Authors: G. A. McKevett
Tags: #Cozy Mystery
Books by G.A. McKevett
Sugar and Spite
Peaches and Screams
Death By Chocolate
Murder à la Mode
Published by Kensington
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850 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10022
2006 by G.A. McKevett and Kensington Publishing Corporation
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Library of Congress Card Catalogue
First Printing: May 2006
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Lovingly dedicated to
Your smiles and laughter
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What a miracle you are!
I would like to thank Joyce
and Lloyd Eaton for the title,
Their wit, love, and
loyalty never fail to amaze and amuse, year after year. What special, precious
people you are!
Also, I want to thank all
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encouragement. I enjoy your letters more than you know. I can be reached at:
anna go watch Loco Roco?”
“I’ll be there in ten.”
“There” was the Patty Cake
Donut Shop, which frequently served as a meeting spot for Savannah Reid and her
old buddy, Dirk. Police work could be lonely when nobody in the department was
willing to be your partner. And Detective Sergeant Dirk Coulter was frequently
a lonely man.
But generally not for long.
Now a private detective,
Savannah had once been his partner in another lifetime... before she and the
San Carmelita PD had parted ways under less than amiable circumstances. And
once in a while, when she “got a yen,” as her Southern granny would say, for an
old-fashioned stakeout, she accepted one of his invitations.
He invited her constantly.
He enjoyed her company and the homemade snacks she frequently brought along to
fuel the long, tedious hours. She accepted once in a while... when there were
no good forensic shows on TV and no unread romance novels on her nightstand.
But she always accepted
when the subject was Loco Roco.
She was every bit as
determined as Dirk to catch that lowlife doing something illegal, immoral, or
fattening and put him back in the joint where he belonged. Roco had made a
lifelong career of robbing convenience stores and on his last job had
pistol-whipped a clerk into a coma. With Savannah’s help, Dirk had arrested
him, only to have the most serious charge thrown out on a technicality:
They’d never gotten over
the disappointment that Roco was back on the street after only eighteen months.
They knew it was just a matter of time until he lapsed into his old pattern,
and they intended to be there when he fell off the wagon and violated his
They had been watching Loco
Roco for weeks. So far, he hadn’t even jaywalked or spit on the sidewalk. To
their consternation, he was Mr. Law-Abiding Citizen, while his latest victim
was still in physical therapy, relearning how to walk. But Savannah and Dirk
weren’t the sort to give up easily.
And that was why Savannah
arrived at their rendezvous spot in eight minutes rather than the estimated
When she pulled into Patty
Cake’s parking lot, she found Dirk sitting in his old battered Buick Skylark in
the rear near the alley. She knew the drill. He was waiting to see if she had
brought any cookies, pie, brownies, or cake before he went into Patty’s.
Cheapskate that he was, he was hoping he’d only have to buy coffee. His
mood—which usually wavered between morose and sullen—would plummet when she
emerged from her classic Mustang, bagless.
Her company didn’t come
cheap. The scintillating conversation, the benefit of her vast law-enforcement
experience, the occasional slap upside his head to keep him awake... it all had
a price. And the cost was two maple bars... or a giant chocolate-frosted Boston
cream if she was in the throes of PMS.
He rolled down his window
as she approached the Buick, a scowl on his face.
“No fried apricot pies?”
“You ate them all when you
were over Saturday night,” she said as she opened the passenger’s door and
brushed some Taco Bell wrappers off the seat and onto the floor.
“That was two nights ago.
You’ve had plenty of time to make some more.”
She slid in next to him and
fixed him with a baleful eye. In her thickest Georgia drawl, she said, “Ye-eah,
buddy... and I’ve had time to go clean that filthy house trailer of yours, wash
your pile of dirty laundry, and perform an unnatural sex act on you that I’m
sure you’d just love. But we both know none of that’s
so go get me some donuts, boy. Two maple bars
a Boston cream. And
make it snappy!”
Dirk’s jaw dropped. “
“Now you’re just bein’
She grinned and winked at
him. “You think?”
Half an hour later they
were parked across the street from Burger Bonanza, watching the rear door of
the fast food joint, waiting for a skinny, grungy thirty-year-old named Roco
Tessitori to exit.
“How sure was his parole
officer that he’s going to get fired tonight?” Savannah asked as she licked the
chocolate frosting off her fingertips.
“Sure, sure. The manager
here called the P.O. this morning and said he was gonna let Loco go as soon as
his shift’s over. Said he’s been late every day, doing next to nothing on the
job, and he threatened one of the girls who works here. The manager figures his
public service obligation’s been fulfilled. He’s done hiring ex-cons.”
“And you figure our buddy’s
going to take his firing hard and go off the deep end?”
Dirk smiled, a nasty little
grin that Savannah knew all too well. “Oh yeah. Loco’s pretty predictable. When
things don’t go his way, he reverts to his old way of life. And besides, I’m
feeling particularly lucky. I got two out of five on a Lotto scratch-off card
Savannah shot him a
sideways glance to see if he was serious. He was.
She decided not to mention
that getting two out of five on a scratch-off was an everyday occurrence for
most Lotto enthusiasts. No point in dampening Dirk’s cheerful mood which for
him was as rare as getting all five on a scratch-off card... while sitting
naked on the back of a bull elephant... under a blue moon.
She took the last bite of
her Boston cream and washed it down with her last sip of coffee. Okay. The food
was gone; it was time for this stakeout to end.
“So,” she said, “you figure
he’ll knock off another convenience store before the night’s out?”
He took the empty donut
bag, crunched it into a ball, and tossed it onto the back floorboard. “Tonight.
Tomorrow night. Next Tuesday. It’ll happen, and it’ll be worth the wait. After
all, I’m a very patient man.”
Savannah sniffed. “Yeah,
right. This from a guy who has a conniption if he has to wait three seconds for
a light to turn green, who pitches a fit if a waitress takes longer than five
seconds to refill his coffee cup, who—”
“All right, all right. I...
hey... heads up.”
He pointed to the back door
of the burger joint, where their quarry had just emerged, wearing a bright red
uniform with the white “BB” Burger Bonanza logo on the back. Roco stomped
across the parking lot to an old, decrepit Chevy. Opening the trunk, he peeled
off the shirt and pitched it onto the ground.
“The boy looks downright
disgruntled to me,” Savannah said
with a snicker.
“Oh, he’s had better days,”
They watched as the guy
dropped the red pants, kicked off his shoes, and yanked the trousers off his
“Well, would you get a load
of that,” Savannah said. “Right down to his bloomers, here in front of God and
“I oughta bust him for
exposin’ himself right now,” Dirk replied.
Savannah took a pair of
binoculars from the glove box and focused them on Roco’s rear end. “Or for
wearing those briefs. They say ‘kiss me under the mistletoe’ and Christmas was
two weeks ago. That’s gotta be some sort of fashion felony.”
Roco had thrown the pants
onto the ground beside the shirt, then retrieved a pair of jeans from the
trunk. In less than a minute, he was wearing the jeans and a black sweatshirt,
and his sneakers were back on his feet.
As Roco got into his car,
Dirk restarted the Buick and Savannah fastened her safety belt, happy for a bit
of action. If there was anything she hated it was a boring stakeout once the
goodies were gone.
A few seconds later, Roco
peeled out of the parking lot, going out of his way to drive over the discarded
uniform. They followed him onto the freeway, where he chose the northbound
“He lives south of here,”
Dirk smiled. “I know. Like
I said, I’m feeling lucky tonight.”
“I don’t know what to make
of this,” Dirk said as Roco disappeared inside Kidz Emporium. Having followed
him to a strip mall on the outskirts of town and the large toy store, they had
parked a discreet distance away and watched as he entered the establishment.
Savannah shrugged. “Do you
figure he’d go shopping for a nephew’s or niece’s birthday or whatever, right
after getting fired from a job he badly needed?”
“Can’t imagine it. Maybe he
needs a video game to while away the idle hours now that he’s unemployed.”
Savannah got out her cell
phone and called information, then dialed the store’s number. “Security,
please. Yes, hello. I’m with the San Carmelita Police Department”—she gave Dirk
a sideways smirk—“and I was wondering if you could discreetly surveil a
gentleman who’s just entered your store and let us know what he purchases, if
anything. Yes, Caucasian, thirty, black hair, dark eyes, six feet, one hundred
and forty pounds, jeans and black sweatshirt. Sure. I’ll hold. Thanks a bunch,
A few minutes later,
Savannah thanked the security guard again, tossed the phone back onto the dash
and chuckled. Elbowing Dirk in the ribs, she said, “You’re right, big boy.
Today’s your lucky day. You’re not gonna believe what that moron just bought.”
Fifteen minutes later, they
were still sitting in the car, but this time they were parked at the outer edge
of a convenience store’s lot. Roco was standing beside his car, fumbling with
the small orange bag he had carried out of the Emporium.
“He’s going to do it,”
Savannah said. “He’s crazier than I thought. He’s actually going to try to
knock over a Quick Stop with a toy gun.”
“I guess he’s got some
urgent bills to pay and can’t take time to score a real piece on the street.”
Dirk shook his head and laughed. “Fine with me. Now I can let him go through
with it and hang himself good before I have to intervene. Hell, he can’t even
give a clerk a decent pistol-whipping with a toy gun.”
Roco tucked the plastic
pistol into the front of his jeans, pulled his shirttail over it, and strode
toward the store’s entrance. Savannah and Dirk checked their own weapons in
their shoulder holsters and got out of the car the moment he disappeared
In seconds they were at the
front door. They looked through the glass, ready to duck if he was facing their
way. Having arrested him before, they were sure he’d recognize them on sight,
and this was one crime they didn’t want to interrupt... at least, not at first.
Timing was everything.
They slipped inside
unnoticed and made their way along the wall that was lined with soda-filled
refrigeration units. Savannah glanced down each aisle they passed, but other
than Roco and the elderly lady behind the counter the store appeared empty.
Roco was hanging out by the
candy display, making a show of choosing some gum. With a couple of packs in
hand, he made his way to the front.
Weapons drawn, but pointed
at the ceiling, Savannah and Dirk followed him.
He approached the clerk and
slapped the gum onto the counter-top. “Gimme these,” he barked.
The clerk was a petite,
silver-haired woman with bright blue eyes that narrowed at hearing his rough
tone. “And will that be all?” she asked with forced courtesy as she rang up the
“No, that ain’t all.” He
reached into his waistband and pulled out the toy weapon. Pointing it at the
woman’s head, he said, “Gimme the money in that register, too, while you’re at
it. And hurry up about it, too, or I’ll blow your fuckin’ face off.”
For a moment, Savannah had
a horrible thought: What if the old lady died of sheer fright? What if she had
a heart attack and dropped dead then and there?
Maybe they should have
intercepted him before he’d gotten this far!
But over Roco’s shoulder
she could see the woman’s face and the hot fire of anger that leapt into the
elderly lady’s eyes. Savannah decided not to worry about this one. She had seen
that look in her own Granny Reid’s eyes, and she knew this woman wasn’t one to
be scared to death... literally or even figuratively.
She felt Dirk tense beside
her. He was ready to make his move.
She lowered her gun and
trained it on Roco’s back.
She wouldn’t take the shot.
Not with the clerk also in her line of fire. But Roco wouldn’t know that.
In her peripheral vision
she saw Dirk do the same. In another second, he would announce and then they
The explosion shook the
store, and Savannah felt its reverberations throughout her entire body. Her
ears rang as her brain tried to process. Instinctively, she dropped to one knee
and ducked her head, her Beretta still pointed at Roco.
She knew the sound all too