Authors: Joanne Fluke
Hannah took a tentative step toward the chair. Yes, it was definitely Bradford, and he must have fallen asleep, because he’d dropped a half-eaten apple turnover on the stage floor.
“Wake up!” They’re waiting for you to start the show!” Hannah took a step forward and gave his shoulder a little shake. “Bradford? What’s wrong with you?”
There was no answer and she gave him another shake. But instead of jumping to his feet as she expected, Bradford tumbled sideways and his head hit the floor with a hollow thunk.
Hannah didn’t need the little voice in her head to warn her that all was not well, and she fumbled in her purse for the little flashlight on her keychain. She flicked it on and aimed it directly at his face. Even accounting for the blue LED light that made everyone look ghastly, there was no doubt in Hannah’s mind. She’d wished him ill, but not quite
Bradford Ramsey was stone cold dead …
CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE MURDER
STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE MURDER
BLUEBERRY MUFFIN MURDER
LEMON MERINGUE PIE MURDER
FUDGE CUPCAKE MURDER
SUGAR COOKIE MURDER
PEACH COBBLER MURDER
CHERRY CHEESECAKE MURDER
KEY LIME PIE MURDER
CANDY CANE MURDER
CARROT CAKE MURDER
CREAM PUFF MURDER
PLUM PUDDING MURDER
APPLE TURNOVER MURDER
GINGERBREAD COOKIE MURDER
DEVIL’S FOOD CAKE MURDER
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
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Kensington Publishing Corp.
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Copyright © 2010 by H.L. Swensen, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.
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First hardcover printing: March 2010
First mass market printing: February 2011
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Printed in the United States of America
This book is for Ruel.
Thanks for Breakfast in a Muffin, honey!
Big hugs and kisses to the kids and the grandkids.
Thank you to: Mel & Kurt, Lyn & Bill, Lu & Sheba, Gina, Adrienne, Jay, Bob, Laura & Mark, Lois & Neal, Amanda, John B., Judy Q., Dr. Bob & Sue, Richard & Krista, Mark B., and Suzy & her remarkable Steelie.
Special thanks to my extraordinary Editor-in-Chief and long-time friend, John Scognamiglio.
Many thanks to Walter, Steve, Laurie, Doug, David, and Maureen.
Thanks to Hiro Kimura for the delectable Apple Turnover on the cover.
And thank you to Lou Malcangi for designing the gorgeous dust jacket.
Thanks also to all the other talented folks at Kensington who keep Hannah sleuthing and baking up a storm.
Thank you to my friend, Trudi Nash, for convincing me that she actually enjoys going along on book tours!
And thanks to David for getting along without her while she’s gone.
Thank you to Dr. Rahhal, Dr. and Mrs. Line, and Dr. Wallen.
Thanks to John at Placed4Success for Hannah’s movie and TV spots.
(And for knowing which wires go to which plugs on my computer.)
Thanks to Ken Wilson for remembering everyone at every bookstore in L.A.
Hugs to superb food stylist, Lois Brown, for making my recipes look yummy on T V.
Thanks to Jill Saxton, the best copy editor I’ve ever met.
Thank you to Sally Hayes for sharing loads of recipes and baking stories. Are you sure your real name isn’t Hannah?
Many thanks to Terry Sommers for testing recipes in her Wisconsin kitchen.
Thank you to Jamie Wallace for keeping my Web site,
up to date and looking great.
And big hugs to everyone who sent favorite family recipes for me to try
In a perfect world, Hannah and I would have an extra day every week just for baking.
il death do us part.”
The words echoed in the hushed flower-scented air and Hannah Swensen shivered in her bridal finery. The church was filled to capacity on this Sunday afternoon in early June and sunbeams streamed through the stained glass windows that lined the nave, transforming the dust motes that floated on lazy air currents into bits of vividly colored confetti.
‘Til death do us part.
The words were simple, the sentiment was true, and Hannah knew that marriage was supposed to last a lifetime. But hearing such grave words on this joyous occasion always reminded her of an opening line in a television murder mystery. In the next shot, the groom would kiss the bride and the whole congregation would mirror their happy smiles. Then the camera would pull back, and the music would change to a minor key. Something was about to happen, something ominous. Someone was going to die before the first commercial break, and you could al-2
most bet that the victim would be one-half of the bridal couple, most likely the actor or actress who was lesser known and lesser paid.
But not today and not here in Lake Eden,
Hannah told herself, feeling a bit silly for her dark thoughts on this happy occasion. She could probably blame her overactive imagination on too much work and not enough sleep. Hannah and her partner, Lisa, had put in long hours at The Cookie Jar, their coffee shop and bakery, and their jam-packed schedule was far from completed. They’d baked scores of cookies for graduation celebrations, bridal and baby showers, engagement parties, and school picnics. They’d even baked their signature wedding cookies for this wedding, Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies topped with glittering crystals of granulated sugar and decorated with the initials of the bride and the groom in frosting, enclosed in a frosting heart. Once the reception line had come to an end, everyone would mingle in the church garden to enjoy iced lemonade and The Cookie Jar’s wedding cookies.
Hannah was attempting to count the wedding celebrants that filled the pews to make sure they’d brought enough cookies when a warm hand reached out to clasp hers. The hand belonged to Norman Rhodes, son of the bride, Carrie Rhodes, and one of the men she was currently dating. Norman was smiling and he’d told Hannah that he was pleased his mother was marrying a man they all knew and liked, Earl Flensburg.
As Carrie and Earl turned and began their first walk down the aisle together as man and wife, Hannah caught a glimpse of her own mother’s face. Delores Swensen was a study in contrasts, smiling and dabbing at her eyes with a lace handkerchief at the same time. Weddings always made Delores cry. She’d once admitted to Hannah that she’d cried
at her own wedding and, much to her embarrassment, smudged her mascara in the process.
Hannah followed Norman out of the pew and down the side aisle toward the front doors of the church. “Are you going to stand in the reception line?”
“I’ll congratulate them later when I make the first toast.” Norman waved and Hannah turned to see Mike Kingston, the other man she occasionally dated, standing on the steps that led up to the church doors. He was still wearing his Winnetka County Sheriff’s Department uniform and that probably meant he was still on duty. Mike waved back at them and Hannah and Norman went down the steps to greet him.
“Sorry I missed the wedding,” Mike said when they arrived at his side. “I was supposed to be off work an hour and a half ago, but there was a robbery. You’d think in heat like this, the criminals would stay home and fan themselves.”
“What did they steal?” Norman asked.
“A couple of fans?” Hannah guessed, earning long-suffering looks from both men.
“You’re close,” Mike told her. “They stole a truck loaded with one of those above-ground swimming pools.”
“That’s a pretty big thing to steal,” Norman said. “Did you catch them?”
“Sure. The pool was still in the bed of the truck and they were trying to fill it up in the parking lot at the Eagle. You know where that is, don’t you?”
Both Hannah and Norman nodded. They’d rescued Hannah’s youngest sister, Michelle, from the country-western bar last summer when she’d helped them substantiate a suspect’s alibi.
“They were trying to set up the pool at the Eagle?” Hannah asked him.
is the operative word. Since they didn’t have a hose, they recruited everybody at the bar to carry out beer mugs filled with water and dump them in the pool. Lonnie and I figured it would have taken them at least four days to fill it up enough for a swim.”
“So you caught them and arrested them?” Norman asked.
Mike shook his head. “It seems they were drinking buddies with the owner of the truck. And once they agreed to help him unload the pool at his house, and he agreed to let them go for a swim, everybody went off happy. But I missed the wedding and I’m sorry about that.” Mike turned to Norman. “Give your mother and Earl my apologies, okay? And tell them I’ll see them later.”
“Let’s head out to the Lake Eden Inn,” Norman suggested after Mike had left.
Hannah glanced at her dress watch, squinting a bit to read the tiny numbers. She was used to the big dial on the watch she wore at work where time was of the essence and a minute or two more could turn a boiled frosting into concrete. “If we leave now, we’ll be an hour early for the reception.”
“Good. I want to check my video equipment to make sure everything’s working right.” Norman stopped speaking and frowned slightly. “Did I give you the bag of cat treats and toys I bought?”
Hannah turned to smile at him. “Yes, you did. But there’s enough in that bag for a month and you’re only going to be gone for three nights.”
“I know. It’s just that I’ve never left Cuddles before and I wanted to make sure she had everything she needed.”
“But how about the time Marguerite took her up north?” Hannah asked, remembering the vacation Cuddles and her former owner had taken last summer.
“That’s different. I didn’t leave Cuddles. Cuddles left
me.” Norman was silent for a moment and then he began to grin. “That sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it?”
“Not a bit. I’d feel the same way.”
Hannah reviewed the plan in her mind as they walked to Norman’s car. Once the reception was over, Norman would be driving his mother and Earl to the international airport in Minneapolis where they would catch a midnight flight to Rome. They were touring Italy for their honeymoon, somewhere Carrie had always wanted to go. Norman would see them off and then he’d drive to the hotel where he’d be staying for three nights. On Monday he’d meet up with some friends from dental school who were opening a clinic in St. Paul, tour the building they’d chosen for their clinic, and then they’d all go out to dinner together. On Tuesday he’d attend the grand opening, stay over that night, and drive back to Lake Eden Wednesday morning in time for his first appointment. He’d pick up Cuddles that night after work, and his cat would have almost seventy-two hours to spend playing with her best friend, Moishe.
“Do you think we should check on the cats before we drive out to the reception?” Norman asked.
“We can stop at the condo if you’re worried about them, but I’m sure they’re fine. I filled the Kitty Valet with food before we left and Moishe’s always been a real gentleman about letting Cuddles eat first. They’re probably snuggled up on the couch together, watching the Animal Channel.”
“You’re right. No sense in disturbing them.” Norman opened all four doors of his car to let the heat out before he gestured for Hannah to get inside. “I’ll get the air conditioning on right away,” he promised.
It was a hot afternoon and Hannah was glad that the air conditioning in Norman’s sedan was better than the air
conditioning in her cookie truck. Even if she turned it on full blast, someone blowing over the top of an ice cube would be more effective. Riding in Norman’s well-maintained car was a welcome treat, and by the time they pulled out of the church parking lot, cool air was already beginning to pour out of the vents. “I just
your car!” she said with a sigh, leaning back against the headrest.
The moment the words were out of her mouth, she regretted them. They’d just come from a wedding and that meant both of them had weddings on the mind. It would be natural for Norman, who really wanted her to accept the proposal he’d tendered over a year ago, to say,
Marry me and I’ll buy you one just like it
Just say yes and I’ll make everything easy for you, Hannah.
Did you see how happy Mother was? I’d make you even happier if you’d marry me.
But Norman didn’t say any of those things. Instead, he just laughed. “You don’t love my car. You love my air conditioning.”
“It’s true.” Hannah hung her head in pretended shame. “I’m just a fool for a good-looking condenser and powerful vents.”
Norman chortled. There was no other word for it. It was a sound that was midway between a chuckle and a gurgle and it made Hannah smile to know she’d caused it. There was no greater gift than making someone laugh. People who laughed were happy.
It was a huge party. Almost everyone they knew in town was there, but the Swensen sisters had found each other and snagged a table. Hannah, Andrea, and Michelle were seated at a rectangular table at the edge of the dance
floor. Their mother, Delores, sat at one end, looking no more than a decade older than her daughters.
“And you’re going to fill in at Granny’s Attic while Carrie’s on her honeymoon?” Hannah asked Michelle.
“That’s right.” Michelle turned to smile at her mother. “I’ve got a whole month before I have to be back at Macalester, and Mother’s promised me a commission on any antiques I sell.”
“And an hourly wage on top of that,” Delores amended her youngest daughter’s statement, and then she turned to Hannah. “Michelle will be able to stay with you for a while, won’t she, dear? I’m having the hardwood floors redone and it could take several weeks.”
“Not a problem. Michelle can stay with me anytime she wants.”
Michelle turned to give Hannah a grin. “Thanks!”
“I should be the one to thank
. The last time you stayed over, you made breakfast for me. And the day you left, you stripped your bed and washed the sheets. Not only that, you emptied the drier and folded all my clothes. I
it when you stay with me.”
All four Swensens looked up as a man stopped by their table. It was Lonnie Murphy, the deputy sheriff Michelle dated when she was in town. “Hi, Shelly. Do you want to dance?” he asked.
“I’d love to!” Michelle smiled, got up from her chair, and took Lonnie’s arm. She looked genuinely delighted to be asked as they stepped out onto the dance floor.
Hannah hid a grin. Michelle hated to be called Shelly. It was the name her fourth grade class had given to the box turtle they kept in their terrarium. She’d once told Hannah she thought that Shelly was a great name for a turtle but not for her, and she’d engaged in several hair-pulling
fights on the school playground with anyone who’d dared to call her by that nickname. Obviously things had changed. When Lonnie called her Shelly, Michelle just smiled at him. Hannah figured that must be love, or at least a close facsimile.
“Delores. Just the person I wanted to see.” Bud Hauge approached their table. He owned the welding shop in town and Hannah knew he’d worked on several broken antiques for her mother.
“Bud.” Delores acknowledged him with a nod. “Don’t tell me you can’t weld the rocker on my treadle sewing machine.”
“Okay. I won’t tell you I can’t weld your sewing machine.”
“Bud!” There was a warning tone in their mother’s voice and Hannah exchanged grins with Andrea. Delores had gone to school with Bud and he loved to tease her.
“Just kidding. It’s all ready for you, good as new. I’ll drop it by Granny’s Attic tomorrow morning.”
“Thank you, Bud. That’s perfect. I’d like you to take a look at something else we bought. Have you ever done any restoration on grave art?”
Bud gave a little shrug. “I don’t know. They bring it in, I weld it. What’s grave art?”
“It’s a tribute for a grave, a statue or some kind of decoration chosen by the family. Commonly they’re made of marble or granite, but this one is metal.”