Authors: Karoline Barrett
Titles by Karoline Barrett
Bun for Your Life
Raisin the Dead
Raisin the Dead
A Bread and Batter Mystery
INTERMIX BOOKS, NEW YORK
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RAISIN THE DEAD
An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright Â© 2016 by Karoline Barrett.
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eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-40795-4
InterMix eBook edition / April 2016
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.
This book is dedicated to Kyle, Joe, Mary Allaine, Michael, and Mateo.
“I can't believe my mother's picture is on the front page of the newspaper, having dinner with some guy.” I stopped in the middle of Bread and Batter's red and white square tiled floor as I scanned
The Destiny Trumpet
's headline again, “Who's Our Library Director's Mysterious Dinner Date?”
“What's she doing here?” Olivia replied, her head disappearing below the counter.
I watched her slide a tray of Italian wedding cupcakes into the display case. Olivia Williams and I own Bread and Batter. She's also been one of my best friends practically since we were born, one day apart. She obviously wasn't responding to me. I don't think she realized I'd come in.
“I know, right?” Kendra's head bobbed up and down in agreement. “My cousin works at Castle Shore. She said Serafina arrived three days ago in a pink and black Rolls Royce with sixteen pieces of Louis Vuitton luggage. I've never seen an actual Rolls Royce. Aren't they super expensive?” Her bottom lip curled in a pout. “I don't even have a Louis Vuitton purse, never mind a whole luggage set. Why would she pick here, of all places, to visit?”
Castle Shore was a luxurious five-star hotel on the far side of Destiny Lake. We've had some rich and famous celebrities stay there, but they usually don't venture past the hotel grounds. Thanks to the wrought-iron fence surrounding the grounds, not many people ever got in, unless they somehow proved they belonged on the other side of the fence, or were there for dinner or a wedding. I didn't know anyone in Destiny who had a pink and black Rolls Royce, or any Rolls Royce, for that matter. If you wanted anything other than a Crandall Ford, you had to leave town to go car shopping. “Who are you talking about?”
Olivia and Kendra both jumped. Kendra's large brown eyes blinked at me, then she grinned as she wiped her hands on her apron, which was adorned with multi-colored cupcakes floating on a light pink background. It was speckled with chocolate dough. “Hi, Molly. I didn't realize you'd come in.”
Olivia straightened up. “Me neither.” She adjusted the bill of her white baseball cap, then tossed an auburn braid over her shoulder. “I guess we were both in another zone. Did you hear about Serafina Alessi?”
“Who?” I asked
“Oh. My. God!” Kendra yelped. “Do not tell me you don't know who she is.”
Apparently, from the volume of her voice and the expression on her face, this was a moral failure on my part. “The name sounds familiar.” I tried figuring out why, but came up blank.
“It should. She owns Serafina Perfumes,” Kendra educated me. “She decided to open up her own company. Her family owns Alessi Perfumes and they aren't speaking to her. At least her father isn't. He tried to ruin her. Can you see a father doing that to his own daughter?”
Not waiting for my answer, she continued. “I think her mother joined Serafina's company. Her father and mother aren't married to each other anymore. How do you not know all this? It's been on the internet forever, plus in all the popular magazines. She's American royalty.” She ran out of breath and brushed a hand through her bangs, making them stick up at odd angles.
“I see.” I resisted the urge to smooth her bangs back into place. This month, her short, choppy pixie was the color of a ripe eggplant. It looked adorable on her. “Kendra, unless they're on a cooking show, you know I don't pay a lot of attention to these so-called celebrities, royalty or not. I barely know what the actual royal family is up to. So, this Serafina person is in Destiny?”
“You're probably the only one in the entire town who doesn't know all about this. My nanas know and they're, like, in their sixties.” Kendra's look was a mix of pity and fear that I was suffering from an intellectual insufficiency. “As I said, she arrived three days ago.”
“I had no idea.” I murmured. I'd probably be a little more interested if I wasn't still preoccupied with the picture on the front page of the paper; the one of my mother and Mr. X gazing at each other in the front window of Mia's. A couple of blocks down the street, it's Destiny's most romantic restaurant. My parents always go there on their wedding anniversary.
“Aren't you off today?” asked Olivia. “How come you aren't with your hunky detective? Where's the baby?”
The “baby” was Noelle, my nine-month-old Bassett hound. “We took a long walk this morning. She's worn out and napping. Yes, I'm off. I'm on my way here to get some gourmet dog biscuits fromâ”
The door jingled and swung open wide, interrupting me. Emily, my other best friend and owner of Barking Mad Books next door, rushed in. “Did you hear?”
“About my mother in the paper?” I interjected, before the other two said anything.
She stopped short, ignoring the paper in my outstretched hand. Frowning at me from behind her large tortoiseshell-framed glasses, she ran her fingers through her perfectly layered, glossy brown hair. “UhÂ .Â .Â . no. Serafina Alessi. She's in Destiny. Can you believe it? All my customers this morning were talking about her. I got a bottle of her Valentina perfume once from a guy I dated. I loved it, but wow, is it expensive. Still have the perfume, but not the guy. I wonder if she'll actually come in to town. What do you think she's doing here? Maybe she'll visit the bookstore! If she does, I'll send her over here for cupcakes and bagels.”
I couldn't begin to guess what Serafina was doing here, and admittedly, I didn't care all that much. I took an ice-cold bottle of Italian blood orange soda from the refrigerated case, then stepped outside into the heat as my best friends, and Kendra, amused each other by chattering about Serafina. I sat at one of the rose brown outdoor bistro sets Olivia and I had placed in front of the bakery a month ago, put the paper down, then pulled a rubber band out of the pocket of my shorts.
I quickly had my thick blond hair in a ponytail. It tended to react badly to hot weather, and late May had so far been an unusually warmâno, scratch thatâan unusually hot month for upstate New York. I slipped my sunglasses on, then settled in to people watch, and to enjoy my drink before continuing for Noelle's biscuits.
Bread and Batter is on Lacey Street, right off Main Street. Today, it exploded in spring colors. The trees were full and green. Pink tulips and yellow daffodils lined the brick sidewalk on both sides of the street. I breathed in the fresh lake smell, wishing I were lounging on the beach. Destiny had had a rough fall and winter. I don't mean just the weather, with its endless snowfall and freezing temperatures, but also the murder of prominent Destiny apple orchard owner Calista Danforth-Brody. I'm happy to say that for now, tranquility reigns in our small town.
“Enjoying the sun?”
I looked up and smiled at Jill McGinley, the children's librarian at the DestinyâOleandra County Public Library, where my mother is the director. I think she's a couple of years older than my mother is, maybe around fifty-five. Her long legs were clad in black leggings, and on her feet were black Birkenstock clogs. The shoes weren't my thing, but it was her choice to make. An oversized white blouse billowed over her leggings. Her curly hair was pulled back. As usual, her makeup was fierce and perfect. Not every woman could pull off the dramatic colors she wore on her face. I'd look like a clown if I tried. I'm lucky if I managed mascara on a daily basis. Ten or so silver bracelets jangled pleasantly on her arm. So much for the frumpy librarian stereotype.
“Hi, Jill. Gorgeous out, isn't it?” I pushed the other chair out with a foot. “Have a seat.”
“Thanks. I didn't think we'd ever see spring again. I love it.”
“Can I get you something from the bakery?”
“I'm fine, thanks. Your mom says things are going really well for Bread and Batter. I'm so glad. I absolutely love the new turquoise and pink colors of your walls. All those cupcake and bakery signs and pictures are too cute. Who stenciled
Bread and Batter Bakery
in red on the wall? It looks awesome. The colors really pop.”
“I'm so glad people like what we've done. We hired Scott Designs. Barbara Scott, the owner, brainstormed with me.”
“It's gorgeous. I'm in awe. And you and Olivia have help?”
I took a sip of my drink. “Kendra and Jimmy. They've both been working part-time for us for about six months.”
“Kendra is a doll, despite herÂ .Â .Â . herÂ .Â .Â .” Jill waved a hand in the air.
“Fondness for wearing nothing but black, and her various tattoos and piercings, I think you're trying to say.”
“Maybe you should speak to her about them.”
“That's her style. I don't mind. It's a little unsettling for a few of our older clients, but she quickly wins even them over. She works hard, that's what counts. Everyone loves her. Jimmy's designed us an awesome website. We're doing business online now, which is great. We have a Facebook page, too.”
Olivia and I met Kendra and her friends, Jimmy included, when they were parading outside Bread and Batter several months ago, ostensibly trying to help solve a murder. They claimed the ability to read people's auras, tell the future, feel bad vibes, and see visions that no one else did. True or not, Olivia and I adored Kendra and Jimmy.
“I'm glad they're working out so well.” She glanced down and her penciled-in eyebrows flexed in a tiny frown. “Ah. I see you have last week's newspaper.”
I looked down at the headline. “I just read it this morning. I've been so busy with the bakery that I'm behind on my reading. I don't know if I should be concerned or happy, it's not Jane and me on the front page anymore. Why is our paper sounding more and more like those so-called papers at the grocery store checkout counters? The ones that read, âActor So-and-So Reveals His Tragic Secret from the Grave.'”
“Yes, you and Jane Addair were quite the celebrities for a while. You're both lucky to be alive. I can't believe the two of you were kidnapped by a killer. How horrifying.”
I shuddered at the memory. It had definitely been horrifying. I didn't want to think about it. “I'm glad it's over.”
“I'm sure you are. Poor Calista. Imagine being murdered in cold blood like that. Incredible.”
I nodded, eager to move on from the subject. Destiny was still shaken by Calista's murder. And I would be forever grateful to Jane, my ex-husband's grandmother who'd managed to call the police from her cell phone, facilitating our rescue.
Jane actually saw Calista's murder, but didn't remember until we were at a library program. As they say, all's well that ends well. Jane suffers from dementia, although she seems to be mostly fine thanks to her medication. She and I graced a few covers of
The Destiny Trumpet
, until people got tired of the two of us staring at them over their breakfast cereal. I thought of Serafina Alessi. I hoped she hadn't come to town to accomplish the same thing.
I patted the paper, pushing murder from my mind. I didn't want to ruin the beautiful day with sad thoughts. “I have no idea who this guy is. This picture makes it look like they're gazing into each other's eyes like love-struck teenagers. I guess it's library business. She's had a lot of meetings with this person or that person because of the library expansion.”
I looked up at Jill. She was staring at the picture intently. “It's Philip Baldelli. He's the president of the Library Advisory Board. He's also my fiancÃ©.”
“We got engaged a few weeks ago.” Her cheeks flushed. “I didn't want a big announcement since he's a bit older than I am. I'll be fifty-five next month. Philip is seventy-six. But you'd never know he was that old, would you?”
I glanced at her left finger. It was bare, but that didn't mean anything.
She clasped her hands as they disappeared under the table. “It's being sized.”
I nodded, a little embarrassed that she'd read my mind. “Philip looks great, I'll give him that. From the picture, he looks like he's in his sixties. You look great, too.”
“Thanks! Once I hit forty I was sure my dreams of marriage were over.” She looked down at his picture. “Good thing I love my job. I thought books would be my only companions in life. He's in excellent health. I'm looking forward to a lot of years with him.”
“It's never too late for love. Who cares about the age difference? I'm happy for you. Congratulations!”
“Thank you, Molly. I'm happy about it, too.”
“I didn't realize there was a Library Advisory Board. That must be something new.”
“It has to do with the library expansion. They formed a group.” Her nose scrunched as she thought. “Maybe a year ago. It's an all-volunteer group of friends of the DestinyâOleandra County Library. Their purpose is to come up with a plan for how to support the library. It isn't keeping up with demand in our growing town and county, so we want to expand. The advisory board's job is to figure out how to get it done.
“They're getting heat from a couple of groups in town, and from one of our own librarians, Daniel Bixby. He's a thorn in your mother's side.” Jill folded the paper in half, Philip and my mother's faces hidden. “I won't bore you with all the details. I'm sure your mother can fill you in if you're dying of curiosity, but suffice it to say, Philip is president, and I'm the secretary. That's how we met and fell in love. I feel like a teenager when I'm with him.”
I couldn't picture Philip Baldelli making anyone feel like a teenager, based on his picture, but I refrained from saying that aloud. I didn't want to hurt Jill's feelings. “That explains my mother and Philip having dinner. I wish the paper didn't feel the need to plaster their pictures on the front page, making it look like they want to devour each other instead of their dinners.”
Jill chuckled. “I guess they thought it was newsworthy. Besides, your mom and Philip are adults. They can handle any attention they may get because of this. Since Calista's murder, there hasn't been much excitement in town. Not that I'm complaining, mind you.”