Zoe almost couldn’t believe it. Valentine’s Day was already around the corner and she was enlisted to help prepare the treats for the Sweetheart Dance at the local high school. She had never been one to beat around the bush, so she got straight to work trying different recipes.
Flour and sprinkles littered the floor of her shop, but it didn’t matter. Sweets and Treats didn’t officially open for business until mid-morning. There was more than enough time to clean up before the customers arrived. Hopefully.
Her sleeves were up to her elbows as she kneaded some dough under her hands. As she hummed a love song, she couldn’t help but think about how enamored she was with life itself. Things had gotten so much happier with the revelation that Lissie was her sister. The missing piece in her life was finally filled.
Eventually, Zoe’s mind drifted to Sean. Whenever she thought about his smile or his laughter, she felt her cheeks begin to warm up. She couldn’t remember the last time she felt her heart flutter at the thought of somebody. The feeling felt somewhat foreign to her, but welcomed all the same. The stars in her eyes were evident.
Her daydream was cut short by a sudden slam of the door. The impact reverberated against the walls of the shop, jolting her up a few inches in fright. She frowned, craning her neck forward to see what was going on.
“Lissie…” she mumbled out, wiping her forehead with the back of her hand. “What are you doing up so early? Do you realize what time it is?”
“Oh, c’mon. Don’t be like that,” Lissie countered, crossing her arms over her chest. “I could ask you the same thing, y’know.”
Zoe gestured to her workspace, as disheveled as it was. Cookie cutters, measuring cups, and mixing bowls. Her hands were tinted with a pasty white hue, thanks to the dough she was wringing.
“I have an excuse. I’m making treats. Trying out some new recipes I created myself. Not getting into trouble.”
Rolling her eyes, Lissie took a seat by the counter across from where Zoe stood. She hummed, somewhat interested in the messy scene sprawled in front of her. By the dazed look in her eyes, Zoe could tell that her mind was elsewhere.
And considering the direction she just came from was also where the wardrobe was situated, Zoe didn’t have to take a shot in the dark to figure out why.
“Going through the wardrobe again, Lissie?” Zoe shook her head, wiping down the counter with a rag. “You shouldn’t be doing that. It’s not good to be moving between the two worlds so frequently.”
Lissie pouted, reaching over and sticking her hand in the bowl of chocolate chips. She grabbed a handful and shoved them all into her mouth in one go.
“I don’t see what the big deal is,” she said, covering her mouth as she chewed. “Witch World is a lot more exciting. There’s so much more to see and do over there!”
“But you’ve been stepping through too many times. It’s worrying me a little bit,” Zoe responded, ignoring the frown that appeared on Lissie’s face. “You haven’t even developed any powers yet. Hopping through the wardrobe can start making you feel weird after a while. Headaches, memory loss… it’s not a pleasant thing to go through. Especially not for mortals.”
“Technically speaking, I’m not even a mortal anymore,” she commented softly, glancing at Zoe from under her brows. After a few moments, she waved off Zoe’s warnings. “And it’s not like I can help it. Whenever there’s trouble in Witch World, I wanna be one of the first people to find out about it!”
“What are you talking about, Lissie?” Zoe asked, stilling momentarily. “Does it have something to do with the council?”
“No, of course not!” Lissie leaned in forward, glancing at the front door of the shop to make sure no one abruptly barged in. She didn’t want anyone else hearing about this news. “The last time I went through the portal, I heard some people talking. I tried to convince myself that they were only rumors and they had no merit to them, but I started getting scared.”
“Spit it out. What’s been going on in Witch World?”
“It’s about Chloe!” she hissed out, eyes wide. “I didn’t have the chance to talk to her directly because people were swarming her shop. I was barely able to make it out of there.”
Zoe furrowed her eyebrows together in confusion. “Is she alright? Why were people in her shop?”
“I wasn’t able to hear much, but I knew I had to get all this information back to you somehow. I would have stayed in Witch World otherwise. Chloe’s been arrested for murder.”
“What? Murder? Lissie, be serious for a second–”
“I am being serious, Zoe! And I already told you that I didn’t want to believe it at first, but you should have seen what was happening over there!” She gestured towards the wardrobe. “People were going crazy. All sorts of accusations were getting flung around. I don’t know the person who got killed, but whoever they were, they must have been pretty important.”
“And Chloe?” Zoe asked frantically, already untying the apron from her body. “Where do you think she’s at right now? Do you think we can find her?”
“I mean… does Witch World have its own police station or something?” Lissie asked, sending her a half-hearted shrug. “I don’t know where they took her, but everyone kept saying how shocked they were that she was even arrested in the first place.”
An uneasy heaviness settled in Zoe’s chest. The feeling horrified her. A shudder coursed down her spine, unable to fathom the idea of her sister being capable of killing someone.
“Zoe…?” Lissie whispered, noticing the glazed look in her eyes. “I didn’t like what those people were saying. About what they did to witches whenever they were convicted of murder.”
Feeling her heart miss a beat, the panic in her body was beginning to make itself known. Her hands trembled violently as she made a rushed effort to clean up the cooking materials on the countertop.
“W-What were they saying?” Zoe stammered out, almost wishing she hadn’t asked.
“If she’s convicted, the witches’ council is gonna put her to death.” Lissie’s eyes were beginning to water as she pushed herself out of her seat. “We have to do something, Zoe. Our sister needs our help.”
The two of them scrambled to clean up the shop as quickly as possible. The news lit a fire within Zoe and she wasn’t going to rest without knowing all the details of what was going on. Lissie felt the same way. They weren’t going to leave their sister in the lion’s den.
“Are you ready?” Lissie asked, gesturing towards the wardrobe.
Flipping the sign in front of the shop to indicate that the shop was closed, Zoe nodded.
“Of course I am,” she replied, a look of determination etched across her face. “Let’s go.”
Taking a deep breath, Zoe prepared herself before stepping through the portal that led into Witch World. The transition between the two worlds still dizzied her at times, which made the back of her knees feel weak. Lissie appeared unfazed by the process, which came as a shock to Zoe.
It seemed as if she would get the hang of things in no time.
“Over there,” Lissie whispered, noticing the ominous silence throughout the streets. She clasped her hand around Zoe’s wrist and squeezed lightly. “The witch council building. That’s where everyone is gathered. See?”
Following her line of sight, Zoe caught a glimpse at the small crowd in front of the building where the witch council frequently conducted their meetings. She frowned, noticing how rowdy the crowd was getting as the seconds passed by.
“Do you think Sean is in Witch World right now?” Zoe asked, allowing herself to be dragged along by the wrist. “Whenever there’s problems here, he’s the first one the witch council calls.”
Lissie hummed. “That’s what happens when you’re one of the best detectives around, huh?”
Turning a corner, they stopped in their tracks. Away from the chaos, Sean was speaking with one of the witch council members. He was listening intently, scribbling away at the notepad in his hands. When he finished, he clicked his pen and stuck it in his pocket. He noticed Zoe and Lissie out of the corner of his eye, prompting him to abruptly end his conversation with the council member.
A deep exhale fell from his lips as he watched them go. As he turned towards Zoe and Lissie, the sympathy in his expression became more prominent. Their sister was getting accused of murder, after all.
“Sean? What’s going on?” Zoe asked, glimpsing at the crowd in front of the building. “W-We heard that Chloe was involved in this case. What happened?”
“Master Edwin Spencer was found killed yesterday and the prime suspect in the case is your sister, Chloe,” he explained, keeping his tone as neutral as possible. Zoe’s heart thundered in her chest. “He ate Valentine cookies laced with fairy dust, which is poisonous. I’m still trying to figure out the connections the victim had with various people to see if there are any other likely suspects, but right now, all eyes are on Chloe.”
“H-How’s that possible?” Zoe stammered out, clutching onto Lissie’s sleeve tightly. “How could she have killed him? Isn’t he Theo Spencer’s father? He’s dating Chloe!”
“Engaged with her, actually,” Sean informed, skimming through his notes. “I don’t think Master Edwin and your sister got along very well.”
“But that doesn’t mean she murdered him!” she exclaimed, bunching up her fists. Lissie did her best to console her by rubbing a hand along her shoulder, but it wasn’t working.
Zoe’s shaky hand ran through her hair as she processed the situation. For one, Chloe was engaged and she didn’t have a clue about it. She acknowledged that her relationship with her twin sister deteriorated, but she didn’t expect it to get this bad.
And now Chloe was being suspected of killing the most prominent member of the witch council, who so happened to be her fiancé’s father. Zoe’s head was spinning, and if it weren’t for Lissie, she may have just toppled over.
“They’ll put her to death if she’s found guilty, won’t they?” Lissie asked, directed to Sean. “A crime like this… I don’t think they’ll be lenient…”
“Can I talk to Zoe for a second, Lissie?” Sean asked. “I’ll talk to you some more later, but I need to figure out everything I need to know about Chloe, Theo, and Master Edwin.”
With a quick nod, Lissie gave Zoe a nod of encouragement before heading off towards the direction of the witch council building. When she was out of an earshot, Sean sighed. He rubbed at his eyes until he saw colors.
“Zoe, do you know anything? About Chloe and Theo? Maybe about their relationship with Theo’s father?”
She hugged herself as her gaze drifted to her shoes. “All I know is that they were in love with each other. And sure,” she gave a half-hearted shrug. “Their relationship with Master Edwin wasn’t the best, but that’s because he never approved of them. Still… I don’t think she did it.”
“It’s natural that you think that way,” Sean reminded, writing down more notes. “Apparently, Chloe said that she would marry Theo at all costs. Even if it meant murdering Master Edwin to make it happen.”
Her blood turned to ice. Those words… They didn’t sound like Chloe’s, but how was she going to know any better? Thanks to everything that happened, she could barely recognize her own sister anymore.
“And do you know anything about Matilde Franklin?”
“M-Matilde… who?” Zoe sifted through her thoughts, trying to remember anything about the woman he mentioned. She perked up as some details came back to her. “Oh, she’s that sweet, jolly old woman! I don’t know much about her though. Why do you ask?”
“She’s another one of the suspects in the case. Some witnesses mentioned her name, but the link between her and Master Edwin isn’t so clear.”
At that news, Zoe felt some weight lift off her shoulders. Her sister wasn’t the only suspect in the case, at the very least. The thought relieved her slightly, but it still didn’t help soothe the nasty feeling in her stomach.
Knowing that Chloe wasn’t capable of murdering anybody, Zoe knew that she had to find out more about Matilde. Her sister’s life was on the line, and even though their relationship was strained, Zoe wasn’t going to leave Chloe to the wolves. She needed to talk to Matilde and uncover her relation to Master Edwin before it was too late.