Authors: Jessica Beck
First Time Ever Published!
New York Times
Books by Jessica Beck
Donut Shop Mysteries
Classic Diner Mysteries
Burned Out Baker
Ghost Cat Cozy Mysteries
Cat: Midnight Paws
Cat 2: Bid for Midnight
Jessica Beck is the
New York Times
Bestselling Author of the
Donut Shop Mysteries, the Classic Diner Mysteries, and the Ghost Cat Cozy
P and E,
always and forever!
BITES by Jessica Beck; Copyright © 2014
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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.
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The author is not responsible for any
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might arise from following the included recipes.
While there is rarely any true dignity to be found in murder, this homicide
offered less than most.
In many ways, it was unfortunate that the victim had been slain dressed from
head to toe in a clown outfit, from his floppy shoes to his bright-orange
fright wig; the scene was surreal enough without the oversized kitchen knife protruding
from his chest.
At first glance, it
almost appeared to be just another costume prop, but the blood surrounding the
wound was brown and uneven, dampening some of the vividly bright colors of the
costume, and certainly not the fake bright-red stuff normally expected from a
This was where the reality of it all became apparent.
Clearly, this clown had breathed his last, and little did I know at the
time how much one death would change my life in so many ways, good and bad,
“Come on, Jake.
We need to go
right now, or we’re going to be late for the party,” I told my state policeman/boyfriend
as he finished tying his shoes.
It still felt silly to me thinking of this grown man before me as my
Somehow that term felt
better suited to teenagers, and while neither Jake nor I were exactly old, it
had been a few decades since either one of us had attended a high-school dance.
Did they even hold them anymore these
“Hang on a second.
coming,” Jake said as he stood up and straightened his tie.
“Suzanne, I still can’t believe that I’m
wasting my one free weekend a month going to a party instead of taking you
someplace nice for dinner.”
“The library basement is nice enough,” I said, “and don’t forget, they’ve
got a buffet, too.”
Jake looked at me skeptically.
“Maybe so, but I’m willing to bet that it isn’t as nice as Napoli’s, no
matter how much money they’ve shelled out for this party.”
We both loved the Italian food the DeAngelis clan served at Napoli’s
Italian Restaurant, and it was our custom to go there every chance we got, but these
were unusual circumstances.
you know that the police chief’s brother is retiring after thirty years spent working
at the library.
Ever since Momma had married the April
Springs chief of police, his life had become intertwined with ours, and my
mother and I had always believed that in the end, family was the most important
thing of all.
“Fine, but you still owe me a dinner at Napoli’s, and I mean sooner
rather than later,” Jake cautioned.
“I promise,” I said as I finally herded him out the front door.
Jake had put up a smidgeon of resistance
when I’d insisted that he stay with me at the cottage on his first visit back
to April Springs after he’d spent so much time recovering there, but I’d
quickly nixed the idea of him staying anywhere else.
After all, we were two consenting
adults, and quite frankly, it was nobody’s business
he stayed when he visited me.
What we did or didn’t do while he was
there was equally off the table, and I pitied anybody who ever found the nerve
to ask me directly about our arrangements when my boyfriend was in town.
“It’s a nice evening.
we walk?” Jake asked me as we stood on the porch.
“You’re not fooling me, mister.
It’s clear that you’re just stalling.”
“Are you saying that you
think it’s nice out?” he asked me with a ready smile.
I took a deep breath, grinned back at him, and then I said, “On any other
evening, I’d love nothing better than take a stroll with you through the park
to the library, but we’re going to be late as it is.
We’d better take my Jeep.”
Jake grumbled a little, but he got in the passenger side, and I drove us
the short distance from the cottage to the library.
“What’s this man’s name again?” he asked me.
When he was on a case, he could remember
the slightest bit of minutiae, but outside of that, his capacity for recalling
names wasn’t everything that it should be.
“It’s Chester Martin,” I said.
“I’ve known him for years, and all in all, he’s a pretty good guy.
I should warn you about something,
Does he have a
lazy eye, maybe a slight lisp, or is there something else that I need to be
“It’s nothing quite as subtle as any of that,” I said.
“Chester loves kids, mostly because he’s
always been one at heart.
there’s a possibility that he might be wearing a suit tonight, but chances are,
he’ll be dressed as a cowboy or an astronaut instead.”
“You’re kidding me, right?” Jake asked me as I pulled into the crowded
library parking lot.
just say that Chester’s a little eccentric and leave it at that.”
“Okay, let’s just say that,” Jake replied in that calm, measured tone he
used when he was processing new information.
I’d had the privilege to see him at work
a few times in the past, and they had really been eye-opening experiences for
Jake was awfully good at what
he did, though I had a feeling that lately he’d been growing tired of the high
pressure of his job as a state police inspector.
It was totally understandable, as far as
I was concerned.
The cases he got
were the tough ones that no one else could crack, and it definitely wore on him
“I suppose we should go wish Chester well,” Jake said as he got out of
the Jeep and waited for me before we both walked toward the basement door.
“It will be fun.
I was afraid that we were
going to be late, but that turned out not to be an issue after all.
Once we were inside, it appeared that the guest of honor was even later
than we were.
“What’s going on?” I asked Momma as I spotted her standing near her new
husband just inside the library basement door.
It was still hard for me to believe that
she was married again, but since the wedding, she hadn’t seemed so happy in
years, so I decided to do my best to embrace the chief as enthusiastically as I
“Chester is late, as usual,” Momma said with a smile after she kissed my
cheek and smiled brightly at Jake.
I’m going to go
get him in a second,” the chief said as he glanced at his watch.
Glad to see you.
It’s really good of you to come,” he
said as the two men shook hands formally.
“Are you kidding?
have missed this for the world,” Jake said, and to my surprise, he actually
“Would you like
some company rounding him up?” Jake asked the chief.
“Tell you what.
Momma and I go check on him, and you two can catch up,” I offered.
“He’s probably just off in some corner
canoodling with Shelly Graham.
he is, then we’ll find them both.” The chief had been wanting to talk to Jake
about something for quite some time, and when he found out that my boyfriend
would be visiting again soon, he’d made me promise to make it happen.
The things we do for family, right?
Anyway, this was an easy request to comply with, though the flickering
moment of the hurt feelings in Jake’s eyes when I’d suggested it told me that
I’d have a few fences to mend once this was over.
That was okay.
I never minded making up with Jake.
As a matter of fact, quite often it was
half the fun of arguing.
“Who’s this ‘Shelly’?” Jake asked Chief Martin before Momma and I could
“She’s been Chester’s girlfriend for quite a while now.
She owns a lodge in the mountains, but
she’s here a lot, especially since she started seeing my brother,” the chief
“Frankly, I don’t see
the appeal of it for either one of them, but who knows?
Anyway, Shelly’s not here yet, either.
She called me ten minutes ago and told
me to tell Chester that she was running late.
Evidently she’s having a problem with one
of her guests at the lodge.”
“Why didn’t she call Chester and tell him herself?” Momma asked.
Chief Martin just shrugged.
claims that she did, but that he’s not answering his phone.
I can attest to that much myself.
I called him two minutes ago, but he
wouldn’t pick up for me, either.”
We’ll track him
Come on, Momma,” I said as I
tugged on my mother’s arm.
I was a
good fifty pounds heavier and at least seven inches taller than my mother was,
but moving her was going to require some cooperation on her part.
What the woman lacked in stature she more
than made up for with a solid presence that could stop a bull in mid-charge,
not that any sane bull would ever be foolish enough to challenge her.
“We’ll be right back,” my mother said to her husband, and then she turned
“Suzanne, we don’t have far
Chester must be upstairs in
the main part of the library.
least that’s where he’s supposed to be.”
Momma and I walked up the steps together and entered the main floor of
I’d expected it to be
well lit, but only the emergency lights were on upstairs.
“Chester, it’s Dot and Suzanne,” my mother called out.
“Are you decent?”
There was no response.
“Chester!” Momma repeated, quite a bit louder this time.
“Maybe he’s not here,” I told her.
“Perhaps,” Momma answered, but instead of going back to rejoin the others
in the basement, she headed up the narrow staircase to the second-floor offices
that overlooked the rest of the library.
“I’ve never been up here before,” I told Momma as we climbed the steps.
“We have our board meetings in the conference room here every month,”
I’d forgotten that she
served on the library board, since she participated in so many civic activities
“How do you find the time to do so many different things in April Springs?”
I asked her as we approached a closed door at the landing on the top floor.
“I run the donut shop seven days a week,
and I barely have time for a life outside of that at all.”
“The secret is that I never promise too much to any one group,” Momma
said with a smile, and then she turned and rapped loudly on the door.
You’re missing your own party!”
It would have awakened anyone but the deepest sleeper, but there was
still no response.
“I’m telling you, I don’t think he’s here,” I said as I tried the door
handle and found that it was locked.
Where else would
he be tonight of all nights?”
Momma reached into her purse and pulled out a key.
“They actually gave you a key to the place?” I asked her as she started
to unlock the door.
“Why else do you think I’d ever agree to serve on their board?” she asked
with the hint of a smile.
I want something to read and it’s late at night when the library is closed?”
“You could always just download a book on your e-reader, like most normal
folks do,” I said.
“I could, but think of what fun I’d miss out on here if I did that.
Suzanne, you haven’t lived until you’ve
browsed through these stacks alone long after everyone else has gone home.”
It sounded like fun at that.
“The next time you do it, call me so I can come, too,” I said.
“It would be my pleasure,” Momma said, and then she turned the key and
opened the door.
The room was quite dark, but that ended the moment I reached out and
flicked on the light switch.
There is still a part of me that wished I’d left that switch turned off.
Looking down at the floor, we saw Chester Martin, the
never-to-fully-retire librarian, replete in his clown outfit, a knife sticking
straight up from his chest, and without a doubt, most sincerely and positively