The Kielbasa Killer
Book 1 in the Kielbasa Queen Mystery Series
Lydia Wienewski discovers that her family’s ever-popular kielbasa isn’t the only thing that’s been pricked when she finds a body in this entertaining and smartly written cosy.
Lydia Wienewski can’t wait to open her dream Polish-American café and bakery in Cheektowaga. But while her father recovers from a stroke, Lydia must help manage the family business, Wienewski’s Wieners & Meats, over the busy Easter holiday. She’s soon preparing a huge amount of their famous kielbasa – and dealing with her father’s rogue meat supplier, Louie McDaniel.
When Lydia finds Louie dead in the family’s private smoker next to the kielbasa, the family’s antique sausage pricker sticking out of his neck, her problems are about to get much worse, especially as she seems to be the police’s prime suspect! Who would commit such a terrible act? Enlisting the help of her irrepressible grandma Mary, can the sleuthing duo catch the killer and prove the Wienewski’s innocence before more grisly deaths occur?
Heat Level: Smooth Sailing
The Kielbasa Killer
Books in this series:
Find out more about the Kielbasa Queen Mystery Series →
The Kielbasa Killer
Read an Excerpt
Share This Excerpt
Lydia put all thoughts of Louie McDaniel out of her head as she walked home, cutting through the graveyard this time. Her boots crunched on the gravel path that dissected the parish cemetery as her breath clung to the misty air in transparent gray powder puffs. Cold damp air clawed through the soft lilac scarf Grandma crocheted for her last year. Snow fell in heavy, lazy flakes, but its beauty didn’t fool her. A spring storm could yield over a foot of snow by the time it stopped. The paper said it wasn’t expected to be more than six inches of a slushy mix, and she hoped the prediction proved correct. Buffalonians would drive through just about anything for their Easter sausage, except ice. Slush was OK, though.
Snow surrounded the crocuses that had yet to bloom in Mrs Haas’s front yard, and coated the elaborate wrought-iron railings that skirted the majority of concrete stoop porches in their neighborhood. Grateful for her boots, Lydia splashed through a puddle as she turned onto her street. Several cars remained parked along the curb, a fineable offense if the snowplow needed to get through.
Her mother’s car, parked on the street, was covered with the slushy mess. Without a second thought, she opened her parents’ back door, grabbed the car keys from a rusty hook, and moved Mom’s car into the driveway next to her own purple Gremlin. She’d use her car to haul the kielbasa to the shop.
She smiled at the sight of her wheels. She’d paid for the little car with nearly all of the high school graduation money she’d been gifted with by her father’s extended family. The Gremlin had seen her through the last ten years in style, including the five-hour drives to and from Ottawa.
Slamming Mom’s car door behind her, she pocketed the keys. She’d return them after she’d taken down the sausage. Rounding the back of the house, she unlatched the chain-link fence gate, noting that Stashu, the family’s mixed mutt of dubious terrier origins, was nowhere in sight. She stayed as quiet as possible. The five-year-old dog was no doubt under her parents’ heavy blankets, and she wanted him to stay there at least until she had the meat safe in its container.
Lydia took the plastic tub from the back concrete patio where she’d left it last night. Trudging across the backyard, she made a diagonal beeline to the twelve-foot by twelve-foot brick structure that dominated the back right-hand corner. As she neared she saw that the thick oak door was ajar. A couple of definite footprints that reminded her of sneakers led to the muddy mess that decorated its granite threshold. Wild animals weren’t a worry but dismay blanketed her enthusiasm, nonetheless. Had Dad come out after she’d so carefully tended the sausages? She hadn’t told him about this extra batch, but as he’d taken to going outside on his own, using his three-footed cane for balance, he may have discovered her surreptitious sausage activity.
She shoved the heavy door open with her shoulder, uncaring about the soot that rubbed off on her parka. It was hard to not hold her breath, to anticipate the worst. The last time Pop ‘checked’ on her smoked kielbasa he’d insisted it wasn’t fit for sale and had tossed it.
The waft of marjoram-spiced deliciousness she inhaled confirmed that the kielbasa was still here. Phew. Whatever, whoever, had made the prints in the snow hadn’t disturbed her kielbasa. The curtains of long brick-red ropes reflected the success of her efforts and she got to work filling the tub. It was dim inside the smoker but she knew every cranny, inching her boots across the floor as she worked.
Halfway to the back wall her foot hit something. She stopped, a sense of dread washing over her. If a squirrel, or worse, a stray dog, got in here when the fire was still smoking . . .
She bent down, peered into the shadowy depths of the smoker. A foot. She’d bumped into a large, rubber-booted foot. Panic washed over her, tripped her breath into pants.
‘No, no, no. Pop!’ Somewhere in her brain it registered that it wasn’t her father’s boot – his were worn brown leather, not black rubber. And he hadn’t worn anything but supportive orthopedic shoes since stroke rehab.
It wasn’t Pop, but it was for sure a body. A large male body, on its back, wearing an unzipped parka.
‘No!’ Lydia backed away, knocking into sausage ropes, toward the door. Light. She needed more light. She opened the door as wide as it would go.
There, in the smudgy gray shaft of a Cheektowaga morning, lay Louie McDaniel. His eyes stared upward, unseeing, his heavy winter parka unzipped but covering his large belly nonetheless. It looked like he was wearing his usual dress shirt under his coat, and a dark spot that looked like blood on the shirt, but it was too dark to make out details. Instinct instilled from watching detective shows with Grandma, and from taking the Red Cross first aid course when she was a lifeguard, kicked in. She leaned over, touched the side of Louie’s neck with her fingers. It was cool to the touch, with no pulse, no matter how deeply she pressed. Nothing.
Dead. Louie was dead.
Touching his cold skin wasn’t the worst thing, though. Neither was seeing Louis’s corpse. No, what was making it hard for Lydia to breath, to wrap her mind around this, was the object sticking out of his neck.
The family sausage pricker. The antique tool that her great-grandfather Wienewski had brought over from the old country in the nineteenth century. The wooden handle fit her hand perfectly, smoothed with over a century of use. Three long tines protruded from the handle. Three very sharp points, used to prevent air pockets from forming in the sausages. She’d pricked holes through the sausage casing with it just last night. Mere hours ago.
Lydia’s sausages weren’t the only thing that had been pricked last night. Someone had killed Louie with the sausage pricker. That same someone had gone to great lengths to put him in the family’s private smoker, of all places. Not in the commercial smoker behind the store, where she’d spent weeks making the orders they’d sell today. This was her extra, her just-in-case stash of kielbasa. Kielbasa she’d toss, of course. She never heard of a health code about sausages near a corpse but was certain it was a violation.
She shook her head to stop thinking about anything but what lay in front of her.
A murdered Louie that someone wanted her, or her family, to find.
This was personal.
Birdsong erupted from the maple tree and cut through her shock, the persistent feathered creature unaware of the tragedy unfolding beneath its sanctuary. Lydia suddenly realized she was not only alone with Louis, or, um, what remained of him, but alone in the backyard. Was whoever had killed Louie in such a grotesque way still here? Shudders racked her frame as she backed away from the corpse. Where was Stashu’s strident barking when she needed it?
She stumbled outside and sucked in halting gasps of cold air. Her thoughts continued to spiral, each one more menacing than the last. One stood out like the glare of the Wienewski’s Wieners & Meats neon sign.
Someone was after her family.
The splat splat of footsteps on slushy snow sounded. She whirled around.
‘I know you wanted me to wait, but I thought I’d come in now.’ Grandma Mary stopped and stared. ‘What’s going on, Lydia?’ Grandma’s eyes were wide and searching in the growing daylight. ‘Didn’t the kielbasa turn out? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.’ She shucked out of her heavy wool coat and threw it around Lydia’s quaking shoulders. A sob escaped Lydia’s lips at the loving gesture.
‘What happened? You can tell me, child.’ Wisps of Grandma’s golden hair escaped from under her Buffalo Bills ‘Talkin’ Proud’ knit hat.
‘It’s . . . it’s worse than a ghost, Grandma. It’s a dead body.’
Grandma blanched. ‘Not my Victor!’
‘No, no, not Pop. It’s Louie McDaniel. The . . . Pop’s . . . our meat supplier.’
Their former meat supplier.
End of Excerpt
The Kielbasa Killer
by Geri Krotow
is available in the following formats:
Reviews of The Kielbasa Killer
"An amusing mystery with a pronounced Buffalo vibe."