Escape to Cottage Country with Charley Scott
You can try to peer through the gallery windows, but the most you’ll see is wood-paneled walls and whitewashed floors. Maybe a few canvases, still wrapped and sealed in paper. You’ll have to wait until the exhibit opens. The theme is Cover Art. Pulp fiction, not deception.
I’m Charlotte Scott, by the way, but you can call me Charley.
I’m taking a risk this summer. What I’m doing is insane. My sister Meghan though, calls it brave. I quit my marketing job in Toronto to open a pop-up art gallery in cottage country. It’s exciting and terrifying.
Oakcrest has the pace of a country village, but the quaint specialty shops and vibrant arts community of a city. Only a two-hour drive from Toronto, the waterfront cottages, Adirondack chairs, and boats cruising by attract weekenders to the peaceful getaway. The constant influx of visitors—arriving with the black flies and staying until the first red leaves fall from the trees—provide locals with fertile ground for gossip.
People come here to escape their everyday lives, to chase dreams.
I’m using the opportunity to show my paintings, without having the expense or commitment of a long-term lease. Although success ultimately depends on timing, marketing, and luck. And, boy, do I need luck.
My best friend Kayla just backed out of the exhibit, because her husband thinks art is a waste of time. She’s ready to kill him.
Is this your first visit to Oakcrest? For me, this place is filled with summer memories, but it feels like I’m discovering it all over again.
You know, I could use a break from hanging paintings. My Jeep is parked right outside. I’ll give you a tour. Hop in and buckle up.
Help yourself to some Hershey’s Kisses. A car trip isn’t complete without chocolate.
In the heart of the Kawartha countryside, this little village nestles on the shores of Blue Heron Lake, at a crossroads between barns and laneways, ploughed fields and sugar bush. Just a few years ago, Oakcrest’s claim to fame was a farm supply business and a cheese shop that sold bags of fresh curd and served up giant scoops of Kawartha Dairy ice cream. Now it’s known for The Blast From the Past thrift shop, The Three-Corner Pub with live music on Saturdays, and Chocoholic’s, where you can buy the most delicious boutique chocolates. Trust me, they’re worth the trip.
Up ahead is the entrance to Fire Route 22 and the faded wooden caution sign, showing two skulls and crossbones. I’m pretty sure it’s not an omen of things to come.
Between the row of maple trees, you can catch a glimpse of the lake. Only fifteen minutes from Main Street, it seems like a different world here, cocooned and — hold on! Brace yourself.
Oof, sorry about that. Something big leaped out from between the grey tree trunks onto the road and I had to brake, sharp.
A deer. Luckily, I managed to stop in time. Look at that doe jump the ditch, branches snapping as it disappears into the thicket. A flash of white tail, and it’s gone.
We’re almost there now. The cottage is just past those rental cottages. The front yards are always covered in toys. The Super Soaker Water Blasters look a lot like neon rifles, lying in the grass.
Oh, there it is. Do you see it? That cabin nestled in behind the trees is mine. Well, technically, half mine. My sister, Meghan, and I both inherited the cottage, but she’s been able to make a life here, as the editor of the local newspaper. She fell in love with a cop. He’s moved in with her recently, so she’s here to stay.
To be honest, I’m a little jealous. All my best memories are here. I’d love to be able to call the place home.
Built in the 1950s, the cabin is one floor. A gabled roof, large windows, and red shutters with sailboat cut-outs. The cherry red color of the eavestroughs and screen door accent the earth-toned siding. A stone patio wraps around the house. Shrubs and flowers almost hide the wicker loveseat from view, tucked in an alcove beside French windows, but it’s the perfect spot to sit and read. Fieldstone slabs, edged with moss, lead up to the front door. My grandmother kept the garden well-tended, but now it runs wild, with a vibrant mix of orange day lilies, peonies, and fragrant clusters of phlox.
Come on in. I make a mean Gin and Tonic, if you’re interested. There’s nothing like sipping a cocktail, while sitting on the dock. Or we could dig out an old boardgame from the cupboard. Clue, the Classic Detective Game, is one of my favourite rainy-day activities. If only we could solve all mysteries with three guesses.
Wait a second. The screen door is opening. Meghan must have seen us drive up. It’s hard to miss anything on this road.
Meghan normally crackles with energy, but this is different. Something’s wrong. I’d better find out what’s going on.
She always talks fast. Did you catch that? Did she just say, ‘murder’?
We’ll have to take a rain check on that drink. Sorry to cut the tour short, but we have a homicide to investigate.
I knew this summer would change everything, for good or bad.
About The Book
Charley Scott is thrilled to be running a summer pop-up gallery in cottage country. Returning to the lakeside village, not on vacation but as an artist, she’s determined to turn her hobby into a career.
But, beneath the surface of this peaceful town, darkness lurks. There’s a history.
Local chocolatier, Matt Thorn, is struggling with his father’s death and his legacy of deception. As Matt plans to expose his father’s secrets, a local is found dead, the result of eating Matt’s chocolates.
Luckily, art is all about perspective and Charley’s always had a keen eye. Can she see past the obvious and find the killer?
About the Author
An avid reader of mysteries, Vanessa Westermann is a former Arthur Ellis Awards judge, holds an M.A. in English Literature, as well as a Bachelor of Education, and has taught creative writing. Her debut mystery, An Excuse for Murder, was published in 2019. At the heart of all of Westermann’s stories are strong female protagonists inspired by the heroines in her own life. She currently lives in Ontario.
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