One Cup Of Flour Two Cups Of Murder (Winnona Peaks Mysteries Book 2)

BOOK: One Cup Of Flour Two Cups Of Murder (Winnona Peaks Mysteries Book 2)
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One Cup Of Flour Two Cups of Murder

Winnona Peaks Mysteries Series

Book 2

Emily Page

Copyright © 2015 Emily Page

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher

Chapter 1

 

“Why did my cat pick today of all days to jump up on the ironing board?” Lily Smith groaned to herself.  “I mean, I guess I should learn to not put my coffee cup on it while I’m ironing, but there’s just no space in my apartment.  And if that wasn’t enough, after I changed my pants I was
still
looking for my keys.  What a nightmare. I know Vanessa hates it when I’m late, but I just can’t help it.” 

 

It’s hard to believe that this frazzled, but petite, brunette with a tight French braid and high cheekbones was the talk of the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. She wondered sometimes why she chose the life of a baker. Her sister was a C.P.A. and being late meant being stuck in traffic at 8:30 am when she had to be at work at 9:00 am.  Most days, Lily’s shift was almost half over by then.  She knew exactly why she chose the life of a baker.  She loved it more than anything and after getting written up in the
Pastry Press
as one of the up and coming stars, she knew she had to stay focused.  Now, if she could just figure out how to hold onto her keys.

 

What made it worse was that the bake-off was judged later in the day.  Lily had even less of an excuse for being late.  She got to sleep all the way until 4:00 am today!  Lost in thought, Lily parked her car in the huge empty parking lot outside the fairgrounds where they were holding the Winnona Peaks bake-off. The sun was barely peeking over the horizon and she squinted to see if Vanessa was among the shadows walking into the vendor’s entrance.  As she put her car into park, she watched a rabbit scurry across a dry patch of dirt disrupted by some last minute construction on the curb. She got out of her car, grabbed her baking gear out of the trunk and started to jog toward the shadows so she could get inside before Vanessa blew her top.

 

Out of the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of headlights about half way to the entrance. “Hey!”  Lily yelled.  “Watch where you’re going!” She had to jump out of the way of the car coming at her at the last second. The window to the late model car rolled down and Lily softened up a bit. “Oh my gosh, hi! I didn’t see you there. I’m so sorry. I can’t talk right now.  I’m late.”

 

“I know.  Vanessa isn’t too happy about it.”

 

“Well, I’m here now.” Lily shrugged, looking at the vendor’s entrance.  She got an idea.  “Hey! Do you want to go in with me and maybe soften Vanessa up for me?”

 

The driver smiled again. “You know what? I’d love that. I have a full access pass and I can drive you anywhere. You don’t want that entrance. The bake-off is clear on the other side of the fairgrounds. Hop in. I’ll give you a ride.”

 

“Great!” Lily said as she got in on the passenger side. The car sped away and Lily looked up in confusion. “You’re going in the wrong direction. The fairgrounds are that way.” She pointed as she watched the entrance get smaller and smaller. “You need to turn—.” The pain was rushing in her thigh and before she could protest and scream the world went from fuzzy to black.

Chapter 2

 

Christy Roberts didn’t have any guests booked for the weekend at Alfie’s Bed and Breakfast.  Even though it might hurt the bottom line, she was actually looking forward to the small break.  Most days she was moving so fast she barely had time to think. Laundry here, cooking there, occasional small repairs or a trip to the market, but she couldn’t complain. At least running the place kept her trim. Staying slender, together with her auburn hair and the splash of freckles on her nose, kept people guessing about her age. She was grateful to be a slim 45 and it tickled her pink when they thought she was around 30. So far, she was keeping the crow’s feet at bay with the “Eve’s Daughter” creams she purchased down at Barclay’s, the local drug store. 

 

Alfie’s Bed and Breakfast was a family legacy and Christy felt proud keeping the doors open.  Named after her grandfather, Christy inherited it from her grandmother.  Christy and her sister Vanessa grew up running around her grandmother’s feet in the kitchen; there was always a tin of hot muffins for them to snack on after school. Those memories are rare in this mad pace of instant potatoes and Internet ordering for pizza.  That’s why people came to visit Alfie’s Bed and Breakfast; they wanted to remember a slow country morning. She was happy to provide all of her guests with the loving memories her grandmother’s touch provided to her all those years ago. Christy absolutely loved the turn of the century farmhouse to no end. Still, there were times when even though managing it came as naturally as breathing, she had moments when it felt like she was breathing too hard.

 

She was trying to keep a positive attitude in the face of all the rumors circulating about her bed and breakfast. When one of her guests, a wealthy man named J.W. Augustine, was murdered there a few months ago, the tragedy made a big splash in the news. At first Christy had too much business because of all the media wanting to investigate exactly how the murder happened and curious individuals came in droves to check out the location.  There was even talk of filming a T.V. movie at her place.

 

Unfortunately, the media would do anything for better ratings so when one of them interviewed Mrs. Lowenstein down at the local coffee shop, they took her story about Alfie’s Bed and Breakfast hook, line, and sinker.  It didn’t matter that she belonged to the “tin foil hat club.” These are the people that believe in extra-terrestrials.  She was also sure the reporters believed that when Jake Didier spun cookies in the cornfields with his pick-up that they were crop circles made by invaders from Uranus. The local Winnona Peaks Chronicle had the decency to balance out the story about the murder, but the rest of the country thought Alfie’s was chock full of ghosts and invaders from Uranus. Business started slowing down, but Christy decided she was going to just hope for the best and chalk it up to the early fall weather they were experiencing.

 

Consequently, instead of an intense weekend of cooking and cleaning for guests, she was going to take a rare opportunity to sit down for a few minutes each day and do the things she rarely had time for during the busy season.  She would finally have a chance to sleep in until 6:30 am. 

 

Knowing her day was going to be relaxing and all to herself, she decided that after some light dusting, she was going to curl up with a good book and a cup of her patented French Roast.  She was lying in bed considering how delicious and luxurious that extra hour of sleep was going to feel when the phone rang.  It jolted her awake as if she had a bullhorn for a snooze alarm.  With her heart racing, her fantasy, serene Thursday went ‘poof’ in a cloud of dreamy smoke.

 

It was Vanessa, her little sister. “You’ve got to get down here right away!”  She barked at the other end of the line.

 

“Slow down,” Christy groaned.  She rolled over and looked at the clock.  It was 5:57 a.m.  She looked out the window and saw the sun just piercing the horizon.  She flopped onto her back with her elbow crooked over her eyes as she talked.  “What is it?”

 

“You have to come,
now
or I’ll be disqualified and this is the biggest baking event in the Tri-County area!  My business needs this exposure.  Come now, Christy!”  Vanessa half barked and half whined to her older sister.

 

“But where’s Lily.  I was going to―.”

 

“I don’t know!  She flaked.  “All I know is that the rules demand that all pastry chefs have a baker by their side just like an upscale bakery.   I need you to fill in as my baker.  Hurry! Get down here now! Please!” Vanessa begged.

 

“Alright, alright. I’m coming.  Tell them I’ll be right down.”

 

“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you.” Vanessa said.  Christy pulled the phone away from her ear as she heard, “
SHE’S COMING. SHE’LL BE RIGHT HERE―SHE’S IN THE BATHROOM!
” Her sister screamed at somebody at the fair.

 

“Tell me you did not yell to the entire fair that I am in the bathroom.  It will take me about thirty or forty minutes and by the time I get there they’ll wonder if I have irritable bowel syndrome.” Christy said.

 

“Hurry up because I need to get started on the beignets before the cookies so they can rest in the cooler.”  Vanessa hung up and Christy sat up and stretched on the bed.  So much for the good book and the cup of coffee.

 

Hearing Christy’s feet hit the ground, her Pomeranians, Alfie and Snowy, scampered into her room and jumped on her bed.  As Snowy jumped in her lap, Christy giggled as Snowy tried to lick her chin.  “Hey, just because Vanessa is all wired up doesn’t mean you guys have to start acting like your aunt.”   Putting Snowy on the floor she ordered, “Now you two go sit on your bed and I’ll come feed you breakfast.  Go on!”  Snowy hesitated, but Alfie made a beeline for his bed so he could get the treat.  Christy stood up and waved at the door with one hand on her hip and Snowy got the idea.  After getting them their food, she jumped in the shower and got dressed. Christy made a phone call to her old friend Susan. “Hi Susan, I need your help, can you cover Alfie's for me for the weekend?” 

 

“Sure, what's going on?” Sue asked.

 

“Vanessa is in a bind and I need to help her at the bake-off. Plus, I want to make sure that I'm open just in case we have a few walk-ins from the festival,” Christie said.

 

“Hey, no problem. I have the keys so I’ll be there!”

 

“Oh, thank you so much,” Christy gratefully stated.

 

Checking her crow’s feet and lipstick in the mirror by the front door, she called into the kitchen, “You two be good!  I’ll be back in just a little while.”  Closing and locking the door, she made her way down to her car and drove down to the fairgrounds.

 

Chapter 3

 

Vanessa was desperate.  She kept looking at her watch and at the entrance gate.  She was already behind and watching Fiona walk away with her registration and table number nearly made her fly off the handle.  She had to keep it together in front of the judge so she didn’t get banned from the contest for getting creative with frosting all over Nanette Wilson’s face. 

 

Vanessa Jefferson was ten years younger than her sister Christy and most people thought she had bottle rockets strapped to her ankles as a baby since she was always going a thousand miles an hour and most people got tired just watching her.  Looking much like Christy, she had the same splash of freckles on her nose, but her head lit up like a Christmas tree with a shock of flame red hair, which she kept braided down to her waist, except when baking, when she tucked it down her chef’s jacket.  When she wasn’t running her successful bakery, she was out on her motorcycle searching out new recipes to bring back to Winnona Peaks.

 

The only person she slowed down for was her husband, Fred Jefferson, but that was more like saying one of those huge box kites on the beach slows down for the nine-year old child holding the string.  He kept her grounded just enough to keep her from spinning off the planet in her own spaceship, never to be heard from again. When they first got married, Fred said he was happy that she had all the spark. Vanessa loved him to death, but she ran circles around him.  When it became clear that maybe children weren’t going to be in their future, she needed something to do before she went crazy or killed Fred―or both.  He was a tightwad by nature and signing the lease on her bakery almost gave him a heart attack. Seeing how successful she was finally let him quit worrying a little bit, until she took off on her motorcycle again.  She offered to let him ride on the back or get his own, but he decided that golf was more his speed.

 

Running across the fairground, she continued to plead with the judge’s table after she hung up the phone with Christy.  “Yes, I understand the rules, but you don’t understand, my baker is Lily Smith.  You remember Lily from the article they wrote about her in the
Pastry Press
about being one of the up and coming stars?  I just don’t know what―.”

 

“Mrs. Jefferson.  I can’t bend the rules for you simply because your diva baker decided to not show up!  The Winnona Peaks bake-off is a time-honored tradition that brings about the best pastry chefs in the region.  That happens because we have rules and structures and the contestants
abide
by those rules,” Nanette Wilson said to Christy as she stood up and leaned her heavy bosom over the registration table.

 

Her chubby hand clawed a clipboard in her fist and she was waving it at Vanessa to make her point.  Her bulbous nose was hard for people not to stare at and the only thing people knew about her was that other than judging this contest, she had thirteen cats.  Nanette made sure to advertise to everyone that she traveled to a pastry convention in Cleveland annually to become recertified as one of the professional judges.  She was also very quick to point out, while looking to heaven that it was at great personal expense, but that money was not an object because pastries were important.  It was obvious she loved pastries and that she had been a judge for a long time.

 

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Jefferson, but if she is not here by the 7:00 am deadline, then I’m afraid that you and the Winnona Peaks Pâtisserie will be disqualified from the competition.  That is my final word.”  Nanette Wilson sat down and went about looking through other registrations, ignoring Vanessa’s twitching shoulders. 

 

Vanessa stomped away opening and closing her fists, her freckles catching fire from the flush of her cheeks.  Back at her booth, she ducked into her prep tent.  She started banging mixing bowls and whisks and even kicked a bin with flour in it for good measure.  She was so angry, she was about to take a cutting board and smack it across her forehead, but then she finally decided to just take her frustration out on a rolling pin and an unlucky bag of walnuts that she needed crushed for later. 

 

A few minutes later, she was turning the crushed bag into walnut dust and didn’t show any signs of letting up.  She finally had to take a breath.  “I’d say you could take over for the local butcher, but heaven help Winnona Peaks if you ever got your hands on a meat cleaver.”  Christy had followed her sister into the prep tent and knew better than to take her on in mid-swing.

 

“Oh, you’re here!”  Vanessa dropped the rolling pin, snatched Christy’s hand, and half dragged her to the registration table where Nanette Wilson looked up with an apathetic scowl. “Here she is.  Here’s my baker. Christy, this is Nanette Wilson.” 

 

With slow unhurried movements, Nanette Wilson made sure Vanessa knew she was in control by taking her sweet time to find the disclaimer and liability waivers for Christy to sign.  After Christy signed all the forms and handed the clipboard to Nanette (who took an extra couple of seconds to check everything), she reluctantly handed over the booth number and name badges listing them as pastry chef and baker of the Winnona Peaks Pâtisserie.

 

By then, the sun was just past that romantic glow of dawn and starting to heat up the fairground in gentle shades of yellow.  Christy smiled and held out her hand to shake Nanette Wilson’s.  Nanette caught her charm bracelet on the clipboard and awkwardly let Christy grab her clammy fist as if the judge was Queen Elizabeth.  

 

“I’ll be watching you two.”  She glared at Christy.  Just then Cornelia Westbrooke walked by.  Westbrooke Pastries used to be a legend in Winnona Peaks, founded in 1895 by Cornelia’s grandmother.  All that was left of the legend was Cornelia and the town made her an honorary judge in the contest to pay tribute to her family who started the first bake-off contests back in the early 1900’s.

 

“Oh, calm down and leave the poor girls alone, Nanette.” Cornelia said as she gathered up some registration forms from the table.  Cornelia winked at Christy and Vanessa; Christy nodded a brief, “Thank You” smile to her.  A husky man in his late forties reserved judgment with this head cocked slightly in the air.  He followed close behind Cornelia and his bow tie and blazer offered the same durable statement of quality and money as her cardigan.

 

Turning to Nanette, Christy said, “You have a nice day, Ms. Wilson.”

 

By the time they got back to her food prep tent, Vanessa was already five paces ahead of Christy. “What are you trying to do, shaking her hand?  She’s a gross cat lady!”  Vanessa hissed at her sister pulling up her flour bin and the recipe for the beignets.

 

“I was just being nice.  It helps business, you know.” Christy said. “Who was that nice old lady who told her to calm down?”

 

“You know, if you weren’t up at that bed and breakfast morning, noon, and night, you’d know a couple of faces around town.” Vanessa replied, checking some ingredients and then consulting a recipe.  Christy was putting on an apron and washing her hands, awaiting orders.  “That’s Crazy Cornelia. Just don’t say it to her face. She’s from one of the founding families of Winnona Peaks. I guess if you don’t do the contest, then you wouldn’t have reason to know she existed.  Her family bakery is just a dusty old building now.  She still owns the property and lives upstairs.”

 

“Well, that’s no reason to call her crazy.”

 

“The crazy part is that she waltzes around here with the same high opinion of herself as Nanette.  The difference is, Cornelia has never even baked a cookie her entire life.  She’s always going around comparing all the different contestants to her grandmother, as if she was in Paris at a royal wine tasting event.  Grab that bowl over there for me.  If you catch her on the wrong day, then she will go on and on about reopening her family bakery.   That’s actually every day.  What you really don’t want to do is ever burst her bubble about that fantasy.”

 

“Why would anybody want to take her dream away and correct her?”

 

“Nobody wants to take her dream away.  It’s just that you saw how old she is.  She’s droned on about opening that bakery for about a decade and it just sits there and gathers dust.  She doesn’t even bake.  It’s more like she just babbles on about it to make sure people know she comes from baking royalty.  Don’t even get me started about her grandson, Terrance.”

 

“Well, then people should just feel sorry for her and let her be.  What harm is an old woman’s fantasy?”

 

“Losing the contest and your bakery is the harm.  This one baker was in the middle of putting the finishing touches on a macaroon and Cornelia came by and snatched one and wrinkled her nose at it.  The judges weren’t even supposed to be around.  Everyone was frantically putting all his or her goods together for the final inspection. Macaroons take a long time.  It’s a really delicate process and trying to bake one here is a little like trying to land the space shuttle on Jasper Street. The baker got upset and told Cornelia that she wouldn’t know the difference between a macaroon and a horse’s road apple. That baker was blacklisted from the contest and the pastry chef mysteriously lost their customers. That’s why I said don’t get me started on Terrance. He’s the dweeb that was following Cornelia. The family finally gave up on him and passed him off on Cornelia so that someone could keep an eye on her in her old age.  Nobody could confirm it, but he had something to do with all the customers leaving that poor baker’s shop.  They closed up shop and moved to Butte, Montana to open a coffee stand.  Okay. Enough talk.” Vanessa handed Christy a bag of sugar, a pound of butter, and a measuring cup.  “Now cream!” she demanded.

 

“Oh, you can’t tell me that little old lady shut down the baker’s business.” Christy stated.

 

“I don’t know how, but I know she was the reason why the baker got blacklisted from this contest.  She gives me the creeps,” said Vanessa. “Terrance just doubles the recipe on the creepy portion.  He acts just like her about the baking.  The sad thing is that all he does is spout crap he hears on food blogs and cable T.V. shows.” As Vanessa shook her head, she continued, “He just sits around on Westbrooke money and acts like he’s the Pope of baking each year when it comes to judging the contest.  He isn’t even a judge.  He is more like Cornelia’s lap dog,” Christy states. “It makes me a little nervous that she’s on our side. Hand me that whisk.”

 

BOOK: One Cup Of Flour Two Cups Of Murder (Winnona Peaks Mysteries Book 2)
10.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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