Presented by SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS

SPONTANEOUS CHOICES SHORTS features short serialized fiction by author Shannon Muir, that may be later released as part of e-book or print collections. In 2019, these serials will appear every second and fourth Thursday (and fifth Thursdays as they occur) beginning January 17, 2019. The story line featured over the next sixteen days is “A Spontaneous Kind of Mystery,” featuring the return of Marnie and Zane. This is part 4  of 16.

Marnie showed up at the address Blake gave her. She noticed a bookstore next door as well, and wondered if they might be connected. Then she stepped inside to a cafe, themed with a mix of literary and French decor. A small stage was in one corner, with tables gathered around it. A few people milled and conversed, but near the counter she saw Blake talking to a woman perhaps a decade older than himself. Marnie hesitantly approached, but as soon as Blake saw her, he waved her over.

“Marnie! You have to meet Suzette. Suzette, this is my cousin Marnie.”

“I am so pleased to meet you,” Suzette said, and Marnie could hear a French lilt in her voice.

“Are you French?” Marnie asked, as much to try and make small talk as curiosity.

“No, I was born and raised here. My parents are both French, and raised me to be fluent in the culture and language.”

“I’m surprised you’re older than Blake,” Sophia said aloud. “When Marnie said you two were friends, I expected, I don’t know, someone closer to the same age.”

Just then, a young woman with a cane entered the front door. Suzette sighed, exasperated.

“Not her again. Excuse me for a moment.”

Marnie watched Suzette as she went over to the woman who entered. She couldn’t hear them, but clearly the woman with the cane made a passionate case to Suzette about something. Suzette shook her head, and stamped her foot, and the other woman eventually left, dejected. She returned to Marnie and Blake.

“Sorry for the interruption,” Suzette said. “Six months ago, that Kara Inverness opened a bookstore next door. She found out about my annual poetry reading event and began pressing to sell how-to books here, to encourage more people to write. She says it would be a good partnership, and I keep telling her I am not interested.”

“So why isn’t it?” Blake asked the question already on Marnie’s mind. “We both studied to be librarians, Suzette. We’re supposed to be advocates for the written word. Why wouldn’t you support a bookstore?”

“For years, this event has been my tradition and my tradition alone. She is the newcomer to this area, and it is not my business to save her store. Too bad for her that her late husband was the better businessman.”

“What happened to him?” Marnie asked.

“Her husband died in a accident where the other party was under the influence. Hurt her bad enough she limps for the rest of her life. Such a tragedy. But I’m not a charity. I need to make money here myself.”

“But you’re not selling books,” Blake said.

“Yes, but if they spend on her books, it’s less money for my coffee and sweets,” Suzette responded.

Just then, Zane and Sophia arrived, much to Marnie’s relief. She might be Blake’s friend, but Marnie wasn’t terribly endeared to Suzette much.