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Authors: Kathryn Littlewood

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BOOK: Bite-Sized Magic
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Ty glared at Rose as though she were gum on his shoe. “Who is this little girl?” he asked in a grand voice, trying to conjure up the essence of a cooking empress.

Rose rolled her eyes.

“Rosemary Bliss,” Mr. Butter repeated. “She just won the Gala des Gâteaux Grands in Paris.”

“The youngest winner
ever
,” Rose added.

Ty stared at the ceiling as if racking his memory. “Oh! Yes, I think I remember reading something about that. The girl who was assisted by her disturbingly handsome older brother. Yes, I remember him. And I suppose this girl was there as well.”

Ty shook Rose's hand, and then Mr. Butter handed Rose the plate of sinister snack cakes. “Give them to her,” he whispered menacingly in Rose's ear.

Rose gritted her teeth and held the tray up to Ty. “These are for you to sample. They're our new recipes.”

Rose placed the platter on the banquet table, and Ty reached down and picked up the Moony Pye. “How perfectly . . . perfect!” he said.

Rose cast a frantic glance over her shoulder at Marge, who was standing in the shadows behind Mr. Butter. Marge nodded, patted her overly large purse, and gave Rose a thumbs-up. Rose didn't see how Marge could have switched the snack cakes when Mr. Butter had held the tray the whole time, but at this point she had no choice but to trust her and hope that everything would turn out all right.

“These look wonderful,” Ty said, eyeing Marge. “But first, let me tell you that I, too, have brought a few hundred slices of my Kathy Keegan Koko Kake to share with
your
team. We can both sample one another's wares! It's a total photo op!”

What is Ty doing?
Rose wondered.
This isn't part of the plan
.

“Oh?” Mr. Butter said, surprised. “Um! Well! All right, I suppose.”

Sage reached into the back of the golf cart and took out a wooden crate filled with dozens of tiny boxes, each of which held what looked like a slice of Kathy Keegan Koko Kake. Around them, all the bakers giddily removed their gloves and gathered in a line.

“Come on, Mr. Butter,” said Ty. “Let's go help that poor golf cart driver.”

Mr. Butter grumbled as Ty pulled him toward the golf cart. He stood begrudgingly with Ty and Sage as they handed each of the bakers their own individual Kathy Keegan Koko Kake. The factory bakers began to eat them, many of them smiling warmly after a few bites.

“Where did those come from?” Rose whispered to Marge. The Koko Kakes didn't seem to be doing anything to the factory bakers except make them happy.

“We baked up a storm while you napped,” Marge said through her smile. “You should go help distribute the Koko Kakes.”

Confused, Rose joined Mr. Butter, Ty, and Sage at the back of the cart.

“Hey, can I get a slice, too?” a man asked Sage. “I'm not one of the bakers, I'm just the electrician. But I do work here.”

“Sure,” said Sage, handing the man a box. “Those gloves you wear are awesome. Why don't the different robots get confused by all of your different gloves?”

“Oh,” the man said, the slice poised in his hand. “Every baker has his own frequency for their team of robots. Except for the master control, which Mr. Butter keeps for himself.”

“Cool,” said Sage thoughtfully. “Very, very cool.”

Meanwhile, Ty was busy talking to the reporters.

“Who have been your biggest inspirations, Ms. Keegan?” said the reporter.

“Oh, my . . . grandmother,” Ty fumbled. “Also Katy Perry. As well as Tony Hawk and various other professional athletes.”

Just then, out of the corner of her eye, Rose caught Marge moving toward the table. Like a stealth leopard or a CIA operative, Marge swiped up all five poisoned snack cakes and dropped them in her clown car of a purse, then laid out the five antidote snack cakes on the platter. Mr. Butter was watching the reporters, completely oblivious to what had just happened. Rose laughed giddily.

“Just what is so
splendid
, Rose?” Mr. Butter asked grumpily. But then he smiled in a way that Rose found unnerving.

“Nothing,” she replied. “Just glad we're almost done passing out these snack cakes. My hands are getting tired.”

When the last baker had been given a snack cake, Rose followed Mr. Butter back to the banquet table, where he took his place beside Ty to pose for a picture. Mr. Butter held a Kathy Keegan Koko Kake in his hand, and Ty picked up the antidote Moony Pye.

Cameras flashed as both baking executives—one older and bald, one younger and wearing a wig and a stylish skirt—held the snack cakes to their lips.

“You go first,” said Mr. Butter.

“I couldn't possibly!” said Ty. “Why don't you?”

“Ladies first is the custom, I believe,” said Mr. Butter. He seemed anxious and uncomfortable.

“In some parts of the world, men go first,” said Ty. “Just saying.”

“Oh, just eat, already!” Rose shouted.

Each watching the other, Mr. Butter and Rose's older brother moved the chocolate cakes closer and closer, until the treats were almost touching their lips.

Just as Ty was about to bite into the Moony Pye, the double doors at the front of the factory flew open, and a woman staggered in, clutching her furry hat, which looked like a tea cozy.

“Who the heck is that?” asked Rose.

As the woman drew closer, Rose could see that she was short and stocky and wearing a navy skirt suit that looked remarkably like Ty's, and that the hat she was clutching was not a hat at all, but a furry gray cat.

“Somebody! Get! This! Cat! Off! Me!” she screamed as she bounded forward, staggering down the red carpet.

The cat, whom Rose immediately recognized as Gus, leaped off the woman's head and disappeared into a dark corner behind a web of conveyor belts. What sounded like a million camera clicks exploded from all of the photographers.

“And who do you think you are, to interrupt this august ceremony?” Mr. Butter demanded.

The woman shook her head, straightened her hair, brushed off her suit, and marched toward Mr. Butter. “I am Katherine Keegan, of course!”

CHAPTER 17
Let's Give the Boy Eight Hands

T
he room fell silent—even the reporters were quiet.

Mr. Butter glared at the short, brown-haired woman like he had discovered a dead rat on the factory floor.

“Katherine Keegan, indeed!” Mr. Butter shouted. “Katherine Keegan is right here!” He patted Ty on the back. “Everyone knows that Kathy Keegan is a tall, beautiful blonde! So you, whoever you are, can walk your delusional self right off this compound!”

The woman looked calmly up at Mr. Butter and placed her hands on her hips. She had a small mouth, a chiseled nose, and wise brown eyes. “You know what? Maybe I am delusional. Because as I was coming here, a gray cat with little folded lumps for ears leaped into my limousine and told me to turn around and go home. In English! So perhaps I
am
delusional! But make no mistake: I am Katherine Keegan!
The
Katherine Keegan. And
this
”—she pointed to Ty—“is an imposter.”

She walked closer and looked Ty up and down, then snorted. “I think you'll find that this ‘woman' is actually a teenage boy.”

Ty gasped. “How
dare
you? I am clearly a forty-year-old woman! You, on the other hand—
you
are most definitely a man in a wig!”

“That is patently untrue!” the woman said.

Mr. Kerr snuck up behind the woman and yanked at her hair, which stayed in place atop her head. “Ow!” she cried. “That's my hair, you velveteen beast!”

“The hair's real, boss!” Mr. Kerr cried. “It's definitely a lady!”

Mr. Butter stared at Ty, and Ty stared back at Mr. Butter. Mr. Butter reached over and clutched Ty's hair in his hand, then pulled the wig clear off Ty's head, revealing the flattened spikes of his red hair. “Ooooh,” Ty said weakly.

The line of bakers gasped and stared at Ty.

“Don't eat those Koko Kakes!” Mr. Butter shouted. “Lord knows what's in them! This isn't Kathy Keegan—this must be”—he glanced back and forth between Rose and Ty—“Rosemary Bliss's brother!”

Ty shrugged. “I guess I am!”

“Ty!
Run!
” Rose screamed.

Ty leaped off the stage and galloped down the red carpet toward the front doors, with Mr. Kerr bounding after him. The photographers were having a field day, snapping their cameras every which way.

Mr. Kerr had almost caught up to Rose's older brother when Sage screamed, “Hold it right there!” He tugged on the gloves he'd pocketed from Mr. Mechanico's office, the ones labeled
MASTER
.

He pressed a button on a boom box that he'd pulled from the back seat of the golf cart, and the immortal strains of Michael Jackson's “Bad” pumped out from the speakers. Sage, in his black tuxedo shorts and big sunglasses, began a dance of such style, such epic charisma, that it would have made for a wonderful viral video if anyone had been recording it.

Everyone stopped and stared, even Mr. Kerr. Even Mr. Butter.

But it wasn't just Sage who was jumping and spinning and moonwalking and double-clapping. The thousand or so robots that filled the factory floor began to dance as well, following Sage's erratic arm-snapping and popping and locking, his grapevining and his electric sliding. The room was overtaken by the screeching metal clank of robots trampling machinery, while the bakers ducked for cover.

Sage boogied and bopped his way to a giant vat of chocolate batter, and all the robots followed suit.

Sage reached in and hurled a fistful of the goopy chocolate in Mr. Butter's direction, and the robots did the same, one fistful after another. When Sage was finished, Mr. Butter, Rose, Marge, and the robots were all coated in a fine layer of chocolate batter. Somehow, Kathy Keegan had managed to stay out of harm's way and was perfectly clean. And Ty was nowhere in sight, having escaped through the double doors.

Mr. Butter wiped his eyes, fuming, and grabbed Rose by the collar of her chef's coat. Rose grabbed at his wrists and tried to pry them away, but skinny Mr. Butter was a lot stronger than he looked.

“Enough!” Mr. Butter screamed. “Do you love your sister, boy?”

Sage looked up from the vat of chocolate and froze.

“Pull off those gloves and bring them to me.”

Sage gulped as he removed the master gloves. He shuffled over to Mr. Butter and bowed his head as Mr. Butter snatched them away.

“And you!” Mr. Butter cried. “The other brother!”

Ty reappeared through the double doors. He was still wearing the navy suit jacket and skirt, though he carried the high heels in his hand. He hung his head as he made his way back through the pileup of robots that stood motionless on the red carpet.

When Mr. Kerr grabbed both of the Bliss boys by their upper arms, Mr. Butter finally let go of Rose, who choked and massaged her aching neck.

“Apologize to your sister for ruining what is undoubtedly the most important moment of her professional career,” said Mr. Butter.

“I'm sorry, Rose,” Ty said through gritted teeth.

“Me too,” said Sage. “Sorry we made a mess.”

“You were jealous of your sister's great fame, weren't you?” Mr. Butter asked.

Kathy Keegan watched the proceedings with narrowed, skeptical eyes.

“Yes,” Ty said. “We were jealous. We're sorry.”

“Very well,” said Mr. Butter, suddenly sounding jovial. He took a deep breath and approached the real Kathy Keegan.

“My goodness,” he said in a fake, saccharine voice. “What a dreadful mix-up! I knew something was amiss, of course, but I didn't want to spoil our meeting. You'll forgive me, I hope. I promise that the rest of the event will go off without a hitch.”

He held out his hand for her to shake, but Kathy Keegan kept her arms folded across her chest.

“You have to understand how strange this all is for me,” she said. “I am invited here to celebrate a law that I did not help to bring in existence and which I do not support. On my way here I am attacked by a talking cat, who tells me to flee for my life. Which is bizarre enough in itself. But there's more.

“Upon my arrival, I find a teenage boy in a wig impersonating me, and I am accused of being a man. Then another young boy perpetuates a messy robot dance party.” Kathy Keegan gave an exasperated sigh. “Can you understand how, at this point, I am less than keen to continue with the scheduled press event?”

Mr. Butter took Kathy Keegan's hand and tried to kiss it, but she pulled it away.

“Of course, Kathy!” he said. “May I call you Kathy?”

“No,” she said. “Ms. Keegan will do.”

“Ms. Keegan,” Mr. Butter continued. “We are
so
very glad to have you here today at Mostess and would be
so
very delighted if we could continue with the event as planned.”

Kathy crossed her arms. “What
is
the event as planned?”

“To begin with, as a small peace offering, we'd like to offer you a plate of our finest snack cakes,” he said. “Our young protégé, Rosemary Bliss, winner of the Gala des Gâteaux Grands—”

“Yes, I know who she is,” said Kathy Keegan. “I wrote her a letter asking her to come work for me, but I never heard back.”

Rose wanted to scream.
Of course I would have written you back if I had known how good you were and how bad Mostess is!
But she held her tongue.

“Oh dear!” Mr. Butter said, grinning gleefully. “How awkward! How awful of me to bring you two together! If I'd only known what a terror this little girl is!”

“It's quite all right,” Kathy Keegan said with a kind smile. “I'm sure she's been very busy. And she clearly values her work here, so you must be doing something right.”

Kathy Keegan winked at Rose, and Rose wanted to die.

“In any case,” said Mr. Butter, “Rose has been doing wonderful work here. She has perfected the recipes for our five top-selling items, and she would like to present them to you now.”

As Rose picked up the silver tray, she found that her hands were trembling. She nearly dropped the baked goods on the floor as she moved toward Kathy Keegan. She couldn't look the famous baker in the eye—she was too ashamed of what she'd done, how she'd perfected the recipes without trying harder to escape or staging a hunger strike or
something
that would have prevented the ugly recipes from entering the world in the first place.

“You're shaking, dear,” said Kathy Keegan. “What's wrong?”

I was kidnapped and forced to participate in the evil plans of this evil organization, and I just want to go home, and I can't tell you any of this because this psychopath will hurt my parents!
Rose wanted to scream. Instead she said, “Nothing, Ms. Keegan.”

“Why don't you put the tray down on the table,” said Kathy Keegan, leaning forward and whispering in her ear. “I get nervous in front of cameras, too. It's okay. Why do you think I put a cartoon on my packaging?”

If only it had anything to do with stage fright,
Rose thought, relieved to place the tray back on the table.

At least Marge had managed to switch the baked goods, Rose told herself, as Ms. Keegan approached the tray and looked it over. Now Kathy Keegan was about to eat the antidote snack cakes, instead of the poisoned ones—but she didn't know that she was supposed to act crazy after eating them. What would become of Rose and her family after Mr. Butter saw that Kathy Keegan wasn't turning into a nutcase?

“They look wonderful,” said Ms. Keegan, beaming. “Congratulations!”

“Thank you,” said Mr. Butter. “But those are for display only! The real treats are being kept safe in here.” He plucked Marge's handbag off the shocked baker's arm.

Rose's stomach jumped into her throat. Mr. Butter had seen Marge switch the treats!

“What say I eat these samples,” he said, pulling the platter of antidote snack cakes toward him, “and you can have the
real
snack cakes! It'll make a better picture if we're both eating the same thing.”

Rose felt she might actually jump out of her skin as Mr. Butter pulled the first snack cakes, the evil ones, from Marge's purse and arranged them on an empty platter on the banquet table.

“What's different about these?” Kathy Keegan asked, eyeing the new platter of snack cakes. “And why were they being kept in a purse?”

“They're of finer quality,” said Mr. Butter. “I employ Marge here to keep security in our kitchens. And a good thing, too! Otherwise that imposter would have eaten all our hard work and spoiled your little treat. Aren't you glad I noticed that little mix-up, Rosemary?”

Rose tried to nod, but she couldn't move. She felt like she'd never be able to take a deep breath again.

“Come here, Ms. Keegan, stand next to me,” said Mr. Butter. He guided Kathy Keegan behind the banquet table, where she could look down at the tray of snack cakes—the Moony Pye, the Glo-Ball, the Dinky Doodle Donut, the King Thing, and the Dinky Cake, all prepared according to Lily's recipes, all perfected by Rose.

Rose sidled up beside Marge. “What are we going to do, Marge?” she whispered. “The plan failed. I failed. Kathy Keegan is going to become a Mostess puppet.”

Marge put her arm around Rose and pulled her close. “You listen to me, Rosemary Bliss,” she whispered. “You need to learn how to have a little faith.”

“Let's begin with the Moony Pye,” said Mr. Butter. But when he looked down at his Moony Pye, a tiny brown mouse was standing beside it on his hind legs, playing a song on the flute. Debussy's
Claire de lune
, in fact.

Mr. Butter stared down at Jacques, his eyes bulging out of his head as he shouted, “Another mouse!” He stumbled backward into the arms of Mr. Kerr, who fell into Rose, knocking her to the floor. “Ow!” she cried.

Mr. Kerr rolled over, and Rose scrambled to her feet in time to see Jacques galloping away astride his trusty feline steed, Gus.

Looking dazed, Mr. Butter got to his feet and stared down at his platter. “Good grief!” he panted, adjusting his glasses. “Please ignore the events of the past three minutes, Ms. Keegan. Of late I have been haunted by apparitions of mice. Let us, just to be safe, begin with the Glo-Ball instead.”

Rose gulped, her heart doing flips inside of her as she watched Mr. Butter reach down and pick up his antidote Glo-Ball. Kathy Keegan picked up her perfected, poisonous Glo-Ball.

They clinked Glo-Balls like they were clinking glasses of champagne at a New Year's Eve party.

“Bottoms up,” said Kathy Keegan.

As the two popped the Glo-Balls in their mouths, the cameras flashed, and Rose held her breath for what was about to be the worst moment of her entire life.

BOOK: Bite-Sized Magic
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