A Dash of Darkness
For once Angie Amalfi's newest culinary venture, "Comical Cakes," seems to be a roaring success! There's nothing funny, however, about her homicide detective boyfriend Paavo Smith's latest case. Paavo's investigating a series of baffling murders that may be rooted in satanic ritual. And when Angie is called upon to deliver a humorous confection to the mysterious owner of a decadent after-hours goth club, the inquisitive gourmet baker suddenly finds herself up to her neck in the demonic business. it gets harder to focus on pastry alone when strange "accidents" and desecrations to her delectable, fresh-baked creations begin occurring with frightening regularity. And if Angie can't help Paavo track down a maniacal serial killer with an obsessively unhealthy interest in her, she might end up as devil's food of a different kind.
About the Author
Joanne Pence was born and raised in San Francisco. A graduate of U.C. Berkeley with a master's degree in journalism, Joanne has taught school in Japan, written for magazines, and worked for the federal government. She now lives in Idaho with her family, which includes a multitude of pets.
Read an Excerpt
Little did the people who walked the city streets know of the hidden life that teemed around them, a dark, deadly substratum that knew no compassion, generosity, or humanity. Humanity -' hah! A weak, self-serving concept if heever heard one.
Only an occasional noise in the darkness, a sudden shadow thrust across blood-filled cracks in a sidewalk lit by street lamps, gave unheeded warning that there was more to existence than what they knew, those day-walkers, more than what they saw every day, more than what they felt. How surprised the blind would be if they could see as he did all night, every night.
A dark-gray sewer rat slunk out from the shelter of a stone wall, raised its nose to sniff the night air, and froze, paralyzed with fright. The watcher smiled, his mouth wet with anticipation.
The rat's sharp claws dug hard against the sidewalk, and its black eyes bulged. Abruptly, as if roused from its stupor, it scurried toward the gutter that ran under the old church, its powerful hind legs pumping fast. But too late.
High, sharp squeals shredded the evening silence as talons ripped through the rat's neck and chest. Blood squirted from the wounds in the fat, twitching bodyand splattered on the creature that fed on it.
Angie Amalfi waved good-bye to her latest customer as she and her friend, Connie Rogers, walked across the street toward her new silver Mercedes-Benz coupe. Granted, the CL600 two-door was a step down from the Ferrari Testarossa she used to drive, but it was a much more practical car. A family caralmost, and she had a good idea of the family she wanted it to be a part of.
Anyway, her Ferrari was toast. Literally. No sense crying over spilt...cinders.
Beyond the car loomed what had once been a beautiful Catholic church in San Francisco's elegant Pacific Heights neighborhood but was now begrimed and sinister. Built at the turn of the century out of stone, the Church of Saint Michael the Archangel was one of the few structures that had survived the city's big 1906 earthquake and fire. After the not-quite-as-huge quake in 1989, however, it was condemned. The archdiocese decided against spending the money necessary to shore it up to make it safe again, but preservationists in thecity campaigned against the church being torn down, and building inspectors wouldn't allow it to be used. So there it stood, doomed.
Angie wasn't particularly concerned about old churches at the moment, however. Not when she was biting her tongue so hard she would look like she had a mouthful of raspberry Jell-O if she wasn't careful. And it was all because of Connie.
She looked back over her shoulder at her customer, flashed a big smile, and gave a friendly wave. Barbara Knudsen, the wife of an assistant district attorney whohad just been appointed to the bench, waved in return before stepping back inside her house and shutting the door. She was throwing a big party for the new judge, and the two of them had come up with an idea for a Comical Cake: an oversized smiley-faced gavel rapping down onto a replica of a Monopoly Go Directly to Jail card.
"She's a nice lady," Connie murmured.
Angie couldn't hold it in any longer. "I couldn't believe that you mentioned Lolly Firenghetti to her," she cried. "Have your brains turned to Noodle-Roni? What in the world were you thinking?"
Stunned by the attack, Connie stopped in the middle of the street. "What's that supposed to mean?" Blond, in her thirties, and divorced, she owned her own business, a gift shop called Everyone's Fancy. From the time they first met, she and Angie had been close friends. Until now. "I was trying to help."
"Help me?" Angie, brunette with auburn highlights, in her twenties and single, would have waved her arms, but she was too busy fishing her car keys out of her Coach bag. "By telling a customer about my competition? Benedict Arnold gave more help than that!"
"I was sure she knew there were other companies that did made-to-order cakes. I just wanted to convince her that yours is better."
"She acted as if she'd never heard of Lolly's business."
"Is that my problem?" Connie asked.
Angie wasn't sure. She also wasn't sure why people wanted humorous cakes to celebrate serious occasions, but since they did, her business was growing geometrically with each party she attended, Lolly Firenghetti or no. "Let's forget it," she said, disgruntled.
"Well, it'll be interesting to see if she sticks with you or goes with Lolly's company," Connie observed as they continued again toward the Mercedes.
Angie could all but feel the smoke coming out of her ears. "Interesting? You aren't taking my new business at all seriously, and I don't appreciate that one little bit!" Angie pressed hard against the car's unlock button on her key ring, then grabbed hold of the key to the ignition. Her finger began to sting.
The key was new. She'd had duplicates made when she bought the car, and one of the duplicates was on the key ring. Apparently, the edges hadn't been groundsmooth, and a sharp edge of metal punctured her finger. Blood began to well up.
"Damn!" Angie muttered. "Now look at what you've done."
"What I've done?" Connie headed toward the passenger's side, her nose in the air. "You're the one who asked me to come here tonight."
"You were supposed to give me support, be a kind of chorus for me and my business. Like, say, the Supremes for Diana Ross. Wait, they split up. Well,you know what I mean." Not wanting to get blood on her pearl-gray leather seats or royal-blue...Bell, Cook, and Candle. Copyright © by Joanne Pence. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.