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On the Slab Pie - ACB 18 paperback

On the Slab Pie - ACB 18 paperback

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The pie crust is tender, but the case is tough!

It all starts with a body.

Erin thought she’d seen and heard it all. In Bald Eagle Falls, everyone seemed not only to know everyone else’s business, but to discuss it at length. Yet she had always assumed that her neighbor Mrs. Peach, who had no man in her life, was widowed.

Mr. Peach’s unexpected reappearance, a prison breaking, and a body in the woods combine to form the toughest case yet for the gluten-free baker to solve!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The author has the ability to pull you into her story and keep you firmly rooted there until the end. Her characters are interesting and have depth. She isn’t afraid to explore the areas of our society that many would rather sweep under the rug.

Like baking mysteries? Cats, dogs, and other pets? Award-winning and USA Today Bestselling Author P.D. Workman brings readers back to small town Bald Eagle Falls for another culinary cozy mystery to be solved by gluten-free baker Erin Price and her friends.

Have your gluten-free cake and eat it too. Sink your teeth into this sweet treat now!

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Chapter 1

I’ve never even heard of a slab pie before.” Erin studied the materials that her best friend and assistant Vic had assembled for her. “It must be a Southern thing, is it?”

“Suppose so.” Vic shrugged. “I’ve never lived anywhere else, so I couldn’t tell you. I guess if you never heard of it in Maine…”

Erin shook her head again. “In the North, the only pies I ever saw were round pies made in pie tins.”

“Well, if you have a whole crew to feed, it’s a lot less trouble to roll your pastry out onto a cookie sheet, add the filling and a top crust if you’re doing one, and pop it in the oven. Then you just cut it into squares to serve. A lot less fuss and bother than cutting and filling half a dozen round pies.”

“And people do double-crusted too?”

“Most of the ones you see now are dessert, and they just do a single crust. But you can make meat and potato pies, and then you do a double crust, so you can pick it up and eat it for lunch.”

“Like an individual-size meat pie.”

Vic nodded. “But a lot less bother. It would be pretty fussy to make individual meat pies for your whole field crew or mining shift. Or for a mom with a dozen kids, putting them in everyone’s lunchbox.”

“I never even thought of such a thing. But it’s very practical.”

“And good for a picnic or fair.” Vic grinned widely. “You can get really fancy, laying out your fruit in a pattern or picture. Looks good, tastes even better, and it’s quick and easy to serve.”

“Okay,” Erin agreed with a nod. “I’m convinced. That’s what we’ll do for the Statehood Day picnic.”

“Great. We can do a run-through now, and I’ll look up some recipe ideas tonight so you have something to start with. Then we can come up with something traditional but unique.”

Erin wasn’t sure she would be able to repeat the success they’d had with the mile-high stack cake at the Fall Fair, but she and Vic would come up with something good. She had perfected several gluten-free pastry recipes in the time since she had first opened Auntie Clem’s Bakery, so that part would not be difficult. She was sure that it would cook up just as well in the large cookie sheet as in a pie pan. Though it might need to be a little stronger to make sure that the pieces in the middle were substantial enough to remove from the pan without crumbling, even if they would be eating them with a plate and fork rather than out of hand. They would come up with something that would work with a tweak or two.

* * *

After they had closed shop and gone home, Erin had a light dinner by herself—Terry was on an evening shift with the police department, and Vic was having dinner with her boyfriend, Willie—and debated going out for a walk.

It was a beautiful day, and she knew that she should take advantage of the cooling evening. She and Vic had vowed to spend more time watching the sunrises and sunsets and enjoying the natural beauty around them. What was the point in working all day indoors and never getting out to enjoy the beauty around them? Not only was Bald Eagle Falls a paradise in the midst of some of the most gorgeous scenery Erin had seen, but she literally had the woods in her backyard. Or separated from her backyard by a fence. And the woods were hers, inherited from her aunt Clementine along with the house and the storefront that had been the original Auntie Clem’s Bakery, the only gluten-free and allergy-friendly bakery in driving distance.

She could take a short walk through the woods, enjoying the lowering light shining through the dappled leaves of the brilliantly green trees, return to the yard for her tai chi practice, and then head to bed for a few minutes of reading and, hopefully, quickly drop off to sleep.

It was always harder falling sleep without Terry there. Unless, of course, Terry were also having trouble sleeping, and then they just kept each other awake tossing and turning and kicking each other. But Orange Blossom, the cat rubbing against her legs and complaining that his kibble bowl was already empty, would snuggle with her in bed, and he was never too restless. He didn’t seem to have any kitty worries or trauma that kept him awake at night.

“You don’t need any more to eat,” Erin chided him. “You’re getting too fat. You want Doc Edmunds to put you on a diet?”

Blossom yowled more loudly. He had the loudest voice of any cat Erin had ever heard. The windows were open and she didn’t want any of the neighbors complaining that he was disrupting their evening.

“Shh. You don’t need anything else. You need to be quiet now.”

But he wasn’t quieting, and Erin eventually broke down and added a little more dry kibble to his bowl, hoping that would satisfy him. Marshmallow, the brown and white rabbit, had quietly eaten his dinner and lolloped off to the living room to sleep it off without any complaints. But then, he never complained. Orange Blossom more than compensated for Marshmallow’s silence.

She decided to make her escape while he was occupied with his second course. Then at least if he started howling for more, she wouldn’t be close enough to hear him and he would eventually get the message and have a nap.

After stepping out the back door onto the porch, Erin took a deep breath of the warm, sweet air. Even though she had grown up in the northeast, moving to Tennessee had been like coming home. She had only vague memories of the times she had visited Clementine before her parents’ deaths, “helped” her aunt in what had then been her tearoom, and dug around in the garden or thrown rocks into the river. But the smell of the plants and flowers growing around her and the wind blowing over the lakes was unique. It took her right back to her childhood, confirming that Bald Eagle Falls, Tennessee would always be her home no matter where she lived.

She wandered into the woods beyond her fence, following the animal trails that had become familiar to her since she had returned home. She didn’t know the woods nearly as well as Adele, the woman she employed as a groundskeeper in exchange for her use of the summer cottage and a small salary. And she wouldn’t be comfortable walking around it late at night by herself like Adele did. But there was plenty of daylight left before she started worrying about that.

She could feel the tensions of the day and any stress over upcoming events or promotions or worries about employee scheduling or short supplies of flours that she needed falling away. Her muscles relaxed and she breathed more deeply. It was a good idea to take more time to enjoy the nature around her.

Erin could hear a crow cawing loudly nearby and wondered whether it was Skye, Adele’s crow. He wasn’t exactly Adele’s pet, but he came to her for food and companionship, and sometimes when Erin was out in her yard, she would feed him a few peanuts or some other treat.

The crow’s voice mixed with another loud bird. A magpie, Erin decided, listening to it. Both were scavengers and were probably fighting over some tasty morsel dropped by a passerby or the remains of a fox kill. The path she was taking would bring her closer to them. For a moment, she hesitated and considered taking a branch off in another direction to avoid disrupting them. But she was curious about what they were fighting over. If it were Skye, then he wouldn’t leave just because Erin showed up. He knew her and would just ignore her unless she had a treat for him.

In a moment, she could see them both. The crow on the ground, his wings flapping, making himself big, and the magpie dive-bombing from above. Erin got closer. She probably didn’t want to see exactly what they were fighting over. Scavenging birds weren’t exactly known for eating fresh fruit or flowers.

She crept a little closer, her eyes on the ground, trying to discern any objects in the shadows of the trees. Late in the day, the shadows were long and it was hard to make out the shapes in the foliage. Tree stumps, litter, whatever it was the birds were squawking over so excitedly.

Erin let out a soft cry when she got close enough to make out the shape of an animal in the undergrowth. And not something dead; it was still alive. She hurried closer, shooing the birds away.

“Get out of here! Go on! Get out!”

She leaned down to peer under the bush and found herself looking into the round green eyes of a kitten.

Chapter 2

The kitten was not as young as Orange Blossom had been when she had found him, barely old enough to have left his mother. This cat was probably half-grown, but terribly thin, his coat patchy and bloody in places where the birds had attacked him.

“Oh, look at you.” She knew that he would be too skittish for her to just reach down and pick him up. Even if he was hurt, he would still try to leap away, avoiding her. “There, little one. Are you okay? Where did you come from?”

There were feral cats around town, of course, though with both traffic and predators to deal with, they did not have long lifespans. And there were barn cats from nearby farms, and many people in Bald Eagle Falls didn’t believe in keeping their cats indoors where they were safe, but insisted that a cat needed to roam outside. Erin looked around for something that would help her catch the cat so that Doc Edmunds could see to its injuries.

Terry had caught Marshmallow—when he had been feral—by throwing his coat over him. Erin had layered a loose blouse over a sleeveless t-shirt. Not being able to think of any other solution, she unbuttoned the blouse and took it off, moving very slowly and, she hoped, in a non-threatening way. The cat continued to watch her with big, round eyes, perhaps unsure whether she had actually seen him or not. Or maybe just hoping that she would walk away and leave him alone to lick his wounds.

Erin threw her blouse over the cat and, miraculously, it actually covered him. Erin had never been the best at sports. But she had never played any sport that involved throwing clothing, either. She shuffled a bit closer and bent over to pick up the cat inside the shirt, wrapping it tightly around him so that he would be still and she could transport him, as she had seen others do.

As soon as her hands closed around him, he slithered out from under the shirt, darting away and hiding behind a tree to watch whether she would pursue him or not. She could see his sides heaving and quivering.

“Poor thing. Just let me catch you, and I’ll take you somewhere they’ll make you feel much better.”

He didn’t look disposed to do as she said. Erin could hear Skye—if it was Skye— cawing high overhead. Disappointed that she had chased him away from the potentially tasty morsel?

Erin picked up her blouse and looked around for help. If Adele were nearby, or another neighbor, maybe the two of them together would be able to trap the cat.

A few feet away, she saw a boot. And was it a pile of clothes? Or the shape of someone sleeping on the ground?

Adele had previously mentioned that someone had been sleeping in the woods, as she had found areas where the grass and vegetation were still crushed down from someone being there for an extended length of time. After all that had transpired, Erin had assumed that the person in the woods had been Theresa, watching Vic and those she interacted with from a distance before making her move. Theresa and Vic had been a couple before Vic’s gender transition and Theresa had decided she wanted to renew their relationship. But Vic was not interested in Theresa and, as was often the case with crazy Theresa, things went quickly from bad to worse.

But that was in the past. Vic was fine. All of Erin’s friends associated with Vic were safe and well, and Theresa had failed in her aims, foiled by someone who had been watching her as she watched Vic.

Erin shifted her stance and shuffled sideways a bit, not towards the cat, but in the direction of the dark shape with the boots to get a better look.

She would not confront someone who was sleeping in the woods by herself. She would get Terry or Adele with her shotgun to back her up. She had no desire to face an angry vagrant on her own.

It was starting to get darker, the sun setting over the horizon. That made it harder to make everything out. But she knew something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong with what she saw.

Erin fumbled for her phone. It took several attempts to get it out of the small purse she had brought with her, slung diagonally across her body. For some reason, her fingers felt numb and fat and weren’t working the way they were supposed to.

When she was baking, her hands flew; she was so familiar with the processes of stirring, rolling, shaping, and all of the other things she did automatically while she was preparing the goods for sale at Auntie Clem’s Bakery that sometimes she just watched her fingers, surprised that they knew what they were supposed to do and moved so automatically and gracefully. But that wasn’t the case as she clumsily separated her phone from the purse and tapped at the screen, trying to unlock it multiple times and then unsure what to press when she finally got past the lock screen.

Her sluggish brain fed her the instructions. Tap the phone icon. Find Terry’s face in her favorites list. Tap on it a couple of times until the phone figured out she wanted to call him and tried to make the connection. She stared at the phone, waiting for something to happen. It was a few moments before she realized that he had answered but that she hadn’t put the phone up to her ear to answer or pressed the speaker button. She lifted the phone to her face.

“Terry?”

“Erin? Is everything okay?” His tone was light, but with just a hint of concern. He knew only too well that as idyllic as everything might appear to be in Bald Eagle Falls, things didn’t always go as expected and there were dangerous people or circumstances to contend with. Or maybe he was just worried that Erin might have chopped the tip of a finger off while getting a bedtime snack or had forgotten that he was on shift and was expecting him home.

“Umm… no. I guess not. There’s something in the woods.”

“In the woods?” his concern raised his tone another notch higher. “What is in the woods? Where are you?”

“I just went for a walk. And I stopped because I saw Skye and a magpie fighting over something, and then I saw that it was a little cat.”

“A cat.” He blew his breath out in relief. “You had me scared for a minute there. Don’t tell me that you’re adopting another stray.”

“No… I didn’t see… there is something else here. I saw the boots, and then I smelled something, and…”

“Boots?” he echoed, trying to make sense of her babbling. “What did you smell? Is there a fire? Some homeless person camping out back there?”

“No… it’s… well, maybe he was camping here. But he wasn’t. And there’s no fire. It’s okay.”

“He? Who is there? Do you need me to send someone on his way?”

“I need you. And… I don’t know who else. Everyone, I guess.” They didn’t have a very large police department. Something like this would require all hands on deck. “You see… it’s a body.”

Available Formats

On the Slab Pie - ACB 18 ebookOn the Slab Pie - ACB 18 paperback

P.D. (Pamela) Workman is a USA Today Bestselling author, winner of several awards from Library Services for Youth in Custody and the InD’tale Magazine’s Crowned Heart award, and has published over 100 mystery/suspense/thriller and young adult books.

Workman loves writing about the underdog. She has been praised for her realistic details, deep characterization, and sensitive handling of the serious social issues that appear in her stories, from light cozy mysteries to darker, grittier young adult and mystery/suspense books.

P. D. Workman does not shy from probing the deep psychological scars of childhood trauma, mental illness, and addiction. Also characteristic of this author, these extremely sensitive issues are explored with extensive empathy, described with incredible clarity, and portrayed with profound insight.
—Kim, Goodreads reviewer