Death of a Bad Apple

Death of a Bad Apple by Penny Pike Read Free Book Online

Book: Death of a Bad Apple by Penny Pike Read Free Book Online
Authors: Penny Pike
right back.”
    Red grabbed a handful of apple chips that had remained untouched by the rest of us and settled back on the couch. After a brief go-round of banal questions from him such as “Where you all from?” and “How was the drive?” Abby, the shameless flirt, turned her green eyes on Red and batted her eyelashes. She just couldn’t help herself, even if the man was attached to her friend.
    â€œTell us about
you
, Red,” she said, taking a coquettish sip of her wine. “What’s it like being an apple farmer?”
    Red shrugged. “I don’t know anything else. I grew up on the farm. My dad handed it over to me just before he died. My great-grandfather started out with pears until the blight wiped out the crop. That’s when he turned to apples.”
    â€œGoodness,” Abby said, “that must have been awful.”
    â€œA whole generation of growers was nearly ruined,” Honey said, reappearing from the kitchen. She carried a large tray that held some kind of dessert—apple based, no doubt—along with a single “Wise Apple” beer. “That’s why we’re so concerned about our future crops.” She set down the tray and handed the beer to Red. “I’ve been telling my guests about the GMO apple situation.”
    Honey sat down and began slicing up what lookedlike apple upside-down cake with some kind of glazed drizzle on top. It smelled heavenly.
    Roman spoke up. “Honey seems to be quite worried about these modified apples, concerned they might have an impact on Apple Valley’s industry. What’s your take on it, Red, if I may call you that?”
    â€œRed, it is.” He took a slug of his beer before answering. “Well, we apple growers are concerned enough to band together and try to put a stop to this GMO nonsense. One of the farmers here, Adam Bramley—he’s head of the American Apple Association—he organized a group called NoMoGMOs to fight them. None of us wants to lose our farms and our income, and we’re not gonna just do nothing and let that happen, right, Honey Bear?”
    Red Cortland was proving to be as passionate and outspoken as his Honey Bear. Was the threat of these GMO apples really that viable?
    I remembered the recent fires and asked Red, “I heard Honey’s fire was arson. Any idea who might have done that?”
    Honey and Red shared a look. Red set down his beer and shifted his weight on the couch. “We’re looking into it,” he said mysteriously. “Meanwhile, I’m gonna make sure nothing like this happens again. Honey lives here by herself, you know, and I’m divorced, so we’re talking about me moving in with her, now that some crazy fire-starter is running around the county.”
    â€œOh, Red, there’s only been two fires, and I’m fine. These people don’t need to hear about all this.”
    Red shook his head. “You’re a brave woman, Honey Bear, but until we catch whoever’s done this, I won’t rest.” With that he took the proffered plate of apple cake from her hands, picked up his fork, and went to work on it as if he were plowing a field.
    â€¢Â Â Â â€¢Â Â Â â€¢
    We made small talk for the next half hour—nice weather for fall, best places for various apple treats, what it takes to run a farm—avoiding the hot topic of GMO fruits. I was about to signal Jake that we retire when there came another knock on the door.
    â€œWho could that be at this hour?” Honey asked, checking the clock that hung over the fireplace.
    It was nine thirty, a little late for uninvited callers, and I hoped the night wouldn’t drag on much longer with this new arrival. I was pooped and ready to hit the hay.
    â€œI didn’t invite anyone else,” she added.
    Honey went to the door and opened it. In stepped a tall, gangly man wearing khaki slacks and a long-sleeved brown

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