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Authors: Jessica Beck

2 A Deadly Beef

BOOK: 2 A Deadly Beef
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The First Time Ever Published!

 

The Second Book in the Brand New
Classic Diner Mystery Series from Jessica Beck,

the New York Times Bestselling
Author of The Donut Shop Mysteries

 

 

The Classic Diner Mystery Series

Book 2

 

A DEADLY BEEF

by

Jessica Beck

 

 

 

Books by Jessica Beck

 

The Classic Diner Mysteries

A Chili Death

A Deadly Beef

A Killer Cake (coming 2013)

 

The Donut Shop Mysteries

Glazed Murder

Fatally Frosted

Sinister Sprinkles

Evil Éclairs

Tragic Toppings

Killer Crullers

Drop Dead Chocolate

Powdered Peril

Illegally Iced (coming December
2012)

 

 

 

 

 

A Deadly Beef:
Copyright © 2012 by Jessica Beck

 

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 all the diners I’ve
spent time in over the years, enjoying every second of my research!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

It’s
important to remember that we
had
to fire Wally Bain, and if that made
us all suspects when he was murdered the next day, we had no way of knowing it
at the time.  The Charming Moose Diner prided itself on providing good
comfort food at a fair price to the folks of Jasper Fork, North Carolina, and
Wally had not lived up to his part of the bargain supplying us with fresh
fruits and vegetables from his farm when they were in season.

 

Sheriff
Croft had that ‘tough lawman’ look on his face when he walked into
our diner one afternoon a week before Thanksgiving.  Tall, fit, and
looking quite official dressed in his police uniform, the sheriff headed
straight toward me the second we made eye contact.

"Victoria, I need to know about the blowout you had with Wally Bain yesterday."

"What
happened, did he come crying to you about it?" I asked. 
"I’m not sure why he thought it was any business of yours, but,
Sheriff, you should have seen the last load of spinach he brought us.  It
was wormy!"  The season for Wally’s supply schedule to the
diner was just about finished, and we hadn’t been happy with many of his
offerings over the past few months.  We were on a yearly contract with him
that was up for renewal again, and his last delivery of substandard goods had
been the final straw.

"I
heard you shoved him when he was here," Sheriff Croft said calmly.

"That’s
absolutely not true," I said.  "As I was walking him out of
the diner, Wally’s foot caught on a chair and he stumbled a little, but I
never laid a hand on him, Sheriff.  What did he say to you?  Is he claiming
that I assaulted him?"  I held my wrists out, both facing up. 
"If you believe him instead of me, you might as well take me to jail
right now, but it’s ridiculous.  Rebecca will have me out by
lunchtime, and we both know it."  Rebecca Davis happened to be my
best friend, and the fact that she was also an attorney was just a bonus in my
mind.

"Did
you fire him before or after you were walking him out the door?"

"Well,
technically I told him that we weren’t renewing his contract for next
season, but yeah, I guess you could say that I fired him before he made it
outside."

"How
did he take it?" the sheriff asked.

"About
how you’d expect him to react," I said.  "He clearly
wasn’t happy about it, and when he started yelling at me by the front
door, Greg and Moose came running to my defense."  I had been proud
of my family the day before.  Neither my husband nor my grandfather had
even hesitated to act when they thought that I was in trouble.

"So,
now you’re telling me that the three of you ganged up on him."

What
was the sheriff’s problem today?  He was on edge, something that was
out of the ordinary for him, and while his tone of voice wasn’t all that
provocative, his word choices surely were.  "Sheriff Croft, is he
claiming that someone hit him?"

He
chose to ignore my question, asking one of his own instead.  "Was
anyone else here at the diner when all of this happened?"

I
thought about it, and then I realized that we’d been in one of those odd
lulls at the diner that happened from time to time when nobody but our staff
was on hand.

"No,
not a soul."  I thought about it a second, and then I asked,
"Since there weren’t any other witnesses, nobody but my staff and
my family can vouch for what really happened.  I give you my word that
none of us laid a finger on the man, and if he told you otherwise, he’s a
liar.  Bring him in here, and I’ll say it to his face."

"I’m
sorry to say that I can’t do that," the sheriff said as he shook
his head sadly.  "Someone murdered him on his farm sometime between
midnight and noon today."

This wasn’t
good, and I knew it.  "I’m sorry to hear that.  I
haven’t been Wally’s biggest fan lately, but I’ve known him
for years.  How did it happen?"

"Somebody
stabbed him in the chest with a pitchfork," the sheriff said. 
"It wasn’t pretty, I’ll tell you that."

I
didn’t even want to think about how the crime scene must have
looked.  "That’s terrible.  I’m curious about
something, though.  If he was just murdered, how did you happen to already
hear about me firing him?  It just happened yesterday."

"I
pulled him over after he left here," the sheriff admitted. 
"He was going fifty in a thirty-five mile-an-hour zone.  As I was
writing him up, all he could do was complain about you.  Honestly, I
don’t think he even realized he was getting a ticket.  When I handed
it to him, along with his license and registration, all he said was,
"Mark my words, Sheriff.  I’ll get every last one of them at
The Charming Moose.  Just you wait and see."

I
shivered a little hearing the threat relayed from a man who was now dead. 
I knew that I was beyond Wally’s reach now, but I hated the idea of
someone who was that unhappy with me on the day he died.  "To tell
you the truth, I could have done fine without hearing that," I said.

"Well,
I figured that you and Moose would probably be asking around town about Wally
when you found out what happened to him and what he told me, so I thought you
should know his last words, at least the ones to me, anyway."

"Sheriff,
what makes you think we’d try to solve his murder ourselves?" I
asked as innocently as I could.

"Come
on, Victoria.  You and your grandfather have done it before, and this is
too close to home for both of you to just let it go."

It was
true that Moose and I had tried our hands at crime-solving once before, but I
hadn’t even thought about looking into Wally’s murder at that
point.  Then again, the news was still pretty fresh, at least to me. 
"I’m the one who told Wally that he was finished.  Moose
didn’t have anything to do with me firing the man," I said.

"But
you just admitted that he and Greg came to your defense when they heard Wally
yelling at you," Sheriff Croft said.

"They
weren’t going to do anything to him.  They just wanted to make sure
that I was okay," I admitted.

"I
don’t doubt it for a second, but look at it from my point of view. 
You, your husband, and your grandfather all have to go on my suspect
list."

I
realized that it was true from his perspective, but I didn’t have to like
it.  "Hang on a second.  We weren’t the only folks around
town who had a bad beef with Wally."

That
got his attention.  "Give me some names, if the knowledge is all
that common."

He had
me there.  "Well, I don’t know anybody specifically," I
admitted, and the sheriff folded his notebook closed.

"Nice
try," Sheriff Croft said.  "But you’re all staying on my
list."

"It
sounds like we
have
to dig into Wally’s murder ourselves. 
Give us a chance to snoop around a little, and I bet we’ll be able to
find you some other suspects.  You’re going to need them, too, since
none of us touched Wally.  Why would we?  We fired him,
remember?  He might have had a problem with us, but we didn’t have
one with him.  As far as we were concerned, the man was out of our
lives."

The
sheriff shook his head.  "Victoria, he threatened you in front of a
cop.  What if he lured one of you out to his barn to hurt you, and you
stopped him before he could do anything to you?"

"That
sounds more like a motive for self-defense if it were true, but it’s
still reaching pretty far, wouldn’t you say?"  I hated the
thought that anyone could even consider the possibility that I, or someone in
my family, was ever capable of murder.

"If
someone who loved you was trying to protect you by striking out at Wally first,
I can see it as a possibility, and if you’re being honest about it, so
can you."

"Sheriff,
if that were the case, then you’d have to put my mother
and
my
grandmother on your list as well."

When
he didn’t answer right away, I asked, "They’re on there, too,
aren’t they?  You’ve got to be kidding me."

The sheriff
just shrugged.  "I made up the list based on the information I
have.  Do you happen to have an alibi for those twelve hours in
question?  It would make my life a great deal easier if I could start
eliminating suspects, and I’d like to start with you and your family if I
could."

"Well,
I was home in bed with my husband from midnight to five AM this morning, but
only he can vouch for that.  When I got up, I took a quick walk, showered,
got dressed, and I was here at six.  Then I worked my first shift until
eight, just like I do every other morning."

"Where
did you go after you got off here?" the sheriff asked after he pulled his
notebook back out and started taking notes.

"Mostly
I drove around looking for decorations for the diner."

"What
stores did you visit?" he asked, his pen poised over the notebook.

"I
didn’t visit any," I admitted.

That
earned me another look from him.  "How did you plan on buying
anything, then?"

"I
wasn’t looking for turkey posters or paper cut-outs," I said. 
"I wanted some hay bales, some pumpkins, and maybe some cornstalks, and
the best place to find any of those is out in the country."

"Did
you have any luck?" he asked.

"No,
as a matter of fact, I didn’t," I said reluctantly.  Normally
our area was populated with roadside stands set up by farmers to take advantage
of the tourist trade, but I hadn’t had a single bit of luck that morning.

"Victoria, I hate to say it, but it sounds as though you had plenty of time to go to
Wally’s farm, kill him, and then drive back here to work."

I
shrugged.  "I guess you could interpret it that way, but the fact
is, I didn’t do it."

He
ignored that.  "Was anyone with your husband at the house while you
were out driving around looking for decorations?  What time does he start,
anyway?"

"Eleven
on the dot, every day that we’re open," I said. 
"You’ll have to ask Greg for his alibi, because I can’t
supply one for him, but I’d be amazed if he had one."

"But
we do know that neither one of you can alibi the other for the entire
time."

"That’s
true enough," I said, growing more upset by the second.  "How
many people can actually supply you with one, anyway?"

"More
than you could imagine," he said.

"Well,
we’ve probably got a lot more flexibility in our schedules than they do,
I suppose."

"Possibly. 
How about Moose?" he asked me, just as my grandfather walked into the
dining area from the kitchen.  When had he slipped in? 

"What
about
Moose?" my grandfather asked, his voice bold and barreling
as he approached us.

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