Join Jenny for a hypnotizing mystery and one of Hamilton's biggest celebrations.
“Peach pie and one of those, please.” Cherry’s words hummed with the twang of a southern accent while she pointed to a pile of popcorn sleeves the vendor was holding hostage.
“You must have some kind of Southern Pie radar?” Jenny asked. “I didn’t even know he sold peach.”
“Oh sweetie, I take offense to that, peach pie is not the only Southern pie. Give me a good lemon, sweet potato, coconut, my momma makes a berry pie that would bring you to Jesus. At least, I say a prayer of gratitude any time I hear it’s baking.” Cherry sacrificed several bills to the man behind the table
Cherry smiled back as she retrieved the white bag that held two of the sugar glazed hand pies. Pulling one out she held it close to her face, just smelling the sweet pastry.
“So, you do have pie radar?” Jenny asked, promising herself she wouldn’t laugh.
Cherry looked up from her moment with the pie and shook her head. “No, I have breakfast.” She tipped the pie toward Jenny in a gesture of cheers. Jenny laughed. Her friend and assistant seemed to bring the heat of a Southern summer wherever she went, no matter what color the leaves were. She tucked her clipboard away and handed Jenny the sleeve of popcorn. “Your popcorn my dear.”
“And now I have breakfast.” Jenny said. It wasn’t difficult for Jenny to imagine Cherry as the superlative Southern woman standing on her porch, a freshly baked pie in one hand and a glass of sweet tea in the other. “And possibly lunch and dinner. This is a lot of kettle corn.”
Cherry snickered, as Jenny opened the plastic tube stuffed with sugar crisped kernels. Kettle corn. It was easy to forget the noise and bustle when you were surrounded by sweet nostalgia. Jenny breathed in the scent of half sugar, half caramel, clinging to an under layer of butter.
Cherry held out one of two golden fried pies. “Want to race?”
“Nope.” Jenny said, shoving an olympic sized handful of kettle corn into her mouth before she realized Cherry was watching her, rather affronted at Jenny’sCheck what this was. denial of a game. “What?” Jenny asked, shrugging awkwardly and trying to swallow the aggressive mouthful. “You don’t race through Amish hand pies. Everybody knows that. Besides, pie eating is a messy endeavor if you’re not careful.”
Jenny was more than happy to illustrate her point, licking her fingers to catch all the precious, excess filling.
Cherry lifted her pie to her mouth. prepping to take an Olympic sized bite anyway just in time for someone to come dashing across the park, knocking Cherry’s shoulder and shoving her forward. The pie crunched in her fingers, peaches exploding across her hands and shirt.
“Cherry!” Jenny rushed to help.
Cherry shook the filling from her hands, sparing a single glance away from her sticky fingers. “Oh, it’s definitely peach, not cherry.”
Jenny chuckled. Oddly, the spilled pie didn’t look as bad as Jenny expected. She was sure it didn’t feel good, but the filling matched Cherry’s hair beautifully and blended with her shirt’s coral fabric. The coral was printed over with silver bobbins and the mess swallowed several of them, ruining the effect of her festive blouse.
“I tried to warn you. It’s a messy endeavor in the wrong hands.” Jenny had her hand on Cherry’s shoulder, but her eyes followed the man who’d bumped her. In deep green slacks and long dark sideburns. It looked like Al’s assistant, Harry Bolding.
“Mmm. In the hands of a Southern woman, peach pie is never wrong.” She caught a drip of filling that hung from the broken pie shell and closed her eyes. “And it's always delicious. Do you have a napkin or something?”
“Sorry, no.” Jenny said, “I just cleaned it out.
“Well, that’s rough.” Cherry licked another finger. “It’s fine. I’ll bet the guy at the stand does. Just a second.”
She walked away, and Jenny watched Harry take long, fast strides across the park. He hadn’t gone far but he also wasn’t stopping. It looked like he was headed toward the back of Hamilton’s theater house.
Jenny had known Harry since he’d started with the company several years ago. He was in finance working closely with her son Alan. So, what was he doing in the alley behind the theater and why was he so preoccupied, he couldn’t even pause to apologize?
Harry looked over his shoulder and caught Jenny’s gaze. He held it just long enough to make her uncomfortable before disappearing behind the building.
“More pies!” Cherry announced as she returned. Jenny jumped and Cherry held out a pie for her. “How do you feel about lemon?”
Jenny’s niece Lissa stood by Cherry with a pie in one hand and her other hand against her forehead, shading her eyes. Cherry rambled on. “He had a whole pack of wipes and I’m clean again. And guess who I found?”
“Lissa!” Jenny hadn’t seen Lissa for a couple of days and grabbed her up in a big hug. “I wasn’t expecting to see you this morning.”
“I know,” she said, hugging Jenny back. “And I still have a paper due but how could I miss all of this?”
“Or all of this?” Cherry said, waving a hand in front of herself and Jenny as if they were a theater duo. In doing so, she caught sight of a stray pastry remnant that she quickly brushed from her turquoise pants.Check the change
Lissa rolled her eyes, but Jenny loved Cherry’s bold cheerfulness. She was truly a ray of Southern sunshine.
“It’s a great weekend to be here. I just finished some giveaways, and this is either breakfast or self-indulgence, you pick.” Jenny said handing Lissa her kettle corn. Lissa had come out earlier that month to intern with the Missouri Star Quilt Co. and was renting a place near Jenny. Pulling out her phone, trying to open the schedule she’d been sent. “Do you know where I’m supposed to be next?”
“Pies,” Cherry said with a mouth half-fulCheck changel. Lissa giggled.
“I mean after the food. I’m sure there’s something waiting for me.” Jenny smiled, though her stomach tightened at the list she’d only glanced at then ignored. Often, those lists just gave her headaches. “Please, tell me you know.”
“Of course, I do.” Cherry confidently started scrolling through her own phone to recover the infamous list. Cherry furrowed her brow, not looking up from her phone. “That’s strange. I thought we were going to have a trunk show over at the theater this morning, before they start setting up for the evening entertainment. . . but it looks like Harry moved it to the retreat center. Oh, that’s not gonna work, he must not realize everything they’ve already got booked over there. I’ll be right back.” Cherry stepped away from Jenny and Lissa, lifting her phone to her ear.
Jenny loved doing trunk shows as much as her guests loved coming to them. Every trunk show involved several bins or “trunks” full of quilts that Jenny would empty quilt by quilt, talking in turn about each one and teaching bits of how they were made. Interspersed with stories and personal experiences, it brought a great energy to everyone involved. But trunk shows needed space, and a ton of it. If the retreat center was full, it would be tricky making things work.
Jenny took a breath to slow her mind. Cherry would figure things out. She always did. She turned back to Lissa, who was now holding Cherry’s bag of pies and eyeing the white paper folds. “So. How have you been enjoying your visit?”
Lissa’s smile and excitement reminded Jenny so much of Lissa’s mom, her sister. “It’s been good! It’s been amazing to come and see all the pieces you guys have in action around here. Small business is something I’m passionate about, so this internship was perfect for my degree.”
Without Cherry telling her where to be Jenny started strolling around the park and her niece followed. “We are thrilled to have you here. When we started, we had no idea how to do any of this. It all came a little at a time with a big learning curve.”
“So many businesses fail. You were so lucky.” Lissa had told Jenny it was her dream to own her own business and you could hear the longing in her voice.
“We were lucky” Jenny agreed. “But we also had a lot of passion pushing us forward. We wanted to make this work more than anything, and we had friends who supported us inside and outside the business. When you have the right people, you can move mountains.”
“Not to mention your fans.”
The comment caught Jenny off guard, a quick laugh bursting from her mouth. “Oh, I don’t even know how that happened. I guess that’s where we were the luckiest. We were teaching quilting, and quilters are the best.” Jenny spread her arms to the crowds around them. “And now they come to visit us! We all leave with more friends than we started with.” The bustling street was flooded with dozens of visitors she’d already met. While she didn’t remember every introduction, she absolutely looked forward to seeing them again.
They reached the back of the park and Jenny was surprised to see that she’d subconsciously walked them right to the back of the theater building. The sounds of an argument drifted out of the alley.
“That can’t be good,” Lissa muttered, pulling Jenny to a stop. She hadn’t been paying attention to the words, but the tone was hard to mistake.
“That’s not what we agreed to.”
“You’re charging more, so we need two shows. And your boss agreed.” It sounded like Harry. . . and he was mad.
“I’m gonna kill him. Look, Eddie’s an idiot riding a cash cow. He thinks all he has to do is smile and people bring him money.” Eddie. . . Whoever Harry was arguing with, it had to be someone working for Eduardo. “I have to make the books work. I manage the schedule. We have commitments on Saturday. You should have booked two nights if you wanted them.”
“You shouldn’t be gouging us because this is his hometown.” Harry was making some serious accusations and Jenny glanced at Lissa who was backing away.
“I’m not! This next show is big enough I should have cut you in the first place.”
“You better not.” Harry’s voice had gone cold. “My job is on the line if this doesn’t work so either you bring down the price or you stay for a second show. Or I will make you regret it.”
Jenny’s lungs tightened. She reached out to steady herself, scratching her hands against the rough brick.
“I don’t think we were supposed to hear all of that.” Lissa whispered, pulling back on Jenny’s elbow.
A crash jolted through the pair of them, and Jenny could’ve sworn her heart stopped beating. Too quickly, the steady clip of footsteps preceded a man. It wasn’t Harry, but instead a twenty-something with pale blond hair that swept off his forehead in defiance of gravity.
“Benji?” Lissa asked hesitantly.
He scowled at them as he passed, then halted to give a sarcastic flourish of a bow. “Lissa, I hope you enjoyed the show. Come tonight and catch the real thing.” He looked over his shoulder. “We’re headed out in the morning.”
The final statement was clearly not directed at the women. Jenny looked at Lissa, who seemed dumbfounded.
“Did you know him?” Jenny asked.
“That was Benji,” Lissa said, a frown deepening across her features. “He’s the Great Eduardo’s assistant. I met him last night after they pulled into town.”
Jenny watched him storm off then turned to the alley and waited for Harry to follow. Maybe he could give her some answers. There wasn’t a sound.
Fifteen seconds later, and still no sign of anyone. Jenny took a few steps closer and peeked around the corner.
“Harry?” she called out. “Is everything all right?” Jenny stepped into the alley and turned a slow circle between old brick walls and dumpsters.
Save for the two women, the alley was empty. Disturbingly empty. She called out again, her voice echoing across the tired, old brick. Something was definitely not right.
Chain Piecing a Mystery
Fall fun, hypnotizing secrets, and more killers than victims in a small town mystery you would kill to forget...
It’s a party like no other with the MSQC Birthday Bash and the Penney Festival all on the same weekend. But after the main event comes to a hypnotizing end, three people, including Jenny’s niece, rock the town by confessing to the murder of a local celebrity. Only, the person they think they killed isn't dead!