Scrappily Ever After

Scrappily Ever After

by Mollie Cox Bryan

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780758294609
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 04/28/2015
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 50
Sales rank: 34,456
File size: 983 KB

About the Author

MOLLIE COX BRYAN, author of the Cumberland Creek mystery series, is also the regional bestselling author of Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pies and Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant Cookbook: A Lifetime of Recipes from the Shenandoah Valley. An award-winning journalist and poet, she currently blogs, cooks, and scrapbooks in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband and two daughters. Please visit her at molliecoxbryan.com.

Read an Excerpt

Scrappily Ever After


By Mollie Cox Bryan

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

Copyright © 2015 Mollie Cox Bryan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7582-9460-9


CHAPTER 1

She hadn't shown up for work a few days in a row. Had she been in the sub-zero room that whole time, slowly freezing to death?

"With these immigrants, you just never know," Pamela said. "They are hard workers, but sometimes things go wrong." She wrung her hands, which were white with the tension.

"What do you mean by that?" The sheriff placed his hands on his hips, as camera flashes went off. The crime scene technicians buzzed around the room.

Annie stood with her arm wrapped around Randy, who was trembling—but her recorder pointed toward the sheriff and Pamela, owner of Pamela's Pie Palace, where the body of a young woman had just been found.

"I mean sometimes they just take off, disappear. Who knows where they go or why? Just last week, one of them disappeared, never showed up for work, and I couldn't reach her," Pamela said, her voice quivering.

Randy had discovered the frozen body early this morning. He'd called the police, then Pamela, then Annie. After that, he'd begun to fall apart. When Annie first walked in, she had barely recognized him because he was so pale.

"Maybe they go back home? Maybe they find another job?" Pamela flung her arms out.

Annie wished she could make an educated guess—but she didn't know many of the local foreign population. Foreign to Cumberland Creek, anyway. In fact, she was surprised to hear there even was an immigrant population in the small town.

"She was legal, right?" the sheriff asked, leaning in toward Pamela, but Annie heard every word. A big man, Sheriff Ted Bixby sported a twisty mustache that looked like it belonged on a Spanish conquistador, not a sheriff from a small county in Virginia.

"Absolutely," Pamela replied, her jaw stiff.

Nobody should look that good at 5 AM, not even Pamela, Queen of Pie, wife of the wealthy Evan Kraft. Pamela always looked as if she'd stepped right out of the pages of a 1940s pinup calendar. Curvy did not begin to describe her figure. And she was not afraid to show it off.

"I need to see the victim's papers," Sheriff Bixby said, more to his deputy than to Pamela. "In fact, I need to see all of them. All of the papers for every damned one of them."

Annie didn't like his tone when he said the word "them." But she'd gotten used to the "white men of a certain age" attitude about some things—like foreigners. In this part of Virginia, they seemed to be ignored, treated with suspicion, or made fun of. She had bit her tongue so many times, she counted herself lucky that it didn't have a huge gash.

The sheriff faced Annie and Randy, who'd already answered a barrage of questions.

"Get some rest, son," said Sheriff Bixby. He looked at him with warmth and sympathy. Here was a man who knew that happening upon the frozen body of a coworker in a freezer was a jolt to the system.

Ted Bixby, a man with deep family roots in this part of Virginia, seemed to have been sheriff forever. Annie knew that her associate Detective Adam Bryant, of Cumberland Creek's police force, did not care for the man. She remembered a conversation she and Bryant had about Bixby during one of the other cases she had covered as a freelance reporter. But this crime had taken place outside of Bryant's jurisdiction, so he hadn't been called in. Annie thanked the universe for it. On this, her last story, she didn' t want to deal with his attitude.

"Coming through," yelled someone from inside the freezer. The body of the small, dark-haired woman came through the doorway on a gurney.

There was one thin line of red around her neck, where her throat had been neatly slit, and a big gash glistened over the artery where she had probably bled out. A craft knife was still lodged there. Pink and white polka-dotted tape covered her mouth, left in place for the autopsy. So neatly done. Where is all the blood? Annie knew it was all in the freezer, waiting to be cleaned only after all the photos had been taken and evidence sealed.

Annie had taken a good look at the scene earlier, but the light shone brighter here outside of the metallic and dimly lit walk-in freezer. Now she could see the young woman in detail.

"How old did you say she was?" Annie asked Pamela.

"Her papers say she's twenty-three," Pamela replied with a tone that suggested Pamela didn't believe it either. The young Filipino woman looked as if she was sixteen, at most. Why would Pamela hire her if she was suspicious about her age? Annie felt the ping of intuition pulling at her. Something about this was off. Way off. She needed to talk with Randy, after he calmed down, then Pamela, and the rest of the restaurant staff. This might be an even bigger story than a murder at the local, much beloved Pamela's Pie Palace.

An older, dark-haired woman sobbed and a young, wet-eyed man slipped his arms around her. Friends? They looked foreign, too. Annie made a mental note to speak with them.

One of the technicians held a baggie with some colored paper and a photo inside it.

"What's that?" Annie asked.

The young woman smiled politely. "Evidence." She held it up higher.

"Really?" Randy said. "A scrapbook page?" He flung his hands up in the air. "I'm going back to the B and B. I need a drink and bed." Never mind that it was only 5 AM.

Since moving back to Cumberland Creek, Randy had taken a room at the new bed-and-breakfast in town, until he found a house to purchase.

A loud commotion erupted from around the corner.

"Randy!" Paige and Earl, Randy's parents, rushed in. "Oh, thank God you're okay. Your daddy heard about an incident on the scanner. We were so worried."

"What happened?" Earl said.

Randy opened his mouth, but no words came out. His face grew even paler.

"Listen, Paige, why don't you take Randy home? I don't think he should be driving," Annie said.

"That's right," the sheriff chimed in. "At least someone around here has a good head on their shoulders." He gave Annie an approving glance.

"Sheriff," Earl said and nodded, the appropriately manly greeting in this region. Not "hello." Not "hi there." Just a name and a nod. "My boy in trouble?"

"Oh no, no," Bixby said. "I'll let him do the explaining on the way home." He started to walk away.

"Now, Sheriff," Pamela called to him. "I can't let you leave without a couple of pies. You said we'll have to close today and I have all this pie that needs to go. Please grab one or two."

The sheriff looked liked he knew his way around pie.

"Why, thank you," he said. Pamela had several already boxed up. A young man with dark skin and sullen, almost black eyes, stood next to her, helping box the pies. He was the same man Annie had spotted a few moments ago holding the older woman. Where was the sobbing woman? Annie's eyes searched the room to no avail. She was gone.

"That coconut cream?" Bixby said, mulling over the boxes.

"It's actually pumpkin cream. A fall special," Pamela said.

Annie surveyed the scene. The sheriff and a few others gathered around the counter, where Pamela doled out her treats.

"I'd just have to throw it away," she said. "You all may as well take some."

Annie turned and looked out the window at the dead body of the young woman being slid into the back of the ambulance. She glanced back at Pamela handing out boxes of pie and the sad-looking young man next to her. This had to be the oddest crime scene she'd ever witnessed.

"Annie?" Pamela said. "Do you want some pie? I have the cherry that you like so much. I also have some of my special mincemeat."

Annie knew the special mincemeat was only available for two weeks during the fall. It was one of Annie's favorites—a delicious mix of hard-to-find local seasonal ingredients, the kind that was barely legal. Pamela always remembered everyone's favorites.

Annie's stomach tightened. "Thanks but not today. I just couldn't."

"Well now, young lady, are you a little queasy?" the sheriff said with a patronizing tone.

Why, yes, I think I am. I just saw a frozen person with her throat slit being carried out of here on a gurney. But on second thought, Annie took a deep breath. "Never mind," she said, ignoring the sheriff and speaking just to Pamela. "I'll take whatever you've got there."

The sheriff turned with his boxes of pie and started to walk out of the Pie Palace.

"Sheriff," Annie called out as she followed him. "Might I have a word?"

He turned to look at her just as he started to open the front door to the restaurant. His tan uniform stood out against the black and white tile floors and red booths. Annie found the place kitschy and cute, but for some reason, this morning all of the cuteness looked menacing. Murder amid the kitschiness. She didn't like it.

"What can I help you with, Ms. Chamovitz?" he asked, smiling.

Oh this was different. Very different indeed. A smiling law official. No Adam Bryant with his sideways, smirking grins.

"What do you think happened here?" Annie said.

"I don't speculate," he said. "Call my office later today. We might know something then. But it being Saturday, you never know."

"A freezer is an odd place for murder," Annie said, watching him tense.

"Well, now, who said anything about murder? It could have been an accident or suicide," he said. "As I say, Ms. Chamovitz, I don't speculate. I deal with facts."

An accidental throat slashing? Let him think I'm that gullible.

"I'll call you later, then," she said, noticing that the medical examiner was getting ready to leave. Annie wanted to catch her before she left. She extended her hand to the sheriff. "Later, Sheriff Bixby."

He could not take her hand—his arms were full of pie boxes. But he nodded back at her, turned, and left the building.

"Ms. Jones?" Annie said as she walked over to the ME.

Ruth Jones looked up at her. She was an older, studious woman who had run into Annie frequently around town.

"Yeah?" Ruth dug her car keys out of jacket pocket.

"What can you tell me about the body? About the death?"

"Not much at this point," Ruth said. "It looks like she bled to death. But I need to run some tests, of course, to be certain."

"How would someone get trapped in a freezer long enough to bleed or freeze to death?" Annie asked.

Ruth walked out of the Pie Palace holding a big bulky bag and a pie box, and Annie followed her outside into the fall morning. The sun was just beginning to rise, giving the sky a slate-blue tinge. The waning moon was still visible.

"Why didn't she just open the door?" Annie said. "If she was in there struggling with someone who slit her throat?"

"No, she wasn't inside with someone. I don't think so, anyway. Not like what you're suggesting. There was about five hundred pounds of sugar blocking the door. "She couldn't have possibly moved it. I'm sure she's less than a hundred pounds."

"But that means someone else placed the sugar in front of the door while she was in there."

"She was probably already dead when they did. But restaurants get deliveries all times of the day and night. Check with Pamela on that," Ruth said, opening her car door. "Call me later. I may have some answers for you then."

"Okay," Annie said and stepped back from the car. She had enough to file her first story on the case. But she'd need more for the complete story. A lot more.

Annie mentally sorted through the evidence and possibilities. She didn't know which was worse—the idea that the young woman could have met her death in the freezer, crawling inside to get away from someone, or that someone could have killed her and then stored her dead body inside.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Scrappily Ever After by Mollie Cox Bryan. Copyright © 2015 Mollie Cox Bryan. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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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Scrappily Ever After 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't wait to finish it....really, just too choppy, no real flow , jumped around too much.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed it, but was surprised how short it was.