Let me tell you what happened earlier today.
I took a deep breath, tightened my ponytail, and got out of my yellow Volkswagen Beetle. I knew from experience that the morning rush at Lou’s Joint had passed and that the lunch crowd wouldn’t be there yet. I put my letter of resignation in my purse and headed inside. Homer Pickens was seated at the counter with a cup of coffee. He was a regular . . . and when I say regular, I mean it. The man came to the café every morning at ten o’clock, lingered over a sausage biscuit and a cup of coffee, and left at ten forty. It was ten fifteen a.m.
“Good morning, Homer,” I said. “Who’s your hero today?”
“Shel Silverstein,” he said.
“Good choice.” I smiled and patted his shoulder. Homer was a retiree in his late sixties, and he chose a new hero every day.
You see, when Homer was a little boy, he noticed his daddy wasn’t around like other kids’ daddies. So he asked his mom about him. She told him that his dad had died but that he’d been a great baseball player, which is why she’d named him Homer. When Homer was a teenager, she’d finally leveled with him and said his father hadn’t been a baseball player . . . that he’d basically been a bum . . . but that Homer didn’t need a father to inspire him. Heroes were everywhere. Since then, Homer had chosen a new hero every day. It was like his inspiration. I looked forward to hearing Homer’s answer to my question every day I worked. When I was off from work, he told me who his hero was the day I asked plus the day I’d missed.
I could sympathize with Homer’s desire for a heroic father figure. My dad left Mom and me when I was four. I don’t really remember him at all.
My cousin Jackie came from the back with a washcloth and a spray bottle of cleaner. She and I had waitressed together at the café for over a year. Jackie had been there for two years, and in fact, it was she who’d helped me get the job.
My mind drifted to when I’d come back home to work for Lou Lou. I’d just finished up culinary school in Kentucky. Nana’s health had been declining for the past two or three years, but it had picked up speed. As soon as I’d graduated, I’d come home and started working at Lou’s Joint so I could be at Nana’s house within ten minutes if I was needed. I was only biding my time at first, waiting for a chef’s position to come open somewhere. But, then, Nana had died. And, although I knew I could’ve asked her for a loan to open a café at any time, I wouldn’t have. I guess I got my streak of pride from my mother. But the money Nana had left me had made my dream a reality—I could open my café and stay right here at home.
But when I asked Lou Lou about buying the café, here’s what she said:
“If you think you can just waltz in here all high and mighty and take my daddy’s business away from me, you’ve got another thing coming,” said Lou Lou.
“If you don’t sell to me, I’m going to open up my own café. I just thought I should give you fair warning before I do.”
Lou Lou scoffed. “You’ve got some nerve thinking you can run me out of business. You bring on the competition, girlie! We’ll see who comes out ahead.”
“All right.” I stood. “Thank you for your time. I’ll be here tomorrow for my shift.”
“Don’t bother. I’ll mail you your final check.”
“I’ll be here,” I said. “I don’t want any of the other waitresses to have to work a double on my account.”
“Suit yourself. But don’t be surprised if I take the cost of putting an ad in the paper for a new waitress out of your salary.”
I simply turned and walked out of the office. I knew that legally Lou Lou couldn’t take her ad cost out of my pay. But Lou Lou did a lot of things that weren’t right. I figured whatever she did to me in retaliation for my leaving wasn’t worth putting up a fight over . . . not now. I’d pick my battles.
I’d also pick my wallpaper, my curtains, my flooring, my chairs, stools, and tables, my logo. I wasn’t about to be outdone. I would have my café whether Lou Lou Holman liked it or not.
The Calamity Café is the first book in the Down South Café mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime, June 2016.
First in a new cozy mystery series featuring Southern cooking that is to die for.
Aspiring chef and small-town Virginia native Amy Flowers is ready to open her own café offering old-fashioned Southern food. But her dream may go up in smoke when someone kills the competition. . .
Tired of waiting tables at Lou’s Joint, Amy Flowers doesn’t just quit—she offers to buy the place from her bully of a boss, so she can finally open the café of her dreams. Amy can’t wait to serve the kind of Southern, down-home treats and dishes that her grandmother always loved to the kooky cast of regulars at the restaurant. She knows her comfort food will be the talk of the sweet, small town of Winter Garden, Virginia.
At first Lou Lou refuses to sell, but when she seems ready to make a deal, she tells Amy to come see her. Showing up at the eatery ready to negotiate, Amy is shocked to find her former employer murdered. As the prime suspect, Amy will have to clear her name by serving up the real killer—and with Lou Lou’s stack of enemies, that’s a tall order.
Includes delicious Southern recipes!
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About the author
Gayle Leeson is a pseudonym for Gayle Trent, who also writes the national bestselling Embroidery Mystery series as Amanda Lee. She lives in Virginia with her family and is having a blast writing the Down South Café Mystery series.
GIVEAWAY: Leave comment below for your chance to win either a print (US entries only, please) or e-book (open to everyone) of The Calamity Café. The giveaway will end June 13, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!
All comments are welcomed.