In this Kansas City flower shop, normal is highly overrated.
CL (Clara) Bauer writes about a subject close to her own heart; her protagonist Lily Schmidt owns a flower shop in Kansas City that specializes in weddings, just as Clara’s own family business does. But there the overlap ends. In book one, The Poppy Drop, Lily accidentally ends up with drugs in her hydrangeas and the mystery-filled shenanigans take off from there.
This week, Clara has a giveaway offer for It’s a Mystery Podcast listeners. If you haven’t read any of the books in this series, message Clara on Facebook and let her know you heard the show and she’ll send you a personally signed copy of one of the Lily List books. If you have read all the books in the series, you can also message her with the correct answer to the following question and she’ll send you a different mystery-related prize: What is Lily’s favourite cookie?
This week’s mystery author
C.L. (Clara) Bauer is the author of The Lily List Mysteries through Corrugated Sky Publishing.
She’s lived in Kansas City, Missouri all her life which is the location of her first two books. With a background in journalism (including sports reporting), she’s happy to be writing again as a newer published author and enjoys the cozy mystery format. Her current series features comic wedding stories she’s acquired over the years from her family’s flower business.
To learn more about CL Bauer and all her books visit CLBauer.com
Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts. And listen on Stitcher, Android, Google Podcasts, TuneIn, and Spotify.
Excerpt from The Sweet Pea Secret
“Exactly why did you fire your church wedding coordinator?” Lily was driving Dan and herself to meet Dev at the townhouse. Dev and the realtor were making one last walk through. Besides, Lily had forgotten to hand over her set of keys for the new owners. She seemed to be forgetting a lot of little things lately. Jack called it “baby brain” and claimed that his wife had the same ailment when she was pregnant with both boys. He is such a nice man.
Anytime Lily needed Jack to go to the doctor’s office, he was there. He was probably the greatest living father-in-law on the face of the earth. Anytime she needed her latest food fetish, he was in the car and down to Ben’s, her favorite ice cream drive-thru. Currently, her favorite flavor was peanut butter ribbonfudge with a hint of potato chips. She added the chips as a crunchy accent.
“Do you want the priestly answer, or the real one?”
“Humor me, give me both.”
Dan laughed. As the passenger, Dan was enjoying the scenery of historic Alexandria. Lily had really caught onto the frantic driving skills needed to survive the beltway. “As the pastor of my church, there does come those times when I feel that a volunteer has done so much for the church that they deserve a break, perhaps an opportunity to turn in some other direction to serve the Lord.”
“That sounded really good. Now, spill. What’s the real reason?”
“She was a pain in my backside,” Dan admitted. “She actually told one couple that I didn’t know what I was doing. Last week, she allowed a photographer to sit on the edge of the altar to get a photo. What’s worse is it was during the blasted ceremony!”
Lily giggled. The priest was really worked up by this woman. Lily had met her once when Dev and she had arrived to pick Dan up after a wedding. She wasn’t exactly the friendliest coordinator ever, but Lily was used to tolerating Gretchen.
Ah, Gretchen! I need to call her, then I can listen for forty minutes to every juicy piece of gossip in Kansas City. She’ll make me forget all the gas I’ve been having. It’s probably the celery’s fault. That’s what eating healthy gets you!
“You are sure Devlin is going to be fine with you helping me out on the weddings I have scheduled until I get someone else in there?”
“Of course, he will be.” Lily had just lied to a priest. Do I need to go to confession for this, Lord? Don’t pregnant women get passes sometimes, especially when they are helping out one of your employees? Work with me, Lord!
Dev had thought it wouldn’t be a good idea when she had originally said that Dan might need some help, but he was still worrying about her doing too much. She didn’t dare tell him how exhausted she had been after she’d helped his aunt.
Dan’s finger pointed toward the street in front of them. “There’s a lot of police and fire trucks up there.”
Lily saw the police line in front of her. They were setting up barricades.
“Dan, Dev’s down there.” Lily’s voice was soft and full of fear.
“Drive down as far as you can. Maybe they’ll tell us something. It probably has nothing to do with Dev.”
Lily did as she was instructed and was stopped by a patrolman.
“Ma’am, you can’t go any further. You’ll have to turn around.”
“My husband is on that block. We need to meet him. Maybe we could just pick him up.”
“What house are you headed to?”
“Three ten. It’s just two houses down, where that hazmat truck is sitting.”
Lily felt her stomach jump, and it wasn’t the baby doing it. She felt Dan touch her shoulder and lean toward her.
“Officer, I’m a priest. Could I help in any way?”
The policeman looked over to the priest and nodded. “Actually, Father, could you get out of the car and take a look at something for me?”
Dan thought that was a weird request, but possibly he could discover more about that hazmat truck. “Sure. Lily, you just sit here, and breathe. I’ll be right back.”
“Yes, ma’am. Just park it right here. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
Lily watched the two figures stand in front of her car. There was some pointing and bowing heads. The two men were not praying. She was sure of that. That was the only thing she was sure of. Dan shook the officer’s hand, came over to her door, and opened it.
“Come on. He is going to take us down there. But you have to be good.” Dan offered her a hand as she slowly removed herself from the car. She grabbed her purse. Maybe she could still return the key to the realtor if they were allowed close enough to the townhome.
“I’m always good.” She offered a meek smile. They walked slowly behind the officer. She noticed some black, dark vehicles, ones that were unmarked. They didn’t belong in the neighborhood, but neither did the FBI or Homeland Security vehicles. She noticed two DEA cars. She said nothing as they came closer to their home. In her head she was praying and using profanity simultaneously.
The hazmat vehicle was directly in front of the townhome. Dan held her arm at the elbow. He was silent. A man in a suit headed toward them.
“Mrs. Pierce, everything is under control. Your husband is being decontaminated right now out of caution, but he will be out in another five minutes. This is just procedure. I’m sorry, but we can’t allow you any further.” He smiled after his statement.
“So something has happened to my husband, but he is okay?”
“Yes. He can explain what happened after we are finished with him.”
Lily looked at Dan. She grabbed his arm in urgency. “Dan, I don’t feel well. Geez, I’m acting like such a baby.”
“No, it’s okay. Let’s get you seated.” Dan looked at all his options and found just one. “Sit on the curb here. I’ll get you up later. Here, sit on my jacket.” He removed his black coat and draped it over the concrete. He carefully lowered her to the curb. He squatted in front of the now very pale Lily. “Just focus on me, and how amazingly handsome I am. You are now doubting your choice on the man you selected as your husband. Of course, you could’ve had JT too, but that wouldn’t have been very wise.”
“You would never have left the priesthood,” she whispered. She heard someone asking for water and a bottle quickly appeared.
“You sound certain about that.”
“Pregnant women are always right about everything, especially when you think they are going to pass out.”
“Lily, keep looking at my face.”
“I’m looking at your collar. You know I almost married a minister. I’ve had clergy as friends all my professional life.”
“Including an ex-fiance. I wonder where he is.”
“I just want to see my husband.” Lily strained her neck in a vain attempt to see Dev. She did see the realtor. The woman was speaking with an investigator of some kind. “Was there a gas leak? Did someone put a bomb somewhere?”
Dan’s usually soft tone became stressed. “Why would you think about a bomb?”
Lily tilted her head, looking like a disbelieving child. “One word–Khalid. I know things.”
“Woman, what are we going to do with you?”
“Just keep me breathing, Danny, please.”
“Father, I can sit with Mrs. Pierce. I know Dev through the DEA. They’ll allow you to go down now.”
Lily looked up to see a very athletic looking woman, in a dark suit.
Do they all go to the same place to get that stupid suit? It must be next door to the place where they all learn how to not tell you the truth.
“Lily, I’m going to find out what is going on, and I’ll check on Dev. Are you okay with that?” Dan touched her shoulders softly. “Lily?”
“Yes, go. I’ll be fine.” She took a drink of water.
The woman took a seat next to her.
“My name is Ava. I was actually at West Point with Dev.”
Lily turned to look at her. “Really? And now you are with the DEA?”
“Well, yes,” the woman said, a little surprised that Lily had caught on that quickly. “But I chose to get out of the field before Dev so I’ve been up here for the last few years.”
“Were you deployed in the Army?”
“I was, actually, but I wasn’t part of the team, well Dev’s team. We heard about them though. I went in a different direction, but I was in Afghanistan. I know all of them, and I’ve heard so many stories about all of them. How are they treating you?”
“Like I’m the little sister they never knew they wanted.” Both women shared a nervous laugh.
“I know Dan didn’t remember me when I came up. You’ll have to tell him it was me, Ava. They nicknamed me Ace. Do you have a name yet?”
Lily sat a little straighter, proud. “I do. It’s Sweet Pea. JT gave it to me.”
“You mean that idiot is still alive?” Now Ava looked a little green around the gills.
“Ah, you know him. Yes, he is still kicking. He’s the brother I never knew I wanted.”
“Wow, JT is still alive.” Ava seemed to repeat the sentence to convince herself of the information. “We had some good times.” Her voice trailed off.
Lily saw something. JT had a past with this woman. The baby kicked. “Ouch.” Lily flinched. Ava grabbed her arm.
“Did something just happen?”
Lily sighed. “The baby just kicked really hard. I’m not used to this.”
“I’m not sure anyone is used to that, or ready for it.” Ava’s voice was comforting, her eyes soft and clear.
“Did you go to the school where they teach you to divert the subject’s attention away from the dangerous situation too? I know my husband went to that school.
He was probably the head of his class.” Lily spoke plainly without any emotion. Ava’s head dropped in shame.
“Apparently, I’m not a very good student.” Lily disagreed. “No, you are very good. I truly just caught on. So, tell me about JT and you.”
Ava’s entire body straightened. Her back was straighter, her arms clutched her bended legs. “Dang, I think we need to hire you.”
“I have been told that before,” Lily said confidently. When did this confidence come to live in me? She looked down at her wedding ring. Thankfully, her fingers weren’t swelling, yet. Oh, yeah, it was the day I married him.
“I seriously don’t think we have enough time.”
She looked over Lily’s head to see two figures walking towards them. One had a collar on his shirt, the other wore FBI sweats. She motioned to Lily to see her husband.
Lily broke out in tears. She tried to push up off the cement, but it was impossible. Ava quickly aided her, lifting her up in one swift move. She was the ridiculously crying wife, falling into her husband’s arms. But she didn’t care. Her relief was overwhelming, and her hormones were flying in the Alexandria air.
Dev wrapped her up in his arms, holding her as tightly as he had ever held any one human being. He swore he could feel the baby kick. “I’m fine, honey.
You are fine. It’s okay.”
Dev felt a small fist hitting him lightly on the chest. “I don’t know what has happened, but don’t you ever do that again.”
Dan and Ava found the demand highly amusing. It was then that the priest realized who he was standing next to. “Ava? Ace? Wow, I didn’t know it was you.”
“It’s been a few years and about twenty pounds over my fighting weight,” she admitted.
Dan hugged her fiercely. “Well, you look wonderful. Let’s go over here and catch up so Lily can continue to beat on her husband in private. Gosh, Ace, it is so good to see you.”
Lily and Dev were left alone, as much as you could be private in the middle of a terrorism crime scene with dozens of agents and first responders running around. “Lily, honey, it is all over.”
Lily pulled away and starkly reprimanded her husband. “Don’t lie to me, Dev. I have this feeling it is only beginning. This time, and you know I’m right, you can not and will not keep me out of the loop. Now, what happened?”
“I pulled up to meet Barbara, and she was standing outside the house. She had just picked up something. She waved. I went to the door, and she said I had a delivery. The box was sitting there when she arrived. She thought it was interesting that I knew someone in Turkey. I looked at the address, and I knew there was something wrong.”
“No ex-girlfriend in Istanbul?”
“No. I just had this feeling.”
“Of course you did,” Lily muttered.
Dev’s one brow rose. “I told Barbara to call 9-1-1. I ran with the box and placed it in the trash bin. I rolled it to the edge of the sidewalk, away from our cars, and I called my friends at Homeland. They brought the FBI, my DEA people, and a few other assorted agents from other secret alphabet groups.”
“What was in the box, Dev?” Lily stared cooly at her husband. He’d described every detail except the most important one. Her arms were crossed, resting on top of her stomach.
“Nothing too significant.”
Lily squinted her eyes into very small slits of optical disbelief.
“Fine. There was ricin in the box.”
“Excuse me? Ricin? Isn’t that poison?”
“More explanation, please?”
“Can we wait until we get home?” Dev saw the FBI evidence team pulling away with their very valuable evidence.
“I suppose so. I still have my key for Barbara.”
Dev slipped one arm around Lily to guide her to the car. “I will stop at her office tomorrow and hand it to her.”
“And you’ll check on her,” Lily suggested. Her arms uncrossed as she began to relax.
“Of course, honey. You go to the car, and I’ll have Dan join you. I still have to get my car.”
“What about your real clothes?” Lily happily lowered herself into her driver’s seat. My back is killing me. That was a bad choice of words.
“I’m not sure we will ever see them again. I’ve literally given the clothes off my back for my job.”
Dev laughed; Lily did not. “Do you still want to go for Italian like we planned?”
“Am I still pregnant? Of course I do. You can fill in all the information you left out while we eat. Besides, I promised Dan. He loves the lasagna down there.” They were heading to the restaurant where she had met Dev’s dad for the first time. It had been his mother’s favorite place. And she was hungry, again. Lily waited patiently while she watched Dev talk to Dan. She grabbed her bag of celery and munched away. Her eyes narrowed in an attempt to read their lips, but somehow Dev knew exactly what she was doing. They turned their backs to her.
How rude! You are in so much trouble, buddy!
The baby was slightly pushing on one side of her belly.
“Geez, kid. Enjoy the damn celery.” The month of August couldn’t come soon enough if this was going to continue. “I know you’re hungry, but your spy daddy is being very secretive. I promise you pasta very soon, oh and those breadsticks. You are going to love those. They bake them on-site.”
Lily picked up her cell and pressed on the speed dial. “JT? We need to talk. There’s been a situation. I’m sure you’ll hear about it later tonight. Call me tomorrow.”