Three Ingredients Cookbook-2, A Ghost in the Kitchen
This page serves as a homepage for “Cookbook-2” of The Three Ingredients serial. It’s a place where you can do catch-up reading if you missed an episode, or if you just need a refresher. Episodes are posted here in chronological order, but without the weekly introductions. If you want to read an episode complete with introduction, go to the right-hand menu. Select Category, and then Cookbook-2 Three Ingredients.
“Cookbook-2” began a new story-line. However, Paisley Idelle Peabody — better known to you as Pip, continues as the narrator. Many characters from Cookbook-1 will be in this story. You’ll also see at least one from the original serial story, Three Things.
This time the story takes a supernatural turn. But it is still in the spirit of the original serial!
As with the other story-lines, each episode is driven by three food-related things (or ingredients) sent by readers. Bon appétit!
1. Cherries, Mascarpone, Marsala
The pile of pits grew steadily as I worked. My thoughts were a million miles away so I did the task absently. But I wasn’t so preoccupied that I didn’t pop one of the dark ripe cherries into my mouth now and then.
It had been a month since the spirit of Daisy, the dainty dish, asked me for help. She wanted me to find out who killed her. However, I was no closer to solving that mystery than I had been the night she made the request. Daisy helped me get incriminating evidence against the murderous gangsters, but she asked for my assistance in return.
I sighed and ate another cherry.
I had not seen Daisy again since that night. Despite her claim that both Granny Fanny and I could see spirits, I hadn’t seen her or any other ghost. I was actually relieved about that part. However, I was very frustrated at not finding any new information about Daisy or her death. I didn’t see how I was going to be able to do anything helpful. The idea of not keeping the promise I made to her irked me.
Occasionally I looked up at the clock on the counter. I didn’t want to be late. I wondered where my grandmother had gotten that unusual clock. It was set into a hand carved wooden owl. It took a while for the clock to grow on me, but I decided that I liked it. When the owl chimed fifteen minutes past the hour, I got up and washed my hands, popping one last cherry into my mouth.
As if on cue, Granny came into the kitchen. She began mixing milk, coffee, and mascarpone cheese, humming an old song as she worked.
“If the train is on time, you and your friend are welcome to have a snack with us. Arabella’s cousin might come with her, but I expect it will just be Arabella and me,” Granny said.
Arabella Wong’s family came to the United States from England. (It was many generations since that branch of their family had been in Hong Kong.) So tea was customary with the Wongs. It was something Granny enjoyed too.
Ever the generous and flexible hostess, Granny wouldn’t mind if I brought half the people on the train, or if Arabella brought her family and everybody who worked at Wong’s Chinese, for that matter. The friendship between Granny and Arabella Wong
had grown since the night of the big shindig Granny catered. The two women, without guns or knives, fought back Queenie Wetson’s henchmen long enough for Detective Daniels and the mysterious Mr. Farceur to move into action.
“Is it okay if I play that by ear, Granny?” I asked.
“Of course, Sweet Pea. I know you young people have a lot of catching up to do,” she said amiably.
Excited yapping preceded the sound of a knock at the front door. Granny didn’t seem surprised, but I wasn’t expecting to hear a dog. I followed her to the door and greeted Arabella. She had brought a little pug dog. Its curled tail wagged merrily.
“Where did you come from?” I said as I stooped to scratch the dog’s back.
Granny laughed. “I can see how he got his name. It’s too bad he didn’t get to be in the pet parade,” she said, referring to part of the aforementioned party.
“Oh no, he gets into things. You know how puppies are, and Wriggles is only six months old. There’s no telling what trouble he would have caused at a posh party like that,” she said, but then she put her hand to her mouth and giggled.
Arabella was right. The pet parade had turned into utter chaos, so we all laughed. “But I suppose he would have fit right in with the other pets,” she added. “Anyway, there wasn’t anyone at home today, and I didn’t want to leave him alone. So thank you Fanny, for letting me bring him with me.”
A moment later I was on my way to Union Station. To my delight, Granny let me use her yellow automobile. It was as old as the hills, but she kept it in pristine condition.
When I reached the station I realized the train arrived early. I looked all around for a familiar face. Finally I saw a man standing at the courtesy desk, talking animatedly on the telephone. I’d know him anywhere. I moved up behind him and stayed quiet while he finished his conversation. He hadn’t heard me sneak up on him. After a moment he hung up the phone.
“Andy, look at you puttin’ on the Ritz!” I said, causing him to jump and turn around.
“Pip! You’re the cat’s pajamas for picking me up. It’s great to see you,” Andy Avis exclaimed.
Back where I lived in the same building with my group of friends in Florida, I had nicknamed Andy the Astronaute-man because he wrote science fiction type stories. You know, like H. G. Wells or Jules Verne. Thanks to John Ringling, Andy made connections out in Hollywood, California and sold one of his screenplays. He had been living out there ever since. Based on the nice suit of clothes he wore, Andy was doing pretty well for himself in Hollywood.
“Mona wrote to say she was going to Hollywood for that short film thing you got started back at Ca’d’Zan. So I was surprised you would leave,” I said, trying not to let speculation show on my face.
My shy little Astronaute-man had always carried a torch for our beautiful friend Mona, but she didn’t return his feelings. I knew he took it hard when she developed a really serious interest in our other friend, Boris. Andy blushed and looked down. I figured he was still hurting from that.
“Actually, that was one reason why I took this trip. It kind of smarts to see Mona. But she was looking great, as always. Said to give you a big hug for her,” he said and followed Mona’s instruction.
Andy wasn’t much taller than me, so he had to bend back some to get my feet off the ground in a big bear hug. We both laughed. It was the bee’s knees to see Andy again. Yes, I had been missing my little group of friends. But I didn’t realize just how terribly I missed them until that moment. I brushed a tear away while Andy wasn’t looking.
“One of the executives at the studio, Manny Mayer, he knows I’m from Florida, and he figured that wasn’t much different from Savannah,” Andy said and rolled his eyes. “The guy needs to brush up on his geography… But I remembered you were here. So anyway, I’m here for a couple of reasons,” he chattered away.
I chuckled to myself about the executive. From then on, I’d think of him as Manny Mayer the Movie Maker. After all, it went along with the other nicknames I’d given folks, Andy the Astronaute-man, Boris the Ballerina, and Frankie the Fireman. Frankie — I didn’t want to think about him any more than Andy wanted to think about Mona. Wishing my thoughts had not gone there, I turned my full attention back to Andy.
“So Manny asked if I could look at an abandoned factory he’s thinking of buying here. He even gave me power of attorney to buy it, if I think it’s decent. So I’m hoping we
can go take a look at it,” he said with an imploring expression.
“Sure thing,” I told him. “Want to go check it out right now?” I asked and he agreed wholeheartedly.
“But here’s the fun part,” Andy said in a conspiratorial tone and wriggled his eyebrows playfully. “The building predates the Civil War. I looked into it before I ever left Hollywood. It was a stop, a sort of hideout for blockade runners back then!” Andy said excitedly. “There’s no telling what kind of stuff we might find in there — Naturally I told Manny about all that. I wouldn’t swindle anybody. He laughed and told me if I found anything I wanted that it was mine.”
I got caught up in Andy’s enthusiasm and grinned at him. “That was a long time ago,” I said gently, not wanting to disappoint him. “It’s probably been ransacked of anything good years ago.”
“Maybe not…” he said in a meaningful tone. “It’s supposed to be haunted!
Well, I can tell you… that was one spooky old building. There was no wonder it had a reputation for being haunted. With all the cobwebs and the thick coat of dust that covered everything, it was hard to tell much about what was inside the old factory.
So Andy set about business first, and went over the big old place from top to bottom, making sure it was still solid, at least for the most part. He said that it fit within the guidelines Manny Mayer gave him, so afterward went into town and took care of the paperwork. Mr. Mayer was the proud owner of an abandoned Civil War era factory.
We decided to come back with flashlights the next day, so we could get a better look at things. However, there was one storeroom where part of the floor above it had fallen in. Under the debris we spotted some old crates that turned out to be filled with bottles of Italian wine. The crates were heavy, but the two of us managed to get them to Granny’s automobile.
I told Andy that he could store them at Granny’s for the time being. Granny Fanny also offered the guest room to him. So we headed back to the cottage.
When we got there I found a note from my grandmother saying that she would be spending the evening with her ladies group. She also left fried chicken, hush puppies, and coleslaw. “Incase Andy decided to stay,” the note said. Based on the amount of food, she must have been pretty sure he would stick around. Andy’s expression when he saw all that home-cooked food was enough to confirm he was at least going to stay for dinner.
We had left the crates of wine on the cottage’s wraparound porch, beside the kitchen door. All the crates looked old, but one of them was even older than the rest. We had to move it very carefully because it was about to fall apart. Andy opened the crate and pulled out a remarkably ornate bottle.
“Marsala! I guess we should have white wine with chicken, but I won’t stand on formality. Will you?” he asked with a wink. Then looking more serious he warned, “It might be spoiled. I can’t make out the date, but this must be plenty old.”
Andy dusted off the label. We could make out a vineyard name, and Italy, and other words that told us it was in fact wine, but the date was not readable. The bottle was so dirty that I insisted on washing it before we opened it. I took a damp cloth and carefully cleaned every curve and crevice of the lovely old bottle. Some of the designs were amazingly intricate. This was going to be a very special bottle of wine, I was absolutely certain!
I didn’t realize that I was humming as I worked until Andy asked me what I as singing. Suddenly puzzled, I stopped because I had no idea what the song was. It was a tune I wasn’t even aware of knowing. I hummed it louder for Andy, but he didn’t recognize it either. I shrugged it off. Obviously I must have heard the tune somewhere.
Turning the bottle this way and that, I admired my handiwork, as well as the beautiful design. Only then did I notice that the top of the bottle’s neck was shaped like a skull with two swords beneath it. I made a face and showed Andy.
“You don’t think that means it’s poison do you?” he asked. “I’m sure the label doesn’t say that. And the seal hasn’t been broken.”
I had really been excited about that gorgeous bottle of wine. I didn’t want to think it was anything other than what the label said.
“Wait. For poison they use a skull and crossbones. Those things look like swords — not bones. Isn’t that the pirate symbol?” I commented and Andy nodded and grinned.
“Maybe that means it really is a pirate’s bottle!” he offered. “This wine could have been made before the Civil War. Or even before that. It could date back to the American Revolution — or who knows how far!”
I handed Andy the corkscrew and told him to do the honors. However, the cork was stubborn. Finally I held the bottle with both hands, while he removed the cork. It came loose with a reverberating pop, which I felt inside my teeth and eardrums. The harmonic sound shifted into the melody I was humming a moment before.
“Holy Hannah,” Andy commented quietly.
For a moment I thought the bottle must have been mislabeled. I thought it must contain Champagne rather than marsala. A sort of fizzy purple vapor filled the air, expanding wider and taller. I started waving a napkin, trying to clear the air. Then I sneezed. It was a big bend your neck, eye-squinting, bless-you-and-everybody-around-you sneeze. Like I said, the vapor was weirdly fizzy.
I was about to make a smart-alecky remark to Andy about the fact that he didn’t say “Bless you.” But as I raised my head and opened my eyes I saw a man standing where the vapors had been. He wore a white apron, but his clothes were from an era long past. When I looked closely, I realized that he wasn’t particularly… well… solid.
He bowed quite formally. “At your service, Signorina,” the ghost said.
Recipe: Coffee Milk Mascarpone
Recipe and Photo Credit: Purewow.com
Yields: 1 cup
Total Time: 2 hours 25 minutes (includes chilling time)
½ cup mascarpone cheese
¼ cup strong espresso
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Ladyfingers or shortbread cookies, for serving
Cinnamon, for garnish (optional)
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cheese with the espresso, condensed milk and salt on medium speed until medium-stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. Remove the coffee milk mascarpone from the refrigerator and let warm until just slightly chilled. Garnish with the cinnamon, if desired, and serve immediately with desired accompaniments.
2. Stilton Cheese, Rum, Pine Nuts
The fizzy purple vapor dissipated and I found that my eyes had not deceived me. A strange, semi-solid man bowed before me. I was too stunned to think. It seemed like the purple mist befuddled my head. I gradually became aware of one other thing, a shrill unpleasant sound that went on and on…
“Andy!” I cried, suddenly becoming aware again.
My dear old friend Andy Avis, was screaming like a school girl. I grabbed his arm and shook him. He stopped screaming. For five seconds. Then he screamed right into my face.
I felt like slapping him, and only partly to bring him to his senses. However, riotous giggling shocked both of us to silence. The ghost stood in the kitchen bent double with laughter. Apparently he found Andy’s reaction most amusing.
As seems to happen to me in times of stress, one detail stood out to me more than anything else. I turned to Andy but pointed to the apparition. “You can see him?” I said, and I wasn’t sure if it was a question or an accusation.
Daisy, the ghost woman, told me that though I hadn’t known it, I had the gift for seeing spirits. She said Granny Fanny could too, but my grandmother had suppressed the
ability. However, as you might expect, not everyone could see ghosts. So I was surprised that Andy was able to see the spirit sitting sprawled at Granny’s kitchen table.
Before I took another breath I whirled on the ghost and demanded, “How can he see you?”
The apparition who had materialized from the gaudy bottle of spirits sobered. He stuck out his lower lip in an exaggerated expression of consideration that I had a feeling was a habit with him.
“Well, I am one powerful poltergeist, Signorina!” he said between hiccupping giggles. “It’s no effort for me to let anyone see me, and sometimes they do whether or not I’m intending it,” the ghost told me.
I thought poor Andy’s eyes were going to pop right out of his head.
The spirit looked longingly at the food on the table. Andy and I hadn’t even started our meal.
He licked his lips and sighed. “Signorina, a nice Stilton Cheese would be so nice with that,” he said wistfully.“Err… Would you care for anything?” I asked, knowing that after all, Granny would expect me to be a good hostess. Then I gave my head a shake. Had I really said that?
“I rarely partake. Sometimes that doesn’t turn out so well,” he said, but his eyes never strayed from the food. “But if I could just take a whiff,” he said leaning toward the table — and closer to Andy.
With a blanched face and panicked eyes Andy staggered backward. There was nowhere for him to go, so he bumped hard against the table. The ornate wine bottle wobbled precariously at the edge for a moment, and then it crashed to the blue and white tile floor. It shattered into dozens of pieces.
The ghost shrieked.
Andy shrieked when the ghost did.
I shrieked at both of them to stop their shrieking!
“Yes! No! Both!” he replied, rapid fire in his strange accent. Then he gave a giddy giggle. “Thank God that gaudy bottle is no more! Can you imagine making your home in such an ugly vessel?” he commented. “However I must have something, or there will be… consequences. Ah! Symbol of the wisdom I should have had in life!” he exclaimed when he saw the carved wooden owl clock. “This will do,” he said even as he held the clock to his chest and then disappeared.
The clock dropped the short distance to the counter, landing with a wobble and a clunk. Andy and I looked at each other in stunned silence. A moment later the spirit remerged from the owl clock. He sprawled into one of the white ladder back chairs my grandfather had made. That was when I noticed the Renaissance era garb beneath his apron.
“Bene! What a relief!” he said and lifted his brimless toque to mop his brow, or at least I thought the hat was called a toque.
I leaned closer, wondering if ghosts could sweat. “If you didn’t like the bottle…” I began, but wasn’t sure how to ask what I wanted to know. “Well, how come you’re — ” my words failed me so I pointed to the shards of the purple bottle.
“Ah Signorina,” the ghost began. “It is a poignant tale. I was chef to the Patriarch of Aquileia at the Vatican. I always preferred the pun as a form of humor, and the Pope, he shared this with me. However, one evening we served dinner to a plethora of patrons, speaking Punjabi, Parsi, and Philippine. I presented a perfect prawn pasta… Perhaps something went awry with the translations… But — you see, the short of it is that I pissed off the Pope! And this predicament is my fate,” the ghost said with a mournful expression.
I marveled at the poltergeist’s capacity to use the letter “P” so many times in one sentence. I gave a hard blink to clear my mind. Then I looked from him to Andy, with no idea what to say or do next. However, Andy found his voice.
“You’re not a genie then? You really are a ghost?” Andy asked. “Too bad. Granting wishes would have been a great ice breaker,” he joked, abruptly loosening up to my surprised relief. “We don’t have to rub the owl clock’s belly to get you to come out, do we?”
The poltergeist gave Andy that pursed lip expression, but then laughed heartily slapping his knee. “No, young patron. I can come and go as I please, so long as I bind myself to an object. And mind you, I can’t be without one for more than a moment. However, I tend to lose track of the time. When I went into that gaudy bottle, I was in a great hurry, but that’s another story. Anyhow, I think I was intoxicated on the noxious potion, so I did not wake for some little while. Then you uncorked the bottle, and the rest, as you say, is history,” he said with a hiccup.
My nose wrinkled at the thought of being inside a bottle that smelled like that one had. I said it must have been awful. The apparition burped, blushed, and excused himself, making me think he might have become intoxicated from being cooped up in the wine bottle.
“Ah, one gets accustomed to the aroma,” he said affably. “But now you speak of such… do you have any rum? I do have a preference for the spirit, tee-hee!” he said with a giggle, inordinately pleased with his joke that a spirit would like spirits.
When I explained prohibition, he looked very downcast. He somehow hiccupped and burped at the same time. Then he made a shocked comment about the state of things that would allow such a law. Andy and I agreed enthusiastically.
I finally found my manners and thought to introduce myself and Andy. The ghost bowed again, with a slight wobble. “My great pleasure, Signorina o Signore. I present myself, Maestro Martino. Please do me the honor of calling me Maestro,” he said with a flourish.
Even as I wondered if I should curtsey or something, Andy tried to return the bow. But he must have still felt as disoriented as I, because he stumbled back against the counter. His elbow caught a small jar, overturning it.
“Oh gosh, Pip. I’m sorry,” he said nervously, though I realized the jumpiness was because of the ghost, not the jar.
Andy righted the jar and peered through the glass. “What are these?” he asked.
“They’re pine nuts,” I sighed.
The pine nuts were tied to something that had me feeling a little blue. “I got them as a treat for Cracker,” I said but both Andy and the ghost looked askance. “Cracker is a beautiful parrot I’ve been looking after. And she’s smart as all get-out too. Anyway Cracker got really attached to a Federal marshal. The marshal got badly wounded. And now Cracker hardly leaves his side,” I said, and sighed again before I could stop myself.
My friend nodded, but I could tell that Andy didn’t really get it. However, Maestro pursed his lower lip and inclined his head in a very understanding way. “And now you wonder if the pretty bird will return to you,” he said. “The parrots, they are clever and devoted creatures, no? If this marshal, you say? A law man of some sort?” he asked and I affirmed. “If this marshal has claimed her heart, perhaps she will still be your friend sometimes too.”
I tried to smile, but it only got halfway to my mouth. “I don’t see how he can take care of Cracker… not in his line of work. He travels sometimes for weeks at a time,” I complained, worried about the parrot’s welfare.
“Ah, you see!” the ghost exclaimed. “There you have it! You can take care of the parrot whenever he is away, keeping your friendship intact.”
That was something that had not occurred to me. I guess I had been too preoccupied with feeling blue over everything. First I couldn’t get anywhere with finding out who killed Daisy, the dainty dish. Then I learned that I wouldn’t get to keep Cracker. So I had been a real sad sack the past few weeks.
I heard the front door open and Granny’s muffled voice talking to Arabella Wong on the front porch. “Oh now don’t you fret, Arabella. It’s no trouble at all. He’s such a cute little rascal. You and Alastair have a good time, and get reacquainted with your cousins out west. Don’t you worry about a thing,” Granny’s voice drifted to us in the kitchen.
The first thing that came to my mind was the fact that there was a sloshed spirit in Granny Fanny’s kitchen! How was I going to explain that? I probably should have told him to hide or get inside that owl clock to which he had “bound” himself a few minutes before.
Scrabbling sounds distracted me and a second later Wriggles the pug raced excitedly into the kitchen. The little dog skidded to a stop at Maestro’s feet. He sniffed the strange Renaissance era boots, and then stretched up to investigate the white apron. The pug scooted back a step and looked up inquisitively at the tall rippled white hat that sat jauntily on the ghost chef’s head.
The pug’s large eyes squinted as he took in the hat. Enthusiastic yapping ensued. Wriggles barked so hard that every yap pushed him backward a few inches. I had a horrific sudden thought. What would the ghost do, confronted with a barking little dog? Instinctively I took a protective step toward Wriggles, but the dog barked all the more. I supposed he was over-excited by then.
Granny’s voice grew closer and I heard her footsteps in the hallway, moving toward the kitchen. First the rambunctious dog, and now my grandmother… How would the intoxicated ghost react? After all, I had just met him. I couldn’t predict what the spirit would do when sober, let alone zozzled as he was. Maestro even described himself as a “powerful poltergeist.” Could I trust him to continue to be as affable as he had so far been toward Andy and me — amid the dog’s yapping and the shock I expected my grandmother to display. What if Granny started screaming like Andy had done?
Applesauce! What was I going to do?
My grandmother was talking to us from the hallway as she walked, explaining that she was going to look after Wriggles while the Wongs went to California. She said something about the food and asked if we needed anything else. I knew she’d be in the room with us in about a second. Before my over-worked noodle could think of anything to do, Granny Fanny walked into the kitchen.
She crossed the threshold and abruptly stopped and stood in mute astonishment. Her brow knitted when she took in the chef’s old fashioned attire.
The ghost gasped, and I was afraid he would shriek the way he did when the antique bottle broke. I saw a look of open mouthed astonishment on his face.
“Che bella sorpresa!” he murmured on an exhaled breath.
For a moment I thought he’d been rendered speechless, but he quickly found his tongue. “Such radiance, such unaffected beauty! Please forgive my surprise,” Maestro said while Granny looked more puzzled than ever.
The ghost swept off his white toque, and the dog finally stopped barking. Wriggles seemed afraid to get any closer, but he stretched as close to the hat as his short legs and body would allow. His twitching black nose sniffed the brimless white hat.
Harvesting Pine Nuts as a Food Source
Recipe: Stilton Dip with Red Pears and Carr’s Table Water Crackers
Recipe and Photo Credit: StiltonCheese.co.uk
Preparation Time: 5 Minutes
10g/4oz Stilton blue cheese
3 tablespoons whipping cream
25g/1oz chopped walnuts, toasted
1 ripe red pear, thinly sliced
Carr’s Table Water Crackers with Cracked Pepper
1. Lightly blend cheese and whipping cream
2. Stir in walnuts, Chill
3. Spread 2 teaspoons cheese mixture on Carr’s Table Water Crackers with Cracked Pepper
4. Top cheese mixture with pear slices
Makes 12 crackers
3. Aspic, Quail, Puff Pastry
Maestro Martino, still on one knee, placed his hand over his heart… or over where his heart would be if he wasn’t a ghost. He gazed adoringly at Granny Fanny. Her eyebrows knitted. It seemed like the cat had her tongue. Finally she cleared her throat and turned to me.
“Paisley dear, is this strange, but very charming man one of your friends?” she asked.
Then I was the one who was perplexed. I was sure the first thing Granny would notice was the fact that there was a ghost in her kitchen! However, when I took a good look at Maestro, I realized that he no longer had that semi-solid appearance. He looked as rock-solid as the rest of us. For some reason I found that development very unsettling.
I remembered his comment, “Well, I am one powerful poltergeist, Signorina!” and I was worried. I couldn’t say quite why… but I had a good case of the heebie-jeebies.
While I stood in confusion, Granny’s hostess reflex kicked in.
“There’s a nice tomato aspic in the icebox if ya’ll want anything else,” she said, but then her eyes fell on the uneaten feast on the kitchen table.
It was actually a refrigerator. Granny was quite proud of it, but she still called it an icebox. She opened the door and took out the aspic, despite the abundance of food on the table. She cut a slice of it and put it on a small plate that matched her teacups — green with a blue chrysanthemum design. I noticed her hands were shaking. Granny was steady as a stone. In all the drama and close calls we’d had, I never once saw her hands shake.
She also left the refrigerator door open, another thing that was very unlike her. She offered all three of us the aspic. Andy and I stood mutely and shook our heads to say no. He cleared his throat as if he would speak. He even opened his mouth, but no words came out.
I had never seen my grandmother act in such an odd manner. I whispered to Andy to be ready to catch her if she fainted. Andy moved closer to her. I think he was about to introduce himself, but Granny’s strange behavior kept him silent.
“The Wongs are sending over some quail tomorrow,” she said in a hollow, absent tone. “With half the family going to California to visit relatives, they’re cutting back the restaurant’s hours. Arabella said they had too much food, so she’s sending some things to all the ladies in our book group.”
Granny placed the plate on the counter. “Paisley,” she said, and the second use of my proper name did not escape me. It usually meant I was on thin ice. Or that Granny was in a very emotional state. When I saw the undefinable expression in her eyes, I almost wished that this time “Paisley” meant I was in trouble.
“Paisley, where are your manners? Aren’t you going to introduce me?” she asked with a pointed look at Andy and a covert glance at Maestro.
I gave my old friend Andy a rather formal introduction. I was that nervous. The whole time I was trying to think of what to say about the ghost! Andy shook Granny’s hand and was extremely polite. I noticed that he kept cutting his eyes toward the spirit in an anxious way.
“And this,” I began uncertainly. “Well, this is Maestro Martino. He’s… he’s a chef.”
It seemed that Maestro was a rather fickle specter. A moment earlier he had been overcome at Granny’s presence. It seemed the refrigerator had been equally fascinating. When I looked at the spirit he was bent over and leaning inside the electric icebox, murmuring and marveling about the technology.
As Maestro leaned further into the refrigerator Granny suddenly leapt toward it. She gave his bottom a firm push. Then she slammed the door shut and leaned back against it.
“He’s a chef,” Granny said, arching one eyebrow at me. “And he’s a ghost. When were you going to get around to that part, Paisley Idelle Peabody?”
Applesauce! She’d used my whole name. I really was in trouble.
“What do you think you were doing, bringing a ghost into my kitchen?” Granny Fanny demanded.
Muffled complaints emanated from the refrigerator. Maestro Martino seemed to have gotten over his infatuation with refrigeration technology. The stifled grumbles became more pronounced.
“Please, release me signora!” he cried. “How could you do such a thing? My piccina puffed pastry! Pardon me please, I present no problem. I am one pleasing poltergeist, I promise you,” he carried on with unashamed begging.
Then Maestro started hiccupping again, in between pleas to be let out of the refrigerator. Granny looked aghast. She took in a breath and her eyes widened.
“Paisley Idelle Peabody! That ghost is drunk!” she said.
Her eyes fell to the shards of the broken wine bottle on the floor. Both her eyebrows went up when she saw the skull, which was still intact. I thought she was catching on to what had happened. Then she saw the ancient crate Andy and I brought from the abandoned factory — the crate where we found the cursed bottle where Maestro had been… marinating for who knew how many years.
Meanwhile the complaints from inside the refrigerator ceased. At first I didn’t noticed that the pleas were replaced by a smacking sound.
Granny plopped down into one of the white ladder back chairs at the kitchen table. She motioned to the crate.
“Andrew,” she began and I cringed to think she had used Andy’s given name because that probably meant he was in trouble with her too. “Why don’t you open another wine bottle. We might as well see if he has a friend in there.”
Andy looked as relieved as I felt. He opened the crate and hesitantly chose a bottle. “You don’t really think…” his voice trailed away. “No. That would be too impossible.”
As Andy uncorked the bottle of wine, a loud sound from the refrigerator made us all turn.
The ghost gave a grand belch.
How to Make: Quick Puff Pastry
4. Ice, Squash, Goat’s Milk
with a side of Phosphorescent
The cottage seemed so still. I was the first one up that morning. I didn’t think I had ever been up before Granny Fanny. It felt strange and a tad lonely. Events of the night before took on a fuzzy dream-like quality. Actually, all my thoughts felt kind of fuzzy, but there had been spirits, and spirits.
I put a pot of coffee on to perk and found the burbling sound cheery. When I went to the refrigerator to get the cream, I remembered Granny pushing the ghost chef into it with her foot firmly planted on his posterior. I couldn’t help laughing.
It was some little while after the ghost was locked in there when one of us (namely me) got up the nerve to open the refrigerator door. The smacking, munching, and belching sounds were replaced by silence and I got concerned about the spirit. When I opened the icebox door, Maestro Martino was nowhere to be seen. In fact, we hadn’t seen the poltergeist since. I wondered a little sadly if he was gone for good.
Several antique wine bottles sat empty on the kitchen table. I supposed it was no wonder Granny was still in bed. She and Andy Avis had matched each other glass for glass the night before. Although, I had to admit seeing a for real ghost — and talking to him was not easy on one’s peace of mind.
The wooden handle of the icepick was smooth in my hand as I started jabbing it into a chunk of ice. I broke it up until I had enough small frozen bits to put fill the icepack. Either Granny or Andy was bound to need it. Based on those empty wine bottles, both
of them would have a headache. Too bad there was only one icepack.
Yawning I poured myself a cup of coffee and made a little sandwich from leftover chicken and a biscuit. It hit the spot, so I made some for Andy and Granny too. I wondered if I should wake them, and immediately thought better of it. So I sat down at the table alone, with my chicken biscuit and coffee. Stirring in some cream, I watched the liquid steam and swirl, white and brown.
A sharp clunk startled me out of my sleepy thoughts. A mug of black coffee sloshed nearly over the rim as it wobbled. The beverage steamed before the empty chair across the table from me. A low moan met my ears and the cup rose up from the tabletop. The mug tilted and I heard a slurp before the mug went back to rest on the table again.
“Signorina you are fresh as a daisy. This should be a crime after all the vino last night,” Maestro Martino said as he became semi-visible.
I smiled and let out a pleased breath. Don’t ask me why I was relieved to see the poltergeist — I know it doesn’t make any sense, but I was happy to see the Maestro.
“Mr. Martino, I’m glad to see you again,” I said and as before, he insisted on being called Maestro. “I guess I didn’t have as much wine as the others,” I said. “But I thought you couldn’t eat. I was sure I heard you chowing down on something last night,” I said before I realized that might be an awkward comment.
A belch from the ghost answered my question. “No Signorina, I said there were often consequences,” he corrected me, and suppressed another burp. “As you see. Perdonatemi,” he added. “A flower like you should not have to hear my uncouth noises, but such is the price I pay for the comfort of food and drink.”
As I told the Maestro the tragic story of Daisy, the dainty dish, a range of emotions played across his face. A white linen napkin materialized from somewhere and he wiped tears from his eyes when I finished relating the ghost woman’s history. He sniffled and promised to do his best to help, even though he was completely unfamiliar with Daisy or any spirits from the current era. Then Maestro Martino succumbed to a fit of all out blubbering.
Applesauce! Who’d have thought ghosts could be so emotional?
“Would there be any more of that nice squash casserole from the fantastical icebox?” Maestro asked imploringly between sobs.
Had Granny made her squash casserole? It was one of my favorite dishes. I’d even eat it for breakfast! However, after witnessing the belching, I was reluctant to let the spirit have any more food. Even so, the crying was getting on my nerves. I hurried to the refrigerator. My hopeful eyes found the casserole dish. I sighed.
I plopped the empty casserole dish on the kitchen table. There was barely a crumb of squash left. “Oh Signorina,” Martino said. “Now don’t you be cross with a sensitive old man, perfavore.”
Fortunately, by the time Granny Fanny came into the kitchen the ghost chef had disappeared into the carved wooden owl clock to which he had bound himself after the cursed wine bottle was broken. I had just made a fresh pot of coffee and she took a cup, inhaling the aroma gratefully.
Wriggles, the pug Granny was dog sitting for Arabella Wong, trotted into the room behind her, little toenails clicking against the blue and white tile floor. I put some food in a bowl for the happy little dog and fed him. Wriggles ate almost as noisily as the
ghost. I grinned and scratched his back.
Granny looked at the empty casserole dish on the table and shook her head. “Sweet Pea, much as you like it, I know you didn’t eat that whole squash casserole for breakfast… So I guess there really was a dad blamed ghost in my kitchen last night,” she said and put her head in her hands.
To my relief, Andy stumbled into the kitchen at that moment. I went about serving them the chicken biscuits, trying to avoid any conversation about the spirit. The telephone rang and they both groaned loudly. I ran to the parlor to answer it.
“Who was it?” Granny asked between sips of coffee.
“It was Doc Vale — I mean Mrs. Doc Vale,” I said. The doctors Vale were a married couple. Vincent was a veterinarian and Veronica was a renowned surgeon. “She said she has the goat’s milk you wanted?” I couldn’t help my questioning tone because I thought the stuff smelled bad. It made good cheese, but I did not care for the odor of the milk a bit.
“Stop making a face, Pip. It might get stuck that way. Besides, nobody’s going to make you drink it,” Granny quipped. “One of the ladies in my book group needs it for her grandson. Little tike can’t drink cow’s milk. Could you be a dear and take my automobile out to the Vales’ and pick up the milk? My head’s about to split wide open.”
Granny gave a little smile despite her headache. She knew I’d jump at the chance to drive period. But going out to the Vales’ place also gave me a chance to visit Cracker the parrot. I got very attached to the bird, but she was apparently more devoted to Marshal Moses Myrick. The G-man was staying with the Vales while he recuperated from nearly fatal gunshot wounds he received in an ambush by Queenie Wetson’s gangsters.
My friend still looked bleary eyed, so I poured him another cup of coffee before asking if he wanted to come along. Granny told Andy he was welcome to stay at the cottage if he didn’t feel like going out, that it was no bother. Andy looked at the empty wine bottles, then at the wooden owl clock. His face paled.
“Err… Thank you, Mrs. Peabody. That’s kind of you, but I’m fine. I’ll go along with Pip, in case she needs any help,” Andy told my grandmother.
It was obvious to me that he wanted to put some distance between himself and the poltergeist.
The bright yellow automobile, which would later be called a Model-T, puttered along the country road to the beautiful property owned by the Doctors Vale. A cluster of pristine white buildings with green roofs shone in the morning light. Before we got to the driveway we saw Vincent and I pulled over to talk to him. He was leading a goat by a rope tied around its neck.
“Who’s your friend?” I asked with a grin when we pulled alongside the veterinarian.
Dr. Vale laughed and shielded his eyes from the sun. “This is Gracie. She’s not half as clever, and not anywhere near as sneaky as Greta. We can’t find Greta anywhere,” he said.
Vincent told us the goats had gotten loose around the time Veronica had called about the milk. They had found all of them except for Greta. He asked if we’d mind looking around for the missing goat after we delivered the milk to Granny’s friend.
Hey, a missing goat was good entertainment back then. Of course we agreed to help.
After dropping off the goat’s milk we drove around the countryside in search of Greta
the sneaky goat. It also served as a nice little tour for Andy, who had never seen the area.
“You know,” I commented. “I’m pretty sure we’re near that factory building of yours.”
“It’s not mine,” Andy reminded me. “I don’t have that kind of money. Yet,” he added with wriggly eyebrows to make me laugh. “I just signed the paperwork. It belongs to one of the executives at the studio where I work in Hollywood — Manny Mayer.”
Amid the weeds I spotted what was left of a gate and a gravel road. “I’ll bet that’s the back way into the place,” I said.
Andy got out and moved the gate and we puttered along the gravel drive in the yellow automobile. In a moment we could see the factory building in the distance. It was a creepy looking place even in broad daylight. There were several tumbledown outbuildings closer to us. They were in the shadows of a cluster of huge old oak trees. The shade looked inviting, and I took my foot off the gas.
“I didn’t realize these buildings were here,” Andy commented. “I should probably check them out too, just so I can give Mr. Mayer a thorough report on the condition of the property and assets.”
As we stepped away from the vehicle, I heard a flat clang, like a cowbell. Andy and I turned toward the sound. We were facing the back of the abandoned factory which sat at the top of a small hill. A strange coarse sound came from the same direction. Then the clanging got louder. So did the other sound. The eerie setting of the abandoned building combined with the sound was enough to make my hair stand on end.
Well, you’d be that way too if you’d just seen a ghost a few hours before.
Something burst from the cover of a stand of bushes about halfway down the hill. It ran pell-mell toward us, clanging and making that half strangled sound. I took a step back and tread on Andy’s toes.
“How could Vincent’s goat have gotten all the way out here?” I asked, though I knew it must be Greta.
“Hey, we’d better try to catch her. She sure seems spooked though,” Andy said and then his eyes widened when he realized he’d said “spooked,” as in ghost. “You don’t think…”
Whatever Andy thought, he didn’t have a chance to finish that sentence because Greta the sneaky goat ran right past us. However, the wily thing dodged when we tried to grab her. We ran after Greta who led us around, behind, and between each of the sheds. Then I heard a crash and saw the half-hinged door to one outbuilding was open.
We followed the goat inside the shed. The sudden change in brightness left me unable to see at first. I heard a bucket or can overturn and then I saw a light. Andy gasped. I squinted. A glowing shape moved slowly toward us. Andy took a step backward and tripped over something. With a scream he hit the floor of the shed.
“That’s the goat!” I said in astonishment. “She’s… why she’s… phosphorescent!”
Andy struggled to his feet. Then the glowing goat lowered its head, made that coarse behhh sound, and charged toward us.
Recipe: Two-Cheese Squash Casserole
Recipe and Photo Credit: MyRecipes.com
4 pounds yellow squash, sliced
4 tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
1 large sweet onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 cups soft breadcrumbs, divided
1 1/4 cups shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
Cook squash in boiling water to cover in a large skillet 8 to 10 minutes or just until tender. Drain well; gently press between paper towels.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium-high heat; add onion and garlic, and sauté 5 to 6 minutes or until tender. Remove skillet from heat; stir in squash, 1 cup breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and next 7 ingredients. Spoon into a lightly greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish.
Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Stir together melted butter, remaining 1 1/2 cups soft breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and garlic salt. Sprinkle mixture evenly over top of casserole.
Bake at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes or until set.
Southern Living, May 2004
5. Apricots, Eggs, Wheat Flour
With Smoke and Mirrors
Greta the goat gave a coarse behhh and lowered her head, ready to charge right into us. My old friend Andy Avis and I both took a step backward, but there wasn’t anywhere to go in the timeworn shed. We stumbled into each other before we got to the door.
If the goat was going to be that cantankerous, I wasn’t too excited about trying to take her back to Doc Vale. “Greta, you just simmer down now,” I told her in what I hoped was a soothing voice.
The goat looked up at me curiously. I couldn’t imagine what was causing her phosphorescent glow, but she was a scary sight. There was a mean look in her eyes, and I wondered if she still might charge into us. Then something else caught my interest — something white was tucked into the rope around her neck.
“Is that a daisy caught in her bell?” I asked Andy, tilting my head as I tried to get a better look.
“Yeah, it looks real spiffy,” Andy quipped as he took another step toward the door, which
hung askew, dangling from one hinge. “She can wear daisies or roses, or apricots in her bell. She can put on a fringe dress and do the Charleston for all I care, as long as she doesn’t attack us!” he added in a hiss.
“No Andy, it is a daisy. A daisy,” I said, thinking I was probably off my nuts.
I inched forward. Andy reached out and caught my sleeve. He whispered for me to stay put. I stooped down, getting eye-level with the goat. It was definitely a daisy with the stem going through the loop that held the bell to her rope collar.
“Daisy, is that you?” I asked as I gazed at Greta, unsure of what result I expected from my questions. “Are you here somewhere?” I questioned, casting my eyes around the dark shed.
Greta answered me with “Behhh!”
Then the goat abruptly plopped back onto her glowing haunches with a soft thud. A human voice spoke my name.
I wasn’t sure if it came from the goat, or if the voice was just there in the shed somewhere. My hair stood on end. Andy moved close enough to take a firm hold on my arm, ready to pull me out of the shed and into the comforting light of day.
“Pip,” the voice said. “Something bad happened to me in that factory. Something so bad that I blocked out the memory even when I was alive.”
“Daisy! It is you!” I cried. “I’ve tried so hard to help you,” I apologized to the ghost. “I haven’t been able to find out anything, but I won’t stop trying. I promise. And I’m sorry… for whatever happened to you there,” I said and motioned toward the abandoned building Andy and I had been on our way to investigate for his employer. “Are you saying that it’s connected to your… your death?”
“I know you’re trying, Pip. And I am grateful,” the voice of Daisy said. “I was drawn back to the factory but I was too afraid to go inside. Yes, I feel like it’s related — not the place actually, but there is a tie.”
I jumped when Greta, the phosphorescent goat sneezed and shook her head. Then she shook her entire body, in much the same way a wet dog would, a head to tail shimmy.
The glow burst out around Greta in thousands of tiny shimmering specks, and then it was gone.
Greta had a confused look in her eyes. She walked up to me docile as a lamb, no longer a mad-eyed goat. Andy mutely handed me the rope he was holding and I tied it around Greta’s neck. Neither of us spoke as I led the goat back to Granny Fanny’s yellow Model-T.
We put Greta in the back. The goat was still meek and didn’t even try to chew on anything in Granny’s pristine automobile, which I thought was not goat-like at all. Andy kept casting surreptitious glances at Greta, but she didn’t start glowing again, or anything else.
Finally, Andy cleared his throat. “Err Pip?” he began hesitantly. “Did that goat… I mean when we were back there in that shed, did that goat umm glow?” he asked and I
nodded my head in answer. “And did she umm… Did the goat talk?”
So, I thought, that was what had gotten his goat — har-de-har! I wasn’t sure of the answer myself, and I said so.
“Whether the voice came from Greta or somewhere else, it was Daisy, the ghost girl I
told you about. It wasn’t just smoke and mirrors,” I told him.
We decided not to mention anything to the doctors Vale when we returned Greta to them. Neither Andy nor I had much to say on the drive there. Heck, what could you say after witnessing a glowing goat and talking to a ghost?
As soon as we arrived, Veronica insisted that we come inside for a bite of lunch, or dinner as we called the midday meal back then. I don’t know if it was an emotional reaction to what had just happened, or if we were really hungry, but neither of us could refuse.
One of Vincent’s veterinary clients had paid them in eggs — lots of eggs. Veronica had cooked several quiches made with freshly caught crab-meat. It was a delicious meal. The Vales insisted on sending an entire basket of eggs back home with us too. Like I said, it was a lot of eggs.
Marshal Moses Myrick was still convalescing at the Vale residence. Veronica said he could have a visitor for a few minutes. The last time I saw him, the marshal was a frightful sight. He truly had been at death’s door. I wanted to introduce Andy to him. Andy wrote science fiction stories, and now screenplays out in Hollywood. He had already expressed an interest in the G-man from a screenwriter’s point of view. However, Veronica seemed concerned about overtaxing her patient. So while I went upstairs to visit the marshal, Andy took the basket of eggs out to Granny’s Model-T.
As soon as I entered the cheery bedroom, Moses Myrick gave me a bright smile — and Cracker the parrot squawked and scolded me. Mr. Myrick laughed and said the parrot missed me. That touched my heart and I quickly brushed away a tear. I missed Cracker terribly, but didn’t want the marshal to feel bad about the fact that she chose to stay with him rather than me.
Veronica, in doctor form, shushed the bird out of concern for her patient. Cracker alighted on my shoulder and started preening a strand of my bobbed hair. That was something she used to do when she was concerned or agitated about me in some way.
“Bad bird!” Cracker chirped loudly, apparently scolding me for not being there with her as she maintained her watch over Marshal Myrick.
To the parrot everyone was a bad bird if she scolded them, no matter their species. The admonition got a chuckle from me, and a loud laugh from Moses. The G-man grabbed his middle when he laughed though. He winced with pain that was sharp enough to cause his face to blanch.
As you might imagine, considering she could fly, it was difficult to get the parrot to leave a room if she was not of a mind to comply. Cracker was still on my shoulder, so Veronica gave me a meaningful look with a motion of her head. I knew what she meant. Quickly I blew a kiss to the marshal and stepped out of the room.
Cracker gave an irritated sounding whistle. “Come on sweetheart,” I told the bird nonchalantly. “Let’s go to the kitchen and find you a treat.”
I hurried down the stairs, hoping the parrot wouldn’t fly back to the marshal’s room and make a noisy protest. The door was shut, but the parrot could make an extremely loud commotion if she chose. However, Cracker lifted her wings a bit to keep her balance, but she didn’t try to go back to the sick room.
She cut her eyes over to me when I reached the bottom of the stairs. “Sneaky, sneaky,” Cracker muttered, letting me know I hadn’t fooled her a bit.
“Maybe there are sunflower seeds,” I suggested consolingly, and the mention of her favorite treat kept the parrot quiet.
Once in the kitchen, Cracker glided to a cabinet that had shiny new and complicated latch. I chuckled. That must be where her treats were kept. The parrot had proven devilishly clever, and able to open almost anything she chose — particularly her cage!
A soft yip caused me to look down. I hadn’t heard Veronica’s poodle come into the room. Cotton seemed to recognize the treat cabinet too and she stood on her back feet and did a little pirouette. That encouraged Cracker’s impatience and she started pulling at the latch with her beak.
“Now Cracker, you leave that alone,” I chided the parrot.
She fluttered to the floor and sat beside Cotton. Then she gave an imploring squawk. “Who’s your daddy?” she repeated her favorite phrase while bobbing her head.
Vincent had done a good job with the parrot-proof latch. I had to figure out how it myself, since I’d never seen one like it before. As I fiddled with the odd latch, I was distracted by the voices of Andy and the veterinarian outside. I turned to look out the kitchen window. Vincent was showing Andy his motorcycle.
Cotton became over excited upon hearing the unfamiliar voice of Andy. I didn’t see the poodle when we came into the house, so she hadn’t met Andy yet. I tried to quiet the dog, but she just yapped that much louder.
The agitated dog got the parrot excited and one of their games ensued. They vigorously chased each other around the kitchen. Their antics were entertaining, and I couldn’t help laughing. However, I knew it was only a matter of time before they broke something, or worse, disturbed Doctor Veronica’s patient.
I tried to shush them, but to no avail. I gave Cotton a dog biscuit. She broke it in half with her teeth, but dropped it on the floor in favor of chasing the parrot.
Then it happened. Cotton leapt amazingly high into the air, nipping at the parrot’s
tail feathers. She actually had her mouth on the brightly colored plumage, but it
slipped out as Cracker flew. The bird looped around the room. I don’t know what she had in mind, but Cracker skidded the length of the longest countertop. Then she collided with a canister of wheat flour.
The metal container sailed heavenward. I moved toward it, arms out to catch the summersaulting canister. I almost had it. Then I stepped on a piece of the dog biscuit and slipped. My bottom hit the floor around the same time the flour container hit my head. The aluminium canister might have hurt me if it hadn’t been empty by then. Yes, it was empty because its contents had poured all over me.
However, as the canister struck, so did inspiration. Doused in wheat flour, I lay prone on the floor. I didn’t even twitch. My motionless body immediately got the attention of the cavorting animals. I felt Cotton’s cold nose sniffing my ankle. Cracker pulled my hair and chirped, “Whose your daddy?”
Fortunately my face was turned toward the doorway that opened onto the rest of the house. I cracked open one eye when I heard footsteps. Veronica appeared and gasped. However she saw me wink at her and knew I was unharmed, albeit flour covered and unmoving. I saw her mouth twist as she tried not to smile at the poodle and the parrot. They continued to sniff and investigate my immobile form.
When I heard the kitchen door open, I figured the game had gone on long enough. Vincent and Andy came into the room. I slowly rose from the floor, a white covered mess. Vincent gave me a puzzled expression. I hadn’t thought about what I must look like, all dusted in white, until I saw Andy’s face.
Wide-eyed and white as a sheet, Andy Avis screamed.
Veronica gave my friend an understanding smile. I was thankful that she controlled the laugh that was undoubtedly on her lips, because I wouldn’t want Andy to be embarrassed. After all, he had shrieked like a schoolgirl when he saw Maestro Martino. And there he was, coming close to repeating that performance.
Vincent gave him a lopsided grin. “Calm down man. Anybody would think you’d seen a ghost.”
I didn’t know what to say to that. Apparently neither did Andy. He, Granny, and I agreed to keep the existence of the ghost chef to ourselves. However, I suspected Veronica might know something about Daisy. I knew Granny had been upset about things after the big shindig when Daisy last allowed me to see her.
For most of her life, Granny Fanny had been in denial about her gift for seeing spirits. She had probably said some things to her friend Veronica as she tried to understand what was happening to her as she realized there was something “odd” about Daisy, the ghost woman. Veronica might have pondered enough possibilities to make her inquisitive.
Andy and I stared at each other guiltily. Veronica looked from him to me and back again. Surgeon and researcher, her eyes narrowed as she considered us.
Cracker fluttered to the table and looked up at me covered in white flower. The parrot tilted her head to one side curiously. “Dainty Dish!” she squawked the other name for Daisy.
Veronica’s eyebrows went nearly up to her hairline.
Video: Easy Grilled Fruit-Food Network
Roasted Apricots with Ginger
6. Turnips, Onions, Sauerkraut
A scent of mint was on the breeze and I inhaled with pleasure. I sat on the ground in Granny Fanny’s garden wiping dirt from a turnip and an interesting idea popped into my head. “I wonder how turnips would taste cooked with some mint,” I pondered aloud.
Cinnamon Bun, Granny’s Flemish Giant rabbit, looked at me quizzically and twitched his dirty nose. I could have offered the huge bunny a turnip, but he clearly enjoyed digging up his own. Just as we both went back to the dirt, a loud noise cracked the air. I jumped half out of my skin, and Cinnamon Bun dashed to the security of his hutch.
The loud sound was followed by the beep-beep or a horn. I looked down toward the road and saw a Dodge Roadster. It wasn’t new. I guessed it was about a 1921 model. It was a black two-seater with a tan rag-top and tan spoke wheels. The automobile was not familiar to me. However, it pulled into Granny’s driveway. A moment later Andy Avis jumped out and hurried to the back yard, where I sat in the vegetable garden.
I shook my head and chuckled to myself. It seemed like every automobile Andy ever drove backfired like that.
“What do you think?” Andy asked motioning to the Dodge.
“Oh, it wasn’t worth the cost of shipping it to Hollywood, so I had to let her go,” he said with a touch of regret in his voice. “Garth Gilley, down at the garage, let me rent this roadster from him. If I knew more about how long I was going to be in town, I’d just buy it,” he said and I chuckled. “Yes, Pip. I’ve already succumbed to the charms of a new vehicle, before the dust of the Studebaker has even settled,” he said, taking off his hat and placing it over his heart in pretend drama.
Garth,owned Gilley’s Garage. Garth’s brother Godfrey owned Gilley’s Grocery where my grandmother and I bought much of our food. Godfrey was attentive to Granny Fanny’s preferences for just the right produce, and Garth handled her Model-T with kid gloves. They were good people, the Gilleys.
I took my basket of turnips, and on impulse plucked some fresh mint. Andy followed me to the side of the cottage, that’s where the water pump was. Always thoughtful, Andy got the water going and I rinsed off the vegetables and cleaned my hands.
The pump was near the open kitchen window. An unexpected sound caused me to be immediately concerned. Andy asked me if I needed any more water, and I shushed him. Then I apologized in a whisper and motioned to the window. Had I heard sobbing? Granny was the only one inside the cottage. Or was she?
I strained to hear, but Wriggles the pug was whining at Cinnamon Bun’s hutch, trying to get him to come outside. I didn’t worry about Cinnamon with the dog, because the rabbit was much larger. Besides, they seemed to be friendly with each other. They weren’t making much noise, but it was enough to prevent me hearing what was happening inside the cottage.
Yes, yes… I know I shouldn’t listen that way, but I felt awfully protective of my grandmother. Suddenly I heard a consoling voice. A male voice. Quietly I moved to the house and stood below the kitchen window. Andy was right behind me.
“Holy Hannah,” Andy whispered. “It can’t be.”
I scrunched up my face and gave Andy a look because he wasn’t making any sense. Then the voices became louder. The man had an accent. Applesauce!
“No, no, no bella. A flower like you should not cry. Dry your tears and tell the Maestro all about it. This will make you feel better, no?” the ghost chef consoled my grandmother.
“No, no, Luce dei Miei Occhi! Light of my eyes, you do not fool the Maestro. These tears are not from the onion. Someone has broken your heart, I can see it.”
Suddenly the sobbing grew louder. Poor Granny! She was bawling her eyes out. I moved to go inside and make sure she was okay. However, Andy held me back.
“Actually Pip… the ghost seems to be doing a good job of comforting her. There might be things that she needs to get off her chest that she wouldn’t necessarily want to tell her granddaughter,” my friend whispered.
I had to admit that Andy had a point. My thoughts went to the big shindig where we had cornered the gang of bootleggers, and moments before I had accidentally found Dabney Daniels and Granny in a passionate kiss. Granny had rejected him because she couldn’t accept being older than the handsome detective. I figured she was probably no more than a dozen years his senior, and I couldn’t understand why she let that bother her. But it did, and it was her choice, so I didn’t try to convince her otherwise. Anyhow, when you consider Granny’s mixed feelings for Detective Dabney Daniels, maybe the ghost was right. Maybe her heart was breaking.
I heard indistinguishable words in between sobs. Then finally she spoke clearly. “I don’t know if it was the right thing for me, but it had to be the right thing for him. It just had to be. A beautiful man, still in his prime shouldn’t be saddled with an old woman,” she said, though Maestro Martino protested. “But just because I turned him down — it didn’t mean I wanted him to move halfway up the east coast!” she cried. “And I surely didn’t want him to run off and do something so dangerous!” she wailed.
In between a lot of blubbering we learned that Dabney Daniels went to Washington DC to become part of a special taskforce. Granny also felt a little betrayed, because her old friend, Federal Marshal, Moses Myrick gave Daniels a glowing recommendation for the new position.
“So he’s gone for training with the U.S. Marshal’s Service Fugitive Taskforce. That’s even more dangerous than his work as a police detective. If anything happens to Dabney I’ll never forgive myself,” Granny sobbed. “It’s my fault. I pushed him into it by rejecting his romantic advances.”
Martino continued to console Granny Fanny. Once she seemed calmer, Andy and I went to the back porch and inside the cottage. As I opened the kitchen door I heard bustling sounds. To my surprise, it wasn’t Granny moving around her kitchen. It was Maestro in his white chef’s apron and hat, along with those odd looking Renaissance era boots. His back was to us, but he appeared to be making tea and a snack.
I couldn’t believe Granny would sit still for the ghost to be cooking in her kitchen — not after the way she had acted the first time she saw him. I supposed that was testament to how distraught she was. I also didn’t know what to expect the ghost chef to do when he saw us. I thought maybe he’d wink out, disappear; whatever you’d call it.
“Ah! Signorina o Signore please do make yourselves comfortable. The Maestro, he will soon have prepared something nice to make everyone feel better, no?” the spirit said.
Granny avoided looking at us. I knew she didn’t want me or Andy to see her tear stained face. She excused herself and went to wash her face. She gave a sidelong, annoyed glance to Maestro for daring to do anything in her kitchen, but she hurried out of the room without saying anything else.
Maestro Martino turned to watch her retreating form as she went down the hall. He was humming a tune that I recognized for a madrigal, It Was a Lover and His Lass. So intent was the ghost on watching my grandmother’s backside that he overfilled a teacup and didn’t notice, even when the liquid spilled over the countertop to the blue and white tile floor.
It Was a Lover and His Lass – Highland High School Madrigal singers 20131215
I cleared my throat loudly and then got a dishtowel and mopped up the mess. The Maestro acted as if nothing had happened. He served tea and sat down at the kitchen table to join Andy and me. There was something different about his face. I looked at him closely. The corner of his lower lip was swollen and inflamed. He seemed to sip his tea very carefully.
It was puzzling to me… after all, he was a ghost. “Maestro, is everything okay,” I said pointing to the corner of my own mouth to show what I meant.
He sighed unhappily. “No, Signorina. It is only …” he paused, searching for the correct term. “It is only a canker sore, I think you call it,” he said sardonically.
“Oh, that can be miserable,” I said sympathetically.
I moved to the refrigerator. I took out a dish of sauerkraut and got a fork from the drawer. “Here. Get a wad of kraut and put it against the mouth ulcer for a minute or two. Then chew it up and swallow it,” I instructed him in the same remedy Granny had
given others in the past. “It works, I promise.”
He did as I said. After a moment he chewed and gulped, then washed down the sauerkraut with his tea. Andy looked at the ghost chef with a speculative expression on his face that probably matched my own. My friend seemed to weigh a couple of options and then discard them. Finally Andy cleared his throat and questioned Maestro Martino.
“Pardon me, but how can a ghost have a canker sore?” he asked what might have been an impertinent question as politely as he could.
“Ah Signore,” Maestro began and shook his head remorsefully. “When first I met you two lovely young people, I told you of my predicament. Through no fault of my own, I pissed off the Pope and in short the point of the parable is now I am a poltergeist,” he said and waited for us to confirm that we remembered. “Perhaps I postponed providing the piece where my predicament also presents another problem,” he said looking embarrassed.
Had the spirit really used that many Ps? I blinked and gave my head a shake to make sure I was keeping up with him.
Andy chortled and I gave his ankle a little kick under the table, and told him he was being insensitive. However, Andy just laughed again. “Pip, don’t you realize?” he asked, though I didn’t understand what he meant. “The beautiful woman he was lusting after was your grandmother,” he said as he leaned his chair backward and
rocked it on two legs while he chuckled at me.
My eyes popped open wide as I looked at Maestro Martino accusingly. The ghost looked down at his teacup and nodded penitently. I got up but I didn’t know what to do with myself. When I rested my hand on the countertop it landed on the dishtowel, sopping wet with tea. I threw the towel at Maestro’s face.
The ghost immediately became transparent, and the wet towel went right through him. It plopped wetly across Andy’s face. Apparently I threw it pretty hard. Andy was still leaning his chair back on two legs, and he toppled over when the wet towel landed, covering his face.
When Andy sat up, wet white towel still covering his face, he looked like a ghost out
of a Lon Chaney movie. I made a comment to that effect, and Andy proceeded to make monster-like motions and chase me around the cottage, with the towel still covering his face. It was amazing that he didn’t run into more furniture than he did.
Wriggles the pug’s sensitive ears picked up the excited noises of play and he barreled into the game. The little dog barked as he chased behind Andy. I ran into the parlor and both of them followed. Granny Fanny must have been “on a mission” to learn something again, because there were several stacks of newspapers and other periodicals from the library around the room.
Unable to see very much, Andy stumbled over a stack of newspapers. Our laughter subsided, but Wriggles hadn’t given up the game. The pug bounced around on the strewn papers and in a moment the entire floor was covered. Andy and I set about collecting the pages and putting them back into the right order.
I noticed that they were very old issues of the Savannah Tribune, from before I was even born. Andy was on his hands and knees trying to get newspapers away from the dog without tearing them. Something caught his eye, and he shifted from his knees to a sitting position to read a page. He scratched his head and made a humpfthat I’d often heard him make when he was thinking about an idea for one of his science fiction stories.
“What is it?” I asked.
“This name is familiar, but I don’t know why. It’s an announcement article about a local boy rising up in the organization of the Church here,” Andy said as he continued to browse the write-up. “Two brothers had been on scholarships to some hoity-toity business university, but during summer break, back home in Savannah, one of them suddenly joined the priesthood.”
“Do you mean the Binghamtons?” I asked
“Yepper,” he said and then smacked his palm against the polished oak floor with a loud smack that started the pug barking.
I shushed the dog by scratching his back. Wriggles lived up to his name. That little dog loved getting his back scratched. He stuck out his tongue to lick his little pugged nose and wagged his tail until I thought he’d tip over.
Andy continued. “Now I remember where I’ve seen that name. I saw it when I was researching the ownership history of the abandoned factory Manny Mayer had me buy for him. I don’t remember the first name, except that it started with a ‘B’ but the surname was Binghamton for sure,” he said.
I remembered the old photograph I had seen at the Kingston mansion during the big shindig. It seemed like Daisy wanted me to see something in it. I remembered it clearly. 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. But then Daisy vanished.
He handed me the yellowed page. It had a much smaller version of the same old photograph. However this one had the surnames of the men listed under it. Sure enough, one of them was Binghamton. The image was so small, that it was hard to tell if one of them was a much younger version of the man who was now a bishop.
Looking closely, I realized there were two men who were thinner than the others. The bishop was a very slight man. So those must be the Binghamton brothers. However, I couldn’t make out much about their faces from the old newsprint image.
Andy and I sat back and looked at each other. One of the Binghamtons had owned the factory where Daisy the ghost girl said something happened to her. It was something so horrible that she blocked it out of her living memory and she was afraid to go inside the place even as a ghost.
“We need to make tracks back to that factory and look around,” I said.
How to Preserve Onions
7. Baby Bok Choy, Barbecue Sauce, Aluminum Foil
“So Andy, tell me all about Hollywood! All the crazy stuff with the haunted wine bottle from the old factory and the ghost chef… All that started up before we ever got to talk about your new home,” I said to my old friend, Andy the Astronaute-man.
Andy Avis was one of my group of friends back in a tiny town near Santa Rosa Sound, Florida. I nicknamed him the Astronaute-man because he wrote science fiction stories and even screenplays. I expected him to begin by telling me about his work at the movie studio, but apparently food was on his mind. He told me about his favorite restaurant, a Chinese place.
“They really put on the Ritz! It’s an amazing looking restaurant. And they make this baby bok choy dish, with garlic. I had never had it before, but it’s turned into one of my favorite foods,” he said enthusiastically.
I told him about Alastair and Arabella Wong and their restaurant, Wong’s Chinese. “Oh yeah, he said. “That’s the lady you said owns Wriggles, the little pug dog. Mrs. Peabody is just dog-sitting until she gets back from vacation, right?”
“Yes, that’s the one. Funny isn’t it, the way this kind of thing seems to happen?” I
commented. “Alastair and Arabella leave here to visit California, while you come from California to here.”
Andy chuckled. “Yeah, it’s like the hand of Fate making sure things stay in balance. If one thing or person leaves a realm, then another must take its place,” he said, talking like he would in one of the science fiction stories he wrote.
The black Dodge Roadster puttered along toward the abandoned factory. Andy had put the tan colored ragtop down when we started out, but he looked up at the clouding sky in concern. “Do you think we should stop and put the top up?”
The old factory that Andy had bought on behalf of a studio executive was only a little further down the road. “We’re almost there. Why don’t we just take our chances?” I suggested, knowing Andy was probably more concerned about me getting rained on than himself or the automobile.
“So why in the world would Manny Mayer the Movie Maker want an abandoned factory in Savannah, Georgia?” I asked Andy about the executive.
Andy Avis gave an exaggerated shrug. “I sorta wondered that myself. I was bragging. Goading him a little you know. He can be kind of a blowhard. So I was telling him about how much better the barbecue sauceis here in the south, and how much better it is than anything he’s ever tasted. So maybe he wants to open a huge barbecue place,” Andy said jokingly, which earned him a look from me. “Okay, so maybe not. To be honest, I didn’t want to ask too many questions, since he — or the studio was paying for my trip. To me, it was as much for pleasure, for rest and relaxation, as for business,” he said and gave me a quick one-armed hug while he drove.
Something about his tone and a sad look in his eyes made me concerned. “Are you okay? Out there all the way across the country, by yourself?” I asked.
Andy grinned like his old self. “Hollywood is the cat’s pajamas!” he said, though his smile waivered a little. “But I admit it’s a big adjustment. Everything is so different, whether I’m at the studio or just walking down the street.”
The sun came back out, clearing away the clouds. Soon we were at the abandoned building. It predated the Civil War. The factory-warehouse was a sort of hideout for blockade runners back then. We knew there might be all kinds of interesting stuff still inside because it was supposed to be haunted, and that would have kept away many thieves and vandals.
However, there wasn’t much of anything within plain sight. There were plenty of crates
and even old trunks. Plus the windows didn’t let in much light. We had our work cut out for us, but we were armed with flashlights and dust-rags, and Andy had a crowbar for opening crates.
After a few minutes of stirring up dust, we spotted an old document lying on top of a tall crate. We moved sturdy looking smaller crates to stand on, so we could see the top of the tall wooden box. The paper was crumbling with age. We were afraid it would fall apart into useless bits if we picked it up. “If we just had something to put it in,” I muttered half to myself.
“It’s probably just a shipping manifest, but you never know. Heck, even that could be interesting. Oh!” Andy exclaimed. “Granny is always determined to send food back with me, so I bought some aluminum foil… but I forgot to give it to her. It’s out in the roadster. That would work. We can make a foil envelope around this paper. If we’re real careful, it should hold together,” Andy said and headed back to the Dodge.
As I watched my friend’s form disappear into the dank building, I gulped. Knowing I was alone in the abandoned factory gave me a creepy feeling, even though I knew Andy was only a shout away and would be back quickly. Then a long roll of thunder filled the building. It sounded close. I realized Andy would be a little longer, since he’d need to put the top up on the ragtop two-seater. I wondered if I should go help him.
“Just stay there, Pip!” I heard him call back to me, though he was out of sight. “Sounds like the rain’s coming back. There’s no point in you getting wet too. I can put the top up on the roadster,” he said, voice fading into the distance.
A low whistle caused me to turn with a start.
“Well now, ain’t you a pretty little filly,” said a man wearing a Stetson hat.
He looked like he’d walked out of a Tom Mix movie. Actually, he was tall, well-built, and a real looker.
“You startled me,” I gasped, stating the obvious.
He looked abashed and removed the Stetson with a sort of bow. “Howdy, ma’am. Pardon me. I seem to have forgotten my manners. It’s been awhile since…” he began but his words trailed away as thunder rumbled again.
The room shook and it felt like the thunder was right beside me. I felt the man’s hand around my waist, and he roughly pulled me against him. My breath caught in my throat as I gazed up at his bright eyes, which shone with an emotion that I couldn’t define or even describe. Suddenly a couple of huge red-eyed cows careened past. They had long shiny black horns that missed me by an inch. I realized that one of those horns would have gored me if the cowboy hadn’t pulled me aside.
“What… was that?” I said, pulling away from him.
Then I noticed a large lariat was in his hands. I was sure it hadn’t been there before.
“Dang it all…” he muttered and then sighed with obvious frustration. “I wouldn’t have caught them anyway,” he spoke words that rang of defeat.
He shook his head, looking after the longhorn cows, which disappeared as suddenly as they appeared. Then he turned back to me. “Caleb Colman, ma’am,” the cowboy said and put out his hand to shake mine.
I might have giggled about the name Caleb Colman the Cowboy, but I didn’t. Because the moment I shook his hand was when I realized how cold his touch really was. I’d felt it all the way through my dress too, when he pulled me out of the way of the cattle. I knew what he was. By then, you’d think I’d have been used to meeting ghosts, but I introduced myself awkwardly. He finished what he had been about to say before the red-eyed cows interrupted us.
“It’s my curse. Me and all the riders. We chase that herd of red-eyed cattle, but we never get any closer to catching ‘em. And we’ll chase them ‘til the end of time,” The ghost-rider said seeing the expression on my face.
Caleb bowed his head, Stetson hat in hand. I didn’t know what to say. Nothing seemed sufficient compared to the thought of an unwilling and futile chase that went on forever. There was deep sadness and regret in the ghost-rider’s eyes.
That was when everything started to happen at once. I heard a distant rumble like thunder. I felt Caleb’s cold hand at my waist again. Andy called my name. He had just come back into view, at the far end of the poorly lighted factory floor. The room began to shake violently. A dozen red-eyed cattle with long sharply pointed black horns charged past. The devil’s herd was headed straight for Andy.
Caleb yelled at Andy to take cover, as he pulled me to the floor and out of the way. Even if Andy hadn’t been frozen in shock, he wouldn’t have had time to move. Immediately behind the cattle were two more ghost-riders, their horses snorting fire.
Their lariats spun circles of burning light as they tried to lasso the cattle. One cowboy’s lariat went around a set of shiny black horns, but the beast managed to shake it off before the ghost-rider could tighten the rope. The lasso went back into the air — and landed around Andy!
As if by magic, a fire-snorting horse appeared and Caleb leapt into the saddle in a single motion. He charged after the other ghost-riders, yelling at them to stop. However, the lasso tightened around Andy, lifting him into the air as the riders thundered past.
Then with the sound of a thunderclap and a flash of fire, they all disappeared.
Recipe: Stir-Fried Baby Bok Choy with Garlic
by Lillian Chou on Epicurious.com
Recipe and Photo Credit: Epicurious.com
Yield: 8 servings
Active time: 35 min
Total time: 35 min
1/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced garlic (about 8 cloves)
2 pounds baby or Shanghai bok choy, halved lengthwise
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
Equipment: a well-seasoned 14-inch flat-bottomed wok with a lid
Stir together broth, soy sauce, cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon salt until cornstarch has dissolved.
Heat wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates instantly. Pour peanut oil down side of wok, then swirl oil, tilting wok to coat side. Add garlic and stir-fry until pale golden, 5 to 10 seconds. Add half of bok choy and stir-fry until leaves wilt, about 2 minutes, then add remaining bok choy and stir-fry until all leaves are bright green and limp, 2 to 3 minutes total. Stir broth mixture, then pour into wok and stir-fry 15 seconds. Cover with lid and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in sesame oil, then transfer to a serving dish.
Baby bok choy can be washed, dried, and halved one day ahead. Chill wrapped in paper towels, in a sealed bag.
8. Lettuce, Shrimp, Hot Peppers
“Andy! Annn-deee!” someone screamed hysterically, and after a moment I realized I was the one screaming.
Whether by accident or by design, the ghost-riders had taken Andy. Caleb the spirit cowboy yelled at them to stop before he also disappeared, but it had done no good.
As I tried to collect my wits, I noticed a wooden box that bore a faded image of a head of lettuce. I thought absently that it was a good thing the produce was gone; else the spoiled odor would fill the place. But then again, maybe it rotted away so long ago that even the smell was gone.
The sudden stillness of the building felt unearthly. I sat down on an old crate, not giving any thought to how dusty it was. Had it really been only a little while since we drove up to the abandoned factory? The words Andy had spoken at that moment came back to me and I shivered.
“Yeah, it’s like the hand of Fate making sure things stay in balance. If one thing or person leaves a realm, then another must take its place,” Andy had said.
Had the hand of Fate reached out and grabbed Andy to make sure whatever mystical realms stayed in balance? Or what might happen if someone were to escape death? Like Marshal Myrick — he died briefly and was revived by Dr. Veronica Vale. Could that have disturbed a cosmic balance of some sort? Or maybe the presence of one of the ghosts upset the balance of things. Did Daisy or the Maestro have to “move on” before Andy could come back?
As if on cue Maestro Martino appeared. He was bubbling over with excitement. “Signorina,” he cried. “A wondrous thing has happened!”
I looked at the ghost chef blankly, still reeling from the drama that took place only a moment before.
“I have been given a reprieve! My curse is cut in half!” Martino exclaimed joyously as he all but danced around me.
Maestro lifted me off my feet in a great bear hug. I thought of Andy being pulled into the air by the ghost-rider’s lariat and I shuddered. The ghost chef must have felt my reaction because he put me back down hastily.
“Oh forgive my excitement Signorina,” he apologized. “I did not mean to be improper,” the spirit said and then glanced around as if he had only just noticed the location. “But where is the young Signore?”
“They took him,” I said, distracted by the chaotic tumble of thoughts rolling through my head.
The Maestro looked a question at me, but instead of answering, I asked some questions of my own. “Maestro, where is the wooden owl clock? The one you had to bind yourself to? And how were you able to find me?”
He chuckled. “Signorina, I told you. I am one powerful poltergeist!” he said merrily.
Maestro Martino reminded me that he could be away from whatever object to which he was bound for limited periods of time. He said that he sensed the strong supernatural activity relatively nearby and it attracted him. Then he also sensed my presence in the midst of it, so he came quickly. I marveled at how powerful he truly must be to pick up all those things. I could understand that he might be aware of ghostly activity, but I thought it was particularly extraordinary that he felt my mortal presence.
I told him about the Devil’s Herd and the ghost-riders. “Is there anything you can do to get Andy back, Maestro?” I pleaded.
“One of them was here, strongly,” Maestro muttered. “He was most interested in you, Signorina.”
Then he came close to me and put out his hands, palms toward me as if he could feel something in the air around me. He tut-tutted some more.
“What is it?” I wanted to know.
“Can you not see it?” he asked but then seemed to remember himself. “Of course not. My mistake,” he said and wriggled his fingers.
I marveled to see a multi-colored aura all around me. There were bright horizontal yellow-green bands around it at my waist and shoulder.
“A poltergeist made physical contact with you, no?” he asked but it didn’t sound like a question.
In answer I told the Maestro about Caleb the ghost-rider and how he pulled me to safety as the Devil’s Herd thundered past. His thick eyebrows went up in an expression of curiosity that was accompanied by another tut-tut sound.
“So, a ghost who is cursed for his cruelty during life saves an innocent bystander… This is most intriguing,” he said.
Martino put his hand to the places where Caleb had stood. Then he apologized and placed his hand at my waist. After a second the Maestro gasped.
“Repentance?” he said in an astonished tone. “Remorse and repentance? I’m sure I feel these things from your ghost-rider. It must be one powerful curse that afflicts him. I am amazed that the curse has not been lifted.”
I looked at Maestro Martino sadly. He had never shown anything but kindness to me. Yet he said he was cursed also. Always one to put my foot in it, I asked about something that was none of my bees wax. “Then shouldn’t your curse be lifted as well? You said just now that it was cut in half. Why didn’t they… whomever, just take it away?” I asked and then blushed at my temerity.
He gazed at me with the saddest look in his eyes… Even Wriggles the pug couldn’t look that sad. Then he abruptly smiled and chuckled.
“Ah, but you see, Signorina Pip, I have no remorse for the things that got me thusly cursed,” he admitted and spread his arms in a big shrug.
Maestro went back to the spot where Caleb had stood when he whistled at me. His entire body started to vibrate in a frightening way. He waivered from transparent to solid and back again, sometimes blinking out entirely. It was like a visual version of the static on the police radio. There was also a low discordant hum that set my teeth on edge.
The spirit chef loudly clapped his hands together. To my astonishment, Caleb the cowboy appeared. At first he seemed confused, but when he saw me he grinned. I ran toward the two ghosts.
“Simmer down now little filly,” he said.
The ghost-rider looked a little unsettled, and I supposed he might well be. After all, he had just been plucked out of whatever and wherever without so much as a please or than you. Caleb turned to Maestro Martino. Some kind of acknowledgment or recognition seemed to pass between them. I had the feeling they had just gauged each other’s power.
Caleb took off his Stetson and scratched his head as if he didn’t know what I meant. However, I had the feeling he was playing with me.
“Oh, you mean the little shrimp that was here with you?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said bouncing on the balls of my feet. “Andy! My friend, the one the other ghost-riders took!”
He chuckled, but I thought there was sadness in the cowboy’s eyes. “I’m sorry ma’am. I know who you mean. It’s just… well you’re so cute,” he said though it only sounded half apologetic.
Caleb seemed to be considering whether or not he would be able to do as I asked. He looked around the factory floor where we stood.
“We’ve been here before,” he said sounding a little troubled. “Me and the other riders, I mean. But it doesn’t feel like it’s anywhere out west,” he added and I told him that we were in Savannah, Georgia.
“This has to be a strong place, to draw the Devil’s Herd so far away,” he said in a speculative tone. “Something else happened here too. I think that’s why the place is so strong…” his voice trailed away.
“A nexus,” Maestro murmured.
I didn’t understand the term, but my only concern was for my missing friend. I told Caleb about Daisy and what she had said about something horrible that she couldn’t remember happening in the factory. Caleb nodded as if what I said made perfect sense.
“Sometimes it’s best not to remember,” the cowboy said in a flat voice. “Tell her that — your Daisy. Tell her it’s best, even in death, to forget some things. Those boys… it will catch up with them eventually.”
“What boys?” I asked.
“Boys… men now,” Caleb said with a faraway look in his eyes.
It was as if he was looking at something only he could see. However, when I glanced at Maestro, I had the feeling he was looking at the same thing Caleb saw.
“The boys who were here on the day your Daisy can’t remember,” Caleb answered after a moment. “They did something so bad that it attracted the ghost herd and the cursed riders. We were here that day. It scared ‘em off, but their damage was already done. Daisy saw us, but all things together, she blocked out all the memory,” he said.
“You mean the ghost-riders tried to save Daisy?” I asked.
“No ma’am. It had nothing to do with helping anybody. The herd and the riders, we’re sometimes drawn to places where something awful has happened. And those boys definitely did something horrible. Those boys… They’re not young anymore. And they haven’t paid for what they did to her. That’s what’s bothering Daisy, ma’am,” Caleb said.
His explanation seemed disjointed and difficult to follow, but Maestro nodded in agreement. I, however, felt confused.
“Do you mean this is where Daisy died?” I asked in a whisper.
Caleb shook his head negatively. Maestro gave a slight movement of his head too. Apparently they both were able to see the same past event.
“Maybe. Maybe not,” Caleb said. “But there was cruelty here. It’s not something a lady should have to remember,” he added and would say no more on the subject.
“Now listen here —” I began, ready to rail against the idea that gender should have the least bit to do with what anybody should about anything. However, that was a ridiculous concept to most non-flappers. It would have been even stranger in Caleb’s day. Besides, there were more urgent things to address.
“What about Andy?” I asked, and I wondered if I sounded as distraught as I had to my own ears.
“Don’t you worry none, ma’am,” Caleb said with what was probably meant to be a reassuring smile.
“Well, the truth is ma’am,” he paused and ground his boot against the floor. “It would take a lot more power than I have,” he said. “But you never know. I’ll try my best.”
Maestro Martino unexpectedly grabbed Caleb’s hand. The ghost chef put his other hand on the cowboy’s shoulder. At first I thought it was an ordinary gesture of respect. However, Maestro started to glow. Then his hands seemed to merge with Caleb and they both became translucent.
A blinding white glow suffused the Maestro. Soon it covered Caleb too. The white light became so bright that I couldn’t see anything. I shielded my eyes to no avail. I turned my head and closed my eyes.
I heard a fizzing sound followed by a pop. The light was gone. I opened my eyes. At first all I could see were spots. Then I realized that Caleb the cowboy was gone.
Maestro Martino looked absolutely spent. He plopped down on a crate. The ghost chef dusted off part of the top and chuckled. I noticed foreign lettering on the crate. “Peperoncino,” it said. Was that Italian?
He sighed. “Ah… a bit of home. Peperoncino. Hot peppers. Alas, home is as far away as ever,” he said sadly. “But all is well. It was the right thing to do.”
“As you probably suspected, I leant the ghost-rider enough power to help the Signore. But the only way I could do this thing was to also give him his wish,” Martino said.
I was so worried about Andy that I was feeling impatient with the cryptic answers from the spirit. I tried to control my tone. “What wish?” I insisted.
Then I remembered Caleb’s words. “I know I did some bad things during my life. Some truly horrible things,” he’d said, shaking his head remorsefully. “I only wish I could be allowed to make up for it, to redeem myself somehow.”
“Maestro…” I began in an awed voice. “You didn’t? Oh, but you did,” I said as comprehension dawned. “You gave Caleb the chance to make amends for the things he did in his lifetime?”
The ghost chef nodded but did not speak.
“And in doing that, you somehow gave up the time that was going to be taken off your own curse,” I said.
9. Chanterelle Mushrooms, Gin, Trifle
Though it seemed like much longer, only moments had passed since Maestro Martino took the hand and shoulder of Caleb the ghost-rider. Suffused with blinding light, the spirit chef seemed to merge with the cowboy before the ghost-rider disappeared.
My breath caught when I heard the fizz and pop, not unlike a bottle of champagne being uncorked. I began to associate that sound with the appearance or disappearance of poltergeists. The sound was immediately followed by something crashing and then the unpleasant noise of puking. I glanced at the Maestro and saw his grimace.
“I haven’t heard such pathetic retching since I took a bumbling apprentice foraging for chanterelle mushrooms. The poor buffoon gobbled up the wrong species while I wasn’t looking,” the ghost chef said, and he looked like he might sick-up himself.
I hurried around a tall stack of old crates toward the noise. To my immense relief I found Andy sprawled on what appeared to be an old church pew. When he saw me he pushed himself up on his elbows and wiped his face with a white handkerchief.
“That was one helluva ride,” my old friend groaned.
“Andy! Are you okay? I was scared to death!” I exclaimed.
I immediately regretted my poor choice of words, but neither Andy nor Maestro seemed to pay any mind. In fact, the ghost chef wasn’t paying any attention to either of us. He studied a rotted old crate intently. Meanwhile Andy looked pale and woozy. “Maybe you should put your head between your knees,” I said.
“Isn’t that for fainting?” he asked.
“Uh… yeah, I guess so,” I said lamely, and wondered if Andy really expected me to believe he was not about to pass out.
“I’ll be fine,” he mumbled, swaying where he sat.
Startling me, the Maestro drew back his foot, still wearing those odd looking Renaissance era boots, and gave the dilapidated crate a hard kick. The wood practically disintegrated with the impact. Several bottles rolled out onto the floor. The poltergeist chuckled delightedly and scooped up a rolling bottle. He had it open in a jiffy.
“Here Signore,” Maestro told Andy as he handed him the open bottle. “This should set you to rights.”
I sat down on the dusty church pew next to Andy Avis. He took a swig right from the bottle. Andy made a surprised face, but he swallowed the liquid. Then he held out the bottle to look at the faded label.
“Gin!” he exclaimed. “And the real stuff too, not bathtub gin. “Wow! I wonder how old this booze is.”
“Everything in this old warehouse, or factory, or whatever it is seems to be ancient,” I commented as I took a closer look at the carved wooden pew.
“The place was both at one time or another,” Andy said. “So you’re right either way. Based on what I’ve learned through the records at the courthouse, it might have been a hospital on and off too. Or at least part of it was. Probably not this part,” he said sounding like the swig of gin might have gone to his head that fast. “Maybe somebody held religious services here while they were having a church built or something too,” Andy added and with a little burp he patted the pew and left a handprint in the dust.
Goose bumps covered my arms and the little hairs stood on end. I looked at the antiquated church pew, at Maestro, and back to Andy. I remembered the recent day when Andy and I found all those newspapers Granny Fanny had apparently been using to look up something (see Episode-6). Andy found an old issue with a picture of a lot of young men, including the Binghamton brothers. I recognized it for the same photo I had seen at the Kingston mansion during the big shindig. It seemed like Daisy, the spirit girl, wanted me to see something in it. I knew there was information in that photograph; that Daisy was trying to give me a clue, but she just wasn’t able to be clear.
Then Andy had said that he found the name Binghamton in the title research he did for the abandoned building. A chill went down my spine to match the goose bumps. I heard the same low whistle cowboy Caleb made at me when he first appeared. I turned toward the sound.
Multi-colored light glowed softly, just beyond the antique pew. As I blinked it took the form of a beautiful stained glass window. Aqua-blue and gold designs cast a soft beam on the three of us. Then I saw Caleb, bathed in the beautiful light, Stetson hat in hand.
The ghost-rider bowed to us, and bent his head a little lower to the spirit chef. “I don’t know how I can thank you,” Caleb said, managing to include all of us in the comment. “But I will keep looking for a way. If it helps you at all, Daisy knows you’re onto something,” he said causing me to do a double take.
Had the spirit girl managed to encounter the ghost-rider? Caleb seemed to sense my question and nodded with an unexpectedly shy smile.
“Daisy still doesn’t understand it, but that old picture, this building, and the church window figure together somehow,” the cowboy tried to explain, but his expression said that he didn’t understand the message he relayed.
“How did you show us the stained glass window?” Andy asked in an awed voice.
The petite dark haired woman looked fondly up at the cowboy. Then the image of Daisy blinked out after that brief appearance. I knew she was terrified of the abandoned building. I supposed she mustered enough courage to let us know it was her. Caleb’s impudent grin softened to a gentle expression as he looked at something we could not see, in the spot where Daisy had stood.
“If you’ll excuse me now,” the cowboy said. “It’s not polite to keep a lady waiting,” he said and faded away.
The image of the stained glass window brightened in a way that seemed insistent, as if the glow refused to be ignroed. Andy and I both studied it intently trying to memorize the intricate details in the design.
Then I heard a familiar voice in the distance, along with the sound of an automobile’s door slamming. To my surprise, Maestro abruptly winked out with a fizz and a pop.
“Paisley Idelle Peabody! Are you in this God forsaken place?” I heard Granny Fanny’s voice, and I cringed at her use of my full name.
“Oh-oh,” Andy muttered, but gave me a mischievous wink.
My grandmother flounced across the warehouse floor to us. She looked mad enough to spit nails, and I thought I perceived an undercurrent of worry. She glared all around the factory floor.
“I take it you two are safe and sound,” Granny said, and it didn’t sound like she was all together pleased with that. “Although you look downright peaked, Andy,” she pronounced the word as southerners of that era did, peak-ed, and she almost roughly put her hand to his forehead to check his temperature.
Granny was awfully agitated. I asked how she knew where to find us. Then she really got mad. “That dad-blamed ghost you two let into my kitchen!” she spat the words. “That vulgar so-and-so! He said he’d teach me to make a trifle, but he’d rather trifle with me. Then rather than apologize like any gentleman ought to, he started going on about you being in danger. I managed to drag it out of him about where he was headed. Then I got here as fast as the automobile would take me,” she said in a rush.
Trifle with her? Granny said all that so fast that I had to replay it in my mind before I was sure what she’d said. Had Maestro made a pass at my grandmother? Really? At my grandmother? When I realized that Andy was having trouble suppressing his mirth, I realized that was exactly what had happened.
Then Granny noticed the supernatural image of the stained glass window just as it faded away. It left an aqua and gold colored aura in the place where it had been.
“What the devil was that?” Granny Fanny exclaimed wonderingly.
The little pop and fizz sound warned me and I tried to shush the ghost chef before he spoke and made things worse. But he had a mischievous gleam in his eyes.
“A most ironic choice of words Seniora,” he said with a bow. “Especially since yon window is part of a church.”
“You!” Granny gasped in a voice that could have frozen the Savanah River.
Maestro had the good sense to back away. However, that had him moving next to Andy. That probably was not a good thing, since they both had similar baffling expressions on their faces. What is it with men?
The ghost chef and Andy looked sideways at one another. “You see young Signore? She is a spitfire, no?” Martino said to my old friend. “The woman, she is so exciting when she is angry!”
To my astonishment, Andy’s expression matched the ghost’s and my friend agreed. However, a mere glance from Granny straightened out Andy Avis. Maestro didn’t get off so easily though. Granny Fanny could give a talk fierce enough to make a Baptist preacher green with envy, and brilliant enough to leave a Supreme Court judge feeling like he only had a fifth grade education. The ghost chef got the full brunt of her eloquent speech.
Maestro Martino hung his head, thoroughly shamed. Granny Fanny gave a sharp nod of her head. She said she’d see me and Andy back at the cottage, and told us not to doddle. Then she turned on her heel and practically flounced out of the abandoned factory-warehouse.
Andy watched her go with the oddest series of expressions on his face. His face held admiration, fear, amazement, and something else about which I surely hoped I was mistaken. Or at least I’d better be. I raised one eyebrow at him and that odd part of his expression left in a hurry.
The ghost chef’s eyes were still downcast humbly. Then I saw him give a sidelong look at Granny’s departing form as she sashayed away. That lascivious look made me gasp with indignation. After all — that was my grandmother! Then the cursed poltergeist winced and made a small uncomfortable noise.
When Maestro looked up, there was a big red cold sore on his lip.
Video: Better Homes and Gardens – How to Make a Trifle
Recipe: Roasted Chanterelles, Baby Eggplant and Shallots
Recipe and Photo Credit: Suzanne Debrango
10. Strawberries, Avocados, Lobster
The tan spoke wheels of the black Dodge Roadster spun merrily when I saw their reflection in a shop window. It was a sunny day and we put down the tan ragtop. Andy and I drove around Savannah and the general area the whole morning. We looked at every church we could find, hoping for one with a window that matched the glowing image Daisy the Dainty Dish caused to appear to us in the abandoned warehouse.
It was well past noon when we drove toward a roadside fruit stand. “I’m starved. Why don’t we stop and get something here. Maybe something to make a cobbler for supper too,” I added as the inspiration struck.
Andy slowed the Dodge and we pulled off the road. “Strawberries!” I exclaimed. “They’re beautiful too,” I said as I opened the door without waiting for Andy to come around and open it for me.
He shot me a look for my impatience, and I suppose for my lack of ladylike behavior. But I was a flapper, after all. I could throw convention to the winds. Besides, Andy was my dear old friend, not my beau. When he caught up with me I was still going on about how good the strawberries looked. I asked if he didn’t agree.
“Oh Pip,” he began and gave me a lopsided grin. “They’ll be the berries!”
I rolled my eyes at Andy’s pun. The aroma was heavenly and I inhaled deeply as I selected several small baskets of the luscious red berries. Andy insisted on paying as he said he planned on eating the majority of the cobbler.
Our chatter about being hungry turned into a conversation with the stall keeper about what there was to eat nearby. The man told us there was a pier about a mile up the road and recommended one of the vendors for a bite to eat.
While the guy talked, Andy picked up a black pebbly skinned pear-shaped thing and tossed it happily. The stall keeper took on a professorial tone. “Had them alligator pears brought up special from Florida,” he told Andy.
“We’re both from Florida,” Andy told the man. “I remember my grandpa calling avocados alligator pears,” he said fondly. Then he turned to me. “At least that was one familiar thing in California. This kind of avocado got real popular there fairly recently.”
“I see you know your onions — and your avocados,” the man said and chuckled at his own joke.
I wouldn’t have expected the guy to know his slang. My expression must have said as much and he smiled. The grin took ten years off his face. Maybe he wasn’t such a codger after all.
We both picked out a few more things and then we were ready to settle up the bill. The stall keeper looked at the strawberries and then looked at us carefully. “You know,” he began but hesitated for a second before continuing. “For special customers… I could be talked out of a bottle of strawberry wine. Don’t worry, everything’s jake,” he added upon seeing our surprise.
Both of us grinned. “I wasn’t expecting to run across any giggle water here,” Andy said and told the guy to add a bottle of the wine to our purchase.
“On one condition,” the man said. “You gotta promise not to get spifflicated until you get where you’re going.”
The pier turned out to be a hotspot, just short of being a carnival. I could tell it was a fun place before we got out of the roadster. There were lots of bathers in colorful suits who came for the narrow strip of beach. All manner of vendors were setup with their crafts and wares along the boardwalk and out onto the pier.
We walked past a stand where a man played a happy tune on a banjo. Yet when I thought about it, any song sounded cheery when played on a banjo. The stall boasted several beautiful handmade instruments the musician and his wife had for sale. However, they did most of their business with the smaller less expensive things like harmonicas and mouth harps.
The woman gave us a quick demonstration of the mouth harp. It had a flexible metal “tongue” attached to an oval metal frame. She put the tongue part inside her mouth and plucked with a finger to produce a note. She offered to help Andy learn to play the odd little instrument, but he politely declined.
“I tried to play one of those jaw harps when I was a kid,” Andy commented derisively. “All I did was pinch my mouth. Bad. I looked like I had cold sores worse than Maestro gets as supernatural punishment for leering at your grandmother.”
The scent of something delicious wafted to my noise. The banjo music trailed behind us as we made for the food stalls. To my surprise we got into line and the person in front of us was Hank Hertz, Savannah’s youngest police officer. I invited him to join us, but Hank pointed out a booth the police department had set up. Hank said he was “on duty,” and had to man the booth.
Soon Andy and I had paper baskets full of crispy fried chicken, golden-brown biscuits, coleslaw, and some German potato salad. We sat down on a sun-warmed bench to eat. It gave us a view of the brightly colored stall awnings to one side and of the little beach to the other. It was fun to watch all the activity and different people.
Some of the bathers cavorting on the sand caught my attention. A huge lobster had somehow caught hold of a flapper’s bathing suit and another girl tried to pull it free, resulting in a humorous tug of war. It didn’t look like anyone was in any danger of being harmed. Andy and I chuckled at their antics.
If I hadn’t known Andy so well, I would have thought he really had been about to starve. There wasn’t a scrap of chicken left on those bones. However, that was how Andy ate fried chicken. He always said the very best part was right on the bones, and sometimes I wondered if he would munch into the very bones! I had to admit it was delicious. I licked my finger after the last bite of moist crispy deliciousness.
We dodged a yellow jacket that buzzed around the big garbage can as we threw away our trash. That was one angry looking bee! I jumped backward away from the yellow jacket, just as I heard the bell of a ferry coming up to the pier. I nearly stumbled into an artist’s easel and I apologized profusely.
Trying to make amends for nearly turning over her work, I started looking at her paintings. The one I ran into was a truly lovely landscape with a building and flowers; daisies amid red roses. I saw that she signed the painting Mattie Maddox. However, I began to see a central theme to her work — stained glass windows. I murmured something to Andy, but I couldn’t get his attention, he was so engrossed in the paintings.
“Horse feathers Pip!” he finally looked up at me and whispered an exclamation. “Look at this. Most of them are stained glass windows!” he said and I tried not to roll my eyes since that’s why I had been trying to get his attention.
Mattie the artist was flattered by our interest in her work. (That just didn’t have a ring to it, I thought. Shouldn’t it be Annie the artist? Or Abbie?) I told her we were looking for a church with a particular stained glass window. She showed us all of her church paintings, but none matched the image of the window Daisy the ghost woman has showed us.
Mattie Maddox was a kind and charming woman, so it was pleasant to pass a few minutes talking to her about her paintings. She was a little beyond middle years. Her hair was heavily streaked with gray and pulled back into a tidy bun. Mattie’s stall was the neatest one I had ever seen. When I commented on it, she said that through most of her life she worked as a chamber maid and the neatness was a firmly ingrained habit.
“Mattie the Maid!” I exclaimed and then was horribly embarrassed, fearing I had been offensive.
I tried to explain my fondness for making names for people I liked, such as Mona the Movie Star, and of course Andy the Astronaute-man. Mattie seemed to be a sweet soul and was not bothered by my silliness. She tilted her head to one side as if a thought suddenly came to her.
“I wonder… It wasn’t the church, but the rectory has a lovely window with shapes and colors like you described,” she said as she moved toward a stack of unframed canvases in the corner of the little booth. “I did so many different paintings of it. I guess I was trying to work through some grief over a friend who died.”
Andy and I both murmured our condolences. “Oh don’t you fret none,” Mattie said. “That was so long ago. Ah! Here’s one,” the artist exclaimed as she pulled out a square canvas.
The piece was covered in bright hues of gold and aqua, and featured an arched stained glass window. Roses and wild flowers mingled; a contrast of sophistication and the commonplace, to frame the window. Mattie looked it with a sad expression in her eyes. “She was the one who was really the rose,” she whispered as if to herself.
My excited gasp was echoed by Andy. The artist chuckled at our enthusiasm. Andy pulled out his wallet without even asking the price of the painting. At first Mattie declined to take anything for it, apparently she thought we were newlyweds and she was charmed by our excitement. Naturally Andy insisted on giving her a good price.
“Where is this place?” I asked eagerly.
“It’s the rectory, not the church,” she reminded me and I nodded. “The one out on Tybee Island,” she said and then took a hurried look at a watch that was suspended from a chain around her neck. “Oh my, would you look at the time!” she exclaimed. “I have to hurry and put away my things so I can catch the ferry,” she said and then looked at our puzzled faces. “I live on the island and this is the last ferry of the day. It will be leaving in just a few minutes.”
Mattie went on to explain that Route 80, which connected the island via road with the mainland, was washed out. “We’ve had so many storms this summer,” she said. “So the ferry is the only means of getting there for now.”
“We’d very much like to see the place,” I said and then remembered Granny Fanny. I doubted there was a telephone on the island. Mattie said that was the last ferry of the day. If we went, we’d be stuck overnight. How would I let Granny know, so she wouldn’t worry? It was a lot simpler when I lived on my own in the old office building where Andy and my other friends used to rent our apartment “offices.” I didn’t have to worry about making anybody else worry.
“Pip!” Andy exclaimed. “Mrs. Peabody would want us to have a chaperone. And we can’t just go off to Tybee Island without letting her know,” he said and without being asked, went about helping Mattie lock up her paintings.
I had noticed that Andy called my grandmother Granny most of the time. But when she turned into an authority figure in his mind, she suddenly became Mrs. Peabody. Plus I was surprised at my old friend. Who’d have thought he could be such a stick in the mud? A chaperone? I was a modern woman, a flapper. I didn’t need a chaperone!
Andy’s insistence on propriety seemed to greatly impress Mattie Maddox. She smiled and offered to have us stay the night with her. “I have a little cottage on the church grounds. There’s only one bed but you two are young — I have plenty of quilts and could make pallets on the floor for you,” she offered.
Of course I wouldn’t dream of putting her out that way. Then she mentioned that the church operated a small hostel. Mattie said she would be happy to introduce us to the chaplain. I was already nodding eagerly when Andy again reminded me about my grandmother.
“But there’s no time! I don’t even know where the closest telephone would be,” I complained and pointed at the ferry.
Then an inspired thought came to me and I ran down the pier as fast as I could. Three strides later, Andy caught my elbow and ran beside me. He asked me in a very frustrated voice what I thought I was doing.
“Hank!” I exclaimed.
“Um nope, doll face, I’m Andy,” he quipped.
“No, silly. Remember Hank Hertz? I introduced you at the chicken stand?” I reminded Andy and he grunted something affirmative. “Hank is a wizard with the radio. He’ll get word to Granny Fanny. Plus he knows about Daisy the Dainty Dish. He’ll want to help.”
I asked Andy to go back and get us a place on the ferry, and not let it leave without me. He said he’d bribe the captain if necessary. As I reached the boardwalk, I looked down the pier and saw Andy carrying some packages for Mattie Maddox toward the ferry. He was a good guy, I thought to myself.
Hank saw and understood my haste. Having worked at the pier all summer he was familiar with the ferry schedule. He said he wouldn’t need to worry about radioing an officer at the police station to call Granny Fanny. Hank promised to stop by the cottage on his way home. His shift was almost over.
He also let me know that there was a radio at the church’s rectory, just in case we needed to reach him. Hank, radio wiz that he was, had his own radio, and even a mobile set up in his automobile.
In no time Andy and I were settled next to Mattie Maddox on the ferry to Tybee Island. The Savannah River emptied into the Atlantic Ocean just north of the barrier island.
The ferry bobbed slowly on the stretch of ocean between the island and the small Atlantic coast of Georgia. I closed my eyes against the glare of the evening sun on the water. I might have dozed for a minute, but I noticed that I no longer felt the sunlight on my face. Unexpected clouds overcast the lowering sun, creating a purple sunset.
I remembered the sailor’s old saw, Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Well, purple was not red, I thought, but determined not to be apprehensive just because I was on a small craft, out on the open ocean. What flapper would let a little thing like that bother her?
Black clouds rolled in, abruptly turning the evening to night. I felt my hair stand on end. It didn’t feel like an ordinary storm. The ferryman shouted some kind of warning to all the passengers. However, I didn’t hear what he said because I was focused on the wind’s mournful call. Mournful and familiar.
Thunder rolled and to me it sounded like pounding hooves. A brilliant red bolt of lightning shot a horizontal path across the sky, like an arrow pointing toward the island. When I looked at the black clouds I saw the Devil’s Herd ploughing up the sky and pursued by the ghost-riders. One cowboy strayed from the rest and took off his Stetson hat with a seated bow toward me. His horse snorted fire and reared up, screaming a challenge to the black-horned cattle.
With a strong feeling of satisfaction I noted that the ghost-rider was not Caleb Colman. Maestro Martino’s sacrifice had not been in vain. Caleb the ghost-rider had gotten his chance to redeem himself, though I had no idea what it was.
I looked around me in wide-eyed amazement, but no one else had seen the ghostly display. Rain began to pour. Then in the darkness the ferry hit a giant wave. The boat went up into the air. I felt my posterior leave my seat and I hung on for dear life as the ferry crashed back down against the stormy water.
Saltwater and rain drenched everyone. Passengers screamed. The captain shouted for calm. Huge waves poured into the small craft. Thunder roared. Lightning blasted the darkness, eerily illuminating the terrified faces around me.
A double pronged bold of lightning fractured the sky right above us. The boat launched into the air again. That time I lost my grip. I felt myself lifted off my seat and into the air.
Recipe: Strawberry Cobbler
Recipe credit: Flimish Minx on Food.com. Photo credit: Chia
Total Time: 1 hour
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
4 cups strawberries, cleaned and sliced
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup butter, in cubes
Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
Spread the sliced strawberries evenly in an 8 or 9 inch square baking dish.
In a medium sized bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and sugar.
Add the egg, and mix (a fork works best) till crumbly and the dry ingredients are completely incorporated.
Spread this over the berries.
Dot with the butter cubes.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the top is golden and the berries are bubbling.
Cool slightly before serving.
11. Red Currants, Baked Beans, Polish Sausage
It was a big soft cushion of black velvet. I settled against it as I floated down. Down.
The world was so quiet and peaceful. I relaxed and drifted further into dark serenity. A gentle downward motion cradled me. Peace. It was a wonderful calm feeling. I never wanted to let go of it.
Then icy cold stabbed through me, jolting my arms, my legs with abrupt freezing pain. Shocked, my eyes bulged open, but I couldn’t see. The world around me was black and empty. Suddenly I realized that I couldn’t breathe.
I finally understood that I was under water. My arms and legs floundered as my mind told them to move, to swim. However, in the shock of the cold depths, my body didn’t listen to what my brain said. My muscles seemed confused, trying but not succeeding to comply with mental demands.
Something scaly brushed past my legs. I twisted in the Atlantic, still descending. Then I felt a soft caress, like a hand on my shin, gently pulling me even farther down. I swung out my leg instinctively. A bubbling chuckle answered my kick.
In the darkness I saw a glimmer reflect from opalescent scales and a broad fishtail. Bright green eyes were unexpectedly locked with mine. I saw a beautiful face that could have been either male or female, surrounded by a nimbus of long floating green hair. The face loomed closer and I was kissed passionately.
At first I struggled in fear. Then I realized that my lungs were filling with air. He backed away, and I saw his bare chest, marked with what appeared to be strange tattoos. I stretched out my hand beseechingly. I tried to plead for help, but only succeeded in taking in more of the ocean. With another watery chuckle he glided closer, eyes softly glowing in the night. He licked his lips and the light in his eyes intensified. His expression scared me more than the prospect of drowning.
Abruptly he broke eye contact and looked around suspiciously. Something about the way his green hair floated made me think he was using it in a sensory way. His fierce expression turned fearful. With a powerful thrust of the broad fin of his tail he plunged deeper into the Atlantic and disappeared.
Applesauce! A mermaid. No, a merman, I corrected myself as I struggled in vain to reach the surface. I had always thought mer… people were supposed to be playful rescuers. But that guy really scared me. Then I remembered something from school, about long ago sailors telling tales of men being dragged to their deaths by mermaids. I didn’t know what to think. It had to be a hallucination anyway. After all, I was drowning, and with that I realized the breath of air he gave me was already exhausted.
Despite the frigid ocean, my lungs burned, ready to explode. I saw a narrow stream of small blood red bubbles, and I thought perhaps my lungs really had burst. Although I knew that had not happened. Yet.
I looked at the tiny bubbles in fascination as they floated toward me in single file. They reminded me of ripe red currants. The line of translucent red currant bubbles became a loop and it circled around me. I heard a pop-fizz sound and the red bubbles drew snuggly around me, no longer a loop but a lariat.
A current surged against me, pushing me halfway around. Charging toward me was a giant seahorse. As it drew close, the seahorse reared back, snorting supernatural fire the ocean could not quench. The glowing white form of a Stetson hat shone from behind the creature’s head. Caleb Colman leaned forward, took off his hat, and gave me a dazzling grin.
“Hey little filly,” he said. “It looks like you’re in a mite of trouble,” the erstwhile ghost-rider said as he gave the supernatural lasso a gentle tug.
Caleb put an arm around me and placed me in front of him where he sat astride the enormous seahorse. He whipped the lasso, cracking it heavenward. The seahorse snorted fire and bolted upward.
It was still pitch black, but I sensed we neared the surface of the Atlantic. Caleb leaned down and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek.
“I know that I owe my chance at redemption to Maestro Martino, and I hope you’ll thank him for me. But if it hadn’t been for you Miss Pip, it never would have happened. I’m just trying to say that I’m grateful to you. And I’m grateful to be able to help you in return,” Caleb said.
Unexpectedly when I broke the surface of the water, I sailed up several feet into the air, like a dolphin. But what goes up must come down, and I hit the water again with a cold splash. I heard Andy scream my name and immediately after, a life preserver plopped into the ocean next to me.
Sputtering, wheezing, coughing, and finally a belch of smoke preceded the reanimation of the ferry’s engine. The captain’s soot streaked face broke into a smile. Some of the passengers cheered, but half of them were too wet, cold, and shocked to express emotions. The small craft limped to the dock at Tybee Island.
To my surprise a line of torches lit the shore. A dozen people moved forward, eagerly greeting the passengers of the unlucky boat. They had made fire pits, and had blankets ready, which was a great comfort to everyone. The aroma of food came to my nose and I was suddenly hungry. A woman came toward Andy and me with a bowl in each hand.
“It’s only baked beans,” she apologized. “That’s all we could do on short notice. I was already cooking them for the picnic tomorrow, but this is a more important use for them. C’mon they’re warm and hearty. Have some; it’ll do you good,” she said as she handed us the bowls which we gratefully accepted.
She called over her shoulder to someone. “Vance Varley, will you please hurry up and give these kids some blankets?” she said, though I couldn’t tell to whom she spoke.
The woman was right. Having some warm food in my belly did make me feel better. At that moment, filet mignon couldn’t have been any better than those baked beans.
A man put a blanket around my shoulders. A bit of white at his collar shone in the firelight. He turned and put another blanket around Andy. The man quickly moved to someone behind us. I heard the voice of Mattie Maddox talking enthusiastically to him as he tucked a blanket around her. I was glad to see that the older woman had taken one of the few camp chairs. He told her not to worry, that they would make sure everyone got home safely.
“Vicar Varley, how could you possibly have known, especially in time to get all this together?” she asked him.
“I tell you Mattie, it was the oddest thing,” the clergyman began. “I was in the kitchen when I heard the radio start making all kinds of noise. The dial was spinning crazily, not even on any normal channel. The static and screeching were so fierce that I covered my ears. Then I heard a foreign man. He said the ferry was in trouble and that we had to be ready to care for the passengers when it got to shore.”
“A foreigner, you say?” Mattie Maddox said in a curious tone.
“I-talian, I think he was,” the cleric said. “I believe he said his name was Mister Martino, but I’m not familiar with any Martinos in Savannah.”
Andy and I looked at each other, our jaws hanging open. I moved my mouth to ask how, but the word didn’t come out. Andy got that look on his face that he gets when he’s thinking up something for one of his stories.
“They say that spirits can control electrical things, like the telephones and radios,” Andy said in an amazed voice. “Maestro must have pulled some kind of poltergeist switchboard shenanigan. But I don’t understand how he could have known.”
Memory came clearly despite my frazzled and soggy state. “Maestro knew I was upset when the ghost-riders accidentally took you,” I told Andy. “He said the presence of the riders and the Devil’s Herd are such a strong phenomenon that he felt them, and somehow that let him tune into me as well,” I said but Andy didn’t seem to understand, so I tried to explain. “Just before I went overboard, I saw the Devil’s Herd in the sky. I also saw a horizontal bolt of red lightning that seemed to point straight at the island,” I added and looked inland.
Andy followed my gaze. The church steeple was alight. A smaller, partially obscured building stood next to the church. The lights were also on there. I supposed it was the rectory. I took a few steps in that direction so that I could see past a clump of needle palm trees. The unobstructed view showed me an arched stained glass window that glowed golden and aqua in the night.
I shivered, and it wasn’t because I was soaked to the skin. I was looking at the exact window that Daisy had made appear in the abandoned warehouse.
Mattie Maddox looked my way when I moved. I gave her an encouraging smile. She turned back to Vicar Vance Varley. “That nice young couple over there,” she said in a quieter voice, but I was easily within earshot. “They were planning to ask for beds in the hostel. But are you going to have room? I expect some of these other passengers are going to need a place to stay the night. It’s awfully late for anybody to be trying to get home,” Mattie said in a concerned voice.
Vicar Varley patted Mattie’s shoulder. “Don’t you worry your sweet head about it Miss Mattie. The hostel was already full, but we’ll manage in a time of need,” he said in a confident voice, but his face looked uncertain.
“No,” Mattie said flatly. “I already offered to let them stay with me, but I could tell they just didn’t want to put me to any trouble when they said they’d go to the church hostel. Vance,” she added with authority and switched from calling him Vicar to using his first name.
“You’ll have to insist to them for me. It won’t be any trouble at all. I even have a nice supper with Polish sausage already cooked and waiting in the icebox. And it’s too much for just me. Polish sausage, cabbage, pierogies — why that’s too good to let it go to waste. Those two can stay the night at my house, and that’s that,” she said.
I had not expected Mattie Maddox to be such a forceful woman. It seemed like she had known Vicar Varley for a long time, based on the way they acted with each other. I had to laugh. I’d hate to be on the wrong side of an argument with her. Mattie had the heart of a flapper for sure.
The stained glass window in the rectory pulled my gaze back toward the churchyard. That was definitely the window in Mattie’s painting. I was certain that it was also the one Daisy, the ghost woman showed us as a clue to the mystery of who killed her.
I bit my lip in frustration, wishing poor Daisy hadn’t been too devastated to remember much of anything. However, I shuddered to think what might be so horrible that even in death the memory was unbearable. But then again, I guessed that anyone who was murdered would be traumatized. Holy Hannah, what an awful thing!
I could imagine someone sweet and gentle like Daisy befriending Mattie Maddox. Daisy was from a very poor family, and she wouldn’t have thought twice about her status being harmed by that kind of friendship. Not Daisy. If Mattie had been her friend before Henry Kingston fell in love and married her, then Daisy wouldn’t have ended the friendship just because Mattie was a maid rather than a socialite.
Another idea came to me before that thought even finished running through my waterlogged noodle. A wealthy man like Kingston would have had a lot of servants, just like his son had a whole staff to take care of that swanky mansion. Maybe I had it backwards. What if Mattie had worked for the Kingstons and then became friendly with Daisy?
No… I told myself that whole line of thought was crazy. Savannah had plenty of rich bluenose aristocrat types who could afford maids. Mattie knowing Daisy the Dainty Dish was too much of a longshot.
As I looked at Mattie, a pinkish aura appeared around the older woman. I blinked. Was I going to start seeing auras as well as ghosts? I wondered what “pink” meant.
A moment later Daisy appeared behind Mattie. The spirit frowned as she looked down at the woman. I didn’t think her expression was one of anger. Rather Daisy looked pensive or perhaps confused. After a moment Daisy’s form disappeared. Mattie turned around, as if she felt someone behind her. The older woman looked at me and gave a cheery little wave.
The sound of the ocean drew me. I pulled the rough blanket closer around myself and strolled out onto the beach. Twinkling stars reflected in the water as it lapped against the shore. The breeze hummed a hypnotic tune in my ears. I saw two specks of sparkling green out on the gentle waves.
The emerald sparks started to move closer, and I realized they didn’t come from reflected starlight of any kind. They were eyes. A broad shimmering green tailfin surfaced and slapped the water with a loud splash before heading back to sea.
Recipe: Baked Beans with Salt Pork
Recipe Credit: Mrs. Wilson’s Cook Book (1920).
1 pound of beans
1 can of tomatoes
1 cup of chopped onions
1/2 cup of syrup
1 pound of salt pork cut in pieces
2 tablespoons of salt
1 tablespoon of paprika
Soak the beans over night or early in the morning. At noon place in a kettle and cover with water. Bring to a boil and drain off the water. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for fifteen minutes. Drain.
Now add tomatoes, onions, syrup, pork, salt, and paprika. Add sufficient water to cover beans one inch deep. Mix well and then cover the pot closely and bake in a slow oven for four hours.
12. Lentils, Cumin, and Roast Lamb
It was the wee hours of the morning. All three of us were cold, wet, and exhausted. I had nearly drowned. Yet what were we doing? Moving furniture… that’s what.
There would have been enough space in the living room for both Andy and me to sleep, but Mattie Maddox wasn’t about to let the two of us sleep in the same room. As if we weren’t too exhausted to be making whoopee… and as if we would in the first place. Andy wasn’t my beau. He was my friend. I couldn’t even imagine Andy Avis that way… and I didn’t think I wanted to either. It just felt wrong. Andy was more like a brother than a beau. That whole line of thought sort of gave me the heebie-jeebies.
Mrs. Maddox had a tiny sitting room connected to her bedroom, and that’s where she wanted me to stay. I really wanted to sink into the cozy looking chair. It had a ruffled slipcover with an unusual print done in greens and yellows showing pods and flowers of peas, beans, and lentils. Later Mattie told me that she did the artwork for the fabric.
However, I didn’t try the chair that night. Rather, Andy and I moved furniture around to make enough room for me to have a pallet on the floor. We moved a sturdy artist’s easel, a dress form, the chair, and Mattie’s heavy treadle base sewing machine. It was a beautiful piece, black with gold leaf designs. The treadle base was made of swirly wrought iron — that’s what made it so heavy. I would have appreciated the sewing machine more if we hadn’t had to move it three times.
Wearing a nightgown borrowed from Mattie, I finally crawled into the thick stack of soft quilts. I was asleep before my head touched the pillow. However, one thing we had not taken into account the night before was the lace curtains. The sitting room faced east, and the new day dawned brightly through the lace. So I woke with the rising sun. I was awake, but my body was not ready. I didn’t expect to be sore all over. My muscles must have clenched and strained while I tried to fight my way to the surface of the Atlantic when I fell overboard from the ferry the evening before.
An unexpected sneeze escaped before I could stop it. I hoped I wasn’t being rewarded with a cold for my unintended dip in the ocean. I also hoped my sneeze wasn’t loud enough to wake anyone else. My ears strained in the early morning silence. Ah! It wasn’t so silent after all. In the next room I heard Mattie Maddox snore softly and then turn over. I heard those small sounds despite the much louder sawing of Z’s that came from Andy Avis all the way in the living room.
I sat up cross legged in the middle of my pallet of quilts, and looked around the little room. The night before I was too tired to pay much attention to it. It seemed to be filled with small mementos of Mattie’s life. Spotting a photo album just out of reach, I crawled to it on my hands and knees. I sat back down on the quilts and started looking through the album.
There were a few really old pictures, even some tintype photographs. I wasn’t sure if those would be Mattie’s parents or grandparents. An older woman in one tintype resembled Mattie, but her Gibson Girl hair and attire were from too long ago for the woman to be my hostess. As the clothes in the photos became more modern, the number of pictures per page grew. That was to be expected. It used to be a big deal to get your photograph done, so nobody had very many back when that album was started.
Finally I saw a picture of a girl that looked like a young version of Mattie. A boy stood arm in arm with her and they both smiled broadly. However, a closer look showed me that the “boy” was a girl wearing the tomboy style of clothes. That’s how Daisy, the ghost woman, dressed the first time I met her, though at the time I didn’t know she was a spirit. Could the girl in the picture be Daisy? It was maddening! The girl wore a hat that cast a shadow on her face, and I just couldn’t tell.
I was so busy turning the photo album every which way, trying to get a better look at the girl’s face that I didn’t hear Mattie get up. I was embarrassed to learn that while I had been fooling around with the pictures, she had been up working on the clothes Andy and I had been wearing. She had steamed and pressed Andy’s clothes and they looked good as new. He was all grace and compliments as he took them from her. Then he ran as fast as he could, out of the room to change. You see, he was wearing one of Mattie’s most feminine robes. I promise that I didn’t laugh at him. Seriously. No, really I didn’t laugh. Well, not much…
“Pip dear, I’m afraid your dress isn’t laundered yet. I did Andy’s clothes first because I didn’t have anything I could loan him. You on the other hand can use one of my dresses,” she said and I tried to keep smiling. Mattie must have seen through me. She patted my hand. “I know it will be horribly matronly on a young lady like you, but that’s better than a saltwater stiffened, dirty, torn frock, isn’t it?” she said with a hopeful tone.
I assured Mattie that I’d be most grateful for the loan of a dress, and I tried to put the dowdy style out of my mind. Andy and I needed to go to that church and rectory with the stained glass window like the one Daisy showed to us. Maybe the “proper” dress would encourage them to share whatever they knew.
By the time I finished changing into the very non-flapper dress I heard Mattie cooking breakfast. I felt guilty all over again. It just wasn’t my nature to let someone else do all the work, especially when I already felt like we were imposing on Mattie. It didn’t matter that she had insisted.
Andy soon got even with me for “not” laughing at him wearing a ruffled satin lady’s robe. Before we got to the kitchen the smoky aroma of cumin reached my nose. It was a pleasant scent, but I wasn’t expecting it at breakfast. It turned out Mattie’s grandmother was from Mexico. She treated us to her family recipe for huevos rancheros.
Mattie said she didn’t get to entertain very often, and she insisted on using her good china and having breakfast in her lovely dining room. I was used to eating at the kitchen table. Wearing a borrowed old fashioned dress and sitting at the gleaming mahogany table, I felt a little awkward. So it was hard for me to bring up the subject of Daisy. How would I bring up a spirit?
I finally realized that I didn’t have to talk about that part. I didn’t handle it smoothly. Even Andy did a double take when I just blurted out my question. “Miss Mattie, did you ever know a woman named Daisy? It would have been a long time ago,” I asked bluntly. “I need to find out what happened to her.”
My hostess looked like she really had seen a ghost. Her face went still and expressionless. Then tears streamed down her unmoving face. Mattie picked up a napkin and blotted her face as if nothing had happened. She stood up and carefully placed the napkin on the table.
“Ya’ll wanted to see the rectory and that stained glass window,” she said calmly. “We’d best get on over there before the vicar gets on his rounds. I think you’ll want to talk to him,” she said and went to get her pocketbook.
Andy and I looked askance at one another and shrugged. I was certain that Mattie Maddox was acquainted with Daisy the Dainty Dish. I had assumed they were friends of some sort, but after Mattie’s reaction, I didn’t know what to think.
Either Mattie was athletic for her age, or my question had truly upset her. She walked so fast on the path to the church that Andy and I barely kept up with her. She didn’t say another word until we reached the church, and then she spoke to her friends, not to us.
I wasn’t expecting so many people to be at the church. However, I reminded myself that several of the passengers on our ill-fated ferry decided to stay the night. There was a good bit of bustle and activity.
Suddenly Mattie grabbed my arm and pulled me along with her. I caught Andy’s hand to make sure I wasn’t getting into some kind of trouble alone. Then I spotted the clergyman and knew where Mattie was taking us.
“Vicar Varley,” Mattie called out to the obviously busy cleric. His expression was a rather harried, but he greeted us with a smile. “These young people want to know about daisies,” she said, emphasizing the word and raising her eyebrows.
The vicar’s face blanched. He took us to a stone path that led to the rectory. I could see the golden and aqua blue stained glass window. It caught the morning sun, and glowed in a way that was not unlike the image Daisy showed us.
We took a few steps down the path. Then I heard an upset and familiar voice behind me.
“Paisley Idelle Peabody!” Granny Fanny exclaimed. “Just what do you mean by running off to this island, and with a man to boot! When I heard what happened to that ferryboat I was scared to death.”
“But Granny,” I began.
“But nothing young lady!” Granny cut me off. She’d brook no argument, not when her dander was up like that.
“But Granny please! Let me explain,” I tried again.
“And to think I made a perfectly good roast lamb dinner. Why it might have gone to waste if not for that nice young policeman who stopped by to tell me where you’d gone,” she complained as if we wouldn’t have eaten the leftovers.
“So Hank let you know everything was okay? Then why are you so upset?” I asked, though I probably should have meekly kept my mouth shut.
“You didn’t get my permission. You can’t just to traipsing off to wherever for an overnight stay! It’s not proper. What do you think that will do to your reputation? No respectable girl would do something like that. I can’t condone it. And then I heard what happened to the ferry!” she said.
Unfortunately Mattie Maddox tried to come to my rescue. And yes, she mentioned me getting thrown from the ferry when the freak storm hit. Granny Fanny’s face turned all colors. I thought she might kill me for not drowning. I took a deep breath and braced myself for the next wave.
“Paisley, I can’t put up with this kind of nonsense,” my grandmother said in a cold voice. I don’t care whether I’ve made a passable cook of you or not. I’m sending you back to Florida to live with your father!”
Video: The Galloping Gourmet – Huevos Rancheros
13. Chickpeas, Winkles, Rice Pudding
With Unnatural Cold
In the past twenty-four hours I had fallen overboard from a ferry, nearly drowned, been kissed by a merman, rescued by a ghost-rider (on a giant seahorse no less), and reduced to wearing a borrowed old-lady dress. Add Granny Fanny’s eloquent outrage — and mind you Granny ranting on her soapbox could strike terror in the heart of a revival preacher… I refuse to accept the label of emotional young girl, but hoserfeathers! It was more than even a flapper could take.
Andy Avis, my old friend gave me a sheepish glance and prudently retreated behind Vicar Vance Varley. Good ole Andy wasn’t going to be any help. Not that I could blame him. Granny Fanny in a tirade was enough to frighten any man. However, I couldn’t help feeling a little betrayed when my friend looked away without saying a word in my defense.
The thought flashed into my distraught mind and I wondered if that was why our friend Mona “the movie star” was never interested in Andy, despite the torch he carried for her. I remembered the time, back at the building where I lived with all my friends. Boris’ apartment was burglarized. The Russian had a painful limp from a bad injury that ended his ballet career, but he charged after the burglar nonetheless. When Andy and Mona arrived a moment later, Andy went after Boris and the thief. But he hesitated noticeably, even though Boris had a head start and would catch up with the man first. Andy wanted to impress Mona, so he gave chase, even though he was afraid.
At the time I had thought Andy rose above that fear and that made his action truly courageous. However, as I stood outside the church on Tybee Island, with my grandmother ranting at me, I wondered if I had been right. Mona never said an unkind word about Andy, but did she see something in him I had missed? Something that told her Andy was a wuss?
Anybody would have thought Andy Avis didn’t even know me. Unconsciously I stretched my hand toward him, but he studiously did not look at me. I burst into tears, turned on my heel and ran. I wasn’t paying any attention to where I was going. The sound of the double doors closing behind me and cool air against my face told the functioning part of my brain that I had gone inside the church. But I didn’t stop there. I ran straight through the sanctuary and out the back door.
My shoes were still wet from my dunk in the Atlantic, and my feet slid around inside them as I ran tearfully through a carefully laid out garden. My kitten-heels clicked on the brick pavers. Shrubs, flowers and statues outlined the curving path. Mulch surrounded colorful impatiens that circled the base of an ancient oak tree. Tiny beige gravel that looked like chickpeas bordered a row of sculpted planters. I pushed my way through ornamental grasses, some of which were taller than me. Pink pampas and fountaingrass whispered drily at my passage as if accusing me.
Accusing me of what? I hadn’t done anything, yet even the grass criticized me.
Then I was alone on a stretch of beach. One of my shoes caught in the sand. I stumbled when it came off my foot. Not stopping, I kicked off the other shoe and continued my flight barefooted. I saw a sand dune ahead, crowned by swaying cattails. There was no clear way around it, so I just kept going. I skirted the cattails and mostly slid down the other side of the dune. The sound of waves lapping against the shore met my ears. The ocean was about a hundred yards away.
I slowed to a staggering walk as I approached the sore. Several large boulders dotted a haphazard path out into the Atlantic, and my feet moved toward them. Sunlight shimmered in a small tide pool. Little shells that were broadly ovate and sharply pointed were abundant in the pool. Some of them crawled. Winkles. The sea snails moved as they fed on algae and barnacle larvae.
In the distance I heard a slap, like a large fish hitting the water. I glanced out to sea and wondered if it was a dolphin. It was too near the shore for a dolphin, unless the ocean floor dropped off sharply near those big rocks. Some parts of the shore did that. It could be dangerous for beachgoers.
A sunbeam glinted off one of the shells, and I stood and looked at the winkles. My racing thoughts gradually slowed as I watched the measured movements of the sea snails. There was something almost hypnotic about it. The salt breeze brought a snatch of song to my ears. Or was it an instrument, rather than a voice? The slow cadence matched the movements of the winkles and it soothed my troubled mind.
The music became more insistent. The melody pulled me closer to the shore. I wandered aimlessly, letting my feet choose the way. I climbed onto the rocky path made by the boulders. Perhaps mankind had lent a hand, because they were arranged in a way that made it easy to skip along from one to the next as they stretched out into the ocean. The sun soaked rocks were comfortingly warm against my bare feet, and I skipped to the furthest one.
I sat down and dangled my feet from the rock. The ocean didn’t reach that high except when a wave came in, but now and then the sea spray misted my toes. I heard another big splash, followed by the sound of something big surging up from the water. Abruptly the bright green eyes of the merman were locked with mine. His long pale green hair tickled my shoulder as he leaned in and kissed me.
Now I want you to know that while I wasn’t a prude, neither was I in the habit necking with strangers. No matter how exotically beautiful they might be… and the merman truly was stunning, both graceful and virile, and handsome as Valentino. At the time I didn’t realize that he had an innate hypnotic ability. He could lull the mind without having any intention of doing so.
So I kissed him back. Come on… what else would a flapper do? And I kissed him again. His arm dropped from my shoulders to my hips as he wordlessly urged me to go back to the ocean with him. I wondered foggily how I could understand him so well when he didn’t speak a word.
A large wave crashed against the rock, splashing both of us. He smiled and I relaxed against him. His arm around my hips held me tighter. Then an unnatural cold touched the back of my neck and I shivered. He mistook it for pleasure and his bright green eyes started to glow in response. I didn’t pay any attention to a tiny pop-fizz noise that blended into the sound of the waves caressing the boulder.
“I remember this place. A few times I came out here to think,” Daisy said.
The ghost woman appeared on the other side of me, and I pulled away from the merman’s kiss, turning to her in surprise.
“But I became too weak to hop across the rocks,” she added as if she described a distant memory.
The merman’s eyes widened when he saw the spirit. He snarled then hissed. There wasn’t so much as a splash as he dove into the ocean, cleanly cutting the water like a knife. A broad green tailfin broached the surface and gave the water an angry slap. Daisy looked at it with a derisive expression.
After I thought about it, I realized that Daisy had more of an accent when she spoke of times before her marriage. I supposed that being around different people, hearing different ways of speaking caused her country manner to fade.
“After that… that place,” she said, sounding more her sophisticated self. “I was hurt, bleeding. Somebody brought me here. I think it was Henry. Yes,” she exclaimed as part of the memory became clear to her. “My husband brought me here after that horrible hospital. But I didn’t get better, and he went back to Savannah. He came often, but I kept getting weaker. I wasn’t able to be vivacious enough to make him stay,” she spoke softly and I could hear the self-blame in her tone.
What hospital, I wondered. I thought whatever the horrid thing was that Daisy couldn’t remember had happened at the abandoned warehouse. Then I remembered Andy’s title research on the building showed that it had been used as some sort of hospital at one time, during a war. It was possible that it had some medical purpose again later.
A newer puzzle came to me. “Daisy,” I began but wasn’t sure how to phrase the question. “The old woman on the beach? Mattie Maddox? You stood behind her on the beach last night and you seemed very unhappy. Did you know her?”
Daisy looked at me uncomprehendingly for a second. Finally she seemed to remember the moment. “Oh yes, that woman. She seemed familiar to me. Mattie, you say? Mattie was the name of my personal maid! Could that old woman have been my Mattie? I believe you’re right Pip!”
“You seemed sad, maybe even angry when you looked at her,” I said rather cautiously. “You had such a frown when you watched her. Did Mattie do something to you? Was she part of the horrible thing that happened?”
“Yes,” Daisy said then stopped. “No. No, she wasn’t part of it, I don’t think,” the spirit stammered. “No, Mattie took care of me afterward. I remember now. Mattie stayed. She refused to leave my side, even when Henry had to go back to town. Why, her fiancé broke off their betrothal because she wouldn’t go back to Savannah. I was so hurt for her sake. I was upset with her too. I felt she was ruining her life, to take care of me,” Daisy said sadly.
“I felt like Mattie was my only friend then. I was too weak to go out and do much. I remember that I lost a lot of blood, and there was infection… But Mattie was always there. She’d take me in a wheelchair outside into the pretty garden. There were beautiful roses. One day she upset everybody by planting daisies amid those prize roses. She said that I was as fine and good as any rose. Kind Mattie — she knew I never thought as highly of myself as I should. And she’d even get the kitchen staff to make my favorite rice pudding. She made sure I had it whenever I wanted. But I suppose I reached a point where I wouldn’t eat much of anything,” Daisy told me.
I felt like I had pieces of a puzzle spread out around me. It seemed like the parts of it should fit together, but they just weren’t quite right, they wouldn’t lock into place. I tried to sort through all the things we had learned about Daisy and the warehouse.
My jumbled thoughts centered on that big old photograph back at the Kingston mansion — the one of all the young men. Daisy had made it clear that it held important information, even if she couldn’t say what it was. Andy and I figured out that two of the boys were the Binghamton brothers. One of whom owned the Bijou theatre, and the other became a high ranking bishop. But who were the others? The photo was of a large group and as far as I could remember it was mostly boys of about the same age. There might have been a couple of older men. If only I could remember all the faces. Suddenly inspiration struck.
“Daisy, I know you can’t remember what happened to you. And it’s okay that you don’t understand why the photograph you showed me is important,” I said. “But can you remember the photo itself? It was obviously a special occasion. Can you tell me who was in it?” I asked imploringly.
Her eyes took on an unfocused look as she dredged up the memory. Daisy jumped as if startled. I asked what was wrong and she gave a rueful chuckle.
“I just remembered the big flash when the photograph was taken,” she answered. “Yes, Pip. I remember the picture now. All those boys. Of course Henry’s son was in it the photograph, and the Binghamton brothers. Those three were thick as thieves. Bradley was a nice enough boy. But that Byron — I just didn’t feel right about that boy. He was so self-centered. I was afraid he’d be a bad influence on young Henry. I hate to say it, but my stepson had a tendency to be greedy,” Daisy remembered.
“Anyhow, it was a sort of mentoring group for future businessmen. Henry and his friend Alastair coached all those boys along with their regular schooling, grooming them to be Savannah’s future, as Henry liked to say. My Henry had the photograph taken after all the boys graduated from school.”
“His friend Alastair?” I asked as something tickled at the back of my mind.
It wasn’t a name I heard often. The only Alastair I knew was my friend whose family owned Wong’s Chinese. Granny was dog sitting their little pug while most of the family was on vacation in California. Then I remembered Granny Fanny saying the words “Alastair the elder.”
My thoughts returned to Granny’s cottage and a time not too long ago (Cookbook-1, Episode-2) when she talked about her tea set. Granny had given me a downright wicked, mischievous smile and even wriggled her eyebrows. Then her expression turned fond and she chuckled as she told me how she came to have the set.
“They were a gift — when I was a very young woman. They were actually from Mrs. Wong’s grandfather,” Granny Fanny had told me. “He was a widower. Yes, he was interested in me. Oh Pip, are you surprised that a man besides Grandpa was interested in your Granny?” she’d said with a smile. “If ever I was going to be attracted to an older man, it would have been Alastair Wong the elder. He was a fine man.”
I tried to remember seeing an Asian man in the old picture. But the faces were all so small that nothing stirred in my memory. However, I did remember an odd shape about one man. I had thought maybe it was a flaw in the photo. Yet as I concentrated I realized it was a thing, not a defect.
“So Alastair’s great-grandfather was in the picture,” I voiced the thought. “Which one was he, Daisy?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” the ghost said with a smile. “He’s the one with the parrot on his shoulder.”
Recipe: Creamy Rice Pudding with Brandied Cherry Sauce
Recipe and Photo Credit: Betty Crocker.com
Prep time: 15 mins
Total time: 4 hours, 20 mins
4 cups milk
¾ cup uncooked regular long-grain rice
1/3 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup whipping (heavy) cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Brandied Cherry Sauce
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¼ cup orange juice
1 ½ cups frozen unsweetened tart red cherries (from 1-lb bag)
2 tablespoons brandy or orange juice
In a 2-quart saucepan, heat milk, rice, 1/3 cup sugar and the salt to boiling over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered 40 to 45 minutes, stirring frequently, until rice is tender and mixture is thickened.
Stir a small amount of the hot rice mixture into eggs, then stir eggs back into mixture in saucepan. Continue cooking over medium heat about 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until heated through. Cool for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In chilled large serving bowl, beat whipping cream and vanilla with electric mixer on high speed until thickened. Fold in cooled rice mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours until well chilled.
In a 1-quart saucepan, mix 1/2 cup sugar and the cornstarch. Stir in orange juice and frozen cherries. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until mixture boils and thickens slightly. Stir in brandy. Serve sauce warm or chilled with pudding.
14. Chickpeas, Curry, Coconut Milk
I sat dangling my bare feet over the ocean. Daisy sat next to me, idly swinging her feet. Saltwater sprayed our toes when a wave came to shore. The salty mist was a little cold and I drew my feet back. However, it didn’t bother Daisy. She was dead.
Her head snapped toward the coast and her eyes looked like she had recognized something that I couldn’t see.
“You should go back,” she said with a wan smile that went no further than her lips.
“I don’t want to go back,” I told the ghost woman. “I’m too upset about all the horrid things Granny said to me. I haven’t done anything racy. And I was trying to help you! It’s wrong for her to take her spite out on me when I’m doing something good,” I said rebelliously.
“Her spite?” Daisy asked. “Oh, you mean about that handsome detective who had such a crush on her? It’s a shame that didn’t work out, but her heart is divided.”
“How did you know about all that?” I asked in surprise.
The dark-haired girl laughed. “We ghosts talk. Didn’t you realize? Some of them are big ole gossips!” Daisy said impishly. “Detective Dabney Daniels is not the only lawman in Phanny’s heart.”
“I think that’s part of your gift, Pip — the gift that lets you see spirits. I doubt that it sounded any different, but you knew that it was spelled differently in my mind,” Daisy explained as I waited in confusion. “Her name was originally spelled with a ‘Ph’ — it was Phanny, not Fanny. Didn’t you know that she was a ‘Pip’ too?” Daisy asked.
“You know, it seems like my pops said something about her being another Pip,” I said.
Daisy continued. “Not wanting to stand out or be different, when people spelled it with an ‘F’ she didn’t correct them,” the spirit told me.
“That does not sound like my grandmother at all,” I said shaking my head.
“She’s much stronger as a person now than when she was a young girl,” Daisy said agreeably. “But Phanny never liked feeling different. That’s why she unconsciously shut off her gift of seeing spirits. It made her unique when she desperately wanted to be like everyone else.”
Daisy patted my arm. Her hand was very cold. That time the smile reached her eyes. “Really though, you need to go back. It’s important that you witness something,” she said vaguely. “You’ll see,” she commented in answer to the question that I was on my face.
With a huge sigh I stood up on the big rock. The sound of a large splash in the distance caused me to turn seaward. I wondered if it was the merman. Daisy urged me to go back. I knew I was procrastinating. I’d have to face Granny Fanny sooner or later.
I was so distraught when I ran away from Granny and the others at the church, when my shoes came off I hadn’t paid any attention. I had no idea where they were, but I spotted first one and then the other along the beach. Still dragging my heels about going back and facing everyone, I turned and looked at the big rocks. Daisy was gone.
Picking up my wet, sand covered shoes I headed back the way I had come. Or I tried. I quickly found that the property around the church was a labyrinth of garden paths. I wandered if frustration. Finally I spotted the gravel that reminded me of chickpeas, and I knew I must be headed the right way.
“Pip!” someone called and I turned toward the voice. “Not that way. What you need is this way,” Daisy appeared and motioned for me to take a different path.
Actually, it was hardly a path at all. Trail was a more fitting term, and that was generous. When I started down the narrow trail Daisy vanished again. Exasperated, I reached out and clutched at the air in the spot where she’d been. Why couldn’t she ever just tell me something, plain and simple? Why did there always have to be all that mystery?
After a few more steps I slowed my pace because I heard voices. I stopped beside some dwarf palmetto and other palms. A perfect red rose that reached through the palms hinted that more of the flowers grew beyond my hiding place. I knew I must be back in the main part of the garden.
I tried to place the voices, but they were only slightly familiar. Then I recognized the voices of Mattie Maddox and a man. Ah, that would be the vicar, Vance Varley. A third voice entered their conversation. Granny Fanny. Or should I call her Phanny, I thought in aggravation, but I let that go as unimportant.
The vicar sounded like he was consoling her, telling her not to worry. “If she’s not back soon, we’ll send a few men out to look for her,” he said and I realized they were talking about me.
I’d be in even more hot water if I caused them to go to any trouble. So I took a deep breath and got ready to make my presence known. Then I heard Andy’s voice. He sounded really agitated.
“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Andy began but my grandmother rode right over him, putting him in his place. Andy cleared his throat and started over. “Mrs. Peabody, it was firmly engrained in me to respect my elders, and not to talk back or interrupt. And I’m sorry to do just that, but I need to have my say,” he said so firmly that my mouth dropped open.
“Pip deserves some consideration here,” Andy began, and after the way he let me down when Granny showed up ranting at me for going to the island without asking her first, I was shocked. “She — we might have acted rashly, but we had to decide right then and there, if we were going to catch the last ferry. And in all fairness, Pip did send word to you. She’s not a little child —”
“As long as Paisley is under my roof she’ll live by my rules, or go back to her father!” Granny exclaimed, and I thought that would be the end of it.
However, Andy surprised me by continuing. “Please, Mrs. Peabody. I will have my say this once,” Andy said making me wonder at how he could be so polite yet so… so… insistent.
He wasn’t going to curry any favor with my grandmother, but my little Astronaute-man didn’t shut up at all. I grinned ear to ear as I listened. Who would have thought Andy could be that audacious? Then my always hungry stomach rumbled when I thought of the other kind of curry. Andy’s voice got my mind off my empty belly quickly though.
“Besides,” Andy was saying. “Mrs. Maddox was our chaperone the entire time,” he added on a note of finality. “I’m sure you don’t mean to cast aspersions on her morals and what she’d allow to go on in her home.”
Oh, I thought, nice one Astronaute-man. Even Granny fanny couldn’t have manipulated an argument any better than that. Maybe Andy wasn’t such a wuss after all. Granted he wasn’t exactly heroic. I’d always know he wasn’t the hero type; it took a little push for him to go into action during any of the things that happened to the group of us at Santa Rosa Sound and the Ca’d’Zan mansion.
Even so, I never would have thought Andy would sink so low as to just hide behind something, while somebody attacked me verbally — even if it was my grandmother! I still felt stung and abandoned that nobody stood up for me. However, at that moment Andy was doing a lot to make amends for his behavior a little earlier that morning. He stood up to my grandmother, and Granny Fanny in a tirade was enough to scare the pants off any man.
“It’s true,” Mattie confirmed. “Why they really were the sweetest most well behaved young couple I’ve ever seen. Why, nobody would have even thought there was anything between them,” she added sounding a bit mystified.
“That’s because we’re only friends,” Andy told her, sounded a tad exasperated. “There wasn’t going to be any hanky panky in the first place.”
Granny Fanny mumbled something that I couldn’t make out from where I stood. I moved closer and found a spot where I could peep between the palmettos. My grandmother sat on a garden bench with a large handbag clutched on her lap. Her fingers tightened on the leather, and she looked very stressed. At first I thought there was a piece of luggage next to her feet, then I heard whining which told me that the case was a carrier for Wriggles, the little pug dog she was keeping for Arabella Wong.
I was surprised that Granny brought the dog with her, but I supposed she felt like Tybee Island wasn’t part of the mainland and maybe she wouldn’t get home in time to take care of him. Wriggles barked and Granny started fishing in the huge handbag, eventually producing a leash. In a moment the pug was sniffing the garden, Mrs. Maddox, and the vicar, and living up to his name with that tail wagging wiggle of his.
A sudden gust of frigid air made me shiver. To my surprise I saw Daisy sitting on a bench across from Mattie Maddox. Granny’s eyes widened in shock when the spirit woman suddenly appeared and she clutched the leather bag to her chest. Andy saw the spirit too and took an involuntary step backward. Wriggles went over and sniffed her shoes, and Daisy reached down to pet the pug, but she kept her sad, uncertain gaze on Mattie. After a moment she smiled sweetly.
The spirit’s eyes wandered to the perfect red roses that grew behind the older woman. Following her gaze I saw that white daisies grew in between the roses. I realized that the setting was the same one I had seen in some of Mattie’s paintings.
Daisy’s words came back to me, “She said that I was as fine and good as any rose. Kind Mattie — she knew I never thought as highly of myself as I should.”
“My dear, dear friend,” Daisy murmured looking at Mattie. “How did you come to be an old woman? Has it been so long?”
Andy and Granny reacted to her words, but Mattie and Vicar Vance seemed oblivious to Daisy’s presence. Granny fidgeted with the big purse in her lap. I knew she wasn’t ready to accept the fact that she could see ghosts, but circumstances were forcing her to see them. Then she opened the bag and took out that old wooden owl clock. Maestro Martino bound himself to that clock when his cursed bottle was broken. It was part of his curse — he had to be bound to an object, and could not be away from it for too awfully long.
But why would my grandmother bring the clock with her? Yet she did, and moreover she held to it tightly, as if it was some sort of protection. I was so intrigued by the scene playing out before me that I didn’t realize I was walking out into the open, making myself part of it.
Granny Fanny looked at me, and her eyes lit with happiness. However, the joy quickly flashed to pain, and then to anger. I drew back, wishing I was still behind the dwarf palmettos. No one spoke and it was uncomfortably quiet. Daisy patted the bench beside her, and I gathered my courage and walked past my grandmother to sit beside my ghostly friend.
A pop-fizz sound broke the silence. Maestro Martino appeared. He was wearing his usual chef’s garb. Wriggles started barking furiously at him. Unlike Daisy, and I assumed most other spirits, Maestro Martino’s presence was so powerful that anyone could see him. Of course, that was provided he actually wanted to be seen.
I was blocking their line of sight, plus the barking of the little dog distracted the vicar and Mrs. Maddox enough that they didn’t realize that Maestro had not walked into the garden in the ordinary way. He really had simply appeared out of thin air. Maestro hurriedly took off the tall chef’s hat and hid it behind his back. Remarkably, the pug quieted and sniffed his odd Renaissance era boots.
I had thought the dog was afraid of the ghost chef, but then I realized Wriggles was afraid of the hat, not the spirit. Maestro was mischievous enough that he plopped the hat back onto his head for a moment and made a funny face. The pug started barking again. The poltergeist grinned and tucked the hat into his jacket. Wriggles looked up at him, yapped once, and then wagged his curly tail. His little black face looked like it was smiling.
Vicar Vance apologized and introduced himself and Mattie Maddox to the newcomer. “I didn’t see you come up, sir. Is there anything I can do for you?” he asked.
“This is…” Granny hesitated. “This is Mr. Martino. He was kind enough to escort me today on short notice,” she said somewhat awkwardly.
“Oh! It was you who radioed about the ferry being in trouble!” Vicar Varley cried. “You have my heartfelt thanks, Mr. Martino. I can’t tell you how helpful that was. Some of those people might have succumbed to hypothermia if we had not been ready for them. But thanks to you we had everything in place when the boat limped to the dock. I can tell you it was quite a scene on the beach last night.”
Maestro looked pleased but slightly embarrassed. He insisted that it was nothing, and started speaking Italian. Since his English was perfect, if accented, I thought he must have done that to throw off the vicar — to keep him from asking unwanted questions.
“Oh Signora, Che fortuna!” Maestro cried and pointed toward a palm tree that was different from the ones surrounding it. “How fortunate, no? It is a coconut palm. Perhaps we could get the coconut milk for your special fruit cake recipe?”
“We don’t need to bother anyone with that right now, Maestr… I mean Mr. Martino,” she stammered.
I was amazed that Granny had helped the ghost come to the island. She was still furious that Andy and I had unknowingly brought him into her kitchen in the first place. Granny Fanny and the poltergeist argued more often than they spoke civilly. Yet she backed up so that she stood closer to Martino than she did to the living people.
She didn’t get any closer to Daisy though. Granny looked at the ghost woman suspiciously. I supposed that Granny had grown accustomed to Maestro Martino. And as he said himself, he was one powerful poltergeist! Did she feel the need for protection? But why?
My grandmother glanced at me, and I saw worry and sadness in her eyes. Could she really have been so afraid for me that she took comfort in knowing someone powerful like Maestro was at her side? Had an imagined need to rescue or protect me been stronger than her fear and distrust of the supernatural? I suddenly felt like a heel for causing her to worry.
“Meraviglioso,” he murmured and cast a meaningful look at Granny Fanny. Maestro held the look for a bit longer than it seemed to me like he should have. It wasn’t just a look. It was an adoring gaze. Then I knew he was up to something. The exaggerated look of longing was an act, despite the fact that the spirit really was attracted to my grandmother.
The vicar and Mattie both noticed the way he was looking at Granny. She blushed and looked away, clearing her throat. Mattie gave an unexpected smile at Maestro’s behavior. She leaned toward the vicar and whispered something about people in love being so sweet at any age.
I wasn’t sure if my grandmother heard what Mattie said, but she shot a glare at Maestro. Then the flirty ghost bowed over Mattie Maddox’s hand in his courtly way. He whispered something in Italian and the old gal actually giggled like a school girl. I had to admit, the Maestro had a way about him. He said something else to her in that accent of his. It was English that time, but I didn’t catch what he said. However, Mattie blushed and tittered.
When Mattie caught her breath, she looked at my grandmother. “And you were worried about these two young people… but you set sail, so to speak, with this handsome rake!” Mattie chided playfully. “Oh, now… I was only joking, dear. No offense intended,” the older woman said when Granny’s glare transferred to her.
Maestro Martino laughed a bit too loudly. He was still up to whatever it was. “Sì, is it as you say, the pot calling the kettle black?” he exclaimed and then laughed again, but gave Granny an adoring little tweak on the cheek.
Granny looked astonished, not just at Maestro, but at what Mattie said. After a moment she shook her head ruefully. “I guess you have a point, Mrs. Maddox,” she said, but I knew my grandmother too well to feel relieved that fast.
“Now please, you call me Mattie,” the other woman said warmly.
I wondered what Maestro had said to Mattie. I couldn’t imagine what it was, but it seemed to have started things in the right direction. Between Mattie and Maestro, maybe Granny Fanny would calm down enough that she’d give up the idea of sending me home to Florida.
Or maybe the antics of the little dog would distract her enough, I thought as I watched Wriggles wrap his leash around and around a bench leg. When he ran out of lead, he started to whine and pull at the confining mess he’d made for himself. However, no one was paying much attention to him.
Just as I noticed that Daisy had disappeared, I saw that a rose and a white daisy were at Mattie’s feet. She wore a bemused expression as she leaned down to pick them up from the pavement. The woman looked at Granny rather than me when she spoke.
“You know, when I was young I had a friend, a best friend… Pip reminds me of her. She was so headstrong and intelligent, and so vital. But she didn’t think as well of herself as she should have,” Mattie said. “I hope your granddaughter realizes how special and valuable she is,” she added looking at me from the corner of her eye and giving a little nod.
“I’d love to hear about her, your friend,” I cut into the conversation, causing Granny to raise an eyebrow at me.
“It was so long ago now, but I’ve never forgotten,” Mattie Maddox spoke in a soft voice as her memory stretched back over decades. “Oh, she was a strong young woman, but just as sweet as she was strong. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could fail to love her, but there were plenty of people who resented her. King Henry though, that’s what they called Mr. Kingston senior, he worshiped the ground she walked on.”
Vicar Vance Varley at first gave Mattie a quizzical glance. Then the look on his face shifted to worry and fear. “Miss Mattie—”
“She?” Granny prompted, obviously curious despite the situation.
“Mr. Kingston’s second wife, Daisy,” Mattie said. “I was her personal maid, but she always said I was her best friend. She certainly was mine, but I always felt I didn’t do enough…” Mattie said but her words trailed away with her thoughts.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but at the end, I think she thought King Henry had left her,” Mattie went on. “She was so badly off by then, I think time was passing differently for her. Daisy didn’t understand everything that was happening then as she drifted in and out of consciousness. Her husband wasn’t at her side every minute. To be honest, I thought he should have been there more, but he was beside her more than many men would have been,” she said in a reasoning tone.
“He arranged for an important doctor to come to Savannah and take a look at her. King Henry left on the ferry to pick up the doctor at Union Station. I think the hours must have felt like days to Daisy, and she thought he’d left her. She passed before he even got to Savannah.
“Miss Mattie,” the vicar interrupted. “What you’ve told me in confidence… It might not be wise to disclose to strangers,” he said sounding very agitated.
Mattie sighed and smiled a small smile. It reminded me of Daisy’s sad smile, and I wondered if they shared that expression because they had been so close. “Vance, I’m an old woman. I’m not worried about that. And I’m not going to look over my shoulder anymore,” Mattie said flatly and my curiosity rose at her affirming tone.
Though I was mesmerized by the odd exchange between Mattie and Vicar Vance, it registered with me that something in my surroundings had changed. Something was missing. It was quiet.
I glanced at the bench where I last saw Wriggles pulling at his leash. The collar was there, but the dog was gone. Granny followed my gaze.
“Oh great heavens! Where is that doggone dog?” she exclaimed. “I have to find him. I said I’d take care of him,” she said and hurried down what was probably a random garden path.
Everyone followed Granny. I heard barking up ahead. Even before I could see the building I saw the bright golden glow. My feet squished uncomfortably inside my wet shoes as I hurried along the paved path. The barking grew louder and then I rounded a curve where huge shell pink camellias grew to extraordinarily tall. The path opened onto the beautiful stained glass window, the one Daisy showed Andy and me back at the abandoned warehouse, the same one Mattie Maddox had in her paintings.
The golden and aqua light reflected in the glass was impossibly bright. I knew it had some supernatural help. It cast a golden glow over the red roses that grew before it. I heard Mattie gasp. Vicar Varley clasped his hands prayerfully before his chest and murmured something about God. Wriggles stood barking at the window. With every bark his little body scooted backward a few inches.
Daisy, looking even more ethereally beautiful than I’d ever seen her walked toward us from the window. She gave me that little smile that rarely reached her eyes.
“You are so close Pip. I can feel it,” Daisy said.
Mattie Maddox crumpled to the ground.
Recipe: Curry Mushroom Toast – Cooking Club 1908
Adapted from: Cooking Club Magazine, February 1908
Recipe and Photo Credit: Tori Avey at History Kitchen http://toriavey.com/history-kitchen/2014/02/curry-mushroom-toast-cooking-club-1908/
1 baguette, cut into 12 slices
1 lb button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 1/2 tsp curry powder (or more to taste)
2 tsp flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and black pepper
Yields 6 servings
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in the bottom of a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add the sliced bread and toast for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown.
Transfer the toast to a baking sheet and place in the oven at 200 degrees F to keep warm.
Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and add about 1/2 of the sliced mushrooms. Cook until brown, about 8-10 minutes. Then add remaining mushrooms and continue cooking for an additional 5-7 minutes.
Sprinkle curry and flour over the mushrooms and stir to evenly coat.
Add vegetable stock to the pan and stir to combine. Cook until the liquid thickens and is reduced by half.
Reduce heat to medium and add cream. Cook until thickened. Stir in salt and black pepper to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp of salt and a pinch of black pepper– your amount may vary based on the saltiness of your stock). Remove from heat.
To serve, place 2 slices of toast on a plate and spoon the curry mushroom sauce over the top. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley if desired.
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 rectory’s 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?
Video: Watermelon Lemonade | Volunteer Gardener
16. Apples, Broad Beans, Curry Leaves
I still remember the rough country road and how Granny Fanny patted her yellow Model-T every time we hit a bump. A half bushel basket of apples sat crowding my feet in the floorboard, and I held a peck basket of Vidalia onions on the seat beside me.
Andy Avis sat in the backseat with Granny’s favorite wicker basket in his lap. He sneaked the lid open and the aroma of Granny’s apple pie drifted up to my grandmother and me in the front seat. I looked over my shoulder and saw Andy lick his lips. I knew that pie was mouthwatering. The scent found its way to Granny’s nose, and she glanced suspiciously at Andy.
“Sweetheart, try and keep the basket closed so the pie will stay warm,” she said, as if the lid accidentally came loose, though it was obvious that she knew better. “Now that Moses is well enough to be moved, that pie was the one thing he asked for before he leaves,” she added.
Marshal Moses Myrick was a close friend of my grandparents when they were young. Not too long after Granddaddy passed away, Myrick’s law enforcement career took off. He worked his way through the ranks and eventually became a Federal Marshal — a Revenuer; a G-man.
Myrick nearly died when Queenie Wetson’s men ambushed him, but Savannah’s dashing Detective Dabney Daniels was able to get him to Dr. Veronica Vale. She had been a renowned surgeon, but tiring of hospital politics and spiteful attitudes about women doctors, she retired from medical practice. She and her veterinarian husband had a home and a sprawling facility for Vincent’s veterinary practice that was much closer to the site of the ambush than any hospital. If it hadn’t been for Detective Daniels’ knowledge of area back-roads and for the doctors Vale living nearby, Moses Myrick would have surely died.During the weeks since the surgery Veronica Vale had performed in her husband’s veterinary facility, Marshal Myrick stayed with the Vales. Veronica refused to allow him to be moved. Finally his condition improved enough that she wanted the marshal to go to Warm Springs, Georgia. It was well known for therapeutic mineral springs which flow constantly at nearly 32 °C (90 °F). Doc Vale wanted him to spend several weeks at a spa there.
Soon the yellow Ford puttered up to the lovely white house with a green roof. Granny Fanny reminded Andy and me to be quiet once we got inside. Moses Myric was still far from being well. When I stepped out of the Ford, I heard a horse whinny from the stable, and from inside the house I could hear a bird screech. A parrot. Cracker, I thought with a smile. So much for being quiet…
I became far too attached to that bird when I was taking care of her. But it seemed the marshal had stolen Cracker’s heart. She refused to leave his side after he was shot.
As I got out of the automobile, a streak of brilliant color erupted from an upstairs window and loomed toward me. I drew back reflexively, even though I knew it was the parrot. Cracker alighted on the open car door, chattering unintelligibly. Yes, I know the bird isn’t supposed to be able to speak the way humans do, and could only mimic our words, but sometimes it sure seemed like she knew what she was talking about. Her lack of coherent speech led me to think she was extremely excited.
Cracker hopped from the car door to my shoulder and started preening a strand of my bobbed hair, as was her old habit. I tried to push her away from my head and was scolded.
I stroked the feathers of her back and told Cracker I had missed her. The parrot started making a funny trilling sound. When Detective Daniels handed me the chore of bird-sitting after Cracker’s owner was murdered at the Bijou Theatre he asked Mr. Doctor Vale… not the same as Mrs. Doctor Vale… Oh applesauce! It sure got confusing having two Doctors Vale in one place.
Anyhow Dabney asked the vet doc to take a look at the parrot and make sure she was healthy. The memory of Vincent examining the parrot popped into my mind. He had said Cracker was at least forty years old!
“Parrots live a long time,” he’d explained. “They need a serious, long term commitment from their owners. Cracker is a macaw,” he said taking my name for the bird. “She might live to the ripe old age of 95.”
I couldn’t help thinking about the old photograph, our only hint of a clue to who was involved in the death of Daisy the Dainty Dish. According to the ghost woman, what I thought was a flaw in the photo was actually a parrot. I looked into Cracker’s bright, intelligent looking eyes. She might be old enough to have been the parrot sitting on the shoulder of Alastair Wong the elder in that photograph. Andy’s eyes bugged out when I turned to him and whispered that thought to him.
Movement further down the gently sloping green caught my eye as I looked beyond Andy. He turned to see what had my attention.Beyond the spot where we stood, was the vegetable garden where the last of the summer foods grew. A few of the broad beans Veronica praised for their nutritional value remained. I tried to point discretely in their direction. “Just past the garden,” I told Andy. “Those two men. One is Doc Vale. The other one looks familiar to me,” I said uneasily.
The two men made their way to the stable. It was as if they felt our eyes on them. They turned our way. Vincent Vale threw up his hand in a cheery wave. The second man was dressed in working clothes. He was smaller than the veterinarian. When he turned I saw a spot of bright white at his neck. It seemed out of place with the work clothes.
“I can’t really tell from here…” I began, squinting in attempt to see farther.
Cracker had her eyes glued to the men right up until they went inside the stable. “Dainty Dish,” the parrot chirped and bobbed her head up and down.
Andy gave a suspicious look at the bird. I’d told him how clever she was, but he had not believed me. However, he knew the spirit, Daisy, had been known as The Dainty Dish. I wondered if he was about to change his mind and see how smart the parrot was.
“Well?” Granny Fanny looked back over her shoulder as she reached the front porch. “Come along you two. And Paisley, do try to keep that nasty bird quiet!” she said emphatically.
It had taken awhile, but Cracker eventually won Granny over despite my grandmother’s aversion to having an avian in the house. I thought Granny might need a refresher course to remind her that she actually did like the parrot. Or maybe she just didn’t like to let on that she did.
Andy shifted the wicker basket to his left hand and knocked on the door. Veronica called to us to come on inside, so he opened the door for Granny. I was happy to see Moses Myrick doing well enough to be downstairs in the living room.
“Take this mixture of curry leaves with you,” Veronica was saying as she handed Moses a small tin container. “It will help control your stomach acid.”
The G-man sat in a cushioned chair with his feet on an ottoman. A carved walking stick was propped against the cozy looking chair. Veronica Vale leaned down to hand him the tin, and then looked up at us with a warm smile.
I didn’t really expect the range of emotions that played across my grandmother’s face when she saw the marshal. I knew she cared a lot about him, but I thought it was just a carryover from the fact that he had been such good friends with my granddaddy.
Yet before my eyes I saw her expression shift from anxious, to pleasure, to concern, to something that it took me a moment to name. To my surprise I realized she was feeling the pain of loss. That puzzled me. However, I remembered her saying that she didn’t understand how any woman could bear to have a law man for a husband or a son. The dangers were just too much and the agony of losing them too great.
She had refused a romantic relationship with Detective Dabney Daniels, but she insisted it was because she was too old for him. I didn’t think their age difference was all that big, so I had always wondered if that was the truth of it. I could see where his line of work would be a constant source of worry.
After seeing the expressions parade across her face, I couldn’t help wondering if something similar had happened between Granny Fanny and Marshal Moses Myrick at some point in the past. As my grandmother had once reminded me, she had a life before and after my grandfather.
The G-man picked up the cane and made to get up from his chair. Doctor Veronica shot him a warning look. Granny gently laid a slender hand on his arm and he relaxed into the cushions of the chair. When Moses looked up at my grandmother the most peaceful expression came to his face. I didn’t realize I was staring at the two of them until I felt Andy’s elbow nudge my ribs.
“Fanny…” was all Moses said.
She sat down on the sofa opposite his chair. She didn’t sit all the way back, and she leaned a little forward when she spoke to him. Cracker the parrot settled on the back of the marshal’s chair. She preened a strand of his gray hair in the same way she had mine. He brushed a hand at the bird to shoo her away.
“Hold your fire!” Cracker squawked at his hand, causing Andy to burst out laughing.
“Hold your fire,” she said again when he told her to go to her perch by the window.
Moses pointed his index finger at Cracker, a pretend gun, and made a clicking sound with his tongue. Cracker plopped over, playing dead. Then she got up and stretched her head so that it was under his chin and whistled quietly. I couldn’t say quite how, but the parrot seemed sad to me and I commented on it.
“She knows he’s leaving,” Veronica said. “They don’t allow animals at the spa.”
Then the most remarkable conversation ensued between the revenuer and the parrot. The fact that there was any conversation at all between a G-man and a bird was astonishing enough. Moses told the bird that he would be away for a month or so. His tone suggested this was something he had explained many times. The bird made squawks and whistles and even something a lot like a raspberry sound! It was obvious that she was protesting. Then he took a firm no-nonsense tone.
“Look Cracker, I need you to stay with Pip until I get back. No argument,” he said. “And that’s an order!” Cracker squawked back at him, but she flew over to me and perched on the arm of the sofa. “Don’t you backtalk me,” Moses told the bird and pointed threateningly.
“Hold your fire!” Cracker snapped, but she moved closer to me and looked suitably chastened.
Granny commented on the parrot’s new phrase, hold your fire. Moses said he wasn’t sure where she got it. It wasn’t something he had said to her. However, we knew the parrot had had a number of owners in her lifetime.
Then she took an interest in Andy. She waddled down the back of the couch to where he sat. Cracker cocked her head to one side and peered at Andy. I could tell it was beginning to make him nervous. She tilted her shoulder toward him and bobbed her head up and down. To me it looked like the equivalent of a human bobbing their eyebrows flirtatiously.
“Who’s your daddy?” she chirped at Andy, causing him to blush.
“Oh that foul mouthed fowl,” Granny Fanny said. “Haven’t you broken her from saying that yet Moses?” Granny demanded.
I remembered how my grandmother hated that phrase. She said it was horrid and vulgar. However, Cracker was saved from any scolding by the entrance of Vincent and the man we saw go into the stable with him.
“Dainty Dish,” Cracker hissed quietly, looking at the two men who stood in the foyer.
“It’s odd, but she says that every time she sees the Bishop,” Veronica murmured as if she voiced a thought. “He is a rather slight man. I wonder if that’s what she means.”
Veronica explained that Bishop Binghamton’s mare was soon to give birth and her husband was watching over things. So Binghamton had been a frequent visitor during the past few weeks. I supposed that explained the work clothes he wore, Levis and an old twill jacket, but with the priest’s collar at his neck. It was hard for me to reconcile that attire with the elaborately dressed, fancy bishop I had seen from a distance at that ritzy shindig at the Kingston mansion.
However, he looked perfectly comfortable being seen in a working man’s clothes. I half expected him to apologize for his appearance, considering how he had looked at the party, but he didn’t seem concerned. That added something unexpected to my perception of him. Was there a touch of the common man to this high ranking churchman?
Vincent Vale introduced Bishop Bradley Binghamton to Andy and me. Apparently he was already acquainted with Granny Fanny. I supposed that was to be expected. They were of a similar age and from the same town, even if their social circles hadn’t mixed when they were young.
“A fascinating creature,” he said with a nod to Cracker whose steady gaze didn’t waiver.
I noticed that he didn’t offer to get any closer to the bird, but considering the hard look in her eyes, I couldn’t blame him. So this was one of the “boys” — the men that Mattie Maddox believed were implicated in Daisy’s death… However, when I looked at him I saw a kind face and a gentle manner. There was no harsh expression in his eyes or anything that would make me think he would threaten anyone; to make them leave town and never return. Yet I didn’t disbelieve Mattie either.
Bishop Binghamton looked like a man remembering bygone days and a small smile came to his lips. He motioned toward Cracker. “When I was a lad, one of my teachers had a parrot a lot like this one,” he said. “The name escapes me,” he commented thoughtfully and put a knuckle to the little cleft in his chin. “A brilliant Asian gentleman,” he said and Granny’s eyes got wide. “Ah yes. He was Asian, but from England. Wong. That was it! Alastair Wong.” My mouth opened, but no words came out. Cracker looked from Granny to Andy to me. “Hold your fire!” Cracker hissed at us and I closed my mouth with a pop.
Recipe: Southern Indian vegetable curry with curry leaves
With courgette, squash, peppers and cauliflower Photo and Recipe Credit: JamieOliver.com
Method Heat the oil in a pan and fry the mustard seeds for 2 to 3 minutes or until they start to pop. Add the chillies, curry leaves, onions, coriander, cumin seeds, garam masala, turmeric, and chilli powder. Stir and cook over a medium heat until the onion is soft. Stir in the chopped tomatoes. Add your potatoes and aubergine to the sauce. Pour in the coconut milk and cook until the potato is soft and cooked through. Throw in the beans, peas and okra. Season and cook for a few more minutes until tender, then serve with some nice fluffy rice.
17. Spinach, Carrots, Yogurt
Doctor Veronica Vale had arranged for Marshal Moses Myrick to go to Warm Springs, Georgia. She said the natural hot springs there were perfect for his convalesce. Cracker the parrot left her perch on the G-man’s chair and glided across the Vales’ living room to perch on the back of the sofa where I sat.
Cracker dropped a bit of spinach she’d been nibbling on the rug as she flew. I saw Granny Fanny look disdainfully from the dropped food to the bird. It sure seemed like the progress those two had made toward getting along had been forgotten. When the marshal was shot, it looked like Granny and the parrot had forgotten their differences, in their mutual concern for Moses Myrick. I was surprised to think that might have only been temporary.
I missed Cracker terribly when she transferred her affection to Marshal Myrick, but I figured that she was helping the critically injured man in that amazing way that animals seem to help humans heal. So I tried not to feel rejected, and repeatedly reminded myself that Cracker was just a bird. She wouldn’t intentionally hurt my feelings.
Veronica again mentioned that the spa didn’t allow any animals. Cracker bumped the side of my head with hers. Then she did it again a moment later, as if she was nudging me.
“I don’t have any treats, Cracker,” I told the parrot.
“Who’s your daddy?” Cracker asked in an imploring tone and bobbed her head in a way that looked much like a nod.
“Oh that vulgar bird,” Granny Fanny complained, reminding me of how much she hated that phrase.
“Oh Fanny, Cracker doesn’t mean any harm. Why, she’s downright ladylike most of the time,” Moses said, and his voice seemed to echo the imploring tone Cracker had used.
“I realize it’s been quite a burden for Veronica and Vincent to have to look after me and Cracker too,” the aging law man continued amid protests from both the Vales. “I’d hate to ask them to keep looking after the parrot while I’m at Warm Springs,” he added and Granny’s expression suddenly became stiff and suspicious.
“I know it was a challenge for you too, Fanny, when Pip was taking care of her. It’s a lot of extra work for a woman to unexpectedly add a parrot to her household,” Moses said soothingly. “I know Cracker gets messy sometimes too, just like a child. Nobody could blame you for not being able to deal with it.”
Oh Horsefeathers! Granny could handle anything, and she’d be the first to say so. Was the revenuer baiting my grandmother? He couldn’t have said anything that was any more likely to get a rise out of her if he’d tried! Had he done it intentionally? I wouldn’t have advised anybody to get Granny’s back up on purpose, but I saw a twinkle in the Fed’s eyes that told me he had done exactly that.
“Whatever gives you that idea, Moses?” Granny exclaimed, agitated. “It’s just a bird. She switched her interest to you from Paisley easily enough.”
“Paisley Idelle Peabody!” Cracker shrieked in a fair imitation of my grandmother.
Moses started laughing, and then winced and clutched his side. That was one of the several bullet wounds he had taken when Queenie Wetson’s thugs ambushed him. “That’s why,” he said, still chuckling. “She calls Pip’s full name several times a day. I sort of think, since she’s calling her name the way you would, that it means she misses you too, Fanny.”
While Granny blustered wordlessly over that comment, I turned to Cracker and scratched her neck. “Oh Cracker,” I exclaimed. “Have you really missed me?” I asked feeling oddly guilty — it wasn’t as if I’d had much choice in the matter. “So do you want to go home with me… if Granny says it’s okay?” I said turning my most imploring and saddest eyes on my grandmother.
I waited. I held the hopeful sad-eyed look for so long I thought my eyes might cross. My eyebrows contracted and I was about to give up. I looked down at my hands in my lap, unable to hold Granny Fanny’s gaze any longer.
“Don’t worry Moses,” Veronica finally said. “Vincent and I will look after Cracker. It’s really no trouble.”
“No, no…” Granny said. “The bird can go home with us. Paisley, she’ll have to stay in your room though. And mind you, keep her out of my kitchen!”
Cracker made a noise that sounded like laughter. “You slay me!” she squawked.
Moses started holding his side and laughing again, but I thought Granny’s eyes would pop right out of her head, she looked so mad.
“I remember Cracker Jack Daddy using that phrase a lot,” the G-man said. There’s no telling what all she picked up from him. “But I’ve noticed Cracker often says it when somebody laughs. I wonder if she misses that gangster…” Moses said and his voice trailed away thoughtfully. “I guess anybody can have a good quality, and Jack Daddy seemed to have taken good care of my girl here,” he said meaning Cracker the parrot.
Somehow that seemed to calm Granny’s flare of anger. Our visit wasn’t eventful after that. Moses made a big deal over the apple pie Granny had made for him. But Granny’s apple pies were well worth the praise. Of course we didn’t have the pie until after the delicious meal the doctors Vale prepared.
Veronica said Vincent was a better cook than she, and the couple argued playfully about who was the better chef. Soon we sat down to a delicious dinner that started with a beautiful creamy carrot soup, and just kept getting better from there. Granny’s apple pie topped off the meal.
As we were leaving Vincent asked a favor of Andy and me. “Could you kids deliver some medicine for me, first thing in the morning?” the veterinarian asked. “Bishop Binghamton’s mare is having difficulties, and she could foal at any time. So I don’t want to go into town,” he said.
Cracker glided into the dining room. I wondered if hearing the “Binghamton” name brought her. She had acted strangely when she saw the bishop at a distance when we arrived earlier. She’d said “Dainty Dish” when she saw him. After the things Mattie Maddox had said about Henry Kingston III and the Binghamton brothers, hearing the parrot also connect Daisy, the ghost woman, to them made me really suspicious, despite how nice the bishop seemed.
At the name “Kingston” Cracker cocked her head and looked at Vincent attentively. “Fourandtwenty,” she chirped as if the phrase was a single word.
“What’s that Cracker?” Moses asked, not understanding the rapid speech, but the bird didn’t respond.
I could tell the G-man was going to miss the parrot. It was as if he was paying extra attention to her all evening. However, I remembered Cracker repeating that phrase when we were trying figure out who killed her owner, as well as when we worked to foil Queenie Wetson and her bootleggers. She said four and twenty repeatedly and finally we ended up at…
“Pos-i-lute-ly,” Andy said, interrupting my thoughts.
“That’s quite alright, Vincent. If it’s not too late, the children and I can run it over there this evening,” Granny offered.
“Where do we deliver it?” Andy asked.
“Fourandtwenty!” Cracker screeched.
It was completely dark when we arrived at 420 Kingston Lane. I could hear the river next to us as Granny headed the Model-T up the narrow drive that led to the estate. Andy started complaining of a bad cramp in his foot. We were just below where the drive forked with one way leading to the kitchen entrance and the other broader lane continued to the front of the mansion.
I exited the Model-T with Andy so he could walk out the cramp. He limped along and I pulled his arm over my shoulder so I could help him. It must have been a fierce cramp because I saw a tear in his eye that he pretended wasn’t there. We kept walking and eventually found ourselves on the beautifully landscaped terrace, where the “parade of pets” was held at the ritzy party Granny Fanny catered as a front for the lawmen’s sting operation. It seemed like a lot of time had passed since then, but I knew it hadn’t been all that long.
The cramp finally left Andy’s foot. We were near the big French doors and we debated whether we should knock there or walk all the way around to the front door. As we stood discussing that minor problem a blast of frigid air tousled my bobbed hair. I shivered and Andy tucked me tightly under his arm. He’d never done that before. Not to keep his arm there. Not to hold me that close.
However I didn’t have time to wonder about Andy’s behavior. Softly glowing light drew my attention to the uphill path. Tiny white flower petals cascaded toward us on the wind. With the cold breeze, for a moment I thought the petals were snow.
When the blossoms settled I saw Daisy at the top of the path. She was dressed in a wedding gown, but the veil was turned back to reveal her angelic face. Delicate lace trained behind her on the wide stone stairs. White satin gleamed in the moonlight and beading glittered with her movements when she glided forward.
I realized Daisy was reminiscing about her wedding to Henry “the king” Kingston. I knew she had a horrible childhood, but her marriage to him was a happy one, and clearly their wedding was a fond memory. She looked at Andy and me and smiled sweetly.
The sound of a horse’s hooves on the pavers behind me caused me to start. Turning, I watched the former ghost-rider, Caleb Colman dismount an otherworldly steed. The spirit
horse whinnied softly. The cowboy took off his Stetson when he saw me and nodded politely.
“Ma’am,” Caleb said and then nodded to Andy as well.
Then the cowboy saw Daisy glowing in the moonlight, a beatific specter in flowing white. He gasped and dropped to one knee. Hat over heart, Caleb bowed his head then slowly shook it from side to side as if in amazement. He looked up at the spirit woman on the uphill path and his face was a mixture of wonder, uncertainty, and pain. A single tear ran down his cheek.
At that moment I saw Bishop Binghamton come out of the wooded path to our left, halfway between us and Daisy. Binghamton stopped to put out a cigarette. Andy, Caleb, and I were farther down, closer to the kitchen and in the shadows. He didn’t see us, but he was headed straight for the big French doors and not paying attention. I don’t know if Daisy would have been visible to him, but he didn’t look in her direction either.
Daisy paused when she saw the bishop. Her serene expression became puzzled and uneasy when she looked closely at the clergyman. She moved toward him, but he continued toward the double doors and went inside the mansion. Daisy’s full attention was on the scene within the house.
Wind buffeted us. It was hard for me to walk upright into the gale. I wondered if we were about to be caught up in a tornado, then I saw the frightening light in Daisy’s eyes. Caleb saw it too.
“Daisy! No!” the cowboy yelled.
She turned and looked at Caleb and at Andy and me as if she’d never seen us before. Then she turned her attention back to the house. She took another step toward it and the French doors opened as if of their own accord.
We ran toward Daisy. The bishop was standing just inside. He turned in surprise when the doors opened behind him.
Caleb’s presence seemed to comfort Daisy, and the horrible light in her eyes dissipated. I heard the two spirits whispering to each other. I didn’t think anyone inside, except perhaps my grandmother, could see them. Granny Fanny vacillated between disbelieving it was possible for her to see ghosts and actually seeing them.
As we moved close to the doors I heard Mrs. Kingston talking to Granny. She sat a crystal bowl on a table. It contained something creamy and white.
“Yogurt is very good for lightening and brightening the complexion,” Kate Kingston said. “Just leave it on your face for a few minutes and then wash it off,” she said, but her words died away when she saw the strange way the bishop was acting.
Andy and I hurried up to the doors and went inside.
“You didn’t open those doors,” the bishop murmured.
Daisy followed us. She turned to Bishop Binghamton, who was still near the doors. Then she saw his brother, Byron, standing at the foot of the gracefully curving staircase. Henry Kingston was at the top of the stairs, on his way back down to join his guests.
“They’re all right where they were that night,” Daisy said as she stared transfixed by the scene.
She blinked and turned to me. “Pip, I remember!” Daisy exclaimed.
Ghostly cowboy Caleb Colman moved closer to her. “Ma’am? Are you all right?” he asked, clearly concerned.
“I remember,” Daisy repeated and trembled violently, dropping the bouquet of flowers she held.
Caleb took her hand. I thought he meant to comfort Daisy, but I quickly saw there was more to the gesture than that.
He grasped her hand tightly. “Are these the men who hurt you ma’am?” he asked softly, but she didn’t answer. “Show me!” Caleb said in a firm voice.
Daisy squeezed the cowboy’s hand. Wind wailed and buffeted inside the mansion. A lamp turned over and shattered on the floor. The crystal chandelier swayed dangerously overhead. Voices rose near enough to panic. The bishop fell to his knees, eyes tightly shut, praying for all he was worth.
Caleb bowed over Daisy’s hand and then let it go. Abruptly the wind stopped. The room went completely silent and I knew that everyone could see the formerly cursed ghost-rider. Maestro Mario had made a great sacrifice, giving up countless years that would have been removed from his own curse, just to give Caleb Colman a chance to redeem himself. Else the cowboy was condemned to a futile eternal chase. I remembered Caleb’s words the first time I met him.
“It’s my curse. Me and all the riders. We chase that herd of red-eyed cattle, but we never get any closer to catching ‘em. And we’ll chase them ‘til the end of time,” The ghost-rider had said seeing the expression on my face.
I wondered if Maestro’s sacrifice was about to be wasted. Caleb looked steadily at each of the three men in turn. His eyes started to glow a frightening red to match the eyes of the demon heard he used to chase.
The men cried out in fear as the spirit glowed with supernatural light and grew to twice his already impressive height. The wind began again, lifting the bishop, his brother, and Henry Kingston III into the air where they remained suspended while Caleb cast that red-eyed stare at them.
Recipe: Autumnal Spinach & Carrot Soup, the Indian Way
Photo and Recipe credit to Ishita at Kooky Cookyng
This time I am just giving you the link to Ishita’s blog for the recipe and instructional photos. I hope you’ll look at many of her creative meals.
18. Conclusion – Sweet Potato, Wimberries, Worcester Sauce
With Looming Specter
The sight of Caleb Colman the cowboy looming to twice his normal height, with ruby-red fire in his eyes was enough to strike fear into anybody’s heart — including mine. The three men, suspended high in the air above the hard marble floor were screaming and writhing as if they weren’t just afraid but were also in pain.
Something brightly colored streaked through the open French doors. Cracker! She had let herself out of her cage. I should have known it was too much to expect to drive her home from the doctors Vale without her getting into or up to something. Fear for the bird’s sake stabbed my heart.
“Cracker, go back to your cage!” I said in a voice that was loud enough to be heard over the noise but still calm. So okay… that’s how I tried to sound. I think I mostly shrieked at her. For once the parrot showed good sense and didn’t try to get in the middle of everything.
“Twenty-three skidoo!” Cracker squawked with a whistle as she zoomed back outside.
Daisy turned to watch the parrot soar away. Her expression was distracted, and the look in her eyes was so faraway that I wondered if the spirit was in her right mind.
“I know you,” Daisy murmured to Cracker’s departing form. “My husband and I watched you hatch, but we made sure the first human you saw was Alastair Wong. I guess you’re all grown up now, huh? Is that why you keep coming to see me when I visit this plane?” she asked in a thoughtful tone, but the parrot had already flown out of sight.
Thunder cracked inside the mansion. The scene playing out before my eyes terrified me for many reasons. Regardless of what Henry Kingston III and the Binghamton brothers may or may not have done, I was afraid of what might happen if they were hurt or killed. I was worried about Granny and Kate Kingston — they might come back inside and be caught in the chaos at any minute. Not to mention Andy, who was right in the thick of things beside me. I was also afraid for Caleb and Daisy if either of them took things too far. I wasn’t sure what could happen to ghosts, but I was certain there would be consequences.
Daisy stood mesmerized by the display. There was an unpleasant, almost greedy look in her eyes and they glowed softly. She looked like someone with a thirst for vengeance. Based on what was happening, that thirst was about to be quenched. Something had to be done. I didn’t know if it might cause Caleb to turn his anger on me, but I screamed at him to stop. If he heard me, he didn’t pay any attention.
“Daisy!” I yelled to be hard above the din. “You have to stop him!”
“Pip, you don’t understand,” she said in a level voice that somehow reached my ears. “Sweet potato, I should have showed you too,” the ghost said and before I could move, her hand shot out and grabbed mine.
I staggered from an unseen impact. It was as if a huge ball of electricity had blasted through my skull and into my brain. I fell toward the polished white marble floor, but Daisy still had hold of my hand and kept me from going all the way down. She pulled me to my feet with unexpected strength. My lungs strained for air — the wind had been knocked right out of me. Spasms raked my body and I couldn’t stay on my feet. It felt as if I dangled from Daisy’s grasp.
“What are you doing?” Andy demanded of Daisy who looked at him with a mildly puzzled expression on her face.
“I had to show her,” Daisy told Andy, but then she seemed to finally notice my state. “Oh my goodness!” she cried and seemed more herself. “Oh Pip, I’m so sorry Sweet potato! I just meant to show you the same things that I showed Caleb. I guess that’s the difference between doing that with a ghost and with one of the living. I didn’t mean to hurt you,” she said with tears of contrition streaming down her face.
With that extraordinary physical strength, petite Daisy lifted me in her arms as if I were a small child. She carried my past a table where someone had been making Bloody Marys. When she turned my foot knocked over a bottle of Worcestershire sauce. I remembered Andy calling it Worcester sauce, and how we playfully argued about which was correct back in Florida.
Daisy carried me to a sofa and gently deposited me on it. With a worried expression on his face, Andy handed me one of the Bloody Marys. He said that it wasn’t brandy, but maybe it would help. I managed to take a couple of sips.
All the drama continued around us, buffeting winds, screaming, crying. I lay back on the sofa, because I wasn’t able to even sit up. I tried to speak but my brain was too scrambled for me to chain two words together. So whatever I meant to say came out as gibberish. You’d have thought I was speaking in tongues or something. I couldn’t think straight either. It was as if every thought I’d ever had competed for dominance in my mind. And my head hurt. Bad.
Finally one thought lodged into a clear spot in my mind. Then another fell into line. My brain was sorting the memory Daisy shared with me, all in one electric blast, and putting things into their proper sequence. In my mind I watched events unfold as if I stood looking over Daisy’s shoulder. However, I felt most of it as if I had actually been her. It happened like this…
Daisy was having the strangest cravings — particularly for wimberry pie. She had even put on a frock the same shade of blue as wimberries. Yes, Daisy thought she was pregnant. She was bursting at the seams to tell someone the news, but she wanted to be certain. However, she really did have to tell someone. Surely, she thought, it was permissible if her best friend was the first to know. She just couldn’t tell Henry until she had no doubts about it. It would break his heart if it turned out she wasn’t really expecting a little one after all.
Mattie Maddox was in the expansive, well lit kitchen when Daisy divulged the news to her best friend. Daisy was ecstatic, and Mattie was so happy for her that she cried and hugged her. Then young Henry burst into the kitchen. He sent Mattie hopping to some urgent errand that he said his father needed right away. But Daisy could always tell when the young man was lying.
After the kitchen door closed behind Mattie she turned to him. “Henry… You heard,” Daisy had said and it wasn’t a question.
As gently as she could, Daisy finished breaking the news to Henry III that he would have a younger sibling. She knew that despite how well “King Henry” tried to raise the boy, he had a bad attitude. Young Henry’s face turned red and a vein at his temple throbbed. He stormed out of the kitchen without a word.
Then she heard the French doors open. She heard Henry’s friends come inside from the terrace — the Binghamton brothers. Daisy heard him shouting to them about her being pregnant. In his anger he threw a crystal vase to the marble floor and shattered it. The vase was an anniversary gift from her husband.
Daisy went out into the foyer to settle the young men down. Bradley Binghamton stood near the door. By the look on his face he had heard Henry III yelling and stopped there, deciding whether he should go back outside. Byron was near the stairs with Henry. Egging Henry on came easily to Byron, and the more the two boys talked the madder Henry got.
She approached the young men and tried to smooth over the situation. But they turned on her. They said the most horrible, unspeakable things to her. She couldn’t keep her tears back and Henry and Byron laughed as she wept. Henry pushed her shoulder causing her to stagger backward. He called her a whore and things that were even worse.
Daisy fled up the staircase in tears. Young Henry bounded up behind her, taking the stairs two at a time. He continued to yell at her, to berate her for the life he felt she was taking from him by giving his father another child.
At the top of the stairs he grabbed her arm as she was about to run down the hall to her sitting room. Henry was in his late teens. He was as tall as his father, thickly built, and strong. Daisy couldn’t pull or twist free of his grasp. The pain and humiliation caused by his words turned to anger when he seized her arm.
Being manhandled was something Daisy could never tolerate. She was livid when he grabbed her. She drew back her hand, and with every bit of her strength behind it, she swung to slap his face. But he saw the blow coming and reflexively pushed her away.
Henry III never had learned to think things through. They were standing at the top of the stairs when he pushed Daisy. She toppled all the way down the long curving staircase to the marble floor below. Slowly blood started to spread on her skirt. It was a lot of blood.
“We have to get her to a doctor,” Bradley Binghamton told the other two boys as he hurried over and knelt beside Daisy.
“No!” Henry said. “My dad will find out.”
“He’ll find out anyway!” Bradley told him.
“No… No, he might not,” said Byron. “I know somebody. He took care of a girl once for me.”
They carried Daisy to a car, but by then she had lost consciousness. She woke to the harsh smell of ether and a foggy head, and a lot of pain. Looking around she saw that she was in a place that was sort of like a surgery, but not like one should be. It wasn’t very clean, and the space around her was too large. It echoed like a warehouse. Then she remembered hearing of a doctor who did free work for the poor at the old warehouse. It had been used as a hospital in wartimes long ago.
She heard an unfamiliar man talking to someone. “I couldn’t save it,” he said. “But you didn’t want me to in the first place, did you? Anyhow, she’s lost a lot of blood. You need to take her on to the hospital. You should have taken her there straight away. I don’t have the equipment or the skills for this. I’m afraid she still has internal bleeding. She might not last the night,” he said as Daisy drifted back to incoherence.
Daisy had proved them wrong. She lived through the night and for a few weeks after that. Her husband had his own physician examine her. The man shook his head gravely and would not discuss his prognosis in front of her. However, Daisy already knew. She could tell her days on earth were limited. She could tell something inside was damaged, something the doctors of that day didn’t know how to fix.
She never told King Henry what his son had done, but sometimes she thought he knew. She tried to get strong again as she lay in a bed next to a beautiful golden and aqua stained glass window in a quiet place where Henry took her to convalesce — he was determined that she would recover, especially with the right environment. He couldn’t accept what the doctor said.
Daosy tried to be happy for Mattie’s sake. Mattie never left her side. She tried to be strong for Henry, to smile and be vivacious so he would feel better. She was secretly afraid that if he saw how weak she really was that he’d stop loving her.
Finally a day came when she gazed at the luminous colors of the window and surrendered. At that point the memories that belonged to Daisy drifted away from me, and I had my own thoughts once again.
Chaos still ensued all around me. It took much longer to tell about Daisy’s memory than it did for me to actually get my wits about me. Double-sized Caleb still held the three men suspended in midair and they still cried out in pain.
After a moment I started to feel a little more in control of my body. I took another sip of the Bloody Mary and its spiciness was heartening. I looked toward the staircase where Henry Kingston III was suspended in midair. I found my voice.
“Somebody has to do something before Caleb completely loses control of his temper,” I said. “Daisy, you have to stop him,” I repeated.
“The spirit woman looked abashed. After what she’d been through, and decades of searching the great beyond for the awful memory of it… I figured it would feel pretty good to see someone taking revenge on your behalf. I couldn’t resent her for momentarily considering vengeance.
Daisy vanished and then reappeared across the room to stand in front of Caleb. She reached up and placed her hand on his arm. Caleb looked down at her seeming irritated for a moment, but his face softened as he regarded Daisy. He returned to his normal size, but the demon-red glow didn’t leave his eyes, and the men still hung in the air, although their screams had toned down to whimpers.
“No ma’am. It’s not right that you finally got a good life, after how hard thing started out for you when you were just a child — it’s not right that these men should be the cause of your dying and go unpunished for it,” Caleb said.
Her hand rested on Caleb’s chest. I was sure Daisy would never intentionally hurt anyone. She hadn’t meant to knock me down with an electric shock; she just didn’t know how to handle her new strength. But I wondered if there was still a part of her that wanted payback. Maybe Caleb felt that from her.
The spirit woman hesitated, but she squared her shoulders, affirming her resolve. “Caleb, it isn’t for us to judge. These men are each guilty in different ways and to different degrees. However, it isn’t for us to decide their punishment. It simply is not right,” she told him in a sincere voice.
Amid the sobbing from Henry and the Binghamtons I abruptly heard that old pop-fizz sound. Maestro Martino knelt in front of my sofa. He inspected me more closely than I thought was proper, but I knew the ghost chef was concerned if he had picked up even a fraction of my fears. Maestro could do that, at least where I was concerned. He could detect strong supernatural activity, and it somehow helped him home in on me.
Once he was satisfied that I was unharmed Maestro became agitated all over again. “Signorina o Signore, this is far too dangerous. You must leave at once!” he insisted. “Signore, get her away from this place!”
However, Maestro’s caution was immediately followed by a double-pop-fizz and the ghost chef was no longer alone. A man — no, I corrected myself, a ghost in heavy white satin robes stood behind him. A looming specter towered over them both. That was the tallest man I’d ever seen. He wore pale buckskin clothes with turquoise stones decorating them. He had flowing black hair with two white feathers tucked into one side.
“Che peccato! Maestro Martino, you should be ashamed. Is this how you repay my gift?” demanded the short ghost.
“No, no. Your Imminence, please do believe me. I would not piss you off again!” Maestro said.
I was shocked by the Maestro’s choice of words, because I remembered how he told us he came to be cursed.
“But — you see, the short of it is that I pissed off the Pope! And this predicament is my fate,” the ghost had said with a mournful look.
Wide-eyed I looked at the three newly arrived ghosts. I wasn’t Catholic, but I wondered if I should try to get up and curtsey or something. I didn’t know how to act in front of a live pope, let alone a dead one. And who was the guy in buckskins? I knew less than nothing about how to behave in front of a Native American authority-figure-seeming ghost.
Movement beyond the French doors caught my eye. A tremendous cow with long curving black horns paced impatiently, pawing the ground with her steel hooves. Her red-eyed stare turned to me and she snorted fire. I jumped and looked from the demon cow to the tall black-haired ghost. I understood then that he was the one who controlled the ghost-rider curse.
Surely, I thought, that powerful spirit’s presence would register with Caleb. However, the cowboy remained transfixed in his determination to take revenge on Daisy’s behalf. Maestro followed my gaze. In an instant Maestro Martino stood between Caleb and the objects of his retribution. The cowboy glared uncomprehendingly at the chef.
“Hey, cow-poke!” Maestro yelled at Caleb in a passable western drawl that finally got his attention. “Incredibile! Non fare lo stupido! What stupidity! Do you mean to waste the gift I sacrificed and bestowed upon you?” he demanded in his usual Italian accent. “Basta! Stop this at once if you have any respect for this woman,” Maestro said indicating Daisy who stood looking up at Caleb with pleading eyes. “Would you give up eternity with this woman to satisfy your thirst for the blood of her enemies? You see the foolishness of that, no?”
Caleb looked at Maestro Martino so angrily that I feared for the ghost chef’s life. I had to remind myself he was already dead. After what seemed like a long internal struggle, Caleb’s shoulders relaxed. Then Henry Kingston and the Binghamtons suddenly freed from the magic that held them aloft, rushed toward the marble floor.
Maestro’s eyes bulged and he whirled to face the falling men. He held out his arm and snapped his fingers. Their descent slowed. Or rather it slowed until they were about five feet above the floor and Maestro let them drop unassisted the rest of the way. All three landed quite uncomfortably.
Daisy approached the new, very official (not to mention powerful) seeming specters.
“Please,” she began, looking angelic in the flowing white wedding gown she still wore from reminiscing about her marriage. “Please don’t punish Caleb. He only wanted to protect me. It’s my fault. I didn’t act quickly enough to stop him before he went so far. I know that I could have if I had tried sooner. So this is my fault, not his,” she pleaded.
By then Caleb was behind her. He took off his Stetson and bowed to the two dominant specters. Then he insisted that he was the one responsible, not Daisy.
“Stop it Caleb!” Daisy cried. “I couldn’t bear it if they made you a ghost-rider again! I’ve been so alone. I was unprotected and fending for myself throughout my childhood. I only had King Henry for what seems like a short time, and we were happy, but then I was adrift and alone all over again. If anyone is punished for this, it has to be me. I can’t bear to see anything happen to you,” she said and then looked down at the floor, apparently unable to meet the gaze of the spirits surrounding her.
The ghost in the white satin robes narrowed his eyes and his lips curled inward making a thin line of his mouth. I thought he looked downright petulant, but I certainly wouldn’t have said so. Maestro exchanged a look with me and gave a barely perceptible shake of his head. Was I really that transparent?
When the black-haired ghost spoke, his voice came as a bass rumble so deep I felt it vibrate from my ears to my toes. I had thought he’d be fierce and furious, but he spoke in a very matter of fact tone. With a shrug he said, “I see no wrong done here tonight.” He tilted his head, raised one eyebrow and looked down at the white robed spirit. “Do you?”
The other specter’s mouth twisted in an unpleasant expression. Then he rolled his eyes at the much taller spirit, spread his hands and shook his head that he did not.
“However,” continued the buckskin clad spirit with a slow smile. “I think you could be of service this night, old friend,” he added a suggestion.
At that moment Granny Fanny stormed through the open French doors. She was fit to be tied, and Kate Kingston was right behind her.
“What do ya’ll think you’re doing in here? I never heard such a racket in all my life! We could hear ya’ll all the way down at the gazebo! Why, your ruckus scared Kate’s cat so badly, I thought we’d never catch poor Marie Antoinette to put her skin medicine on her,” Granny said without taking so much as a single breath.
Kate Kingston was carrying Antoinette the Maine Coon cat. Her arms relaxed at the shock of seeing her devastated living room and foyer, and she let the cat jump down. Antoinette walked over to the group of ghosts and delicately sniffed their feet. The cat looked up at the collection of spirits, gave a satisfied purr-meow, and sauntered up the stairs and out of sight.
Mrs. Kingston’s gaze fell on the ghosts; they were all powerful enough that anyone could see them unless they just chose not to be seen. For a moment she looked at them in doe-eyed amazement. Then she fainted dead away.
My grandmother took in the chaos around us, the furniture overturned by the blasting wind and the struggles of the three men, the shattered lamp, and my own tousled appearance. She glared at Maestro Martino as if it was all surely his fault.
Then my grandmother saw all the other ghosts.
Granny’s mouth snapped shut with a pop.
Flower petals in white, pink, and yellow floated gently on a breeze that kept them aloft and scattered in the air. The petal cloud gracefully drifted down the stone path of the terrace that began outside the library of the Kingston mansion. The petals glowed ever so softly in the moonlight as they slowly moved among us, magically suspended in the air.
Notes from a flute filled the night air. The beguiling strains of music were calming yet uplifting. The music and the flower petals seemed to encircle our small group as we stood on the terrace. The petals exuded a sense of positive warmth, pleasure, and togetherness to all who were present.
Cracker the parrot swooped away from her perch on a magnolia tree and zipped uphill and out of sight. I heard her squawk, “Dainty Dish! Attagirl!”
A moment later the beautiful parrot glided down the path at an unnaturally slow speed. Streamers of pink, yellow, and white blossoms trailed behind her as if they were extensions of her long tail. The flowers streamed gracefully behind Cracker during her magical approach. The parrot alighted on a blossom decorated perch beside the white robed specter.
Cowboy Caleb Colman strode slowly to stand beside them. I thought he looked strange without his Stetson hat. But he was a fine figure of a man — or rather ghost. He stood tall and straight, handsome beyond anything mortal. He still wore western clothes, but they were different from his work clothes, nicer — and they were shimmering white.
As the moon steadily crept lower in the sky, the unseen flute played a loud trill that came from the top of the hill. All eyes turned in that direction. Daisy appeared; a vision in glowing diaphanous white. I thought she could have been a moon goddess as she effortlessly drifted toward us.
A light stream of smoke carried a pleasing aroma to us. I thought it was sage with other floral scents I couldn’t identify. Then I heard the rhythmic sound of drums, softly beating. The tall black-haired specter suddenly appeared, standing before Caleb and Daisy. His counterpart bowed to the couple, made a motion with his hands. He spoke something I didn’t understand. I supposed it was Latin. Then he made another motion with his hands and backed away.
The tall ghost spoke words that were reverent and beautiful as he united Caleb and Daisy. It’s just impossible for such glorious phrases to come out of my flapper mouth, so I won’t try to repeat what he said. Just know that he spoke words that you felt with your soul as much as you understood with your mind. His speech touched every heart. I cried. Granny Fanny cried. Andy Avis cried. Maestro sniffled and then burst out blubbering and sobbing so hard that the white robed ghost had to pull him aside and console him.
Cracker flew over and perched in a spot that allowed her to face me. I could have sworn there was a tear in the parrot’s eye too, but that wasn’t possible. Was it? When another tear rolled down my cheek, Cracker hopped over to my shoulder and preened a strand of my hair, trying to comfort me. I stroked the feathers of her back and she nuzzled her head behind my ear.
The flower petals had floated among us throughout the ceremony presided over by the two high ranking spirits. At another trill of flute music the petals began to swirl. They gently whirled all around us, and tickled when they touched my skin. They grew in number as they lifted above our heads, making a cloud that rose higher and higher into the sky. Then it exploded into a twinkling starburst.
A faint clip-clop caused me to turn. Caleb’s horse, always impressive, was transformed into a shining white magnificent steed. Tiny blue sparks lit the paving stones as he pranced toward the couple. The horse whinnied softly and shook his silken mane.
Then the horse lowered his head and shoulders. Caleb lifted Daisy easily onto the steed’s back and held her steady as the horse stood. Caleb leapt onto his horse’s back in an effortless bound. They trotted the length of the uphill path, blue sparks flying as the horse built up speed. Then the horse made a mighty leap and they soared into the sunrise.
I gasped in amazement. Just when I thought they were gone I heard a whinny above my head. I looked heavenward and saw Caleb wave his white Stetson in salute. Daisy gave a genteel wave of her hand and threw something down to me. I reached out reflexively to catch it. It was a bouquet of white daisies and red roses.
“Those are for Mattie if you please, Pip,” Daisy called to me. “Tell her I’ll always remember her,” she said. Then another bunch of flowers dropped and I had to move fast to catch them. “And these are for you. Remember me Pip,” Daisy called.
Caleb added his voice. “Remember us!” they said together.
The supernatural glow from the two spirits increased three fold. The white horse made an intensely bright streak as they traversed the sky, blue sparks from its silver hooves glittering the breaking dawn.
Remember them? Of course I would remember Daisy the Dainty Dish and Caleb Colman the Cowboy. I was awed by the perseverance, communication, and trust they had shown throughout the time I’d known them. Then I realized those were three ingredients for success or happiness, or maybe both.
To celebrate the conclusion of A Ghost in the Kitchen, I’m including two different Bloody Mary recipes.
Video: Bloody Mary Cocktail Recipe from the 1920’s
Recipe: Homemade Bloody Mary
Recipe and photo credit: Vintage Cooking.com
1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
2 teaspoons celery salt
Wedge of lemon
2 Jiggers (3 ounces) best quality vodka
Generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Several shakes of Worcestershire sauce
3-4 drops of Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
8 ounces tomato juice, chilled (I recommend Sacramento Gold)
¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
¼ tsp. celery salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
Mix both the kosher and celery salt in a shallow flat dish.
Rub the rim of a 16-ounce glass with a wedge of lemon and dip the glass into the dish so that it clings to the rim.
Fill glass with ice.
Add vodka, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco sauce.
Stir in the tomato juice with a long spoon.
Add horseradish, sea salt, remaining celery salt, and pepper.
Stir again and serve this drink recipe with a wedge of lemon.
You may also add a dill pickle, olives, or a celery stalk. Serve with a beer chaser on the side, if desired.
Makes 1-16 ounce serving.
End Three Ingredients Cookbook-2, a Ghost in the Kitchen
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Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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