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.

Three Ingredients – Stay Tuned

Perils_of_Pauline_-_1947_Poster Hello everyone, I think this is the first weekend that I’ve failed to give you a serial episode since we started this, way back with the Three Things. So I hope you will tune in next weekend to find out what is happening with Pip, Granny Fanny, Cracker the Parrot, and the rest of the 1920’s crew.

The mean Queen of Clubs is on the loose somewhere in Savannah.

The mysterious King of Clubs left his calling card with (partial) amnesiac Pip.

And there’s still that unfinished sting operation at a ritzy reception Granny Fanny has to cater.

However, the real world intruded on me… and there is a lot of mundane work for me to do this weekend. Maybe this is a good time for you to do catch-up reading of past episodes.  Click on the Three Ingredients button at the top of the page.

So please come back next weekend… Same flapper time — same flapper channel!