Written / Cooking On High


Disclaimers Addendum

Chapter 11

One thirty in the morning, struggling to get all of the dirty linen downstairs wasn’t what she’d meant by friendship. But she’d told French she’d stay and do it anyway. The restaurant felt lonely without a crowd. Fry had wondered if the building itself didn’t miss the people. In the mornings when it was quiet, she’d thought she’d sensed an excitement in the air that was more than the bustling activity of set up. As if the place itself was anticipating all of the interesting people who’d come in that day. Maybe that was one of the reasons people enjoyed themselves there so much. Then again it could have something to do with the food, alcohol and being waited on hand and foot.

She gathered the last of the linen and threw it down the chute concealed at the back of the room.

French was still in the kitchen. She’d seen the last of them out and the cleanup crew wouldn’t be in for a few hours. She was checking her station and the ovens before leaving.

The door opened behind her. She assumed it was Fry coming through to get her stuff from out back. But it wasn’t Fry’s voice that caught her attention.

“I can’t think of a more appropriate place for you to die.”

“Monica?” French barely recognized Louisa’s old friend, she was so disheveled and worn. But it was Monica Brastlett, or what had once passed for the prim and fastidious woman. Her fine sandy colored hair was a tangled mass and her face was contorted and red. All of this diminished in importance when French noticed the gun.

“I told her to stay away from you! I told her you were poison. That you were heartless and would do anything for your precious restaurant. She didn’t listen to me!” Monica began to weep and the gun shook in her hand.

“I never touched her Monica...”

“Shut up! I know what you did. I found her you twisted bitch. I knew you’d find some way to get out of it. That’s why I’m going to make sure you get what’s coming to you. You and all of your friends think that laws aren’t meant for you. There to keep all of us little people in line. Not this time. She thought she could play your game. Thought that she could manipulate you all because she had something you wanted. Had something you didn’t want to get out. I told her it was dangerous, that you and Mitchell would never let her win. She didn’t want much, you didn’t have to kill her!”

Monica had her full attention. Not something French gave up easily. As she raved on she’d advanced on the chef. The gun growing more steady as she approached. That didn’t seem like a good sign.

“Monica, what do you mean, me and Mitchell?” Getting Monica to talk was her best bet.

“Oh, don’t play coy with me. It doesn’t suit you. I know all about you two, who doesn’t?”

They both jumped as the door swung open and Fry bustled in with an armfull of clean linens. She was already talking to French, “You know, you might consider putting a stepstool in the linen closet for the vertically challenged on the staff...”

Taking advantage of the distraction, French moved to cross the counter that separated her from Monica, but the distressed woman stepped back and screamed, “No! Get back!”

Fry froze, mouth agape. What was the town’s Reference Librarian doing pointing a gun at French? Was there anyone that didn’t have some negative history with the contentious chef?

French had frozen as well, only she was halfway across the counter on her side. She slowly backed off, keeping her hands in view. “Sure, no problem. Take it easy.”

“Monica?” Fry was astonished at the transformation Monica had undergone. She looked like she hadn’t slept for days, and if she had, it’d been in her clothes. The anguished expression on her tear streaked face pulled at Fry’s heart.

“Is there anyone on this island you haven’t pissed off?” She asked the chef.

“Oh, big help Fry. Look, her hand’s shaking again. Why don’t you go over there and pull the trigger for her?”

“Way to avoid the question French.”

“Ask something on topic and I might consider it.”

“Shut up! Both of you! Violet, leave. I have something to discuss with French.” As Monica spoke, the agitation dissipated from her voice. Another bad sign.

Fry looked to French, then back at Monica. She wasn’t leaving. “Monica, why don’t you give me the gun? I’ll take it with me and you guys can talk without distractions.” Okay, it was lame, but all she could come up with on short notice and with her entire body breaking out in a sweat.

Monica smiled at her as though she were slightly dim. “No, this is the distraction I need to keep French’s attention. Too bad I didn’t think of it years ago. This may never have happened.”

“What happened Monica?” Fry tried to draw her attention away from her target.

“Violet, I don’t want to hurt you. Please leave now. I don’t want you to see this. She’s ruined so much. You don’t need to witness this.” She was calm and determined.

“You’ll regret it Monica! I know you, you’re not like that. You can’t kill someone!”

Monica made a small serene smile, her voice was almost soothing, “I won’t regret it for long.”

Fry was beginning to panic, Monica wasn’t calm, she was suicidal and she hadn’t taken her eyes off French once. In her panic, she reached out and began to approach the distressed librarian. Monica stepped away again, saying, “Leave! Don’t touch me.”

“But Monica, I can’t let you kill her!”

Watching, French was crawling out of her skin. If she made a dive for Monica, she might get capped in the head. If she ducked behind the counter, the freak might hurt Fry. If she’d kill herself, they could call it a night and go home.

“She poisons everything. Can’t you see it? She’ll use you like she’s used all of us!”

“She’s changed Monica.” At this simple statement, Monica turned on Fry.

“You can’t be serious!” She laughed at the absurdity of the statement. In her disarray, it wasn’t a pretty sight. “You don’t have an inkling of the magnitude of the evil you’re dealing with!”

The second Monica pointed the gun off to the side French was over the counter and on her in a flash. The gun flew from her hand as French clocked her across the jaw. She followed through the swing with the rest of her body, plowing Monica straight into the wall. She grabbed her by the collar and lifted the dazed librarian off the floor. “I don’t know how they do things in the library, but you never threaten my employees, and you never, ever tell me what to do in my own kitchen. Got it, geek?”

Monica was choking and tears streamed down her face.

Fry rushed to them and urged French to let her down.

“She was trying to kill me!” French let the woman drop to the floor.

“I wasn’t going to let her shoot you. You haven’t signed my paycheck yet.”

Monica stared into space, her body crumpled in on itself. Fry knelt next to her and smoothed her hair. She spoke to her quietly and helped her to her feet. French glowered at them.

“Why don’t you make us some tea and I’ll take Monica into the dining room.”

French didn’t move. She put her hands on her hips and gave Fry the raised eyebrow look. “You’re not even the slightest bit sensitive to the concept of hierarchy are you?”

“Okay, you take Monica in and I’ll get the tea...”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll get it.” She walked off grumbling about a chef’s prerogative and the poor attitudes of hired help.

Fry sat with Monica. The older woman hadn’t said a word, she hugged herself in the quiet of the large room. It was dark, except for the soft light from a single lamp Fry had turned on. She’d wrapped one of the large table cloths over Monica’s shoulders to help her get warm and feel more secure. She didn’t know what to say, so she chatted about nothing in particular.

“She thought she could win...” Monica began quietly. She shook her head as she talked. “She thought... they’d have to pay attention to her if she held something over them... I told her not to. That they wouldn’t tolerate it, no matter how little she wanted. They’d never accept being beholden to someone they thought so inferior. So they killed her.” She looked up and right into Fry. “And that woman in there is as guilty as any of them. She’s one of their lap dogs. Does their dirty bidding. She has no heart.”

“No Monica. French’s priorities skewed, I admit, but...”

“She’s right.” French had been listening in the darkness. “I did Mitchell’s dirty work for years. And it didn’t bother me. I got what I wanted out of the bargain. I’m not going to tell you I’m a saint, that I’ve seen the light and changed my ways. But I didn’t kill her Monica.”

“Don’t waste your breath on me. Stick to innocent girls who haven’t experienced your charm, first hand.”

“But Monica, we’re trying to figure out who killed Louisa. Just the other night we started looking for clues. And French found something. I think it must be important, because she hasn’t told me what it is yet.”

Monica looked at both of them, confused.

Fry shot French an accusing glance and French rolled her eyes. “I told you before, you’re not getting involved in this.”

“I’ll be the judge of that. What makes you so all over qualified to solve a murder? You don’t even know the first thing about the people in this town.” Fry said.

“I know enough to stay away from them. You especially.”

“Do you two do this all of the time?” Monica was exhausted. And given the circumstances, bewildered at the inane bickering these two fell into at the least pretext.

“What?” They asked in unison.

“Never mind. Were you the ones who broke into the house?”

“No! It was like that when we got there...” Fry realised she may have spoken too soon.

“What were you doing in her house? With her?” Monica wouldn’t give up her distrust for French. It had been well earned.

“I told you. We’re trying to find out who killed her. We know she was murdered.” Fry put a reassuring hand on Monica’s shoulder. “Someone tried to frame French, but they did a bad job of it. We thought there might be something in the house that the police didn’t notice. Dil showed us where he found her.”

“Dil Mackenzie?”

“Yes, he believes us. He’s going to help.”

Monica gave Fry a skeptical look and turned to French for confirmation.

The chef had slumped into a chair and covered her face with her hands. “You’re mad if you think that moron is anything more than an accident in motion. He’s not helping ‘us’. You,” she pointed at Fry. “will be helping ‘us’ as little as possible. Listen to Monica. Aside from the restaurant, you don’t want to get mixed up with anything I’m even remotely involved in. Trust me.”

“She’s right Violet. Dil wouldn’t be much help. He couldn’t even get my cat, Pepper, out of the miniature spruce in my front yard. I told him to leave her, she hunts birds from there, but he insisted that she was trapped in the branches. He broke most of them before he uprooted the thing altogether. It was another week before Pepper would go out again. I don’t think she’ll ever set foot in another tree.”

“Thank you, now please tell her to leave this to me.” French urged.

“French, I don’t like you. I never will. But I will tell you something. Violet’s right, you know nothing about the people on this island. If you did, you’d know that you don’t tell a Spark what to do. Not if you value your time.”

French was reluctant to give in on the issue. But one look at Fry and there wasn’t much left to argue. Her expression all but said the issue was settled. French was sure that evil grin was a final statement. So much for the angel theory. Fry may have beeen sheltered, but she wasn’t a kid. French hoped she’d stay out of the way and be as little trouble as possible.

Without conceding anything vocally, she turned to Monica and asked, “What was it she’d found? Who was she blackmailing?”

Continued in Chapter 12.

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