A secret message hidden inside of an antique wooden box, an unidentified dead body, and a mother determined to marry her off to the high school crush whom she hasn’t seen since…well…high school. There’s no doubt about it; Finn Bartusiak’s life in the seaside town of Port New is about to get interesting.
Coming into possession of a 19th-century, bronze and mahogany writing box under somewhat suspicious circumstances, Finn’s accidental discovery of a coded note leads her and Spencer Dane, bestselling novelist and love of her life (though he doesn’t know it yet), on a quest to unravel the mystery behind the jumble of letters. But they’re not the only ones interested in the cryptic message. There’s a con man on their trail, and he’ll stop at nothing, including murder, to claim the ‘treasure’ for himself.
A slip of paper slightly larger than an index card fell from between the seams and floated ever so gently to the floor. Almost dropping the case in my elation (wouldn’t that just be my luck?), I set it gingerly on the table and retrieved the note.
Xlw k Wrlm no
Huh? What kind of crazy language is this?
I attempted to sound it out, tripping over my tongue because – let’s face it – it’s impossible to pronounce words that have no vowels. Thinking I’d stumbled onto either an ancient, and possibly forgotten, language, or a secret military code, I hopped back on the computer for some serious research. It wasn’t until the Gothic cathedral mantel clock perched on the shelf above a row of whiskey barrels chimed twelve that I realized I’d been staring at the screen for the better part of three hours. That would explain my grainy eyeballs.
“Time to call it a night. Come on, Garfunkel. Let’s go home.”
Shutting off the computer, I slipped the note into my pocket, leaving the writing case in my office for the time being. Who knew what other mysterious messages might be hidden inside? Turning off the light, plunging the room into darkness, I walked out front to collect my sleepy hound, dim lumens from the street lamp outside filtering in through the plate glass window, illuminating my way and casting shadows along the floor and walls. Headlights from a passing car briefly lit up the interior of the shop, glinting off the wind chimes that hung over the front door.
If only I’d had the forethought to hang a set of chimes over the back door as well. Then, perhaps, they would’ve warned me about the person who jimmied the lock, crept up behind me, and wrapped his fingers around my neck, squeezing until everything went black.