Fiction Crime Mystery

It’s been six months since I was transferred from the city to this small town. The way captain Rodrigues, my former boss, looked at me when I handed him the transfer request, as if finally a screw got loose in my head under the pressure of the job. It took much explaining to convince the old man that the doctors had given an ultimatum. Either to continue living the way I was, and expect the insomnia and the fits of anger to cut my life decades shorter, or if I wanted to see my daughters married and to hug my grandchildren someday, I had to change things around drastically.

I was convinced that it would not be the bullets or the wandering knives to kill me; instead it would be the boredom that will do me in the end. It was not all bad though, at least my wife, Phoebe, had been adjusting much better. She had found a group of friends and filled her time with various activities.

On a December afternoon as I was getting ready to head home, Boss, Captain Russ, asked me to check on a break-in case. ‘Nothing fancy there, Smash’, (I was nicknamed “Smash” by my fellow detectives back in my former precinct in the city, twisting my first and last name together, Sam Dash), ‘certainly not up to your caliber, just a burglary.’

Why everyone assumed I was looking forward to something thrilling and dangerous, I never knew. Maybe they could see the boredom printed on my face. ‘Its fine sir,’ I said, ‘low level crime is why I am here.’

Noted,’ said the captain, ‘mind you the owners are close friends. Do what you can old boy.’


Middle of the previous night the ‘Red-Cookies’ bakery, owned and managed by Mr. and Mrs. Silver was broken into. Apparently the only thing missing was a rare spice.

‘The door has been pushed open,’ I said to my recorder. ‘Just your simple padlock,’ which could be picked by anyone with one eye and two fingers, assuming they took five minutes to watch a common tutorial on YouTube. Yet the burglar did not sweat. ‘The lock had been cut, perhaps using a bolt cutter.’

After another round of detailed and comprehensive search through the shop’s items, there was no doubt left that nothing else was missing. It seemed the thief had gone right for the safe located in the office, and only took the sack of that particular spice, ignoring a sum of cash (about twelve hundred), and some documents.

Whoever the burglar was, they must have prior knowledge of the secret ingredient. So it could not have been a random burglary, which explained why the money was not taken. The burglar could be a close friend, a confidant, or a relative, or maybe even one of the two owners. Furthermore the situation got more peculiar as the safe door’s lock was not broken; the owners had found the door ajar. Consequently the thief was in possession of the key to the safe, but not to the shop.

Ms. Silver went on explaining the significance of the spice called, ‘Rutho’, in almost a whisper which I had to lean forward to catch her words. ‘Rutho is derived from roots of a rare plant that only is found on few mountains in Africa. It’s rare and expensive,’ she said looking around checking if anyone could overhear and continued, ‘it’s our very secret ingredient in our special Red-Cookies.’

I was as talentless as one can be in a kitchen, barely, I could make an edible omelet, let alone when it came to baking I had no clue about their world. However I was not unfamiliar with the said Red-Cookies. They were what the bakery was well-known for after all, and not just in our own little town. It was not unusual to see outsiders come to this little village solely because of them. Apparently a quite famous baking weblog, called ‘Sal & Charlie’s Little Bakery’ had published a whole article on them.

At that stage I was not ready to rule out any possibility. I, of course, had considered the rivaling bakers in the village, but since it’s a small town, there were not many names on the list. One more possibility, though remote, was the people who had reviewed the bakery and published the article. The question was did the Silver disclose their secret ingredient to them. I would have been surprised if they had, given their secretive nature.

One thing that attracted my attention was, how come the owners took so long to report the break-in as the lock obviously had been broken, even if they had not noticed the safe door ajar in the morning. Mrs. Silver did not look happy with my question, shifting her weight from one leg to another, finally replied, ‘honestly it was a busy day, detective,’ then reading my expression added, ‘Lily opens the shop at seven. Lea, my husband, and I don’t come in until nine, by then we were caught up in the usual morning rush. We didn’t notice the whole stack of the condiment was missing not until by five p.m., when Lea went to deposit the register money.’

Mr. Silver, a stout middle-aged man with graying hair around his temples wearing an immaculate expensive looking suit, joined us from the cash register. ‘Dear the customer has a question?’ gesturing to the man standing by the counter.

‘If you excuse me,’ Mrs. Silver went over to the counter.

‘’Sir I wanted to ask, who else beside you and Mrs. Silver has the keys to the shop and the safe?’

‘Lily is the only other person aside from my wife and myself who has the key to the shop. But of course not to the safe,’ said Mr. Silver, ‘there are only two sets of keys to the safe, one is with me, and my wife has the other one.’

Minute later Mrs. Silver returned holding a brown box. ‘Detective this is our very last batch of the cookies,’ holding out the box to me, ‘I thought you may enjoy them.’

‘Thank you Mrs. Silver,’ I said getting the box and taking a bite out of one of the cookies. ‘They are really tasty,’ and held the box out to the both of them. Mr. Silver took one cookie smiling and bit a small bite.

Mrs. Silver though shook her head smiling sheepishly, ‘I can’t, and unfortunately I am extremely allergic to cinnamon.’ Looking at the surprised expression on my face, added, ‘yeah I realize the cruel irony.’

I could not decide if I was sorry for her, or impressed.

‘Detective do you think you’d be able to find the culprit and return our stolen condiment?’ she asked, ‘without the condiment it would not be as good.’

‘I hope so. I am here doing whatever I can to find it for you Mrs. Silver,’ I paused a second and continued smiling, ‘personally I am a big fan of your Red-Cookies, it would be a shame if you could not make them anymore.’

Mrs. Silver smiled back at me, ‘of course detective, you find them, and we make them.’

‘One more thing, as I take it you keep a smaller portion of the condiments handy around the kitchen, perhaps for the next day’s baking,’ she nodded, ‘but would it not be possible that people to figure out your secret ingredient?’

‘Oh no, the spice is in an unmarked container, and no one beside Lea and I go in the back kitchen, where we bake the Red-Cookies.’

‘So not even Lily has access to the back kitchen?’ I asked.

‘Yes she does, but I trust her completely. She is like a daughter to us, been working in my bakery for five years now.’

‘By the way how did you supply the ‘Rutho’?’

I spotted a quick look exchanged between the couple, hesitating, then Mr. Silver replied, ‘it was few years back, I found it in an advertisement somewhere off the internet.’

‘It would be quite helpful if you managed to find your supplier’s contact for me.’

Mr. Silver shook his head, ‘it was a long time ago detective. I doubt I’ll find it, but anyway I’ll do my best.’

I could tell something was not right. But what was it? Why they were lying to me? Perhaps they had procured it illegally and were afraid of the repercussions.


Lily was a young student working in the shop in her free time. She was demure and diligent according to Mrs. Silver. Hardly the type you could imagine to pull off a robbery, not alone anyways. ‘Did you lockup the shop last night?

‘No sir. Last night I finished up earlier, it was still light,’ she said paused a second glancing at direction of the kitchen closed door, ‘Mrs. Silver told me to go home, see I have exams coming up.’

‘This morning when you opened the shop, didn’t you notice that the safe door was open?’

As an experienced detective you are always alert while interviewing to catch someone in a lie. It’s the small stuff people usually don’t notice, a twitch of a mouth, flickers of an eye, raised eyebrows, but I didn’t see any of them, she seemed to be telling the truth.

‘I wasn’t here this morning sir,’ she said. ‘Mrs. Silver usually opens up on Wednesdays, since I have an early class. I arrived just before noon.’

It seemed that Mrs. Silver either was lying, or maybe innocently it slipped off her mind which seemed odd. But to what end, what were they hiding? Moreover why had she sent the kid home early the night before, was it really out of kindness for her?


‘How is the case going Smash?’ asked Captain Russ.

Captain the bakery’s financial records arrived, they are not doing so well.’ I said threading lightly, ‘I must tell you at this point it seems likely that Mr. and Mrs. ...’

‘Oh no, no, no,’ he interjected, ‘you got this all wrong old boy. I know these people for what, about two decades now.’ He smiled at me in a way that he saw something in me that I couldn’t myself, maybe he was right. ‘The Silvers are furthest from criminal types. The business goes up and down, its normal. ‘Did you check on the other bakery?’

I had interviewed the other bakery’s owner in the town. He, a kind elderly man, looked harmless as a mouse. ‘Yes sir, his alibi checked out.’ But what I couldn’t confirm was the Silvers’ alibi, who claimed to have spent the whole night alone together at their house.

There was no convincing a man who was blind with what he wished to see, not unless with solid evidence. I had learned that the hard way, when my partner at the force turned out to be a dirty cup linked to drug rings. I learned not to trust my right hand, let alone the kind and warm appearance of Mr. and Mrs. Silver.


Late that evening I dropped by the bakery on the off chance it would still be open; I wanted to get a copy of their insurance papers. The shop was dark and had the closed sign hanging, but I thought I saw a flash of light moving in the darkness. I got out of the car, pushing against the door, it opened. Not five steps I advanced that in the pitch darkness something jumped at me. I fell backward to the ground, feeling a sharp pain on my left side. As I got up and out the door, the culprit’s car was moving away in the distance. I could not make out the model or number.

I called the station, and the Silvers. It was about light that Mr. Silver got to the shop. Turned out the thief managed to grab the financial documents and whatever cash was there, out the safe, leaving behind the safe door hanging open again unbroken.


‘You should have gone to the hospital,’ Phoebe said cleaning the wound, ‘it’s only a graze, you’ve been so lucky.’ 

Yeah. Lucky, I felt. ‘It was my own fault, I didn’t expect that.’ Back in the city when something like that occurred I would have seen it coming a mile away. But that night I was genuinely taken by surprise. Was I losing my touch?

Phoebe wrapped the bandage, ‘you’re all set,’ still looking at me with those eyes, those reprimanding eyes.

‘Alright, alright, stop with that,’ I said chuckling, ‘I said they got me off guard. I’ll be careful next time.’

She repeated aghast, ‘next time?’


It was purely my instinct to suspect them. Now the result was back from the laboratory confirming my suspicions. I understood much better what was going. I had sent a sample of the cookies that Mrs. Silver gave me, to the laboratory, tested for the ingredients. And surprise, surprise, they found Tubroxin, a banned condiment, which was used widely in recipes up to thirties, but as it turned out it was toxic. Hence it was banned by the health department. So Mrs. Silver’s allergy to cinnamon was bogus. What else they were lying about?

By the time I entered the bakery, I saw the morose and defeated expression on both the Silvers’ faces. I did not waste time, and went right to the point. ‘Mr. and Mrs. Silver I know that you use illegal toxic ingredient, Tubroxin, in your Red-Cookies,’ I said watching their faces get paler, if possible. ‘Now is the time to tell the truth, everything.’ And I waited.

Silence stretched for few moments, they exchanged looks, and Mr. Silver confirmed how they had used the ingredient, years back by coincidence, and as it was a successful recipe, they had continued. ‘There did not seem to be any harm,’ said Mr. Silver, ‘but someone found out, (and took our whole stash as you know) and now is extorting us, demanding twenty grand.’

Then it all clicked together. ‘It was you last night robbing your own shop,’ I said, ‘perhaps planning to claim it from insurance, faking another robbery.’

He nodded miserably. ‘But ... but I did not know it was you, I didn’t....’ he faltered, ‘I thought it was the thief coming back. I was scared.’


Learning about the toxic ingredient, and the extortion business, the rest of the mystery unraveled quickly. It took some straightforward police work to identify the culprit. Once he made a new contact to set a meet (to receive the money,) tracing back the call to a local pay phone in the town, which CCTV of a nearby bank revealed the identity of the extortionist. As it turned out it was the supplier of the toxic ingredient after all, who had dug himself into a financial hole.

‘I would have never imagined the Silvers capable of doing something like that,’ said the captain, ‘for God’s sake I loved those cookies. I bought them for my kids every week.’

The culprit was apprehended waiting for trial. The Silvers’ bakery was sealed, and their attorney was bargaining a plea based on ignorance (regarding the toxic ingredient). Captain, with mixed feelings, finally decided to help the Silvers with his connections. And I was getting used to the life in a small town.

December 11, 2020 12:05

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