Hello everyone. My heartfelt thanks to all of you for coming back. You supply the “ingredients” that built the mysteries in our 1920’s story — that’s what makes the serial interactive. Now our story is drawing closer to revealing some of the answers to those questions and mysteries.
The ingredients for this episode were generously supplied by Lord David Prosser of The Barsetshire Diaries blog. David has several delightful books, including a collection of charming tales for children. I hope you’ll add them to your reading list.
Without further ado, here is Episode-20. Bon appétit!
20. Beef Drippings, Dandelion & Burdock, Salmon
Rather than the bun she often wore, Granny Fanny had rolled and tucked her long hair into a style that at first glance looked a lot like a bob. The wide legged black crepe trousers and white tuxedo jacket fit her perfectly. She looked every inch the modern woman; and… younger too. Eunice’s Uniforms had done a great job. I straightened my own waiters’ uniform and Granny smiled.
The telephone rang and Granny hurried to answer it. I knew she was still more than a little bit worried about Moses Myrick. There was a tightness around her eyes that had not been there before the marshal was shot.
“Yes, Doc. Is that you?” I could hear the concern in her voice as she spoke into the receiver. The ear piece was pressed tightly against her head. Then she exhaled and her shoulders relaxed. “You don’t really think so? Considering the way she’s been acting I’m surprised,” she said but paused to listen. “Yes Doc. We’ll keep an eye out,” Granny said and hung up the telephone.
“Doctor Veronica says that parrot flew the coop. Darnedest thing I’ve ever heard. That nasty bird nearly took my finger off when I tried to pry her away from Moses. But Veronica said she let herself out the window a few minutes ago. The last time she saw Cracker, the parrot was headed in this direction,” Granny said shaking her head in wonder at the bird’s unpredictable behavior. “I find it hard to believe that she’d suddenly give up her equally sudden devotion to Moses. Be a dear and keep an eye out for Cracker just the same.”
I murmured my promise. I found the parrot’s antics unexpected, but when I thought about it, we should probably expect the unexpected from Cracker. However I didn’t give it that much thought because the aroma of the huge beef roast Granny had been cooking all day wafted to my nostrils. My stomach gave a loud growl. Granny chuckled and told me to go get a snack – but to take off the white jacket first. Just then Hank Hertz walked in eating a yeast roll that was sopping with beef drippings. It was a good thing he had removed his jacket, else Granny might have skinned him when a big drop of au jus went down his chest.
I barely recognized Hank, and it wasn’t because of the partial amnesia I’d experienced since my unknown attacker had left me in a root cellar at the Queen of Clubs Herb Farm out at Wetson’s Mill. No, Granny had told Hank that if he was going to participate in the night’s “catering event” he’d have to let her treat his hair with henna. Now his hair was bright red, and he had a little red mustache too.
Granny said she was concerned about Hank’s safety, since too many people knew he was quickly on the scene after the villains had ambushed Marshal Moses Myrick and his men. I’m sure that was true; Granny wouldn’t put anybody in harm’s way. But I suspected that she planned to carryout Myrick’s original “sting” plan, with or without the injured marshal’s help. So that was another reason for disguising Savannah’s youngest police officer.
Hank scratched at the mustache. I quipped that I’d always wondered if those things itched. He nodded and spoke quietly. “I feel ridiculous with this red hair,” he confided. “But Miss Fanny says it will fade away with washing.”
I thought Granny might have exaggerated about the “fading away” part of the henna, but I didn’t want to make Hank feel any more uncomfortable than he already was. I gently poked his ribs with my elbow. “I think it looks rather dashing,” I reassured him and he stood a little straighter.
My grandmother took Hank’s elbow and led us both to the kitchen. She fixed snack plates for the three of us with roast beef, rolls, and candied carrots. I gave a wistful glance at the za’atar she’d so carefully prepared, but I knew she was worried about having enough, so I didn’t say anything.
She glanced at the clock and took out a fourth plate and sat it on the green and white gingham tablecloth. Then she turned to one of several tubs of ice that contained cobalt blue bottles with attached cork flip tops, and pulled out a few bottles.
“What is this anyway?” I asked and sniffed the liquid that reminded me of sarsaparilla.
I had been wondering what was inside the bottles, because I had heard Granny tell her client that he’d have to supply any alcohol, being as it was illegal. I had not met the rich man who was hosting the reception Granny had agreed to cater. But I overheard part of their telephone conversation — whether I wanted to or not. He was one of those people who felt they had to shout into the telephone since he was talking to someone across town. He sounded nice enough, but there was just something about him that rubbed me the wrong way, despite the fact I had never even seen him.
Hank Hertz took a swig from the blue bottle. “Umm. It’s dandelion and burdock,” he said to my unspoken question. “Dr. Veronica gave me some before. She said it was kind of medicinal.”
“It’s also mildly alcoholic,” Granny interjected. “Not enough to cause trouble for me, but that seemed to mollify tonight’s host. He was… well… irritated that I wouldn’t bring any champagne because of the prohibition. He was being pretty hard headed about that,” she said with a slightly annoyed twist to her mouth. Granny didn’t like anybody trying to boss her around.
The putter of an engine sent me to the kitchen window. I pushed back the eyelet curtain and saw Alastair Wong pull his delivery truck up beside the cottage. Alastair had offered to help. He said he expected a slow night at his restaurant, and besides there was plenty of family to help there. I saw that he had even temporarily covered his pride and joy slogan, “You’re always right with Wong’s” with a sign proclaiming Granny’s Goodies. My grandmother quickly fixed the fourth plate with a snack for Alastair.
Moments later Hank and Alastair loaded the heavy galvanized steel tubs, filled with ice and cobalt blue bottles of dandelion and burdock onto the delivery truck. Then they covered them with a tarp to help keep the ice from melting as fast.
I was surprised to see Cinnamon Bun, the Flemish Giant rabbit, thump up the back porch stairs. He had been hiding from all the activity. As usual, Granny went gaga over the oversized bunny and praised him for coming out to be sociable. Cinnamon liked getting his ears stroked, but he sat up on his haunches as if looking for something in the distance.
A blur of brilliant color streaked down from the sky and Cracker the parrot alighted next to the rabbit. She nibbled at his fur and cooed, “Good bird… good bird.”
My amazement at the bond between bird and bunny had no end. My grandmother and I watched the two in fascination. Then she got back to business.
“Exactly where is this shindig anyway,” I asked. I knew it was at one of the fanciest homes in Savannah, but I didn’t know much more than that. I wondered if I had known more before I was attacked and drugged.
“Umm… what was that address?” Granny Fanny said half to herself. “Oh. It’s at 420 Kingston Lane.”
Immediately Cracker flew into the air, making circles around Granny and me. The parrot squawked excitedly, “Fourandtwenty, Fourandtwenty! Dainty dish to set before the king! Dainty dish!” she repeated as she alighted on my shoulder and pulled my hair with her beak. “Dainty dish. Fourandtwenty!”
Cinnamon Bun sat up on his haunches inquiringly at the bird’s outburst. He made a snorting sound that drew my eyes to him. Then I noticed a small rectangle on the porch next to the rabbit. I stooped to retrieve it.
Another playing card, I thought. I knew I needed to turn it over, but I was afraid to look. Cracker must have brought it with her, and dropped it when she started grooming the bunny. But where had the parrot gotten the card? Did she pick it up at the Vale residence? Or did she find it somewhere along the way? What if she didn’t bring the card at all? What if an anonymous person had left it there on the porch as another warning?
I was shivering, though it was not cold. I felt Granny step closer. She was looking over my shoulder at the card. Cautionary words were written across the back of the card in a familiar hand.
My hands were shaking so badly that I almost dropped the card. Reluctantly I turned over the rectangle to reveal the sinister looking Joker on the face of the playing card. Cracker fluttered off my shoulder and landed on the porch banister. “Jokerswild!” the parrot shrieked and shook her foot.
I had a hazy memory of Cracker making that motion before. I remembered thinking it seemed disdainful. Whoever the Joker was, Cracker did not like him… or maybe her. I reminded myself to think like a modern woman. The villain might just as well be a woman as a man.
Turning the card face down once again I repeated the words “Be ready!” and felt the pit of my stomach freeze.
French Dip Sandwiches
Recipe and photo courtesy Rachael Ray
Total Time: 15 min Prep: 5 min Cook: 10 min
Yield: 4 servings Level: Easy
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 jigger dry sherry, optional
2 cans beef consommé, found on broth and soups aisle or beef broth
1 1/2 pounds deli sliced roast beef
Grill seasoning blend spices for steak, such as Montreal Steak Seasoning Blend, or, coarse salt and pepper
4 torpedo sandwich rolls, split
In a large, shallow skillet over moderate heat, melt butter. Add shallots to butter and sauté 2 minutes. Add flour to butter and shallot and cook a minute longer. Whisk in sherry and cook liquid out. Whisk in consommé in a slow stream. Bring sauce to a bubble and allow to simmer over low heat until ready to serve sandwiches.
Pile meat loosely across your cutting board or a large work surface. Season meat with grill seasoning or salt and black pepper. Set out 4 ramekins or small soup cups for dipping sauce, 4 dinner plates and 4 split torpedo rolls. To assemble, using a pair of kitchen tongs, dip meat into loose au jus sauce and pile into rolls. Set ramekins or cups with extra dipping sauce alongside the sandwiches.
Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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