Authors: Molly Dox
Pampered to Death
A Deadly Calm Day Spa Mystery
Copyright 2015, Molly Dox
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A cozy mystery about a deadly calm day spa, perfect for a weekend read.
When Andrea and Jocelyn find a dead body floating in the jetted tub at work, they scramble to find answers. Can they unravel the mystery before the bad news kills the spa’s reputation?
Jeanette Chadwick was filthy rich, successful, and strongly disliked. While she came to the spa for relaxation, she wasn’t expecting to be pampered to death! Could one of the spa employees have done the dirty deed? Andrea and Jocelyn are dying to crack the case before the spa is forced to close permanently.
Nosing around, the girls find themselves in trouble and rethinking their original plans. Will they be the next victims?
Andrea Davenport wiggled her key in the door. She hated when she was the first to arrive. The lock stuck time to time and today was no different. She pulled a mini-spray bottle of lubricant out of her oversized purse, slid out the key, and sprayed directly into the keyhole. Nobody warned her that working at a day spa would mean keeping a travel sized can of WD-40 in your purse. She’d been nagging her boss to get the lock fixed, but he was busy with other things and let it slide. It’s not that it was old, hardly, but some of the key copies seemed to stick.
Andrea pulled the door open and then wedged her foot inside before it could close. She leaned over and scooped up her extra-large-grand-super-duper-sized coffee covered in whipped cream and drizzled caramel syrup and headed inside. It was just after nine-thirty, which meant she had time to inhale her coffee. The spa didn’t open until ten.
With a flick of a switch the lights came on, illuminating the soothing environment of an earth toned spa full of details that blended effortlessly. A wall placed fountain, a stone wall, and soft colors were the prime elements of the building. It was the staff that brought the spa to life, pampering clients that came for their services. The Heavenly Touch Day Spa was one of the most prestigious spas in the area.
Jocelyn James, one of the spa’s most popular massage therapists, showed up a few minutes later, grateful somebody else had already wrestled with the door lock. Such a fancy place should be able to fix those quirky little issues. The owner was hardly around of late and left the staff to handle things. He was about ready to open another spa on the other side of the county, so his interest was geared toward that project while this first one was running like a well-oiled machine.
“Good morning,” Jocelyn quipped as she flipped the ‘closed’ sign to ‘open.’
“Hey,” Andrea said with a wave of her wrist. She mouthed ‘on phone’ as she dialed a number. After leaving a message on the client’s voicemail, she turned her attention to her friend and co-worker. “A new color; are you okay? What happened?”
Jocelyn shrugged. “My ex called me last night, looking for a little…well, of course I told him no, but it didn’t change the fact that he called. Not to say he’s sorry, mind you, just to see if I was desperate and lonely, and you know, willing to look past his indiscretions.”
Andrea shook her head. “Good call, don’t you dare let him back into your life. You should have come over to my place. I was up late last night.”
“I didn’t want to bother you.” It’s not like she had to travel far, they lived in the same apartment complex, practically across the hall from one another. “Anyway, I’m not sure if purple is my color, but it will have to do for now. I’m going to get the body treatment room ready. I’ll turn on the spa jets and push up the temperature of the water while I’m back there.”
“Sounds good, I’ve still got calls to make. Want to do lunch later? You have an opening at two.” They loved the local deli just down the way which offered take-out or a small seating area.
“Sure,” Jocelyn answered, calling out over her shoulder. As she pushed through a door in the back, she let out a shrill scream.
Andrea bolted and ran for her friend. “Are you okay?”
Jocelyn’s feet were frozen to the ground. She forced herself to breathe. It felt as if an elephant was sitting on her chest. “Dead body,” she squeaked and pointed. A woman was face down in one of the luxury hot tubs.
Andrea gasped. Panic laced through her veins. She pulled her arms tightly around herself and stumbled. “She’s dead, she’s dead, holy cow, she’s dead. I’ll call the police.”
Jocelyn nodded. There was no way to identify the woman. They couldn’t see her face. She slowly inched from the room and closed the door behind her. Jocelyn’s heart lodged in her throat, thundering a million miles a minute. This was
how she expected to start her day. She might have strong intuitions about things, but this took her by complete surprise.
What was going on? When they left the previous evening, the spa was empty. There were no clients left. How could they have gotten in, unless one of their co-workers…they each had a key. It could have been anyone.
Andrea was breathless. After she made the call, she scampered to Jocelyn’s side. “Do you think we should cancel the appointments? What am I thinking? Of course, I need to cancel them. I should go cancel them. I’m going to cancel them.” She rambled more to herself than to her friend.
Jocelyn turned the ‘open’ sign to its ‘closed’ side and locked the front door before anybody could enter. She flopped onto the small loveseat in the waiting area and stared at the wall. Andrea was dialing clients and rescheduling appointments. When the police arrived, more staff had arrived.
“What’s going on?” Carmen and Monica asked after being let in. Their curiosity grew on seeing the closed sign and the police cruisers in front of the spa.
“Dead body,” Jocelyn whispered as if it were a secret.
Andrea spoke in a hush. “I rescheduled most of the appointments and left messages for those who I couldn’t reach. Did Jocelyn tell you? So, she screams, I go back… and there she is, a dead woman in our hot tub.”
One of the officers came out of the back room. He was long and lanky, and held a small notepad in his hands. “I’ll need to ask you a few questions. The coroner is on his way. Also, homicide detectives will be investigating shortly. We’ll tape off the back area, and ask that nobody touch anything until we’re finished. Now, which one of you found the body?”
Jocelyn swallowed hard. Andrea reached over and touched her arm lightly. “It’s okay.”
Stepping forward, Jocelyn spoke up. “I did, and when I screamed Andrea came running. We were the only two here when we first discovered her.”
“Okay, let’s go over the details. I’ll need to speak with each of you, so make yourself comfortable. Nobody leaves until we’re finished.” The officer led Jocelyn back to the section out of view.
Everyone stared at the others. You could have heard a pin drop, as each strained to hear what the officer was asking their co-worker. The whispers started not long after. ‘What do you think happened?’ ‘Who do you think it is?’ ‘Who do you think did it?’ ‘Do you think they’ll try to pin it on one of us?’
When Jocelyn reappeared, the color had drained from her face. Reality was sinking in. “Andrea, you’re next.”
The whispers started again as Andrea walked away. “What did they ask?”
“I can’t discuss anything until we’ve all been questioned.” She dropped onto a chair in the waiting area and realized that not only was a dead body found in their day spa, not exactly great for business, but she’d lose out on today’s tips and commissions. That meant she’d run short when it came time to pay her bills. Business was usually better, but they’d hit a slow period. It’s not like Lonnie was actively promoting the place with his other spa opening shortly. He was busy rushing around and making every detail count. His goal was to open four high-end day spas in the local wealthy communities. He knew the money was there, and he intended to rake it in every chance he got.
Andrea came back up front not long after she was called back. She looked paler than when she started. Before sitting, she tapped Carmen on the shoulder. “It’s your turn.”
After the police had exhausted the people to interview, the employees were allowed to leave.
Jeanette Chadwick - they finally had a name. Their victim was none other than a rich, snobby, elite client that came in regularly for services. She was an executive researcher and had married into money. Though she rarely spoke of her daughter, she had one child, now a fully grown woman, similar in age to Andrea and Jocelyn. They’d gone to school with Jeanette’s daughter. While Jeanie was a solid client and tipped the girls well, she had a weird aversion to Carmen, always treating her rudely. She’d speak slowly, thinking she couldn’t understand English well. At first it was weird. Carmen was as American as Jeanie was, but her darker complexion and Latin heritage left Jeanie questioning things. After a while, Carmen started to play along, so she wouldn’t bite the hand that fed the spa’s pocket. She’d speak Spanish back at Jeanie, pretending not to understand English, and added a thick made-up accent to pad the effect.
Carmen was a whirlwind, the life of the party. Most clients adored her, just not Mrs. Chadwick. She was as sweet as could be, unless you got on her bad side. And for some reason, Carmen was not her favorite.
Monica on the other hand was quieter, more secretive, and kept a running client list of mostly men. Men were her specialty at the spa, and they kept coming back for her services, always leaving with a smile. Whatever she was doing, nobody was asking, because all appointments were appreciated and kept the spa hopping. More money meant more business for everyone. Word of mouth got around. Unfortunately, no matter what they did the month of September was always slower. People were getting their kids back to school and schedules were changing. Thankfully things picked up again mid-October.
Jocelyn and Andrea weren’t only friends, they were neighbors. One of the advantages of living in the same apartment complex was the proximity. Jocelyn and Andrea had grown closer over time. Even though they’d known each other since school, as adults they re-bonded.
Jeanette’s death was jarring. Having known her daughter Cassandra as well, it really hit home. Cassie had always been a little spoiled, a little odd, and a lot of snooty. While they weren’t close to Cassie, they’d spent years around her.
also never liked Andrea or Jocelyn. No matter how much she tried, she never fit in. Cassie resented that Andrea and Jocelyn were popular, and that made them the enemy. Looking back, it seemed an eternity had passed since then.
Thinking back, they weren’t so sure she fit in with her own family. She was always a bit…quirky. The only child of Jeanie and Brad Chadwick ended up living on a commune without electricity after she graduated The girls would never have known, but there was a newspaper write up about a new group that had bought a large piece of property. They wanted to get back in touch with nature and live off the land. The black and white photo that accompanied the article showed a group gathered together smiling. They recognized Cassie’s picture immediately.
Andrea was certain that the news piece was more to slap Cassie’s parents in the face, making the world know she’d turned on their lavish and spoiled lifestyle. Sure, she’d clung to it in her younger days, but walking away from it and displaying it in the newspaper was her way of denouncing her parents. Andrea turned toward Jocelyn, wrinkled her nose, and twisted a strand of hair around her finger. “What do you think happened?”
Jocelyn shook her head, her purple coif bounced as she spoke. “I don’t know. It’s not like she was a crowd favorite. It’s kind of creepy that her body turned up at the spa. What reason would they have to bring her there of all places?”
“Do you think she was already at the spa and never left? I know she paid after her appointment, but she went back to use the bathroom. I was on the phone and didn’t see when she left.” Andrea looked down sheepishly. “I was texting Randy.”
Jocelyn let out a gasp. “No more Randy, he’s not good for you!”
Andrea stumbled. “I know, it’s just-”
Jocelyn cut her off, wagging a finger at her friend. “Well, now you have a good distraction. He’s bad news. Let’s figure out who did this.”
“Can’t you use your psychic thing?” she started.
“I can only talk to cats, dogs, and other domesticated animals. You know it doesn’t work that way.” Jocelyn was an animal psychic on the side, not that it did much for her, and most of her friends and family thought she was a bit ‘touched’ in a crazed way. She couldn’t help it if she could communicate with them time to time. Her biggest mistake was adding it to her card – people seemed to think she was a physicist, a psychiatrist, a pharmacist, and sometimes a cyclist. It was spelled as plain as day, psychic. When she tried to explain, her clients looked at her weird. She eventually removed it from her card. So much for the extra work she’d imagined to help pay her bills. Unfortunately, she had a bad habit of spending more than she made and it was catching up with her. She’d give anything to have a bank account the size of Jeanette Chadwick’s.
“Too bad we’re not a pet friendly spa.” Andrea sighed. “Do you think one of our co-workers did it? Or worse yet, do you think they’re suspicious of us?”
“I wish I knew,” she answered, more nervous than she wanted to be. “The way that they told us not to leave the area, it sort of freaked me out like they were pointing the blame. Why did I have to be the one who found her? That makes me look bad.”
“Yeah, well, just for the record I didn’t do it. As for work, I’m too broke to leave early and not get paid. You’re right; the bigger car payments are killing me. I should have stuck with my beat up car. It wasn’t pretty, but it was paid off.” She reached for a bottle of water and took a large gulp.
Jocelyn groaned. “Did you really think I’d accuse you? You wouldn’t hurt a fly. You might pin it down and ask for the latest gossip or talk non-stop to it, but then you’d let it go.”
“Do you think flies understand us? I mean, they don’t speak, but they’re around humans all the time. Maybe they start picking up and understanding words,” Andrea said, moving to a new topic.
“I don’t think they live long enough for that,” she answered, “but who knows.”
Andrea drew in a deep breath. She pressed her lips tight and avoided looking directly at her friend. Admitting it out loud might be kind of awkward. “I kind of want to figure out who did this. I’m thinking of snooping around and seeing if I can figure out what happened. Do you want in?”
“Of course, I do,” Jocelyn said, jumping at the opportunity. It’s not like much else was going on in their quiet town. She was determined to find answers. “Besides, we work better as a team.”
“So what do we know about Jeanie Chadwick, besides the typical stuff. She has a daughter, Cassie. Her husband is…what’s his name? Do you know? I forget. Oh, and she wears that god awful perfume. It’s probably fine if she only spritzed herself once or twice, but the amount of fragrance she sprays on, it’s like an overpowering flower-scented cloud wraps around her.”
“Why it’s Brad, darling,” Jocelyn teased in an uppity voice. “Don’t you know, he’s retired early and spends his time playing golf? I only know because she talks about it when she gets a massage. How he’s there all the time, like golf matters more than his family, and that the man was an emotionless stone. And you know, now that you mentioned that, the backroom didn’t smell like perfume. Normally she reeks of the stuff. I wonder how long her body was there.”
Andrea jumped up to grab a pen and paper. “Let’s write down this stuff. We can list the names of everyone that we know she’s connected to, along with everyone at the spa. Well, except for me and you.”
“How do you know I didn’t do it?” Jocelyn tested her friend, holding her gaze.
“Did you?” Andrea asked point blank.
“No, of course not,” Jocelyn shot out, sputtering. “Did you think…”
“No! That’s good enough for me. I trust you, besides when you lie you won’t look me in the eye.” Andrea smirked, sharing the little habit. “Okay, so we have Lonnie, Carmen, Monica, Stacy, you and me. Of course, we do have a few part-timers. Though, they weren’t working yesterday. Should we include them? We better, so that’s Jessie, Bree, and Zelda. What about outside of the spa? There’s Cassie and Brad, but who else? I mean, a stranger wouldn’t use our spa as a place to prop her, right? How would they get in, or why would they go there of all places?”
“Good question. What does the spa have to do with it all, and how long had she been there?” Jocelyn got up and paced across the floor. The click of her shoes on the hardwoods interrupted her train of thought. She kicked them off, much happier in her rainbow striped toe socks.
“Don’t those feel weird? Does the material bunch between your toes?” Andrea looked at her friend’s feet.
“Not if they fit right,” she answered. “Besides, when I see them, they make me smile.”
“Here we are, two single ladies, still answering the calls and texts of old boyfriends, trying to solve a murder, and yet no plans for Friday night. When I said I wanted more excitement in my life, I didn’t mean this.” Andrea shifted and slid down on the sofa from sitting to lying. She rolled her head over the edge and let it hang down.
“What if Lonnie did it?” Jocelyn’s eyes went wide.
“The last thing he’d want is a scandal. Anything that stands between him and the all might dollar is no friend of his,” she corrected.
“Well, we’d better start digging for clues and talking to some people or it may remain a mystery for longer than either of us would like. Who’s going to show up at a spa where a dead body was found? I’m going to need another job,” Jocelyn whined. “Business will be dead….aha, I just realized the pun.”
Andrea pulled into the spa’s parking lot. Lonnie’s car was there. She knew he’d be ranting and blaming everybody in the world for what happened. He’d be slamming things around and in a lousy mood. Andrea clenched her jaw and inhaled deeply. She’d have to face him eventually. She cautiously headed toward the entrance, her stomach knotting. Lonnie was pacing back and forth, talking on his phone. She closed her eyes and refocused before opening the door. With her best smile pasted on, she entered. “Hey, Lonnie,” she mouthed as he looked over.
He nodded and went back to his phone conversation.
Andrea’s shoulders tensed. It was going to be a long day. And they had to act like nothing happened? They had clients coming in. This was going to be insane.
Lonnie hung up his phone and directed his attention to his receptionist. “Andrea, I’ve had someone move the appointments around this week. We’re going to be closing while the investigation is going on. The last thing I need is gossip about the police being here.”
“No pay. Sorry, sugar. No work, no pay. I expect you back here next Tuesday. We’ll be closed until then. I’ll be leaving after speaking with the others,” he finished. “I’m going to post on the website that we’re fixing a broken pipe or something to take the spotlight off of us. Nobody reads the news anymore, right?”
“Right,” she said. Her stomach twisted, realizing a week’s pay was more than she could afford to lose. Andrea turned around to leave. She grumbled something as Carmen was making her way in.
She could use the time to try to figure things out, but it would only pass time, not pay her bills. Jocelyn pulled up as Andrea was leaving. She waited for her friend. “It’s not good. He’s closing for a while.”
“I guess I can’t blame him. Darn, I can’t afford this.” Her chest tightened. She was close to falling behind as it was.
“I don’t think many of us can,” Andrea answered. “I looked for you this morning to see if you wanted a ride, but your car was gone.”
She smirked as if she’d been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Jocelyn lowered her voice. “I stopped at the police station to get a copy of the police report. Those things are public record. The investigation is still ongoing, but I told the lady at the counter that I needed a copy of the report for the spa’s records and my own.”
“Was there anything interesting?” Her friend held her attention.
“Well, I know how she died. Let me go in and see Lon so he can tell me the news and chase me away for the day. I’ll meet you at home,” Jocelyn said.
Everything inside of Andrea danced with anxiety. Waiting would be a killer. She was dying to hear the details. The police hadn’t given them any information while questioning them the day before.