To help an old friend, Tobi Tobias gets a third-rate thespian a part in a commercial, and learns that in the advertising business, bad acting can lead to murder . . .
When Tobi Tobias opened her own advertising agency, Carter McDade was there for her every step of the way. A brilliant hairdresser, Carter has just landed his dream project: doing hair and makeup for a theatrical production of Rapunzel. But the dream turns into a nightmare when he runs into Fiona Renoir, a cruel, talentless starlet who won’t let Carter touch a hair on her head.
To get Fiona out of Carter’s hair, Tobi hires the difficult actress for a bit part in her latest commercial. But true to character, Fiona is a terror on set, and Tobi is starting to think she’s made the biggest mistake of her life. But things get even worse when Fiona drops dead in the hairdresser’s chair, and the only suspect is the man left holding the tainted hair dye, Carter McDade. And unless Tobi can prove his innocence, he’ll never do hair in this town again.
Hell had officially frozen over. And, oddly enough, there was no swell of background music, no thunderous blast like I’d always imagined. There was simply crunching. Loud, deliberate crunching. In fact, it was the cruncher and the crunchee that had turned the fiery flames of the dreaded underworld into the clichéd icicles referenced at the end of virtually every nasty breakup. In English? My best friend, Carter McDade, was standing less than five feet from my sofa eating a bowl of Cocoa Puffs. That’s right, Carter McDade—the same guy who lectured me daily on the gaps (okay, seismic gullies) in my eating habits. The same guy who could draw a textbook food pyramid in mere seconds. The same guy who’d willingly and happily choose broccoli in a head-to-head with a Caramello bar. Which is why his puff-crunching pointed to one indisputable conclusion: Carter was stressed. Big-time. A rarity in and of itself, Cocoa Puffs or no Cocoa Puffs. My upstairs neighbor was the most positive human being I’d ever met. One of those happy-go-lucky, always-has-a-smile types. You know, the kind of person everyone needs in their life, but few are fortunate enough to have. I was one of the fortunate. I was also dumbfounded. Utterly and completely dumbfounded by what to say and how to say it. So I took the not-so-subtle approach. “What’s wrong, Carter?” “Uh-in.” Now I’ll admit, I have a leg up when it comes to deciphering pufftalk (it is, after all, my second language), but I was feeling pretty proud that I could decode it from even the most novice of crunchers. “Nothing? Nothing?! Do you realize what you’re eating right now?” Carter looked at the bowl in his left hand and then the spoon moving toward his mouth with his right. “Uh-huh.” “They’re Cocoa Puffs, Carter! Co. Coa. Puffs. As in chocolate— or as you call it, sugar central. You know, void of roughage. In fact, if I do recall correctly, you refer to them as the downfall of mankind. The reason for society’s ills.” I guess I thought if I really hammered home the point, it might sink in. Then again, I was living proof that tactic failed. Just ask my mother. Besides, it was hard to hammer home drawbacks when I didn’t believe a word of what I was saying. Why? Because I, Tobi Tobias, am a chocoholic. And proud of it, I might add. So I did what any good chocoholic would do. I sauntered into the kitchen, grabbed my Bugs Bunny melamine bowl and matching spoon, filled it to the brim with the last of the crunchy brown puffs (don’t worry, I’ve got four more boxes in the cabinet over the stove), and headed back into the living room. I mean, let’s face it, the expression “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” was coined for a reason, right? Not that my commiserating helped. In fact, when I returned, Carter showed no signs of having noticed my departure or subsequent return. His facial expression was still void of its trademark smile, and his eyes held a vacant look. Somehow, though, I managed to coax him onto the sofa. “C’mon, Carter, spill it. It’s Fiona again, isn’t it?” Call it a lucky (or, really my only) guess, but it was worth a shot. And judging by the look of complete mortification on his face as my words (and thus, his choice of food) registered in his subconscious, I’d hit the jackpot. “Oh, good God, please tell me I’m not eating what I think I’m eating.” Carter squeezed his eyes shut, then opened them slowly, cautiously. A tortured gasp escaped his mouth, along with a partially chewed puff.
Laura Bradford is also the author of the Emergency Dessert Squad Mysteries, including Silence of the Flans and Éclair and Present Danger, and the national bestselling Amish Mysteries, including A Churn for the Worse and Suspendered Sentence. Under the pen name, Elizabeth Lynn Casey, she writes the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries, including Wedding Duress and Taken In. She lives in Yorktown Heights, New York, with her husband and their blended brood.