Three Ingredients Cookbook-1, Murder at the Bijou
Back in 1995, I developed my “Three Things” writing exercise. I’d take three completely random things and just write, in some sort of story scenario, until I mentioned all three things. A while back I had the idea to convert that exercise into a serial for my blog. To my delighted surprise, people enjoyed the Three Things Serial.
This new story, The Three Ingredients Serial, is a new incarnation of “Three Things.” It will be a sort of culinary mystery. I’m very happy to say that several readers sent “ingredients” as soon as I announced the story! I promise to write about each set of ingredients, as an episode, as I receive them.
This is the homepage for the Three Ingredients Serial. As I write episodes they will be posted individually. However, I will also keep a history of them on this page — so you can find all of the episodes at one place. That’s also how I handled The Three Things Serial.
Happy reading, and bon appétit!
Murder at the Biju — a Three Ingredients Serial
A culinary mystery with “ingredients” sent from readers everywhere.
1: Geoduck, Cilantro, Red Wine
Several cars were already parked in front of Binghamton’s Bijou Theatre for the big local premiere. I spotted an empty parking space and hit the gas to pull my grandmother’s Model-T up to the curb. The car was old as could be, but Granny babied it like a child. It looked brand new, all the way to the brightly painted yellow spokes at the wheels. As I got out I made sure the sign she tied to the car door was straight. It read Granny Fanny’s Goodies.
My grandmother had become insistent that I mend my flapper ways and at least learn to cook. Pops wasn’t about to refuse her when she decided I should leave Florida and move up to Savannah, Georgia to live with her. “Until you become a passable cook,” my father said, and it had sounded like a prison sentence. However, Savannah was a bigger city than I realized, and “Jazz Age” business was flourishing. I secretly liked the town, but it wouldn’t do to let Granny or Pops know that just yet.
As I carefully stacked containers of fortune cookies I heard someone with a faintly British accent call my name. “Over here Pip!” Alastair Wong called and waved cheerfully.
The Wongs immigrated to the United States from England. Neither he nor his parents had ever been to China, though they dreamed of visiting and faithfully passed down family recipes, like the one for the enormous clams, the geoducks. Alastair had helped the filmmaker locate an ancient and huge one that had been used in the making of the movie. Though I couldn’t imagine how they made it look so gigantic, the things were certainly ugly enough to star in a monster movie.
Alastair’s family owned the local Chinese restaurant, simply called Wong’s. His slogan proclaimed “You’re always right with Wong’s.” I hoped he was right to invest in so much advertising for this movie. The chefs at the restaurant were so busy making geoduck dishes that he’d asked Granny to handle the fortune cookies. I chuckled to myself when I thought about the “fortunes” she wrote for them.
I helped Alastair and his mother arrange the fortune cookies and the geoduck items. It actually looked inviting the way they’d prepared it. But I still couldn’t make myself take a bite… Mrs. Wong giggled at the expression on my face. At least she wasn’t offended. Soon we had the food ready for the guests of the premiere of “Night of the Killer Clam.”
People gathered around the food tables as soon as we were ready. As they chose hors d’oeuvres they joked about eating the movie’s monster villain. Then they started opening their fortune cookies and reading the carefully printed messages inside.
“Neither a whistling woman nor a crowing hen ever come to a very good end.” (Be yourself.)
“Every dog should have a few fleas.” (No one is perfect.)
“You’ll be happy as a dead pig in the sunshine.” (Don’t worry about what’s happening.)
I blushed when Alastair Wong looked askance at me. All I could do was shrug helplessly. Granny Fanny insisted on writing what she thought of as proper fortunes, though they weren’t exactly … traditionally Chinese.
Mrs. Wong, Arabella, laughed out loud, startling me. She usually had a sweet girlish giggle. Alastair rolled his eyes heavenward. At least they had a sense of humor about it.
Arabella poured goblets of red wine for us and we toasted the movie and good food. We would miss most of the film’s premiere, but Mr. Binghamton gave all of us several free passes each, so knew I could come back.
Posters of swooning a woman in the embrace of a shocked but dashing man decorated the Bijou’s entrance. A little girl looked quietly at a poster of the monster clam. Then she suddenly shrieked, pulled away from the woman who held her hand, and ran. “Flannery! Come back! Wait,” the woman called and ran after the child.
The music began inside the theatre and everyone cheered. I heard muffled dialogue, but I couldn’t make out the words. I started helping the Mrs. Wong and her son cleanup and gathered Granny’s empty cookie containers. Then I jumped when I heard loud screaming emanate from the Bijou.
“Wow! That must be some scary movie!” Alastair commented. Then a woman and a man ran from the theatre. The Wongs and I looked at one another, puzzled.
Something was clearly wrong. As I walked toward the entrance, I saw the door to the ticket booth was open. I noticed a flashlight and picked it up, as I hurried toward the commotion. Inside the theatre the screen showed what appeared to be a fifty feet tall clam, with a hundred feet long… Applesauce, I didn’t know what to call it! Something like an elephant’s trunk was slowly attacking a building.
I switched on the flashlight. A small group of people were clustered below the stage. When I drew near I noticed a trail of green bits on the floor. Between the people, I saw a pair of wingtips with the soles facing me. The green bits were all over the bottoms of those shoes — and the feet that wore them weren’t moving. I pushed my way into the circle. The man stretched out on the floor didn’t seem to be breathing. I took a mirror from my purse and held it under his nose. There was no fog from his breath. One of the people started calling for a doctor, but I was sure the man was already dead.
Soon a man with a medical bag, along with the theatre owner — Mr. Binghamton, and a policeman pushed me out of the way. I stooped down and touched my fingers to the little green bits the dead man had tracked on his shoes. I shone the light on it and sniffed. Cilantro.
2. Mandolin, Chinoiserie, Wimberries
“Now you just calm down, Sweet Pea. I know it was a terrible thing to behold, but it’s going to be all right,” Granny said as she sat me at the kitchen table. “Why you’re shakin’ like a leaf, Pip!”
When I got back to her cottage, she had already brewed tea and produced some lovely fudge as if by magic. Somehow Granny had already heard about what happened at the Bijou. She dusted an imaginary speck from the green and white gingham table cloth, and then placed a Chinoiserie tea set on the table in front of me. The dishes were done in a shade of sea green a little darker than the checks of the table cloth, and they were decorated with blue chrysanthemums.
I gazed absently at steam rising from the cup of Darjeeling tea while Granny pulled back a white ladder back chair and sat down next to me. My grandfather had made those cane bottom chairs himself. My Pops had a set of them too, except those were stained wood rather than painted white.
Tracing my finger around the rim of the teacup, I spoke without looking up. “I remember this tea set. Have you always had it?”
Granny gave me a downright wicked, mischievous smile. Then her expression turned fond and she chuckled. “Almost always. When I was a very young woman they were a gift. They were actually from Mrs. Wong’s grandfather,” my grandmother told me.
Surprised, I looked a question at her. “He was a widower. Yes, he was interested in me. Oh Pip, are you surprised that a man besides Grandpa was interested in your Granny?” she said with a smile. “If ever I was going to be attracted to an older man, it would have been Alastair Wong the elder. He was a fine man.”
Now that surprised me. But the unexpected was to be expected with Granny Fanny. She was full of surprises. I bit into one of the delicious pieces of fudge on my plate. Granny’s fudge was enough to make me forget anything upsetting. While it melted in my mouth I looked at a jar on the table. Unfamiliar handwriting proclaimed it contained wimberry preserves, with Crickhowell Cottage printed at the top of the label. I remembered Granny had a pen pal in Wales and thought it must be from her.
“So that would have been Alastair’s great-grandfather,” I said, trying to make an effort at conversation. Granny nodded with an expression of reminiscence in her light blue eyes.
She poured more tea. “Do you want to talk about it?” she asked gently, and I knew she meant the killing at the Bijou.
“I don’t know who the man was. It just seemed so strange and out of place that he had bits of cilantro all on his shoes. And I feel like there must be something wrong with me for being stuck on that thought,” I confided.
“Oh Sweet Pea,” she began. “It’s normal to get focused on some odd thing or other when something awful happens.” She paused and pursed her lower lip while she thought. My Pops said I did the same thing. “I do admit it seems odd though,” Granny said while she poured more tea into my cup.
Granny moved to the counter and began tidying up. I noticed she had dismantled her mandolin. The whetting stone was beside the newly sharpened blade. Granny always said you were more likely to cut yourself on a dull knife than with a sharp one.
Abruptly a huge thudding noise made me jump from my chair. Granny suddenly had a dishtowel in her hand with the sharpened mandolin blade held like a weapon.
Fanny’s Fabulous Five-Minute Fudge
- · 1 – 12 ounce package semisweet chocolate pieces (2 cups)
- · 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk (one-half of a 14-ounce can)
- · 1 tablespoon water
- · 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted if desired
- · 1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper; set aside. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate pieces, sweetened condensed milk, and water.
2. Microwave, uncovered, on 100% power (high) for 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 1 minute more, or until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir in nuts and vanilla. Pour mixture onto prepared cookie sheet and spread it into a 9×6-inch rectangle, or drop mixture by rounded teaspoons onto prepared cookie sheet.
3. Chill fudge about 30 minutes or until firm. Cut fudge into 1-1/2-inch squares. Makes 24 pieces
Yield 24 pieces
Prep 5 minutes; chill 30 minutes
Nutrition Facts (Fabulous Five-Minute Fudge) Servings Per Recipe 24, cal. (kcal) 112, Fat, total (g) 7, chol. (mg) 3, sat. fat (g) 3, carb. (g) 14, fiber (g) 1, pro. (g) 2, vit. A (IU) 49, sodium (mg) 11, calcium (mg) 30, iron (mg) 1, Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet
3 Chocolate, Cinnamon, Blueberries
As I stood up, I wiped chocolate from my mouth — I wasn’t so startled that I couldn’t appreciate that last bite of fudge. I opened the kitchen door, and darn if Granny (mandolin blade still held threateningly) didn’t get over the threshold ahead of me. A glance at that blade reminded me to stay on her good side.
The cottage had a wraparound porch that made the little house look a bit larger than it actually was. I followed Granny out onto the porch. Beside the kitchen door were two rocking chairs, a small table, and a tall metal cabinet. Atop the cabinet were several potted herbs. The rocker nearest the cabinet was overturned. Underneath the other rocker I saw a set of reddish, furry hindquarters.
“Cinnamon Bun! What have I told you about those herbs?” Granny Fanny admonished, shaking a finger at the fuzzy posterior as it backed out from under the chair.
“Holy Hannah!” I cried. I had been expecting a dog, but this was a rabbit. It was as big as a dog; it had to be 30 inches long. “What… Where did you get that thing?”
Granny chuckled and hugged the oversized bunny, putting her face against its obviously soft fur. “You naughty old bun,” she scolded the rabbit. “The veterinarian gave him to me. Doc Vale found him one day. Called him a Flemish Giant Rabbit. He said he never found out who owned the poor thing. So Doc fixed him so he wouldn’t go around doing what rabbits do best, you know, making more rabbits.”
“And the vet ‘fixed’ it so he couldn’t…? Applesauce, that sounds horribly painful,” I said.
“Doc says it wasn’t. Doc Vale has all sorts of unusual training. Things you don’t hear much about, like chiropractic — what he calls ‘noninvasive techniques.’ And he knows acupuncture. He says sometimes he can use acupuncture instead of using dangerous things to make the patient sleep. He said the ole bun didn’t have anything hurt but his pride.”
She fussed at the rabbit some more. “Naughty bun. I was afraid I’d never see you again.” Then she looked over at me and added, “He got out of the fence and I couldn’t find him last night.”
I bent down to peer at the giant rabbit. He had a bit of green stuck in his whiskers and I cautiously removed it. “It looks like he’s gotten into your herbs,” I said. I stood and looked up at the pots on top of the cabinet. None of them contained what I had plucked from the rabbit — cilantro. “Granny do you grow cilantro?”
“Not this year,” she answered, and then continued her story without missing a beat. “I was so taken with Cinnamon Bun that I took him in. He’s a sweet ole thing, and usually no trouble. But he’s always trying to get to my herbs. Thank goodness he hasn’t figured out how to get into the greenhouse.”
“And that’s what you named him? Cinnamon Bun?” I pondered. “Okay, I guess his fur is about the color of cinnamon and ‘bun’ because he’s a bunny.”
A man called out to us as he walked around the corner of the cottage. He wore a badge pinned to his lapel. “Are you ladies okay?” he asked. “I heard a commotion as I was coming toward the front door, so I headed on back here. Oh, I see. Cinnamon at it again? I thought I got that fence fixed for you so he couldn’t get loose.”
“Oh you can’t keep a rabbit in a fence if he really decides to get out,” Granny said. “It’s awful kind of you to help me with that sort of thing, Dabney. Don’t think it’s not appreciated,” she said, but seemed to realize it was not a social call. “What brings you, Detective Daniels? Won’t you come inside?” Granny asked.
A moment later the three of us were sitting at the kitchen table drinking tea. Granny set a large portion of fudge in front of the detective. I looked at it mournfully as the copper popped a scrumptious square into his mouth.
The detective had been making a list of everyone who was at the Bijou when the man died. I thought the guy had been bumped off, but nobody had used the word “murder” yet. The police were investigating because no one seemed to know who the man was. Granny asked if it had been a heart attack, since his death was sudden.
“The medical examiner said he choked. They took a couple of blueberries from his windpipe,” Daniels said, but he sounded doubtful.
“Miss Fanny, to be honest I don’t think so either,” the detective said as he took a sip of tea. He made an appreciative sound as he set the cup of Darjeeling on the table. “But they can’t find anything wrong with him. Except of course for being dead.”
I kept thinking about the cilantro on the man’s shoes. It still made me feel foolish, but there was just something hinky about it. Since I already felt like a sap for wondering, I asked in a roundabout way. “Was there anything… strange about him? I mean odd things on his body or in his pockets, or maybe his shoes?”
Dabney Daniels, Savannah Police detective had the nerve to laugh at me! I glared at him. “Well, was there?” I demanded, my cheeks heating.
He chuckled again and looked at Granny. “She’s definitely your granddaughter.” Then he turned to me and apologized. “No ma’am. I wasn’t at the scene, but I haven’t been told of any odd circumstances.”
I was silent for a moment, trying to decide whether or not he was being condescending. He eyed me closely and then looked down at a list on a sheet of paper. “You were there, weren’t you, young lady? I gather you saw something that didn’t seem right to you.”
He was going to think I was silly, I knew. With a sigh I placed the cilantro I took from Cinnamon Bun’s whiskers on the table and pointed. “There were bits of cilantro all over his shoes. He must have been some place where somebody was using a lot of cilantro right before he came to the theatre. Right before he died.”
I got the patronizing reaction I expected…
Recipe from a 1920 edition of the Swayzee (Indiana) Press, advertising Royal Baking Powder.
Fanny’s Royal Cinnamon Buns
2 ¼ cup flour
4 t Royal Baking Powder
1 t salt
2 T shortening
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
2 T cinnamon
4 T seeded raisins
Sift 2 tablespoons of measured sugar with flour, salt, and baking powder. Rub shortening in lightly. Add beaten egg to water and add slowly. Roll out 1/3rd inch thick on floured board. Brush with melted butter; sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon, and raisins. Roll as for jelly roll; cut into 1 ½ inch pieces. Place with cut edges up on well greased pan. Sprinkle with a little sugar and cinnamon Bake in moderate oven 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from pan at once.
4. Graham Crackers, Apples, Cream Cheese
“Part of being a good cook is learning to work with whatever you have on hand,” Granny Fanny instructed me. “You have to use your imagination in the kitchen just like you would if you were sewing a quilt or painting a picture.”
I tried not to fidget, and determined to be focused on what she was saying. I stifled a yawn. It had been a late night. To my surprise, Detective Dabney Daniels had offered to let me tag along when he went to investigate the dead man’s hotel room. I was even more surprised when Granny said it was okay for me to go with him. Maybe she wasn’t as strict as I expected, letting me go off alone with a man. But I guessed she knew him pretty well.
It was more than just tagging along. Daniels put me to work making an inventory list of everything in the man’s room. And I mean every little thing, all the way down to receipts from the diner across the street from the hotel, to various items of trash in the wastebasket. The detective still wasn’t sure who the man was, but he took some papers from the dresser drawer that he wouldn’t let me see.
The place was in a huge mess, mostly thanks to his pet. The guy had a big parrot and it had shredded a fruit basket that was on the dresser. There were bits of apples and other unidentifiable fruit everywhere. Daniels called the veterinarian to get him to take charge of the bird. However, the doctor’s wife said he was a good three hours’ drive away, for the birth of a champion thoroughbred’s foal. So I ended up taking the cranky, loud, messy parrot back home to Granny’s. At first my grandmother was horrified. Granny always complained that birds were too messy, so she’d never had so much as a budgie.
“Paisley Idelle Peabody!” Granny said in a borderline tone that snapped me back to what she was doing. “Now pay attention,” she said then suddenly sighed, stopped, and turned to face me. “Pip darlin’ you aren’t here just because I convinced your father that you need to learn to be a passable cook.”
Her expression looked a little sad and I was immediately concerned. “You’re here because I need your help, Pip. I’ve been doing odd cooking jobs, treats for parties, and things like that. It’s become a good bit to handle. Now this hoity-toity family has asked me to cater their kid’s wedding. I’ve taken on small cooking jobs, but never something that big. It’s all too much for one person, so I need you to pay attention and learn.”
Granny was the most self-sufficient person I knew. Her asking for help was a big deal. I gave her a hug. “I’m sorry Granny. I’d be pleased to help you. I promise to listen better.”
The words made her smile and she set about half a dozen items on the counter. “Now, what would you make from these things?” she asked, and I thought so hard it felt like my head would explode.
“Come on now. Don’t fret. Just relax and think about it. You have cream cheese, pepper jelly, graham crackers, a lemon, and an apple,” Granny said encouragingly.
“Well,” I began. “I could just eat the graham crackers,” I caught her glare and desperately added to that idea. “Okay the graham crackers —” I started to say but was interrupted by the afore mentioned avian.
“Cracker-cracker-cracker!” the parrot flew into the kitchen screeching. It perched on the back of a chair bobbing its head up and down in a comical way. “Cracker!” it repeated with emphasis.
I handed her a cracker, and the parrot made short work of it. “Cracker…” it said softly that time and rubbed its head against my arm.
“I did, Granny. But she knows how to open it,” I defended while I scratched the bird’s head. “Poor thing. She must have been scared to death when her master didn’t come home. The Doc said they’re real smart. I haven’t heard her say anything but cracker. Have you?” I asked and my grandmother shook her head. “I wonder if she’s traumatized?” I added.
My grandmother snorted at that idea. But the wily bird looked at Granny and gave a wolf whistle. Granny Fanny finally laughed and gave the parrot a piece of apple. “It’s too bad she can’t tell us who her master was. Back to work now. What were you about to do with the graham cr — With those things right there,” she asked, apparently hoping the bird would stay quiet if she avoided using the word cracker.
I laughed. “Maybe that’s her name. Cra —”
“Shush Pip,” Granny interrupted in a whisper.
“Ha! Okay. Ummm… they’d be better with some cream cheese on them.”
She looked at me patiently then raised her eyebrows. “Uh… I could slice that apple and rub it with lemon juice so it doesn’t turn brown. It would be good alongside the cream cheese spread graham crackers. But I’m sorry Granny. I can’t imagine how the pepper jelly works in with this.”
“Very good Pip. Very good indeed. It’d make a right nice snack to go with a cup of tea,” she said, and I couldn’t help smiling. “This pepper jelly is actually really nice blended with the cream cheese.”
I handed Cracker a slice of apple and started trying to coax other words out of her. I had the crazy idea that she might say something that would help us figure out who her late owner was. However, I was interrupted by a knock at the front door. Granny called out, “Come on in, we’re in the kitchen!”
A moment later Detective Daniels walked in with a man carrying a medical bag. “I brought Doc Vale to give the bird a check-up,” he said and introduced me to Dr. Vincent Vale.
Cracker eyed the men and bobbed her head. She made a cooing sound and then another wolf whistle. “Hey baby! Who’s your daddy?” the parrot wriggled her tail feathers and asked our visitors.
I thought Granny would faint.
Homemade Graham Crackers
5. Butternut Squash, Olive Oil, Cracked Black Pepper
Cracker the parrot was very excited — either that or she was upset. I wasn’t sure which. She seemed to take to the veterinarian, Doc Vale. Then she fluttered up to Detective Daniels and perched on his shoulder, and I could have sworn she had a vindictive look in her eyes.
I gasped when the bird nipped at Dabney’s ear, leaving an angry looking red mark. I wondered if she resented him; if seeing him come “home” when her master did not come back caused her to associate the detective with the still unknown man’s absence.
When Dabney Daniels dislodged the bird she turned over a pitcher of water, which splashed to the blue and white tile floor. Cracker flapped all around the kitchen, and it seemed like there were colorful wings everywhere. The detective stumbled backward, knocking Vincent Vale to the floor. The veterinarian and the detective both slipped several times on the glassy floor as they tried to get back to their feet.
In all the commotion, a canister of cracked black pepper was spilled and everyone took turns sneezing. Everyone, that is, but the parrot. I swear she looked smug about it. Granny Fanny’s eyes bulged at the mess, and then she closed them and counted to ten. When she opened her eyes, she calmly walked across the kitchen, and uncorked a tall dark green bottle.
I grinned, thinking that must be where Granny kept her hooch. But I was wrong. She carried the bottle over to the detective and made to daub some of its contents on the painful looking red mark Cracker left on his ear. “It’s just olive oil,” she said when he drew away from her. When the tall detective relaxed, granny reached up and gently rubbed the oil into the inflamed spot.
“There now. That wasn’t so bad was it?” she chided mildly. “It’ll reduce the bruising. It should help it heal faster too.”
Once the parrot calmed down, Doctor Vale gave her a medical examination. He pronounced Cracker to be in good health. Then to our astonishment, he said she was about forty years old. “Parrots live a long time,” he explained. “They need a serious, long term commitment from their owners. Cracker,” he said taking my name for the bird, “is a Macaw. She might live to the ripe old age of 95.”
“Applesauce!” I exclaimed. “She’s already forty, but might still outlive me.” I scratched the good spot at the back of her head and Cracker leaned into the scratching.
“Paisley Idelle Peabody!” Granny said in a warning voice. “Don’t think you’re going to keep that nasty bird. Not in my house!”
Something impish took over me and I couldn’t resist. I smiled sweetly at my grandmother. “Of course not, Granny. I know how you feel about birds. I’d have to take her back to Florida.”
Silence descended. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that after all. I wasn’t really trying to blackmail Granny. Okay… maybe just a little. Well jeepers, I certainly had no wish to learn to cook. She had divulged that part of her reason for demanding that my father send me to her for the cooking lessons — for my sentence in Savannah, was that she needed help with her budding catering business.
To make a bad situation even worse, Cracker flew across the kitchen. She was probably running away from the glare Granny gave her. Several vegetables were on the counter for the soup she was about to make. Cracker lighted on a butternut squash, causing it to roll. The bird walked the rolling vegetable like a circus performer on a ball.
“Don’t you dare!” Granny Fanny cried. “That’s dinner!” she added as the squash got precariously close to the edge.
Luckily I caught the squash just as it bowled off the counter. But I missed the carrots and they rolled across the floor. It was too much for Granny. When I looked up, the broom was in her hand and she was chasing the parrot. Doc Vale tried to calm everyone, but he was waving his arms as if he might start to fly like the agitated avian. Detective Daniels drew his pistol. I shrieked, and he seemed to come to his senses. I think he was actually afraid Cracker would fly in and take another bite out of his ear. Dabney reluctantly holstered the gun.
A soft thumping sound accompanied the entrance of Cinnamon Bun, the Flemish Giant Rabbit. He immediately picked up one of the carrots on the floor and started munching. The rabbit sat up on his hindquarters and was nearly as tall as the countertop. The crafty Macaw swooped down and got behind the rabbit. Cinnamon Bun looked innocently at Granny as his cheeks wriggled with chewing. Personally I think the bunny and the bird were in cahoots.
Granny was gaga over that bunny. Her mouth twisted in resistance, but the next thing I knew she was smiling at Cinnamon Bun. She might even forgive Cracker if the parrot kept the sense to stay on the rabbit’s good side.
Fanny’s Butternut Squash Soup
Active Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes
6 cups cut up butternut squash
4 cups chicken broth
16 oz. cream cheese
salt and pepper to taste
fresh ground nutmeg
pumpkin seeds for garnish
Cook squash in chicken stock (add water to cover squash if needed.) When cooked, puree (this may be done in batches). Add cream cheese, salt and pepper, and freshly ground nutmeg. Heat until all mixed through. Do not boil.
Cracker probably won’t be able to win Granny over enough to allow this, but you never know…
6. Turnips, Parsnips, Juniper Berries
I found Granny Fanny at the far end of her back yard. The lot was a long fenced-in rectangle. What looked like ordinary bushes at that time of year would blossom to reveal azaleas and forsythia in warmer months. Granny and Cinnamon Bun were gathering turnip greens and some turnips. I think she mostly took the turnips the huge rabbit dug up. He was clearly enjoying himself.
“Now Cinnamon Bun, you’d better eat the next turnip you dig up,” she happily chided the bunny. “And I don’t mean just nibble at it. I don’t think you really like eating them, but you’re having a grand old time digging them up!”
She stood when she saw me. “Pip, you’re a sight in those boy’s clothes!” The good natured scolding switched focus to me for the Levis and flannel shirt I wore. “And muddy taboot,” she added.
Then she smiled fondly. “So how was the little foal? Did you have a nice time with Doc and Missus Vale?” she asked. “It’s a good clip out to that farm. Did you and Veronica get to chat much?”
I nodded and smiled. Did we ever! It had been Granny’s idea that I go with the veterinarian and his wife when he called to check up on the foal he delivered. It was born the day Detective Daniels and I found the parrot, Cracker, in the dead man’s room, so the vet wasn’t available to take the bird. Granny wanted me to get to know the veterinarian’s wife. She said that if I was bound to be an independent woman, then I should get to know the real deal.
Veronica told me that for many years she worked at the South London Hospital for Women and Children. Of course it was in England, but even more interesting, it had an all-woman staff. Then Veronica retired and went back home to Savannah. She met the widowed Vincent and partnered with him in his veterinary practice, doing what she called “lab work” with microscopes and other scientific things that I had never been around. I had only touched a microscope one time. I thought doing that kind of work must be the cat’s meow.
In turn I told the Vales about the man who turned up dead at the local premier of the movie “Night of the Killer Clam.” I told them how strange I thought it was for him to have cilantro bits all over his shoes. Doc Vale shrugged and looked puzzled. Veronica seemed more interested as he drove. “They still don’t know what killed the man?” she asked as the car puttered along.
I shook my head, and Mrs. Doctor Vale… or Doctor Mrs. Vale… Oh applesauce! I didn’t know what title to give the woman. She told me to call her Veronica, so I did. Anyhow she looked at me conspiratorially and said she’d talk to Detective Daniels and see if she could get any samples to look at under her microscope.
“I’m glad you had a good time,” Granny said, bringing me back to the present moment. She looked pleased. “Dabney Daniels is coming by to get some of these greens. We’ve got more than we can use. People who want catering don’t seem to eat turnip greens,” she added.
With a shooing motion she sent me inside to change clothes. Granny didn’t think it was proper for a young woman to go around in trousers unless it was for a specific labor-related purpose. They were acceptable for the “barn call” to see the new foal, but not if a visitor was coming to the house.
Detective Daniels arrived just as I put on a headband I had bought at a boutique in downtown Savannah. It was a little plain (I wanted one with rhinestones) but it was pretty. I noticed a little flower arrangement Granny had set on the drop-leaf table in the parlor. It had Cherokee roses and several stems of juniper. I broke off a sprigs with berries and tucked it into my headband to jazz it up.
“What’s that in your hair?” Daniels greeted me when I opened the door.
“Hello to you too,” I said.
“What are those,” he repeated. The man was like a bulldog; single minded. “Juniper berries?” he asked then chuckled. “You’ll have me thinking Granny Fanny has gotten into bootlegging,” he commented and I looked a question at him. “Don’t tell me you don’t know… Okay, playing innocent, I see.”
I crossed my arms and raised one eyebrow at him. “Detective Daniels, whatever are you talking about?”
He sighed and muttered that maybe I really didn’t know. “Juniper berries are used in making gin,” he informed me.
Then a mischievous twinkle lit his eyes. I had not seen that playful side of the policeman, and I rather liked it. “Do I need to check the bathtub to make sure this establishment is not turning into a speakeasy?” he joked. “Is there bathtub gin on the premises?”
“If Granny is making gin, then I sure don’t know where she’s hiding it!” I laughed.
“What do you mean, making gin?” Granny said as she walked into the room.
I could have sworn there was a guilty blush on her face. I wondered if Granny really did have a stash of hooch somewhere. She cleared her throat and deftly changed the subject. “Dabney, Pip and I are about to sit down to some lamb and parsnip stew. And I have some greens and cornbread to go with it. Won’t you join us?”
The detective licked his lips just as his stomach growled. I knew the answer to that question without having to hear it.
Lamb & Parsnip Stew
Credit: The Old Farmer’s Almanac
Yield: Makes 4 servings.
2 pounds cubed lamb
2 medium onions, quartered
2-1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large carrots, scraped and sliced
8 small parsnips, scraped and sliced
1 bay leaf
Brown lamb in a large stewpot, then add onions and sauté. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, and simmer for up to 2 hours. Remove bay leaf before serving. Juices can be thickened with flour or mashed potato to make gravy, if desired.
7. Burner, E. Coli, Marmite
Doc Vale’s jalopy puttered outside Granny Fanny’s cottage. I ran out to the car to save him the trouble of coming to the door. (Besides, Granny was chasing Cracker the parrot with her broom again. Last time I saw the bird, Cracker was flying through the kitchen with a pair of Granny’s undies in her beak. I took the excuse to beat a hasty retreat!) Anyhow, the doc’s wife, Veronica had invited me to spend the day and offered to teach me about some of the scientific things she used in her work. Their place was just west of Savannah. They had built an animal hospital next to their home, as well as a facility for horses and other large animals.
“I hope I didn’t put you out of your way, Doc,” I told the veterinarian, feeling a twinge of guilt at being chauffeured.
“Not at all Paisley,” he began and I drew breath to beg him to call me Pip. But I let it go. I hated to correct anybody who was that nice. Vincent Vale seemed to have a very… proper manner about him and tended to address everyone by their given name, rather than any nickname.
“Actually, Mrs. Peabody’s cottage was right on my way home. I’ve just come from a meeting with Detective Daniels. He received permission for Veronica to do an autopsy on the unfortunate man who died at the Bijou theatre,” Doc Vale informed me.
I knew Veronica would be delighted to put her medical research skills to work on the mystery of how the man died, so I was pleased for her. Then another idea struck me — an unpleasant one. “Applesauce!” I exclaimed in horror. “She doesn’t mean for me to help her with that does she? I was excited to learn about the kind of work she did in London, but I don’t think I could watch anybody dissect a dead person!”
The doc chuckled. “Relax Paisley,” he said reassuringly. “They won’t bring the body until later today. There will be plenty of time for Veronica to show you her lab. You certainly would not be expected to observe the autopsy, unless you just wanted to do so. Veronica said you could come again whenever you want, since this came up unexpectedly and might cut your visit short.
When we walked into the kitchen I could smell tea brewing, but I didn’t see a teakettle. Vincent smiled and shook his head. “She’s brewing tea in her laboratory again. She’d have a fit if anyone else did that. I’ll make a little snack for us. Have you ever tasted marmite?” he asked picking up a jar containing something dark. When I looked at the jar skeptically he said, “Folks either love marmite or they hate it, so don’t feel like you have to eat it. Veronica got a taste for it when she lived in London, and I guess you could say she infected me with it too. I’ll fix some for all of us and bring it back in a jiffy. Veronica’s back there,” he said motioning to a door.
I walked into the large pristine room Veronica used as a laboratory and found her using a blue flame to heat a glass container. After greeting me warmly she explained laughing. “Oh, when I was young I had these specially made on a whim,” she said indicating the odd container and cups. “I thought it would be fun to use the Bunsen burner to make tea! After all these years I still get a kick out of it.”
Her husband came in with toast spread with that dark… whatever it was. Horse feathers! I was expecting it to be some kind of jam, but it was salty. I nearly dropped my plate and it took all my self-control not to spit it out. I made an awful face despite myself, but Veronica just laughed. With encouragement from both the Vales, I tried a little more, and it seemed to grow on me.
It seemed like I hadn’t been there any time at all when Detective Daniels arrived with two other men rolling a gurney. Holy Hannah, they had brought the corpse. I don’t know why I reacted at all, because I realized they were coming. But knowing what was about to happen gave me the heebie jeebies.
I watched in surprise as the Daniels deputized Veronica Vale. The copper told me that he wanted to make sure whatever Veronica discovered would be admissible in court. “Ah-ha,” I thought. I just knew the detective had been keeping something from me about the dead man. He must have a pretty strong hunch of one kind or another.
As I looked on in fascination, Veronica pulled the cover back from the body. She pinched his skin then looked at the underside of his eyelids, poked, sniffed and examined the body before she ever moved to pick up a surgical instrument.
She looked up at the detective. “It may or may not have been what killed him,” she said with a concerned expression. “But I expect we will find that this poor man suffered from severe effects of E. coli. Did you bring his shoes, as I asked?”
Detective Daniels nodded and removed the shoes from a sack. Some of the cilantro still clung to the soles. Veronica picked up a shoe and looked closely at the sole, and then sniffed of it. “That’s cow manure. I hope we don’t have an E. coli contaminated dairy farm somewhere.”
Daniels groaned. He started writing in the tiny notebook he carried. Ripping out two sheets, he turned to the men who had brought the gurney. “Head out to these addresses and see if you find any sick people or animals. I’ve got a hunch Doctor Vale is right,” he told them. “This could be serious.”
Okay… I know this is not marmite — but reading about that “love it or hate it” spread made me think of the Lucy skit and I couldn’t resist. Enjoy!
Spaghetti with Marmite
Recipe Credit: Nigella.com
12 oz spaghetti
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon Marmite (or more to taste)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (to serve)
1. Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water, according to the packet instructions.
2. When the pasta is almost cooked, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the Marmite and 1 tablespoon of the pasta water, mixing thoroughly to dissolve. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water; then drain the pasta and pour the Marmite/Vegemite mixture over the drained spaghetti, adding a little reserved pasta water to amalgamate if required. Serve with plenty of grated Parmesan cheese.
For vegetarians replace the Parmesan cheese with a vegetarian alternative.
Oh what the heck… Here’s a bonus video.
Video: How to Light a Bunsen Burner
8. Peas, Noodles, Lemon
Detective Daniels gave me a lift back to Granny Fanny’s cottage. I had actually watched most of the autopsy Veronica Vale performed on the man who had died mysteriously at the Bijou theatre. Okay… so I watched it from a distance. As much of a distance as the large room could possibly allow. I admit that I had to look away a few times.
“Pip, I’m rather impressed,” the detective said as he drove. “I expected to have to carry you out of Veronica’s lab, but you held up better than my men did.”
I blushed at the compliment. Then I wondered why my cheeks colored. Sneaking a glance from beneath my eyelashes, I saw his strong profile above the crisp white collar of his shirt. Frankie’d had a chiseled nose and chin like that, though he was rough around the edges, not as dapper as the detective. Frankie — the fireman who turned out to be something completely different from what I had thought. Different in a very bad, dishonest way.
I was still kind of heartbroken about that. I tried not to wonder if he was okay, somewhere on the lam from the law. Granny told me that it was for the best that I learned the truth of what kind of man he was before I cared any more about him than I already did. She promised that time would give me perspective.
Without realizing I had done so, I sighed. Dabney Daniels gave me a concerned look. “Are you sure you’re alright, Pip?” he asked with what looked like genuine concern. It gave his eyes a soft puppy-dog look that was an endearing contrast to his usual no-nonsense manner.
Applesauce! I did not want to think of Daniels as more than a copper! I had suddenly realized that he was a very attractive man and it was more than my poor overworked noodle could handle just then. I plastered a fake smile on my face before looking up at him. The grin faltered when I saw his deep blue eyes, and I sat looking at him like a dumbstruck fool.
Lucky for me we reached my grandmother’s home just then. Another car had pulled up beside the cottage, under the big lilac bush. The Ford was almost hidden by the bush, but Dabney noticed it right away. He recognized the car.
“Hell’s bells, what’s he doing here?” he exclaimed. “Oh! I’m sorry, Pip. Pardon the expression,” he hastily apologized. “That car belongs to Moses Myrick. He’s run more covert operations and put more rum runners and mobsters behind bars than any other Fed. He even got a commendation from President Coolidge. And he’s got a sour disposition that just won’t quit. They joke that he eats lemons for breakfast, and I think it might be a fact. But what’s he doing here?”
As we walked up the brick path to the front door, I noticed the lace curtains in the parlor part just enough for someone to look outside. At the door I raised my hand to knock, even though I was living there now. I guess that’s how uncomfortable I felt about a big-shot revenuer being at Granny’s house.
I wondered briefly if Granny Fanny really did have a stash of white lightning somewhere. But no, I told myself. The man’s car was practically hidden under the lilac bush. He wouldn’t do that if he had something against her. Actually, it seemed like he was being discrete about visiting my grandmother. But why?
While I stood with one hand raised to knock and the other hand on the doorknob, Granny answered the door and told us to come on inside. She led us into the parlor and introduced Marshal Moses Myrick. He was very polite and all, but I couldn’t help thinking what beady little eyes he had. Green eyes… like little peas!
To my astonishment, Cracker the parrot fluttered up. Marshal Myrick held out his elbow, as if he wasn’t even thinking about it, and the bird perched on his arm. Cracker looked at Detective Dabney Daniels, and he reflexively put a hand to the ear the parrot had taken a bite out of the last time she got a chance. Cracker made a rude sound that was a lot like a raspberry.
Then the parrot nuzzled her head against the revenuer’s chin while giving Dabney a sidelong look that caused me to imagine she would like to say “So there! Jealous yet?” Then she bobbed her head at the marshal and said “Who’s your daddy?”
Recipe – Pasta with Fresh Herbs, Lemon and Peas
Recipe credit: The New York Times, Martha Shulman
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, tarragon, mint and chives
Zest of 1 organic lemon, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
3/4 pound pasta, any type
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large bowl or pasta bowl, combine the herbs, lemon zest, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.
2. When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the pasta. Follow the cooking instructions on the package, but check the pasta a minute before the indicated time. A few minutes before the pasta is done, add the peas to the water. When the pasta is just about al dente, remove a half cup of the cooking water and add to the bowl with the herbs. Drain the pasta and peas, toss with the herb mixture and the cheese, and serve.
Yield: Serves four.
The herbs can be chopped several hours ahead, but don’t combine the ingredients until you’ve put the water on for the pasta.
Nutritional information per serving: 460 calories; 13 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 4 milligrams cholesterol; 70 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams dietary fiber; 123 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during preparation); 15 grams protein
9. Cream, Vanilla Pod, Sauce Pan
A nod to The Galloping Gourmet, the Graham Kerr Show
The older law man’s face looked as sour as his voice was gruff, but I saw a twinkle in his green pea eyes that made me suspect he was joking. Dabney took another step backward, apparently without realizing. It seemed like the cat had his tongue… or maybe I should say the parrot had it. So I supplied on his behalf, “Cracker doesn’t seem to care for Detective Daniels. Not at all really.”
“Cracker, you say?” the revenuer asked.
“Yes, that nasty bird went around screeching cracker-cracker-cracker for the better part of two days. That was the only word it would say, until it came out with that vulgar comment it just made. My granddaughter decided its name must be Cracker,” Granny explained with a frown at the parrot.
“Vulgar comment?” Moses Myrick queried.
“What she just said to you,” I began. “Who’s your —”
“Paisley Idelle Peabody! I’ll not have you using that kind of language in my house!” Granny flared and the law men chuckled. However, when Granny Fanny’s glare transferred to them they discretely put serious expressions back on their faces.
Cracker prudently remained quiet, playing with a pod of vanilla that glittered in the sunlight as she twisted it. I remembered Granny saying that you could tell a vanilla pod was good if it glittered.
“Oh Fanny,” the marshal said, and I immediately wondered how the illustrious revenuer came to be on a first name basis with my grandmother. Not to mention the fact that the sourpuss seemed to be sweet on the bird! “The parrot didn’t mean any harm. In fact, she’s been doing her best to identify your dead body,” he added with a sly look at Dabney.
We all looked like a school of fish with our mouths open. Cracker interrupted the silence by excitedly bobbing her head and squawking, “Who’s your daddy?”
Granny abruptly sat down and looked heavenward. Then with a look of supreme patience turned to Myrick and silently bade him continue. The marshal even gave Granny a wicked grin, as the parrot dropped the vanilla pod and fluttered back to his shoulder.
“The parrot’s owner — her daddy undoubtedly used to ask her ‘Who’s your daddy?’ To which she was supposed to reply Cracker,” Moses Myrick explained, but we were still puzzled. As if to demonstrate, he practically cooed to the parrot, “Who’s your daddy, sweetheart?”
Moses looked a tad impatient with our lack of comprehension. “Her daddy was Cracker Jack Daddy, safecracker and up and coming mobster. He was also the man who turned up dead at your local theatre. Detective I’m surprised you haven’t figured that out yet,” he added pointedly.
“Oh!” I cried as my light bulb came on. I turned to Detective Daniels. “She’s so upset with you, because her ‘daddy’ didn’t come home, but you were there in stead. Maybe she thinks you did something to him,” I said. Then I moved to stroke the bird’s feathers. “Oh Cracker, sweetie. Dabney didn’t do anything to your daddy. And I’m sorry, but he’s not coming back… but you already knew that, didn’t you. Poor thing.”
The parrot cooed softly, but shot the detective one more suspicious look. I handed her the vanilla pod she’d been playing with. That’s when Granny noticed it. “Where did you get that?” Granny demanded of the bird.
Cracker quickly escaped toward the kitchen. “Oh no you don’t!” Granny said and ran after the parrot. I heard a sauce pan crash to the floor. “Get out of that you nasty bird! That’s for my crème brulee. No. No! Not the cream! Get out of there!”
Then I heard the picture overturn and the cream splash. I winced. I would not want to be Cracker just then.
10. Liver, Za’atar, Sunflower Seeds
I stopped on the broad veranda to remove my gardening shoes. Cinnamon Bun, the Flemish Giant rabbit, thumped up the stairs behind me. I bent to scratch his long russet ears, and noticed that he had a small carrot in his mouth. The huge bunny usually ate everything he dug up, but I had noticed that sometimes he sneaked a tidbit inside and gave it to Cracker the parrot. I couldn’t help smiling at that. “You’d better not let Granny catch you digging carrots without her permission,” I told him playfully.
We both went in by the kitchen door. Right away I smelled the plate of thinly sliced onions. The task had been left unfinished, with the next onion waiting to be cut.
Granny had mentioned making liver and onions. I loved the aroma of the dish… so why was it that I couldn’t abide eating it? Ugh! All morning I had been trying to think of an excuse to be away from the cottage come meal time. The muffled sounds of voices drifted my way from the parlor. Someone must have interrupted Granny, so I washed up to take over where she had stopped.
The onion had warmed to room temperature, and it was already stinging my eyes. Granny always chilled onions before cutting them. Somehow that helped keep them from irritating the eyes. I blinked my watering eyes and sniffed. With the knife in hand, I stopped mid-slice. Granny’s voice rose enough that I heard her distinctly.
The first thing in my mind was concern. That didn’t sound like Granny Fanny’s reaction to anything. She was the most capable woman I had ever known. The next thing I thought was “Why is that revenuer here with Granny — again?”
I knew it wasn’t right to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t help myself. I tiptoed closer to the sound of their voices. Cinnamon thumped softly behind me, the carrot still in his mouth.
“Fanny, you know I’d never ask you to do this if I thought it would put you at risk,” Marshal Moses Myrick said. “I’ll have men there, some pretending to be guests, Detective Daniels disguised and acting as your waiter, and a dozen others outside, waiting for my signal to rush in.”
“Oh I’m not worried about that!” Granny said sounding more like herself. “I’m not afraid of any bootlegger, no matter how much money he’s got. No, it’s the fancy food they want me to make. I had never even thought of making crème brulee until I tested the recipe for it the day you were last here. It turned out fine, but I’m just not used to making… foreign things like that. And now, they say some ambassador is going to be there. They insisted that I make something with an exotic sounding condiment. I’ve never even heard of it, but it’s the big shot’s favorite thing,” she complained.
I eased a little closer to the parlor door. I could see into the room, but still couldn’t see the speakers. However, I could see stacks and stacks of books, mostly cookbooks and travel books. Granny must have checked out every book in the library on those subjects. She’d probably borrowed any her friends had as well.
Marshal Myrick spoke soothing words that I couldn’t make out. Granny continued, “Have you ever heard of za’atar?” The marshal must have said no, because my grandmother continued her lament. “I have to admit, za’atar does sound delicious, but I hope they don’t ask me to make anything else unusual. Why can’t they want turnip greens? I hulled sunflower seeds all morning, and I had a devil of a time keeping that parrot out of them. I ended up giving half the seeds to her to keep her quiet,” Granny said. Then to my surprise she chuckled. “I think I’ve found something I can use to bribe the little imp. She liked the sunflower seeds.”
Wonder of wonders — was Granny warming up to Cracker? The kindhearted defense Moses spoke for the parrot was in such contrast to his gruff manner and unflappable attitude that I still couldn’t get my head around it.
The G-man had learned the art of pitching his voice in a way that it didn’t carry. As I sidled closer a floorboard creaked. I just knew I was caught. Then I heard Cracker rattling her cage door. She could have it open in a matter of seconds, anytime she chose. Cinnamon Bun hopped past me and into the parlor.
I pretended that I was just walking up the hall and feigned surprise when I saw the marshal sitting on the settee next to my grandmother. However, I didn’t fool him one iota. “So Pip,” he began. “Now that you know something about this sting, are you onboard?”
Sting? As in bootleggers, and mobsters, and guns? Really? I gulped.
“Now Moses,” Granny Fanny began, shaking her head and giving the marshal a stern look from the corner of her eye. “I don’t know that I approve of Paisley having anything to do with this business.”
“Fanny, you had intended to have the girl help you with events. You can’t handle a big party like this alone. Detective Daniels can only do so much as a waiter, because I have to have him as an investigator,” Myrick said. Then he added as if to himself, “That young man’s got potential. As for the rest of my men, they wouldn’t make believable caterers. They’d stand out like a sore thumb. So you need the girl. She just needs to be an ordinary waitress and stay out of the way.”
Oh…! Now that was the last straw. It was bad enough that they were talking about me like I wasn’t even there, but stay out of the way? I was flabbergasted! I cleared my throat loudly. Granny’s eyes widened when she saw the expression on my face. There must have been steam coming from my ears.
“Marshal, I’ll have you know that I’m standing right here, since that fact seems to have escaped you,” I began.
“Paisley Idelle Peabody!” Granny said in a warning voice.
“I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself, and I most certainly do not need to ‘stay out of the way.’ Why of all the —”
I was fit to be tied because Moses Myrick sat there chuckling. Then he gave in to all out laughter! I was so put out that I was speechless.
“That apple didn’t fall far from the tree!” he said as he wiped his eyes. That’s how hard he was laughing; it had brought tears to his eyes. “Fanny, not that I ever doubted, but this is truly your granddaughter. Young lady I apologize. I just couldn’t help myself.”
I was not much mollified by the apology, but I didn’t know what to do besides accept it. I cleared my throat awkwardly. Then I heard the rattle of metal that meant Cracker had decided to let herself out of her cage and see what all the fuss was about. The parrot flapped into the room. She briefly perched on the back of the settee next to the marshal.
She bobbed her head and whistled at the marshal. “Fourandtwenty,” she said to him. However, she prudently fluttered out of Granny’s reach and alighted on the back of the chair beside me.
Cracker looked studiously at each of us in turn. She ruffled her feathers and shook her head. She turned to me and flapped her wings once. Then she turned a circle to make sure everyone was looking at her, and with another whistle she repeated, “Fourandtwenty! Fourandtwenty!”
Roasted Carrots with Za’atar
Recipe credit: Food Network.com
Photograph by Roland Bello
Total Cook Time: 20 minutes
4 pounds carrots
¼ cup olive oil
¾ teaspoon each salt and pepper
4 teaspoons za’atar spice blend
3 tablespoons parsley
Preheat 2 baking sheets in a 450 degree oven. Quarter 4 pounds carrots lengthwise and toss with 1/4 cup olive oil and 3/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Spread on the hot baking sheets and roast until browned, 18 to 20 minutes. Toss with 4 teaspoons za’atar (a spice blend available at Middle Eastern markets), 3 tablespoons chopped parsley and the juice of 1 lemon.
11. Garlic, Crepes, Soufflé
We finished peeling shrimp to make scampi for supper. My grandmother left the table where we sat and had me move to the counter with her. I watched in fascination as Granny quickly chopped a clove of garlic. She told me you could make garlic paste using just a knife and a bit of salt. If anyone else had told me that I would have thought they were off their nuts. But she proceeded to use the knife to rub the garlic bits into a perfect paste.
She sent me to the parlor to find the notes she had made about her latest culinary experiment, which was in the oven. Granny fretted over the new “foreign” dish as if worry was an essential ingredient. I looked everywhere without finding the notepaper. So I started looking through the stack of cooking and travel books, thinking she might have left her notes in a book. The minute I picked up a volume about France, with a beautiful illustration of crepes, I became distracted. I wasn’t paying attention to anything else because I was so involved in the pictures in the travel books. But I was still looking for her notes. Honest.
The first indication I had that something was wrong was the sounds of dogs howling. In the distance to the east, two of them started howling. It was so far away that I barely noticed. Then somewhere south of Granny’s cottage another one added his canine croon. I still wasn’t really paying attention until Cracker the parrot chirped “Hush puppy. Hush puppy!” and paced on her perch looking very agitated.
I looked out the parlor window when the neighbor’s blood hound added a loud bellow to that unpleasant wailing. A moment later I saw the source of the dogs’ discomfort as first one, then three police cars rushed past, sirens blaring. It gave me goose bumps.
My little town outside Santa Rosa Sound, Florida was a world away from the larger city of Savannah, Georgia. I wasn’t used to sirens and police cars running pell-mell down the streets. One car backfired right in front of the cottage. An unexpectedly vivid oath wafted from the kitchen along with a glorious aroma. “Granny is everything okay?” I called.
“All that racket’s going to ruin my soufflé!” my grandmother said in a strangled exclamation.
I grinned at her remark despite the unease I felt because of the unaccustomed sound of sirens. Granny was experimenting with a number of dishes she described as “fancy cooking.” That was mostly because of a big reception she was going to cater. And it had turned out she was doing that as a favor to Marshal Moses Myrick, a revenuer of some renown. He planned to use Granny’s catering as a way to sneak his men into the party. The whole thing was a sting to catch a mobster. Cracker’s late owner, Cracker Jack Daddy, had also been involved with the mobster. We still didn’t know all the details of his demise, but there were obviously dangerous characters on the loose in Savannah.
Then an unmarked but familiar car screeched to a stop right outside. The car door slammed as Detective Dabney Daniels got out and ran to the house. His long legs covered the distance in a few strides. The door crashed open — he didn’t even knock!
Granny Fanny started cursing fit to make a sailor blush. I put my hand to my mouth, but it did no good. I started laughing because I’d never expected such language from any older woman, and especially not my grandmother. The soufflé fell.
My grandmother strode angrily to the front of the house. I thought about hiding behind the settee, but decided Dabney might need protection from Granny. She and I saw the detective at the same moment. She stopped her rant, and I sobered from my chuckles. I had never seen such an expression on anyone’s face. I thought my heart had stopped.
“Both of you stay here,” he demanded, pointing downward with emphasis. “Close the curtains and stay away from the windows. Do not open the doors for anybody! I’ll be back as soon as I can,” he said and turned back toward the front door before the last syllable had left his lips.
“Dabney, what’s wrong?” Granny insisted, but the look in her wide eyes suggested that she already knew. A woman’s intuition for unfortunate happenings was reflected in her eyes.
Daniels turned back toward her. “Moses Myrick and two of his men were ambushed,” he said flatly, and then he looked guilty when he saw the pain in Granny’s eyes.
She was suddenly pale. I grabbed her arm, wondering if she was about to faint. Granny locked her knees and stood stiffly as if the floor was moving under her feet, but she didn’t falter.
“Is he…” she began, but swallowed hard and didn’t finish the question.
Dabney belatedly removed his hat and crushed it in his large hand, not realizing what he did as he held the fedora. “Miss Fanny… We don’t know. He radioed for assistance, but his transmission cut off. They were severely outnumbered. The dispatcher lost count of the number of gunshots he heard in the background, there were so many,” the young detective said and looked down at the floor.
I knew he didn’t mean to be cruel with the words, because he and Granny were close before I ever came to stay with her. Dabney often helped her with things around the house. But she clearly had an old, long lasting relationship or friendship with the marshal that she had never discussed with me.
“We have to do something,” Granny stated with determination.
“Now see here!” Dabney exclaimed. “That’s exactly what I was worried about. You both need to stay here. Miss Fanny, you at least must realize that you need to keep Pip out of harm’s way.”
“Excuse me!” I cried. “Now you just wait a minute!” I meant to continue but their chaotic conversation ran right over me.
When Granny paused for breath, Dabney took her hand, making her look up at him. “You told me once about a cut-through that you took out to the Vale place. Myrick was headed that way, but not quite as far out. Can you tell me about it? I don’t think the others have any hope of getting there fast enough.”
“Dabney you don’t mean to try to… to cut ‘em off at the pass, so to speak — surely?” Granny said fearfully. “Not alone!”
“No ma’am. I don’t have any hope of that,” he told her in a regretful voice. Then he gulped like he was about to say something he’d rather not tell her. “Moses is probably injured. I just hope to get there, and get him to a hospital before he bleeds to death.”
Granny gasped. Holy Hannah, what a way with words! I could have socked Dabney for his complete lack of tact. However, Granny recovered herself right away. She was one tough old bird — you’d think she and the parrot would get along better.
“Well if that’s the case, don’t try to get him to a hospital. Take the cut-through and then go straight to Doc Vale’s,” Granny said firmly.
“But he’s an animal doctor!” the detective objected.
“Vincent isn’t the only doctor there. Veronica Vale is a finer surgeon than any hospital doctor anywhere in this part of the country,” Granny reminded him, and then she made sure he knew the quickest combination of back roads and deer trails to use.
I started to run out the door on Dabney’s heels, figuring he wouldn’t have time to stop me. I wasn’t about to let him run off alone, without anyone to help him, to face what he was up against. But Granny Fanny was quicker and a lot stronger than I knew! Her hand shot out like lightning and she grabbed my arm in a fierce grip. Then for good measure she used her foot to trip me before I could get out the door. By the time I got to my feet, Dabney’s car was out of sight.
After Detective Dabney Daniels left I couldn’t stop thinking of horrible possibilities… for Marshal Moses Myrick and his men. And what if Dabney actually did run right into the men who ambushed the marshal? He would be completely alone.
Granny and I sat in the parlor, listening to the clock tick. Cinnamon Bun, the huge rabbit thumped quietly into the room and sat at Granny’s feet. She stroked his soft fur absently. Cracker paced, remarkably silent on her perch. We all waited.
We waited for all of five minutes. Then Granny couldn’t take it anymore. She calmly got up and motioned for me to come with her. Then we got into her cherished Model-T, with the brightly painted yellow spokes at the wheels. And she calmly drove us to her shortcut to the home and animal hospital operated by the doctors Vale.
Video: Knife Skills – How to Make Garlic Paste
Classic Shrimp Scampi
Recipe credit: EveryDay with Rachael Ray
6 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, mashed
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 tablespoons minced parsley
Heat 2 tbsp. butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; cook for 2 minutes. Add shrimp and 1/2 tsp. salt; cook over medium-high heat for 4 minutes. Off heat, stir in remaining butter and parsley.
12. Rye, Pie, Dainty Dish
As the Model-T bounced and jostled on the dirt road, I bent down and felt under the seat. However, my fingers didn’t touch what I hoped to find, or much of anything at all. There was hardly even a bit of dust. Well, I reminded myself, Granny did baby that car. I found a tiny grain of something. Inspecting my fingers I muttered, “Rye?”
Granny Fanny grumbled. “Honestly… more of that rye? Some of it spilled weeks ago when I bought the makings for marble rye bread. It seems like I’ve been trying to get it all cleaned up ever since,” Granny said still focused on the narrow road, the back way to the Vales’ place.
Still contorted as I searched under the seat, I gasped out the question, “Granny, where is your shotgun?”
“My shotgun?” she exclaimed.
“Of course your shotgun. Have you got something better?” I asked while I rummaged in the pocket on the inside of the passenger door, hoping to find anything we might use to defend ourselves. “You don’t think I’m going to sit by like some silly doll? Like some kind of, of,” I sputtered. “Like some dainty dish, do you?”
Realization dawned on me like a block of ice in my stomach. I stopped and turned wide eyed to my grandmother. “Granny… Surely you don’t mean to tell me that we’re headed toward an entire gang of mobsters and rumrunners without any weapon?”
Granny took her eyes off the road long enough to frown at me with one eyebrow raised nearly to her hairline. Then she turned her attention back to the road just as a deer sprinted across. The deer’s white tail flashed as if she waived a handkerchief at us in quick farewell. I reminded myself that a white flag was a sign of surrender and maybe I should give up this argument before it actually got started.
“Paisley,” Granny began, and I knew I was on thin ice or she would have called me Pip. “Think. You’re always saying you want to be a ‘modern woman’ so use your brain. A gun is no good if you never get the chance to use it! My shotgun!” she said acerbically. “Even if we each had a shotgun in one hand and a pistol in the other, it wouldn’t get us anything but dead against half a dozen, maybe a dozen armed men who have no compunction about killing.”
The tone of her voice and the pain in her eyes sent a wave of guilt across my stomach. Had I been selfish? I was only thinking about what I wanted to do, not the reality of what had happened.
All I could think about was Marshal Myrick being ambushed, and how Dabney said the man who heard the radioed distress call had lost count of all the gunshots because there had been so many. An image of the scene came unbidden to my mind. There must be bullet holes and blood everywhere.
I lifted my hand to push my hair out of my eyes. Looking at my hand, it seemed odd that I would notice but there was still a bit of rye on my fingertips. Then I realized my hand was shaking. I was shaking. Desperately I tried to stop my wayward mind from imagining what might already be happening to Dabney Daniels if he ended up crossing tracks with the villains. Alone.
It wasn’t really a question, but I nodded. “Yes, I suppose so. But if we’re not going to help, then what are we doing?” I asked.
“Oh, we are going to help. We’ll help however we can. I keep a first aid kit with bandages under the back seat. We can at least try to stop the bleeding,” she said with a frown that gave me the surprised thought that she had done that kind of thing before. “And we can help get the injured to Veronica and Vincent,” she added before abruptly hitting the brakes.
The Model-T skidded on the dirt road. I grabbed the dashboard. Granny gave me a quick glance to make sure I was okay, before looking skyward and pointing. I saw a brightly colored streak go across the sky. “That dad-blasted bird!” Granny exclaimed.
Granny sighed and then punched the gas pedal, throwing me back against the seat. Then she began to murmur in a singsong voice.
Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty parrots (she inserted drolly) 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?
“Applesauce! Was that Cracker?” I cried. “Oh no! How did she get out of the house?” I said before I thought about the fact that the clever bird could probably do just about anything if she put her mind to it.
My grandmother looked upward at the direction the parrot had flown and shook her head. “That nasty bird… Just when I was getting fond of her. Well, there’s nothing for it right now. With Moses and Dabney—” her voice choked off before she finished. She wiped her eye with the knuckle of her index finger and turned her attention back to the road. Granny cleared her throat. “When all this is over, we’ll get some sunflower seeds and apple slices… We’ll drive around and see if we can spot her. Maybe we can use a treat to coax her down.”
She chuckled quietly and sniffed, not looking at me. “No, Pip. Cinnamon Bun would miss her. Did you know that he brings her treats?” she commented.
I knew that we both were trying to avoid thinking about what we might encounter in a few minutes, when we reached the scene. However, I didn’t realize Granny knew about the bunny bringing tidbits to the parrot. I laughed and nodded. Brushing my hair back again I looked at my hand once more. I was steadier by then. I looked at my palm. I did palmistry whenever I got the chance. But my hand didn’t tell me what to expect. “Do you still read tealeaves, Granny?” I asked the woman who had taught me palm reading.
No answer was forthcoming. Abruptly Granny hit the brakes and then threw the Model-T into reverse. Then she turned onto a trail that was barely wide enough for the car to get through. I saw her cringe as a blackberry bramble scrubbed the side of the car. I held on for dear life as we bumped along the trail. A couple of times I thought my tailbone was going to pierce the seat, because I landed so hard.
Granny Fanny focused intently on the path ahead. As if she hadn’t heard me, she spoke about Cracker again. “What was the new phrase she came up with? Four and twenty?” my grandmother asked and tilted her head as if she was deep in thought. “Four and twenty… rye… rye that I bought for the marble rye bread… cilantro!” she finished with a gasp.
“Pip!” she exclaimed. “You told me Dabney had his men checking at dairy farms for E. coli contamination, but you never said that any farm had been shut down.”
“Detective Daniels said they didn’t turn up anything,” I said, wondering at her seemingly disconnected train of thought.
“Wetson’s mill, where I got the rye, they have a few milk cows. They’re not really in the dairy business, but sometimes they barter or sell a little milk if they have extra, mostly to folks they know. Their main business is herbs, including cilantro. Their place is called the Queen of Clubs Herb Farm.”
“So you think that’s where the dead man from the theatre, Cracker Jack Daddy — Cracker’s owner, got the cilantro all over his shoes? But what made you think of it now?” I wanted to know.
“Because of the direction the parrot was flying. Do you remember me telling you how playing cards were once used for readings? Cartomancy is much older than card games. The suit of clubs represents the element fire. Another word for whiskey is fire-water,” she explained but I shook my head bewildered.
The Model-T nearly stopped when we came to a deep rut in the road. After carefully driving across it, Granny continued. “Moses had a hunch that ‘Queen of Clubs’ was a code name. He told me there was a powerful group of bootleggers run by a woman called the Queen of Clubs. She used card names for her underlings. And, while it isn’t spread around too awfully much, there have been rumors that the Wetsons make rye whiskey. Moses thought Cracker Jack Daddy fit into that group as the Jack of Clubs,” she told me.
“What about the ‘fourandtwenty’ Cracker started squawking?” I pondered aloud.
“If there’s a Queen of Clubs, then there must be a king somewhere. Moses thought the ‘king’ was a higher level mobster, not a common bootlegger,” she said.
Why would Marshal Myrick tell you those things?” I said in astonishment. “Unless… Applesauce! Granny, did that revenuer send you to spy on bootleggers? And that fancy party he wanted you to cater — that’s where the ‘king’ fits in, isn’t it! That’s too dangerous, Granny!”
“This from the girl who was going to take on a whole gang of armed men with one old woman and one shotgun?” she said dryly.
I didn’t have a response.
Up ahead I could just barely make out where our deer trail met the real road. Then I heard gunshots — several of them. Granny hit the gas to move to a place on the right where the trail opened onto a meadow. She pulled the Model-T off the trail and out of sight from the road ahead. I could just barely see between the trees and blackberry brambles. A moment later a car sped down the road. A man leaned out and fired his gun one more time. They drove off in the same direction Cracker had gone.
My heart raced. I strained to listen for more gunfire, for other cars, other sounds that meant there might be more gangsters behind that carload. After a minute Granny drove the Model-T back onto the road. I expected to see Dabney’s car speeding after the crooks. But his car didn’t come. I swallowed hard and held on as Granny Fanny punched the gas.
How to Shape Marble Rye Bread
I don’t remember getting out of the Model-T. I don’t remember Granny Fanny shouting the words “No, Pip. Don’t look!” I don’t remember the young policeman taking my arm to hold me back. And I don’t remember pulling free of his grasp to approach the tall bloody form stretched out on the ground with a hat covering his face. All I remember is smelling the coppery odor of blood, and seeing the fedora that belonged to Detective Dabney Daniels covering the face.
The hat was still rumpled from where Dabney crushed it in his hands when he told Granny and me about Marshal Moses Myrick being ambushed. The young copper caught my arm again, more firmly that time. Granny had my other arm. “I have to…” was all I could manage to say.
A Ford that vaguely resembled the one belonging to the marshal sat with steam coming from the radiator. Its front tires were flat, the windshield shattered. The metal was so riddled with bullet holes that it hardly looked like the same car.
Several pigeons sat on the roof of a small building, looking on curiously. I noticed the birds in a dazed sort of way. They fluttered off as two more police cars roared up to the place, sirens blaring. But I barely saw or heard the commotion.
“Miss, please. You don’t want to look. It wouldn’t help you!” the young officer said, seeming almost frantic to find the right words. I guessed that this kind of scene was as new to him as it was to me. As I tried to pull away from his grasp the young man spoke in a horrified strangle of a voice, “His face is a mess!”
Granny took in a sharp breath. She froze next to me. She tilted her head the way she did when she was unraveling a puzzle of one kind or another. Then her shoulders relaxed minutely. She was saying something but I wasn’t listening. Finally a sharp “Paisley Idelle!” pierced the fog of my overwhelmed mind.
“It’s not Dabney!” she said in a tone that suggested she had already said the same thing three times. Three was sort of a magic number with Granny. She’d repeat herself, but if she had to say something a third time… well, she didn’t appreciate it.
The young copper let go of my arm and spoke to the policemen in the two cars. In an instant both cars sped off in the direction the gangsters had gone.
“You have a radio, don’t you young man?” Granny asked him. He said that he did, but wondered how Granny knew. “Because you wouldn’t have gotten here before the others if you didn’t. You heard Dabney radio the station, from wherever you were, and headed straight here — isn’t that right?”
He looked at Granny like he thought she must have read his mind. “How did…?”
“Oh for goodness sakes, how else would you have known?” she said. “Now, use that radio and tell them that the crooks are probably headed to Wetson’s Mill. But they better not go barging in until you get more people there! Tell them that’s on the word of Moses Myrick,” she added. “They probably wouldn’t take a woman’s word for it,” she muttered in a tone so low that I was the only one who heard. Then she gave the young man a small but encouraging smile. “Go on now.”
The officer jumped into action, radioing the police station, talking back and forth with first the chief and then other officials. However, every time he mentioned Marshal Myrick’s name the people at the other end seemed to pay attention.
As he worked Granny shook her head sadly. The handle of the tin box labeled “Johnson’s Autokit” was clenched in her hand, but she didn’t need the bandages from the first aid kit. Both of the marshal’s men were dead. The young policeman told us that Detective Daniels had taken a badly injured Marshal Myrick. I asked how the revenuer was, and he shook his head and murmured, “Not good…”
Then he turned abruptly to answer a call on his radio and he stumbled to the ground. I tried to help him up and noticed a trickle of blood running down his face. When I pushed his hair up I could see that the wound was worse as it stretched back across his head. Granny opened the first aid kit and went to work.
“I didn’t even realize I was bleeding,” he said. “I just got dizzy all of a sudden.”
“That was as near a miss as there could possibly be,” Granny commented. Her calm voice seemed to sooth the young policeman. I was so shook-up myself that I hadn’t paid attention to his state, but Granny had. “What’s your name son?” she asked as she cleaned the wound.
He winced and tried to draw back, but she put a firm hand at his chin to hold him still. “Henry Hertz, ma’am. But everyone calls me Hank,” he said between cringes. I winced for him. Granny would make sure that wound was clean whether or not the disinfecting was pleasant.
“I’m going to Doc Vale’s now,” she said as she closed the first aid kit. “They might need an extra pair of hands. Besides, I have to know how Moses is. There’s too much blood here,” Granny Fanny murmured as she turned away. “Way too much…”
Looking back over her shoulder she added, “Pip, why don’t you help Hank with what he’s got to do here. Then drive his car to Veronica and Vincent’s. Hank doesn’t need to be driving right now. And if he starts acting sleepy, keep him awake. He might have a concussion. That bullet grazed him pretty good. Doc Vale needs to check him out… one Doc Vale or the other; doesn’t matter which,” she said in a lighter tone, reminding me that Granny enjoyed the fact that Mrs. Vale was such an accomplished physician in an age when few women were doctors.
Hank Hertz and I quickly did what the policeman at the other end of the radio said needed to be done for the crime scene. I was fascinated with the police radio. Hank seemed to know more about it than the older coppers back at the station in Savannah, easily telling them how to fix a problem when they started having trouble hearing each other.
“Aren’t you young to be a policeman?” I couldn’t help asking. Hank blushed and looked slightly put out. He said you could be a year younger than him and still be a policeman. “Well, at least to have this kind of responsibility?” I added, indicating the radio. “You seem to know a lot about it.”
His cheeks pinked again, but that time in a better way at the compliment. “My grandfather was a scientist. He was one of the first people to figure out things like radio waves and microwaves. His name was Heinrich Hertz, and he proved the existence of radio waves back in the late 1880s,” Hank explained.
“And that’s what lets the radio work right? Waves you can’t see,” I said, feeling a little pleased that he was surprised I had any idea or interest. “I paid attention in school,” I told him with a grin. “And I had teachers that didn’t have anything against girls learning scientific things. I guess I was lucky. I know that isn’t always the case.”
The young policeman was really in his element talking about the radio and its technology. I think it helped Hank get over the shock of the gruesome scene at which he arrived. He had seen more of the gory details than I had. What I saw was bad enough. More than bad enough.
His enthusiasm bubbled up when he talked about how radios worked, despite the headache I could tell he was getting. He rubbed his head and started to fidget with the bandage. I pushed his hand away from the gauze dressing. “Granny will cook your goose if you mess with her bandage,” I told him with a wink. “So what about the other waves you mentioned? What was it – mini waves?” I asked meaning to distract him from the headache with a subject he clearly enjoyed.
Hank seemed to have a little trouble focusing. I thought the headache must be pretty fierce. “Oh, you mean microwaves? I tried to tell my ma that microwaves might be used in the kitchen one day, for cooking. But she laughed and said I was too much like my grandpa. But I think — with the right equipment, they could be used to cook food. They would stimulate water molecules to vibrate and give off energy. You see, the frequency at which microwaves oscillate corresponds to a frequency that heats up water molecules, so they can absorb a lot of the energy. It would cook the food! Like that pigeon over there,” he said pointing. “You could cook a Cornish hen in probably three minutes.”
The pigeon chose that moment to fly away rather noisily. Maybe it was offended. However, Hank was keen on the microwave idea. I could tell he thought it was the bee’s knees… and I actually did understand… Well okay, half of it anyway.
I helped Hank get to his car, though he seemed to think he was the one helping me. He insisted on driving, but all I had to do was remind him that Granny said he’d better not drive. Granny Fanny had made an impression on the young policeman, and he gave in quickly.
Before we could get on the road, my stomach growled loudly. Hank was determined to do whatever he could to look after me. I started wondering just how badly I had reacted to the scene to cause him to be so concerned. Maybe he just needed something else to focus on, someone living. He reached under the seat and came up with a tin filled with prunes.
“Uh, I don’t need those,” I said awkwardly when he offered the dried plumbs. I wondered if that bullet had done more than graze his head.
He laughed and looked a little embarrassed. “Oh, no. I mean, prunes are real good for you. I want to be a better shot. With a gun, you know, since I’m a police officer now. My ma said prunes will give you healthy eyes and all sorts of good things. You just have to make sure you don’t eat too many!”
Whether or not the parrot heard me, I couldn’t say. But she kept flying. At least she was heading in the same direction that we were. Despite the critical circumstances, I couldn’t help thinking about Cracker’s behavior. First she had gone in the direction of Wetson’s Mill, where the marshal thought a gang of bootleggers was based. Cracker’s late, unlamented owner, Cracker Jack Daddy, probably spent a lot of time there, and might well have taken her with him. What if she had gone there looking for him?
Next she flew in the direction that Dabney had taken Moses Myrick. I wondered if she actually would go to the doctors Vale. Was the bird that smart? She was awfully fond of Marshal Myrick. Could she smell him and follow the scent?
With the detective and the marshal once again at the forefront of my thoughts, I was sick with worry. It was overwhelming. For a moment it seemed like I couldn’t even function. I stared blankly over the steering wheel of Hank’s car without moving. There were so many bullet holes in the marshal’s car. Empty shell casings littered the ground everywhere I looked. And the blood — there was so much blood… Dabney Daniels might have been wounded too for all I knew. Hank had been hurt and bleeding without even realizing it. It would be just like the detective to hide the fact that he was injured, so he could be sure the marshal got immediate care.
Then I remembered the marshal chuckling about me and telling my grandmother, “That apple didn’t fall far from the tree.”
Recipe credit: Michael Moore (Ninemsn.com)
|30 dried prunes (stones removed)|
|150g caster sugar||Chocolate Ganache||Mascarpone cream|
|200ml water||150ml cream||150ml cream|
|100ml brandy||150g dark chocolate||150g mascarpone|
|1 cinnamon quill (stick)||50g caster sugar|
|1 vanilla bean, split lengthways||vanilla essence|
Place all brandied prune ingredients into a pot and bring to the boil. Add prunes and cook for 4 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool in the liquid.
They are best left to steep for 24 hours.
For chocolate ganache, bring cream to the boil, then pour over chocolate. Mix together until dissolved. Allow to cool in the fridge.
For mascarpone cream, whisk cream together with mascarpone. Add sugar and vanilla and place into a piping bag.
Fill prunes with some of the ganache and place into your serving dish, pipe mascarpone on top and drizzle a little sauce over them. You may even like to add a little extra brandy.
14. Pinto Beans, Brown Rice, Tofu
Hank Hertz was acting very protective of me. This annoyed me because I was sure he must be at least a year younger than me. To make things even worse, I slipped on some damp grass as we crossed the lawn. I was half way to the ground but he caught my elbow. However, the sudden bend and twist movement, combined with his head wound made him dizzy. I ended up catching the young policeman too, which mollified me somewhat. Somehow we both managed to stand and continue across the grass to the path.
There were several buildings of varied shapes and sizes, all painted in crisp white. Stepping stones made paths between them. They shone brightly in the sun against the green of the thick grass. The residence of the doctors had neat green shutters on either side of a bay window and its roof was the same shade of green. A number of trees dotted the property. Spanish moss hung from branches here and there.
Movement above caught my eye. I was hoping that it would be Cracker the parrot, but I realized that was silly of me. Instead a gray heron glided effortlessly on broad wings to land at the pond behind the house. I watched in awe of its grace. A horse whinnied in the small “recovery” stable, bringing me out if the brief reverie. I pointed Hank to a side door in the animal hospital building. I knew the surgery room was on that end of the building from the time Veronica Vale had showed me her work areas and let me use a microscope.
The path led alongside the house, right by the kitchen window. It was open just a crack, and an aroma tickled my nose. I noticed a pot on the stove at a very low simmer. Then I recognized the scent for pinto beans. I had the quick thought that maybe I should check them for Veronica, but the beans would be all right at that low temperature for quite some time. Veronica had probably put the beans on to cook just before Detective Daniels showed up on her doorstep with the badly wounded Marshal Myrick. So I kept walking to the long one-story building.
Vincent’s old jalopy was parked beside the house. The door was left open and a box of dry goods was on the seat. I noticed a bag of brown rice on the top of the stack. I guessed they were planning to have beans and rice for supper. Vincent must have just gotten back from a grocery run and was unloading the car when Dabney arrived.
Looking at the evidence of daily life that had been interrupted and virtually abandoned gave me a surreal feeling. It was as if everything had been frozen in time. I hesitated briefly with my hand on the doorknob. My thoughts were in a jumble. How close was Granny Fanny to the injured marshal? There was clearly more of a history between them than I had ever known. If Moses Myrick… if he didn’t make it, how badly would Granny be hurt? I didn’t know how to deal with the prospect of my grandmother grieving.
ank asked if I was okay. I glanced up at him. A dot of blood had seeped through the bandage Granny put on the place where the bullet grazed the side of his head. It amazed me that he hadn’t realized he was hurt. But I had heard that kind of thing could happen in an emergency or during disasters like hurricanes. What if Dabney Daniels had been injured too and nobody knew it until it was too late? I felt a little guilty about it, but I was as worried about the fact that the detective might be hurt as I was the obviously critically wounded marshal.
I didn’t realize I had dropped my hand from the brass doorknob. Hank took off his hat as he opened the door. Then he courteously took my elbow as we walked over the threshold. I was immediately met by the clean smell of astringent; the hospital smell. Then I saw Dabney at the other end of the room, pacing. I breathed a sigh of relief that he was standing, but he was awfully pale.
The detective motioned to a table when he saw us. His suit jacket was draped over the back of a ladder-back chair. There was a tear at the shoulder. With a gasp I realized it was made by a bullet. “Are you hurt?” I exclaimed.
As he walked to the table he shook his head negatively, buy didn’t speak. His silence was in no way reassuring, but at least he didn’t seem injured. I started to hug him, but caught myself. I had been so worried about him, but at that moment he barely seemed to know I was there. I had become fond of the detective. He wasn’t all that much older than me, and he was interesting in his own taciturn way. Or at least I thought he was. I also thought he was rather dashing. I know it was silly of me, but it stung when he didn’t react to me at all. Maybe the emotional attachment had been completely one-sided. I swallowed and looked away, feeling foolish.
He exchanged a few words with Hank Hertz about the crime scene. Then he motioned for us to sit down. A decanter of coffee steamed when he opened it. Half a dozen cups and saucers were carefully stacked beside the carafe and neat containers of cream and sugar. I suddenly felt a little awkward, so I made the first stupid comment that occurred to me. “Expecting company?” I asked.
Dabney made a rueful face. “I made coffee. I tried to help the docs, but I was just getting in the way.” Then his mouth twisted down at one side. “And I was getting downright queasy. Miss Fanny sent me out five minutes after she got here,” he said in a tone that suggested he was disgusted with himself.
“Pip,” he said shaking his head. “I’ve always known your grandmother is a force of nature. But she continues to amaze me. Miss Fanny walked into that surgery room, with all that blood. Then she went right to work helping the docs dig out bullets and handing them their surgical instruments. She never even flinched, even though she looked right at what they were doing. I managed to help some before she got here, but I couldn’t look right at what they were doing.”
Hours later Vincent Vale came out of the double doors that led to the operating room. He looked positively haggard. Dabney was quick to pour him a cup of coffee. I knew the detective was trying to make up for feeling like he wasn’t useful enough. “How is he, Doc?” Dabney asked.
The veterinarian let out a whoosh of breath, and took a grateful sip of coffee before answering. He slumped into a chair and stretched his legs out in front of him as if he didn’t have the strength left to sit up straight. “Only time can tell, Detective. I’ve never seen a man shot up like that. Not like that… But Veronica has healed worse,” Vincent said of his wife who was an MD, not a veterinarian like him.
Abruptly Vincent noticed the bandage around Hank’s head. The spot of blood had gotten larger. He immediately got up and went to work, checking out the young officer. “That’s quite a nice field dressing,” he commented as he removed the bandage.
Dabney grumbled something intelligible. Vincent turned to him with a steady gaze. “You need to know that you made the difference, getting him here so fast. If you had tried to get him into town he would never have made it. If he survives, it will be every much because of you as anything Veronica and I have done,” Vincent said in a tone that brooked no argument.
“Young man, this needs some stiches. Come with me,” he said to Hank and rose purposefully from his chair, no longer seeming tired.
“Veronica is finishing now,” Vincent told us. “Maybe I’m biased as her husband, but I’ve never seen such beautifully done work. Mrs. Peabody makes an extraordinary nurse too. I wonder if she’s had formal experience,” he added, but his words trailed off in that preoccupied way that he had. He took another drink of coffee and made an approving sound. “It’s far too early to predict whether Mr. Myrick will recover, but I can’t help thinking that he will.” Then the veterinarian looked sheepish. “I apologize. I shouldn’t say that in this circumstance. It was unprofessional of me. I suppose I’m just tired,” he said as he led Hank to an examination room.
I was still feeling awkward around Dabney after the epiphany that whatever I had been feeling for him probably wasn’t being returned. I went walked to the house to check on the beans that had been left simmering on the stove. They seemed about done, so I turned off the burner. Then I unloaded the box dry goods from Vincent’s car. I tidied the kitchen even though it didn’t need it. With a sigh I resigned myself. There was nothing for it — I had to go back and sit with Dabney and Hank no matter how uncomfortable I felt.
A little while later the double doors pushed open again. Doctor Veronica and Granny Fanny walked together. The doctor was talking to Granny. “I spent a year in Hong Kong on an exchange program. I studied Chinese medicine as much as time allowed, but there was so very much to learn. I fear I only scratched the surface,” she told my grandmother. “However, it should help reduce any inflammation. It would be generally good for him, and actually an easy food for his recovery period,” she added.
Naturally I wondered what they were discussing. Granny nodded emphatically. “I’ll call-up Arabella Wong. They keep plenty of tofu for their restaurant. I’ll ask her to fix plenty of it and have Pip fetch it. That fool man… He eats beef at least twice a day. I know it can’t be good for him. He needs to have more than just meat,” Granny said and wiped the corner of her eye.
The next thing I knew she was crying. I completely forgot about my confused feelings for the detective and the distress it had caused me a moment before. I had never seen Granny cry before, and I was beside myself. I rushed to where she stood. Dabney was there even faster; his long legs took him to her side in two steps. A moment later she tried to make as if nothing had happened, saying that she was just a silly woman. Everyone knew that was far from the truth and said so in chorus.
“It’s just been a lot to bear,” she murmured, and I knew she meant watching and assisting during an operation performed on someone for whom she obviously cared deeply.
“Vincent,” Veronica Vale began, but paused with a sidelong look at the detective. “Would you please get Fanny something… medicinal? Something from the crystal decanter? She needs a little something to strengthen her nerves,” she said and her husband nodded knowingly.
At Veronica’s instruction, the two policemen began rearranging an examining room so it could be a recovery room. In no time they had dismantled and reassembled a bed, moved out a cabinet, and brought in several things the doctor said would be necessary.
Meanwhile I took over supper preparations. I didn’t have much confidence in my cooking yet, and I was in a strange kitchen. I even felt odd about going through someone else’s pantry. So I decided to work with what they apparently had in mind before their day was interrupted. I gave the pinto beans another quick check, and then went about cooking the rice and an iron skillet of cornbread. I spotted some okra so I saved some of the cornbread batter and deep fried the okra.
While I cooked I thought about what Granny said to Veronica about tofu. I wondered if she would make me learn to cook it. I had no idea where to even begin. I wasn’t sure if I had ever eaten tofu before. It couldn’t be any harder than fried okra, I told myself. I smiled when I looked at the golden brown pods. They seemed to sparkle as I placed them on a towel to blot the oil. For once I had gotten it right.
However, I could just imagine Pops complaining that there was no meat — it didn’t matter to Pops that beans and rice together were supposed to be a complete protein. Pops always had to have meat or it wasn’t a meal. So I wondered if Dabney and Hank might feel the same way. Well, I told myself, I was doing the best I could with what I had. Or at least what I could find. Then I found a Mason jar of chow-chow in the pantry. The relish would go nicely with the beans. That would have to do for a finishing touch.
Sure, I had cooked for Pops and me, and Granny had me make a number of meals in the time I had been staying with her. However, this was the first time I had prepared a meal someone I didn’t know well, let alone for a group of people. I checked every dish one last time. Then I took a deep breath and went to let everyone know that supper was ready.
I found Granny sitting on a chair beside Moses Myrick’s bed. She looked so tired and small. I thought I heard a little tap sound, but I had too many things on my mind. Worry for Granny went to the top of that list. I tried to convince her to go with the others and have something to eat. No matter how faithfully I promised to sit with the marshal, she wasn’t going to budge. There it was again. That time the sound pushed through my troubled thoughts.
It was like a tiny tap at the window, like the sound a pebble makes. I walked to the window and pushed aside the white cotton curtain, but I didn’t see anything. Then I noticed a smear on the otherwise clean windowpane. I pushed the lever handle and the window swung into the room. Before I could lean out to have a better look something grazed past my face. I drew back and put my hand to my mouth to muffle a shriek of surprise. Then I became aware of the bright color that went past me in a blur.
Cracker alighted on the headboard of the marshal’s bed. The parrot cooed softly and paced the length of the metal bedrail once. Then to my utter astonishment the bird swooped to Granny’s shoulder and cuddled under her ear.
Clam and Tofu Soup
Recipe and photo credit: Judy Xu, “In Balance with Nature”
Regular clams (Meretrix lusoria) 250g, Tofu 200g, Ginger 10g, Salt 3g, Pepper powder 2g
- Wash the clams
- Wash the tofu and slice the tofu into thick slices
- Wash the ginger, cut into long thin strips
- Add water into a pot and bring it to boil
- Add clams, tofu, and ginger and boil them all together in the water for around 5 minutes
- Add salt and pepper
The author of the recipe states certain Chinese medicine benefits. Naturally I am not making any medical claim; rather I am just sharing what was included with the recipe.
Gentle reminder: Don’t eat clams alongside river snails, orange and celery
Chinese Medicine Benefits:
The soup replenishes the Yin, improves vision, and softens and removes phlegm. Good for people of Dry Fire or Heavy & Humid Body Constitution.
15. Chicken, Meatloaf, Cookies
A large ball of fluffy white darted into the room the instant the door opened. It moved across the room so fast it was just a white fuzzy blur. Then it bounded up into my arms. I caught it instinctively. “Cotton!” I gasped.
Somewhere in all that mass of curly fluff was a dog. Veronica Vale’s miniature poodle, to be exact. I had only met the little dog a matter of hours before. The doctor had let him out briefly for some exercise, before she tiredly stumbled off to bed.
Cotton ran right between the young policeman’s feet as he was stepping over the threshold. Hank Hertz stumbled as he carried radio equipment into the makeshift “command center” as Detective Dabney Daniels dubbed the room. Not many hours earlier we sat in that same room; filled with worry as the doctors Vale operated on Marshall Moses Myrick.
Dabney caught a piece of radio equipment just before it hit the floor. Hank sighed, audible relief. “See. That’s exactly what I mean. You’re still woozy,” the detective admonished the young officer. “That is why you are not going on the raid.”
“I should think not,” Granny Fanny muttered as she walked past carrying a pan of uncooked meatloaf. She gave a derisive sniff. “You should be in bed, young man. Not toting radio tomfoolery around.”
She adjusted slices of green bell pepper on the top of the meatloaf. Sliced horizontally the peppers looked like flowers. Then she opened up the oven in the corner kitchenette and put the meatloaf inside. Granny had been cooking up a storm while we waited for a pronouncement from Veronica Vale as to whether or not she believed Moses Myrick would survive the several gunshot wounds. Apparently she was already using everything in the kitchen of the main house and now was taking over the kitchenette as well.
Marshal Myrick woke up briefly a couple of times in the early morning hours. Cracker the parrot, having somehow found us after getting out of Granny’s cottage and flying around who knew where, had taken up the bedside vigil when my grandmother left the recovery room. Once I heard the parrot chirp to the marshal in a soft sad sounding voice, “Who’s your daddy?” It had a tone of encouragement, as if she was trying to get him to respond to her.
The long building in which we stood had a small but complete kitchen area. The Vales’ property consisted of their house, a small stable, a combination boarding and recovery building, and the large structure where I had spent much of the night, keeping company with whoever watched the marshal.
The building was a vaguely hospital-like facility that Vincent Vale used in his veterinary practice. His wife, Veronica, also took part of it as her laboratory. The married doctors, one a veterinarian and one an MD had saved the life of Marshal Moses Myrick after he and his men were ambushed. Detective Daniels had also been instrumental in that, by getting the wounded man to medical attention so quickly.
Granny rummaged through the drawers and cabinets, probably trying to see what tools and dry goods would be useful to her. I couldn’t imagine what she might cook next. The entire place, even the areas between the buildings, was filled with delicious aromas from her non-stop cooking. She was stretching in an unsuccessful attempt to reach a canister of flour on a top shelf. Dabney, a tall man, noticed what she was about and quickly stepped over to get it for her.
That was one thing I could say for the detective. He might not know I was alive, as far as any romantic interest on his part. However, he was kind to my grandmother. So supposed I could forgive him for his lack of interest in me. Then Dabney turned back to Hank Hertz, attentively taking instruction from the younger man about setting up the radio station.
Hank was a wonder with the technical things. I had to admire his confidence in his ability. It was an understated self-assurance, as if he “just knew” and took his knowledge for granted, as if it was nothing. I hoped he would develop the same sureness in other parts of his career and life. I felt a little protective of Hank for some reason. He just seemed to need a bit of looking after. I had never been anybody’s big sister, but I sort of had that kind of feeling about Hank.
Vincent Vale came in carrying two heavy looking baskets. The aroma of fried chicken wafted to my nose. I couldn’t help imagining what foods filled the baskets. And I hoped it was meant for us! Dr. Vale set the baskets down and looked on as the two policemen worked. Dabney talked about a raid that was soon to take place at Wetson’s Mill. At the detective’s insistence, the coppers who followed the gangsters that ambushed Marshal Myrick held back and watched the place, rather than storming it.
As Dabney had expected, more villains gathered as the night went on. The police intended to stage a raid not long after sunrise. I knew that Dabney would leave soon to take part in that life threatening situation. I also knew that was his job, as Granny had reminded me. But I didn’t have to like it. I supposed Granny felt the same way, because now and then she shot Dabney a worried look.
I let the poodle down and she went to Vincent. I was headed toward the aromatic baskets when the sound of a truck outside sent me to the window instead. Granny looked up and I noticed that the flour was transforming into biscuits ready to go into the oven along with the meatloaf. “Pip,” she called over her shoulder as she continued to pat more biscuits and place them on the baking tray. “Sweet-pea, would you go get my pocketbook? That would be the young man from Gilley’s Grocery bringing more food.”
“I’ll get it Mrs. Peabody,” Vincent said in his usual polite if formal way. Granny protested that she had already cleaned out their pantry, and couldn’t let him buy the food she had ordered too. However, the veterinarian wouldn’t hear of it. “This is my contribution. At least let me do this much,” he added and I wondered again if he was feeling like he had done less than his surgeon wife in working on the marshal.
Granny relented. “Well, all right then. Godfrey Gilley said he would take those baskets to the families. Would you kindly make sure the driver gets them?”
The families? I was puzzled for a second. Then I felt a pang of guilt for my thoughtlessness. Two government agents, Moses Myrick’s men, were killed in the ambush where the marshal was left for dead. So Granny hadn’t been performing a cooking marathon just out of worry. She wanted to make sure the families of the two slain revenuers, the agents, had a good meal during their time of need.
I felt a second twinge of guilt when I was sorry to see all that lovely food leave. My stomach growled in commiseration with my conscience. Granny chuckled. I blushed, knowing that my stomach must have been loud enough for her to hear it across the room.
“Pip, why don’t you go check the oven at the house. I have some cookies that should be ready to come out about now. Bring them back here with a picture of milk so we can all have a little bite to eat,” Granny suggested — to the intense relief of my stomach, my conscience, and me.
From the open door of the recovery room I heard Cracker chirp. “Who’s your daddy?” Then more loudly, “Who’s your daddy? Clever bird!”
The parrot flapped out of the room and over to Granny. Cracker bobbed her head excitedly. Granny dropped what she was doing, but she was smiling. “Yes, clever bird indeed!” she told the parrot.
It seemed that Cracker had finally befriended my grandmother.
Vincent Vale, tall as Dabney but thinner, wiry and long legged, ran past us to the marshal’s room. Cracker glided just over our heads and back into the room. The parrot cooed and chattered an entire collection of phrases that I didn’t know were in her vocabulary. However, I had alw
ays suspected that she knew many more words than the few things I had gotten her to say. Vincent had confirmed my idea that the parrot was probably traumatized by her owner’s death.
Doc Vale went into the room, right behind the parrot. I heard muffled voices — two of them. Moses Myrick was awake.
Good Eats Meatloaf-Food Network
16. Pork, Braise, Fork
The ticking of the clock had become my constant companion. It seemed like ever since I came to Savannah half my days were spent waiting. First Granny Fanny and I had waited, albeit briefly, before following Detective Dabney Daniels to the scene where Marshal Moses Myrick and his men had been ambushed. Next we were on pins and needles until we learned whether the marshal would survive his wounds and the surgery. Then I found myself in a holding pattern yet again. That time the wait was again because of Dabney Daniels.
Detective Daniels left to join the rest of Savannah’s finest in a raid on Wetson’s Mill, where Moses Myrick thought the bootleggers were based. Hank Hertz, the youngest policeman, made no secret of his annoyance at being left behind. However, he couldn’t hide the fact that he was still pretty dizzy from the bullet that had grazed his temple. He also acted like he had a doozy of a headache. Nonetheless he fiddled with the knobs and dials of the radio equipment as he expertly set up a base station.
I handed Hank a cup of coffee and a plate of biscuits with pork sausage patties. He hungrily stuffed half of a biscuit into his mouth in one big bite. Then I sat down to dig into some myself. There was nothing like Granny’s biscuits! The breakfast sausage was fried with a crisp outside and tender inside. The biscuits were light and golden brown, and they melted in my mouth.
A groan from the open door where we had setup a hospital room for Marshal Myrick interrupted me. Before I had time to turn around, I saw Granny coming with more medicine for the revenuer. It was as if she knew about his pain even before he did; as if she had a nearly supernatural ability. It was almost scary. I glanced over at Hank for his reaction, but he hadn’t noticed. He was still busy with the radio equipment, though biscuit crumbs dusted his chest.
Apparently Granny had some amount of medical training, somewhere along the line. However, she had never spoken of it in my presence. It had been clear that she already knew how to administer the hypodermic needle even as Veronica Vale showed her. However, Doctor Vale always drew the drug herself. Apparently it was potent, dangerous stuff.
The down-side to the medication was that the marshal wasn’t coherent enough to advise the other policemen on the raid they were staging. Through the open door I could hear the marshal talking, though none of it made any sense. Veronica had said the drug would probably make him say crazy things. Granny murmured soothing words that I couldn’t make out, but they seemed to settle the wounded man. The parrot continued to sit vigil from her perch at the foot of the bed. I heard Cracker coo her usual comment, “Who’s your daddy?”
A few minutes later, Granny came out of the room with Cracker sitting on her shoulder. I wondered how she had coaxed the parrot away from the marshal. The bird had refused to leave the man’s side. Then I noticed Granny hand her sunflower seeds. In learning how to prepare za’atar, Granny had discovered sunflower seeds were Cracker’s favorite treat.
Sweetheart? It used to be nasty bird! I was astonished at Granny’s 180 degree change of attitude toward the parrot. I guessed they discovered a common bond in their mutual affection for Moses Myrick. That was something else I had yet to pin down — my grandmother’s history with the revenuer. Granny Fanny had a lot of explaining to do as I saw it.
“Pip, Sweet-pea,” she said to me. “I’m sorry. I know I said I would teach you to cook braised pork today, but circumstance has made a liar of me. There isn’t time to work on anything like that today. I hope you don’t mind. You’ve been getting plenty of practice with doing things spontaneously and making do with what’s on hand in an unfamiliar kitchen, since all these awful events took place. That’s valuable experience too.”
Did I mind? I almost sputtered out a bite of biscuit, but I managed to control myself. These cooking lessons had not been my idea. I had been inclined to stay with my friend Mona until my Pops had sent me to Savannah with Granny. Mona the Movie Star is what we called my friend. The circus magnate, John Ringling had offered Mona a try-out and training as a trapeze performer. We were both invited to stay at the Ringling mansion, Ca’ d’Zan. That gilded mansion was the bee’s knees. Ca’ d’Zan was the cat’s pajamas; the berries! It was the most amazing, extraordinary place I had ever seen.
While I was enjoying my time with my grandmother more than I expected, I had not wanted to leave Sarasota, Florida. There had been a lot of drama and trauma surrounding my beau, Frankie. I needed to be near my friends. I needed their support to get over it. And what flapper in her right mind would pass up a free stay at Ca’ d’Zan? However, Pops didn’t share that feeling.
“It’s not really that difficult,” Granny was saying, and I brought my mind back to the present. “It just takes a while to fix. After braising the meat, you just insert a fork into pork. If the fork comes out easily the pork is done. Then you can keep boiling down the braising liquid and it will cook down to a glaze.”
I nodded as if that made perfect sense to me. I wasn’t sure of the concept of braising, let alone making a glaze. “That’s okay, Granny,” I said in a consoling tone.
I schooled my expression to be one of self-sacrifice and disappointment. When Granny Fanny raised one eyebrow at me, I knew she saw through me. Luckily she didn’t get the chance to say anything. She was interrupted when Cracker abruptly launched from her shoulder and glided down the long building. One end of the structure was connected to the Vales’ house by a breezeway. I heard the door open and the click of canine toenails on the tile floor.
Excited yapping ensued. I heard Vincent Vale trying to quiet the miniature poodle named Cotton. Then Cracker flapped back to us with a small stuffed toy in her beak. I recognized it for the dog’s toy. The parrot flew low, getting the little poodle to chase her for the toy. The two actually seemed to be enjoying themselves and I couldn’t help laughing.
Vincent darted to the sick-room and closed the door to make sure the antics of the dog and parrot didn’t disturb the patient. Cotton proved that she could pounce high enough to grab the toy. She shook her head with the toy in her mouth. With her beak free, the parrot chirped, “Clever girl!” apparently encouraging the poodle.
Cotton dropped the toy and set after the bird when Cracker made another pass. The parrot led the poodle all around the room. As the dog barked, the parrot squawked “Clever girl,” which got the poodle more enthusiastic by the minute.
Then the dog jumped onto the table where Hank laboriously set up the radio station. Cotton careened into and over the equipment. I heard Veronica’s voice in the distance and then she whistled for the dog. Cotton apparently recognized discretion as the better part of valor and ran toward her mistress’s voice.
Hank was beside himself. Static emanated from the radio. All the effort he put into setting all the knobs and dials just so was probably wasted. At least nothing was broken… except the plate of sausage and biscuits that he was eating. Hank bent to pick up the mess, shaking his head. I noticed Cracker in the corner with one of Hank’s biscuits in her foot as she held it and broke off little bites. So I diverted attention away from her. There was no point adding insult to injury on Hank. But the silly bird dropped her prize and swooped back to the radio table.
The parrot cocked her head at the radio and the noise and whistled. “Who’s your daddy?” she said with what was actually a questioning tone. Then she bobbed her head excitedly. “Fourandtwenty! Fourandtwenty!”
There was that phrase again. Granny and I exchanged a look. She put out her hand when Hank made to shoo the bird away from the equipment. Hank was a quick study and seemed to realize there was more to the situation than he knew.
A voice came clearly amid the static on the radio. Cracker must have heard it when we were all too preoccupied with show she and the dog had provided. Granny handed her a sunflower seed with an expectant look on her face. “Now sweetie, ‘four and twenty’ what’s that about?” she coaxed the bird. “What else can you say?”
“Fourandtwenty,” Cracker repeated bobbing her head.
Granny handed her another sunflower seed. “Clever bird. What else can you say?” she encouraged.
The word “mill” got our attention. Mill as in Wetson’s Mill, where Dabney and the other policemen had gone to raid the bootleggers? Everyone else turned in surprise toward the sound of the voice. Everyone that is, except Granny Fanny. She barely spared us a glance. She was intently focused on Cracker. Granny nodded to the parrot and repeated, “Four and twenty?” Then she gave her another seed.
“Jokerswild,” the parrot said and shook her foot. Somehow the motion seemed disdainful, though I couldn’t say why.
“Eight and five,” the voice from the radio began. At first that puzzled me. Suddenly I remembered Moses Myrick had said the gang had code names based on playing cards. Then I realized the numbers were being used as names. Not eight and five, but Eight and Five. “Pick up the Bishop and Nine,” the voice said in a commanding tone.
A different voice replied. There was more static and we couldn’t make out the words. Hank Hertz frantically fiddled with the radio. “Queen said—… for the shindig— … back to town. … Couldn’t stop her—” the new voice said between bursts of static.
Hank gave another dial a twist, holding his breath.
“Look we’re doing the best we can!” the second voice complained, and it came through pretty clearly. “We’ll hear their radio if anything changes. Queenie Wetson’ll kill us if we don’t do what she says. The King ain’t no more scary than the Queen!”
“Just do it, or the King will have your heads,” the first voice threatened. “Get over here now.”
I gasped. “So the gangsters have been listening to the police on the radio?”
“I’ve got to tell them!” Hank said, meaning his fellow officers, and he reached toward the equipment.
“No!” I cried. “We can’t let them know, that we know, that they know…” at that point I got tongue-tied with all the they knows and we knows, so I stopped and stretched my hands out as if to stop the young copper.
Then the first voice repeated, “Just do it. Go to the King’s. Now!”
Cracker whistled excitedly, “Kinghenry! Fourandtwenty! Kinghenry!”
Mexican pulled Pork (Carnitas)
(Video credit America’s Test Kitchen)
17. Rutabaga Limbo
Either I woke up feeling horribly nauseous, or the queasiness woke me. I’m not sure which. I opened my eyes to complete darkness. There was no light, no sound. The way my stomach tossed reminded me of a small boat on the ocean. It was as if I sailed in a lightless limbo. Oh… that was a bad train of thought to have with an unsettled belly. Think of something else! Anything else, I told myself.
I stood unsteadily. However, the motion set my ears ringing and bile rose in my throat. Collapsing to my hands and knees, I vomited despite efforts to hold it back. After my belly had emptied, it calmed and so did the ringing in my ears.
The sound of a cricket came to me. Good. The utter silence had been very disturbing. I became aware of the cool moist earth beneath my palms. Where the Sam Hill was I? I sat back on my heels, focusing all my senses.
My eyes might as well have been closed — it was that dark. Bare ground was beneath me. The air had a musty odor. A sickly sweet scent clung to my bobbed hair. It almost made me sick-up again. The cricket’s “chirping” was the only sound. Still sitting, I turned. My eyes widened and strained, trying to see in that heavy darkness. When I looked up I was rewarded with the sight of a thin line of pink light.
The faint glow allowed me to see shadowy outlines a few feet away. There were large lumpy shadows. One shape was tall and narrow. Cautiously I stood. The dizziness abated after a moment and I groped my way to the shape.
I stumbled over something and stooped down to let my hands figure out what it was. I felt a burlap bag and round lumps. Rutabagas. I felt around and found another bag. That one felt like potatoes. I moved closer to the wall and the tall shape. Yes, a ladder, my questing hands confirmed for my still foggy brain.
Gazing up at the line of pinkish light I realized I was in a root cellar. But how had I gotten there? My memory was completely out of sorts, and it made my head hurt to try and figure it out. The moldy air made me sneeze, which also hurt my head.
I dragged the ladder into place beneath the crack of light. That would be the door to the cellar. Unsteadily but carefully I climbed. I reached and pushed against the hatch, but it only moved an inch. Then it dropped back down, scattering dirt in my face. I rubbed my nose and tried not to sneeze again. I was already dizzy and didn’t want to sneeze while I was on that ladder.
Moving a couple of rungs higher I was able to put my shoulders against the cellar door and push. The muzzy feeling gradually left my brain. It puzzled me that the cellar door was so heavy. I heard a muffled sound somewhere beyond the cellar. I pushed again, harder. That time I was able to shoulder open the door.
Looking around, the first thing I noticed was the pink sunset. Everything else that met my eyes was unfamiliar. I still didn’t know where I was, but I didn’t think it should be evening. Why couldn’t I think clearly? No, it shouldn’t be sunset. It should be morning. However, I couldn’t remember why I felt that way.
I crawled out onto the grass. The muffled, faraway sound reached my ears again, but it seemed much closer. It was a voice. I heard it again — my name. I took a deep breath to shout in answer, but my nose filled with the sickly sweet odor from my hair and I had a fit of coughing.
Rising to wobbly knees I looked toward the sound. I saw rows of plants. It was a garden. Then I saw a figure running toward me, trampling the rows of plants that I suddenly recognized for herbs. I knew him. My muddled brain searched for a name. All I came up with was tofu. I knew that wasn’t the name, but I remembered I was supposed to be getting tofu. Granny wanted tofu, but why would she want that?
“Pip! Where have you been? Are you all right? Holy Hannah we were so worried about you!” said Alastair Wong in one frantic sounding stream of words. “There’s dirt all over your face,” he added sounding puzzled.
My answer was another sneeze. Alastair immediately reached into his breast pocket, but seemed to find it empty. I realized he meant to offer me a handkerchief. Oh yes, there would be a hanky in my pocket. As I removed the embroidered soft cotton cloth something else came out of my pocket and fluttered to the ground. I hardly noticed it, but Alastair stooped to retrieve it.
Alastair inspected the small rectangular piece of paper. His expression shifted from confusion to fear as he looked at it.
“What is it?” I asked.
I didn’t remember having kind of paper or note with me. I could tell it was too stiff to be a shopping list. In Alastair’s hand it looked more like a calling card. Wordlessly Alastair handed it to me. It wasn’t a business card. It was a playing card — the king of clubs!
Recipe credit: Food Network Magazine. Photo credit: Antonis Achilleos
Total Time: 50 min
Prep: 10 min
Cook: 40 min
Toss 1 large peeled and cubed rutabaga with 3 tablespoons olive oil, and salt and pepper on a baking sheet. Roast at 425 degrees F until golden and soft, 40 minutes. Toss with 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and chopped parsley.
18. Fungus, Quiche, Quinoa
Time seemed to freeze. I stood in a field of grass that swayed in a gentle breeze. My head hurt and my stomach was upset. I stared at the playing card Alastair Wong handed me. How had it come to be in my pocket? I felt like there was some significance to the King of Clubs card. I delved my sluggish thoughts, but it was like swimming in mud. I couldn’t remember what I should know about the card. While I looked at it additional questions flooded my consciousness. Why was I standing in the middle of a large herb garden? Most of all, why had I been in a root cellar?
I wrapped my arms around myself, suddenly cold. I noticed a tear in the sleeve of my dress and a scrape on my elbow. Taking my fingers away from the spot I saw blood, dirt, and some kind of fungus. Who knew what might grow in the darkness of a cellar. The wound was dirty; it needed to be washed, I thought distractedly.
Then my exploring hands felt a gritty coating on my back and shoulders. Alastair must have thought I was trying to dust myself off, but I was really just trying to figure out what had happened to me. Why couldn’t I remember?
He gently started to dust off my shoulders. “Pip, you’re a mess,” he pretended to chide me. I was sure he could tell I was distraught and wanted to lighten my mood. “You have dirt on your face, and… what’s this all over your back?” the young owner of the local Chinese restaurant added.
Alastair removed his hand from my shoulder and looked at his fingers. His eyebrows knitted in a perplexed way. I looked at the substance I felt on my own hands. I sort of remembered landing on bags of something that broke my fall, like a cushion. “Is it wheat or maybe some kind of seeds?” I muttered, still groggy.
“Fat hen!” he exclaimed.
“What did you call me?” I demanded, thinking my ears surely deceived me.
“No,” Alastair said. “Goosefoot.”
“That isn’t any better!” I cried. How dare he?
“No, Pip. I mean the grain. Jeepers, what’s the real name—? They call it fat hen, sometimes goosefoot… Quinoa, that’s it! I haven’t seen much of this around here. I think it’s quinoa. That’s a high protein grain crop,” he said, showing off his knowledge of foodstuffs. I was sure he was just as educated as any big restaurateur.
A sudden blast of sound startled me. Alastair loudly blew a whistle. Then he blew it two more times. I covered my ears against the eardrum splitting noise. Applesauce! As if I didn’t already have a headache. You’d think he could have warned me. Why did he blow a whistle in the first place?
I felt really woozy, and it must have showed. Alastair stepped closer to me and took my elbow. I didn’t realize until then that I stood dangerously close to the trapdoor type opening of that cellar. He guided me a few steps away from it, but his eyes narrowed suspiciously as he looked down. Alastair bent to inspect the hatch. It was covered with sod. My mind was still muddled, but I realized the covering of dirt and grass explained why the door was so heavy and difficult when I shouldered it open.
“Somebody wanted to keep that cellar hidden,” Alastair said as he looked curiously into the dark maw of the vault. “You don’t remember how you got here, huh?” he asked.
I shook my head then wished I had not moved it.
“Somebody must have pushed you into that cellar. I’ll bet you landed on a bag of this quinoa,” he pondered looking at his dusty fingers. “Then whomever it was closed the door and left you there. Did you see anything else down there?”
“I felt bags of potatoes and rutabagas,” I replied. “There was only a crack of light coming from the hatch. I made out the shape of a ladder and used it to climb out. I couldn’t see what else might be in there.”
The pink light that heralded sunset deepened. The clouds turned orange and red in prediction of a fair night. Alastair looked up expectantly toward the horizon. He must have heard something I had not noticed, but then my ears were still ringing a bit. A moment later I caught a faint shrill sound. He smiled.
“We’ve been looking for you nearly all day, Pip,” Alastair told me, seeming amused at my puzzled expression. “What in the devil were you doing out here?”
I confessed that I had no idea how I got there. I couldn’t remember. “Tofu,” I muttered. “I remember something about tofu and Granny.”
He smiled at that and looked a little relieved. “You had me worried. I expect everything will come back to you,” Alastair told me as he led me away from the cellar. “You were supposed to come to the restaurant to pick up some tofu. Miss Fanny seemed intent on forcing it down her patient.”
Patient? “Wha—?” I began, but my brain wouldn’t finish digging for the information.
“It’s okay, Pip. Marshal Myrick? The doctors Vale did surgery on him at their place? After he was ambushed? Do you remember any of that? It sounds awfully exciting! It’s okay,” he said in answer to my pleading look. “It will come back to you. Anyhow, when you didn’t show up I thought Miss Fanny’s Model-T must have broken down, so I headed out to meet you. I got all the way to the Vales’ animal hospital and still hadn’t seen the car or you,” Alastair explained.
Applesauce! Had something happened to Granny’s Model-T? She’d kill me!
Alastair’s voice intruded on my panicked thoughts. “Everybody was trying to guess where else you might have gone. When you called, I remembered you saying something about cilantro, but you didn’t explain. I figured if you had made a detour to get cilantro, then the Queen of Clubs Herb Farm was the only place that was between the Vale’s place and Wong’s.
“We found the Model-T hours ago, but we couldn’t find you anywhere. The Wetson house and the buildings around it were deserted. But I understand they’re linked to the ambush and the bootleggers somehow?” he said.
Slowly I nodded. I wasn’t sure why, but what Alastair said seemed right. I had a half-formed memory of something like that… I remembered being in the Model-T with Granny driving that cherished car like a bat out of hell. Then I remembered all the blood at the scene of the ambush. There were dead bodies. I remembered that very clearly, even the coppery smell of the blood. I turned away from Alastair and wretched, but there was nothing left in my stomach. Thank goodness.
“Come on,” he said gently. “My truck is right over here. You can rest there. The others will be here in a minute.”
“Others?” I asked groggily.
Then I saw the truck, not too far away. I thought I could walk that far. The truck was painted with the name, Wong’s Chinese. I noticed Alastair had added his new slogan below the restaurant name, “You’re always right with Wong’s,” and I thought it was strange that I could remember him telling me that silly slogan, but I couldn’t remember what had happened to me that day. When we reached the truck I saw a crate of eggs in the back. Half the eggs were broken. I gave Alastair what must have been an odd look.
“I didn’t exactly drive carefully once we figured out something was wrong, that you’d gone missing,” he said and he blushed a little. “When I said I was going to meet up with you, in case you’d broken down, Momma had me take some eggs. She said Doctor Veronica likes to make quiche… Then I forgot to give them to her. I hit a lot of bumps on the way out here. Not so good for eggs… Maybe Doctor Ronnie can salvage some of them.”
He was saved from further explanation by the sound of yapping. High pitched barking grew closer. Something white bounded through the tall grass. For a second I didn’t know what it was, but my mind started filling in blanks. It was a little poodle. Cotton, the name came to me; Veronica Vale’s dog. Just as those thoughts fell into place the poodle pounced into my arms.
As the sky grew increasingly red with sunset, the field became more populated. Veronica Vale puttered up in their slow moving jalopy. She jumped out of the car and hugged me while I held the dog. Cotton then struggled to get down. “Cotton, you naughty girl,” Veronica chided the dog. “You know you’re supposed to come when I call you.” The dog only wagged her tail in answer, totally unrepentant.
Then a familiar automobile drove up, but I couldn’t say why I felt I knew it. I recognized the car, but that was as far as memory would take me.
Veronica noticed my odd expression when a tall attractive man with deep blue eyes got out of the car. He had a severe expression on his face, and an official bearing that made me feel like a kid in trouble. He looked angry and I reflexively drew back.
Mrs. Vale seemed to think she was explaining the man’s presence when she spoke. “We made Hank stay behind with Moses. Mind you it was a task, because he was already out the door to go looking for you before Alastair even finished saying that he didn’t see you on the road anywhere. However, Hank really should be resting from that head wound, and we couldn’t leave the marshal alone. So I made him stay behind to mind the patient. But the rest of us have been searching high and low for you,” she said then paused and looked expectantly at my blank expression. “Hank radioed Dabney. He left off investigating the bootleggers and joined our search for you.”
Who was Hank? I wondered silently. A kind face hovered in my mind. I associated him with a uniform and a radio. That’s it! Hank was the youngest policeman on Savannah’s force, and he was a wizard with radio equipment. But who was this angry looking man?
“I whistled to the others, when I heard your signal,” Veronica added with a nod to Alastair. “Vincent and your grandmother should be here shortly.”
“I’m sorry,” I began, “but who is that? He looks like a copper.” I said that quietly so as not to offend the man who was only a few feet away by then. He looked like he was already annoyed enough.
When I spoke, Veronica looked at me intently. She stepped closer and got all doctor-like. She checked my eyes and felt around on my head, despite me trying to push her hands away. “Pip…” she said warningly, and I was reminded that, well she was a doctor. She asked what was wrong.
“She can’t remember anything that happened today,” Alastair supplied while I struggled to form the right words. “And apparently there are some other things she can’t remember too,” he added with his voice dipping in a worried tone.
Doctor Vale looked suspiciously at me and felt my head again. By then the man had walked over to us. “You do have a little bump on your head, but…” she began, but her words trailed away. “You know Dabney Daniels, don’t you? The police detective?” she asked.
I said nothing, but I spared a timid glance at the detective. He looked from Doctor Vale to me and back to her again. His posture became stiffer, if that was possible. His face reddened. Was he angry with me, I wondered. Had I done something I couldn’t remember? Broken some law? Surely not.
Then Veronica leaned toward me and sniffed. The awful sickly sweet smell still clung to my hair. Right then, I would have given just about anything to wash that odor out of my hair. It nauseated me every time I breathed.
Her eyes grew large. “You’ve been drugged, Pip!” she said with surprise. “Do you remember anything? Anything about somebody frightening you, or doing something to you?” she asked, but I shook my head.
The detective’s hands clinched to fists. Veronica put her fingers to a smear on my face, and then smelled of her hand and nodded knowingly. “Someone probably grabbed you from behind. Do you remember anything like that?”
Suddenly I remembered the air whooshing from my lungs as someone roughly caught me around my middle. Yes, they had been behind me and I had not seen who it was. Then I remembered everything going black.
“Show him the card, Pip,” Alastair said somewhat hesitantly and motioned to the detective.
I was sort of relieved to know that I wasn’t the only one who felt awkward around the man. I couldn’t blame Alastair. This detective was a fierce looking customer. I took out the King of Clubs card and extended it toward the man without speaking. Was I really supposed to be acquainted with this man?
“That card fell out of her pocket after she climbed out of the cellar,” Alastair supplied for me.
Ordinarily it would have annoyed me to have someone try and do the talking for me. After all, I was a flapper — a modern woman! However, Alastair simply picked up on how fuzzy my brain was and helped fill in while I was tongue-tied, so I was actually grateful.
The detective took the King of Clubs card from my hand. His face turned from red to white, and then even redder than it was before. A vein in his temple started to throb. Reflexively I took a step backward. That was one angry copper. My stomach churned violently, and the unpleasant smell in my hair was inescapable. The pain in my skull had grown from an ordinary headache to a horrible vice-grip that made me feel like it would explode.
“Pip,” the copper spoke my name as if he had used it many times. “Do you understand what this means? The most notorious gangster this side of the Mississippi River grabbed you, drugged you, and threw you down into a cellar! Then he left his calling card in your pocket! Was it a warning? Or was it a bizarre clue? Or what?” he said in a demanding voice.
Flinching away from him I took another step backward. How could I know the answers to those questions? I felt my knees giving way. The ground beneath my feet seemed to heave and spin, fit for the trapeze act my friend Mona was learning down in Sarasota, Florida. Mona? Yes, I suddenly remembered Mona and Andy, and Frankie. Frankie who betrayed us all.
Then large black spots filled my vision. I saw the tall detective take a big step toward me, just before the black spots crowded out all the orange light of sunset. I felt him catch me with one arm and lift me up from the approaching ground. Consciousness was escaping quickly, but I knew he sat me in Alastair’s truck.
I awoke to something warm and wet against my face. “Cotton, leave her alone. Come here girl,” I heard Veronica tell the poodle. Alastair Wong held me tightly. I was still in the truck, but we were not in that field any more. I recognized the lovely white house with a green roof. We were at Veronica’s home.
“Don’t try to move yet, Pip,” Veronica instructed as she hurried from her old car.
I didn’t move, but that was mostly because I was so overwhelmed by all the different noises. The put-put of Veronica’s engine, the louder sound of the truck, the yapping of Cotton. A horse whinnied from the stable, and from inside the house I could hear a bird screech. A parrot. Cracker, I thought with a smile as another memory was retrieved. Then I almost faded out of consciousness again. I took a deep breath and focused on my breathing.
Alastair shut off the truck’s engine and that helped. It seemed to remind Veronica that her car was still running and she rushed back to turn it off. I felt safe and warm, tucked under Alastair’s shoulder with his arm around me. He didn’t flinch and I had no wish to move. However, as Veronica ran back to the truck I knew I couldn’t stay there. I clawed my way toward a more alert state.
A shutter banged against the wall and the parrot flew out of the building that housed the animal hospital. That was also where we sat up a recovery room for the marshal after his surgery. I was pleased that more bits of memory fell into place.
The clever bird could open anything when she set her mind to it. She alighted on the back of the truck seat. The parrot started preening strands of my hair as if it was feathers. “Dainty dish,” the bird chirped as if she meant to comfort me. “Dainty dish, fourandtwenty.”
The roar of a mud-spattered motorcycle startled everyone and caused the parrot to flutter skyward. I turned to see the man who rode it take off a goggled helmet. To my surprise it was Vincent Vale. I must have looked every bit as astonished as I felt because Veronica chuckled softly.
“Didn’t you know Vincent had a motorcycle?” she asked as the parrot settled back onto the truck’s open door.
“So Vincent rolled out his pride and joy,” Veronica said. “It hasn’t touched a street in ages — let alone all that mud,” she added with a combination of a wince and a laugh.
Vincent got off the vehicle. That’s when I saw that there was someone sitting behind the veterinarian on the motorcycle. Boots, heavy trousers, and a leather helmet with goggles made for a smaller version of Vincent. Gloved hands removed the helmet. A cascade of hip-length gray hair tumbled from the helmet.
“Granny!” I cried incredulously.
Video: Quinoa 101
Photos are either from Pinterest or they have been purchased, unless otherwise noted.
“Here darling, have a soda cracker,” Veronica Vale insisted as she handed me a saucer of crisp crackers. Despite being born in a southern state, her voice held a continental tone from many years studying and working abroad. “They have lovely sea salt on the tops. They’ll help calm your stomach,” she said encouragingly.
It was such an odd feeling. I can barely describe how I felt. It hadn’t been long since I woke up with a headache, an upset stomach, a foggy brain, and giant holes in my memory. For several hours I encountered people and had to stop and think about who they were, though they clearly expected me to know them… most people anyway.
I recognized Granny Fanny right away, despite the unexpected circumstance of watching her get off the back of Vincent Vale’s motorcycle. When Alastair Wong found me I heard his voice before I saw him. I had to first place the voice, so it didn’t seem like it took as long for me to remember who he was when I saw him. Hank Hertz was mostly a question mark in my mind. I had a vague memory of him and radio equipment. I knew he was Savannah’s youngest police officer, but that was about all.
This is what it would be like to live a silent movie, I thought. Talkies had not been around terribly long. Binghamton’s Bijou theatre in Savannah still showed more silent films than talkies. My hearing was fine, but the fogginess of my memory made me feel like I was in an old silent movie without a narrator or even intertitles. Walking a ledge with uncertain footing, not sure who might pull me to safety or who might push me over the edge, I met everyone I was supposed to already know with caution and distrust.
Then there were the ones I couldn’t remember at all… The scowling police detective, Dabney Daniels — I still had no memory of him period. Neither could I remember the man in the makeshift hospital room, a Federal marshal, Moses Myrick. I remembered being worried about him, but I couldn’t remember him.
“Pip… are you okay? You don’t look so good,” he said awkwardly.
I was saved from the need to make polite conversation by a commotion from the marshal’s room. “Badbird, badbird!” Cracker the parrot squawked, clearly agitated.
Veronica ran to the little room with Hank right on her heels, apologizing for leaving the patient unattended. “He’s a grown man and should know better,” the surgeon muttered.
From where I stood I could see the two of them catch an older man just before he fell to the floor. However, I couldn’t hear what they said to one another above the cacophonous ranting from Cracker.
“Stubborn old man…” Granny muttered from behind me.
I turned to look at my grandmother. She hadn’t had much to say, but she watched me like a hawk. It made me feel like she was waiting to see if I was going to sprout a tail or grow an extra nose. After an intent look she nodded, as if confirming something to herself.
“Feeling a little better now, Sweet-pea?” she asked and I nodded silently. “I’m sure your memory will come back. Are you certain there’s nothing else wrong? Not keeping anything from us are you?”
“No, Granny,” I said reassuringly. “My head still hurts, and I’m a little queasy. It seems like things are beginning to come to me quicker now. Most things anyway. I don’t remember anything about the marshal in there, except being afraid he might die,” I said waiving toward the little recovery room. “And I don’t remember anything at all about that sourpuss detective. And the younger one, Hank… I sort of remember him, but I feel like I’ve forgotten most of the things about him.”
Granny patted my hand and then gave it a little squeeze. “Don’t fret, Sweet-pea. You haven’t known Hank Hertz very long and the place where you met him was pretty traumatizing. Come to think of it, you might connect a lot of what you know of Dabney and Moses to things that are upsetting or frightening — or both. Maybe that’s why you don’t remember them. I’ll discuss it with Veronica and see what she has to say.”
I nodded again and watched as Granny rinsed a bowl of rich red strawberries and dusted them with powdered sugar. She put them on a tray and headed toward the recovery room, motioning for me to go with her.
“We’d best let that stubborn old man see for himself that you’re unharmed. Else he’ll break his fool neck trying to get out of bed,” she told me with a small smile.
The red sunset gave way to a clear night. The moon was bright as we rolled Marshal Moses Myrick in a wheelchair from the laboratory/animal hospital building to the main house. The Vales would have several overnight guests, as both doctors insisted we all stay until morning. They wanted all their patients under one roof.
They still wanted to keep an eye on Hank, and he certainly wasn’t trusted to drive alone with his recent head wound. Veronica made him use the radio to let his parents know he was okay but would be staying there for the night. The marshal wouldn’t be up and about for quite some time to come. And everybody kept looking at me. It was getting annoying. “I’m fine,” I said repeatedly, but the evaluative looks continued.
Granny said that she left enough food for Cinnamon Bun, the Flemish Giant rabbit. So she accepted the invitation to stay. It had been a long and disturbing day, and no one wanted her to drive so late at night. Me? I didn’t seem to have any choice in the matter. I sat down with a cup of chicken broth and soon felt up to eating a little something. I succumbed to the temptation of the luscious strawberries.
When I heard an automobile outside I jumped half out of my skin. I supposed I was pretty upset by the whole ordeal. Vincent was almost at the door before the two sharp taps of the doorknocker banged against my still aching head. It was that detective. He carried a large parcel wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine. He placed it on a table.
“Miss Fanny, I stopped by your house after I finished working, just to make sure you and Pip were okay. When nobody was home, I figured you ladies decided to spend the night here. Then I saw this package on your front porch. I had to check on the marshal and Hank anyway — for my report,” he said casually, but I got the impression he was hedging something, and I saw Veronica smirk. “So I decided to bring the package with me,” he explained.
“Don’t worry Dabney,” Granny Fanny told the detective with a pat on his arm. “Veronica says Paisley’s memory will come back. But between the bump on the head, whatever she was drugged with, and all the recent frightful events, it might take some time. Pip will surely remember you before long,” she added and raised her eyebrows in an encouraging expression.
“What? You don’t know me, Pip?” the detective turned to me and said in an astonished tone. “I knew you were acting odd, but I thought that was just from… from what had happened. You really don’t remember me?”
I reflexively drew back from his intensity. I swallowed hard. My eyes widened as I tried to think of what to say. Veronica tilted her head and pursed her lips as if she wasn’t sure what to make of the detective’s reaction. Vincent and Hank both seemed mildly puzzled, but Hank also looked a little hopeful for some strange reason.
“You knew me though, didn’t you Pip?” Hank asked standing straighter.
“Well… sort of,” I said. He seemed to deflate a little, so I hastened to add, “I remember you being a wiz with the radio.”
When I said that he put his shoulders back. His eyebrows went up for a second when he looked at the detective. Once again, I wondered about expressions and body language of the people around me. Hank’s reaction seemed almost competitive, and I couldn’t imagine why.
Granny leaned over the large brown package. “Oh, it’s from Eunice’s Uniforms!” she exclaimed. “This should be the outfits Moses told me to get to cater that fancy reception,” she paused and saw that everyone was looking at her. “You know, the one where he was going to have the st…” she paused and looked sheepishly at Daniels. “It is okay to mention that in front of the Vales, isn’t it? And after being on the scene of the ambush, Hank should probably know too.”
The detective sighed. “Miss Fanny…,” he began. Daniels shook his head and looked at his highly polished Florsheim shoes, but then he spread his hands as if admitting defeat. “It’s of no consequence now. With the marshal out of commission, we’ll be calling it off,” he said.
As he spoke I remembered standing outside the parlor in Granny’s cottage, with Cinnamon Bun beside me, as I listened to a conversation between my grandmother and an unseen man. I remembered feeling surprised and somewhat distrustful to realize that man apparently had known Granny for a long time, but I had heard nothing of him. Although I couldn’t put a face to the memory, I was sure that man was Moses Myrick.
Meanwhile, Granny unwrapped the package. She removed two waiter’s uniforms. They were fancy all right, black pants with a black satin stripe down the sides, and white tuxedo jackets. Then she grinned like a ‘possum when she saw the next two uniforms. Each had a white tuxedo jacket, but they were longer and cut for a woman. The jackets were paired with very avant-garde black wide-legged cuffed trousers with a satin stripe, similar to stripe on the men’s pants.
I always thought there might be a bit of a flapper in Granny’s heart. I couldn’t stop grinning. Veronica, the very definition of a modern woman, clapped her hands in childlike delight when she saw the women’s uniforms. The men just looked confused.
“If I’m going to cater a shindig like that one, then Granny’s Goodies is going to have a distinctive and modern look,” she said with an emphatic nod of her head. She picked up the second woman’s uniform. “Come over here Pip and try this tuxedo jacket on for size,” she told me.
As Granny held out the white coat something fluttered to the floor. I stooped to pick it up but my hand froze before I even touched it. A jolt went up my arm when I looked at the rectangle of paper. Another playing card. It landed face down. One word was written across the back of the card. Beware!
The detective took out his handkerchief and carefully picked up the card. He held it up for everyone to see. It was the queen of clubs.
How It’s Made – Saltine Cracker
20. Beef Drippings, Dandelion & Burdock, Salmon
Rather than the bun she often wore, Granny Fanny had rolled and tucked her long hair into a style that at first glance looked a lot like a bob. The wide legged black crepe trousers and white tuxedo jacket fit her perfectly. She looked every inch the modern woman; and… younger too. Eunice’s Uniforms had done a great job. I straightened my own waiters’ uniform and Granny smiled.
The telephone rang and Granny hurried to answer it. I knew she was still more than a little bit worried about Moses Myrick. There was a tightness around her eyes that had not been there before the marshal was shot.
“Yes, Doc. Is that you?” I could hear the concern in her voice as she spoke into the receiver. The ear piece was pressed tightly against her head. Then she exhaled and her shoulders relaxed. “You don’t really think so? Considering the way she’s been acting I’m surprised,” she said but paused to listen. “Yes Doc. We’ll keep an eye out,” Granny said and hung up the telephone.
“Doctor Veronica says that parrot flew the coop. Darnedest thing I’ve ever heard. That nasty bird nearly took my finger off when I tried to pry her away from Moses. But Veronica said she let herself out the window a few minutes ago. The last time she saw Cracker, the parrot was headed in this direction,” Granny said shaking her head in wonder at the bird’s unpredictable behavior. “I find it hard to believe that she’d suddenly give up her equally sudden devotion to Moses. Be a dear and keep an eye out for Cracker just the same.”
I murmured my promise. I found the parrot’s antics unexpected, but when I thought about it, we should probably expect the unexpected from Cracker. However I didn’t give it that much thought because the aroma of the huge beef roast Granny had been cooking all day wafted to my nostrils. My stomach gave a loud growl. Granny chuckled and told me to go get a snack – but to take off the white jacket first. Just then Hank Hertz walked in eating a yeast roll that was sopping with beef drippings. It was a good thing he had removed his jacket, else Granny might have skinned him when a big drop of au jus went down his chest.
I barely recognized Hank, and it wasn’t because of the partial amnesia I’d experienced since my unknown attacker had left me in a root cellar at the Queen of Clubs Herb Farm out at Wetson’s Mill. No, Granny had told Hank that if he was going to participate in the night’s “catering event” he’d have to let her treat his hair with henna. Now his hair was bright red, and he had a little red mustache too.
Granny said she was concerned about Hank’s safety, since too many people knew he was quickly on the scene after the villains had ambushed Marshal Moses Myrick and his men. I’m sure that was true; Granny wouldn’t put anybody in harm’s way. But I suspected that she planned to carryout Myrick’s original “sting” plan, with or without the injured marshal’s help. So that was another reason for disguising Savannah’s youngest police officer.
Hank scratched at the mustache. I quipped that I’d always wondered if those things itched. He nodded and spoke quietly. “I feel ridiculous with this red hair,” he confided. “But Miss Fanny says it will fade away with washing.”
I thought Granny might have exaggerated about the “fading away” part of the henna, but I didn’t want to make Hank feel any more uncomfortable than he already was. I gently poked his ribs with my elbow. “I think it looks rather dashing,” I reassured him and he stood a little straighter.
My grandmother took Hank’s elbow and led us both to the kitchen. She fixed snack plates for the three of us with roast beef, rolls, and candied carrots. I gave a wistful glance at the za’atar she’d so carefully prepared, but I knew she was worried about having enough, so I didn’t say anything.
She glanced at the clock and took out a fourth plate and sat it on the green and white gingham tablecloth. Then she turned to one of several tubs of ice that contained cobalt blue bottles with attached cork flip tops, and pulled out a few bottles.
“What is this anyway?” I asked and sniffed the liquid that reminded me of sarsaparilla.
I had been wondering what was inside the bottles, because I had heard Granny tell her client that he’d have to supply any alcohol, being as it was illegal. I had not met the rich man who was hosting the reception Granny had agreed to cater. But I overheard part of their telephone conversation — whether I wanted to or not. He was one of those people who felt they had to shout into the telephone since he was talking to someone across town. He sounded nice enough, but there was just something about him that rubbed me the wrong way, despite the fact I had never even seen him.
Hank Hertz took a swig from the blue bottle. “Umm. It’s dandelion and burdock,” he said to my unspoken question. “Dr. Veronica gave me some before. She said it was kind of medicinal.”
“It’s also mildly alcoholic,” Granny interjected. “Not enough to cause trouble for me, but that seemed to mollify tonight’s host. He was… well… irritated that I wouldn’t bring any champagne because of the prohibition. He was being pretty hard headed about that,” she said with a slightly annoyed twist to her mouth. Granny didn’t like anybody trying to boss her around.
The putter of an engine sent me to the kitchen window. I pushed back the eyelet curtain and saw Alastair Wong pull his delivery truck up beside the cottage. Alastair had offered to help. He said he expected a slow night at his restaurant, and besides there was plenty of family to help there. I saw that he had even temporarily covered his pride and joy slogan, “You’re always right with Wong’s” with a sign proclaiming Granny’s Goodies. My grandmother quickly fixed the fourth plate with a snack for Alastair.
Moments later Hank and Alastair loaded the heavy galvanized steel tubs, filled with ice and cobalt blue bottles of dandelion and burdock onto the delivery truck. Then they covered them with a tarp to help keep the ice from melting as fast.
I was surprised to see Cinnamon Bun, the Flemish Giant rabbit, thump up the back porch stairs. He had been hiding from all the activity. As usual, Granny went gaga over the oversized bunny and praised him for coming out to be sociable. Cinnamon liked getting his ears stroked, but he sat up on his haunches as if looking for something in the distance.
A blur of brilliant color streaked down from the sky and Cracker the parrot alighted next to the rabbit. She nibbled at his fur and cooed, “Good bird… good bird.”
My amazement at the bond between bird and bunny had no end. My grandmother and I watched the two in fascination. Then she got back to business.
“Exactly where is this shindig anyway,” I asked. I knew it was at one of the fanciest homes in Savannah, but I didn’t know much more than that. I wondered if I had known more before I was attacked and drugged.
“Umm… what was that address?” Granny Fanny said half to herself. “Oh. It’s at 420 Kingston Lane.”
Immediately Cracker flew into the air, making circles around Granny and me. The parrot squawked excitedly, “Fourandtwenty, Fourandtwenty! Dainty dish to set before the king! Dainty dish!” she repeated as she alighted on my shoulder and pulled my hair with her beak. “Dainty dish. Fourandtwenty!”
Cinnamon Bun sat up on his haunches inquiringly at the bird’s outburst. He made a snorting sound that drew my eyes to him. Then I noticed a small rectangle on the porch next to the rabbit. I stooped to retrieve it.
Another playing card, I thought. I knew I needed to turn it over, but I was afraid to look. Cracker must have brought it with her, and dropped it when she started grooming the bunny. But where had the parrot gotten the card? Did she pick it up at the Vale residence? Or did she find it somewhere along the way? What if she didn’t bring the card at all? What if an anonymous person had left it there on the porch as another warning?
I was shivering, though it was not cold. I felt Granny step closer. She was looking over my shoulder at the card. Cautionary words were written across the back of the card in a familiar hand.
My hands were shaking so badly that I almost dropped the card. Reluctantly I turned over the rectangle to reveal the sinister looking Joker on the face of the playing card. Cracker fluttered off my shoulder and landed on the porch banister. “Jokerswild!” the parrot shrieked and shook her foot.
I had a hazy memory of Cracker making that motion before. I remembered thinking it seemed disdainful. Whoever the Joker was, Cracker did not like him… or maybe her. I reminded myself to think like a modern woman. The villain might just as well be a woman as a man.
Turning the card face down once again I repeated the words “Be ready!” and felt the pit of my stomach freeze.
French Dip Sandwiches
Recipe and photo courtesy Rachael Ray
Total Time: 15 min Prep: 5 min Cook: 10 min
Yield: 4 servings Level: Easy
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 jigger dry sherry, optional
2 cans beef consommé, found on broth and soups aisle or beef broth
1 1/2 pounds deli sliced roast beef
Grill seasoning blend spices for steak, such as Montreal Steak Seasoning Blend, or, coarse salt and pepper
4 torpedo sandwich rolls, split
In a large, shallow skillet over moderate heat, melt butter. Add shallots to butter and sauté 2 minutes. Add flour to butter and shallot and cook a minute longer. Whisk in sherry and cook liquid out. Whisk in consommé in a slow stream. Bring sauce to a bubble and allow to simmer over low heat until ready to serve sandwiches.
Pile meat loosely across your cutting board or a large work surface. Season meat with grill seasoning or salt and black pepper. Set out 4 ramekins or small soup cups for dipping sauce, 4 dinner plates and 4 split torpedo rolls. To assemble, using a pair of kitchen tongs, dip meat into loose au jus sauce and pile into rolls. Set ramekins or cups with extra dipping sauce alongside the sandwiches.
21. Lettuce, Beet, Stew
Cinnamon Bun nibbled at a piece of lettuce. I wondered absently where the huge bunny had gotten it. Granny Fanny looked over my shoulder at the Joker playing card in my trembling hand and read the warning aloud.
Just then Alastair and Hank stepped up to the porch, having loaded the ice filled tubs of dandelion and burdock onto the young restaurateur’s truck. One of Alastair’s eyebrows climbed nearly to his hairline. He knew about the warning card that was found on me back at Wetson’s Mill.
Hank still looked uncomfortable with his henna treated red hair. He took the card from me, murmuring something about evidence. I reached to take it back and the sleeve of my white jacket tore free at the shoulder. Granny took the card from Hank and discretely put it away. Then she looked at my brand new uniform.
“Humph… That seam wasn’t properly sewed. It was only basted. Paisley, there’s still time if you’re quick about it. Take my Model-T and get whoever is at Eunice’s Uniforms to stitch that back up, and check all the other seams while they’re at it,” she said. Then she glanced at the black crepe trousers and said, “Make sure they check the pants too.”
My cheeks turned beet red at the thought of my trousers coming apart in the middle of the ritzy event we were about to cater. Without any hesitation, I hurried to the cherished automobile with its brightly painted yellow spoke wheels. The fact that Granny was willing to trust me with her car was proof that she was determined to do her first big catering job well. Or maybe it was confirmation that she still meant to carryout the sting operation that originated with Marshal Moses Myrick. If I were to be truthful with myself I’d have to admit that I was more than a little worried about the dangers involved in busting a bootlegger kingpin who was already behind the killing of the marshal’s men and God knew how many other people.
I said that I did, and waived cheerily as the Model-T puttered onto the road.
Moments later I pulled up in front of a little shop in an historic part of Savannah, not far from River Street. I knocked on the door but no one answered. Maybe Eunice, or whoever was minding the shop for her, had gone out for a quick errand. I bounced on the toes of my feet, feeling anxious and rushed. Granny would skin me if I didn’t get that jacket fixed. Well, okay, maybe not, but she’d surely be upset at the situation.
An unexpected cold breeze ruffled my bobbed hair. When the chill went down my back, I almost wished I still had my long hair. I shaded my eyes from the glare on the shop window and tried to see inside, wondering if I was being rude to peep into it like that.
While I didn’t exactly see anybody I did see movement inside the shop. I knocked again, and still no one came. I was sure someone was there. Maybe they had moved to the back of the shop and didn’t hear my knock. I placed my hand on the brass doorknob and it gave before I even turned it, as if the door had not been pulled all the way closed.
Leaning into the front room I called out, “Anyone here?”
In a jiffy, a girl who looked about my age came from the back of the shop. She had a bright bandana died around her hair, and she was dressed in men’s clothes. It was called the tomboy look. Even Margaret Mitchell was doing it, but Granny got upset if I wore menswear for anything but gardening. That’s why I had been so pleasantly surprised by her modern choice of uniforms for the catering business. Though I realized their design was modified and cut for a woman, unlike the rather sloppy looking tomboy style.
“Can I help you miss?” she asked with a warm smile.
I introduced myself and she said she was called Daisy. Then I explained about the uniform.
“It might be a little while before Miz Eunice gets back. I’d be pleased to help you if that’s alright? Being as you’re pressed for time,” Daisy said glancing down shyly.
That was a great relief to me and I told her I’d be delighted to have her help. So Daisy led me to the back of the shop. She handed me a robe and motioned to a hand painted silk screen that I could change behind. She made a quick but thorough inspection of the seams in the trousers, pronouncing them to be of fine workmanship. Then she went about stitching the sleeve back onto the white tuxedo jacket. By the time I got changed back into the pants, she was already half finished with her work. The hand cranked Singer sewing machine hummed as she worked. The needle and thread moved so quickly that it was an amazing thing to watch. In a moment she helped me into the jacket.
As Daisy carefully inspected the fit of the shoulder seams, her smile got even brighter. I could tell she liked the uniform. I commented on my amazement that Granny chose the style. Daisy nodded her understanding. A sad expression shadowed her eyes, though the smile didn’t falter.
“Yes, Miss. It’s dangerous to be a girl out and about. Too many men think you’re a dainty dish free for the taking. I feel a lot safer when I wear men’s clothes,” Daisy confided as the clock in the front room chimed the quarter hour.
“Yes, Miss. But I’m no woman of easy virtue,” she added looking suddenly fearful.
I hastened to reassure her that no one would ever think such a thing of her. It would have been nice to sit and talk with another girl — someone my own age, but the sound of the clock reminded me that I had to hurry. I thanked Daisy and regretfully said goodbye.
As I got back into the Model-T, Eunice called out to me. She quickened her step on the sidewalk. “Hold your horses! I’m back now,” she said looking a little annoyed.
“It’s okay,” I told her. “A seam broke in my jacket but Daisy took care of it,” I said as I put the automobile into gear. I didn’t mean to be abrupt, but I really had to hurry, so I wasn’t paying much attention to what she said.
“Who?” Eunice asked, looking confused.
“No worries,” I said pulling out onto the street. “She did a fine job!” I called, and a backward glance showed Eunice standing with a fist on her hip and her head tilted in consternation.
Minutes later I was taking the Model-T up a long and winding drive. Far below I could see the Savannah River glitter in the afternoon sun. What a view those big wigs must have! I forced my mind back to business and kept driving. Granny Fanny met me at the side entrance of 420 Kingston Lane. As she led me inside the grand home she admired the workmanship of the tuxedo jacket. She asked if Eunice made any complaint, commenting on the occasional grumpiness of the seamstress.
“I only saw Eunice as I was leaving. Her assistant, Daisy, took care of the repair,” I informed Granny.
“Paisley,” she began with my given name again. That told me she was feeling stressed. “There’s something sticking out of your pocket. Make sure it’s tucked away.”
“But I don’t have anything in my pocket,” I said with a sudden sense of déjà vu as my fingers touched a folded slip of paper. I removed it from my jacket and was relieved to see that it was only a receipt from Eunice’s Uniforms. However, when I unfolded the paper I recognized the handwriting as a match for the warnings on the playing cards. The front of the receipt said “No charge.”
Could the young seamstress be the person leaving the warning cards? It was beginning to seem impossible for one person to have been in all the places where the playing cards had been left. If Daisy was doing it, then maybe she wasn’t working alone. How else could she manage to be in so many places?
I turned the receipt to look at the reverse side of the paper. The words on the back made me gasp.
Suddenly I felt dizzy. I must have looked frightful too, because Granny took my elbow and pulled me into the next room. The next thing I knew, Granny had put me in a big leather chair and pushed my head down between my knees. A moment later I looked up to see Hank and Alastair staring down at me in concern.
We were in a big office room, or maybe rich people would call it a library. French doors opened onto a terrace and a view of the Savannah River. I looked around at the beautifully appointed room. One wall was covered with book shelves from the floor to the high ceiling. The other walls were paneled with expensive burled wood. A massive desk dominated the room. It was polished so well that the gas lamps reflected on the surface.
Behind the desk hung a tall painting of a regal looking man with a touch of gray at his temples. There was something familiar about his face, but he couldn’t be anyone I had met because the style of his elegant clothes told me the painting was about a hundred years old. I stared at the picture, trying to figure out what was so familiar about the face.
Alastair quietly moved behind my chair and it startled me when he spoke. “I remember my great-grandfather saying they called him ‘the king.’ He controlled most of Savannah at one point.”
I got up so I could take a closer look at the painting. Hank pushed past Alastair and took my elbow as if he was afraid I might fall over or something. Ordinarily that would have annoyed me, but I was too preoccupied by the painting and the half remembered thoughts that I was trying super hard to pull together. It was as if I could almost touch a memory, but it kept slipping through my grasp. I wondered again just how much I had forgotten when I was attacked and drugged back at Wetson’s Mill.
Several other paintings and photographs adorned the walls. Another portrait caught my eye. I pulled free of Hank’s grasp. He made a surprised, indignant noise. Let him stew about that if he wanted. Colors of grass and sky were worked into the background of the painting. The artist showed a beautiful dark haired young woman with a simple white daisy in her hand. Her eyes held a sad expression. I moved closer to the portrait.
“Daisy…” I whispered in awe, reading aloud the name on a brass plaque beneath the portrait.
Alastair shouldered Hank aside and continued his account of the paintings. “Yes,” Alastair said. “Nobody was dumb enough to say it in front of ‘the King’ but she was known as ‘the dainty dish.’ Rumors said she was given to him as a payment for a gambling debt, but he fell madly in love with her. Daisy died mysteriously. There must be half a dozen stories about how she died, and none of them match or make much sense.”
No wonder there was such sadness in her eyes, I thought. To be given as a payment? Like property? I couldn’t imagine what that had been like for her, even if the rich man had fallen in love with her. The eyes in the portrait held mine in an almost hypnotic way. I forced myself to look away.
I had thought Cracker the parrot was calling me “dainty dish,” but I started to wonder what the extraordinary bird had on her mind. The headache that plagued me on and off ever since the attack, came back with a vengeance. I put my fingers to my throbbing temples.
“What’s the old nursery rhyme?” I asked, causing everyone to think I’d lost my marbles with that apparently sudden and incomprehensible subject change.
“Sing a song of sixpence. A pocket full of rye. Four and twenty blackbirds. 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?”
I looked at the bewildered faces surrounding me. I plunged ahead with the rhyme.
“The king was in his counting house. Counting out his money. The queen was in the parlor. Eating bread and honey. The maid was in the garden. Hanging out the clothes. When down came a blackbird. And pecked off her nose.”
I’d probably be lucky if they didn’t lock me up in the lunatic asylum, judging by their expressions. But they probably forgot all about me acting oddly when the mean faced major domo walked in, acting like he might huff and puff and blow us all out into the river.
He demanded to know what we were doing in that room. His tone and manner were enough to make the boys and me jump and start babbling. However, Granny Fanny looked up at the gruff man and tilted her head slightly to one side as if studying an insect. Then she spoke in a tone every bit as chilly as his.
“My granddaughter became faint. Sit back down, dear before you knees buckle again,” she told me sharply before turning back to the major domo. “Would you kindly bring some smelling salts,” she said in a firm statement, not a question. Then she turned to Hank and Alastair and told them to get back to work.
“There are salts in the kitchen. You can ask the housekeeper for them,” he said in a haughty voice that more than implied that he would not take orders from her. Then he turned on his heel and walked out with his nose in the air. He turned back just long enough to snap at us. “I suggest you regain your composure quickly, young woman, and do not go into this room again.”
Granny wriggled her eyebrows at his back and then winked at me. My eyes strayed back to the portrait of Daisy, “the dainty dish.” Then my thoughts went to something that had been troubling me, one of those gaps in my memory.
“Evidence,” Granny summed it up in one word. “He said ‘the King of Clubs’ keeps meticulous records and he was sure they were hidden somewhere in this house. Probably in a safe,” she said.
I moved wordlessly to the portrait of the young woman. Heaven knows how I could feel so sure, but I was. My fingers traveled along just beneath the edges of the intricately carved frame. I felt something and pressed. The picture moved slightly I was sure it would swing back on hinges if I pushed.
However I pushed it back into place when I heard a noise just outside the room. It sounded like a bit of a scuffle. I heard Hank’s voice making a profuse apology and the gruff voice of the major domo who muttered something like, “Red headed buffoon!” I could see my friend through the partially opened door, and he gave me a significant look. Whatever had happened, Hank had done it on purpose to warn us.
Granny Fanny whispered. “Fake a swoon. Now!” she hissed insistently, and I obediently sagged to the sumptuous Persian rug on which we stood.
With caution I cracked one eye open, just a hair. He haughtily strutted to the big desk and picked up a house phone. Even his breath sounded impatient and domineering as he waited for someone to answer. Then I heard a woman’s voice from the other end. He told her to bring some smelling salts, pronto. “Yes Mr. Farceur. Right away sir,” the voice said.
I saw Granny’s expression shift as if in sudden comprehension. But I had to close my eyes because he turned toward me. Mr. Farceur bent over me with a distasteful expression on his face. Yes, my eyes were shut, just like I said. But I knew what look was on his face, just the same. You could practically hear the look on his face. He sniffed disdainfully.
My mind worked furiously. There was something about his name. It was French. I had some French lessons when I was younger, but I didn’t learn the language very well. Farceur… Applesauce! Didn’t that mean joker? As in “Joker’s wild?”
The memory of Cracker excitedly repeating that phrase rattled me so badly that I nearly sat up and opened my eyes. I managed to control myself except for one little twitch. Fortunately that spasm seemed to convince the major domo of the honesty of my faint and he strode out of the room.
As I sat up, I suddenly felt icily cold. I shivered and wondered if maybe something really was wrong with me.
Video: Greek Yogurt Beet & Feta Dip
22. Black Olives, Mascarpone, Thyme
I 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.
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 popped 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 attacked 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 concerned 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.
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 sconces 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?
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.
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 King 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.
Granny 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 that. 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.
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.
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 another 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 place. 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!”
Recipe: Goat Cheese with Thyme, Peppercorns, and Lemon Oil
Recipe credit: Epicurious.com
Total Time: 15 min
Calories: One serving (without baguette) contains the following: 134.12 Calories (kcal)
• 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
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.
Episode: Character Recap
I feel huge gratitude for all of your comments and encouragement. The Three Ingredients is the second storyline we’ve done in this “interactive” format. For new reader-friends, I call it interactive because the story is moved forward by the inspiration I get from the “ingredients” (things) you send. The story is un-plotted, “panster” fun — because of you!
We started this interactive format with the previous serial, The Three Things. There you gave me three random things to drive the story. That allowed the “things” to directly drive every aspect of the plot, setting, and even the characters.
When The Three Things concluded, I asked you readers for input on what sort of story you wanted next, and I settled on our current “culinary mystery” theme. So this time, we have The Three Ingredients, with food-related interactive offerings from readers. However, that means the “things” you send have a less direct impact on the tale, but they still guide and inspire everything about the story.
That said, I can’t be sure how close we are to concluding this particular storyline. However, I can see it somewhere on the horizon of my writing crystal ball. So I’m offering up a pictorial review of the characters your ingredients inspired.
Often I write stories, intentionally leaving part of the physical descriptions of characters vague. I do that because I want the reader to supply part of what they want the character to be for things like race. The last thing I want is for someone to fail to identify with a character just because of how I happened to imagine their appearance. That is something I very intentionally did in writing Atonement Tennessee. With the setting of a small (and Twilight Zone-ish strange) town, I wanted it to fit with anybody’s idea of that kind of place. I described hair color to help identify and differentiate characters, but I deliberately left most of the rest up to the reader.
With that disclaimer out of the way, I’m sharing with you some images that either directly inspired, or later came to represent the various characters to my imagination because I realize illustrations are helpful to many readers. If your mind supplied a different look for a character, I hope you will keep your idea.
I have omitted a few characters with especially small “walk on” parts. However, I hope I’ve developed a bit of personality even in those. Just so they don’t get left out… in alphabetical order:
- Cotton the Poodle
- Eunice of Eunice’s Uniforms
- Godfrey Gilley of Gilley’s Groceries
- Hortense Houston, the Kingston housekeeper
- Alastair Wong the elder, an old flame of Granny’s
Now, I hope you’ll enjoy this review of the characters that developed from the ingredients you’ve sent.
Cast of Characters
The Three Things gave us Pip (Paisley Idelle Peabody) the narrator of both storylines. I was so fond of Pip, a flapper and aspiring “modern woman,” that I kept her around for The Three Ingredients. I added her grandmother, Granny Fanny, and the fledgling catering business so that we could have the culinary mystery theme. The rest of the story is inspired by your ingredients.
The moment I stumbled upon a photo of a very young Lucille Ball, I imagined the voice of grown-up Lucy as Pip, telling the stories of her youth.
Fanny Idelle Peabody. The ingredients haven’t given me the opportunity to go there, but Granny is actually a “Pip” too. Her given name was Phanny Idelle, and when she married into the Peabody family her initials became P.I.P. However, everyone kept spelling her name with an “F” and she eventually went with the flow. (Granny would like the phrase “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” She didn’t mind the misspelling that much.)
Writing this post put me on a mission to find a picture that I thought of as Granny Fanny. I had a vague image of her in my mind, a woman with delicate features, but a backbone of steel. However, the photo that resonated with me looked different from my initial mental image. In pictures of Margaret Sanger, I saw Granny’s kind heartedness, firm resolve, and spunk.
From this point, I’ve listed the characters in order of their appearance in the story.
The very first ingredient (geoduck in Episode-1) was the inspiration for Alastair Wong. The Wongs immigrated to the United States from England, and Alastair has a faint British accent. Neither he nor his parents had ever been to China, though they dreamed of visiting and faithfully passed down family recipes used at Wong’s Chinese, their restaurant. Alastair is an talented businessman and chef. I have a small crush on Alastair, so his prolonged absence from the serial should show you that it really is guided by your ingredients. :o)
I think a vintage photo of Sessue Hayakawa could be Alastair — if I could find one of him in a less somber, brooding mood. Alastair certainly has a serious side but he also has a beautiful, ready smile.
Alastair’s mother, Arabella also appeared in Episode-1 and she is mentioned a few times afterward. However, the ingredients haven’t led to a larger part for her… At least they haven’t yet. Only the ingredients can say!
A vintage Vogue magazine cover made me think of Arabella’s graceful elegance, though there has been little opportunity to describe her.
The Binghamton brothers are actually “walk on” parts. However, at the moment, I’m not sure where the ingredients might take them. So I’ve included them, just in case.
Byron is the owner of the Bijou theatre (Episode 1). That setting is where our storyline began, when “the dead man” was found. Bradley Binghamton, Byron’s lookalike brother is seen much later (Episode 22). They have been minor characters, but might be necessary to the story just the same. Something tells me that there might be some sadness in the history of the brothers, and this shot of David Niven in “The Bishop’s Wife” could be either of the lookalike brothers.
Jack Daddy was a minor character who was fundamental to the storyline. His nickname was Cracker Jack because he was a skilled safecracker and a mobster. But he must not have been 100% bad if he was Cracker the Parrot’s “daddy.” He entered the story in Episode-1, but we didn’t identify him until Episode-9.
When I received “cinnamon” as an ingredient for Episode-3, we got Cinnamon Bun, a Flemish Giant Rabbit with reddish fur. The veterinarian, Vincent Vale gave him to Granny Fanny. She adores the oversized bunny, and so does Cracker the Parrot, who often brings Cinnamon Bun treats.
Episode-3 also introduced Detective Dabney Daniels of Savannah’s finest. The moment I saw a vintage ad for Arrow shirts, I had an image for Dabney. He has known Granny Fanny for some time, and helps her with heavier work around her cottage. Dabney seems to take an interest in Pip, letting her ride along for part of the murder investigation and work at cataloguing evidence. Is Granny trying to push the two together?
Detective Daniels has been patient with Cracker, even thought the parrot bit his ear. He shows concern for Granny, and for his fellow law enforcement officers. Though he seems emotionally distant to Pip’s way of thinking.
Vincent seems like a gentle soul. He rescued both Cinnamon Bun and later Cracker. Together, he and his wife Veronica built an impressive medical facility for animals of all types. Who else would I imagine as Vincent Vale but “All Creatures Great and Small” actor, Christopher Timothy.
The ingredients for Episode-4 included “graham cracker” and of course that gave us Cracker the parrot. Granny Fanny resisted liking that “nasty bird” for quite a while. But Cracker’s unexpected devotion to the injured Marshal Moses Myrick won Granny over.
Cracker is a most unusual and clever bird. The one thing we can expect from this parrot is the unexpected. Cracker learned many things related to the various mysteries in this storyline through her association with Cracker Jack Daddy, her late owner. When Vincent Vale examined her, he said Cracker was about 40 years old, so we can only guess at the scope of the parrot’s life experiences.
She definitely has opinions about the humans in the story. Cracker took a dislike to Dabney Daniels, perhaps associating him with the death of her “daddy.” But she loved Moses Myrick and the rabbit, Cinnamon Bun from the very start. It took her a while to win Granny Fanny’s affection, but she did. Cracker seems to like Pip and the poodle, Cotton. And she at least tolerates Hank Hertz. However she shakes her foot as an expression for her disdain of “The Joker.”
Episode-6 brought us the wife of Vincent Vale. Mrs. Veronica Vale is an accomplished medical doctor and surgeon who has traveled widely. She is the most accomplished woman Pip has ever met. At Pip’s determination to be a “modern woman” Granny introduced her to “the real deal.” Veronica’s intelligence is matched by her good nature and sense of humor. Both the doctors Vale are caring, generous people.
She performed emergency surgery on Marshal Myrick after he was ambushed by the bootleggers. Vincent is a veterinarian, rather than a “people doctor” but he proved his skill too during the operation. Granny revealed yet another skill, acting as surgical nurse.
Marshal Moses Myrick
One of the ingredients for Episode-8 was “peas”… and we got Moses Myrick. Pip was distrustful when she unexpectedly learned that he’d known her grandmother for a long time, and apparently quite well. So her first reaction to Marshal Myrick was less than positive, “He was very polite and all, but I couldn’t help thinking what beady little eyes he had. Green eyes… like little peas!”
I saw an ad for a vintage detective story, and thought the man could easily be Moses Myrick. He wins Pip over, and Cracker likes him right away. He seems to have an affinity for the parrot… and a history with Granny Fanny.
The Queen of Clubs is introduced in Episode-12. I was looking for a vintage queen of clubs card, when I found celebrity playing cards. Guess whose picture was on the queen of clubs? Joan Crawford. From that moment, there was no other choice for Queenie Wetson.
As of this writing, Queenie has not showed up in person, but I’m pretty sure she will soon!
When we came to Episode-13, I faced a challenge. I try not to put restrictions on your ingredients, but one of the items was microwave. I knew it was meant as the microwave ovens we use today, but as I suspected, my research showed they had not been invented in the 1920’s. However, scientists had long known about microwaves. That gave us a new character, Hank Hertz.
Our Hank is the fictional grandson of Heinrich Hertz, who proved the existence of radio waves back in the late 1880s. So the “microwave” ingredient gave us Hank, who is a wizard with the police radio. It also led to more layers in the mystery — Since the gangsters were using open radio transmissions (microwave brought us to radio waves) they used code names.
As I visualized Savannah’s youngest policeman I thought of a TV actor who could easily play Hank — a slightly younger version of Hugo Johnstone-Burt who played Hugh Collins on “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.”
In a planned (or technically correct) story I would not add new players so late in the tale. However, Episode-21 unexpectedly led me to new characters — including Daisy. Also called The Dainty Dish, Daisy was the second Mrs. Henry Kingston. Her story was a local legend, according to which she was given to him as a payment for a gambling debt, but Kingston fell madly in love with her. Daisy died mysteriously.
Pip also met a young woman named Daisy at Eunice’s Uniforms. However, at this writing, we shouldn’t get into that. Besides, who can say where the ingredients will lead?
The domineering major domo was also introduced in Episode-21. At first I saw him as a stodgy old man… but then the ingredients suggested that he could be an interesting complication to the story. That’s also when his name came along. Maybe his name, Farceur, is significant, or maybe it’s a red herring — only the ingredients know for sure!
For a moment he had been a nameless butler. When a classic anime character pinged into my mind, I indulged myself with the image of “Black Butler” Sebastian Michaelis. How could I resist?
Keep sending ingredients, please.
I don’t think the “ingredients” all of you supply will lead to any more new characters this far into the storyline… but only the ingredients know for sure!
Please continue to leave ingredients for future episodes. Even when this storyline concludes, there will be another “interactive” serial.
I hope you’ll keep dropping in to visit, read, and comment.
23. Seaweed Sheets, Rice, Sesame Oil
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 making 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.
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.
The 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.
I gaped in astonishment because he looked so much like the portrait of John 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 happens 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 asked 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.
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.
“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.
At 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 Kingston 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 shrugged 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.
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.
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 you. 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.
“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.
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 coming 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.
Video: Making Sushi California Roll At Home
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.
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 uncomfortable 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 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!
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 gown 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.
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.
The 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 discreetly. 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.
I 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 how 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 whisper, 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.
For 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.
“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 trained 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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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 could 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.
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.
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
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
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.
Makes 4 appetizer-size portions
25. Ginger Roots, Chicken Breast, Cabbage
From the corner of my eyes I saw Arabella Wong, Alastair’s mother, walking up the path. Her teal satin dress was heavily embroidered with designs of chrysanthemums and birds. The satin shimmered in the fairy lights that lined the walkway. Granny Fanny stepped out the kitchen door, carrying a tray of beautiful meringue pies, but she stepped over to meet Arabella anyway.
I knew Arabella wanted to get a look at the big shindig, but I was also aware that Alastair told his mother to send someone else to do the errand. He knew enough to realize that the evening could become dangerous. All of us were sure Queenie Wetson and her gang of bootleggers were behind the ambush that left Marshal Moses Myrick gravely wounded, and his federal agents dead.
The young restaurateur cast a worried and frustrated look at his mother as she approached. He had set up a table and equipment for making spring rolls. A small group of hungry partygoers watched him prepare the ingredients. Who could blame them? It was fascinating to watch Alastair cook. His movements were quick, deft, and graceful. It was almost a dance. He tossed a carrot into the air with a flourish before rapidly chopping it. Then he arranged the carrot pieces into a swirl design on a gleaming white square shaped plate.
Arabella spotted her son and called out to him. “Alastair I thought you might need more ginger roots too…”
However, Mrs. Wong’s voice trailed away from me, because I was focused on the chaos erupting before me. Our hostess wanted to hold a “parade of pets.” It was charming, but it went awry when several of the animals got loose. Pandemonium ensued.
The cavorting furry kids knocked down Queenie Weston, bootlegger kingpin (or maybe I should say queen-pin), and her three white tuxedo clad henchmen. That bunch surely deserved the tangle of arms and legs in which they landed.
The pets also ruined one of Granny’s hors d’oeuvre tables, sending all manner of food flying into the air. The lovely and unique square shaped plates and saucers fared no better, all the dishes and containers were overturned and scattered. This included a silver bowl filled with powdered red pepper. In mute fascination, I watched the bowl somersault high overhead. Time slowed to a crawl as I stared at the silver container.
A slow-motion cloud of red pepper sifted down toward the henchmen and Queenie. Maybe it was because everything seemed to be moving so slowly, but in that moment I noticed Detective Dabney Daniels, in disguise, frantically patting his sheik’s robes.
As I watched, he exchanged a wide-eyed look with that bossy butler. Farceur’s mouth gaped in apparent comprehension. Earlier I watched those two sneaking around (right after I caught that copper kissing Granny!), and I saw the butler pass a small book to Dabney. I wasn’t sure if they were up to good or no-good. However, I did know that the incriminating journal had just gone missing. Dabney had lost it somehow.
Beside me, a girl in tomboy clothes darted under the descending pepper cloud. She was moving normally, while everything else crept along slower than a tortoise. A blue pop of electricity lit Queenie’s beaded evening bag. The Queen of Clubs cried out in surprised pain as she fell, tossing aside the offending purse. The sound of her cry stretched out to a long slow moan. The evening bag popped open as it skidded across the pavement, exposing the small journal inside.
Suddenly the girl in tomboy clothes was at my elbow. “Daisy!” I exclaimed recognizing the young woman who repaired my uniform jacket earlier that day.
“Quick, Pip!” Daisy said pointing at the evening bag. “Get it!”
Ever so slowly Dabney turned to look at Queenie and her men. As one of them seemed to float toward the ground, positioned to land directly on top of the Queen of Clubs, I noticed the henchman’s smug grin as he looked at the distraught detective. I thought he must have gotten the journal from Dabney without the detective knowing.
Bit by bit, the man’s smile faded as he realized he was falling. I knew that whether or not they saw through Dabney’s disguise, the gangsters were onto the fact that he’d had the convicting book. Had the butler, Mr. Farceur, tipped them off?
Joker’s wild, Cracker the Parrot had repeated many times. As best I could figure out, farceur was a French word for joker. I didn’t know much about poker, but couldn’t a wild card be used for whatever you wanted it to be? What if the gangster code named Joker was Farceur? What if he was working both sides? Could he pretend to work for both the police and the gangsters?
“Hurry, Pip!” Daisy urged, snapping me out of the ideas that had unexpectedly filled my mind.
Thinking fast, I grabbed a square saucer that stayed on the table, despite the shenanigans of the animals. I rushed over to the evening bag. I replaced the journal with the saucer, snapped the purse closed, and left the fancy evening bag where it lay. I tucked the journal inside the waistband of my wide-legged trousers and covered it with the white waiter’s tuxedo jacket. No one saw what I did.
Everything was still moving abnormally slow. I couldn’t begin to understand why or how it could be so. Just the same, Daisy and I seemed to be the only ones who were at normal speed.
“Your cute redheaded friend hid a radio in the delivery truck. Tell him to have the coppers move in,” Daisy said. “I can’t keep things slowed down much longer.”
Hank was right beside us, all but frozen in astonishment as he mutely watched the cloud of red pepper poof upward and then slowly descend. Daisy touched a finger to his earlobe and Hank shivered.
“Tell him now,” she urged, and I leaned close to Hank and spoke the words into his ear, telling him he had to get to the radio and bring the coppers.
Savannah’s youngest policeman only twitched, but the expression in his eyes made me feel like he might actually have heard and understood. Ever so slowly he began to turn on his heel.
“Thank you Pip,” Daisy said. She no longer wore the tomboy outfit. She was dressed elegantly in a diaphanous chiffon gown. “So few people are aware of me — even when I try very hard to contact them. You have a gift.”
I started to shiver with the cold I felt at her presence. The clang of the silver dish against the pavement came to my ears, but I didn’t look as I stared in awe at Daisy. Much lighter, the pepper continued its sluggish descent, seemingly long after the bowl hit the ground.
“I have helped you,” she continued. “And I was happy to do it. However, I now ask you to use your rare talent to help me.”
“Of course, Daisy. I would have helped you however I could anyway,” I said, though I continued a mental struggle to comprehend the impossible happenings around me. Was I really talking to a ghost? Had she honestly managed to slow time?
“If I knew who took my life, I would just show you,” Daisy said. “But after death, sometimes a spirit might know more about some things and less about others, especially when it comes to the life we lived. I just want you to understand that I’m not just being vindictive or self-serving. Yes, I’d like my killer brought to justice, but I also want to make sure he, she, or they don’t harm anyone else,” she said with an exasperated shrug.
I nodded my understanding. The nausea came back full force. Alastair was right about the cold and upset stomach accompanying a spirit’s presence.
“As I said, I know parts, but not the whole. There are several people here tonight who either took part in my death or have information about it. The presence of so many of them in one place is what drew me here — what gave me the strength to do the things I’ve done just now,” Daisy said.
“I’ll do all I can, Daisy,” I said with a big dry gulp.
“Oh, by the way, you’re right. The Joker’s wild,” she added. “He was secretly working for Moses Myrick. Try not to give him away. He’s not such a bad guy.”
Daisy smiled. “I met Moses. He died for a moment. Actually he died a couple of times. First while that one was driving him to the doctors,” she said pointing to Dabney in his disguise. “And again when your grandmother and her friends were trying to save him. That was how I knew to find you.”
She chuckled at my confused expression. “Naturally Moses will not remember meeting me. He said how much like your grandmother you are. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be mysterious,” she said as I tried unsuccessfully to form words. “Your grandmother can see me, or rather she could if she didn’t have so many of her talents blocked. Your gift comes from her line,” Daisy explained as she drifted away from me.
The motions in the scene around me gradually began to increase toward normal speed. Daisy moved to stand beside Henry Kingston III, and she gave me a very significant look. Then she disappeared.
Walking at a snail’s pace, Hortense Houston “hurried” toward the falling guests. As the housekeeper, it was a matter of pride to her that the even went well. She a look of horror painted her face as she saw the calamity in progress. She didn’t see the chicken breast she was about to step on, and I hoped it didn’t cause her to slip. She had been nice to me.
As time started to pass at a rate that was very close to normal, I saw Daisy step through the broad French doors. She went to a large framed photograph and placed her hand on it. She nodded to me. I knew there was information in that photograph. I’d have to make sure I got a good look at it. Then Daisy vanished.
In a surge that I felt in the bottom of my stomach, everything rushed back to normal speed. The sensation caused me to stagger. Without a word, Hank made a beeline toward the delivery truck and the radio he had secretly hidden there.
The red pepper cloud finally reached Queenie Wetson and her henchmen. Screaming, crying, and floundering erupted from the quartet.
I headed straight over to Dabney Daniels. Mr. Farceur reached him a fraction of a second sooner. They were hissing something at each other when they saw me. Since I’d seen Dabney searching his robes for it and make eye contact with the Joker, I knew they were talking about the incriminating journal. Both men started jabbering at me, saying that I should go do this or that.
“Look, I know about that book,” I said loudly enough to cut across their combined chatter. Then realizing the volume at which I spoke, I took a quick look over my shoulder. Queenie and her men were still in the midst of a pepper induced fit. Everything around them was in chaos, with the pets still on the loose.
“What I don’t know,” I said with an arch look at the butler. “Is whether you can be trusted. Either of you!” I added, including Dabney in my gaze before turning back to Farceur. “But especially you. Are you some kind of double agent, working both sides against the middle? Or were you working with the police all along?” I demanded.
Farceur drew an annoyed sounding breath. Then to my surprise, he fessed up. “I became acquainted with Marshal Moses Myrick when he began investigating my new employers, the Kingstons,” Farceur said in a clipped way. “He discovered that I had done some… shall we say discrete work for my government before I came here. He enlisted my help. However, I did not expect to find anyone other than the marshal in the sheik’s robes tonight.”
“Did you give him the real book then?” I asked jerking my head toward Dabney.
The butler looked like he was disgusted with himself. “Yes, against my better judgment, I gave it to him. He threatened to expose everything if I did not,” Farceur said, glaring at the detective.
“Pip, how do you know about any of this?” Dabney insisted.
“There’s no time for that,” I said in a rush, knowing he’d never believe me if I told him. “Hank’s gone to radio the police. I hope they’re nearby,” I said in a suggestive tone.
Dabney looked relieved but confused. He nodded. He wasn’t moving and I wanted to push him into action. However, I glanced at the three men and the Queen of Clubs. They were beginning to get to their collective feet. There were four of them and only three of us. Then I saw the flash of metal. Apparently the men were distraught and felt threatened enough that they drew their guns. I didn’t realize they had been carrying firearms.
“Didn’t you notice the bulges in their jackets, Pip?” Detective Daniels asked with a smirk. “Now you run along and stay out of the way. This is no place for a girl. And Fanny would never forgive me if something happened to you.”
Well… you can guess what effect those words had on me. How dare he tell me to run along as if I were a child or a simpleton! Having seen those guns, I might actually have run for cover if he hadn’t said that. But there was no backing down then!
A pistol appeared in Dabney’s hand as if by magic. It was probably hidden in the voluminous robes. Farceur picked up a double handful of forks and knives from the nearest table. In an instant he had one between each of the fingers of both of his hands. The two men snaked between party guests toward the villains.
Hortense Houston had come back to full speed along with everything else. The housekeeper hurried toward the guests to make sure they were unharmed from their fall. Just as she reached them, Hortense slipped on the chicken breast that I noticed a moment before. As she slid into one of the henchmen he grabbed her and put his gun to her head.
There was so much noise. I could barely sort all the sounds. The dogs howled, probably at the sirens — which continued to wail. Someone screamed. Everyone seemed to be shouting.
Queenie, her glittering tiara askew, stepped back onto the tail of Marie Antoinette, Mrs. Kingston’s Maine Coon cat. The tall cat hissed and stood up on her hind legs, claws extended, and grabbed the posterior of the Queen of Clubs. Queenie shrieked, waiving her pearl handled pistol. Antoinette darted inside the mansion.
To my horror, I saw how close they were to Arabella Wong and Granny Fanny. Alastair was only a few feet away at his table too. What if the crooks started shooting?
One of the henchmen tripped over his own feet when he turned to see what was wrong with Queenie. His stumble put him in range of Arabella Wong and he made a grab for Alastair’s mother. My stomach lurched. Arabella wouldn’t hurt a fly; she was so ladylike and demure. My brief acquaintance with her flashed before my eyes. I heard the horrible man say, “Two hostages are better than one!”
In a heartbeat the man was socked in the noggin by a head of cabbage. Since the man was so close to his mother, Alastair picked up the safest “weapon” at hand and threw the vegetable. However, he threw it with such force and speed that it made the villain stagger.
The next thing I knew, Arabella was all over the guy. Hands and feet flying in a blur, Arabella was like nothing I’d ever seen before as she attacked her would be assailant. Then Granny Fanny started throwing those beautiful meringue pies! It looked like something the Marx Brothers would have done, and I would have laughed if the situation had not been deadly dangerous!
A woman screamed when the henchmen aimed their guns. Then I realized the screaming woman was me! I was so afraid of what might happen to Granny and Arabella while I watched helplessly.
As if I had summoned her, Cracker soared into the fray, raking her sharp talons across the heads of the criminal quartet. She caught Queenie’s tiara in her beak and tossed it violently. As the parrot attacked one of the henchmen, he fired his gun wildly into the air.
Girls didn’t usually get much in the way of science classes in school back then, but I was luckier than most. I knew enough to realize that a bullet going up would eventually come down. I just hoped that it didn’t come down and kill an innocent.
With unexpected attack from feet, pies, and talons the villains were so surprised that Hortense managed to get away from the henchman who was holding her at gunpoint. There were still so many people in the way that it wasn’t safe for Dabney to fire his gun. At least I hoped he would realize that. When I spotted him, he was pointing the revolver but he couldn’t seem to get a clear shot. I swallowed hard, fearing the wrong person would get shot.
The henchmen managed to get guns their aimed at Arabella and Granny, and the two women backed away. The assault had pushed the criminals against the wall of the mansion. Queenie and her men sidled toward the broad French doors. However, they stopped when the police started pounding at the mansion’s front door.
Cracker glided to the table where Alastair stood, as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. She picked up a carrot and flew to a corner of the terrace. I hadn’t noticed Cinnamon Bun there. Cracker gave the giant rabbit the carrot. He nibbled it and then seemed to decide to carry it elsewhere. I saw the bunny’s long ears as he quietly moved amid partygoers. To my dismay, he ended up behind one of Queenie’s men.
The carrot was sticking out of Cinnamon Bun’s mouth as he curiously sat up on his haunches to investigate the man in front of him. A Flemish Giant rabbit standing on his haunches is pretty tall. The carrot poked the man’s side. He must have thought someone had sneaked up on him with a gun, because he eased his hands into the air.
However, that was enough of a diversion for Mr. Farceur to get into place. He was only armed with cutlery from the table, but his aim was dead-on. The knives and forks whistled through the air in a rapid blur, and painfully struck the quartet of gangsters.
By then some of the policemen made their way to the back of the mansion, and the ones at the front door got inside. Soon Queenie Wetson and her henchmen were arrested and locked up in the paddy wagon.
Dabney Daniels removed his sheik headdress and yellow tinted glasses. He spoke individually to each person who had been directly in harm’s way, making sure they were unhurt and he put Hank Hertz to work taking statements from them.
I lost sight of Granny Fanny after she and Arabella did their part. However, she had looked unscathed at that moment. When she walked up to Dabney he looked so relieved that I thought he was going to kiss her again.
Maybe he really was about to, because Granny took half a step back from him. After my initial shock, I didn’t see anything wrong with Granny and Dabney being a couple. She was a good bit older than him, but that happened once in a while. And it happened all the time if the man was the older one. As a flapper, I had to be all for a modern relationship! However, Granny was obviously not convinced.
I walked over to the pair and removed the journal from my waistband. I made sure Granny saw it. I wanted a witness of my own. I couldn’t suddenly shift from suspicion of Daniels to complete trust. I handed the journal to the detective. It was the evidence the police needed to convict the rumrunners.
An important seeming man walked up just then and Dabney showed him the book. The man turned out to be the police commissioner, the top copper. He thumbed carefully through the journal, nodding approval as he read random pages.
Dabney motioned for Hank and Alastair to join them and he introduced the younger men to the commissioner. The commissioner had heard of Hank, Savannah’s youngest police officer, but he did not know him or Alastair personally.
I didn’t feel too comfortable being around anybody who was so… official so I stepped away before I was pulled into the introductions. Daniels caught my eye, but he seemed to understand. He nodded and I kept moving away.
Then a minor commotion came to my attention. “What about him?” I demanded, pointing at Henry Kingston III. “Isn’t he the King of Clubs?”
Mr. Farceur was beside me, but he was trying to be inconspicuous. I wasn’t sure why he didn’t want any credit for the role he played in catching the bootleggers, but I was respectful of his wish for privacy. He spoke quietly in answer to my question.
“Yes and no,” he said, and I couldn’t help rolling my eyes. Trust that butler to be cryptic. “He was the King of Clubs, but Kingston’s participation was negligible. Queenie Wetson manipulated him into most of his actions, so she was as much the King of Clubs as he was. She was both king and queen. Kingston’s a funny old bird, and not too bright. I have a suspicion that his influential position, not to mention his expensive barrister — I mean attorney, will keep him out of jail.”
As Farceur spoke one of the party guests stepped in between Kingston and the police. The man waved his arms, shouting about rights and evidence. Oh, that would be the lawyer all right.
“One never knows,” Farceur said as he gazed beyond me and into the branches of the crepe myrtle trees that bordered that part of the terrace. “He’s doubtless committed other crimes. Something will trip him up eventually,” he said and gave a barely perceptible nod to someone behind me.
The butler had obviously been looking at someone, so I turned to see who was there. All I saw was Cracker perched on a thick branch of the biggest crepe myrtle tree I had ever seen. The thought went through my mind that it must be very old indeed, because those trees didn’t tend toward such size.
Abruptly I realized that Cracker was not alone. Chiffon billowed on the night breeze. Daisy sat on the branch next to the parrot.
“Applesauce!” I cried in astonishment and turned back to the butler. “Do you mean to tell me that you can see her too?” I asked the empty space beside me. Farceur was gone.
Here ends Cookbook-1 of The Three Ingredients
Stay tuned for Cookbook-2!
Until next time — Great-big-hugs to you all.
Video: Thai Cooking – Chicken Ginger
Photos are either from Pinterest or they have been purchased, unless otherwise noted.
The Three Ingredients Serial: Copyright © 2013 – 2014
by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
No part of this writing, blog, or book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.