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by Sara Harricharan
1/21/2008 / Short Stories
Fresh strawberry shortcake. It reminded me of the order I'd placed for the school prom committee. Guarding the dessert table wasn't such a bad job if you weren't hungry.
I searched the room with my eyes as my stomach rumbled. I'd been on my way to that new Mexican restaurant when Mom had called asking me to pick up Dad from his latest crime scene.
I wouldn't really have minded if I wasn't half-starving by the time I'd found Dad and discovered that he'd found a new clue.
There went all my spring dreams for a spontaneous father-daughter lunch. And so began my new job as dessert sentry.
Except for the minor issue of a rebellious stomach, I wondered if this meant an allowance bonus. I lifted a slice onto a paper plate and whispered a brief prayer before indulging.
First bite scrumptious, second bite heaven, third bite interrupted.
"Nola?" Dad's puzzled voice came from my left elbow.
I swallowed, turning to see him staring at me with an expression I'd never noticed before. "Hey dadyou okay?" I waved the plastic fork in a circular motion when he stared at my plate. "It's just cake. You said not to eat the pie."
Dad blinked. "Right and you're-" My stomach grumbled before he could ask and he winced. "Next time grab take-out before you come."
I smiled, feeling like a pixie when he handed me a napkin. "Any news yet?"
"Not exactly. They think Mrs. Davis murdered her son." Dad cleared his throat. "By poisoning him with Cyanide."
I choked on a sliver cream-coated strawberry. "Poisoned!?"
"Something about the scent of bitter almonds." Dad guided me away from the dessert buffet and towards a little round table. "I don't believe that. I've known Mrs. Davis for at least a year and she doesn't feel like the one we're looking for."
"Gut feeling?" I took another mouthful and turned on my heel to keep from spitting it out.
"Nola?" Dad's worried face appeared in front of me, his brows pulled together, nose wrinkled and eyes fogged with concern. "I should have warned you." He scolded himself, guiding me away from the table and the sight of my first murder victim.
I let him hug me for a moment, drawing on the security from the muffled scent of Old Spice. I shuddered. "He's dead."
Dad nodded. "But I don't think he was murdered."
"I just spoke to him last week to order shortcake for the prom reception." A feeling like old asparagus worked its way into my stomach.
Dear Jesus, I really don't want to remember his face that way!
Dad nudged the plate upwards. "Keep eating this." He wrinkled his nose at the pink and white confection. "His fianc was eating that and she's fine. I'm pretty sure there's nothing wrong with the food, something's just not right."
He twisted his watch, a sign of a mental itch he couldn't quite scratch.
I took another bite of shortcake and froze in mid-chew when something crunched. Nothing tasted funny, familiar maybe. I chewed and swallowed, studying the last bite of shortcake.
Coaxing the dollop of whipped cream off, a neat layer of roasted, sliced almonds stared up at me.
"Hey Dad?" I called, reaching backwards to grab air when I saw him talking to the police chief.
"Okay. Fine. I can handle this." I took a deep breath and let it out, closing my eyes. Images danced merrily through my mind's window.
The face of the dead man, compared to the one I'd seen and talked to a week ago. "Wrong." My eyes popped open as I mouthed the conversation we'd had. The memory of the two faces didn't quite add up somehow.
A quiver ran over me as my mind went to work sorting the information I'd been given. Mr. Davis was the son of a baker. He loved to experiment on his own creations. He loved nuts. That was his secret to his famous shortcake.
Dear Heavenly Father. I really wish that I could, oh...great, Father, that's bizarre! You're turning me into a detective!
The half-hearted complaint erased itself from my prayer when the 'bizarre' idea settled.
What if that wasn't really Mr. Davis? What if it'd been an imposter. Someone allergic to nuts. Almonds, to be precise.
What if Mrs. Davis didn't know, but tried giving him his favorite dessert, never guessing that it would kill him. His fianc. Of course! "Dad?" I waved to get his attention.
His fianc must have switched plates. She didn't want it to trace back to the cake and the fact that the real Mr. Davis wasn't allergic to nuts. It would blow her cover. Mr. Davis hadn't been engaged when I'd spoken to him, he didn't even sound like someone eagerly awaiting the perfect moment for a proposal.
Of course as the only heir, he stood to inherit millions. Means, opportunity, motive. I cradled the last bite of shortcake. "Dad? Got a minute? I think I've solved the case!"
Sara Harricharan is a young Christian woman with a passion for writing for the Lord through faith-filled Science Fiction/Fantasy stories and pure words. www.fictionfusion.blogspot.com
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