3 names. 3 suspects. It was one of them, I know it.
Last week, tragedy struck and my home was broken into. I came home exhausted from work one day to see the glass in my door shattered, cupboards ajar, papers strewn about the floor. Naturally, I sprinted back outside and immediately called the police as my heart was attempting to shatter my ribs.
Thankfully, the police showed up fairly quickly and cleared the house. Whoever broke in was long gone. One the one hand, I was relieved because if I had walked fully in and they were still there, who knows what could have happened. On the other hand, I had no idea who did this and now it would require an investigation.
Once the crime scene investigators cleared the house for me to enter, I took a quick inventory of what was missing. TV? Still there. Jewelry? Here. Computer? It’s been accessed but nothing was added or deleted. Any major items of worth were still there, but I still had one more place to look.
I went into my kitchen and check the false bottom in the cupboard underneath my sink. My heart splattered into the floor when I saw that the safe that I normally kept there was missing. There was a giant gaping hole in the dust where my super-secure safe used to be.
“Officers, officers,” I cried. “I know what’s missing. I know what they were after.”
One of them flipped to a new page in her notebook.
“Ok. What is it?”
“My family’s secret recipes. They were all in a rolodex that I kept in a triple-locked safe that was hidden underneath a cupboard.”
The two police officers shared a look.
“Recipes? That’s what all this is about?”
I took a breath. Yes, I know how it sounds. “You need to understand that my family has been the top champion in every local, regional, and state bake-off for the last 10 years. I come from a very long line of exceptional bakers and I’m willing to bet that if it came down to it, someone would kill for these recipes.”
Neither officer looked particularly convinced, but they wrote down my statement anyway.
“Alright Ms. Norman, we’ll analyze our evidence and start on the investigation. We’ll get back to you if we get some answers.”
The police finally cleared out of my house and I was left with the wreckage of the break-in. For the next four hours I swept, wiped, mopped, and tried to get rid of any sign that someone had broken into my house. In doing all that, I had time to think.
Chances are, it’ll be a while before I get any answers, if I get any answers. I might just have to take matters into my own hands.
Pouring myself a cup of tea, I sat at my kitchen table, staring at my sink.
Who would know where I keep those recipes? That’s not a particularly obvious spot. And I haven’t told many people about it. I haven’t told many people about it!
At that moment, I came up with a particularly genius plan, if I do say so myself. There are a select few people that are aware of not only my family’s recipes, but also that hiding spot. That narrowed my suspect list down to three people: Julia, Angel, and Cameron.
They’re all my friends to an extent, but we met through a baking competition last year and bonded over our competitiveness. Normally, they’re good people, but when it comes to baking, the gloves are off. I wouldn’t put it past one of them to steal my recipes to give their holiday desserts an edge.
Sitting at that table, I kept tapping my fingers in thought. The annoyance at both myself and the intruder settled deep in my stomach. I didn’t mean for any of them to see that spot in the first place. I was cleaning up before they came over and had my headphones in so I didn’t hear them knock or come in. (Honestly, them just coming in when I didn’t answer the door should have been a red flag right there.) I had just put the rolodex away after returning a recipe to it when I turned around to find the three of them standing in my kitchen. After that, I should have just moved it, but at the time I didn’t think any of them would go as far as to break into my own home.
I’m just glad my daughter wasn’t home for any of this. Cate thankfully left yesterday to go a college friend’s cabin for the week. I don’t know what I would have done if she was here when the intruder broke in. Like I told the officer, people would kill for those recipes.
Anyway, back to my plan. I figured that if I could get everyone together for a cookie swap, whoever stole my recipes would be almost certainly arrogant enough to try to outdo everyone else using one of them. Betcha they think that I haven’t memorized every single secret ingredient that could distinguish those recipes. They would be wrong.
The next day, I called all three of them and we arranged for a cookie swap that Friday. I had two days to think about whoever is the most likely to steal my rolodex and what kind of cookie I should make to destroy all of them.
By the time the Friday of the swap rolled around, I had settled on an ooey-gooey dark chocolate and peppermint cookie that had always been a hit of mine. What I hadn’t settled on, however, was who the intruder could be.
I had just pulled the last batch of cookies out of the over when I heard the doorbell ring. I smoothed out my dress and put on my biggest smile before opening the door (with the newly repaired window).
“Hey!” I cheered. “Happy Holidays!”
Despite the freezing weather, they all smiled and greeted me in turn. I let them into the house and offered to take their cookies back to the kitchen. While they were preoccupied with discarding their bundles of layers, I snuck a peak at each of their cookies.
Sprinkle-covered shortbread? Nope. We’re not really a shortbread family. We prefer richer flavors.
Sugar cookies? Like every family, we do have a classic sugar cookie recipe, but I can’t be sure if this is it until I try it.
Red velvet cookie with vanilla buttercream frosting? Now that sounds familiar. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to try this one too to confirm.
I grabbed the wine glasses and tucked the bottle under my arm to join my guests in the living room.
For the first few minutes, we just chatted about small nothings. The weather, the traffic, how good the wine was. Blah blah blah.
“So, Grace, what’s new? Anything exciting happen recently?” Angel asked.
Do I tell them to see how they react or do I test their reactions by not saying anything?
“Nothing much. Work is busy as ever and I’m just preparing for the holidays with Cate. Christmas shopping, decorating, the Christmas card. You know, the works,” I tried to say as casually as possible.
Julia nodded along sympathetically. “I feel ya. Between trying to get presents and wrap presents and fighting with the inlaws, who are staying with us right now by the way- without asking first-, I’m absolutely swamped.”
She sounds a little too busy to be breaking into my house. Congrats, Julia. You’re at the bottom of the list.
“And you, Cameron? What’s going on in your life?”
He took a sip of wine. “A much calmer holiday season than you guys apparently. Jason and I are having a pretty quiet Christmas this year and unlike you all, I’m not sixty and don’t send out Christmas cards.”
We knew he meant well, but we jokingly acted insulted regardless.
“Well you should. What else is your mother going to cry over when you don’t return for Christmas?” Angel said.
“Probably the margarita that she’ll be sipping on the cruise that she and dad booked for the holidays,” he retorted.
I chuckled at that. It didn’t, however, change the fact that he had plenty of time to break in to my home.
“Angel, you’re up,” I said.
“Work. Study. Sleep. Repeat,” she groaned. “Nursing school is kicking my butt. Why did I think this was a good idea?”
“Because you want to further your career and one day get the big bucks,” Julia supplied.
Angel groaned again and threw her head back. “But at what cost?”
The longer we all chatted, the more disappointed I knew I was going to be when I found out who broke in. I keep forgetting how much I like these guys.
I decided to rip the bandage off.
“Alright. Now for the main event. The cookies,” I announced.
I grabbed the cookies and returned them to their respective owners.
“I’d like to go first,” Julia provided, holding open her container of shortbreads.
We all reached in and grabbed one. I put it up to my lips and took a bite.
Crumbly, but not too dry. Sweet, but not overbearing. Still lacks a bit of flavor. Overall, for a shortbread, that’s not too bad.
Next up was Angel. We each took a frosted sugar cookie.
Elegant design with the decorating, not too dense, still flavorful, and no secret ingredient. Guess she’s off the hook.
Finally, it was Cameron’s turn. I carefully took a nibble of the red velvet cookie and right away I could tell something was off.
Well this doesn’t taste right and the secret ingredient certainly isn’t in here.
“Jason’s on a bit of a vegan kick right now. Personally, not a fan, but I still thought I’d give vegan red velvet cookies a shot,” he explained.
I swallowed the cookie down. “The things we do for love.”
As everyone took one of my cookies, I took a moment to think.
No one had any of the secret ingredient or used one of my family’s recipes. So, either they’re not as cocky as I thought, or they didn’t do it.
As everyone finished their assessments of my treat, I prepared my next move.
“Actually, when I said not much was happening, that was a lie. A few days ago, my house got broken into. My family’s rolodex of recipes was stolen.”
I glanced over their faces. Dang it. Nothing but pity or shock.
“I’m so sorry.” “That sucks.” “That’s awful. Are you ok?”
“Thank you but I’m fine.”
“Wait. Why are you telling us this now?” Cameron asked, suspicious.
“Well-“ All of a sudden, my phone started ringing. “One moment.”
I stepped away into the kitchen
“Cate, sweetie, what’s up? Everything alright?” I asked.
“Yeah mom. I just had a quick question. How much flour goes into the sugar cookie recipe?”
That was not what I was expecting her to ask.
“How much flour is in the sugar cookie recipe? I can’t read grandma’s handwriting for this part.”
I took a breath.
“Honey, do you have all the recipes?”
“Yeah. Sorry, I left the kitchen all a mess. I couldn’t remember where it was an Aubrey was rushing me and I promised everyone that we would make our special sugar cookies. I left it all in the note on the door. By the way, did the Franklin boys apologize for throwing an iceball through the window?”
All the pieces were coming together. It was my daughter who took the recipes and made a mess and the annoying boys across the street that shattered my door window. My house hadn’t been broken into after all. Her note just must have fallen into the puddle from the iceball and gotten ruined so I didn’t see it.
I felt a lot better knowing that none of my friends were to blame for this.
“No, they didn’t. But I’ll talk to them later. It’s 2 and a half cups for one batch. And when you add the secret ingredient, do not let them see, understood?” I told her. “And please don’t take the rolodex without asking me again.”
“Sorry, mom. Will do. Thanks! Love you!”
“Love you too,” I said before hearing the tone.
I came back out to the living room, 20 pounds lighter with that new information.
“Where were we?” I asked.
“You were telling us why you’re just now sharing the news that your house was broken into,” Cameron supplied.
I looked at my friends who could be competitive, but deep down, would never go this far and I felt guilty for ever thinking they could have done this.
“Just to be dramatic, I suppose,” I said.
With that, they all smiled.
Nudging my shoulder, Angel said, “Well, leave it to you.”
I smiled back and took a bite of my own cookie.
Secret recipes or not, I’m a dang good baker.