Authors: Morgana Best
Two tall, muscular police officers marched in, taking in their surroundings. “Who are you?” one of them asked accusingly, staring directly at me and resting his hand on his gun.
“Oh,” I stammered. “I’m Amelia, Amelia Spelled. I’m one of the guests.” I recognized him as Constable Walker.
“Why are you here, with the deceased?” His tone was unfriendly and harsh. Before I had a chance to speak, he continued. “Oh, I remember you. This seems to be a pretty dangerous area around here,” he said, concentrating his gaze on me, “what with two deaths in a short space of time on the very same street.”
I was irritated. The man who had recently been murdered on my porch had nothing to do with me, as the officer well knew. His murderer was currently awaiting sentencing, and what’s more, she had made a full confession.
Sergeant Tinsdell silenced him with a withering glare. “The ambulance is on the way,” he said to Camino.
I was worried to see that the normally unflappable Camino was distraught. Her face was crumpled, and tears were rolling freely down her cheeks. Ruprecht had his arm around her, comforting her.
We were all gathered in the kitchen, having left the deceased in Camino’s dining room. “I can’t believe she’s dead,” Camino said between sobs.
“I need to start by asking her name,” Sergeant Tinsdell said.
“Sue Beckett,” Madison offered, as Constable Walker pulled out his notebook.
“Thank you. Now please tell me what happened, in your own words,” the sergeant said.
“We were all playing Clue, and she just dropped dead.” Camino burst into a fresh round of tears. Madison placed a cup of tea in front of her, but Camino waved it away.
“Clue?” Constable Walker said. “Is that like Cluedo?”
“Same game, just different names in different countries,” Ruprecht said, “although there are variations between countries in some editions.”
Walker nodded and continued taking notes. “Did Mrs. Beckett have a history of illness?’
“No,” Madison said. “As far as I know, she was as strong as an ox.”
Camino interrupted him. “It is, um, was,
Beckett. Sue never married.”
“And was she playing the victim?” Walker asked.
Ruprecht shook his head. “No one plays the victim in a game of Clue,” he said. “And before you ask who the murderer was, I might remind you that it’s a game of chance. The suspect, the weapon, and the room card are all in envelopes and are selected at random.”
I was disturbed at where the conversation was going. Constable Walker seemed to think it was murder. At least that’s the impression I was getting. To my relief, the sergeant did not appear to share his view. “There’s nothing to suggest it’s anything other than natural causes,” he said, shooting a sideways look at the constable. “Our questions are simply routine. Nevertheless, as this is a sudden death of causes unknown, we have to report it to the coroner. This also means that a doctor cannot sign a death certificate. It will all be in the coroner’s hands.”
Camino looked up sharply.
“To be on the safe side,” Sergeant Tinsdell continued, “we’ll take samples of everything she ate and drank.”
Thyme and I exchanged glances. A chill ran over me. Sue had eaten my cake, and plenty of it, although not as much as the rest of us. What if my No Bake Cake had killed her? After all, I had put my ex-boyfriend, Brad, in the hospital with food poisoning. I took a deep breath and tried to reason with myself. Brad had eaten chicken that I apparently had not cooked properly. There was surely nothing in my cake that could harm anyone. Still, Sue had eaten less of my cake than anyone else had. I felt sick to the pit of my stomach at the thought.
“What is this?”
I swung around and, to my horror, saw that Sergeant Tinsdell had opened the cupboard containing bottles of dried herbs, presumably the ones Camino used for spells. He read the labels aloud. “Mugwort, anise, white sage, five finger grass?” He turned to look at Camino. “Solomon’s Seal? Do you cook exotic food?”
Camino was clearly at a loss for words. “Oh no, I, err, umm…” Her voice trailed away.
“Skin care,” Mint said. “Camino makes her own skin care products.”
The sergeant looked doubtful, but placed the bottles back. “Mrs. Beckett didn’t eat any of these?”
“Of course not,” Camino said, rather too loudly.
The sergeant shrugged, and the two officers methodically worked their way through the kitchen, taking samples of all the food out on plates. They then went into the dining room, presumably to do the same thing.
“What if it was my cake?” I whispered to Thyme.
She patted my arm in reassurance. “Don’t be silly. We’d all be sick. I ate a lot of it. It was probably a heart attack or something.”
Sergeant Tinsdell came back in the room alone, notepad in hand. “I need to know the next of kin, and also the name of Mrs. Beckett’s doctor.” He raised an eyebrow and looked at Camino. After she answered, he continued. “I will also need to have a description of the night’s events.”
We all spoke at once, and he held up his hand. “One at a time, please.”
“Camino invited all of us to a game of Clue,” Ruprecht said. “We all arrived at six, give or take a few minutes. Everyone brought a plate of food to share. We all ate and then started the game. It was just finishing when Mrs. Beckett, err, died.”
“Mr. Foxtin-Flynn, if I could just speak with you in the other room.” The sergeant nodded to the dining room door, and after patting Camino on the shoulder, Ruprecht followed him through.
“Why did he want to speak with Ruprecht alone?” I whispered to Thyme.
“He no doubt wants to know the details of how Sue died and he doesn’t want to distress Camino.”
I nodded. That made sense. “I’m sure the constable suspects murder. I can tell by the way he was talking.”
Thyme shrugged. “Well, if it was murder, it wasn’t one of us, so that leaves Madison.”
She said it a little too loudly, and I looked up to see Madison staring right at us. She at once looked away, but I was sure she had overheard Thyme.
Was Sue murdered? She hadn’t eaten anything that the rest of us hadn’t eaten, and she certainly hadn’t been stabbed or shot. Poison was the only weapon I could think of. I suppose Madison would have had the opportunity to drop poison into Sue’s wine. I shook my head. Surely it was natural causes. The sergeant certainly seemed to think it was. Still, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that there was more to it.
Ruprecht returned and caught my eye. He, Thyme, and I hurried into the hallway. Mint and Madison were still comforting Camino, although Madison shot me what looked like a suspicious stare as I made my way past her.
“The sergeant showed me a photo from Sue’s purse,” he said. “He asked me if I knew anything about it.”
“Why would you? Thyme asked. “She wasn’t your friend.”
“I’m the least inebriated,’ Ruprecht said dryly. “He probably thought I was the one who’d make the most sense.”
I hiccupped. “What was in the photo?”
“It was a simple photo of a house that I didn’t recognize. I inspected it closely, but it seemed to just be a regular house. Though there were two figures in the window, it was impossible to make out any detail about them. Nothing about the scene made me think it was unique enough to warrant taking a photograph. I flipped it over and looked at the back. There was a small inscription that read ‘5/12’.”
“Is that a date?” Thyme asked. “It could mean either the twelfth of May, or the fifth of December.”
Ruprecht shrugged. “He also said her phone was locked with a password.”
“Why would the sergeant be so interested if he didn’t suspect murder?” Thyme asked.
“That’s exactly what I thought,” Ruprecht said.
I’d had a sleepless night, and it didn’t help that my cats, Willow and Hawthorn, had decided to wake me up early to feed them. It’s not as if they were underfed—quite the opposite, to tell the truth. They were even on special cat food for overweight cats.
I sighed and yawned widely. I didn’t feel too good, what with the hangover and all. Thyme thrust a cup of coffee into my hands. “Drink this. You look like you need it.”
I inhaled the wonderful scent of caffeine. There’s nothing quite like the smell of coffee in the morning. “Thanks. I didn’t sleep well last night, after, well, you know.”
It was Thyme’s turn to nod. “Ruprecht and Mint have gone over to Camino’s to see how she is. But enough of that! We have to get ready for the Customer Appreciation Night tonight.”
I sighed again. The timing could not have been worse. Thyme had come up with the idea of a Customer Appreciation Night, hoping to draw in bigger orders from businesses such as conference rooms, and to attract other corporate orders. It was a great idea, and I had been looking forward to the night, but the death of Sue the night before had completely squashed my enthusiasm.
“The show must go on,” Thyme said.
I nodded. She was right. We had invited our best customers as well as the corporate business people, but I had also invited the mysterious Alder Vervain. I was in no doubt that this would prove to be a problem.
My friends—Thyme, Mint, Ruprecht, and Camino—did not like the man, to put it mildly. The reason for this was that Alder’s family, for generations, had been opposed to witches. In fact, Thyme had only recently told me that Alder was from a long line of witch hunters. And while the term was no longer relevant in this day and age, his own parents had complained to the local authorities about Ruprecht and Camino, and had even laid false accusations that they were drug dealers—anything they could do to make their lives miserable. And while Alder had shown no signs of following in his family’s footsteps, my friends did not trust him at all.
I, on the other hand, quite liked Alder. He had recently moved back to Bayberry Creek and was a private detective. That was about all I knew, apart from the fact that he was awfully good looking. Alder Vervain was the one who had told me that I was a Dark Witch. I still hadn’t had time to process the information, and I was unhappy, and even a little resentful, that my own friends still hadn’t told me.
Alder had also told me that Aunt Angelica had been a Dark Witch too, and that it was hereditary. A Dark Witch was the most powerful of all witches.
Thyme tapped my arm. “You look a million miles away. We’d better hurry and get the store ready to open.”
I nodded and took my coffee cup to the kitchen. I was half tempted to broach the subject with her now, but I had to prepare for customers, and then after that, the big night.
We had a run of bad customers all morning. Sometimes it happens like that. There were the ones who slammed the money down on the counter when I had my hand out to take it, the ones with rude, loud children, and the ones who were angry that we only sold cakes and not coffee or a dozen other items.
I was about to shut the door—we always closed at midday on Saturdays—when Craig hurried in. My cheeks burned. I had developed a crush on Craig when I’d first arrived in town, but I soon found out his true colors. We had managed to avoid each other after that, which was especially hard for me, what with my baking usually setting things on fire and Craig being a fireman.
I looked around wildly for Thyme, but she was still in the back room. “Hello, Craig. What can I do for you?” I said in the most professional tone I could muster.
Craig did not look embarrassed in the slightest, much to my annoyance. “I’ll have a dozen of the lemon blueberry cupcakes and a dozen of the chocolate peanut butter.”
He didn’t say ‘please’ and part of me wanted to say, “What’s the magic word?” Instead, I carefully but quickly placed them in a box and told him the price with narrowed eyes. This time, I did not hold out my hand for the money.
Craig paid me, but instead of leaving, hesitated. I would never know what he was about to say—though, truth be told, I didn’t much care—as Ruprecht and Mint came through the shop door. Craig left in a hurry.
“Camino is very upset,” Ruprecht said without preamble.
I nodded. “I’m not surprised,” I said. “I’m still in shock over it, and it would be so much worse for Camino, given that it happened in her house and to her good friend.” I hurried over to flip the sign on the door to ‘Closed’. When I turned back, Ruprecht was shaking his head.
“Camino says Sue was murdered.”
“Murdered?” I echoed. “But who? How? And who would get murdered playing a game of Clue? Isn’t that a bit cliché?”
Mint nodded. “It sure is! Still, Camino did a divination and she’s sure that Sue was murdered.”
Thyme looked up from wiping down the counter. “But who would murder her? And how did they do it? What was the murder weapon?”
I shoved a double cream cupcake in my mouth. Sugar always helps me think.
Ruprecht crossed his arms. “Whether or not Sue was murdered remains to be seen. One thing we do know is that there will be a Customer Appreciation Night here in only a few hours. I suggest we turn our attention to that, and for once leave the murder, if that’s indeed what it was, to the police.”