Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Update: I have no idea how WordPress managed to post a duplicate of this… I regret any confusion this caused — particularly if you receive my posts via e-mail. The battle of the WP gremlins continues. Now on with the good stuff.
Welcome to Jazz Age Wednesdays here at Teagan’s Books. Many of you celebrated Christmas this week. Now, here we are at the end of 2017. Making it through another year is a real sockdollager — no kidding, it’s a big deal. So, I want to toast all of you sheiks and shebas for visiting me throughout this year.
This blog is my sanctuary, and I mean it to be a safe place for everyone else too. That’s why I don’t blog about politics, religion, or emotionally charged current events — that includes the recent headlines about sexual harassment. (I am definitely a blog-tater.) …Although once in a while I come close. However, I in no way invite discussion of these things.
So I’m just sayin’… You see, someone criticized me because, in one of these 1920s stories, I wrote that Pip’s father told her the board room was no place for a girl. While some of Pips tales are laced with fantasy, they are in a real world setting. A fundamental thread is Pip coping with being a young woman in a changing era. So I make no apologies for writing about the world my heroine had to claw her way through. Denying that the wrongs of the past existed is an insult to the forerunners who had even more obstacles than the still huge ones women have today. Okay. I’m stepping down off my Julia Sugarbaker soap box now. As I said, I do not want comments about these things. Thanks for letting me vent that. Now, back to the point.
At New Year’s I always think of champagne. So this time I’m sharing a chapter from Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I. Okay… so it’s not exactly about champagne, but it does mention it.
As most of you know, I used “things” or ingredients sent by the readers of this blog to guide every chapter of the novels about Pip and company. The ingredients for this bit were Salmon, Beef Drippings, and Dandelion & Burdock.
Even though this episode comes from late in the story, I don’t think there is anything that qualifies as a spoiler here. (If you haven’t read the novel, and you are sensitive to spoilers, maybe you should skip it anyway…)
Now, I’ll just get a wiggle on and ankle back to the 1920s!
Champagne Tidbit — Murder at the Bijou
Rather than the bun she often wore, Granny Phanny 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 Uniformshad 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 Phanny 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 burdockonto 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.
“Sweet-pea,” she spoke to me. “Would you get that poached salmon? Just wrap it up tight. I won’t plate it until after we get there.”
“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 Phanny 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.
You are pos-i-lutely the cat’s pajamas for dropping by! Here’s wishing everything is Jake in your 2018.
Now, for that shameless self-promotion… Here are the links to the books about Pip and her friends.
This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 and 2017 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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