Dead Among Stars
A Maddie Swallows Mystery Book 4
by Kat Bellemore
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Among Stars is
the fourth book of the Maddie Swallows mystery series. If you like
confined suspects, humor, and impossible whodunits, you’ll love
this cozy mystery.
Grab Dead Among Stars and be swept up in this intriguing mystery today!
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Dr. Randall walked over to the astronauts and looked over the suits, checking that everything was how it should be. The suits had one pocket meant for a phone so the astronauts could take pictures. Charlotte had tried sneaking a box of cigarettes and a lighter in hers, and it was immediately confiscated.
“Mom, you could have gotten us all killed,” Emma said, her lips pulled into a frown.
Once the seven astronauts boarded, the medical officer, Lori, followed. She would be the eighth passenger. Just in case.
And then, while the rest of us cheered and waved, the spacecraft started down the runway, no different than the way any other plane takes off for a flight.
Other than a final counseling session to unravel their space experience, my job was complete.
“We have two hours until they return,” Jeffrey said, walking up to me as the employees returned inside. “Want to hit up the cafeteria? It just opened.”
I glanced at my phone, not that I doubted him. Just wanted to see if we had time for both a first and second lunch before it closed again until dinner. Had to take advantage of all the amazing food, since it would all go away the next day. We’d been spoiled.
“Absolutely. I just need to run to the dorm to change into my stretchy pants.” I was mostly kidding. As we reentered the building, I asked him, “What’s it been like? Following the ‘astronauts’ around for the past few days?” I did air quotes around “astronauts.” I knew it was marketed that way, but I didn’t like that those bickering celebrities were now placed in a category with intelligent, brave men and women who had done so much good up there on the International Space Station, as well as those who had traveled farther.
I threw a backward glance toward the staff dorms when Jeffrey turned in the opposite direction down the hallway. I’d be okay without the stretchy pants. Probably.
“It was okay,” he said with a small shrug. “I really like Ace Hutchins. He always seemed like a cool guy on TV, but he is that way in real life too. I was glad to not be disappointed. I like Rachel Sinclair too. Don’t love her music—it’s nothing special. But she wasn’t in everybody’s business, like the rest of them. Julie hoped the team-building exercises would help with cohesion, but it only seemed to make it worse.”
I had missed a lot while stuck in my little office. There had been times I’d been able to sneak out and peek through windows, but most of the training exercises had been done behind closed doors, and I wasn’t supposed to interrupt.
I thought of Rachel, who was used to stepping aside so she wasn’t bowled over by the rest. After she’d left our one and only session, I’d wished she’d have returned so we could talk about some skills she could use to increase her self-confidence. Even famous singers had problems standing up for themselves, just like the rest of us.
“I take it that Charlotte was the center of the drama?”
Jeffrey opened the cafeteria door and motioned for me to enter.
“Forever and always,” a man’s voice said.
Dr. Randall appeared behind me, his gaze scanning the endless food choices. “That woman thrives on chaos, and she doesn’t care what casualties are left in her wake. The problem is that the rest of the astronauts have a love/hate relationship with her. They need her, or at least they believe they do, but they despise her for it.”
“Is it bad that I wish I hadn’t missed all of it?” I asked, feeling sheepish. “It’s like those daytime soap operas. You know they are ridiculous, but you also can’t tear yourself away. And it was all happening in real time.”
I decided on pizza for my first lunch, promising myself huevos rancheros for my second round.
“Count yourself lucky,” Dr. Randall said. “I saw zero growth in any of them. I know they paid good money to be here, but honestly, I feel like this trip has been wasted on those seven.”
“Even Serena?” I asked. “She came in to talk with me a couple of times, and even though I don’t believe in all that psychic stuff, she seemed sweet.”
“Sure. Until you tell her something she doesn’t like. I saw the claws come out a few times with her. Never directed at me, but she wasn’t about to let the others walk all over her. She placed herself in a dominant position and made sure the others respected that. I even saw her stand up to Charlotte a couple of times. Only one who did that.”
Huh. And you think you know someone from a few therapy sessions.
Jeffrey had been right. Everything had been a show.
That was a bit disappointing, and it must have shown, because Dr. Randall nudged me with his shoulder. “Don’t let it get you down. For what it’s worth, I did think she was one of the more decent guests here. She was in survival mode, that’s all.”
I nodded. That made sense.
“That Noah guy, though,” Jeffrey said, sliding onto the seat across from me at the table. “Didn’t say a word the entire three days. Only watched and didn’t participate
unless he was forced to. The others were rude, but at least they were making an effort. It was like he was too good for everyone there. I don’t know why he even came.”
Dr. Randall quietly ate his food, his gaze firmly focused on the enchilada in front of him.
He knew something. And I had a feeling it was more than just Noah’s dyslexia.
“What do you think, Dr. Randall?” I asked.
He chewed his food far slower than necessary, then swallowed. “You’re right. He doesn’t want to be here.” And then Dr. Randall stood. “You know, I think the launch took my appetite with it. I’ll see you at the landing in…” He checked his watch. “Ninety minutes.” And then he dumped his tray and disappeared through a side door.
“That was weird, right?” Jeffrey asked, his gaze still on the door Dr. Randall had left through.
I agreed. “Very weird.”
But that was nothing compared to when the spacecraft glided onto the runway ninety minutes later, the employees cheering. A small band played to the right of us, welcoming the astronauts home. Not sure where they came from.
That wasn’t the weird part.
It was when six astronauts disembarked, instead of seven.
And then there was the scream.
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Kat Bellemore is a small-town romance and cozy mystery author. Deciding to have New Mexico as the setting for two of her series was an easy choice, considering its amazing sunsets, blue skies and tasty green chile. That, and she currently lives there with her husband and two cute kids. They hope to one day add a dog to the family, but for now, the native animals of the desert will have to do. Though, Kat wouldn't mind ridding the world of scorpions and centipedes. They're just mean.
You can visit Kat at www.kat-bellemore.com.
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