Apr 28 2011 12:00pm
Evil Éclairs: New Excerpt
Donut shop owner Suzanne Hart admits her sweet treats don’t exactly qualify as health food. But does she really deserve to be labeled a “killer” by local radio jockey Lester Moorefield? The annoying host is urging citizens to boycott Suzanne’s “deadly dough” factory—until he’s found dead himself, stuffed with one of Suzanne’s éclairs. . .
Everyone in April Springs knows about the feud between Lester and Suzanne, which makes her the number-one suspect. She tries to use the donut defense—donuts don’t kill people, people kill people—but that cream-filled éclair at the scene of the crime has the whole town filled with suspicion. If Suzanne can’t figure out who killed the radio star, she’ll soon be filling a prison cell instead of a pastry. . .
An exclusive extended excerpt of Chapters 1-2 with donut recipe from Evil Éclairs by Jessica Beck.
Owning and running a donut shop is not for the faint of heart. If I’m going to get anywhere close to the minimum six hours of sleep I need before I get up at one a.m. every morning, I have to be in bed by seven every night.
Tonight I’d pushed my bedtime back too far and I knew I’d pay for it in the morning. As I drifted off to sleep just after eight, I heard the name of my donut shop mentioned on the radio. That was odd, since I had never been able to afford even their low advertising rates to tout my specialty donut and coffee shop.
Then I realized that Donut Hearts wasn’t being described with any affection. Lester Moorefi eld, the local news jockey on WAPS, was broadcasting another of his diatribes, and this time, I was evidently his target. His show ran in the morning, but his editorials were always done at night.
“Donuts are a perfect example of how we are slowly killing ourselves. To give you just one instance, I sat in my car across the street from Donut Hearts this morning, and in one hour, I saw countless overweight or downright obese people stumbling out of the place with glazed looks on their faces and powdered sugar on their lips. Suzanne Hart feeds this sickness within her customers, catering to their base cravings like some kind of dealer. Her products are toxic, deadly dough, if you will, and we in the community need to take a stand. I propose that over the next seven days, the citizens of April Springs, and all within the sound of my voice in North Carolina, boycott this shop, and others of its ilk, and stand up to those who would enslave us with their tempting but fatal offerings.”
Suddenly I was wide awake.
Momma was sitting by the radio downstairs, and from the expression on her face, she hadn’t missed a word of Lester’s diatribe, either. I’d barely taken the time to throw on some sweatpants and an old T-shirt before I’d raced downstairs.
“That man is a menace to society,” she said. “Someone should stop him.” Though my mother was physically slight, barely five feet tall, she more than made up for it with her fi erce spirit.
“He’s gone too far this time,” I agreed as I threw on my running shoes. I wouldn’t win any Best Dressed awards for my ensemble, but I wasn’t about to take time to consider my wardrobe.
“What are you doing?” Momma asked.
“Isn’t it obvious?” I asked as I struggled with one shoelace that had somehow managed to knot itself into a mess. “I’m going to go see him at the station.”
“Suzanne, don’t do anything reckless.”
“Why not?” I asked. I was about to get a knife to cut the lace’s knot when it started to come loose of its own accord. “In a situation like this, sometimes that’s exactly what’s called for.”
Momma stood and looked at me. “One thing I learned early on; you should never pick a fight with a lawyer or someone who has their own bully pulpit. I don’t like it any more than you do, but if you leave Lester alone, tomorrow he’ll move on to his next victim and you can go about your business.”
There, the knot came free. “Momma, too many people roll over and play dead for that man. Well, not me. If he wants a fight, he’s got one.”
I grabbed my jacket as I started for the door. It was early April, and the weather could be chilly in the evening but still have a hint of real warmth in the middle of the day.
Momma stood and reached for her own coat.
I stopped in my tracks. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“With you, of course,” she said, clearly puzzled by the question.
“Momma, I love you with all my heart, but this is my battle, not yours.”
I may have tweaked her a little with the declaration, but it had to be said. I’d given up a great deal of my independence when I’d moved back in with her after my divorce from Max, and I found myself reverting to old habits sometimes. But I had to do this by myself. I was a grown woman, able to fight my own wars.
Her jacket went back on the rack, and I found myself trying to soften the blow. “I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but I have to do this alone. You understand, don’t you?”
“Suzanne, of course you’re right. Sometimes I forget that you’re a not a child anymore.”
“A small part of me will always be your little girl. You know that, right?”
She looked pleased by my comment. “You should go now so you can catch him in the act. It’s like housebreaking a puppy. If you don’t point out the mistake to them right away, they’ll never learn.”
“I’ll rub his nose in it, all right,” I said with a grin. “Wish me luck.”
She smiled at me. “I have a feeling it’s Lester, not you, who will need the luck.”
“I believe you’re right.”
I got into my Jeep and drove to the radio station on the outskirts of April Springs. As I started on my way across town, I passed Grace Gauge’s place. Grace and I had grown up together, and she’d been my best friend just about my entire life. We’d stayed close, and the years had done nothing to loosen our bond.
And then I came to Donut Hearts. It was odd seeing my old converted train depot this time of night. I always felt a tug when I saw the place. I’d bought my shop almost as a whim on the heels of my divorce from Max, but it had been the best stroke of luck I’ve ever had in my life. The shop kept me busy, alive, and connected to the world around me. It also made it tough to feel sorry for myself after my marriage fell apart. In truth, I was just about too busy to notice.
I drove past the town clock, and soon enough, I saw the police station. I thought of Jake Bishop when I did. He was an investigator for the state police, and had recently added being my steady boyfriend to his résumé. We’d endured some rocky moments in our relationship from the start, but since the previous Christmas, we’d managed to overcome most of them. I knew that he’d done his best to get over his late wife, and I was glad that I’d been patient until he was ready to move on with his life.
Jake was turning out to be worth the wait, after all.
Soon enough, I was in the parking lot of our local radio station, WAPS. I’d feared for a moment that Lester had taped his editorial, since he had a live program he broadcast every morning, but luckily for me, his car was in the parking lot, along with another that had to belong to his producer. I’d never been a fan of Lester’s, but I really liked Cara Lassiter. She’d helped me before when I’d had trouble with Lester, and I was in fact surprised she hadn’t warned me about what was coming.
I knocked on the door, and I saw the TV camera above it swing around to me.
“Cara, it’s Suzanne.”
The door buzzed, and I walked into the building.
She met me before I managed to get three paces inside. “Suzanne, I would have warned you about what he was doing, but I had no idea who he was skewering tonight. By the time I could have called you, it would have been too late to do anything about it, and he would have fired me in the bargain.”
“I don’t have a problem with you,” I said. “Where is he?”