Written / Cooking On High


Chapter 28

“So what’s the score?” Fry sat on French’s couch and rubbed her feet. She’d finished her shift and was taking the opportunity to get some circulation back in her toes. She and French were having a counsel of war. All heretofore withheld information would be exchanged. Or so she hoped.

French proceeded to relate all of the details that she’d been conveniently omitting up until now. She even threw in a few extra irrelevant ones, just to show that she was making an effort.

“So he’s got a tape and some papers hidden in the basement of city hall?”

“Stupid place for it, but there you have it.”

“Seems like a good place to me. It’s big, there’s security there too. If you don’t mind me asking, why didn’t you go in yourself? From what you did in the library, I doubt city hall would be much of a problem for you.”

French shrugged. “Easier with the keys. Especially the one to the alarm. I don’t waste my time if I can help it. He’s also a sneaky little bureaucrat and he made sure that one of those locks is a real pisser to pick. So the keys would save a lot of time.” French had been mildly impressed with Jason’s grasp of the caliber of the people he was up against and the absolutely paranoiac steps he’d taken to ensure his own safety. Not to mention that of the documents that had been the cause of his problems.

Monica aside, he didn’t trust a soul. That was mainly because he didn’t have a damn clue who’d killed Louisa. As far as he was concerned, she was a great public defender à la Erin Brokovich who was gathering important information on a great big conspiracy in the government of Comstock. She’d entrusted him with some evidence and he was defending it and himself to the end. That was his story and he was sticking to it. The deluded little snipe. Some people would believe anything.

Divesting Jason of his misplaced hero worship wasn’t high on her list of priorities. Getting at what he’d stashed away was. Could it be the elusive paper trail that could nail Mitchell’s or someone else’s ass to the wall? Was it a dirty movie starring one of Comstock's finest?

“Oh! Oh! Oh!” Fry had jumped up from her chair and was waving her hands in the air. French couldn’t figure out if she’d been bitten by something or was having an attack of some kind.

“What! Sit down for Pete’s sake, you’re making me nervous.”

“Big girl like you? Afraid of a little excitement?” Fry was smiling at her, but French wasn’t biting. They were going to keep this business-like. As business like as was possible with Fry waving her socks around and walking all over the place in her bare feet. She had cute feet, French would give her that. And the most she could hope for with Fry was an orderly casual, formal was out of the question.

“I forgot to tell you! Mrs. Landry, one of Louisa’s neighbors, said she saw Jason go into Louisa’s that night, but after he left, another man visited briefly. She couldn’t see who it was, but she insisted it was a man.”

“And why is Mrs. Landry so interested in the coming and goings at Louisa’s house?”

“Oh, it’s the block in general, or as much of it as she can see from her second story porch. Some people watch people on TV, other people, like Mrs. Landry, find the real thing more interesting.”

“What makes her so sure it was a guy?”

“She said, from what she could see, he was dressed like a man and had the build.”

“And how long have you known this little tidbit of information?”

“Um, well, you know how things have been kind of crazy around here...” French had raised her eyebrow. Fry had come to know this as her dubious expression. “Well, I wasn’t keeping it from you on purpose. Not since the night you let me eat tofu inside. Before that it was purely out of spite.”

“Ah, ha! So I see I’m not the only one guilty of withholding.”

“You can hardly equate the two. Besides, I meant to tell you... eventually. There’s a difference.”

“So you say. Anything else you might want to tell me?”

“Bernie’s been talking to the bank about a loan.”

“He should.” French had written Bernie off her list for good.

“And I really enjoyed the wild mushroom crepe today. That had such a wonderful texture and arrangement. All of the flavors were balanced to perfection.”

“It was alright. You can’t get really good morel’s around here. I’m assuming that we’re finished catching up on all things morbid?”

“Sure. Have you tried looking out at Komer Farm? They have great stuff, all organic.”

“Some of their stuff isn’t bad. I stick to my usual purveyors, then I’m not running all over the place constantly...”

“They’ll deliver it for you.”

“You seem to know a lot about their growing and distribution methods. Any reason for that?” French had stopped by the Farm’s roadside stand a couple of times on her runs. They had a good selection and the couple who ran the place was nice enough. For people who spent the balance of their time in the dirt.

“I’ve worked there quite a bit. My sister Joe is part owner.”

“Don’t you mean Harriet?”

“No, Joe.”

This stumped French, who’d met the Joe in question. He wasn’t anyone’s sister as far as she could tell. “I don’t know how to tell you this, but your sister’s a guy. With five o’clock shadow, the works.”

“I know. But he’ll always be my sister. He’s okay with that.” Fry’s tone was reassuring, as if that would explain everything.

French’s expression must have clued her in that it didn’t explain much. “He’s a non-operative transgender male. A she-guy. Though Joe sees himself as a guy. Mostly.”


“Yeah, he has what he calls his “femmie” days. Then he says he feels more like tossing a ball funny and not scratching his crotch in public. He calls me to get in touch with his feminine side. He says he doesn’t want to be threatened by it, but understand it. His masculinity was always easier for him to identify with. Personally, I think his femmie days drive Harriet up the wall. He wants to know what she’s feeling all of the time. That can be irritating. She’s not the most patient woman you’ve ever met.”

“What’s she doing with a Spark then?”

“Watch it.”

“So, what does Mother Spark make of this? That must’ve been a toughie, even for your parents.”

“My parents knew Joe was different from a young age. I think it was easier for them. I’m the one who had a hard time with it.” This admission interested French. Fry seemed like the be all, end all in understanding compassion. “I love my Dad and have some terrific guy friends, but I’ve never understood the attraction, ya know? Joe’d been crossing for a while, but when he told me he was going to start the hormones and thinking about the operation, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. It didn’t make sense. She was a lesbian. Out. Why did she want to be a guy? To me, women are just so... so... ya know? Feminine. They’re strong, soft, courageous, and magnetic. And men are... i dunno... well, they’re...”

“Not on your radar screen.” French wondered how this worked with Bobby. He looked kind of femmie, but he was definitely a guy.

“I guess. Joe’s Joe. He’s the sweetest sister I could hope to have and if I need someone to explain the more cryptic behavior of my male friends, he’s always got an insight. He hasn’t joined any men’s groups, which I’m thankful for. Not that Harriet would put up with the drumming or anything. But sometimes we don’t understand each other. It’s like we’re on opposite sides of some divide. We try to work it out, and when we can’t he just picks me up and spins me on his shoulder ‘til I say ‘Uncle’.”

“Probably as good a method as any to shut you up. Maybe I’ll try it sometime.”

“You and what army?”

“Who’s this army you keep asking about? Like I’ve needed any help with you up ‘til now?” There was no getting away from it with Fry. She couldn’t resist the banter. She was an odd fish, from an odd family, but good company as that kind of thing went. She was certainly interesting.

“Maybe I’ve been taking it easy on you up ‘til now.” French gave her a dubious look. But Fry was secretly hoping she’d take the bait and try to prove her wrong. She had a theory about French and her new found needs in her personal life.

“Whatever you say shorty. I’m shakin’ in my boots from here on out.”

Fry gave up. “So, are you okay with that? I mean Joe.”

French shrugged. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“It bothered a lot of people around here, I can tell you that much. And it drives me crazy how people can get about gender and orientation, but you can’t ignore how they feel. I may not agree, or be able to be around them much, but I can’t ignore that it’s important. So I thought I’d ask.”

“You don’t have to worry about me. If it makes you feel any better, I once had a close acquaintance who was a tranny.”

Fry made a face at French’s choice of expression. The term always struck her as inappropriate. It sounded more like something you’d find in a baby’s crib than a term for sexual identification. “Oh, were you good friends?” She knew so little about French, any bit of information was welcome.

“Ha! No. Julia and I were associates who slept together. Neither one of us was foolish enough to think of it as anything more.”


“Close your mouth Fry. That’s not especially attractive.”

“Sorry. But she’s... She’s...”

“A woman? I’d guess you’d be all swell with it. What with your sister and all.” French could never understand these liberals. They couldn’t even keep to their own impossible standards for acceptance and cuddly thinking.


“No what?”

“She’s a Senator’s wife.”


“No ‘and’ to it. I don’t know if you’ve noticed French, but the United States Senate is a pretty conservative bunch.”

“I don’t pay much attention to politics.”

“I gathered not. But the point is, there aren’t a lot of transgender people in that crowd. There aren’t many women, people of color, or gays for that matter. Is this one of those things that all the rich people know and don’t care much about, but they don’t talk about it either because of that weird double standard?”

“Was I supposed to follow that?”

“Like the Old Boat Regatta today. All of those boats racing around out there that they all know are bogus, but nobody says anything about it. Is this like that?”

“Nope. Precious few know about Julia’s bogus parts.”


“What?! What I’m saying is that Julia’s discrete. You know, like you and your best friend’s husband.”

“Who?” Fry’s head was beginning to get that inside-out feeling she sometimes got when she was talking with French.

“You know. Lover boy, Bobby.”

“I have no idea...” Fry suddenly got the idea. “You thought Bobby and I? We? He’s my cousin you dope!”

French looked disgusted. “Well, if you’re into that kind of thing, who am I to judge you? What were your parents feeding you guys as kids anyway?”

“I am NOT involved with Bobby. We work together a lot sure, but we’ve never... I’m a lesbian.”

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

“It’s happening again! Nothing is making any sense. Let me say this in the most simple way I know how. I am not interested in Bobby in any other way than as my cousin and one of my best friends. You said it yourself. Men are not on my radar screen, that about sums it up. Got it?”

“Sure, you don’t have to get so excited about it. You’re a dyke. Fine, whatever. Suit yourself.” Fry could be so defensive.

“So why wouldn’t anyone else know about Julia? Except you, of course.” Fry asked.

“I’m not saying no one knows. I’m saying that if they do, they’re few and far between. She’s extremely picky about who gets into her bed. Always has been.”

“Lucky you.” Fry couldn’t help it, she was getting jealous.

“It wasn’t exactly a cozy relationship.”

“It’s none of my business really.” Oh, but how she wished it was. “I wonder if maybe someone found out. Like Louisa.”

“Not a chance. Julia’s no fool. She knows exactly what kind of a problem she could cause for Jay. She’s probably erased any evidence that ever existed on Julius Emery. She also had the operation years ago, before anyone knew who her family was.”

French wasn’t sure how this whole honesty thing applied to the concept of hunches. She decided to play it safe. She told Fry that Julia’s father’s company, JCE International, was the company who’d bought the remains of the Fisherman’s Prize and more importantly, the property adjacent to it. They’d also bought the Grist Mill.

“So why didn’t you tell me that before?”

“I didn’t think the two things were related.”

“Oh.” Fry wasn’t sure why the thought that French might not share all of her various problems with her was so disappointing. After all, she was just a pushy employee, tagging along after an internationally acclaimed chef with more enemies than she knew how to keep straight. Maybe Fry could make out a list for her. She could cross reference and arrange it so that French would know which incident was likely to be related to which enemy. “So now you think this might be related to the murder?”

“There are a couple of things that keep cropping up. Mitchell and Julia. Something’s going on. Maybe it’s something Louisa got wind of. Maybe she threw a stick in the spokes and got the wrong somebody’s attention.”

“But do you think that your friends might have killed her?”


“Well, not Mitchell, but even though you say you and Julia were once acquaintances, you seem friendly now.”

French was shaking her head. “If that’s friendship, I want nothing to do with it. Julia and I have an understanding. I stay out of her way, and she’ll stay out of mine.”

“But she invited you to a party. I don’t get it. I thought you were involved, you seem so intimate.”

French was startled by the observation. “We’re anything but. Don’t kid yourself, that woman may seem like she’s all sweet sophistication, but under that skin there’s a hard as nails businesswoman with one overriding obsession and it’s got very little to do with anything so mundane as friendship or sex. She’s an absolute fanatic about her damn hotels. Nothing else much gets on her daily planner. It can be pretty obnoxious.”

Fry was staring at her like she’d said something odd. French continued, “Well, I guess Jay would be the other bee in her bonnet. For all of their differences, they stick together. And you know something?”

“No, at this point, I really don’t.”

“I’ve been sitting here talking to you for way too long. I have to get to it and you have to get to whatever it is you’re getting to. You want me to get those documents and we can look them over tomorrow?”

“Not on your life! We go together.”

“Suit yourself. Wear something over that hair. It’s too reflective in the dark.”

Fry brushed her hand through her hair causing it to stick out in even more directions. “Whatever you say chef. When’s the heist?”

Continued in Chapter 29.

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