Trick or Deadly Treat (Fresh-Baked Mystery)

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9780451416704: Trick or Deadly Treat (Fresh-Baked Mystery)
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It’s Halloween in Weatherford, Texas—which means Phyllis Newsom is baking up a storm of yummy seasonal treats...but she’s about to get even busier unmasking a killer...

While Phyllis and her friend Carolyn are preparing for a baking contest, her housemate Sam adopts Buck, an adorable Dalmatian who was hit by a car. To thank local veterinarian Hank Baxter for helping the dog, Phyllis and Carolyn bake a batch of doggie treats for his other four-legged patients.

But when they arrive at the clinic, the vet is in the process of being arrested—for the murder of his wife! Convinced that the police are barking up the wrong tree and that someone’s been burying evidence, Sam begs Phyllis to help find the real killer. Joined by Buck, the friends engage in a dogged pursuit of the murderer, who will stop at nothing to muzzle them...permanently.

INCLUDES RECIPES!

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About the Author:

Livia J. Washburn has been a professional writer for more than twenty years. She is the author of the Fresh-Baked Mysteries, including The Fatal Funnel Cake and The Wedding Cake Killer. She received the Private Eye Writers of America Award and the American Mystery Award for her first mystery, Wild Night, written under the name L. J. Washburn, and she was nominated for a Spur Award by the Western Writers of America for a novel written with her husband, James Reasoner. She lives with her husband in a small Texas town, where she is constantly experimenting with new recipes. Her two grown daughters are both teachers in her hometown, and she is very proud of them.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

MORE PRAISE FOR THE FRESH-BAKED MYSTERIES

Other Fresh-Baked Mysteries by Livia J. Washburn

OBSIDIAN

Chapter 1

P hyllis Newsom put her hands over her ears and said, “Oh, my goodness!”

“Yeah, they’re kinda loud, aren’t they?” Sam Fletcher said with a grin. “And enthusiastic, to boot.”

They stood in a cement-floored runway between rows of metal cages filled with dogs of all shapes, sizes, breeds, and mixtures of breeds. The air inside the cinder-block building contained an assortment of smells, all of them pungent and none particularly pleasant, but Sam didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he looked as happy as Phyllis had seen him in a while.

Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all, she thought.

When he had first told her that he wanted to get a dog, her immediate impulse had been to say no. A flat, nonnegotiable no. And since the big, old two-story house on a tree-shaded street in Weatherford, Texas, belonged to her and Sam only rented a room there, it was Phyllis’s decision to make.

The problem was, Sam wasn’t just a boarder, subject to his landlady’s rules and decisions. The four retired teachers who lived in the house—Phyllis, Sam, Carolyn Wilbarger, and Eve Turner—had become more like family over the years. They were best friends as well, and in Sam’s case, Phyllis had to admit that the two of them were more than just friends. She couldn’t just dismiss what he wanted out of hand.

Because of that, she found herself in this big, smelly, noisy room full of barking dogs.

The young woman who worked as a volunteer at the animal shelter wore a plastic name tag that read JULIE on her shirt. She smiled, waved a hand at the cages, and said, “Feel free to look around all you want, folks. I’m sure you’ll find just the right dog for you.”

“Thanks, Julie,” Sam said. He went over to the closest cage, which held a German shepherd, and put his hand close to the bars so the dog could sniff it.

According to the paperwork in a clear plastic envelope attached to the cage, the dog’s name was Daisy and she was three years old, no health problems, good with children. That wasn’t really a consideration since no children lived in Phyllis’s house. Her grandson, Bobby, visited sometimes, though, so actually it was important that whatever dog Sam picked was well behaved and safe to be around children, she thought.

“Howdy, Daisy,” Sam said as he scratched the dog’s muzzle. “How ya doin’, girl?”

Phyllis smiled. The affection Sam felt for this dog, for all dogs, really, was obvious. He was a genuinely good man, and she was glad she had gotten to know him, even this late in their lives.

Daisy licked Sam’s fingers. Phyllis could tell that he didn’t want to move on to the next cage, but he had to take a look at the rest of the dogs. Phyllis stayed with him as he made his way slowly along the runway.

She saw beagles, schnauzers, Chihuahuas, and lots of mutts. Big dogs, small dogs, shorthairs, longhairs. Most were eager and friendly, as if they knew that the humans who came to see them held their fate in their hands. A few seemed sullen, and Phyllis wondered if they had been mistreated and no longer trusted anybody who went on two legs.

What was that famous line from Animal Farm? “Four legs good, two legs bad”? Something like that, she decided. Unfortunately, all too often that was true. Her own experiences over the past few years with the uglier side of life had taught her that.

Animals killed, certainly, but only humans were capable of murder.

Sam broke into her thoughts by looking at her, shaking his head, and saying, “Well, coming here turned out to be a bad mistake.”

“How so?”

“I want to take all of ’em home with me. I don’t reckon there’s room for that, though.”

“I have a pretty big backyard,” Phyllis said, “but not that big.”

Sam sighed and said, “All right. I reckon I’m gonna have to—”

He stopped as the metal door at the end of the runway, between the kennel area and the office, swung open and a male volunteer came through carrying a dog. The animal was wrapped in a blanket and whimpering in pain.

“Lonny, what happened?” Julie asked as she hurried toward the newcomer.

“Aw, somebody hit this poor fella out on the road. I saw it happen just now as I was coming in. Looks like maybe his front leg is busted.”

“Do you think he belongs to somebody around here?”

Lonny shook his head and said, “I dunno. He doesn’t have a collar and he’s pretty skinny, so I’ve got a hunch he’s a stray.”

Sam walked up to the volunteers with Phyllis trailing behind him. He said, “That’s a Dalmatian, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Lonny said. “Full grown, but not too old, I’d say.”

“I always wanted a Dalmatian when I was a kid. Are you folks going to adopt him out?”

“Mister, he hasn’t been processed in. You can have him right now if you want him. You’re gonna have to give me your word that you’ll take care of him, though. He needs medical attention.”

“Where’s the nearest vet?” Sam asked.

Lonny and Julie looked at each other, and Julie said, “That would be Dr. Baxter, about a mile back up the road toward town.”

“Then that’s where I’m takin’ him right now,” Sam said. “You can follow me if you want, to make sure that’s what I do.”

“I don’t guess that’s necessary,” Lonny said. “You got a car outside?”

“My pickup,” Sam told him.

“I’ll put him in the back for you.”

Sam shook his head. “I’ll hold him. My friend here can drive.”

Sam’s decision to take the injured dog seemed awfully impulsive to Phyllis. She said, “Sam, are you sure you want to do this?”

He answered by reaching out and gently taking the blanket-wrapped Dalmatian out of Lonny’s arms. Sam was tall and lanky, but he was also strong enough to hold the medium-sized dog.

“Be careful,” Julie told him. “Injured dogs sometimes bite.”

“This fella’s not gonna bite me,” Sam said with a shake of his head. “I can tell we’re gonna get along just fine.”

Phyllis hoped that was true. It seemed to her that Sam was taking on quite a bit here. He had always been one of the calmest, steadiest people she knew, not given to being rash or reckless, but evidently he could do things on the spur of the moment, too.

“Truck keys are in my pocket,” he said to her. “Let’s go.”

She delved into the front pocket of his jeans, found the keys, and said, “All right.” As they walked out of the shelter, she turned her head to say, “Thank you,” to the two volunteers.

Sam’s pickup was parked fairly close. Phyllis hurried ahead and unlocked and opened the passenger door.

“Can you get in without any help?” she asked.

“Yeah, I reckon we can manage.” Carefully, Sam eased himself into the seat with the dog half lying across his lap and half cradled against his chest. It reached its head up and licked his jaw. Sam laughed and said, “And they were worried about you bitin’ me. Hang on there, fella. We’re gonna get you taken care of.”

Phyllis closed the door and went around to get behind the wheel. She asked, “Do you want me to help get your seat belt fastened?”

“Naw. We won’t bother with it. We’re not going very far. Just don’t get in any wrecks along the way.”

“But it’s against the law not to have your seat belt fastened.”

“Yeah, but I’m a grown man. If anybody gets a ticket, it’ll be me, not you.”

Phyllis sighed and turned the key in the ignition. He was right, of course, and actually, it was unlikely they would get in an accident here on this side road on the outskirts of Weatherford. But it still bothered her to be breaking the law as she started driving toward the vet Julie had told them about.

Of course, if anybody wanted to get technical about it, she had been accused of breaking other laws in the past that were more serious than not fastening a seat belt. Things like obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence . . .

She found the place she was looking for without any trouble. A sign that read BAXTER VETERINARY CLINIC sat beside a driveway that turned off to the left. The driveway led through some trees to a paved parking area beside a brown brick building with a completely fenced-in area divided into runs behind it. A continuation of the driveway circled around to a large metal barn with its doors standing open. A pickup was parked next to the barn.

Another pickup and two cars were parked beside the building. Phyllis eased into an empty spot and stopped Sam’s truck. She hurried around to open the passenger door for him, but he had it open by the time she got there.

Still with no apparent difficulty, he carried the dog toward the front door. Phyllis held it open for them, and they went into an office that smelled a little like the animal shelter but not nearly as strong.

A man with unruly dark hair and salt-and-pepper beard stubble stood behind a counter, talking to a woman who had a pet carrier on the floor at her feet. A cat inside the carrier meowed loudly and insistently.

“Two tablets every twelve hours,” the man said as he put a plastic pill bottle on the counter. “That ought to take care of the infection in a few days, but keep giving her the pills until they’re all gone.”

“All right, Doctor,” the woman said. “Thank you.”

“Call us right away if she gets worse.”

The woman nodded and said, “I will.” She picked up the carrier and turned toward the door. When she saw Sam standing there holding the dog, she said, “Oh, my goodness. What happened?”

“Car hit him,” Sam said. “Looks like a front leg may be busted.”

“You’ve brought him to the right place,” the woman said. “There’s no better vet around here than Dr. Baxter.”

The man smiled and said, “I appreciate the vote of confidence.” To Sam he went on. “Bring him right on back here into surgery. I’ve got another patient waiting, but that’s just for booster shots and this is an emergency.”

He swung open a wooden gate to let Sam behind the counter. As he did, an attractive blond woman in her thirties came out of an office in the back. She looked a little impatient at having to wait for Sam to go by with the Dalmatian. When the way was clear, she said, “I’ll see you at home tonight, Hank,” and briskly left the vet clinic before Baxter had a chance to respond.

“Right back here,” he told Sam as he opened another door. Sam carried the dog into a big room with an operating table in the middle of it.

Phyllis stood back, watching as Sam carefully placed the injured dog on the table. As Baxter unwrapped the blanket, he said, “You’ll have to excuse me if things get a little hectic around here. My assistant and my office manager are both out sick today, so I’m holding down the fort by myself.”

“You should get your wife to help you,” Phyllis said, thinking of the blond woman who had been leaving as they were coming back here.

Baxter shook his head and said, “Susan has patients of her own to see.”

“She’s a vet, too?” Sam asked.

“Nah. A people doctor.” Baxter shrugged. “A real doctor, some might say.”

“Yeah, people who don’t know any better,” Sam said.

Baxter lightly ran his fingers along the dog’s left front leg, which even Phyllis could see looked a little funny. The dog whined but didn’t struggle or try to bite.

“That’s a good boy,” Baxter told the Dalmatian. “I know that had to hurt.” He looked up at Sam. “It’s broken, all right. What I’d like to do is go in there and make sure it’s reset properly, then put a pin in it to ensure that it stays that way. Then I’ll cast it. After he wears the cast for a couple of weeks, he should be okay.”

“Will you need to keep him tonight?”

Baxter nodded and said, “Yes, just to let the anesthetic wear off and to make sure there are no problems. He should be able to go home in the morning.” He stroked the dog’s flank and frowned slightly. “He’s pretty skinny. He is your dog?”

“He is now,” Sam said. “He was a stray that one of the volunteers down at the animal shelter found a little while ago. I claimed him before they ever processed him in.”

“All right. We’ll get him fixed up, and it’ll be up to you to get him fattened up, Mr. . . . ?”

“Fletcher. Sam Fletcher. This is my friend Phyllis Newsom.”

“Pleased to meet you both,” Baxter said with a nod. “I’m Hank Baxter.”

“This’ll give me a chance to fix up a place for him to stay,” Sam went on. “That way we’ll have it ready for him when he comes home tomorrow.”

“Sounds good, if that’s what you want to do. I can work up an estimate for you—”

Sam waved that off. “It’ll be all right. You go ahead and fix him up, like you said.”

“Okay. Go on back out front and we’ll do a little paperwork. I’ll meet you there in a minute after I put . . . What is the dog’s name, anyway? Does he have one?”

“Buck,” Sam answered without hesitation. “That fella’s name is Buck.”

Chapter 2

A s they were driving away from the vet clinic a little later, with Sam behind the wheel again, Phyllis asked, “What made you decide to call him Buck? You were very emphatic about it.”

“Buck Jones, of course.”

“Of course,” Phyllis repeated, knowing Sam’s great fondness for old Western movies. “He was the one who died in the nightclub fire, wasn’t he?”

She had heard Sam talk about the incident before and was a little surprised that some of the details had stuck in her mind.

“Yep, the Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston. Ol’ Buck made it out all right, but then he decided to go back in and see if he could rescue some of the folks who hadn’t. He never came back out.”

“It sounds like he was a hero in real life, not just on the screen.”

“That’s the way I see it,” Sam said. “Anyway, Buck’s just a good name for a dog.”

“I think so, too.”

After a few minutes, Sam said, “I gave some thought to callin’ him El Diablo.”

“Why in the world would you name a dog El Diablo?”

“Because when I was little—I told you I always wanted a Dalmatian when I was little, didn’t I?”

“You did,” Phyllis said.

“Anyway, when I was little I just called ’em spotted dogs, but my mama figured it’d be a good idea to teach me their real name. That would’ve been all well and good if I could’ve pronounced it, but I had a little trouble with it. Didn’t really cause a problem, though, until one day when Mama had the WMU ladies from the church over to the house and I said somethin’ about wantin’ a dog. One of the ladies asked me what kind of dog I wanted and I answered as proud as you please, ‘A damnation!’”

Phyllis burst out laughing.

“So that’s why I thought El Diablo might be a good name, that bein’ Spanish for the devil and all, but I went with Buck instead,” Sam concluded as Phyllis sagged against the door and snorted a couple of times.

Sam added, “You might not want to lean on the door that way. I guess it’ll probably be all right, though, since you got your seat belt on.”

*   *   *

They went into the house through the door in the garage that led to the kitchen, where they found Carolyn Wilbarger standing and looking into the pantry with an intent frown...

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. It s Halloween in Weatherford, Texas--which means Phyllis Newsom is baking up a storm of yummy seasonal treats.but she s about to get even busier unmasking a killer. While Phyllis and her friend Carolyn are preparing for a baking contest, her housemate Sam adopts Buck, an adorable Dalmatian who was hit by a car. To thank local veterinarian Hank Baxter for helping the dog, Phyllis and Carolyn bake a batch of doggie treats for his other four-legged patients. But when they arrive at the clinic, the vet is in the process of being arrested--for the murder of his wife! Convinced that the police are barking up the wrong tree and that someone s been burying evidence, Sam begs Phyllis to help find the real killer. Joined by Buck, the friends engage in a dogged pursuit of the murderer, who will stop at nothing to muzzle them.permanently. INCLUDES RECIPES!. Seller Inventory # AAS9780451416704

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. It s Halloween in Weatherford, Texas--which means Phyllis Newsom is baking up a storm of yummy seasonal treats.but she s about to get even busier unmasking a killer. While Phyllis and her friend Carolyn are preparing for a baking contest, her housemate Sam adopts Buck, an adorable Dalmatian who was hit by a car. To thank local veterinarian Hank Baxter for helping the dog, Phyllis and Carolyn bake a batch of doggie treats for his other four-legged patients. But when they arrive at the clinic, the vet is in the process of being arrested--for the murder of his wife! Convinced that the police are barking up the wrong tree and that someone s been burying evidence, Sam begs Phyllis to help find the real killer. Joined by Buck, the friends engage in a dogged pursuit of the murderer, who will stop at nothing to muzzle them.permanently. INCLUDES RECIPES!. Seller Inventory # AAS9780451416704

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. It s Halloween in Weatherford, Texas--which means Phyllis Newsom is baking up a storm of yummy seasonal treats.but she s about to get even busier unmasking a killer. While Phyllis and her friend Carolyn are preparing for a baking contest, her housemate Sam adopts Buck, an adorable Dalmatian who was hit by a car. To thank local veterinarian Hank Baxter for helping the dog, Phyllis and Carolyn bake a batch of doggie treats for his other four-legged patients. But when they arrive at the clinic, the vet is in the process of being arrested--for the murder of his wife! Convinced that the police are barking up the wrong tree and that someone s been burying evidence, Sam begs Phyllis to help find the real killer. Joined by Buck, the friends engage in a dogged pursuit of the murderer, who will stop at nothing to muzzle them.permanently. INCLUDES RECIPES!. Seller Inventory # BTE9780451416704

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