"Arrest the Alibi" - Chapter 6 Sneak Peek (Cedar Woods Mystery #1)

Chapter 6 - Fugitives

I was on the edge of consciousness when I felt a presence in my room. I know, I know… I’d lost my mind. But when you spent the last few months dealing with my ex-husband, his mistress who later became his wife, and the lawyers, the feeling of being watched wasn’t the least bit surprising. I pulled the comforter down, and there was a white light shining on my face. I was about to kick the intruder on the shins when the familiar voice of my aunt penetrated through my sleepy brain.

Aunt Coco waved her cellphone with the flashlight app on over my face. “Cedar Bear, wake up!” 

I pushed the phone aside. If the white light had come from a UFO or a ghostly presence, then at least I would still have my privacy. “Aunt Coco! What are you doing? And turn off that light!”

Aunt Coco’s smile widened. “Rise and shine, Cedar Bear. I have already given you a whole day to mope around the house. Time to get up and have a good day.”

I pulled the comforter over my head. “Aunt Coco, I’m fine. Just leave me alone.”

“No can do, Cedar Bear. We have to put together a suspect list and check it twice,” Aunt Coco said in a singsong voice and tugged at the comforter. 

I held on to the comforter and wrapped my legs around it. “Stop calling me Cedar Bear. I’m not six anymore.”

“You’re sure acting like it.” Aunt Coco gave one mighty yank and jerked the comforter out of my hands. “Now put on your big girl panties.”

The palms of my hands burned. “What did you have for breakfast? Wheaties?”

“I don’t eat the breakfast of champions.” Aunt Coco flexed her biceps. “But I exercise every day.”

I sat up in bed and brushed my black hair off my face. When was the last time I washed my hair? I sniffed at a strand of oily hair and wrinkled my nose. “Can’t this wait until a decent hour? What time is it? Nine?”

“Six thirty.”

I groaned and flopped back into bed. I curled up into a fetal position and covered my face with my hands. “Why do we need to get up this early? Neither one of us has a job.”

“We’re going to hit the coffee shops,” Aunt Coco said. “All of them. They’ll be busy, but we can eavesdrop and see what’s going around the rumor mill.”

“Later. When they are less busy, and the barista has time to talk to us,” I mumbled from behind my hands. “The early bird does not catch the worm in this case.”

“Let’s go have breakfast with Babcia.”

I groaned again. I knew what was happening here. My aunt wanted to show me off like I was her new prized possession. After all, how many retirees had their grown children at their beck and call?

“We’ll have plenty of time to sleep when we’re both in jail.” Aunt Coco clapped her hands. “Now let’s go.”

I showered, dressed, and went downstairs to the kitchen. Aunt Coco sat at the square table overlooking the backyard. She handed me a mug of tea and a fresh blueberry scone. General padded in and got onto Aunt Coco’s lap. He watched me eat with attentive eyes like he was hoping I would offer him a crumb. He was definitely a cutie and clearly a comfort to my aunt.

“It looks like Babcia isn’t available until this afternoon,” Aunt Coco said. “Let’s go back to my idea of visiting the coffee shops. And then we can pick up our costumes.”

I bit into the scone. Yum. “Did you make this? It’s good.”

My aunt wasn’t much of a cook. Her talent lay in being able to whip up a filling meal for an army any time of day from her pantry and freezer. The meals might not all be tasty, but they got the job done. So I knew she couldn’t have baked such a yummy scone, but it didn’t cost me anything to flatter her.

Aunt Coco smirked. “You have more faith in me than I give you credit for. While you were still sleeping, I did my three-mile walk and stopped by the bakery.”

General’s ears perked up, and he left to go into the foyer.

“Someone’s at the front door. General has a sixth sense about these things.” Aunt Coco tapped on her cell phone, probably to open up the doorbell camera app. “Oh no. It’s Everly, and she looks like she had nails for breakfast.”

A piece of the scone got stuck on the back of my throat, and I coughed. I took a gulp of the hot tea, and it burned all the way down. What was Evil Bun doing here? Was she planning to arrest me, my aunt, or both of us?

Ding dong! Ding dong! Ding dong!

General padded back into the dining room. I was surprised he didn’t bark at the front door.

“What do we do?” I whispered.

“Maybe if we keep real quiet, she’ll go away,” Aunt Coco said. 

I didn’t think this would work. The police weren’t a door-to-door salesperson. She could bust down the front door.

General woofed and turned to look at the back door.

Aunt Coco shoved her cell phone into her sweater pocket. “That’s a brilliant idea.”

“What’s the brilliant idea?” I asked. 

“General thinks we should sneak out from the backyard. There’s a gate on the fence that leads to the alley behind the row of houses.”

I gaped at my aunt. What kind of cockamamie idea was this? If we ran, wouldn’t this make us fugitives? No, Evil Bun couldn’t have gotten a warrant for our arrest so quickly. She was probably here to question us some more or to bring us down to the station. And it was probably well within our rights to ignore her without having to run away like we were guilty.

Bang! Bang!

“Coco, I know you’re in there,” Chief Blunt shouted. “Open the door. I’m in no mood for games.”

Aunt Coco ran into the foyer and came back with our shoes. “Cedar, let’s go.”

I got up, wrapping my napkin around the scone and stuffing it into my pocket. If I was running away from home like a criminal, at least I would have food with me.

I followed my aunt out the back door, down the stairs, into the backyard, and through a gate that opened into a small alley of garages for the homes on this block. These used to be the carriage houses for the Victorian homes. We were completely hidden from the street in front of the house.

When I had pulled the truck into the garage last night I didn’t see my aunt’s Hummer. “What happened to your car?” I asked.

“It’s in the shop,” Aunt Coco said, glancing around. There was no one in the alley. “A pole jumped in front of me.”

I sighed. I had forgotten about my aunt’s horrible driving. It was part of the reason why Uncle Gabriel decided to purchase a house within walking distance to Old Town, so my aunt wouldn’t have to drive when he wasn’t around.  

We trotted to the opening of the alley and headed for Old Town. As I tried to keep up with my aunt, my heart pounded in my chest. I had always been the good kid. I had followed all the rules and was praised by the adults around me. It took me years of therapy to realize this came from being an adoptee. I was afraid that if I acted up, I would be abandoned again. 

Running away from the police was the closest I ever came to breaking the rules. A part of me was secretly thrilled. And this scared me more than anything else.

* * *

We made it two blocks before we saw the police cruiser rounding the corner. Luckily, Chief Blunt was watching the traffic in the opposite direction and didn’t see us. I grabbed my aunt’s hand and tugged her behind a redwood tree in someone’s front yard.

Aunt Coco scooped General up into her arms, whispering, “Be quiet, my darling. We don’t want to get caught.”

The police cruiser drove by. We inched around the tree, keeping it between us and the sheriff. We waited a few more minutes before leaving our hiding place.

“Where are we heading?” I removed the now crushed scone from my pocket and nibbled on it. “If Chief Blunt is heading back to the crime scene, we will run into her if we continue in the same direction.”

Aunt Coco shrugged. “I have no idea.” She glanced down at General. “What now, sweetie?” She cocked her head, listening.


The corgi regarded her with placid eyes.

Aunt Coco harrumphed. “He’s not answering, the old geezer.” 

I continued to eat the scone. I was stress eating, but I couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t know what to make of my aunt’s interaction with her new pet. However, the corgi behaved like a well-trained animal that had been with her for years, rather than a few months. I dismissed the thought. I didn’t have time to dwell on the subject right now.

While we weren’t quite running from the law, we certainly didn’t want to be found—at least not yet. We needed evidence to point the finger at another suspect. Once found, and if we couldn’t provide another suspect, we might find ourselves behind bars, relying on Evil Bun to catch the real killer. I shuddered at the thought. I had no expectations for a professional investigation.

“Is there someone we can talk to at this hour about Fiona?” I asked. “Someone close to her that could give us a clue?”

Aunt Coco’s eyes brightened. “That’s a brilliant idea. We can talk to Chrissy, Fiona’s baker and assistant.”

I checked the time. It was seven thirty in the morning. “Will she be awake at this time?”

“This is late for Chrissy. She’s usually up at four thirty, getting the baking done before the coffee shop opens for the morning rush.”

My jaw dropped. I didn’t realize bakers had such an early morning shift, but it made sense now that I thought about it. Most pastries were eaten with the morning coffee. Oh, no. Did this mean we needed to wake up at the crack of dawn to open up the tea shop? After we got ourselves out of trouble with the law, I would need to sit down with my aunt to go through her expectations for the tea shop. It didn’t sound like she had a business plan.

Aunt Coco marched along the sidewalk again, and I trotted to keep up with her. We turned away from Old Town, heading deeper into the residential neighborhood. This part of town was mostly working-class folks. The homes were smaller and closer together, with multiple cars parked in the driveway and on the curbs. Maybe more than one family sharing a house together.

Fifteen minutes later, I was huffing and puffing. My aunt wasn’t even breaking a sweat, and General trotted with his tongue hanging out, wagging his little fluffy butt. The two of them were having a grand old time while I was dying.

“Is this woman”—I inhaled to catch my breath—“the baker you’re trying to steal from Fiona?”

Aunt Coco gave me a sideways glance. “Cedar Bear, you’re out of shape, girl. We’ll need to get you into an exercise program.”

My aunt was right, but I wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction. “I’ll work on that later.” It was the same comment that I had given her for the last decade, but maybe this time I might look into it. I took another deep breath. My lungs were now burning. “What were you and Fiona arguing about at the tea shop?”

Aunt Coco rolled her eyes. “Fiona took the entire conversation out of context and twisted it into something nefarious. I spoke to Chrissy Lane to ask where she went to culinary school, and if she knew any of her classmates who might be looking for a job. She knew we’d need a baker for the tea shop. And Fiona got all bent out of shape over this.”

My ex-husband would consider this corporate espionage, trying to steal a business’s secret weapon. And a baker was certainly part of the arsenal needed to make any business serving pastries a success. I could see why Fiona was upset. “From what Duncan said, it sounded like there was more history between the two of you.”

“Fiona saw me as competition and used any excuse to call code enforcement or the police. It always turned out to be nothing, but it was still a pain for everyone involved.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“Since I bought the building,” Aunt Coco said.

“So, she’s been harassing you for months?” I didn’t bother hiding the surprise in my voice.

“Sounds about right.” Aunt Coco frowned. “I guess I have gotten used to it.”

“And no one spoke to Fiona about wasting everyone’s time?”

“From what I gathered, Fiona’s family runs this town,” Aunt Coco said. “Her uncle is the mayor. And you met her nephew. Last year, another nephew tried to get rid of Everly so he could get the position. And they own about a third of the businesses in town. They have a lot of influence.”

Unease settled into my stomach, churning with my scone. “Do you think they will pressure Chief Blunt to make a quick arrest?”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Aunt Coco said. For the first time, she appeared worried. Maybe it finally hit her that this was no game.

We arrived at a ranch house that had seen better days. The once white paint on the outside of the house had turned gray with weather and wear. The shingles were loose, and a patch of roof looked like it leaked. One cracked window pane was held together with duct tape. Overgrown grass creeped in from the sides on the narrow walkway to the house. Despite the crisp autumn air, there was an undercurrent of damp and mold.

I stared at the sad house for a long moment. But who was I to judge? It was still a step up from my apartment on top of the Vietnamese restaurant in San Jose. 

“Chrissy came from money, but they lost it when she was a kid,” Aunt Coco said. “It was about the time when the Spencers came into power in town. Her family used to own that big mansion. The one that is now a bed and breakfast inn.”

Aunt Coco squared her shoulders and marched up the steps. As I followed my aunt, I couldn’t help but wonder if Chrissy Lane felt any resentment toward the Spencers. Reading between the lines, the Spencers might have something to do with the financial ruin of the Lane family.


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