Welcome back! Can you tell that I’m excited about this episode? The ingredients for this episode are from Willy Nilly, writer of the blog Willy Nilly To and Fro ~ The Philosophy of Inanity. However, there’s nothing willy-nilly or disorganized about the stories and posts you’ll find there. I hope you’ll pay a visit to Willy Nilly’s blog. I think you’ll be glad you did.
I’ll go ahead and tell you that the Three Ingredients serial does not end with this episode. But my writing “crystal ball” tells me that we are very close to a conclusion. However, I think I have a couple of surprises for you. Plus something I’ve had up my sleeve for a long time finally wriggled free and onto the page. Oooh, I really hope I’m going to surprise you with that one! I wish I could see your faces.
Without further ado, here is Episode-23. Bon appétit!
23. Seaweed Sheets, Rice, Sesame Oil
Alastair had introduced me to sushi when I first got to Savannah. To my surprise I liked it, but I was still feeling queasy so I wasn’t so keen on being around for its preparation. The young restaurateur had been super particular about exactly what kind of seaweed sheet he wanted. Maybe if we couldn’t find the sheets he would settle for the cleverly made rice balls he was arranging. Alastair formed them so that they were mostly round, but each one had a simplified animal shape. They were so adorable it made me smile just to look at them.
“Do you feel steady enough to stand at the table and serve while I go to the kitchen and check?” he asked with open concern on his face.
He added that so far the party guests were greeting one another and had not moved toward the tables where we arranged the foods from Granny Fanny’s Goodies. Really, everybody was making too much of the little spell I had in the library. I felt better practically as soon as I got out of that room. I promised Alastair that I was fine and shooed him toward the kitchen.
A woman in a stylish blue gown stood talking to a small group of guests. Their clothes looked expensive but somber. The clothes of his office set Bishop Bradley Binghamton apart from the rest of that group. He was a slight man wearing a long vest over a white silk shirt with billowy sleeves. A heavy gold cross hung from his neck. The cross pendant almost seemed too heavy for him, as if the large jewelry weighted him down.
My thought seemed preposterous as I watched the slender man. Could he really be the Bishop from the gangsters’ code names? After all, he was a real bishop. He looked so quiet and peaceful as he stood listening to the people around him. How could he be one of the gangsters. There must be another explanation, another Bishop.
It was a truly sophisticated party, unlike anything I had ever experienced. There had been some fancy parties during my brief stay at the Ringlings’ gilded mansion, Ca’ d’ Zan. Glorious though those parties were, they did not match the elegance of the reception at 420 Kingston Lane.
A maid in a dressy black uniform stood peering between the lace curtains at one of the palladium windows on the front side of the house. She motioned excitedly to the woman in blue. The woman’s confidant manner told me that she was the hostess, Mrs. Kingston. I saw her catch the butler’s eye and take a breath as if to call to him. However, Farceur anticipated her wishes and strode to the front door, his black tailcoat moving gracefully as he walked.
The butler ushered in a man who was somewhat stooped with age. I imagined he was tall and strong when he was young. He had a very deep tan that was in contrast to his thick white hair and beard, but that was far from the most unusual thing about him. He didn’t look like Valentino, but he was dressed like the Sheik of Araby! He also wore spectacles with yellow tinted lenses.
“The ambassador…” I whispered to myself. He must be that ambassador who was such a big deal to the hosts of the reception. I watched as Farceur greeted the man. I noticed that the butler looked at him intently, closely, even suspiciously. I was quite intrigued by the way the major domo reacted to the ambassador. However, Mrs. Kingston greeted the elderly man effusively, pushing the butler away.
The old man returned the courtesy of the hostess in a gravel voice. Standing so far away, I could barely make out what he said, but it was something about being pleased to meet her. So they weren’t old friends after all. Maybe the ambassador’s importance lay in a business deal that Kingston hoped to make.
Could this ambassador be the King of Clubs? The thought sprang suddenly to my mind. No. Surely not. Wouldn’t he call himself a sheik or a sultan or something? But then, he probably wouldn’t be the one who made up the code names for the bootleggers. However, my pondering was interrupted.
I gaped in astonishment because he looked so much like the portrait of Henry Kingston. His jaw had a softer line and his graying hair suggested a darker shade in youth than that of his ancestor. I nervously excused my rudeness for staring, and commented on the portrait and the resemblance.
The shindig’s host sure was a talker. He took my elbow and steered me to a sofa, despite my protest that I was manning the hors d’oeuvre table. He chatted away. I was uncomfortable with how close he sat to me, plus he was one of those people who leaned in when they talk to you. That’s when I realized that he’d already had at least one martini.
It was an awkward predicament. I admit that I’ve never been good at knowing for sure whether men were flirting with me unless something overt happened. So I tried to be polite, and my brain raced for a way to extract myself from the too friendly host.
“Yes that’s a portrait of ‘The King’ as they called my father,” he said with a motion toward the study, or library as he called it.
“But wasn’t he the first and you’re the third?” I couldn’t help asking, though I knew I shouldn’t say anything to encourage him to hang around.
“Oh, that was some foolishness on my parents part, and they left me spending my life explaining it,” he said with a wave of his hand. “Henry II died as an infant. You know how that happens so many times with newborns, though not quite as often as it once did, and the poor parents never understand how it came to pass,” he said with a dour expression. He paused, probably for breath after that long sentence. I nodded and he continued. “So later, when I came into the world they saddled me with the confusing moniker of Henry III.”
That bossy major domo walked up and cleared his throat, looking at me accusingly. I’d have him know that I didn’t work for him! But before I could say anything he cast a dramatic look toward the hors d’oeuvre table and I saw that I had my chance to exit. Maybe he wasn’t such a creep after all. I excused myself, but Henry III quickly grabbed my wrist as I stood.
“Sir,” Mr. Farceur leaned down and spoke softly, making it seem that what he had to say was important and required Kingston’s personal attention. “Madame made a change to the evening’s plans. We will need help from all the serving staff, including this young woman, if you can spare her?” he ended the sentence with a tone that was just questioning enough to be respectful.
I moved half a step away, thinking I was free, but the old bugger still had ahold of my wrist. Farceur’s eyebrows went up minutely. Kingston asked him to explain. I got the impression that he and his wife might not get along so well, and when he added “What has she come up with now?” I was sure.
“A pet parade, Sir,” Farceur said drolly. “Madame has contacted whomever she could and asked them to bring their animals… in fancy dress. So she has prudently instructed that most of tonight’s event shall be held on the terrace.”
“Dogs and what-not in costumes! Why the devil would she do such a thing?” Kingston exclaimed, and he jumped half out of his skin when his wife suddenly spoke from behind him.
“If your pet is going to show up, then everyone should be allowed to bring theirs,” she said acidly.
Oh, there was definitely marital discord at 420 Kingston Lane! As if on cue the front doors flew open. A man in an all-white tuxedo rolled out a bolt of shimmering gold cloth onto the marble floor. Then he bowed deeply as a cluster of people came through the door, walking on the fabric. The partygoers stood in open mouthed silence as two more men in white tuxedos entered arm-in-arm on either side of a woman in a golden beaded flapper gown. The moment I saw the glitter of the ostentatious tiara she wore, I knew her identity. Queenie Wetson.
“However, it looks like you need a leash for your pet,” Mrs. Kingston said with a sneer and turned on her heel. She went back to a small group of guests who clustered protectively around her and pointedly ignored the newcomer.
Yes, Queenie had beguiled Kingston all right. I expected the woman could easily manipulate him. Judging by the smitten look on his face, Kingston would do anything for her. I was sure he danced on her strings whenever she wanted. “Applesauce!” I thought. If Kingston was her puppet, then the Queen of Clubs might also be the King of Clubs!
Farceur stepped in front of me as if he was about to walk forward and greet the woman. The three men acted subservient to her and Farceur appeared to dismiss them as if they in fact were servants. However, he stopped midstride. As I peeped around the butler I saw that the three men in white evening wear looked like they were uncomfortable in their own skins. Wearing the glad rags didn’t come naturally to those thugs. The Queen of Clubs moved toward us. The beaded fringe of her gown swung as her hips provocatively swayed.
“You’d be well advised to make yourself scarce,” Farceur turned and whispered to me through his clenched teeth. “It’s best that she does not see you.”
Anxiously I cleared my throat. “I umm… I have to get the sesame oil. I forgot to put it on the table earlier,” I turned to Kingston and babbled the first excuse that popped into my head. However, nobody noticed what I said. Kingston was mesmerized by the woman. He let go of my wrist as if he had lost the feeling in his hand, and his arm dropped to his side.
Though I only saw her for an instant, Queenie Wetson struck me as one bad customer, a real piece of work. Instinctively I wanted to get as far away from her as I could. It crossed my mind that it was odd that I’d feel that way. I was truly my grandmother’s granddaughter and like Granny Fanny, I wasn’t too easily intimidated. Yet despite the fact that I had never even met this woman, she unnerved me.
Or at least I didn’t think I had met her. There were still some big holes in my memory – especially when they found me at Wetson’s Mill, which was also the location of the Queen of Clubs Herb Farm. I woke up in a cellar, and managed to climb out. Shortly afterward Alastair found me and summoned the others who were also searching for me. Otherwise, that entire day was a blank.
At any rate I thought it would be prudent to find Granny Fanny and ask about the sudden change Mrs. Kingston made, wanting to have a “parade of pets” out on the terrace. I decided to go out through the kitchen. I saw Alastair there. He still hadn’t found the special seaweed sheets. He got permission to use the house phone and called his mother asking her if she could send more.
Arabella Wong’s excited voice reached my ears. She would bring them herself, just to come to the party. The Kingstons didn’t seem like the stuffy type to me, and the Wongs were established members of the community. They’d likely invite her to stay. Alastair didn’t seem too pleased at the prospect of his mother being there. Alastair knew the evening might turn out to be dangerous. He tried to warn Arabella off without breaking the secret, but he didn’t seem to be getting through to her.
The evening really could get dangerous with all those gangsters around. I reminded myself that they weren’t just bootleggers, they were killers. Marshal Moses Myrick had planned to turn this reception into a sting operation to catch the gangsters, but then he and his men were ambushed. The marshal was critically wounded, and still not able to get around. However, he was the lucky one. His men were killed.
Then Granny got it into her head to at least try and get the evidence Myrick hoped to find at the Kingston estate. He believed Kingston kept an incriminating journal of some kind. However, I was pretty sure the journal was what Farceur removed from the safe while I hid under that massive desk in the library. So even if we got the chance to sneak back into the room without the butler seeing us, I didn’t think we’d find anything inside the safe hidden behind the portrait of Daisy the Dainty Dish.
The main kitchen door opened and in came a harried looking Eunice Udall. She carried several bellhop uniforms. It turned out that Mrs. Kingston wanted the servants who were going to help with the pet parade to change into a different uniform. The bellhop outfits were the only thing Eunice could come up with on such short notice.
I apologized to Eunice for having been in such a rush earlier. “Oh it’s all right dear,” she said. “I’m glad my assistant was able to help you. I was just confused because… What was the name you used? Doris? Anyhow the girl’s name is Annie. Actually, I had just discussed the job with her that morning. I didn’t realize she was in the shop while you were.”
With a blink I repeated, “Annie?” I wondered why Daisy would give me a different name. Though we only spoke for a moment, I felt like the girl and I could be friends. So it bothered me that she would call herself Daisy if her name was Annie. Maybe there was some mistake. Eunice was in a rush, and I knew I shouldn’t bother her, but I had to ask. “A dark haired girl wearing tomboy clothes?” I asked.
Eunice looked at me strangely. However, Hortense Houston, the housekeeper, pulled Eunice and the bellhop uniforms away. I still needed to talk to Granny about the outdoor tables so shrugged it off. I went outside by a small side door.
A stone path led upward through a garden of mature camellias and dwarf palmettos. I could see lights from the library window at the top of the hill. Tiny fairy lights were strung all around the estate, so it wasn’t too hard to walk on the path, despite the cloud that blocked the moonlight.
As I rounded a corner I saw a party guest in the shadows. She reclined on a lounge chair on the terrace outside Kingston’s library. Her beautiful chiffon gown billowed in an evening breeze that stirred her dark hair.
“Not all things are as they seem,” she turned to me and whispered. Though I could not see her well in the near darkness, I could tell that she put a finger to her lips as if for quiet. Then she looked pointedly to one side. I followed her gaze and saw something white move. Squinting into the dim light, I realized there were two people. They were a short distance down the path, obscured by all the bushes and crape myrtles trees.
Then movement from above drew my eyes. Cracker sat in the branches of a flowering tree. The parrot gave a soft whistle when she saw me looking. “Dainty Dish!” she chirped.
My eyes widened and I whirled to face the dark haired woman, but she was gone. Could she have been the Daisy I met earlier? I looked back up at Cracker questioningly. The parrot bobbed her head up and down and turned in a circle on the branch.
Cracker looked toward the two people who were farther into the shadows on the unlit path. It seemed almost like they were struggling. Concerned, I quietly stepped closer. The white I saw before turned out to be the white haired old man in sheik’s clothing, the ambassador. He didn’t look like a stooped old man any more, as he held a woman in his embrace.
He leaned in to kiss her and she resisted. That’s when I got worried. So I turned onto that path, ready to help if necessary. I heard the gentle swoosh of Cracker gliding from branch to branch behind me. It was a truly passionate kiss that the woman resisted. Or rather, she resisted it for a moment before she started kissing him back.
I stopped in my tracks. If there was nothing wrong, I wouldn’t want to interrupt. As I hesitated the evening breeze pushed a cloud away from the moon, shedding light on the couple. Granny? Why she truly was a flapper at heart. I couldn’t help smiling. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, so I turned to go back the way I’d come. However, Cracker noisily flew toward my grandmother and the ambassador.
I ducked behind the camellias so they wouldn’t see me, but I could still see them pretty well. When the parrot swooped in on Granny and the ambassador, the bird knocked his yellow glasses aside. He stood up straight and tall and exclaimed, “Cracker!”
How would a foreign dignitary know the parrot’s name? The voice was not the gravely accented voice he’d used earlier. I recognized that voice, and without the spectacles I knew the face despite the white hair and beard. That was no ambassador and it wasn’t even an old man. It was Detective Dabney Daniels!
“Don’t be mean to the poor bird,” Granny said. “She did us a favor. I can’t believe I just now gave in. How many times have I told you that it just isn’t right? You have a full life ahead of you. I’d be wrong to let you love an old woman like me.”
“Fanny,” Daniels said and some of the gravel that had been part of his disguise-voice returned. “You are no old woman. You’re just older than I am. And that doesn’t bother me a bit,” he said and pulled her closer.
“Be serious Dabney. Paisley would be a much better match for you,” my grandmother told the detective. “It’s better for you to be ten years older than Pip than for me to be closer to fifteen years older than you.”
“Why do you worry about which direction the age difference is in?” he asked, and it had the ring of something he’d probably said before. “If it’s all right for me to be older than her, then why is it wrong for you to be older than me?”
Granny leaned her head into his shoulder. I thought she might be hiding her tears, or muffling a sob. She shook her head then looked up into Dabney’s eyes. “Don’t you see? Twenty years from now, Pip would be married to a distinguished older man. That’s what they call men when they begin to show signs of age — distinguished.”
She pulled back from him, though he still held her tightly. “But with me being older… Well, women aren’t referred to as distinguished. Women just get old. So not even twenty years from now… just ten or even five years from now, I’d be much older than you. Much… And the older people get the more rapid aging becomes. Don’t you see?” Granny Fanny implored. “You are dear to me and I would love you as a son-in-law. But that would be all,” she added with a note of finality.
“There is no substitute, no matter how much Pip seems like a younger version of you,” he said. “I like the girl. I’m actually very fond of her. But you hold my heart in the palm of your hand Fanny.”
I plopped down on the cold stone of the path. My grandmother? All the time I had been infatuated with Dabney Daniels, he had been in love with my grandmother? Granny? I was stunned. It was more than my poor noodle could process. Rustling sounds told me the couple had parted. I heard Granny moving toward the kitchen path, and Dabney went another way.
Cracker flew back and perched near me on a low branch. As she had done once before, the parrot leaned close and took a strand of my bobbed hair in her beak. It was as if she meant to preen my feathers to comfort me. I just didn’t have any feathers, so she gently pulled at my short hair. I don’t know how long I sat there on the stone path. I would have been happy for Granny if I hadn’t been so shocked. Or if I had known about Dabney’s feelings for her from the beginning.
With a sigh I told myself that I knew now, so I might as well accept it. I already had known for a while that Dabney wasn’t interested in me. And it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as when I’d found out Frankie the fireman was betraying all of us back in Sarasota, Florida.
I stood a little stiffly. Then I dusted off the back of my wide legged black crepe waiter’s pants. I was close to the library doors and I wondered if they were unlocked. I’d rather not be seen coming into the kitchen from the outside. I didn’t want Granny to know I had seen her and Dabney. They shared a private moment that was not meant for me. I didn’t want to intrude on it any more than I already had.
As I started to move, Cracker darted to perch on my shoulder. The parrot bobbed her head excitedly. I looked at the library where light streamed from an opening door. Farceur stepped out from the door and was met by Detective Daniels, still wearing his ambassador disguise.
The two men spoke too softly for me to know what they said. As the butler moved the tails of his tuxedo twitched. He reached into his jacket and withdrew a book which he discretely handed to Daniels. The book disappeared into the folds of the opulent sheik’s robes the detective wore. More words were exchanged. They seemed to reach an agreement. Then the two men parted and went back inside by different doors.
“What just happened?” I whispered more to myself than to the parrot on my shoulder.
Cracker tugged a strand of my hair. Then she whistled.
Next week, CB at “Better Dressed than Joe” provides the ingredients. Who can guess what chaos will ensue with the “pet parade.” Not to mention that the Queen of Clubs is on the scene.
I’ll leave you with a video related to Willy Nilly’s ingredients. See you next time.
Video: Making Sushi California Roll At Home
Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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