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Playing the Devil by R.J. Lee
A Bridge to Death Mystery #2
Kensington • February 1, 2020
Reporter and bridge player Wendy Winchester once again plays ace detective when a country club member is murdered in a hot tub…
Now an investigative reporter for the Rosalie Citizen in the Mississippi River port of Rosalie, Wendy still likes to unwind over a game of cards. Following the demise of the Rosalie Bridge Club, she’s started her own group at the Rosalie Country Club. During the first meeting of the Country Club Bridge Players, the dummy has barely been laid down when another dummy gets in a scuffle at the bar across the room. Bridge player Carly Ogle’s husband Brent is at it again.
After the club’s new female golf pro breaks up the fight, Brent storms off to soak in a hot tub. But Carly soon finds the bullying Brent dead in the water, clubbed over the head with the pestle the barkeep uses to crush leaves for mint juleps.
Racist, sexist, homophobic, and an all-around lout, Brent made enough enemies to fill a bridge tournament. So Wendy has to play her cards right to get the story—and stay out of hot water long enough to put the squeeze on the killer…
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“I’m not about to venture out in this mess right now,” Deedah said, holding up her phone. “Everything’s either red or purple, and it says a tornado even touched down in Woodville, thirty miles south. I think this clubhouse is sturdy enough to protect us in the meantime.”
After a good ten minutes or so had passed, restlessness seemed to overtake the group. “I need a breath of air,” Hollis said. “I don’t care what it’s like out there. I think I’ll pop out under the portico for a while before I get the vapors and faint.” He fanned himself dramatically and headed for the door.
“Sounds like a good idea,” Carly said. “Wait up, and I’ll go with you.” And the two exited together with their phones in hand.
Mitzy echoed their anxious sentiments as well. “First I have to visit the ladies’ room, and then I have some online ordering of supplies and filing to do. I’ve been putting it off long enough. So I think I’d better get started.” And with that, she made her exit, too.
“Well, it’s just the two of us for a while, sitting in my apparently stale office,” Deedah said to Wendy with a chuckle. “I’m beginning to feel like I should get out the air freshener.”
Wendy flashed a smile. “When your son and Carly get back, we should resume our bridge game. Everything’s over there just the way we left it. It’s the perfect way to pass the time until this terrible weather lets up.”
“I can only hope the cards come my way after this long break,” Deedah added. “Carly and I had that one tiny little contract, and then you and my son cut off our leg. But you and I are determined to make this bridge club thing work. Maybe this isn’t the good start we expected, but we can’t let the weather defeat us, now can we? There’ll be another day when the sun is actually shining outside and even on the cards I get inside.”
Wendy was about to answer when an earsplitting crack of thunder accompanied by a near-atomic flash of lightning produced the inevitable—the dreaded loss of power. The clubhouse was plunged into utter darkness, and smartphones instantly turned into flashlights throughout the building. Wendy glanced at her screen, and it prominently displayed: 6:13.
“I think we should stay right where we are until the lights come back on,” Deedah said. “Meanwhile, I’ll call Rosalie Power and Light, report this, and see if they can tell me what’s going on. Of course, I’ll probably get a busy signal.”
“Ordinarily, I would agree about waiting,” Wendy said. “Except that it could take a while and I need to use the ladies’ room. Wine always does that to me. Not that this is the perfect time to go by any means—in the dark, of course. What an afternoon. It’s hardly what I’d envisioned.”
A few minutes later, Carly and the light from her phone entered the room, and she was hyperventilating. “What else can happen to us after all this?” she managed. “This is like a nightmare.”
Deedah craned her neck and said, “Where’s Hollis?”
“Still out there,” Carly told her. “There’s not much wind, so it’s not raining in under the portico. He said he heard another one of those transformers popping off somewhere in the distance, and then he said he wanted to stay a little longer and soak up the dark ambience or some such phrase.”
“That’s my Hollis,” Deedah said, unable to suppress her amusement. “There’s no one on earth who talks like that but him.”
Wendy took Carly by the arm gently. “Good timing. I was just headed to the ladies’ room. We would have to give up our official female cards if we didn’t go together. Isn’t it a requirement—you know, two or more?”
Carly nudged her. “At least. I was just about to tell you that I wanted to go with you. And I might as well check on that drunken husband of mine while I’m at it. He’s liable to fall asleep and drown himself or try to climb out of that tub and hit his head.”
“Don’t you think he’ll stay where he is under the circumstances?” Wendy added.
Carly’s sigh was plaintive. “You’d think so, wouldn’t you? If he doesn’t get all the booze he wants, though, he’ll probably get out and stagger around until he crashes into the bar.”
“You’re exaggerating, right?”
“Sweetie, you have no idea what he’s resorted to over the years to get his way.”
About the Author
R. J. Lee follows in the mystery-writing footsteps of his father, R. Keene Lee, who wrote fighter pilot and detective stories for Fiction House, publishers of WINGS Magazine and other ‘pulp fiction’ periodicals in the late ’40’s and ’50’s. Lee was born and grew up in the Mississippi River port of Natchez but also spent thirty years living in the Crescent City of New Orleans. A graduate of the University of the South (Sewanee) where he studied creative writing under Sewanee Review editor, Andrew Lytle, Lee now resides in Oxford, Mississippi.
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