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Peter Millins took a deep breath as he stepped through the doors. Sugar and cotton candy, cinnamon rolls, vanilla cakes and freshly set chocolates. It always smelled like a child's dream in here, where sugar queens and confectionary kings reigned. There was something magical about a store that dealt in happy birthday cookies, graduation cakes and thinking-of-you-cupcakes. A sugar high in every bite.
As a kid, he'd come here and press his nose to the window, staring at the goodies that winked under the glass counter. Every now and then, if he was really good, his mom would lead him inside and let him choose anything off the top shelf to take home. Not that it made it home, of course. It barely reached the door before getting crammed into his face, frosting and chocolate smeared on his cheeks as he devoured it like a squirrel on a stash of birdseed.
If only Mom could see him now.
Peter smiled at the petite woman behind the counter. Rosie's glasses hung on a beaded chain around her neck, a sure sign that she was getting older. She had grown more forgetful, and often attempted to locate her bifocals while wearing them on her nose, but nickname wasn't poor eyesight's fault. It was an old joke, a mishap that followed Peter through high school. No matter how old it got, or how tired he got of hearing it, people kept bringing it back up.
"Hey, Rosie. What'cha cookin' today?"
"Got some brownies in the oven, child. Sweet chocolate chip cookies, just like mama used to make."
"Somebody else's mama, maybe." Peter inspected the blueberry muffins through the case. He could almost see his reflection in the shine on the glass. "You got Pipes working today?"
"As if you didn't know." Rose snorted and balanced her glasses on the end of her nose, just so she could look condescendingly over the top of the frames. She looked like a librarian reprimanding a patron for a late book. "We both know you're in here every week looking for her, Peter Matthew. Don't you go pretending like it's just happenstance."
Happenstance. He wished it was. That girl was a nightmare. He wished he'd never laid eyes on her. She'd bewitched him, body and soul, and he'd stumbled over Hell's burning coals for her. The things he'd done would put Rosie in an early grave, and that damned girl held it over him like blackmail. Coaxed him into buying her purses and meals out, pretending he was her boyfriend, driving around town in his sleek sports car just so she could feel the wind in her hair.
He hated her. Piper Pilkington, daughter of a rich man with no interest in his daughter. She grew up like that, too. All money and no reins, allowed to do as she damned well pleased. One day, the law would catch up to that girl. No cold hard cash would help where she was going.
If there was a way to forget about her and pretend she never sashayed those hips into his life, he'd find it.
"You're early today, though, Romeo. She's working late, won't get off until four."
A bit of tension eased off Peter's shoulders. So she wasn't ready to go. His big plan, which he'd worked out over a series of beers and long nights staring at the ceiling, didn't have to swing into action yet. He had time.
Time to decide if he wanted to do it.
Peter shook his head, a goofy grin on his face. "Guess she forgot to tell me. I can swing back by later to pick her up."
Rosie jerked a thumb over her shoulder. "You sure you don't want to say hi? She's just back there, mixing up some dough. Don't let her eat any this time. I keep telling her, but maybe you'll have more luck. Gonna make herself sick one day."
"Nah, but thanks. I don't want to distract her. That's how you get crummy cookies." He waved a hand at Rosie as he backed away. The bell over the door dinged again, and he stepped one foot outside. Almost free. "Have a good one, Rosie."
"Hang on, hang on!" Rosie dug into a jar on the counter and produced a large white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookie. Stuffing it in plastic, she nearly threw it over the counter towards the young man. "Here, one for the road!"
The smile on Peter's face turned real as he waved again. "Hey, thanks! See you soon!"
Rosie's smile stayed in place as Peter turned away. As soon as he vanished from sight, the edges of her mouth turning into a thin tight-lipped line.
Peter Millins. A poor, snot-nosed little boy who grew up leaving fingerprints on her windows, wishing as hard as he could for something to eat. She remembered how his mama would come in every now and then to spoil him, saving her hard-earned cash to give her little boy a treat. Rosie knew every face in town, and she knew how hard that lady worked. That's why she always threw an extra dessert in the bag, so both of them could enjoy something with a smile.
That poor boy grew up to be a poor man. Worked in retail for the longest time. Made a short sprint towards college, came back home when his mama fell ill. Still trying to pay those loans and medical bills off. They'd probably plague him until he rested with his mama, unfortunately. That little harlot had enough money in her pocket to pay it all off and then some, but she just made him fork over more, instead. Money he didn't have for a girl he didn't want, made poorer by that damn minx's taste.
It was a horrible shame. Everybody knew what Piper Pilkington dealt in. Blackmail, little white lies. Spent all her time stirring up trouble when she should've been mixing some cookies. Lazy little tart, insisted on a smoke break so she could head out back and puff on an e-cigarette. Her father insisted on her taking a job to "prove herself", and she got by doing the least amount of work possible. Those pouty lips got everything a girl could ask for, and for some reason, she still wanted more.
Rosie always prided herself on being a spiritual woman. She believed in second chances and forgiveness, and many people told her she had the patience of a saint. But even saints had their limits, and some sins just couldn't be forgiven.
Two hours before Peter strolled through those doors again. Plenty of time to straighten things out before then.
Rosie ducked back through the kitchen doors. She paused next to a mixer, its giant lever frozen in the "off" position. The bowl was empty, save for a few drops of ruby-colored liquid. On the floor beside it lay a baking pan, a large dent in the bottom. A few blonde hairs stuck to it by some kind of molasses-looking substance. Could be cleaned, though. Useless for making anything right now, but there was a good chance she'd straighten it out again.
Stepping carefully, Rosie ignored the limp wrist laying on the floor beside the mixer and navigated around a spreading pool of scarlet drippings. Always a mess with that girl. Never cleaned up after herself, not once, not even after mixing up a batch of chocolate chips.
At least Rosie'd only have to do it one more time. All she had to do was figure out how to dispose of the body.
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Hello, dear readers!
This week we delve into the slightly deranged mind of a baker. How should she get rid of the body? It’s a bit overdone to bake it into a cake, but perhaps some ladyfinger cookies? Or red velvet cupcakes, perhaps?
And what kind of plan involves late-night beer and depression?
TUNE IN NEXT TIME - okay, probably not next time, but eventually - TO FIND OUT!
Have a lovely rest of your week!
(Photo by Life Of Pix, Pexels)