Gingerbread Mafia

Submitted into Contest #153 in response to: Write about a character trying to heal an old rift.... view prompt


Bedtime Crime Funny

Many folk tales describe hapless children marking their paths with stones, to not get lost. Now, it’s become a thing. Once humble hiking trails have transformed into gleaming, shimmering paths to a fantasyland. Or to the dark lair of a witch.

Trends, fads and fashions prove spontaneous generation. Like ‘love locks’ on a bridge. Who expects the weight of so many padlocks to threaten its structural integrity? What captures the popular imagination?

Always innovating, the fad had outliers. A flock of birds reportedly swarmed a man tossing morsels of bread on paths.

Another report described a trail of peanut butter cups.

The sale of sparkling, pretty rocks had blossomed. And where money grows, the tax man reapeth.

Investigators Hansel Cutterson, and Keith Chekov, drove into the mountains. Their destination, the Pebble and Crumb tavern. Their assignment, investigate the trafficking of semi-precious stones. Mere stones held little interest. But talk money laundering, and everyone listens.

Local news featured two young men with a coin filled canvas sack. One walked a trail and placed a coin every few yards. Once his sack had emptied, he rested on the roadside.

His partner followed a mile back. He retrieved each coin. Reaching his friend while lugging his bulging money bag, they would begin again. They claimed to be philosophers, and insisted they ended each hike richer than before.

Hans never knew philosophers to flaunt their wealth. Could money laundering enhance their magic?

The fad, grown so popular with young romantics, led to crowded trails. Traditional hikers and ‘pebble pickers’ disputed over rights-of-way. Chaos ensued. Violence loomed.

It fell to the tax office to rein things in.

Legend held a witch ran the Pebble and Crumb, a ridgetop watering hole for hikers. P&C’s fortunes rose along with the popularity of semi-precious stones.

Hansel and Keith pulled into the tavern’s empty lot. If you ignored the ‘wicked witch’ subtext, P&C’s classic gingerbread design was cute. Aromatic smoke poured from the chimney of the converted cabin. The adjoining herb garden boasted a team of gnomes.

Hansel said, “Stay sharp. I’ll do the talking.”

The simple bar had three taps, several small tables and vintage pinball and video games. Candles flickered. Black and white photos and prints adorned the walls. Keith pointed to a display case filled with various crystals.

The wizened proprietress watched from behind the bar. Her youthful spirit belied her advanced age.

Hansel approached the counter with a smile. “You’ve got a nice place here.”

“Hard work. Never got a freebie in my life.” They kept looking around. “What can I get you?”

“Just coffee. On the clock, after all.”

“You a cop?”

“No. County inspector.”

“You look like a cop.”

The men glanced at each other.

Hansel said, “Ms. Bread?”

“That’s my name. Don’t wear it out.”

“Ginger, right?”


“Business good?”

“Better than usual. What you want?”

“We received reports of increased…”

“Wait, I know you. You’re Cutterson. Woody…”

“That’s my father.”

“Right, you’re Han…”


She began yelling. Moving about, brandishing a broom handle, she seemed everywhere at once.

“Stay back!”

“Just have a few questions…”

 “Oh, no, no, no. I’m not going through that again. Get out!” Hansel and Keith stood and watched. “I need a lawyer? Calling him now. Shut you down so fast... Harassment! He knows.”

“Ginger! I’m not here for that. If I knew it was you, I would‘ve sent someone else. We’re following a report we received. No one’s accusing you of anything.”

She stopped and gave them a hard look. “About what?”

“You know anything about moonstone trafficking?”

She dismissed them with a wave. “Nah…”

“Okay. Here’s my card.”

She glanced at it. It read: Hansel Cutterson, County Tax Inspector.

She snorted. “It doesn’t say anything ‘bout inspecting pebbles.”

“If you hear of anything, give me a call. That’s it.”

She stared. “Really? That’s it?”

The men looked at each other and shrugged. She let her guard down. They started for the door. On second thought, Hansel turned.

“Since I’m here, Ginny. I want to tell you how bad I feel for what I put you through, back then. Hope there’s no hard feelings.”

She sighed and strode behind the bar. “Still want that coffee?”

“Sure… Not being a hard case. Just doin’ our jobs.”

She poured two coffees and pointed to the creamer and sugar.

“So, how’s Gretel?”

“Okay. Moved back east. Got married. I’m an uncle! Six times over. Think they’re in college now.”

Ginny laughed. She leaned in and addressed Keith. “She was a feisty thing. Don’t cross that chick.”

“Duly noted.”

She thought back. “…Terrible what happened to that little, Ms. Hood. Her granny and I went way back. Nice old broad. Tough... What that predator did… He got his…”

Hansel nodded to Keith.

Her tone changed. “But that Goldilocks slut… She asked for it. What an entitled twit.”

Keith spoke up. “But she was…”

Hansel stopped him with a look.

Lost in thought, Ginger continued. “Yeah… Those were wild times. The press raped me. Never got to tell my side. No one cared.”

“But you stuck around. Built this place. Did alright…”

“I tried a new start. No point. Always some newshound sniffing around, butting in… breaking a ‘new story.’ Exposé! Make a splash. Dish the dirt. Like a dog returning to its own… You know… Old lies sell better than a fresh, boring truth.”

The men sipped their coffees and listened. She refreshed their cups.

“Better hide in plain sight. Nothin’ to see. Move along. Nobody’s got anything on me, that everybody hasn’t seen. Just an old witch with no secrets. Like it like that.”

She looked about and stood straight. She smiled and gestured to the room.

“Has a certain cache, don’t you think? Come curious, leave full of food and fun. Come back and bring friends. Business’s picking up lately…”

She looked at Hansel and got serious.

“Hansel, don’t you worry ‘bout what happened. You were a know-nothing kid. But don’t get me started on your sister…” He laughed. “But you didn’t mean nothing. Brought it on myself. Was the adult in the room, or so they said.”

Hansel nodded.

She shifted attention. “Want some live entertainment up here. With all these pebble pushers… who knows?”

Hansel picked up the tab. They turned to leave.

She said, “Bye the way. Don’t know about no moonstones. But if I hear something… Someone I know might know someone… You know the drill... But it can’t come back to me. I never said a thing.”

Hansel said, “Of course, Ginny. Good coffee, by the way. Later…”

They exited into the early evening. A line of hikers approached the tavern.

Keith said, “Hans, what was that about? You know her?”

He laughed. “Do I look like the brothers Grimm to you? I could tell you a hair-raising story about Gretel and me fighting for our lives, PTSD and waking up with the sweats. But I never met her. No sister named Gretel.”

Trying to understand, Keith shook his head.

Hansel continued, “I’ve heard stories about this witch forever. I wondered how she’d react to my name. You have to roll with it. Relax. Get her talking.”

“Yeah, but… she knew you…”

Hansel scoffed. “This is why we need hard evidence. People like Ginger blow hot or cold. She could help us build a solid. Or she wakes up tomorrow, flies to Neverland, and pins the whole shmegegge on the little Mermaid.”

Keith laughed as they got to the car.

Hansel continued, “Once a perp called in Sasquatch as a witness to his alibi.”

“You’re kidding!”

“True story… Try to serve that subpoena… Had to line up three interpreters, in case he didn’t speak English.” Keith pounded the steering wheel. “Of course, he didn’t show.”

“That’s crazy…”

“Anyway, we might… might have a source with Ginger.”

“So, Betty Boop’s for dinner?”

“Sounds good…”

They laughed as Hansel merged into traffic.

July 05, 2022 22:04

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Tommy Goround
00:49 Jul 21, 2022

Clapping. Lovely last line, too.


John K Adams
04:09 Jul 21, 2022

Thanks! I love applause. Much appreciated.


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Katy B
15:54 Jul 09, 2022

This is so creative and enjoyable! This was my favorite kind of story when I was little, if you've ever heard of Princess So-Wise I think this is very similar. Well done!


John K Adams
20:26 Jul 15, 2022

Thanks for reading. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I don't know Princess So-wise. So, do you think Hansel knew Ginger from childhood adventures? Or not?


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Jeannette Miller
15:46 Jul 09, 2022

Cute! I liked how you weaved scary bedtime stories into a contemporary situation.


John K Adams
20:29 Jul 15, 2022

It is always nice to get feedback on a story. Thanks for reading. I'm glad you liked it. I wonder, do you think Hansel knew Ginger from before? Or not?


Jeannette Miller
00:14 Jul 16, 2022

I do feel like there was a familiarity of some sort which I liked as it added some undertone to the story. It would be a bit weird otherwise I think.


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Randy Murrell
03:31 Jul 16, 2022

Very clever.


John K Adams
05:08 Jul 16, 2022



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