Hello everyone. I hope you like the new look for Teagan’s Books. I thought the new theme with the little houses and trees was a good fit for our 1920’s serial. In a way it reminds me of my fictional town, Atonement, TN — so it will do for posts about my novel as well.
Remember you can do catch-up reading on past episodes. Just click the “Three Ingredients” button at the top of the page. Also — you’re driving! So I hope you’ll send three food-related things to drive the story.
16. Pork, Braise, Fork
The ticking of the clock had become my constant companion. It seemed like ever since I came to Savannah half my days were spent waiting. First Granny Fanny and I had waited, albeit briefly, before following Detective Dabney Daniels to the scene where Marshal Moses Myrick and his men had been ambushed. Next we were on pins and needles until we learned whether the marshal would survive his wounds and the surgery. Then I found myself in a holding pattern yet again. That time the wait was again because of Dabney Daniels.
Detective Daniels left to join the rest of Savannah’s finest in a raid on Wetson’s Mill, where Moses Myrick thought the bootleggers were based. Hank Hertz, the youngest policeman, made no secret of his annoyance at being left behind. However, he couldn’t hide the fact that he was still pretty dizzy from the bullet that had grazed his temple. He also acted like he had a doozy of a headache. Nonetheless he fiddled with the knobs and dials of the radio equipment as he expertly set up a base station.
I handed Hank a cup of coffee and a plate of biscuits with pork sausage patties. He hungrily stuffed half of a biscuit into his mouth in one big bite. Then I sat down to dig into some myself. There was nothing like Granny’s biscuits! The breakfast sausage was fried with a crisp outside and tender inside. The biscuits were light and golden brown, and they melted in my mouth.
A groan from the open door where we had setup a hospital room for Marshal Myrick interrupted me. Before I had time to turn around, I saw Granny coming with more medicine for the revenuer. It was as if she knew about his pain even before he did; as if she had a nearly supernatural ability. It was almost scary. I glanced over at Hank for his reaction, but he hadn’t noticed. He was still busy with the radio equipment, though biscuit crumbs dusted his chest.
Apparently Granny had some amount of medical training, somewhere along the line. However, she had never spoken of it in my presence. It had been clear that she already knew how to administer the hypodermic needle even as Veronica Vale showed her. However, Doctor Vale always drew the drug herself. Apparently it was potent, dangerous stuff.
The down-side to the medication was that the marshal wasn’t coherent enough to advise the other policemen on the raid they were staging. Through the open door I could hear the marshal talking, though none of it made any sense. Veronica had said the drug would probably make him say crazy things. Granny murmured soothing words that I couldn’t make out, but they seemed to settle the wounded man. The parrot continued to sit vigil from her perch at the foot of the bed. I heard Cracker coo her usual comment, “Who’s your daddy?”
A few minutes later, Granny came out of the room with Cracker sitting on her shoulder. I wondered how she had coaxed the parrot away from the marshal. The bird had refused to leave the man’s side. Then I noticed Granny hand her sunflower seeds. In learning how to prepare za’atar, Granny had discovered sunflower seeds were Cracker’s favorite treat.
Sweetheart? It used to be nasty bird! I was astonished at Granny’s 180 degree change of attitude toward the parrot. I guessed they discovered a common bond in their mutual affection for Moses Myrick. That was something else I had yet to pin down — my grandmother’s history with the revenuer. Granny Fanny had a lot of explaining to do as I saw it.
“Pip, Sweet-pea,” she said to me. “I’m sorry. I know I said I would teach you to cook braised pork today, but circumstance has made a liar of me. There isn’t time to work on anything like that today. I hope you don’t mind. You’ve been getting plenty of practice with doing things spontaneously and making do with what’s on hand in an unfamiliar kitchen, since all these awful events took place. That’s valuable experience too.”
Did I mind? I almost sputtered out a bite of biscuit, but I managed to control myself. These cooking lessons had not been my idea. I had been inclined to stay with my friend Mona until my Pops had sent me to Savannah with Granny. Mona the Movie Star is what we called my friend. The circus magnate, John Ringling had offered Mona a try-out and training as a trapeze performer. We were both invited to stay at the Ringling mansion, Ca’ d’Zan. That gilded mansion was the bee’s knees. Ca’ d’Zan was the cat’s pajamas; the berries! It was the most amazing, extraordinary place I had ever seen.
While I was enjoying my time with my grandmother more than I expected, I had not wanted to leave Sarasota, Florida. There had been a lot of drama and trauma surrounding my beau, Frankie. I needed to be near my friends. I needed their support to get over it. And what flapper in her right mind would pass up a free stay at Ca’ d’Zan? However, Pops didn’t share that feeling.
“It’s not really that difficult,” Granny was saying, and I brought my mind back to the present. “It just takes a while to fix. After braising the meat, you just insert a fork into pork. If the fork comes out easily the pork is done. Then you can keep boiling down the braising liquid and it will cook down to a glaze.”
I nodded as if that made perfect sense to me. I wasn’t sure of the concept of braising, let alone making a glaze. “That’s okay, Granny,” I said in a consoling tone.
I schooled my expression to be one of self-sacrifice and disappointment. When Granny Fanny raised one eyebrow at me, I knew she saw through me. Luckily she didn’t get the chance to say anything. She was interrupted when Cracker abruptly launched from her shoulder and glided down the long building. One end of the structure was connected to the Vales’ house by a breezeway. I heard the door open and the click of canine toenails on the tile floor.
Excited yapping ensued. I heard Vincent Vale trying to quiet the miniature poodle named Cotton. Then Cracker flapped back to us with a small stuffed toy in her beak. I recognized it for the dog’s toy. The parrot flew low, getting the little poodle to chase her for the toy. The two actually seemed to be enjoying themselves and I couldn’t help laughing.
Vincent darted to the sick-room and closed the door to make sure the antics of the dog and parrot didn’t disturb the patient. Cotton proved that she could pounce high enough to grab the toy. She shook her head with the toy in her mouth. With her beak free, the parrot chirped, “Clever girl!” apparently encouraging the poodle.
Cotton dropped the toy and set after the bird when Cracker made another pass. The parrot led the poodle all around the room. As the dog barked, the parrot squawked “Clever girl,” which got the poodle more enthusiastic by the minute.
Then the dog jumped onto the table where Hank laboriously set up the radio station. Cotton careened into and over the equipment. I heard Veronica’s voice in the distance and then she whistled for the dog. Cotton apparently recognized discretion as the better part of valor and ran toward her mistress’s voice.
Hank was beside himself. Static emanated from the radio. All the effort he put into setting all the knobs and dials just so was probably wasted. At least nothing was broken… except the plate of sausage and biscuits that he was eating. Hank bent to pick up the mess, shaking his head. I noticed Cracker in the corner with one of Hank’s biscuits in her foot as she held it and broke off little bites. So I diverted attention away from her. There was no point adding insult to injury on Hank. But the silly bird dropped her prize and swooped back to the radio table.
The parrot cocked her head at the radio and the noise and whistled. “Who’s your daddy?” she said with what was actually a questioning tone. Then she bobbed her head excitedly. “Fourandtwenty! Fourandtwenty!”
There was that phrase again. Granny and I exchanged a look. She put out her hand when Hank made to shoo the bird away from the equipment. Hank was a quick study and seemed to realize there was more to the situation than he knew.
A voice came clearly amid the static on the radio. Cracker must have heard it when we were all too preoccupied with show she and the dog had provided. Granny handed her a sunflower seed with an expectant look on her face. “Now sweetie, ‘four and twenty’ what’s that about?” she coaxed the bird. “What else can you say?”
“Fourandtwenty,” Cracker repeated bobbing her head.
Granny handed her another sunflower seed. “Clever bird. What else can you say?” she encouraged.
The word “mill” got our attention. Mill as in Wetson’s Mill, where Dabney and the other policemen had gone to raid the bootleggers? Everyone else turned in surprise toward the sound of the voice. Everyone that is, except Granny Fanny. She barely spared us a glance. She was intently focused on Cracker. Granny nodded to the parrot and repeated, “Four and twenty?” Then she gave her another seed.
“Jokerswild,” the parrot said and shook her foot. Somehow the motion seemed disdainful, though I couldn’t say why.
“Eight and five,” the voice from the radio began. At first that puzzled me. Suddenly I remembered Moses Myrick had said the gang had code names based on playing cards. Then I realized the numbers were being used as names. Not eight and five, but Eight and Five. “Pick up the Bishop and Nine,” the voice said in a commanding tone.
A different voice replied. There was more static and we couldn’t make out the words. Hank Hertz frantically fiddled with the radio. “Queen said—… for the shindig— … back to town. … Couldn’t stop her—” the new voice said between bursts of static.
Hank gave another dial a twist, holding his breath.
“Look we’re doing the best we can!” the second voice complained, and it came through pretty clearly. “We’ll hear their radio if anything changes. Queenie Wetson’ll kill us if we don’t do what she says. The King ain’t no more scary than the Queen!”
“Just do it, or the King will have your heads,” the first voice threatened. “Get over here now.”
I gasped. “So the gangsters have been listening to the police on the radio?”
“I’ve got to tell them!” Hank said, meaning his fellow officers, and he reached toward the equipment.
“No!” I cried. “We can’t let them know, that we know, that they know…” at that point I got tongue-tied with all the they knows and we knows, so I stopped and stretched my hands out as if to stop the young copper.
Then the first voice repeated, “Just do it. Go to the King’s. Now!”
Cracker whistled excitedly, “Kinghenry! Fourandtwenty! Kinghenry!”
Mexican pulled Pork (Carnitas)
(Video credit America’s Test Kitchen)
Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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