DYING for a DONUT
A Laurel McKay Mystery
Other Books in the Laurel McKay series
Dying for a Date (Vol. 1)
Dying for a Dance (Vol. 2)
Dying for a Daiquiri (Vol. 3)
Dying for a Dude (Vol. 4)
The wizened octogenarian sitting across from me clutched her chest with an arthritic hand. I looked in alarm at her.
“I could die right now,” my grandmother announced.
I eyed the scattered crumbs on the plate in front of her and said, “Those donuts you devoured included enough cholesterol to fell a team of Clydesdales.”
“Yes, but I’d die happy.” A broad smile creased Gran’s face. “Besides at my age, Laurel, I gotta let my bony rump rule.”
The tangy bite of a Jonathan apple I’d just swallowed stuck in my throat. “Huh?”
“You know like they say in New Orleans to justify all that drinkin’ and carousin’.”
“Oh, you mean laissez les bon temps roulez,” I interpreted Gran’s garbled French. “Let the good times roll.”
“Whatever. I need to enjoy life while I can.”
Gran was right. Today’s excursion to Apple Tree Farm, located in the small town of Camino, fifty miles east of Sacramento, had been a perfect outing. The rolling green hills and valleys, set against a backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, were famous for their plentiful apple orchards and even more plentiful apple pastries.
While Gran’s caloric intake today far exceeded mine, I’d still managed to consume one delicious donut followed by a caramel apple chaser. I wasn’t complaining, although the waistband of my jeans felt far less accommodating than when I’d dressed this morning.
Gran pointed her index finger at me. “You’ve got caramel stuck to your face.”
I stared down my nose but only succeeded in crossing my eyes. She handed me a paper napkin, and I swiped at my nose and cheeks. Just because outings to the area known as Apple Hill made me feel like a kid was no reason to regress to my sticky-fingered sticky-faced childhood.
Gran popped a final donut chunk into her mouth and smacked her lips. Her gaze roved from the bakery, located at one end of the large red barn, past the produce section laden with bins of colorful apples, pears and pumpkins. She finally set her sights on Ye Old Candy Shoppe directly opposite us. I could almost hear the mouth-watering fudge calling our names.
“Do we have time to get more fudge before Jenna gets off work in the bakery?” Gran asked.
I shook my head, marveling at my grandmother’s metabolism then glanced at my watch. “Jenna should be done in …” I stopped as two angry voices assaulted our ears.
A slight young man with an olive complexion and curly dark hair seemed to be in a dispute with another young man. They stormed out of a building opposite the bakery. While I didn’t recognize the first fellow, the much taller, heftier blond was the son of Axel Thorson, the owner of Apple Tree Farm.
Eric Thorson shook his fist and shouted at the teen standing before him. Eric’s face was almost as red and shiny as the candied apples they sold. The other young man also wore a red tee shirt emblazoned with the Apple Tree Farm logo.
The unidentified teenager reminded me of a young Enrique Iglesias––trouble in tush-tight jeans. Despite being several inches shorter than his opponent, he wasn’t backing down from Eric’s threatening fist.
I wondered what precipitated their argument and why they’d brought the fight out to the public picnic area. Even though it was almost five p.m., several families remained seated at rustic wood tables, enjoying their delectable purchases. A few people who stood in line to buy the farm’s jellies, sauces and fresh fruits, shifted their attention toward the two young men.
“Someone’s about to get a whoopin’,” Gran said. “Do you suppose they’re fighting over a girl?”
I shrugged. “It’s none of our business, although I hope no one gets hurt.”
She shifted her gaze to a point over my left shoulder. “Looks like we may be involved before you know it.”
“What?” I spun around to discover the last person I’d expected to join the altercation––my daughter.
Jenna’s auburn hair gleamed bright red, despite being encased in a hairnet to ensure no errant strands landed on the pastries she sold. With that fiery hair, sparks shooting out of sapphire blue eyes and the supersized spatula in her hand, she resembled an avenging angel.
She hurled herself between the two men, oblivious to possible injury to herself. I jumped up from the bench and joined the fray, thinking that all the two young men needed was a mature adult to calm them down so they could conduct a reasonable discussion. I reached Jenna’s side, yanked on her elbow and shoved her behind me. My daughter has four inches on my own five foot four and a quarter inches, but I had at least twenty (or possibly thirty) pounds to offset the vertical difference between us.
“Mom,” Jenna wailed as she tried to push through to the young men.
I thrust my arm out to block her movement. “Stay out of this, honey.” I faced the two aggressors, prepared to mediate their argument.
Eric swung his fist at his dark-haired opponent. His adversary ducked and countered with his own blow. Thwack!
That’s all it took for one forty-year-old mother of two to go down for the count.