by Olivia Greyson from THE COOKIE CUTTER SHOP MYSTERIES, by Virginia Lowell.
Saskatoon is starting to look good about now. Today it’s 73 degrees in Saskatoon, according to the Weather Channel. Here in Baltimore, it’s 99 degrees. I’d start packing my bags if I had the energy. The air conditioning in my apartment conked out during the night. Even my normally bouncy Yorkshire terrier, Spunky, has lost his spunk, despite the severe mercy trimming I gave his beautiful coat yesterday. He is stretched out on the tile floor in the kitchen. Looks like a good plan to me.
The Gingerbread House is closed today, which is just as well. Customers might come in to escape the heat, but they’d bring it in with them. Ice water, I need ice water. Oh great, I forgot to refill the ice cube trays last night.
Am I suffering from heat madness, or do I really hear a marching band playing “The Stars and Stripes Forever”? Wait, it’s coming from my cell phone. “Hey, Maddie. You changed my ringtone again.”
“How can you tell?” Maddie sounds way too energetic. “Never mind, come downstairs, it’s cooler. I’m trying a new recipe, and I need you to taste the results.”
“You are baking? Are you—”
“Insane? Well, yeah, but you knew that. It’s so much more fun than the alternative. Get yourself down here. Bring the pup.”
With a limp Yorkie under my arm, I go downstairs and unlock the door to The Gingerbread House. It’s surprisingly cool inside. I don’t feel waves of heat coming from the kitchen. “You know the rules, Spunks. Humans are the only animals allowed in the kitchen.” I deposit Spunky on his chair in front of the window, where he stretches his tiny body across the embroidered seat. I can hear his sweet little snore as I cross the sales floor.
I open the kitchen door and poke my head inside, expecting a wall of oven heat to wallop me. All I get is the sound of Maddie’s voice as she sings snatches of “Summertime” and dances toward the refrigerator. Maddie performs a pirouette and sees me. “Oh, goodie, my taster has arrived,” she says with a big grin on her freckled face.
“Maddie, how come it isn’t hot in here? I thought you said you were baking.”
“Nope. In fact, I said I was trying out a new recipe. You assumed I was baking because that’s what I do nearly all the time.” Maddie opens the freezer with a flourish. “I have invented a new ice cube.” She pulls a flexible ice cube tray from the freezer and twists it over a bowl. They look like ordinary ice cubes to me, but where Maddie’s creative genius is involved, it is best not to make assumptions.
As Maddie fills two tall glasses with ice cubes, she says, “I’ve been searching for a concoction with even more cooling power than mere ice water.” She turns on the faucet and covers the ice cubes with cold water. “See if you can guess the extra ingredient in the ice cubes, and tell me if it does, in fact, make ice water even cooler than usual. I’m hoping this is the only mystery we’ll be solving today, because in this heat even I am low on energy.”
Maddie hands me a glass. Her cookies have a well deserved reputation for deliciousness, but she can, on occasion, bomb. The spice cookies with pepperoni bits come to mind. With some trepidation, I take a sip of the ice water. “You’re right, Maddie, this is delicious! And it does send an extra chill down my spine.”
Maddie takes a big gulp of her drink, and asks, “So? What’s the secret ingredient?”
I take another sip. The ice cubes have been melting, and the taste is stronger. “Peppermint! Right?” When Maddie shakes her wild red curls, I take another sip. “Maddie, tell me you didn’t make peppermint schnapps ice cubes.”
“Don’t be silly.” Maddie opens the cupboard and whips out a tiny green bottle. “It’s creme de menthe flavoring. I found some extra strong stuff and used it liberally. You can say it now, Livie. I am a genius.”
I obey. “You are a genius. How about a few more ice cubes? Now I think of it, I wonder how peppermint schnapps ice cubes would taste…”
Do you have any special hints for staying cool during a heat wave?
The fourth book in the COOKIE CUTTER SHOP series, ONE DEAD COOKIE has hit the shelves! Virginia is hunched over her computer, hard at work on a fifth adventure for Livie, Maddie, and the Chatterley Heights gang. You can check out Virginia’s visits to other blogs by dropping in at www.virginialowell.com