Like nearly everyone else in Paradise, Ohio, local laundromat owner and stain-removal expert Josie Toadfern eagerly awaits the upcoming July 4th Founders Day celebration with its highlight, the annual Breitenstrater Pie Company pie-eating content, sponsored by the owners of the town's upper curst enterprise. But things may not be so sweet this year, what with juicy rumors flying that a black sheep Breitenstrater wants to spill the beans about some deep, dark family secret. And when a pie-making bigwig suspiciously drops dead after sampling the company's latest wares, Josie leaps into action. She loves her teeny-weeny community, despite its blemishes—and any stain on its reputation must be eradicated! But if she sticks her thumb—or her nose—into this particular pastry, she's going to pull our more thank a plum...and she may end up getting her own lethal just desserts.
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About the Author
Sharon Short's humor column, "Sanity Check," appears every Monday in the Dayton Daily News. Her fiction credits include several short mysteries published in Murderous Intent Mystery Magazine and Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine. In addition, Ms. Short is a principal of her own marketing communications firm and has a bachelor's and a master's degree in English. She lives in Miamisburg, Ohio, with her husband and two daughters.
Read an Excerpt
Death by Deep Dish PieA Toadfern Mystery
By Short, Sharon
Avon BooksISBN: 0060537973
Secrets have a way of taking on lives of their own.
That's because the true nature of secrets is that they don't want to be secret. They want to be revealed for what they really are: the truth.
And truth be told, secrets are a lot like stains. Take, say, a pair of work pants that are grease covered. You've got to face the mess and deal with it. (I recommend pretreating grease stains with rubbing alcohol. Or just pouring a can of cola -- I prefer Big Fizz -- with your laundry detergent on your grease-stained clothes. Believe it or not, this works.) Or else you end up with a nasty stain that's even worse than the original mess.
Truth is like that. No matter how ugly it is, it's better to deal with it right away. Or else you end up with a nasty secret that's going to be harder to deal with than the truth.
Believe me, I know a lot about stains.
I'm Josie Toadfern, owner of Toadfern's Laundromat, the only laundromat in Paradise, Ohio. I'm a self-taught stain expert and proud of it. Best stain expert in all of Mason County. Maybe in all of Ohio. Maybe even in all of the United States of America.
And up until a month or so ago, I thought I was also an expert in everything there is to know about Paradise, Ohio. After all, how much can there be to know about a town of 2,617 in southern Ohio?
But that was early June, before Trudy Breitenstrater walked into my laundromat for the sixth time in a week, and I decided to take pity on her. In those last peaceful moments -- before the bell dinged over my door and fate trounced in with a ferret, a frown, and a basket of black laundry -- I wasn't thinking about secrets or truth at all.
For one thing, it was too hot -- even with my ceiling fans and two big floor fans -- to think about things like that.
For another, I was concentrating on helping the Widow Beavy, my only customer at that moment, with her favorite blouse for going to church at the Second Reformed Baptist Church of the Reformation, out on Sawmill Road.
Now, I knew -- because in a town like Paradise, you know these kinds of things whether you want to or not -- that this blouse was real important to Mrs. Beavy. It was pale pink, with ruffles down the front, and lace all around the highneck collar and the wrists, and faux-pearl buttons that Mrs. Beavy kept nice-looking with the occasional dab of pearlpink nail polish (something I'd suggested to her.)
The blouse had been a birthday gift, five years ago, from Mr. Beavy, just two days before he died while mowing the cemetery behind the church. Mr. Beavy had a stroke, lost control of his riding lawn mower and plunged right on down the hill into the side of the Breitenstrater crypt -- which holds all the Breitenstrater remains all the way back to the original Breitenstraters, who founded our town and started the Breitenstrater Pie Company, one of Paradise's major employers. The crypt was cracked and Mr. Beavy, God rest his soul, died on the spot. No one was ever sure which really came first, the stroke or the crack.
Anyhow, on the day when Widow Beavy was in my laundromat, her hand quivered as she pointed at the pinkishbrown stain that bloomed smack dab in the center of where her left bosom would, should she put on the blouse, turn the stain into an unfortunately placed bull's-eye.
"I thought I got it out," she said, tearfully. "At least, the stain was gone when I left for church last Sunday morning. I rinsed it out, knowing it would dry by the time I got to church. But then it reappeared right as we were singing 'Precious Redeemer,' and Betty Lou Johnson stared right at the spot, like maybe it was one of those images of Jesus that show up in the oddest places -- you know, like in the cellophane covering the top of a Jell-O salad?"
Personally, I've never seen Jesus in a Jell-O salad, but then I go to the Paradise United Methodist church (out on Plum Street), which might account for my lack of vision.
"You sure this stain is blood?" I asked. Mrs. Beavy had confessed to me that she'd had a nose bleed and had rinsed the blood out of the blouse in cold water, just as she was supposed to. But the stain looked too pinkish to be blood, which usually dries with a brownish tinge.
"I'm sorry dearie, what did you say?" Mrs. Beavy was now staring up at the television mounted on the wall near the door. I pride myself in offering several such amenities, besides of course drop-off laundering services, a delivery service, and twelve washers and dryers -- two of each in the jumbo size. I have well-stocked pop and snack machines, a kiddie area with a plastic picnic table and coloring books and paper and washable markers (I'd had crayons out until Tommy Gettlehorn had tossed a whole pack into the dryer with his daddy's prison guard uniforms), a shelf of paperback books, and a table set up with free coffee in the cool months and a thermos of free ice water in the hot months.
Earlier the TV had been on As Our Lives Bloom (Mrs. Beavy's favorite soap opera) but was now on the afternoon news. There was yet another report about a large company that had secretly overpromised what it could deliver so that an even bigger company would buy it out so that stockholders would make a ton of money. In the end, the company had to lay off workers before finally going bankrupt -- with all the workers, except, somehow, the top management, losing all of their retirement money. Not the kind of thing that could happen in Paradise, Ohio.Continues...
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