by Maddie Briggs, cookie creator and capturer of criminals.
From THE COOKIE CUTTER SHOP MYSTERIES, by Virginia Lowell.
Visit Olivia Greyson and me in Cookies and Scream, our latest sleuthing adventure.
Yes, of course there is a cure for the mid-winter blahs. Thank you for asking. Here, have a cookie. There, you see? Almost any bad mood can be lightened with the help of a decorated cutout cookie. My other favorite mood lifter is sleuthing, but at present we—me and Livie, my best friend and business partner—are between murders. Chatterley Heights, Maryland, is a small town. I have to accept that murders will be few and far between.
But back to cookies… Right now it is 3:27 a.m., and I feel cozily warm baking lemon cutout cookies in the Gingerbread House kitchen. Livie and I run this store, which is filled with cookie cutters and all things cookie. If I can’t have a juicy mystery to liven up the gloomy days, at least winter is a great time to bake lots of— Excuse me, the kitchen phone is ringing. At 3:27 a.m.? I wonder…
“Livie? What are you doing up at 3:27 a.m.?”
“The wind is howling outside my bedroom window. I couldn’t sleep, so I started reading one of those old mysteries my mom brought over. Now I really can’t sleep.”
“I don’t know, Livie. Much as I adore baking, I’d love a mystery about now. What are you reading?”
“The Bat, by Mary Roberts Rinehart, which might have been the wrong choice.”
“Oh, dear. You might never sleep again. One of the original Nancy Drew mysteries might have been a safer choice.”
“No kidding,” Livie said. “I keep hearing strange noises outside, but I can’t put this book down.”
“I had the same reaction when I read The Bat,” I said. “I loved it. Hey, why don’t you finish the book down here in the kitchen? You could read the suspenseful parts out loud to liven up my mood. I could use some company and a bit of vicarious excitement. The kitchen is warm and cozy, plus there are cookies—and, of course, my comforting, if somewhat bored presence.”
Livie didn’t respond, but I wasn’t concerned. I figured she was looking for her slippers. Livie is not a multi-tasker. I silently counted to ten. The phone remained eerily silent, but it didn’t go dead. Then I heard a whoosh sound, like wind through an open window.
“Livie? Not that I’m nervous, but… On your way downstairs, would you mind checking the doors and windows? Just as a precaution, you know?” I waited for her reassuring affirmative but heard only a strange crackling sound. Then silence. “Livie?”
That’s when the phone went dead. I hung up and parked myself on a kitchen chair to wait. There had to be a rational explanation. Livie was forever forgetting to charge her phone. Maybe it just chose a bad time to conk out. But where was Livie?
At that moment, the front doorbell rang. Had Livie remembered to lock the front door when she closed up for the night? I opened the kitchen door, then ran across the sales floor and into the foyer. The front door was locked after all. I unlocked and cracked it open. A sliver of sharp wind hit my face. No one was there.
I heard the kitchen phone ring and raced back across the sales floor. What if someone had found an open window, sneaked inside, and kidnapped Livie? This could be a ransom call.
The ringing stopped just as I reached for the phone. Then I heard two slow knocks on the door leading out to the alley. I spun around as the door edged open. I’d parked my car in the alley. Could I have forgotten to lock the door when I came inside?
I grabbed the nearest weapon I could find, a metal spatula. A gloved hand reached through the open door… followed slowly by tousled auburn hair and a very familiar face.
“Hey, Maddie.” Livie slid through the door and closed it behind her. “I took your advice and made sure all the windows and doors were securely locked. Now, my friend, I have just one question.” Livie gave me a wicked grin. “Was that enough excitement for you?”
SUBMITTED BY VIRGINIA LOWELL
Virginia Lowell is the author of COOKIE DOUGH OR DIE, A COOKIE BEFORE DYING, WHEN THE COOKIE CRUMBLES, ONE DEAD COOKIE, and COOKIES AND SCREAM.
Visit Virginia at: www.virginialowell.com