Authors: Cleo Coyle
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Cleo Coyle
ON WHAT GROUNDS
MURDER MOST FROTHY
RDER BY MOCHA
TO A KILL
ONCE UPON A GRIND
Haunted Bookshop Mysteries writing as Alice Kimberly
THE GHOST AND MRS. Mc
THE GHOST AND
THE DEAD DEB
OST AND THE DEAD MAN
AND THE FEMME FATAL
THE GHOST AND THE
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Copyright Â© 2014 by Penguin Group (USA) LLC.
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eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-13738-7
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Once upon a grind / Cleo Coyle.âFirst edition.
pages ; cm.â(A coffeehouse mystery ; 14)
ISBN 978-0-425-27085-1 (hardcover)
1. Cosi, Clare (Fictitious character)âFiction. 2. Women detectivesâFiction. 3. CoffeehousesâFiction. 4. MurderâInvestigationâFiction. I. Title.
Cover illustration by Cathy Gendron.
Cover design and logo by Rita Frangie.
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.
There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.
This book is dedicated to the memory of Turtle, a little New York stray who brought joy to our lives for nineteen years. She sat on my lap through the writing of every tale in that time, including this one.
Once Upon a Grind
marks the fourteenth entry in our Coffeehouse Mysteries, and Marc and I thought it fitting that a fairy-tale mystery set in New York City should begin in Central Park, a storybook world unto itself. From the towers of Belvedere Castle to the Ramble's shadowy woodland, the Park's eight-hundred-plus acres operate under the care of the Central Park Conservancy, and we thank them for answering our questions, and more importantly for the work they do in preserving our nation's first major landscaped public park. To learn more, visit them at centralparknyc.org.
Our interaction with New York's Finest has been nothing but the finest, and we thank them for providing answers to our questions, especially about the NYPD's Mounted Unit. As to the Ps and Qs of police procedure, this is a light work of amateur sleuth fiction. In the Coffeehouse Mysteries, the rules occasionally get bent.
The rest of the research behind
Once Upon a Grind
emerged from our decades of living and working in New York City. Although the Queen Catherine CafÃ© is fictional, you can visit two places that inspired it: Seher (aka Old Bridge/Stari Most) in Astoria, Queens; and Bosna Express in Ridgewood, Queens. You can also visit the Papaya King's original hot dog shop on Manhattan's Upper East Side (papayaking.com); go to a poetry slam at the Nuyorican Poets CafÃ© on the Lower East Side (nuyorican.org); and even try Gardner's favorite chicken and waffles plate at Amy Ruth's in Harlem (amyruthsharlem.com).
The staff at Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime is among the best in the business, and we sincerely thank them for shepherding this tale into publication.
We send special thanks to Wendy McCurdy, our longtime editor, whose ongoing encouragement and trust in us has kept us writing. Thanks also to her assistant editor, Katherine Pelz, for all her help.
A beautiful shout-out goes to Cathy Gendron for her magical cover art; and the brilliant Berkley Prime Crime team who helped craft this book: art director Rita Frangie; interior designer Kristin del Rosario; production editor Stacy Edwards; and copyeditor Joan Matthews.
We salute our agent, John Talbot, for his thoughtfulness, professionalism, and unflagging support.
Last but far from least, we tip our hats to Nancy Prior Phillips, whose courage and optimism has been an inspiration to us.
To everyone else whom we could not mention here by name, including friends, family, and so many of you who read our books and send us notes via e-mail, our website's message board, and the social networking sites, your kind encouragement keeps us going as writers, and we cannot thank you enough for that.
Our virtual coffeehouse is always open. You are welcome to join us at coffeehousemystery.com.
New York City
If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs
Turn back, turn back, young maiden fair.
Linger not in the murderers' lairÂ .Â .Â .
âTHE BROTHERS GRIMM,
THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM
the fading light of the dying day, the Princess glided along the tree-lined path, gossamer gown sparkling as if sprinkled with fairy dust. When she reached the Oak Bridge, she stopped.
“This wayÂ .Â .Â .” the Predator called.
The Princess studied the shadows. Little white teeth gnawed at pink fingernails. Finally, she stepped off the path, onto uncertain ground.
She had agreed to this meeting in the Ramble, the oldest section of Central Park. There were towering trees here and menacing boulders; cloudy streams and historic bridges. Most of all, there were thirty-eight acres of landscape magicârustic paths that made an entire city disappear.
“Did youÂ .Â .Â . did you make decision?” the Princess asked, her sweet voice betraying her Russian accent.
Forcing a smile, the Predator began a practiced speech, telling the girl everything she hoped to hear.
“Thank you,” the Princess replied, eyes filling with grateful tears. With a hard yank, she broke the valuable chain around her neck. A golden key dangled at the end of it. She held it out to the Predator.
“Now that deal is off, please take back.”
The Predator frowned. “I can't take your key, Anya.”
“But you said I was free.”
“From me,” the Predator lied. “The rest is not my business.”
Anya hesitated. Then she nodded and turned to go, content in the belief that at least the deal between them was dead.
the Predator thought. “Anya, stop! Don't move.”
The Princess froze. “What is problem?”
“Your gown is caught on a branch. Another step will ruin it.”
“Gown is special,” the Princess wailed. “I was told to take care!”
“Don't worry. I'll free it.”
Squatting in the dirt, the Predator pretended to fuss with the expensive fabric. “Princess Pink” is what they called itâmore like bubble-headed bubble gum, the Predator thought, for it wasn't the dress that was caught, but the girl who wore it.
“You are so kind to help,” the Princess said.
“Almost done,” the Predator promised, getting the needle ready. Leaning closer, the Predator whiffed the girl's scent. She even smelled like all the others, the cloying perfume of eager sheepÂ .Â .Â .
“Did I prick you? I'm sorryÂ .Â .Â .”
“Is okay,” Anya said. “I am free now, yes?”
The Predator didn't answer, simply watched the sparkling shroud drift away, through the trees and whispering leaves. In mere minutes, shadows would lengthen; the late afternoon breeze would take on a corpselike chill. That's when the drug would do its work, and this beautyâlike the troublesome little pet she wasâwould be put to sleep.
The Predator smiled at a job well done, barely hearing the tinny speakers of the Delacorte Theater, quieting brats with an ancient phrase.
“Once upon a timeÂ .Â .Â .”