“More coffee, Alvaro?” It’s the skinny one, Ted Kuhl, the one who looks like a stovepipe with hair and walks around with a chip the size of Winsome. He sits at the café’s long copper-topped table, a tumble of papers in front of him. I watch him, seeing the way he studies the others. As though he has a secret. As though he’s waiting for el otro pie to fall—and that shoe is tumbling fast.
The loud one, Nunez, wants more muffins, but Megan steps in and says she’ll get the coffee and the food. Just as well. The men get on my nerves. Megan and Clover call them The Breakfast Club. Clover came up with the name after watching that movie from the 80s. She thinks it’s funny. I think it’s funny that she wasn’t even lust in her father’s eye in the 80s. I keep an eye on her, too. She and her brother Clay grew up underfoot at the comuna, a pair of wide-eyed troublemakers with more heart than sense. Some things haven’t changed. That’s why I agreed to take this job. To have them underfoot again is not the worst thing an old man like me could endure.
I pour the rest of the muffin batter into the pans and place them in the giant ovens. The men, this Breakfast Club, they come every day. Argue, argue, argue. . .that’s all they seem to do. If not over politics, then it’s sports. Phillies, Eagles, Flyers—you’d think the fate of humanity hung on the outcome of some stupid sports rivalry. Lately, though, the tone has changed. I think Megan notices it, too. Like a shadow has fallen across Winsome. The shadow of greed, maybe. Or envy. There is a reason each is a deadly sin. I fear someone will be made to pay eventually.
“Where’s that coffee?” Nunez yells. I tell him to have some patience.
Megan is making a fresh pot, wary eyes on the men. I see the bruised hollows under those eyes, the way one hand clutches the edge of the table, and I worry. A farm and a café—this is a lot to take on. I won’t be sexist by saying it’s a lot for a woman. My mother raised me and my sister alone, a Mexican immigrant who paid our way with a back bent over the fields, a back so twisted in old age she needed a cane just to stand. No, women are tough, tougher in many ways than men. That’s not why I worry. I worry because I smell trouble brewing. And I know she does, too. To have a farm and a café to manage in the middle of bigger problems? That’s enough to break the strongest back.
“Coffee’s ready,” Megan says. Her smile is tight.
“Six cups of coffee.” I wave a dishtowel toward Nunez, the whiny one. “No more. I should charge him for the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth.”
“Alvaro—” She says my name softly. She wants me to calm down. She doesn’t understand that this is calm.
“That man’s a freeloader,” I say, fighting the tenderness I feel toward this young warrior. She’s fighting a fight that may be impossible to win. Redeeming her father’s legacy. Maintaining a food and farm tradition that modern so-called improvements threaten to destroy. “You want to make a profit here? You can’t let these men sit and loiter.”
She looks about to say something when the men begin their incessant arguing. I know what they’re fighting about: Oktoberfest. Who will sponsor the event, who will win the spoils from a thousand demanding tourists? Tension like low-lying fog smothers the room. She watches her customers, her sharp mind honing in on patterns, wondering if there’s more than meets the eye.
There is. I know that like I know the touch of my wife’s hand, or the pattern of laugh lines around her tired eyes.
I start to wash the mixing bowls, thinking of all the things I have to do in the day ahead. Marinate the chicken breasts. Toast the walnuts. Mix Bonnie’s vegan vegetable burgers (an oxymoron if ever there was one), bake the Parmesan crisps. But as I listen to the bickering, as I see the stormy look on Kuhl’s face, my mind wanders to all the things that can go wrong in a day. These are good men, I tell myself. But there is a saying in my birth country: Con dinero baila el perro. Translated literally, it means “With money the dog dances.”
Everybody has a price.
You can read more about Alvaro in Bitter Harvest, the second book in the “Greenhouse” mystery series.
Megan Sawyer should be shouting from the barn roof. Washington Acres survived its first year, the café has become a hotspot for locals, and Winsome’s sexy Scottish veterinarian is making house calls–only not for the animals. But as summer slips into fall and Winsome prepares for its grand Oktoberfest celebration, beer isn’t the only thing brewing.
When the town’s pub owner is killed in a freak accident, Megan suspects something sinister is afoot in Winsome–but no one is listening. As nights grow longer and temperatures chill, Megan must plow through Winsome’s fixation with autumn festivities to harvest the truth–before another dead body marks the season.
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About the author
Wendy Tyson’s background in law and psychology has provided inspiration for her mysteries and thrillers. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Wendy has returned to her roots and lives there again on a micro-farm with her husband, three sons and three dogs. Wendy’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals, and she’s a contributing editor and columnist for The Big Thrill and The Thrill Begins, International Thriller Writers’ online magazines. Wendy is the author of the Allison Campbell Mystery Series and the Greenhouse Mystery Series. Find Wendy at www.WATyson.com.
All comments are welcomed.
Bitter Harvest is available at retail and online booksellers or you can ask your local library to get it for you.
Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of one of the books in Wendy’s Allison Campbell series (Killer Image, Deadly Assets, Dying Brand) or the Greenhouse series (A Muddied Murder, Bitter Harvest) – winner’s choice. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends March 14, 2017. Good luck everyone!