Killer Comfort Food - Lynn Cahoon

Chapter 1

Angie Turner stood in the back of the banquet room of the County Seat, watching as her friend and partner, Felicia Williams, led the cookie baking class. It was the last class they’d scheduled for the Christmas season. Of course, it was past Christmas, but the class had been so popular, the room was filled to capacity, even on a wintery January Saturday. Or maybe because it was a cold Saturday. With the weather in southwestern Idaho turning to snowy days, local cooks were still enjoying the fun of turning on the oven during the weekend and creating some baking magic.

Angie’s thoughts were already turning toward spring and what she wanted to plant this year. Which brought her to the thought that had been keeping her awake for months now. What is going to happen to Nona’s farm? She hadn’t heard from Jon Ansley, the lawyer working for Taylor Farms and the soybean project, for a few weeks now, but that didn’t mean the guy had gone away. They already had one of the nearby farms locked into a contract. And her elderly neighbor, Mrs. Potter, was weakening. Especially with the last, very-crazy-large, offer. Angie couldn’t blame her—getting that kind of money out of her farm would set her and her family up for generations.

Angie didn’t want to sell. The house, the barn, the land, held memories for her. Good memories. Like the snowball cookies Felicia was demonstrating for the packed class.

She turned and left the room, knowing she wasn’t needed there. But where to go? The County Seat’s kitchen was deep into prep for that night’s service. If she went in there, her second in command, Estebe Blackstone, would just frown at the intrusion to his time and put her to work. Instead, she grabbed her coat and headed outside, jaywalking across the street to the city park.

Traffic on the cold winter Saturday was light. The people who lived in the surrounding subdivisions typically went to a larger town for their weekend chores like shopping and dry cleaning. River Vista was changing from a dying agricultural town to a more boutique small town. The dance studio that had opened last month on Main Street was crowded with students hoping to make it big someday. Next to that, a bakery had just opened, and Angie could see the parents from the dance studio making their way into the store for more coffee and a midday treat.

Change was good. Development was normal. She didn’t want to give up her family home. Even though the plant would bring much-needed stable jobs to the area. What was the saying: Not in my backyard?

Was she selfish to be fighting the development? She sighed as she brushed snow off a wooden bench where she could sit and watch the activity on Main Street.

A car slowed as it drove past her. The metal swings were empty and silent. The ancient merry-go-round still. The park had three horseshoe pits that were filled with snow over the sand that surrounded the metal poles. The city council had voted last year to upgrade the park with more up-to-date and safer playground equipment, but the funds hadn’t been there for the fall renovation. The County Seat had participated in a fund-raiser this Christmas raising money for the now scheduled March renovation. A large trench had been dug to move water lines in October, but the project had been put on hold after the early snowstorm.

Now, with the blanket of snow, the park looked like it had been locked in time. One of the last remnants of the town that used to be. River Vista Days happened every August, with the center of the activities right here in the park. A street dance closed Main Street, and a carnival set up in the parking lot right behind the park. It was a special event for the town, and Angie wondered if, with all the development, it would still feel the same.

Her cell rang. She answered without looking at the caller ID. “This is Angie.”

“Why are you sitting out in the cold? You’re going to get sick,” a deep, smoky female voice asked.

“Who is this?” Angie glanced around her, wondering who was watching her mope.

“Barb. Barb Travis. Come over to the Red Eye. I need to talk to you. Besides, you need to warm up before you freeze to death.”

“I’m not cold,” Angie protested, but she realized the line had gone dead. Barb Travis, owner/manager of the country dive bar a