Someone had tainted the sugar at the newly opened Café Caffé coffeehouse in the village of Eastport. A dozen locals got seriously ill and one died. Nora Huggins- mother, wife, mystery buff and want-to-be sleuth-couldn’t help but to get involved. Her delving into the crime led her to believe that it had been a nasty youthful prank. Two of the village’s old spinster sisters, Winnie and Ginnie Miller, were among those who fell victim to the tainted sugar. However, when Winnie suddenly died, surviving Ginnie chose not to hold the coffeehouse responsible. Because of the Miller sister’s reputation for being uncharitable, Nora became suspicious and probed deeper into their affairs ultimately discovering that Winnie may have in fact been murdered. Proving it became a delicate matter for Nora and the local police chief.
“Helen Cambell won't be with us this afternoon, ladies,” the Chairwoman of the Eastport Garden Club announced. “The poor dear was taken ill yesterday and rushed to Fairfield General.”
“I live two doors down from Helen,” Margie Duncan spoke up. “I checked with Bert Cambell this morning, and he told me it was some sort of food poisoning. They pumped her stomach.”
“Thank you, Margie. We all hope Helen recovers quickly. Now, today we are going to discuss the proper method for pruning roses and their relat…”
Nora didn't hear anything after the words ‘food poisoning.’ All these sudden gastric attacks seem like more than a coincidence, she thought, or is reading too many detective novels affecting me?
That afternoon Nora visited her friend Jean Steward.
Sitting in Jean's sunroom, Nora said, “I'm really just a little curious about your attack the other night.”
“Must you remind me. It was dreadful. I haven't had an enema since I was a kid.”
Nora grinned and got to the point of her visit. “Tell me, in addition to dinner, what else did you eat that day?”
“Why do you ask?”
Nora went on to tell her of the other food poisonings that had occurred around the same time.
“That is strange. Let me see…for breakfast, it's easy, I always have tea and a bagel with grape jelly. An-n-nd, for lunch that day I had, let me think. Yes, it was a tuna on toast sandwich and a glass of skim milk. Gee, you think the tuna…?”
“Tuna could be the culprit. Is that all?”
“You're starting to sound like an Agatha Christy character, Nora. That's all I had at home. Later that afternoon, I had a cup of coffee and a Danish at the Café Caffé, that new coffeehouse on Harbor Street. It's a great place, all sorts of fancy coffees and tea of every imaginable variety, and the desserts are scrumptious.”
“I know, Robert and I were there for their grand opening. Allscope insures them and one of the owners occasionally plays golf with Robert. Is that all you recall eating that day?”
* * * *
“Hello, Mrs. Huggins. It's good to hear from you.”
“Hope you're feeling better, Coach. Jeff told us you had a rather rough bout with a stomach disorder.”
“That's quite a boy you've got there, Mrs. Huggins. Best guard I've had in years. It really wasn't anything serious, although I've never been sicker, and the cramping!”
“I'm sorry to hear that.”
“It turned out to be just a mild case of food poisoning. They had to pump me out. Boy, was that an ordeal. How can I help you, Mrs. Huggins? Anything to do with Jeff?”
“No, not at all.” She explained about the other food poisonings like she had with her friend, Jean. “So you see, Coach, strange as it sounds, I'm beginning to wonder if they're all connected in some way.” Then she asked what he had eaten that day.
Much to her surprise, he, too, had had coffee and at the new Café Caffé the day he was taken ill. “Hmm, that's interesting. My friend, Jean, had something there the same day she had her stomach attack.”
“Do you think there's a connection, Mrs. Huggins? I mean, the place has only been open a month, and it was spotless when I was there.”
“I'm sure it was. It's a franchise, and they certainly can't afford any sanitary problems. It may only be a coincidence at this point, but I do plan to check with my friend at the Garden Club, Helen Cambell.”
“I hope they're not the source. I really love their Espresso Macchiato.”
“I'll let you know, Coach. Meanwhile, let's just keep this between us.”
“Sure thing, Mrs. Huggins."