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Sneak preview! Chapter One and a nibble of Chapter Two
The Duxbridge Mysteries: A Recipe for Murder
“Come on. The sun’ll be up soon.” Tina grabbed Jacob’s hand and led him away from the dying bonfire.
“Ooooo!” cooed a group of teens sitting in the sand around the fire, accompanied by someone making smoochy sounds
“Oh, grow up, Denny,” Jacob called back as he struggled to keep up with Tina.
Tina dragged him up and over the dune. “Let’s go down to the water to watch.”
They walked hand in hand through the tall beach grass and down to the shoreline. The tide was ebbing, leaving piles of seaweed and debris as it receded. Small bubbles escaped the sand as clams dove down deep. Tina dug her toes in, trying to catch one, laughing as she lost her balance and fell into Jacob’s arms. He kept her from tumbling onto the wet sand, and she rewarded him with a sweet kiss on his cheek.
Once they reached the water, they walked along the edge, barefoot on the damp, hard-packed sand, dodging the lapping waves. Memorial Day might be right around the corner, but the waters off Onset beach would still be ice cold.
Tina and Jacob were enjoying the freedom that was Senior Week, a week to have fun and be carefree teens before Saturday’s graduation flung them into adulthood. All-night bonfires on the beach, day trips into Boston, and sleeping in until noon would soon give way to summer jobs and college prep. But for now, their arms around each other, life felt perfect.
As the sun peeked over the horizon, turning the water pink and blue, they were almost to the marina. Reluctant to see the night end, they slowed. They would soon have to turn around and return to their friends to help clean up from the all-night senior party. Dawn gave way to a beautiful blue-sky morning. Tina couldn’t imagine being happier than she was in this moment.
“What’s that?” Jacob asked, pointing to a pile of debris a few feet ahead.
“What? Seaweed?” Tina asked, perplexed.
And then she saw what had captured Jacob’s interest. The sun was glinting off of something in the wet tangle of the dusky-colored algae. It sparkled in the light, and as the water lapped over it, more of it was exposed. They wandered nearer to see what the ocean had deposited on the strand.
“It looks like a watch,” Jacob said as they closed in on it.
Startled, they realized it was a watch and still attached to a wrist. Another wave pulled the mound of seaweed back into the water, exposing a hand. Their screams brought all their friends racing to them.
By the time the group reached them, Tina had realized there was an entire body wrapped in the debris. Then a lifetime of being a police officer’s daughter kicked in.
“Everyone stay back!” she instructed firmly. “Jacob, call 911. Brent, Brian, keep everyone back. We don’t want to disturb any evidence until the police get here.”
She pulled out her phone and dialed her dad.
“We’d better ditch the beer before the cops get here,” Denny warned. That was followed by a flurry of activity. Illegal beer and the non-sea variety of weed trumped a dead body. The group scattered to remove the evidence of their celebration. Jacob, Tina, and a few others who did not want them to wait alone, remained with the body until the police arrived.
Ten minutes passed, and a single patrol car pulled into the marina parking lot. Dispatch wasn’t going to waste resources on a senior prank. Twenty minutes later, the lot filled with all manner of law enforcement, including Tina’s dad.
Duxbridge Police Lieutenant Benedito – Bennie – Carvalho did not have jurisdiction here. He wasn’t even on duty, but when his daughter called, he immediately drove to be with her. On his way, he made three phone calls. First, he phoned his police chief and gave him the few details he had. The second call was to the Wareham chief, who had jurisdiction of the crime scene. And finally, a call to his estranged wife, letting her know he’d be there to protect their eldest daughter.
The sun was well over the horizon, but Tina had not left the body. Everyone else had departed for the parking lot, even Jacob. That’s okay, Tina thought. Dead bodies are scary. But she knew if the police were going to find out what happened, the evidence needed to be undisturbed. Patrol officers were busy taping off a large area, but no one was with the body. They were waiting for the coroner. So she stood watch until she felt her dad’s hand on her shoulder.
“Good job,” he said.
“Thanks,” she replied, grateful he was there.
“I think the police can handle it now.”
“I feel bad leaving him like this,” Tina said, her voice steady and full of compassion.
“Do you know who he is?”
Bennie looked down. He’d been so focused on taking care of Tina, he’d only briefly glanced at the body. Now he took the scene in like a cop. He walked around, examining everything as he did. The body had not been in the water long. Water has a way of rapidly degrading skin tissue, and sea life makes quick work of eyes and extremities. This one showed no signs of such activity.
The body was male, early to mid-fifties, the watch on his wrist was expensive and obviously waterproof. It displayed the correct time, ticking away long after the man’s heart had stopped. He was lying on his side, and most of the debris had washed away from his face. Going out with the tide. Bennie hoped the waves hadn’t removed all the best evidence.
There was a deep gash on the back of his head that parted his thick dark hair, along with his skull. No blood left to speak of, not deep enough for brain matter. Finally, Bennie took a good look at his face. He recognized him immediately.
“I do recognize him, honey. I do.” Bennie put his arm around Tina’s shoulder and led her over to a young patrol officer.
“Why don’t you give this man your statement, and then I can take you home. I’m going to go talk to the detectives.”
Bennie left his daughter and walked the short distance to where two detectives were instructing several patrol officers to obtain initial statements and contact information from the witnesses.
“Get them on their way before we have a bunch of anxious parents to add to our crowd,” said one of the detectives. A pale, balding, paunch-bellied man Bennie knew in passing.
The officers departed, leaving Bennie and the two detectives alone.
“Hi, I’m Lieutenant Carvalho from Duxbridge PD. My daughter was the one who found the body.”
“Lieutenant, the Chief said you’d be here. Is your girl all right? She did a great job securing the scene until we arrived.”
“She’s a little shook up, but I’m real proud of her,” Bennie replied, his chest swelling a bit at the acknowledgment. “I wanted to let you know I recognize the body. His name is Devon Friedrickson. He’s the owner of Devo’s off Route 44. He lives in Duxbridge.”
Both detectives stared at him for a moment. Everyone knew Devon Friedrickson, the renowned chef who left big city life, successful restaurants in New York, New Orleans and Boston, for a quiet New England town. Hit with scandals and a few bad reviews, he sold all his restaurants and bought an old dairy farm in Duxbridge. He remodeled the large farmhouse into a lavish estate and then set his sights on a restaurant. He purchased the defunct Lobster House at auction and set about turning it into an upscale destination establishment serving his signature menus.
“Are you sure?” the younger, well-dressed detective asked him in hushed tones, knowing the death of an infamous celebrity could bring with it media and gawkers just as they were gearing up for tourist season. He groaned and silently wondered if he could request vacation time.
“Yes. We know him well at the station. He is – was – an interesting character. Made enemies easier than friends. If the coroner determines it to be suspicious, the list of suspects could be long. Very long.” Bennie looked over toward Tina. “If you have all the information you need from my daughter, I’d like to get her home. It’s been a long night for her.” The detective nodded.
Bennie collected Tina and opened the car door for her. “Does Jacob need a ride?” he asked, trying not to sound too disapproving.
“He’s going back with Gina and Eddie.”
“Do I need to ask if they are in any way impaired?”
“They’re fine, dad. I wouldn’t let them drive if they weren’t.”
“That’s my girl.”
After Bennie dropped his daughter off with her mom, he drove directly to the house of the Duxbridge Chief of Police.
Maggie Stellino was sitting at the counter, sipping coffee and watching Juliet LaChapelle – Jules to her friends – package up a to-go coffee and muffin and hand it to a customer. A blue scarf kept Juliet’s short bob of blond hair in place, a whimsical duck clip securing it, a nod to the improbably named café: The Duck. She was owner, chef, baker and hostess. Most mornings, business lined up out the door.
“Thank you, Don, have a great day!” Juliet said as the middle-aged man in a Red Sox cap took the coffee and bagged muffin from her.
“You too, Juliet. See you tomorrow,” he replied. He opened the door, and the little bell above jingled. He held it wide for a smartly dressed woman, then went on his way, sipping his coffee and humming as he walked down the sidewalk.
Maggie began to jot a few notes into a spiral notebook as she scanned the cards in front of her. These were some of Juliet’s favorite lunchtime recipes. Maggie was scaling them down from restaurant servings to family meal proportions. Next, she would test them several times and then select the best for her latest cookbook. Maggie’s third cookbook, it would feature comfort foods for busy families.
She loved working here in the early morning, arriving not long after Juliet, writing quietly at the lunch counter while Juliet and her assistant Carl prepped for the day. It was a much better atmosphere for working than her tiny converted gatehouse – with its efficient but equally tiny kitchen – behind her Aunt’s house.
Each morning, Maggie would pour herself a cup of coffee from the first pot of the day and then take her favorite seat in the predawn hours. Soon wonderful smells would drift from the amazing kitchen behind the bakery counter. Soups and breads competed with cookies and muffins for best café smell. And as the sun rose and the café opened, all manner of people from Duxbridge flowed through the doors.