Laina Turner, Author
L.C. Turner, Author

Biscuits and Bedlam – a Paw Paws Pet Bakery Cozy Mystery Book 1

Chapter 1

I stood in the middle of the room, my hands on my ample hips, gazing around the shop and surveying the results of all my hard work. I tried blowing away an errant blonde curl that had fallen out of my ponytail and into my eyes to no avail, so I reached up, trying to cram it back in the elastic. It lasted about five seconds before springing back down, so I just shook my head in defeat. My hair never liked to be contained.

Walking up to the front of the store, I turned around, clasping my hands with pride at the glistening display case of treats. I had worked so hard on the eye-catching displays. While there was no one around to see me, I knew my grin went from ear to ear and I wanted to jump up and down like a kid. Owning a bakery had been my dream since I was a little girl. But not what you’d normally think of when you heard the term bakery. I didn’t cook sweet treats for people, my bakery catered to pets.

My name is Myrtle Moore, but everyone calls me Tillie. Well, up until the fifth-grade, people called me Myrtle, but once I got teased mercilessly for the old-fashioned name my parents stuck me with, I insisted everyone call me Tillie and refused to acknowledge anyone calling me Myrtle. I’ve always been a little stubborn.

I just put the finishing touches on my new business, Paw Paw’s Bakery, and my grand opening would be tomorrow. I knew that sleep would be difficult tonight since my body had been running on adrenaline from excitement all day. Adrenaline and copious amounts of caffeine.

I walked behind the counter and grabbed the pink clipboard with my checklist; I needed to go over it one more time, which would make it the third time today, but I didn’t want to leave unless I knew everything was going to be perfect for the morning. I went over to the small round table that had baked goods for humans, because I wanted something to offer the pet parents for my grand opening. I double checked the number of cupcakes and cookies I had picked up earlier today from The Muffin Tin, the human bakery next door. I checked human food off my list and went through the bakery items for pets in my display case, which included cookies, organic dog biscuits, cupcakes, and single-serving three-layer cakes. I hoped I had baked enough, but then part of me hoped we ran out. That would show customers how in demand my baked goods were and create a sense of urgency.

Biscuits and Bedlam 1800x2700 Biscuits and Bedlam - a Paw Paws Pet Bakery Cozy Mystery Book 1

Everything in Paw Paw’s Bakery was made with all-natural ingredients and was fit for human consumption, though even though you could eat them, I didn’t see why anyone would want to. My goal was to locally source everything, but that would take some time. I quickly walked around the rest of the store where I had displays and bags of pre-made treats that had a shelf life of five to seven days. Then I had a small area with dog accessories such as bowls, collars, and leashes, with a few dog and cat toys as well. I even had pet centric art on the walls that patrons could buy.

I was caught up in my own little world, surveying my store nestled between the Muffin Tin and the coffee shop, when I heard a tap on the glass door. Turning, I saw the owner of the Muffin Tin, Pete Hamilton. What was he doing here? Maybe wishing me good luck on my grand opening tomorrow. That would certainly be nice. I hadn’t officially met him, but I had stopped into the Muffin Tin a few times to get muffins and cupcakes for breakfast since coming to town and I knew he was the owner. One thing fun about being an adult is I could have a cupcake for breakfast if I wanted to. There was a picture of him hanging up. I walked to the front door and unlocked it, welcoming him in.

“Hi, Pete. I’m Tillie,” I said, offering him my hand, which he ignored, just standing there with a scowl on his face. “Is there something I can help you with?” I tried again, plastering on a smile, pretty sure now this wasn’t a welcoming visit, but not sure how I could have offended him already.

Pete moved around me and stopped in front of my bakery case. I could see him furiously scanning all the items as I walked over to him.

“My assistant said you came in and bought three dozen muffins and three dozen cookies this afternoon. I thought this was a dog bakery. Are you trying to pass my delectable baked goods off as dog food?” he shouted, his face growing red. 

He was not an unattractive man, with his brown hair threaded with grey and fit looking; much fitter than me. However, he was looking more like a petulant child than a business professional right now. It was all I could do not to take a step back, but this was my store, and I wasn’t about to let him know he was making me nervous with his aggressive tone. This wasn’t my first go-around with a bully.

“No,” I said calmly as I pointed to the display table with the human treats. “I bought those baked goods for the pet parents shopping for treats for their fur babies. As you can see, they are very clearly marked,” I said, hoping my calmness might rub off on him and take things down a notch. I didn’t want to start off on the wrong foot with a local business owner.

Hrumph. Fur babies, pet parents. Hogwash. My baked goods better not be with your dog crap.”

Dog crap. Who did he think he was? Now I could feel my own face flush red with anger. How dare he! “I’ll have you know my pet treats are made with all organic ingredients. They are good enough for people not that I want people to eat them. Most people would find them bland. Besides it’s not your business what I do with your baked goods once I buy them.” I tried to keep my tone civil, but it wasn’t easy. 

“From now on, stay out of my bakery!” he shouted as he moved to the round table, sweeping his cupcakes onto the floor, spinning around and rapidly walking out the door, letting it slam behind him. 

I stood speechless, watching him leave and walk down the sidewalk out of my sight. I noticed someone who had been looking in our direction, head down a side street as soon as I noticed her. I couldn’t tell who it was, though I saw enough of her to know she was of medium build and had brown hair that was pulled back off her face. The shadow from the building at the angle she was standing, didn’t allow me to see her face clearly. I shook my head, putting the mystery woman out of my mind. I didn’t want to have a feud with a fellow business owner in a small town, let alone one who was right next door, but I didn’t have a clue as to what Pete’s problem was. I hoped I could salvage some of the cupcakes.

I felt something bump up against the back of my knees and turned to see Daisy, my two-year-old St. Bernard mix.

“What is it, girl? Did that mean man yelling wake you up? You ready to go?”

Daisy gave a soft woof, which I took to mean yes. She was past due for her daily walk, so I was sure she was getting antsy.

“Where’s Beans?” I asked her and she wagged her tail, narrowly missing a bag of treats on a display table.

“Go find Beans,” I commanded her. 

She turned around and trotted in her happy-go-lucky manner to the back room where I assumed Beans was still sleeping. He wasn’t as inquisitive as Daisy. Except at home. He made sure to investigate anyone who came to our front door. I heard a squeal and then I heard Daisy whine, and I knew I was right. Beans had been sleeping and must have snapped at Daisy as she woke him up.

“Beans, don’t you snap at Daisy, ya hear?” I hollered, and heard the tapping of hooves as Beans came into view. Daisy was right behind him, poor thing. She wanted nothing more than to be Beans’ best friend, but the 70-pound miniature pig felt he should get all the attention and just tolerated Daisy.

“Are you guys ready to go?” I said when they were both standing in front of me. They looked expectantly at me, so I took that as a yes. Animals were a lot of work, but my heart melted anytime I looked at these two. I couldn’t imagine my life without them—Daisy with her long St. Bernard fluff that almost made vacuuming a full-time job, and Beans with his black-and-white coat that made him look like an Oreo.

I quickly cleaned up the cupcake mess Pete made, with a little help from Daisy and Beans licking the floor, and then sat my clipboard on the counter, content that I had everything done for the opening tomorrow with a few less human treats. I was only able to salvage a few cupcakes. The rest had landed on their top and the icing was all smashed. With one final check to make sure the front door was locked, we all headed out the back door to my Jeep. Daisy got in the backseat, and I buckled her in before grabbing the ramp and letting Beans walk up it and into the passenger’s seat. Beans always had to ride shotgun, but Daisy didn’t seem to mind. I buckled him in and then got in and started the car. They were harder to take places than my kids had been when they were toddlers. But I wouldn’t trade them for anything. My pets were my life. Much more loyal than a husband, at least the husband I recently got rid of, and a lot less work.

I drove the short fifteen minutes out of town to what was my new house. When I pulled into the driveway, the same feeling of astonishment rushed over me that this was really all mine, free and clear. It was the same feeling that had come over me every day for the last three months that I had been living here.

After I shut the engine off, I unbuckled myself and Beans, getting out and letting both of them out of the car. We all took a quick lap around the block so they could get a little exercise, and then we headed into the house, both of them right on my heels knowing it was dinner time. I fixed Daisy her kibble and Beans his feed, then grabbed my favorite meal. A bag of microwave popcorn. I put it in the microwave for three minutes and poured myself a glass of red wine. Popcorn was a vegetable, wine was a fruit, so the meal was pretty well balanced, if I did say so myself. 

When the popcorn was done, I headed into the living room. Kicking off my shoes, I plopped on the overstuffed couch, the style circa 1960 with an obnoxious green-and-gold print. It was in great condition, due to the plastic slipcovers my grandmother kept on all her furniture—which I had promptly removed when I’d moved in, but I had no desire to change the furniture right now. It reminded me too much of my grandma, Flora. 

As I picked up the remote and surfed through my streaming service looking for something to watch, I told myself that as soon as I finished eating, I would go to bed, because the sooner I went to bed the sooner tomorrow would come. And I couldn’t wait for tomorrow. While I was realistic—that I would probably be operating in the red while I built up my business—I hoped my grand opening would be busy with pets and pet parents. I couldn’t wait to meet the pets of Sweet Haven. 

Hopefully, I wouldn’t have any more run-ins with Pete Hamilton.

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