Larla Schnutter and the Mystery of the Cage Cookie

It isn’t easy walking the walking paths of St. Olaf, knowing what I know. That there are things many of us don’t understand – can’t understand – don’t want to understand. That there are (probably) ghosts centuries old haunting this very campus. I, Larla Schnutter, vow to uncover the spooky secrets this college (probably) has to offer, using my detective skills, my girlish gumption, and the 500 words allotted me in this newspaper. I, Larla Schnutter, am just the paranormal investigator this seedy town needs. The ghost whisperer Northfield, Minnesota has been waiting for.

. . .

“Sorry, we’re all out of the St. Olaf cookies today,” the cashier says.

“What?” I say, baffled. “In all my years, The Cage has never been out of St. Olaf cookies. Never!”

The cashier squints at me. “Hey, weren’t you in my first-year writing class last year?”

I dig perplexedly into the pocket of my trench coat and fish out one of my scotch glasses then place it on the counter. “A dram of the best scotch you’ve got, please.”

The cashier furrows her brow. “Uh … like the tape?”

Suddenly, the manager stalks out of the kitchen. When she spots me, she rolls her eyes and sighs. “Listen, kid. This is the last time I’m telling you. Not only is this a dry campus, but this isn’t even a bar! And, no offense, but I highly doubt you’re 21.”

I step closer and lean against the display case, glaring right at the manager. “I wouldn’t use that tone with me, crone.”

“And who are you supposed to be – Humphrey Bogart? Sorry, missy, but Halloween was last week.”

I narrow my eyes and pocket my scotch glass. “You won’t be getting any more Cage dollars from me, that’s for sure.”

“That literally has no effect on me,” the manager says, stalking tiredly back into the kitchen. I slouch back to my corner table. The mouth on that dame! I, Larla Schnutter, am no phony, no knockoff. And Humphrey Bogart’s got nothing on Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past – I mean, let’s be real.

As I’m about to sit down and nurse my wounded ego, I notice a mysterious paper folded up beside my typewriter that had not been there before. I look once to the left, then once to the right. Noticing no unusual disturbances, I pick up the wad and unravel it.

Meet me at midnight in the Rolvaag Reference Room. Tonight. It’s urgent.

Come alone.

–Callory Nordlund

I could recognize the slender curves of Callory’s handwriting anywhere. This is the real deal. I ignore the butterflies winging in the pit of my stomach. So unprofessional. Get a hold of yourself, Larla! This could be a trap set by some cunning temptress!

“Hey, Larla.”

Startled, I spin around to find Kermit Schindler, my trusty boywitch, sitting two tables away.

“You okay? You’re, like, blushing really hard. Oh, wow, now you’re just straight up red—”

“Kermit, please! We have a mystery to solve!” I hold up Callory’s note.

Kermit walks over and takes a closer look. “Callory … isn’t that the girl you were Facebook stalking last night?”

“No. Anyways, I’m going to meet her just like she says, but you’re coming too.”

“But she says to come alone. Also I have a religion test tomorrow and I think my prof hates me.”

“Kermit,” I say, maintaining a level stare. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my line of work … it’s never trust a woman. Especially one with as many likes on her profile picture as Callory Nordlund.”

“I don’t know, Larla,” Kermit says, tugging on the ends of his long black hair.

“We’re detectives, Kermit.” I scan Buntrock Commons, all the students whose lives I strive to protect. “It’s our duty to find answers. And deliver justice … And get into the occasional fistfight.”

Kermit nods. “Okay, I guess.”

I clap Kermit on the shoulder. “See you at the library entrance, 11:30 p.m., sharp – tonight.”