Wendy Meadows Cozy Mystery Game of Tarts (EBOOK)
Sweet Shop Mystery 2

Game of Tarts (EBOOK)

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An amateur sleuth, a handsome detective, and a dead body found in their cozy town… Can Margaret and David solve this mysterious murder?

Margaret is living the dream running her sweet shop alongside her son, Zach and her good friend, Patti. Business is hurting though, due to new construction work going on around one of the vacant units, and other tenants are beginning to feel the tension. Usually, everyone treats each other with a degree of respect, but it seems everyone wants to be rid of the new coffee shop chain that has opened.

It has damaged business for the tea shop, the bakery, and the small mobile coffee stop. To make matters worse, Scott Freeman, the owner of the coffee stop, is an arrogant sod who has managed to insult various customers in the short time he has opened the business. When Margaret decides to get a coffee one morning, she finds his dead body on the floor.

David is assigned to investigate the suspicious death, warning Margaret to keep her distance after the injuries she'd sustained in the last case. Tensions rise in both her personal and business life and Margaret finds herself struggling to get this mystery out of her head.

With a pinch of homemade sweetness (with or without the apron) Margaret intends to become close to Scott’s widow to get to the bottom of this bitter cup of coffee.

Chapter One

I gaze up at an enormous pink bubble of gum expanding into a clear blue sky. When I raise my hand to touch it, the stretched, rubbery surface bounces against the pressure. It sways and hovers there a few feet off the ground. A voice whispers in my head, bubble gum. A sugary, fruity taste washes over my tongue.

As I watch, the giant gum bubble drifts lower toward me. Just then, the bottom surface touches the grassy lawn. The bubble bursts in my face with a deafening boom. I jump three feet backward and tumble out of bed. I hit the wooden floor hard and jolt out of a sound sleep.

I swim through acres of bedspread to disentangle myself from the sheets. I emerge to consciousness to see the morning sun streaming through the curtains. My head whips around. The bedside clock reads 9:38 AM.

Holy Bejezzus! I was supposed to open the candy store over an hour ago. What is wrong with me? Why didn’t my alarm wake me up? I snatch the clock off the nightstand and check the switch on the side. Then I slap my forehead and groan. I forgot to set my alarm.

I rush for the closet and trip over the bedspread still knotted around my ankles. I stumble and slam into the bedpost. I bounce off with an oof and almost fall flat on my face when I catch one foot in the bedspread again.

I kick the lump of feathers to vent my frustration, but I walk to the closet like the dignified older woman I’m supposed to be. I get dressed as fast as I can, but I still wind up sticking both feet down the same leg of my pants. I take five minutes more to straighten out the confusion.

I yank the brush through my hair and snarl it in knots. When I try to free myself, I get it frayed. Even when I unwind it, my hair won’t obey me no matter what I do. I spend far too long trying to plaster down one frizzy wing that keeps popping out of place. Nothing I do will get it to behave.

I can’t spend any more time on my looks. I bolt out of the house, going a mile a minute. This is one time I wish I had a car so I could get to the shop faster.

As soon as I get outside, I encounter Mary King coming down the steps of the grand house next door. She wears her supermarket apron, jeans, and white sneakers. Her clothes make her look casual compared to the dowdy dresses she used to wear. A pink scrunchy holds her sandy hair in a ponytail behind her head that adds to the air of carefree youth surrounding her. 

She approaches the shiny red sedan parked in the driveway. I stop to admire the vehicle. “Wow, Mary! Nice car.”

She breaks into a beautiful smile. Crimson blush colors her cheeks now. I can hardly remember the sallow cadaver I first met when I moved into this house three months ago. “Thanks, Margaret. Ever since I picked up more shifts at the supermarket in Peterborough, I earned enough money to buy it.”

“Good for you.”

“I couldn’t have done it without you helping me pass the driver’s test,” she goes on. “My mother always told me I was too stupid to drive a car. She said I would wreck and kill someone.”

“You passed that test all by yourself,” I remind her. “You took the driver’s training course, and you studied every night for a month to get your license. You should be proud of yourself.”

She lowers her eyelashes before she steals a hesitant peek around her, but her cheeks glow and her eyelids flutter. “I am.”

“You’ve made amazing progress. No one would ever believe what you’ve accomplished since your mother died.”

“She wouldn’t believe it,” Mary remarks. “She always said I would never amount to anything.”

I pause to study her. She’s a different person. She shows some expression on her face when she talks. Every day, she appears happier and more confident. “Do you know what Mary? I think your mother knew all along that you were smart and capable and that you could do anything you set your mind to. She must have known when you got that scholarship to Cambridge.”

“No.” Mary shakes her head. “She always said I was worthless and no one would ever hire me for anything more than stocking shelves.”

“She had to say that,” I tell her. “She had to crush your spirit to make you stay at home. She had to make you believe it, but she always knew it wasn’t true. That’s the only way she could keep control of you. I don’t think she ever really believed you were stupid.”

Her eyes widen and her mouth falls open. “Do you really think so? You think she lied to me all those years?”

“I’m certain of it.”

She blinks at nothing. “I…. I can’t believe it. I don’t want to believe it. My mother really thought I was smart. She really thought I could do it.”

“No doubt about it.”

Her features clear and her eyes snap at me with new energy. “If that’s true, then there’s nothing I can’t do. I really am smart.”

“You sure are. You’re a lot smarter than most people in this neighborhood. You’re definitely smarter than your mother. That made her resent you and want to hurt you.”

She whips around and lunges for her car. “Thank you, Margaret. Thank you for everything. I have to go to work now. See you later.”

I turn away, too. I can only imagine what challenge she’ll take on next. It warms my heart to see her breaking down the barriers holding her back, especially the ones in her mind. It gives me hope for the world.

I get to my garden gate when I encounter Kyle Davidson coming out of his house simultaneously. He waves and his big Alsatian dog, Jonah, trots toward me.  “Good morning, Margaret,” Kyle exclaims. “Lovely morning, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.” I bend down to pat Jonah. The dog pushes his cool snout into my hand. Kyle never walks him on a leash, but I trust that dog with my life. He might be big and strong, but he’s the steadiest, most reliable dog I’ve ever met. “What do you two have planned for today?”

“I have a job interview with a confidence training course using my Marine Corps training experience,” Kyle tells me. “I would love to train other Marines. That would be my dream job, but this would be nearly as good.”

I straighten up in a heartbeat. “Does that mean you’d be moving away from us? I would hate to lose you. You’re such an ideal neighbor, Kyle.”

“I don’t think so. The course is just over near Hartford, and they have intakes four times a year. I could still live here and go down to the course to run the training.”

“That’s wonderful, Kyle,” I tell him. “I didn’t know you were looking for a job.”

“I’ve been looking for a job since long before I moved to Rockshield,” he replies. “I’ve just gotten picky in my old age, I guess. I don’t want to move away, and it’s kinda hard to find anything close enough to home.”

I relax. “That’s great. I wish you all the best.”

He points down the street. “Speaking of which, shouldn’t you be getting off to work yourself?”

I blush and lower my gaze. “I slept through my alarm this morning. At least I don’t have to worry about the world ending if people don’t get their peanut butter cups.”

He laughs. “No, it won’t, though you’d be surprised when you see the way some people act. You might find a few addicts hanging around your store waiting for you when you get there. They’re probably smearing their greasy fingers all over your nice clean windows and drooling on the doorknob.”

I chuckle to myself and head down the street. I wave behind me. “Good luck with the job interview.”

We leave in opposite directions. Only after I’m halfway down the block, do I turn on my phone to check my emails. Right away, I see a voice mail. I press the phone to my ear and hear Patty Matthews crackly old voice on the other end.

“Good morning, Margaret. It’s me, Patty. I just wanted to let you know I won’t be coming into the store this morning. I have a family emergency. I hope you can manage without me. I hope I’ll be back tomorrow. I’ll let you know how things go. Thanks. Bye.”

I frown at the phone. Family emergency? That’s not like Patty. I never even knew she had a family. In the time since my son Zack and I moved to Rockshield, Connecticut, no one has mentioned any family of Patty’s, including her. Maybe it’s some relative out of town.

I have to smile to myself. She doesn’t even work at the candy store. She just wanders in and does odd jobs to keep herself amused. I suspected she was lonely and had no one else to hang out with during the day. As long as that’s the case, I don’t mind her coming in to sweep the floor and break down cardboard boxes. If that’s all it takes to make a lonely old lady happy, I should be so lucky.

It’s funny her calling in sick to a job she doesn’t even have. The more I let her work in the store, the more she acts like an employee. Next, she’ll be balancing the books for me.


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