Donut Holes and Homicide
But then the owner of a local pizza place is found murdered. When Juniper is found with the murder weapon in his hand, the case seems cut and dried. But Joyce believes he is innocent and convinces Brenda to join her to try and find the real murderer.
Joyce and Brenda are on a mission to find out the truth and land up in a whole lot of trouble! Will they be able to stay alive long enough to catch the killer?
Recipe Included: Cinnamon Sugar Donut Holes
Join Joyce and Brenda for a heartwarming cozy mystery with enduring friendships, delicious donuts and a little romance by USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author Cindy Bell.
Buy Donut Holes and Homicide and start solving the mystery today.
Release date: February 26, 2021
Print pages: 240
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Donut Holes and Homicide
“What a crazy day!” Brenda Barker wiped some crumbs off of the counter. “Who knew we’d have such a run on the chocolate creams? I’ll have to make an extra dozen tomorrow.”
“It’s usually busy on sunny mornings, but you’re right, that was wild.” Melissa Powell laughed as she wiped her hands, then hung the towel on the hook next to the sink.
“Luckily, we have plenty of these cinnamon sugar donut holes left. They are always a popular choice.” Joyce Waters used a set of tongs to pile the leftover donuts into an open box. “And a few of the frosted glazed ones. I’m sure they will love them.”
“Are you going over there again today?” Brenda locked up the register, then rolled the serving window on the side of the truck shut.
“Yes, absolutely. I wish I could do more.” Joyce frowned as she finished loading up the box, then opened another to fill. “There’s no reason for any of this to go to waste.”
“I’m sure they appreciate it.” Melissa gave Joyce a light pat on her shoulder and smiled at the woman who was about forty years her senior. “I think it’s very kind of you. I know you often give food to the foodbanks, but it’s great to actually hand it directly over to the people in need. Most of the vendors around here just toss out their leftovers. I hate to think of people going hungry.”
“I do, too.” Brenda took a deep breath as she turned to look at Joyce. What she lacked in stature and girth, she more than made up for in determination. Brenda had discovered that when Joyce entered her life as a whirlwind force with an idea she refused to give up on.
Brenda had been selling pastries and donuts from home while she was a stay-at-home mother to her young daughter, Sophie. Joyce got a taste of her baked goods, and decided it was time to start a new business. It took a little convincing, but Brenda had eventually gotten on board with the idea, and now she and Joyce ran the Donuts on the Move truck together. With Brenda’s daughter in school, she had the free time and the change had been quite exciting for her. Though she was in her thirties, she felt as if she had a lot to learn, and Joyce had helped her each step of the way. However, when she had an idea in her head, nothing could deter her.
“Joyce, I just worry about you going out there alone.”
“Would you worry about me going to the grocery store, or mall alone?” Joyce looked over at her.
“No, of course not.” Brenda frowned, though in truth, she did worry a little. She knew she had a tendency to worry a little too much. She was overprotective when it came to her family, and she considered Joyce to be part of that family. “But the mall and the grocery store aren’t in the middle of the woods and filled with homeless people.”
“That’s just the point.” Joyce put the boxes of donuts down and turned to face Brenda. She placed her hands firmly on her hips, which only served to emphasize her petite figure. “Just because they are homeless, that doesn’t make them any more dangerous than the people I could encounter at the mall or the grocery store.”
“Of course they aren’t.” Melissa leaned back against the counter, watching the two.
“That may be true, but you can’t be blind to the fact that many people end up becoming homeless because of a criminal history, or addiction, or untreated mental health issues.” Brenda crossed her arms. “No, that doesn’t necessarily make them dangerous people, but it does mean that there is some reason to be cautious. I want to help people, too, but it doesn’t hurt to be careful while you do it.”
“I understand if you’re afraid.” Joyce picked up the boxes and smiled. “But I’m not. I want to get these to them while they are still a bit fresh.”
“I’m not afraid, just a little nervous. Reasonably so, I think.” Brenda frowned as Joyce’s words stung just a little. She viewed her as a mentor and as a close friend. “Which is why I’m going to come with you.”
“You really don’t have to, Brenda, I’ll be fine.” Joyce turned toward the steps that led down out of the truck.
“Here, let me take one of those.” Brenda plucked a box out of Joyce’s arms.
“Careful, or I might think you’re doting on me.” Joyce winked at her, then continued down the steps.
Melissa followed after them both. Brenda turned to lock the door of the truck and almost dropped the box of donuts on the ground.
“Careful.” Melissa stifled a giggle as she caught the box.
“Maybe you should take that for her, Melissa.” Joyce called out as she laughed.
“You two.” Brenda rolled her eyes. “I get it, I’m too protective. But it’s just who I am, you’re going to have to love me, anyway.” She tucked the keys into her purse. “Melissa, thanks for your help today. I shouldn’t need you for Sophie this week, since Charlie is home working on an article, so he’ll be able to pick up Sophie from school.”
“Are you sure? I don’t mind, I love my Sophie time.” Melissa grinned.
“No, it’s fine, I know you have some studying to do. I’ll see you in the morning.” Brenda shifted the box in her hands, then caught sight of Joyce halfway to the sidewalk that ran the length of the main strip. The food trucks were gathered in a lot on the next street over. In addition to Donuts on the Move, there were Spicy Slice, Dogs to Go, and Tacos and More. At other times there would be other trucks present, they often moved around during the week. “I’d better catch up with her before she takes off on me.” Brenda laughed.
“Good luck!” Melissa walked off to her car, her nose already in her phone.
Brenda smiled to herself as she followed after Joyce. She could remember a time when she babysat for Melissa, and now the college freshman was babysitting her daughter for her, as well as working busier shifts with her on the truck and helping with the baking. She would often cover for her or Joyce if needed, it took the stress of operating the business down a notch for both of them. As she caught up with Joyce, Brenda called out to her.
“Joyce, we don’t need to powerwalk.”
“I’m sorry.” Joyce slowed her pace and glanced over at Brenda. “I know I got a little testy back there.”
“It’s alright, I was being a little overprotective.” Brenda smiled as she fell into step with Joyce. At the end of the street, a parking lot with an empty storefront took up the entire corner.
Joyce walked confidently through the parking lot, behind the building, and straight into the woods.
“They’re not too far from the building.” She paused a few steps into the woods and turned back to look at Brenda. “You don’t have to come with me if you don’t want to, Brenda.”
“I do.” Brenda smiled as she followed her into the woods. “I think it’s a great thing you do. I just get a little too nervous about things.”
“It’s alright.” Joyce smiled at her in return, her eyes dancing. “Sometime after fifty you start realizing that the only thing dangerous about life is not living it exactly the way you want to.”
Brenda shook her head as Joyce’s words rung true in her mind.
“Halt! Who goes there?” A man with wild hair and big, bright eyes smiled at them as he stood between them and the makeshift tents and shelters that populated the woods behind him.
“Juniper, you know who I am.” Joyce rolled her eyes and grinned.
“Oh yes, the donut fairy.” Juniper bowed deeply to her. “It’s so wonderful to share space with your sparkle, my beautiful, bountiful queen.”
“Now, I see why you like to come out here,” Brenda whispered as she held back a laugh.
“And you have your young enchantress with you today!” Juniper crossed two fingers and took a big step back. “Is she a good witch, or a bad witch?”
“I’m no witch at all.” Brenda smiled as she held out the box of donuts. “The only things I stir up are sweets and treats.”
“Hm. Time will tell.” Juniper took the box from her, then looked back at Joyce. “Please, majesty, follow me this way.” He turned, with a flap of his shirt, which was about two sizes too large for him, and marched toward the tents.
“He’s a bit eccentric,” Joyce murmured to Brenda as they followed after him. “But harmless.”
“He doesn’t like me much.” Brenda raised an eyebrow. Though, she couldn’t blame him. What Joyce saw as eccentric, Brenda assessed as delusional, which in her mind meant he could potentially be dangerous.
“It takes him some time to warm up to people.” Joyce shrugged, then continued in a softer voice. “From what I’ve learned about him, he’s led a very hard life, with lots of rejection. I think he just uses his theatrical behavior as a way to keep everyone at a distance.”
“Maybe so.” Brenda nodded as she swept her eyes over the variety of shelters that they walked up to. The group of about fifteen people consisted mostly of men, though there were a few women mixed in. They seemed quite pleased with the donut delivery.
“Any chocolate creams?” A tall man with deep dimples rubbed his hands together as he smiled. “I do enjoy those.”
“I’m sorry, we sold out.” Joyce frowned as she met his eyes. “Next time.”
“Oh, but you have the donut holes.” He grabbed one out of the box. “I love those, too.”
Brenda watched as each donut was plucked from the first box, and then the next. She saw the joy etched across their faces as they devoured the treat, and all at once it hit her hard. This might just be the best part of their day. She looked over at Joyce and noticed the softness of her expression. She wasn’t afraid at all. While Brenda wondered if anyone had a hidden weapon, or violent intentions, Joyce enjoyed their company. Brenda hadn’t realized how much of a bias she carried until that moment.
“Alright folks, you’re going to have to clear out of here.” Two police officers walked up behind Brenda and Joyce.
“Excuse me?” Joyce turned to face them. “What is this about?”
“These people are trespassing.” The first officer, who had a square jaw and broad shoulders rested his hands on his gun belt and narrowed his eyes. “You all know that you can’t camp here.”
“They can’t camp in the woods, officer?” Joyce squinted at his uniform. “Miller is it?”
“Yes ma’am, I am Officer Miller. This is Officer Richardson.” He gestured to the younger man who resembled a twig compared to Officer Miller. “We’ll give you fifteen minutes to get everything cleared out of here, after that we’ll be forced to take whoever remains down to the station.”
“That is ridiculous!” Joyce’s voice raised as she glared at both officers. “There is no reason they can’t stay here! They aren’t harming anyone!”
“It’s alright.” The tall man with the dimples cleared his throat. “We don’t want any trouble. We’ll move on.” He turned to the others and instructed them to start gathering their things.
“It is absolutely not alright!” Joyce stepped closer to Officer Miller. “I pay taxes in this town, and this is how you treat its people? How can you kick them out of here?”
“Ma’am, please calm down. There are laws, and they must be followed.” Officer Miller regarded her with annoyance, but spoke in a patient tone.
Brenda winced, as she was aware that he had no idea what he had just gotten himself into.
“Calm down?” Joyce huffed. “Oh, dear boy, I won’t be calming down until I have had quite a long conversation with your superior about this unfounded raid and your treatment of these men and women. They need to be treated better!”
“Joyce.” Brenda slipped her hand into Joyce’s and tugged it gently. “I think we should go.”
“Farewell, farewell.” Juniper pulled a tissue from his pocket and waved it through the air. “Though this sink is shipping, the sky and the sea, are still quite beautiful.” He began to hum as he danced around. He whipped the tissue back and forth, then fluttered it through the air.
“Ma’am, listen to your friend. If you have a complaint, you can take it up with the department, but I will not allow you to interfere.” Officer Miller raised a finger in the air as he looked at her. “Now, I’m asking you for a second time, please calm down.”
“I will be taking this up with the department.” Joyce’s eyes widened. Despite the fact that she was a foot shorter than the man who towered over her, and weighed at least half as much as he did, she didn’t exhibit the slightest hint of being intimidated. “Trust me, I am giving you the courtesy of my restraint right now, only because I do not want to make things more difficult for my friends here. But this is not the end of this, Officer Miller, mark my words!”
Brenda took a shaky breath. Her mind jumped from admiration to horror as she envisioned Joyce being hauled away in handcuffs.
“Joyce, let’s go.” She wrapped her arm around her friend’s shoulders and steered her away from the two officers.
“But it’s not right!” Joyce hissed as she reluctantly allowed herself to be steered back toward the parking lot. “They’re not doing anything wrong. Nothing at all!”
“I know.” Brenda frowned as she met Joyce’s eyes. “But the officers have to do their jobs.”
“Is moving along innocent people doing their jobs?” Joyce shook her head. “My late husband wore a badge for the majority of his life, and never once did he threaten to arrest someone who didn’t deserve it.”
“I believe you.” Brenda rubbed her hand along Joyce’s shoulder. “But times are different now.”
“Worse, you mean?” Joyce sighed as they began to walk along the sidewalk. “I’m sorry, Brenda, I know I get a little wound up. I just hate to see people treated unfairly.”
“I admire that about you, Joyce. I really do. But sometimes there’s just nothing you can do.” Brenda glanced back over her shoulder and watched as the group of people packed up their camp. The officers returned to their car and drove off. Just like that, it would be as if their temporary home had never existed.
“Oh, there’s something I can do!” Joyce straightened up and stepped out from under Brenda’s arm. “And I’m going to go do it right now. I’m sure Detective Crackle has some kind of sway in the department. He’s about to get a piece of my mind!”
“Joyce, are you sure that you want to do that? I thought you and Detective Crackle were enjoying each other’s company.” Brenda hesitated, she knew it was a subject to tread lightly on. “This wasn’t his fault.”
“Maybe it wasn’t, but he has the power to do something about it. As far as I’m concerned, if he’s not as outraged as me, then I don’t want his company.” Joyce waved her hand sharply through the air, then stalked off in the direction of the police station, which was only one block over. Brenda thought about following after her, but she decided against it. Instead, she walked back to the parking lot and got into her car. Joyce had her battle to fight, but Brenda had homework to look over, and dinner to make.
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