One of the goals of SPFBO is to give a chance to self-published authors to get more exposure. This year I’m taking part in the competition as an advisor for Fantasy Book Review’s judging team. I decided to offer a spot to the authors in our group and will post them throughout the year. To see all of our content regarding the competition, check out my SPFBO page!
“You know what the issue is with this world? Everyone wants some magical solution to their problem and everyone refuses to believe in magic.”
My name is Lorri Moulton and I live on a farm in Eastern Washington. We have five horses and live in a lovely part of the country, which inspire many of my stories. I write romance, suspense, fantasy, mysteries, and historical non-fiction. Real life fairytales happen all the time. You just have to believe in the possibility…and look for magic in the most unexpected places.
“Moonlight, Roses & Murder” is a suspense fantasy with a murder mystery. Selina is a woman with a secret and she has been hiding it for a very long time. With her nieces, she runs Luna’s, a nightclub in downtown Seattle, catering to Steampunk and Goth clientele. When someone leaves a body behind her club, she is drawn into a web of mystery and murder. Puncture marks on the body indicate a vampire might be responsible and when more women are killed, a red rose is left by their bodies. A vampire hunter with secrets of his own comes to investigate and Selina wonders, who she can trust…
Walking out of the club, Hailey smiled and looked back at her friends. “I told you it’s only a few blocks and I like the exercise.” She tried to adjust the corset of her Steampunk costume, but it was determined to keep riding up.
“This isn’t Ellensburg,” said her friend Sonya, smoothing out her long black dress. “Seattle is not someplace to be walking around by yourself at night.”
“I’ll go with you,” Andy offered. He looked good in his Victorian outfit, but he’d been slurring his words since their third shot of whiskey.
“That’s okay,” Hailey replied, holding up one hand. “See, it’s right there,” she said, pointing towards one of the buildings. “Okay, right behind the tall one,” she added, laughing.
“Let’s all go,” Sonya offered, looking at her watch. “We can get there and back in time for the next set. The band is really good tonight.”
“I’m fine,” Hailey replied, giving her a hug. “Oops, sorry about the ruffles. They keep getting in the way.” She smiled. “I’ll talk to you in the morning. We still have three days left of Spring Break.”
“She has to go call Doug,” Andy said, smirking. “Lucky guy if you ask me.”
“Okay Andy, time for coffee,” Sonya said, pulling him back towards the club. Looking at Hailey, she added, “Be careful.”
Hailey nodded, then turned and walked across the street, cutting through Pioneer Square. She loved Seattle especially this part of the city. The glass-covered, metal pergola was beautiful and with the trees and old buildings, it almost felt like she’d stepped back in time.
She heard music playing, probably from one of the clubs. The Steampunk Convention was bringing out a lot of people for a Thursday night. Two creepy guys were standing next to one of the doorways, which Hailey carefully walked around. Glancing over her shoulder, she was relieved that they seemed deep in conversation.
Almost there, she told herself as she crossed the street and walked along the sidewalk. As she passed the alley, she thought she heard a noise. She looked over and saw nothing, but started walking faster. She could swear she heard footsteps and suddenly, this part of the block seemed deserted. She stopped and heard two clicks, then silence.
“Okay, this is getting scary,” she said softly, wishing she’d asked Andy to come with her after all. As she hurried to the end of the block, she saw the hotel across the street. Finally, she thought, sighing with relief. She took a step towards the bright lights of the hotel as someone grabbed her from behind, pulling her back into the shadows…
Selina Bellerose looked up as one of her employees walked into the office. Jeremy was her head bouncer and he usually came in making a joke or complaining about a difficult customer.
“Selina, we’ve got a problem,” Jeremy said, seriously.
“What is it?” she asked, brushing her long, brown hair over her shoulder. When he hesitated, Selina said, “Just tell me, Jeremy.”
“You’d better come look for yourself,” Jeremy replied, walking out of the room.
Selina nodded, following him out of the office and through the now deserted club. As they walked up the stairs to the rear entrance, Jeremy stopped and looked back at her. “It’s not pretty,” he said.
As they stepped into the dim light of the alley, she could see a figure lying on the stones. “It’s a girl,” Selina said, walking over to the very still young woman. She was dressed in a beige and brown Steampunk outfit with her hair done up in pigtails.
“She’s older than she looks,” Isabella said, standing next to the body. Her assistant manager paused and added, “Or at least she was. She’s dead, Selina.”
“Have you called the police?” Selina asked, turning to Jeremy.
Jeremy and Isabella exchanged a look. “Call them,” Selina said. Walking back into the club, she added, “And stay with her until they arrive.”
Isabella nodded as Jeremy pulled out his cell phone.
Selina walked back down the stairs, looking around the club. This was going to be trouble, she thought. Trouble she didn’t want or need. She walked into her office and started putting papers and a few other items into her safe.
Detective Nathaniel Wright looked around the crime scene. He was in his early 30s and had been a detective for almost three years, so he knew this case was going to attract some attention. The victim was young, pretty and had lost a lot of blood. She was also wearing a Steampunk costume, which had very little blood on it. As he went over the crime scene, it was obvious the murder hadn’t happened in the alley.
He looked over at his partner, Maria Fuentes. She was in her late 40s and easily the smartest detective he knew. She had a way of getting people to relax and tell her much more than they would normally admit to the police. She looked like the average mom, but she’d solved more cases than any other detective in the Seattle PD. He had learned a lot from her.
“What do you think?” he asked Maria.
“I’ll let you know in a minute,” she replied, walking over to the young woman standing behind the club. She had dark blonde hair, tied up with a blue velvet ribbon and was wearing a blue and white, Victorian style dress. “Excuse me, it’s Isabella, isn’t it?’ she asked, recalling that two people had called in the murder. “Do you have a moment to talk?”
Isabella nodded, looking back over at the handsome, young African-American detective, then down at the dead girl. “Of course,” she replied. “Would you like some coffee or anything?”
Maria shook her head. “Thank you, but we need to stay with the body until the forensics team gets here.” She pulled out a small notebook and a pencil. “Did you find the victim?”
“No,” Isabella replied, “Jeremy found her, when he came out here to dump…” she paused and swallowed. “When he brought the garbage out.”
Maria edged over a little, so that she was blocking the view of the body. “And then he went back into the club and got you?” she asked.
Isabella nodded. “I told him to find Selina and I would wait with the young…with the body.”
Maria looked up. “Did he tell you she was dead?”
“He said she didn’t seem to have a pulse,” Isabella replied, “but he was only out here a moment.”
Maria nodded. “Then, you called us right away.”
“As soon as Jeremy brought Selina up,” Isabella replied. “She’s the owner and we thought she should know.”
Maria was used to this type of thing. Some people called immediately, others were in shock and had to be told to call, and a few didn’t want the police involved. She’d give this young woman the benefit of the doubt for now.
“Where is Jeremy?” Maria asked. “I’ll need to speak to him and the owner.”
“Of course,” Isabella said. “I told them I would stay with her,” she looked back towards the body. “I would stay until you arrived.”
Maria nodded. “Why don’t you ask Jeremy to come out here. You’re free to go home if you like.”
Isabella nodded and went into the club. Maria looked around, then back over at her partner. Finally answering his question, she said, “I think someone murdered this young woman and staged her body behind the club. What I want to know is why?”
“Her ID was in her pocket,” Nate said, glancing down at the ruffled skirt. “Says her name was Hailey Elizabeth Brockner.” He shook his head. “Looks like she was here for the Steampunk Convention. Why these kids want to dress up like freaks is beyond me.”
“They seem to enjoy it,” a soft voice said behind them. Turning, they saw a beautiful woman in her early 30’s. “She was quite lovely,” she said, looking down at the young woman on the ground.
Nate cleared his throat. “And you are…”
“Selina Bellerose,” she replied. “I am the owner of Luna’s Nightclub. I understand you wish to speak to Jeremy.” She looked over at Maria. “He’ll be right up…he’s in the men’s room.”
Maria nodded. “It’s not easy finding a dead body.”
“Or to see them on a regular basis, I would imagine,” Selina said, looking from Maria to Nate. “Can I get you anything? Maybe some coffee?”
“We have to wait…” Nate began.
“I’d appreciate a cup,” Maria replied, surprising her partner. She turned to Nate. “Wait for the forensics team, then meet me inside.”
Nate nodded as Maria followed Selina into the club. The owner was gorgeous, he thought to himself, even in that weird, black lace dress. He smiled for a moment, then looked back down at the victim and shook his head.
Maria followed the owner, Miss Bellerose, down the stairs and into the club. It was quiet now, looking more like a very large Victorian parlor than a nightclub. They walked over to the huge L-shaped mahogany bar, which took up one end of the space. Black metal stools with matching leather cushions offered plenty of seating. Edison style lighting hung from the ceiling, reflected in the large mirror behind the bar. Shelves full of sparkling liquor bottles were lit up by more vintage fixtures.
“Very nice,” Maria said, looking around at the mahogany paneling, which covered the lower two thirds of the walls and the old brick above. A large mahogany fireplace took up most of one wall with benches on either side. Small tables and chairs were pulled up to them for additional seating. Maria smiled. “I would have loved to have had a club like this, when I was a Goth girl.”
“We do have some Goth clientele especially the Romantigoths,” Selina agreed. “They love the Victorian feel, but Steampunk seems to be the most popular at the moment.”
Maria nodded, thinking of the body outside. “Do you remember seeing the young lady in your club tonight?”
“No, but I was in the office most of the evening. Did she have a stamp on the back of her hand?” Selina asked. “Ours will show up under an ultraviolet light.”
“We’ll know more, when forensics gets here,” Maria said, looking at her watch.
Selina poured two cups of coffee. “Cream or sugar?” she asked.
“Black is fine,” replied Maria, picking up one of the coffee mugs.
As she started to sit on the barstool, Selina smiled. “Let’s go to one of the upholstered benches,” she suggested. “They’re much more comfortable.”
Maria followed her to one of the red leather benches along the wall. “This is better,” she agreed, sitting down. “Did you have trouble with any of the customers this evening?”
“No,” Selina replied. “And I would have been notified immediately if there had been. We had a large crowd for a Thursday night, but it was mostly college kids and convention people.” She paused. “The girl seemed very pale. She must have lost a lot of blood.”
Maria nodded. “And I’m guessing you noticed there didn’t seem to be any in the alley.”
Selina shrugged. “I didn’t look very carefully, but one would imagine there would be a lot of blood around the body if she had been killed there.”
“You’re not going to play amateur detective on this, are you?” Maria asked.
Selina smiled. “Hardly. I just want to make it clear that my club does not attract that kind of violent element.”
“How long have you owned the place?” Maria looked around. “It seems more like a Victorian parlor than a nightclub.”
“Almost three years,” Selina replied. “It was pretty rough, when we bought it. A lot of hard work and a very good designer got us to what you see today.”
“Us?” Maria repeated. “Is there a co-owner?”
“My nieces and I purchased the club,” Selina said, reminding herself not to share so much information with a police detective.
“How old are your nieces?” Maria asked, “just for my own notes.”
Selina smiled. “They are 22, 24, 25 and 27. They were my older sister’s daughters and I’ve had them for quite a while.” She paused. “My sister was killed in an automobile accident several years ago.”
Maria nodded. “And do they all work at the club?”
“Yes,” Selina replied, “but only Isabella was here cleaning up with Jeremy. Everyone else went home after the club closed and there was no body in the alley at midnight, I assure you.”
“You close early for a club,” Maria noted. “Is that typical?”
“We close at midnight during the week,” Selina replied, “but on Friday and Saturday we stay open until 2 am. The club is closed on Sunday and Monday.”
Maria wrote it all down. Selina wondered if she was always so thorough. “I’d like to speak to Jeremy now,” Maria said, looking up.
Selina nodded and walked over to a door next to the bar, which Maria hadn’t noticed before. Selina went through it and came back a few moments later with a tall young man, who was built like a football player.
“Jeremy, Detective Fuentes would like to speak to you,” Maria heard Selina say as they walked back over. Selina had a hand on Jeremy’s arm, who still looked a little pale.
“What time did you find the victim?” Maria asked, indicating that Jeremy should sit down.
“About twelve thirty,” Jeremy replied. “Sorry, I’m not usually so upset, but she just looked like she was sleeping. I walked over to see if she’d passed out and then I realized…she was cold.” He looked up at Selina. “Too cold.”
Selina nodded. “It’s alright, Jeremy. Tell the detective what happened after that.”
“I checked for a pulse.” He looked over at Maria. “We learned to do that in college. Check our pulse rate, while working out.” He shrugged and shook his head. “She didn’t have one.”
“So, you came back into the club and told your boss,” Maria said. “Then, what happened?”
“I brought Selina back up and she told us to call you. To call the police. And to stay with the girl…with the body until you arrived.” Jeremy looked down. “She was a pretty girl, wasn’t she?”
“Yes,” Maria agreed. Turning to Selina, she asked, “And what did you do while the others were waiting for us?”
Selina kept her muscles relaxed. “I came down to check the video tape in my office. To see if the young woman was outside tonight, standing in line to get in.”
“And did you see her?” Maria asked.
“No, but we don’t have any cameras in the alley.” Selina sighed. “I didn’t think we’d need them.”
Maria was about to respond, when Detective Wright walked into the club. “I take it forensics finally showed up?” Maria asked.
“It’s been a busy night,” Nate replied. “Apparently, they had a crime scene in Wallingford to deal with before they could get here.”
Maria nodded. Looking over at Jeremy, she said, “Thank you for your help. You’re free to leave.”
“Go wait in my office with Isabella,” Selina said. “We’ll drop you at your apartment on our way.” Jeremy nodded and walked back through the door by the bar. “If there’s nothing else, I would like to get them home.” Glancing from Nate to Maria, she added, “I can give you a copy of the video if you like.”
“I’d appreciate that,” Maria replied. “And if I could get your address and phone number in case we have any other questions?”
After she wrote down the information, Selina walked over to her office. A few minutes later, she returned with a thumb drive, which she handed to Maria. “Here’s what we have from the front door security cameras. I hope it helps.”
Selina escorted the detectives upstairs. When they opened the door to the alley, one of the men working on the body said, “Detective Fuentes, we have a problem.” Maria walked over with Nate as Selina followed a few steps behind. “We turned the body over and found this.”
The man moved back to show them. “The coroner should be here any minute, but it looks like she hit her head…then someone did this.” He indicated the two punctures, which were just a few inches apart.
Selina looked down and closed her eyes. When she looked up, all she saw was the flash. “Get out of here,” Nate yelled, pointing at the man holding the phone. “No pictures at a crime scene. Show some respect.”
“Are you saying someone bit her on the neck?” the man asked. “My blog followers are going to love this!”
Selina looked at the man, who was wearing a long, dark overcoat and realized he was probably one of the Steampunk bloggers attending the convention. As she turned to go back into the club, she hoped he had merely taken a picture of the crime scene and not one of her.
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