Thursday, February 28, 2019
The next morning, Drea opened the shop as usual. The front was being cleaned, but the side and back entrances were already spotless. Kirk and the staff were in the kitchen when the shop door swung open, a brass bell tinkling cheerfully. Drea smiled as she spun around to greet the newcomer. The smile pasted itself on her features when she saw the man. Not their typical customer, he was medium height, burly, tattooed, muscular and powerfully built. His sandy hair was close cropped, his eyes steely in his swarthy face. Even in a three piece suit, he didn't look normal.
Drea tossed her pale blond hair out of her face. "Hi, I'm Drea. Won't you come in?" She extended her hand.
He eyed her with disgust, not taking it. "I wish to book a party for the night of the full moon."
Drea blinked. Was this some sort of bizarre code?
Taking out her appointment book, she waited for him to expand on the topic. He didn't.
"You'll have to be more precise, sir. What date exactly?"
He glared at her. "I need a very special menu that I was told you could provide."
"Barr Nunne can handle even the most complicated...." Her voice trailed off when he glared at her.
Pen poised over her notepad, she waited expectantly. The smile was gone, frosted over with impatience. This fellow was some whack job who had wandered in off the street to test their reputation. He might be a competitor, but he had more the look of a soldier or policeman than a chef.
"What would you like to serve?:
"Blood sausage," he said, a hard edged glint in his eyes. He stared at her pointedly, looking for her reaction.
"There aren't many people who like that around here," she explained. "It's rather esoteric."
"Your chef can make it?"
"Of course, though it is something we generally would import. It's quite time consuming."
"I want it to be fresh," he demanded. "Fresh—blood." He elongated the words, pausing for dramatic effect, staring even more pointedly at her.
"You'll have to discuss that with our chef. He's unavailable at the moment. Surely that isn't the only item?"
"Steak Tartar." His head whipped around, snakelike.
Drea made a note, frowning. "I see, anything else?"
Drea flipped her notebook shut with an irritable snap. "I think that's quite enough, sir. Not only is your menu indigestible, but your attitude is disturbing, not to mention appalling. I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
"You can't do that. I'm a paying customer."
"We're booked solid for the next thirty days. I'm afraid we can't accommodate you. Good day." She headed toward the rear door of the shop marked Private.
"I know your secret," the intense man said, his voice suddenly layered with a heavy, dark accent. "You can no longer hide."
Drea ignored him, though she stiffened, the hairs on the back of her neck rising uncomfortably. Unhesitatingly, she let the door swing shut behind her. Visibly shaken, she went to the wine rack. Selecting a bottle of wine at random, she opened it, pouring a large glass, downing it in one, long gulp. She repeated the process as Kirk walked in.
"You'll make yourself ill," he said with a frown of concern. "What's put you in such a state?"
Drea told him of her encounter with the odd man. When she told him the man's parting comment, she went weak in the knees.
"He can't possibly know anything," Kirk tried to reason with her, but his voice lacked conviction.
"Of course he did! His method was crude, but he knows—or suspects. Why else would he want blood pudding, blood sausage and steak tartar?"
"He was probably just trying to gross you out."
"He—knows. We have to contact Phillida. The Council needs to know."
"You're right, of course. Will you knock off the wine? You'll vomit it all up in a minute. That's a very expensive vintage."
Drea grabbed a phial of dark red liquid from a steel box in a secret wall safe. She added the liquid to the wine, sipping the last drops from the phial. Rinsing it, she put the empty glass tube back in the box, hiding it once more.
He poured himself a glass of the modified beverage before pouring another for her. Raising his glass, he examined the liquid with a discerning eye.
"We knew there would be risks attracting this kind of attention, Drea."
"I know, Kirk. But so soon? I had hoped it would last awhile longer. You're just recognizing your dream."
"My love, my dreams were all answered when I met you." He took her hands to his lips. "You changed my life." He kissed her knuckles, turning her hands to kiss the pad of her thumb, as he let his lips drift to the center of her palm. "This is not the first business we've lost, nor will it be the last."
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
"Don't start," he pointed at her angrily.
"The paramedic told him it was only food," Drea told her in a stage whisper.
"I'll remember that remark," Kirk growled, his eyes flashing dangerously. "If they still allowed it, I'd nail his skin to a wall."
"Darling, that's a tad harsh. He's just a boy."
"Good for discipline. Teach the masses the truth, that's what I say."
"And that's a good way to work your way into the hearts of the people," Margo said in a matter-of-fact tone. "Rates highly with the public when you fillet them."
"Shut up," Kirk said, digging around for a T-shirt in the plastic shopping bag.
He pulled out a brown shirt that said, Did You Eat an Extra Bowl of Stupid Today?, pulling it on without looking carefully at it. He groaned when he saw himself in the mirror.
"Did you have to?" he asked Drea.
"They didn't have much selection your size. Would you have preferred the ones with scythe wielding skeletons?"
"Not a lot."
"I feel the need for an upgrade," he said. "But I suppose that has to wait until tomorrow."
"You could go now. Keep in mind that the law doesn't like folks who break and enter," Margo said. "Before I forget, I brought the medicine and the lotion." She emptied her pockets, tossing the items on the bed. "Didn't we talk about this? Keeping it on you?"
"I have mine," Drea said. "It was Kirk who didn't."
"I was hardly expecting to be robbed," he said in his defense. "I keep some at work and in the car."
"And you should have some in your pocket."
"Your concern is noted, Margo. Enough lectures. Want to join us for dinner?"
"I'm expected at home. Tommy is cooking." She raised an eyebrow at the mention of the prep chef's name. "Thanks so much for hiring him, Kirk. Tasty!" She licked her lips lavishly, slurping.
"Don't want to know," Kirk replied, putting his fingers in his ears.
"He's a spicy, sweet, tasty treat," she concluded loudly. "Drea does, though. Don't you?" She raised an eyebrow, nodding.
"Not especially. I'm just glad you're happy. You deserve it."
"At least one of you is happy for me," she said with a fake pout.
"I'm happy, I just don't want to hear about how well you're getting along," Kirk said with a shudder. "You have a nasty habit of consuming your men, Margo. And I happen to like Tommy. He's a good kid and an excellent chef. I don't want you corrupting him once I have him trained the way I want him."
"On that note, I'll be going," Margo told Drea. "See you in the morning?"
"Probably. Provided nothing else is stolen, vandalized or broken into, we'll be there."
"Shall I come by for you?"
"Sure. I'll rent a car later in the day," Kirk said. "But I can't deal with that when I first get up."
"Alrighty then!" Margo got up, flouncing toward the door. "See you in the A.M.!" Blowing kisses, she left.
"She's going to dry that kid up like a weed," Kirk said to Drea.
"I think she really cares about this one," Drea replied. "She might decide to keep him."
"If she does, that's great. I don't mind. But she'll have to train him. I don't have time."
"I know, darling. But think how we felt about Margo when we first added her to the fold."
He nodded. "Well, we had to, didn't we? I mean, she did catch us in a rather compromising position. It was that or kill her, and I really like the way she works in the kitchen."
"I know. She has been an asset all these years, despite her histrionics."
They went downstairs to the hotel cafe for dinner. Neither of them had the wardrobe appropriate for the dining room. Not that Kirk cared. The odors coming from the restaurant told him he would not be satisfied with the cuisine. At least in the cafe he would not be expecting five star food, and he wouldn't be disappointed when something less arrived. Lowering his expectations was easier than lowering his standards.
After dinner, they decided to catch a movie, then went for a walk along the pier. Drea was all for a late night boat ride into the bay, but Kirk was starting to get tired.
"Forgot your medicine, didn't you?" Drea said, holding him close as they gazed across the water.
"Mm.... Even with Margo bringing it. As old as I am, as long as I've been taking it, I can still forget."
"I do too, on occasion," Drea said. "But it's important. It helps control those little outbursts like with the paramedic."
"That kid had it coming," Kirk disagreed.
"But darling, you almost let your fangs show. You mustn't do that in public. What will people think?"
He chuckled, nibbling her earlobe as his lips caressed her neck. "They'll think, Who's that terribly handsome, well preserved man nibbling on that beautiful neck? That's what they'll think."
"They're more likely to grab torches and pitchforks," she mused.
"Typical ignorance. Let's go."
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
Thursday, February 21, 2019
They settled once more in Maggie's office. The police officers took their statements, comparing notes with one another as to what had happened, trying to get a fix on the thread of the story.
"It's obvious that whoever you surprised at the fish market thinks you know something or have something," Officer Scott said. "You're sure you didn't pick up something, just looking, distracted?"
"I swear, nothing," Kirk replied tiredly. "I only wish I had, I'd gladly choke the bastard with it."
"Darling,...." Drea murmured, patting his hand.
"Sorry. I'm usually the most docile of men. This whole thing has my blood up, that's all. Why are we being persecuted? And who the hell wanted to kill poor, old Jay? He was a nice man, a good merchant, his fish were always top notch.... Dammit, I wish I'd known the fellow better. It hardly seems fitting to sit in the office of the Wal-Mart, commending a man's—fish."
"You'd be delighted to be remembered for your food, my dear," Drea pointed out.
"That's different. I take the raw product and create edible art. Until I do something with it, a fish is just a hunk of stinking meat." He shrugged, wishing he had a cigarette. He hadn't smoked in years, but suddenly the idea had some appeal.
When their interview was complete, Drea and Kirk went back to their hotel room, locking the door securely behind them. Neither of them wanted to see a soul for the rest of the day. In fact, Kirk would have been delighted to avoid the rest of humanity forever. He took a long, hot shower, dressing in the new clothing his wife had bought for him.
"I can't remember a time I've been so angry," Drea said "I feel violated! What did you stumble upon, my dear?" she asked, yet again.
"I wish I knew, sweetheart. Poor Jay."
"It's his daughter I feel sorry for. We must call on her tomorrow and extend our sympathies."
"Of course. You're right," he agreed.
"Margo called while you were bathing. The police finished gathering evidence from the shop. Nothing was taken, amazingly enough. It was just smeared all over with fish guts. How could anyone get in and do something like that?"
"More to the point, why?" He countered.
"They got the cleaning crew in to take care of it. We should be back in business by the day after tomorrow."
"Just in time for the Michaels – Ferguson wedding," he sighed resignedly.
"Lucky us. Fortunately, the kitchen wasn't disturbed. Just the front part of the shop."
"I hope we haven't the lingering odor of halibut to drive our customers away."
"We can get through this, Kirk. We've been through worse."
"So you keep reminding me, Drea. But really, this is getting ridiculous."
"You know what I need? A shower, dinner and a nap."
He made a grand gesture, pointing her toward the bathroom. "Your bath awaits, my lady." Kissing her hands, he led her to the bathroom.
"Well, it isn't a castle in Marseilles, nor yet a Roman bath, but it will have to suffice."
"Humble caterers can't afford the best suite, my love. Were I not of humble origins, I would treat you like the queen you are."
Giggling, Drea strutted past him, dragging her finger along his jaw. "Of course you would, peasant. Draw my bath, churl." She put on a haughty, imperious accent.
"Aye, my lady," he replied in a rasping, coarse accent. He bowed, groveling, as he scurried to the bathtub.
"Then you can join me," she said with a smirk.
"Oh, aye, my lady!" He responded happily in the same voice. "Anything my lady wishes!"
They were woken at dusk by tapping on the door. Kirk grabbed his underwear and a bathrobe. Drea pulled the blankets up around her chin as she waited for him to check the peephole.
"It's Margo." He opened the door.
"Oh, what a day! I'll smell like fish the rest of my life!" She swished in, her long coat a swirl of white around her. Kirk couldn't help thinking she looked like she was covered in whipped cream. The coat patterned after an old fashioned duster, her turtle neck and leather pants also the starkest white.
"Nonsense. It washes out," Kirk said, closing the door behind her.
"Did they police find anything?"
"No, but that irritating reporter from Channel 9 is sniffing around. I hope she gets a nostril full of fish guts."
"Which one? They're all annoying," Drea laughed from the bed.
"That Shelly person with the fake tits and the big hair." She made gestures in front of her chest and waved her hands around her head to emphasize her words.
Drea sniffed acidly. She and Margo were far better built than the artificial reporter—all of their curves real. Kirk excused himself to dress in the bathroom. Drea, who had known Margo for years, wasn't the least bit modest dressing in front of her friend.
"Having a good nap?" Margo flopped on the bed.
"You might say that," Drea replied with a knowing smile.
"Bother sleep," Kirk came out of the bathroom with his jeans and no shirt. "It's highly overrated."
"Some would say the same thing about your food." Margo blew him a saucy kiss.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
"Wouldn't it you? I was behind an SUV where a couple kids were tussling in the back, it shook all over. The way that was moving, I'd say there might have been two people inside. The movements were hurried, like they didn't want to get caught. Then with that sound of the knife behind me...."
"Sounded like someone drew a knife behind me. But when I turned around, no one was there."
"Yeah. Now all this? I'm honestly not sure how much more my wife can take. I keep wondering what's going to happen next."
His cellphone rang. It was Margo. Why was she calling?
"Kirk," her tone was funereal.
It was a bone chilling sound. "What's wrong, Margo?" He snapped rather loudly.
All talk around him stopped. Every eye turned to him.
"Are you sitting down?"
"No. Should I be?"
"You're gonna wanna sit down."
"What's wrong? Margo, you're scaring me."
"I just got here to open up like you said. I walked up to the door and—Kirk.... We've been robbed and the whole damn place is covered in fish guts."
"WHAT? WHAT? WHAT?" He couldn't stop yelling. "WHAT? Fish? Guts? WHAT???"
Now he knew what hysteria felt like. He was falling down a long, deep well, spiraling rapidly as the world spun around him. A rushing sound filled his ears. He could still hear Margo trying to talk to him. His own voice kept saying, "What?" in an oddly detached way.
Someone tried to get his phone. He lashed out and his wife squawked a reprimand. Instead of apologizing, he let go of his phone and sat on the ground, bruising his tail bone.
"Fish guts," he mumbled. "Covered—in fish guts. Fish guts?? What the hell??"
Officer Scott tried to talk to him, but it didn't matter. Kirk was zoned, unable to respond. Not even his wife, who was suddenly remarkably calm, could get through this maniacal haze in which he found himself. A man dressed in a paramedic's uniform squatted by his side, trying to talk to him. Nothing he said made any difference. The rushing sounded in Kirk's ears.
"It's just food!" the young man said calmly. That got through to Kirk.
"Just food! Just food?"
"Oh, hell," Drea said. "You've gotten his attention now."
"Isn't that a good thing?" The paramedic smiled up at her, then yelped when Kirk grabbed his collar.
"Not after what you just said. Honey," she said calmly. "Let go of the nice young man. He didn't know any better. Sweetheart."
Kirk had hold of the paramedic's shirt, dragging him forward, eyes wide, mouth open in a silent scream.
"A burger is just food," he growled. "French fries drenched in cheap oil, dripping with ketchup. That's just food! Vegetables sauteed in the purest olive oil, meats braised on a slowly turning spit, roasted peppers tossed with garlic..... That, my boy, is art. Just food?"
His fist tightened on the man's collar. Drea jerked his hands away, patting the fellow on the shoulders.
"I'm so sorry. That's probably the worst thing to say to him at the moment."
"He needs to lighten up," the kid said. "Might want to consider some Xanax or something. Jeesh!"
"He'll be fine now. Thank you so much for your help."
"Yeah, no problem lady. But he's crazy. You know that, right?"
"Simply distraught," she said quietly. "It's been quite a busy twenty-four hours."
"Whatever, lady." He stood up, dusted himself off and left.
"Honey, you can't do that to people, or you'll get arrested."
"No prison in the world can hold me," he mumbled.
"We need to get you out of the sun," she said quietly. "You're going to fry."
"You're not wearing your lotion. Come now. Before anything worse happens." She jerked at him, helping him rise. "May we continue this inside? My husband has a sun allergy." Second only to mine, she added silently.
"But fish guts, honey?" he said in an oddly quiet voice. "Why fish guts?"
"Making a statement?" she asked in a coy fashion designed to make him laugh. It almost did. "Come now, love. This isn't the worst that's ever happened. Remember Marseilles?" she murmured.
"I've tried for years to forget."
"Or Salem? Columbus?"
"Darling, you're not helping...."
"We've weathered worse, my dear. That's all I'm pointing out."
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
Thursday, February 14, 2019
"Honey. Honey, wake up!"
"Mmf?" Kirk had never been one to wake easily. He rolled over, trying to focus. "Bright," he groaned, pulling the pillow over his head. "Time's it?"
"It's six o'clock. Shush, look!" She pointed to the screen, turning up the sound.
"Police found evidence that leads them to believe that both crimes are related. Is someone targeting local caterers? Full story at noon. For now, I'm Shelly Frakes on the scene. Back to you, Bill."
They were looking once more at the anchorman with his perfect hair and painted on tan. The fake tan made his eyes look overly white, Drea noticed in passing. He smiled artfully at the camera just before it cut to a commercial.
"Targeting local caterers? What drivel," Kirk mumbled. "Jay wasn't a caterer. He was a fishmonger. Big difference."
"I'm going shopping," Drea said with a sigh. "I need some clean panties."
"Where on earth will you go at this wretched hour? Sun's barely out." Kirk was up, pouring coffee and scratching.
"Bound to be a twenty-four hour Wal-Mart nearby."
"Darling, you haven't shopped in a Wal-Mart in years."
"Sorry, dear, but I'm quite sure Saks is closed at this hour. I don't relish the idea of putting on dirty clothing after a shower."
"You used to not mind."
"Well, you used to think bathing was bad for you," she said, tossing a pillow at him.
"Do we have any appointments today?"
"Nothing Margo can't handle."
"I'll call her, then I'm going back to bed. This bed is wonderful. Care to join me?"
"Not with that wake up breath," she fanned in front of her face. "I'll be back."
She grabbed her purse, keys and sunglasses. Kirk called his sous-chef, got embroiled in a longer conversation than he wanted, and drank another cup of coffee. That accomplished, he showered and solved the dirty underwear problem by going back to bed naked.
Drea took the car and searched out the nearest store. She was able to purchase everything they needed, except for uniforms. There was a shop downtown that would have what those, but it didn't open until much later in the day. Laden with her purchases, she headed back to her car, only to find it—missing? She was sure of where she had parked. The lot wasn't that full. Looking around frantically, she burst into tears.
Day workers, who were heading into work, saw her. Two women stopped to see what the trouble was. Sobbing, incoherent, she tried to explain. They took her back inside, leading her to the store office where the assistant manager called Kirk at their hotel.
He opened his eyes groggily, frowning at the offending piece of electrical equipment, reaching for it reluctantly. "Yes?"
"Maggie Longstreet here at the Wal-Mart, sir. Hello."
"Yeah? Sup, Maggie?"
"We have your wife here in the office. Apparently, someone stole your car while she was shopping."
Kirk was immediately awake. "What? Our car? Drea? May I speak to her?"
"She's pretty upset. I'll try."
The phone fumbled and scrabbled for a moment. Then he heard some fretful sniffling.
"Drea? Darling, what's wrong?"
"Someone stole the car!" She wailed. "It was right there! I locked it, I swear! I got our things and it was gone. And I'm sitting in the office in dirty panties!" For some reason, that idea really set her off again.
"I need the address, honey. Did you call the police?"
"Can I speak to her again, sweetheart?"
He heard the phone exchange hands again.
"Mr. Nunne? We're trying to get her calmed down."
"I'll come get her, but it's going to take awhile. I need a cab."
"We're within walking distance of your hotel, Mr. Nunne." She gave him specific directions.
"Thanks, Maggie," he said, scribbling them on some hotel stationary. "I'll be there shortly."
"The police have just arrived, sir. I need to go."
When Kirk arrived at the store, his pal, Officer Scott, was on the scene.
"I heard the call and thought I'd better respond. After last night, well... Honestly, I was a little worried. This is very strange, Mr. Nunne."
"Agreed. Who the hell would take our car?"
"Someone who's desperate to get something they think you have," he said quietly. "You didn't take anything from the fish market?"
"Except some bad memories, no. Oh, by the way, about that...." He explained about seeing Jay's van moving as he walked by.
"And that led you to believe someone was inside?"
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
Tuesday, February 12, 2019
"You know how a van or truck will move if you even shift your weight?"
"So, Jay's truck was moving when I walked by. I just didn't focus on it. It wasn't important at the time, you know? I wonder what happened?"
"Don't you dare!" Drea cautioned.
"Don't I dare what?" Kirk knew, but he was playing dumb.
"Don't even think about investigating this crime. Remember what happened before?"
"Nothing bad happened...."
"Not that bad...."
"We got run out of town and very nearly got arrested for obstruction. Not again, Kirk. No."
"Sorry, didn't heard you. What?"
"Kirk!" her tone was dangerous.
"Drea, I promise to be careful. Jay needs us now."
"Jay doesn't need us. He's dead! He doesn't need anything anymore."
"His daughter needs us. We met her once. Remember?"
Drea signed heavily, knowing she couldn't stop him, but she had to try. "Let the police do their jobs, Kirk. You will only get in the way."
Kirk shrugged, neither agreeing nor disagreeing with her. They drove home in silence, arriving at their loft apartment above the shop. It was nearly midnight when they entered the freight elevator. The disaster in the fish market was nothing compared to the devastation of their home. Furniture was overturned, their cushions slashed open. Priceless heirlooms and other irreplaceable items were crushed and broken. Drea burst into tears. Kirk's first impulse was to dash forward, but Drea caught his arm.
"We should call the police." As always, Drea was the voice of reason.
Nodding helplessly, Kirk followed her downstairs. She made the call and they waited in their car for the police to arrive.
"You're having a busy day," the responding officer said. "Didn't you make a call this morning too?"
"Yeah," Kirk answered absently.
They gave the police their information and answered their questions.
"Where were you when this happened?"
"St. Andrew's Church," Drea replied. "Before that, we were at the shop."
"Do you think this is related to the incident this morning?" The police officer asked them.
Kirk was worried, so he snapped more than he intended. The cop looked offended. Drea clutched his arm warningly.
"Sorry. Yes, I really do. I drove the company vehicle to the market. We're in the phone book. It wouldn't take a genius to find us."
"Do you have somewhere else to stay tonight?"
"Yes," Kirk replied. "We'll go to a hotel. We can't disturb our co-workers at this hour."
"No family around?"
"None," Kirk replied rather quickly. "It's just us, I'm afraid."
"Well, good luck to you. You can go now. My crime scene guys will put security locks on the door when they leave and I'll have officers posted here. Did you notice if anything was taken?"
"No. We didn't stay in there all that long."
"You can go through it more carefully tomorrow and see if anything is missing. If we take anything for evidence, I'll give you a receipt and detailed list."
"Thank you. We'll keep in touch. We have your card."
Sad and discouraged, Kirk and Drea headed to the nearest hotel. In their room, they got showers and fell into bed, exhausted.
"I can't think of a time I've been so tired," Drea sighed, curling up next to Kirk.
"Me either. What a day, huh?"
"I hope we never have another like it. What do you suppose they were looking for?" She asked.
"Where? At Jay's or our place?"
"Who knows? It's not like we were Jay's best pals or anything." He shrugged slightly, snuggling closer to his wife.
"Do you suppose they think we took something from him or from his shop?"
"Could be. If I interrupted whatever was going on before they got whatever it was they wanted.... Maybe they think I took whatever it is?"
"That's the vaguest statement you've ever made." Drea kissed him. "Good night, my love."
Waking in a strange room in an unfamiliar bed, Drea got up early. Despite the long day and all the excitement, she couldn't sleep another minute. She set up the pot of coffee the hotel provided and turned on the TV. The news was just coming on as she poured her coffee. The reporter was talking about Jay's murder and their apartment break in.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
Thursday, February 07, 2019
"Is an ambulance coming? Jay's badly hurt."
"Any minute," the young officer replied.
As promised, a siren grew louder as an ambulance turned the corner heading to the store. Kirk explained to the officers what he had seen and heard when he entered the market.
"Did you touch anything?" His cop buddy asked. His name was Officer Scott.
"No. The door was open, so was the cooler. I walked right in."
The paramedics carried Jay out on a stretcher. He was ghostly pale. The emergency team looked tight lipped and grim. Not a good sign, Kirk thought.
"Why were you here, Mr. Nunne?" Officer Scott asked him.
"I'm a caterer. Jay was late with our fish order and my sous-chef was having a major meltdown. Bouillabaisse for three hundred doesn't make itself."
"Unfortunately, I can't let you get your fish."
"The bride will have to settle for French Onion Soup. That was our backup plan. I'll make a call. I sure as hell hope Jay will be okay."
The officer's radio scratched to life. "Percy to Scott."
"Scott here, go ahead."
"We lost him, Scotty."
"Copy that, Percy. Thanks. I'll track down next of kin." He turned to Kirk. "Sorry, sir. Your friend didn't make it. Do you happen to know his family?"
Kirk shrugged. "I didn't know Jay that well. He was a business associate and chatting acquaintance. My wife may know more. Hang on. I have to call her anyway about that soup."
Kirk made the call, leaving instructions for Margo to contact the bride. The crime scene team arrived as he concluded his call.
"She remembers a daughter," Kirk told the officer. "Her name is Carley Sampson and she lives here in the city. Drea thinks she's a model with the Culpepper Agency. Jay used to tell her about the locations and photo shoots. He was trying to get us in with that crowd to help our business."
"That was nice of him."
"Helping us helped him. He is—was—the best fish supplier around. Reliable, reasonable and his fish were always fresh. We did a lot of business with him. Seafood is rather a specialty of ours."
"Can you think of anyone who would want to kill him?"
"Like I said, I didn't really know him that well. He was a nice guy, widowed, that's about it."
"Thanks for your help, Mr. Nunne. Here's my card. If you think of anything...."
"I'll call you for sure. I hope you can find out who killed him. He was a good man."
Kirk drove back to the shop in a daze. He couldn't believe what had happened. The shop was in chaos when he arrived. The bride was there demanding to see Kirk. Not even Drea could calm her. Kirk dealt with the hysterical woman halfheartedly, his emotions numb. Somehow, the fact she had to settle for her second choice couldn't upset him.
"Look," he interrupted her hysterical tirade. "A man is dead, Joni. The fact it causes you a minor inconvenience really doesn't matter. So your guests don't get fish stew. That man's family is never going to see him again. Don't you think that's more important?"
Joni burst into tears. "I didn't think of that, Chef. You're right. I'm so sorry! We can eat grilled cheese for all I care."
"We can do better than that." He put a consoling arm around her shoulder.
They settled the menu changes and the bride left in a much better mood.
"Talk about a day you'll never forget," Tommy, the prep chef said. "I bet she didn't factor that into her wedding plans."
"Don't be crass," Margo warned. "Poor girl. Such a burden to carry down the aisle. The marriage is cursed."
"You're being overly dramatic," Tommy responded.
Margo slapped his arm. "Of course. I am French!"
Despite the pall that hung over them, the crew worked well. The wedding dinner was delicious and the bride's father gave them a sizable gift as well as the final payment check.
"I'm sorry the guy is dead," he told Kirk. "Hell of a thing. But I sure hate bouillabaisse. It was the ex-wife's idea." Smiling, he tapped Kirk's shoulder and walked away happy.
That night, after everything was cleared away and the guests were gone, Kirk and Drea sat at a table as the rental company gathered up the furniture. They each sipped a glass of leftover champagne.
"What a day!" Drea slipped off her shoes.
Kirk lifted her feet to his lap, rubbing gently. She sighed, closing her eyes.
"Remind me to call that cop tomorrow," Kirk said. "I thought of something else to tell him."
"Oh?" Drea's head came up and she stared at him. "What?"
"Something I noticed when I passed the truck. It may not be important...."
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
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