Read Evil Eclairs Online

Authors: Jessica Beck

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths, #Cozy, #Amateur Sleuth

Evil Eclairs

BOOK: Evil Eclairs
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Between the optimist and pessimist, the difference is droll. The optimist sees the doughnut, the pessimist, the hole!

—Oscar Wilde

 

CONTENTS

Title Page

Epigraph

Map

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Teaser

St. Martin’s Paperbacks Titles by Jessica Beck

Praise for the Donut Shop Mysteries by Jessica Beck

Copyright

 

CHAPTER 1

Owning and running a donut shop is not for the faint of heart. If I’m going to get anywhere close to the minimum six hours of sleep I need before I get up at one
A.M.
every morning, I have to be in bed by seven every night.

Tonight I’d pushed my bedtime back too far and I knew I’d pay for it in the morning. As I drifted off to sleep just after eight, I heard the name of my donut shop mentioned on the radio. That was odd, since I had never been able to afford even their low advertising rates to tout my specialty donut and coffee shop.

Then I realized that Donut Hearts wasn’t being described with any affection. Lester Moorefield, the local news jockey on WAPS, was broadcasting another of his diatribes, and this time, I was evidently his target. His show ran in the morning, but his editorials were always done at night.

“Donuts are a perfect example of how we are slowly killing ourselves. To give you just one instance, I sat in my car across the street from Donut Hearts this morning, and in one hour, I saw countless overweight or downright obese people stumbling out of the place with glazed looks on their faces and powdered sugar on their lips. Suzanne Hart feeds this sickness within her customers, catering to their base cravings like some kind of dealer. Her products are toxic, deadly dough, if you will, and we in the community need to take a stand. I propose that over the next seven days, the citizens of April Springs, and all within the sound of my voice in North Carolina, boycott this shop, and others of its ilk, and stand up to those who would enslave us with their tempting but fatal offerings.”

Suddenly I was wide awake.

*   *   *

Momma was sitting by the radio downstairs, and from the expression on her face, she hadn’t missed a word of Lester’s diatribe, either. I’d barely taken the time to throw on some sweatpants and an old T-shirt before I’d raced downstairs.

“That man is a menace to society,” she said. “Someone should stop him.” Though my mother was physically slight, barely five feet tall, she more than made up for it with her fierce spirit.

“He’s gone too far this time,” I agreed as I threw on my running shoes. I wouldn’t win any Best Dressed awards for my ensemble, but I wasn’t about to take time to consider my wardrobe.

“What are you doing?” Momma asked.

“Isn’t it obvious?” I asked as I struggled with one shoelace that had somehow managed to knot itself into a mess. “I’m going to go see him at the station.”

“Suzanne, don’t do anything reckless.”

“Why not?” I asked. I was about to get a knife to cut the lace’s knot when it started to come loose of its own accord. “In a situation like this, sometimes that’s exactly what’s called for.”

Momma stood and looked at me. “One thing I learned early on; you should never pick a fight with a lawyer or someone who has their own bully pulpit. I don’t like it any more than you do, but if you leave Lester alone, tomorrow he’ll move on to his next victim and you can go about your business.”

There, the knot came free. “Momma, too many people roll over and play dead for that man. Well, not me. If he wants a fight, he’s got one.”

I grabbed my jacket as I started for the door. It was early April, and the weather could be chilly in the evening but still have a hint of real warmth in the middle of the day.

Momma stood and reached for her own coat.

I stopped in my tracks. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“With you, of course,” she said, clearly puzzled by the question.

“Momma, I love you with all my heart, but this is my battle, not yours.”

I may have tweaked her a little with the declaration, but it had to be said. I’d given up a great deal of my independence when I’d moved back in with her after my divorce from Max, and I found myself reverting to old habits sometimes. But I had to do this by myself. I was a grown woman, able to fight my own wars.

Her jacket went back on the rack, and I found myself trying to soften the blow. “I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but I have to do this alone. You understand, don’t you?”

“Suzanne, of course you’re right. Sometimes I forget that you’re a not a child anymore.”

“A small part of me will always be your little girl. You know that, right?”

She looked pleased by my comment. “You should go now so you can catch him in the act. It’s like housebreaking a puppy. If you don’t point out the mistake to them right away, they’ll never learn.”

“I’ll rub his nose in it, all right,” I said with a grin. “Wish me luck.”

She smiled at me. “I have a feeling it’s Lester, not you, who will need the luck.”

“I believe you’re right.”

I got into my Jeep and drove to the radio station on the outskirts of April Springs. As I started on my way across town, I passed Grace Gauge’s place. Grace and I had grown up together, and she’d been my best friend just about my entire life. We’d stayed close, and the years had done nothing to loosen our bond.

And then I came to Donut Hearts. It was odd seeing my old converted train depot this time of night. I always felt a tug when I saw the place. I’d bought my shop almost as a whim on the heels of my divorce from Max, but it had been the best stroke of luck I’ve ever had in my life. The shop kept me busy, alive, and connected to the world around me. It also made it tough to feel sorry for myself after my marriage fell apart. In truth, I was just about too busy to notice.

I drove past the town clock, and soon enough, I saw the police station. I thought of Jake Bishop when I did. He was an investigator for the state police, and had recently added being my steady boyfriend to his résumé. We’d endured some rocky moments in our relationship from the start, but since the previous Christmas, we’d managed to overcome most of them. I knew that he’d done his best to get over his late wife, and I was glad that I’d been patient until he was ready to move on with his life.

Jake was turning out to be worth the wait, after all.

Soon enough, I was in the parking lot of our local radio station, WAPS. I’d feared for a moment that Lester had taped his editorial, since he had a live program he broadcast every morning, but luckily for me, his car was in the parking lot, along with another that had to belong to his producer. I’d never been a fan of Lester’s, but I really liked Cara Lassiter. She’d helped me before when I’d had trouble with Lester, and I was in fact surprised she hadn’t warned me about what was coming.

I knocked on the door, and I saw the TV camera above it swing around to me.

“Cara, it’s Suzanne.”

The door buzzed, and I walked into the building.

She met me before I managed to get three paces inside. “Suzanne, I would have warned you about what he was doing, but I had no idea who he was skewering tonight. By the time I could have called you, it would have been too late to do anything about it, and he would have fired me in the bargain.”

“I don’t have a problem with you,” I said. “Where is he?”

She looked around the small station. “I don’t know; he was right here a second ago. He just signed off the air for the night.”

I looked into the broadcasting booth, and then his small but neat office. It, too, was empty. “Where is he, then?”

“If I had to guess, I’d say that he’s probably on his way out to grab a quick smoke.”

I looked back the way I’d come. “I didn’t see him go out.”

“He uses the employee entrance. Suzanne, you can’t win with him, you know that, don’t you?”

“Maybe not, but I’m not just going to take it.”

I started for the door. “Care to come with me? You can be a witness.”

Cara grinned at me. “I’d love to, but if he knew I was watching you ream him out, he’d fire me for sure.”

“I understand. Maybe you can watch on the security camera.”

I went out the door, and sure enough, there was Lester, leaning against his car with a glowing cigarette in his hand. With the streetlight across the way, I could see him just fine. Lester was a tall and lean man, with a sharp nose and eyes that didn’t miss much. His hair was greased back with some kind of product, and he wore a suit that hadn’t been in style for years.

Why did he not look at all surprised to see me?

Of course, my Jeep was parked right there beside him.

I’d have given anything to wipe the smug look off his face. He said, “I was wondering if you heard my broadcast. What did you think?”

“You are a coward and a weasel, and I’m going to sue you for what little you must have for what you just said.” I tried to keep my voice calm, but it was more than I could manage. At least I wasn’t yelling. Not yet, anyway.

My words brought a smile to his face. “Take your best shot. I’m protected by the First Amendment,” he said.

“Not if you’re lying.” I was moving closer to him now, and my temper was starting to assert itself.

“What did I say in that editorial that wasn’t true?” There was an edge in his voice as well now. It was clear that he was no longer amused by my reaction. Good, that made two of us. “Suzanne, you sell death, and you know it. Heart disease is a mass murderer in this country, and you’re part of the reason it’s so prevalent.”

“Seriously? You’re actually blaming me for heart attacks?”

“Don’t play innocent with me. You contribute to the problem,” he said, jabbing his cigarette at me as if it were some kind of knife. “I wasn’t lying. I saw what your customer base looked like today.”

“Donuts don’t kill people,” I yelled. “I’m the first to admit that no one should eat them every day, but there’s nothing wrong with a treat now and then. Skinny people come to my shop, too, and I know a lot of them did throughout the day today. Did you see them and choose to ignore them, or were you even there?”

“The heavyset outweighed everyone else,” he said, pointing at me with his cigarette again.

“What about your cigarettes? Don’t you think they’re killers?”

“We’re talking about donuts, remember? You might as well give up. I’m not about to back down from what I said tonight.”

I got up in his face this time. “This isn’t over.”

I heard Cara from a few feet away. How long had she been standing there? She looked as though she wanted to die as she spoke. “Lester, you’ve got a call from Mr. MacDonald.”

BOOK: Evil Eclairs
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