Authors: Livia J. Washburn
“[Livia J. Washburn] has cooked up another fine mystery with plenty of suspectsÂ .Â .Â . a fun readÂ .Â .Â . great characters with snappy dialogue, a prime location, a wonderful whodunit. Mix together and you have another fantastic cozy from Livia Washburn. Her books always leave me smiling and anxiously waiting for another trip to visit Phyllis and her friends.”
âEscape with Dollycas into a Good Book
“This mystery is nicely crafted, with a believable ending. The camaraderie of the Fresh-Baked Mystery series' cast of retired schoolteachers who share a home is endearing. Phyllis is an intelligent and keen sleuth who can bake a mean funnel cake. Delicious recipes are included!”
âRT Book Reviews
“Washburn has a refreshing way with words and knows how to tell an exciting story.”
âMidwest Book Review
“Delightful, [with a] realistic small-town vibe [and a] vibrant narrativeÂ .Â .Â .
A Peach of a Murder
runs the full range of emotions, so be prepared to laugh and cry with this one!”
âThe Romance Readers Connection
“The whodunit is fun and the recipes [are] mouthwatering.”
âThe Best Reviews
A Peach of a Murder
Murder by the Slice
The Christmas Cookie Killer
Killer Crab Cakes
The Pumpkin Muffin Murder
The Gingerbread Bump-off
Wedding Cake Killer
The Fatal Funnel Cake
Published by the Penguin Group
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A Penguin Random House Company
First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Copyright Â© Livia Reasoner, 2014
The Fatal Funnel Cake
copyright Â© Livia Reasoner, 2013
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LIBRARY OF C
Washburn, Livia J.
Trick or deadly treat: a fresh-baked mystery/Livia J. Washburn.
p. cm.â(Fresh-baked mystery)
1. Newsom, Phyllis (Fictitious character)âFiction. 2. BakingâFiction.
3. MurderâInvestigationâFiction. 4. Weatherford (Tex.)âFiction.
5. Mystery fiction. I. Title.
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.
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.
Dedicated to the memory of
my mother, Naomi Washburn.
She was a wonderful mom
and a great
hyllis Newsom put her hands over her ears and said, “Oh, my goodness!”
“Yeah, they're kinda loud, aren't they?” Sam Fletcher said with a grin. “And enthusiastic, to boot.”
They stood in a cement-floored runway between rows of metal cages filled with dogs of all shapes, sizes, breeds, and mixtures of breeds. The air inside the cinder-block building contained an assortment of smells, all of them pungent and none particularly pleasant, but Sam didn't seem to mind. In fact, he looked as happy as Phyllis had seen him in a while.
Maybe this wasn't such a bad idea after all, she thought.
When he had first told her that he wanted to get a dog, her immediate impulse had been to say no. A flat, nonnegotiable no. And since the big, old two-story house on a tree-shaded street in Weatherford, Texas, belonged to her and Sam only rented a room there, it was Phyllis's decision to make.
The problem was, Sam wasn't just a boarder, subject to his
landlady's rules and decisions. The four retired teachers who lived in the houseâPhyllis, Sam, Carolyn Wilbarger, and Eve Turnerâhad become more like family over the years. They were best friends as well, and in Sam's case, Phyllis had to admit that the two of them were more than just friends. She couldn't just dismiss what he wanted out of hand.
Because of that, she found herself in this big, smelly, noisy room full of barking dogs.
The young woman who worked as a volunteer at the animal shelter wore a plastic name tag that read
on her shirt. She smiled, waved a hand at the cages, and said, “Feel free to look around all you want, folks. I'm sure you'll find just the right dog for you.”
“Thanks, Julie,” Sam said. He went over to the closest cage, which held a German shepherd, and put his hand close to the bars so the dog could sniff it.
According to the paperwork in a clear plastic envelope attached to the cage, the dog's name was Daisy and she was three years old, no health problems, good with children. That wasn't really a consideration since no children lived in Phyllis's house. Her grandson, Bobby, visited sometimes, though, so actually it was important that whatever dog Sam picked was well behaved and safe to be around children, she thought.
“Howdy, Daisy,” Sam said as he scratched the dog's muzzle. “How ya doin', girl?”
Phyllis smiled. The affection Sam felt for this dog, for all dogs, really, was obvious. He was a genuinely good man, and she was glad she had gotten to know him, even this late in their lives.
Daisy licked Sam's fingers. Phyllis could tell that he didn't
want to move on to the next cage, but he had to take a look at the rest of the dogs. Phyllis stayed with him as he made his way slowly along the runway.
She saw beagles, schnauzers, Chihuahuas, and lots of mutts. Big dogs, small dogs, shorthairs, longhairs. Most were eager and friendly, as if they knew that the humans who came to see them held their fate in their hands. A few seemed sullen, and Phyllis wondered if they had been mistreated and no longer trusted anybody who went on two legs.
What was that famous line from
? “Four legs good, two legs bad”? Something like that, she decided. Unfortunately, all too often that was true. Her own experiences over the past few years with the uglier side of life had taught her that.
Animals killed, certainly, but only humans were capable of murder.
Sam broke into her thoughts by looking at her, shaking his head, and saying, “Well, coming here turned out to be a bad mistake.”
“I want to take all of 'em home with me. I don't reckon there's room for that, though.”
“I have a pretty big backyard,” Phyllis said, “but not that big.”
Sam sighed and said, “All right. I reckon I'm gonna have toâ”
He stopped as the metal door at the end of the runway, between the kennel area and the office, swung open and a male volunteer came through carrying a dog. The animal was wrapped in a blanket and whimpering in pain.
“Lonny, what happened?” Julie asked as she hurried toward the newcomer.
“Aw, somebody hit this poor fella out on the road. I saw it happen just now as I was coming in. Looks like maybe his front leg is busted.”
“Do you think he belongs to somebody around here?”
Lonny shook his head and said, “I dunno. He doesn't have a collar and he's pretty skinny, so I've got a hunch he's a stray.”
Sam walked up to the volunteers with Phyllis trailing behind him. He said, “That's a Dalmatian, isn't it?”
“Yeah,” Lonny said. “Full grown, but not too old, I'd say.”
“I always wanted a Dalmatian when I was a kid. Are you folks going to adopt him out?”
“Mister, he hasn't been processed in. You can have him right now if you want him. You're gonna have to give me your word that you'll take care of him, though. He needs medical attention.”
“Where's the nearest vet?” Sam asked.
Lonny and Julie looked at each other, and Julie said, “That would be Dr. Baxter, about a mile back up the road toward town.”
“Then that's where I'm takin' him right now,” Sam said. “You can follow me if you want, to make sure that's what I do.”
“I don't guess that's necessary,” Lonny said. “You got a car outside?”
“My pickup,” Sam told him.
“I'll put him in the back for you.”
Sam shook his head. “I'll hold him. My friend here can drive.”
Sam's decision to take the injured dog seemed awfully impulsive to Phyllis. She said, “Sam, are you sure you want to do this?”
He answered by reaching out and gently taking the blanket-wrapped Dalmatian out of Lonny's arms. Sam was tall and lanky, but he was also strong enough to hold the medium-sized dog.
“Be careful,” Julie told him. “Injured dogs sometimes bite.”
“This fella's not gonna bite me,” Sam said with a shake of his head. “I can tell we're gonna get along just fine.”
Phyllis hoped that was true. It seemed to her that Sam was taking on quite a bit here. He had always been one of the calmest, steadiest people she knew, not given to being rash or reckless, but evidently he could do things on the spur of the moment, too.
“Truck keys are in my pocket,” he said to her. “Let's go.”
She delved into the front pocket of his jeans, found the keys, and said, “All right.” As they walked out of the shelter, she turned her head to say, “Thank you,” to the two volunteers.
Sam's pickup was parked fairly close. Phyllis hurried ahead and unlocked and opened the passenger door.
“Can you get in without any help?” she asked.
“Yeah, I reckon we can manage.” Carefully, Sam eased himself into the seat with the dog half lying across his lap and half cradled against his chest. It reached its head up and licked his jaw. Sam laughed and said, “And they were worried about you bitin' me. Hang on there, fella. We're gonna get you taken care of.”
Phyllis closed the door and went around to get behind the wheel. She asked, “Do you want me to help get your seat belt fastened?”
“Naw. We won't bother with it. We're not going very far. Just don't get in any wrecks along the way.”
“But it's against the law not to have your seat belt fastened.”
“Yeah, but I'm a grown man. If anybody gets a ticket, it'll be me, not you.”
Phyllis sighed and turned the key in the ignition. He was right, of course, and actually, it was unlikely they would get in an accident here on this side road on the outskirts of Weatherford. But it still bothered her to be breaking the law as she started driving toward the vet Julie had told them about.
Of course, if anybody wanted to get technical about it, she had been accused of breaking other laws in the past that were more serious than not fastening a seat belt. Things like obstruction of justice and tampering with evidenceÂ .Â .Â .
She found the place she was looking for without any trouble. A sign that read
sat beside a driveway that turned off to the left. The driveway led through some trees to a paved parking area beside a brown brick building with a completely fenced-in area divided into runs behind it. A continuation of the driveway circled around to a large metal barn with its doors standing open. A pickup was parked next to the barn.
Another pickup and two cars were parked beside the building. Phyllis eased into an empty spot and stopped Sam's truck. She hurried around to open the passenger door for him, but he had it open by the time she got there.
Still with no apparent difficulty, he carried the dog toward the front door. Phyllis held it open for them, and they went into an office that smelled a little like the animal shelter but not nearly as strong.
A man with unruly dark hair and salt-and-pepper beard stubble stood behind a counter, talking to a woman who had a pet carrier on the floor at her feet. A cat inside the carrier meowed loudly and insistently.
“Two tablets every twelve hours,” the man said as he put a plastic pill bottle on the counter. “That ought to take care of the infection in a few days, but keep giving her the pills until they're all gone.”
“All right, Doctor,” the woman said. “Thank you.”
“Call us right away if she gets worse.”
The woman nodded and said, “I will.” She picked up the carrier and turned toward the door. When she saw Sam standing there holding the dog, she said, “Oh, my goodness. What happened?”
“Car hit him,” Sam said. “Looks like a front leg may be busted.”
“You've brought him to the right place,” the woman said. “There's no better vet around here than Dr. Baxter.”
The man smiled and said, “I appreciate the vote of confidence.” To Sam he went on. “Bring him right on back here into surgery. I've got another patient waiting, but that's just for booster shots and this is an emergency.”
He swung open a wooden gate to let Sam behind the counter. As he did, an attractive blond woman in her thirties came out of an office in the back. She looked a little impatient at having to wait for Sam to go by with the Dalmatian. When the way was clear, she said, “I'll see you at home tonight, Hank,” and briskly left the vet clinic before Baxter had a chance to respond.
“Right back here,” he told Sam as he opened another door.
Sam carried the dog into a big room with an operating table in the middle of it.
Phyllis stood back, watching as Sam carefully placed the injured dog on the table. As Baxter unwrapped the blanket, he said, “You'll have to excuse me if things get a little hectic around here. My assistant and my office manager are both out sick today, so I'm holding down the fort by myself.”
“You should get your wife to help you,” Phyllis said, thinking of the blond woman who had been leaving as they were coming back here.
Baxter shook his head and said, “Susan has patients of her own to see.”
“She's a vet, too?” Sam asked.
“Nah. A people doctor.” Baxter shrugged. “A real doctor, some might say.”
“Yeah, people who don't know any better,” Sam said.
Baxter lightly ran his fingers along the dog's left front leg, which even Phyllis could see looked a little funny. The dog whined but didn't struggle or try to bite.
“That's a good boy,” Baxter told the Dalmatian. “I know that had to hurt.” He looked up at Sam. “It's broken, all right. What I'd like to do is go in there and make sure it's reset properly, then put a pin in it to ensure that it stays that way. Then I'll cast it. After he wears the cast for a couple of weeks, he should be okay.”
“Will you need to keep him tonight?”
Baxter nodded and said, “Yes, just to let the anesthetic wear off and to make sure there are no problems. He should be able to go home in the morning.” He stroked the dog's flank and frowned slightly. “He's pretty skinny. He
“He is now,” Sam said. “He was a stray that one of the volunteers down at the animal shelter found a little while ago. I claimed him before they ever processed him in.”
“All right. We'll get him fixed up, and it'll be up to you to get him fattened up, Mr.Â .Â .Â .Â ?”
“Fletcher. Sam Fletcher. This is my friend Phyllis Newsom.”
“Pleased to meet you both,” Baxter said with a nod. “I'm Hank Baxter.”
“This'll give me a chance to fix up a place for him to stay,” Sam went on. “That way we'll have it ready for him when he comes home tomorrow.”
“Sounds good, if that's what you want to do. I can work up an estimate for youâ”
Sam waved that off. “It'll be all right. You go ahead and fix him up, like you said.”
“Okay. Go on back out front and we'll do a little paperwork. I'll meet you there in a minute after I putÂ .Â .Â . What is the dog's name, anyway? Does he have one?”
“Buck,” Sam answered without hesitation. “That fella's name is Buck.”