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Excerpt from Betty's Newest Yarn Retreat Mystery!

Did I really want to do this? It wasn't my nature to lurk and eavesdrop. I was generally more direct, but this was different. It seemed like my only chance to get the truth.

And yes, I really should have been home preparing for the retreat I had starting later in the day instead of hanging around outside Maggie's coffee place. I could se the couple through the window. I didn't know them, but then Cadbury by the Sea attracted tourists from all over the world thanks to its quaint charm and position on the edge of the Monterey peninsula. Along with several coffee cups, one of my new breakfast muffins was on a plate in front of the man. At any moment he would take his first bite.

I'd been working on the recipe for a while, but this was the first time I'd offered them to the public - though only at two of the regular places I made muffins for. I had to know if they were a hit or a miss.

I slipped into the shop unnoticed and moved behind the brick-colored drapes Maggie had recently added. From here I had a slightly different view of the couple, though all I really noticed was that she had short dark hair and he was wearing a green cloth jacket. My eyes were glued to the muffin.

I'd come up with a whole new way of preparation and delivery since this new version of a muffin was perishable. But what with the popularity of breakfast items at fast-food places and the big chains of coffee places, it had seemed like a good idea.

Go on and taste it. I felt the tension rising as they kept talking instead of eating.

I felt my breath quicken as the man used a fork to break off a piece of the muffin and pick it up. All I could see was the back of his head, but I was pretty sure he put it in his mouth. When he replaced the fork, I waited for his reaction. But the woman kept on talking. "Nobody is expecting something like this in a small touristy town at the end of the earth. They could get careless when they make the exchange," she said.

"You're right. The actors think they're safe," the man said.

Okay, I got it. The muffin wasn't uppermost in his mind. I considered coming out from my hiding spot and simply asking him directly for his opinion, but only for a moment. Even if I could pull off a sudden appearance next to their table, what was I going to say? If I just asked what he thought of the muffin with no explanation, it would seem weird. And if I explained that I'd made it, I would most likely get a polite answer that might not be the truth.

"I'm just worried," he said. "This has to come off - or else."

A booming voice from across the coffee shop grabbed my attention, startling me. "You can't call that a muffin. It's that Feldstein woman again," the man said. "When will she understand that here in Cadbury we call things what they are. None of those cutesy names of hers, like The Blues for blueberry muffins. Calling this a muffin is absurd. Muffins are cakey even if they aren't sweet. This, this...," he sputtered. He was standing at the counter holding a plate with a half-eaten one on it as Maggie looked on. "The only thing it has in common with a muffin is the shape. She ought to call it what it is - a portable frittata, or maybe a round breakfast mélange."

I'd forgotten all about the couple now and focused on the man at the counter. By now I'd gotten a look at him and recognized him as one of the members of the town council. They'd been on my case since I'd first started baking in Cadbury. You'd think I was committing some kind of capital crime calling my mixed-berry muffins Merry Berry or the walnut one, Just Nuts.

It was all about the town wanting to be authentic. There were no ye olde shoppes of any kind, and if the buildings appeared to be Victorian architecture with bright colors and fish-scale siding, it was because they were the real thing. I could definitely see the town's point, but I didn't see why giving my muffins clever names was a problem. To keep the peace, though, I had gone along with it. So the Ebony and Ivory muffins were just called chocolate and vanilla and the Plain Janes became vanilla muffins, the Monkey Business muffins went back to banana. But I was drawing the line with my new creation. Calling them portable frittatas - no way.

But then he said something that made me calm down a little. "Well, at least it seems like a healthier option, and it tastes pretty good. My wife would probably approve." He stared down at the refrigerator case. "That is, if she found them."

So I had gotten my answer about my new creation, but I wasn't sure what to make of it. I waited until he left before I exited my hiding place. Maggie looked up from behind the counter and seemed baffled by my sudden appearance. She had a blood red bandana tied over her dark hair. Wearing something red was almost like a trademark for the coffee-shop owner. Everyone in town knew it was her way of keeping a cheerful outlook after the tragedies she'd had in her life. She'd lost both her husband and her daughter in a short span of time. It had not ruined her, though, and she was a kind, giving person who doled out warmth with her coffee drinks.

"I guess you heard, then." She looked toward the street as the town councilman walked past the window. "At least he seemed to like them." I knew she was trying to spare my feelings. "Maybe we can figure out a way to present them differently. Nobody seems to understand what they are until I explain," she said.

I looked over to my couple, thinking of asking their opinion, but the table was empty and most of the muffin had been left behind. "Let me think about it," I said. "It's time for me to change modes now, from muffin maker to yarn retreat leader."

A Tangled Yarn:
A Yarn Retreat Mystery
by Betty Hechtman




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