“Detective Clark and this is my partner Detective Lewis. We know you have answered all of these questions before but we need to go over it again. We like to hear it direct from the horses moth, as some say. Why don’t we have a seat?”
I couldn’t sit down again. There was a mess to clean. It was a week before Christmas, the busiest time of year and my livelihood. I just couldn’t give up. Obstacles were to be climbed over and moved past from. The detectives sat, I offered to bring them a drink purely out of habit. Turning towards the espresso machine I sighed. Covered in finger print dust, surrounded by law enforcement and, well, out of service.
I sat with a slump, resigned to having the worst luck.
“Fine, what do you want to know?”
I told them everything I knew so far:
“I was here baking bread at 5 AM like always. Getting ahead on orders and taking advantage of the ideal temperature and humidity to get ahead on orders and fill the displays. I was trying a new recipe – Pumpernickel with a twist. Everything I do is with a twist. This batch looked perfect. It was my seventh. The rest tasted ok but landed right here.” I patted my right hip, not happy with the way they looked or sat, plumping my whole body but it was worth the sacrifice. I had a business to maintain, I couldn’t do so on a diet or serving a new item that looked less than perfect.
“Mr Nora. Please, we need to figure out what happened. So after you made your new recipe at 5 AM, what did you do?”
“I set it on the counter to cool. I had to do that before applying the finishing touch. I returned to my apartment, I live upstairs, which makes it easier to get here so early and get home after a long day. It’s not much up there but the commute makes it worth it and the heating bill, after baking here all day, is next to nothing. It was a win-win when I put the deposit down. I’ve been here for five years now. This was going to be my best yet. And then this,” I couldn’t stop the tears, or the rambling, much to the disgust and annoyance of the detectives.
“Let me get you a piece of the new bread, I can’t sell it today and it won’t be fresh tomorrow.” I hurried off before they could object, or rather, while they were objecting but I pretended I couldn’t hear them as I made my way to the kitchen. I sliced up a piece for each of us and then stopped. The magic wasn’t there. The ingredient that made Nora’s Nora’s was not there.
It must have fallen during the robbery. And then, how could it when it was hidden so well and not even the bread was touched. If they reached up for anything, to look around at all the bread would have been squished and it wasn’t. I couldn’t serve the bread without it. What would the detectives think?
I squatted to look under the counters, in the lower drawers and found nothing. When I stood I was dizzy, shaken and felt like I was being watched. The detectives found me. They were both staring at me silently, trying to figure out what I was doing it seemed. They must have thought I went mad. I was taking so long, did they think I ran? What would I run from? Or two?
Nothing made sense.
If a robber went through every last nook and cranny of the bakery, why didn’t they empty the till? Why not take any of the expensive equipment? Did the robber know of my ingredient and come just for that? But why? It wasn’t anything that wouldn’t be in any regular household.
“Did you find something?” It was Detective Lewis. Out of them both she seemed the most kind. Maybe she would understand but her pencil thin form didn’t make it look like she was a baker.
“It’s not what I found it’s what I can’t find but if I tell you I’ll be ruined!” I couldn’t tell them what was missing as then they would know my secret ingredient and not bother coming back. I needed their business. I needed all of my customers. But I needed to get to the bottom of the robbery, too.
“Let’s sit down. We need you to finish the story and let us know what you just discovered missing. We’re here to help you, we don’t need to eat or drink.” Detective Clark took my arm and guided me back to the window seat. They sat down on either side of me and asked me to continue.
“I went up to my place to shower. I left the bread on the counter. It need to cool, slightly, before adding the… well, before I finished it. When I got back, not ten minutes later, the place was destroyed. There was flour everything, dishes were knocked to the floor. Even on the cash register, there were spots of flour everywhere! It a mess. When I saw the front door opened slightly I just knew I was robbed and I called 911.”
“When you were in the shower did you hear anything? Wasn’t the front door locked?”
“It should have been. I thought it was. I didn’t hear a thing.” And that’s when the activities of the night before started creeping back. “Oh no! Maybe I didn’t lock the door.”
“Why do you think that?”
“I was out. I never go out but my friend Rachel told me about this local sous chef. We went to Top Mushroom, that shop on Fifth. He made me his specialty, served me some wine perfectly paired with it. I rarely drink but maybe had too much. He walked me back, kissed me and then left. I thought I locked it behind him but I… he had me smitten and I needed to get to bed. Do you think it was him? Oh my gosh, it can’t be him.”
“Ok, ok. Let’s take a step back.” Detective Lewis turned to an officer and asked him to try the door. He did and struggled to close it shut. The wind kept blowing it open.
Automatically Nora stood, walked to the door and closed it, excusing it and saying she’s been meaning to get it fixed. That’s when Detective Lewis stood and examined the flour spots on the counter and exclaimed – “Nora, is your secret ingredient a type of cheese?”
I was ruined. “How did you know?”
“Officers, how did you miss this? These spots of flour, the carelessness of the trail and getaway plan – leaving the money for goodness sake!” She turned to me then, “Nora, your robber is a cat!”