Authors: Susan Gillard
Get Early Access to My Books For FREE!
Every two weeks you’ll
get a new Cozy Novella from me absolutely FREE.
Sign up now!
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, businesses, places, events
and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a
fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual
events is purely coincidental.
Guardian Publishing Group
rights Reserved. No part of this publication or the information in it may be
quoted from or reproduced in any form by means such as printing, scanning,
photocopying or otherwise without prior written permission of the copyright
Table of Contents
The stands beside Hillside High’s
football field buzzed beneath the blue sky. People chatted and shifted to get
better views of the range.
“It’s amazing,” Lilly said and grasped
Heather’s hand. She craned her neck and peered around the couple seated in
front of them. “It’s like the Olympics!”
“If the Olympics sold soggy chips,”
Amy replied, and scrunched up a bag on Heather’s left side. “The only positive
about this experience is that you’re supplying the donuts, Heather. Oh, and
Jung’s part in the competition.”
Jung had taken up a station next to a
receptacle. The ends of his arrows peered out of it. He held his bow in one
hand and stared at the targets set up on the opposite end of the range.
The archery competition was new. A
tradition the Mayor would love to continue, no doubt.
“Who’s that?” Amy asked, and pointed
at the competitor beside Jung.
“Jessica Laverne. Jinx for short,”
Heather replied. “Rumor has it that she's the best archer in the entire state.”
And rumors had jostled around on two legs in Donut Delights the past week.
“Jinx. Ack, I hope she doesn’t jinx
Jung. He’s been freaking out about this for the past week.” Amy shook her head,
then stopped and waved at the flights of stairs at the end of their row.
Maricela stood there, grasping the end
of a donut tray and grinning from ear-to-ear. She hurried to them, then stopped
and offered the tray. “M&M Surprise?”
“Definitely. I didn’t spend all last
night making these bad boys for nothin’,” Amy replied.
Her assistants had split into groups
to tackle the event. Amy and Ken had stayed late and worked on making the
M&Ms hidden in the chocolate
batter, and sprinkled on top of the plain vanilla glaze after dipping. Yum.
Maricela and Angelica had opted for
selling donuts in the stands.
Amy accepted a donut, paid for it,
then took a huge bite. “Oh wow,” she said, around the mouthful of sweetness.
“That’s just the best.”
“May I have one please?” Lilly asked.
“How much for one?”
“I’ll get them for us,” Heather said
and brought out her purse. She paid, then picked up the two donuts on their
serviettes and handed one to Lilly.
“Careful, I’ll take that donut back if
you give me the gray hairs,” Heather replied.
Lilly still hadn’t gotten out of the
habit of calling her aunt. Maricela winked at them, then hurried off into the
The donuts were a hit. The folks in
the seats around theirs munched and crunched donuts, grinning chocolate and
M&Ms at each other.
“When’s this show gonna start,
anyway?” Amy asked, and chewed her way through another bite.
Heather checked her filigree silver
watch. “That’s weird. It should’ve started fifteen minutes ago. Where are the
Lilly flipped her program open, then
bent over it. “The judges are Leticia Jackson and Kyle Henson. If that helps.”
“Thanks, Lills, but we’ll just have to
be patient this time,” Heather replied. At least they had the donuts for
Jung shook out his arms on the field,
then glanced back up at the stands. Heather, Amy, and Lilly waved. He grinned
and waved back, then puffed out his cheek. A gentle breeze fluffed his jet
“He looks nervous,” Lilly said.
“He’s terrified,” Amy replied. “But he’ll
do great. Jung’s got what it takes to make it, you’ll see.”
“You sound pretty confident.” Heather
finished off her donut, then used the serviette to wipe off her fingertips.
“I’ve seen him practicing. He hits the
middle of those circle things every time,” Amy replied, and gestured to the
Heather shifted in her seat, then
hummed Sugar Man by Rodriguez.
“Is that an appropriate song?” Amy
“Sugar, donuts. You know what I mean.
Ah, look something’s happening,” she said, and pointed to the remote stand.
Two people emerged from the locker
room. The audience smattered applause at their appearance.
“Wait a second,” Heather said and
stood straight as a candy thermometer. “Wait one hot second.”
“Hey, lady!” A grumpy, bearded guy –
not Geoff, at least – yelled behind them. “Sit down. I can’t see.”
Heather ignored him, then raised her
hand to shield her eyes from the sun.
“Hey!” The guy clapped at her.
Amy spun on the spot and glared at
him. “Oh, would you relax? Eat a donut or something, big guy.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means you need someone to sweeten
you up,” Amy replied.
Heather’s heart sank to the bottom of
Ryan strode to the main table at the
other end of the field, accompanied by a tall woman, her dark hair braided and
gathered at the nape of her neck.
“That can’t be good,” Heather said,
then plopped down in her seat.
“What? What is it?” Amy asked.
Lilly scooted closer and squinted at
the table. “It’s Unc – Ryan! Ryan’s here. That’s cool.”
“No,” Amy whispered. “That’s not
Jung stopped moving down below. He
glared directly at the head, judging table.
The speakers situated behind the
stands buzzed and clicked, then screeched. Heather grimaced and covered her
Ryan tapped on the end of a microphone.
“The Archery Event 2016 is postponed until further notice. Please exit the
stands and the school grounds immediately.”
“What?” The bearded guy screeched. “I
paid good money for this ticket!”
“This guy,” Amy said and jerked her
thumb over her shoulder. She rolled her eyes. “Somebody needs to take the
world’s biggest, donut shaped chill pill.”
Ryan handed the microphone to the
woman beside him.
“This is Judge Leticia Jackson. I can
confirm that the event is postponed. Full refunds will be offered at the gate.
A new time and date will be announced for the competition –”
The folks around Heather and her girls
rose and grumbled. They shuffled to the exits.
“Unbelievable,” the bearded guy said.
“Waste of my time. I could’ve been home.”
“Preening his beard?” Amy whispered.
Lilly giggled and pressed her fist to
Heather couldn’t find humor in the
situation. She stared at Ryan, peeking between the moving bodies, and sighed.
“Here we go again,” she whispered.
Heather brushed off the glass counter
in Donut Delights, then walked out from behind it. She placed her hands on her
hips and stared from one assistant to the other.
Jung sat in the center of the room,
his head on his arms.
“Everything’s going to be fine,”
Heather said. “We don’t know what’s happened yet. We can’t make any rushed
“It has to be something serious,” Amy
said. She shifted in the seat just in front of the windows. Eva’s spot. Except
Eva had taken Lilly back to Bill and Colleen’s and Heather had closed the store
to the public.
Drilling and yells from next door
broke her thoughts into two equal pieces. She rubbed her temples, then cleared
her throat. “It’s going to be fine. I’m sure Ryan will tell me what happened
when he gets the chance.”
“It’s over,” Jung replied, raising his
voice to be heard over the drills and slams next door. “I’ll never get to
compete.” He lifted his head off his arms and sighed. Dark rings sat circled
his eyes. “This is what I’ve wanted for years. I can’t believe it’s over.”
Heather clapped once and the group
jumped, then shifted in their seats.
Maricela and Angelica sat against the
wall, backs resting on it. “What about donuts, boss?” Angelica asked. “We
didn’t sell all.”
“I know, but that’s okay too,” Heather
yelled and pointed at the boxes on some of the tables. “We sold quite a few.”
Bang, bang, bang, went he hammers.
Another reason they couldn’t open the store – they had to fit in with Ronald
Tombs’ suggested construction schedule. He wanted the other side of Donut
Delights open to the public as soon as possible.
“This noise!” Amy stuck her tongue out
of the corner of her mouth and shut her eyes. “If I try, I can make believe
it’s a huge woodpecker in a tree.”
“That’s horrifying,” Heather replied.
Ken snorted in response and touched
the camera which dangled from a strap around his neck.
A knock rattled the door, and the
group jumped for the second time. Heather joined in.
Ryan waved from the other side of the
glass door and squinted past the printed Donut Delights logo on it.
“Just a second,” Heather yelled.
“This is it.” Jung squished around in
his chair and stared. “We’re going to find out if the competition can start up
Heather unlocked the door, then opened
it. The bell tinkled overhead, and Ryan stepped into the interior. He glanced
around the room, then blew out a long, quiet breath. “Having fun in here?” He
asked. “Sounds like a regular party.”
“If parties are hosted by construction
workers with hammers and chisels and –” Amy cut off and searched for the word.
She wasn’t an authority on
“Chisels?” Ken suggested.
“I’ve got news,” Ryan replied, and
slipped his arm around Heather’s waist. “Let’s talk in your office.”
“I hope it’s good news, because Jung
is on the verge of collapse, over here.”
Ryan leaned in and pressed his lips to
her ear. “Feed him a donut or five. He’s going to need the sugar for the
“Uh oh.” Heather’s sleuthin’ intuition
hadn’t been wrong yet. This wouldn’t be an exception. She straightened and
pointed at her bestie by the window. “Ames, make everyone a coffee and a donut,
please. I’ll be back in a second.”
Heather slipped her hand into Ryan’s,
then led him to her office. She opened the door and walked inside, anxiety
bubbling through her stomach.
So much to do. So much to handle.
Donuts, construction, her exam next week and now this.
“What happened?” Heather asked. She
circled to her chair, then grasped the head rest and dug her fingernails into
the leather. “Another murder.”
Ryan shut the office door. “I’m afraid
so. And you can bet I’m going to need your help on it. In a strictly
“I’m discreet,” Heather said. The hammering
from next door continued, muffled by the walls, this time.
“You’re about as discreet as those
workers next door,” Ryan replied. “But that’s okay. You’re good, and that’s
“Thanks, honey,” she said and blew him
a kiss. “What happened?”
“The co-judge at the competition, Kyle
Henson, is dead. Found him in the locker room with an arrow right through the
heart. Carbon arrow, by the way. That’s important for identifying the killer.”
Heather squeezed the leather ‘til it
squeaked. “But that means…”
“Yeah, the murderer was an archer.”
Heather sighed and let go of her
chair. She rested her forearms on it, and the leather stuck to them, coated in
a thins layer of her sweat.
Archers had flooded the town after the
announcement of the new annual, archery competition. Women and men in various
age groups, from the cities surrounding Hillside. Some had even come in from as
far as Houston or Dallas.
“That’s a lot of possibilities. We’re
talking competitors, coaches, spouses, the other judge, even. Ugh. Where do we
start? And don’t you dare say Jung is a suspect because he –”
Ryan tilted his head to the side. “I
know, he was here last night. I’ll still have to interview him, though.”
“So the murder occurred last night?”
Heather asked, and pouted. Hmmm. She’d have to put her thinking cap on for this
one. She didn’t know all that much about Kyle Henson, even though he’d coached
at Hillside High, once upon a time.
“That’s our best estimate at the
moment,” Ryan replied. “Last night around midnight.”
“Spooky,” Heather replied. She cracked
her knuckles, then grimaced and shook her hands out. “All right. I’m on it.”
“Good,” Ryan said, then bobbed his
chin up and down. “So am I.”
One cop and one intrepid baker on the
case. What could go wrong?