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Witch and Famous: A Westwick Witches Cozy Mystery ebook

Colleen Cross  

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Opis ebooka Witch and Famous: A Westwick Witches Cozy Mystery - Colleen Cross

Lights, camera, assassin… A Hollywood movie shoot comes to town and journalist Cendrine West is eager for a scoop. Her witchy family also wants in on the action, but shenanigans with the stars soon turn to Tinseltown tragedy. Bodies are piling up faster than a coven’s worth of curses, and everything points back to Cen’s starstruck family. They will stop at nothing in their quest for supernatural stardom, even if that means meddling in a murder investigation. The witches have created one spell of a mess and given the killer a chance to get away with murder. Cen resorts to her own blend of supernatural justice to keep her family in check, but can she unmask the killer before he strikes again? Welcome to the wild, wild Wests! Witch & Famous is for fans of a paranormal mystery, cozy mystery, and wickedly funny witches. This book can be read as a standalone mystery, but if you want to know more about the Westwick Witches and their family history, you can start with book 1: Witch You Well.

Opinie o ebooku Witch and Famous: A Westwick Witches Cozy Mystery - Colleen Cross

Fragment ebooka Witch and Famous: A Westwick Witches Cozy Mystery - Colleen Cross

Witch and Famous

A Westwick Witches Cozy Mystery

Colleen Cross

Slice Publishing

Witch and Famous: A Westwick Witches Cozy Mystery

Copyright © 2017 by Colleen Cross, Colleen Tompkins

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written consent of the copyright holder and publisher. The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law.

Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Categories: cozy mysteries, witches wizards, paranormal cozy humorous mystery, cosy mystery, funny mysteries, female lead sleuth women amateur sleuths private investigators, cozy mystery books, suspense thrillers and mysteries best sellers, female detectives

eBook ISBN: 978-1-988272-15-3

Paperback ISBN: 978-1988272-25-2

Published by Slice Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-988272-15-3

Created with Vellum

Contents

Also by Colleen Cross

Witch and Famous: A Westwick Witches Cozy Mystery

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Afterword

About the Author

Also by Colleen Cross

Also by Colleen Cross

Westwick Witches Cozy Mysteries

Witch You Well

Rags to Witches

Witch and Famous

Christmas Witch List

Westwick Witches Magical Mystery Box set (books 1-3)

Katerina Carter Color of Money Mysteries

Red Handed

Blue Moon

Katerina Carter Fraud Legal Thrillers

Exit Strategy

Game Theory

Blowout

Greenwash

Katerina Carter Fraud Thrillers (books 1-3)

Nonfiction

Anatomy of a Ponzi Scheme

Get the latest list at www.colleencross.com

Westwick Witches Cozy Mysteries series

Lights, camera, assassin…

A Hollywood movie shoot comes to town and journalist Cendrine West is eager for a scoop. Her witchy family also wants in on the action, but shenanigans with the stars soon turn to Tinseltown tragedy.

Bodies are piling up faster than a coven’s worth of curses, and everything points back to Cen’s starstruck family. They will stop at nothing in their quest for supernatural stardom, even if that means meddling in a murder investigation.

The witches have created one spell of a mess and given the killer a chance to get away with murder. Cen resorts to her own blend of supernatural justice to keep her family in check, but can she unmask the killer before he strikes again?

Welcome to the wild, wild Wests!

Witch & Famous is for fans of paranormal mystery, cozy mystery, and wickedly funny witches.

This book can be read as a standalone mystery, but if you want to know more about the Westwick Witches and their family history, you can start with book 1: Witch You Well.

1

Movie stars can be cantankerous, demanding creatures. I just never expected Aunt Amber to be any of those things. Not only was she an accomplished witch; she was also used to getting her way as a senior executive with Witches International Community Craft Association. WICCA was her life.

Yet my workaholic aunt had abandoned her career for an acting role. She had never expressed an interest in acting and didn’t even like going to the movies, so the idea of her starring in a major Hollywood blockbuster was preposterous.

Yet in less than a week she had landed a co-starring role in High Noon Heist, the sequel to the mega-successful Hollywood blockbuster movie Midnight Heist. And convinced a hotshot Hollywood producer to film the movie right here in Westwick Corners. Our almost-ghost town could certainly use an economic boost, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why our rundown town was chosen.

It made no sense. Either Aunt Amber had powerful Hollywood connections, had piled on the witchcraft, or both. The details were still sketchy, and I had no idea who was starring opposite Aunt Amber other than it was some Hollywood hotshot.

Why he was willing to travel all the way to eastern Washington State I had no idea. But one thing was clear: the film crew really was from Hollywood, and as long as things went well, the movie was pretty much guaranteed to put Westwick Corners back on the map. The tourists would return with their wallets and Westwick Corners would be financially in the black once more.

All my information came secondhand from Mom since I hadn’t even seen Aunt Amber yet. She had arrived late last night from London, England, where she now lived. She had gone straight to her dressing-room trailer downtown instead of stopping in to see us. That seemed a little odd, but in typical Aunt Amber fashion, she was eager to get a head start.

Mom and I had spent all night readying our family’s bed and breakfast, The Westwick Corners Inn, for our incoming guests. Even witches couldn’t escape a certain amount of manual labor. There just weren’t enough hours in the day, or night in this case. I had tumbled into bed around 1 a.m. but I tossed and turned.

My mind churned as I mentally ran through the details. The rooms were ready and Mom had the dining room tables set for breakfast. I would hang around the set as a sort of town liaison, making sure the film bigwigs had everything they needed. I also hoped to interview some of the stars for The Westwick Corners Weekly. I was the paper’s publisher, though that sounded more impressive than it actually was. In reality, I had bought myself the job when the previous owner retired. I realized soon enough that it was a newspaper with dying circulation and probably not the best business to be in these days. As Aunt Pearl liked to say, it was just a free newspaper for coupon clippers.

Her comments stung but she was right. My dedicated coupon clippers didn’t give a hoot about the articles I spent hours writing. Thinking otherwise bordered on insanity. My ever-shrinking pool of aging pensioners just wanted coupons and sale flyers. But at least for now, the advertising revenue still paid the bills and kept my newspaper afloat.

My only other assignment was to keep an eye on Aunt Pearl. That was easier said than done. Aunt Pearl hated the idea of visitors coming to town. She also had an intense sibling rivalry with Aunt Amber, so I hoped they could just get along for once.

I glanced at the clock and saw that it was just before 5 a.m. I felt like I hadn’t slept a wink all night, and it was obvious I wasn’t going to fall back asleep. I was too excited about the movie. It seemed too good to be true. There had to be witchcraft involved, and I was afraid the spell would be broken at any moment.

I pulled on jeans and a t-shirt and headed outside. I skipped down the treehouse steps, breathing in the moist morning air. My grandfather had built the treehouse years ago at the far end of the property overlooking the vineyard. It was private but also only a few hundred yards away from the Inn where Mom and Aunt Pearl lived on the bottom floor.

I turned my thoughts back to Aunt Amber. She was definitely up to something, but what? Maybe she was just trying to help business by bringing the movie to Westwick Corners.

Or maybe not. I hadn’t known her to do anything that wasn’t self-promoting in some way. She already had the movie role, so why did the film have to be shot here? Something niggled at my brain just out of grasp. Aunt Amber wouldn’t take a leave of absence from WICCA for anything—unless magic was involved. Yet there were no telltale signs, or at least none that I could see.

A more accomplished witch would easily recognize supernatural hijinks but I was remiss with my spells. I always meant to practice more, but life just seemed to get in the way. Especially lately. As things heated up between me and Tyler, everything else seemed to take a back seat. The thought of my hunky boyfriend made me smile. Tyler Gates was also our town sheriff. He would be busy today too, with all the movie people in town.

I planned to check in on Aunt Amber at her trailer and see what else I could find out. The Inn was quiet and dark as I walked by, our guests not yet awake for breakfast. That was still a few hours away. I had lots of time to check out the movie set on Main Street.

I walked down the hill, enjoying the early morning quiet. It was still dark, so I used a flashlight to find my way along the tree-lined driveway that wound its way down the hill. I reached the main road that led downtown and headed towards Main Street. As I got closer I saw figures busily moving back and forth across the street. Apparently, the movie crew had been up all night too.

The normally deserted streets stirred with activity as crews unloaded trucks, set up lighting and equipment. Mobile dressing room trailers were parked on the opposite side of the bank building. I scanned the street for my redheaded aunt, but saw no sign of her. I figured she was inside her trailer.

I headed towards the set, which was technically just the two center blocks of Westwick Corner’s Main Street. Brick and stone buildings from the start of the 20th century lined the street. The three-story bank building was the tallest building in town and the setting for the first scene in High Noon Heist. All sorts of cameras, lights and equipment were set up around the building as dozens of people scurried back and forth.

Filming in Westwick Corners certainly had some advantages. The buildings had basically remained untouched for decades. There was simply no money to renovate or build new ones. Main Street was quite picturesque in a faded and forgotten sort of way. The neglected buildings still sported the same windows and trim from the turn of the last century. Things looked exactly as they had then, only shabbier. Visitors to our town often said that it was like stepping back in time.

Except that now the brick was sandblasted, the wood trim freshly coated with paint, and the buildings sported signage from the 1900s era. Even the asphalt road was covered with six inches of dirt so that it now resembled a dirt road.

All this had happened overnight. I couldn’t believe it was just the film crew’s work. No doubt Aunt Amber’s supernatural touch was somehow involved. However it had happened, our spruced-up town’s facelift put a smile on my face.

The few traces of modernity had been either disguised or removed. It seemed that our almost-bankrupt town’s financial problems had been solved overnight. The movie had paid our town handsomely for the shoot, and the cast and crew brought money to Westwick Corners too. We even had guests at our Inn, and other local businesses also benefited. The movie and the town’s facelift could even put our town back in the black again.

I headed to Mom’s food truck parked a half-block away. It was a hastily conjured up 1960s-era panel truck with lettering on the side that read Ruby’s Burgers. Below the lettering was an open counter that revealed a full stainless steel kitchen inside. As I approached, the side door opened and Mom emerged.

I was surprised to see her here in town and not at the Inn, but sometimes witches could be in two places at the same time. Or rather, they appeared to be. It was an illusion but a pretty effective one.

“Cen, have you seen Amber?” Mom brushed flour off the daisy-covered apron that covered her tie-dye shirt and faded embroidered jeans. She always dressed like a modern-day hippie but somehow looked fashionable at the same time. Her quirky fashion sense was completely unplanned. She never threw anything away and just liked to dress comfortably.

I shook my head. “That’s who I’m looking for. I was just heading over to check her dressing room trailer.” I also hoped to get a sense of where the other stars’ trailers were. Maybe I could interview a few of them before filming started.

“Tell her to drop by when she has a chance. I need someone to watch over things for a while.” That was Mom’s code for babysitting Aunt Pearl so she wouldn’t ruin things with her mischief. Aunt Pearl hated tourists, even though they brought money to our town. This movie thing was sure to fray her nerves.

While Mom could be in two places at the same time, so to speak, it was a bit much to tend to the Inn, work the catering truck, and watch Aunt Pearl at the same time. Even with her split-second speed, it was too long to leave Aunt Pearl unsupervised. Mom’s witchcraft skills were a decided advantage when it came to getting a head start on the catering competition, but they paled in comparison to Aunt Pearl’s talents. And my aunt tended not to channel her skills productively.

Mom waved her hand towards the seating area around the trailer. “What do you think?”

A dozen or so round tables with chairs were set up to the right of the truck, under the shade of a large willow tree. The tables looked inviting with red-checkered tablecloths and vases of white and red carnations gracing each table. Mom’s plan was to get everything ready at the catering truck for mid-morning snacks and lunch, then head back to the Inn and serve breakfast to the guests.

“Looks like you have everything covered. Need any help with the food prep?” Not that she needed it—her cooking was to die for.

But die we might, with ornery Aunt Pearl manning the barbecue. She emerged from the trailer and headed to the barbecue area. It was to the left of the food truck, about ten feet away.

“Keep out of it, Cen. I’ve got everything under control.” Aunt Pearl reversed course and headed towards us, brandishing barbecue tongs like a weapon.

I was about to ask why she was barbecuing so early in the morning when Mom caught my eye. She pressed a finger to her lips to silence me. The burgers would be wasted, but that was a small price to pay in order to keep Aunt Pearl occupied.

“Cen, you’re just in time for lunch. Grab a bun.” Aunt Pearl motioned to a rectangular table beside the food truck. It was laden with buns, condiments, and salads. “These are my secret recipe charbroiled burgers.”

“It’s not even breakfast time yet,” I protested. “How about a coffee instead?”

She ignored me and turned away, strangely oblivious to the three-foot flames that shot up behind her from the barbecue. The flames came awfully close to the willow tree branches that hung low overhead.

“Watch out!” The tree’s lower branches smoked and crackled as sparks flew. I looked around for something to douse the flames, but Mom was one step ahead of me. She whispered a few words and within seconds the barbecue flames were extinguished.

Pyromaniac Aunt Pearl loved an audience and would go to great lengths for attention. It usually involved magic, fire, or too often, both. She especially loved to irritate me, so I wanted to ignore her. But I couldn’t when safety was at stake. I glanced over at the film set workers. Thankfully they were all too immersed in their tasks to notice the split-second flare-up.

“Relax, Cen. I would have fixed anything that got out of hand. You always overreact.”

“It’s better if nothing happens in the first place.” I studied the plate of blackened burgers on the table beside her. “Nobody’s going to eat those things. They’re burnt to a crisp.”

Mom swooped up the plate. “Some people like their burgers well done. I’ll just take these inside so they’re ready to go.”

Those burgers were headed for the trash, but Aunt Pearl didn’t know that. I mentally calculated the number of burgers per hour that my Aunt could barbecue before noon. It was an expensive way to keep the peace, but at least it kept other damage to a minimum. Aunt Pearl could really wreak havoc if she wanted to. At least on burger detail, she was under Mom’s watchful eyes.

I was scared to think of what other little disasters Aunt Pearl had planned to stop filming. Despite her helpful demeanor, I knew she wanted nothing more than to run these interlopers out of town. I hated to think of what plans she had for our fully booked Inn, where she was chief housekeeper.

That job was Mom’s idea, thinking it would mean limited to no interaction with guests. Unfortunately though, it gave Aunt Pearl unfettered access to the guest rooms, and unlimited opportunities for mischief with shampoo, soap and charging weird cable shows to the guests’ accounts. She probably had much worse ideas in mind, but ignorance is bliss and I didn’t want to even think about what else was going on in that head of hers.

The more immediate problem was Aunt Pearl’s barbecue antics. I was afraid to ask, but did anyway. “What are you doing here? I thought Aunt Amber got you a job on set.” Were they fighting already?

Aunt Pearl ignored me as she slapped another half dozen burgers onto the grill. She turned up the gas.

Aunt Amber had promised to keep her oldest sister occupied 24/7. Yet Aunt Pearl was here in the thick of things just waiting to stir up trouble. She was a ninety-pound tornado just looking for a place to land. Tourists, movie people—they were all the enemy in her mind. Her presence at Mom’s food truck was no coincidence. I just hoped she wouldn’t go so far as to poison people.

“Amber got Pearl a great job working with props, but Pearl refuses to take it.” Mom tucked a stray blonde hair under her bright fuchsia and turquoise bandana. “Says it’s beneath her.”

“You got it wrong, Ruby. I never refused.” Aunt Pearl waved her barbecue fork in the air, almost spearing a tree branch. “The job was misrepresented to me. I was supposed to be the head of pyrotechnics, not some lackey guarding a toy box. No wonder Amber’s avoiding me. She’s going to pay for this.”

“You can’t be the head of pyrotechnics. You don’t have any movie experience.” I sighed. My aunts’ sibling rivalry knew no bounds. “I’m sure Aunt Amber was just trying to help.”

Aunt Pearl snorted as she sprinkled liquid from her hip flask onto the barbecue. Flames shot up from the grill a split-second later. She gazed lovingly at the flames as they rose higher and higher from the grill. She seemed to be in a trance.

“Watch out!” The hair on the back of my neck rose. My five-foot-nothing firebug aunt had a hate-on for authority figures, both formal and informal. She was also a recovering pyromaniac, so the idea of her having anything to do with fire freaked me out.

The flames lessened as the fuel burned off, and Aunt Pearl came out of her trance. “You said something?” She smiled sweetly at us.

“Props is a great opportunity, Pearl. You’ve got to start somewhere.” Mom turned the barbecue flame down. “You can add that experience to your résumé.”

“Amber doesn’t have experience.” Aunt Pearl snorted. “How come she gets a leading role?”

I wondered that too. Instead, I said, “You’re just jealous.”

“Am not.”

I rolled my eyes. “Do you always have to compete with each other?” Mom’s two older sisters were now in their sixties and seventies, with Aunt Pearl the oldest. Their intense sibling rivalry hadn’t diminished at all. In fact, it had grown stronger with each passing year. They couldn’t be in the same room for five minutes before they tried to one-up each other. Mom always broke up their spats and played mediator even though she was the youngest.

“I wish you and Amber would stop being so competitive,” Mom said. “You’re both good at different things, that’s all. You complement each other.”

I snorted involuntarily and they both glared at me.

“I have life experience, Ruby. I’m also a witch and a darn good one too. I’m not about to work for some incompetent has-been who doesn’t know what the heck he’s doing.”

“You mean the props manager? Of course he knows what he’s doing. He’s got years of experience like everyone else here. They’re all professionals.” Mom tilted her head in the direction of the set.

“I can whip up some mean special effects. His are a joke.” Aunt Pearl waved her hand and the barbecue flames shot up again.

Mom shot them down with a wave of her hand. “Just keep a lid on your tricks for a couple of days, okay? None of the movie people know we’re witches and we have to keep it that way.”

“But Bill doesn’t know what he’s doing. At this rate, they’ll be filming forever.” She scowled. “I just wanted to lend a helping hand so they can wrap things up quickly. But whatever I suggest gets shot down.”

“Don’t try any funny stuff, Aunt Pearl.” I had no idea who Bill was or why she called him incompetent, but I figured anyone working on a movie this big had to be good at his job. More likely, excellent at it. Movie making was an industry everyone wanted to be in, and competition for jobs was fierce.

“Cen’s right. You can’t blow our cover,” Mom said. “Just do good work and earn their respect. At least Amber got you a job.”

Aunt Pearl shook her head. “No can do. I won’t compromise on quality. I have standards, you know.”

I had no idea what quality standards she was talking about. Maybe another job was just too stressful for her. Westwick Corners was so small that most locals had a few jobs. We all had to be entrepreneurs because the local economy was nonexistent.

The West family was no different since we all pitched in to run the Westwick Corners Inn and our bar, The Witching Post, in addition to other jobs. We always needed extra money to make ends meet. That was probably why Aunt Amber had gotten us all involved in the movie in the first place.

Everyone except me, that is. I felt a little slighted that Aunt Amber hadn’t gotten me a job too, but in another sense I was relieved. Most West family ventures tended to go haywire. I could just watch from a distance.

But still.

Why not me? Was it because I didn’t practice my witchcraft enough? True, I was a Pearl’s Charm School dropout, but punishing me for being a slacker witch seemed extreme. Maybe Aunt Amber didn’t think I was good enough, but trusting Aunt Pearl for a job ahead of me was both surprising and disturbing. Maybe it was Aunt Amber’s way of giving me a wake-up call, but her tough love approach hurt.

I watched as Aunt Pearl flipped charcoal-black burgers off the grill and onto a plate. She promptly dropped another half dozen burgers on the grill.

“Maybe you shouldn’t work on the movie after all. What will your students do?” Pearl’s Charm School, Aunt Pearl’s witchcraft school, had zero students and was foundering, despite Aunt Pearl’s claims to the contrary. In fact, all of our businesses were in serious trouble, including The Westwick Corners Weekly. The movie shoot was the biggest thing to come to town in decades, and we all wanted—no, needed—to be a part of it.

“I need a break from teaching. You know how I get bored,” Aunt Pearl snapped. “Those students really test my patience sometimes too.”

“How is this any better?” I studied my gray-haired aunt. “You’re flipping burgers on a barbecue. And you’re miserable about it.”

“It’s not better at all, Cendrine. That’s kind of the point,” Aunt Pearl sniffed. “The special effects role was supposed to provide me with an outlet for my creative juices. Amber promised me full creative control. She said that if I helped her land the movie, she’d make it worth my while. Then she belittled me by getting me a job way below my talents and capabilities.”

I was tempted to ask how exactly she had helped Aunt Amber arrange for the movie to be filmed in Westwick Corners, but our discussion was already getting sidetracked.

“You can’t use witchcraft. Or fire.” I had a sinking feeling that whatever help Aunt Pearl had given came with strings attached. Some things were better not knowing.

“You know I wouldn’t do that, Cendrine.” Aunt Pearl’s lower lip stuck out in a fake pout and her eye twitched the way it always did when she was lying. “I always follow the rules.”

I bit my tongue, not wanting to start an argument. Aunt Pearl had probably steamrolled Aunt Amber into the props job by threatening something worse. Her disappointment only meant that we could expect more revenge of some kind. What the retaliation would be wasn’t exactly clear, but we all dreaded Aunt Pearl’s bouts of “creativity”. There was a fine line between giving in to her demands and keeping her out of trouble. No wonder Aunt Amber had gotten her the props assistant role.

That was also why Mom had her manning the barbecue. If Aunt Pearl was going to play with fire, at least it would be supervised.

2

Mom and I reluctantly left Aunt Pearl at the catering truck while we tended to breakfast at the Inn. It was rare to have our boutique bed and breakfast fully booked like it was today. Most of the cast and crew had opted for more modern accommodations an hour away in Shady Creek, but some had decided to stay in town. Our guests included a few VIPs and we wanted to pull out all the stops to make a great impression. We hoped to encourage return visits and maybe even garner some free publicity.

I grated cheese for omelets while Mom chopped vegetables. We were just settling into a rhythm when a shrill voice interrupted us.

“How could you leave me alone here to fend for myself?” Grandma Vi’s ghostly form flitted back and forth across the kitchen. “I don’t like all these intruders. What are they doing here?”

“They’re filming a movie, Grandma. It’s only temporary.” I was surprised that Aunt Amber hadn’t told her in advance about the movie, but then again, Aunt Amber hadn’t given any of us much notice.

“I don’t have a few days. I want you to get rid of all these people.” Her apparition wavered the way it did when she got really upset. Grandma never forgave Mom for turning our family home into a boutique bed and breakfast, and this was just the icing on the cake.

“You’re a ghost, Grandma. You’ve got all the time in the world.” Grandma stayed with me in the treehouse now. While a ghostly roommate seemed like an ideal situation, Grandma Vi was really hard to live with. She constantly competed for my attention when I had guests over and complained of loneliness when it was just the two of us.

“Don’t keep reminding me. At least put the house back the way it was.”

She meant the Inn, which was unchanged except for the presence of guests. “We have to earn a living somehow, Grandma. They’ll be gone soon.” I felt bad but our cash needs outweighed her feelings for the moment. Either we rented out the rooms or we moved to another town with job opportunities.

“Soon is a couple of days too long for me. I’m trying to be patient but they’ve already overstayed their welcome. I’ve had enough of this. Time to make a spectacle of myself.” She headed towards the door that led out into the dining room.

I raced to the door and blocked it with my body. “Specter, Grandma. You’re a specter, not a spectacle. Please don’t go in there. I’ll make it up to you somehow, I promise.” I glanced over at Mom, but her back was turned as she cooked breakfast on the grill.

“You know I can pass right through you, Cen.” She floated six inches from my face. “Don’t make me do it.”

“Okay, fine. Why don’t we make some tinctures later on?” Bribery was the only weapon I had. Grandma could wreak havoc if she didn’t get her way. “We haven’t done that in a while.”

Grandma’s aura immediately brightened to a happy sunny yellow. “I would love that. We’ll make love potions and bewitch all these movie people.” She giggled like a teenager. “Think of the trouble we’ll start!”

“That sounds like fun!” My voice came out a little higher pitched than normal, so I hoped I sounded convincing. I had no intention of using magic on the movie people without their knowledge, but Grandma Vi didn’t have to know that. “Maybe we can do it tomorrow, once things settle down a bit.”

She shook her head slowly. “No. You’ll have to think of something better than that. What am I supposed to do in the meantime?”

“Why don’t you pick out some shows and movies to watch? We can binge-watch all the old Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie episodes tonight. Just to get inspired.” I reached out to pat her arm, but naturally my hand went right through her.

“That’s all you’ve got to offer? That’s hardly worth my while,” Grandma Vi said. “Besides, I’m not really in the mood for comedy. In fact, I wouldn’t mind blowing off some steam and scaring some people right now. Maybe I’ll create my own drama.”

“Please don’t, Grandma.” I held up my hand in protest. It was obvious where Aunt Pearl got her ornery attitude from, but it was also clear that Grandma Vi had been pushed too far. I lowered my voice to a whisper so that Mom couldn’t hear. “Maybe we could do a spell on Amber and Pearl. You know, so they get along better.”

“Hmmm.” She floated up towards the ceiling, deep in thought. A couple of seconds later she popped up two inches in front of me. “That’s a very good idea, Cen. You’ll learn something new, and my daughters can get along for once.”

“Deal,” I said. “I’ll get some herbs from the garden and see you back at the treehouse later tonight.” Making tinctures was the only part of witchcraft I was really comfortable with, though I doubted there was a potion strong enough to take the edges off my aunts’ strong personalities. It seemed to satisfy Grandma Vi, at least for the moment.

“Ta ta.” Grandma Vi’s image faded into nothing.

I turned my thoughts back to Aunt Pearl. Leaving her unsupervised around the movie people was risky, but we didn’t have much choice. At least it was still early morning, a time when she was usually in a more civil mood and less likely to act up. The barbecue had satisfied her inner fire bug for the time being.

We needed two people at the Inn, one to cook and one to serve breakfast. As the server, I had an ulterior motive, which was to arrange interviews with some of our more famous guests. Then maybe, just maybe, one of my articles would catch on with readers and I could really make a go of it. I had several articles already planned on the movie shoot and write-ups on the movie stars. All I needed was to actually meet some of them while I served breakfast.

What I wanted more than anything was to meet Steven Scarabelli, the legendary producer who was staying at our inn. But that wasn’t to be, at least not yet. It turned out that I missed him by mere minutes as he had skipped breakfast and departed for the set while we were cooking.

Fortunately, it didn’t take Mom and me long to attend to the guests and we were soon headed back to the food truck. Main Street bustled with activity and even more buildings had been painted while we were away. The street’s fresh new facades contrasted sharply with the side streets. There the neglected buildings remained boarded, paint peeling from their wooden facades.

I felt a surge of hope, satisfied that the movie had already breathed new life into Westwick Corners even though filming hadn’t started yet. Our town’s population had dwindled from thousands to just a few hundred over the last decade, and the lack of jobs drove young people away as soon as they finished school. Some went to nearby Shady Creek, and others went even further afield to Seattle. But the movie could reverse that tide. Now our luck was about to change for the better.