Written / Cooking On High


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Chapter 22

Fry was rushing back to Bachanal for her brunch shift. French had finally roused her from an exhausted sleep and told her she had to hustle if she didn’t want to be late.

She’d gotten home, had time to shower, eat breakfast, and talk to her mother. Priscilla hadn’t appreciated not getting a call the night before. Her parents didn’t interject themselves into her life often, but her mother had been concerned. Priscilla had called down to the police station to make sure Fry hadn’t been brought in for a protest or as part of the usual harassment they suffered for the work they did for the community. When she’d telephoned she heard the most amazing story from Dottie Jenkins who answered the evening emergency calls.

Dottie told her that Violet hadn’t been brought in and reminded her that she always called over when Violet was there. Priscilla apologized and Dottie said she knew what it was like being a mother. She was sure Violet was just out with friends, probably at a beach party. Priscilla agreed and put her worries down to nerves. Violet didn’t call all of the time, only when she was expected in. But Priscilla had these feelings lately, and she was on edge.

Priscilla wasn’t reassured by the news Dottie told her of a big bust in town. Still, that gang had been apprehended at someone else’s restaurant not where Violet worked. And sure enough, her Violet had come in early that morning, raced through the house yelling an apology from the shower and explaining over her cereal that she’d fallen asleep at work.

Fry was rounding the corner that turned onto Sutter’s Wharf when she ran right into Monica, who was coming from that direction.

“Whoa there!” Monica said as they both put out their hands to steady the other. “Where’s the fire?”

“Under my butt if I don’t get it into the restaurant in two minutes. Sorry.” Fry was breathing heavily from the exertion of her run.

“She giving you a hard time?”

Fry laughed. “Is that a rhetorical question?”

Monica saw her point. French probably wouldn’t know how not to. “Why do you stay there? You could have a job anywhere in town, why bother with such a menace?”

“She’s not so bad really. I mean, I know you share some bad history.” Fry tread lightly. “But I think she’s making an effort to change.”

“I’ve noticed. But don’t get too sucked in.” Monica worried about Violet. The Sparks would give Satan himself the benefit of the doubt. “I trust her as far as I can throw her. And I don’t mean to be petty, but if she wants to prove herself, returning stolen property would go a long way toward redeeming her reputation. In my case.”

“But she brought the book back.” It was out before she had a chance to swallow it. She hated when she did that.


“Um, nothing, I should run. Really.” Fry couldn’t shake Monica who was holding fast to her sleeve.

“How do you know about the book?” Monica had gone red in the face. Fry couldn’t tell if it was embarrassment or fury.

“She told me why you were so angry with her, besides Louisa. She also told me that she’d returned the book.” Fry watched Monica’s eyes narrow. Her breaths came in short bursts through her nostrils. She was obviously having difficulty letting go of this episode from her past.

“Let me tell you something about your new friend back there. She’s a lying snake. I don’t know what she’s trying to get out of you...” Monica shook her head as she considered the lovely young woman before her. “Scratch that. Seems like she’s up to the same old tricks. Watch yourself Violet, she’s no prize.”

“But Monica...” It was too late, she’d stormed off and didn’t turn to respond.

Fry remembered the time and ran for the door of Bachanal. She wanted to tell French the news before the crowd showed up.

The grapevine had beaten her to the punch. Everyone was talking about the arrests. She threw on her gear and headed for the floor. The last thing she needed was Miguel dogging her for the entire shift.

He’d given her some slack recently, but he was as picky as ever. And he may have given up his favorite delusion that she was planning a coup, but he’d moved on to something else. There were times she’d catch him watching her when she was chatting, or doing the simple stuff during down time. Given the conventional wisdom on the matter, Miguel wasn’t interested in her sexually, so she could only imagine some other fever had gripped his mind and she wasn’t in a hurry to know what it was.

During a momentary lull, when all of her customers were mid-munch and nothing was pressing, she approached French. Not that they were great pals, but Fry got the idea that it’d be okay to talk with her, just for a minute.

“Don’t you have things to do? People to see?” French turned to Andre and shouted the next three orders. She turned back and Fry was still there. She grabbed a saute pan off the stove, removed a veal medallion and plated it.

“Well, I had a sec and was wondering if you knew that Dil made those arrests last night? Guess he’s not as incompetent as you all think.”

French gave her a condescending little grin and shrugged. The blade of the knife she used became a blur as she chopped a fresh garnish for the plate she was finishing.

“Well, they’re supposed to be some bigtime gang of arsonists. Not bad for a small town detective. Caught them in the act too.”

“Well, well. He sure proved me wrong.” French wondered if Dil had noticed that the three dangerous arsonists he’d caught in the act were unconscious. She doubted it. In case there was any doubt who’d sent them on their dastardly errand to burn down Cezar’s Bistro, she’d ‘dropped’ a Darflock Inc. card in the main office. It was fun to think of Mitchell being stalked by Cezar for the rest of the summer.

“Any idea what Monica was doing down here this morning?” Fry wasn’t sure, but it was possible she’d caught French off guard with that question. Her condescending grin had gone crooked and her response was a beat less timely than usual.

“Well, she, um... wanted to ask me something.” French placed the plate on the counter where Eddy grabbed it and ran.

“Like where you put that book back? She said you hadn’t returned it.”

French looked more confused than surprised. “Then she hasn’t looked for it. Some librarian. I put it right back in it’s place.”

“That room’s a secured vault. All of the town’s founding documents are kept in there. You couldn’t just put it back.” Maybe Monica was right. Maybe French had lied.

“Oh please, I could open that door with a toothpick.” As it was she’d used a fancy set of tools she’d picked up in Italy, but that was another story.

“Then you did return it?” Fry was hopeful.

“Yeah, now beat it Doubting Thomas.”

“I’m sorry. I know you wouldn’t have lied, but Monica was really upset. Why didn’t you just tell her?”

“For cryin’ out load, what’s the big deal? I put it where she could find it. I figure the less I have to deal with her the better off we both are.” Fry was possibly the only person on the planet who’d have that confidence in her word. That kind of trust made her uncomfortable. She didn’t trust herself that much.

“Oh. Well, maybe later we can talk about her visit. Okay?” Fry headed out the door and back to work.

“Yeah, sure. And snowballs fry on the grill.” French muttered at her back.

French noticed that Andre spent the rest of the shift humming. It wasn’t annoying her, he could carry a tune. It was the timing she found suspicious.

The brunch crowd had cleared out and a few of the staff were milling around out back. Some were heading out after their shifts, some were just coming in. Barbra chatted with Eddy. French walked out to get some air. She was drinking a large coke and eating something Andre had grilled for her. Barbra considered that French was one of the last people who needed such a large dose of caffeine.

Fry’s friend Alyssa walked up and greeted everyone.

“She’ll be out in a minute. You guys headed to the beach?” Barbra was thrilled to see Fry was getting out of this house of mirrors, even if it was for a night. She’d been spending way too much time on the premises. And if she remembered correctly, tonight was the big date.

“Yes, were going over to Parker Cove. Did you hear about that arrest last night?”

“Unbelievable. Imagine a gang out of New York trying to blow up Cezar’s! Wonder who he pissed off?” Barbra had her suspicions, but wasn’t about to open her mouth any further.

“They said in the paper that the woman is a wanted felon. Polly Weems.”

Fry rounded the corner and said ‘hi’ to the group who were talking about the arrest. It was all they’d talked about the entire shift. She noticed that look on French’s face again. She decided it had a gloaty sort of feel to it. The chef was leaning back against the wall taking the conversation in.

Fry gathered Alyssa and they headed off. She was looking forward to having fun for an afternoon. And tonight, who knew? Maybe she’d have fun then too.

Barbra watched the couple leave. Alyssa was young, but just the kind of person she imagined Fry would have a lot in common with. If that were possible. Fry had always been a unique entity on the island. Barbra was glad to have a chance to get to know her.

Like everyone else, she’d followed the controversy Fry had started over her Senior prom years ago. The elder Spark child had insisted on being allowed to bring her girlfriend as her date. The fact that her date was from a town off island had been a shocker too. Barbra wasn’t sure what people liked less, Fry’s sexual orientation, or her dating off island. It hadn’t gone over well with the school committee, and less so in the town media.

The Comstock News was the only paper of any kind on the island. Anonymous letter after anonymous letter printed in the paper decried the lack morals and good character of the island’s youth. No one ever attacked Fry personally, but the message was clear.

Barbra had cheered her efforts to open the town’s eyes to the twentieth century. She’d even written a letter to the paper herself, but she knew that it’s owner, Kevin Baker, would jab a sharp stick in his eye before he’d print anything in support of Fry’s bold act.

Kevin Baker knew how to work a grudge. Priscilla Spark had picketed his offices relentlessly in the seventies until he’d hired a couple of women on the newspaper’s staff and let Jennifer Ingle write something other than the Ladies View column. He’d ended up marrying Connie Glass, the copy editor he’d hired under duress. She’d made his life hell ever since. Kevin always blamed it on Priscilla, and if he had to suffer he didn’t know why she shouldn’t too. Besides, her daughter was queer and they didn’t want that kind of thing going on in their town.

Barbra had always admired Fry and the rest of her family for their individualism. As it turned out, Fry was just the tip of the iceberg. Her sister Joe had really stirred things up since then. The Sparks kept everyone on their toes.

Barbra turned to French, “She could use some fun, it’s good she’s getting a night off.”

French wasn’t sure why she was irked by the remark. It was innocent enough and not the kind of thing she usually responded to. “I don’t know what’s so much fun about sitting on those crowded, rocky, little beaches getting sand blown in your eyes all day.” She shifted her weight to her other foot, and sucked down more of her soda. What did Barbra know anyway?

“I suppose you’re right, but I meant her date tonight.”

“Hmm? What date?” French asked, as disinterested as she could. Fry hadn’t mentioned a date.

“Her date at Cezar’s Bistro with Alyssa.”

Barbra hadn’t realized that you could spew a drink that far, not through your nose. She cringed, that had to sting. Not that the chef didn’t deserve it.

“She’s eating at Cezar’s!” French shouted. Her mind went into overdrive. What on earth would possess Fry to sully her palate at Cezar’s? Was she being coerced? Surely it wasn’t Fry’s idea to eat there. Was this Alyssa some kind of cruel sadist who subjected her dates to the vagaries of a culinary hack? And since when was Fry dating women? And did Bobby know?

Continued in Chapter 23.

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