Carmen Toulouse-Alspice’s hazelnut cake did not take first place at the bake-off, nor even second place, but that was not the strangest part.
She knew the secret ingredient, she used fresh hazelnuts from the tree in Paul and Ruth’s backyard, the batter was fluffy and light, and the cake perfectly risen and golden tawny in colour. The usual Hazelnut Cake won the contest again, and it was allegedly a blind tasting so Carmen couldn’t cry foul. And the second best cake came from some country woman who squealed like an orgasmic pig when her name was announced. Cheryl-Ann something.
No, the thing was, when she had the two cakes side by side on her kitchen counter, having bought one of The Hazelnut Cakes from the small booth on the boulevard, and tasted both of them, one after the other, she heard her beloved Uncle Matt and Auntie Thomasina knocking shyly at her back door.
She knew it was them before she saw them through the glass panes.
She asked if they would like some cake and coffee, and they happily agreed, and sat at the kitchen table while Carmen sliced from her own cake, and poured hot coffee from the electric percolator on the counter.
Auntie Thomasina and Uncle Matt chatted about their dogs, and the possibility of a thunderstorm, and about the potholes on the road leading to their home, which had lain abandoned for over twenty years.
Uncle Matt still had that exceptionally persistent cowlick in his hair, now grey, at the back of his head, only kept in place by some kind of hair shellac that Auntie Thomasina picked up at the pharmacy. He’s too old to worry about cowlicks, she laughed. In response, Uncle Matt took out a small blue velvet box and opened it to reveal an engagement ring, one small diamond in a setting of white gold. Would you do me the honour? he asked Thomasina.
They told Carmen who murdered them. It was their neighbour, Clement, who had been in a dispute with them over an easement. He was a nasty sort, they told Carmen. Was he still alive?
Carmen said she would definitely find out, and refilled their coffee cups.
This cake is delicious, said Uncle Matt. Is there ginger in it?
Perhaps you could bake our wedding cake? said Auntie Thomasina.
Her cake had only taken the white ribbon, but Carmen Toulouse Allspice said: “I would be delighted.” They didn’t hear her. They were gone.