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Authors: Kathryn Littlewood

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BOOK: Bite-Sized Magic
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The bakers rolled on the floor like seals basking on rocks in the sun.

“Guys, please!” Rose cried. “If Mr. Butter sees you moaning about how you'll never eat another Glo-Ball, he might hurt my parents! And my grampa! Please, get up!”

Just then, the trapdoor slid aside as the elevator reached the floor. Two figures were there, but they weren't sitting in a golf cart.

“What gives,
hermana
?”

Rose's brothers, Ty and Sage, were standing on the elevator platform.

CHAPTER 9
Two Brothers, with Sprinkles

R
ose bounded over to Ty and Sage and clung to them, and they patted her awkwardly on the head. The three of them hadn't shared a group hug in a while—or ever, for that matter. It was weird but wonderful, and Rose blinked back tears.

“What are you doing here?” she asked. “Did you get Mom and Dad out? Where's Leigh?”

Ty's spiky red hair stood tall like the proud coxcomb of a rooster. Sage's freckled, pudgy cheeks were like glowing orbs. The boys stood with their arms crossed proudly across their matching white T-shirts. Rose thought they looked like angels. She had never been gladder to see two people in her life.

“Who are these fine young men?” Marge asked. She burped, then clapped a hand over her lips. “Excuse me,” she said. “I've . . . eaten one too many Glo-Balls.”

Sage nodded at the bloated Head Baker. “It happens to the best of us,” he said.

“Marge, these are my brothers,” said Rose. “Thyme and Sage. And these,” Rose continued, indicating the bakers scattered across the floor, “are the Mostess Corporation Head Bakers. Now,” she said. “How did you get here?”

“I drove us here!” Ty said proudly, raising a hand as though to stifle applause. “In Mrs. Carlson's car. With my license.”

“She didn't want us to go,” Sage said, “so we had to wait until she was watching her stories.”

“She likes that one about that bigwig doctor in the military,” Ty said.

Hospital General.”

“Anyway, Mom and Dad had gone to get you after Jacques told us where you were,” said Sage. “They didn't want us to come along, but when they didn't call to check in, we figured something was wrong.”

“Mrs. Carlson drives a thirty-year-old station wagon,” Ty said. “It was a challenge to handle, I have to say. But I was able to master its controls with only a few mishaps.”

Sage whispered, “We backed up into a delivery truck at a gas station.”

“It was strategic,” Ty insisted. “It was part of my plan! You see, it was a Mostess delivery truck.”

Sage smiled. “The driver was superfriendly. He let me check out the cab of his truck while he got Ty's insurance information. And then we followed him here.”

“We got here this morning and waited outside the gates until a different truck blocked the guard box,” Ty said, “then we walked through on the other side.”

“It was easy,” said Sage. “The guards were gorging themselves on this pile of chocolate-covered cookie-marshmallow things and didn't even notice us.”

“Oh dear,” said Marge. “Sounds like they're giving your new Moony Pyes to the guards, Rose.”

“But how did you know I was in this building?” Rose asked.

“I found a map,” Sage said. He reached back and fished something out of his jeans pocket—a ratty square of paper. “It was in the truck driver's glove compartment.”

Once he'd unfolded it, she saw a map of the entire Mostess compound. Each of the buildings was labeled—
MOONY PYE FACTORY #3
,
MOSTESS LABORATORY
,
THE PASTRY BAG HOTEL
, and more. Toward the center, circled, was
DEVELOPMENT KITCHENS
.

“Jacques said that cat who brought the message from Gus had said something about development kitchens, so we came straight here,” Sage said, folding up the map with a flourish and returning it to his pocket.

Rose hugged the two of them again.

“All right already!” Ty said, throwing up his arms. “Careful you don't mess up the hair!”

“But what are you doing here?” asked Sage. “And where's Mom and Dad?”

Rose explained everything to her brothers—her own kidnapping, how their parents and great-great-great-grandfather had been taken hostage, and the plans of Mr. Butter and the International Society of the Rolling Pin to enslave the world through the power of sweets. “It's all because of Lily,” Rose said at the end, taking the gray booklet from within her coat. “She used the Apocrypha to perfect the recipes.”

“So she came here after Paris?” Sage asked. “Is she here now?”

“No, she was here before Paris. She hid the Apocrypha here and never came back for it after she lost the Booke in the Gala. Too ashamed, I guess.”

“I'm very disappointed in
Tía
Lily,” Ty said, clucking his tongue. “If only she'd finished her work here, you wouldn't be held prisoner.”

“Ty, that's not the point!” Rose said, exasperated. “Everyone in America is in serious trouble of becoming a Mostess Snack Cake–eating zombie unless we can find a way to stop these people.”

“We should probably go bust out Mom and Dad,” said Sage. “They'll know what to do.”

“Let's just wait for the police,” said Rose, relieved. Her brothers were here. They were going to help her rescue her parents—
somehow
. It had been a crazy couple of days, but now it was over.

“Police?” asked Ty. “Are they here, too?”

Rose smacked his arm. “Didn't you guys call the police?”

“And tell them
what
?” Ty said. “That a mouse with a French accent told us where you were?”

“And what,
précisément
, is wrong with that?” came a squeaky French voice.

Jacques scampered out from a pocket of Sage's khaki cargo shorts and took a seat in the mess of red curls atop his head. Gus gave him a regal nod.

At the sight of the rodent, the bakers all screamed.

“Mouse!” Marge cried.

“Kill it!” yelled Jasmine.

“Bash that boy over the head with a frying pan, Gene!” said Ning.

Gene heaved himself onto his feet and waddled over toward a cast-iron skillet that was sitting on a metal shelf.

“No!” Rose shouted. “Stop! This is not a mouse! This is Jacques!”

Jacques peeked out from the shrubbery of Sage's curls.

“Don't bash me over the head with a frying pan!” Sage cried.

“No one is bashing anyone with anything,” said Rose, rushing over to Gene and calming him down. “Gene, this is our friend Jacques. He is a mouse, but he's a . . . good mouse.”

Just then, the red corner lights flashed, and the siren sounded. Mr. Butter's Southern drawl piped in over a loudspeaker. “Hello, bakers! We're coming up now. There better be some marvelous Glo-Ball action up there!”

The trapdoor slid open as the top of the golf cart emerged through the floor.

Rose shoved her brothers toward the Bakers' Quarters, shooing them in the direction of the stairs like flies. “They're coming! Hide!”

“Pretend you're still crazy for Glo-Balls!” Rose hissed to the bakers. “Hands with rabbit's feet in apron pockets!”

Rose pulled each of the bakers to his or her feet. “Tidy yourselves up!” she called out, and Melanie, Felanie, Jasmine, Gene, and Ning all wiped the front of their aprons, fixed their chef hats, and tried their very best to straighten their pants. But it was no use: They were still complete messes, covered with flour, frosting, and smears of chocolate.

Gene winked.

Messes, maybe, but happy ones. Rose smiled at him and took her place at the head of the line. She hoped Ty and Sage were smart enough to shut the door to the Bakers' Quarters behind them.

The seam in the floor opened up, and the golf cart rose up level with the kitchen. Mr. Butter emerged from the passenger side, with Mr. Kerr driving, as usual. “How are those beautiful little Glo-Balls bouncing along?” he asked. “Hmmm?”

“I'd tell you to see for yourself,” said Rose, hooking her thumb at the bakers, “but these amateurs you've assigned me have eaten every last one of them.” Behind her, the bakers swatted weakly at one another.

“I need more!” Marge cried. “My stomach is a bottomless pit!”

“My stomach is even more bottomless!” Ning growled.

“Mine's the bottomless-est!” Melanie shouted.

“Most bottomless, you mean,” Felanie said to her.

“I mean what I said, and I say what I mean,” Melanie hollered, “and I mean to eat ALL the Glo-Balls!”

“They already ate a dozen each,” Rose whispered to Mr. Butter, smiling like she was his right-hand woman. “I thought that would be enough, but I underestimated how many they could put away.”

“I'd say the recipe works!” Mr. Butter cooed, clapping his hands. Rose stiffened as he moved toward the two giant vats of leftover chocolate batter. “But certainly you can make more,” he said, “as I see that there are two of these.”

“One was a mistake!” Rose explained. “It took some testing to get the proportions of ingredients correctly balanced. It's the tub on the left that's full of the good stuff.”

Mr. Butter dipped his finger into the vat the Hag had poisoned, then licked off the chocolate batter. “Oh my!” he said. “Oh dear! Mmmmm, this is so . . . I do believe I need a bit more to taste.” He extended another finger and then, at the last moment, dunked both his hands into the batter up to his wrists. “And I don't even like sweets! In fact, I detest them!”

As he raised his goop-covered hands to his mouth to lick them again, Mr. Kerr shouted, “Stop right there!”

Shocked, Mr. Butter froze, his eyes blinking. “Who would dare tell me what to do?”

Mr. Kerr ran to the sink and grabbed a tub of soapy water. He brought it to Mr. Butter and said, “Sir, I recommend that you wash your hands, sir.”

“But I want to taste more of this delectable confection!”

“Butter,” coughed Mr. Kerr. “That's not for you. Remember?”

Mr. Butter's eyes went wide and he instantly plunged his hands into the bin of soapy water. He scrubbed at them until they were free of batter and then, for good measure, plunged his face into the tub and scrubbed at his mouth and lips. When he raised himself back up, trails of suds ran off his big bald head.

“That was a close call!” he said, spitting out streams of soapy dishwater. “My tiny taste is enough for me to declare that this batter is divine! Good work, Miss Rosemary Bliss.”

Mr. Butter paced around the kitchen, and behind his glasses his beady eyes went wide again. “Your talents are extraordinary, Miss Bliss. I am almost tempted to say you've made these recipes too good, but then I remember why we are here. Why, the things I can do with these Glo-Balls are—”

He stopped and raised a finger, then shrieked, “Mouse!”

CHAPTER 10
Little House on the Blacktop

R
ose gasped as she spotted Jacques cowering in a corner.

Mr. Butter grabbed a frying pan and was dashing forward to smash it onto Jacques, when Gene pointed at the tall man and shouted, “He's got Glo-Balls!”

Immediately, all the bakers tackled Mr. Butter, and Jacques scampered out of sight.

“Get off of me, you dolts!” Mr. Butter shouted. “I don't have any Glo-Balls!” Mr. Kerr rushed forward, flinging the bakers aside like they were nothing more than empty aprons. He set Mr. Butter back on his feet, and the bald man brushed at his suit, irritation obvious in each gesture. “I was speaking
about
Glo-Balls; I didn't say I
had
any.”

“Oh, sorry,” Gene said, sheepishly dropping his chin. He turned to Rose and shrugged.

“I'd better not see another mouse in this kitchen,” Mr. Butter said, wiping his smudged glasses. “I know you can't avoid making a mess in here, what with all the fighting over the delicious Mostess treats, and that's terrific. But you know how much I prize cleanliness as well. So let's make sure all those crumbs get swept up.”

“Absolutely,” Rose said. “I'm
so
sorry, Mr. Butter. It won't happen again!”

Mr. Butter looked around and saw the cracked red mason jar that had held the Hag o' the Mist. “I suppose you'll need another Hag o' the Mist, then?”

Rose shrugged. “I'm sorry, sir. She . . . got out of hand.”

“They always do!” Mr. Butter laughed. “We'll send a team to Wales and trap a few more. No problem.”

“Mr. Butter,” said Mr. Kerr, tapping his watch. “We're on a tight schedule. They'll be here soon.”

Mr. Butter made a pouty face. “Ah, well. I'd love to stay and chat, but we've got to toodle,” he said, following Mr. Kerr back to the golf cart and folding his skinny frame back into the passenger seat. “Oh, and Rose!”

“Yes?” she said tentatively.

“You're doing such a wonderful job, why don't we see if we can't speed up our rate of recipe perfection, shall we? I bet you can work out the kinks for recipe number three, Dinky Doodle Donuts, by later this evening!” He glanced down at his watch. “Why, it's not even seven! The night is young!”

“I don't know . . . ,” Rose began.

“I'm sure your parents would really appreciate it,” he added, grinning, as the golf cart descended out of sight. “I'll be back to check on you before bedtime. Ta ta!”

The doors in the floor whispered shut and everyone in the room sighed and slumped down.

“Great job, you guys,” Rose said to the bakers, who let loose a collective groan of indigestion.

Suddenly, two figures emerged from the enormous tub of sprinkles sitting by the wall. One of the figure's heads was covered with sprinkle-covered spikes—Ty. The other was Sage. Both were completely coated head to toe in party-colored sprinkles. They wiped sprinkles away from the space where their eyes would be, then blinked at everyone in the room.

“Why didn't you guys just hide in the Bakers' Quarters like I told you?” Rose asked as Ty and Sage struggled out of the vat, dripping like swamp things.

“There wasn't time,” said Ty.

“It wasn't so bad hiding in sprinkles,” Sage said. “You can breathe through them so long as you don't open your mouth too wide. But you can't really breathe through your nose.” He put a finger against one nostril and blew a clump of sprinkles out of the other.

“Eew, Sage!” Rose said. “Come on. We have to go get Mom and Dad and Balthazar and get out of here.” Rose ladled some of the Hag-filled Glo-Ball batter into a muffin tin and shoved it into the blazing oven.

“What's that for?” said Ty, licking the sprinkles from his fingers.


That
,” Rose said, “is gonna get us a car.”

 

Rose and her brothers rode the elevator to the ground floor. During the lift's slow descent, Sage and Ty had warned her about the two guards at the entrance.

“They weren't there before,” Rose said. It shouldn't have surprised her that Mr. Butter had placed a guard on the test kitchens, but it still sort of did. How could she trust him to actually let her and her parents leave once the five recipes were done?

“The guards are not that smart,” Ty said.

“How'd you get past them?” Rose asked.

“Using Jacques,” he said, opening the pocket of his khaki shorts.

The little mouse raised his gray head and said, “
Oui
, it is true that I risked my life to create a diversion. I stood at the corner and serenaded them with my flute—”

Rose could picture it—the thin, ghostly music drifting down the asphalt alleyways between the warehouses, the guards wandering off toward the music like rats after the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

“But they did not see Jacques,” the mouse continued. “Such big music, they think, must come from a big person!
C'est un truc!
What a trick!
No one thinks to look for a mouse. But even the smallest of creatures can contain the mightiest of talents!”

“It's true, Jacques,” Rose said with a smile.

“It is the least I could do,” the mouse said, bowing. He'd come along in case the kids needed to send a message to Gus, who'd stayed behind with the bakers. “I need to gather my energies,” the cat had explained.

Sage had replied, “You're just going to take a nap.”

“You say
tomato
,” the cat had purred, stretching, “and I say
siesta
.”

Now, the mouse ducked his head back into the pocket as they arrived at the ground floor. The big door to the outside rose up in front of them. Two people in dark uniforms stood on either side of the entrance, a man and a woman. Beyond the open doorway was an empty golf cart.

“Hey, you two!” Rose yelled, waving with one hand. In the other hand was a bowl full of Glo-Balls. “Over here!”

The man, who was tall and blond and looked like a weatherman Rose had seen on TV, came over, smiling in a completely fake way. “Young lady, you are not supposed to leave the building! It's dangerous out there!” He inched toward Rose and Ty and Sage, his eyes fixed on the bowl of little chocolate cakes in her arm.

Rose handed him a Glo-Ball, still warm from the oven. “We just had extra and we thought we probably shouldn't let them go to waste.”

“This isn't a proper Glo-Ball!” he said, examining the confection. “Where's the neon frosting?”

“We were just experimenting with the
cake
part of the recipe. Try it,” said Rose.

The man popped the hot cake in his mouth and chewed. “Whoa!” he said. “This is incredible!” He chewed some more. With each move of his jaw, his eyes glazed over until it seemed like there was a milky white film covering his irises.

“You too,” Rose said, extending the bowl to the female guard.

The woman said, “Don't mind if I do!” She reached for a cake and took a bite. “Ah-may-zing!” she declared, letting her tongue hang out of her mouth. “Just how many you got there?”

“Yes,” the man said, stepping forward, “I see you have some more in that bowl.”

Rose raised her arms, extending the bowl toward the two, but tripped and flung it at the last second. The perfectly round Glo-Ball cakes flew through the air, onto the pavement, and began to roll away.

“Oh no! The Glo-Balls!” the man cried, running frantically after them.

“No you don't!” the woman said, leaping out and tackling him in the doorway. “Those are mine!” She scrambled across him and after the balls, while he hung on to her leg, sobbing hysterically,
“Mine, mine, mine!”

Rose and her brothers tiptoed over to the golf cart and plopped into the seats.

“Piece of cake,” Sage said with a grin.

Rose just rolled her eyes and consulted the map. “This is where we're going,” she said, pointing to the pastry-bag-shaped hotel.

“I'll drive,” said Ty, patting the pocket that held his driver's license.

 

Rose led Ty and Sage into the lobby of the grand hotel with its bouquets of candy and cookies. “May I help you?” said the concierge, a skinny teenager who didn't look much older than Ty.

“No, thank you,” said Rose.

“Are these your guests, Miss Bliss?” said the concierge.

“These two?” Rose said, pointing to Ty and Sage. “Um. These are fans of mine. They're from an organization that helps children who have . . . weird voices. The children get to spend a day with their favorite celebrity. Did Mr. Butter not tell you? I'm just taking them around the compound for the day.”

“I see,” said the concierge. “Of course. Feel free to show them around.”

“What do you say, boys?” said Rose.

Ty and Sage groaned and sputtered in strange guttural voices. “Thernk yew!”

“That was real nice, Rose,” muttered Sage as the three walked away toward the elevator bank. “Real nice.”

“I'm sorry. It's the only thing I could think of,” said Rose as she stepped into the elevator and pressed 34.

“Key required,” said a robotic voice. “Please insert key.”

Rose stared at the panel of the elevator and saw, next to the button that said 34, a small indentation in the metal, in the shape of a rolling pin.
Figures,
she thought.

“Oh man,” said Ty, frowning. “Where are we gonna get the key,
hermana
?”

Rose couldn't remember Mr. Butter having used a key in the elevator. But she could recall the way he bristled when she had pointed to the tiny red cottage in the corner of the compound.

“I don't know for sure where we're gonna get the key,” she said, “but I have an idea.”

 

After a half-hour's driving, the three finally stopped the golf cart in front of the little red cottage in the corner of the compound.

The house looked like it had been plucked from another era: A white picket fence surrounded a green lawn, and a flag swayed above the porch in time to the soft jangle of wind chimes. Two empty rocking chairs sat on the wide porch, just waiting for a lazy day.

“What is this place?” Sage asked.

Rose pointed to the stenciling on the old-fashioned mailbox:
THE BUTTER FAMILY
. “I think this is where Mr. Butter grew up,” she said.

She led Ty and Sage through the white gate, up a brick walkway lined with flowers, across the porch, and through the front door. The green shutters were pulled closed over the windows of the darkened living room, but the rug was painted with ribbons of late-afternoon light. Next to a dusty player piano was a worn corduroy easy chair, with a basket of half-finished knitting at the foot.

“It's like a museum,” Sage whispered.

“The most boring museum in the world,” Ty said.

Over the mantel was a faded photograph in a frame. A father and a mother wearing chef's hats stood flanking a little boy, who was pudgy and round, with a crew cut. “Who is that?” Ty asked.

“It must be Mr. Butter,” said Rose.

“That skinny, bald alien dude?” asked Sage. “Looks like someone bought a treadmill.”

“Do you really think the key is in here,
hermana
?” Ty asked.

“I don't know,” Rose said. “But there's got to be
something
in here worth finding. Mr. Butter freaked out when I asked him about this house.”

“I wonder why it's still here?” Ty said. “If I had the kind of money he must have, I'd build a huge house. One big enough for me, Katy Perry, and all her band members.”

Rose led her brothers up a narrow, creaky wooden staircase. Next to a bathroom with floral wallpaper and cracked sconces was a bedroom painted in light blue. A nautical comforter lay over a twin bed, and model airplanes hung from the ceiling.

On a wooden desk sat a few dried-up jars of paint, a barrage of half-painted WWI models, and a book bound in brown leather.
JOURNAL
read the front cover.

“Jackpot!” Sage cried, grabbing the book.

“You can't read that!” said Rose. “That's spying!”

“Rose,” said Ty, putting a hand on his sister's shoulder. “The man
kidnapped
you, not to mention our parents. I think we're pretty much allowed to read his journal.”

Fair enough,
Rose thought, opening the journal to the first page. The letters were large and wobbly.

 

The Journal of Jameson Butter III, age ten.

 

Day 1

I found this old journal today in Mr. Sansibel's garbage can. I'm not one for writing, but Mama says it's a shame to let things go to waste, so I will write what happens every day. Today, Grandpapa baked his Dinkies, and Mama and Papa worked in the front of the bakery, and everyone in town came to eat one. Another home run for the Mostess Bakery! I got pinched in the nose again by Raymond Kerr at school and I came home and told Mama about it and she fed me a Dinky Cake.

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