Kill 'Em with Cayenne (Spice Shop Mystery Series #2)

Kill 'Em with Cayenne (Spice Shop Mystery Series #2)

by Gail Oust
Kill 'Em with Cayenne (Spice Shop Mystery Series #2)

Kill 'Em with Cayenne (Spice Shop Mystery Series #2)

by Gail Oust

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Overview

A BBQ contest has some killer competition in this second cozy mystery featuring a smalltown Southern spice shop owner—includes recipes!

As Brandywine Creek, Georgia, gears up for its annual barbecue festival, visitors from across the Southeast are flocking to Piper Prescott’s spice shop. Contestants rely on her premium spices to make prize-worthy rubs and sauces. But no one is more determined to win than local rivals Becca Dapkins and Maybelle Humphries.

The women have been arch enemies ever since Buzz Oliver dumped Maybelle and started seeing Becca. But the situation turns hotter than a jalapeño when Becca’s body is found bludgeoned by a brisket. When Maybelle is named the prime suspect, Piper begins her own investigation to prove her friend’s innocence.

Piper’s search for the murderer heats up as grills smoke and mouth-watering scents of barbecue fill the air. But with the festival winding down, and time running out, Piper will have to unmask a meat-wielding murderer without getting filleted!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466834293
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/26/2024
Series: Spice Shop (Piper Prescott) Mystery Series , #2
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 10,260
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

The author of the Bunco Babes mystery series, GAIL OUST is often accused of flunking retirement. Hearing the words "maybe it's a dead body" while golfing fired her imagination for writing a cozy. Ever since then, she has spent more time on a computer than at a golf course. Kill ‘Em with Cayenne is the second novel in her Spice Shop mystery series. She lives with her husband in McCormick, South Carolina.

Read an Excerpt

Kill 'Em with Cayenne


By Gail Oust

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2014 Gail Oust
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-3429-3


CHAPTER 1

"Change is a good thing, right?"

I wasn't quite sure how to respond to my BFF's question. Sometimes change wasn't either good or bad, it was just change. And I ought to know. Ask anyone in Brandywine Creek, Georgia, and they'll tell you Piper Prescott was the Queen of Change. Not only had I divorced the low-down lying skunk I'd been married to for over twenty years, but I traded being a country club wife for proprietress of a fledging business, Spice It Up!, in a building older than Methuselah. Since a certain cute veterinarian arrived on the scene, I'd also abandoned all thoughts of entering a convent in order to avoid further contact with the opposite sex. When it came to change, I could write a book.

"Well, girl, don't just stand there; say somethin'?" Reba Mae pirouetted in front of me. "Do you like my new do or don't you?"

I set aside the yogurt I'd been eating before Reba Mae burst through the door. Reba Mae owned and operated the Klassy Kut. "The best little ol' beauty shop in the South," as she liked to tell folks. One of her favorite pastimes was changing hair color. "It's s-so ... so ... black," I stammered.

She smoothed her fringe of bangs. "The box called it Bewitched."

Canting my head, I studied the transformation more closely. Yesterday she'd sported magenta locks. Today her hair was dark as a raven's wing. Regardless of her adventures in Crayola-land, Reba Mae Johnson is a striking woman. At five foot seven, she towered over my petite five foot two even without the high heels she favors. Platforms, wedges, stilettos, bring 'em on.

"Bewitched, eh? If I meet up with Dracula, I'll tell him where to find you."

"Seriously, hon, is it too much?" she asked.

"No, no," I said. "It's edgy ... striking." The style with its shaggy bangs, cheek-hugging wisps, and mold to the nape was sort of punk-meets-pixie.

"I was aimin' for sophisticated."

Sophisticated? You could cut my tongue out before I'd tell her she'd missed her target by a country mile. Reba Mae, bless her heart, was about as "sophisticated" as Minnie Pearl. She'd once confessed over margaritas that the only time she'd ever left Georgia was to attend a stylist convention in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Call me a snob, but family vacations on pristine beaches aside, I have trouble equating a place that hosts a biannual Bike Week with cosmopolitan. Harley-Davidson gear is hardly my notion of haute couture.

"It's just going to take some getting used to, is all."

"Reba Mae? That you?" We turned to see Maybelle Humphries, manager of the Brandywine Creek Chamber of Commerce, push through the door. "Why, I didn't recognize you," Maybelle gushed. "That new look of yours puts me in mind of a gypsy."

"Gypsy ...?" Reba Mae looked crestfallen. "I thought it made me look chic."

"'Chic,' that's the word I wanted," Maybelle hurriedly corrected herself as I tried to hide a smile. "I always admire your sense of style, Reba Mae. You're never afraid to experiment. Take me for instance. I've worn my hair this way since high school."

In Maybelle's case, change might be just the ticket. Her salt-and-pepper bob looked like a do-it-yourself scissor job over a bathroom sink. Maybelle was sweet as they come but outwardly as plain as vanilla pudding.

"Fess up, Piper," Reba Mae said. "Aren't you even a teensy bit tempted to try a new look? With your fair skin and green eyes, you'd make a fabulous blonde."

"Thanks, but no thanks." I tucked a wayward red curl behind one ear and changed the subject. "What brings you here, Maybelle?"

"These are hot off the press." She plunked a pile of brochures on the counter next to my antique cash register. "It's that time of year again—the Annual Brandywine Creek Barbecue Festival. Mayor Hemmings wants all you merchants to pass out flyers to customers."

Picking one up, I read it out loud, "'Blues concert, street dance, fireworks, shag contest.'"

Reba Mae's eyes lit up. "Shag contest?"

Maybelle nodded. "The mayor persuaded the town council to approve funds for a shag club in Myrtle Beach to come and show us how it's done."

"Sign me up," I said. "I've always wanted to learn how to dance the shag."

Reba Mae perched on the counter and swung one long leg over the other. "The shag's considered the official dance of South Carolina. I learned the basic steps years ago, but could stand a refresher course."

"According to the brochure the group sent, it's a cross between swing dancing and the jitterbug," Maybelle said.

Reaching for the half-finished yogurt, I scooped up a spoonful. I felt proud of myself for adding crystallized ginger to the granola topping I concocted. It added a sweet, citrusy note. "Are you entering the cook-off this year?" I asked Maybelle.

"The Chamber's kept me so busy, I haven't had time to perfect a decent Cajunstyle rub."

"As long you're here, Maybelle, take a look around. I got a new shipment of chili powders that might inspire you. Feel free to browse."

"I'll do just that." She took one of the little wicker baskets I kept on the counter for customers' use and wandered off.

Reba Mae glanced at the regulator clock on the wall. "Wish I had time to browse, but I got highlights waitin' on me."

She'd no sooner left when two gentlemen I'd never seen before strolled into Spice It Up! The pair paused just inside the door. They stood there, unsmiling, for such a protracted moment that I began to feel jittery. Who were they? The board of health? Had someone reported me for keeping a dog on the premises? I darted a look over my shoulder and sighed with relief. Casey, the little mutt I'd rescued, snoozed peacefully behind the baby gate erected across the storeroom. Casey's bladder was worse than his bite. His most serious offense thus far was peeing on a customer's very expensive Ferragamo sandal. In my humble opinion, it couldn't have happened to a more deserving person.

At last, the taller of the men strode forward and stuck out his hand. "Tex Mahoney."

I set my now empty yogurt carton on the counter. Before returning the handshake, I swiped my hands down the sides of my sunny yellow apron with "Spice It Up!" embroidered over a red chili pepper. "Piper Prescott."

"Nice place you have, ma'am." The man's deep voice had a definite twang that suited his rough-and-tumble appearance. He was tall, rawboned, with a weather-beaten face and mop of brown hair gone mostly gray. The elaborate silver belt buckle he wore was befitting a rodeo champ. Only things missing to complete his Western ensemble were spurs and a six-shooter.

"Thank you, Mr. Mahoney," I said. "Are you in town for the barbecue festival?"

"Yes, ma'am, I am. And, please, everyone calls me Tex."

"Are you looking for anything in particular, Tex? You'll see that I carry a wide range of spices. Everything from A to Z."

The second man stepped closer. "Z ...?"

"Z for zedoary, also called white turmeric," I said to Mr. Fancy Dresser. "In its powdered form, zedoary is a common addition to curries."

"I'm impressed," he said with a thin-lipped smile. "The lady knows her spices." The complete opposite of his companion, this man was a natty dresser in a striped short-sleeved button-down dress shirt with a horsey logo and dark pants with a razor-sharp crease. He had a sturdy, compact build, eyes the color of mud, and a gleaming bald head.

"My livelihood depends on it, Mr. ..." He reminded me of an actor, but I couldn't recall a name to go with the face. Maybe Yul Brynner, the star of one of my favorite musicals, The King and I? No, I decided with a shake of the head, not Yul. The name would come to me ... eventually.

"Porter." He extended his hand. "Wally Porter, certified master barbecue judge."

We shook hands. I noticed his were smooth, callus-free, the nails buffed. "Nice to meet you," I said.

"Did I hear someone say 'barbecue judge'?" Maybelle asked, coming out from behind a row of freestanding shelves. Shame on me, I'd forgotten Maybelle was in the shop browsing. Not to be be mean, but the woman had that kind of effect on people.

"Yes, you did," Wally said, turning to Maybelle.

Tex gave her a warm smile and, taking her basket, peeked at the contents. "I reckon you must be a mighty fine cook judging by your choice of spices."

Maybelle looked flustered in the machismo-charged atmosphere, so I proceeded with the introductions. "Maybelle not only runs the Chamber of Commerce with the precision of a Swiss clock, but she's one of the finest cooks in the county."

Embarrassment turned Maybelle's usually sallow complexion into a becoming shade of pink. "Piper's too kind," she said, dismissing the compliment with a wave of her hand. "I take it you two gentlemen are well acquainted?"

"Our paths cross from time to time on the circuit," Wally explained.

"Are you one of the judges, too?" Maybelle asked Tex.

"No, ma'am. I'd druther be on the cookin' end than the judgin'. I'm always experimentin' with various rubs and sauces. Tryin' to find the perfect combination of spices."

"Tex happens to be a champion pitmaster," Wally told her. "Quite by chance, we both happened to arrive in town early for a little relaxation before the festivities begin in earnest."

I removed the items from Maybelle's basket—juniper berries, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns. "Have you found a place to stay yet?" I asked the men. "If not, I can recommend a nice bed-and-breakfast."

"The Turner-Driscoll House?" Wally unfastened the lid on a jar of Grenadian nutmeg, sniffed, then nodded his approval. "Tex and I just checked in. Mrs. Driscoll—Felicity—said she was expecting her final guest to arrive shortly."

Maybelle handed me her credit card. As I started to run it through my machine, I noticed she was staring at a figure in the doorway. Maybelle's features contorted with dismay. I followed the direction of her gaze. A woman dressed head-to-toe in pink had her hand on the knob about to enter Spice It Up!

Uh-oh, I groaned silently. Here comes trouble.

CHAPTER 2

Becca Dapkins, pretty in pink, breezed through the door. "Hey, Piper."

"Hey there, Becca," I said, pinning on a smile.

Wally's and Tex's heads swiveled to view the new arrival. Both men drew themselves taller and did the gut-sucking thing males often do when around an attractive female. And though it grieved me to admit, Becca was attractive. That is, if one harbored a soft spot for barracudas. As usual, every dark hair on Becca's head was in place, her makeup artfully applied. While Maybelle's shape resembled that of an ironing board, Becca's was soft and curvy beneath the frilly blouse and flowing skirt.

Maybelle remained silent, choosing to glare at the woman she'd known since high school. Can't say I blamed Maybelle, considering their history. Becca Dapkins had stolen Maybelle's man. That would be enough to rile any red-blooded woman.

Becca turned the full wattage of her smile on the two men watching her with interest. "You gentlemen must be new in town. I'd remember you if you'd dropped by my office at the water department. I never forget a face. A God-given talent, according to my grannie."

"Wally Porter, senior barbecue judge." Wally inclined his bald head. "I'm looking forward to spending some time in your quaint little town."

Not to be outdone in the gallantry department, Tex stepped up to the plate. He tipped an imaginary Stetson. "Tex Mahoney at your service, ma'am. Like Wally, I'm here for a little R and R before it's time to fire up the grill."

"Better be prepared for some stiff competition, Tex." Becca wagged a finger with a nail lacquered Pucker Up Pink. I recognized the shade instantly 'cause my toes were painted with the same bright color.

"What category are you enterin', Miss Becca?" Tex asked.

"Taster's Choice," she replied without hesitation. "It's the one where pro or amateur, all contestants are equal. The public gets to decide the best of the best."

Wally rocked back on the heels of his polished loafers. "That's quite an ambitious plan. The winner of Taster's Choice walks away with not only a trophy but a sizeable check."

"Oh, come off it, Becca," Maybelle snapped. "That's the most ridiculous thing ever to come out of your mouth. Unless a recipe calls for cream of mushroom soup, you can't cook well enough to keep a sparrow alive."

"Cream of mushroom soup ...?" Tex looked horrified at the notion.

Becca whirled to confront Maybelle. "No, not soup. I happen to have a secret weapon that will put my brisket head and shoulders above the rest. Just you wait and see."

I didn't like where this conversation was heading. Attempting to divert open warfare, I slid a charge slip across the counter. "Um, sign at the bottom."

Ignoring the hint, Maybelle planted her hands on her narrow hips. "Mr. Porter," she said, her tone clipped. "I advise you to keep an eye on this woman. She's got a whole bag of tricks up her sleeve. No telling what she might do. She's entirely without scruples."

"What ...!" Becca slammed a knockoff designer bag on the counter with enough force to make her charm bracelet jangle. Her red face clashed with her frilly pink blouse. "Maybelle Humphries, what the devil are you implying?"

"Here's a pen." I offered Maybelle a ballpoint, trying to hurry her out of the shop and avert bloodshed.

My suggestion went unheeded. Maybelle was too incensed to back down. "I'm not implying anything," she said. "I'm simply telling it like it is. You're a sneaky, conniving bitch."

Wally and Tex followed the confrontation between the women like spectators at Wimbledon. Venus and Serena—change that to Becca and Maybelle—continued to lob insults with ease and precision.

"Admit it, Maybelle." Becca moved into Maybelle's space. "You're jealous Buzz picked me, not you."

Maybelle blanched as the barb hit home. "We'd still be engaged if you hadn't set your sights on him. He'll come around once he's wise to your ways."

"Over my dead body," Becca sneered.

"Ladies, please ...," I tried again. Soon I'd be dialing 911 to report an assault and battery.

"You deliberately lured Buzz away from me," Maybelle charged.

"So what if I did?" Becca fired back. "If you can't get a man to marry you after twelve years, then you don't deserve him."

"Thirteen," I corrected.

"Thirteen?" Tex and Wally chorused.

I nodded confirmation. "Maybelle and Buzz dated eight years and were engaged for another five before he broke it off."

"I'd like to meet this Buzz," Tex commented to no one in particular. "He must be quite a guy."

"We were making wedding plans when this homewrecker showed her true colors." Maybelle made a supplicating gesture and addressed first Wally, then Tex, as though they were the judges in her personal court of appeals. "Day and night, this brazen hussy started calling the pest control business where Buzz works. Always asking the boss to send Buzz. First, it was to check for termites. Then, she wanted him to spray for spiders. After that, she claimed she found a wasp's nest. Before I knew what was happening, she was feeding him pork chops cooked in cream of mushroom soup and Tater Tot casserole."

"Hmph!" Becca snorted. "Buzz is a grown man. He needs a real woman in his life—not a mother."

Maybelle's scrawny hands bunched into fists. "So help me, Becca Dapkins, I've half a mind to slap you upside the head."

"Lay one finger on me, Maybelle Humphries, and I'll have you arrested so fast it'll make your head spin."

Rounding the counter, I wedged myself between the two women. Sheesh! I felt I'd blundered into a taping of The Real Housewives of Brandywine Creek, albeit neither Becca nor Maybelle was a housewife. I handed Maybelle her purchases. "Here," I said. "Go deliver those flyers you brought along."

Maybelle snatched the sack from my hand, then grabbed the brochures from the counter. "I meant every word I said," she flung at Becca as she stormed out.

An excruciating loud silence followed her departure. At last, Tex cleared his throat. "I'll see if I can find Miss Maybelle and calm her down," he said, and headed out the door after her.

Unperturbed, Becca glanced at her watch with its pink leather wristband. "My break's nearly over. Unless I hurry, I'll be late getting back to work. I'll come another time, Piper, to pick up the things I need."

"Sure thing," I said. Next time she came, I'd take great pains to make sure Maybelle was occupied elsewhere.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Kill 'Em with Cayenne by Gail Oust. Copyright © 2014 Gail Oust. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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