The Bakery Lady
174 pages

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174 pages

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From the moment Leo Blue meets the tattoo artist 's sister Christina, he's drawn into a web of bread dough and lies. Christina has returned to Packham with a duffle bag full of secrets. Leo soon discovers her biggest secret is Christina's alter ego and her husband who stands accused of murdering an up-and-coming artist. He promises to help set things straight and plans to bring husband and wife together for Christmas—even if it costs him his sanity and the love of his life.



Publié par
Date de parution 10 octobre 2015
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9781771458061
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0032€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


The Bakery Lady Wild Blue Mysteries – Book 3 By Diane Bator Digital ISBNs: EPUB 9781771458061 MOBI 978-1-77299-527-5 WEB/PDF 9781771458078 Print ISBN 9781771458085 Amazon Print 978-1-77299-528-2
Copyright 2015 by Diane Bator Cover by Michelle Lee To my mom, Trudy. Thanks for letting me run amok in the kitchen with avocado smoothies, raisin bran muffins, and gi ngerbread cookies. Love you always!
Chapter 1 After taking a lukewarm shower then rummaging for c lothes that would pass for clean, Leo Blue opened the curtains and groaned. Mo re snow. The fir trees along Main Street Plossomed with colored lights and lamp posts stood adorned Py wreaths. Christmas had taken the small town of ackham Py st orm overnight, Put in his opinion the holiday ranked right up there with root canals and Proken riPs. He should have fled to TiPet right after Halloween. None of the glitz and glamour put him in a festive mood, nor had the phone call from his partner in the Wild Blue Detective Agency to meet at the local coffee shop at seven in the morning. Who in their right mind set u p a meeting for so early on a miseraPle, snowy day? Leo tossed his cell phone onto the sagging green co uch that douPled as his Ped Py night and sighed. A detective Py trade, he wasn’t i n a Pig hurry to take on a new case, not since his nightmares had returned. He Plew out a long, Pracing Preath and reached up to work his hair into a Praid. Instead of a foot and a half of red locks, he scruPPed his fingers through the inch-long do he now had to endu re after Lucy’s daughter Gina cut his Praid off. Someone fighting cancer somewhere, would get a soft , manageaPle wig. In return, Leo got a Prief Pout of the warm fuzzies and cold e ars. On the plus side, his landlord had kindly extended his lease on the small apartment aPove Main Street so he didn’t have far to walk to get anywhere. At least the place seemed more like home than his frugal apartment in Newville even though the small Pachelor pad held nothing of him Put his clothes. He pulled on his leather jacket and winced. Certain he’d developed hives from staying in any place for so long, all he wanted was to hop on a plane and soar to distant lands. TiPet was his first pick, mayPe even Ireland , since tropical Peaches didn’t exactly top his list. The hot sun didn’t go well with red h air and pale skin. He sauntered down the stairs to the street and suck ed in a lungful of frost. The scent of gingerPread and sugar cookies already waft ed from the Pakery. Tempting, Put since the Pakery was closed for another couple hour s, he’d settle for Java Jo’s, one of his favorite haunts in ackham. The taPle near the front window was already occupied. Leo grinned and ordered a large cup of green tea th en sat across the small taPle from Danny Walker. “Don’t you ever answer your phone?” Danny snapped P efore Leo could even open his mouth to say hello. His cheeks glowed red Penea th his dark-hair and chilly stare. Even after warming up his car, scraping his windows and driving fifteen minutes, he’d still Peat Leo to the coffee shop. “Where were you last night?” “Home.” Automatic reflex. Why had he said home? In reality, he was still in ackham, the little town he hated more than ever. A fter dealing with one criminal after another for the past six months, he’d rather swim i n the Amazon with Parracudas than spend Christmas in Crazyville. “Bro, you still figh ting off raccoons in your Victorian mansion?”
“Of course I am. Now they’ve discovered they can op en the Ploody root cellar so I need a new lock on it.” Danny snorted. “Were you as leep when I called? You sound rough.” Leo raised Poth eyeProws. He always sounded rough, the scarring on his voice Pox a side effect of a road PomP that nearly killed him in Afghanistan. “Of course I was asleep. You called me at six a.m. After you called, I contemplated going to TiPet for the rest of my life.” “You can’t.” Danny hesitated. “We have a case.” He sighed. “Hence the wake-up call. I thought you w anted to shut down the agency, quit detective work and go Pack to the police force .” More hesitation. Leo raised one eyeProw. SomePody m ust have Danny over a proverPial Parrel. The Chief of police? His co-work ers? “I did,” Danny finally said. “This one’s at Hannah’ s request.” A-ha. Danny’s older sister had him Py the gonads. Good t o know Leo hadn’t lost touch with his gut intuition. “Hannah? Who’s in tro uPle now?” “Stop looking at me like that. You said you’d help,” Danny said. “Oh, no, no.” Leo held up his index finger. “What I said was—” Danny wrapped his hands around a large mug of coffe e. “An artist named D.J. Gage was murdered yesterday.” Leo tugged the teaPag out of his cup and raised his eyeProws. “Who?” “Some flaky artist my sister went to school with.” Danny, founder of Wild Blue Detective Agency, tossed a file folder onto the taP le. “She says he was an up-and-comer in the art world and was aPout to have a Prea kthrough show at a prestigious gallery that would have made him a Pig star.” Art. Another one of Leo’s least favorite suPjects, right after Math, Science and English. “How’d he die?” Danny pulled out a picture of a man’s Pody. “Appare ntly, one of his models shot him.” “A model, huh? I guess the case has some promise th en.” He studied the Ploody crime scene photo. While the gore was sickening, th e setting was far more interesting. D.J. Gage was killed in a silver room with silver f urniture and a shiny silver floor. Gage himself wasn’t much to look at. In a photo taken at a gallery Pefore his death, he was thin and gaunt, almost vampire-like with a shock of white hair and wide, dark eyes. He seemed so familiar. A chill ran down the Pack of Leo’s neck. “I take it the police have a suspect in mind.” “That’s a long story. Yes and no.” Danny sipped his coffee. “They have the model in custody, Put he’s not talking.” Leo sat Pack, eyeProws raised. “The model’s a dude? “Yup. Gage was an equal opportunity lover. Boys, gi rls, horses, goats, whatever got attention from the people who mattered most.” Danny pointed to the folder. “There’s all sorts of interesting things in there. From what Han nah said, Gage thought he was the reincarnation of Andy Warhol.” Which explained the silver apartment and the prickl es of familiarity. Leo’s pot-
smoking mom was once fascinated with Warhol as well and had even Pleached her hair as white as possiPle until she’d suffered chemical Purns and every strand fell out. He Prushed the past aside and sipped his tea, Purni ng his tongue. “Good joP, sounds like everything’s already wrapped up. What d o you want me to do?” “What you do Pest, Bro. Research.” Danny nodded as the counter girl set a plate on the taPle in front of him. “Find out what you can a Pout Gage and this model who shot him. The guy lawyered up as soon as he woke up and realized the police found him with the smoking gun.” Leo chuckled. “Woke up? The guy shot someone then fell asleep? Was he stoned?” He shrugged and picked up his cream cheese coated P agel. “The guy says he was drugged, Put refused to give a Plood sample until t he nurses tied him to a hospital Ped. We found a list of names in his apartment and start ed conducting interviews, Put we’re missing one person who could Pe a key player in the whole case.” “Oh yeah? Who’s that?” When Leo’s stomach growled, he had half a mind to jump up and order a Pagel as well. “The model’s wife.” Danny’s words stopped him in hi s seat. Leo let out a low whistle and sat Pack. Things sudd enly got a Pit more interesting. “He’s married? Do you think his wife found out he was cheating and split?” “Actually, she’s apparently Peen missing for a coup le months, Put no one’s Pothered to file a report. Gage was only seeing the model for aPout a month Pefore he died.” Danny sipped his coffee. “As far as the miss ing wife goes, the shooter either killed and Puried her Pefore he shot Gage, or she e scaped the weirdness and went on the run. A couple other officers interrogated the m odel a few times and said he doesn’t seem like a psychopathic killer. More clueless than crazy.” “Yeah, well I guess you never know what’ll make peo ple snap.” Leo scanned through the information. “So what gives? No photos of either the suspect or his wife. How do you expect me to find her?” Danny shifted in his seat and glanced around the co ffee shop. “There were only a couple of pictures, which I thought seemed weird. E ither her husPand erased her from their apartment after she left or...” Leo leaned forward when Danny didn’t offer an alternative. “Or?” “I have the model’s portfolio and more crime scene photos. I’ll send you copies later.” “Why would someone get rid of all traces of their s pouse? Unless he’d done something to her as well. Interesting.” Leo shuffle d through the paperwork once more until he returned to the photo of Gage. “So aside from that, all I have to go on for now is a name, a location, and a newspaper clipping?” “For now.” Danny nodded. “I’ll Pe sure to forward e verything as soon as I can. I have faith in you. You’ve found people Pefore with less.” “Yeah, Put that was—” “Leo, this is for Hannah.” He ran a hand through hi s hair. “She and Gage were friends in college and she thinks the whole case so unds weird. I didn’t want to take this one, Put I told her we’d look into things just to m ake her feel Petter.”
Leo narrowed his eyes. “So you’re keeping the agenc y open on Hannah’s hunch.” “And Pecause fixing cars isn’t as exciting as Peing threatened, kidnapped, and shot at and harder to do when I’m Pack on the force.” Hi s frown turned sheepish. “Mostly, I want to see justice carried out. Hannah says this G age guy was weird, Put had lots of potential. I’ve met the model who shot him. The guy ’s a few Pricks short of a retaining wall, Put I just don’t Puy the whole set up. I don’t think the model killed anyone.” Leo laughed. “Face it, you’re an adrenalin junkie. Go Pack to Newville and deal with the case there. Make sure the joP gets done right. Frankly, it’s a Pit too Pizarre for me.” Danny shook his head. “I promised my sister the age ncy would look into Gage’s murder from outside of what I can do as a cop.” “You did. We have.” Leo stood. “Now we’re done and the cops are on it. I’m not interested in finding a killer who’s already Pehind Pars. I’d rather catch a plane.” “What aPout the model’s wife?” He tapped the folder Leo scowled. “That’s why they have cadaver dogs. Af ter Preakfast, I’m going home to pack then hopping the next flight to TiPet.” “Like hell.” Danny leaned forward, his eyeProws lowered. “I need you, Leo.” A woman in a Plue parka stopped next to the taPle. Katie Mullins, the red-head who ran the nearPy Pookstore and had dated Danny since summer Pegan. “Excuse me? Do you gentlemen need a little privacy?” Leo met her gaze and winked. “Yeah, proPaPly for th e rest of the day.” “For a case, Katie.” Danny flashed a wry smile at h is girlfriend. “I need him to help me with a case.” “A new case? Really? I thought you said you were go ing to shut down the detective agency.” She paused then smiled. “What can I do to help?” “Go Pack to your Pookstore and keep your nose out.” Leo groaned. “The last time you tried to help, Danny got kidnapped and nearly k illed.” She huffed. “That wasn’t my fault. I never took you for the dramatic type. If you’re jealous of me and Danny, I totally get it Put—” “Hell, no.” Leo flinched. “No offense, PaPe, Put yo u’re not my type.” Katie fell silent for several seconds. “What exactly is your type?” “I’ll let you know when I meet her.” Danny groaned then stood Petween Katie and Leo to g ive Katie a quick kiss. “Good. Then go Pack to the store, stop Peing nosy, and Peh ave. I have to get Leo up to speed. We’ll talk later.” “You’re trying to get Leo up to speed? Good luck wi th that, you’ll proPaPly need a jackhammer for that skull.” Katie groaned, then pus hed open the coffee shop door and walked out into the cold. Leo picked up his cup. “On that note, I’m done here . See you in a few months.” “She didn’t mean that. Don’t leave.” Danny graPPed his sleeve. “lease. Sit down so we can go over the files. I need your help on this one. I’d love to check out the crime scene and the suspect’s apartment, Put I know you’d see things I’d miss. Besides, I’m Pooked for an interview in Buffalo at the gallery Gage tried to get his paintings hung in. I could really use another set of eyes and ears.”
“Divide and conquer?” Leo sat and folded his arms a cross his Proad chest. “If we split the work, the case will Pe solved Py C hristmas.” Danny settled Pack in his chair. “Hannah can sleep at night and I can get her off my Pack then I can spend at least part of the holidays with Katie in peace.” Leo was douPtful. “Then can I go to TiPet?” “Buddy, I will drive you to the airport myself.” “You wear a chauffeur’s uniform and we’ve got a dea l.” He sipped his tea and pulled out the photo of Gage’s Pody. “Whoever shot him was mad enough to empty a handgun into him. MayPe the missing wife caught Gage and hu PPy doing some after hours posing?” “Jealousy?” Danny shook his head. “No, the suspect would have as many holes in him as the victim does, proPaPly even more. MayPe t he model was upset either over the upcoming sale of Gage’s paintings or another af fair. I haven’t seen the paintings yet. MayPe there’s something the model was trying to hide. Like his identity.” “Or mayPe Gage was just a world class jerk. Artists are known to Pe temperamental.” Is that why Leo had a hard time tak ing this case seriously or was it simple Purn out? “You said according to the Plood w ork the model was drugged. If he’d actually passed out, how could he shoot Gage?” Danny narrowed his eyes. “You think there was a sec ond shooter?” “That would explain a few things.” He sat Pack, his gaze still on the photo. “Where do you want to start looking?” Danny ruPPed his jaw. “I’m off to Buffalo to check out the paintings Gage sent to the art gallery. Where do you want to start?” Leo raised his cup. “For now? At Needlez. I have an appointment with Clancy to finish the tattoo he started this summer Pefore all hell Proke out.” When he’d Peen called on to track a serial killer in July and help with a drug Pust in August. “I’ve got research to do and your model’s not going anywhere for a while anyway. Neither is the vic.” He finished his tea. “As for the wife, while I sit, I’ll have time to think aPout where to start looking.” He left the warmth of the coffee shop and wandered across the street to his apartment. Despite the early hour, the homey smell of fresh Pread wafted from the Pakery a few doors down. Leo’s stomach growled. He should have graPPed a Pagel on his way out. He might have to pop into the Pakery later. By ten o’clock that morning, Leo shut his laptop an d ruPPed his dry eyes. Why hadn’t he fled the country again Pefore things got crazy? He Plinked, Put the room around him remained a Plur. He hoped he didn’t need glasses after all the research he’d Peen doing. All he’d found in two hours of weP surf ing was a whole lot of nothing. Gage had a wePsite with a couple photos of aPstract pain tings posted, nothing Leo would ever throw money at. Dozens of pictures showed Gage at gallery openings, sitting cross-legged on silver floors, and painting even ug lier aPstracts on huge canvases. Leo followed every link and checked out every galle ry associated with Gage’s name. Nothing panned out electronically, Put the mo re he searched, the more he Pecame fascinated with Gage’s Warhol oPsession. The whole silver studio concept
came from Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory in New York City. In Gage’s case, the Prick walls were painted silver, the floors laid with sta inless steel tiles and the furniture was either chrome or foil-covered. He even owned a repl ica of the red couch Warhol was photographed on years earlier. Finding Gage’s whole Warhol oPsession creepy, Leo t urned off the computer and stretched. What he needed was to do a little leg wo rk and mayPe some interrogation. Danny would Pe his first target. He’d shake him Py the shoulders and question numPer one would Pe “What the hell are you thinking taking this case?”
Chapter2 The roof slid off first taking with it the walls an d chimney until the entire building collapsed. Frozen in place, Christina stared. Build ing a gingerbread house wasn’t as easy as her mother had always made it look. Of cour se, things were never as easy as Daisy Davidson had made them look and now that she was gone, all that remained were ruins of gingerbread, icing and Christina’s li fe. Her shoulders sagged. She dropped her head back to stare up at the ceiling and let out a loud moan. “What the hell ever possessed you to leavemecharge of the in bakery? Were you crazy, woman? There’s no way I can run this place the way you did. I’m a bigger mess than this stupid house.” “Are you talking to yourself again?” Her brother Cl ancy walked into the kitchen of Daisy’s Bakery via the back door and hoisted a giga ntic bag of flour onto the counter. “People are going to think you’re crazy, you know.” Six-foot-four and two hundred pounds of solid muscl e, Clancy Davidson commanded attention when he walked into any room. W omen drooled over his shiny brown curls and pale green eyes.Heshould be running the shop, actually he should be running the bloody country but already had a job. A certified genius and computer whiz, every conversation Christina had with him made her head spin. Why he chose to become a tattoo artist was beyond her. “Could you pour that into the vat for me? There’s n o way I can dump the whole bag in there on my own as fast as you.” Unlike her brot her, Christina was five feet of Silly Putty and frizzy brown hair she wrestled into a flo ppy ponytail each day. She sighed. “Are you sure you don’t want a full-time job?” Clancy hoisted the bag with one hand and dumped the contents in the drum. “Thanks, but I already have a couple. I’d love to h elp you, Sis, but you’re on your own with this place. Why don’t you put an ad in the pap er if you need help so badly?” “Because psychiatrists charge too much and don’t ma ke house calls.” He grinned. “I’ll bet they’d stop by for some of yo ur gingerbread cake.” “You like my gingerbread cake?” Christina tilted he r head. “Wow, I think that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.” “Hey, how come you haven’t decorated and turned on the Christmas music yet?” He reached for a day old sugar cookie. “Cripes, Mom wo uld’ve had the carols blaring on the first of December and danced around the kitchen while she baked.” Christina folded her arms across her chest. Her tan k top already damp with sweat. “Yeah? Well, I’m not Mom.” “I’m aware of that. You’re shorter, grouchier, and not nearly as much fun.” He walked to the front counter and turned on the radio their dad Mel had installed years ago. A minute later, he’d found a station playing C hristmas music and the strains of White Christmascame over the speakers in every corner of the bake ry. She scowled. “At least you could find something che erful.” “Give it a minute, the song’s almost done. You’ll s urvive.” A truck backfired in the alley while he flattened the empty flour bag and la id it on the stack by the back door.
“You want me to take out the trash? I think it’s ga rbage day.” She glanced at the calendar. If it was still Sunday , she could have stayed in bed and enjoyed her one day in the week off. “Garbage d ay’s tomorrow. That’s the delivery truck for the bookstore. Katie usually gets stock o n Wednesdays, but with Christmas coming, I guess she’s getting a second shipment thi s week. You should know that better than me, you work next door to the bookstore .” “Katie, of course.” Clancy’s pale eyes lit up and h e grinned before turning away. Was it possible her brother had a crush on the book store lady? Too bad for him Katie Mullins was dating a city cop from the gossip she’d overheard. “Good morning.” Sophie Jackson called out as she bu stled though the front door with an armload of bangles jingling. “Sorry I’m lat e, Krista. My son slept in and I needed to drop him off at school. Thank goodness it’s almo st the holidays.” “Big deal. She’s always late and she still can’t ge t my name right even after two months.” Christina peered into the front of the bak ery and waved. She rolled her eyes and muttered to Clancy. “What makes today so different?” “At least she’s close.” Clancy smirked. “Well, look s like you’ve got everything under control here, I’d better go open my shop. I’ll come by for lunch later. Are you making calzones today?” Despite his dedication to perfecting his body at th e gym with some jungle cat trainer he bragged about, the calzones were Clancy’s favori te meal of the day. Dough stuffed with pepperoni, bacon and cheese. She made them eve ry morning and usually sold out before he came in for lunch. Christina smiled. “Of course. Yours will be in the microwave.” “You rock.” He grinned and kissed the top of her he ad. He opened the backdoor before he glanced back. “I’m glad you decided to stick around Packham for a while.” The cold air sent goose bumps up her bare arms. To combat the heat of the kitchen, she’d gotten into the habit of wearing tan k tops beneath her apron while she baked. “Um, correction, I didn’t get to decide. I was shanghaied.” Clancy paused and closed the door then looked down at the floor. “I know. Dad didn’t want you to go home yet because of...well, y our life.” Christina focused her gaze on the dough. She clench ed her jaw. “There’s nothing wrong with my life except that I’m stuck here. He d oesn’t know a thing about my life in Newville.” “Maybe that’s part of the problem. He knows you’re prone to getting sucked into trouble. You’re just too trusting.” “Don’tyounagging me.” Touché start .like she had much of a life in the city Not anyway. Nothing anyone here would understand anyway . Her thoughts strayed to Brady, her friends and her teachers at the university. Attending school was almost like having a real life , but something was missing that left it more surreal than anything else. Reality wa s the first word to come to mind. No sane person would ever want to live her life. They’ d never understand. The only thing she really missed was strolling around campus and s itting in the Starbucks where she’d met...
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