Ice cream and incidents, p.1

Ice Cream and Incidents, page 1

 part  #13 of  Peridale Cafe Cozy Mystery Series


Ice Cream and Incidents

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Ice Cream and Incidents

  Ice Cream and Incidents

  Agatha Frost

  Published by Pink Tree Publishing Limited in 2018

  All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  Copyright © Pink Tree Publishing Limited.

  The moral right of the author has been asserted.

  All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  For questions and comments about this book, please contact [email protected]

  Edited by Keri Lierman and Karen Sellers


  About This Book

  Newsletter Signup

  Also by Agatha Frost

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Thank You!

  Dead in the Water - Chapter 1

  Also by Agatha Frost

  Newsletter Signup

  About This Book

  Released: June 19th 2017

  Words: 43,000

  Series: Book 13 - Peridale Cozy Café Mystery Series

  Standalone: Yes

  Cliff-hanger: No

  A free holiday to a seaside B&B run by drag queens sounds like the perfect way to spend a relaxing week away from Peridale, or so Julia South thought. When she arrives at the quirky B&B with her family, she's determined to have a fun break, but she quickly finds herself in the middle of another puzzling mystery when a lighting rig falls on the star drag performer, Simone Phoenix.

  Was it an accident, or something more sinister? Julia quickly befriends the owner, Russell, and learns that the seemingly tight-knit drag family working at Sparkles are not without their problems. With secrets and lies revolving around love, money, and revenge, each of them appears to have a motive for wanting Simone out of the way. Can Julia resist the lure of cracking yet another case for the sake of having a peaceful family holiday by the sea, or will the urge to uncover the truth take over once again?


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  Also by Agatha Frost

  The Scarlet Cove Seaside Series

  Dead in the Water (Book 1) - OUT NOW

  Castle on the Hill (Book 2) - OUT NOW

  Stroke of Death (Book 3) - OUT NOW

  The Peridale Cafe Series

  Pancakes and Corpses (Book 1) - OUT NOW

  Lemonade and Lies (Book 2) - OUT NOW

  Doughnuts and Deception (Book 3) - OUT NOW

  Chocolate Cake and Chaos (Book 4) - OUT NOW

  Shortbread and Sorrow (Book 5) - OUT NOW!

  Espresso and Evil (Book 6) - OUT NOW

  Macarons and Mayhem (Book 7) - OUT NOW

  Fruit Cake and Fear (Book 8) - OUT NOW

  Birthday Cake and Bodies (Book 9) - OUT NOW

  Gingerbread and Ghosts (Book 10) - OUT NOW

  Cupcakes and Casualties (Book 11) - OUT NOW

  Blueberry Muffins and Misfortune (Book 12) - OUT NOW

  Ice Cream and Incidents (Book 13) - OUT NOW

  Book 14 - COMING SOON


  The annual Peridale fête landed on a beautifully hot day in the middle of May. After a miserable start to spring, Julia South was happy to feel the sun on her skin as she stood behind her cake stall in the grounds of St. Peter’s Church. She had baked a large batch of lemon drizzle cupcakes decorated with intricate flowers made of icing to celebrate the village being in bloom once again. Most of the cakes had already sold, so she was glad when she spotted Jessie hurrying across the village green with a fresh batch.

  “These are quite delicious,” said Father David Green, the vicar of the church, “and very pretty indeed! You’ve outdone yourself again, Julia. Your wonderful baking always raises a generous sum for the cause, and I’m sure the unfortunate homeless individuals we’re trying to help will be very grateful for your support.” David took another bite of his cake as Jessie approached the table, the lemon buttercream sticking to his upper lip. “And here’s the young woman of the hour!” he exclaimed when Jessie shuffled past him. “Julia, you must be incredibly proud of your daughter for helping to raise awareness for such a worthy cause.”

  Jessie smiled meekly, her cheeks flushing with embarrassment as she set out the fresh cupcakes on the display stands. With Jessie’s eighteenth birthday weeks away, Julia was extremely proud of her foster daughter’s growth. Not only because she had lived on the streets before Julia had taken her in, but because her social conscience and recent fund-raising efforts had led Father David to pick a local homeless shelter as the recipient of the money raised by the fête.

  “I am very proud,” Julia said as she watched Jessie sink further into her baggy black hoody. “Not many people her age have the empathy to want to help people less fortunate than themselves.”

  “Indeed,” Father David muttered through another mouthful as he fished a pound coin from his leather wallet. “I’ll take another if you don’t mind. So very delicious.”

  After picking up a second cupcake, Father David joined the long line in front of Barker’s stall in the shadow of a large oak tree. It had been a month since Julia’s fiancé had shot to national fame thanks to the release of his debut crime novel, The Girl in the Basement, but Julia had yet to grow used to his new local celebrity status. Barker had swapped his role as the local detective inspector for full-time author life, and even though Julia had been apprehensive about him retiring from his police career, the beaming grin on his face as he signed books at his stall told her he had made the right decision. She had even had an influx of tourists visiting her café with copies of Barker’s book in the hope he would be around to sign them, which he usually was, thanks to him working there while writing his second novel.

  “Have you heard from Kim yet?” Jessie asked, her tone anxious as she buried her hands in the pockets of her hoody. “It’s my birthday soon.”

  Julia shook her head, Jessie’s nerves echoing inside her. She had been calling Jessie’s eccentric social worker, Kim Drinkwater, multiple times a day, but Kim had stopped answering her calls and had yet to reply to any of Julia’s frantic voice messages. With Jessie’s eighteenth birthday so close, they were both growing suspicious that the promised adoption would not be finalised in time.

  “Kim promised it would go through,” Julia said, trying to push forward a reassuring smile so as to not make Jessie worry even more. “She said it was as good as official.”

  “Kim’s word doesn’t mean a thing,” Jessie huffed with a roll of her eyes. “Until I see the documents saying that you and Barker are my legal parents, I’m not going to rest.”

  “It will happen.”

  “Kim has let me down before.”

  “And this won’t be one of those times,” Julia said, cupping Jessie’s soft cheek in her palm. “I called social services this morning, and they said they were going to chase it up. Have faith, Jessie.”

  Jessie nodded that she would,
even if her face showed something different. With her head low, she walked across the church grounds to her brother, Alfie, who was looking through a stall of second-hand books. Julia did not blame Jessie for being sceptical about the adoption. After being separated from her brother at just three months old, and then spending sixteen years in the care system, Julia was sure it would make even the toughest cookie cynical.

  As was always the case with the spring fête, every resident had come out to enjoy the stalls and the beautiful weather. There was something for everyone, from Julia’s cakes and Barker’s books to tarot readings from Evelyn and Father David’s homemade jam. Julia’s father, Brian, and his wife, Katie, arrived a little before noon with a wallpaper-pasting table and half a dozen brown boxes. They set up next to Julia’s stall, and before she could ask what they were trying to sell, Katie ripped open one of the boxes to reveal bottles of ‘Glow Like Katie’ fake tan.

  “We’ve not had any luck getting them into the shops yet,” Katie said with a girlish giggle as she set the bottles up on the table after spreading out a bright pink sheet. “Might as well put them to use for a good cause.”

  Katie, who was the same age as Julia, had what most people would call a ‘fake’ aesthetic. Her peroxide blonde hair contrasted starkly with her bottle-bronzed skin. Her face was caked with exaggerated makeup, and her outfits were usually tight and revealing, even though she had only given birth to Julia’s baby brother, Vinnie, six months ago. Despite the initial friction that had arisen when Katie first joined the South family, Julia had grown to love her for who she was. Under the glamorous shell, she was a sweet and caring woman, if not a little child-like sometimes.

  “Fake tan?” exclaimed Evelyn, the eccentric owner of the B&B, as she took a break from giving tarot readings. “What an unusual item for the spring fête! How exciting! I foresaw a strange object coming into my life with purpose. The tea leaves are never wrong. What shade is this?”

  “There are three,” Katie announced giddily, visibly excited about having her first customer. “Maple, Terracotta, and my personal shade, Walnut, but I refer to that one as the ‘Katie Special’.”

  Katie held out her arm, which amazingly resembled the shade of a walnut dresser Julia had in her dining room. Evelyn looked from the bottle to Katie’s arms, and to Julia’s surprise, she appeared to be considering buying the product despite her own pale skin, which resembled a moon glow rather than a suntan.

  “It’s just perfect!” Evelyn announced as she reached into her yellow kaftan to pull out her purse. “I knew when I stopped looking, I would find the perfect shade! The universe works in mysterious ways.”

  “You’re not going to regret it!” Katie said, accepting Evelyn’s money. “You’re going to look radiant! You’ll be ‘Glowing Like Katie’ in no time.”

  Katie pulled a sheet of pink stickers from one of the boxes with that very catchphrase printed on them and picked one off to apply it to Evelyn’s kaftan.

  “Tan?” Evelyn chuckled with a shake of her head. “Oh no, dear. This is the perfect shade to stain a wooden table that I saved from a skip! A little colour and polish and it will be as good as new. It’s amazing what people throw away these days.”

  With that, Evelyn moved onto Julia’s stall and bought a cupcake, before returning to her own stall where a small line had gathered for their readings. Katie looked like she was somewhere between confused and offended, but Julia’s father appeared amused.

  “A table?” Katie shrieked, her squeaky voice making Julia wince. “It’s for the skin, not a table!”

  “But you’ve just sold your first bottle,” Brian said, pecking her on the cheek. “Well done, sweetheart. You’ll be selling out in no time! This business venture was a genius idea. You’ll see.”

  Katie looked slightly consoled by Brian’s praise, but her enthusiasm was lessened when the next customer came by and left without even picking up a bottle for a closer look.

  Leaving her father in charge of her cake stall, Julia decided to explore the other offerings at the fête. She bought a jar of orange marmalade from Father David’s stall, a book about Victorian baking from Betty Hunter’s, and a knitted teapot cover from Shilpa Patil’s. After grabbing two hot dogs from the food truck, Julia wandered over to Barker’s table, where the line of people wanting their books signed had yet to relent.

  “Ketchup and mustard,” Julia said as she handed him the hot dog. “Just as you like it. I thought you’d be hungry.”

  Without missing a beat, Barker bit into the hot dog, but instead of taking his time to chew, he gobbled the whole thing down in a matter of seconds before licking the sauces from his lips. Malcolm Johnson, the president of the Peridale Green Thumbs gardening society, stared at Barker as though he had just witnessed a dog walking on its hind legs. He passed his book over silently, and Barker scribbled his signature on the inside page after wiping his fingers on his jeans.

  “Thanks,” Barker said to Julia before accepting the next book. “I didn’t realise there were still so many people in Peridale whose books I hadn’t signed. I’ll be lucky if I can even hold a pen at the end of today.”

  Leaving him to continue with his work, Julia went in search of her gran, Dot, who she had not seen since the fête had started. As she walked casually around the grounds smiling and waving to people she knew, she spotted Jessie and Alfie sitting on the church wall, both laughing as they ate hot dogs. Not only did they have the same laugh, but they also looked eerily similar. If it was not for the ten-year age gap, Julia might have thought they were twins. It warmed her heart to see them so close after spending seventeen long years estranged.

  “Have you seen Dot around?” Julia asked Jessie before smiling and nodding at Alfie, who was wearing a sleeveless grey vest so that his tattooed arms were on show. “She’s done one of her usual disappearing acts. She said she’d cover my stall if I needed a break, but I’ve had to leave my dad in charge.”

  Julia glanced back at her stall and chuckled when she saw her father wiping sweat from his brow as he counted out Shilpa’s change.

  “Huh?” Jessie said, still laughing as though Julia had just walked into her dream. “Oh, Dot? Yeah. I saw her.”

  Jessie took a bite of her hot dog and turned back to Alfie as though she had just given Julia useful information. Alfie laughed under his breath before jerking his head at Julia. Jessie licked ketchup from her lips as she looked back at Julia.

  “Do you know where she is?” Julia asked.

  “You only asked if I’d seen her.”

  “Excuse my little sister,” Alfie said as he dabbed at his lips with a napkin, his tattooed hands and arms glowing under the bright sun. “She thinks she’s funny. We saw her buy a bunch of raffle tickets from Amy. I think she snuck around the back of the church.”

  “She looked like she was up to something,” Jessie added. “But then again, when isn’t she?”

  “That is very true,” Julia said to herself as she left the siblings to continue talking about whatever they had been before she burst their bubble.

  Leaving the hustle and bustle of the fête behind, Julia walked down the dark path between the church and the village hall. She came out at the graveyard behind the church. Wondering what on Earth her gran could be doing back there, Julia wandered past a row of the old, leaning gravestones and scanned the area. She questioned if Dot had ventured into the dense woods at the bottom of the yard, but Julia shook that thought from her mind.

  Julia turned to walk back to the path, but she jumped out of her skin when she spotted Dot sitting cross-legged on the grass, her back leaning against the church. She was staring intently at something in her lap, which Julia quickly recognised as Barker’s book.

  “Dare I ask what you’re doing back here?” Julia called, shielding her eyes from the sun as she approached her. “I was about to report you as a missing person.”

  Dot held up a finger and continued reading until she reached the bottom of the page. Using the dust cover as a book
mark, she closed the book and finally looked up at Julia.

  “What was that, dear?” Dot asked as she fiddled with the brooch holding together the stiff collar of her white blouse. “I’m afraid I was lost in your fiancé’s book.”

  “I thought you weren’t much of a reader?”

  “I’m not,” Dot said, her hand resting on the cover of the book. “But this is rather good! I got him to sign a copy to sell it on the internet. People are willing to pay fifty pounds for signed copies, and fifty pounds is fifty pounds. I merely opened the book to scan the first page to see what all the fuss was about, and before I knew it, I’d finished the first chapter!”

  “And you’re sitting behind the church because…?”

  “I wanted some peace and quiet,” Dot said with a wave of her hand as though it should have been obvious. “Billy is at my cottage fixing the toilet, and that lot at the fête sound like a bunch of cackling hyenas. It’s hardly the environment to get lost in a work of fiction, is it? Who would have thought Barker would be such a talented writer?”

  Julia looked at where Dot was up to, noticing that she was less than a quarter of the way through. She wondered if her gran would think the same way when she reached the sixth chapter, when Dora, an eighty-something year old lady with an affinity for wearing brooches and sticking her nose into other people’s business showed up.

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