Little Bakery Shop of Horrors
The directions the real estate gnome gave Rhianon led her on a winding path through the Stormwind back-city streets, eventually stopping in front of a dingy building plunked at the end of a long alley of storefronts and warehouses. A wooden sign reading “Abrams Baked Goods” hung precariously above the shop’s door, creaking in the fall breeze. Rhianon glanced down at the paper in her hand and then back up at the sign. This was the place, no doubt about it.
She straightened herself up and pushed her way through the door. The interior was nowhere near as drab as the front, but it was crowded with empty glass cases and cobwebbed tables. A fine layer of flour covered everything and thick leather books of receipts littered the counter at the back of the store.
She cleared her throat, calling out, “Excuse me! Is anyone here?”
“Hold on just a moment!” The shrill voice came from behind a curtain that separated the front of the store from the kitchen in the back. She heard the clattering of pots and pans, followed by cursing. After several moments, a red-faced man wearing a puffy white hat ducked his head out from behind the curtain. “Are you from the Blue Recluse? You’re early. I’m just about to take your order out of the oven, but it’ll need to rest for at least half an hour yet.”
“No, no.” Rhianon shook her head. She showed him the paper in her hand. “I was sent here by Goodwin Lightpenny. He’s your land-lord, isn’t he? I was just interested in seeing if you might be willing to rent out your kitchen for a few hours a week. I’ll pay well. Goodwin thought you might be – “
The man peered at her, raising an eyebrow. She flushed, adding quickly, “If you’ve heard any rumors, I assure you, I work cleanly and I’ll take good care of your equipment. My pets will stay outside most of the time anyway, unless it’s raining or snowing or something. It’s not really fair to subject them to that, is it? “
He blinked at her. “Goodwin sent you?”
The man burst into laughter. “Ah, I see, he thinks he’s gonna con another poor fool into spending penny on this hell hole, does he? You seem like the gullible sort too; I can see why he thought you’d be an easy mark.” He shook his head. “Girl, you better turn around and go back out the way you came in before they catch wind of you.” He waved her to the door. “Now, go!”
As he was shooing her away, a loud crash resounded throughout the store. The man spun around, shouting, “Hooligans! Get away from my loaves!” He dashed back behind the curtain and Rhianon could hear him flinging obscenities at the apparent perpetrators. “DON’T YOU DARE!”
The sound of shattering glass followed that last shout and Rhianon winced, biting her lip. “Sir?” She called out meekly.
The man stormed out from behind the curtain, glaring at her. He ripped off his tattered apron and tossed it down onto the ground, stomping on it. “You’re interested in the place? You can have it. I’m tired of Goodwin thinking he can put me through this crap. Five years of suffering at the hands of these DEMONS and not a cent changed on my note!”
“I’m just interested in renting it for a few hours – “
“The note of five hundred gold is due on the first of every month.” The man explained, gathering up some of the papers from the back counter into his arms. “Oh, and if you could ship my things from the apartment over the shop, I’d appreciate it. I’ll send along my address once I get situated. Don’t want to speak of it here; they might hear me.”
Rhianon didn’t even have an instant to reply before the man scurried out the door, grinning at her as he shut it behind him. She swallowed and turned around, facing the back of the store. This was going to be interesting to explain to that real estate gnome; that was certain. Although five hundred a month didn’t seem to be a terrible price for a good-sized shop with an apartment, even if this was a back alley of the District. Maybe, just maybe she could handle the payment –
A silence fell over the shop as Rhianon drifted away on her thoughts – but the unknown pranksters were quick the shatter the peace with another noisy crash from the kitchen. This time, she saw a cloud of flour billow out from under the separating curtain. “What in Light’s name – “ she murmured, brow furrowed. What kind of demons were possibly interested in wrecking a simple man’s bakery?
As she stepped forward to investigate, the shop door swung open and another man poked his head in, eyes falling on her. “So, you’re the new shop owner? I just ran into Abrams on his way out of the District. Hope the Recluse’s order is still in place. Two sheet pans of rye loaves for lunch service. He usually has them ready about now.” The man sniffed the air. “Does something smell like it’s burning to you?”
Rhianon gulped. Hadn’t the vanishing baker said something about loaves to be taken from the oven?
“Well, what is it? Do I need to go somewhere else?” The man leaned against the door frame. “Sure hope Stevens’ Bread is still taking orders at this hour…”
She sighed and turned back to face the Recluse’s order courier. “Two sheet pans of rye loaves? What kind? Dark or light rye?”
“Can you come back in about two hours? They’ll be ready then.”
The courier frowned. “That’s cutting it close to lunch service.” Without waiting for her response, he shrugged. “Not like I’ll be able to get an order in anywhere else at this late notice. Fine. Two hours. But they had better be ready then.”
The door clattered shut behind him and Rhianon shook her head. Hopefully there was still some rye flour left in the back kitchen. She cleared her throat and announced to the unseen pranksters, “It was easy for you to mess with that poor man. I’m different. I’m going to get to the bottom of this. If you need help, I’ll help you. But I’m not about to be run around like a fool.”
And then she set to work.