Read Deadly Donuts Online

Authors: Jessica Beck

Deadly Donuts

BOOK: Deadly Donuts
8.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

The First Time Ever Published!

 

The Tenth Donut Mystery

 

From
New York Times
Bestselling Author

 

Jessica Beck

 
 
 

DEADLY DONUTS

 
 
 

Books by Jessica Beck

 

The Donut Mysteries

 

Glazed Murder

Fatally Frosted

Sinister Sprinkles

Evil Éclairs

Tragic Toppings

Killer Crullers

Drop Dead Chocolate

Powdered Peril

Illegally Iced

Deadly Donuts

 

The Classic Diner Mysteries

 

A Chili Death

A Deadly Beef

A Killer Cake

A Baked Ham

A Bad Egg

 

The Ghost Cat Cozy Mysteries

 

Ghost Cat: Midnight Paws

Ghost Cat: Bid for Midnight

 
 
 

Jessica Beck is the
New York Times
Bestselling Author of the

Donut Mysteries

 
as well as

The Classic Diner Mystery Series

and

The Ghost Cat Cozy Mysteries.

 
 
 
 
 

DEADLY DONUTS by Jessica Beck: Copyright © 2013

 

All rights reserved.

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Recipes included in this book are to be recreated at the reader’s own risk.
 
The author is not responsible for any damage, medical or otherwise, created as a result of reproducing these recipes.
 
It is the responsibility of the reader to ensure that none of the ingredients are detrimental to their health, and the author will not be held liable in any way for any problems that might arise from following the included recipes.

 
 
 

To my favorite cozy mystery writer in the world,

you know who you are!

 
 
 
 
 

Chapter 1

 
 

I’m not exactly proud of the fact that I slapped the stranger in Donut Hearts so hard across the cheek that his skin turned white, my handprint glowing on his face like a neon sign from the convenience store on the edge of town.

Part of it might have been because of the one-hundred-degree-plus heat wave we were experiencing on the first day of August in April Springs, North Carolina—bringing along with it plunging donut sales with every degree the temperature soared above ninety—and at least some of it had to be because of what the stranger had just said to me, but neither reason was a good excuse for the way I’d acted.
 

He was somewhere in his early forties, dressed in a suit that matched his jet-black hair, short of stature and yet stout in a way that made his powerful hands look oversized.
 
I could easily imagine him squeezing someone’s throat the way he was throttling the bag of donut holes in his hands, and there was an air about him that made me think he wouldn’t react well to the physical abuse I’d unleashed on him.

To my credit, I
did
try to apologize.
 
“I’m sorry.
 
Don’t get me wrong.
 
I hate that you came in here trying to smear my father’s memory, but I realize that hitting you like that was uncalled for.”
 
For the first time in days, I was glad that the donut shop was empty; no one had witnessed my outburst, though I suspected that Emma had heard the slap all the way back in the kitchen, even if she had her iPod cranked up to its highest level.
 

I expected the man to shout some kind of protest in reaction to my sharp slap, but instead, it merely deepened the smile he had already been showing.
 
“I can understand your reaction, Suzanne, but it had better not happen again.
 
That one was on the house, but the next one’s going to cost you dearly; I promise you that.”

“My father was a good man,” I said, trying to calm my racing heart and my growing indignation.
 
I hated the thought that this man had come into my shop, bought some of my goods, and then besmirched my late father’s name almost as an afterthought on his way out the door.

“I never claimed that he was
all
bad,” the man said as he crumpled up the top of the bag of donut holes again that he’d just bought from me.
 
“But when Jack slipped, he slipped hard.
 
How would your mother feel if everyone in town knew that he was a cold-blooded killer?
 
Could either one of you stand continuing to live here with that kind of shame?”

“I keep telling you—you have the wrong man.
 
My father’s name was Thomas, and no one in his life ever called him Jack.”

“Maybe not in your time, but ask your mother; she knows all about it.”

That was another thing entirely.
 
My mom was very good at keeping her own secrets; I knew that well enough, if her past history was any indication.
 
“You come in here and tell me that my dad was a killer and you just expect me to trust you.
 
If what you’re saying is true, where’s your proof?”

The stranger looked around the empty shop.
 
“If I’d known that your donut shop was going to be deserted this time of day, I would have brought it with me, but I’m afraid that you’ll have to wait until later to see it.”

“Go get it right now,” I said.
 
“I can wait.
 
The sooner we get this cleared up, the better.
 
I still don’t believe a word you’ve told me.”

“You don’t have to take
anything
on good faith.
 
I’m willing to wager that you’re going to
have
to believe what I’m going to show you.
 
Meet me at the town clock at midnight,” he said.
 
“I’ll have the evidence then.
 
In the meantime, you are not to speak a word to the police about our little conversation, and that includes your boyfriend.
 
Don’t even think about telling your friend the mayor, either, and most especially, your mother is not to know that we spoke.
 
If you tell
anyone
else about our conversation before I show you what I’ve got, it’s not just your dad’s
reputation
that will be at risk.”

“Is that a threat?”

“Think of it as more of a promise.”

“Sorry, but I can’t make it at midnight,” I said.
 
“I don’t get up until two in the morning, and I need every bit of sleep that I can get until then.”

He looked surprised by my reaction.
 
“Isn’t it worth losing a few hours sleep to learn the truth about your dad?”

“Tell you what.
 
I’ll compromise.
 
I’ll meet you at the clock at one a.m.”

“If that’s the way you feel, let’s just forget it.
 
I’m taking the offer off the table.
 
Remember, you had the chance to save your father’s precious name, but you blew it.”

Now I’d done it.
 
I’d pushed the man too far.
 
“Okay, midnight it is,” I agreed before he could get out the door.
 
“Should I bring some cash with me?
 
That’s your angle, isn’t it?
 
If you were hoping for a big score, I’m afraid you that you’ve badly misjudged your blackmail victim.
 
Look around.
 
Does Donut Hearts look like it’s breaking even, let alone making enough to show a profit?”

“We both know that
you’re
not the one in the family with money, Suzanne,” he said.

“Mister, if you think that you have a better chance getting it from my mother, you’re even crazier than I thought.
 
She’ll steamroll over you like you weren’t even there.”

“Once you see my evidence, I’m convinced that you will be able to persuade her to pay
whatever
I’m asking.”

“I have serious doubts about that.”

“They’ll be gone at midnight,” he said.
 
“What I’m asking is quite reasonable, and worth every dime it’s going to cost you.”

He was gone in a flash, and I felt my hands shaking a little after I was alone again. Confrontation usually did that to me, and this guy had been more unpleasant that most.
 
What did he believe that he had against my father, something that was so potentially disastrous to his memory that he thought my mother would actually pay to have it kept silent?
 
I thought about calling Jake and getting his opinion despite the stranger’s dire warnings, but my state police inspector boyfriend was wrapping up a case in Hickory, and I didn’t want to disturb him.
 
I could have called Grace Gauge, my best friend and number one ally in fighting crime in April Springs, but I decided to wait until I had more information before I called in my reserves.

In the meantime, I had to find a way to wait out the time until I heard what the stranger had to say about my sweet old dad.

The rest of the day was not going to be easy, I knew that for sure.
 
The very thought of my dear, departed father raising his voice, let alone his hand, was beyond comprehension.
 
I knew in my heart that it would all turn out to be an elaborate hoax, or a case of mistaken identity, but there was one small flicker of doubt in the back of my mind.
 
Jake often said that none of us were beyond murder if the stakes were high enough, and though I wasn’t sure
how
I felt about his philosophy, I couldn’t bear to think of my father that way.

 

“Suzanne, do you have a second?” my ex-husband Max asked as he walked into the donut shop at ten forty-five.

“I have fifteen minutes before I close, Max.
 
Do you need some donuts for your seniors theatre troupe?”
 
Max was a part-time actor, mostly regional commercials and local theatre, not that he hadn’t had his share of the national limelight.
 
I’d been lucky enough, if anyone could ever call it that, to catch him with another woman just as his biggest national commercial hit the airwaves.
 
My divorce settlement had paid for Donut Hearts free and clear, and it was a good thing that I owned the property, especially if I had to depend on slow periods like I was going through now in the summer heat.

“No, we’re taking the summer off.
 
Too many of my actors are in Boone, Asheville, and West Jefferson.
 
When the temperatures rise, they flee en masse to the mountains.”

“Then what brings you by?” I asked as I started cleaning off a few of the tables I hadn’t had a chance to get to yet.

“As a matter of fact, I need your help,” he said.

I dropped the plate in my hand, and I was glad that it was plastic as it bounced up from the floor.

“Come on.
 
It’s not that shocking,” he said as he knelt down to retrieve it for me.

As Max handed the plate back to me, I replied, “You should see how it looks from my point of view.”
 
Our parting hadn’t been the most amicable of splits, given the circumstances, but I was finally managing to put it behind me, mostly because Jake was in my life these days, and Max, on his very best of days, was nothing but a pale imitation of the man in my life now.

“Okay, I’m willing to admit that it sounds kind of screwy on the face of it, but I have nowhere else to turn,” he explained.
 
I looked into his eyes for a second, and saw that he was on the level about that.
 
I hadn’t learned much in my time married to the man, but I’d at least learned that much.

I put the plate in a plastic bin near the door, and then I led him to one of our sofas.
 

He took the chair across from me, and I asked him, “What exactly is going on?”

“It’s about Emily,” he said.

That’s all that I needed to hear.
 
As I started to get up, I said, “Max, you need to leave Emily Hargraves alone.”
 
Emily ran our local newsstand, Two Cows and a Moose, named after her childhood stuffed animals who still laid watch over her store from a high shelf by the register, adorned in whatever seasonal outfits Emily made for them.

“Suzanne, please don’t turn your back on me.
 
I think I’ve fallen for her,” Max said.

I’d never heard him say anything quite like that since I’d known him.
 
“How does Emily feel about you?”

“She won’t even talk to me, thanks to you.”

“Hang on a second,” I said.
 
“You’re not actually blaming this on me, are you?”

“No, of course not,” Max replied.
 
“Well, maybe just a little.
 
If you hadn’t told her all of those bad things about me, we’d still be together.”

I shook my head, and then I asked him, “Max, was
anything
I told her a lie?”

“What?”

“Think about it carefully before you answer.
 
Did I tell Emily a single thing about you that wasn’t true?”

“No,” he said after a moment or two, “at least not the old me.
 
But I’ve changed, Suzanne.
 
I’ve settled down quite a lot in the past year.
 
A lot has happened to me.”

I knew without asking what he was talking about.
 
He’d lost a girlfriend, and then he’d been accused of murdering her.
 
I understood from firsthand experience how an accusation like that, no matter how unfounded it might be, felt.
 
“I hear what you’re saying, but you’re giving me way too much credit here.
 
Emily Hargraves does not live or die by my recommendations.
 
She’s a grown woman perfectly capable of making up her own mind without any help from me.”

“Could you at least
talk
to her for me?” he begged.
 
If he hadn’t been an actor, I never would have doubted the sincerity in his expression.
 
Then again, maybe he was just playing me for the thousandth time.
 
I’d fallen for his smooth ways far more than once in the past.

“I don’t know, Max.
 
I’m not even sure what I could say to her that might make her change her mind about you.”

“I just want one date, one opportunity to convince her to go out with me again, but she won’t even discuss it with me.”

“And you don’t think that’s your answer right there?” I asked softly, trying to cushion the blow of what I was saying.

“Suzanne, haven’t you ever wanted a second chance in your life?”

I was about to say no when I realized that was what Jake had given me, another chance to love someone with all my heart, regardless of the consequences.
 
“We both know that I have.”

“Then help me.
 
If you don’t want to do it for me, then at least do it for love.”

It might have come from a part he’d once played, but it worked on me nonetheless.
 
“What is it exactly that you want me to say to her?”

BOOK: Deadly Donuts
8.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Season to Taste by Natalie Young
According to Hoyle by Abigail Roux
Colors by Russell J. Sanders
Follow the Money by Peter Corris
Murder in Havana by Margaret Truman