Read an Excerpt
The Candy Factory Mystery
By GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Hodges Soileau
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 2002 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
On a cold winter night, in a big white house, the four Alden children and their cousin, Soo Lee, sat in front of a crackling fire. Grandfather was in his favorite chair. He was finishing up the last piece of coconut cake the family housekeeper, Mrs. McGregor, had made. Watch, the family dog, lay at Grandfather's feet, waiting for a few crumbs to fall his way.
"Now it's your turn to act out a charade," Jessie Alden told Benny.
"What's a charade?" five-year-old Soo Lee asked. She was still a little new at the games her older cousins played.
"It's a guessing game," Benny answered. He was a year older than Soo Lee and loved all kinds of games, especially charades. "For candy charades, we pick a message printed on one of our candy hearts. Then we try and make everybody guess what it says. Only we can't use words, not even one, just funny faces and motions."
"Oh, I get it," Soo Lee said. "Henry's candy heart said, Hug Me. That's why he hugged me, right?"
"Right," twelve-year-old Jessie said. "And Violet's candy heart said, Be Mine. That's why she pretended to sting us like a bee and pointed to herself. Be Mine. Now it's Benny's turn."
"If he has any candy hearts left," fourteen-year-old Henry said.
The Alden children loved a noisy game of charades. When Grandfather's friend Mrs. Winkles sent up boxes of candy message hearts from her factory in Pennsylvania, it was the first thing they'd thought of.
Benny dumped his candy hearts into a bowl. "Good thing Mrs. Winkles sent us lots more candy hearts. This box is practically empty."
Mrs. McGregor looked up from the sweater she was knitting. "How can you have room for candy hearts after eating such a big piece of my coconut cake?"
Benny patted his stomach. "Don't worry, Mrs. McGregor. I always leave room for candy," Benny said. "Okay, I'm ready."
He picked up a heart and read the message to himself. A puzzled look passed over his face. He scrunched his eyebrows for a long time. Finally, he walked over to the doorway, where Watch's leash was hanging.
Watch raced over to Benny.
"Doggone!" Henry yelled. "Is that what your candy heart says?"
Poor Watch waited. Benny still had the leash in his hand.
Benny pointed to Watch, then to the door.
"Out? Stay Out?" Jessie guessed. "Never mind. That doesn't make sense. Candy hearts don't say things like that."
Benny held up Watch's leash again and pointed to the door.
Watch began to whine. He didn't have to guess what Benny was doing — a leash meant a walk.
"Watch? Out?" ten-year-old Violet cried. "Does your candy heart say, Watch Out?"
Benny broke into a big grin. "That's it!" he cried, handing his candy heart to Violet to pass around. "Read it. See, it says, Watch Out!"
Violet looked at the candy heart in surprise. Benny was right — it really did say, Watch Out! She passed it around to the rest of the children so they could see the odd message.
"That's a strange message to print on a candy heart," Grandfather said. "It must be a mistake. I wonder if Mrs. Winkles knows about this."
Benny poured the rest of his candy hearts onto the coffee table. He turned them over one by one. Now that he knew how to read, he liked to read everything, from street signs to cereal boxes to candy hearts. "Look. A few other hearts in this box have strange messages, too. Some of them say, Trouble, Danger Ahead, Go Away, Beware, Warning."
"Remember the chocolate mice Mrs. Winkles sent?" Henry asked. "They didn't have any tails."
Grandfather scratched his chin. "Yes, that was odd as well. I couldn't bring myself to tell Rose Winkles about those. I didn't want to upset her — and I thought the shipment might have just been damaged by accident. But these candy hearts seem to be quite a different matter."
Benny had an idea. "Hey, what if they're for April Fools' Day or Halloween? Maybe the messages are supposed to be for fun."
Grandfather shook his head. "Oh, that wouldn't be something Rose would do — not at all. Her longtime customers wouldn't find these candy hearts amusing. I'm certain of that."
"All the candy she sends us at holidays are sweet and pretty," Violet said. "Even the chocolate mice with no tails."
"You know, children," Grandfather said, "I've been meaning to see how Rose is doing. She's always inviting us to visit. I'm sure she would enjoy seeing your cheery young faces. She doesn't have much family left."
The children stared into the fire for a few moments. They knew what it was like to be cut off from relatives. After their own parents died, they had lived on their own in a boxcar in the woods without any other family but each other. Luckily, Grandfather had searched for them and brought them back to live in his big white house. Now they couldn't imagine living apart from Grandfather and all their other wonderful Alden relatives.
"When Seth Winkles died, he left the factory to his wife, Rose," Grandfather went on. "After that, his brother and sister wouldn't have anything to do with her. They were upset that Seth didn't leave the factory to them. Rose has nieces and nephews on Seth's side whom she's never met, even though they don't live very far away."
"Maybe we can be Mrs. Winkles's nieces and nephews," Violet said in her serious way.
"And then we would have a candy-making aunt!" said Benny with a grin.
"Yes, I'm sure Rose would like that very much," Grandfather said. "She's like an aunt the way she remembers to send you children candy for all the holidays. I'll give her a call right now."
"I'd like to take a look at the other candy boxes she sent," Henry suggested. "There's something very mysterious about those candy hearts in Benny's box."
The children went off to the pantry to find the rest of the candy. They poured all the hearts onto the kitchen table.
"Looks as if just a couple boxes have those strange messages," Henry said after everyone checked all the candy hearts. "At least there weren't too many bad ones."
Grandfather came back into the kitchen. "Well, we'll be visiting Mrs. Winkles next week. She especially asked if you'd like to lend a hand with making her candies. What do you say?"
Benny picked up a pink heart and read the message to everyone: "2 Good 2 B True."CHAPTER 2
A Chocolate Mystery
A week later, the Aldens were on their way to Winkles Candy Factory. Shortly after Grandfather turned off the busy highway, the children began to see smaller towns and green farms with white farm buildings, windmills, and barns full of hay.
"Wow!" Benny said. "I counted fifty-two cows so far."
"This area is fall of cows, Benny," Grandfather said, smiling. "Even you won't be able to count them all."
"And all those cows are full of milk to make chocolate," Benny said. "I hope I won't be able to count all the chocolate candies, either, when we get to Winkles Candy Factory."
A few minutes later, Grandfather came to a stop in front of a tidy two-story brick building. Benny read aloud the pink lettering on the large hand-painted sign: "Winkles Candy Factory — Making Holiday Candy since 1922. Visitors Welcome."
Grandfather rolled down his window and took a deep breath. "Just follow your noses, children."
Violet sniffed the air. "Mmm. It's like chocolate perfume."
The children headed straight to the small candy shop attached to the factory building. Through the window they saw a pink-cheeked, white-haired woman in a spotless white smock. She was cutting into a tray of fudge.
A small bell over the door rang when Benny pushed it open. "The Aldens are here!"
"And so is the candy!" the cheery woman said, offering them all some fudge. "I recognize you children from the family photos your grandfather sent me last year. Only you've all grown since then. I'm Mrs. Winkles. I'm so glad to finally meet you in person."
"Thank you for always remembering to send us candy for all the holidays," Jessie said after she introduced herself. "We always look forward to seeing Winkles's packages on our front porch."
"Sometimes we even open them on the front porch," Benny announced.
Mrs. Winkles chuckled. Soon she and Grandfather were busy catching up with each other while the children poked around the little shop.
"What does that say, Benny?" Soo Lee whispered. She showed Benny a sign with hearts painted all over it.
"All Valentine's Candy Half Price," Benny said. "I guess they're all sold out. There's nothing on the shelf."
Mrs. Winkles overheard Benny. "I usually have some Valentine's candy left over to sell," she said. "This year, though, I had to throw out a lot of what was left over."
The children's eyes grew bigger than the foil-covered, chocolate silver dollars on the counter.
"Throw out candy?" Benny said, taken by surprise. "I never throw out candy! I save it. Then I eat it."
Mrs. Winkles smiled, but the children could tell she was thinking about something else.
"We've had one problem after another this year," Mrs. Winkles said in a hushed voice. "Lost orders, damaged shipments. So many of my customers called to complain that my Winkles Chocolate Mice arrived with pieces broken or smashed. I replaced what I could or gave people their money back. But I don't know if I'll ever get all my customers back. And I've recently had a more serious problem to deal with."
James Alden stepped closer to his friend. "The candy hearts?"
Mrs. Winkles sighed. "So you received the hearts with the strange messages, too? Several of the stores I sell to returned their orders. Who could blame them? After all, no one wants to see a scary message on a candy heart."
"One said, Boo! Another one said, Watch Out!" Violet told Mrs. Winkles.
"Yes, I saw those," Mrs. Winkles said. "Goodness knows, I would never sell candy hearts with such messages."
Henry handed Mrs. Winkles a plastic bag. "Here are the ones we found in our boxes."
"I can't imagine how they got mixed in with mine," Mrs. Winkles said. "Everything I make or order gets packed here at my factory. Then we use a shipper to send them out. This couldn't have come at a worse time, either."
"Why is that?" Mr. Alden asked.
Mrs. Winkles looked worried. "Well, I've been hoping to supply fund-raising candy to schools that are trying to raise money. It would help my factory stay busy in between holidays. But I'll never get the school orders if there are problems with my candy."
"In kindergarten, we sell chocolate turtles," Soo Lee announced. "Then we buy swings and slides for the playground with the candy money."
Mrs. Winkles nodded. "Good for you, Soo Lee. I'm sure your school has very strict rules about the candy factories they deal with. I must have everything running exactly right when the inspectors come by."
"Have you any idea how the candy hearts with those messages got into your shipments?" James Alden asked.
Mrs. Winkles shook her head. "When we get busy before a big holiday, I hire lots of temporary help. It's impossible to track down everyone who worked here in January. Maybe someone did it as a prank."
"Not a very fanny joke," James Alden said.
Henry gave this some thought. "Maybe somebody outside the factory mixed up the candy hearts."
Mrs. Winkles nodded. "I suppose that's possible. I can't bear to think anyone who works here could play such a mean trick. I haven't told anyone here about the hearts. I want to keep an eye out for anything odd going on. If the mix-up happened outside the factory, I may never figure out the mystery of how those unpleasant candies got into my shipments."
Benny couldn't stay still any longer. "We like mysteries, especially solving them. And know what else? Maybe Soo Lee and I could put the little sugar chicks inside your chocolate eggs so nobody mixes those up."
Mrs. Winkles chuckled at Benny's offer. "Thank you, Benny. But we have special machines to do that for us. I have plenty for you children to do if you want to help. Let's leave lots of time for visiting, too. I want you children to have some fun while you're here."
"What could be more fun than working in a candy factory?" Henry asked.
"When do we get to watch the candy making?" Jessie wanted to know.
"How about right now? I told my two candy makers, Meg Butterfield and Tom Chipley, to expect you. Later on I'll show you to the guest apartment upstairs in the factory. I hope you don't mind living in the factory. You won't be able to get away from the smell of candy."
"Who would want to?" Benny asked as he followed his nose to the candy kitchen.CHAPTER 3
A Curious Candy Tour
Mrs. Winkles locked up the candy store and led the children out into the factory area.
The Aldens breathed deeply. They couldn't get enough of the good smells of sugar, butter, chocolate, caramel, and roasting nuts.
When they reached a small room, they found white caps and aprons hanging on pegs. "You need to wear these whenever you go into the candy-making area," Mrs. Winkles said as she tucked her white curls into her white cap. "Here are some disposable gloves to wear, too. This way everything stays nice and clean."
The children giggled after they put on their white caps and aprons.
Mrs. Winkles led the Aldens into a room filled with gleaming machines, shiny copper pots, and huge silver vats. "This is the candy kitchen."
"Wow!" Benny said. "I've never been in a kitchen just for candy."
"Yoo hoo, Meg!" Mrs. Winkles called out to a woman in her early twenties across the room. She had a phone cradled on her shoulder. In front of her, a machine sprayed jets of chocolate into egg-shaped metal containers. The molds moved along on a belt just like groceries in a supermarket.
"That's our main conveyor belt," Mrs. Winkles explained. "We line up our candy molds on the conveyor belt so that they'll land right below the chocolate sprayers."
"What would happen if the molds weren't lined up right?" Benny wanted to know.
"A lot of expensive chocolate would be wasted, and there would be an awful mess to clean up," Mrs. Winkles answered. "That's why we have markings on the conveyor belt to make sure the candy molds are in the proper place. I'll have Meg or Tom show you how to do that — if Meg ever gets off the phone, that is. It's only supposed to be used for talking between the kitchen and the packing room in case someone needs to slow down the belt. Oh, I do wish Meg would do one thing at a time to cut down on mistakes."
Benny and Soo Lee couldn't believe their eyes as they watched showers of melted chocolate squirt into egg molds.
"When the molds get to the end of the line, a machine spins them to spread the chocolate evenly inside," Mrs. Winkles told the Aldens.
"Then what?" Soo Lee asked.
"After that, the molds move through a cooling tunnel," Mrs. Winkles continued, "to an area where we separate the molds from the chocolate. Then we drop in the sugar chicks. Before moving along to the packing room, the eggs get bathed in a final layer of chocolate so they're all sealed up."
"I'd like to bathe in a layer of chocolate," Henry said. "My mouth is watering."
Mrs. Winkles laughed. "Oh, you'll get so used to being around chocolate, you won't even feel like eating any at the end of the day."
"Not me!" Benny cried above the hum of the candy-making machines. "I'll never get tired of eating chocolate."
Mrs. Winkles walked the children through different small rooms in her tidy factory. "We'll see about that, Benny. When I first met my husband, I ate so much chocolate, he said I'd put him out of business. After a while, I got used to being around sweets. Eventually, I almost had to force myself to sample the candy we made to make sure it tasted right."
"Don't worry, Mrs. Winkles. You won't have to force us," Benny said. "We ate up all the Winkles Chocolate Mice you sent us even though they had no tails."
A worried look passed over Mrs. Winkles's face. "Oh, dear! You didn't tell me you received the damaged mice, too, James."
"I'm afraid so, Rose," James Alden told his old friend. "I didn't want to mention it; I was hoping it was just our shipment."
Mrs. Winkles spoke softly to the Aldens. "The problems around here began with the mice. I guess I shouldn't have put Meg in charge of so much until she had more experience. But she was highly recommended to me by a business associate she had worked for."
"That's usually the way to get good employees," Grandfather said. "Is that how you found Tom as well?"
Excerpted from The Candy Factory Mystery by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Hodges Soileau. Copyright © 2002 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
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