Hope everyone is having a great Friday. In preparation of the first two books in my series, Key Lime Crime and Coconut Crème Confession, here’s an unedited sneak peek. Below is the last part of Chapter 1.
“What’s that?” I asked as a loud scratching sound came from the back door.
Star’s eyes lit up. “It must be Mr. Whiskers.”
Star unofficially adopted a stray tabby cat, Mr. Whiskers, who hung out around Grove Park. The orange and white fur-ball visited our truck almost daily. Star left a bowl of water and a bowl of food at the back of the truck. Star wanted to take her home. However, her mother refused to allow her to have a cat due to her allergies.
Star’s overall demeanor changed each time she encountered Mr. Whiskers. Most of the time, Star displayed a no nonsense, sassy attitude. That all changed when that cat came around. A loving and nurturing side of her emerged from the shadows each time Mr. Whiskers showed his furry face.
“That’s sounds odd,” Star said as we both looked at each other confused.
Mr. Whiskers often scratched gently on the door to alert Star he wanted attention or additional food. Something seemed different this time. He continued to scratch louder and louder. Instead of a soothing purr, a loud screech sounded out from behind the door.
Star walked over to the door and gave me a concerned look before opening it. As the door swung open, Mr. Whiskers shot into the truck like a bolt of lightning. He ran past Star and jumped onto the counter, while knocking two mixing bowls onto the floor.
“Get him out of here,” I yelled as I watched cupcake batter pour onto the floor. “He’s making a mess.”
“I’ll grab him,” Star replied as she tried to cat the crazed cat. “Hold still, Mr. Whiskers!”
“What’s with him today?”
Suddenly, my question was answered as the sound of barking filled the air. Before Star could close the door, a dog jumped into the truck.
The dog was none other than Mrs. Trudy Watson’s prized cocker spaniel, Pookie. His sudden appearance caused even more pandemonium as the two animals ran circles around the inside of the truck.
My jaw dropped as I watched all my prep work from that morning become a scattered mess on the floor. We both tried to stop them, but our efforts remained useless. The two animals went at it like caged UFC fighters.
“Pookie, get out here this instant,” a woman’s voice shouted out from outside the door.
I peeked out the corner of my eye to the back door. Trudy Watson stood outside, holding a leash in one hand and a cigarette in the other. She appeared as if she recently rolled out of bed as her hair was in rollers and wearing her fluffy bright pink robe.
The sound of Trudy’s harsh tone and nasally voice caused Pookie to stop dead in her tracks. Pookie looked over at Trudy and then back at Mr. Whiskers. Pookie acted hesitant at first, but the dog decided to listen to her master as she walked over to the door. The sudden distraction allowed Star to grab the cat and restrain him in her arms.
“What are you doing messing with that mangy cat,” Trudy said as she attached the lease to Pookie’s pink collar. “There’s no telling what kind of disease you could get from it. I have a good mind to call animal control. Teach that pest a lesson.”
“Excuse me,” Star said as she became defense. “Maybe you should learn to keep your mutt on a leash? She’s the one who caused all of this.”
“Mutt? I’ll have you know that Pookie is a prized and fully pedigreed English Cocker Spaniel from the Walsh Breed out of Oxford. She’s hardly a mutt.”
“If she’s so dang important, why are you letting her run loose through Grove Park?”
“It wasn’t my fault. My good-for-nothing freeloader of a brother let her loose,” she said as she took a puff from her cigarette. “I let him sleep on my couch for free, and all I ask of him is to do one thing. His only job is to walk Pookie for me, and he can’t even do that right. All he cares about is sleeping and bow hunting.”
As the two of them continued to argue semantics, I stood there with my mouth wide open. I could only think of one thing. The massive mess. The only thought bouncing around my head was who would clean up the tremendous mess in my truck.
I wanted to cry as I thought about how much work was wasted that morning. Instead, I knew my duty was to try and diffuse the situation and act like an adult. I didn’t need my only full-time employee arrested for assault.
“Ms. Watson, we apologize for the inconvenience. Come by another day, and your meal is on us.”
I thought it a fitting compromise, since currently all the meals I’d prepared that morning were on the floor. Star looked as if she wanted to scream at me.
“Knock. Knock,” another voice called out from behind Trudy.
I looked curiously as a red hat appeared in the doorway. Unfortunately for me, I realized Margaret Pettyjohn was the person under the red hat. It was a mix of impeccable timing and bad luck. Ms. Pettyjohn not only served as a town councilmember, but held the office of city health inspector as well.
“Hello, Ms. Pettyjohn,” I said as I started to panic internally. “I hate to ask, but could you come back later. You’ve caught us at a bad time.”
That was an understatement, to say the least. She not only caught us at a bad time, but caught us with our pants down as well. The inside of the Murder She Wrote food truck looked like the aftermath of a food fight.
Ms. Pettyjohn turned to face Trudy and said,” I thought I smelled a foul stench in the air, but I didn’t notice the fisherman cleaning their catch. But then you’re here now. It all makes sense.”
“You’re lucky I didn’t press charges, when I heard you and your friend were snooping around my property the other day.”
“If your deadbeat brother wasn’t two months behind on alimony payments and answered his phone, I wouldn’t have to drop by unannounced.”
Trudy turned her nose up and pretended to ignore Margaret’s less than stellar greeting. “Let’s go, Pookie. I didn’t realize it was trash day already.”
Ms. Pettyjohn shook her head in disgust as Trudy walked away. Ms. Pettyjohn mood turned to one of anger and she turned to me and said, “I didn’t know you two were close. Makes sense, I guess.”
Before I could respond, she stepped one foot inside my truck and looked around. She let out a loud sigh as she took out a notebook and began to scribble down notes. My heart skipped a beat each time she pushed her pencil against the paper.
“Is this the way you run your business?” She asked as she continued to scan the room with her eye brows raised. “I can’t say I’m surprised, though.”
“You’re kidding, right?” Star responded as she continued to hold and comfort Mr. Whiskers. “Kara is an obsessive-compulsive person about cleaning. This is obviously an accident.”
“Wait just a minute,” Ms. Pettyjohn said as she adjusted her glasses. “You have a cat inside your food truck. You know that’s a serious health code violation.”
“This is all a big misunderstanding,” I said as I motioned for Star to get the cat out of the truck. “I would never allow a pet inside my truck on normal conditions, but…”
“I’m standing here looking at it right now,” she said as she began to write something down. “I’ve seen enough.”
She tore off a sheet from her notepad and handed it to me. I glanced at it and discovered the note was a citation. I stood there in shock as I attempted to make sense of it.
“As of right now, I’m shutting you down. By order of section 110 – ordinance 2, you are hereby required to cease all business operations until a full inspection can be completed.”
“If you are caught conducting any business on these premises, you may permanently lose your business license.
“How long will that be?” I asked. “Can you come back by tomorrow?”
“Let me check my schedule,” she said as she flipped through a few pages of her notebook. There was little doubt in my mind she was looking. “My next available slot is Friday, July 10th.”
“That’s almost two weeks away. Are you sure you can’t come sooner? This is all one big mistake, I assure you.”
“Not inspecting your business sooner was the big mistake,” she said as she began to walk out the door. “Besides, it will probably take you two weeks to clean this disaster up. Look at the bright side. In a way, I’m doing you a favor.”
As she walked away, Star and I stood in disbelief. With my business shut down during the two busiest weeks in the summer, what were we going to do?
Thank you for taking the time to read a sample of Chapter One of Coconut Crème Confession. Look for Key Lime Crime and Coconut Crème Confession to hit the Amazon Kindle store in Late May 2018.