Pansy Peacock’s recipes were stolen. This might appear trivial against any natural disaster across France; however, peacocks don’t remember what they’ve written. So, without her step-by-step recipes to follow, Pansy is out of business, which is worse than any flood, heatwave, or earth tremor. She sits alone on a wooden stool inside her barren chocolate shop. An empty display case no longer teases customers with homemade chocolate truffles, cakes, and fondues. Devoid of chocolate for two days, all of her town’s residents suffer from withdrawals. Pansy’s floral print handkerchief clumps between her claws as she dabs another tear. Without instructions for chocolate treats, there is no way Pansy can enter the European Chocolate Festival in Paris, set to begin tomorrow.
Mr. Chloe Bunny and his grandmother enter Pansy’s store.
“Madame Peacock?” Chloe introduces himself and Gram in French. He wants to help find the stolen recipes, for Pansy’s store was the first of many similar recipe thefts across the countryside, and he is on the case.
Pansy fights back tears, and tells of finding a disastrous mess in the store after the burglary. She fears the end has come for the Peacock’s family trade of making chocolate. She always uses pure cocoa, cinnamon, allspice, vanilla extract, butter and crème in every creation. She knows that real chocolate requires hand churning and natural air cooling before wrapping in cellophane and packing in a decorator box. That is all Pansy remembers; she cannot recall how much cocoa to crème, or vanilla to cinnamon.
Chloe asks permission to investigate the store. His sleuthing rabbit eyes search the countertop for clues and he examines the recipe box void of cards. Crouching on four paws, Chloe glances under the furniture as his lop-ears fold flat to brush the floor. A sparkle catches Chloe’s attention. He slides his hand across the parquet, and under the display case he finds a small iridescent bead.
“What have you found, our Muffin?” asked Gram.
“Looks like a tiny glass or pearl bead, Gram,” showing his find. “It is too small for a necklace, but perhaps something for clothing, or shoes.” He turns to Pansy and asks if he may borrow the bead, to which she agrees. He hands the bead to Gram who places it in her lace apron front pocket.
As they leave the chocolate shop Chloe scribbles notes into his detective’s pad.
“Prickly pineapples, Gram, it’s the same story everywhere. The chocolate shops are turned upside down,” said Chloe.
“That’s right Muffin,” said Gram.
“Everything is on the floor or tipped over on the counter,” said Chloe. “Almost as if the thief didn’t have fingers to pull the recipes out of their box without causing a scene. The thief must have stiff limbs,” he deduced while grinning at his Gram.
“Yes,” said Gram, “And sneaky too, since no one has seen this beast actually steal recipes.”
“Has to be someone fast – and very clumsy,” he said, “can’t be a mouse since they are quite neat in fact, I doubt it is a bunny for we have great skill. Hmm. Maybe a snake with a long slapping tail, or someone with long arms like an octopus? Well, whoever it is, I bet he’ll attend the chocolate festival tomorrow, Gram. I can feel it in my ears, the thief will strike tomorrow.”
They drive to Paris chasing his hunch.
The next morning, despite frightful news reports about missing recipes, thousands of chocolate fans politely queue on rue d’Rivoli awaiting entry into the festival. Chloe flashes his detective’s badge and introduces his Gram as his assistant. They enter the Louvre Museum known for its famous Mona Moose, but today its basement doubles as a convention center for chocolate lovers. Cocoa vapors from display table warming pots excite the air indoors with scents of melting butter, crème, and exotic spices. The aroma hints that many new chocolate recipes are brewing in France.
Chocolatiers keep to designing new treats for sale to support the crowds flowing into the basement from the entryway escalator. Chloe and his English Lop ear grandmother divide the festival floor in half to spy on any suspicious behavior.
“Oh, our Muffin,” said Gram, “I haven’t seen so many animals in one place since our national rugby match last year.” She was referencing her ladies lop-ear league championship game that the badgers lost by 2 points. Gram is her winning team’s fullback.
“Gram, you take that side,” he points to his left, “and I’ll take this side,” he points to the right. “We’ll have to keep our eyes peeled, especially on the new recipe boxes . . . watch for a fast animal without fingers.”
They begin searching for clues. Gram walks down an aisle of milk chocolates, and spies a baby elephant who drops his bag of chocolates from the end of his trunk.
“Blimey! Elephant with the long clumsy nose! Where were you three days ago?” asked Gram.
“I was at school, Madame,” the elephant said.
Gram thinks, “Ah! Where you should have been,” she smiled, “Good boy, carry on,” she said as her cheek fur prickles with embarrassment. She continues her sideways skip, working through the crowd as her lop ear braids drag along the floor to catch up.
Opposite Gram, one chef finishes a chocolate-wafer pyramid using thousands of bite-sized mints. He plans to give away a spa holiday in Italy to whoever guesses the exact number of mints. Chloe nudges his way past noisy animals counting out loud how many wafers construct the pyramid.
Peering through the crowd, Chloe does not spy unusual activity for a chocolate festival. Everyone is either tasting chocolate or counting mints. But the pyramid contest is growing ferocious, and the crowd pushes Chloe behind the display table and he trips over an electric cord landing him on the floor. He quickly stands so as not to miss a beat, and then sees the floor length tablecloth flinch. A thick, wrinkly stump emerges from under the cloth, reaches above the table lip, and with a swift slap, knocks the pyramid chef’s recipe box to the floor, sliding it under the curtain. Chloe lifts the white cloth and spies a tortoise emptying recipes into her shoulder bag.
"Crazy carrots!" he said, “So you are the one stealing recipes.”
Without saying a word, the tortoise snickers at Chloe, zips her bag shut, and then scurries her way past the front table drapes into the crowd. Chloe scrambles after her, but bumps his head against the table’s underside, shaking loose the chocolate wafers. He bursts out from under the display just in time to catch the tortoise’s sneakers disappear into a sea of legs. Thousands upon thousands of wafers begin to shift and slide from the middle, collapsing inward, splaying in all directions as they fall away to the floor. Patrons declare open season for counting and tasting mints.
“Where did she go?” he said to himself as he crawls through the crowd. Chloe registers pandemonium erupting ahead of him. Swatting at wagging tails, cutting through tall legs, Chloe jumps ahead sensing he is one step behind her. The tortoise forces a path through the crowd. Patrons bump into one another; one sloth back flips into a vat of chocolate and splashes a ferret chef collecting fallen chocolate bars.
The deeper into the crowd the tortoise digs the more shrills, barks, meows, and laughs, from falling bags and collapsing tables, grow into one eruptive roar. Chloe forgets his French in the excitement. He shouts to warn the crowd, “Watch out for the tortoise in pink sneakers," which does work in his favor, for those who recognize English start to look down at every turtle’s shoes, and so in kind those who didn’t understand only mimic their glances in wonder. Gram leaves her side of the festival floor and heads towards the ruckus.
Chloe keeps on his toes, lunges forth, attempts to grab at the tortoise’s shiny back shell, but with each grab he loses speed. With his powerful legs he leaps into the air above the crowd and lands right in front of the tortoise, who crashes into Chloe. They both tumble to the ground. “I’ve got you now, tortoise,” he said while hopping to his feet. The tortoise spins in circles on her hard back shell exposing the rubber bottoms of her soles. One ostrich helps the tortoise to stand. “You come with me,” said Chloe, “you won’t be stealing anymore recipes for a long time.” Just as he grabs her stumpy arm, the tortoise snaps her legs and in a flash she breaks away to run toward the escalator. Chloe turns to chase her, but slams into the baby elephant.
Working her way past the crowd, the tortoise almost reaches the escalator to complete her escape. Gram leaps her way to the lift preparing to tackle the tortoise; however, only her long foot succeeds to trip one pink sneaker. In a backward summersault, the tortoise retreats into her shell, rolls on her back, pops upright and regains position on the lowest rung of the escalator, moving up.
"Dizzy daisies, she is heading upstairs," said Chloe as he stands and excuses himself past the elephant. Using the path she left behind, he runs ahead of Gram while the crowd is watching the bunny chase the tortoise. The Louvre’s security cats emerge from their scratching post to investigate the chaos. As the tortoise’s stubby legs hop up each stair ahead of the rising rung, Chloe finds the emergency stop button and with his forepaw pushes ARRÊT to halt the escalator.
The tortoise slows down as stairs grow higher than her stumpy legs can reach. Chloe springs with ease up each rung and, halfway up, he vaults over the tortoise to land facing her karate-chop style.
"Crazy cranberries! You thieving tortoise,” said Chloe. He lifts her purse off her shell and unzips the clamp.
“Stop thief! Help!,” the tortoise yelled, “This sluggish bunny is stealing my purse.” Chloe pulls from the bag a forepaw of index card recipes, and the top one reads “Pansy Peacock.” Two security cats climb down the escalator to assist.
"You’ll need help alright tortoise, your list of offenses is longer than my ears!" he said thumbing through the cards. “Besides, not one of these recipes belongs to you.” He places them into the purse and hands it to a security cat. Gram heads up the escalator to block the tortoise from retreat.
“Gram, may I have the bead from Pansy’s boutique?” he asked. Gram pulls the stray bobble from her apron pocket and hands it to Chloe, who compares it to the glitter and beads on the tortoise’s pink sneakers. “Glittering gumballs, right where it fell off, on your left sneaker.”
“Wrong Bunny, everyone wears glittery shoes; I want my purse back,” the tortoise snaped.
“You were at Pansy Peacock’s chocolate boutique three nights ago, and this bead proves it,” he said, pointing to the missing bead. The crowd gasps and whispers arise in French.
One of the security cats takes out paw cuffs to use on the tortoise.
"I would have shown the world how to make real chocolate if it weren’t for you,” said the tortoise, “You ruined my plans,” she said with a posh toss of her head, and straightening her silk scarf. “I was going to make free chocolate for everyone.” The crowd groans and then laughs in response. A police cat cuffs the tortoise and reads her rights aloud. Cheers break out from the crowd as the thief is lead up the escalator.
The following morning, Chloe and Gram meet with Pansy to return her recipes. In appreciation for Chloe’s help, Pansy makes four dozen truffles, by following her chocolate mousse recipe, as a gift for the detective lapin. She hands them to Chloe in a tapestry hat box with lace ribbon bow.