The Chocolate Moose Motive: A Chocoholic Mystery

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The

CHOCOLATE

Moose Motive

ALSO BY JOANNA CARL

The Chocolate Cat Caper

The Chocolate Bear Burglary

The Chocolate Frog Frame-Up

The Chocolate Puppy Puzzle

The Chocolate Mouse Trap

Crime de Cocoa
(anthology)

The Chocolate Bridal Bash

The Chocolate Jewel Case

The Chocolate Snowman Murders

The Chocolate Cupid Killings

Chocolate to Die For
(omnibus edition)

The Chocolate Pirate Plot

The Chocolate Castle Clue

The

CHOCOLATE

Moose

Motive

A C
HOCOHOLIC

M
YSTERY

J
O
A
NNA
C
ARL

AN OBSIDIAN MYSTERY

OBSIDIAN

Published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:

80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

First Printing, October 2012

1  3  5  7  9  10  8  6  4  2

Copyright © Eve Sandstrom, 2012

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. Purchase only authorized editions.

OBSIDIAN and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA:

Carl, JoAnna.

The chocolate moose motive: a chocoholic mystery/JoAnna Carl.

p. cm.

ISBN: 978-1-101-60671-1

1. Women detectives—Michigan—Fiction. 2. Chocolate industry—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3569.A51977C487 2012

813’.54—dc23

Set in Stempel Garamond • Designed by Elke Sigal

Printed in the United States of America

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

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.

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

ALWAYS LEARNING

PEARSON

In memory of the great horned owl
who used to glide above Wolf Creek
and of the owlet in the hollow cottonwood

Acknowledgments

With many thanks to Janet McGee, bird expert; to Terry Mayberry of Terry’s Taxidermy; to Kade McClure, managing attorney for the Lawton office of Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma; to Joe Pazoureck, CPA; and to Tracy Paquin and Susan McDermott, wonderful neighbors and on-the-spot experts on Michigan.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24

Chapter 1

It all began when I accidently ran into Sissy Smith at the South Haven supermarket—twice.

Luckily, no one was injured either time.

I had never met Sissy before that day. Our contact began as I was standing in the laundry supply aisle, trying to remember which brand of fabric softener made my husband, Joe, break out in a rash around the elastic of his boxer briefs. A threatening voice rumbled from the next aisle over and aroused me from my musings.

“Sissy,” it said, “I’m going to win, so why don’t you just give up? Fighting the inevitable won’t get you any more money.”

A feminine voice answered, “Money is the root of all evil. Let me by, please.”

That exchange got my attention fast. It was much more interesting than fabric softener.

The man’s voice became deeper. “I have the resources, Sissy.”

“Actually, the quote is, ‘The love of money is the root of all evil.’ It’s First Timothy, but I forget the verse. Let me by, Ace.”

“You’re penniless. You don’t even have a job.”

“Yeah, I guess I should have picked my grandparents better so I wouldn’t need a job. Let. Me. By.”

“I’m not going to let my grandson be raised in a hovel.”

“Sticks and stones. Let me by.”

“I don’t intend to break your bones, but it’s not safe to oppose me, Sissy.”

The guy wasn’t shouting. He didn’t even sound particularly angry. That made his words even more frightening.

“I’m going to get him, Sissy. And if you get hurt, I’ve warned you. I can crush you. And I’m willing to do it.”

The woman quit making her snappy replies. She just kept requesting that the man let her by.

She didn’t sound scared. In fact, she sounded slightly amused. After several more exchanges she said, “What’s eating you, Ace? Have the boys in the locker room been teasing you again?”

I won’t repeat what the masculine voice replied to that, but it began with “You little—!”

Scoffing at the size of this guy’s anatomy had apparently touched a nerve. The masculine voice went on and on. But all the insults and the threats were spoken in this quiet, deadly monotone.

The cold-blooded way the man was insulting and threatening the woman was impossible for me to ignore. And he obviously had boxed her in and was preventing her from moving away from him. I was beginning to be afraid things might get rough.

What should I do? I considered calling a security guard, but I wasn’t sure the store had one. And I considered hauling the store manager into the situation, but I wasn’t sure just what he could do. I thought about calling 9-1-1 on my cell phone, but I’d heard no threat of immediate violence.

I decided my next step was to get a look at the people in the adjacent aisle.

Moving rapidly, I shoved my cart down to the end of the fabric softener display and did a U-turn to the left, into the aisle where the ugly talking was going on.

A slender man jumped aside, and I crashed head-on into Sissy’s cart. At least, I assumed it was Sissy’s cart. There were only two people in the aisle.

I yanked my cart back, pretending to be contrite. “Oh! I do oppose. I mean, apologize!” Darn! My tongue has a habit of getting twisted. Once again it had embarrassed me.

“It’s all right. These carts are tough, and so am I.” Sissy’s voice was still controlled, but it was determined. She was a tiny thing—five-one or -two, small boned, and delicate. Eyes of an unusual sea green looked at me boldly, and a sheet of glossy black hair swung out as she turned her head. I was facing a very striking young woman.

She pulled her cart back a few inches and moved it to her right. Then she went around me, ignoring the man she’d been arguing with. At the end of the aisle she turned left, walking rapidly toward the canned goods section.

I pushed my cart so that it blocked most of the aisle. I hoped this would keep the man from following her, and it worked. I was standing amidst racks of paper towels and toilet paper, alone with the man who had talked in such an ugly manner.

I turned toward him, ready to face a monster. But instead, I saw a handsome man, probably around sixty, sleek and smiling suavely. He was casually dressed—khakis, a knit shirt in a soft blue, and Top-Siders—and his outfit was high-end. His features were regular, and he had a beautiful head of white hair. He had a cart, too. It contained several packages of meat
and some prewrapped potatoes, the ready-for-the-microwave kind single men buy.

He smiled and spoke. “We need collision insurance to navigate this place, don’t we?” Then he spun his cart toward the other end of the aisle and walked away, graciousness personified.

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