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Finding a body in the garden of her Whole-Life Wellness Center has left social worker Erin Kilpatrick more than a little annoyed. It can’t be good for business to have a dead body in the bush beans — particularly if the one who’s been killed is a paying patient — correction: guest. Even though her first thought was to hide the corpse, Erin does feel sorry for the guest who has checked out permanently from her rehab inn. But her pity turns to alarm when she and Detective Liam Harris dig a little deeper to discover that maybe the dead man isn’t who they think he is. And now she has to deal with a missing guest and a killer on the loose.
Rattled by memories of her husband’s death three years prior, Erin sets about to discover the connection between the dead man and her absent guest. But while conducting her own investigation, she’s also got to juggle a rehab center full of eccentric guests, annoyingly amorous renovators, an enigmatic staff, her struggling teenage daughter, and an orphaned dog. And her keen eye and out-of-boundaries sleuthing catch the attention of Detective Harris in more ways than one, adding the complications of romance to this delightful and dangerous case of fraud, impersonation, and, of course, murder.
- Size: 6" x 9"
- Pages: 222
- Published: August 2011
- Book on CD: Unabridged
- Number of Discs: 6
- Run Time: Approx. 7 hrs.
About the Author
Kristen Garner McKendry began writing in her teens, and her work has been published in Canada and the U.S. She received a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from Brigham Young University and has always been a voracious reader. Kristen has a strong interest in urban agriculture, sustainable living, and environmental issues. A native of Utah and mother of three, she now resides with her family in Canada.
It couldn’t be good for business to have a guest drop dead in the vegetable
I’d had one fall off the wagon, dance on the lawn in her nightgown,
and have to be shipped back to detox. We’d had a fistfight or two.
Once, we’d had a slightly unstable kleptomaniac who thought he was
a raccoon and kept pocketing the silverware. But I’d never had anyone
peg out in the yard before.
My first impulse was to roll the body tidily under the privet and
hope that no one would notice. But, no, he was bound to be found
sooner or later, and there was likely some law against hiding bodies in
the bushes. With more irritation than alarm, I headed for the house.
Maybe the police could get him bundled away quietly without the rest
of the guests—we always carefully referred to them as guests instead of
It wasn’t to be. As I ducked under the arbor leading to the patio, I
nearly crashed headlong into Kevin Carlisle, the dentist from Kingston,
Ontario, who’d checked in a few weeks ago.
“Oopsie!” I said, automatically stepping back to let him through.
And then I remembered what lay splayed out behind me and quickly
stepped in front of him again, blocking his path. I smiled a big toothy
frozen smile and tried to think what to do. Was it better to be honest?
More to the point, was it kinder? I wasn’t sure Kevin’s constitution was
up to a shock of this size. There was no mention of any nervous ailment
or heart condition in his medical file, but he was a pale sort of person,
slightly shorter than I was, and narrow of eye and chest. He clasped a
book to the latter, and I saw a Mississauga Library System sticker stuck
to the spine.
“Are you just heading for the library?” I asked quickly before he
could worm past me.
“Yes. I’ve finished my Margaret Atwood. Why?”
The library’s parking lot adjoined my property, and it was quicker
to cut through the yard than to walk around on the road. Guests always
took the shortcut. Unfortunately, the flagstone path ran within a few
feet of the vegetable garden. I grasped Kevin’s free hand and linked it
through my elbow.
“I’ll have to ask you to postpone your trip,” I said, trying to speak
through clenched teeth. I hadn’t been aware that I’d clenched them or
that my hands were shaking somewhat. Kevin noticed at the same time I
did. He recoiled, his hyperthyroidal eyes bugging out farther than usual.
“Why? Is something wrong?”
“Well, yes, rather. Could you come back into the house, please?”
He began to protest, but I towed him across the patio and back
through the door. At the foot of the stairs, we met two more guests,
who were dressed for tennis and carrying their racquets. Grant and
Jason looked like a rabbit and a bear trying to pass as twins. Grant
Calderwood was slim, a little less than six feet, with graying hair and
moustache and a distinguished bearing even in white shorts and tennis
shoes. Jason Baumgarten, on the other hand, was several inches above
six feet and had sandy hair and a solid, square build like a wrestler. The
racquet looked like a ping-pong paddle in his hands. His white shorts
revealed powerful and astonishingly hairy legs. Musing that there were
some things you didn’t need to know about other people, I briskly linked
arms with Grant and turned them all back toward the stairs, herding
Jason ahead of us like a large sheep. With a man on each elbow, I had to
resist the urge to start singing “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.” I suppose
the song popped into my head right then because I suddenly felt crazy
enough to be in Oz. I don’t know if Grant would qualify as a cowardly
lion, but Kevin was certainly walking stiff enough to be the tin man.
Grant’s silver eyebrows shot up to his hairline.
“What’s all this, Mrs. Kilpatrick?” he asked as I bustled them right
back up the stairs.
“I’m sorry, I’m going to have to ask you to go to your rooms and
remain there for a while,” I said, trying to sound as if this sort of thing
happened frequently, like a fire drill.
“What’s happened?” Kevin demanded, now sufficiently recovered
to the point that he could be irritated.
“I’m afraid something has happened to Mr. Fortier,” I told them.
“I’m just going to call the police and Dr. Meacham, and then I’ll come
back and give you the details. If you would please wait in your rooms . . .”
“Is he all right?” Jason came to a dead stop. Being roughly the size
of Mount Hood, he brought our procession to an abrupt halt. “Can I
help? I know CPR if . . .”
I had a sudden vision of those meaty hands compressing my late
guest’s rib cage. His bones would crumple like a pop can under a boot.
“Mr. Fortier is unfortunately beyond the need for CPR, but thanks
for offering,” I said hastily. We’d reached the second-floor landing, and
I let go of their arms. “Please stay in your rooms until further notice,”
I said shortly.
Kevin whirled around as soon as I released him, his mouth open
to protest. I firmly turned my back on him and went back downstairs.
I bypassed the phone at the public front desk and used the one in
my office instead. I had to dial the number twice because my fingers
were shaking so much. There was an interminable minute while the
line connected, and I found myself—whether out of habit or out of
shock—humming a tune in my head. Don’t they always say to sing a
hymn to help yourself through a bad situation? The words currently
going through my mind were, “In a world where sorrow ever will be
known . . .” When I got to the chorus, I stopped, though, because it
didn’t seem appropriate to be scattering sunshine at a time like this.
Finally, a tinny voice broke through, and with relief, I turned my
attention back to the phone.
“9-1-1. What is the nature of your emergency?” said the voice.
“I want to report a body in my garden,” I said, sitting on the edge of
the desk. Breathe in, breathe out. Stop the little whirly dots from spinning
around in front of your eyes. That’s better.
There was the slightest of pauses.
“A body, ma’am?” said the voice suspiciously.
“Yes. Sprawled out in my green beans.”
“Is the person injured, ma’am?”
“Deceased,” I said. “Very much so. Can you send someone, please?”
There was another pause.
“Could I have your name, please, ma’am?”
“Erin Kilpatrick. The Whole-Life Wellness Center. 1610 Felicity
Street, Mississauga.” I wondered if she’d catch the irony of someone
dying at a health center.
“Is there an apartment number?”
I clenched my teeth again. “No, it’s a big, yellow brick building,” I
replied. “The gates are open. You can come right up the drive.”
“Are you sure the person is deceased, ma’am? Perhaps there’s—”
“Of course I’m sure,” I snapped. “The man has no face left.”
The officers who showed up at my door ten minutes later appeared
to be as put out by the man’s death as I was. They stood, hands on hips
that bulged with paraphernalia, and scowled down at the figure in the
“What is this place again?” one asked for the third time. He’d
introduced himself as Sergeant Layton. His partner, Constable Taylor,
was taller and younger. Both had deep lines around their eyes that
accentuated their annoyed expressions.
I pushed my bangs back from my forehead and let my breath out
with a hiss between my teeth. “A wellness center. Sort of like a privately
owned halfway house for people just coming out of detox. Alcohol
mostly, but some recreational drugs. We help them regain their health,
find their feet, and get resettled in the community.”
“What’s your position here, Mrs. Kilpatrick?”
“Owner and director.”
“And this man was staying here?”
“Yes. His name is Michael Fortier. He spent the last six weeks in
detox and came to us on Saturday. Usually, Dr. Meacham, who runs
the detox center, brings our guests, but Mr. Fortier came by bus. It
stops opposite our driveway,” I added irrelevantly, as if he needed to
know the intricacies of the Mississauga transit system.
We all contemplated Mr. Fortier for a while. He lay face up—or
rather, what should have been his face was turned upward, his arms and
legs sprawled out in unnerving stillness. Blood the color of crapaudine
beets soaked his green golf shirt. He’d done little damage to my vegetables, though, other than the beans beneath him. An inquisitive fly settled on
his shirt, and I fanned it away, chilled.
“The blood looks pretty dark,” I remarked when the policemen
remained silent. “His shirt looks almost dry. When do you think it
“We’ll leave that to the coroner to say,” Sergeant Layton said bleakly.
The distant wail of the ambulance came closer, and we exchanged
glances. We all knew the ambulance was pointless, but it was, the
sergeant informed me, standard procedure to summon one. He took
off his hat and scrubbed his scalp through his thinning gray hair. He
couldn’t have been more than fifty, but his face was creased and worn
and looked ten years older. He must have been melting in that uniform.
It was cooler on the lawn under the maples, but here, where I’d turned
the earth for my garden, there was no shade. I imagined what it would
be like, wearing double-knit polyester and hung about with so many
gadgets you could never let your arms hang straight down. Just the
thought exhausted me.
“Let’s go in where it’s cooler,” I suggested. “I’ll show you which
room was his.”
Layton put his hat back on, looking more cheerful. We left the
constable glumly standing guard over Mr. Fortier and went up the
flagstone path to the back porch. As we walked, Layton pulled out his
radio, which was clipped near his shoulder, and spoke into it, requesting
his supervisor, a coroner, and a forensic identification services team,
whatever that was. He signed off and gave me an apologetic shrug.
“The place will be crawling with people soon. I’ll try to keep them
out of your veggies.”
I waved a hand. “It’s all right. I wasn’t having much luck with them
anyway. My lettuce never even came up.”
“That’ll be the birds, I expect,” he said, nodding. “They eat the
seeds before they can even germinate. They got to my spinach last year,
but this year I’m ahead of them. I put a bit of window screening over
the ground until the seeds got a good start. That’s what you want, a bit
of window screening. The little mesh, you know?”
I nodded stupidly to show I understood what screening was.
“Lets the air, light, and water in but keeps the birds out,” he said
gravely. “That’s what does the trick.”
We went through the back door and walked to the front of the
house to wait for the emergency services people to park and unload.
Layton spoke with them briefly, directing them to his partner in
the backyard. From down the block came the skirl of another siren,
and a moment later a fire engine pulled into view. I wondered what
my neighbors would think of the flashing lights and commotion. It
occurred to me that I needed to call my lawyer the first chance I got.
The hymn in my head had shifted, and I paused to examine it. It had
turned into “Master, the Tempest Is Raging.” Equally uncomforting.
Layton turned back to me.
“Now, let’s see what we can find out about this poor guy.”
I liked him better for using the adjective. I dug behind the solid
oak front desk for the guest book. Layton eyed it appreciatively.
“You have the patients sign?”
“We prefer to call them guests and treat them as such,” I explained.
“They sign in as if it were a hotel, to remind them that they’re here
voluntarily and that this will be a pleasant experience. At least, more
pleasant than detox was. Signing a thick, old logbook feels comfortable
and old-fashioned. It makes them feel pampered.”
“And is that what you do here? Pamper them?”
I grimaced. “Hardly. We keep them on a pretty strict regimen that
includes vigorous exercise, strict curfews, a carefully managed diet,
daily therapy sessions, and close supervision. It may not sound nice,
but we treat them very well. They leave in a lot better condition than
when they came. We have one of the best programs in Canada.”
Leaning over the open book, I held my blonde hair from swinging
into my face with one hand and ran a finger down the column of writing.
“Here it is. Michael Fortier. Checked in at 3:40 on Saturday, June
10. I remember watching him get off the bus and walk up because it’s
not usual that a guest arrives by bus. As I said, Dr. Meacham usually
brings them. But Mr. Fortier didn’t wait for his ride. He left a note for
Dr. Meacham saying he wanted to take this step on his own.” I pulled
out my heavy set of keys. “I put him in room 401, fourth floor, on the
“How long was he scheduled to be here?”
“One month. Usually they come for a month or two for inpatient
treatment, and then if they’re doing okay, they check out and just return for outpatient counseling.” I stopped, thinking how foolish and
irrelevant that sounded. My unfortunate guest had already checked
“Where are your other patients—er—guests this morning?”
Layton asked, pulling a notebook from his breast pocket as if just now
remembering he should be taking notes.
Was he afraid they were dead too, strewn about the place like badly
thrown newspapers? I sat at the desk and put my head in my hands,
“Some of them are on a nature walk at Riverwood Park with the
activity director. They’re stopping at a curry place for lunch on their way
back.” This was Bonnie’s doing. I would have opted for Subway sandwiches
myself to accommodate those with less adventurous tastes. But when on
a field trip, Bonnie declared, the food was part of the recreation and
therefore her domain. She also believed in the healing power of novelty.
If guests were jolted out of their ordinary rut, she argued, they were less
likely to go back to old habits when they returned home. I wasn’t sure I
held the same opinion of curry’s reformational value.
“Just some of them went?”
“The others I sent to their rooms and told them to stay there until
we get this figured out.”
“Good move,” he said, looking ready to pat me on the head. “I’ll
just go up and see his room now. Make sure no one goes out to the
garden, please, while the paramedics are out there. More officers will
be coming soon.”
His footsteps had scarcely faded before there was a commotion
upstairs, and then Kevin Carlisle bounded down, face flushed and
blond hair standing on end. In the short while I’d known him, I’d
figured out that he was prone to hysterics. The smallest things set him
off. A sparrow trapped in the dining room at breakfast had had Kevin
practically hyperventilating by the time I shooed it out. A misplaced
jacket and a suspicious knocking sound in the tree outside his room
(which proved, upon investigation, to be a Downy Woodpecker) had
sent him into panic. Why, just yesterday when Michael Fortier had
accidentally walked in on him in the washroom, Kevin had caused
such a scene that the two men had nearly come to blows.
This last thought made me pause, but I didn’t have time to mull
it over because Kevin was nearly on top of the desk, shouting into my
“I demand you tell us what is going on, Mrs. Kilpatrick. Was that
a fire truck I just saw pull up? And a policeman going up the stairs?”
“Yes, it was,” I said patiently. “And there are going to be a lot more
of them in a moment, so if it upsets you, you should probably stay in
your room this morning.”
His voice rose to a squeak. “Just what exactly has happened to Mr.
“Someone has killed him,” I said flatly, not inclined to coddle.
“In the garden.” When he continued to stare at me, eyes bugging and
mouth open, I added, “They blew his face off.”
Kevin Carlisle, Kingston dentist, made a gagging sound, rolled his
eyes up into his head, and fell. On the way to the floor, he clouted his
chin on the edge of the desk.
I stood, went around the desk, and poked him carefully with my
foot. He didn’t respond, but his skinny chest continued to rise and fall.
I put my hands on my hips, considering whether I could lift him up
to his room. I knew I could at least get him as far as the living room
couch. I bent and took him under the armpits. He was sweaty, and the
thought crossed my mind to let him lie where he was.
“I should charge you double,” I hissed in his ear.
Great Story I couldn't Put Down
by Valerie - reviewed on September 03, 2011
I really enjoyed reading "Garden Plot" It was fast moving and had whit. The story pulls you in as the very first page starts with a murder. Read Garden Plot when you just want to get away for the afternoon. Very entertaining.