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Hi. Anne R. Tan here.

How are you? I am pleased to announce my new release in the group. I had a great time writing about the therapy chicken in this book. In case you don't know, I have a flock of 23 chickens. They are my hubby’s babies. Lol!

Blurb:

A dead body. A crazy chicken. And a Chinese artifact. Morro Cliff Village will never be the same again.

Lucy Fong is keeping the family's private investigation firm afloat while her mother is in a coma. When a man collapses outside the PI office, Lucy is once again drawn into another murder investigation.

Who is the dead man, and why does he have a crazy chicken in his knapsack? How did he get inside the secured building owned by Lucy's family?

It's a race against time to find the murderer before danger catches up with Lucy. Join Lucy and her friends in this fast-paced cozy mystery.

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Also, you can recommend my books to your local library to read my books for free.

Thanks for supporting my art! And happy reading.

Anne

 

 

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Sneak Peek: Lucy Fong #2 – Chapter 3

Just A Lucky Break-In (Raina Sun Mystery #2)

A dead body. A crazy chicken. And a Chinese artifact. Morro Cliff Village will never be the same again.

Lucy Fong is keeping the family's private investigation firm afloat while her mother is in a coma. When a man collapses outside the PI office, Lucy is once again drawn into another murder investigation.

Who is the dead man, and why does he have a crazy chicken in his knapsack? How did he get inside the secured building owned by Lucy's family? 

It's a race against time to find the murderer before danger catches up with Lucy. Join Lucy and her friends in this fast-paced cozy mystery.

Read Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 here.

Chapter 3 - Picking Sides

Lucy went to the inner office and powered on her laptop, plugging in the monitor on the desk and the USB dongle for the mouse and keyboard. Since Stella had spread the word about Lucy’s former profession, Lucy had gotten more work helping the local businesses revamp their websites and setting up online shopping carts than she did as a private investigator.

She logged into the hosting company and pulled up the draft of the website for the Business Chamber of Commerce. She opened the folder on her hard drive, uploading photos to the media database.

“Ah-hem,” Stella said loudly from the doorway.

Lucy glanced up from the monitor. “Is Max ready for my statement?”

Stella usually occupied the desk in the front room, acting as the receptionist when necessary, but mostly clicking on dog photos on social media. She was a dog person, which was how Lucy ended up cat sitting Raspberry for her sister. When they had an appointment, they would switch desks for the meeting with the client since Lucy was technically still a private investigator trainee.

“Do we need to talk and get our story straight?” Stella asked.

Lucy blinked. “Why would we need to collaborate on our story?”

“For one thing, we don’t want to incriminate ourselves.”

Lucy still didn’t understand what Stella was talking about. The truth was already strange enough without having to make something up. “We didn’t do anything to the Chicken Man. He’ll be lucky we don’t charge him for trespassing.”

“He could sue us for falling on the parking lot.”

“Let’s worry about it when we cross that bridge,” Lucy said. She didn’t want to borrow trouble before she needed to. She returned to her typing, hoping her cousin would take the hint.

Stella flopped down on the client’s chair across from the desk. “Do I tell the police what your boyfriend did to the Chicken Man? When I spoke to the dispatcher, I saw the whole thing through the window from inside the office.”

Lucy sighed inwardly, clicked the save button, and logged out. “He’s not my boyfriend. We’ve only gone out to dinner a few times—as friends. What was Damien doing? Searching the body?” As soon as the flippant remark came out of her mouth, she snapped it shut. Holy Toledo! Was that what he was doing?

Stella’s eyes widened. “Did you see him do it too? I don’t know what to tell Max. The whole thing might be innocent. I don’t want to get Damien into trouble. He’s such a nice man.”

Lucy chewed her lower lip. If Damien had searched the Chicken Man’s body and didn’t find anything, it would explain why he had reached for the knapsack and, probably inadvertently, let the chicken out. But how did they know he was searching for something? 

“We don’t know what Damien was doing,” Lucy said slowly. “We could be misinterpreting the entire thing. I don’t want to accuse him without more evidence. Maybe he was looking for a wallet to get the Chicken Man’s identity.”

Stella nodded in agreement. “We can decide what to do after you talk to Damien. If we need to, we can tell Max we recalled this detail later.”

“Why do I have to talk to Damien? Why don’t you go next door and look for him?” Lucy said, recoiling inwardly.

While she thought Damien was a great guy, there was something about him that wasn’t available. Like he carried a deep secret or painful past. Her past wasn’t exactly perfect either, but she had been open about it, answering his questions. He, on the other hand, tended to skirt around the issue, leaving her with no more knowledge than before. Was this why she wasn’t interested in a romantic liaison with the man?

Stella straightened in her chair. “But he’s not my boy—”

“Lucy! Are you in here?” Max called out from the front room.

Stella got up from the client chair in front of the desk. “We’re here,” she called out. She lowered her voice to a whisper and said, “I’ll follow your lead.”

Lucy sat back in her chair. Fabulous. In other words, Stella wanted Lucy to handle the omission.

Max came into the room, his gaze shifting between Stella and Lucy. “Can I get your statements individually before we go next door to check out the vacant shop?”

Stella headed toward the doorway. “You can interview me out here. I have an errand to run after this, but Lucy can go with you.”

The two of them left Lucy to stew while they spoke in the front room. With the door closed, she couldn’t make out what they said. She had a feeling Stella wouldn’t mention Damien’s role in the incident, leaving it up to Lucy to decide if she wanted to involve him.

A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door, and it opened. Max grinned at her. “Ready to go next door?”

Lucy got up in a jerky motion. She still hadn’t decided on what to say to the police chief yet, but moving sounded like a good idea. “I thought you wanted to interview me.”

“We can talk while we're looking around. Stella gave me her side of the story, and I don’t think yours will deviate much from hers,” Max said.

As a former assistant district attorney, Max had a good memory for details. Though he sounded casual about the interview, Lucy had to consider her words carefully if she didn’t want to incriminate Damien. Darn the man for putting her in this position.

As they headed toward the vacant shop, Max asked, “Do you have any idea how the man got inside your property?”

Lucy shrugged. “The last time I checked, both the front and back doors were locked. Stella couldn’t find the key, and the windows were painted shut. The locksmith just gave me the new keys.”

“I’m surprised the transient picked the vacant shop. There are always people coming and going in this shopping plaza. With the mild temperature, he would be better off sleeping outside somewhere.”

Lucy didn’t want to tell Max the PI office wasn’t generating any foot traffic. “Do you think he targeted this place in particular?”

“I guess we’ll find out when he wakes up. After this, I’ll swing by the hospital to see how he’s doing.”

She had never thought about the duties of a small-town cop. With only two full-time staff, Max probably worked a lot more hours than what the town officially paid him.

Lucy was about a foot away from the entrance when the smell hit her again. Yuck! She breathed through her mouth and followed Max inside. She glanced around, but other than a thin layer of dust on the countertop, there was nothing in the room.

The carpeted floor showed a set of footprints. From the way the footprints seemed to sway and drag on the dust, the Chicken Man was already in some distress when he staggered toward the front door, probably hoping to get help.

Lucy and Max went into the back room, which could serve as an office space or storage area for the tenant. In one corner was a restroom with a toilet and a pedestal sink, both of which were clogged. Lucy shifted her gaze from the lumps in the putrid liquid. The smell probably came from there.

In the corner opposite to the restroom was a well-used sleeping bag and a half-eaten sandwich on plain white waxed paper and a fountain drink cup. The Chicken Man was in the middle of eating lunch. Too bad there were no business logos on the waxed paper or the cup. 

Lucy breathed through her mouth. Didn’t the smell bother the Chicken Man? 

Max glanced around, frowning. He pulled on a pair of plastic gloves and tried the small window. It didn’t budge. Next, he tried the back door. It was locked.

“Now how did he get in here?” Max mumbled to himself.

Lucy shrugged. Maybe the Chicken Man came in through the tunnel system underneath the building that connected to much of the town. But she wasn’t giving away a secret the founding families didn’t want the public to know.

Besides, there were no loose floorboards or holes on the ground. The only unit in the building with access to the tunnel system was the PI office. And she certainly didn’t want the police going through the rest of the premises.

“On the news, they once mentioned a man climbing into a vacant building through a grease trap,” Lucy said, trying to be helpful.

“There’s no kitchen here, so it wasn’t a former restaurant. I don’t think you’ll find a grease trap outside the building.”

“Let’s look out in the back. Maybe we’re missing something,” Lucy said, gesturing to the back door.

Max opened the door and held it open for her. 

As Lucy stepped through, she glanced around, looking for any clue as to how the Chicken Man got into the building. She took a deep breath of the fresh clean air.

There was a parking spot for each of the units. In the far corner of the premises was a dumpster. Since only the tenants came out here, no one made any attempt to hide the dumpster behind a concrete wall or to fancy up the place. It was just a black top lot with a few stripes designating the parking spots, and a single bulb above each door on the wall of the building.

At the edge of the pavement, thick trees and underbrush rose in front of them. As a child, Lucy had spent many happy hours playing in the woods while her grandfather and mother worked at the PI office.

Max stepped out after her. “Look at those trees. A person could easily get lost in there.”

Lucy gave the sheriff a sideways glance. “Sometimes I forget that you’re a city boy.”

“You’re a city girl, too. What’s your point?”

“Touché,” Lucy said with a smile.

“Sorry. I’m just a bit on edge. We have a break-in and no idea how the suspect got inside the building. And to top it off, he passed out in the parking lot. This is just strange.”

“Strange things happen in the boonies,” Lucy said. “And don’t forget, this town has a history of pirates and smugglers, many of whom became the founding fathers.” She didn’t add that her family was one of them long before they crossed over to the other side of the law.

“And I’m too much of a city slicker to understand what’s going on here?” Max’s tone was half teasing, but his question was not.

Lucy shrugged. “I lived in the city for more than half of my life. I’m sure there are things here that I’m just not catching.”

She should tell the police chief about Damien searching the body, but the words just wouldn’t come out. She wanted to give the reporter a chance to explain his side of the story. After all, what kind of person would she be if she didn’t help a friend out?

“Is there something else? There’s this frown on your face like you’re trying to puzzle out something,” Max said.

“I was thinking about cleaning up the shop. When do you think I can call in a cleaning company?” Lucy said. She winced inwardly at the white lie. Max was her friend too, and she was hiding something that could potentially help him solve the break-in.

“Can you give me until tomorrow afternoon? I’ll take some fingerprints and photographs. If I don’t finish, I would like to come back tomorrow morning,” Max said.

Lucy nodded. “That sounds fine.” She left Max to do his work.

She strolled through the alley to the front of the building. When she got to the PI office, she glanced over at the newspaper office again. And like before, Damien was nowhere in sight, and there was a “Closed” sign on the door. His car was gone from the parking lot.

Stella glanced up when Lucy walked inside the office. “Did you guys find anything?”

Lucy shook her head. “There’s no sign of a break-in.”

“You don’t think it’s the tunnel sys—”

“Shhh! I don’t want to reveal the secret unless we have to.”

“If the Chicken Man has died, it would be good publicity for us to investigate his death.”

Lucy raised an eyebrow. “To advertise Faye Investigations?”

“We need to let the town know we’ve still got it even with Dahlia in the hospital.”

“I’m sure the Chicken Man prefers to live even if it’s an inconvenience to us.”

“Aren’t you curious about the possible link between the Chicken Man and Damien?”

Lucy was more than curious, but she didn’t want to admit it. “Not one bit.”

She would try to talk to Damien tomorrow, but if she didn’t hear from him by the end of the day, she would have to tell Max. Friendship or no friendship, it was the right thing to do.

Don't miss out on the fun. Grab your copy now!

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Sneak Peek: Lucy Fong #2 – Chapter 2

Just A Lucky Break-In (Raina Sun Mystery #2)

A dead body. A crazy chicken. And a Chinese artifact. Morro Cliff Village will never be the same again.

Lucy Fong is keeping the family's private investigation firm afloat while her mother is in a coma. When a man collapses outside the PI office, Lucy is once again drawn into another murder investigation.

Who is the dead man, and why does he have a crazy chicken in his knapsack? How did he get inside the secured building owned by Lucy's family? 

It's a race against time to find the murderer before danger catches up with Lucy. Join Lucy and her friends in this fast-paced cozy mystery.

Read Chapter 1 here.

Chapter 2 - Drunken Sailor

Lucy blinked, but the image in front of her didn’t go away. The strange man still lay on the asphalt of the parking lot. Did her cousin say he was dead?

The world became a fuzzy gray, and her vision narrowed until she only saw the man lying on the ground. She shook her head, hoping to clear away her confusion. The bile rose from the back of her throat again, and she swallowed the bitter tang. No, no...not again. The clanging in her head grew louder, drowning out everything.

“Lucy!” Stella called out, but it sounded as if her cousin’s voice came through a bad phone connection. “Put your head between your knees and breathe.”

Lucy did as instructed, feeling thick and clumsy in her crouched position. After a few moments, her vision cleared, and she could see the tiny pebbles on the asphalt. Somehow the burlap bag had wiggled across the short distance between the dead man and Lucy. It writhed and moved against her leg. Maybe a small pet was trapped inside the bag.

As Stella returned her attention to the man, Lucy reached for the bag. The knapsack had a small pocket in the front and two buckles that held a flap over the main compartment. Lucy opened one buckle and jerked back with a yelp.

A chicken head popped out and started squawking. The beady reddish-brown eyes glared at Lucy. The bright red wattles under its beak swung from side to side.

“Is that a rooster?” Stella asked, glancing up from the man on the ground.

Lucy couldn’t tell the difference between a hen and a rooster by looking at its head. “I don’t know if it’s a rooster, but it sure sounds like one.”

“Don’t let it get away. It might give us a clue to the man’s identity.”

Lucy eyed the chicken nervously. She didn’t want to get anywhere near its beak. “The other buckle is still on. It can’t get out of the bag.” She glanced at the door of the vacant shop. “I better look for Damien…”

As if speaking his name invoked his presence, the reporter appeared in the doorframe. Lucy frowned. Why did it take Damien this long to come outside? Did he find something in the shop?

A vehicle pulled up next to the curb, and a door opened and slammed shut from behind them.

Lucy dragged her eyes from the door frame to the curb behind her. The mayor stared at them with his jaw wide open. She blinked. This couldn’t be happening. How could she explain this to the mayor?

“What’s going on over there? Did someone get hurt?” the mayor called out.

“Stella! Call nine-one-one while I stall the mayor,” Lucy whispered.

Her cousin’s gaze swiveled between Damien, the dead man, and the mayor. Her eyes widened at the strange situation, and a look of panic flashed across her face.

Now it was Lucy’s turn to be the strong one. “Take a deep breath. It will be okay. Just call nine-one-one. Damien can take care of himself, and I will explain things to the mayor. Just talk to the dispatcher.”

Stella swallowed and nodded. “Okay. I can do this.”

“Why don’t you make the call inside the PI office?” Lucy suggested.

Stella nodded again and got up. Lucy trotted toward the mayor.

Alexander Frasier, also known as Sander to his friends, had held the mayor position for more than a decade. He was in his late fifties with salt and pepper hair, but his full beard was snow white. With his icy blue eyes and a full belly, he was the town’s year-round Santa Claus.

The butterflies in Lucy’s stomach fluttered nervously. What if the mayor drove off after he found out there was a dead man in the parking lot? While most people might stare at an accident, no one wanted to be on the side of the road talking to the police.

Lucy cleared her throat. “Um, Mr. Mayor, we have a situation here. The Chicken Man came out of the vacant—”

“Who is the Chicken Man?” the mayor interrupted.

Lucy blinked. She hadn’t realized she had named the dead man. “The man on the ground. He had an accident. Can we reschedule for another day? The police will probably want to talk to me and Stella. I’m sure you’re too busy to wait.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?” the mayor asked, his face full of concern.

Lucy shook her head. “Everything is under control here. Once we are done, I’ll call your secretary to reschedule.”

In the distance, sirens blared and got louder by the second.

“You might want to get out of here before the emergency vehicles block traffic,” Lucy said, hoping she sounded helpful rather than desperate. The longer it took the mayor to find out about the dead man, the better. If she had more time, she might be able to neutralize the bad news.

The mayor gave the parking lot another glance. “Good point, Lucy. I don’t even know CPR. Let’s see if we can meet later this week. I need to decide on the museum’s temporary location before the next town council meeting.”

As the mayor drove off, Lucy breathed a sigh of relief. Okay, she only had to get the Chicken Man off the premises, and everything would be back to normal. She could still salvage this situation and get the lease for the town’s temporary museum.

She turned back to the parking lot and saw Damien crouching over the Chicken Man. From this angle on the curb, she couldn’t tell what the reporter was doing. Was he performing CPR on the Chicken Man?

Lucy marched back to the parking lot, scanning the window of the PI office. Stella was nowhere to be seen. Did she go inside the vacant shop next door? Lucy’s gaze returned to Damien’s back.

He reached for the knapsack, opening the remaining buckle. The chicken’s head popped out of the bag and pecked his hand. He jerked back and fell onto his rear. The chicken squawked and jumped out of the bag.

“Don’t let the chicken run away. It could be evidence,” Lucy called out, sprinting the last few feet. As soon as the words left her mouth, she realized her subconscious had decided this was a crime scene. After all, the Chicken Man had slurred his words and dropped dead in the parking lot. Either he was drunk or he was poisoned.

Damien glanced over his shoulder. “What?”

The chicken flapped and raced around the building, disappearing from view. Lucy ground her teeth and picked up her pace. She was not built for moving at this speed. Her breaths came out in puffs, and her lungs burned for air.

The chicken raced through the narrow strip of pavement on the side of the building that led to the back of the strip mall and the employee parking spots.

Lucy pumped her arms harder, hoping it would help propel her forward. Sweat streamed down her face. If she didn’t stop soon, the emergency responders would find her collapsed on the pavement too.

The chicken squawked again and dashed for the woods behind the building. It ran, hopped, and flapped, wobbling on its skinny legs like a drunken sailor on a wooden peg.

“Hey, come back,” Lucy gasped, holding onto the side of the building.

The chicken ran into the woods without a backward glance.

Lucy shook her hand in the air. Stupid chicken. She took another deep breath and straightened. Now that she was no longer focused on chasing the chicken, she realized sirens were coming from the parking lot. It was time to talk to the police.

She spun on her heels and headed back to the front of the building. A police cruiser, an ambulance, and a fire truck blocked the driveway to the shopping plaza. Between the flashing lights and the group of ladies gathered around the window at the yarn shop, it looked like they were having a block party.

The police chief, the firefighters, and Stella were huddled in a group in front of the fire truck. Two emergency medical technicians checked on the Chicken Man. 

Surprisingly, Damien was nowhere in sight. Maybe the sight of a dead body up close was too much for him. Even as soon as the thought floated to the surface, Lucy dismissed it. Damien was a reporter after all. And reporters were known to see all walks of life.

Stella glanced up from the group and gestured for Lucy to join them. As Lucy crossed the parking lot, the medical technicians loaded the Chicken Man onto a gurney. 

Lucy paused mid-step. Why were the medical technicians moving the Chicken Man? Shouldn’t the coroner check out the body first? “Where are you taking him?” she called out.

“To the emergency room,” the emergency medical technician said. He returned to his task, turning his back to her.

Lucy gaped at the EMTs. The Chicken Man was still alive? Holy Toledo! Didn’t Stella have enough medical training to tell if someone was dead or alive? Weren’t pharmacists as good as a doctor in some parts of the world?

The firefighters got back into their truck, waved to the crowd, and left. Max DeWitt, the police chief, trotted toward the ambulance and chatted with the EMTs.

Stella joined Lucy and whispered, “I thought only someone from the coroner could touch the body.”

Lucy gave her cousin a sideways glance. “He’s going to the hospital. Apparently, the Chicken Man isn’t dead.”

Stella flushed, a deep crimson that covered both cheeks and her nose. “You couldn’t give him a more original name?” Her voice sounded petulant.

Lucy struggled to keep the grin off her face. Her cousin was embarrassed at her misdiagnosis. “I went for the obvious. Maybe I can visit him tomorrow when I stop by to see Mom.”

“I couldn’t find a pulse or a heartbeat. I couldn’t tell if he was drooling or if he had ingested poison. No way was I putting my lips over his,” Stella said, crossing her arms defensively. 

“Maybe Damien resuscitated him,” Lucy said. She couldn't hide the doubt in her voice. Where was the reporter? This was big news for their small town. 

“Did you see Damien give the Chicken Man CPR? He had to be pretty brave to get over the—” Stella’s hand circled the air above her mouth, indicating the lower half of the man’s face. 

Lucy frowned. Did she see Damien give the Chicken Man CPR? After all, Damien was hunched over the Chicken Man. “I assumed he did. But if he was so concerned about saving the Chicken Man’s life, why did Damien waste time by letting the chicken out?”

Stella gave Lucy a sharp look. “I know that tone. You have suspected Damien in the past of nefarious deeds, but he has turned out to be innocent. Are you reading more into things because you’re looking for an excuse to keep him at arm’s length?”

Heat rose to Lucy’s face, and she averted her gaze. Was she afraid to have a closer relationship with Damien? “Now you’re reading too much into things. Damien and I are just friends.” She nodded at the police chief. “Besides, I like keeping my options open.”

Stella raised an eyebrow. “Is that right? Good girl. I wouldn’t want you to tie the knot with the first man that shows interest.”

“I have dated plenty of men before.” Lucy knew she sounded exasperated, but this was no time to talk about her love life. It was bad enough that her foster grandma was always trying to set her up, even from afar.

“Promiscuous? Even better. It’s not fair that men get to sleep—”

“Look! They are leaving,” Lucy cut in. 

Stella glanced up to see the ambulance driving off. The police chief went to inspect the spot the Chicken Man had lain on the parking lot floor. He returned to his police cruiser, grabbed a couple of cones and crime scene tape, and blocked off the area even though the only thing visible was the empty knapsack.

Max trotted over. He was in his mid-thirties—a few years younger than Lucy—blond, well-muscled, and close to six feet tall. His moss-green eyes squinted against the sunlight, crinkling the skin around his eyes. In his uniform, he was the boy next door. Too bad he was too young for her.

“Will you still be around in a bit?” Max asked. “I want to take photos of the parking lot before folks move their cars. There’s not much to see, but I want to note the man’s location just the same.”

Lucy nodded. “Can I go inside the vacant shop? Or do you want to see it first?”

“Let’s go inside together. It’s your shop, but I want to check for signs of a break-in.”

“Come and get me when you’re ready. Stella and I will be in the PI office,” Lucy said. 

They left Max to do his work. As they approached the PI office, Lucy glanced next door at the newspaper office. Through the window, she couldn’t see anyone, though Damien’s car was still in the parking lot. It wasn’t like the reporter to be missing in action, especially in the middle of a story. Where did he go? And why didn’t he want his presence known?

Don't miss out on the fun. Grab your copy now!

Apple Books

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Google Play

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