Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

Chapter One

Hannah Swensen slipped into the old leather bomber jacket that she’d rescued from the Helping Hands thrift store and reached down to pick up the huge orange tomcat that was rubbing against her ankles. “Okay, Moishe. You can have one refill, but that’s it until tonight.”

As she carried Moishe into the kitchen and set him down by his food bowl, Hannah remembered the day he’d set up camp outside her condo door. He’d looked positively disreputable, covered with matted fur and grime, and she’d immediately taken him in. Who else would adopt a twenty-five-pound, half-blind cat with a torn ear? Hannah had named him Moishe, and though he certainly wouldn’t have won any prizes at the Lake Eden Cat Fanciers’ Club, there had been an instant bond between them. They were both battle-worn—Hannah from weekly confrontations with her mother, and Moishe from his hard life on the streets.

Moishe rumbled in contentment as Hannah filled his bowl. He seemed properly grateful that he no longer had to scrounge for food and shelter and he showed his appreciation in countless ways. Just this morning, Hannah had found the hindquarters of a mouse in the center of the kitchen table, right next to the drooping African violet that she kept forgetting to water. While most of her female contemporaries would have screamed for their husbands to remove the disgusting sight, Hannah had picked up the carcass by the tail and praised Moishe lavishly for keeping her condo rodent-free.

“See you tonight, Moishe.” Hannah gave him an affectionate pat and snatched up her car keys. She was just pulling on her leather gloves, preparing to leave, when the phone rang.

Hannah glanced at the apple-shaped wall clock, which she’d found at a garage sale. It was only six A.M. Her mother wouldn’t call this early, would she?

Moishe looked up from his bowl with an expression that Hannah interpreted as sympathy. He didn’t like Delores Swensen and he had done nothing to hide his feelings when she’d dropped in for surprise visits at her daughter’s condo. After suffering through several pairs of shredded pantyhose, Delores had decided that she would limit her socializing to their Tuesday-night mother-daughter dinners.

Hannah picked up the phone, cutting off the answering machine in midmessage, and sighed as she heard her mother’s voice. “Hello, Mother. I’m ready to walk out the door, so we’ll have to keep this short. I’m already late for work.”

Moishe raised his tail and shook it, pointing his posterior at the phone. Hannah stifled a giggle at his antics and gave him a conspiratorial wink. “No, Mother, I didn’t give Norman my phone number. If he wants to contact me, he’ll have to look it up.”

Hannah frowned as her mother went into her familiar litany on the proper way to attract a man. Their dinner last night had been a disaster. When she’d arrived at her mother’s house, Hannah had encountered two additional guests: her mother’s newly widowed neighbor, Mrs. Carrie Rhodes, and her son, Norman. Hannah had been obligated to make polite conversation with Norman over sickeningly sweet Hawaiian pot roast and a chocolate-covered nut cake from the Red Owl Grocery as their respective mothers beamed happily and remarked on what a charming couple they made.

“Look, Mother, I really have to…” Hannah stopped and rolled her eyes at the ceiling. Once Delores got started on a subject, it was impossible to get a word in edgewise. Her mother believed that a woman approaching thirty ought to be married, and even though Hannah had argued that she liked her life the way it was, it hadn’t prevented Delores from