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Writing Progress - Sushi and Suspicions

I’ve been working on Sushi and Suspicions , a Christian contemporary romantic suspense which will be releasing in June in the multi-author box set Summer Suspicions . Trouble follows Liv on her vacation to Hawaii when she is framed for the theft of an antique rifle. Only a handsome investigator can help clear her name ... and maybe give her a reason to stay in the islands. If you want to read a snippet of what I wrote last week, check out my last newsletter !

Year of the Dog serial novel, chapter 21

I’m posting a Humorous Christian Romantic Suspense serial novel here on my blog! Year of the Dog is a (second) prequel to my Warubozu Spa Chronicles series.

Year of the Dog serial novel

by Camy Tang

Mari Mutou, a professional dog trainer, is having a bad year.

While renovating her new dog kenneling and training facility, she needs to move in with her disapproving family, who have always made her feel inadequate—according to them, a job requiring her to be covered in dog hair and slobber is an embarrassment to the family. She convinces her ex-boyfriend to take her dog for a few months … but discovers that his brother is the irate security expert whose car she accidentally rear-ended a few weeks earlier.

Ashwin Keitou has enough problems. His aunt has just shown up on his doorstep, expecting to move in with him, and he can’t say no because he owes her everything—after his mother walked out on them, Auntie Nell took in Ashwin and his brother and raised them in a loving Christian home. What’s more, his brother Dusty also needs a place to stay after being kicked out of his apartment—with a dog in tow. And guess who the dog’s owner is?

But then Ashwin gets a request from an old friend, Edytha Guerrero, a private investigator who also runs a day spa on O’ahu’s north shore. A strange bit of “vandalism” at Mari's facility had led her to find a purse belonging to Edytha’s sister—who had disappeared three years ago. Worried that Mari might be in danger, and finding out that security expert Ashwin already knows her, Edytha asks him to covertly keep an eye on the busy young woman.

Ashwin is reluctantly attracted to the lively, easy-going dog trainer. She reminds him too much of his happy-go-lucky mother, whose betrayal had caused him to keep people at a distance. Mari sees past Ashwin’s cold exterior to a man who is loyal to his family, unlike her own mother and sister, who only criticize her career choice.

In the midst of Mari’s disjointed family and Ashwin’s disruptive home, danger begins to circle around them from people who want the past to remain there. Can they shed light on the secrets moving in the shadows?

All the posted parts are listed here.

***

Chapter Twenty-One - Black Mold

Mari's car was not as spotless as her sister Jenessa's minivan, but it wasn't a pigsty. She usually cleaned it when she could no longer see the passenger side floorboards through all the fast food wrappers and bags.

So when she scooped up an In-N-Out paper bag, she was surprised at the sight of jade green fabric, and she suddenly remembered about the tote bag she had found and tossed there two or three weeks ago. She might as well look through it more thoroughly, and then she could throw it out with the rest of the trash.

This time, leery of the mold, she grabbed a facemask and put it on as well as some exam gloves before peeking inside. Only when she opened the bag completely did she realize that there was a large hole at the bottom. She hadn't seen it from the outside because of the dark stains on the fabric, but now she could clearly see the gray of the parking lot asphalt through the bottom of the bag. Maybe that was why the bleepity pothead had left the bag under the crawlspace.

She was about to grab the wooden zipper pull on the inside pocket when something shiny near the bottom of the bag reflected the sunlight. Even though she was wearing gloves, she grimaced as she reached her hand inside.

Mari felt something hard. It didn't come out easily because it had been snagged inside the lining, which likely explained why it hadn't fallen out of the hole in the bottom.

She had to tug rather forcefully, feeling some strands of the fabric snap before she could pull up what she had found. She was shocked to see a diamond solitaire earring.

Even through the dirt, she could tell that the diamond was beautiful. It wasn't exceptionally large and gaudy, but just large enough to be tasteful. The setting looked to be platinum because silver would have tarnished.

As she held the diamond up to the sunlight, squinting at the brilliant sparkles, she felt a fluttering of nervousness in her chest. Why would there be jewelry in the pothead's bag?

She gently set the earring on the hood of her car and reached for the wooden hibiscus zipper pull on the inside pocket. However, she was once more shocked at the glitter of something at the bottom.

This time, it was a gold Hawaiian bangle bracelet. It wasn't as large as some of the other ones Mari had seen—this one was only about half an inch thick—but it was intricately carved with hibiscus and plumeria flowers. She rubbed her finger over the surface and saw the name "Fianna" in black enamel lettering.

The nervousness flutter in her chest began to feel more like a nest of rats scrambling around. More jewelry. Why would the pothead have women's jewelry? And the bigger question, why would he leave this bag behind? Had he forgotten about it? Maybe he'd left it because of the hole and had forgotten about the bracelet in the inside pocket.

As she turned the bracelet around, she realized that it had been crushed into an uneven oval shape, which wouldn't have been difficult if it was pure gold. Because of the disfiguring, she had to twist the bracelet this way and that and squint to see the inscription on the inside.

"Waialua High School, class of 2006."

It looked like it had been a graduation present. Mari did a mental calculation, feeling slightly guilty as she did so. Fianna would be 35 years old this year.

Mari looked inside the pocket again, and this time she found a business card and what looked like a receipt. The receipt was hopelessly faded, although she saw "COF" faintly along the left side of the paper, and thought perhaps it was a receipt for coffee somewhere. There was a round smudge at the top which might have been a logo.

The business card had once had a glossy surface on one side, but the design was also very faded. Mari squinted at the lettering at the top of the card, and thought it said, "Warubozu."

A laugh burst out of her. "Warubozu" was a local Japanese slang word meaning "bad boy" or "bad kid." When she was younger, her Uncle Herbie would playfully call her that whenever she had been slightly naughty but not enough to get a paddling.

There was nothing else in the inside pocket. She shuddered a little but forced herself to run her hand along the inside of the tote bag to make sure she hadn't missed anything else.

In feeling around, she found the seam to another inside pocket, this one without a zipper. Thanks to the "mold-glue," it had stuck tight to the lining and was a little hard for her to peel it open.

All she found inside was a wad of napkins, the kind they served in bars or high-end coffee shops. The outer napkins were a blackened, pulpy mess, but two napkins in the center of the wad had a circular logo just barely visible. Mari was surprised to recognize the seven stars and lehua blossom logo of the expensive Pleiades Resort, which was also on the North Shore, only a few miles away from her school.

Mari searched the rest of the bag, including the outer pocket, but found nothing else. She took the jewelry inside to wash the pieces in the bathroom sink, tossing the bag onto the floor rather than putting it on the counter.

She dried the jewelry and used the wet paper towel to gently clean the surface of the business card. She had a feeling that this bag and its contents belonged to Fianna and not the pothead guy.

She took out her phone and looked up "Warubozu." At the top of the search page was the Warubozu Day Spa, which was in Waialua. She called the spa’s phone number.

A cheerful young woman's voice answered. "Warubozu Day Spa. This is Sakura. How may I help you?"

"I was wondering if I might speak to Fianna."

There was a strangely long silence. Then Sakura said, "She's not here at the moment. May I transfer you to her sister, Edytha?"

"Of course."

Mari had barely spoken her assent before Sakura put her on hold.

It didn't take long before a deep woman's voice answered, "This is Edytha." The woman sounded older than Sakura, and also slightly breathless. "May I ask who this is?"

"My name is Mari Mutou. I found Fianna's purse and wanted to return it to her."

"Her purse?" Edytha paused, then asked, "Is it a cloth tote bag? Green fabric, with cherry blossoms?"

"Yes! That's exactly right." She had definitely found the owner. Or at least, the owner’s sister.

There was a soft sound on the phone, almost like … a sob. But after a moment, Edytha asked in a businesslike tone, "Where did you find the bag?"

"I bought Kaiāulu Keiki Academy in Waialua a few months ago," Mari answered. "I found the bag in the crawlspace under one of the classrooms." She glanced at the bag, carelessly dropped on the floor. "I'm afraid it's pretty dirty."

"Please don't clean it," Edytha said quickly, forcefully. There was a strange urgency in her tone as she asked, "Could you bring it to me today?"

Mari was surprised, but she said, "Sure."

”Thank you,” Edytha said and hung up.

Mari stared at the phone, confused. Edytha had thanked her as if Mari had found her lost cat rather than her sister's lost purse. Even a pure gold Hawaiian bracelet wasn't all that expensive, but perhaps it had sentimental value. Or maybe the earring was high clarity, and she'd naturally want the missing piece.

She shrugged and went to her car to deliver Fianna's things to her sister.

***

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