Welcome back to our interactive 1920’s culinary mystery serial!
The “ingredients” for this episode are from the very talented “Kraftycat” at Kraftycat Creations. You don’t have to be a crazy cat person to enjoy her blog. Not only does she make adorable kitty toys, she makes wonderful gifts and jewelry for the humans. I hope you’ll check out her great blog.
It seems that our “ingredients” bring as many questions as answers lately. What’s in store this week? Keep reading to find out! Bon appétit!
15. Ribs, Watermelon, Corn
A vial of smelling salts that Maestro produced out of nowhere brought Mattie around from her faint. Andy and Vicar Varley helped her to the vicarage. Everyone was concerned about the older woman, but she insisted that it was “only the vapors” and that she didn’t want anyone fussing over her.
The clang of pots and pans in the kitchen made me cringe. It sounded like Maestro Martino was tearing apart the unfamiliar room as he looked for things. The ghost chef had insisted that Mattie Maddox, and the rest of us too, needed a fortifying meal after the shock of seeing Daisy’s specter. Of course, Vicar Vance Varley and Mattie had no idea that Maestro was himself a poltergeist.
Soon the aroma of Maestro’s bourbon baby back ribs dinner wafted to my nose as Andy, Granny Fanny, Mattie, the vicar, and I sat in the clergyman’s cozy parlor. I could imagine the ribs melting in my mouth and my stomach gave an impatient growl.
The vicar’s cautions to Mattie about sharing information with “strangers” — that would be us, made Andy Avis suspicious and he whispered his concerns to me. However, a discrete question revealed Vance Varley moved to Tybee Island from Gulfport, Mississippi only ten years before. So presumably he was nowhere around Savannah, Georgia at the time of Daisy’s demise. Besides, I was pretty sure he would be a bit young to be involved. When he again spoke to Mattie in a cautionary tone, she let him know where she stood, and explained to us.
“Vance has showed me great kindness since he came to Tybee. He also became my friend and confidant,” Mattie said and patted the vicar on his knee.
There were a few age spots and an enlarged vein on the top of her hand. It was clearly the hand of an old woman, but it did not look arthritic. I was relieved for the painter in her. It would be a shame for someone so talented to give up their art.
“Daisy wants me to tell what I know about her passing, else she would not have come to us. There would have been no apparition,” Mattie said in a level voice. “Vance, I know your only concern is for my safety, but I don’t want this shadow hanging over me anymore.”
She turned to the rest of us — Andy, Granny Fanny, and me. “Don’t think poorly of Vicar Varley,” she said, though she didn’t sound worried. “He’s only trying to protect me. You see, after Daisy died, I continued to work for Henry Kingston senior. However, when King Henry passed on, something odd happened.”
Mattie’s expression and tone said she suspected more than she was about to reveal. “After the funeral, I was surprised to see Byron Binghamton once again become very close to young Henry. See, I had overheard King Henry tell his son that the Binghamton boys weren’t welcome in his home any more. He told his son that he’d cut those ties if he knew what was good for him.
When the boy protested, Henry senior threatened to disinherit him. So at least outwardly, young Henry quit having anything to do with the two Binghamton brothers, athough I was pretty sure they all hung out together when nobody was looking. Why, they were so close you could spit a watermelon seed further than the space between them! I always said those three were thick as thieves…” she said and seemed far away in thought for a moment.
Mattie’s eyes were on her hands folded calmly in her lap. When she looked up, her tense frown suggested she wasn’t as calm as she appeared. She exhaled sharply, as if in frustration.
“Right after King Henry passed on, young Henry called me into his father’s library,” she said. “When I entered the room I could still smell Henry senior’s cologne and a trace of tobacco from his pipe. For a second it was as if he was still there. It made me angry to see the boy sitting in the chair behind the big desk. It was too soon, and it just wasn’t right,” Mattie said, clenching her hands. “But I held my peace. Then I saw those two Binghamton brothers lounging on the furniture…” she said.
“Or rather Byron was sprawled on the leather sofa. Bradley was sitting with his legs crossed in a chair. His posture was relaxed, but he looked tight as a drum. His eyes had dark shadows under them, and his mouth looked like the frown he wore was etched permanently into his face,” Mattie remembered. “Bradley acted so cold and detached that day, I couldn’t believe he went to the Church for his profession. But then again, maybe it makes sense,” she said in a pondering tone.
Then she gave herself a little shake and went back to the core of her story. “Anyhow, the group of them told me they were pensioning me off. It wasn’t just Henry III, as one might have thought. No, all three of them contributed. And I had the impression that Bradley Binghamton was behind it — he looked so stern, and he took over the speech when young Henry started blustering and threatened me,” Mattie said.
“Threatened you? How?” Granny asked her gently.
“There were all sorts of vague threats in that library,” Mattie answered shaking her head as if confused. “I didn’t fully understand what they were talking about, but I did grasp the fact that they wanted me away from there and they wanted me quiet. I just didn’t know what they seemed to think I knew about,” she said.
“What I meant to say,” Mattie corrected herself. “I felt like Bradley was the one who wanted to pension me off, to pay me to keep quiet… even though I didn’t know what I was keeping quiet about…” she added looking confused. “I believed young Henry and Byron had something a lot worse in mind for me,” Mattie said with a shiver. “I actually think Bradley wouldn’t let them do something that bad, and made them basically pay me to go into hiding,” Mattie told us.
“They said I had to leave Savannah, and never show my face there again,” Mattie continued. “Back then, Tybee Island seemed far enough away. I’ve never been one to ‘think big’ as they say. In those days there was no road here. This barrier island was as far away from Savannah as I had ever been, so that was where I went. And I went as fast as I could too, I can tell you. Their threats were vague, but there was murder in their eyes,” she said and wrapped her arms around herself as if she was suddenly cold.
Andy looked at Vicar Vance Varley again. “And what is your part in all this?” my friend asked suspiciously. “You were pretty obvious about not wanting her to tell us anything.”
Vicar Varley shook his head as if in denial. “Oh no, son. You misunderstand,” the vicar began, but Mattie hurried to his rescue.
“I befriended the vicar when he first came to Tybee. For years I had felt isolated, imprisoned here. Vance didn’t have any family or friends anywhere in the Savannah area before he came here. So I felt safe in making friends with him. One day he wanted me to come to the mainland with him; he was being recognized for the work he’d done here on the island. I got upset and refused to go. Then I felt guilty, and I confided in him the things I’ve just told you,” she said.
Well, applesauce! Mattie Maddox told an interesting story, but it didn’t do a blessed thing but create even more questions. It reminded me of the knitting I ruined for Granny once when I was a kid. She made me unravel and untie every bit of it before I could go out to play.
As I saw it, the most tangled skein of yarn in this particular knitting basket was Henry Kingston, the young man who was actually a young punk. It didn’t surprise me. I thought back to the fancy shindig Granny catered at his mansion when I first came to Savannah. It was all part of a sting operation put in place by Granny Fanny’s old friend Moses Myrick, a revenuer. That’s right, a real life G-man.
Henry Kingston wasn’t found guilty of any crime related to that business, but his girlfriend sure was. And Kingston knew all about it, even if his fancy lawyer got him off the hook. Plus, Henry was a married man. The fact that his wife knew about his affair didn’t make him any less of a heel in my eyes.
A strain of opera rolled from the kitchen. I didn’t realize Maestro had such a voice. Apparently he liked to sing while he cooked. Granny had been so upset about having a ghost in her kitchen that he didn’t get to cook very often. I knew he enjoyed cooking though, because often I heard him at night, puttering in Granny’s kitchen. My stomach rumbled again, and I hoped that the aria heralded the arrival of dinner.
Regardless of the fact that Maestro Martino died centuries before, he had a wonderful Italian accent. It was not diminished when he unexpectedly tried to take on a southern accent to announce that dinner was ready. Andy and I looked at each other for a minute and then burst out laughing at his comical voice.
“Ya’ll come ‘n get it. Dinner’s ready,” Maestro announced in a bizarre combination of Italian and southern accents.
“Why do you laugh Signorina o Signore? I said it just as you taught me, Signore,” Maestro said sounding a bit crestfallen.
The anticipation was clear on every face when we saw the meal the ghost chef had spread on the table. He looked at our expressions and smiled, once again his bubbly self. Bourbon baby back ribs, corn on the cob, sliced sweet potatoes drizzled with maple syrup, slaw, and cornbread awaited us.
Maestro pulled out a chair and seated Granny Fanny with more gallantry than I had ever seen, even from him. Of course that prompted the vicar to seat Mattie. With more grace and apparent practice than I would have expected, Andy did the same for me. I was rather taken aback at the gentlemanly side of my old friend. Maybe he was learning more than the movie business out in Hollywood.
We had barely begun to eat the delicious meal when a pop-fizz sound made me look up in concern. I exchanged a look with Maestro, who seemed very apprehensive. Just as I started to think nothing would happen, a mountain of white daisies cascaded down onto us, the table, and the food. We were practically buried in blossoms.
No one spoke. The vicar cast a fearful gaze around the room. He clasped his hands in prayer, but I didn’t think he was saying grace. Andy looked annoyed as he picked daisies from his ribs. Then he shrugged and put a big bite into his mouth and complimented Maestro, in between the yum-yum sounds he mumbled. Mattie laughed at Andy, and then threw a handful of daisies into the air with a girlish giggle.
I looked across the table at Maestro Martino. He grinned jovially but the smile didn’t reach his eyes. His smile quickly faded and his expression became contemplative and serious. I asked him what was on his mind.
“Daisy has become suddenly powerful,” Maestro said in a tone that suggested he was sorting his thoughts as he spoke. “I think here, with the flowers, she meant to celebrate seeing her old friend again, and naturalmente she used the daisies to let us be certain it was her, no? Her physical appearance at the stained glass window, it also indicates she has become powerful,” he said in a worried tone.
“But that’s good isn’t it?” I asked. “Maybe now she’ll be able to help us find out what happened to her — and what or who is responsible for her death.”
“È possibile,” Maestro answered doubtfully. “But power, especially new power does not fill in the knowledge she was missing. You see? Daisy has power that is new to her. She doesn’t know how to use it well, as you can see,” he said motioning to the flower covered dinner table. “What if she becomes frustrated or confused in her quest for the truth? What if she, with her new power, becomes angry?” Maestro asked in a dire tone that gave me goose bumps.
Daisy had been affable and kind in my encounters with her. But what if she got upset with the search for her killer. Or what if she suspected the wrong person and acted on a false assumption. After all, moments ago Andy thought the vicar might be involved. What if Daisy became a powerful, vengeful spirit?
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Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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