A Lime To Kill: A Key West Culinary Cozy - Book 1 (3 page)

BOOK: A Lime To Kill: A Key West Culinary Cozy - Book 1
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Chapter 5

 

Tiara was
stared at her mother in disbelief. “You just… hired her?”

 

“I know, it’s
so unlike me,” Marilyn nodded, pleased with her decision.

 

Mother and
daughter were in the shop, sliding forks through a midday slice of bliss.

 

“Ladies,” a
man’s voice boomed out, announcing his arrival in the most boisterous manner
possible.

 

“Fergus, would
you like a slice, or the whole thing?” Marilyn said to one of her favorite
regulars.

 

Fergus stopped
in every Wednesday and Saturday without fail, and quite often several times in
between, when the mood struck him. Today he was decked out in blue and pink
plaid pants, with a white track-suit top. His curly salt-and-pepper hair was
still interspersed with clusters of his original dark brown, and was usually
carelessly tousled.

 

“That depends,
lovely lady” he sidled up to Marilyn. “Will you be joining me or will I be
eating alone?”

 

“Alone,”
Marilyn laughed. Fergus had been asking Marilyn out for four years now, and it
was more of a running joke between them then an actual offer—unless she should
chance to say yes, then it would immediately become a real offer.

 

“Ouch,” she
kneaded the back of her neck, feeling stiff and sore all over. She had a
sneaking suspicion that the pain was related to craning her neck in her extreme
effort to chaperon Drew and her daughter at yoga yesterday.

 

“Need a
massage, my damsel in distress?”  Fergus cracked his knuckles with exaggerated
anticipation.

 

“Have you ever
tried online dating?” Tiara asked, her voice dripping sweet sarcasm.

 

“Nahhh, I’m
all talk and no game. If I got a girl out on the town I wouldn’t know what to
do with her. Besides…I’m too grumpy to keep polite company,” he shrugged and
waggled his eyebrows.

 

“You’re never
grumpy,” Tiara observed, enjoying a bite of pie.

 

“That’s only
because you see me while I surrounded by beautiful things,” he glanced at
Marilyn and the pie in the middle of the table, gazing hungrily at both.

 

“Ugh, mom make
him stop,” she put down her fork, rolling her eyes.

 

“Really? Is
that what you want?” Marilyn asked, blinking with mock-innocence. “Weren’t you
the one who tried to make me a profile on one of those sites?”

 

“Yes, but I
didn’t want to have to watch the results—I just wanted to instigate them.
Completely different,” she shuddered playfully. Tiara was in a much better mood
today since she’d heard the news about her mother hiring Susan.

 

Marilyn hadn’t
heard a peep out of her daughter all night, and when she walked in this
morning, she’d had a feeling it was going to be a quiet day between them, so
the light-hearted banter that she was engaging in at the moment was
encouraging.

 

“Careful now,
I haven’t threatened to sink Mr. Yoga’s boat, so you shouldn’t rain on my
internet dating parade,” she teased.

 

“That was
incredibly random. Please refrain from picking at yesterday’s conversational
threads,” Tiara warned lightly, no longer joking.

 

“Whose boat?”
Fergus asked sitting down and hoping for a healthy dose of gossip.

 

“I meant it
metaphorically…you know, to sink someone’s boat,” Marilyn floundered, never
having been very good at prevarication.

 

Tiara shot her
mother a withering look.

 

“What would
you like today Fergus?” the young woman asked, clearly changing the subject.
“You can see our lovely array of sweet treats ready to please your delicate palate.”

 

“Wow, she’s
good. You should give her a job,” he nudged Marilyn playfully.

 

“As a matter
of fact I already have. But I appreciate your reaffirming my decision,” she
said dryly.

 

Tiara who was
pulling out a few goodies from the display said, “Actually it was my decision.”

 

“Now,” she
continued. “My suggestion for you today would be a chocolate covered key lime
pie bar on a stick. You can eat it right now as you are walking home and
contemplating life, love and internet dating.”

 

She handed him
the stick and Fergus took it reverently. “And we’ll send you home with this
lovely lady for a special treat tonight.” She pulled a particularly sensuous
looking pie from its spot. She tilted the pie to Fergus who nodded approvingly,
his mouth full. Tiara gently laid the pie in its box with a flourish. “Now for
the piece d’resistance, four key lime pie cream puffs, one in each corner of
the box.” She tucked each one into the corner and tipped the box toward Fergus
for the final reveal.

 

“Sold,” he
said, licking a smear of chocolate from his thumb. “How much do I owe you?”

 

“Let’s see,
that will come to forty five seventy nine,” Tiara beamed.  

 

“Oh, my…It costs
me a pretty penny, to enlarge this waist line,” he grumbled, reaching for his
wallet.

 

“Consider it a
peak experience. What could be more important than that?”

 

“How much pie
do you two actually eat?” He asked, looking them over.

 

“More than you
would ever believe possible, but we also eat vegetables occasionally,” Marilyn
smiled, proud of the figure that she’d managed to maintain despite her
incredible sweet tooth. She’d thought about writing a diet book called “Key
Lime Today & Fat Goes Away.” It would be the ultimate anti-diet book and
just so much fun. It was one of the more frivolous ideas she’d had, but the
thought made her smile.

 

“He really is
a sweet man,” Marilyn said when Fergus left.

 

“I’m a big fan
of the quirk in this town. It’s like no other place in the world.” Tiara said
with a wistful look that made Marilyn wonder.

 

“So you really
liked her?” Tiara said, snapping out of her reverie and returning to the
previous conversation about Susan, her mother’s newest employee.

 

“Yup, I
did…and I hired her on the spot. I said you would be the money person since I take
care of the creative side of things. She completely understood, and when she
asked about her pay schedule, I referred her to you.”

 

“I’m on it.”
Tiara said. “Isn’t this fun?”

 

“It really
is,” Marilyn leaned over and gave her daughter a little squeeze. “I think
you’re brilliant and beautiful and if you stay here long enough every Bernard
on the island will be lining up outside the door just to order from you.”

 

Shaking her
head at her mother’s fantasies, the young woman smiled indulgently, and closed
the cash register with a flourish.

 

Chapter 6

 

It was a busy
Saturday morning, and one of the main ovens had just gone out. Susan had jumped
right in to her first weekend shift, and Marilyn was about to run an order of
seven pies out to a garden party on the other side of the island.

 

“I’m taking
these to Sandra Harrison’s house, Joe and Larry should be here in five to ten
minutes, tops.” Frazzled, Marilyn headed for the door, holding up her cell in a
gesture for Tiara to call if anything else should go wrong.

 

Her daughter
frowned. There was a line of customers that reached out the door and beyond,
some of whom were more patient than others, and Susan was too new to run the
cash register efficiently.

 

“Do you want
me to take these over?” Susan asked tentatively, looking at the mountain of
unprepared strawberries.

 

“No, actually
if you could just work on the getting the pie shells that we already have into
the freezer and then prep a few dozen more, we’ll be ready to go when the ovens
are working again,” Tiara replied, feeling a bit overwhelmed.

 

Susan nodded
and dove into her task. “Sounds good.”

 

Tiara wasn’t
so sure. Joe and Larry were a father-son mechanical team who gave Marilyn good
rates in exchange for a significant discount on pies. They were usually prompt
but they frequently took a long time to diagnose and fix.

 

“Ok, yes…what
can I get for you?” she smiled, despite her stress, at the woman in front of
her.

 

“Two slices
for here, please.”

 

Tiara plated
the slices, garnished them with two filled strawberries, rang them up and moved
to the next person. After seven minutes of dedicated hustle, the line had
diminished and she was ready to pull her hair out.

 

“How does my
mother do this every day?” she exclaimed, venting to Susan now that the last
customer had gone.

 

“She’s a
talented and determined woman,” the placid baker replied, washing her hands and
wondering if the question had been rhetorical.

 

“Hey, Tiara,”
a male voice said behind her.

 

She turned around
to see Drew’s perfectly tanned face and walked over to where he lounged
casually in a chair near the door, biting her lip as she smiled innocently,
having no earthly idea of her fresh young appeal.

 

“Hey Drew, what
can I get for you?” she asked, delighted to see him outside of class.

 

“Oh, uh
nothing, actually…I don’t eat sugar…” he said it proudly and Tiara could see
why—six packs don’t lie. “I just dropped in to see if you might be up for a
dive, maybe tomorrow?”

 

Tiara recognized
a perfect opportunity when she saw one. She could make a date with Drew that
her mother wouldn’t even know about.

 

“Tomorrow
would be great—” she began.

 

“Hey ho,” Larry
the handyman called out, as the bell over the door jangled announcing the
arrival of him and his son.  Father and son were complete opposites – Joe was
tall and thin with a receding hairline, Larry had a full head of hair, and a
girth that made Tiara wonder how he was able to fit into some of the spaces
that needed his attention.

 

“I’m so glad
to see you two,” she said with a sigh of relief. “We are absolutely stalled out
here without our ovens. I hope you can save the day,” she smiled sweetly,
hoping that her shameless flirting would spur them to work faster.

 

She could feel
Drew’s eyes on her and her face flushed with color that had nothing to do with
the island heat.

 

“Give me a
sec,” Tiara said to her Yogi, and turned to Susan who had just come back from
the walk-in freezer. “Would you mind?” she asked, inclining her head toward the
new customer who had walked in just behind the repairmen. “I’ll only be a
minute.”

 

“Of course,
take your time” Susan smiled knowingly, before turning to the woman at the
register. The customer’s cloyingly sweet perfume permeated the entire shop.

 

Tiara turned
back to Drew. “Is there anything that I should bring?”

 

“Tiara,” Susan
called out softly. “She would like to use the restroom…?” She phrased the
situation in the form of a question because they actually had no public
restroom and she didn’t want to offer the employee restroom if it wasn’t
allowed.

 

“Oh, no
problem, it’s in the back on the right. Just be careful, there are some men
working on the ovens, so there might be tools on the floor.”

 

“Thank you,”
came the woman’s voice as she bolted rather quickly to the back of the shop.

 

“Tiara, you
are a genius!” Fergus burst into the store with greater enthusiasm than usual.
she glanced apologetically at Drew and mouthed ‘sorry’.

 

“So you liked
it, did you?” she smiled.

 

“Those little
puff things. Exactly right, hit the spot!” Fergus noticed Susan with obvious
appreciation, and Tiara looked at him pointedly, warning him without speaking,
to stay away from the kitchen staff. “You must be new…” he commented to the
baker, who smiled and returned to the kitchen after placing the two fresh pies
that she had carried out of the freezer into the chilled display case.

 

“Down boy—”
Tiara warned, aloud this time. Fergus merely winked at her and began perusing
the selection of goodies behind the glass.  “So what’ll it be today?” she
asked.

 

“Same thing as
last time. Only hold the popsicle,” he rubbed his hands together in
anticipation.

 

Tiara smiled
at his antics, despite herself, “You got it.” Pulling out a pie box, she
carefully loaded up a full key lime pie, four key lime cream puffs in each
corner, and four of her new key lime stuffed strawberries on top, tilting it up
for approval.

 

“Genius,” he
pronounced, dramatically plucking one of the strawberries from the pie and
popping it into his mouth. She took another from her tray and replaced the
missing strawberry, then sealed the box. Fergus paid and dropped a dollar bill
into the tip jar, whistling a happy tune as he made his way out the door and
back to the boardwalk.

 

Tiara returned
to the table where Drew reclined in his chair, taking in the entire situation.
“I am so sorry. This has been the craziest morning…the ovens aren’t working, my
mother is out on a delivery, it’s just been bananas.”

 

“You seem
pretty yogic about it,” he observed kindly.

 

A piercing
scream suddenly shattered the lull of the now nearly-empty shop. “Someone help
that man,” the lady that had gone back to the rest room yelled, staring in
horror through the glass at the front of the shop. Tiara followed her gaze and
leaped to her feet.

 

“Fergus,” she
cried out, tearing out of the shop at a dead run. Drew got there before she did
and was assessing the situation. “Fergus, what’s wrong?” Tiara whimpered.  His
face was drained of color and his eyes were wide with pain and shock.

 

“Call an
ambulance,” Drew yelled back into the store, while Tiara held the sick man’s
hand, frightened tears streaming down her face.

 

Marilyn saw
the ambulance from two blocks away. She sped through a red light, left the car
running and ran to the shop just in time to see Fergus being placed quickly
inside. She watched the emergency vehicle depart, sirens flashing, then turned
to her daughter.

 

“Tiara,” she
pulled her daughter into a tight hug. I saw the ambulance…is Fergus ok?” she
asked, concerned for her friend, but far less panicked now that she knew her
daughter wasn’t bleeding out in the shop.

 

“I don’t
know,” Tiara said in a small voice, shaking her head.

 

“He had a
heart attack, but I’m sure he’ll be ok now that he’s with professionals,” Drew
spoke up with what seemed like misplaced confidence.

 

“Ok,” Marilyn took
a breath. “I’d better go park the car…I just left it running out there.”

 

She came in
moments later, still shaken but trying to relax.

 

“Do you want
to go home?” she asked Tiara, who appeared to be pretty shaken by the experience.

 

“I can give
her a ride, if you’d like,” Drew volunteered.

 

“Yes, that
would be nice,” Marilyn replied, hoping that he wouldn’t try to bowl over her
traumatized daughter with a “knight in shining armor” routine. She watched
thoughtfully, as he led the way to his car, with Tiara trailing slowly behind
him, still in a state of mild shock. She waited until they were out of sight,
then went into the shop.

 

Susan had
finished the crusts on eight more pies and had begun mixing the ingredients for
the filling.

 

“Susan, are
you ok?”

 

Marilyn
noticed that Susan’s hands were shaking, “Oh, Susan…” she said, pulling the
baker into a comforting hug.

 

“Ok, you
should be all set,” Larry lumbered toward them, tools in hand. Joe was close
behind, doing something on his smartphone. These two certainly didn’t seem
terribly worried about the medical emergency that had just rocked everyone
else’s world.

 

“Great…uh,
good…how much do I owe you today?” she pulled a check out of register, finding
it difficult to switch gears back into business mode so quickly.

 

“If you have a
few pies to spare, I’d work on a trade today,” the large man grinned, raising
his eyebrows.

 

“You’re the
best, Larry, thanks so much. We’ll box something special up for you.”

 

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