The Case of the Key Lime Pie
By Cathy Ornburn and Jim Ellis
The Delightful Diners’ event at Cowbell Steakhouse in Ironwood was full of fun and frolic. Dessert was on every body’s mind when there was a commotion in the kitchen. Pat got up to investigate and almost crashed into the owner, Joe Cranston. he stopped to apologize.
“So, what’s happening?” Pat asked
“Someone stole Mama’s Key lime pie recipe!”
Mama’s Key Lime Pie was a local legend and the crown jewel of Joe’s dessert menu. The thief threatened to publish the detailed recipe on the internet unless they got $2000.
“You sure they have it?”
“Try it yourself.”
Joe went behind the hostess stand and brought them a pie. Each of the Diners tried it and agreed that it was excellent. Several agreed it was Mama’s recipe. Joe told them it had been delivered that morning.
“Don’t worry, Joe we’ll get it back,” Pat said.
“Shouldn’t be that hard to figure,” Jeff said. “Did you fire anyone recently?”
Thieves have stolen the Cowbell restaurant’s Key lime pie recipe and are holding it for ransom. The Diners believe it’s an inside job.
“You mean one of my people…” Owner Joe sputtered. “But, they’ve been with me for years.”
“Where did you keep the recipe?”
“It was on an index card, but then I had it put on this,” he showed them his tablet, “only Chef Lucy and I have the password.”
“Password’s not written down?—You know, in case you’re sick or something…”
Joe realized they were right, it had to be someone who worked for him.
“Can I see your tablet?” Paula asked, “we can probably trace when it was printed of emailed from the logs.”
“You can do that?” Joe asked.
“I used to work for the government?”
“Which one?” Jeff joked.
“I would tell you…” she answered, grinning.
She swiped and tapped, tapped and swiped.
“Emailed to Johnson and Sons Produce.”
Joe was stunned! Marissa Johnson had been the produce supplier for The Cowbell for 15 years. She had been a good friend when his wife died. He was there for her through her recent divorce.
“What now?” Pat asked him.
“No. No police. She must have really been desperate. She needs my help.”
The stolen recipe seems to have been traced to a local Greengrocer.
Produce is delivered early so Joe, Pat and Paula were there by 6:30am. A little after 7 they heard clattering and scraping. Marissa was dragging in a hand truck. She was surprised to see the trio. Joe made introductions.
“Oh, by the way, cancelling the order for key limes.” He said.
“What! But why?”
“Lucy’s got a pecan-sweet potato recipe. It’s really good. And sweet potatoes are the new it ingredient. We’re even thinking of supplying a few other restaurants with our pies.
Marissa stared for a minute then broke into tears. She had mortgaged her home to buy her husband’s half of the business. Then, business tailed off. She was losing clients—because her ex was trying to drive her out and buy the business back. She was in danger of losing her home.
“Nonsense,” Pat said. “I work with the Fair Housing Bureau, and we can make sure you keep your house.”
“And if your Ex is interfering in your business, we’ll definitely put an end to that,” Paula said.
“And I’ll need someone to distribute Mama’s pies,” Joe said. “We really are planning to expand.”
Marissa started to cry again. She could not believe they were willing to help her after she stole the recipe.
Joe shrugged. “Friends help each other.”
The next Saturday, the Diners were once again seated around a table at the Cowbell. Joe Cranston wanted to thank them for saving his business and a friendship.
For dessert—chocolate cake.
“Sold out of key lime.”