The Bite-Size Bakery Subscriber Story...
“I’ll have the lobster roll, please.” I scanned the menu, my stomach grumbling like I hadn’t eaten in weeks. “And then the beef rump with sweet potato wedges.”
Bee, my best friend and partner in baking, sat across the table from me, one eye narrowed as she perused, and the waiter hovered. This was a new restaurant for us—only just opened in Muffin, Massachusetts—and the first impression would determine whether we came back or not.
Already, I liked the place. The menu was filled with tasty dishes, and the interior was rustic and cozy—a long wraparound bar accented the space, as did the brick walls, the large windows looking out on the street, and the music jostling from speakers in the corners.
“I’ll take the spicy chicken wings for my appetizer,” Bee said, “and a Crunch ‘n Spice burger for entrees.”
“Of course,” the waiter said, and took our menus from us.
After he’d left us, I took a sip of my soda and raised my eyebrows at Bee. “So? What do you think of the place? Enough reason for us to hang around in Muffin for another week?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I’ll have to get a look at the dessert menu before I make any decisions. But worth another week here? Hmm.”
“Things have been tricky, Ruby,” Bee said. “What with the murders and all. I’ve got to admit, I’d be happy to get out from under Detective Wilkes’ gaze.”
One of the detectives in town hadn’t exactly approved of us interfering in ongoing murder investigations. But in our defense, we had solved a few of them.
“Hopefully, we won’t have to worry about anything like that again.” After all, we’d come to town in our baking food truck, hoping to meet new people, sell our treats, and explore the area. Not to get involved in solving mysteries.
My phone buzzed in my pocket, and I drew it out. A number I didn’t recognize flashed on the screen. “I’d better take this,” I said. “It might be Miguel.” I’d been expecting a call from my supplier for a while now—he was the one who shipped us our cardboard boxes and had agreed on a special deal whereby I contacted him with a new address every time we hit a new town.
“Go ahead,” Bee said.
“Hello?” I answered, but the music in the restaurant was way too loud to make out anything. “Hello, can you hear me?”
My heart nearly stopped altogether.
“Ruby? Are you all right?”
My face had gone cold too. “What did you just say?” I spoke into the phone. “Who is this?”
The person on the other end said something I couldn’t hear, but the seed was already planted. They had said his name. My ex-fiancé’s name. The man who had ghosted me, Daniel. Was it him on the phone? Was he calling me for… no, there was no reason he would call now, not after ignoring me for years.
“Hello?” I stumbled out of my chair, signaling to Bee that I’d be right back. I made for the exit and stepped out onto the sidewalk. The lack of noise was jarring. “Hello, can you hear me? Hello?” I didn’t dare say his name in case it wasn’t him. Daniel.
What would I even say to him?
“Hello?” One last time. I checked my phone’s screen, but the call had ended. I hit the button to dial the number back. The line was engaged.
Maybe it was better that way. Whoever it was had wanted to—
A scream cut through the night and across my thoughts.
I spun on the spot, searching for the source of the disturbance.
If I’d been weirded out about the call, it was nothing compared to how I felt now. Screaming? In Muffin? This was a peaceful town, for the most part.
The street was empty, the alleyways between the buildings were too, and I frowned.
“Help! Get it away from me!” A woman sprinted into view, terror written across her face, pumping her arms back and forth. “Help!”
I started forward, but there was no one behind the woman. No reason for her to be screaming or—wait, what was that?
A dog padded into view behind her, something in its mouth, and its tail wagging.
“What are you doing?” the woman yelled. “Help me! Call 911.”
“For what?” I asked.
“That dog is trying to attack me!” She screeched, clambering up onto the hood of a parked car. She wore a pair of running pants and an over-sized t-shirt, her hair tied back in a messy ponytail. She pointed at the dog—a golden retriever. “It’s been chasing me for three blocks.”
The dog padded to a halt and sat down, whining. It tilted its head, the thing in its mouth sticking out either side.
“I don’t think it’s trying to attack you,” I said. “Look, it seems friendly. It’s got a collar on. Maybe it’s lost.”
“Whatever!” The woman hugged herself. “It was totally chasing me.”
“What’s your name?” I bent to ruffle the dog’s fluffy ears.
“Cassidy,” the woman answered. “My name is Cassidy.”
“Oh. Right.” I didn’t bother pointing out I’d been talking to the dog. The tags on his collar read ‘Frankie.’ “All right, boy. Are you lost?” There was an address on the tag too—on Baker Street, which wasn’t too far from here. “I can take you home.”
“Take him home! You ought to take him to the pound for what he did to me. He’s clearly rabid,” Cassidy said. “And I’ll bet he’ll do it again if you give him the chance.” She took a break from complaining to take a breath. “What’s he got in his mouth?”
“Hmm, a bone,” I replied.
And then it struck me. That was an awfully big bone for a dog. So big, in fact, that it couldn’t possibly be…
My palms grew sweaty. I rubbed them off on my jeans. “Frankie,” I said, ruffling his fur again. “Drop the bone, will you? Be a good dog. That’s it. Drop it.”
Frankie spat the bone out and it clattered to the tar. It was streaked with mud and yellow with age, but it had the unmistakable shape of a femur.
“What kind of bone is that?” Cassidy asked, slipping off the hood of the car, at last. She kept her distance from Frankie, her arms folded.
“Has he had it the whole time?”
“I don’t know,” she snapped. “I was afraid for my life. I wasn’t focused on what he had in his mouth, more on me not being the thing he puts in it next!”
Frankie’s tongue lolled out of the corner of his mouth and he wagged his tail, harmless as a fly.
“What kind of bone is it?” Cassidy repeated.
“I think,” I said, sweat beading on my forehead, “I think it’s a human leg bone.”
If I’d thought Cassidy had been screaming before, it was nothing compared to the yowl she let loose now.