Wendy Meadows Cozy Mystery Back on the Sweets (EBOOK)
Sweet Shop Mystery Book 5

Back on the Sweets (EBOOK)

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Mysteries are swirling like the autumn wind. Is Margaret up to the challenge this time?

As Thanksgiving approaches, Margaret finds herself hip-deep in another case.

As Thanksgiving approaches, Margaret finds herself hip-deep in another case.

Mr. Stewart, the resident dog groomer, is found dead. He was a cranky old man, but who would use that as a reason for murder?

Margaret must find the answer to this question and more: What is her son, Zach, up to? Should she rekindle her romance with Detective David Graham? Is she truly happy with who she is?

Chapter One

My son Zack frowned. “What exactly are we doing here, Mom?”

“We’re looking at dogs,” I tell him. “Isn’t that what people do at the Humane Society? Oh, look. That one’s cute.”

A scruffy, long-haired mutt gazes up at me forlornly from a cage near the floor. I crouch down and stick my fingers through the bars to touch it. As soon as I do, it snaps at me, bares its teeth, and snarls. I yank my hand back fast.

Cages and kennels line both walls of the enormous concrete room. Yelps and barks resonate off the cold, slippery floor and ceiling. I never saw a place that looked more like a prison. It makes me feel cold and scared inside. I can only imagine how the dogs and cats feel.

“That dog might be cute on the outside, but that’s about all,” Zack replies. “Seriously, Mom. This is a gigantic waste of time. Why are we looking at dogs when we aren’t going to get one?”

“Why shouldn’t we get one?” I ask. “What’s wrong with having a dog?”

“You don’t have time for a dog and neither do I,” he replies. “We both work full time, you have a business to run, not to mention your private investigations, your boyfriend, your community involvement….”

“How many times do I have to tell you?” I interrupt. “I don’t have a boyfriend.”

“Oh, come on, Mom,” he chides. “Who do you think you’re fooling? I see you and Detective David Graham together all the time.”

“That doesn’t make him my boyfriend. I told you we broke up.”

He snorts. “For people who broke up, you two are as close as you’ve ever been. You still see him practically every day.”

I blush at the mention of David, but Zack is right. Our breakup turned out to be a tiny speedbump in the journey. In more ways than one, nothing really changed between us. 

I make an excuse to deflect the conversation. “I don’t see him every day. I haven’t seen him in almost two weeks.”

Zack shakes his finger at me. “You can’t fool me, Mom. You see him around town.”

“Everybody sees him around town.”

“Not like you do. You two talk every time you see each other.”

“What difference does that make?” I shoot back. “We don’t go out together. That’s the difference.”

“You don’t go out together because you’re carrying this breakup around like the flamin’ Olympic torch,” Zack argues. “You know he would jump at the chance to take you out the way he used to. You’re making a federal case out of breaking up with him when you know you want to get back together with him the same way he wants to get back together with you.”

“You’re delusional, sweetheart,” I tell him. “We don’t go out together anymore because he’s too busy with his daughter. Ariel spends almost every weekend with him, and the weeknights when she isn’t around, he has to work to make up the extra time. If you want to invent obstacles to us getting back together, it’s him, not me. Oh, that’s a beautiful dog!”

I stop near the cage of a large, silky Airedale terrier. It lowers its nose to sniff when I put my hand near it. Then it nuzzles me until I slip my hand inside to pet it. It wags its tail.

I read the tag on the kennel. “His name is Bronx. That’s a nice name. He seems really sweet.”

Zack crosses his arms over his chest. “You are NOT buying that dog, Mom. You would never have the time to take care of him. It would be cruel to him, and you know it.”

I sigh gazing at the dog. His deep brown eyes blink up at me in a questioning way. He seems to be trying to communicate with me. I would like nothing better than to take him home. “I know. I just wish I could do more to make the world a better place. So many people and animals need help. There aren’t enough hours in the day to help them all.”

“You’re doing a lot more than most people,” Zack replies. “You do more than anyone I know, but there’s a limit to what one person can do.”

“I know.” 

I turn away from the dog with a heavy heart, but before I can decide what to do next, the door opens and a familiar figure strides into the shelter. Tall, bony Mr. Stewart enters hefting a hundred-pound sack of dog food on his shoulder. He lets it slip off into the corner of the room.

“Mr. Stewart!” I exclaim. “What are you doing here?”

He spins around and his eyes widen. “Margaret! Zachary! I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“I could say the same thing about you,” I return. “What brings you out of your dog grooming parlor?”

He glances around the shelter and rubs his hands together in nervous agitation. “I was just…you know…. I was just…. dropping off this bag of dog food.”

I look down at the bag. “Doesn’t the shelter have its own food delivery?”

He shrugs and looks away. “Sometimes. Anyway, I’ll be off. Have a lovely day, you two.”

He hurries out the door. Zack narrows his eyes. “What’s that guy up to?”

“It’s not like him to leave his business unattended,” I add. “The Humane Society is miles away from West End. He must have taken the day off work to come down here.”

Zack casts a rueful glance around the shelter. “Just like us. Are you sure you didn’t make a mistake leaving Patty Matthews to run the store on her own?”

“We’re doing good business now,” I reply. “We can afford another employee, and if one of us gets sick or breaks a leg, we’ll need someone trained who can take over. The store is too busy for one person to run alone, and Patty knows the store better than anyone besides the two of us. Heaven knows she’s proved herself working for free the last six months.”

“I just don’t like leaving it in anyone’s hands,” Zack tells me. “It’s been you and me all this time, Mom. It’s hard to let go of the reins even for one day.”

“I feel the same way,” I reply. “We’ll both keep a close eye on Patty, and if we’re not satisfied with the job she’s doing, we can always end it.”

“Even so,” he returns, “we’re not getting a dog so we better get out of here. Besides, I have an appointment.”


He turns his shoulder to me so I can’t see his face. “I’m meeting a friend.”

“In Peterborough?” I ask. “How will you have time to drop me off on your way there?”

“No, I’m meeting them in West End. I can drop you off first.”

I study him from the side, but he won’t look at me. He’s been nothing but cryptic about his friends ever since we moved to West End. Whenever I ask about them or suggest he introduce them me to, he gets fidgety and evasive. His behavior is really starting to bother me, but I don’t say anything. He’s twenty years old. He can make his own decisions.

We walk out to the shelter lobby. Just as Zack reaches for the exit door, Mr. Stewart appears leading Bronx on a leash. Mr. Stewart wears his usual white coat. He comes out of the shelter, crosses the lobby, and exits through a side door where we lose sight of him.

I blink after him in wonder. What is he doing here with that dog? After he leaves, I can’t contain my curiosity. I approach the reception counter. “What is Mr. Stewart doing with that dog?”

“He always comes down here,” the receptionist tells me. “He comes at least once a week to give the dogs haircuts. It helps them get adopted faster when they’re nicely groomed.”

“Does he get paid for that?” I ask.

The receptionist glances over her shoulder toward the door where Mr. Stewart took Bronx. She lowers her voice to a confidential whisper. “No, he doesn’t, but don’t tell anybody. He doesn’t want anybody to know he donates his time. He doesn’t get paid for the food he brings over, either, and he doesn’t want anybody to know he does that, either. I don’t like to think about the money he has spent on this place in the last fifteen years.”

I gape at her. “Fifteen years! Is that how long he’s been doing it?”

She nods. Then she squeezes her thumb and forefinger together and turns them near her mouth like she’s locking her lips shut.

I turn away to Zack, who listens in silence. “Can you believe that? He donates time and food to the shelter. I wonder why he doesn’t want anybody to know.”

“Probably ‘cuz it would ruin his local reputation as a curmudgeon and a crank,” Zack returns. “He doesn’t want anybody to know he’s really a big softy under that crusty exterior.”

“I don’t think you’re far off with that assessment,” I tell him. “He makes such an effort to act grumpy and standoffish when he’s really a nice man.”

Zack holds the door open for me and we make our way to the parking lot. He holds the door open for me to get into his new car, too. After we get motoring down the highway toward West End, he breaks the silence. “Do you know what Mr. Stewart reminds me of?”


“He reminds me of a jawbreaker with lots of layers, one under the other,” he tells me. “You suck away one layer and find another one underneath.”

“Most people are like that, sweetheart,” I reply. “You just have to be patient enough to reveal the next layer. Just when you think you know someone well, you find another layer, and you realize you don’t know them at all.”

He shoots me a crooked grin. “I guess some people are more like Everlasting Gobstoppers. It doesn’t matter how long you suck them. They never get any smaller, and they never reveal anything.”

I laugh. “You might be right.”

He drives me back to our house and parks by the curb. He opens the passenger door for me, and I get out. “Are you sure you don’t want to….”

He cuts me off. “I’m sure.”

I shift from one foot to the next and look around at loose ends. “Can you at least….”

“No, I can’t,” he interrupts. 

I have nothing better to do than to go inside, alone. He waits. I squirm. At last, he turns away and opens the driver’s door. “I’ll see you later, Mom. Have a good day off.”

“When will I see you?” I call after him.

“I don’t really know. I’ll be home later for sure. I have to work tomorrow, so I won’t be out too late.”

He gets into his car and drives away. I don’t want to hang around on the sidewalk like a hungry ghost, so I go inside even though I don’t really want to.

I wish I had friends and things to do on my day off the way Zack does. The truth is, this breakup with David cost me more than I like to admit. If we were still going out, we would probably be on one of our picnic dates right now. We could go out to the lake, even if the weather is a little cold. We could admire the leaves changing color and the landscape falling into autumn.

Instead, he’s busy with Ariel. He spends every day he gets off with her. They both want to spend every waking minute with each other. They want to make up for the last fifteen years they’ve spent apart. He doesn’t need me anymore. I don’t really need him, but I do need something to fill the time I used to spend with him.


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