s, Ryan Stoner.
“Ryan used to be an ice skater,” said Rita to Daisy as they walked over. “But a couple of blown knees later he followed his mom into dressmaking for ice-skaters and ballroom dancers. Hi, Ryan. Have a couple of minutes?”
Daisy told Ryan about the missing dress and asked if he’d seen any unusual activity near the Rita May Designs booth.
“Stolen dress? I’ll have to keep a closer eye on my designs,” said Ryan. “Mine aren’t as perfect as yours, Rita, but if I had a seven thousand dollar dress, you can bet I would hire extra security to watch my booth. Now you mention it, I did notice your booth was empty for a little while.”
“Empty?” said Rita. “But I left my assistant there.”
Ryan shrugged. “I saw her pick up a cell phone and walk away.”
“Thanks, Ryan. You may have helped solve this mystery!” said Rita. She grabbed Daisy and walked back to her booth.
Mallory met Rita and Daisy. “I just remembered something, Rita. Dr. Habsburg told you she was nervous about dancing in the Broadmoor. The architecture and elegance are so reminiscent of her days growing up in Prague, and her end to dancing when she was intimidated as a little girl there. Do you think Daisy might be right about her being afraid to dance? Could she have switched out dresses?”
“I’ll think about it, Mal, but for now, are you absolutely certain that you didn’t leave our booth here for even an instant?”
“Let’s see,” said Mallory. “We brought the dresses in from the van and hung them up. Then we took Dr. Habsburg’s dress out of the bag to show Mrs. Winger, that nice lady who is looking for a new designer. Remember? She was very impressed with all the beads you and I put on Dr. Habsburg’s dress.”
“You’re right, Mal,” said Rita. “Over ten thousand beads, each put on individually will do that for a person. But I put the dress back in my bag immediately after that. I hung it right here, and asked you to watch the booth while I went to park our van.”
“And so I did,” said Mallory.
Daisy cleared her throat. “Mallory, I see you have a little tissue stuck on your shoe heel there. Are you sure you stayed at the booth the entire time Rita was gone?”
Mallory blushed. “Oh! I may have stepped away, but I was only gone for a minute. That doesn’t count, does it?”
Rita glared at her assistant. “I know how much you like the Habsburg dress. I know how much time you put into helping me bead it. But Mallory, would you really have”—
“Mallory isn’t our thief,” said Daisy. “But I think I know who is. Let’s go find hotel security.”
While the characters and events in this story are 100% fiction, I couldn’t have written this without invaluable help from Joey of Joey Santos Designs, a wonderful dress-designer in Littleton, Colorado.