Éclair Case of Murder: A Culinary Cozy Mystery (A Rosie Kale Culinary Cozy Mystery Book 2)

BOOK: Éclair Case of Murder: A Culinary Cozy Mystery (A Rosie Kale Culinary Cozy Mystery Book 2)
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ÉCLAIR CASE OF MURDER

BY

Leigh Selfman

 

Copyright 2015 by Leigh Selfman

Kindle Edition

All rights reserved. No part of this book may reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing by the publisher, except by reviewers or catalogues not limited to online for purpose of promotion.

This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Prologue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why oh why didn't I just stick to baking?

I could be working right now in our cozy little bake shop where it’s nice and pink and happy as cotton candy.

You’d think it would be a dream come true—to be surrounded by warm yummy treats and happy, treat-eating customers.

But no, not for me. I had to try to do it all.

I was just trying to do some good. Writing an article on our local crisis hotline in order to help Celia get more volunteers. It was a good deed.

How could it go so wrong?

 

I stared at the door across the room wishing I could magically transport myself there. But that wasn’t going to happen. Not with a gun pointed at my head.

Yup. I was definitely going to die. All thanks to my good deed. Well that and the fact that I was chronically nosy.

If only I never answered that call…

 

Chapter 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

I placed three perfect chocolate cupcakes topped with chocolate pecan frosting into one of our pretty pink bakery boxes. Then I handed it to the customer, who accepted it with a warm smile. I smiled back, wishing her a good day, thinking that was one of the nicest things about working at a bakery—for the most part, our customers tended to be friendly and happy.

Well that and the chocolate.

Just as the woman walked out the front door, my Nana came in from the kitchen carrying a tray of warm chocolate chip cookies. The heavenly smell enveloped me and my mouth watered as I looked at the delicious, golden brown circles that were filled to their chewy centers with chunks of pecan, milk chocolate and toffee.

That was one of the worst things about working in a bakery: the diet-endangering temptations that lurked around every corner—especially the chocolate.

I shook myself out of my daze and looked at the clock.

“Hey Nana, I’m taking off. I gotta get in a little sleep before I go to the crisis center. So I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon.”

“Honey,” Nana said coming over and looking closely at my face. “You’re not going to work all night at that crazy hotline place again are you? That’s four nights in a row.”

“It won’t be all night,” I said. “I’ll just be there from 5am to 1pm. Piece of cake.”

“But you just put in a full day here at the bakery.” She shook her head and made disapproving noises with her tongue.

“Well not quite a full day,” Birdie said, coming out of the back with a tray of cupcakes, giving me a sly wink. “She did take off to do a little shopping at that new little boutique up on Starline Way.”

I looked at her, startled. “How'd you know that?”

I was utterly amazed at her awesome powers of snoopitude. Especially as I’d gone to so much trouble to sneak the bag into the trunk of my car when I got back.

“I have my ways,” she said with a knowing look. “And though you try to play it off like you’re not thrilled that Casey’s coming home in a few nights, we all know better.”

Nana and Birdie looked at each other then and nodded their neatly-styled bobs, in unison.

Why do I even bother trying to hide anything from these ladies?

“So I bought a new dress,” I said. “Is that a crime?”

“No!” they both said a little too emphatically.

“You should buy more,” Birdie said.

“You should,” Nana nodded. “You look so good in them. It's so nice to see you wearing something other than blue jeans and tee shirts.” She walked over to the bakery display case and sighed. “Here. At least take some refreshments with you for the morning. Some turnovers, a few cupcakes. Some chocolate chip cookies. You can have them for breakfast before you go in.”

I nodded happily. “Actually, I’m on a diet but I’m sure Celia will appreciate them.”

Nana and Birdie exchanged a look that let me know just how seriously they took my diet. Probably about as seriously as I did—unfortunately.

“Thanks,” I said, taking the pretty pink box with flowing writing across the top that said:
Cozy Cat Bakery.
It had an adorable silhouette of my cat, Cupcake, curled against the word “Cozy.”

“Alright. Well, we’ll see you tomorrow then,” Nana sighed. “And don’t forget. We have that party to cater tomorrow night.”

“I won’t forget. Have a good night.”

I took the box and gave them each a peck on the cheek. Then I headed out.

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

 

 

 

 

The ringing of the phone startled me, which was odd because I’d been waiting for it to ring all morning.

I stared at it, terrified.

“I really don’t think I can do this,” I said to Celia.

“Of course you can, Rosie. You’ve been watching what we do here for a week. And I'll be right here to help if you need anything.”

I nodded and took a deep breath wondering how I’d let myself get in this position. I hadn’t intended to get this involved when I pitched the idea of doing a story on the San Coronado Crisis Hotline. I just wanted to hang around for a week and take notes. To get a general sense of the way things worked so I’d have some good background for the article I intended to write.

It was for a website that I was doing some freelance work for and I thought an article on the crisis center would make a good human interest story. Celia had jumped at the idea, since the hotline was so short-staffed and they desperately needed more volunteers. She thought a positive article about the place might be just the thing to bring them in.

But as to my actually answering the phones? That was something else altogether.

I stared at the phone as it rang again. Then I exhaled loudly thinking that Celia was probably right. If I was trying to give the readers a real sense of what the crisis center did, actually taking a call would probably be the best way to do it.

“Okay,” I said, forcing myself to breathe. “I’ll do it.”

I answered the call.

“Hello, San Coronado Crisis Hotline. This is Rosie.”

“You have to help me!” a woman whispered urgently into the phone. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Tell me what’s on your mind,” I answered trying to sound like a calm voice of reason. In reality, every nerve in my body felt electrified.

“It’s so awful! I’m meeting my fiancé’s parents tomorrow morning and the outfit I was going to wear has a big tear in it! Right on the sleeve! Ohhh what will I do?”

I glanced over at Celia who rolled her eyes.

“Um...You do realize this is a crisis hotline?” I said.

“And this is a crisis!” the woman screamed. “A fashion crisis! Please, just tell me what to do!”

Celia was motioning for me to wrap it up.     

I was about to tell the woman that this wasn’t the kind of situation we dealt with, when instead I shrugged and said, "How about putting a light sweater over the dress? If the tear is on the sleeve, that should hide it.”

There was silence for a moment, then a loud screech. “Yesss! Of course! That’s brilliant. It’s warm out but we’re going to a restaurant. I’m sure it’ll be chilly. Thanks so much for your help! You’re a real lifesaver!”

I couldn’t help but smile. “Have a nice time,” I said. And with that, I hung up the phone and made the appropriate notes about the call, as I’d been instructed to do.

“Wow, I wish they were all that easy,” Celia said. “And that ridiculous.”

Before I could respond, the phone rang again.

Celia rolled her eyes. “She’s probably trying to figure out what shoes to wear with it. Go for it.”

“Crisis hotline center. Rosie speaking,” I said with much more confidence this time. “What would you like to talk about today?”

“Hi, Rosie” a woman’s calm voice said. “I’m thinking of killing myself."

I froze.

This one was real. I could tell from the tone of caller's voice. It was real and it was totally out of my league. I shot a panicked look over at Celia who nodded for me to continue.

My armpits were suddenly damp and my heart was pounding furiously but somehow I forced myself not to broadcast my fear to the caller.

“Can I ask why?” I said in a surprisingly calm voice.

She didn’t answer at first. Then, finally she said, “My husband’s cheating on me. He says he’s not, but I know he is. When he didn’t come home the other night I went through his things and I found a jewelry receipt for a necklace that he bought. I’m sure it’s for her—his mistress. Chuck’s such a bad liar. When I asked him about it, he said it was for me. A surprise. For our anniversary. Ha—what a joke. The last time he got me anything great for our anniversary was…I can’t even remember.”

“I see,” I responded. I had no idea what else to say so I gave Celia a look that said,
save me.

But all she did was nod at me calmly—a signal that I should keep going.

I swallowed hard. “It’s hard when someone you love cheats on you,” I said. “Not that your husband is cheating. I’m not saying that. But I know how hard it is, to even think that someone you love can be betraying you in that way. It’s awful.”

I heard the woman weeping on the other end of the phone. “It is,” she said softly. “He tells me I’m being paranoid. He even got our doctor to prescribe me antidepressants. But they don’t help. Chuck works all hours—he’s a doctor so I know he has to work late. But I know he’s not working the whole time. I know what he’s really doing. I… I just feel like I have nothing.”

“I know it can feel like that sometimes," I said. "When things are bad it feels like they’ll never get better."

I heard her sniffling on the other end of the line.

“But it’s not true, they will get better,” I added. “Nothing ever stays the same.”

“But how do you know?” she countered. “You don’t even know me. And it would be so easy. I have these antidepressants. It would be so easy to just…blend them into my morning smoothie and drink it down."

I looked at Celia; my eyes must have been wide with panic because she nodded to me in encouragement. I remembered what I’d heard her tell another caller and tried to think along those same lines.

“Listen,” I said. “The thing is, when things are dark, it seems like they’re going to stay that way. But just because it feels that way to you—that doesn’t mean it’s true.  I mean, it’s like…what’s that saying? “Five minutes before the miracle?”

“The miracle?” she repeated.

“Yeah, you could be giving up, and then five minutes from now things could all get better. You just don’t know. You don’t know when everything will change. If you give up now you might be just missing it. You don’t know what’s going to happen in the next week. You don’t even know what’s going to happen in the next few minutes.”

She didn't say anything. Then there was some kind of noise in the background. “Oh no, I have to go,” she whispered.

"Wait please. Before you go I want you to promise that you'll call me back. Later tonight. Okay?”

“I can’t tonight. I have my anniversary party. What a joke,” she said with a bitter laugh.

“Then call the night after. You promise me?”

She sighed. “Okay, I promise. I’ll call you back. Bye.”

And with a click the call ended.

I hung up the phone and took a deep breath, suddenly aware that my whole body felt like it was a big knot of tense muscles and frayed nerves. I rested my forehead in my hands moving my head from side to side.

“I can never ever do that again,” I groaned. “That was the most pressure-filled, nerve-wracking experience I've ever had. And I've been threatened at gunpoint by a killer.”

Celia laughed and looked at me sympathetically. “It gets easier. Somewhat.”

“I really need a cupcake after that,” I said, standing up. “Want one?”

I walked over to the pink box only to realize that there was nothing left inside it. Then I looked out the window and saw it was raining outside.

“No thanks. You go on home,” Celia smiled. I’ll see you in two nights. “And Rosie, you did great.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3

 

 

 

 

 

“Honey, you look awful!” Nana was eyeing me from head to toe, the disapproval clear in her face.

“Thanks, Nana,” I said, taking the freshly baked éclair she handed me.

“You need to go to bed. How long have you been awake?”

“Don’t ask,” I yawned. “I’m going home to fill in my notes for my article then I’m going to conk out.”

“How’d it go last night?” Birdie asked coming out of the back. “Are you almost done with your story on the crisis center?”

I nodded. “I think so. I hope so. I can’t take this schedule for much longer.”

“Good,” Birdie said. “Because we need your help at the store. You are going to help with the event we booked tonight, right?”

“Absolutely,” I said with my mouth full. “If I can just figure out what day it is.”

I blinked trying to see straight but my eyes felt blurry. “I’m really looking forward to it. Seriously. After working at the crisis center, working at a party sounds like…well…a party.”

“Good,” Nana said. “Now hurry home and get a couple of hours of beauty sleep. We don’t want you scaring away the guests.”

I nodded and left the shop that Nana, Birdie and I had opened two months before. We'd all gone in on it after the one local bakery in town,
Bundt Baby,
closed for business due to a nasty case of murder.

The murder was actually one I’d help solve—and the article I wrote about it is what got me a job writing articles for an up-and-coming website. Though the work was freelance, between it, the bake shop and the relationship with my new boyfriend, I was feeling spread a little thin.

My thighs on the other hand were suffering from the opposite problem—that of being spread a little wide. I’d been promising myself that I’d make time to start running again and to get my life in order—but so far, I just hadn’t had the time.

What I needed was a weekend alone to organize my thoughts, my life and my Nana’s guest house which I’d been living in for the last five months. It could really use a spring cleaning. And a winter cleaning and a summer cleaning.

 

When I got home, I collapsed on the overstuffed, white-slipcovered sofa. As soon as I hit the pillows, Cupcake, my sweetheart of a black cat leapt onto my chest and gave me a look that said
pet me, feed me and then let’s chase a mouse
.

“Sounds good to me, CC,” I said. “Except for the mouse part.” I forced myself up off the couch with a grunt and went over to her bowl. 

After giving her a can of food and refilling her water, it was all I could do to make it back to the couch and lie back down. Clearly, the notes for my article would just have to wait. I set the alarm on my phone so I wouldn’t oversleep for our catering job that evening. And almost before I could close my eyes, I was out like a light.

BOOK: Éclair Case of Murder: A Culinary Cozy Mystery (A Rosie Kale Culinary Cozy Mystery Book 2)
6.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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