Authors: Jessica Beck
THE DONUT MYSTERIES, BOOK 23
Donut Mystery #23 Raspberry Revenge
Copyright © 2016 by Jessica Beck All rights reserved.
First Edition: January 2016
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. 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.
Recipes included in this book are to be recreated at the reader’s own risk. The author is not responsible for any damage, medical or otherwise, created as a result of reproducing these recipes. It is the responsibility of the reader to ensure that none of the ingredients are detrimental to their health, and the author will not be held liable in any way for any problems that might arise from following the included recipes.
The First Time Ever Published!
The 23rd Donut Mystery.
Jessica Beck is the
New York Times
Bestselling Author of the Donut Mysteries, the Classic Diner Mysteries, the Ghost Cat Cozy Mysteries, and the Cast Iron Cooking Mysteries.
To my spouse and my daughter,
For all of the reasons that matter.
When Mayor George Morris’s chief rival, Harley Boggess, is found murdered while sitting behind the mayor’s desk in City Hall, it looks as though George may have dispatched his competition permanently. When the mayor goes missing immediately afterward, things appear to be even worse, and it’s up to Suzanne, her mother, and Grace to work together to uncover who really killed the councilman before the mayor’s future—and his freedom—are extinguished forever.
eorge, are you in here?”
I asked as I knocked on the mayor’s office door again, quite a bit louder this time, as I balanced a bag of donuts and a cup of coffee with my other hand.
There was still no response from inside.
I’d just finished my workday at Donut Hearts, my shop located in the heart of April Springs, North Carolina. The George I was visiting at the moment was none other than George Morris, the mayor of our quaint little town and a good friend of mine. George hadn’t been by the donut shop for at least a week, which was out of character for him, so I’d decided to take matters into my own hands and pay him a visit. On my way out the door of the donut shop, I’d grabbed a few cake donuts and some coffee and headed over to his office.
Only it appeared that the mayor wasn’t there. “Ready or not, I’m coming in,” I said as I turned the handle and opened the door. The mayor’s high-backed chair was turned toward the window, where I knew from experience he could see the clock and most of our town square. The Christmas decorations had been down for a month, and the landscape had a gray sameness to it that made me wish for snow, or at the very least, the early arrival of spring. Anything would be a nice change from the uniform palette we were currently living in.
I put the bag of donuts and the coffee down on the edge of his desk, and then on a whim, I walked around and looked out the window to take in the view.
It still amazes me that I didn’t notice the body right away, but I was focused on the sights outside, and it wasn’t until I turned around that I realized that I wasn’t alone.
If you could call being in the same room with a dead body having company.
leaned over the pale corpse
to check for a pulse and found his skin cold to the touch. The man had eaten something loaded with onions for his last meal, based on the smell that lingered around him. I doubted that it would have been his first choice of final foods, but then again, he probably wasn’t aware that his end had been in sight. It didn’t take a medical examiner to determine that he had been dead for quite some time, especially since there was a wickedly sharp letter opener sticking in his chest buried almost all the way to the handle. Clearly there was nothing I could do for him, so I reached for my cellphone and dialed my husband’s number automatically. After all, Jake was the acting chief of police, and besides, who else would I call at a time like that? Unfortunately, it went straight to voicemail, and I knew that I couldn’t exactly hang around and wait for him to call me back, so I hung up and dialed 911 instead.
“There’s a dead body in the mayor’s office,” I said breathlessly the moment I got an answer.
“George Morris is dead?” the dispatcher asked me in disbelief.
“Not that I know of. Why, do you know something I don’t?”
“Who is this?” the man asked shrilly. I couldn’t blame him for his reaction. I doubted that he’d dealt with many murders in the past, though we’d seemed to have had more than our fair share around town over the last few years.
“It’s Suzanne Hart, your boss’s wife. I just came by the mayor’s office to bring him some coffee and donuts, and I found a dead body instead.”
“If it’s not the mayor, then who is it?”
It was a logical question, though it felt as though we were wasting time to me, but clearly the officer in the chair was having trouble catching up. “It’s Harley Boggess,” I said. “It appears that someone has stabbed him in the heart with the mayor’s letter opener.” From the look of things, the town councilman, who also happened to be George’s chief nemesis in town politics, wasn’t going to be bothering the mayor anymore.
At least that’s what I thought at the time.
uzanne, are you okay?” Jake
asked me the moment he arrived, glancing my way before he leaned over to get a closer look at Harley’s body. I nodded as he started his inspection, and he quickly arrived at the same conclusion that I had. Only after Jake was satisfied with what he’d seen did he offer me comfort by hugging me briefly before any of his deputies arrived on the scene. I knew that Jake was an exemplary officer of the law, but at that moment I needed him more as my husband than a police chief, so I was happy for the solace, no matter how brief, I received.
“I thought it was George at first,” I said as Stephen Grant—Jake’s second in command and my best friend, Grace Gauge’s, boyfriend—started taking video of the body and its surroundings.
“They do look a little bit alike,” Jake said as he gazed down at the dead body, “but don’t tell George I said that. Where is the mayor, anyway? Do you know?”
“I have no idea. I thought he was here,” I said. I pointed to the coffee and the bag of donuts still on the desk. “When he didn’t answer my knock, I figured that he might be lost in thought, so I came on in. I brought him some goodies as a treat, but I found Harley instead.”
“Don’t worry about George. We’ll track him down,” Jake said reassuringly.
“Do you think he might be dead, too?” I asked hesitantly. I hadn’t been able to get the 911 dispatcher’s comment out of my head.
“What? No. Of course not. This isn’t a coup for power, and I doubt that it’s a case of mistaken identity. I’m sure that George is just fine, wherever he is.”
“I know that you’re probably right, but I’ll feel a lot better once I see him again.”
“Tell me what happened one more time,” Jake asked me softly.
“I already told you everything I did and saw from the second I arrived twice already,” I protested.
“Once more, and then I’ll leave you alone,” Jake said with a reassuring smile.
“I certainly hope not.” I did as he asked, recounting the same story again.
Jake seemed satisfied, and as he closed his handheld notebook after checking his notes, he asked, “Should I call Grace or your mother for you?”
“No. Why would you want to do that?”
“I just thought you might be able to use a little support right now,” he said.
“That’s what I’ve got you for,” I said as I touched his shoulder lightly.
“Suzanne, I’ll do all that I can, but you’ve got to realize that I can’t focus all of my attention on you this second.”
“I know that.” It was part of what it meant to have a husband in law enforcement, and I’d grown used to the idea that Jake couldn’t always be there for me. “Grace is out of town for a conference.”
“Then your mother it is,” Jake said. Before I could stop him, he dialed her number and invited her to join us at the mayor’s office as soon as possible without revealing a single detail as to why. Only Jake could have gotten away with that, but my mother had a soft spot in her heart for him; I sometimes wondered if she preferred him over me. I wasn’t jealous, though. It was heartwarming to see how she’d embraced my second husband, especially given the relationship she’d had with my first one. Momma and Max had gotten along like cats and dogs, so it was a nice change of pace to see the way she doted on my husband.
Three minutes after Jake called her, my mother appeared in the outer office, clamoring to get in. Jake had stationed a deputy outside, but it wasn’t enough to keep my mother at bay, especially not when there might be something wrong with her cub.
“I’d better go out there before she causes a riot,” I said with a wry smile.
“That’s a good idea. I’d hate to see one of my people going to the hospital. I’ll call you the second we find George.”
“Thanks,” I said, and then I went out and greeted my mother.
After I told her that I’d found Harley Boggess’s dead body in the mayor’s chair, Momma said, “Thank the dear Lord above that you’re all right, child,” as she wrapped me in her arms. I was substantially taller than she was, and quite a bit heavier, but I instantly felt like a little kid again as I felt myself give in to her embrace. “Are you all right, Suzanne?” she asked as she reached up and stroked my hair.
“I’m fine, Momma,” I told her in a soft voice, though a few tears racing down my cheeks testified that I was lying. It was just hitting me that I’d found a dead body, and I wasn’t anywhere near hardened enough by my experiences in the past to just shake it off. I was a donut maker, after all, not a cop who might reasonably expect to find death around every corner. Harley Boggess was dead, but not only that, someone had clearly chosen to take his life from him. That shook me to the core of my being, no matter how brave I pretended to be at times.
Momma kept stroking my hair and talking in her soothing voice that was reserved for the most trying of times. “Does George know what’s happening?” she asked softly.
“We can’t find him!” I said, the uncertainty of his fate thick in my voice.
“Don’t worry. I’m sure that he’ll turn up soon. Jake will be able to track him down if anyone can,” Momma said, and then she pulled away a little so that she could look me directly in the eye. She must have been troubled by what she saw. “Let’s get you home.”
“If it’s all the same to you, I don’t want to be around anybody else right now. It’s nothing against Phillip at all,” I said, quickly mentioning her husband’s name.
“I didn’t mean my home; I meant yours,” she said. I currently lived with Jake in the cottage I’d grown up in, but I’d shared it with Momma before she’d married Phillip and moved out, turning the place over to me. It truly was home, since I’d lived there my entire life except for college and my ill-fated first marriage to Max.
“That sounds great,” I said as I allowed her to lead me outside to her car.
“Where’s your Jeep?” she asked as she looked around.
“It’s still at the donut shop. It’s so close that I decided to walk over.”
“Well, don’t worry about that. We’ll pick it up later.” We got into Momma’s car and drove the short distance to the cottage, past the donut shop, the Boxcar Grill, the park, and Grace’s home, until we made it home. Walking through the front door with my mother felt as natural as it could be, something I desperately needed at the moment. Any normalcy in a world turned upside down was most welcome. “I’ll just start a fire, and then we can sit together and watch it until you feel better,” Momma said.
I was in no mood to protest, especially since her plan sounded ideal to me. Once Momma got me settled in on the couch, wrapped in a blanket and facing the nascent flames, she asked, “Should I make us some hot chocolate?”
“Just stay with me for a bit,” I asked as I reached out a hand for her.
“Of course,” Momma said as she settled in beside me. I shared my blanket with her, and we sat there together in comfortable silence, watching the flames, each of us left to our own thoughts.
The quiet time was nice while it lasted, but of course, it was interrupted long before I was ready to deal with the outside world. There was a sudden knock at the door, pulling Momma and me both out of our comfortable silence.
“Is there any chance if we don’t answer, they’ll just go away?” I asked her softly.
“As much as we’d like to sometimes, we can’t hide from the world, Suzanne,” Momma said, getting in another one of the life lessons she’d raised me on. I didn’t know how to remind her that I was a grown woman without hurting her feelings, and besides, her instincts were probably spot on. Even though I was an adult, I still managed to do stupid things on occasion that baffled me. Was I ever going to grow up? Probably not completely, if I was being honest with myself.
She started to get up, but I said, “Stay there. I’ll answer it.”
“You don’t have to do that,” Momma said gently.
“I know, but you’re right. I need to see who’s there.” When I opened the door, I was thrilled to see Grace Gauge standing there, replete in full business attire. “Grace, what are you doing here? I thought you were out of town at a conference.”
“I was, but when I heard what happened over the radio, I called Stephen immediately, and he gave me all of the details. After that, I came straight here,” she said as she hugged me fiercely. “How horrible it must have been for you to find Harley’s body like that.”
“It was a bit of a shock,” I admitted after we broke our hug. “Listen, I appreciate the gesture, but I don’t want you getting in trouble because of me.”
“No worries. I told them that my grandmother was sick,” she said with a smile. “So, how are you feeling, Granny?”
“I’m still a little shaky, to be honest with you,” I said with a weak grin. “Come on in.”
“I don’t mean to intrude,” Grace said when she spotted my mother hovering in the background. Grace offered her a smile and took a step back.
“Nonsense. You know that you are always welcome here, Grace,” Momma said before adding quickly, “At least I assume so. After all, this isn’t my cottage anymore. It’s Suzanne’s, so ultimately, it’s up to her.”
It was fun watching my mother squirm a little, and for a moment, it took my mind off what was going on. “Momma’s right. Come on in.”
“While you two girls are catching up, I’ll go make that hot chocolate I promised you earlier,” she said. After two steps toward the kitchen, she turned to Grace. “If cocoa is all right with you, that is.”
“All right? It sounds spectacular,” Grace said as she rubbed her hands together. “It’s freezing out there.”
Once Momma was in the kitchen, Grace and I sat on the couch and faced the flames. “Now tell me everything, Suzanne. You know how men are. Stephen gave me the facts, but he left out all of the important details. How bad was it?”
“Well, it wasn’t good,” I said. “Finding the body was hard, but right now I’m more worried about George than anything else.”
“What about him?” she asked me, clearly alarmed by my statement. “Was he hurt during the attack?”
“Do you mean that you haven’t heard?”
“Nobody said anything to me about George, though Stephen did tell me that you found Harley’s body in City Hall.”
“Actually, he was in George’s chair,” I said, “and what’s worse, George is missing.”
“He’s missing? What do you mean?”
“I don’t know how else to say it. No one knows where he is, and I’m worried about him, Grace.”
“You honestly don’t think George had anything to do with what happened to Harley, do you?”
“Of course not,” I said, perhaps protesting a little too loudly.
“Me, either, but we both know that those two men couldn’t stand each other, and George never made any apologies for it,” Grace said.
“You don’t have to remind me,” I said, trying to keep the angst out of my voice. “I just wish he were here to tell us his side of things.”
“Is Jake out looking for him? I hope he doesn’t put out an APB for him.”
“I don’t think he will. All-points bulletins are just for guilty people, aren’t they?”
“I have no idea how it works, but I’d hate to see George’s name tarnished because of this,” Grace said.
My cellphone rang, and I thought about ignoring it for one second, but then I realized it might be Jake or, even better, the mayor himself.
My first instinct had been correct; it was my husband.
“Did you find him?” I asked Jake before he had a chance to get a word out.
“No, but we have a little more information now than we had before.”
“What is it? Don’t keep me hanging like this, Jake! George is my friend.”
“I know that,” my husband said calmly. “That’s why you’re getting this call, though I probably shouldn’t be disclosing any of this information to you.”
“I won’t share what you tell me in confidence with anyone,” I said.
“Not even Grace or your mother?” Jake asked.
I didn’t know how to answer that, so I didn’t.
After a moment of silence, he continued. “Just don’t broadcast it to the world, okay? The word will get out soon enough without the three of you talking to anyone else about it.”
“Something happened to him, didn’t it?” I asked, a knot of fear growing in my gut. I didn’t know what I’d do without my friend George. Over the years, he’d become someone special to me, and the thought of living without him in my life was almost too much to take.
“Not that we know of.”
“I thought you said that you had news,” I said.
“Suzanne, if you’d take a deep breath and let me talk for a change, you’ll hear it.” He was getting frustrated with me, and honestly, I couldn’t blame him.
I suddenly realized that he had a valid point. I wasn’t being fair to my husband. “I’m sorry. You’re right.”
“No, I’m not,” Jake said, his voice revealing his disappointment in himself. “You have every reason to be upset about the situation. I’m worried about George, too. Finding Harley dead in George’s chair doesn’t look good, and him running away doesn’t help matters any.”
“How do we know that he’s really on the run? George might not even know about what happened to Harley,” I reminded him.
“I suppose it’s possible.”
“What is it, Jake? What are you not telling me?”
He sighed heavily before he spoke, and when he did finally talk, his voice was heavy and sad. “We just got an anonymous tip that the mayor was spotted driving out of town like it was on fire not ten minutes before you found Harley’s body,” Jake said.
“That could mean anything,” I said haltingly.
“It could,” Jake agreed.
“But you think it’s significant, don’t you?”
“Suzanne, it’s too early to know what to think at this point. I just wanted to keep you informed.”
“Thanks. I appreciate that. I love you.”
“I love you, too. I’ll let you know if I hear anything else.”
“I’ll be waiting,” I said. When I finished my call, I bit my lower lip. George couldn’t have done it.