*INSTRUCTIONS: You be the sleuth! There are ten guests and ten desserts. Pick out the clues and guess whodunnit. Enter your guess below. A winner will be chosen and receive 2 signed paperbacks (Dead and Butter & Southern Peach Pie and a Dead Guy). Good luck and happy sleuthing!
DEATH BY CHOCOLATE
A Valentine’s Day Mini-Mystery written by A.Gardner
An afternoon heat settled over Cupidsville, Georgia as patrons left the air-conditioned gym at Heartowne Fitness and braved the long walk through the parking lot. The gym was in the city center surrounded by a number of shops and boutiques. But down the street sat the most tempting storefront of them all – a chocolate themed store owned by former Georgia pageant queen Fleur Darling.
Fleur Darling lured many townsfolk to her chocolate-filled lair to partake in her sinful desserts post-workout. Chocoholics Anonymous lived up to its name. Customers made it a habit of visiting often, and Fleur instilled her love of chocolate on every visitor. It was her gift. Unfortunately, that gift had a dark side. Too many loose-lipped sugar addicts had spilled their darkest secrets in the halls of Chocoholics Anonymous. Fleur liked it that way.
But someone didn’t.
February was Fleur’s busiest month, and she’d spent countless hours getting ready for her annual Valentine’s Day party – a lonely hearts affair for Cupidsville singles. Seven o’clock had arrived, and so had her first wave of guests.
“What do you think?” Milo Eros held up a plate of chocolate-covered strawberries. “The invitation said to bring a chocolate dessert, so here it is.”
“I don’t mix chocolate and fruit,” Fleur replied. “Sorry.”
Milo hunched his shoulders, his ninth attempt at getting Fleur’s attention had failed. He added his dessert to the table with nine other platters. Milo eyed an array of chocolate desserts including Red-Hot brownies, a Devil’s food cake, and chocolate chip cookies with what appeared to be walnuts.
“Those are gluten-free.” A woman named Angel Lewis pointed to another pan of brownies that were nowhere near as colorful as the batch made with Red-Hots that sported a bright pink cinnamon icing on top.
“Did you bring them?” Milo asked Angel.
“Oh, no.” Angel shook her head. “I prefer my chocolate hot and spicy.”
Val Intine straightened the plate of chocolate chip cookies with walnuts and frowned. “Apparently, Fleur is allergic to nuts. I would have left the walnuts out if I knew that.”
Val studied the rest of the desserts on the table, knowing that her cookies would never live up to the chocolatey-ness of her peers. Next to her cookie plate was a chocolate hazelnut tarte, chocolate cupcakes with a mint green frosting, squares of chocolate toffee, a chocolate peppermint pie, and a chocolate bundt cake with raspberries.
“I didn’t get the nut memo either.” Mitch Cherub approached Val with a sympathetic smile. “Perhaps we should ditch this gig and eat our nutty desserts somewhere more private.”
“Mitch.” Val’s eyes went wide. They had been neighbors for five years, and Mitch had never made such a forward comment.
It must have been the V-day magic.
“Well, count me in too.” Susan Flame had been eavesdropping. She couldn’t help it. She’d had her eye on Mitch Cherub from the moment he’d moved to Cupidsville. She twirled a strand of her hair. “You should see what I can do with a tub of Nutella. I just love that stuff. I put it on everything. And I mean everything, Mitch.”
Val blushed and took a step away from Mitch and Susan.
Fleur Darling circled the guests at Chocoholics Anonymous and honed in on the town’s newest arrival. She approached a man named George Honey. George had his hands in his pockets, and he hadn’t uttered a word to anyone since entering the shop.
“Hello, George,” Fleur said. “So glad you could make it today. Thanks for bringing a dessert.”
“I had the time and the special baking pan so . . .” George shrugged.
“I’m just glad you didn’t bring another batch of brownies,” Fleur replied. “I’m not too fond of them. I don’t understand the hype.”
“Tell me about it. I just want a nice slice of cake. Good thing I made one.” A woman named Julie Sainte chimed into the conversation. She reached for George’s hand and shook it. “Nice to meet you, George.”
“Y’all should keep your voices down.” The first person to pick at the food was a woman named Harper Love. She nibbled at one of Val’s cookies and pointed to a timid lady in the corner. “Pinky Smith over there has a wheat-allergy and she doesn’t appreciate you dissing her dish.”
“Of course.” Fleur forced a fake smile. “I should go over there and apologize.” Fleur quickly walked across the room.
Julie glanced at Harper as she shoved the rest of Val’s cookie into her mouth.
“You should pace yourself, honey,” Julie suggested.
“That’s why I brought the mini cakes.” Harper narrowed her eyes and walked toward the entrance of the shop to be near her friend Violet Flowers. Violet loved Valentine’s Day. Actually, she loved holidays in general. And she’d mentioned more than once that she still had a hefty supply of candy canes in her kitchen leftover from Christmas.
“Why don’t we get started,” Fleur announced. “Everyone dig in.”
Fleur grabbed a plate, turning away from anything with mint.
Each guest followed in Fleur’s footsteps until the sound of chatting and laughter filled Chocoholics Anonymous. Fleur observed her handiwork after eating her dessert, but swelling in her throat made her sweat uncomfortably. She was sure she’d avoided the nut-filled sweets, but the feeling in her throat suggested otherwise.
Fleur fell to the floor.
And in the blink of an eye, a Cupidsville resident had gotten his or her revenge.
ENTER YOUR GUESS
Prize: 2 Signed Paperbacks
Rules: Enter your guess for a chance to win. A winner will be chosen at random. Participant must guess the right answer to win. Giveaway ends Saturday night (2/17). Winner will be announced Sunday (2/18) and contacted for shipping information via email.
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