Cozy Murder Guild

📅 Published on May 25, 2022

“Cozy Murder Guild”

Written by Kendra Nicholson
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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Chapter 1

“First of all, Ms. Fitzhugh, I want to thank you for doing this interview for my ‘Between the Covers’ podcast.”

“Please call me Vivian, dear. Ms. Fitzhugh sounds so stuffy!”

Randall laughed and took a sip of his tea, “Of course. Vivian it is. And if you don’t mind, I would also like to mention your rose garden. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful roses! What’s your secret?”

“Well now…” she answered, “If I told you that it wouldn’t be much of a secret, would it? That is something I will take to the grave with me, dear boy. And besides, who doesn’t like a little mystery?”

He laughed and said, “True, true! So, Ms… Fitz… I’m sorry. I mean, Vivian… would you please share the reason you chose the cozy genre for your thriller series? It doesn’t seem as though ‘cozy’ and ‘murder’ necessarily go hand in hand.”

She leaned over and picked up a delicate gold-rimmed plate with tiny dark green leaves around the edges that was filled with freshly baked cookies.

“Before we really get into it, I want to offer you a cookie while they’re still warm. These are made with a lemon cake mix and cream cheese! I used to feel like I was cheating by using a box mix, but they’re so delicious I don’t mind cheating a little!”

Randall thanked her as he picked up a cookie and took a bite. She was absolutely right. These cookies were amazing. He followed that bite with a sip of tea.

“Murder mysteries have always been my favorite genre to read, so I think it only made sense that when I began writing I would be drawn to them too. And as far as the cozy aspect…Once I discovered there was a kinder, gentler genre, I was hooked. I think we can have a compelling story without sharing all of the gory details, don’t you, Randall? Plus, I think there is quite enough violence and terror in the real world. I prefer to use my writing as a bit of an escape from that.”

He took another cookie from the plate. “I can understand that. And I mean, your work is certainly popular! You and Mr. Chippy have a very loyal following. It’s so interesting to me how this tiny dog plays such a large role in your books.”

The little teacup Yorkie had been resting quietly on the sofa next to Vivian until he heard his name, then he popped up and tilted his head, studying the thin man who wore dark rimmed glasses.

“People don’t give small dogs enough credit,” she said as she reached over and ran her hand over the pup’s head. “He is a very smart dog, and he is a magnificent judge of character.” She continued to gently stroke him as she looked at him lovingly. “Mr. Chippy senses darkness in people, don’t you, puppy puppy? And he always lets me know. He hasn’t been wrong yet. He’s a marvelous sidekick.”

“Well, I certainly am glad that he seems to like me!”

“Yes. If he hadn’t approved of you, we would not be doing this interview.”

Randall started to laugh, then he saw her serious look and realized she wasn’t joking. He cleared his throat nervously, then she gave a small laugh and said,

“But here we are having quite a lovely conversation.”

Suddenly a timer buzzed from the kitchen, and Vivian excused herself to go take another batch of cookies out of the oven. Randall used this opportunity to have a good look around the room. The little Craftsman style bungalow looked like a time capsule from the 1980’s. Mr. Chippy stared at him unblinkingly from a pale blue sofa while he looked back at the dog from an overstuffed pink chair with pillows that matched the sofa.

He stood and walked over to the large portrait of a young woman hanging above the fireplace.

“That’s my daughter, Liana.”

“She’s beautiful,” Randall murmured.

“Yes,” Vivian said as she reached up to put her hand on the bottom right corner of the gold frame, and rubbed it back and forth for a moment, “Yes, she is.”

When she walked away, he could see that the gilded frame was slightly worn in the spot where she had placed her hand, and he knew that it was from her frequent touch.

Chapter 2

Vivian opened the door, flipped on the light switch, sat in her stair lift chair, pushed the button, and slowly made her way down to the unfinished basement.

“Did you enjoy the pie?”

Mr. Peterson was having trouble opening his eyes, because he had been sitting in darkness for some time, and the light was painful. He tried to speak but could only grunt through the gag.

“Oh goodness! Silly me! Here, let’s take that thing off.”

She walked over to where he sat tied to the wooden chair and removed the gag from his mouth, then took a seat across from him in her padded rocking chair, and slowly began to rock back and forth.

He began yelling,

“You are batshit crazy, lady! What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Language, Mr. Peterson. Language. There’s no need for that sort of talk.” She said shaking her head. “Oh well. I suppose we will just have to put this back on,” and started to rise.

“NO! No, I’ll stop!”

She relaxed back into the chair and said, “Now then…Where were we? Oh yes! Did you enjoy the pie?”

“What? Ummm…yeah. I mean, yeah, I enjoyed it, but you must have put something in there to knock me out, right?”

“Actually, no. That was the tea. But let’s get back to the pie. Was there anything in it that tasted… off to you?”

“Lady, who gives a rat’s a… I mean… who cares about how the pie tasted? What are we doing here?”

“Well, I care, Mr. Peterson. I care very much, or I wouldn’t have asked, now, would I? It’s a recipe that I’ve been working on for some time. I added a little something extra, you know. A ‘secret ingredient’ if you will.  I think I’ve perfected it. Did it taste normal to you?”

“Yeah. Yeah, the pie was good. There! You happy now? Can I go?”

She leaned forward smiling, “How are you feeling, Mr. Peterson? If you don’t mind me saying so, you’re looking a little… peaked.”

He looked confused for a few moments, then his eyes grew wide, and his breathing grew faster.

She loved this moment. They often thought that the feeling they were experiencing when they woke up was due to the Rohypnol, also known by the street name “roofies.” The moment that they realized there might be more going on was delightful.

“Ah, yes. There it is. Do you understand now?”


“Why? Well now, Mr. Peterson. I think you know the answer to that. I’ve met your lovely bride, Angela, and frankly I’m very disappointed in the way you have treated her.”

“What? Angela? That lying bitch!”

Vivian shook her head and started to rise again with the gag in her hand.

“Wait! Wait! Please! You’ve only heard her side! I don’t get to tell you mine?  I’m a decent guy! I never laid a hand on her!” he yelled in a panic.

“That’s enough,” she answered, then gave a whistle, “Mr. Chippy! Come! Come, puppy puppy!”

He could hear the tippy tap of tiny feet as the dog came down the stairs.

“You see, Mr. Peterson. My sweet pup was mistreated by a horrible man before he came to live with me, and because of that he is a very good judge of character.” She turned to the dog, patted her lap, and said “Uppies!” and he hopped right up. “Good boy! That’s my good, good boy! Now then…Mr. Chippy… this is Mr. Peterson. He claims to be a decent guy. What do you think?”

The dog pulled his upper lip back, showing a row of sharp little teeth. “Oh, yes. I thought so too. His wife told me that he hurts her.” He gave a low growl. “My thoughts exactly! He also claims that he never laid a hand on her. Do you believe that?” Mr. Chippy threw his head back and let out a robust bark that could have belonged to a dog twice his size. “I could not agree more. Thank you! You’ve been very helpful. Do you want a treato? You want some chicky chicky?”

Vivian pulled a bit of chicken out of her apron pocket, and he gently took it from her hand and gobbled it down. She put him back on the floor, and said, “Good boy! You can go.” He turned and headed back upstairs.

“Well then! That’s that!” she said as she got up.

“What do you mean, ‘that’s that’? What does that mean?”

“It means that your days of hurting Angela are over.”

“OK! OK, you’re right! I’ll stop! I’ll leave her alone! I promise! She got a restraining order, so I’m not allowed to see her anyways!”

Vivian walked up to him.

“That’s right. You do have a restraining order, but that didn’t keep you from going to her apartment last Thursday evening, did it, Mr. Peterson?”

He glared at her.

“And what did you do to her? Hmmm?”

He looked away.

Vivian nodded her head. “It’s always the same. Always. Men like you commit atrocities against women who cannot defend themselves, then you deny it. Every. Single. Time. Your beautiful wife has a fractured rib, a broken nose, and bruising on her neck where you choked her until she lost consciousness.”

“I’m sorry, OK? I’m sorry. Is that what you wanna hear? I’ll stay away from her,” he said in desperation. “I know! I will leave here and go turn myself in! I promise! I’ll do it! Just let me go.”

“I know men like you. Men like you don’t keep their promises. Men like you don’t follow restraining orders. Men like you live to hurt the people who love you. There is only one thing that will stop men like you.”

“Come on, lady! This is insane! I don’t wanna die!”

“No. I suppose you don’t, but neither does Angela. And we both know that’s what’s going to eventually happen if I let you go, so you’re not going anywhere.”

She turned and walked toward the stairs.

“How do you sleep at night, lady?”

“With the fan on. Nighty night, Mr. Peterson.”

Chapter 3

“Nana, it’s me.”

Vivian went into the living room to see her grandson walking in the front door carrying a basket full of dirty clothes with Mr. Chippy running in excited circles around his feet.

“Hello, Logan! Put that thing down and hug my neck!”

He did as he was told and pulled his grandmother into a warm hug.

“My goodness, I miss you! I don’t know what I would have done if you had gone to college far away!”

“I miss you too, Nana. I’m glad the dorm is only a half hour away. Do you mind if I do a quick load of laundry?”

“You don’t have to ask that, sweetheart. This will always be your home.”

He smiled, picked up the basket, and began walking toward the laundry room as she followed him.

Logan was tall, like his father, but he had his mother’s soft, delicate features, and her sweet disposition.

“Nana… I need to talk to you about something. Dad was released from prison early on good behavior. He’s back in town. He has tried calling me, and he keeps leaving messages that he wants to see me.”

“Oh… Oh my… Well… Do you want to see him?”

“No. Absolutely not! I hate him, Nana. I can’t even believe he has the nerve to ask to see me after what he did to Mom.”

Vivian just nodded her head as he put his clothes in the washing machine and started it.

“I’m going to go sit with her for a bit,” he said quietly.

“That sounds good,” she replied as she patted him on the arm, “You go on in, and I’ll bring you a snack.”

Logan walked down the hall into Liana’s bedroom. He sat in the chair next to her hospital bed, and she heard him say, “Hi, Mom. I’m sorry it’s been a couple of days. My classes are keeping me super busy…”

Vivian felt sick. She was nauseated and her heart was pounding.

Dennis Hays was out of prison.

He was the reason her daughter lived with her if you could call that living. She had been in a vegetative state for ten years since he ignored a restraining order and then punished her for getting one. She was still a prisoner in her broken body, but he was walking free and harassing her grandson.

She went to the cabinet, opened it up, took out a bottle of Jameson Whiskey, and poured a glass. She took a deep, shaky breath, then sipped and let the liquid warm her all the way down into her belly. Then she poured a glass of milk, put some cookies on a plate, and walked back to Liana’s room.

She stood in the doorway and watched her daughter stare off into the distance as Logan held her hand and told her about his day. Mr. Chippy lay next to her with his chin resting on her thigh.

Her family.

Her everything.

She knew what she had to do. She left the room and began planning what she should have done ten years ago.

Chapter 4

Mr. Chippy tore through the room to the front door and started barking before the doorbell even rang.

Dennis was right on time.

Vivian went to the door, took a deep breath, and opened it.

He had aged twenty years in the ten that he had been behind bars. He was unshaven, his dark hair in a buzz cut, and his hairline receding halfway back on his skull. His cheekbones and jawline were sharp, and his cheeks sunken. He still had the same ice blue eyes that first caught Liana’s attention, but now they had crow’s feet and dark purple circles surrounded them.

He looked awful. He had clearly suffered while in prison.

Vivian couldn’t have been more pleased.

“You can hang your jacket on the coat tree. I’ll be right back,” she told him, and she scooped up her furious dog and took him into Liana’s room and closed the door.

“Yeah… I remember. My God, nothing has changed. It looks exactly like it did the last time I was here.”

“I figured Logan had been through enough upheaval that giving him a sense of familiarity would be best for him.”

He studied her for a moment, looking as though he was debating how to respond. Finally, he nodded his head and said, “Well…I guess I can understand that. Kid’s probably spoiled rotten, huh?”

“No. He’s a wonderful young man. He’s kind, intelligent, and very responsible.”

He shrugged and hung his jacket on the hook, then tucked his hands into his pockets.

“So, look… I know you hate me, and I don’t blame you. I mean… I dunno… I’m sorry, OK? I just wanna get my life back to normal. I’ve paid my dues, and it’s over. Now I wanna see my kid. That’s the only reason I’m here.”

“All right then. I suppose I would prefer not to have a lot of chit chat either. Come to the kitchen. I’ve made you a peace offering. If I remember correctly, your favorite pie is pecan. Is that correct?”

“You made a pie for me?”

“Yes. Just for you. I thought you could have a slice while we discuss the rules for visiting with Logan.”

“Rules? The kid’s eighteen. He’s an adult. Why do we gotta have rules?”

Vivian cut the pie and placed a slice on a plate, then she put it on the table and gestured for him to take a seat as she poured hot water over a tea bag into a mug.

“Do you still take a heaping teaspoon of sugar?”

“I haven’t had tea in years. I can’t believe you remember that.”

“Oh, I remember everything, Dennis,” she said as she stirred in the sugar, “but you’re probably right. I think that perhaps I misspoke using the word ‘rules.’ What we are really discussing is whether or not he wants to see you at all.” She pulled out a chair and sat across the table from him. “He is struggling with it. He loves his mother, and he is still very much upset about how you hurt her.”

Dennis was already halfway done with his slice of pie and had stopped only to take drinks of tea every couple of bites. He ate like a feral dog. It used to bother her, but now she smiled as she watched him devour the pie.

“What do you mean, he don’t wanna see me?” he said through a mouthful, “I’m his dad.”

Vivian crossed to the kettle and refilled his tea before responding.

“I mean precisely what I said. He has no desire to see you.”

He took another swig of tea and growled, “What have you told him about me? You turned my son against me.”

“I didn’t need to, Dennis. You did that on your own.”

“But you did it anyway, didn’t you?” he said as he stood, “You talked shit about me, didn’t you?”

“Ah, ah, ah… Language, Dennis… You know how I feel about foul language.”

“I don’t give a…” he stopped and swayed a bit, putting his hands on the table to steady himself. “What the…?” he mumbled and sat back down.

He struggled to look at her through bleary eyes, and said, “I WILL see Logan… I’m stayin’…right…here til… my boy… I ain’t leavin’… I ain’t goin’ nowhere…”

“No. No, I suppose you’re not. That’s the first thing you’ve gotten correct today.”

Then he slumped over face first onto the table.

Vivian stood behind the chair, reached under his arms, and pulled Dennis up until his head lolled over the back of the chair, then she scooted it over to the basement stairs. She opened the door and prepared to push him over onto the chair lift to lower him into the basement when the doorbell rang.

“Oh sugar! Son of a biscuit eater! Hecking toots!” she said with her teeth clenched, then she yelled in a sweet voice, “Who is it?”

From outside the front door, she heard a muffled voice say,

“Detective Mitch Carson.”

She froze for a moment, looked down at Dennis, then said quietly, “Looks like you’re taking the express route,” and she gave him a shove then watched him roll down the stairs.

“I’m coming!” she said as she shut the door, carried the chair back to the table, trotted across the hall, flushed the toilet, ran water over her hands, and grabbed a hand towel then walked to the door and opened it.

“I am so sorry to keep you waiting! You caught me doing…umm… personal business.”

“My apologies, ma’am. As I said, I’m Detective Mitch Carson, and I’m here today concerning Dennis Hays. He is currently residing in a halfway house, and today he informed them that he was coming to your home. I am aware of his history, and I wanted to check in to make sure everything was ok.”

“Oh… Oh, he told them, did he? Well… Ummm… Yes. Yes, he did come by. He has been calling and leaving messages for my grandson, Logan, but Logan doesn’t want anything to do with him. I let him know that, and he… ummm… he left…rather abruptly.”

“I see. That sounds like a very short, very awkward visit. May I come in?”

“Yes. Yes, of course. Please. May I take your jacket?”

“No, thank you. I shouldn’t be long.”

“Yes, well, as you can see, everything is fine here, so…”

“Mind if I have a look around?”

“No, no, that’s fine. Sure. Yes. Yes, you can look around.”

The detective walked into the living room and stared up at Liana’s portrait.

“How did he take the news that Logan didn’t want anything to do with him? He doesn’t seem like the kind of man to take that very well, especially since he’s been waiting so long to see him.”

Vivian nodded, “Well, yes, of course you are correct, but I have to say he seemed… a bit more subdued than you might imagine… he was rather…sedate, actually. He certainly didn’t put up much of a fight.”

“Sedate? Hmmm… OK. Did he happen to mention where he was going?”

“No, he didn’t really say. I don’t think he knew where he was going, but I also didn’t ask. I was just ready for him to be gone.”

“Mm hmm… I see… Sure smells good in here. Have you been baking?”

“Yes. I made a pecan pie.”

“Pecan, huh? That’s my favorite. Could I have some?” he said as he walked toward the kitchen.

“No!” she said abruptly, then in a more normal tone, “No, I’m sorry, Detective. This one didn’t turn out quite right. It’s a bit…off. I must have gotten the recipe wrong. I would be embarrassed for you to try it.”

“Looks like someone ate a slice.”

“Well…yes. Yes, Dennis did sit down for a few minutes to have a piece. I suppose after eating prison food for ten years, he would eat anything,” she laughed.

“Right… Ten years… Boy… that sure doesn’t seem like very long after what he did to your daughter. Liana, is it?”

“Yes. Her name is Liana, and yes, I agree that it wasn’t nearly enough punishment, but apparently, he was better behaved behind bars than he was when he walked among us. He was released on good behavior.”

“That must be upsetting for you.”

“Well, yes. Yes, it is if I’m being honest.”

A low groan sounded from the basement, and Vivian’s eyes widened as Detective Carson turned to look at her.

“These old houses…” she laughed, “they make all kinds of noises.”

He was silent for a moment, glancing at the basement door then back at her, then he asked,

“Ms. Fitzhugh…”

“Yes, Detective?”

“How is Liana?”

“Oh… Liana… Well, she is in a vegetative state. I have to roll her regularly to keep her from getting bedsores. She uses a feeding tube. Sometimes her eyes are open, but she doesn’t appear to see anything, nor does she react to any stimuli. I talk to her a lot, and I read to her. Logan visits with her too. We both cling to hope that she understands what we’re saying.”

He nodded his head. “May I see her?”

“Oh… well… I suppose so.”

She led him to the room, and as she opened the door she said, “Mr. Chippy is in here. He may bark at you.”

Mr. Chippy raised up to look at the detective, then settled back down in his usual spot with his head on Liana’s thigh.

“Well, would you look at that? You passed the test. He likes you,” she said as she turned to him, but his gaze was nowhere near the dog. She was surprised to see tears in his eyes as he looked at Liana.

“Liana, sweetheart, Detective Mitch Carson is here to see you.”

“Hi, Liana. Remember me?”

Vivian looked at him in confusion and he smiled sadly and said,

“I went to high school with your daughter, Ms. Fitzhugh. She was beautiful and popular, and I was…well…I was neither of those things. In fact, school was tough for me. I got teased a lot. There was a guy named Jason Miller, who was particularly cruel. One day I was sitting in the cafeteria eating my lunch, and Jason casually strolled by, reached over, and flipped my tray onto the floor. My home life was rough, and we had very little money. It was just me and my mom. I qualified for free lunches, and some days that was the only food I got to eat all day. I was getting ready to get up and leave when Liana left her group and came to my table. She sat down next to me and started taking food out of her lunch bag, and it was a feast. She told me that you always made way more food than she could eat and asked if I would like to share. She sat with me every day after that, and we ate lunch together, and I got to feel normal for an hour every day. Liana was so much more than just beautiful and popular. She was kind, and she was funny, and she was my friend when no one else wanted to be.”

He looked at Vivian and said, “I read what he did to her, and I came over to make sure that you and your grandson were OK. Now… I don’t know what’s going on here, but I am going to choose to believe some things. I’m going to choose to believe that you truly did make a baking error with the pie, and that’s why you don’t want me to eat it. I’m going to choose to believe that the noise I heard in the basement truly is this old house settling. And I am also going to choose to believe that Dennis Hays was in such a big hurry when he left that he forgot his jacket that was hanging there by the door when I came in.”

Vivian simply nodded her head because she was too afraid to speak. She followed him to the front door, and he turned to her and said,

“I’m also going to choose to believe one more thing. I’m going to choose to believe that we won’t have a problem with a missing persons case when the person being reported isn’t going to be missed by anyone.”

“Thank you, Detective.”

He nodded his head and pulled a business card out of his pocket and handed it to her.

“This is my cell phone. It rings directly to me. You call me if you or Logan ever need anything. You can also call me if you make a pie that’s…not…off,” then he smiled. “I have dreamed about your cooking since high school.”

“It would be wonderful if you would come over to eat with us. I know Logan would love to hear your stories about his mom.”

“I would love that too,” he said, “Be careful, Ms. Fitzhugh. There are some terrible people in this world.”

She watched him walk to his car, then she closed the door and walked to the basement door and opened it. Dennis lay in a tangled heap on the floor with his legs still on the steps. She knew he was dead, and she felt nothing but relief.

She closed the door and went in to sit with Liana. She took her hand and said, “Dennis is gone. He won’t be bothering Logan anymore, and he will never hurt anyone else again.”

She thought she felt a muscle in Liana’s hand make a slight twitch. Was it wishful thinking? Perhaps. But she too could make choices about what she wanted to believe, and she chose to believe her daughter was still in there trying to communicate with her.

She smiled as she rubbed her hand and said, “And now I will be able to prepare some more bone meal for the roses. Isn’t it fascinating how something so ugly can be used to nurture such beauty?” She leaned over and picked up her laptop, opening book five of her Cozy Murder Guild series. “Chapter three…” she read aloud, “The doorbell rang, and Mr. Chippy ran to the entryway in a frenzy of barks and growls as Ms. McKinney pulled the pecan pie out of the oven. Mr. Peterson was right on time…”

Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Kendra Nicholson
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Kendra Nicholson

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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