Authors: Linda O. Johnston
Tags: #linda johnston, #dog mystery, #mystery novel, #mystery, #fiction novel, #mystery book, #linda johnson, #Fiction, #animal mystery, #bite the biscit, #linda o. johnson
Bite the Biscuit: A Barkery & Biscuits Mystery
© 2015 by Linda O. Johnston.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
First e-book edition © 2015
E-book ISBN: 9780738746296
Book format by Bob Gaul
Cover design by Ellen Lawson
Cover illustration by Christina Hess
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To people everywhere who love their dogs and
want to feed them the best and healthiest treats.
To people who have a sweet tooth of their own.
To readers who enjoy cozy mysteries,
especially those involving pets and food.
And, as always, to my dear husband Fred.
I think he fits into two of the three categories!
WO NEW STORES!
one new and one redone. They were opening today, and both were mine.
I couldn’t help smiling as I glanced out through the narrow expanse of windows in the shop where I stood.
A lot of people were outside on the sidewalk. Many stared inside expectantly, waiting for the doors to open. Others were involved in conversation, and the unintelligible crowd noises, though muffled by the windows and walls, seemed to be increasing in volume. Because more people were arriving?
Despite how proud I was of this new venture and how determined I was to make it work, I felt a rush of stage fright. I quickly shoved it aside and turned back to Brenda Anesco. This had previously been just one store—Icing on the Cake—and it had been all hers. I owed her a lot, including the courtesy of listening to her final instructions for the new Icing, the shop we currently occupied.
“I’m really going to miss this place,” Brenda told me with a sigh. Her back was toward the window, perhaps intentionally. Did she realize how much the throng was growing?
I wished, for her sake, that there had been more crowds when she had been in charge. But the bakery’s recent decline in sales wasn’t why she was leaving. No, the decline that caused her departure had to do with her mother’s health.
“I know you’ll take good care of it,” she continued. “Won’t you, Carrie?”
Ignoring the crowd and how nervous it had started to make me, I stepped toward her along the gleaming new vinyl tile floor I’d just had installed in Icing. It was patterned in a patchwork of pale gold and dark brown, which I hoped would lure people to buy similarly hued pastries for themselves. The blissful aroma of baking cakes and cinnamon and chocolate that wafted through the air would attract them a whole lot better than the decor, though. Even my mouth was watering, and I’d been inhaling the enticing scent long enough to become inured—somewhat, at least.
“And you’ll remember all I told you?” Brenda continued. “I mean, what draws people in. How to keep them coming back. All of that.”
Short and a bit plump, with uneven ash brown hair—not to mention endlessly gesturing fingers with blunt pink nails—Brenda was much more of an expert than I, at least about Icing. She knew how to bake great stuff even if her business skills had wavered a bit recently. Plus, even though she was in her early forties, around ten years older than me, she was my dearest friend. So of course I was listening to her.
But as eager as I was for all to go well for Icing, I was a lot more concerned about the other store, my half of the newly divided bakery: Barkery and Biscuits, which featured my own very special baked and otherwise cooked products.
Were any members of the crowd waiting for the Barkery to open? I thought so. I
“Mmm-hmm,” I responded, giving Brenda a quick hug of reassurance. But despite how much I wanted to make her feel better, my gaze had wandered over her shoulder toward the closed door that led to my favorite area, the new part. I ached to go there to make sure it, like Icing, was thoroughly ready to receive whichever members of the group outside wanted to attend its launch.
Maybe that would be all of them.
“Listen to me, Carrie Kennersly,” Brenda demanded, stepping back. Her arms, in the light pink sweater she’d knitted herself, were folded as she glared at me. Uh-oh. Busted. She must have realized how sidetracked I was. Not that she should be surprised.
“I am.” I shifted uncomfortably in my seldom-worn blue stilettos. Above them, I wore a flowing dress in the same azure shade, one of my few party outfits.
“What was the last thing I told you about our products, then?”
Brenda, despite being my friend, could be really pushy. But I got it. She’d let me remodel the store she loved, but Icing remained her baby.
“Make them sweet and make them good,” I said, and she grinned.
She went over a few things again, like the popularity of her red velvet cupcakes, which were in a prime location in the large refrigerated display case crammed attractively full of the bakery’s other products too.
She finally finished. “Okay, it’s time. Go on into the Barkery and get the party started.”
I gave her another brief hug and hurried to open the wide wooden door into Barkery and Biscuits.
My little golden toy poodle–terrier mix, appropriately named Biscuit, flew at me, and I knelt to take her into my arms after closing the door behind me. At the moment she was loose, but I’d have to restrict her now so she couldn’t run out when the front door was open.
“Hi, sweetheart,” I said as she stood on her hind legs and licked my face.
I glanced down at the floor beneath my knees. I’d had it redone also. The materials were similar to those used in Icing—sturdy but attractive vinyl tiles. But the main area was all blue, and the center decoration was huge and appropriate and beige, in the shape of—what else?—a dog biscuit.
There was an alluring aroma in here too, though not sweet like the one in the bakery. This one suggested a hint of meat. Otherwise, this part of the shop was a mirror image of the other. I’d planned it that way.
Both retail parts of the stores were fairly compact, just large enough to house the wide display cases and have room for people to line up if necessary. Plus, each held an area where customers could sit at small tables to rest and eat.
But the joint kitchen? It was huge and necessary and modern and wonderful!
“Are we ready?” asked Judy Zelener, correctly interrupting my reunion with my dog. We had things to do here. All of us.
“I think so.” I rose, holding Biscuit.
Judy was one of the shop assistants I had inherited from Brenda. The other one, Dinah Greeley, was back in the kitchen making sure the trays containing samples of my dog treats were ready.
Judy was in her late twenties, with a long face, high forehead, and shoulder-length wavy hair in a shade of medium brown that resembled cherry wood. She always seemed serious, especially when involved in a discussion with Brenda or argument with Dinah. The latter, unfortunately, happened too often.
Now, though, she smiled, and it lit up her whole face. “Are you going to open the door?”
“Definitely.” Taking a deep, calming breath, I put Biscuit down, looping the end of the black leash I’d pulled from my pocket over my wrist to keep her close. Then I unlocked the Barkery’s glass front door, pulled it wide open, and hollered “Welcome!” to the sound of the ringing bell I’d had installed on top to notify us of customers.
In moments, the crowd began pushing inside.
It was happening! One of my most cherished wishes was at last coming true. I’d trained to be a veterinary technician, a job that I could love—did love—even though it meant working for someone else to earn a living. But owning my own business, being my own boss—that had always been my dream. Especially when it also involved the other love of my life, dogs.
I, Carrie Kennersly, was now a store owner. Not only that, but most of the products I was about to sell were my own creations.
“Now I’ll go open Icing,” I said to Judy, but Brenda appeared in the doorway leading to the other side.
“I’ve just opened it,” she said, holding out a round metal tray of dog biscuit samples. “Dinah gave me this from the kitchen. She’s greeting everyone in Icing for me. The party has begun!”
She was absolutely right. People were flowing into the Barkery. I needn’t have worried that everyone there wanted to visit Icing. I hadn’t been able to see the crowd’s feet earlier, so I hadn’t known that many had their leashed dogs with them—very welcome in the Barkery, but not in the human-focused bakery.