Wendy Meadows Cozy Mystery The Sweets of Doom (EBOOK)
Sweet Shop Mystery Book 3

The Sweets of Doom (EBOOK)

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An amateur sleuth in a small town, and a respected school teacher found dead… Will Margaret bring light to his murder and find the killer?

The entire neighborhood is shaken when their friend and respected school teacher, Jose Santiago, is found dead by his teenage son, Michael. That’s not the only unnerving threat hitting the streets recently, Margaret has been getting wry letters taped to the door of her candy store. Her son, Zach, and Detective David Graham don’t think it’s a coincidence as an investigation to find the killer gets underway.

Dark details of Jose’s murder come to light as the cause of death was cyanide poisoning, with markings of a local coven found around the crime scene. Suspicions fall on the local ‘witch’ coven, making them the primary suspects.

Michael hires Margaret to try and track down his father’s murderer, with David begrudgingly accepting her help on the investigation to keep an eye on her.

As more cryptic notes are left, along with lousy misfortune hitting the residents – this cozy town soon dissolves into a ghostly version of a frenzied Salem in 1962. Paranoia stands on every corner and the bad luck and backlash quickly turn a friend to foe – to a killer.

Chapter One

I amble through the storeroom of my candy store, basking in the afterglow of another successful day. I don’t really need to stick around so long after closing for the night, but for some reason, I just can’t bring myself to leave.

I trail my fingertips over the shelves. The names on the boxes speak volumes to me. Oh Henry. PayDay. Necco Wafers. Blow Pops. I know every brand of candy in this store.

I stop in the middle of the room to take one last look around. Then I wander out to the front counter. A single blazing orange streetlamp outside reflects off the glass jars loaded with sweets that line the shelves all the way to the ceiling.

This is my store. This is all mine. This is my inventory. I built this shop and made it what it is, and I’m proud of it.

Every evening before I lock up and go home, I take a few minutes to just stand and admire this accomplishment of mine. I did this, so I must be something pretty amazing. Pathetic morons who shall remain unnamed told me I couldn’t do it. Well, just hear me roar. I could do this and a lot more besides.

Standing here looking around makes me feel like a million bucks. Can you blame me for lagging?

My phone buzzes in my pocket. I have to squint at the screen in the dark before I turn down the brightness. Where are you, Mom? You should have been home by now.

I bite back a grin. Good old Zack, always making sure I’m okay. He doesn’t know about my secret late-night confidence-boosting sessions after I close the store for the day. I’m on my way now. Send.

I guess I shouldn’t hang around any longer. I lock the front door from the inside and go through the storeroom to the back door. I lock that, too, before stepping onto the street.

The town of West End slumbers in darkness. No lights shine from any windows along Main Street. I have the place to myself. A late summer mist drifts off the Atlantic. It creeps between the hills and gives the landscape a mysterious aspect.

A shiver runs up my spine, but I shrug it away. I can’t start imagining things or I’ll scare myself out of my skin. I set off down the street, but when I step off the sidewalk, a scrap of paper blows against my leg. The wind plasters it there.

I grab it to toss it away when my eye falls on the writing. Curly copper-plate script swoops across the sheet. When was the last time I saw writing like that?

Handwriting is a lost art. Surely this is something made by a computer. No, someone actually wrote this by hand. By peering close under the streetlamp, I can just make out a few mistakes and jitters where the pen caught against the paper. Then I read the words.

Exotic flowers fill my veins, 

Demons grasp and pull the reins. 

Hear the silence as my last breath escapes, 

See the pentagram take shape.

That is definitely weird. It doesn’t make any sense, and it sounds like some kind of magical spell.

My phone vibrates again. I fumble getting it out of my pocket and drop it on the pavement. I gasp in horror, but the fall doesn’t damage the screen, thank goodness.

Where are you, Mom? Don’t make me call the fire department.

I crack a grin and start walking. I struggle to get my phone into my pocket without letting go of the paper. By the time I get the phone stowed, I’ve entered my neighborhood. It’s too dark to look at the paper anymore, so I wait until I get to my house.

Once inside, I unwind my scarf and hang it and my coat by the door. Then I inspect the paper again. That rhyme sends another shiver up my spine. Who would go to the trouble of writing something like that in fancy, italic script? And why was it blowing around on the street?

Zack bustles in from the kitchen. “Where have you been? I almost called the police on you.”

“I’m fine. Take a look at what I just found.”

“I’m talking to you, Mom,” he snaps. “What took you so long? I was starting to get worried. I don’t like you walking home in the dark.”

I look up at him, the poem forgotten. “You have nothing to worry about. I always walked home before. It’s no different now.”

“It’s dark now,” he points out. “With the seasons changing and the weather getting cold, it’s not as safe. What if something happened to you?”

“I’ll be fine. I think I can handle walking home from the store.”

I head for the living room, but he stops me. “Hold it. I want to know what held you up today. You’re not doing a very good job of putting my mind to rest.”

I start to break away again, but when I see the expression on his face, I pause. “All right. I didn’t want to tell you because I was embarrassed. I was just standing around the store looking at everything and feeling proud of myself. That’s all. I know it’s stupid and you’re going to laugh at me, but that’s just the way I am. I like to look at everything and think about how much I accomplished moving up here. That’s all.”

He frowns. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah. That’s all there is to it.”

“Oh.” His countenance clears. “All right, then.”

I gape at him. “What? You’re not going to make any sarcastic remarks? You’re not going to tell me to pull my head out of the clouds?”

“Why should I?” he asks. “You have every right to stand around the store and feel proud of your accomplishments. I approve.”

He turns to leave, and now it’s my turn to stop him. “Hold it, you. You’re seriously not going to scold me for frivolously wasting my time when I could be coming home to you?”

He rolls his eyes heavenward. “No, Mom. You can spend all the time you want admiring your precious candy store. I’m glad you’re doing it. You need to build your confidence, and if that’s the way you’re doing it, you have my stamp of approval. I thought you were doing something else.”

I frown. “Like what? What did you think I was really doing?” He shrugs and sidles away, but I refuse to let him go. “Did you think I was hanging out with Detective Graham or something?”

“Really, Mom,” he fires back. “You know I would approve if you were. I thought you were…. well, I don’t know what I thought. I didn’t like to speculate, but when you kept being consistently late getting home, my mind started to play tricks on me. I imagined all sorts of horrible things I would rather not repeat. I’m glad it was only that.”

I let him go. “All right. Let’s forget it.”

He nods down at my hand. “What’s that?”

I wave the paper. “Oh, it’s just something I found on the ground outside the candy store. It’s nothing.”

“It must be something if you brought it home with you. Let me see it.”

All at once, I get shy about the note. I want to hide it from him. “It’s nothing. Just forget it. It’s trash. I’ll go throw it away.”

He freezes and his lips thin before he speaks. He drops his voice to a rumble I’ve never heard before. “Let me see it, Mom.”

I hand it over like the meek little lamb I am. He scowls over it and reads the rhyme. “What the crap is this?”

“How should I know?” I reply. “Maybe it’s some kid’s idea of a joke.”

“It sounds like an incantation or something.”

“How could it be an incantation?” I return. “No one messes around with that stuff.”

“Sure, they do,” he counters. “Maybe it came from a local witches coven or a demon-worshiping cult or something.”

I snort with laughter. “In West End? Come on. You know nothing like that ever happens around here. Everyone is in bed by eight o’clock.”

“There could still be witches,” he replies. “They could be dangerous.”

“Even if they are, they have nothing to do with us.”

“You said you found this outside the candy store,” he reminds me. “How do you know someone isn’t trying to put a hex on you?”

I smack my lips in annoyance. “It was on the ground, not stuck to the door. No one is trying to put a hex on me, Zachary. Who could possibly want to do something like that?”

“I don’t know. Maybe one of the people you put in jail for murder.”

I pluck the sheet out of his hand. “I doubt it. West End is a sleepy little seaside town. There couldn’t be a coven or a cult here.”

I wander into the living room and sit down on the couch, but I can’t stop my eyes migrating back to the paper. It really is an unusual rhyme. It sparks my curiosity. Who would write something like this?

No kid would write copper-plate script like that for a joke. I don’t even know of any kids who are into that sort of thing. So if it wasn’t a kid, it must be an adult. So why would an adult write it? The words sound more ominous and threatening each time I reread them.

Exotic flowers fill my veins, 

Demons grasp and pull the reins. 

Hear the silence as my last breath escapes, 

See the pentagram take shape.

It sounds like someone dying. Why?

Zack startles me out of my thoughts. “What’s on your mind, Mom?”

I shrug. I don’t want to admit to him—or to myself, for that matter—that the note intrigues me enough to give it a second thought.

If someone wrote this note, how did it wind up outside the candy store? I run through the adjacent businesses. I know all the shopkeepers in person. None of them would have written this note. Come to think of it, I don’t know anyone in this town who would get mixed up in something like this.

One thing is certain. Whoever wrote this was serious about it. They went to a lot of trouble to write it in the nicest script possible. They might even have practiced the script for years to get this good at it. Why would they do that without some good reason?

Zack interrupts my train of thought again. “Smoke is billowing out of your ears, Mom. You better come eat dinner before you burst into flames.”

I laugh and stuff the note into my pocket on my way to the dining room. When I get there, my eyes nearly fall out of my head. A large beef roast, browned to a succulent crisp, rests on a platter. A mound of mashed potatoes, a dish of steaming string beans, and a bowl of tossed salad complete the picture. Two burning candles shine on the cutlery and the folded cloth napkins.

I gasp out loud. “What is this?”

Zack beams at me. “I wanted to surprise you.”

I stare at him in amazement. “How did you do all this? I never thought you would graduate from macaroni and cheese.”

He pulls my chair out for me. Some of us have better things to do than stand around and admire a bunch of candy jars.”

He scoots my chair in and takes the one opposite me. I can’t believe my eyes when he takes up the carving knife and starts carving the roast. “I feel like I’m on a date at Buckingham Palace.”

“You should be so lucky.” He serves me the meat and a dollop of potatoes before he sits down.

He lays his napkin in his lap. I take extra care of my manners tonight, I can tell you. I keep casting anxious glances at him to make sure I’m doing everything right.

He puts a piece of roast in his mouth and chews it while he eyes me between the candlesticks. I fidget at first. Then I decide to take the bull by the horns. “Now it’s you that has smoke billowing out of your ears. Spill it, kid.”

He tries to shrug it away. Then he faces me. “I’m worried about you.”

I groan out loud. “Not again!”

“Just hear me out. Some creep wrote that note, and they obviously didn’t mean anything good by it. Somehow, by means we don’t understand, it winds up outside the candy store. How could it get there unless they meant the note for you?”

“That’s ridiculous,” I fire back. “The wind blew it there.”

“You don’t know that it wasn’t meant for you,” he argues. “I don’t want to take any chances with your safety.”

“So what are you saying?” I ask. “You think someone wrote it to threaten me? Why would they do that?”

“I’m not saying that,” he replies. “I’m saying I would like to take precautions just in case. Even if the note wasn’t intended for you, it means some creep is lurking around this town and I’d rather not have you walking home alone after dark until we know for certain.”

I try to laugh it off, but his tone makes my skin crawl. “You’re really on edge about me walking home after dark, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am. I was on edge about it before, and now this note makes me doubly so. I want to ask Detective Graham to walk you home from now on.”

I hold up my hand. “Now hold on there, mister. You don’t need to go roping him into this. He’s a busy man and he’s an officer of the law. He’s got better things to do than walk old ladies home after dark.”

Zack suppresses a smile and shakes his head. “Let’s just ask him. We’ll show him the note. If he thinks it’s nothing, we haven’t lost anything. If he thinks it is something, who better to walk you home than him?”


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