Mint Chip Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery - Book 6

BOOK: Mint Chip Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery - Book 6
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Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, businesses, places, events
and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a
fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual
events is purely coincidental.

Copyright
2016 by
Guardian Publishing Group
- All
rights reserved.

All
rights Reserved. No part of this publication or the information in it may be
quoted from or reproduced in any form by means such as printing, scanning,
photocopying or otherwise without prior written permission of the copyright
holder.

Chapter 1

Heather shut the back door of Donut
Delights behind her and jogged down the steps to her car, which was parked in
its usual spot next to the tiny back porch.  One of the perks of owning your
own business was that sometimes, you could skip out early for lunch with your
best friend. 

 

She slid into the driver’s seat and
flipped the switches on the ventilation system to “Cool” and “A/C On.” 
Ridiculous! She thought.  Here it is two weeks before Thanksgiving, and the
high temps are still hitting the upper 70’s every day.

 

Not that she wasn’t used to it.  She’d
grown up here in Hillside, Texas, and lived in the same house until she went
off to college.  College, of course, was where she met Don.  They’d dated
during their junior and senior years, and then gotten married the week after
graduation.  Things had been fine for awhile—well, for a few months,
anyway—until Don accepted a job offer with a firm in New York City.

 

Moving to New York City, as a newlywed
with Don had brought one shock after another.  First, there was the shock of
trying to get used to living with Don—who, as it turned out, was nothing like
the considerate, understanding boyfriend he’d been while they were dating. 
Instead, New York City seemed to have changed him into a grasping, controlling,
get-ahead-at-all-costs kind of guy.

 

Or maybe he’d been changing for a long
time, and it was just the hustle and bustle of New York City that seemed to
bring it to the fore.  That, or the extremely cold winters that seemed to bring
out the crankiness in everyone.  Or the way everyone seemed to mind their own
business, and people just didn’t reach out to each other the way she was used
to.

 

Or, she sighed, lifting her long,
curly red hair off the nape of her neck and then letting it drop, maybe it just
wasn’t meant to be for Don and me.

 

They’d hung on for a few years.  But
finally, they simply realized they’d each become so different from the person
they thought they’d married that they just couldn’t make it work anymore. 
After the divorce, Heather had taken her part of the settlement and used it to
move back home and start Donut Delights, a shop that sold gourmet donuts,
served with coffee and elegance.

 

Owning her own business had been
Heather’s dream since college, but her dream had gotten pushed to the side so
that Don could pursue his.  It was when Heather finally faced that fact that
climbing the corporate ladder had replaced her as Don’s dream that she knew the
end of their marriage was only a matter of time.

 

At the sound of a horn honking
impatiently behind her, she shook her head to clear out the thoughts of the
past and glanced up at the stoplight ahead of her.  It was green, and cars from
the other two lanes had already moved forward into the intersection.

 

She tossed a wave at the driver behind
her as she pulled forward.  That was enough time spent thinking about the
past.  The present was much more pleasant, anyway.

 

She felt her lips curve into a grin
that probably looked silly.  But so what?  She was in love with a man who was
very, very different from her ex-husband.  Don had been good-looking in a
flashy, make-you-take-a-second-look kind of way; Ryan Shepherd’s good looks
were much more subtle.  Or maybe it was simply that Ryan didn’t need constant
affirmation, or to always be the center of attention.

 

As a detective with the Hillside
Police Department, Ryan spent a lot of time working, as Don had, but only
because he wanted to and was good at it.  Not because he had to depend on his
job to give his life meaning.  When his duties interrupted their time together,
he always seemed to regret it—and he always made it a point to call, text, or
drop by as soon as he could to pick up their meal, or conversation, wherever
they had left off.

 

That’s what she wanted—someone who
loved her more than he loved his social status or his paycheck.

 

With Ryan now occupying her thoughts,
she didn’t notice the police cars parked in front of the shopping center where
she was headed until she’d driven into the parking lot.  Automatically, her
foot hit the brake.  What in the world?

 

She eased off the brake and drove
slowly through the parking lot to the dry cleaner’s, which had been her
destination, a quick errand before she met Amy for lunch.  There were several
patrol cars parked in the general vicinity of the yellow crime scene tape that
blocked off the front of the hair salon next to the cleaner’s.  And wasn’t that
Ryan’s car?  Yes, of course it was.

 

Heather pulled into a parking spot in
front of the cleaner’s, stopped the car, got out, and locked up.  A uniformed
officer exited through the front door of Shear Beauty and headed toward one of
the patrol cars.  Heather tried to see into the interior of the shop, but she
couldn’t see much from this angle.

 

Briefly, she considered walking past
the front of the shop, or at least as close as the crime scene tape would allow
her.  But no, she needed to keep her distance and let Ryan do his job. 
Besides, he’d call her or text her as soon as he could, anyway.

 

She pushed open the glass door to the
dry cleaner’s as a bell tied to the handle jingled.  The short, wiry woman
behind the counter looked up.  “Hello there.  You come to pick up your dry
cleaning?”

 

“Yes, please,” Heather said.  She set
her purse down on the counter and dug for her wallet as the woman, whom Heather
recognized, but whose name she could never remember, flipped a switch that
caused a metal rack with garments hanging from it, bundled together in plastic
bags, to begin to slide by. 

 

She located Heather’s clothing in
short order and brought it to the counter, hanging it on a metal stand.  “Do
you have any idea what’s going on next door?” Heather asked.

 

The woman frowned.  “Oh, no, I don’t
know.  But it must be something pretty bad if all those police officers are out
here.  And a detective, too.  And some other people going in and out.”

 

Probably crime scene, Heather thought,
knowing the woman was right.  It must be something bad, or there wouldn’t be
crime scene tape strung across the front of the building.  Had someone been
murdered?

 

“I guess we’ll read about it in the
paper,” Heather heard the woman say.

“I guess we will,” Heather said.  “By
the way—what’s your name?  I’m sorry I don’t remember.”

 

“My name is Amala,” she said with a
smile.

 

“I’ll remember that,” Heather said. 
“I promise.  See you next time.”

 

As she stepped through the doorway and
back onto the sidewalk, Heather glanced to her right, toward Shear Beauty. 
Ryan stood on the sidewalk, talking with the same uniformed officer Heather had
seen coming out of the salon earlier.  Ryan glanced up, and their gazes met. 
Heather gave him a small smile and nodded at him as she continued walking
toward her car.  One corner of Ryan’s mouth twitched upward briefly before his
expression became businesslike again and he turned back to the patrolman.

 

Despite the curiosity that was driving
her crazy, she knew she had done the right thing.  Her willingness to wait for
the information she desired would give him the chance to do his job.  It would
also show him that she had confidence in him and in their relationship.

 

And she did have that confidence, she
realized as warmth filled her chest and suffused her cheeks.  Theirs was the
kind of relationship she had always wanted.  And Ryan was the man she’d been
looking for.

 

***

 

She didn’t have much time to ponder
her new realization, however, or what it might mean for the future, because the
Mexican restaurant at which she was meeting Amy was only 5 minutes away.

 

The best parking spot she could find
was on the side of the restaurant, halfway down the row.  She wasn’t surprised;
Dos Chicos was a popular eating spot, and 12:00 noon was right in the middle of
the lunch rush.  Heather grabbed her purse, got out, locked up, and started the
trek to the front door.  Maybe getting some exercise both before and after
their meal would help to offset the huge calorie load she planned on ingesting.

 

She pulled open the heavy, wooden
front door and stepped inside.  The black, faux-leather benches in the space
between the outer doors and the inner ones were empty, which surprised her. 
She’d expected to see them full of hungry customers waiting for a table. 

 

When she pulled open the second door
and entered the main part of the restaurant, however, she found the benches
there occupied by several couples as well as a group of businessmen in dress
shirts and ties. 

 

A smiling hostess returned to her
wooden stand just as Heather approached.  “How many in your party?”

 

“Two, please.”

 

“Your name?”

 

“Heather.”

 

The hostess noted Heather’s name on
the list.  “It should be about fifteen minutes,” she said.

 

“That’s fine,” Heather agreed.  As she
turned to survey the seating options, one woman slid a little closer to her
husband so that Heather could sit down next to her on the bench.

 

“Thanks,” Heather said.

 

Twelve minutes later, when the hostess
called her name, Amy still hadn’t arrived.  Heather wasn’t surprised.  Amy was
frequently late, especially when they weren’t attending an event that started
at a specific time, and Heather had learned to make allowances for that.

 

The hostess led her to a table in the
middle of the dining room.  Heather sat down in a chair facing the entrance so
that she could watch for Amy, as the hostess placed a menu in front of her. 
“Your server will be right with you,” she said, before returning to her duties
at the hostess stand.

 

Heather didn’t bother to open the
menu.  She knew what she wanted because she always got the same thing when she
ate at Dos Chicos: the enchilada plate, with three enchiladas topped with
cheese and gravy, the best Mexican rice she had ever tasted, and refried beans.

 

“Hello.  How are you today?”  The
waiter stopped next to her table and placed one glass of water in front of her
and the other at Amy’s place.

 

“I’m fine, thank you,” Heather said,
removing the slice of lemon from the rim of the glass.  “How are you?”

 

“Doing well, thank you.  I see you’re
waiting on someone?”

 

“Yes.  She should be here any minute.”

 

“Can I bring you anything while you
wait?  An appetizer, perhaps?”

 

“No, thanks.  Just the chips and
salsa.  Two bowls of salsa, please.”

 

“No problem.  I’ll be right back.” 
The waiter smiled, then headed toward the kitchen.

 

He was back in two minutes with a
basket lined with white paper and filled with triangle-shaped tortilla chips,
and two small, black pots of salsa.  “Here you go,” he said, arranging the food
on the table.

 

“Thanks,” Heather said.  She glanced
toward the front door and saw Amy making her way toward them.  The waiter saw
her, too, and waited until she got close enough to hang her purse over the back
of the chair.

 

“May I get you something to drink?”

 

“Just the water will be fine for now,”
Amy said.

 

“Would you ladies like a couple
minutes to decide?”

 

“I would, please,” Amy said, settling
into her chair.

 

“Then I’ll be back in a few minutes.” 
With what Heather by now assumed was his trademark smile, he went to check on
another table of customers.

 

Amy leaned forward over the table, as
close to Heather as she could get.  “Okay, spill it,” she said.

 

Heather frowned.  “Spill what?”

 

“Why was there yellow crime scene tape
around Shear Beauty when I showed up for my appointment this morning?”

 

“I don’t know.”  Heather shrugged.  “I
don’t know everything that goes on in Hillside, you know.”

BOOK: Mint Chip Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery - Book 6
7.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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