Three Ingredients II – 18: Conclusion – Sweet Potato, Wimberries, Worcestershire Sauce

young Lucy blue

Young Lucille Ball

Welcome back everyone! Our previous chapter of this interactive culinary mystery was essentially part-1 of a 2-part finale. And yes — I heard the commotion when I left our three suspects of ill-doing hanging in midair (literally) and basically you along with them. I’m just wicked that way… I really can’t help myself.

I sincerely do try to make this serial unplanned pantser fun and as interactive as feasible. So in writing this ending I let your thoughts and comments take the ending to places where I probably would never considered going myself. Without further ado, I present the conclusion to Three Ingredients Cookbook-2, a Ghost in the Kitchen.  Bon appétit!

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, 1939 Saturday Evening Post Parrotssuspended 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 I forced to be calm, but loud enough to be heard over the noise.  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.

1923 Life woman devilish man masksDaisy 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 1936 Girl Horse Cole Bros Circus postermeant 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 me 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…

***

1920s two women garden

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, Daisy turned to him.  “Henry… You heard,” Daisy had said and it wasn’t a question.

Vintage Tuxedo adAs 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.

Cornelia Vanderbilt, 1924

Cornelia Vanderbilt, 1924

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, so it was usable for that purpose.

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?” he said with a trace of a sneer in his tone.  “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.

vintage queen of the mayDaisy 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 anyway.  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.

Daisy 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.

***

Vintage ghosts several

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 hanging high above the floor 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 reached1920s Bride Kneeling 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.

1877 American Horse Oglala Sioux

1877 American Horse Oglala Sioux

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.Glowing-Longhorns copy

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.

Choctaw Bill, Mora, NM 1920's

Choctaw Bill, Mora, NM 1920’s

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 spirits.  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?Michalemas daisy card

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.

Vintage Catz Bitters adKate 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.Vintage girl and parrot

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.  Strands 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 1920s Bride n Groom 2scents 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 Martino 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.1903 Girl 2 Horses postcard

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.

1920s Bride n GroomThe 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.

The End.

***

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

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unwhUbwJiLM

 

Recipe:  Homemade Bloody Mary

Homemade Bloody Mary

Recipe and photo credit:  Vintage Cooking.com

Ingredients

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

 

Instructions

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.

 

Notes

Makes 1-16 ounce serving.

 ***

Skeiks and Shebas, stick around.  These interactive serials are not over and done.  During National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) I will rerun the original story, The Three Things.  Then in December we will begin another all new serial. So stay tuned!

Hugs,

teagan

Roy Rogers Trigger

Roy Rogers and Trigger

Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or from Pinterest unless stated otherwise.

Three Ingredients II – 16: Apples, Broad Beans, Curry Leaves

Sheiks and Shebas I’m sorry to keep you waiting. Yes, there is pos-i-lute-ly going to be a new episode of our 1920’s culinary mystery serial! The ingredients for Episode-16 are from the astonishingly prolific Olga Núñez Miret at Just Olga. Serendipity was with us, and this chapter coincided with the launch of her latest book, I Love Your Cupcakes Have a look at it — who can say no to a cupcake? Olga has a video trailer for this novel.  I thought it was so adorable I couldn’t resist sharing it with you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGFcWLwoFfA . Once again I’m giving you a few fun, informative links, so keep an eye out for them. This episode doesn’t have cupcakes, but it has something sweet — the return of a favorite character. Bon appétit!

16.  Apples, Broad Beans, Curry Leaves

I still remember the rough country road and how Granny Fanny patted her yellow 1924 Liberty-appleModel-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.Vales House 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 1914 Model-T 2stable, 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.

“Bad bird! Bad bird,” Cracker chirped at me.1920s SheetMusic Parrot

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.Broad Beans 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.

Cracker followed my gaze.  She shifted from foot to foot where she perched on my shoulder. “Bad bird,” the parrot hissed quietly.1920s Ja-Da Parrot “What’s eating you?” Andy asked seeing the intent frown on my face.

“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.

Barrie Craig adventuresAndy 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 insistedSheik of Araby 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.

Encouraged by the laughter, Cracker hopped down to the marshal’s lap, demanding the-chinese-parrot adattention.

“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.1920s Life Faded blonde

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. Niven as BinghamtonI 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 stainge glass_parroteither.

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

Indian vege Curry Leaves

  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.

***

Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or from Pinterest unless stated otherwise.

Three Ingredients II – 5: Apricots, Eggs, Wheat Flour

Cat_menu_Episode-5Recently Siobhan took up the torch and continued the “Meet My Main Character” blog tour.  (Thanks again Siobhan!)  She also gave us the ingredients for this week’s episode of our interactive culinary mystery.

I can’t believe we’re already at Episode-5.  By now, several of the characters from the previous serial have made appearances.  New readers, you might find the Character Recap post from Cookbook-1 helpful to get you acquainted with the personalities in the story.  Also remember, there is a button at the top of this page (Cookbook-2 Three Ingredients Serial Home) where all the episodes are posted in chronological order, sans the introductions.

 Wishing all of you a satisfying weekend filled with the kind of things I try to include in these stories — good food, friends — and hugs.

Bon appétit!

5.  Apricots, Eggs, Wheat Flour

 With Smoke and Mirrors

1920s man w-goats

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 apricotsinterest — 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 1920s facehair 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.”1920s fireworks

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.

1920s French egg ad“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.1920s SheetMusic Parrot

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.”

1940 Webber Poodle hoopI 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.edmonds-ads

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.1920s Flour ad

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.Vintage ghosts several

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.

1917 VogueFor 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 flour.  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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3_vWZ3XWW0

 

 

 

Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or from Pinterest unless stated otherwise.

 

 

Three Ingredients – 24: Aubergine, Thyme, Red Pepper

CB's sketch "Fox" It came as a very pleasant surprise when CB sent the ingredients for today’s episode. CB is new to the blogosphere.  That information was unexpected, because I think “Better Dressed than Joe” is a great blog, with posts that are quick, evocative, and charming — and delightful sketches too. It’s not something I’d expect from a beginner. I especially liked the “Fox” sketch, and I thought it was appropriate to this episode!  So before you read today’s spot, check out Better Dressed than Joe.

You can do catch-up reading at the page where this story lives, The Three Ingredients Serial Homepage. Just click the button at the top of this page.  Also there are a lot of online resources for 1920’s slang if some of the lingo stumps you.Episode-24 Rabbit_Sign copy

The animal characters have played such a fun part in this storyline that I’m happy to have the chance to feature all of them.  I hope you enjoy the reading as much as I enjoyed the writing.  Bon appétit!

 

24.  Aubergine, Thyme, Red Pepper

That bossy butler, Mr. Farceur, put a nervous idea into my head when he suggested that it would be best if Queenie Wetson didn’t see me.  I had a bad feeling that he was wright.  After all, I had been drugged and hit over the head, and woke up in a cellar at the mill and herb farm owned by the Queen of Clubs and her husband.  I couldn’t remember anything about that day, so for all I knew Queenie Wetson was behind the attack on me.Flapper Running

So I worked mostly in the kitchen, getting an occasional peep at the party, while the guys served at the tables.  I carried a tray of marinated aubergine to the table that had just been set up outside, where Hank Hertz stood.  I tried not to let him see me smiling.

He was all but unrecognizable with his henna treated hair and thin mustache. Rules said he was too young, but Hanks’ skill with the radio equipment got him special permission to be on the police force. It didn’t seem likely, but Granny was afraid someone in the rumrunner’s gang might recognize him. So she insisted he change his appearance, and then before he could back out, she hennaed his hair! I knew he was eggplant-note-card_1024x1024uncomfortable with the disguise, so I tried to smooth out my expression.

Hank inhaled and looked curiously at my tray, asking what it was on it.  The dish was warmed to room temperature and had a nice aroma.  “It’s marinated aubergine,” I told him.

“It looks like eggplant,” he returned.

“It is,” I said, and hurriedly turned to go back to the kitchen before I got drawn into a conversation.

Too many thoughts competed for attention in my head.  I had just seen my grandmother in the arms of a man I’d sort of had a crush on up until recently, when he rejected my affection.  He was a good deal older than me — Dabney Daniels was practically Father Time.  But he was a lot younger than Granny Fanny just the same.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but maybe that was irrelevant since Granny told him the bank was closed.  Although she had kissed him back…

Detective Daniels was the focal point of my thoughts, but not because I saw him trying to make Granny into his blue serge. What was really troubling me was seeing the copper sneaking around with that majordomo, Mr. Farceur.  I’d bet anything the book I saw the butler hand Daniels was that secret journal, which Marshal Myrick hoped to obtain as evidence against the murderous gang of bootleggers!Sheik of Araby

Broad arched French doors opened from the mansion onto the large terrace.  There was plenty of room to take the shindig outside.  The paved area swept up alongside the back of the house, which overlooked the Savannah River.  Everyone worked together quickly to setup tables out there at the sudden change dictated by Mrs. Kingston.

I couldn’t blame the lady of the manor for her mood.  She had just learned her husband’s mistress would be at the party.  I hoped the“parade of pets” she pulled together at a moment’s notice brought her some happiness.  I shook my head at the
things some women were taught to put up with, and promised myself that I never would.  After all, I was a flapper, a modern woman!

A commotion at the primary doors to the terrace drew my eyes.  Queenie Wetson emerged in her dazzling flapper Joan Crawford as Queenie Wetsongown and jewels, flanked by her three “dates” who were dressed in all-white tuxedos.  She had taken the arm of a nervous looking Bishop Bradley Binghamton.  Tucking her hand into the bend of his billowy white silk shirtsleeve, she pulled the bishop along beside her.

Bishop was one of the code names we’d heard the crooks use on the radio transmission.  However, Bishop Binghamton was such a slight, unassuming looking man.  I couldn’t imagine him as a criminal.  Then the thought came to me that perhaps he was not a willing party to whatever was going on around him. He did seem like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Before they could see me, I ducked behind a large camellia bush.  Then I left the trail of stepping stones, taking a shortcut to the kitchen.  I tried to step carefully, but I blundered into the herb garden despite myself.  There weren’t any of the pretty fairy lights there, but I felt it when I stepped on a plant, and then I smelled the scent of thyme.  I stooped down to see how badly I had damaged the herb.1920s_Life_Magazine-music

Most of the party noise was still inside the Kingston mansion, with the guests only beginning to move out to the terrace.  So it was quiet enough that I heard a man muttering.  Pacing and apparently deep in thought, I saw Farceur in the shadows near the main kitchen door.  He sure was acting hinky.

Just as I was about to move on, he started muttering again.  To my astonishment, I realized he was chanting the old nursery rhyme.

Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye,

Four and twenty parrots baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,

Wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the King?

“Dainty dish…” he said.  “That strangely beautiful woman — I keep getting just a glimpse of her… There’s more here than meets the eye, no matter what anyone else believes. I’m certain of it,” Farceur mumbled to himself.

1920s Evening gownThe majordomo’s behavior surprised and mystified me.  It was bad enough that he was babbling to himself. I would have thought he had a screw loose, but his words gave me pause.  What did he say? There’s more here than meets the eye.  And he mentioned an unknown beautiful woman.  His comment was so similar to what the lovely party guest wearing the billowing chiffon gown said to me, “Not all things are as they seem.”  And she was strangely beautiful — obviously gorgeous, and strange in that it was as if she was there one minute and then she disappeared the next.

Whatever Farceur was about, he was interrupted by the housekeeper, Hortense Houston.  “Oh Mr. Farceur!  I’m so relieved to find you.  We need your expertise coordinating the guests for Madame’s parade of pets,” she told him.

For a second, Farceur was looked so distracted that he didn’t seem to know what the housekeeper was talking about.  However, he blinked and then acted more like his usual self.  The majordomo walked straight-backed, tailcoat twitching, into the mansion.

I waited until the butler and the housekeeper were inside, and then I followed 1920s Arrow couplediscreetly.  Once inside I perceived an air of uncertainty. Guests and many new arrivals with their pets — thankfully on leashes, milled around.  The shindig no longer appeared quite as elegant.  Farceur and Mrs. Houston consulted quietly for a moment, their heads close together. Then they maneuvered quickly among the partygoers.  In moments the party returned to its former posh state.

Mr. Farceur stepped to the middle of the room and tapped a spoon against a champagne flute.  It rang like a chime three times.  He had a pleasant yet authoritative air, with a vague smile on his lips.  Everyone turned attentively to learn what he would say.

“For your enjoyment, Madame has arranged a Parade of Pets. If you’ll kindly step out to the terrace, you will find tables with finger foods, along with drinks at the outdoor bar,” he said.

Nobody had to tell that group twice.  All it took was the hint of hooch, and the guests meandered outside.  I saw Hortense Houston’s dark bun bobbing among the pet owners who gravitated toward her.  That must have been what she and the butler had been mentioning to people when they mingled among the partygoers a moment before.

Rabbit Flapper magI didn’t know Granny Fanny was at my elbow until she spoke.  It startled me.  “Granny!  There is something I need to talk to you about,” I exclaimed.  “I saw Detective Daniels and that butler.  He sneaked a book to Dabney.”

“When would you have seen Dabney?” she asked; that cagy old fox.

“I know who’s under that Sheik of Araby getup,” I said, unable to keep an edge from my tone.

Granny looked at me wide-eyed, and I plunged ahead before she could assert any grandmotherly authority.  “And so does that butler!  Those two are up to something, and I don’t think it can be good,” I said.

My grandmother’s face paled.  After a moment she said, “It’s best we don’t jump to conclusions.”

She scanned the vast room and my gaze followed hers.  I knew she was looking for Dabney Daniels.  However, there was no sign of a hunched old man in sheik’s robes.  Neither was there a man among the guests that fit the general shape and size Dabney would be without the disguise.

“Moses was going to use a sheik disguise when he planned all this,” Granny said softly, and it sounded like she was thinking out loud.  “He set everything up, including a fake identity to make them believe he was making a deal with the King of Clubs.  I learned man_ray_tearshow he’d be disguised just before the ambush when his men were murdered. I didn’t think he told anyone but me and maybe his men about the disguise.  But he might have taken Dabney further into his confidence.  Moses Myrick knew I trusted Dabney…” Granny said putting her hand over her mouth.  “And he brought him into his confidence, at least to some degree… because of me.”

“Granny, you aren’t blaming yourself for anything, are you?” I exclaimed.  “The Feds knew they’d need the help of the local police if it turned into a big sting operation,” I reminded her and she nodded, looking down at her feet.

I studied the troubled expression on my grandmother’s face.  It reminded me of how I felt when I had my first doubt about Frankie back in Florida.  The pain of that betrayal and of knowing he’d been shot washed over me as if it had just happened.  It hurt me to think Granny might be feeling something similar.

“Maybe Daniels is just taking the marshal’s part in this charade,” I offered in a whisperlantern-press-joker-playing-card, because anything was better than thinking my grandmother’s heart was hurting.

“Maybe I misunderstood what I saw between him and the butler.  Applesauce! Maybe it wasn’t even Dabney under that sheik getup — after all, it was dark, and I never saw his
face.  Like you said, Granny.  We shouldn’t jump to conclusions,” I told her and the idea of mistaken identity started to appeal to me. It was perfectly plausible.

When she didn’t seem to be listening I tried to distract her from her troubled thoughts.  “By the way isn’t farceur a French word for joker?  As in ‘joker’s wild’ like Cracker keeps squawking?  What could it mean?” I asked.

My attempt to divert Granny from her thoughts fell flat.  The faraway look was still in her eyes.  “I knew he must have duties at his job,” she continued as if I hadn’t spoken.  “But it bothered the dickens out of me that he didn’t take a bigger part in the search for you that day…” her softly spoken words trailed away.

When the butler sauntered to the big front door we both watched him.  The door opened and Granny gasped.  “No!  I told her to stay away from here.  It could be dangerous.  Why didn’t they listen to me?” Granny said with a worried look.

paris Poodle postcardFor a second I didn’t know what Granny meant.  Then I saw Cotton dance through the doorway on her hind legs.  The white poodle wore a tutu made of pink toulle. Her toenails were painted a matching shade of pink and they clicked on the shining white marble floor as she pranced.  Cotton’s pirouetting display got everyone’s attention as well as a round of applause.  Veronica and Vincent Vale followed the dog into the stylish foyer.

Cinnamon Bun, the Flemish Giant rabbit thumped quietly alongside Vincent.  The veterinarian had him in a harness and leash.  The huge bunny wore a white collar and bow tie, along with a top hat that had holes cut into it from which his long ears protruded.  As Cotton bounded back to Veronica, it pulled the crowd’s attention to the bunny.  Cinnamon sat up on his back legs and was at thigh level beside Vincent, who was not a short man.  Amazed murmurs filled the room when people realized how large the rabbit actually was.

The blue of Mrs. Kingston’s gown caught my eye as she hurried to greet the Vales.  She met them warmly. It was clear that she was acquainted with the couple and was very fond of Veronica.  Mrs. Kingston carried a remarkably big housecat.  The poor thing was shaved to look like a lion.  I stepped closer so I could hear their exchange.1926 life halloweenkitty

“Vincent dear, you were so right.  It about killed me to watch them shave Marie Antoinette’s beautiful fluffy fur, but her condition has cleared up!” Mrs. Kingston told the veterinarian with obvious gratitude.  “They left her a mane, and a fluffy tip on her tail.  She actually seems rather pleased with herself.  Once she got over it that is.”

“It’s not unusual for Maine Coon cats to get that skin condition, especially in our warm weather,” Vincent told her.  “The shaved coat makes it easier to get the medicine where it needs to go.  I don’t recommend this kind of shaving except for medical reasons, but still — Antoinette is the bee’s knees,” he praised the cat who purred loudly as he scratched under her chin.

“She is a particularly calm cat, with all these dogs and other animals around,” Veronica said appreciatively, which cause Mrs. Kingston to blush like a proud parent.

“Antoinette is used to being around other animals.  She’s good with dogs, and just very lady like,” the hostess said lightly.  “She was practically nursemaid when Charlie Chilton’s Chihuahua had her pups,” she said with a nod to a rotund man.  “Antoinette loves little Chichi.”

Vincent bent to pet the cat again as Mrs. Kingston let her down.  I saw that she was 1921 July Life Dogtrained to walk on a leash, which I thought was pretty impressive.  One of the guests said precisely what I was thinking.  Mrs. Kingston chuckled.  “Yes, as long as we practice it every day, she does well with the harness and leash.  But she wouldn’t have a
thing to do with the dress I had made for her to wear tonight!”

“Antoinette’s haircut is quite striking enough rather than a costume,” Veronica assured Mrs. Kingston.

Other pet owners moved forward to greet the Vales as they all moved to the terrace.  I noticed the big man, Charlie Chilton, held the tiny Chihuahua and a big sequined sombrero.  The man dropped the hat to the floor and shouted “Ole!” at which the little dog ran circles inside the brim of the sombrero, barking as it went.  Cotton was so inspired that she did her dance again without being prompted.  Cinnamon Bun looked on stoically.

A flash of vivid color streaked the length of the terrace bearing straight at the Vales.  Vincent ducked and dropped Cinnamon’s leash.  However, the giant rabbit only moved a few feet away.  He sat up on his haunches as Cracker the Parrot flew circles around him.  Cinnamon grabbed a carrot from the parrot’s outstretched talons as the bird made another pass.  I had to wonder how many times the two friends had played that game while no humans were watching.Rabbit with tophat

When Cinnamon sat back down to gnaw the carrot, Cracker perched on his harness.
She looked rakish with a white flower in her beak.  The rabbit hopped around a bit with the parrot clinging to the harness to the delight of the spectators.  The Vales were clearly surprised by the unexpected antics of the pair.  After a moment Veronica nudged Vincent, pointing to the leash that dragged behind the bunny, and he moved to take hold of it.  When everyone applauded, Vincent made a self-conscious bow.

“It seems our entertainers had their own schedule,” Mrs. Kingston said happily.  Then, with assistance from the butler, she had all the owners and pets line up to promenade the length of the terrace.

Cracker swooped to one of the hors d’oeuvre tables and I hurried to shoo the bird away from the food.  Only then did I pay attention to the flower that she still held in her beak.  It wasn’t just a white flower.

It was a daisy.Mavis ad

“Cracker, what’s that you’ve got, sweetheart?” I said coaxingly and she fluttered onto my outstretched arm.

The parrot bumped a silver condiment bowl when she launched herself.  The container rocked wildly but the contents didn’t spill.  I breathed a sigh of relief, because the dish held red pepper.  I wouldn’t have wanted that to go up in a big sneezy puff!

“Dainty dish,” Cracker said with a whistle.

Automatically, I looked in the direction from which Cracker had flown.  She’d soared the length of the terrace.  The library was at the upper end.  That was where I’d briefly seen the beautiful dark haired woman in the diaphanous chiffon gown.  Suddenly I felt that odd chill again, as well as the nausea that came with it.

“Pip, what is it?” Hank Hertz asked.

I hadn’t realized he was near.  All I could do was hold up the daisy.  He looked at me like I was loony, and rubbed that silly skinny red mustache.

1920s Mystic Mag“Let me get you a glass of water,” Hank offered and pulled me toward a white wrought iron chair.

Cracker hopped to my shoulder as I lowered my arm.  She ran her beak down a strand of my hair, her avian gesture of concern.  Then the parrot looked toward a small area just behind us, where a paved trail led to a birdbath and a flower bed.  The fairy lights illuminated the spot but no one was there.  However, as Cracker looked at it, she bobbed her head excitedly and squawked, “Dainty dish, dainty dish!”

“What’s the parrot carrying on about?” Alastair asked, having left his table to see what was happening.

“You got me,” Hank told him.  “I don’t see a thing over there.  Do you?”

A mischievous glint came to Alastair’s eyes. “You know… animals can see things that humans can’t see,” he commented.

“What do you mean?” Hank asked, taking the bait so quickly that I had to shake my head. I was sure Alastair was about to get one over on Savannah’s youngest policeman, disguised as a redheaded waiter though he was.Vintage magician poster

“Spirits and things,” Alastair told him in a very serious tone.  “Di fu ling, earth bound spirits,” he said.  “You know — ghosts,” he added upon seeing Hank’s blank expression.

The merriment that lit the young restaurateur’s eyes quickly disappeared.  His shoulders twitched beneath his waiter’s white tuxedo jacket as if a chill went down his spine.

“When a di fu ling is near, people who are sensitive to spirits get a cold chill.  Sometimes they get sick to their stomachs… like has been happening to Pip tonight,” he said raising one eyebrow as he studied my face.

I was beginning to think Alastair was serious about this spirit business.

Loud, shrill yapping cut through all the party sounds.  Chichi the Chihuahua tried to chase Mrs. Kingston’s cat, Marie Antoinette.  I expected the cat to hiss at the dog, but the incongruous difference in their sizes was in the cat’s favor.  It seemed almost like Antoinette was amused that the tiny dog would even try to provoke her.  Antoinette really did look like a lion standing near the Chihuahua.  The cat gave a disdainful lash of her tail.  With a leap she pulled free of Mrs. Kingston and chased the dog.

I reminded myself that Mrs. Kingston said the two animals were playmates.  The cat 1920s Catering Menu-1could have caught the dog easily if she’d wanted to, and there was nothing in her posture that suggested aggression.  Bemused, I realized Antoinette truly was playing with the dog.

Cotton jumped excitedly into the game, ignoring Veronica’s dismayed demand that she sit.  The Main Coon chased the Chihuahua and the poodle chased the Main Coon in a circle around the feet of the astonished Mr. Farceur.  Then the cat spun around and proceeded to chase both dogs down the length of the terrace.

When I stood up, I spotted Granny talking to the bent-over man in sheik’s robes. She must have felt that she was being watched, when she looked covertly over her shoulder, because she started to act as if she was pointing out the food tables, just assisting a party guest.

The commotion of the animals was too much to ignore and I reflexively returned my gaze to that chaos.  That’s when I saw Queenie Wetson and her three white clad men.  They all stepped out onto the terrace just as the animal chase came by.  The dogs barreled right into them.1923 Evening Shoes

Multiple feet went into the air.  One of Queenie’s rhinestone encrusted shoes spun skyward.  The four people went down in a tangle of arms and legs as the two dogs seemed to run right under them.  The cat leaped over the group as the humans hit the ground.  None of it did anything to slow the momentum of the trio of pets as they careened straight at the table where Alastair, Hank, and I stood.

I looked in helpless horror at the silver dish of red pepper…

The poodle pounced onto the table, scattering all the carefully arranged appetizers.  Cracker glided over to Cotton and I remembered they time those two cavorted and ran into Hank’s radio equipment.  They were already friends.  The parrot flew over the poodle and whistled, “Bad bird, bad bird!” but she sounded more like she was encouraging the poodle than admonishing her.1924 Red Pepper mag

Somehow the tiny dog got up onto the table top, and the Chihuahua ran from one end of the table to the other, careening into all manner of dishes, and Queenie and her men, just as they were getting up off the ground.  They went back down in a heap and Cinnamon bounded to a safer spot.

I never saw how it happened.  Time slowed like a movie projector running down.  I watched light reflect off the polished silver condiment bowl as it sailed high into the air.  Amazingly, it flipped all the way over without spilling a bit.  One time anyway.  It flipped again and a puff of fine red powder burst into the air.  The cloud of red pepper settled on the Queen of Clubs and her henchmen…

***

Be sure to come back next time.  There are still mysteries to reveal!

Recipe:  Broiled Eggplant with Capers and Mint

Recipe credit:  Yummly.com

Ingredients

1 pound thin Italian or Asian eggplants (2 to 3), cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

1/4 cup chopped mint

2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed

 

Method:

Preheat broiler. Arrange eggplant in 1 layer on a large baking sheet and brush both sides with 2 tablespoons oil (total). Broil about 4 inches from heat, turning once, until golden, 8 to 12 minutes total.

Stir together vinegar, mint, capers, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and remaining 3 tablespoons oil and toss with warm eggplant. Marinate at least 20 minutes.

Marinated eggplant can be made 1 day ahead and chilled. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Yield:

Makes 4 appetizer-size portions

 ***

Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

Three Ingredients – 23: Seaweed Sheets, Rice, Sesame Oil

Fish Episode 23

Welcome back! Can you tell that I’m excited about this episode?  The ingredients for this episode are from Willy Nilly, writer of the blog Willy Nilly To and Fro ~ The Philosophy of Inanity.  However, there’s nothing willy-nilly or disorganized about the stories and posts you’ll find there.  I hope you’ll pay a visit to Willy Nilly’s blog.  I think you’ll be glad you did.

I’ll go ahead and tell you that the Three Ingredients serial does not end with this episode.  But my writing “crystal ball” tells me that we are very close to a conclusion.  However, I think I have a couple of surprises for you.  Plus something I’ve had up my sleeve for a long time finally wriggled free and onto the page.  Oooh, I really hope I’m going to surprise you with that one!  I wish I could see your faces.

Without further ado, here is Episode-23.  Bon appétit!

23.  Seaweed Sheets, Rice, Sesame Oil

“Pip, did you see the dry roasted salted seaweed sheets when you unpacked things in theSessue_Hayakawa_as Alastair kitchen?” Alastair asked.  “I need them for the sushi rolls.”

Alastair had introduced me to sushi when I first got to Savannah.  To my surprise I liked it, but I was still feeling queasy so I wasn’t so keen on being around for its preparation.  The young restaurateur had been super particular about exactly what kind of seaweed sheet he wanted.  Maybe if we couldn’t find the sheets he would settle for the cleverly made rice balls he was arranging. Alastair formed them so that they were mostly round, but each one had a simplified animal shape.  They were so adorable it made me smile just to look at them.

“Do you feel steady enough to stand at the table and serve while I go to the kitchen and check?” he asked with open concern on his face.

He added that so far the party guests were greeting one another and had not moved toward the tables where we arranged the foods from Granny Fanny’s Goodies.  Really, everybody was Harper-s-Bazaar-August-1920making too much of the little spell I had in the library. I felt better practically as soon as I got out of that room.  I promised Alastair that I was fine and shooed him toward the kitchen.

A woman in a stylish blue gown stood talking to a small group of guests. Their clothes looked expensive but somber.  The clothes of his office set Bishop Bradley Binghamton apart from the rest of that group.  He was a slight man wearing a long vest over a white silk shirt with billowy sleeves. A heavy gold cross hung from his neck.  The cross pendant almost seemed too heavy for him, as if the large jewelry weighted him down. Niven as Binghamton

My thought seemed preposterous as I watched the slender man.  Could he really be the Bishop from the gangsters’ code names?  After all, he was a real bishop.  He looked so quiet and peaceful as he stood listening to the people around him.  How could he be one of the gangsters. There must be another explanation, another Bishop.

It was a truly sophisticated party, unlike anything I had ever experienced.  There had been some fancy parties during my brief stay at the Ringlings’ gilded mansion, Ca’ d’ Zan. Glorious though those parties were, they did not match the elegance of the reception at 420 Kingston Lane.

A maid in a dressy black uniform stood peering between the lace curtains at one of the palladium windows on the front side of the house.  She motioned excitedly to the woman in blue.  The woman’s confidant manner told me that she was the hostess, Mrs. Kingston.  I saw her catch the butler’s eye and take a breath as if to call to him.  However, Farceur anticipated her wishes and strode to the front door, his black tailcoat moving gracefully as he walked.

1920s_Life_Magazine-musicThe butler ushered in a man who was somewhat stooped with age.  I imagined he was tall and strong when he was young.  He had a very deep tan that was in contrast to his thick white hair and beard, but that was far from the most unusual thing about him.  He didn’t look like Valentino, but he was dressed like the Sheik of Araby!  He also wore spectacles with yellow tinted lenses.

“The ambassador…” I whispered to myself. He must be that ambassador who was such a big deal to the hosts of the reception.  I watched as Farceur greeted the man.  I noticed that the butler looked at him intently, closely, even suspiciously.  I was quite intrigued by the way the major domo reacted to the ambassador.  However, Mrs. Kingston greeted the elderly man effusively, pushing the butler away.

The old man returned the courtesy of the hostess in a gravel voice.  Standing so far away, I could barely make out what he said, but it was something about being pleased to meet her.  So they weren’t old friends after all. Maybe the ambassador’s importance lay in a business deal that Kingston hoped to make.

Could this ambassador be the King of Clubs? The thought sprang suddenly to my mind.  No.  Surely not.  Wouldn’t he call himself a sheik or a sultan or something?  But then, he probably wouldn’t be the one who made up the code names for the bootleggers. However, my pondering was interrupted.

“Young lady, I heard one of Mrs. Peabody’s people wasn’t feeling well.  I take it that was you,” a 1920s Arrow tuxwell-heeled looking older man said in a solicitous voice.

I gaped in astonishment because he looked so much like the portrait of Henry Kingston.  His jaw had a softer line and his graying hair suggested a darker shade in youth than that of his ancestor.  I nervously excused my rudeness for staring, and commented on the portrait and the resemblance.

The shindig’s host sure was a talker.  He took my elbow and steered me to a sofa, despite my protest that I was manning the hors d’oeuvre table.  He chatted away. I was uncomfortable with how close he sat to me, plus he was one of those people who leaned in when they talk to you. That’s when I realized that he’d already had at least one martini.

It was an awkward predicament.  I admit that I’ve never been good at knowing for sure whether men were flirting with me unless something overt happened. So I tried to be polite, and my brain raced for a way to extract myself from the too friendly host.

“Yes that’s a portrait of ‘The King’ as they called my father,” he said with a motion toward the study, or library as he called it.

“But wasn’t he the first and you’re the third?” I couldn’t help asking, though I knew I shouldn’t say anything to encourage him to hang around.

“Oh, that was some foolishness on my parents part, and they left me spending my life explaining it,” he said with a wave of his hand.  “Henry II died as an infant. You know how that 1920s Judge Hourglasshappens so many times with newborns, though not quite as often as it once did, and the poor parents never understand how it came to pass,” he said with a dour expression.  He paused, probably for breath after that long sentence.  I nodded and he continued.  “So later, when I came into the world they saddled me with the confusing moniker of Henry III.”

That bossy major domo walked up and cleared his throat, looking at me accusingly.  I’d have him know that I didn’t work for him! But before I could say anything he cast a dramatic look toward the hors d’oeuvre table and I saw that I had my chance to exit.  Maybe he wasn’t such a creep after all.  I excused myself, but Henry III quickly grabbed my wrist as I stood.

“Sir,” Mr. Farceur leaned down and spoke softly, making it seem that what he had to say was important and required Kingston’s personal attention. “Madame made a change to the evening’s plans.  We will need help from all the serving staff, including this young woman, if you can spare her?” he ended the sentence with a tone that was just questioning enough to be respectful.

I moved half a step away, thinking I was free, but the old bugger still had ahold of my wrist. Farceur’s eyebrows went up minutely.  Kingston asked him to explain. I got the impression that he and his wife might not get along so well, and when he added “What has she come up with now?” I was sure.

“A pet parade, Sir,” Farceur said drolly. “Madame has contacted whomever she could and asked1915 Life January them to bring their animals… in fancy dress.  So she has prudently instructed that most of tonight’s event shall be held on the terrace.”

“Dogs and what-not in costumes!  Why the devil would she do such a thing?” Kingston exclaimed, and he jumped half out of his skin when his wife suddenly spoke from behind him.

“If your pet is going to show up, then everyone should be allowed to bring theirs,” she said acidly.

Oh, there was definitely marital discord at 420 Kingston Lane!  As if on cue the front doors flew open.  A man in an all-white tuxedo rolled out a bolt of shimmering gold cloth onto the marble floor. Then he bowed deeply as a cluster of people came through the door, walking on the fabric.  The partygoers stood in open mouthed silence as two more men in white tuxedos entered arm-in-arm on either side of a woman in a golden beaded flapper gown. The moment I saw the glitter of the ostentatious tiara she wore, I knew her identity.  Queenie Wetson.

“However, it looks like you need a leash for your pet,” Mrs. Kingston said with a sneer and turned on her heel.  She went back to a small group of guests who clustered protectively around her and pointedly ignored the newcomer.Joan Crawford as Queenie Wetson

Yes, Queenie had beguiled Kingston all right. I expected the woman could easily manipulate him.  Judging by the smitten look on his face, Kingston would do anything for her.  I was sure he danced on her strings whenever she wanted.  “Applesauce!” I thought.  If Kingston was her puppet, then the Queen of Clubs might also be the King of Clubs!

Farceur stepped in front of me as if he was about to walk forward and greet the woman. The three men acted subservient to her and Farceur appeared to dismiss them as if they in fact were servants.  However, he stopped midstride.  As I peeped around the butler I saw that the three men in white evening wear looked like they were uncomfortable in their own skins.  Wearing the glad rags didn’t come naturally to those thugs. The Queen of Clubs moved toward us.  The beaded fringe of her gown swung as her hips provocatively swayed.Black Butler 1

“You’d be well advised to make yourself scarce,” Farceur turned and whispered to me through his clenched teeth.  “It’s best that she does not see you.”

Anxiously I cleared my throat.  “I umm… I have to get the sesame oil.  I forgot to put it on the table earlier,” I turned to Kingston and babbled the first excuse that popped into my head.  However, nobody noticed what I said.  Kingston was mesmerized by the woman.  He let go of my wrist as if he had lost the feeling in his hand, and his arm dropped to his side.

Though I only saw her for an instant, Queenie Wetson struck me as one bad customer, a real piece of work. Instinctively I wanted to get as far away from her as I could.  It crossed my mind that it was odd that I’d feel that way.  I was truly my grandmother’s granddaughter and like Granny Fanny, I wasn’t too easily intimidated.  Yet despite the fact that I had never even met this woman, she unnerved me.

Or at least I didn’t think I had met her.  There were still some big holes in my memory – especially when they found me at Wetson’s Mill, which was also the location of the Queen of Clubs Herb Farm.  I woke up in a cellar, and managed to climb out.  Shortly afterward Alastair found me and summoned the others who were also searching for me.  Otherwise, that entire day was a blank.

1920s Catering Menu-1At any rate I thought it would be prudent to find Granny Fanny and ask about the sudden change Mrs. Kingston made, wanting to have a “parade of pets” out on the terrace.  I decided to go out through the kitchen.  I saw Alastair there.  He still hadn’t found the special seaweed sheets.  He got permission to use the house phone and called his mother asking her if she could send more.

Arabella Wong’s excited voice reached my ears.  She would bring them herself, just to come to the party.  The Kingstons didn’t seem like the stuffy type to me, and the Wongs were established members of the community.  They’d likely invite her to stay.  Alastair didn’t seem too pleased at the prospect of his mother being there.  Alastair knew the evening might turn out to be dangerous.  He tried to warn Arabella off without breaking the secret, but he didn’t seem to be getting through to her.

The evening really could get dangerous with all those gangsters around. I reminded myself that they weren’t just bootleggers, they were killers.  Marshal Moses Myrick had planned to turn this reception into a sting operation to catch the gangsters, but then he and his men were ambushed.  The marshal was critically wounded, and still not able to get around. However, he was the lucky one. His men were killed.

Then Granny got it into her head to at least try and get the evidence Myrick hoped to find at the vintage queen of the mayKingston estate.  He believed Kingston kept an incriminating journal of some kind.  However, I was pretty sure the journal was what Farceur removed from the safe while I hid under that massive desk in the library.  So even if we got the chance to sneak back into the room without the butler seeing us, I didn’t think we’d find anything inside the safe hidden behind the portrait of Daisy the Dainty Dish.

The main kitchen door opened and in came a harried looking Eunice Udall. She carried several bellhop uniforms.  It turned out that Mrs. Kingston wanted the servants who were going to help with the pet parade to change into a different uniform.  The bellhop outfits were the only thing Eunice could come up with on such short notice.

I apologized to Eunice for having been in such a rush earlier.  “Oh it’s all right dear,” she said.  “I’m glad my assistant was able to help you.  I was just confused because… What was the name you used? Doris?  Anyhow the girl’s name is Annie.  Actually, I had just discussed the job with her that morning.  I didn’t realize she was in the shop while you were.”

With a blink I repeated, “Annie?”  I wondered why Daisy would give me a different name.  Though we only spoke for a moment, I felt like the girl and I could be friends.  So it bothered me that she would call herself Daisy if her name was Annie.  Maybe there was some mistake.  Eunice was in a rush, and I knew I shouldn’t bother her, but I had to ask.  “A dark haired girl wearing tomboy clothes?” I asked.

Eunice looked at me strangely.  However, Hortense Houston, the housekeeper, pulled Eunice and the bellhop uniforms away.  I still needed to talk to Granny about the outdoor tables so 1920s Vogue postershrugged it off.  I went outside by a small side door.

A stone path led upward through a garden of mature camellias and dwarf palmettos.  I could see lights from the library window at the top of the hill.  Tiny fairy lights were strung all around the estate, so it wasn’t too hard to walk on the path, despite the cloud that blocked the moonlight.

As I rounded a corner I saw a party guest in the shadows. She reclined on a lounge chair on the terrace outside Kingston’s library.  Her beautiful chiffon gown billowed in an evening breeze that stirred her dark hair.

“Not all things are as they seem,” she turned to me and whispered.  Though I could not see her well in the near darkness, I could tell that she put a finger to her lips as if for quiet.  Then she looked pointedly to one side.  I followed her gaze and saw something white move.  Squinting into the dim light, I realized there were two people. They were a short distance down the path, obscured by all the bushes and crape myrtles trees.

Then movement from above drew my eyes.  Cracker sat in the branches of a flowering tree.  The parrot gave a soft whistle when she saw me looking.  “Dainty Dish!” she chirped.

My eyes widened and I whirled to face the dark haired woman, but she was gone.  Could she have been the Daisy I met earlier?  I looked back up at Cracker questioningly.  The parrot bobbed her head up and down and turned in a circle on the branch. Parrot Pin

Cracker looked toward the two people who were farther into the shadows on the unlit path.  It seemed almost like they were struggling.  Concerned, I quietly stepped closer.  The white I saw before turned out to be the white haired old man in sheik’s clothing, the ambassador.  He didn’t look like a stooped old man any more, as he held a woman in his embrace.

He leaned in to kiss her and she resisted.  That’s when I got worried.  So I turned onto that path, ready to help if necessary.  I heard the gentle swoosh of Cracker gliding from branch to branch behind me.  It was a truly passionate kiss that the woman resisted. Or rather, she resisted it for a moment before she started kissing him back.

I stopped in my tracks.  If there was nothing wrong, I wouldn’t want to interrupt.  As I hesitated the evening breeze pushed a cloud away from the moon, shedding light on the couple.  Granny?  Why she truly was a flapper at heart. I couldn’t help smiling.  I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, so I turned to go back the way I’d come.  However, Cracker noisily flew toward my grandmother and the ambassador.Sheik of Araby

I ducked behind the camellias so they wouldn’t see me, but I could still see them pretty well.  When the parrot swooped in on Granny and the ambassador, the bird knocked his yellow glasses aside.  He stood up straight and tall and exclaimed, “Cracker!”

How would a foreign dignitary know the parrot’s name?  The voice was not the gravely accented voice he’d used earlier.  I recognized that voice, and without the spectacles I knew the face despite the white hair and beard.  That was no ambassador and it wasn’t even an old man.  It was Detective Dabney Daniels!

“Don’t be mean to the poor bird,” Granny said.  “She did us a favor.  I can’t believe I just now gave in.  How many times have I told you that it just isn’t right?  You have a full life ahead of Mavis adyou. I’d be wrong to let you love an old woman like me.”

“Fanny,” Daniels said and some of the gravel that had been part of his disguise-voice returned.  “You are no old woman.  You’re just older than I am.  And that doesn’t bother me a bit,” he said and pulled her closer.

“Be serious Dabney.  Paisley would be a much better match for you,” my grandmother told the detective.  “It’s better for you to be ten years older than Pip than for me to be closer to fifteen years older than you.”

“Why do you worry about which direction the age difference is in?” he asked, and it had the ring of something he’d probably said before.  “If it’s all right for me to be older than her, then why is it wrong for you to be older than me?”

Granny leaned her head into his shoulder.  I thought she might be hiding her tears, or muffling a sob.  She shook her head then looked up into Dabney’s eyes.  “Don’t you see?  Twenty years from now, Pip would be married to a distinguished older man.  That’s what they call men when they begin to show signs of age — distinguished.”

She pulled back from him, though he still held her tightly.  “But with me being older…  Well, women aren’t referred to as distinguished.  Women just get old.  So not even twenty years from now… just ten or even five years from now, I’d be much older than you.  Much…  And the older people get the more rapid aging becomes.  Don’t you see?” Granny Fanny implored.  “You are dear to me and I would love you as a son-in-law.  But that would be all,” she added with a note of finality.Lucille Ball teenaged 1

“There is no substitute, no matter how much Pip seems like a younger version of you,” he said.  “I like the girl.  I’m actually very fond of her.  But you hold my heart in the palm of your hand Fanny.”

I plopped down on the cold stone of the path.  My grandmother?  All the time I had been infatuated with Dabney Daniels, he had been in love with my grandmother?  Granny?  I was stunned.  It was more than my poor noodle could process.  Rustling sounds told me the couple had parted.  I heard Granny moving toward the kitchen path, and Dabney went another way.

Cracker flew back and perched near me on a low branch.  As she had done once before, the parrot leaned close and took a strand of my bobbed hair in her beak.  It was as if she meant to preen my feathers to comfort me.  I just didn’t have any feathers, so she gently pulled at my short hair.  I don’t know how long I sat there on the stone path.  I would have been happy for Granny if I hadn’t been so shocked.  Or if I had known about Dabney’s feelings for her from the beginning.

With a sigh I told myself that I knew now, so I might as well accept it.  I already had known for a while that Dabney wasn’t interested in me.  And it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as when I’d found out Frankie the fireman was betraying all of us back in Sarasota, Florida.

I stood a little stiffly.  Then I dusted off the back of my wide legged black crepe waiter’s pants.  I was close to the library doors and I wondered if they were unlocked.  I’d rather not be seen 1920s Peoples home journal girl parrotcoming into the kitchen from the outside.  I didn’t want Granny to know I had seen her and Dabney.  They shared a private moment that was not meant for me.  I didn’t want to intrude on it any more than I already had.

As I started to move, Cracker darted to perch on my shoulder.  The parrot bobbed her head excitedly.  I looked at the library where light streamed from an opening door.  Farceur stepped out from the door and was met by Detective Daniels, still wearing his ambassador disguise.

The two men spoke too softly for me to know what they said.  As the butler moved the tails of his tuxedo twitched.  He reached into his jacket and withdrew a book which he discretely handed to Daniels.  The book disappeared into the folds of the opulent sheik’s robes the detective wore.  More words were exchanged.  They seemed to reach an agreement.  Then the two men parted and went back inside by different doors.

“What just happened?” I whispered more to myself than to the parrot on my shoulder.

Cracker tugged a strand of my hair. Then she whistled.

“Joker’s wild!”

***

Next week, CB at “Better Dressed than Joe” provides the ingredients.  Who can guess what chaos will ensue with the “pet parade.”  Not to mention that the Queen of Clubs is on the scene.

I’ll leave you with a video related to Willy Nilly’s ingredients.  See you next time.

Hugs,

teagan

Video: Making Sushi California Roll At Home

Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

 

 

Three Ingredients – 22: Black Olives, Mascarpone, Thyme

vintage queen of the mayHello everyone,

This vintage illustration of a “Queen of the May” from a bygone day immediately made me think of Daisy, “the dainty dish” mentioned in our previous episode. She has the ethereal beauty of a romantic heroine. The image popped up in a timely way too, because the ingredients for today’s episode were provided by a dear friend who is a romance writer.cowboybossandhisdestiny_med

Yes, author Mary J. McCoy-Dressel sent this set of ingredients. She has so many books both published and in-progress that I lose count.  (Do you hear a bit of awe in my voice?) One of my favorites is called Cowboy Boss and his Destiny. I hope you’ll visit Mary’s site and learn more about her books.

In an unrelated aside, those of you who know me well, are aware that something (in my non-blogging life) didn’t go as I had hoped this week. I’m still in search of a path to a dream… and as usual, wandering the dark forest of life without a flashlight!  🙂

However, maybe this episode will shed some light on the mysteries that all of your ingredients have facilitated. This is a true “panster” story — each ingredient gives a glimmer to light the path the serial takes.  Remember that you are welcome to leave “three ingredients” for a future episode in the comments.

Parrots_Episode-22

Will Pip and Granny Fanny get a chance to see what’s in that safe behind the painting of the late Daisy?  Or will that bossy butler, Mr. Farceur, stick his nose into things again?  Is it just a coincidence that that his name seems to mean “Joker” — the same as one of the gangster code names?  Maybe we’ll find out today. This episode will provide something of a recap of the several mysteries that have to be worked out before the storyline ends.

Bon appétit!

22.  Black Olives, Mascarpone, Thyme

Voguecover_Nov 1920I shivered from a sudden chill, and I felt queasy too.  As I lay on the rug, pretending unconsciousness in case anyone else happened to look, a few things went through my mind.  First I realized the sad look in the eyes of the Daisy in the portrait was the same expression I had seen earlier that day — but those melancholy eyes had belonged to Daisy the young seamstress at Eunice’s Uniforms.  And she had used the phrase “dainty dish” as well.  It was just too much to be a coincidence… Wasn’t it?  The cold sensation ran down my spine again.

Granny had told me to fake a swoon, as an excuse for us being in the off-limits library.  However, after I thought about it, I hadn’t heard anybody except that bossy major domo, Mr. Farceur, say it was forbidden.  If my name had been Alice, and I had gone “through the looking glass” I would have described the butler as curiouser and curiouser. Since I my prone position gave me a close-up view of the luxurious Persian rug, I kept an eye out for blue caterpillars and door mice, just in case.King of Clubs card

The sound of a woman’s shoes clicking on the parquet floor just outside interrupted my whimsy.  Before he stalked out of the room, the butler sent for Hortense Houston, the housekeeper, so that would be her.  I hoped she wasn’t suspicious.  I also hoped that I got another chance to see what was behind the painting of Daisy the Dainty Dish.  Surely it must hide a safe, maybe the safe where the King of Clubs kept the incriminating ledgers that Marshal Myrick suspected were somewhere in the huge house.

Cracking one eye open I could see the tall painting behind the massive desk.  It was of the man who made the fortune that allowed the beautiful estate to flourish, Henry Kingston.  Both my eyes 1920s Arrow tuxpopped wide open. Henry Kingston! Until that moment, I had been unable to remember the name of our host — Henry Kingston III.  Then I remembered that I was supposed to be unconscious and shut my peepers tightly.

However, the King of Clubs didn’t necessarily have to be Henry Kingston.  Earlier, Alastair said everybody called the man in the portrait “the king,” but that was maybe a hundred years ago.  I figured that it was most likely that the current Kingston was the King of Clubs, but I was trying to keep an open mind.

My memory flashed to the unexpected radio transmission Hank picked up. Oh, that was good, I thought.  Had another hole in my memory just been filled?  I remembered the voice of the Joker, but with the imperfect quality of the sound coming over the radio, I still couldn’t be sure if it had been Farceur’s voice.  It might have been his voice… But it could have been someone else’s too.  I sighed, and Granny whispered “Stay down.”

I wished the other holes in my memory would suddenly and miraculously heal.  A few things had come back to me since I was Harper-s-Bazaar-August-1920attacked and drugged at the Queen of Clubs Herb Farm out at Wetson’s Mill, but nothing about that day.  Not who attacked me; not what I might have seen on my way to the farm; not even what I had for breakfast that morning.  The entire day was a blank.

Seeing me sprawled on the floor, the housekeeper exclaimed, “Oh my heavens!” as she walked into the library, carrying the smelling salts.  Granny assured Mrs. Houston that I would be fine, that it was just a little bout of the vapors.  Honestly — as if I were some shrinking violet…  The vapors, Granny?  Applesauce!

“Paisley dear, can you hear me?” Granny asked, and I knew she was warning me to keep up the act. Then I heard her open the little bottle of smelling salts and she waived the noxious potion under my nose.  I thought the smell would take off the top of my head, but at that moment it wasn’t much of a challenge for me to act bewildered and woozy.

While I pretended to struggle into consciousness, I chanced a look at Hortense Houston.  She seemed to be a kind hearted woman.  Her brunette hair was tied into a neat bun.  She had the darkest eyes I’d ever seen, like shining black olives, but there was compassion in her gaze.

While Granny Fanny waived the bottle at me again (which by the way was just plain mean) the housekeeper walked to a gleaming brass bar set that was in the corner of the room.  She picked up a crystal decanter and poured some water onto a white linen napkin and told me to hold it under my chin if I felt nauseas. Then she and Granny knowingly exchanged a few words of wisdom about me and my delicate constitution.  Then the housekeeper went back about her business.  She wasn’t 1920s Faintconcerned about leaving us in the room the way Mr. Farceur was.

Anyhow, the faint may have been faked, but I honestly did feel a little wobbly. So I was grateful for Granny’s arm around me as she steered me out of the study.

“It might be a while before we’re able to get back in there,” Granny Fanny whispered and I nodded silently.

Alastair was arranging an assortment of Italian cheeses on one of several tables that would soon be laden with delicious food from Granny Fanny’s Goodies.  Wong’s Chinese was Alastair’s family restaurant, but he had a broad knowledge of cuisine that extended far beyond Chinese food.  He was expecting a slow night, so he left the running of his own establishment in the capable hands of his immediate family and was helping Granny Fanny with the big reception, her first significant catering job.1920s Shanghai night

His attention was fixed on making an artful presentation, and he barely glanced up when we came into the room.  “Miss Fanny, should we put out any serving utensils for spreading the mascarpone?” Alastair asked, but then concern painted his face when he took in my appearance.  “Pip?  Are you sure you’re okay?  Here, let me make a plate for you.  I remember that you liked the mascarpone,” the young restaurateur offered.

I shook my head — cheese in my queasy stomach did not seem like a good idea. I assured Alastair that I’d be fine, but I needed to sit down for a minute.  He was quick about pulling around a chair for me.  Before I knew it, he took the white linen napkin from me and folded around a bit of ice.  I held it under my chin, and started to feel better.  Then Granny handed me some hot tea with honey and told me to just sit still for a while.

Even before I drank the tea I started to feel more like myself.  In fact, I felt minutely better the moment I left Kingston’s library.  I stared at the closed door to the room with a mix of accusation and suspicion.  I had begun to feel chilled and nauseas the minute I walked into that room.

The sound of the doorbell drew my focus down a long marble floored hallway.  The polished surface reflected light from the Black Butler 1sconces on the walls in a way that dazzled my eyes.  Tall and trim, Mr. Farceur was dressed in a perfectly tailored black tailcoat.  He was the embodiment of confidence and elegance as he strode to the door.

The butler exchanged a greeting with an obviously wealthy man and woman.  The man wore a tuxedo and the woman’s glad rags were to die for.  She wore jewels in her hair that were doubtless custom made.  Light from the sconces glittered the yellow-green peridot stones as her head moved, and long fringe at the hem of her chartreuse flapper gown swayed as she walked.  She responded in giggling delight to some compliment that I didn’t quite hear from the major domo.

I did a double take at his next words.  He ushered in another man with a very respectful bow.  I didn’t see him do that with the rich guy.  “Bishop Binghamton,” he said.  “You honor us with your presence.  Won’t you please come inside?”

I leaned so far forward in my chair that I nearly fell out of it.  The Bishop was a dead ringer for Byron Binghamton, the owner of Binghamton’s Bijou theatre!  The theatre was where all the intrigue began.  When I first got to Savannah, Cracker the parrot’s owner, Cracker Jack Daddy, turned up dead at the Bijou, with cilantro all over his shoes.  Was this the Bishop mentioned by the Joker during that radio transmission?Alphonse-Mucha-Carnation-1898

Alastair deftly sliced goat cheese I had prepared with thyme, peppercorns, and lemon oil.  I was comfortable with that part of the event preparation — it was something I couldn’t burn!  My eyes followed Alastair’s quick hands, but my mind was still back in the library with the old portrait of a woman who was the spitting image of a girl I met mere hours earlier.

Was the Daisy I met somehow involved in Marshal Myrick’s sting plan?  Perhaps she was working secretly and he did not mention her to Granny.  Or maybe somebody told me about it, and that was one of the holes in my memory…  The continued partial amnesia was maddening!

I tried to let go of that baffling part of the puzzle and focused on the other bits.  In my mind’s eye, I spread the clues out like jigsaw pieces, irregular pointy edges and all.  I realized that most of the clues came from Cracker the parrot, except for the warnings on the playing cards.

First there was “fourandtwenty,” the phrase Cracker repeated with such excitement — and the address of the shindig was 420 Kingston Lane.  Then the parrot came up with the term “dainty dish,” which went with the portrait that concealed something, presumably a safe.

I tried not to think about the other mystery, of the Daisy I met that day being so similar to the woman in the portrait.  Maybe she was a relative.  Didn’t they say the simplest answer was usually the correct one?  I forced myself to let go of that line of thought.lantern-press-joker-playing-card

Another phrase Cracker spoke was “Joker’s wild.”  I thought about the way the parrot acted when she repeated those words.  I was certain that whoever the Joker was, Cracker did not care for that person at all.  And I was pretty sure the very unpleasant Mr. Farceur’s name meant joker.

Then I pondered the playing card code names of the bootlegger gang.  We knew Queenie Wetson was the Queen of Clubs.  Maybe Farceur was the Joker.  I still didn’t know exactly who the King of Clubs was, but it seemed likely that he was the host of the big reception and the owner of the big house in which it was held.  A needling thought reminded me that I had no evidence of that.  For all I knew the “king” was the husband of the “queen.”

My thoughts turned to that day at the Vales’ when the antics of Cracker and Cotton the poodle jostled the settings on the radio, inadvertently allowing us to realize the gangsters were spying on the police.  The man told Eight and Five to pick up Bishop and Nine.  I didn’t know who those bootleggers were, but I was sure it meant there were at least four more bad guys in addition to the Joan Crawford Queen of ClubsKing of Clubs, somewhere inside that house for the party.  Also, I had a strong hunch that Queenie Wetson, the Queen of Clubs, would not be able to resist the fancy shindig, and the men on the radio were more afraid of her than they were of anybody!

But wait… the Bishop wasn’t a playing card.  That jigsaw piece didn’t fit the puzzle I was working. I gave up that line of thinking for the moment.  I wondered if the rest of the nursery rhyme had any part in what was happening.  The words ran through my mind again.  Wasn’t there something about King Henry VIII and the Dissolution of Monasteries?

And the maid… Could that somehow be tied to Daisy the Dainty Dish?  The local story had it that she was given to “the King” as payment for a gambling debt.  The nursery rhyme said,

The maid was in the garden; Hanging out the clothes; When down came a blackbird; And pecked off her nose.

I had read that the blackbird taking the maid’s nose was seen as a demon stealing her soul.  I thought of the sad look in the eyes of the woman in the portrait and the girl in the shop.  Another chill went down my spine.

1920s Catering Menu-2Granny had said that there was no telling when we’d get a chance to sneak into the library again.  Considering how busy she was right then, there was no wonder she’d said 1920s Catering Menu-1that.  Granny moved quickly and gracefully among half a dozen food-laden tables, and back and forth from the kitchen, sometimes stopping to consult with Hortense the housekeeper.

Alastair moved skillfully, with very little direction from Granny.  Hank, with his henna treated red hair… well, Hank was working really hard, but I didn’t think he’d have much of a future in catering.  When he glanced at me he knocked a small silver serving plate off the table.  The plate landed on its edge and rolled several feet before disappearing beneath another table.  Hank ducked halfway under the table in pursuit of the plate.

Yes, Granny was too busy to do anything else.  However, Farceur was also busy ushering in one important group of guests after another.  He was even busier than Granny.  I noticed my grandmother follow the housekeeper to the kitchen.  I took a surreptitious look at the closed library door and I thought I heard the unmistakable “knock of opportunity.”  When the bossy butler moved fluidly to answer the door again, I walked nonchalantly to the library and slipped inside, softly closing the door behind me.

The painting drew me right away, just as it had the first time I saw it.  I would have been drawn to the portrait even if I had not felt the lever beneath the edge of the frame a short time earlier.  There was just something about it that compelled me to look into the sad eyes of the Dainty Dish.alphonse mucha 1

My hand lifted as if of its own volition and touched the canvas.  I shook my head, feeling almost like I had drifted off into a dream.  I moved my hand to the edge of the frame where I felt something earlier. A moment later my finger came to the small lever.  Just as I was about to press it, I heard a muffled thud followed by a clanging crash that must have been the large serving tray.  Mumbled apologies were overrun by the angry voice of Mr. Farceur.  Bless Hank! He had been watching out for me again.1922 Sat Post

I darted to the closest concealment, the massive desk.  I moved the chair the tiniest bit so I could tuck myself out of sight.  The trouble was — I couldn’t see a thing!  At the sound of the door opening, I held my breath.  Footfalls softened by the thick Persian rug, came surely across the room.  I knew it was the butler without looking, just by the confidence of his step.

At first it seemed like he was heading straight for the desk; and I was sure I’d been found out.  However, he didn’t seem to know I was in the room after all.  Farceur angled away toward the French doors that could open to the moonlit terrace.  When he didn’t open the doors I thought maybe he was going to draw the drapes.  My ears strained to hear, but there was no sound from the draperies.

It was hard to resist the temptation to peep out from my hiding place, but I knew the butler was far too alert for me to risk being seen.  A moment later I heard a soft click, followed by the sounds of subtle movements I couldn’t identify.  I was sure he had moved the painting of the late Daisy Kingston, the second wife of “the King.”

I heard the sound of paper moving, like the pages of a book turning.  Various other low noises reached my ears, and finally man_ray_tearsanother soft click.  Farceur moved rapidly across the large room.  I heard party sounds as he opened the door.  Then he closed it behind him.  Or did he?

With a shiver I stopped in mid motion. I was about to crawl out from under the desk, but what if he was still in the room.  What if he was sneaking back across the room and to the desk right then?  I froze in such an odd position that I didn’t think I could stay that way a moment longer.  I was getting cramps in one of my legs, and an especially painful one in my neck.

When the sounds of the party told me that he had opened the library door a second time, in the distance I also heard the doorbell.  I was sure Farceur would leave to answer it, but when the door closed, I was still afraid to crawl out of my hiding 1920s Style Bookplace.  By then, the cramp in my leg was so bad that I wasn’t sure I could move anyway.

As I eased out inch by inch, the desk still concealed me from most of the room.  I paused, still on hands and knees.  Maybe I could see part of the room reflected in the terrace doors.  Unfortunately, there was enough light from numerous fairy lights outside that I couldn’t tell much from the reflections on the glass.  While I hesitated, looking outside I thought I saw a bright flash of color.  I watched for a moment, but I didn’t see anything else.  Maybe it was a trick of the light.  Then I remembered overhearing someone mention fireworks.  Maybe they tested one.

I hazarded a quick peep around the corner of the massive desk.  It looked like I was alone.  I was about to stand up when movement from outside caused me to duck under the desk again.

My heart was about to beat out of my chest when I heard the sound.  It was sharp, but not loud.  Tap. Tap-tap. Tap. Tap-tap.  Wide-eyed and halfway to panic I stuck my head out and peered at the French doors. There was one more tap, and I beheld Cracker the parrot on the other side of the French doors.  She fluttered her wings and turned in a waddling circle, bobbed her head once, then gave me with what seemed like a conspiratorial wink!

“Dainty dish,” she chirped so softly that I barely heard her through the glass.  Then the parrot shook her foot and in a louder pitch she called, “Joker’s wild!”

stainge glass_parrot

***

Recipe:  Goat Cheese with Thyme, Peppercorns, and Lemon Oil

Recipe credit:  Epicurious.com

Total Time:  15 min

Servings:  6

Calories:  One serving (without baguette) contains the following: 134.12 Calories (kcal)

Ingredients:

• 1 (5.5-ounce) log soft mild goat cheese

• 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns or peppercorn mélange, cracked

• 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

• 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

• ½ small garlic clove, pressed (optional)

• Sliced baguette (toasted, if desired)

Pink peppercorns and peppercorn mélange (a mixture of black, pink, green, and white peppercorns) are available at many supermarkets

Method

Place cheese on plate; using plastic wrap as aid, shape into 5-inch round.  Sprinkle with salt, peppercorns, and thyme, and press into cheese.  Mix olive oil, lemon peel, and garlic, if desired, in small bowl.  Pour over cheese.  Serve with baguette.

 

***

Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

Photos and images courtesy of Pinterest unless otherwise stated.