Almost the last thing a person expects on a Friday afternoon in April is to be held up on the side of the road by a bandit wearing a blue bandana over his face. I say “almost the last thing” because this wasn’t my first time being robbed by an Old-Timey bandit. Honestly though, I was just as surprised this second go ‘round. Maybe more so, given the time of year. The last time I’d been robbed by someone in costume had been at my friend Georgia Sue’s Halloween party.
That first hold-up had been around the time our town’s power was discovered by the outside world. Then all sorts of magical mishaps befell us. You see, I live in the small town of Duvall, Texas, which has a tor—that’s a magic mountain—and it sits on a mystical superhighway of magical lines. It’s real unusual. When supernatural power brokers tried to claim it, we had to fight to keep the town in the hands of the folks who’d always lived in it. But for almost five years, things had been quiet and peaceful. Well, from a supernatural standpoint anyway. Our town gets into its own ruckuses, like most any small town, I suppose.
My name is Tammy Lyons. My maiden name is Tammy Jo Trask, and I’m part witch and part faery. My regular job is as a baker and pastry chef, which is a low risk job, setting aside the occasional kitchen fire or dropped knife. That’s what had me so surprised today. By and large, so far as I know, bakery trucks don’t get held up.
As I sat in the driver’s seat of the refrigerated van and leaned out my window, I wondered if this guy might be confused or on drugs because I couldn’t see how he could’ve mistaken my van for a truck of money or priceless valuables.
The bandit had a black cowboy hat sitting low on his head and a blue bandana tied across his lower face. He also had on sunglasses, which I didn’t think were regulation outlaw gear back in the late 1800s. They also didn’t drive Trans Ams with tinted windows, but this guy’s was parked sideways across the road.
“Broke down?” I asked, pretending he didn’t have a rag tied over his face.
“Out of the van,” he barked.
“There’s no money in the back,” I said. “Like the sign implies, I deal in baked goods and that’s what I’m transporting.” There was a large picture on my van that showed cakes, pies, breads and candy. Nowhere at all did it say Brinks or have a dollar sign. I hadn’t even made a delivery yet, but even if I had there wouldn’t have been cash money. Most people paid with their credit cards. “I just have pies,” I added.
“Out of the van!” he snapped and brought his hand out from behind his back, brandishing a pistol that was not old-timey at all. A Kimber, I thought.
Are you kidding me? I wondered furiously. Was there a big market for stolen pies? Was there a wayward wedding party with a sick caterer? Not in Duvall, that’s for sure. No one hired anyone but me for wedding reception sweets.
I climbed out of my new van and gave it a long look. “That’s a custom paint job, and it cost a whole lot. Don’t scratch it.” I guess I should’ve acted scared. Guns, of course, were no joke. But I’d been held at gunpoint by much scarier sorts than this knucklehead, and I just didn’t believe I’d get killed over baked goods.
A primrose-scented breeze blew over from the Amanos river, sending strands of my red hair across my face. I shoved it back so I could keep my eyes on him.
“Move aside,” he said, waving at me.
I sighed and walked to the side of the gravel road.
“Toss your phone in those weeds.”
“I’ll set it out there for sure, but I’m not throwing it. This is only one generation back from the latest one, and that means it cost me—”
He lurched forward, grabbed my phone and flung it.
My eyes narrowed, and I thought about the spells I practice in case I run into an underhanded witch or werewolf. I could try to zap the guy into incapacity or some other location. I’d once hexed my annoying town nemesis into a whisky bottle. Not that I’d meant to. That was the problem. Sometimes my spells go sideways. Looking at him again, I decided I wouldn’t risk a malfunctioning spell unless I thought he really meant to do me bodily harm.
He slid into the leather bucket seat, jerked the door closed and drove off, spraying gravel, with my raspberry tea still in the cupholder. The Trans Am wheeled back and spun around, then sped off too. There was no license plate. Lawbreaking at every turn, literally.
I wondered who the bandit and his accomplice were. They hadn’t stumbled onto me by accident. My bakery was off a secluded rode, so they weren’t just looking for any car or van to steal. Did that mean they’d come for my van? What did they need a refrigerator for? A body? I stiffened. Maybe so. They couldn’t have been there for my pies, could they? I doubted it.
I wondered what I was going to tell all my customers. I doubted they’d believe the truth. I barely believed it myself.
As I climbed through the brambles to find my phone, I cursed and shook my head.
I don’t know how long it took me to find it. Maybe ten minutes. It’s lucky that modern phones are actually everyday spy devices that listen to conversations and answer when you call out to them.
As soon as I brushed off the dust, I called up the sheriff’s department.
I was shocked for the second time that afternoon when my ex-husband Zach answered. He didn’t work for department anymore. Well, not usually.
“Sutton,” he said.
“Well, hello,” I said.
“Hey,” he said, recognizing my voice too.
“What are you doing there?”
“Lending a hand.”
“Is there a crime wave?” I asked.
“No, just a couple guys out. I’m covering. What do you need?”
“I need to make a report and for you to get someone in pursuit of my refrigerated bakery van.”
“Stolen?” he asked, surprised.
“Yep, and not from any parking spot. I’ve been pie-jacked.”