Dangerous Secrets (Mystery — Day 25)

Tara’s week was fairly quiet.  She spent most of it at home planning her menu for the first week of opening her cafe.  By Friday, she had received a dozen applications for the employees she needed.

Therefore, she spent Friday evening and all day Saturday studying the applications and deciding which ones she wanted to call for interviews.  She felt she needed two employees and both would need to be able to wait tables, serve and run a register.  At least one would also need to know how to cook and bake, make coffee and tea.  She decided to interview half of the applicants.

Monday morning, Tara called the six applicants and set up interview times for that afternoon and Tuesday morning.  She asked each why they thought they should be chosen for the job.  She asked about their experience, and informed them of the specific requirements she was looking for.  She told each one that she would inform them of her decision on Thursday morning, and she would expect the two that she hired to join her in the cafe on Friday and Saturday for training, and would require one of them in at five Monday morning to prepare for the seven o’clock opening.  The other would be able to come in at six thirty Monday morning.  She watched each applicant carefully as they responded to her questions and her requirements, looking for the ones who were really interested in working in her cafe, not simply looking for a way to earn some money.  She wanted dedicated, committed hard workers.

Thursday morning, she called Madeline Haze and Betsy Collins to let them know that they were the ones she wanted to hire.  Madeline was thankful and Betsy was excited.  Tara was sure these ladies would work out well.  Madeline was forty-five years old and had raised and homeschooled five children.  She knew a lot about cooking and baking, and not from box mixes, and she knew how to make a proper pot of tea and a good pot of coffee.  She would be in at five Monday morning.  Betsy was in her late twenties and was simply excited at the prospect of being part of a new cafe that she thought was such a cute idea.  She said she’d invite all of her friends.

——————————————————————————————————————-

Monday morning, Tara arrived at Fanciful Flavors Cafe at 4:45 a.m.  She preheat the ovens and began cracking and beating eggs for the quiches.  Madeline arrived at 4:55 a.m. and began to mix up dough for scones.  The two hours from five to seven passed quickly and after preparing four different types of quiches, Tara had baked blueberry, sweet potato and raisin bran muffins.  Madeline had made orange spice, lemon poppy and sweet buttermilk scones.  She had also made lemon curd and Devonshire cream to go with them.  Madeline made three pots of coffee:  a regular, rich blend, a decaf, and a pot of hazelnut.  They also offered some flavored creamers.  Tara made three pots of tea:  Uva Highlands Ceylon Black Tea, Organic Green Tea with Citrus and Ginkgo, and Decaf Sencha Green Tea.

Betsy arrived, bubbly and bouncy, at 6:30 a.m. and Tara unlocked the doors and turned the sign to say, “Open” underneath the large “Grand Opening” banner at exactly 7 a.m., and there were a few people in line waiting to come in.  It seemed that the whole town was curious about this new cafe.

Many of the morning customers ordered take out, as they were on their way to work.  Business was steady until about 10 a.m.  “I think we’re doing well for a first day.  We’ve been serving a continual flow without feeling too rushed or pressured,”  said Madeline.

“I hope we have a mad rush for lunch,” said Betsy.

Tara smiled.  “Yes, well, at least we have a couple of hours to prepare for lunch.  “Betsy, you stay out front to wait on customers, while Madeline and I get back in the kitchen.”

Madeline had begun to slow cook the soups of the day, that morning.  They would serve a fiesta tortilla soup and a creamy tomato bisque with crabmeat.  Tara made a salad with mixed spring greens, blueberries and strawberries with feta cheese and walnuts with a strawberry vinaigrette dressing and a chef’s salad with romaine lettuce, spinach, ham, American cheese, hard boiled eggs and a tangy dressing with a hint of orange.  They were also offering two sandwiches:  turkey on a croissant topped with cranberry relish or a ham and provolone cheese served broiled on French bread that had been sprinkled with olive oil and Italian seasoning, with lettuce, tomato, onion and avocado.   Madeline also made chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter cream filling and banana icing, and Tara made a peach cake with pineapple icing and would serve each slice with a dollop of whipped cream and a maraschino cherry on top.  They also made fresh pots of the same three coffees and teas, as well as making fresh-squeezed lemonade and offering an iced sweet tea and an iced peach tea.

Betsy got her wish for the lunch crowd.  Every table was filled inside and out, and people were waiting for tables.   When the crowd began to slow down, Tara noticed a couple of tables inside were occupied by friends.  Marvin and Katie were there, Sergeant Ken Olson was there, and Trenton Davis as well.  Then the bell on the door tinkled, and in walked Carl and Natalie Jacobson.  Natalie stopped abruptly when she noticed Sergeant Olsen.                                                                                                                                                                       “Carl, can we please go somewhere else.  This place is crowded and I’m feeling a bit faint,” she whispered.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Natalie.  It’s opening day for Tara.  We want to show our support.  You’ll be fine.”  And he took her arm and led her to a vacant table.

When Betsy went to take their order, Natalie was very distracted.  “Natalie, darling, the waitress wants to know what you want to order,” Carl coaxed.

“What? Oh, I’m really not very hungry.  I’ll just have a glass of the sweet tea.”

“Natalie, you need to eat something,” said Carl.

“Carl, I said I’m not hungry.”

Carl looked at the waitress and said, “Bring her the turkey croissant.”

Tara decided to take a minute to greet her friends.  When she reached Carl and Natalie’s table, Carl said, “Tara, this is a great, little cafe.  Your menu offerings are unique.  I’m sure you’ll be quite successful.”

“Thank you, Carl.  We have been quite busy today, and I certainly hope people will find something they enjoy enough to keep coming back.  Natalie, how are you?”

“I, um, oh, Tara, I’m so sorry.  Please forgive me.  I didn’t mean to kill him.  I only wanted to knock some sense into him,” blurted Natalie.

Tara’s mouth hung open, but nothing came out, and her face was quite pale.  Carl helped her into a chair as Sergeant Olsen approached the table.

“Mrs. Jacobson, am I to understand that you just confessed to the murder of Jaime Richardson?”

“Natalie, don’t answer that.  I’ll get a good lawyer, but keep your mouth shut until the lawyer arrives.”

“Oh, what do you care, Carl?  Yes, Sergeant Olsen, I am responsible for Jaime’s death.”

The cafe was so quiet, it seemed that everyone was holding a collective breath, waiting to hear the entire story.

“You see, Carl has been cheating on me for quite some time . . .”

Carl spluttered his sip of lemonade across the table.

“I had pleaded with Carl to go for counseling.  I had begged him to be more like Jaime.  Jaime was such an honorable man who took his responsibilities seriously.  He was a man of integrity.  I went to see him that evening to convince him to leave the country with me.  I wanted him to go to Bermuda with me.  It would give him a chance to start fresh without all of the pressures of his son’s mother and Tara and everything.  But, he wouldn’t hear of it.  He said he had no romantic interest in me and that he had responsibilities here.  I told him those responsibilities were killing him.  We argued.  He turned his back to me and expected me to leave.  I picked up the statue of the fisherman and hit him on the back of the head.  He fell to the floor, and I fled.”

“Natalie Jacobson, you are under arrest for the murder of Jaime Richardson.  You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law.  You have the right to an attorney. ”

And Sergeant Olsen escorted Natalie from the cafe, just as Allen and Eva walked through the door.  Marvin and Katie quickly greeted them and quietly told them of the events that had just transpired.

Allen went to Tara’s side.  “Are you okay?”

“I just can’t believe it was Natalie.”  She looked at Carl.  “Did you know?”

“No.  I thought she was having health issues or that she was drinking too much alcohol and not eating.  I was certain it was my fault.”

“But you didn’t do anything?”

“Look, Tara, I know, I’m the big jerk; the failure.  I cheated on my wife, more than once, and now, I don’t even love her anymore.  I don’t love any of them.”

“That’s horrible.  But, it really says you need counseling, Carl.”  Tara joined Allen and Eva at Marvin and Katie’s table.

The cafe emptied quickly, leaving just those sitting at Marvin and Katie’s table, Trenton Davis, and Madeline and Betsy.

Madeline and Betsy did an excellent job of cleaning up.  Trenton Davis approached Tara, “I’m so sorry for what happened.  It’s hard enough to find out the person responsible for your husband’s death was someone you thought was a friend, but it’s even harder when it put a damper on your new cafe.  Is there anything I can do for you, Tara?”

“No, thank you, Trenton.  I think I’ll just go home with Allen and Eva.”

Marvin and Katie remained at the cafe to help Madeline and Betsy close up.  They locked the doors to the cafe and went home.  Katie dropped the keys off at Tara’s house.

Tara shed more tears — tears for Jaime, tears for Natalie, tears for Hunter and for Allen and Eva and herself.  She cried until she couldn’t cry anymore.  Then she took a shower and went to bed.

———————————————————————————————–

The next morning Tara prepared to go to the cafe.  Allen and Eva asked if she was sure she wanted to do that.   “Yes, I am.  I had turned a page and was beginning to move forward until Natalie’s announcement yesterday, and last night I cried it all out, and I thought about Jaime.  Jaime loved me and he made a mistake by not telling me about Hunter and Melody, but one thing I know; Jaime would not want me to mope around for a long time.  Jaime’s been gone for two months already and a part of me will always love and miss Jaime, but I know that Jaime would want me to move forward and to keep living, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

Allen and Eva smiled and gave Tara hugs.  They remained for the rest of the week to help Tara in any way they could and to support her in her adventure with her cafe.

At the end of the week, Tara, once again, said ‘goodbye’ to Allen and Eva and watched them drive away.  She breathed a heavy sigh and spent the weekend alone in her home, getting used to the quiet.

Fanciful Flavors Cafe became a favorite place for locals to grab breakfast on their way to work and to have lunch, whether it was a leisurely lunch with friends or a business lunch.  Many tourists found their way into Fanciful Flavors Cafe as well, and Tara’s business was a hit.

Trenton Davis came in every day for lunch, and exactly one month after Fanciful Flavors had opened, also three months after Jaime’s death, Trenton Davis came in with a bouquet of yellow roses and a box of chocolates.  He presented them to Tara and said, “You said I should call you in three months, but I prefer to make my request in person.  I was hoping you would be willing to have dinner with me this evening.  Since you’ve been cooking for me for the past month, I’d like to take you somewhere nice where someone else will do the cooking and you can simply relax and enjoy the company.”

He gave her that irresistible smile, and Tara simply said, “I’d love to.”

 

———————————————————————————————–

Dangerous Secrets was an experiment for me.  I have never written a story live on the internet before.  I have never written anything and allowed others to read it without holding onto it until it was finished and then holding onto it a while longer and re-reading it and making changes.  I wrote Dangerous Secrets completely on this website for my readers.  I only re-read each post right before hitting the publish button and I have not gone back and changed anything since the publish button was hit.  I hope you have enjoyed Dangerous Secrets, and I would really like to hear your thoughts about it.

If you have read the entire story, would you please leave a comment telling me whether or not you liked it, what you liked about it and what you didn’t like about it, if Tara was a character you liked and cared about, if it was too easy to figure out whodunit, and whether or not you would be interested in reading something by me again.  I want your complete honesty.  The only thing that I ask is that you tell me the stuff you didn’t like in a kind manner.  I will appreciate all kind feedback.

If you didn’t read the whole story but are still visiting and reading from time to time, could you please tell me what stopped you from reading the entire story?

I will share all kind comments.  Any nasty or inappropriate comments will be deleted.

Thank you to all of my readers.  I hope to continue writing stories and I hope many of you will continue to want to read them and to tell your friends about my writing and my website.

 

Dangerous Secrets (Mystery — Day 24)

Tara paid another visit to Trenton Davis on Thursday morning.  She requested another check and asked if he could help her set up a separate checking account with a debit card for the business.  Of course, he was delighted to see her and help in any way he could.  He asked if she had decided on a name for the business, as that would be necessary to set up the account.  “Fanciful Flavors Cafe.  I will be serving teas, coffees, sandwiches, salads, quiches, and pastries, pies and other baked items.  Most of the foods will be my own original creations.  Our regular hours will be from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m.  I will offer party packages, as well, for birthdays, baby and bridal showers.  Evenings will be for special events that I choose to do or for the parties.”

Trenton thought this cafe idea was exactly what Tara needed.  She was so excited about opening this business, that she was smiling and her eyes were shining.  Her skin also had a healthier glow than it had several weeks before.  He was counting down the days until he could approach her again about spending time with her.  It was hard to be patient.

Trenton helped set everything up for Tara, knowing that it meant she wouldn’t need to be coming into his office to see him as often, in regard to her business.  He walked her to his office door, kissed her hand again, and wondered if she noticed the disappointment in his eyes.

Friday, Tara spent most of the day on the computer, finding the best equipment at the most reasonable prices for the cafe.  When she was satisfied with a find, she called the company, placed the order and asked for delivery and installation for Monday.  By the end of the day, she was certain that she had ordered all of the equipment she would need for the kitchen and office.

Tara decided to go into the city on Saturday.  She visited a furniture store and picked out tables and chairs for inside the cafe, as well as about six tables with umbrellas for outside.  She was very happy with her choices.  She also visited a large department store where she found curtains.

Tara attended church on Sunday morning, and Katie and Marvin invited her to join them for lunch.  She told them all about the things she had done over the previous two days to prepare for her cafe opening.

She reminded Katie of an eager child on Christmas morning.  Katie was happy to see Tara smiling and full of life again.

———————————————————————————————–

Monday morning arrived and Tara arrived at the cafe at seven thirty.  At eight, the first shipment arrived.  It was the office equipment.  In no time at all, the two deliverymen had her office desk and chair in place and her computer set up.

Next, came the man from the phone company.  He installed a phone in her office and one in the main part of the cafe and made sure they were both in working order before he left.  Then the kitchen and counter people arrived.  Three men installed the stove and ovens and the dishwasher, while two others built the counter.  The kitchen and counter people left at lunch time, and Tara went to Pepe’s, the pizza place, and purchased two slices of spinach, tomato, and feta pizza and a Coke.  She returned to her cafe just as the display cases arrived.  Two men installed them and were finished in an hour.

Around two o’clock, some men came to install the kitchen sink and  the furniture arrived.  Tara had the delivery men place the tables and chairs in the places she wanted, both inside and out.  Then she hung the curtains.  She was very happy with the look of the cafe.  It was painted sunshine yellow with white trim and the curtains she had purchased were gold.  The tables and chairs were sturdy oak and the outdoor tables and chairs were wrought-iron painted white.

Tara walked around and placed three of her paintings on the cafe walls.  One was a painting of two ladies having tea in a garden in early morning sunlight, one was a painting of a table filled with tasty looking foods and lit by two candelabras, and the third was of a Chinese man driving a becak, a peddle-driven bicycle that pulls a cart, with a lady dressed in lace and wearing a fancy hat in the cart.

In the office, she hung the pictures she had painted of Jaime and Hunter.  She took a last look around, sighed and locked up the cafe around four.  Then she went to the newspaper office, where she placed a “Help Wanted” ad as well as a “Grand Opening” ad for the Monday two weeks away.

Dangerous Secrets (Mystery — Day 23)

Tara and Katie made Land and Home Real Estate their first stop on Thursday morning.  Tara asked to see the three places one more time.  Though they were all similar to what she had envisioned, she chose the one on Bentley Street.  It was just a fifteen minute drive from her house, and Bentley Street received a good bit of attention from the neighborhood.  Bentley Street was home of a bookstore, gift shop, ice cream parlor, bank, pizza shop, a toy store and a vintage clothing store, all of which seemed to do a pretty good business.  She was excited about adding her little cafe/bakery to the neighborhood.

Tara thoroughly enjoyed shopping with Katie for the two little girls.  Tara insisted on purchasing two teddy bears, one for each of them.  “I loved my teddy bear when I was growing up.  I carried it everywhere and had tea parties with it and played dress up with it.  My teddy bear was my best friend, and every child should have one,” she told Katie.

“Thank you, Tara.  I’m sure the girls will love them.”

They decided to visit each of the shops along Bentley Street and Tara introduced herself to all of the owners and informed them that she would be joining them soon.  They all seemed genuinely happy to have her moving in.

She and Katie had lunch at the pizza shop.  “Life brings such big changes so quickly.  Who would have thought that I would be the mother of twins before this year is over?”

“Or that I would be a widow, so young and so soon?”

“Oh, Tara, I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay.  You’re right.  We just never know what will change or when.”

“That’s why it’s so important to make the most of each day.  Life and time are so precious.  We need to value the time and life that we have.”

“Yes.  That is why I am excited about opening my cafe/bakery.  I need something to do with my time.  And, I look forward to meeting people.”

‘I’m certain your cafe/bakery will be successful.  You’re a wonderful cook and you’re smart too.”

“I can’t wait to get in to the cafe and begin preparing it for opening.  I’ll be able to take possession on Monday and will have things that I need delivered and installed as soon as possible.  I will place an ad in the paper and begin taking applications and scheduling interviews for a few employees.  It’s both scary and exciting at the same time.”

The door to the pizza shop opened and in walked Natalie Jacobson.  She looked awful.  She had lost a lot of weight and her usually well-tailored dress hung on her like something two sizes too big.  Her face appeared gaunt and her eyes were dull.

Tara rose from her chair and approached, “Natalie, are you okay?”

Natalie looked at Tara as though she didn’t recognize her.  After a few minutes, it seemed her eyes came into focus and she said, “Oh, Tara.  I didn’t expect to see you here.  It’s just so warm outside.  I thought I’d come in for something cold to drink.”

Natalie tried to brush past Tara and when she did, she stumbled.  Tara grabbed her arm and helped her to a chair at the table she had been occupying with Katie.  Natalie looked pale and Tara noticed her hands were shaking a little.  She hurried to the counter and returned with a glass of lemonade for Natalie.

Natalie drank, but her hands didn’t stop shaking.

“Natalie, have you been ill?”  Tara asked.

“I just haven’t been the same since . . .” she trailed off and seemed to stare off into space.

“Since when?”

Natalie rose to her feet abruptly, knocking the glass of remaining lemonade over.  “Oh, oh, I’m so sorry, but I have to go,” and with that, she was out the door and gone.

Katie finished wiping up the spilled lemonade with some napkins and looked at Tara, “What do you suppose that was all about?”

“I don’t know.”

Dangerous Secrets (Mystery — Day 22)

Tara invited Katie and Marvin for dinner the next evening.  She hadn’t visited with Katie for a long time.  She marinated a beef roast in Ginger’s Oolong tea all day.  Ginger’s Oolong has the subtle flavors of peach and toasted nuts contrasted by the ginger.  In the evening, Tara cooked the beef slowly in the oven and she made a salad of mixed greens, feta cheese and pears with a lemon poppy seed dressing and baked potatoes with garlic butter.  She topped the meal off with an orange sponge pie.  All of these foods were her own creations.

Marvin and Katie were very impressed and loved the flavors of the foods.  They were excited to hear about Tara’s plans to open her own little cafe.  They promised to be frequent customers.

“So how long before you will return to China and bring your little ones home?” Tara asked.

“In about two months,” said Marvin.  “The trip Katie accompanied me on a month ago was her initial meeting with the children.  It is two sisters.  They loved Katie right from the start.  They are five and three years old.”

“I’m planning on going shopping for some things for their bedroom and to get them a few new clothes on Thursday, if you’d like to come along,” Katie said.

“That would be great, as long as you don’t mind stopping at Land and Home Real Estate with me.  I need to give Ms. Myers my decision on which place I want to purchase for my cafe.”

“Great.  We haven’t had a day out in such a long time.  You’ve been through so much, Tara.  How are you holding up?”

“It has been difficult.  I miss Allen and Eva, and the house is lonely without them, but I have to get used to living alone.  There were just so many unexpected things in this whole mess.  I never had a clue that Jaime had a son or that he had been in a relationship with someone before me.  He never told me those things.  The worst part is not knowing who is responsible for his death and knowing that whoever it was, is still walking around free.”

“That is unsettling.  You met Jaime’s son, right?”

“Yes.  His name is Hunter William Fleming.  She didn’t give him Jaime’s last name, but she did give him Jaime’s middle name.  He looks more like her, but he has Jaime’s personality.  He’s a very sweet boy.”

“How old is he?”

“Ten, and she’s sending him off to boarding school.”

“How sad.”

“Yes, we promised to write to one another.  I’m worried about what will happen to him without Jaime in his life.  His mother and grandfather don’t seem to take his thoughts and feelings into account for anything.”

“I don’t understand people like that.”

“Well, ladies, I hate to break up the party, but I have an early flight to Jamaica in the morning.”

“Oh, Marvin, I’m so sorry.  Here we are talking away and you’re about ready to fall asleep.”

“It’s okay, Tara.  Dinner was delicious, and it was a pleasure to spend some time with you.  You will continue to be in our prayers, for your new business adventure as well as for the settling of the mystery behind Jaime’s death.  We will also add young Hunter to our prayer list, won’t we, Katie?”

“We certainly will.”

“Thank you,” said Tara.

Katie hugged Tara and they promised to meet Thursday morning at eight and would be sure to include lunch in their plans for the day.

Dangerous Secrets (Mystery — Day 21)

Two uneventful weeks passed and Allen and Eva decided it was time for them to return to their own home.  “We have to face the fact that the police may never find the person responsible for Jaime’s death, and with the two of us hanging around, you’ll never begin to live your life again, Tara.  We will always miss Jaime, but we still need to live our lives.  We cannot allow ourselves to live as though all of life has stopped for an indefinite period of time.”

“I know you’re right, Allen.  I will really miss having you and Eva here, but I do realize that I have to find something to do with myself.  Simply waiting for the phone to ring is not really living and it has taken its toll on me.”

Allen and Eva packed the few things they had brought with them, gave Tara hugs, and drove away.  Tara stood watching them go, wondering what she would do now.

She spent an hour in the house and found it too quiet and lonely, so she went for a walk in the woods.  When she returned, she had made a decision and she called a real estate company.  She set up an appointment to meet with Ms. Janice Myers in thirty minutes.

Tara walked into the office of Land and Homes Real Estate and was greeted by the receptionist.  She informed the receptionist that she had an appointment with Ms. Janice Myers, and the receptionist informed Ms. Myers that Tara was there to see her.  Ms. Myers came out and ushered Tara to her office.

“I’ve pulled some possibilities from the files to show you. I think you’ll find them to your liking,” said Ms. Myers.  She handed eight sheets of paper to Tara.

Tara looked through them.  She really liked  three of the options and asked when Ms. Myers could take her to see them.  “We could go right now, if you like.”

Ms. Myers suggested that Tara actually visit all eight so that she could get a clear picture of what each was like to determine what she felt she was looking for and would meet her needs.  Tara actually enjoyed looking at all of the little shops, but still really liked the three she had originally picked.  She asked more questions about each of the three and considered their locations and the areas surrounding them.  She told Ms. Myers that she would give her a decision by the end of the week.

The next day Tara called to set up an appointment with Trenton Davis.  He said he could see her that afternoon.  He suggested meeting over lunch, but Tara declined that offer.  She arrived at his office five minutes before the scheduled time, but he was quick to have his receptionist send her in.

“Mrs. Richardson, may I call you Tara?  It’s very nice to see you.”

“Thank you, and yes, Tara is fine.  I need to speak with you about plans I have for using some of the money that Jaime left me.  I want to open my own business, a little cafe.”

“That’s wonderful.  There should be no problem getting the money.  There were no specifications for your inheritance.  What type of cafe are you planning?  Have you thought about all of the things you will need to start such a business?”

“I have been studying things on the internet, and I have visited a couple of cafes in the city and spoken with their owners.  I know it’s a big endeavor and there are many things I need to get into place before opening such a business.  I have already been to a realtor and will be deciding on one of three places by the end of the week.  I know that I will need a couple of employees as well.  I will have enough money to cover all start-up costs, won’t I?”

“You should have enough money for all of your start-up costs, with a good amount left over.  Jaime left you very well set.  So, why may I ask, are you not going to put your efforts into your painting talent?”

“I love to paint for pleasure and relaxation.  I wouldn’t mind trying to sell some of my paintings some time, and maybe even having an art exhibit for such a purpose someday, but art is not something that can always be counted upon.  It is not stable employment, and I have found that I love to cook and bake.  I love creating my own foods and pastries, and that is something that should be fairly stable.  After all, everyone needs to eat, right?”

Trenton smiled and said, “Yes, everyone needs to eat.  What type of foods and pastries were you considering?”

“I really don’t want to say.  I don’t want to give away any secrets, but I promise that my cafe will be unlike any in the area or in the city.  That will be what hooks my patrons and keeps them coming back for more.”

“Sounds like you’ve put a lot of thought into this endeavor.  I look forward to being one of your first customers.  Would you like some help with the decision of which of the three places you want to purchase?  I would love to help you, if you tell me a bit more about your plans for the cafe and show me the three.”  Again, he flashed that brilliant smile, the smile that tugged at the corners of Tara’s heart, as it seemed to convey his interest in her.

Tara felt her heartbeat quicken and felt the blush in her cheeks.  “You’re very kind, but I really want to do this on my own, and Jaime’s murderer has not been found, nor is the three months up yet.”  She gave Trenton a smile that said, “Have patience.”

“Touche.  Well, here is all you need.”  He handed her two checks and said, “Simply fill them out for the amounts you need.  If you need more than the two checks, just let me know.”

“Thank you.”  Tara rose to leave.

“I wish you the best with this new adventure, Tara.  I’m sure stepping back into life is scary, but new adventures can be exciting and exhilarating.  It may be just what you need to move forward.”  He took her hand, and kissed the back of it lightly, gave her another one of those smiles and walked her to the door.

She left his office feeling excited and exhilarated, but she wasn’t sure if it was because she was taking the first steps to begin a new business or if it was because of Trenton Davis and his hand-kissing and smiles that spoke volumes.

Dangerous Secrets (Mystery — Day 20)

When Tara checked the mail the next day, she found a small piece of paper loose in her mailbox with no envelope.  She found this odd and knew that it meant that someone had placed it in her mailbox either before or after the mailman had been there.  She unfolded the paper, and froze at the words she read:

     I’m so sorry.  I didn’t mean for him to die.

     She felt her knees go weak, but managed to make it into the house.  She sat on the closest chair and called, “Allen!”

Allen came from the kitchen, and when he saw how pale she was, he rushed to her side.  “What is it, Tara?  Are you ill?”

Tara didn’t answer.  She simply handed him the note, just as Eva came from the kitchen and asked, “What’s going on?”

“Eva, help me get Tara to the kitchen, and make a pot of tea.  We need to call Sergeant Olsen.”

When they were in the kitchen and the tea was steeping, Allen showed Eva the note.  Then he called Sergeant Olsen.

Sergeant Olsen arrived fifteen minutes later.  He put the paper in a plastic bag, but wasn’t confident that they would find any prints on it other than Tara’s and Allen’s.  “This note is obviously from the person responsible for Mr. Richardson’s death.  And, just as we suspected, it must have been a crime of passion, done in the heat of the moment, if we can believe what this note says.  The other thing that is quite obvious is, that whoever it is, not only knew Mr. Richardson, but also knows you, Mrs. Richardson.  I will have to get this to the crime lab and they’ll try to get some prints from it and see if they can determine anything from the paper and ink.”

Sergeant Olsen left and Tara sat wondering whom she knew that could possibly have had an argument with Jaime that was so heated that it led to his demise.

———————————————————————————————–

The rest of the week passed rather quietly, though Tara began to suspect everyone she spoke with.  She kept trying to figure out who could possibly be Jaime’s killer.

Late Friday afternoon, Sergeant Olsen called and informed Tara and her in-laws that there were no prints on the paper other than Tara’s and Allen’s.  He also said that the ink and paper were nothing special.  It was standard laser printer ink and paper, the kind the majority of the world used in their computer printers.

The weekend was uneventful.  Tara stayed home, except for going to church on Sunday.  Sunday was such a lovely day that she and Allen and Eva had lunch in the courtyard.  They had plenty of food because the day before, Tara had found she could not paint in her studio, so she had done some cooking and baking in the kitchen.  She had made spring rolls, vegetable Lo Mein, and sesame chicken.  She had also made some fabulous crepes for dessert.  Then she had made some delicious lemon-raspberry scones and a green salad with berries that she created a tea-based dressing for.  They had eaten all of the spring rolls and most of the vegetable Lo Mein, as well as the crepes, for dinner Saturday evening, so they ate the sesame chicken with the salad and scones for Sunday lunch and enjoyed a pot of HarSha Assam tea.

After lunch, they took a walk in the woods and tried to talk about anything but the ever-present unsolved mystery of Jaime’s death.  It was a very choppy conversation.  When they returned to the house, they all retired to the sitting room, Allen with his newspaper, Eva with her embroidery, and Tara tried to read a book.  After about thirty minutes of re-reading the same two pages about six times, she put the book down.  She just couldn’t concentrate.  She began to pace the room, then stopped at the large window and looked out onto the courtyard.

Finally, she went to the kitchen.  She began to bake again.  Baking and cooking seemed like useful things to do, and she could create her own dishes or use recipes, whichever she felt like doing.  She enjoyed playing with the herbs and spices she had in the kitchen.

That evening, they had a vegetable lasagna with focaccia bread served with a flavored olive oil for dipping, a spinach salad with strawberries and poppy seed dressing and cannoli for dessert.

“Tara, you are quite talented in the kitchen.  I fear that I will be packing some extra pounds when Eva and I return home.  Eva is a good cook too, but she isn’t as creative and she makes smaller portions,” Allen said.

“I just need something to do, while we wait for news, and I just can’t find the inspiration or desire to paint.  Cooking and baking seems much more useful.”

“Maybe you should open a cafe or bakery or something.”

Tara smiled, but wasn’t sure she would want to cook and bake when the case was finally closed, if the case ever was finally closed.  She prayed God wouldn’t let this drag on for too much longer.  She felt as though she were in limbo and couldn’t get out.

Dangerous Secrets (Mystery — Day 19)

When Tara and her in-laws arrived home, Tara went upstairs to her room to open the envelope in privacy.  She withdrew a letter from the envelope, written by Jaime’s hand:

My Dearest Tara,

I know that I have not always been the best husband.  If you are reading this                     letter, it is because I have passed away at a fairly young age, quite possibly with my                          secrets still unbeknownst to you.  I never meant to keep secrets from you, but I didn’t                     know that I had a son when I married you.  I didn’t meet Hunter until he was six years old.           As you know, I take my responsibilities seriously and I couldn’t ignore Hunter or his needs.        

     I don’t think I ever really loved his mother, and I certainly knew she wasn’t the one I wanted            to spend the rest of my life with.  I have always been my own person and have always been         unwilling to compromise my spiritual beliefs, my morals, my standards.  I couldn’t give up my          dreams to become her father’s lackey and live under his constant demands and scrutiny, let       alone the demands Melody, herself, tried to place upon me.

You truly are the love of my life.  I just couldn’t figure out how to balance everything — my       job, my wife and my son and the complications that came with him.  I am sorry for neglecting you.   I didn’t mean to.  I sincerely hope that I found a way to spend time with you and build         wonderful memories with you before you received this letter.  If not, I am sorrier than you will       ever know.

I want you to be happy, Tara.  So, since I have left life on earth with you before old age, I       want you to know that I want you to be happy.  You deserve to be treasured, loved, and valued   by someone, and you deserve to be happy.  You deserve someone who will never neglect you as I have.  So, please don’t spend too much time mourning for me.  I will see you again, one day, in heaven.

With Love and Regrets,

Yours,

Jaime

Tara sat clutching the letter, tears streaming down her face for quite some time.  She wished, more than ever, that she and Jaime would have had the time to work things out and to build more wonderful memories.

————————————————————————————————————————-

Later in the afternoon, the doorbell rang.  It was Hunter.  Tara ushered him into the sitting room.

“I came to say good-bye.”

“Good-bye?  Where are you going?”

“Mom and Grandpa have decided that we need to get back home to the city.  We leave tomorrow morning, and they have also decided that boarding school is where I need to be right now.  They think I will learn to appreciate what I have and learn how to be a true Fleming, if I attend boarding school.  I will leave for Madison Prep School a week after our return to the city.  Here is the address and my room number, so that you can write to me.  I will write to you often.”  He handed her a slip of paper.

“Oh, Hunter, I am so sorry.  I will look forward to your letters and will write to you often as well.  I promise to share stories about your father and how we met and what a wonderful man he was.  Would you like some milk and cookies or something?”

“I would love some.  I’d like to hear how you and my father met before I leave.”

Tara went to the kitchen and returned shortly with two tall glasses of milk and a plateful of chocolate chip cookies that Eva had baked earlier that afternoon.  She sat and told Hunter about how she and Jaime had met.  When she had finished, Hunter said, “I know I took a lot of Dad’s time away from you.  I’m sorry that the last months of time you had with him were lonely and unhappy.  But, you have to believe me when I say that he talked about you a lot.  I know he loved you.  Nothing would have made him happier than for the three of us to be a family.”

Tara smiled while her eyes brimmed with tears.

“I better be going.  I really wish I could spend more time with you before I leave, but I can’t.”

“I understand.  I hope you will like the prep school and that you will make at least one really good friend.  It has been a pleasure to meet you.”

They stood and Hunter wrapped his arms around Tara’s waist and hung onto her for several minutes.  “I wish you could’ve been my mom.”  And with that, he left, and Tara stood with tears streaming down her face.

So much of her heart and been taken from her over the past few weeks, in her loss of Jaime, and now watching his son, so much like him, walk away feeling so lost and unhappy.

Tara, Allen and Eva had a quiet dinner that evening.  Then Tara went to her art studio.  She sat for a long time staring at a blank canvas, but she could find no desire or inspiration to begin to paint anything on it.  She returned to her room, took a shower and went to bed.  It had been a very emotionally draining day.