Did you miss Chapter 1?
Did you miss Chapter 2?
Did you miss part one of Chapter 3?
Chapter Three Part Two
“Are you ready to begin?” asked Leo.
“I’m, ready when you are,” Mona said as she thought about Lacey
and the circumstances surrounding Collin’s death.
Was it a coincidence that Collin dies only a few weeks after Leo returns to
“Mona, did you hear the question?” Leo asked.
“Can you repeat it?” Mona asked.
“You told me that Lacey called you just before the fire, is, that
“It is, it should be on my cell phone, in the history.”
“Good, I may need to see that at some point in the future, so don’t
“Fine. I have it right here,” answered Mona.
“About the warehouse, you and Vicki both said you never used it,
tell me about it,” prompted Leo.
“The warehouse was part of the shop, but it wasn’t renovated, and
the roof leaked. It needed some serious repairs and a good cleaning. I
had high hopes that it would be stocked full of jams, jellies, and your
sister’s honey products, but it doesn’t look like that is ever going to
happen now,” Mona said; her throat constricted, and her voice
Leo looked alarmed, and Mona regretted becoming emotional in
front of him. She reached for a napkin to dab her eyes, but Leo pulled
a handkerchief from his breast pocket.
“Here,” he said, handing her the soft cloth.
Their knuckles bumped, sending an electric jolt through Mona
making her cheeks flush. She cleared her throat and nervously wrig‐
gled in her chair.
Oh my Lord! I’m an idiot! Get it together, Mona! She thought.
The doorbell rang and startled them.
Leo swiveled in his chair, turning toward the front room. “Are you
Mona rose. “It’s probably my Aunt Bee.”
There’s no avoiding her now! What terrible timing she has. I should have
returned her calls.
Leo stood with her and walked behind her as Mona crossed the
front room and opened the door.
Aunt Bee stood on the porch. Her curly white hair peeked out
from under a leopard print cowboy hat. She wore an outrageously
bright pink wrap-around skirt and a white blouse with a lacy neck‐
line. Her boots matched the hat. She looked embarrassingly adorable,
and Mona cringed while Leo chuckled.
Aunt Bee threw herself into Mona’s arms. “My dear! Why haven’t
you called me? I thought you’d gone up in a puff of smoke!”
Mona squeezed her Aunt. “I’m sorry, Aunt Bee. Forgive me. I’m
still slightly in a state of shock.”
Aunt Bee untangled herself from Mona and pushed inside the
house. She stopped short at seeing Leo. “Oh my goodness. What is this
handsome young man doing here?” Aunt Bee wiggled her hips and
shoulders and gave Mona a meaningful look.
Oh Lord! Can a hole open up and swallow me whole, please?
Leo smiled. “Hello Aunt Bee. I’m here on official duty I’m afraid.”
Aunt Bee gave a pouty face and grabbed his hand. “One day, Mr.
Leo Lawson, you’re going to realize that my Great Niece is a good
“That’s enough, Aunt Bee,” Mona said, her face burning. She
rushed to separate her Aunt from Leo.
Aunt Bee giggled. “But I haven’t finished telling him how great you
Mona said. “We’ve known each a long time, Aunt Bee—”
“Which means, I know how great Mona is,” Leo said, with an easy
Aunt Bee shrugged, undeterred. “Well, maybe. But do you know
how head-over-heels in love she—”
Mona coughed over Aunt Bee’s last word, and Leo quirked an
eyebrow at her.
An awkward silence descended over them, and Mona figured
talking about murder was a better option than committing one.
Leo’s here because Collin MacInroy died in the fire yesterday,”
Aunt Bee took a step back, a wrinkled hand jumping to cover her
heart. Her face showed shock, and Mona suddenly regretted blurting
out the news. She clutched Aunt Bee’s hand and ushered her to the
“Oh, poor Collin! Poor Lacey!” said Aunt Bee. “That’s horrible. He
was so young.”
“Can I get you something to drink?” Mona asked. “I just made a
pot of coffee.”
Aunt Bee nodded at her, and Mona hesitated for a moment to
leave Aunt Bee alone with Leo, but one glance at Leo told her he was
back to business. He’d pulled out his notebook and asked Bee, “Did
you know Collin very well?”
Mona retreated into the kitchen and poured Aunt Bee a rich
sugary cup of coffee. She put a few of Vicki’s honey cookies on a small
tray and headed back into the living room.
Leo and Aunt Bee dug into the cookies, leaving only crumbs on
“So, Mona, tell me about the kitchen at Jammin’ Honey. Did you do
any cooking yesterday morning?” Leo asked
Guilt choked Mona, and she couldn’t meet Leo’s eyes. In her mind,
she frantically retraced her steps in the kitchen yesterday. She had
turned off the burner. She was sure of it.
She swallowed the lump in her throat and said, “I made a pot of
coffee and turned a burner on for a quick batch of jam.”
Leo studied her a moment. “Uh huh. Then what?”
“I got a call from Lacey, telling me to get over to the bakery, so I
turned the burner off,” she hesitated and looked at his face for reas‐
surance. When all she saw was grim determination, she steeled herself
and repeated. “I turned the burner off and left the shop.”
Leo’s fingers drummed on the coffee table. “Are you certain that all
sources of heat were turned off?”
“Of course she is!” Aunt Bee screeched.
Mona nodded at Aunt Bee, feeling grateful for her support.
Nothing like a defensive octogenarian in your corner.
“I don’t normally leave anything on, maybe the coffee pot since I
was coming right back, but that shouldn’t have triggered a fire,” she
answered. “Right, I mean it’s got an automatic shutoff …”
“All the newfangled gadgets have automatic shut offs these days,”
Aunt Bee said.
Leo nodded. “Right. And the burner, you’re sure you turned it off?”
Am I sure?
“Yes, I never leave burners on,” Mona said, “At least, I don’t
“Never or not normally? To be clear, you don’t recall whether you
turned off the burner or not, is that correct?”
“Don’t badger her!” Aunt Bee squealed.
“I’m not badgering her,” Leo said. “I’m asking a clarifying
“Ugh! Okay you two, don’t argue,” Mona exclaimed. “I’m doing the
best I can.” She buried her head in her hands.
Aunt Bee stood. “Now you’ve upset her!”
Leo stood too. “I’m sorry. I’m just trying to get to the bottom—”
Mona motioned for them to sit down. “Calm down. I’m sorry to
say, I just don’t remember exactly. I swear to you, Leo, I really think I
turned it off … but I’m not a 100%.”
He nodded and made a note.
What did he just write?
As if reading her mind, Aunt Bee exclaimed, “What did you write
down? She turned it off. She says she turned it off! Don’t you dare
write anything other than that down. I don’t care how cute you are!”
Leo smirked. “Okay, Aunt Bee. I don’t want to do anything to
make you angry.”
Mona grabbed at his hand. “Leo, if I left the burner on, it would be
the first time I’ve ever done that.”
He gave her a sympathetic look. “Unfortunately, there’s a first time
for everything, and all it takes is one mistake and you have a mess on
your hands,” he said.
It’s coming out all wrong. I sound like an irresponsible dingbat.
“That morning, can you remember any odors?” Leo asked. “Did
you notice smoke or a burning smell?”
“No, not that I can recall, I was in the front of the shop for most of
“Did you see anything unusual or see anyone acting out of the
ordinary in any way?” Leo asked.
Mona racked her brain, every minute of that morning replaying in
her mind, “No. I can’t say that I noticed anything unusual except for
the phone call from Lacey and her insistence that I go to the bakery at
once. I asked her if it could wait, and she insisted that it couldn’t. You
know how Lacey is, she can be …” Mona bit her lip. She remembered
Leo had dated Lacey. Maybe he didn’t know what she meant at all.
“That Lacey can be pushy,” Aunt Bee said.
“Go on,” Leo said to Mona.
“I don’t mean to suggest anything,” Mona said uncomfortably.
“Only that she can be demanding at times, at least she can with me.
“Who was at the bakery when you arrived, and is there anyone
who can vouch for how long you were there?” Leo asked.
“Vouch for her?” Aunt Bee shrieked. “What do you mean? You can’t
possibly think Mona had anything to do with that fire or with Collin’s
Leo looked unfazed, his expression unchanging as Aunt Bee
Mona tried not to let her annoyance show.
Does he really think I’d lie about being at the bakery?
“Yes, there are people who can vouch for me. Lacey and one of her
employees,” Mona said. “And there were customers at the bakery
when I got there, they could confirm my whereabouts.”
Lacey can definitely vouch for my whereabouts at the time of the fire, but
Mona twisted the handkerchief Leo had given her, her sorrow
slowly turning to anger.
Leo closed his notebook and finished his coffee. “That’s it, that’s all
I need for now. I’ll be in touch.”
“I bet you will,” Aunt Bee murmured.
“Do you have my number?” Mona asked.
“No, let me get that from you,” he said.
She gave him her number and absently wondered when he’d call.
Ugh! It feels like high school all over again.
Leo opened his wallet and handed her a card. “Mona.” He glanced
at Aunt Bee and cleared his throat. “This is strictly off the record, I
talked to the fire chief, and the building isn’t a total loss. The fire
destroyed the warehouse and the kitchen, and there’s some smoke
damage to the shop, but the fire department managed to save the
shop. Does that help?”
“Will it help her pay back Cecelia?” Aunt Bee asked.
“I suppose that will depend on the insurance company and the
findings from the arson team.” He tapped his notebook, “but my
records show you turned off the burner.”
“Thank you, Leo,” Mona said, as she held herself back from
She walked him out the front door and stood on the porch as he
It’s not fair, how he could come home to Magnolia Falls after all those
years and climb right back into my heart?
Looking at the mountains, she realized that Leo didn’t have to
climb back into her heart, he’d never left.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”I couldn’t stop reading!”
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”Fast-paced and fun. I love these mysteires!”
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”Diana Orgain is my new favorite author!”
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