What’s a writer to do when more than one set of “ingredients” arrive at the same time? Be grateful, that’s what! Which leads me to a big reveal…
The following episode brings us to the finale of this storyline. Oh, don’t fret! The Three Ingredients hasn’t “given up the ghost!” I didn’t have the heart to completely end things today. Plus your ingredients led to several details that I wanted to carry-over. I’m sure there will be some different characters, but if you root for your favorites in the comments area, I’ll try to keep them around.
So next time, “Cookbook 2” will begin with ingredients from writer/blogger Evelyne Holingue. Pip will continue as the narrator of the culinary mystery, but the “spirit” of the story might be a bit different. (Are you beginning to get a hint about the future story here?)
Now, for the finale! I’m pleased to have the opportunity to share about cookbooks from a LinkedIn associate and fellow blogger, Dr. Phuong Le Callaway. Phuong’s blog deals with leadership and motivation. In addition to all her other work, Phuong wrote three cookbooks! Proceeds from any of her wonderful cookbooks go to charity. Now, let’s find out what happens when that cloud of red pepper settles. Bon appétit!
25. Ginger Roots, Chicken Breast, Cabbage
From the corner of my eyes I saw Arabella Wong, Alastair’s mother, walking up the path. Her teal satin dress was heavily embroidered with designs of chrysanthemums and birds. The satin shimmered in the fairy lights that lined the walkway. Granny Fanny stepped out the kitchen door, carrying a tray of beautiful meringue pies, but she stepped over to meet Arabella anyway.
I knew Arabella wanted to get a look at the big shindig, but I was also aware that Alastair told his mother to send someone else to do the errand. He knew enough to realize that the evening could become dangerous. All of us were sure Queenie Wetson and her gang of bootleggers were behind the ambush that left Marshal Moses Myrick gravely wounded, and his federal agents dead.
The young restaurateur cast a worried and frustrated look at his mother as she approached. He had set up a table and equipment for making spring rolls. A small group of hungry partygoers watched him prepare the ingredients. Who could blame them? It was fascinating to watch Alastair cook. His movements were quick, deft, and graceful. It was almost a dance. He tossed a carrot into the air with a flourish before rapidly chopping it. Then he arranged the carrot pieces into a swirl design on a gleaming white square shaped plate.
Arabella spotted her son and called out to him. “Alastair I thought you might need more ginger roots too…”
However, Mrs. Wong’s voice trailed away from me, because I was focused on the chaos erupting before me. Our hostess wanted to hold a “parade of pets.” It was charming, but it went awry when several of the animals got loose. Pandemonium ensued.
The cavorting furry kids knocked down Queenie Weston, bootlegger kingpin (or maybe I should say queen-pin), and her three white tuxedo clad henchmen. That bunch surely deserved the tangle of arms and legs in which they landed.
The pets also ruined one of Granny’s hors d’oeuvre tables, sending all manner of food flying into the air. The lovely and unique square shaped plates and saucers fared no better, all the dishes and containers were overturned and scattered. This included a silver bowl filled with powdered red pepper. In mute fascination, I watched the bowl somersault high overhead. Time slowed to a crawl as I stared at the silver container.
A slow-motion cloud of red pepper sifted down toward the henchmen and Queenie. Maybe it was because everything seemed to be moving so slowly, but in that moment I noticed Detective Dabney Daniels, in disguise, frantically patting his sheik’s robes.
As I watched, he exchanged a wide-eyed look with that bossy butler. Farceur’s mouth gaped in apparent comprehension. Earlier I watched those two sneaking around (right after I caught that copper kissing Granny!), and I saw the butler pass a small book to Dabney. I wasn’t sure if they were up to good or no-good. However, I did know that the incriminating journal had just gone missing. Dabney had lost it somehow.
Beside me, a girl in tomboy clothes darted under the descending pepper cloud. She was moving normally, while everything else crept along slower than a tortoise. A blue pop of electricity lit Queenie’s beaded evening bag. The Queen of Clubs cried out in surprised pain as she fell, tossing aside the offending purse. The sound of her cry stretched out to a long slow moan. The evening bag popped open as it skidded across the pavement, exposing the small journal inside.
Suddenly the girl in tomboy clothes was at my elbow. “Daisy!” I exclaimed recognizing the young woman who repaired my uniform jacket earlier that day.
“Quick, Pip!” Daisy said pointing at the evening bag. “Get it!”
Ever so slowly Dabney turned to look at Queenie and her men. As one of them seemed to float toward the ground, positioned to land directly on top of the Queen of Clubs, I noticed the henchman’s smug grin as he looked at the distraught detective. I thought he must have gotten the journal from Dabney without the detective knowing.
Bit by bit, the man’s smile faded as he realized he was falling. I knew that whether or not they saw through Dabney’s disguise, the gangsters were onto the fact that he’d had the convicting book. Had the butler, Mr. Farceur, tipped them off?
Joker’s wild, Cracker the Parrot had repeated many times. As best I could figure out, farceur was a French word for joker. I didn’t know much about poker, but couldn’t a wild card be used for whatever you wanted it to be? What if the gangster code named Joker was Farceur? What if he was working both sides? Could he pretend to work for both the police and the gangsters?
“Hurry, Pip!” Daisy urged, snapping me out of the ideas that had unexpectedly filled my mind.
Thinking fast, I grabbed a square saucer that stayed on the table, despite the shenanigans of the animals. I rushed over to the evening bag. I replaced the journal with the saucer, snapped the purse closed, and left the fancy evening bag where it lay. I tucked the journal inside the waistband of my wide-legged trousers and covered it with the white waiter’s tuxedo jacket. No one saw what I did.
Everything was still moving abnormally slow. I couldn’t begin to understand why or how it could be so. Just the same, Daisy and I seemed to be the only ones who were at normal speed.
“Your cute redheaded friend hid a radio in the delivery truck. Tell him to have the coppers move in,” Daisy said. “I can’t keep things slowed down much longer.”
“What? Do you mean you’re…” I began, but everything seemed so strange that I couldn’t finish forming the question in my mind, let alone spit it out.
Hank was right beside us, all but frozen in astonishment as he mutely watched the cloud of red pepper poof upward and then slowly descend. Daisy touched a finger to his earlobe and Hank shivered.
“Tell him now,” she urged, and I leaned close to Hank and spoke the words into his ear, telling him he had to get to the radio and bring the coppers.
Savannah’s youngest policeman only twitched, but the expression in his eyes made me feel like he might actually have heard and understood. Ever so slowly he began to turn on his heel.
“Thank you Pip,” Daisy said. She no longer wore the tomboy outfit. She was dressed elegantly in a diaphanous chiffon gown. “So few people are aware of me — even when I try very hard to contact them. You have a gift.”
I started to shiver with the cold I felt at her presence. The clang of the silver dish against the pavement came to my ears, but I didn’t look as I stared in awe at Daisy. Much lighter, the pepper continued its sluggish descent, seemingly long after the bowl hit the ground.
“I have helped you,” she continued. “And I was happy to do it. However, I now ask you to use your rare talent to help me.”
“Of course, Daisy. I would have helped you however I could anyway,” I said, though I continued a mental struggle to comprehend the impossible happenings around me. Was I really talking to a ghost? Had she honestly managed to slow time?
“If I knew who took my life, I would just show you,” Daisy said. “But after death, sometimes a spirit might know more about some things and less about others, especially when it comes to the life we lived. I just want you to understand that I’m not just being vindictive or self-serving. Yes, I’d like my killer brought to justice, but I also want to make sure he, she, or they don’t harm anyone else,” she said with an exasperated shrug.
I nodded my understanding. The nausea came back full force. Alastair was right about the cold and upset stomach accompanying a spirit’s presence.
“As I said, I know parts, but not the whole. There are several people here tonight who either took part in my death or have information about it. The presence of so many of them in one place is what drew me here — what gave me the strength to do the things I’ve done just now,” Daisy said.
“I’ll do all I can, Daisy,” I said with a big dry gulp.
“Oh, by the way, you’re right. The Joker’s wild,” she added. “He was secretly working for Moses Myrick. Try not to give him away. He’s not such a bad guy.”
“How could you know…” I began but stopped myself.
Daisy smiled. “I met Moses. He died for a moment. Actually he died a couple of times. First while that one was driving him to the doctors,” she said pointing to Dabney in his disguise. “And again when your grandmother and her friends were trying to save him. That was how I knew to find you.”
She chuckled at my confused expression. “Naturally Moses will not remember meeting me. He said how much like your grandmother you are. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be mysterious,” she said as I tried unsuccessfully to form words. “Your grandmother can see me, or rather she could if she didn’t have so many of her talents blocked. Your gift comes from her line,” Daisy explained as she drifted away from me.
The motions in the scene around me gradually began to increase toward normal speed. Daisy moved to stand beside Henry Kingston III, and she gave me a very significant look. Then she disappeared.
Walking at a snail’s pace, Hortense Houston “hurried” toward the falling guests. As the housekeeper, it was a matter of pride to her that the even went well. She a look of horror painted her face as she saw the calamity in progress. She didn’t see the chicken breast she was about to step on, and I hoped it didn’t cause her to slip. She had been nice to me.
As time started to pass at a rate that was very close to normal, I saw Daisy step through the broad French doors. She went to a large framed photograph and placed her hand on it. She nodded to me. I knew there was information in that photograph. I’d have to make sure I got a good look at it. Then Daisy vanished.
In a surge that I felt in the bottom of my stomach, everything rushed back to normal speed. The sensation caused me to stagger. Without a word, Hank made a beeline toward the delivery truck and the radio he had secretly hidden there.
The red pepper cloud finally reached Queenie Wetson and her henchmen. Screaming, crying, and floundering erupted from the quartet.
I headed straight over to Dabney Daniels. Mr. Farceur reached him a fraction of a second sooner. They were hissing something at each other when they saw me. Since I’d seen Dabney searching his robes for it and make eye contact with the Joker, I knew they were talking about the incriminating journal. Both men started jabbering at me, saying that I should go do this or that.
“Look, I know about that book,” I said loudly enough to cut across their combined chatter. Then realizing the volume at which I spoke, I took a quick look over my shoulder. Queenie and her men were still in the midst of a pepper induced fit. Everything around them was in chaos, with the pets still on the loose.
“What I don’t know,” I said with an arch look at the butler. “Is whether you can be trusted. Either of you!” I added, including Dabney in my gaze before turning back to Farceur. “But especially you. Are you some kind of double agent, working both sides against the middle? Or were you working with the police all along?” I demanded.
Farceur drew an annoyed sounding breath. Then to my surprise, he fessed up. “I became acquainted with Marshal Moses Myrick when he began investigating my new employers, the Kingstons,” Farceur said in a clipped way. “He discovered that I had done some… shall we say discrete work for my government before I came here. He enlisted my help. However, I did not expect to find anyone other than the marshal in the sheik’s robes tonight.”
“Did you give him the real book then?” I asked jerking my head toward Dabney.
The butler looked like he was disgusted with himself. “Yes, against my better judgment, I gave it to him. He threatened to expose everything if I did not,” Farceur said, glaring at the detective.
“Pip, how do you know about any of this?” Dabney insisted.
“There’s no time for that,” I said in a rush, knowing he’d never believe me if I told him. “Hank’s gone to radio the police. I hope they’re nearby,” I said in a suggestive tone.
Dabney looked relieved but confused. He nodded. He wasn’t moving and I wanted to push him into action. However, I glanced at the three men and the Queen of Clubs. They were beginning to get to their collective feet. There were four of them and only three of us. Then I saw the flash of metal. Apparently the men were distraught and felt threatened enough that they drew their guns. I didn’t realize they had been carrying firearms.
I gasped when I saw so many weapons on display. Even Queenie drew a pearl handled pistol from a holster at her garter. We were definitely outnumbered.
“Didn’t you notice the bulges in their jackets, Pip?” Detective Daniels asked with a smirk. “Now you run along and stay out of the way. This is no place for a girl. And Fanny would never forgive me if something happened to you.”
Well… you can guess what effect those words had on me. How dare he tell me to run along as if I were a child or a simpleton! Having seen those guns, I might actually have run for cover if he hadn’t said that. But there was no backing down then!
A pistol appeared in Dabney’s hand as if by magic. It was probably hidden in the voluminous robes. Farceur picked up a double handful of forks and knives from the nearest table. In an instant he had one between each of the fingers of both of his hands. The two men snaked between party guests toward the villains.
However, Queenie and her men were already regaining their wits. The sound of police sirens cut through the noise of laughing and talking. It brought the gangsters to their senses.
Hortense Houston had come back to full speed along with everything else. The housekeeper hurried toward the guests to make sure they were unharmed from their fall. Just as she reached them, Hortense slipped on the chicken breast that I noticed a moment before. As she slid into one of the henchmen he grabbed her and put his gun to her head.
There was so much noise. I could barely sort all the sounds. The dogs howled, probably at the sirens — which continued to wail. Someone screamed. Everyone seemed to be shouting.
Queenie, her glittering tiara askew, stepped back onto the tail of Marie Antoinette, Mrs. Kingston’s Maine Coon cat. The tall cat hissed and stood up on her hind legs, claws extended, and grabbed the posterior of the Queen of Clubs. Queenie shrieked, waiving her pearl handled pistol. Antoinette darted inside the mansion.
To my horror, I saw how close they were to Arabella Wong and Granny Fanny. Alastair was only a few feet away at his table too. What if the crooks started shooting?
One of the henchmen tripped over his own feet when he turned to see what was wrong with Queenie. His stumble put him in range of Arabella Wong and he made a grab for Alastair’s mother. My stomach lurched. Arabella wouldn’t hurt a fly; she was so ladylike and demure. My brief acquaintance with her flashed before my eyes. I heard the horrible man say, “Two hostages are better than one!”
In a heartbeat the man was socked in the noggin by a head of cabbage. Since the man was so close to his mother, Alastair picked up the safest “weapon” at hand and threw the vegetable. However, he threw it with such force and speed that it made the villain stagger.
The next thing I knew, Arabella was all over the guy. Hands and feet flying in a blur, Arabella was like nothing I’d ever seen before as she attacked her would be assailant. Then Granny Fanny started throwing those beautiful meringue pies! It looked like something the Marx Brothers would have done, and I would have laughed if the situation had not been deadly dangerous!
A woman screamed when the henchmen aimed their guns. Then I realized the screaming woman was me! I was so afraid of what might happen to Granny and Arabella while I watched helplessly.
As if I had summoned her, Cracker soared into the fray, raking her sharp talons across the heads of the criminal quartet. She caught Queenie’s tiara in her beak and tossed it violently. As the parrot attacked one of the henchmen, he fired his gun wildly into the air.
Girls didn’t usually get much in the way of science classes in school back then, but I was luckier than most. I knew enough to realize that a bullet going up would eventually come down. I just hoped that it didn’t come down and kill an innocent.
With unexpected attack from feet, pies, and talons the villains were so surprised that Hortense managed to get away from the henchman who was holding her at gunpoint. There were still so many people in the way that it wasn’t safe for Dabney to fire his gun. At least I hoped he would realize that. When I spotted him, he was pointing the revolver but he couldn’t seem to get a clear shot. I swallowed hard, fearing the wrong person would get shot.
The henchmen managed to get guns their aimed at Arabella and Granny, and the two women backed away. The assault had pushed the criminals against the wall of the mansion. Queenie and her men sidled toward the broad French doors. However, they stopped when the police started pounding at the mansion’s front door.
Cracker glided to the table where Alastair stood, as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. She picked up a carrot and flew to a corner of the terrace. I hadn’t noticed Cinnamon Bun there. Cracker gave the giant rabbit the carrot. He nibbled it and then seemed to decide to carry it elsewhere. I saw the bunny’s long ears as he quietly moved amid partygoers. To my dismay, he ended up behind one of Queenie’s men.
The carrot was sticking out of Cinnamon Bun’s mouth as he curiously sat up on his haunches to investigate the man in front of him. A Flemish Giant rabbit standing on his haunches is pretty tall. The carrot poked the man’s side. He must have thought someone had sneaked up on him with a gun, because he eased his hands into the air.
Queenie turned in consternation. “What are you doing?” she shouted at him. “It’s a rabbit for heaven’s sake!”
However, that was enough of a diversion for Mr. Farceur to get into place. He was only armed with cutlery from the table, but his aim was dead-on. The knives and forks whistled through the air in a rapid blur, and painfully struck the quartet of gangsters.
By then some of the policemen made their way to the back of the mansion, and the ones at the front door got inside. Soon Queenie Wetson and her henchmen were arrested and locked up in the paddy wagon.
Dabney Daniels removed his sheik headdress and yellow tinted glasses. He spoke individually to each person who had been directly in harm’s way, making sure they were unhurt and he put Hank Hertz to work taking statements from them.
I lost sight of Granny Fanny after she and Arabella did their part. However, she had looked unscathed at that moment. When she walked up to Dabney he looked so relieved that I thought he was going to kiss her again.
Maybe he really was about to, because Granny took half a step back from him. After my initial shock, I didn’t see anything wrong with Granny and Dabney being a couple. She was a good bit older than him, but that happened once in a while. And it happened all the time if the man was the older one. As a flapper, I had to be all for a modern relationship! However, Granny was obviously not convinced.
I walked over to the pair and removed the journal from my waistband. I made sure Granny saw it. I wanted a witness of my own. I couldn’t suddenly shift from suspicion of Daniels to complete trust. I handed the journal to the detective. It was the evidence the police needed to convict the rumrunners.
An important seeming man walked up just then and Dabney showed him the book. The man turned out to be the police commissioner, the top copper. He thumbed carefully through the journal, nodding approval as he read random pages.
Dabney motioned for Hank and Alastair to join them and he introduced the younger men to the commissioner. The commissioner had heard of Hank, Savannah’s youngest police officer, but he did not know him or Alastair personally.
I didn’t feel too comfortable being around anybody who was so… official so I stepped away before I was pulled into the introductions. Daniels caught my eye, but he seemed to understand. He nodded and I kept moving away.
Then a minor commotion came to my attention. “What about him?” I demanded, pointing at Henry Kingston III. “Isn’t he the King of Clubs?”
Mr. Farceur was beside me, but he was trying to be inconspicuous. I wasn’t sure why he didn’t want any credit for the role he played in catching the bootleggers, but I was respectful of his wish for privacy. He spoke quietly in answer to my question.
“Yes and no,” he said, and I couldn’t help rolling my eyes. Trust that butler to be cryptic. “He was the King of Clubs, but Kingston’s participation was negligible. Queenie Wetson manipulated him into most of his actions, so she was as much the King of Clubs as he was. She was both king and queen. Kingston’s a funny old bird, and not too bright. I have a suspicion that his influential position, not to mention his expensive barrister — I mean attorney, will keep him out of jail.”
As Farceur spoke one of the party guests stepped in between Kingston and the police. The man waved his arms, shouting about rights and evidence. Oh, that would be the lawyer all right.
“He is not blameless in all this. It’s not fair if he gets off scot-free!” I complained, and Farceur agreed with a sardonic twist of his lips.
“One never knows,” Farceur said as he gazed beyond me and into the branches of the crepe myrtle trees that bordered that part of the terrace. “He’s doubtless committed other crimes. Something will trip him up eventually,” he said and gave a barely perceptible nod to someone behind me.
The butler had obviously been looking at someone, so I turned to see who was there. All I saw was Cracker perched on a thick branch of the biggest crepe myrtle tree I had ever seen. The thought went through my mind that it must be very old indeed, because those trees didn’t tend toward such size.
Abruptly I realized that Cracker was not alone. Chiffon billowed on the night breeze. Daisy sat on the branch next to the parrot.
“Applesauce!” I cried in astonishment and turned back to the butler. “Do you mean to tell me that you can see her too?” I asked the empty space beside me. Farceur was gone.
Here ends Cookbook-1 of The Three Ingredients
Stay tuned for Cookbook-2!
Until next time — Great-big-hugs to you all.
Video: Thai Cooking – Chicken Ginger
Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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