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Authors: Laura Childs

Crepe Factor

BOOK: Crepe Factor
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Berkley Prime Crime titles by Laura Childs

Tea Shop Mysteries

DEATH BY DARJEELING

GUNPOWDER GREEN

SHADES OF EARL GREY

THE ENGLISH BREAKFAST MURDER

THE JASMINE MOON MURDER

CHAMOMILE MOURNING

BLOOD ORANGE BREWING

DRAGONWELL DEAD

THE SILVER NEEDLE MURDER

OOLONG DEAD

THE TEABERRY STRANGLER

SCONES & BONES

AGONY OF THE LEAVES

SWEET TEA REVENGE

STEEPED IN EVIL

MING TEA MURDER

DEVONSHIRE SCREAM

Scrapbooking Mysteries

KEEPSAKE CRIMES

PHOTO FINISHED

BOUND FOR MURDER

MOTIF FOR MURDER

FRILL KILL

DEATH SWATCH

TRAGIC MAGIC

FIBER & BRIMSTONE

SKELETON LETTERS

POSTCARDS FROM THE DEAD

GILT TRIP

GOSSAMER GHOST

PARCHMENT AND OLD LACE

CREPE FACTOR

Cackleberry Club Mysteries

EGGS IN PURGATORY

EGGS BENEDICT ARNOLD

BEDEVILED EGGS

STAKE & EGGS

EGGS IN A CASKET

SCORCHED EGGS

Anthologies

DEATH BY DESIGN

TEA FOR THREE

BERKLEY PRIME CRIME

Published by Berkley

An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

Copyright © 2016 by Gerry Schmitt

Excerpt from
Egg Drop Dead
by Laura Childs copyright © 2016 by Gerry Schmitt

Penguin Random House supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin Random House to continue to publish books for every reader.

BERKLEY is a registered trademark and BERKLEY PRIME CRIME and the B colophon are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Childs, Laura, author. | Moran, Terrie Farley, author.

Title: Crepe factor / by Laura Childs with Terrie Farley Moran

Description: First edition. | New York : Berkley Prime Crime, 2016. | Series:

A scrapbooking mystery ; 14

Identifiers: LCCN 2016016134 (print) | LCCN 2016021602 (ebook) | ISBN

9780425266700 (hardback) | ISBN 9781101617571 (ebook)

Subjects: LCSH: Bertrand, Carmela (Fictitious character)—Fiction. | Women

detectives—Louisiana—New Orleans—Fiction. |

Murder—Investigation—Fiction. | Scrapbooking—Fiction. | BISAC: FICTION

/ Mystery & Detective / Women Sleuths. | FICTION / Mystery & Detective /

General. | GSAFD: Mystery fiction.

Classification: LCC PS3603.H56 C74 2016 (print) | LCC PS3603.H56 (ebook) |

DDC 813/.6—dc23

LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016016134

First Edition: October 2016

Cover art by Dan Craig

Cover design by Kate Anderson

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.

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.

Version_1

Acknowledgments

Heartfelt thanks to Terrie Farley Moran, who contributed her energy, humor, and writing to this book. And to the usual suspects—Sam, Tom, Amanda, Bob, Jennie, Dan, and all the fine folks at Berkley who handle design, publicity, copywriting, bookstore sales, and gift sales. An extra special thank-you to all the scrapbook shop owners, bookstore folks, librarians, reviewers, magazine writers, websites, radio stations, bloggers, scrappers, and crafters who have enjoyed the adventures of the Memory Mine gang and who help me keep it all going.

And to you, dear readers, I promise many more mysteries featuring Carmela, Ava, Gabby, Tandy, Baby, Boo, Poobah, Babcock, and the rest of my crazy New Orleans cast. As well as a few
surprises!

Chapter 1

R
ED
rockets arced into an indigo-blue sky and exploded in a thousand points of incandescent light. The crowd at the Winter Market (already lubricated from tossing back multiple geaux cups of fine liquor) murmured a collective, appreciative “ooh” as the flat waters of the Mississippi River reflected mirror images of the colorful bursts.

“This is my favorite time of year,” Carmela Bertrand said. “Right before we head into the holidays, when the weather's cooled down and you can feel the French Quarter literally pulsing with electricity.”

“You sure you're not just having a hot flash?” Ava asked.

Carmela grinned and shook her head. “How old do you think I am, anyway?”

“A year younger than me,” Ava sighed. “Isn't it amazing
how the old
tempus
can
fugit
? It's like living in a game show with a permanent lightning round.”

Carmela had cool blue eyes, hair that was short, choppy, and streaked with honey, and a radiant complexion that was due in part to the industrial-strength humidity of New Orleans. She was smart, practical, and possessed a nimble mind that fairly burned with curiosity. (Yes, the kind of curiosity that killed the proverbial cat.)

Ava, on the other hand, was her dark twin. Masses of raven hair, lush lips, heart-shaped face, and eyes slightly canted to give her an almost catlike appearance. Tonight, her leather slacks appeared to be airbrushed on and her red silk top was cut so low that her generous décolleté seemed like an offering to the gods. Even though she was a few ticks over the age of thirty herself, she dressed the same as when she was a perky, eighteen-year-old beauty queen candidate from Wetumpka, Alabama.

“This turned out to be fun,” Ava said as she stopped at a jewelry booth to admire a small gold skull necklace. “I'm glad we came.”

“Instead of sitting at home, watching Netflix, and eating ourselves into a fudge-and-kettle-corn stupor?”

“Speak for yourself,” Ava said. “You're the one with the tough cop, nose-to-the-grindstone boyfriend who toils nonstop for all us sinners and ungrateful taxpayers. Whereas I could have been swanning around some exotic five-star restaurant with my dear sweet Roman Numeral if I'd crooked my little finger at him.” Roman Numeral was Ava's pet name for Harrison Harper Wilkes III, her latest conquest in a long list of conquests that practically rivaled those of Alexander the Great.

It was early December and Carmela and Ava were taking in the excitement and raucous fun of the Winter Market.
This outdoor celebration of art, jewelry, crafts, foods, and vintage clothing had been set up adjacent to the French Market, its string of flapping canvas booths and gaudy electric lights backing up directly to the dark Mississippi. Hordes of bead-wearing, hard-drinking revelers streamed through the marketplace, while Christmas carolers, stilt-walkers, fortune-tellers, and the occasional fire-eater also mingled in to enliven the celebration.

“Mmn,” Ava said. Eyes open wide, she gestured frantically with her glass of wine, looking as if she'd just swallowed a bug. “Wine. More.”

“Why are you suddenly talking as if you just deplaned from a foreign country?” Carmela asked.

Ava tilted her cup back and gulped a final hit. “Because my throat was caught in drink-swallow-belch mode,” she explained. She fluttered a hand against her chest, let loose a genteel burp, and said, “There. Better.”

“Maybe for you,” Carmela said. “So . . . what? You want another glass of wine? Maybe something spiced?” She steered her friend toward one of a dozen wine vendors.

“Couldn't hurt.”

“Whatcha got?” Carmela asked the wine vendor, a middle-aged man with a heroic handlebar mustache and a red sweatshirt that said
KISS ME I'M CAJUN
.

“Spiced wine, mulled wine, and chilled red wine,” the vendor told her.

“Two spiced wines, please,” Carmela said.

“What's the difference between mulled and spiced?” Ava asked.

The vendor shrugged. “The spiced wine has spices and the mulled wine has mulls.”

“Clearly you're not the vintner,” Carmela said. “Or if you are, we're in big trouble.”

“Nah, I just work here,” the guy said. He shrugged again. “Hey, what are you gonna do?”

“How about pouring us a couple of geaux cups?” Carmela said.

Ava held up a hand. “Just plain red wine for me. Merlot if you've got it.”

As Carmela and Ava sipped their wine, they wandered past booths selling pottery, photographs, beaded bracelets, hand-tooled leather belts, and T-shirts emblazoned with the words
BIG EASY
.

“Quigg's gumbo booth should be down here somewhere,” Carmela said.

“He's here?” Ava said. “Why's that?” They continued to push through the crowd, past a row of food booths that offered po-boys, roast beef sandwiches, fried oysters, and shaved ice.

“Probably because selling food always proves to be lucrative at these events, as well as incredibly popular.”

“You sure about that?” Ava asked. “Because I think I see one of Quigg's customers right now and the guy looks like he's ready to pop a blood vessel.”

Carmela frowned. “What?” Across the way, a booth selling antique music boxes and bronze dogs had caught her eye. Then she turned her attention back to Ava.

“You see,” Ava said, pointing, “Quigg's really throwing shade at that guy. Giving him a piece of his mind.”

Carmela switched her attention to the mini drama that was being played out some twenty feet away from them.

“Are you
serious
?” Quigg's voice rang out. “You actually think you're doing the public a
favor
?” Quigg Brevard, the owner of Mumbo Gumbo, Bon Tiempe Restaurant, and St. Tammany Vineyard, was in the middle of a shouting match. A serious shouting match. His normally handsome face was
pulled into a snarl, his olive complexion darkened to reflect his anger. Two of his employees cowered behind him in a booth strung with lights and papered with colorful menus.

The closer Carmela and Ava got to the turmoil, the more aggressive both parties got.

“You're a hack,” Quigg screamed. “You have zero credibility in this town.”

“And you're a fool,” the man shouted back at him. “A pretender. An
insult
to decent restaurateurs.” The man was forty-something, around Quigg's age, but completely opposite in stature. This verbal opponent, who darted in to deliver insults, was thin and wiry compared to Quigg's broad-shouldered, athletic build.

“You wouldn't know a decent eggs Sardou if it jumped up and bit you in the ass,” Quigg shouted at him.

At that, the man snatched up a large bowl of steaming shrimp gumbo, cocked back his arm, and hurled it into the booth. Quigg ducked just in the nick of time, but the gumbo smacked hard against the back wall.
Whap!
Gumbo spattered the entire booth, dripping globs of roux, okra, and shrimp, and obliterating the red and green sign that listed the various kinds of gumbo. Crab, shrimp, and oyster, to be exact.

“Ouch,” Ava said. “This is takin' on the appearance of a street brawl.”

Quick as a snapping turtle, Quigg leaned across the counter and grabbed the man by his collar. “Get out of here!” he thundered. “Before I rip your fool head off.”

The man windmilled his arms and jerked himself out of reach. “You'll be sorry,” he snarled, waving a clenched fist at Quigg. “You're gonna pay for this.”

“I hope you choke on a chicken bone!” Quigg yelled as the guy spun away.

“Quigg,” Carmela called out. She wore a tentative, hopefully soothing smile on her face. They were friends, after all. They'd even dated a couple of years ago.

“What!” Quigg screamed, not even bothering to look at her.

“Whoa. Quigg.” Carmela walked up to the counter of his booth and held up a hand as if to create an invisible force field against his anger and bad vibes. “Take it down a notch. It's me, Carmela.”

“And me, too,” Ava said, managing a lopsided smile.

“What's going on?” Carmela asked. “Why were you banging away on that guy? Did he wreck your car? Embezzle money from you?”

“Ach.” Quigg snorted and flapped a hand derisively, still looking sublimely upset. “That was Martin Lash.”

Ava glanced in the direction of the departed Lash, who had since melted into the crowd. “Who dat?” she asked.

“You girls know who he is,” Quigg said in a dispirited tone. “He's the jerk who writes for that stupid food website, Glutton for Punishment.”

“Oh, him,” Ava said. “Yeah, I have heard of him.
Vieux Carré Magazine
called him ‘the spicy new voice of foodies everywhere.'”

“And let me guess . . .” Carmela lifted a perfectly waxed brow. The pieces were tumbling into place for her. “Martin Lash gave one of your restaurants a very bad review.”

Quigg's swarthy complexion darkened another couple of shades. “I wouldn't call it a review so much as he excoriated me.”

“Say what?” Ava said.

“He wrote a nasty review,” Carmela explained.

Ava frowned. “Well, that's uncharitable. Especially for a guy who gets to feed his face for free all over town.”

“Lash is a blowhard with an ego bigger than a Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloon,” Quigg said. “Which is exactly
what I was trying to drill into his pea brain when you ladies came along and broke my concentration.”

“It sounded more like you were threatening him,” Ava said.

“So what was the upshot of all your hostilities?” Carmela asked. “Will Lash change his review? Maybe give you another chance?”

“He laughed in my face when I suggested that,” Quigg said. “He told me that Mumbo Gumbo deserved a
negative
two stars.” Mumbo Gumbo was Quigg's pride and joy French Quarter restaurant. So Carmela could understand why Quigg was upset. Correction: change
upset
to
infuriated
.

“There's nothing you can do?” Carmela asked. “There's no recourse at all?”

“Short of blasting him off the Internet I don't know what I can possibly do,” Quigg sighed.

“Apologize?” Carmela said.

“Never,” Quigg said.

“So the bad review just stays there forever?” Ava asked. “Swirling through cyberspace along with Kim Kardashian's selfies?”

“I suppose so,” Quigg said. Now he just looked depressed.

“Maybe it's not that bad,” Carmela said. She was trying to find an upside to this, a silver lining. “People don't pay all that much attention to reviews, do they?”

“Tourists do,” Quigg said.

Carmela grimaced. New Orleans was a tourist town. Nine and a half million people flocked to New Orleans each year to partake of fine food, grand architecture, free-flowing booze, outlandish behavior, and haunted cemeteries.

“And whenever we hand out comment cards in the restaurants,” Quigg said, “customers always mention the reviews they've read.”

Carmela decided to quit while she was ahead. Aside from
hacking the Glutton for Punishment website, she didn't have any sparkling ideas to offer Quigg.

“We certainly wouldn't mind a couple bowls of your gumbo,” Ava said. “
We
know how delicious it is.”

“You're very sweet,” Quigg said, but he was smiling at Carmela as he said it, looking a little wistful. “How you doin'?” he asked, leaning toward her, dropping his voice to a conspiratorial tone. “You still dating that cop?”

“Detective first grade,” Carmela said. When she and Quigg had dated, nothing seemed to spark. Their relationship had been lukewarm at best. Now, every time Quigg saw her, he seemed to salivate over what he couldn't have. Carmela didn't know if all men were like that or just Quigg. Well, clearly her ex-husband, Shamus, wasn't. Whenever they crossed paths Shamus acted like a vampire fleeing a bouquet of garlic.

BOOK: Crepe Factor
11.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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