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Chapter 1


Monarch Beach settled down in the last days of August, summer drifting out with the tide and the tourists.

The last of the cable news vans moved on to their next big story, waving a fond farewell to Kelly’s diner and the beach, where they left half a ton of trash, most of it cardboard coffee cups and sleeves. Those people loved their coffee.

Our fifteen minutes of fame, well, more like a week, ebbed out with the same tide that took summer.

A few months ago, one of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted moved into town, claiming to be former child celebrity Little Billie Pickens. During her stay she managed to irritate and alienate everyone in town before getting whacked with a shovel and departing.


The mystery only deepened when her autopsy revealed she was a he, which set in motion an entire pronoun discussion.

While some insisted that explained a lot, others maintained it didn’t solve a damn thing, since we weren’t sure what pronoun to use in discussing her. Or him. Or could it be they?

In the end, our body, to help with the pronoun thing, wound up being said FBI’s most wanted villain. Our Billie Pickens (she) turned out to be William Pickler (he) who was wanted by every Federal employee in the great state of Texas for one of the nation’s greatest cases of fraud.

The Austex Scandal, in a teaspoon sized capsule, involved millions being scammed in some kind of Ponzi scheme, robbing thousands of their savings and retirement funds, many losing their homes as well.

One of the two named in the charges was our Billie Pickens, or William Pickler. Your choice, pick one.

Either way, she or he, got poleaxed, literally, which led to the identification of William E. Pickler, formerly known as Billie Pickens. 

Fingerprints don’t lie.

Thus, the FBI, and all the attendant media arrived for their short stay, to raise the caffeine consumption rate, their antenna’s and litter the beach.

Our small community was disappointed Fox Mulder and Dana Scully didn’t appear, since the whole pronoun thing seemed to us to be an X-File.

The Federal Investigation then revealed the new grocery clerk, Claire, was in reality Claudia, the former lover of William E. Pickler, and also the one who ended his/her time on earth.

Years ago, during the heyday of AusTex, she had purchased a ‘retirement’ home for them to share, hidden the purloined money there, and later found he was tearing the house apart to find the money and once again, abscond with the loot.

She picked up a handy shovel, introduced it to the back of his/her head and ended the discussion once and for all.

And so, the FBI removed him/her from our midst, the media followed them back to Texas for the upcoming trial and our tiny little piece of the California coast returned to normal.

Sort of.

Monarch Beach doesn’t even rate a dot on the map. An extreme closeup on Google Earth will net you about half a pixel on the southern edge of Jade Beach, the fishing port on Jade Bay, just over the ridge from our pixel.

The loss of the men in black, the media vans and the evening news highlights left us in a void.

We had quickly become news junkies, savoring and recording every news clip that showed one of us in the background. 

A pool posted at Kelly’s Diner kept track of the most viewed resident.

If you care, it was a tie between Cletus Howard, retired, and Sally Kelly, waitress and local encyclopedia.

As the first cooling clouds of autumn drifted across our coast and canyons, the residents returned to their normal pursuits.

The men’s senior section returned to holding up the counter at Kelly’s in the morning, now that they didn’t have to contend with pushy reporters on a caffeine hunt.

The parking spaces on Main Street opened up.

The traffic dwindled to an occasional car, driven by someone we knew, who waved as they passed.

Our days of fame were gone but not forgotten.

Chapter 2


Monarch Beach, indirectly, helped to solve the great Texas financial scandal, catch a murderer and eliminate a fourth of the FBI’s most wanted list, before they departed.

With the media gone, our only real celebrity reappeared, having been incognito while all the reporters were present, preferring to stay out of range of the camera crews.

That would be T. Thomas Tanner, lead singer of T Three, the award-winning country music trio, who calls Monarch Beach home. 

Fans know he lives somewhere along the central coast of California, the exact location hidden by a team of very talented lawyers in Southern California, anchored by his brother, Luke Tanner.

To the public he is T. Thomas Tanner. In the country music business, he is known more as Thomas, or Tom, Tanner.

That first T. is for Timothy, his first name. To family and friends, he is simply Tim. He is three inches beyond six feet tall, wide shouldered, narrow hipped and drop dead gorgeous, besides being an amazing performer, with a voice that can melt rocks.

I call him Hubs.

Short for husband.

And that’s called bragging.

Hey, if he picked you, you’d be bragging, too.

I am what is called, in the celebrity mags, a Modern Day Cinderella. I’m called a lot of other things, I’m sure. 

The one that matters is Teejay Tanner. 

Please note: Tanner. As in Mrs. Tanner.

We live outside of town, behind a wrought iron security gate that requires a code to open. 

Strangers? Nope.

Fans? Nope.

Tim zealously guards his privacy, even has legal ramifications to keep his address from the public.

Most people in town know where he is, or at least, have a general idea which canyon conceals the house. Should they need him, they also know one of us will be in town several times a week, some even have our cell phone numbers.

We have open accounts at the grocery store and the hardware store, and a box at the post office, since they don’t deliver to outlying canyons, even for resident celebrities.

He gets a lot of mail so we have a large postal box that still has to be checked several times a week.. 

Anne Edwards, his manager, sorts and forwards fan mail and personal requests. 

Don’t get me wrong. He loves his fans, appreciates the fact that without them he would be just another guy with a guitar. 

You get the picture. He loves our little town and it’s residents, and, in general, they love him, too, and take an active part in protecting his privacy. 

He loves his privacy.

He has managed to make it work.

I get to town several times a week, to pick up the mail, get a few groceries and have lunch with Sharon Kelly, premiere real estate agent and best friend since forever.

Monday, I hurried through my errands – hardware store, grocery store and post office – looking forward to lunch. 

The specials menu is always the same: Monday, pot roast; Tuesday, ham; Wednesday, macaroni and cheese; Thursday, chicken and dumplings, and Friday is fish. Weekends are chef’s choice.

When I joined Sharon, she was half way finished with the pot roast plate – deep brown chunks of tender beef, swimming in brown gravy, mashed potatoes and glazed carrots.

I opted for the bacon burger and fries. Kelly’s still makes their fries the old-fashioned way – peeling, slicing and deep frying the potatoes.

Sally, the waitress, and Monarch Beach’s personal encyclopedia, took my order, filled my cup and scurried back up front.

“Is she okay?” 

Sharon chewed a carrot before she answered. “Seemed okay. Why?”

“She didn’t ask questions.”

“Oh, she’ll get around to it. Where’s Tim?”


“Well, I gathered that, since I don’t see him sitting beside you. Why? You’re always together.”

“He’s got a few projects he’s working on.”

“New songs?”


“He has a new hobby? When can he find time for one? He’s always busy.”

I took a deep breath and blew it out.

“He saw a special on drones. On television.”


“He bought one. Well, actually, he’s on his fifth one.”

“Why five? Can you fly more than one at a time?”

I nodded and sipped coffee. “The first one he bought, flew about thirty feet and lodged in the top of the grandfather oak, the one on the ridge behind the house. The second one tore a hole in the roof of the barn and the third took out the kitchen window. I was picking up new glass and roofing tiles at the hardware store. That’s why I was late.”

Sharon’s grin grew into a full-fledged smile. 

“You said five. What happened to number four? Dave catch it?”

Dave is one of our cats, the one that is always in trouble while his brother, Cletus, looks on.

“No idea,” I answered. “It never came back.”

“He lost it?”

I shrugged. “It never came back. He had it flying and was doing really well, then he flew it up over the ridge and lost it.”

“Maybe it crashed.”

“No idea. He’s out hunting for it now.”

Sharon chuckled. “I wonder how much he’ll pay me not to tell John?”

My turn to grin.

“Tell John what?” John Kincaid, local detective, slid in beside her, having waited till she finished speaking to interrupt.

“Not my tale to tell,” Sharon answered, scooting over to give the big man more room. “What are you doing in town? I thought you were going to Templeton today.”

“Went already. Now, I’m back. What tale aren’t you telling me?” He looked at me. “Must be something Tim did since you’re sitting here and he isn’t.”

“He lost a drone,” I answered. “Right now, he’s out looking for it.”

“A drone? One of those flying things?”

I nodded.

“What is he doing with a drone?”

“I just told you, he’s looking for it. He flew it over the ridge and it didn’t come back.”

“I meant, why does he need a drone?”

“He didn’t need it, John, he wanted it.”

“For what?”