Welcome to chapter 11! If you need to, you can start at chapter 1 by clicking here. Remember this is a free write, so no heavy editing has been done. If you find mistakes, feel free to leave a comment. If you’re enjoying the story, share it with others and leave me a comment. If you have a critique, leave me a comment!
It had been six years since Erin had started working at the bagel shop owned by her Uncle Harry. She started at the counter when she was a sophomore in high school. Harry had made her manager before she graduated from Cal with her business degree with the intention of giving the store to her upon his demise. Which didn’t look like it would be anytime soon. For which Erin was eternally grateful.
As she walked in the door with just seconds to spare before the clock chimed 10, Erin breathed deeply, enjoying the yeasty smell of the baked goodies and the 60s vibe Harry carried out so well.
There were several people in line at the counter, so Erin hurried to drop her bag off in her office and then washed her hands at the small sink behind the counter before moving to help Gretchen, the middle-aged grandma who worked 15 hours a week supplementing her husband’s income so she could feed her crafting addiction. Erin was pretty sure Gretchen alone kept the local hobby store in business. She was a sweet woman who loved on everyone who came in and was completely trustworthy. Erin loved her like an aunt.
After the line died down, Erin grabbed herself a cup of coffee and went in search of Harry and found him in the kitchen, sitting on a stool, squinting at the computer screen in front of him. She reached around to give him a one-armed hug. “Whatcha doin’?”
“Hey, girlie!” her uncle greeted her heartily. “Did you know that we’re coming up on our 30th anniversary? I’m looking on Pinterest for ideas of what to do to celebrate.”
Erin chuckled and pulled up another stool to sit beside her gray-haired uncle. “It makes me incredibly happy to see you searching Pinterest,” she quipped. “It just does so much for your persona.”
Harry gave her a sidelong glance. “Don’t get sassy with me, you.” Harry had never married and had no children, so Erin, Sarah and Tyler were his surrogates. He loved them immensely and was as heart-broken as Gordon was about the choices Sarah was making now that she was on her own at college. And he lavished gifts on Tyler’s baby boy, Blake, like any enamored grandpa.
Erin sat watching for a minute before she ventured, “Did you see Hazel this morning, Uncle Harry?”
“No,” he answered distractedly, “But I haven’t been up front much, so she could have come in without me seeing her.”
“I’ll go ask Gretchen,” Erin said, getting up from her chair and taking her mug to the big industrial sink and rinsing it out. “Can I get you anything?”
“Nah, I’m good, girl. See if you can get those invoices from Hiller Foods figured out for me. I think there’s something wrong with last week’s total.” Harry hadn’t taken his eyes off the screen as he answered.
Erin had one hand on the swinging door when the business card in her pocket came to her mind. “Hey, Harry,” she said. “You ever heard of Green Glass Vineyard and Winery?”
“Sure, it’s been around forever,” Harry responded, taking off his glasses to glance at Erin across the room. “Gordy and I used to go up there every now and then before he and your mom got married. Nice place. Why you ask? Looking for a nice getaway for you and Cory?” He grinned and waggled his eyebrows.
Not wanting Harry to know that she had been snooping around Hazel’s house on her own, Erin simply said, “Just curious. Don’t stare at that computer too long. It’s bad for your brain.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Harry said as Erin pushed through the door.
Gretchen was refilling the clear glass case with fresh bagels when Erin went back behind the counter. “Hey, Gretch. Seen any sign of Hazel this morning?”
Straightening up and pushing her light brown hair behind her ear, Gretchen thought for a minute before replying. “I don’t think so, kiddo. Why?”
Erin felt her stomach knot in concern. Missing one day in the Village was one thing, but to miss two? Something was definitely wrong. “This is the second day in a row she hasn’t been in,” Erin answered. “She left me a very strange voicemail overnight two days ago, and then hasn’t been around since. I’m worried about her.”
“That is unusual,” Gretchen agreed. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. What does Scott think?”
“He went to her house after he got off yesterday. Said it didn’t appear her car was there. He figured she just went somewhere. “ Erin moved to the dining area and picked up the dishes people had piled by the trash cans. “Have you ever known Hazel to take a trip anywhere in the 20 years since Bernie and Bryan died?”
Gretchen shrugged. “Can’t say that I have, but there’s a first time for everything.”
Ugh, thought Erin. Why is nobody taking this seriously?
After taking the dishes to the kitchen sink, Erin headed to her office. Charlie, the young college student they hired to help with keeping the kitchen clean would be in before noon to wash up and then tend to keeping the dining area clean through the rest of the day. Whenever needed, Harry would see to baking fresh bagels from the trays prepared by Barry and Bonnie that morning and kept in the walk-in refrigerator.
As she sat, she pulled out the Green Glass Winery business card and studied it. The white card stock was only barely discolored, telling her that it hadn’t been out in the elements very long. It was a little water damaged, which would stand to reason for something outside in the Bay Area fog. Setting it down on her desk, she turned on her desktop computer and waited for it to boot up. She didn’t exactly know what she was looking for, but greenglasswinery.com seemed a good place to start.