The next morning, Addy woke up begrudgingly, feeling very much as though she had been in a coma after getting hit by a semi truck. Every muscle in her body ached from the quantity of kneading, bending, twisting, and walking. The tension from knowing there was a killer somewhere in town probably didn’t help.
The first stop of the day was to the bakery to help with the influx of customers that desperately needed their morning sweet fix. Maggie’s eyes were bright as Addy walked in and tied her apron on.
“For my favorite daughter-” Addy rolled her eyes but gave her mom a smile as Maggie presented her with an iced dirty chai latte. “I hate to admit it, but I needed that rest last night.”
“As long as I’ve been born, you haven’t taken a single break.” Addy gave her mother a pointed look before putting on her famous smile for the next customers in line.
“One of those twisted bits, dear.” An elderly woman pointed a gnarled finger at the cinnamon twisted pretzels. There was a gruff man behind the woman with a thick handlebar mustache, his arms folded across his chest. A woman next to him, his wife, Addy guessed, was brimming with excitement.
“This is great news, Ted.” She hissed at him in an excited non-whisper. He replied with a grunt. “With that witch of a woman gone, we can reopen the bar.”
“For ten grand, at least.” He finally spoke with a gravel voice. “That witch put us out of business.” Except he didn’t use the word witch like his wife had.
“But she’s gone now, dearest.” She patted his arm, still wearing a smug smile as Addy cashed out the elderly woman in front of them.
“A couple of those raspberry danishes.” The woman with Ted asked. Addy obliged, placing the danishes in two bags. “I recognize you.” The woman’s eyes narrowed at her, trying to place Addison’s face.
“Addison March, or Addy. My mom runs the shop.” She replied ringing up the order. “Any coffee today, ma’am?”
“Deenie, please.” She said, handing over her card. “I’m sure you’ve heard the news. It looks like it’s working out in your favor.” A pencil thin eyebrow rose as Deenie eyed the line behind her.
“Still, it’s sad, isn’t it?” Addy gave her the card back with a receipt as Ted took the bags of pastries. Deenie chuckled and shrugged, eyeing the crowd one more time before the couple left.
Addy made a mental note to ask Kayla about Deenie and Ted, and their bar. If she had to hazard a guess, she would assume they didn’t pass an inspection from Tara Altschul.
Kayla was pleased to hear there was a lead, telling Addy she’d be looking into all of the recently shut down businesses that Laura had inspected. She felt a wave of relief followed by a wave of fear as she pulled into the Miller Market parking lot. Sure, Deenie could be behind the killer, but why would she have killed Tara at Miller’s, and how would she have gotten in, unless someone working at Miller’s was involved. Two birds, one stone, as they say.
Before clocking in, Addy threw her hair in a top knot, perfect for doing some general cleaning around the store. She knocked at the front office to see where she would be starting and exactly what she would be doing.
“C’mon in.” Josh Miller’s muffled voice called out. Addy opened the door as he was wiping his face with a napkin.
“Ms. March.” He extended a hand that she shook firmly. “Today I want you to go throughout the store and spot clean. Glass windows, any spills. Don’t be shy either. Move product if you need to. I would love to have this place looking pristine the next time we have an inspection.”
“Not to rush you or anything, but do you know when the bakery will open again?” Addy asked. “I’m happy to have the work, but I’m sure you know my mom runs the bakery on Main Street. Baking is, like, in our blood.” She thought she could see the twitch of a smile starting at Josh’s lips.
“Once the bakery has been cleared, we’ll be up and running. If you can keep it between us,” he leaned forward, eyeing the door. Addy nodded. “I’d say a week, week and a half, tops.”
“I look forward to it.” Addy flashed him a smile before turning on her heel for the door.
“Darla from the deli can help you find everything you need for today.” She thanked him before heading for the deli counter. Alex was leaning against the counter in his street clothes, talking to one of the clerks, a black-haired, baby-faced girl with heavy eyeliner.
The girl caught her eye before Alex, who straightened once he turned to see her. “Look who’s back.”
“I just can’t stay away.” Alex chuckled. Addy turned to the girl. “Are you Darla, by any chance?”
The girl looked insulted, turned around and yelled, “Darla! Someone to see you.” Behind the wall where the meat, salads, wraps, and pasta salads were made, a woman with long grey streaked brunette hair appeared.
“Oh, you must be Addison, the new bakery girl!” She swept forward and reached a hand-out, the second one that Addy had shaken that day.
“Whenever it opens. I’m on custodial duty today. Josh said I should see you.”
“Right-o!” She stuck a finger in the air and led Addy toward the back of the store, when Addy remembered the trade Kayla and she had made the day before. She whipped her head around to see Alex watching her still.
“Alex, call my mom!” His eyebrow crooked upward but Addy didn’t have a moment to spare and jogged after Darla.
In the back, there was an open area where product came in, a baler at one end, and a long hallway that led to what looked like a warehouse full of product, a massive walk-in fridge next to an equally huge freezer. Across from the baler was a cabinet full of rags and cleaning products.
“Everything you need should be right here.” She held her arms out before placing them on her hips and sighing. “You’re Maggie’s girl, aren’t you?” Addy nodded. “I love her coffee cake. There’s something in it that makes me think of cool Autumn mornings.”
A loud ring resounded and Darla jumped, walking toward a door and pushing it open. She disappeared behind it and Addy turned around, jumping when she saw Jay walk through the wide open door that product was rolled through from big-rigs. He was putting a cigarette out in his palm.
Before he could catch her eye, Addy snatched a spray bottle and a blue rag, rushing for the heavy impact doors. Much to Addy’s chagrin, her shift was met with more questions about her than gossip about the health inspector. Despite being a resident, growing up in the town, she realized there were still loads of people who she never spent any time getting to know.
After two hours of spot-cleaning just about every surface and glass window in the entire store, including the front office, Addy retreated to the back of the store, making her way past the mass amounts of dry product, and down the hallway to the opposite end.
She rolled her neck from side to side as she made her way past the meat department, knowing that aches simply meant she had been working hard for her keep. Turning her head to crack the stiffness out of her neck, her eyes fell upon the bakery’s back doors. She skidded to a halt as a feeling inside of her compelled her to peer within the glass windows of the impact doors.
To anyone else it would look as though a murder hadn’t been committed there. The steel surfaces and tiled walls were wiped clean. The only difference was the wooden table usually at the center of the room had disappeared.
Addy was about to tear her eyes away when she saw something strange where the table once was. She turned her head from side to side before nudging the door open and slipping into the bakery. Her heart thumped as she pulled out her phone. Addy squatted to get a closer look at the red quarry tile. There was an odd discoloring in the grout and tile that didn’t belong there.
Maybe it’s been there awhile, she thought to herself, better get a pic just in case though. She stood up and stepped back, using her phone to capture what looked like an intentional design stained into the floor. She knew she recognized it, but she couldn’t seem to place it.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Addy jumped, spinning around and nearly falling right on her rear. She clutched her chest as soon as she saw Jay’s worried face.
“Don’t creep up on a girl, jeez!” She hissed back at him. “I think I found something.” She pointed to the floor. “A clue, maybe.”
Jay walked toward her, grabbing her by the arm before glancing down. “A Halloween prank, probably. Now, let’s go before both of us get written up.” He growled, looking around suspiciously. “You’re lucky this and the break room are the only places without cameras. The bakery is out of bounds.”
He dragged her out of the bakery, down the hall and to his work area near the baler as she came up with an excuse, “All I know is Mr. Miller told me to make sure this store looks spick and span.” Jay looked unconvinced, leaning against the side of the baler with his arms crossed.
“Look, I know you’re really into the detective stuff. It’s cool, sexy even.” Her jaw tightened. “But you can’t be Nancy Drew at work. I might not be there to save you next time.” He stroked his thumb across her chin the way he used to years ago.
“What makes you think I need saving?” She shook her head, threw the dirty rag in a bucket and stalked off. If there was one way to get under a March woman’s skin, it was to assume she needed saving from anything. Enough bad dates from white knight types had taught both March ladies that over the years.
“What kinda fancy schmancy phone is this?” Kayla turned Addy’s bedazzled cell phone in her hand. She had to put a new case on as hers had cracked in the Miller Market parking lot an hour before. Luckily she had a few spare cases that she liked to use based on mood, outfit, and season.
“Focus.” Addy pressed on and Kayla sighed, grumbling.
As she fidgeted with the photo Addy had pulled up on the screen, zooming in and out, Addy helped the long line of customers desperate for her mother’s freshly made delicacies. She and Kayla had agreed to meet up there after Addy finished her custodial shift at the grocery store.
“I don’t see anything.” Kayla squinted at Addy’s phone as she cashed out a customer, letting Alex, who had arrived just an hour before her, help the next customer. She turned the brightness of her phone all the way up and handed it back to Kayla.
“Jeez, Addy, I’m not that blind.” Addy refrained from retorting and continued cashing customers out with a bright service-friendly smile. “Ohh… oh! Oh, no!” Kayla clapped her hand across her mouth, her eyes wide.
“What? Do you see something else?”
Kayla shook her head before hissing, “I know exactly what that is.” She said pointing at Addy’s phone screen. The next words out of her mouth moved at such a pace, Addy could just barely keep up with her.
“Remember back in the day I was looking into witchcraft and whether or not it was a sin or whatever? I checked out this book – well, technically I requested the book and it took a good two months to get to our library – anyway, I got this book on symbols, tools, all that good stuff in the Wiccan religion. Oh, it turns out Paganism and the like isn’t really that bad since-”
“Whoa, whoa, slow down,” Addy held her hands up. “The symbol?”
“Pen and paper.” Kayla said shortly. Addy blinked. Her friend sighed before speaking slowly, “I need a pen and paper.” Addy scrambled to give her a blank scrap of receipt paper and one of her flower decorated pens.
Addy helped the next two customers as Kayla scribbled a design onto the paper, grunting to the curious passerby, “police work, very important”. When she was done, she held the design in front of Addy’s eyes. She turned her head before whispering to Addison. “It’s a pentagram.”
“Isn’t that a symbol of the devil or something?” Addy lowered her voice at the mention of something so scandalous in their small town. Devil worshippers were all but banned in Grandloc.
“No, that’s an inverted pentagram. Common mistake, especially out here.” Kayla spoke in a hushed tone. “I guess, this could be an inverted pentagram too. There’s one way to find out.”
“I don’t know,” Addy looked at the image on her phone skeptically. “Maybe Jay’s right and this is all some prank the teenagers cooked up. Not the murder, obviously-”
“Jay?” Kayla scoffed before rolling her eyes. “That metalhead is the last person you should listen to. He’s engaged, you know.” Addy felt the heat rise beneath her cheeks and considered herself lucky that she was wearing a protective coat of foundation to shield her embarrassment.
Before Kayla could scold her any further, Addy informed her of their run-in at the Miller Market bakery. “As much as I dislike your former beau-”
“So not my former beau. And who says beau anyway? But go on.”
“He’s right. If it was blocked off, you shouldn’t have been there.” Kayla continued begrudgingly.
“Is it still an active crime scene?”
“Well, no, but-”
“But nothing.” Addy shrugged, passing a receipt to the customer munching on their cinnamon twist. The line of customers finally let up.
“Addy, I’m serious. Ask Alex,” the golden haired young man appeared at her side, “You don’t want to cross the Millers by going into places you don’t belong. Tell them about Mrs. Miller.” Addy turned to Alex, who’s eyes went wide as his jaw tightened. “What? She doesn’t care.” Kayla pointed her thumb at Addy.
Alex hesitated before he spoke, his ears reddening. “I stupidly had a thing with Mrs. Miller.”
“You slept with Josh Miller’s wife?” Addy gasped.
“Lower your voice.” Alex held up his hands, but no one in the lobby had heard. “No, I wouldn’t have let it get that far.”
Kayla cut him off, “They had a flirtationship, but only when Josh wasn’t around.” She moved closer and lowered her own voice to a near whisper. “And she initiated every single encounter.”
“But I’m the one that let it go on.” Guilt covered Alex’s face as much as foundation covered Addy’s. She gave his arm a squeeze.
“Tell her what Josh did when he found out.” Kayla was fuming at this point.
“You sure you don’t want to tell me?” Addy smirked.
“He cut Alex’s hours and moved him to the meat department. He had regular hours in deli before all this crap.” Kayla shook her head, gritting her teeth, when her phone rang out throughout the store. She looked down before rushing to the door. “Gotta go.”
Alex nudged Addy’s elbow with his. “I got a pay raise with the transfer, so it wasn’t all that bad.” Addy laughed. That was the thing about Kayla. If anything happened to her loved ones, she fought the front lines for them.
Addy checked her watch. “I need to prep some dough for the morning. Holler if you need me?”
Alex bit his lip and Addy stopped. “It’s none of my business.” She crossed her arms and glared at him until he broke down. “Just… be careful about Jay. You don’t wanna end up like me.”
Addy’s face softened. “Thanks, Alex.”
She spent the next few hours mixing and kneading dough, separating it into sections for her mother in the morning. It must have been strange for her mother to go from working the shop by herself to having two extra sets of hands. Addy knew she deserved the break, although knowing Maggie she was probably working on new recipes at home.
Sure enough, after closing shop and making her way home, Addy found her mother in the kitchen spinning sugar with a wooden spoon while something savory bubbled in the slow cooker.
“I just lost the last of my freshman fifteen, mom.” Addy let her nose lead her to the spicy curried chicken in the pot. “Bet you ten bucks the neighbors complain about the smell.” Addy grinned at her mom who stifled a laugh in response.
“Help me out here, mischief maker.”
Addy pulled the top off of her miniature display case and was hit with the delicious fumes of an apple torte. “Mom, you’ve outdone yourself.” Maggie walked the round webbing of spun sugar and placed it delicately atop the torte, creating an outstanding finish to an already beautiful spiraled dessert.
“Ok, but you have to put this on the ‘gram. You know that, right?”
“The who?” Maggie asked, though she didn’t stop moving around the kitchen, cleaning as she went. She moved to the slow cooker, removing the lid and swishing a spoon in the thick, red mixture.
“Instagram, mom. Get with the times.” Addy pulled out her phone before taking a picture of the dessert. “Check it out. You snap a pic, post it with a caption and some popular hashtags, and boom.”
Under the photo, Addy wrote, “Give me a like and a comment if you think my mom should start an IG account for her works of edible art.” Just as soon as she posted the picture on her personal account, there was an influx of notifications.
“Sweetie, I wouldn’t even know where to begin with that social media stuff.” Maggie shrugged, spooning curried chicken into two bowls.
“Well, then I’m officially dubbing myself your social media marketing manager. Really, mom,” Addy grabbed a bottle of wine from the fridge and two glasses to the couch and pull-up coffee table. Who needed a dining room, anyway? As she poured the glasses of wine, she continued, “You’ve made a killing by word of mouth alone. Imagine how much further you could go with an online presence. I guarantee you, people would be coming in droves! You could hire more people so you wouldn’t have to work all day every day, open new stores, and I dunno, take a vacation for once in your life.”
“That’s my dreamer.” Maggie patted Addy on the hand and took a sip of wine. “I think you’re just a few steps ahead of me.”
Over dinner and wine, they watched reruns of their favorite baking show, but Addy couldn’t shake the thought of limitless possibilities once the bakery had an online presence. Even if she was completely biased about her mom, Addy knew there was no denying the success of the bakery and all of its potential.
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