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Authors: Leighann Dobbs

No Scone Unturned

BOOK: No Scone Unturned
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No Scone Unturned
Leighann Dobbs
1

L
exy Baker stood back
, tilted her head, and examined the triple-tiered server on which she’d just laid out two dozen freshly baked scone. The scents of orange, vanilla, and apples wafted up from the still-warm confections to mingle with the earthy aroma of coffee that drifted out from her grandmother’s kitchen.

A surge of pride bubbled up as Lexy studied her handiwork. She nibbled the corner of an apple-cinnamon scone, relishing the sweet, doughy taste. Not too sweet and not too spicy. Just enough to tickle the taste buds. Not only were the scones delicious, but the display sitting atop her grandmother’s mahogany dining room table looked lovely, too.

She bent down so that the display was at eye level. She reached to adjust the scones, which rested on layers of thick paper doilies, so that they lined up evenly. On the bottom tier, she’d placed cranberry orange on one side with lemon poppy seed on the other. In the middle, she alternated cinnamon apple with maple glazed. The top tier she loaded up with her specialty—ham and cheese.

Even though the display wouldn’t be seen by any of her customers, Lexy couldn’t help but fuss over the presentation. She wanted her pastries to look as delicious as they tasted. That pride and attention to detail had enabled her to grow her bakery,
the Cup and Cake
, to be one of the most popular in the area.

The scones were test recipes for a brunch catering job she’d landed at the home of one of Brook Ridge Falls’ more affluent citizens, Caspian Kingsley. This was her first foray into catering an entire event and not just the desserts. She wanted everything to be perfect and for the baked goods to be especially delicious. The better things tasted, the more guests who attended the event would be enticed to visit her bakery later on and become regular customers.

The taste testers included her grandmother Mona Baker—whom Lexy called Nans—and Nans’ three friends, Ida, Ruth, and Helen. The four senior citizens were presently huddled around an open window in Nans’ living room, their blue-gray heads bent together, totally ignoring the golden-brown treats on the table.

“The scones are ready for you to taste,” Lexy called out, her brows tugging together as she glanced anxiously at the four women. They delighted in taste testing for Lexy and normally would already be seated at the table, their delicate china teacups steaming with coffee and napkins tucked into the tops of their polyester shirts.

“We’ll be there in a minute, dear.” Nans waved her hand behind her back as if to shoo Lexy away. “We’re just playing with Ida’s new toy.”

“It’s not a toy, Mona. It’s an expensive piece of equipment, and if my grandson finds out I’m doing this, I’ll be in big trouble. So I gotta be careful,” Ida said with some degree of consternation, which was strange, since near as Lexy could tell, Ida’s middle name was Trouble. The woman seemed to thrive on it.

Helen pushed the window up even farther, letting in a blast of warm summer air. “Come on, Ida, don’t be a wuss. Let her rip!”

What are they doing?

Lexy stepped closer to look over Nans' shoulder. Ida held a strange-looking disk with four legs in one hand. It had helicopter-like blades on all four corners and a tiny camera lens on the front. In her other hand she held some sort of controller with an antenna on top, two joystick-like knobs, and a viewing screen.

“What
is
that?” Lexy asked.

“It’s a drone. Some quad-copter thingy. My grandson Jason has it for his real estate business, and I … umm … borrowed it.” Ida glanced at Lexy and winked. “Sort of.”

“Does he know you have it?” Helen asked.

“He knows I
have
it. But he doesn’t know I’m going to
fly
it.”

“You didn’t tell him that you
weren’t
going to fly it though, did you?” Ruth asked.

“Well, not exactly. He asked me not to, and I pretended I didn’t hear him. He thinks I’m deaf.”

“Perfect then. We’ll just send it for a little spin. Technically you didn’t lie to him, and he’ll never know, anyway.” Nans took the drone from Ida, placed it on her palm, and shoved her hand out the second-story window. “Ready?”

“Hold on now, don’t drop it!” Ida clutched the controller, her wrinkled fingers fiddling with one of the knobs.

The blades whirred into action, and the drone hovered an inch off of Nans' palm.

“It’s flying!”

Ida twisted the knob, and it shot forward, careening to the left almost sideways. “Oh, crap!”

She jerked the knob in the opposite direction, and the drone overcorrected, careening to the right. “Poo!”

She turned the knob, more gently this time, and it righted itself then glided forward.

“You got it! Now fly it over the complex. Let’s see who’s out,” Ruth said.

Ida gently pushed the middle knob forward, and the drone moved away. As the drone got farther away, Lexy’s gaze switched to the LCD display on the transmitter, which showed a bird’s-eye view of the Brook Ridge Retirement community as it flew from Nans' apartment through the large complex.

“Look, there’s Glenda Willow’s house.” Ruth tapped the screen.

“And the Millers’,” Helen added.

Below, they could see Vera Gorham walking down the sidewalk in a navy-blue T-shirt and white pants. She hesitated, squinting into the sky toward the drone.

“Let’s spook Vera. Fly lower!” Nans chuckled.

Ida pressed the controller, and the drone zoomed down toward Vera.

“Whoops, didn’t mean to make it go that low.” Ida fiddled with the joysticks, and the drone turned around and buzzed Vera from the other direction, barely missing her and ruffling the top of her beehive hairdo.

“Yeeha!” Ruth yelled as they watched Vera raise her arms to swat at the drone, nearly catching its leg in the process.

“Shoot, I can’t let her break it!” Ida twisted the joystick, bringing the drone higher so it couldn’t be damaged. “Phew. I’d be in deep doo-doo if this thing got busted. Jason paid a lot for it and even got a booster for long range too.”

“How far can it go?” Lexy asked.

“Couple miles, I think.”

“Let’s fly it over to Castle Heights and check out the Kingsleys’,” Ruth suggested. “Lexy can get a sneak peek of the yard where she’s going to be setting up the catering job, and then when she goes there to talk to Kingsley in person, she can be prepared with ideas.”

“Yeah, plus I wanna get an up-close view of how the other half lives,” Helen said.

Lexy watched the display panel as Ida wrenched the controls, sending the drone higher, then jerking to the left, then twisting around awkwardly as it followed the parking lot out onto the main road then toward the more affluent section two streets over.

“Jeepers, Ida, you better take flying lessons,” Ruth chided. They stood there, all eyes glued to the screen, as they watched the drone fly just above the thickly leafed oak trees, its display showing the multiangled roofs of the large, upscale older homes. Castle Heights was an affluent section of town that Lexy thought of as moderately rich. Lots of old money lived there, but it wasn’t gigantic-estate territory. The neighborhood dated back to the turn of the century, and the homes were stately but not enormous. The lots weren’t huge, either, consisting of maybe a half acre or acre, so residents of each house could actually see their neighbors.

“There it is right there.” Nans pointed to a brick home with a front courtyard. “You’d set up in back, I guess, right, Lexy?”

“Yep.” Lexy watched, mesmerized, as the drone descended then zipped around the side of the house to reveal a lush backyard with perfectly manicured shrubs and colorful splashes of flowers along the perimeter. The yard sloped down toward the neighbors’, and Lexy tried to pick out an even patch of ground where she would put the tent.

“What’s over there?” Lexy tapped the side of the screen, wanting to see if the other section of yard would be more appropriate for a tent. Given the size of the house, the yard was a bit of a disappointment. It wasn’t very large, and most of it seemed to be on a slope.

Ida turned the drone around as instructed to reveal a swampy incline that dipped precariously toward a murky pond.

“Yech,” Nans said. “Is that the neighbors’ pond? What’s the house look like?”

Ida zoomed the drone around to reveal the back of an older home whose size was just short of mansion. It was three stories, but the ground dropped off in the back, making the basement a full walk-out and giving it the height of a full four stories from basement to third floor. It was intricately designed, complete with turrets and narrow porches off several of the rooms on the various floors, but the paint was peeling in spots, and the roof shingles were worn.

On the bottom level, large sliding-glass doors opened to a cement patio that housed an outdoor kitchen and unkempt landscaping, all leading to the murky, overgrown pond. Slightly uphill from the pond, it appeared a gazebo was being built. The area was strewn with odd pieces of lumber partially covered by a blue tarp. The gazebo was half constructed—two walls with latticework corners stood at right angles, propping each other up—but the rest of it was in pieces, and the foundation looked only partially poured.

“Will you look at that,” Helen said. “You’d think people with the money to live in this neighborhood would take care of their houses.”

“Isn’t that the house of that reclusive author…what’s her name?” Ruth scrunched up her face.

“Olive Pendleton,” Nans said. “I think it is. Get closer, Ida.”

Ida maneuvered the drone toward the house, keeping to the shrubbery line so as to make the drone as unobtrusive as possible.

“Wait, what’s that?” Lexy tapped the left of the LCD display, where she thought she’d seen something moving.

Ida twisted the joystick, and the drone spun. They all jumped backward as three furry faces with large brown eyes and snapping jaws appeared on the screen. Dogs.

Though they appeared menacing when their faces were taking up the entire LCD screen, Lexy could see that the dogs were just itty-bitty little things, maybe weighing in at about eight or nine pounds and no bigger than her own dog, Sprinkles. One was cream, the other silver, and the third one apricot. They were kind of cute when they weren’t snarling right in her face.

One of the dogs lunged for the drone, leaping two feet into the air.

“Whoa!” Ida jerked the joystick, and the drone zoomed upward with a speed that made Lexy’s stomach roil.

Ida laid off the joystick and turned the drone, angling it to look down at the dogs, who were leaping and snarling at it. “Well, that was a close one. I guess I better not fly so low anymore.”

“Gosh, that sure is a lot of dogs,” Helen said.

“Yeah, and there’s another one on the roof.” Nans tapped the top of the LCD display, and Lexy could see a small black dog that looked like it was trapped in a valley between two peaks on the roof.

Lexy’s chest constricted. “Oh no, I hope it can get off.”

“Look. Someone’s coming out to get it,” Ruth said.

“Zoom in a little closer,” Helen added.

Ida maneuvered the drone for a better view of the upper floor, where a woman had appeared on one of the narrow balconies. The balcony was only about three feet wide and looked to be off one of the bedrooms. Behind her, a sliding-glass door stood open, sheer drapes billowing out.

“She’s going to rescue the dog,” Ruth said. “How did the darn thing get on the roof anyway?”

“How many dogs do these people have?” Ida tilted the drone toward the yard, where the three other dogs were running around, obviously yapping excitedly, though they couldn’t actually hear the yapping, as the video feed had no sound.

“Hey, point that back up to the balcony. Let’s see if we can get a glimpse of Brook Ridge Falls’ most famous author,” Nans said.

“Hard not to be most famous when you are the only one,” Ida snorted as she angled the drone around.

The woman had shoulder-length, curly blond hair and was dressed in a maroon sweater despite the warm summer day. She had her back to them as she stretched precariously over the edge of the balcony toward the dog.

Lexy’s heart lodged in her throat as she watched the woman hitch herself up on the railing, balancing on her hips, one hand outstretched toward the dog, who eyed her uncertainly. They couldn’t hear what she was saying, but Lexy could imagine her making little noises and calling for the dog, trying to tempt him or her over with the treat in her hand. Would she be able to grab the dog without it falling off the roof?

The sheer drape fluttered violently, and a hand clutching a baseball bat shot out from the opening. The bat was raised high in the air, and before Lexy could even register what was happening, it slammed down onto the woman’s head then withdrew quickly into the room, never revealing more than the bat, the hand, and a black-sleeved forearm.

Lexy watched in horror as the woman toppled over the edge, her feet tumbling over her head as she fell four stories then smashed onto the concrete patio face first and lay there as still as death.

“Jiminy Crickets! Ida, go see if she’s okay!” Nans cried.

Ida was rattled. She jerked the knobs, sending the drone speeding toward the ground, where a pool of blood was already spreading under the woman’s unmoving form.

“Look out!” Ruth yelled as the three dogs appeared on the screen again. The cream-colored one leapt into the air, catching the leg of the drone and knocking it off course. Ida twisted the knob, and the drone jerked downward.

“Oh no!” Ida yelled, frantically twisting the knob as the apricot dog lunged to the left. Judging by the way the image on the screen jolted, the dog had gotten one of the legs.

Ida scrunched her face as she rammed the joysticks this way and that. But it was no use. The display was filled with the face of the silver dog. His large, shiny black nose looked enormous.

A pink tongue darted out and licked the screen.

Then the dog opened his mouth, revealing gigantic pointed teeth that crunched down on the drone just before the screen went black.

BOOK: No Scone Unturned
3.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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