Murder Most Meow
A flower arch made of hydrangeas and peonies graced the entrance of Sweets and Treats in celebration of springtime. Zoe and Lissie had also woven fragrant jasmine flowers into the decoration, so it smelled heavenly.
The witch sisters were happily running their shop and enjoying some grand domestic adventures, like visiting Witch World to help sister Chloe plan her wedding and prepare for the birth of her first child.
Today, they were also organizing the first-ever Sweetwater Bake-Off. It was a community event, but also a party to celebrate Zoe’s 24th birthday and bring the town together.
“There is so much to do!” Zoe groaned. “But at least Aunt Zelda’s agreed to help us plan.”
She placed delicate chocolate pieces shaped like leaves and flower petals around a cake stand. Her display looked impressively professional, especially with the addition of the bakery’s delicious treats.
“Yeah, don’t let it overwhelm you,” Lissie responded. “And don’t forget — Mayor Diana’s set up a team to help with setup and strike on the day.”
Both women felt fortunate to have so much support from the town and surrounding community. The witch sisters were quickly gaining notoriety for their generosity and the generally uplifting vibe of their shop. It helped that all of their recipes hit it out of the park in terms of popularity. Sweets and Treats sold out of pastries nearly every day.
“Yeah, thank goodness for that!” Zoe agreed.
Having the support of the town’s mayor would guarantee a big crowd at the Bake-Off. After all, it was a great marketing strategy to advertise their shop and build their brand. Not to mention, it gave them a chance to get to know other shop owners.
Lissie strung origami paper flowers onto a strand of fairy lights. It would add a magical glow-like effect to the inside of the shop.
The witch sisters had worked very hard to make their beloved bakery into the success it was today. Through all their trials and tribulations, and there had been some doozies, this delicious-smelling haven remained a constant in their lives.
“So give me details of the Bake-Off,” Lissie said. “I’d love to learn the rules to know what to expect.”
She had moved on to attaching extra-twinkly light bulbs to the paper flower strand. The best part of her job, in Lissie’s humble opinion, was exercising creativity and innovation when creating food and art for the shop.
“Let’s see,” Zoe picked up an informational flyer and began to read. “13 amateur bakers have to submit three items each: one cake, a dozen cookies, and a dozen pastries.”
“Three dozen baked goods for a baker’s dozen of contestants! That’s a lot of carb power.”
“It’s going to be so much fun to see what everyone comes up with! So who are the judges?” Lissie inquired.
“Well, there’s me of course,” Zoe replied. “Then there’s Robbie from The Caffeine Queen, and Mayor Diana.”
The Caffeine Queen was the name of the coffee shop across town. It would be interesting to get the expert opinion on pastries from a coffee connoisseur.
“Do you think Chloe will come to the Bake-Off?” Lissie wondered.
“I’m not sure. I do know that she’s knee-deep in planning her wedding.”
“That sounds like fun, but also kind of stressful!”
Chloe always looked harried — though still pretty happy — anytime they spoke to her these days. She had dozens of detailed lists of ideas and tasks that she carried around with her in a giant planner.
“No kidding!” Zoe agreed. “I hope Sean and I can start planning our wedding soon. We’ve been engaged for a while, but I’d like to refer to him as my husband rather than my fiancé.”
Helping Chloe plan for the next big chapters in her life had inspired Zoe to think about what the future held for her and Sean. The festive atmosphere served to bolster the newly-engaged witch’s mood.
“Oh! That reminds me,” Lissie declared excitedly. “I definitely plan on continuing to practice my magic. I want to become so good at potions that I’m able to create a special one for married couples.”
She grinned at the idea. She was dying to experiment with all the knowledge she had accumulated. She certainly wouldn’t be bored in the coming weeks.
“That’s a great idea!” Zoe clapped her hands. “Let’s brainstorm. What type of specialized potion would be ideal for newly married couples?”
“Maybe a potion to end arguments? Imagine how useful that would be!”
They giggled. No doubt, that one would be a popular concoction for most couples.
“Or a potion to do boring chores without complaining!” Zoe chuckled.
While the sisters were riffing, Zoe’s cat familiar, Snow, had slinked into the room, sniffing the air. The sweet-looking white kitten loved to sample baked goods, in addition to providing snarky commentary.
“You know what would be useful?” she purred. “A ‘seen but not heard’ potion. I’d like to be able to use it on humans whenever possible.”
The witch sisters mock-glared at Snow. Then, Lissie picked up a particularly ornate origami paper flower and chucked it at the cat’s head.
“Uncalled for!” Snow hissed, jumping out of the way. “Just a suggestion!”
“If you keep making sarcastic comments like that,” Zoe laughed, “You ought to expect retaliation!”
They shared ideas and joked around for a while longer. But then, quite suddenly, the energy in the air changed. A chill passed through the room, and Snow’s fur prickled in an almost ominous warning.
“Do either of you feel that?” The cat familiar shivered.
“Yeah, it just got kind of cold,” Lissie observed.
Suddenly, the door flung open and Aunt Zelda burst in. She looked grim and serious.
“Girls,” she said, voice strained. “We need to talk. One of my friends has just been found murdered.
Zoe was quick to call her fiancé. Sean would be able to share details about the murder with her and the rest of the group.
The witch sisters had been stunned to learn that a murder had taken place — and that Aunt Zelda personally knew the victim. The poor woman was so shaken up she had to sit with a cup of tea for ten minutes after she arrived.
Snow felt similarly perturbed. She was generally uncomfortable when the moment called for seriousness or sympathy. She didn’t think anyone would appreciate an offhand sarcastic comment at this time.
When she’d finished her tea, Zelda put her mug on the table, and headed toward the shop’s back room to get herself together..
“Oh, I hope she’s alright!” Lissie sighed. “I wish there was something we could do to ease her grief…”
“I hear chocolate fudge is particularly effective when experiencing heartbreak,” Snow chimed in with a suspiciously casual lick of her paws. “I think we could all benefit from some fudge, don’t you?”
“B for effort,” Lissie said. “You’ll need to try harder than that if you’re aiming for fudge.”
“You’re right,” Snow shrugged. “I should have tried for mini cupcakes first and then worked up to fudge.”
They continued to debate the various merits of both desserts. A few minutes later, everyone heard the sound of a car pulling into the parking lot outside of the shop.
“He’s here,” Zoe exclaimed anxiously. “Let’s get all the facts so we can be as helpful as possible.”
Sean entered Sweets and Treats and gave Zoe a hug. He turned to Snow, who was regarding him coolly in her signature, indifferent manner.
The detective reached behind his back and pulled out a bag of cat treats from his jacket pocket. Snow immediately purred and accepted his offering.
“You’re wising up,” the cat admitted reluctantly. “But you’re going to need to get more creative. I can’t be bought with such basic treats all the time.”
“Yes, you can!” Zoe and Lissie said simultaneously.
“Alright, fine,” Snow acquiesced. “So, what do you know, Detective?”
Sean began to relay the information about the crime scene efficiently and professionally. Even Snow sat up a little straighter in his presence. The detective really commanded a room when he got into investigative mode.
“The victim’s name was Miranda Priss,” Sean began. “60 years of age, found dead early this morning. She had been buried upside down in a planter outside the Mayor’s Office, with just the last six inches of her legs and her feet sticking out of the planter.”
“That’s awful,” Zoe gasped.
“What evidence did you uncover at the crime scene?” Lissie inquired. “Any clues that might point to a motive for such a horrific incident?”
“Actually,” Sean responded, “A couple of things stood out. Firstly, Miranda had something scrawled on the bottom of her shoes. Upon further inspection, we found it was a message to Mayor Diana.”
They felt stumped as to what that could mean. After a brief pause, Sean continued.
“Also, this might be of interest: the coroner discovered that her mouth was stuffed full of sugar cubes.”
“That’s a new one!” Snow murmured. “That could mean anything.”
Just then, Zelda made her way back to the rest of the group. Her eyes looked overly bright and red-rimmed, but besides that she appeared composed and ready to help.
“Hey, Aunt Zelda,” Zoe gently hugged the forlorn witch. “Could you answer a few questions for Sean? Any seemingly insignificant detail could potentially help us figure out who did this.”
Zelda nodded in agreement and sat down wearily at an empty table. The detective sat across from her and smiled.
“What do you know about Miranda?” Sean asked. “What was your relationship with her?”
Zelda took a deep breath.
“We’ve known each other for years. We had tea together every few weeks.”
“Wait a second,” Zoe cut in, snapping her fingers. “I remember Miranda, too! She’s the ‘Purple Apron Lady’ from that floral shop, The Bloom Room. I met her during my last investigation.”
“That’s her,” Zelda confirms. “Miranda was a witch with the ability to communicate with plants, flowers, and trees. That’s why she was brilliant at running the floral shop.”
“She was so nice,” Zoe said in a small voice. “I could tell she was a good woman. And she definitely didn’t deserve to die in such a humiliating way.”
The whole group sat in silence. It was almost like a miniature memorial as Zoe and Zelda recalled the woman and her impact on them both.
“I’m sure this is very hard for both of you,” Sean observed quietly. “I just want you to know that I’m here to help any way I can.”
“We’ll solve this mystery for you, Aunt Zelda,” Zoe declared with fresh resolve. “The least we can do is make sure your friend’s killer is brought to justice.”
“Yikes,” Snow remarked, shaking her furry little head. “It’s dangerous to be a witch in this town. Perhaps we should consider returning to Witch World?”
“You make that suggestion every time there’s the slightest problem.” Lissie rolled her eyes. “You really ought to stop bringing it up.”
The cat familiar was infamous for always trying to return to Witch World. Her crankiness increased tenfold each time she realized anew that her efforts were futile.
Snow lifted one paw in the air and opened her mouth to continue bickering. But before she could resume, Sean interrupted with an important question aimed at Zoe.
“Can you talk to the staff at Miranda’s shop?” the detective requested. “I need to stop in at the station. We can meet up later to compare notes.”
“You got it,” Zoe affirmed.
Next stop The Bloom Room.