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  • J.Armitstead

The Bumbling Detective's Just Desserts

The annual Garden Party at Loave Manor was the event of the year.

Tensions in the village that year had been especially high. The war had been hard on the village and its people. Most of the food was exported to the front, along with a generation of farmers' sons. Now the food was back, but most of those boys weren't.

Lord Loave, having no farmers’ sons of his own, saw no reason to cancel his party. It was a chance for him and his upper-class peers to relax and mingle. Carter really did try not to stare at the oddly shaped faces of the (apparently tight-knit) 'Old money' gene pool.

Lord snapped his fingers in front of Carter’s face, trying to regain the Detective’s attention.

"You have much to learn about what it means to work for me, Detective Carter. You are here to protect me from those ghastly gutter snipes that are looking for any old excuse to put a rich man down."

Lisa’s brow furrowed. "Sorry, sir, but didn't the threatening letters say they wanted you dead so you wouldn't raise the rents?"

The Lord stared blankly at Lisa.

"Well, it's just, sir, that since your family owns most of the village, a lot of people could lose their homes."

The Lord turns back to Carter. “Might I remind you that you, and your guest, are only here to ensure no angry common folk ruin my soirée." Carter nods seriously.

Thanks to the Loave family owning most of the village, there was no shortage of angry common folk.

The first death threat came in only a couple days after the Annual Garden Party was announced. It was certainly a grim note, with a few too many details about shoving hot pokers in places Carter hoped would never be touched by one.

A tired looking server with a tray of desserts hurried past the two men. In a swift and fatal move, the village mayor (only three drinks in) sent both server and tray tumbling to the ground.

Loave hurried over, immediately discarding any memory of his conversation with the detective, in lieu of more important matters.

"You! How dare you drop my dessert!" He kicked at a piece of Bakewell tart, launching a glacé cherry at our recently fallen server. Carter wondered if Loave was a picky eater, or if he just didn't want to share. "Get out of my sight."


Carter, unsure what else to do at such a fancy event, tried to blend in. He was not succeeding. In his defence, he had no way of knowing that the ice sculpture wasn't there to be broken up and added to your drinks.

It wasn't until the Cherub resembled a frightened baby that Lisa dragged him away.

"That Loave is really a piece of work. Do you even remember the rules I gave you yesterday?" Lisa asked as she straightened his tie.

It was a hideous cat sick yellow that Carter picked out for himself, believing it to match Lisa's lovely blue frock.

She didn't have the heart to correct him.

"Yes, I do, in fact," Carter nodded. "One, do not go to the bathroom under any circumstances. Two, if I really have to go, I cannot be there any more than five minutes; otherwise, a poop is suspected. Four, I am to do exactly as you say. Five-"

Lisa held up a hand to silence him.

His mouth closed shut with an audible pop and a squeak of pain, as Carter managed to bite his tongue in the process.

"No, I was about to get to number five; no pointing out that most people here aren't rich. They just inherited a big house." He smiled, quite proud he hadn't slipped up on that one, especially around The Lord.

Lisa breathed deeply before letting it escape through her nose. Carter recognised the gesture from when she smoked, and he couldn't help but wonder if she regretted quitting right about now.

"You missed number three."

"Did I?" Carter glanced down and quickly read through his notes again. "No bathroom bla bla, don't poop, bla… ah here it is, do exactly as you say."

Lisa smacked him across the back of his head with her gloves. She threw a charming smile at the worried couple watching them.


Carter suspected it must have been a whole swarm, since as soon as the couple looked away, she did it two more times.

"You didn't write the list properly." She hissed, taking him by the elbow over to a table laden with cakes and tea.

She turned her back to Carter with a sigh. "I'm sorry, it's just I haven't been able to go to an event like this before… Well, one where I'm not working. And I know we're technically working now. But I just wanted to wear a nice dress and pretend to be like the girls I went to finishing school with. So please follow the rules. Remember number three is “don't make a scene”… What are you eating?"

While Lisa talked, Carter spied an unattended bowl of sugar cubes. Before the war, he never really had that much of a sweet tooth. But now, he was completely addicted. Not that he could get his hands on all that much these days.

Honestly, he only meant to take two or three.

But by the time Lisa turned to face him, the entire bowl's contents were in his mouth.

That steely glare she gave him. It made him feel like he barely came up to her knee, and one wrong move would convince her to kick him into the pond.

Whatever she was about to do, say, or laws she was ready to break, were all put aside. Because all at once, almost as if they were actors waiting for a cue, people began to drop to the ground dead.

Then the screaming started.

"Ady amb general!" Carter yelled in vain.

He half-swallowed, and half spat out his mouth's contents to try again but was stopped by a cup of tea being shoved into his hands by Lisa. He didn't think twice about taking a long swig while she placed two fingers in her mouth and whistled for everyone's attention.

Carter smiled, leaning over to her as the noise died down. "They teach you that in finishing school?"

Lisa rolled her eyes. "Oh no, that was choir practice. This was from finishing school." She winked playfully as her stern expression returned. "A crime has been committed. Someone needs to call the station. Everyone else is to grab a chair and sit in an orderly line while we examine your belongings."

No one moved.

One man scoffed, "Why should we listen to some screaming shrew?"

She rolled her eyes."Carter, you're the detective. You need to take control here."

Carter nodded, his smile slipping away as he did so. "Right… I know I said I wanted to start carrying my weight a little more, but this seems a little out of my depth."

Lisa sighed, but it wasn't with annoyance but rather fond acceptance. "Fine, but I'm coming to dinner tonight as payment."

"Of course."

"And don't forget to tell your wife this time, or I'm taking your portion."

Carter responded by making a note on the back of his hand. A note that was smudged to illegibility as soon as his nose itched.

Lisa, satisfied, did what she had been doing since she and Carter met. She would solve the crime, and he would stand there and look as pretty as a pot-bellied balding 60 something-year-old man could.

At least he had a magnificent moustache to twirl around as if he was thinking, so the suspects were distracted.

Lisa got to work. It was mostly routing around bags for anything obviously suspicious. They were clean, other than the growing pile of various illegal drugs.

Lisa then turned her attention to the bodies. It wasn't difficult to figure out the cause of death. The faint scent of bitter almonds on the drying foam at the victim's mouths told her it was cyanide. It was easy to get and even easier to hide into baked goods.

Every cake she could see had several slices missing, and yet some people at the party were still alive. Lisa knew that the poison couldn't be in all of them. This was a targeted attack.

It wasn't until she spotted the Lord amongst the victims that the pieces slotted into place. Lisa whispered to Carter for a few moments before he cleared his throat and did his very terrible impression of an English Poirot.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I do believe I have your killer."

"Bloody well, hope so. You've just been standing there eating sugar cubes for half an hour." One man called from the chairs.

Carter nervously smiled, "All part of the process, I assure you."

He puffed out his chest and walked around as if he had the answer to every question imaginable.

"As I was saying. I do believe I have your killer. I'm sure it didn't escape your attention that the Lord is amongst the victims, and that it was poison that did them in." Carter paused for dramatic effect looking at Lisa to see if he was doing a good job. She gave him a thumbs-up, and he continued.

"I do believe that the Lord was the only intended victim. Everyone else, unfortunately, ate the wrong cake. The Lord made it very clear he expected his own personal desert, but the catering mistakenly placed it out with the rest. Whoever killed these people must have slipped the poison into his cake, assuming he would be the only one to eat it.”

Carter was a little disappointed by the lack of gasps at the revelation. Iff they didn't appreciate his showmanship, he would wrap it up.

"Now, let's face it, none of you can bake, let alone correctly prepare cyanide, so it must have been a caterer. Someone from the village who would have lost their home and … oh she's running… erm Lisa could you be a dear and-"

Before he could finish, the caterer that Loave had berated earlier took off for the front gate. Lisa kicked off her shoes and tackled the woman to the ground.

He wanted to give a closing speech, but no one was really interested once the crime was solved.

Carter picked at the remaining cake while the murderous caterer was carted away.

"It's a shame, really. She saved a lot of people from losing everything." Lisa sighed, sitting next to him. "Then again, her plan went wrong. We could have ended up eating the poisoned cake, too"

"Yes, I know what you mean. The ends don't always justify the means. Maybe the Lord would have listened to reason and chosen compassion.”

The pair looked at each other and laughed.

Carter stood up and stretched, "Well, I know it wasn't exactly the party you hoped for, but how about we head back to my beloved and see if she's done any baking?"

Lisa grinned, "You know, that seems so much nicer than dealing with any more small talk. Though now that murder’s involved I’m not sure it quite counts as small talk anymore."

"They have small minds, so I'm counting it." Carter replied with a chuckle behind his hand.

Lisa smiled her first genuine smile of the evening, and offered Carter her elbow. "Come on. Can't keep your wife waiting."

"Lead the way, my dear."

The two-headed off, closing yet another successful case for Detective Carter and his partner/maybe best friend, Lisa Cain.


about the author:

J.Armitstead is new to the world of cosy crime but has been a writer for many years. They believe well written and relatable characters are at the heart of any good story. That the plot and setting can change on a whim so long as the characters remain.

You can find J's instagram here

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