Murder by the cook: A murder mystery told in cookies February 7, 2010Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Sweet things.
(Note: this is my first ‘serious’ attempt to do piping and icing cookies. I’m still learning how to pipe and flood properly. Please excuse my sloppy decorating! I used the recipe for icing and cookies from Ms Humble over at Not So Humble Pie, and followed her Royal Icing 101 tutorial.)
Unlike the start of many detective stories, it wasn’t a dark and stormy night. It was a clear and quiet morning in New York city, and I, Archie Goodwin, Nero Wolfe’s confidential assistant, had gone out before breakfast, responding to a call from Inspector Cramer.
It was still early, early enough for a flock of pigeons to be disturbed when I walked out of the brownstone on 35th Street.
A cat hissed and arched its back at me.
And when I met with Inspector Cramer, he was in as bad a mood as that cat.
Cramer was waiting at the back entrance of Rusterman’s restaurant, where Wolfe was the trustee. It was out of respect to Wolfe that I had been summoned while the police were still investigating. For Cramer had found the thing he is best at finding: a corpse:
It was out the back of the service entrance of Rusterman’s, among the boxes. The doctor said it had been there at least 8 hours, which placed the murder at about the time the staff would have finished serving the night before. And there was no question that it was murder – the hole in the side of the corpse made that very clear.
I bent down to get a closer look. The blood had pooled beneath the corpse on the ground.
The murdered man’s name was Richard, and he had been a sous-chef at Rusterman’s. Richard was known to be close to the chef, Jerome Berin, who was now nowhere to be found. We went into the kitchen, and I took out my magnifying glass to see if there was anything the police had missed.
What was this?! There were footprints – dirty, muddy footprints – leading from the service entrance towards the kitchen pantry.
I flung the pantry door wide, with Inspector Cramer right behind me. And there was Jerome Berin cowering in the corner!
“I…I didn’t mean to”, he stuttered. He was in a pitiable state. “He went on and on wanting my recipe for sauisse minuit! You know very well I have vowed never to share my sausage recipe, not even with Nero Wolfe! But Richard wouldn’t leave it – he asked me at every opportunity and would not take no for an answer. Last night was the last straw. He hid himself in the service entrance in an attempt to watch me making the sausage, with the notion of copying me! I could not contain my rage at this impertinence and I shot him. There was nothing else to be done!”
I turned to Cramer. “Seems fairly conclusive to me. Lucky you had me here to find the footprints!” I could not resist the dig.
Cramer growled but had to acknowledge that my help had brought a speedy conclusion to the case. Cramer chomped down on his unlit cigar and went to rally his police officers, and I went home to Wolfe.
Wolfe bellowed down the hall as soon as I entered the house. “So? Is it flummery?!”
“Not entirely,” I responded. “But it’s wound up already”. I gave Wolfe a full report and repeated Berin’s confession verbatim. Wolfe grunted.
“I knew Berin’s stubbornness would be the end of him. That sauisse minuit recipe is indeed special and unique, but if Berin insists on serving it at Rusterman’s, he cannot be surprised that others want the recipe. He would have done better to take the sausage off the menu completely.”
“Well Archie, I thank you for going out so early, without even stopping for a proper breakfast,” Wolfe continued. “I suggest you go to the kitchen and get Fritz to cook you up some of his griddle cakes. I am going up to the orchids. I’ll see you at lunch. But before I do – how do you like the latest bunch of Phalaenopsis Aphrodite? The blooms are very impressive.”
I duly expressed my admiration and went into the kitchen to beg Fritz for coffee and griddle cakes, and waited to see how the rest of the day would unfold.