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Mischief at Mellowbend


A Master Security Novel


by


Sandra S. Kerns



~~~~


Published by Sandra S. Kerns, LLC

Copyright © 2017 Sandra S. Kerns

Smashwords Edition

Edited by: Joy Clintsman, Big Sister Edits

All rights reserved.



Cover design by Itsy Design

Background cover photo courtesy of Stephen S. Kerns



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



License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. No part of this book may be shared or reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.




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~~~




Chapter One

“You’re a natural, Matt,” Poe said as he adjusted the teen’s hold on the fishing rod. They were standing on the bank of the Big Thompson River just below the cabins he owned.

“Yeah, right.”

Poe heard the skeptical comeback as he turned to find Matt’s father tangled in fishing line. Chuckling, he glanced back over his shoulder and said, “Well, it looks like you’re doing better than your father.”

Poe caught the young man’s grin and head shake. It wasn’t a mean, I’m better than he is type grin, but more of a why did he want to do this kind of thing. Apparently, the teen wasn’t as ornery as he wanted everyone to believe. “I should probably give him some--” The walkie-talkie clipped to Poe’s belt squawked out his name. Pulling it off, he pushed the button down.

“What’s up, Crystal?”

“A-a-an angry guest.”

“On my way.”

Poe glanced at Matt. “I need to head back up and take care of some business. Maybe you can give your dad a hand before he hooks himself.”

The teen nodded as he reeled in his line.

Jogging up the path that led from the river to the cabins, Poe wondered what the problem was now. He’d had more than enough in the past month. The cops probably drew straws to see who had to come out they’d been called so many times. He was starting to think, and not for the first time, his mother’s threat that his namesake’s chilling stories would haunt him was true.

As he took the final step to the landing, a police car pulled into the lot.

“Great,” he mumbled, but smiled and nodded as he walked toward the girl who cleaned cabins every other day for him. He kept his voice void of the frustration he felt. “You called the police?”

She shook her head so vehemently, he was afraid she might fall over. The girl was terrified of her own shadow most days and right now, she looked like a deer ready to bolt. He was proud of her for staying despite her obvious terror.

“N-no, Mr. Poe,” she said pointing toward a truck in the parking area. “The man in cabin D called them. He’s furious. I didn’t know what else to do but call you.”

Every cell in his body screamed for him to squeeze her shoulder in support, but he didn’t do compassion. Even if he did, knowing Crystal’s history he knew touching her would definitely be the wrong move. Instead, he smiled and nodded. “It’s okay, Crystal. You did the right thing. Why don’t you go back to work? I’ll take care of this.”

After making sure she was doing as asked and not quitting, he joined the officer and the guest from cabin D. He nodded at the officer who had been there before, then turned his attention back to his guest. “What seems to be the problem, Mr. Buldin?”

“Someone stole my state-of-the-art fishing rods out of my truck!”

Poe didn’t even flinch. He’d learned at a young age not to stoop to other people’s level. Besides, he knew the rods were not state-of-the-art. He also knew the man had left his gear unsecured in the truck bed. If they were that expensive, he should have locked them in the truck or used one of the lockers provided in the office for that purpose. “I’m sorry to hear that. Did they damage your vehicle getting inside?”

“No, but they scratched the side of my truck when they took them from the back.”

“You didn’t lock them up?” Poe asked with the patent expression of shock he’d mastered years ago when dealing with his unhappy mother.

“Well, no,” the man said, glancing nervously between Josiah and the officer. “But they were still stolen off your property. I demand you--”

The officer held up his hand. “Let’s calm down, sir.”

“I don’t need to calm down. I need this jerk-off to pay me for my loss and refund my money for staying at this dump.”

Stretching his neck to release the tension building, rather than clench his fist, Poe kept his tone calm and professional.

“I’ll refund your charges, but I’m afraid I cannot be held responsible for your personal items.” He pointed toward the signs posted in various places around the parking lot as well as on the cabins. “Your stolen equipment is a matter for the police and your insurance company.”

“You sonofa--”

Poe caught the man’s fist with his hand before it was halfway to his face. The police officer stepped between them and he released it.

“That’s enough, sir. If you want to file a report on a theft, I’ll take care of it. However, if you continue in this manner, I’ll have to take you in for assault.”

“You wouldn’t dare. Do you know who I am?”

“No sir and I don’t really care. If you threaten Mr. Poe again, I will take you in. Now, do you want to report the theft of your equipment or not?”

The man’s face turned such a dark shade of red, Josiah thought he was going to have a heart attack. Wouldn’t that be the cherry on top of the sundae? Could he actually give CPR to a jerk who would probably sue him anyway? Okay, so he would, but he wouldn’t be happy about it. The man started backing around the truck while shaking a finger at him.

“You’ll pay. You hear me? You’ll pay!”

“Okay, that’s it,” the officer said as he took a step toward Buldin.

Poe clasped a hand on the officer’s shoulder and shook his head as Buldin slammed his door, started the truck, and peeled out of the lot.

“It’s not worth it, Mike. He’s all hot air. Think about it. He didn’t even wait to make sure I refund his money. I’m thankful it was you who took the call. With all the problems I’ve had lately, I wouldn’t blame the station if they put this place at the bottom of their list.”

Mike chuckled. “Nah, Mr. Poe, that won’t happen. You’re always easy to deal with. Let me know if this guy comes back and causes trouble.”

“Will do,” Poe said as the officer climbed in his patrol car. He waved as the car pulled back on the highway, trying to look positive. Turning toward the office, serious doubts pummeled his brain. Just as today’s incident had him wondering why he’d made this insane career change, yelling coming up from the river registered. Fear seized his heart thinking the teen or his father had fallen in. High temperatures and spring snowmelt had the river running high. He ran to the path and saw the father running toward his son. Josiah’s gaze moved to where he’d left Matt. His line was taut and he was reeling a fish in. His father got there just in time to hold out the net. Josiah’s blood pressure quickly returned to normal as he jogged back down the path and waved when Matt glanced up at him.

“I did it. I actually caught one. Look at him!”

Poe joined them on the riverbank.

“Great job, he’s a big one. I was watching from up top. You handled that rod and reel like a pro. Let me take a picture of you and your dad with your first catch.”

Once he had the picture and permission to post it on the business website, as well as the man’s email to send them a copy, he headed back up to the office. He had a refund to take care of and some serious decisions to make.


Half an hour later, Poe filed the receipt for the Buldin refund. Owning the place wasn’t about making a ton of money it was about finding some peace in his life. He had plenty of money. However, it would be nice to make enough to pay the taxes out of profits. This was the fourth refund he had issued in a month. The other guests hadn’t even asked for one, but he’d felt it was good business considering, unlike Buldin, the problems they’d had weren’t their fault and they’d been understanding not difficult.

Two of them had reported someone trying to break-in while they were sleeping. They admitted they hadn’t seen anyone and it could have been their imaginations. Since they were two separate incidents and in different weeks, Poe suspected their first guess was the more likely scenario. The other guest had repeated hearing strange sounds coming from under his building. He’d laughed and joked about kids playing tricks or ghosts, but again, Poe doubted the real explanation would prove to be something that simple. Although he hadn’t had any trouble since relocating to Colorado, his previous life was full of it. So, rather than chance them staying somewhere else the next time they wanted to fish, he’d given them refunds to help ensure they would consider coming back.

Of course, if he wanted them to come back, he had to stay in business. Unfortunately, that meant he needed help. Josiah hated asking for help. However, installing a security system or even knowing what kind of security he needed was beyond his realm of expertise. With that thought, one name popped into his head. Cummings. He picked up his phone and called before he could change his mind.

“Josiah, hello,” Cummings said as he answered the call. “I didn’t expect to hear from you quite this soon. Is there a problem with my account?”

“No, sir, you’re right, I haven’t finished working on the investment analysis yet. This is a personal call, not business.” He hoped he hadn’t overstepped. In his experience, asking for help, especially from someone older, showed weakness. If that proved true again, he may have just lost the most lucrative client from his financial advisory business. That would mean he’d lose the cabins as well. Cummings chuckled, increasing Poe’s concern.

“Well, I’ll be. I never thought this day would come.”

“Pardon?” Poe asked as he prepared for the insult he expected. His parents had never missed a chance to issue one.

“You always keep everything so professional and business like, Josiah. I’ve hoped, but never really expected you to cross the line from professional to personal. The only concession you’ve ever made is not correcting me when I use your first name even though you won’t use mine. What can I do for you?”

Holding the phone in front of him so he could check that he’d dialed the right number, Poe frowned. Yep, he’d called Delbert Cummings, CEO of a major engineering firm in New York. He let the confusion go and forged on with the reason he’d called.

“I’ve been having some trouble at the cabins and I was hoping you could help.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, though I’m not sure how I can assist you. Well, other than renting one from you. My wife and I have been talking about coming out to Colorado for a vacation. She thought staying at one of your cabins on the river would be relaxing.”

“Really?” Poe cringed at the incredulity in his voice. He knew the man never said anything he didn’t mean. Now, he’d insulted him. Laughter came across the line again, validating his thoughts.

“Yes, really. My wife thinks I’m getting old and need to take it easy. I mentioned your cabins and that you liked fly-fishing. She grabbed onto the suggestion as if it were a rope dangling over a cliff. I’ve just been dragging my feet on making a reservation. New contracts and such, you understand.”

Poe nodded, and then realized Cummings couldn’t see him. “Yes, sir, I do and I shouldn’t--”

“Don’t you even try to back out of this call,” Cummings said. “If I can help one of the smartest men I know, I want to do it. What’s the problem?”

After blowing out a long breath, Poe explained. “There have been complaints of attempted break-ins, odd noises we can’t explain, and most recently theft. I’ve also found evidence of someone breaking-in and using unoccupied cabins. Today, before I called you, I made my fourth refund. I know I told you it wasn’t about making money when I bought this property, but it would be nice if it didn’t drain my entire bank account.”

“Hmmm.”

Poe grinned as the image of the older man stroking the trimmed white beard on his face popped into his head. Cummings always did so when he seriously considered something. It was one of the few really good memories from back east Poe carried with him. Most of his life didn’t deserve the effort required to remember.

“Anyway, the real reason I’m calling was to ask for a recommendation on a security company. I remember you mentioned a Colorado company doing work for you at your Denver office. Do you think they would consider such a small job?”

“You’re talking about Master Security. Yes, I’m sure they would consider it. They’re a growing company and they pride themselves on their ability to provide services to a wide range of clients from small ‘mom and pop’ businesses to large conglomerates like mine.”

“Master Security is the name? Do you have a contact or phone number perhaps?”

“I do, just let me look it up.”

A few minutes later, Poe had the information he needed and a new reservation booked. The call had also served to bring back the sense of calm he’d lost dealing with Buldin. He’d dealt with people like the irritating man in his previous life filled with stress, anger, and the unattainable expectations of other’s. That was a life he’d walked away from two years ago and he had no interest in returning.

He tapped Master Security’s number into his phone and while it was ringing, he hoped he was doing the right thing.


# # #


Ace glanced out the window between his office and the reception area as the phone rang for the third time. Then he remembered Jon had gone to pick up lunch for them. A grin pulled at his lips knowing how his wife would glare at him for eating at his desk again. He snatched the receiver from the phone on his desk and schooled his tone from annoyed to professional.

“Master Security, this is Ace Masters. How can we make your life more secure today?”

“Mr. Masters, my name is Josiah Poe. Your company was recommended to me by Delbert Cummings.”

“I’m always glad to have a customer recommendation,” Ace said as he dug through the filing cabinet in his brain to place the name. A second later, he connected it to a company. “To have one from as reputable a company as Visitek is even better. How can I help you, Mr. Poe?”

He heard the man exhale. That had him focusing even more on the conversation. Many clients were worried when they called, but sometimes frantic. This man sounded somewhere in-between the two, so it was definitely serious.

“My business isn’t on a par with Visitek, I’m afraid. I own Mellowbend Cabins. It’s a good way up the Big Thompson canyon from Braedon’s Edge.”

Ace smiled. “That’s a nice looking property. I’ve driven by many times. In fact, my brothers and I keep talking about taking a weekend off to fish, but somehow it never quite happens.”

When he heard Mr. Poe chuckle, he was glad he’d mentioned the ever elusive vacation.

“I remember those days and can’t say I miss them. However, the mellow aspect of the property is having a few issues. In the past three weeks, there have been attempted break-ins, unexplainable noises under a cabin, and theft of property from a vehicle. If I keep handing out refunds you and your brothers won’t have a cabin to stay in when you do get around to that time off.”

“We can’t have that,” Ace said as he called up the master schedule for property reviews.

“I agree. That’s why I’m calling. I was hoping there is some way to make the cabins and parking area more secure without ruining the relaxing atmosphere. While I’d prefer to do the work myself, this is too important a job for an amateur like me to tackle. That’s why I’d rather leave it to professionals.”

“That sounds like a smart move. Let me tell you what will be involved. First, I’ll have someone come out and do what we call a review of the property. They look for trouble spots and security options. They’ll also talk to you about what you think is needed. Then, they’ll work up a report with all that information and turn it into one of our system designers. Usually, within a week from the time the designers receive it, we’ll send you a design and detailed estimate. If you approve, we’ll set up a time for one of our teams to come and install the system. Do you have any questions?”

“How long would it be before you can send someone up? I don’t mean to be difficult, but I’m concerned about the safety of my guests.”

The more this man talked, the more Ace liked him. “I can understand that. To be honest, our schedule is full this week, but if you’ll give me a number to call you back, I may be able to come up with something a little sooner than a week from Thursday.”

As soon as Ace hung up, Jon walked through the door.

“Perfect timing as always,” Ace said and watched the pseudo Masters’ brother roll his eyes.

“Are you ever going to stop with the jokes on my swim team days? Besides, the last time I raced, I was late off the block.”

“Only because you were distracted by the other swimmer’s bikini.”

“True. Nikki was a knockout in that emerald green bikini,” he said, laughing as he walked into Ace’s office and set a bag on the desk. “What do you need?”

Ace grinned knowing Jon’s mind was currently running through those images of his wife. Then he inhaled deeply and rubbed his stomach. “If we don’t stop going to Maddie’s Diner for lunch, I’m going to weigh a ton. Gina’s already joking about having to move from the Big and Tall section to the Bigger and Tall section for my clothes.”

“I keep telling you. All you need to do is have six kids and the weight doesn’t have a chance to stay on because you’re always moving.”

“I don’t think four more pregnancies would go over well with G. Besides, I’m closing in on fifty. I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them.”

They both laughed as Jon pulled sandwiches out and handed him one. “So, what did you need when I walked in?”

“I just had a call from a perspective client. Mr. Poe--”

“Really? Mr. Poe? Was it from under the floorboards, like in The Tell Tale Heart?”

Ace wadded up a napkin and threw it at him. “No, knuckle-head, Josiah Poe. Actually, Cummings, the owner of Visitek recommended us to him.”

“Great. So, is this another giant contract?”

“No,” Ace said and then took a moment to enjoy a bite of his Meatball Madness sub. “He owns the Mellowbend cabins on the Big Thompson. I don’t know the connection between him and Cummings, but he’s located so close to us, I consider him local and it’s always good to help the surrounding community.”

“Absolutely, so what’s the problem?”

“Timing.” Ace tapped on his keyboard, called the schedule back up, and turned the monitor so Jon could see it. “We’re booked for more than a week. He’s having problems with break-ins now. As you can imagine, it’s not great for business.”

“No doubt, but I’m not sure what I can do about it.”

“Didn’t Brynn say she liked fly-fishing? I know she hasn’t left town. I saw her last night at the grocery store.” Ace watched Jon’s blond eyebrow disappear under the hair he couldn’t keep off his face.

“You want to interrupt Brynn’s vacation to do a job? The woman won’t be happy.”

Ace shrugged. “I was thinking more of you interrupting it, and offering a kind of working vacation. If we rent one of the cabins for her, she can do the review, send in the information, enjoy a few days fishing, and then handle the installation.”


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