Too Many Cooks
“Welcome to This Scampi Happening,” said the waiter. “May I suggest the calamari gumbo? It’s the chef’s specialty.”
”Can I have a few minutes to mullet over?” asked Anne.
“Let minnow when you’re ready,” he replied.
“I’m always up for tentacles,” said Bonnie. “Bring it on.”
“All right, make it two,” said Anne. “And wine. Lots of wine.”
“Two specials. Coming right up.”
When he was out of earshot, Anne turned back to Bonnie and asked,“So why are we here again?”
“This was where poor ol’ Floyd was headed when he got iced. Maybe someone here knows something. Also, I was hungry.” Bonnie waved at the waiter across the room. “Garçon could we get some more bread here?”
The waiter returned swiftly with not only the bread, but a bottle of red wine which he deftly poured into two extra-large glasses. They waited patiently for him to finish, not wanting to be overheard.
“Just leave the bottle,” said Bonnie.
When he was gone, Anne said, “I’m not sure that we’ll find anything here. After all, he never made it to the restaurant. We should be trying to figure out who would want to kill him.”
“Well, he was a notoriously harsh food critic,” said Bonnie, “so my guess was every cook in the city wanted to kill him. We need to narrow down the list.”
“How do we do that?”
“Watch and learn.”
A few minutes later, the waiter brought their entrees. Bonnie took a sip from her bowl and loudly proclaimed, “This is simply the most divine meal I’ve ever tasted. I want to extend my compliments to the chef.”
“I’ll tell him you liked it,” said the waiter.
“No, I must tell him myself.” Bonnie stood up and started walking towards the back of the restaurant. “Is this the way is the kitchen?”
The waiter rushed to get ahead of her and block her path. “Pierre does not like strangers in his kitchen. Please, have a seat, and I’ll get him for you.”
“What are you doing?” asked Anne. “The gumbo’s good, but not that good.”
“I just wanted to talk to the cook. It seemed like the easiest way.”
They enjoyed the gumbo for a minute or so before a large man carrying a meat cleaver made his way to their table. He was wearing an apron, a chef’s hat, and a crooked smile. “How do you do. I’m Pierre, head chef and owner of this establishment. I’m told you like the gumbo.”
“Yes, it’s the best I’ve ever had,” said Bonnie. “Even Gasparo Floyd would be proud.”
Pierre tore the hat from his head and clutched it to his chest as he waved the knife menacingly in the air. “Do not speak his name for it angers me so.”
Bonnie raised her butter knife and pointed it at Pierre. “Is that why you killed him?!”
“Kill him?” The tip of the knife dug into the tablecloth as he leaned forward and spoke in a hushed tone. “No, he was tough but fair. His critiques only made us work harder. We were the better for knowing him. But I still hate Gasparo Floyd.” He stabbed the table as he spoke the name, and the knife sunk into the wood.
“Really?” asked Anne. “I’d think that you’d be glad to see your harshest critic gone.”
“There will always be critics, but none had the passion for food the way he did. Besides, I couldn’t have killed him. I was here with his doctor friend, waiting for him. It was our the night of our monthly dinner, and he had promised to bring me something special. He would do that from time to time – surprise us with some exotic spice or rare ingredient.”
“Any idea what that could be?” asked Bonnie.
“No, he would never say,” said Pierre. “He loved his surprises almost as much as he loved rubbing our noses in them. I wouldn’t have put up with it, but the man knew cuisine like Mozart knew music. Say what is your interest in this anyway? Are you foodies as well?”
“Foodie?” asked Anne. “No, I’m more of a beerie.”
“I’ll drink to that,” said Bonnie. She raised her wineglass, and Anne tapped hers against it with a satisfying ping. “Actually, we’re the ones accused of killing him. We’re just trying to clear our names.”
“You? Why would you kill him?” Pierre gripped the knife handle and pried the blade loose from the table. He began waving it around again to accentuate his words. “If it was anyone, it was that witch, Harriet Farnsbottom. She was supposed to be here for the dinner as well, but she never showed.”
“Who’s she?” asked Bonnie.
“She’s been trying to steal his column space for years. I suppose now that he’s gone she’ll get her wish. Such a shame. She doesn’t know a soufflé from a shawarma.”
“Professional jealousy?” said Anne. “Sounds like a motive to me.”
“I can’t stand the woman, and I don’t want my restaurant to be her next victim. It would bring me no end of joy if she were locked away. If you could help with that, even in some small part, I would be eternally grateful. Please enjoy your lunch, it is on the house.”
“Woohoo,” cheered Anne, “free lunch. I guess you could say our time here wasn’t a turtle disaster.”
“Now if you ladies will excuse me, I have chicken to marinade.” Pierre stuck his hat on and headed back toward the kitchen.
“You may not like my puns,” Anne called out after him, “but that’s no reason to tuna me out.”
“I should have ordered the lobster,” said Bonnie.
“I thought the gumbo was the best you’d ever tasted,” said Anne.
“It is,” said Bonnie. “It’s also the only I’ve ever tasted, so technically it’s not a lie. But don’t tell the crazy man with the meat cleaver that.”
“It is good, but spicy,” said Anne. “We’re going to need more wine.”
As Anne emptied the bottle and set it down again, Bonnie nearly fell out of her seat. Over the picture of the cat on the label where two more googly eyes staring back at her. “Look!” she cried. “There they are again.”
Anne stared at the label, and then looked back at Bonnie. “Dun, dun, dun!” she exclaimed.
Bonnie smiled. “This must mean we’re getting close. C’mon, eat up. We’ve got a date with the fourth estate.”
To be continued…
The characters of Anne and Bonnie, while loosely based on their real world namesakes, are entirely fictitious. You can find more googly-eyed goodness at vandaleyes.net.