Table of ContentsChapter OneChapter TwoChapter ThreeChapter FourChapter FiveAbout the AuthorSneak Peek
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Town café owner Francine’s prize winning secret banana pudding recipe has gone missing the week before the town festival. Now, Gertie, Ida Bell, CIA Assassin in hiding Fortune Redding, and hunky Sheriff Carter LeBlanc know they had better solve the mystery of the missing pudding fast, because if they’ve learned anything since Fortune came to town, it was that the simplest of mysteries could end in murder… especially where Francine’s pudding was concerned. Sinfully Delicious By Anna Snow Chapter One
Ida Bell pressed the sunflower decorated hand towel against Fortune’s nose while I tried my darndest to ignore the spew of obscenities spilling out of Ida Bell’s mouth.Now, she’s not normally one to curse, but I have to admit, I kind of pushed her to her limits this time.“Tell me again how this happened, Gertie.” She demanded as she pulled the towel away from Fortune’s nose to reassess the damage.There was still plenty of blood flowing from her usually perfectly shaped smeller.“We were watching a Chuck Norris movie and eating some of the cookies that Ally brought over when Fortune said the nunchucks were a weapon she didn’t have much experience with. I was surprised because you know, Fortune has experience with almost every weapon known to man. So, I grabbed mine out of the kitchen drawer to show her my skills.”“What skills? Are you Jackie Chan now?” Ida Bell demanded, then slapped the towel back on Fortune’s face with athunk. Fortune hissed in a breath.“Sorry,” Ida Bell muttered.“I have skills.”They both rolled their eyes. This was a common occurrence. Nearly everyone in Sinful thought I was some kind of dolt. The truth was quite the opposite, but they didn’t need to know that. The goofy old lady act allowed me to gather more information than anyone realized. So what if I was a little accident prone, that wasn’t my fault and it had helped us out more in the past than it had hurt us. At least that’s what I thought.“Anyway,” I continued, “I whipped them around my back but lost my grip and bam! They flew out of my hand and smacked poor Fortune in the face.”“Where on Earth did you get your old-as-the-ark hands on nunchucks anyways?”“Walter’s yard sale last weekend.”Ida Bell’s eyes nearly bulged out of her head. “Walter?You mean to tell me that Walter sold them to you? He knows that you’re half blind and the odds of you killing someone or yourself are sky high. What was that old goat thinking? What were you thinking?”“I’m not blind and I needed a silent weapon to defend myself ever since Carter took my throwing stars and mace away from me. This town’s been crazy since Fortune arrived.”“Enough,” Fortune growled as she removed the towel, folded it, then replaced it on back her nose. “You can yell at Gertie later. My nose is broken and it needs to be set.”“Can you go to the hospital? Considering you’re still hiding and all?”She glared at me again. “Yeah, but I’d rather not so soon after my last visit.”“Why don’t you just have Gertie smack you in the nose again? Maybe it’ll snap back into place.”Fortune shook her head and this time I rolled my eyes.I felt terrible for having hurt the woman who’d become like a daughter to me, but what was done was done and there was no changing it now.I only hoped that Fortune’s nose didn’t heal with a big lump in the center of it. Not only would I never hear the end of it from Ida Bell, but I’d never forgive myself.“I’ll call the doctor and see if he’ll make a house call.”“That new Doctor that just moved to town?” Ida Bell called behind me. “He can’t be more than thirty.”“He’s still a doctor. Unless you want to take a crack at fixing her face? Besides, Carter seems to like him, and if he’s good enough for the sheriff, then he’s good enough for me.”The mention of Sheriff Carter shut her up.Finally. Something to close her trap, I thought as I picked up the phone and dialed. Chapter TwoThirty minutes later Dr. Miller had set Fortune’s nose and was enjoying a cup of coffee and cookies at my kitchen table. He was a handsome man with blue eyes, blond hair, and a nice smile, but he was nowhere near as handsome as Fortune’s main squeeze Carter.“We really appreciate you coming to help us out.” Ida Bell said.“It’s my job.” He shrugged. “But, I have to ask. Does this kind of thing happen often?”“Only where the three of us are concerned.” Fortune answered.He laughed, then realized that she was serious and shook his head. “Well, I’m here if you need me. It’s nice to work in a small town. The city was just too much for me. Sinful is more my speed.”I couldn’t help but think that his speed must be that of a snail because Sinful moved much slower than most places… usually. There had been some flare-ups in crime since Fortune arrived, none of which were her fault. However, things seemed to be slowing down this week.We all nodded and sipped our coffee.The doctor stood. “I should be going. I’m still working on getting the new clinic set up and if I’m not there I’m pretty sure nothing will get done.”“If you hired ol’ Jep and his boys to do the construction, then you’ll end up doing most of the work yourself.” Ida Bell took the words right out of my mouth. “That boy’s been lazier than the day is long ever since the day he fell out of his mama at the Wal-Mart. Hell, I’m surprised he wasn’t too lazy to do that.”The doc laughed. “I’ll keep that in mind. I can show myself out. You ladies have a nice evening and stay out of trouble.”He had no idea how much he was asking of us.He gave us all a two fingered salute as he headed toward the door.“What do you say we all head down to Francine’s and grab an early dinner? My stomach’s growling.”Fortune frowned at me. Her shiny silver nose brace glinted in the kitchen light, and around both of her eyes were now black and blue.“Sure. Why the hell not. It’s not like I’m going to be able to keep this hidden from Carter. Half of the town probably already knows.”“You’re right. Besides, you need to debut your new raccoon look to the town before the Fall Festival.” Ida Bell grinned and made a circular motion with her finger around her eyes.Fortune glowered.“I’ll drive.” I said.“The hell you will. You already caused enough damage today. We can walk. It’s only a couple of blocks, and you could use the exercise. You’re out of shape.”“There’s nothing wrong with my shape.” I defended myself but Ida Bell was on a roll. The old coot.“Yeah, if you were a beach ball, you’re shape would be perfectly fine. Now, let’s get down to the café. We also need to check and make sure the booths are set up for tomorrow. Especially the dunk tank.”The three of us stepped out of the house, off the porch, and headed down the sidewalk toward the center of town.“Just imagine all of the money we’d raise if we could shove Celia in that thing!”Page 2
Celia and her little group of minions were always trying to outdo or putting down the Sinful Ladies Society, of which Ida Bell and I were the founding members. The SLS did our bests at keeping the town respectable, but sometimes that was a lot harder said than done.“She’d be perfect, but I think the only way we could get her in the box is to kidnap her, and after everything that’s happened since I’ve moved here, I don’t want to add a kidnapping charge to my record.” Fortune laughed. “Carter probably wouldn’t be too understanding, either.”We were about a block away from Francine’s Café when we heard the commotion. The sidewalk was clear, but the racket was obviously coming from the café.“What’s going on in there?” Ida Bell asked as we all put a pep in our steps and hurried inside the café.What we saw was something straight out of a daytime soap opera.The normally quiet Francine was wailing, waving her arms in the air with a bright yellow dishtowel in one hand, while a very confused looking Carter was trying his hardest to calm the woman down.From what I could tell, it wasn’t working.“Just calm down, Francine. I can’t help if you don’t calm down and tell me exactly what is going on.” Carter said.“What the heck is going on, Francine?” I hollered over her wailing.“The pudding recipe is gone! It’s gone!”We all froze in our tracks. At the risk of sounding cliché, Francine’s banana pudding was like heaven on Earth. There was nothing in the world like it. Who needed a man when you could have Francine’s banana pudding?Carter caught a glimpse of Fortune and his eyes nearly bulged out of his head. “Are you alright? What in the hell happened to your nose?”“I’m fine. It’s a long story. I’ll explain later.” She answered before turning her attention back to Francine. “Now, what do you mean, the recipe is gone? You’ve made it so many times, don’t you have it memorized? Can’t you just write it down again?”Ally, our dear friend and waitress stood partially behind Francine shaking her head and making a slicing motion across her throat while Fortune asked her questions. Apparently Fortune didn’t see the warning or simply wasn’t paying attention, but boy I wish she had been.Francine flapped her flabby arms in the air. “Of course I know the recipe by memory. I could make the damn thing in my sleep! But now someone else has the prize winning pudding recipe that’s been in my family for generations! The person who has it could market it and sell it. My mama and her mama before her wanted that recipe to stay in the family. To never be mass marketed. That recipe is a gift that I share with everyone in this town. All I know is that I’m not making a spoon of pudding until that recipe is found, even if it means no pudding come the kickoff of the festival tomorrow.Ally patted Francine’s back in an attempt to calm the woman down, while everyone else in the café went pale at the mention of no pudding.Carter softened his voice. “Are you sure it’s missing? Where do you normally keep it hidden?”“In a safe in the office.”“Can you show it to me?”Francine nodded. “Follow me.”“When I come back in here, you’re going to tell me what the hell happened to your nose.” Carter pointed at Fortune.Fortune shrugged.Carter hurried after Francine.“If he thinks I’m just going to stand here and not try to figure out what happened to the best banana pudding recipe in the world, he’s crazy.” I said as I hurried after Carter and Francine. Ida Bell and Fortune hurried behind me.“Now, that’s the best idea she’s had all day.” Fortune laughed. Chapter Three“I’d tell you all to get out, but I know you wouldn’t listen.” Carter shook his head.We all grinned. He knew us so well.“This is the safe I keep the recipe and a small amount of cash in. I opened it just after lunch to put the afternoon till in, and saw that the recipe was gone.”“Who has the combination besides yourself?” I asked.“Ally. I don’t trust anyone else with it. There’s no way Ally took it, so someone else must’ve gotten their hands on the combination and stole it.”As much as I hated to admit it, I knew she was right.“I’m going to do what I can to find your recipe. But without any leads, I don’t know how far I’ll get. In the meantime, change the combination on this safe, and lock your office. Also, I wouldn’t put anything valuable in the safe until we figure out what happened to your recipe. I’m going to look into this. If you hear anything give me a call, and I’ll let you know if I find something.”Carter took Fortune’s elbow in hand and steered her out of the room. “We need to talk.”As soon as Carter and Fortune were out of earshot, Ida Bell and I started our own investigation.“Francine, are you sure you didn’t move the recipe?” Ida Bell asked.“I’m certain. I never take it out of this safe.”“What does the recipe look like?” I asked.“It’s written on an old thick recipe card. It’s discolored, almost tan from the years that have passed. The edges are tattered, but the writing is clear and legible. You’d know it if you saw it.”“Have you hired any new people lately?” Ida Bell leaned against Francine’s small desk.“Two new girls. Sabrina and Cathy. They both just moved here. Sabrina is married to the new doc in town and Cathy is in her second year of college. They’re both waitressing for me part time.”“Have they had access to the safe?” I asked.“Everyone has access to my office but they couldn’t get into the safe without the combination.”“We’ll figure this out.” Ida Bell patted Francine on the shoulder.We left the office and met Fortune who was already set up at a booth, and slid in in front of her.“How mad is Carter?”She shook her head. “He’s coming by to take you nunchucks this evening, so if you have any other weapons lying around that you don’t want confiscated, you’d better hide them before he stops by.”I nodded. “So, pretty upset, then.”“What did you find out from Francine after I left?”“Not much. She hired two new waitresses but says none of them know the combination to the safe.”“Are we sure someone stole the recipe?” Fortune asked.“She’s certain, and if that’s the case, there could be a real problem.”“What do you mean?” I asked Ida Bell.“It’s just as Francine said. If someone actually did get into the safe and take the recipe, then they could very well sell it and make a ton of money.”“So what do we do? The fall festival kicks off tomorrow and without Francine’s pudding the town’s people are going to go crazy. Not to mention, it’ll put a dent in Francine’s earnings. She makes a good sum of money during the festival, due to the tourists who come down for the festival and her pudding.” We sat lost in thought for what seemed like forever until it hit me.“What if we lie?”“What are you talking about now?” Ida Bell scrunched up her face at me.“What if we put out word that the recipe taken out of Francine’s safe was a dummy. A fake.”“But a lot of people already saw Francine freak out that her recipe was missing.” Fortune said.“We could say that she was just putting on a show that way the thief would think they got the real recipe and wouldn’t come back after the real thing.”Ida Bell grinned. “We could quietly put out word that Francine keeps the real recipe in a cubby in the bottom of her desk drawer. You know how secrets rage like wildfire around here. When the thief gets wind that they have the wrong recipe, they’ll come back for the real thing.”“Then we hide in the cafe and when the thief comes back for the real recipe, bam! We got them.” Fortune finished the idea.“Exactly.” I smiled. “Let’s let Francine in on out plan and get this show on the road. The festival is tomorrow and I’ll be dipped in the outhouse before I miss out on Francine’s banana pudding.”Chapter Four