On the screen was a newspaper headline:
Man Murdered in Vat of Chocolate.
â€śWhat in the world is this?â€ť I asked.
A consummate researcher, Granny Mae searching out
articles about chocolate and chocolate shops didnâ€™t
surprise me. Digging through information had been her way
of helping out after Iâ€™d received that phony prize to an
obscure chocolate shop on the beach.
I scrunched my brows and read the headline again. Murder
by chocolate? The articles that usually caught her fancy
were scientific discoveries, political opinion pieces,
and human rights violations. Not sensational murders.
â€śWhat is this? I donâ€™t have time to read an article about
some bizarre murder,â€ť I said and then checked my phone
for the call that still hadnâ€™t come.
Granny Mae had three PhDsâ€”one in biochemistry, one in
astrophysics, and the third in journalism. Strange or
sensational news simply wasnâ€™t her thing.
â€śItâ€™s Skinny,â€ť she whispered.
â€śWhat?â€ť I dropped like a heavy weight into the nearest
kitchen chair. A frigid cold that had nothing to do with
the outside air settled deep into my bones. I read the
entire article. Skinny?
â€śNo. It canâ€™t be. It canâ€™t be him,â€ť I said.
Granny Mae bent down and enveloped me in her warm
embrace. Together we cried loud, sloppy, hiccupy sobs,
the kind I loathed. But with her holding onto me, making
me feel safe and loved, I couldnâ€™t seem to hold back my
After Iâ€™d wrung myself dry, she handed me a tissue for my
nose and then blew hers as well. â€śAfter we met with your
friend, I subscribed to the digital edition of Camellia
Beachâ€™s local newspaper, The Camellia Current. I was
hoping the newspaper might help us learn more about the
town and the chocolate shop that sent the prize letter,â€ť
she explained. â€śItâ€™s a small-town paper. Most issues are
filled with things like arguments about new land
developments at the monthly town council meeting, surf
contest results, and this scone recipe. But this
morningâ€™s headlineâ€¦â€ť She tapped the iPad with the heavy
scone she still had in her hand.
â€śI canâ€™t believe it,â€ť I whispered. It couldnâ€™t be true.
But each time I read the article, the facts refused to
change. Last night Skinny McGee, my Skinny McGee, whoâ€™d
promised to call this morning to tell me his exciting
news, had been dipped headfirst into a huge vat of
semisweet chocolate in the back room of Camellia Beachâ€™s
local chocolate shop, the Chocolate Box.
The Chocolate Box: the same chocolate shop where Iâ€™d won
cooking lessonsâ€”cooking lessons Skinny had suggested I
I need to think.
I need to think.
But my mind, along with the rest of my body, had frozen
â€śCould you let Stella in? She must be a pupsicle by now,â€ť
Granny Mae sniffed back tears. She grumbled about the
little dog as she padded toward the back door and swung
it open, letting in a blast of frigid air.
I looked at the article again.
â€śStart packing your bags,â€ť Skinny had told me. â€śYou
really need to come down here and see this for yourself.â€ť
Why? I silently asked him. What did you find?