Authors: Diane Bator
Tags: #Cozy, #Detective and Mystery Fiction
A genuine customer. I smiled wide. This may have been only one sale, but she made my day.
"I'm so glad you enjoy them." I reached for the pair of plastic tongs and pulled out the muffin with the second most crumb topping. I carefully set it in one of our bags, then laid it on the counter.
As she reached into her tote bag to find her wallet, I caught a glimpse of a hardcover book. I smiled to myself. There was something comforting about her predictability.
After paying, she waved good-bye and walked out.
I glanced up at the clock. Amber would be returning soon. The extra-large coffee I'd just consumed, as well as the two during the morning, was wreaking havoc on my bladder. I wasn't sure I could wait until Amber arrived to use the bathroom. I didn't like the idea of leaving the counter unattended, but it was better than being in pain or doing the potty dance. I locked the register and stepped out from around the counter.
There were two bathrooms in the bakery. One for the customers and one for the employees. The public one was closer, so I hurried toward it. I pushed open the door and stepped inside. There were two sinks, mirrors, and stalls. The closest stall's door was semi-open.
I walked inside it and noticed a pair of black shoes peeking out from the next stall. No, it wasn't shoes. It was feet. Someone was lying on the floor in the next stall. As clean as I tried to keep this place, that was just plain gross.
"Are you all right?" I asked.
Wait, no one had been in the bakery, other than Elizabeth Ashby, since the mob. So how was there someone lying in there?
Panic filled my chest. "Hey, can you respond, please?"
I stepped out of this stall and hurried to the next. I didn't want to barge in on someone, but clearly this wasn't a normal situation.
I pushed open the door, but it didn't swing the full way. It stopped after just a few inches. I placed my shoulder against it and pushed with my weight, but it was no good. The person was definitely in the way, and I didn't want to hurt him more. So I pushed my head through the space to have a look and gasped.
It was Nathan Dearborn. He was sitting in front of the toilet, or more like slumped, and appeared to be passed out.
"Mr. Dearborn," I shouted. Please wake up.
I reached through, attempting to tap him on his shoulder, but I hit his head instead. It wasn't a hard tap, but he moved. His body leaned toward me.
I jumped back, and the door slammed shut.
Was he drunk? Oh my God, it wasn't food poisoning, was it? Maybe he'd eaten elsewhere before coming here, and it made him sick. This meant he'd been here all this time, just back here? I needed to get him help. I patted down my skirt pockets, but my phone wasn't in either of them. Now wasn't the time to misplace it, Riley.
For some reason I got down on my knees to tell him I'd be right back face to face. "Mr. Dearborn, I'm going to run out and call 9-1-1, okay?"
I laid my cheek against the cold, hard tile and peeked under the door. I couldn't make out anything but his legs, butt, and a limp hand. Wasn't he just awake?
"Mr. Dearborn, please answer me. You're starting to scare me." I got up with a groan and went back to the other stall. I placed one foot on the toilet seat, grabbed the top of the wall separating the stalls, and stepped up.
Nathan's head was angled so he was looking up at me. His eyes were open, red-and-white splotches decorated his full face, and his lips were swollen.
My body jerked backward, and I went down. One foot landed back on the tile and the other in the toilet.
Holy crap, Nathan Dearborn was dead!