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Authors: Cleo Coyle

Once Upon a Grind

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Berkley Prime Crime titles by Cleo Coyle

Coffeehouse Mysteries

ON WHAT GROUNDS

THROUGH THE
GRINDER

LATTE TROUBL
E

MURDER MOST FROTHY

DECAFFEINATED CORPS
E

FRENCH PRESSED

ESP
RESSO SHOT

HOLIDAY G
RIND

ROAST MORTEM

MU
RDER BY MOCHA

A BREW
TO A KILL

HOLIDAY B
UZZ

BILLIONAIRE BLEN
D

ONCE UPON A GRIND

Haunted Bookshop Mysteries writing as Alice Kimberly

THE GHOST AND MRS. Mc
CLURE

THE GHOST AND
THE DEAD DEB

THE GH
OST AND THE DEAD MAN
'S LIBRARY

THE GHOST
AND THE FEMME FATAL
E

THE GHOST AND THE
HAUNTED MANSION

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China

penguin.com

A Penguin Random House Company

This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.

Copyright © 2014 by Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

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Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group.

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eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-13738-7

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Coyle, Cleo.

Once upon a grind / Cleo Coyle.—First edition.

pages ; cm.—(A coffeehouse mystery ; 14)

ISBN 978-0-425-27085-1 (hardcover)

1. Cosi, Clare (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Women detectives—Fiction. 3. Coffeehouses—Fiction. 4. Murder—Investigation—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3603.O94O53 2014

813'.6—dc23

2014032525

FIRST EDITION:
December 2014

Cover illustration by Cathy Gendron.

Cover design and logo by Rita Frangie.

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.

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.

Version_1

There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.

—Albert Schweitzer

This book is dedicated to the memory of Turtle, a little New York stray who brought joy to our lives for nineteen years. She sat on my lap through the writing of every tale in that time, including this one.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Once Upon a Grind
marks the fourteenth entry in our Coffeehouse Mysteries, and Marc and I thought it fitting that a fairy-tale mystery set in New York City should begin in Central Park, a storybook world unto itself. From the towers of Belvedere Castle to the Ramble's shadowy woodland, the Park's eight-hundred-plus acres operate under the care of the Central Park Conservancy, and we thank them for answering our questions, and more importantly for the work they do in preserving our nation's first major landscaped public park. To learn more, visit them at centralparknyc.org.

Our interaction with New York's Finest has been nothing but the finest, and we thank them for providing answers to our questions, especially about the NYPD's Mounted Unit. As to the Ps and Qs of police procedure, this is a light work of amateur sleuth fiction. In the Coffeehouse Mysteries, the rules occasionally get bent.

The rest of the research behind
Once Upon a Grind
emerged from our decades of living and working in New York City. Although the Queen Catherine Café is fictional, you can visit two places that inspired it: Seher (aka Old Bridge/Stari Most) in Astoria, Queens; and Bosna Express in Ridgewood, Queens. You can also visit the Papaya King's original hot dog shop on Manhattan's Upper East Side (papayaking.com); go to a poetry slam at the Nuyorican Poets Café on the Lower East Side (nuyorican.org); and even try Gardner's favorite chicken and waffles plate at Amy Ruth's in Harlem (amyruthsharlem.com).

The staff at Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime is among the best in the business, and we sincerely thank them for shepherding this tale into publication.

We send special thanks to Wendy McCurdy, our longtime editor, whose ongoing encouragement and trust in us has kept us writing. Thanks also to her assistant editor, Katherine Pelz, for all her help.

A beautiful shout-out goes to Cathy Gendron for her magical cover art; and the brilliant Berkley Prime Crime team who helped craft this book: art director Rita Frangie; interior designer Kristin del Rosario; production editor Stacy Edwards; and copyeditor Joan Matthews.

We salute our agent, John Talbot, for his thoughtfulness, professionalism, and unflagging support.

Last but far from least, we tip our hats to Nancy Prior Phillips, whose courage and optimism has been an inspiration to us.

To everyone else whom we could not mention here by name, including friends, family, and so many of you who read our books and send us notes via e-mail, our website's message board, and the social networking sites, your kind encouragement keeps us going as writers, and we cannot thank you enough for that.

Our virtual coffeehouse is always open. You are welcome to join us at coffeehousemystery.com.

—Cleo Coyle,
New York City

CONTENTS

Berkley Prime Crime titles by Cleo Coyle

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Epigraph

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

CHAPTER THIRTY

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE

CHAPTER FORTY

CHAPTER FORTY-ONE

CHAPTER FORTY-TWO

CHAPTER FORTY-THREE

CHAPTER FORTY-FOUR

CHAPTER FORTY-FIVE

CHAPTER FORTY-SIX

CHAPTER FORTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER FORTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER FORTY-NINE

CHAPTER FIFTY

CHAPTER FIFTY-ONE

CHAPTER FIFTY-TWO

CHAPTER FIFTY-THREE

CHAPTER FIFTY-FOUR

CHAPTER FIFTY-FIVE

CHAPTER FIFTY-SIX

CHAPTER FIFTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER FIFTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER FIFTY-NINE

CHAPTER SIXTY

CHAPTER SIXTY-ONE

CHAPTER SIXTY-TWO

CHAPTER SIXTY-THREE

CHAPTER SIXTY-FOUR

CHAPTER SIXTY-FIVE

CHAPTER SIXTY-SIX

CHAPTER SIXTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER SIXTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER SIXTY-NINE

CHAPTER SEVENTY

CHAPTER SEVENTY-ONE

CHAPTER SEVENTY-TWO

CHAPTER SEVENTY-THREE

CHAPTER SEVENTY-FOUR

CHAPTER SEVENTY-FIVE

CHAPTER SEVENTY-SIX

CHAPTER SEVENTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER SEVENTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER SEVENTY-NINE

CHAPTER EIGHTY

CHAPTER EIGHTY-ONE

CHAPTER EIGHTY-TWO

CHAPTER EIGHTY-THREE

CHAPTER EIGHTY-FOUR

CHAPTER EIGHTY-FIVE

CHAPTER EIGHTY-SIX

CHAPTER EIGHTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER EIGHTY-NINE

CHAPTER NINETY

CHAPTER NINETY-ONE

CHAPTER NINETY-TWO

CHAPTER NINETY-THREE

CHAPTER NINETY-FOUR

CHAPTER NINETY-FIVE

CHAPTER NINETY-SIX

CHAPTER NINETY-SEVEN

CHAPTER NINETY-EIGHT

EPILOGUE

Recipes & Tips from the Village Blend

If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.

—Mo Willems,
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

P
ROLOGUE

Turn back, turn back, young maiden fair.

Linger not in the murderers' lair . . .

—THE BROTHERS GRIMM,
THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM

I
N
the fading light of the dying day, the Princess glided along the tree-lined path, gossamer gown sparkling as if sprinkled with fairy dust. When she reached the Oak Bridge, she stopped.

“This way . . .” the Predator called.

The Princess studied the shadows. Little white teeth gnawed at pink fingernails. Finally, she stepped off the path, onto uncertain ground.

She had agreed to this meeting in the Ramble, the oldest section of Central Park. There were towering trees here and menacing boulders; cloudy streams and historic bridges. Most of all, there were thirty-eight acres of landscape magic—rustic paths that made an entire city disappear.

“Did you . . . did you make decision?” the Princess asked, her sweet voice betraying her Russian accent.

Forcing a smile, the Predator began a practiced speech, telling the girl everything she hoped to hear.

“Thank you,” the Princess replied, eyes filling with grateful tears. With a hard yank, she broke the valuable chain around her neck. A golden key dangled at the end of it. She held it out to the Predator.

“Now that deal is off, please take back.”

The Predator frowned. “I can't take your key, Anya.”

“But you said I was free.”

“From me,” the Predator lied. “The rest is not my business.”

Anya hesitated. Then she nodded and turned to go, content in the belief that at least the deal between them was dead.

Not exactly,
the Predator thought. “Anya, stop! Don't move.”

The Princess froze. “What is problem?”

“Your gown is caught on a branch. Another step will ruin it.”

“Gown is special,” the Princess wailed. “I was told to take care!”

“Don't worry. I'll free it.”

Squatting in the dirt, the Predator pretended to fuss with the expensive fabric. “Princess Pink” is what they called it—more like bubble-headed bubble gum, the Predator thought, for it wasn't the dress that was caught, but the girl who wore it.

“You are so kind to help,” the Princess said.

“Almost done,” the Predator promised, getting the needle ready. Leaning closer, the Predator whiffed the girl's scent. She even smelled like all the others, the cloying perfume of eager sheep . . .

“Ouch!”

“Did I prick you? I'm sorry . . .”

“Is okay,” Anya said. “I am free now, yes?”

The Predator didn't answer, simply watched the sparkling shroud drift away, through the trees and whispering leaves. In mere minutes, shadows would lengthen; the late afternoon breeze would take on a corpselike chill. That's when the drug would do its work, and this beauty—like the troublesome little pet she was—would be put to sleep.

The Predator smiled at a job well done, barely hearing the tinny speakers of the Delacorte Theater, quieting brats with an ancient phrase.

“Once upon a time . . .”

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