Archive for August, 2008

20
Aug
08

Foodie, Chapter 13

written by AndreAnna

She told them. But the question was how much did she tell them? They hadn’t let him see her since the hospital room so he wasn’t sure how much information they actually had on him. Did they track down his brother?

How hard is it to kill someone with your car? Jack thought, the anger at Celine’s incompetence rising inside of him. You push the gas pedal, you aim the steering wheel, and you kill them.

He was sitting in an interrogation room. He knew that’s where he was from television and movies and so far the portrayals were pretty accurate. Green tile walls. One large mirror he knew was a window to see inside. One table. One old chair with brown metal legs and a faded leather seat with cigarette holes in it. On one side, the padding was pushing through the cracks and he fingered it nervously while waiting. No one had come in yet. They were letting him stew. He noticed a drain underneath, by his feet, and knew from some movie he’d once seen that its existence is so that they can just hose the room down if there’s too much blood from “interrogating.” Or maybe he made that up in his head. He couldn’t think straight.

It was all falling apart so quickly. And he had worked so hard at this con. He had worked for years.

He knew who she was when he first asked her to be his date to the benefit. He had been scoping her out for 19 months. He knew who her father was. Her real father.

*************************

Richard Constantine was one of the nation’s leading geneticists. His pioneering work had paved the way for some of the world’s foremost research on stem cells. He had started in a small laboratory in Silicon Valley back in 1972 and now ran eleven worldwide corporations. The media claimed he was worth upwards of 300 million.

Malorie didn’t know that man. The parents she knew, Delores and Fred Shawe, were middle-class, hard-working people who ran a diner until their fingers bled. Some years when the economy was bad, they survived on next to nothing. Malorie became an expert at making elaborate things out of so very little – clothes, games, meals – that’s where she credits her innovation and imagination in cooking. She could see something in nothing.

Richard had reminisced about Delores all the time. He’d met her in the mid-seventies at a political rally in Northern California. She smelled like daisies and marijuana. She’d intoxicated him. She talked of freedom and women’s rights and LSD. All he’d known was universities and the inside of his laboratory. He felt different with her. He felt free. Their romance only lasted two months. She was in California spending the summer with her aunt, a woman who lived in a bungalow on the beach. Delores told him from the beginning not to fall for her. That even though she was a free spirit, she was in love with a man named Fred back home. Richard couldn’t understand how anyone could love someone named Fred.

One August evening when the air was thick with humidity and the sound of crickets, she said goodbye.

Three months later, he received a letter. Delores was pregnant. Richard was the father. But she was in love and happy with Fred. He knew and wanted to raise the baby as his own. Delores didn’t need anything from Richard. She just wanted him to know.

And so Fred and Delores raised Malorie and had a happy life. They never saw the need to tell Malorie the truth.

Other than her parents, Richard, and Richard’s estate lawyer, the only other person who knew the truth about Malorie was Richard’s corporate financial manager, the suit that flies in to verify all corporate documents are in order when a CEO is finalizing the liquidation of his estate upon the date of his death. The man who knew that he was leaving his entire life savings to his only daughter Malorie Shawe: Jack Finnigan.

Jack was also one of the only people who knew Richard Constantine was battling lung cancer. The doctors had given him two years, tops.

*****************************

Malorie had looked stunning the night of their first date. Her golden hair was up tight in a bun, no loose pieces about her face – nothing out of place. Her black dress clutched her body almost as tightly as she clutched her handbag nervously waiting for him on the steps of the hotel where the benefit was to be held.

He wanted to pick her up. He had asked. But she was wary and wanted to meet him there. He liked that about her. He liked a lot about her. He just couldn’t let it get to him. This was business, he reminded himself.

They began to see each other more regularly and eventually he moved in.

He often took side jobs in other states. He’d get a call, fly in for a few days, and help with whatever They needed. That’s why They liked him and why he still had this job. He didn’t ask questions and was well respected in his corporate job. No one suspected he was capable of conning or that someone with a high-paying job needed the cons. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe it was his addiction. He started out in college when he needed the cash and for one reason or another, he never stopped. He liked the rush. When he told Malorie back at the restaurant that he went on these trips so he could use, maybe he wasn’t entirely lying.

One afternoon, just over a year and a half ago, his brother called and it changed everything.

He was on the next flight to England, where met up with Patrick and together they hopped a train to France. Patrick was the only one he trusted. He knew about the job Jack was trying to pull. It would be big. It would be enough to stop him from having to answer to anyone else. It was the job to end all jobs. Find Malorie Shawe, make her fall for him, marry her, wait for the inheritance money to come through, kill off Malorie, and retire on some Fijian beach somewhere. Patrick only wished he had thought of it first.

Six hours later, at a train stop in Cannes, they met Celine Richelieu and Professor Talbot.

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14
Aug
08

Foodie, Chapter 12

written by Catnip

Evan sat on the waiting room floor. The pain in his leg and shock of seeing Malorie collapse kept him glued to one spot. He watched helplessly as nurses and doctors swarmed around her and quickly took her away. A small puddle of her blood coagulated and darkened on the tile where she had lain. He’d heard someone say something about her arm bleeding where her IV had been yanked out.

None of it seemed make sense to Evan. What had she been doing out of bed? They hadn’t even let any of us see her yet and now she was up and walking around? What the hell was happening?

Evan had just hung up with Mal’s mother to give her directions to the hospital when Mal stumbled into the room a few minutes ago. Mrs. Shawe was only an hour away now. When the nurse at the front desk told that they needed to talk to family first, he took it upon himself to start digging around in her purse. He found her cell phone and scrolled through. Thank god Malorie was organized and her mother’s number was easy to find. Mrs. Shawe was calm and collected both times he’d talked to her, but her voice was so much like Mal’s it gave him the chills.

The silence of the waiting room was broken by the sound of footsteps in the hall. The four visitors appeared to turn as one, expecting to see a doctor with an update on Malorie’s condition. Instead, a uniformed police officer filled the doorway.

“I’m looking for Celine Richelieu. If the rest of you are here for Ms. Shawe I’m going to need to you stick around. I’d like to get everyone’s version of last night’s events.

Last night? Evan glanced at his watch as the pair left the room. It was morning. It seemed like the night had stretched forever, that had time had stopped. For the rest of the world, time had marched on, but for Evan, it was shocking to realize a new day was dawning.

Slowly, he picked himself up off the floor and looked around at his companions. The smugness was wiped off of Jack’s face. That arrogance had set off alarms in the back of Evan’s brain, but he couldn’t put his finger on why. Jack showed his concern with a furrowed brow and by mechanically tapping his heel, but only since Celine had disappeared with the officer, not, apparently, out of distress for Malorie.

Evan shifted his gaze to Professor Talbot, who looked exhausted and terribly upset. Waves of anxiety seemed to roll off of him. Was he just worried about his student or was there something more to it?

Evan sighed and rubbed his hand from his forehead down to the stubble on his chin. I need sleep; the paranoia is getting to me. He took the closest seat and closed his eyes. Waiting. Sleep wouldn’t come until he knew what was happening next. What was going on with Mal? When was Celine coming back? The questions spun in his mind, whirling in all directions and never stopping.

The footsteps came again, and this time Evan knew it was the cop returning. Celine wasn’t with him. “Ms. Richelieu has been taken to the station for further questioning. I think the rest of you will need to do the same. She said some things to us that were rather disturbing.”

Two more uniforms blocked the exit as the officer fixed a steely gaze on Jack.

“Jack Finnigan. You’re under arrest for conspiracy to commit murder…”

*********************

The room was dank, and dimly lit. Evan finished his hand written statement and waited for someone to come back. Events were only beginning to click into place. Clearly Jack and Celine’s familiarity went far beyond these last few days. Evan was curious, but more than that, he was enraged, burning with anger. They tried to kill Malorie. A conspiracy. But for what?

Through the little dirty window in the door, he could see the room where he knew the Professor was writing his own statement. Did he know something? Why had he been at the Culinary Institute so late last night? What was Celine doing there with him?

Evan knew that the Institute stayed open as long as the Professor was there. Security was always on the premises and they allowed students to come in to practice and study as long as at least one teacher available. He’d been there late himself once in awhile, using the culinary library to study for exams or playing around with new herb and spice combinations in the kitchen. But after midnight? It seemed odd but he’d never been there that late, so he didn’t know if it was unusual or not.

Thinking of the school, Evan tried to use a mental exercise to calm his mind. All his life, cooking something, anything, had always been his panacea. Now he combined ingredients in his mind. Flour and butter, milk, and a dash of nutmeg, his brain created a béchamel. Slowly he added cheeses, of all kinds, and his mouth watered. He could taste the sauce, and his arm lifted, as if with a spoon in hand. “Taste this Mal, tell me if it’s right…”

He woke with a start, his cheek mashed into the cold metal table. The crick in his neck told him it had been some time since he’d fallen asleep, and dreamed of Malorie. Malorie.

The door banged open. “Hello, sleeping beauty, time to go.” The officer from this morning ragged on him and waved him out of the room. “We came in and got your statement earlier, but you were fast asleep. Seemed like you needed it so we let you stay awhile. We need the room though, so you gotta go now. We have everything we need from you but stay around town, in case we have further questions.”

Evan got up and hobbled down the long hall, only the sound of his crutches reverberating against the closed doors and blank walls. He arrived at the front door and saw Professor Talbot sitting on the steps outside. Talbot turned and crushed a cigarette on the concrete as Evan come toward him.

“I took a taxi back to the hospital. I checked on Ms. Shawe before I came back to get you. Her mother let me go in to see her…she’s awake and she’s asking for you.” Talbot continued as he looked down and smeared the cigarette into dust with his shoe. “I haven’t had a smoke in twenty years…but last night…I just can’t believe all of this. Anyway. She asked me to bring you back to her. She said she has something to tell you.”

06
Aug
08

Foodie, Chapter 11

written by Dana

Malorie saw white.

She stared for sometime before realizing the objects that she had been subconsciously counting were ceiling tiles.

Slowly, sounds permeated her foggy brain. Beeps, ticks and whooshes that would have panicked her had she any available energy.

Malorie sluggishly took in her surroundings. Cheap drapes enveloped her. The beeps, ticks and whooshes did not appear to be for her. A blood pressure cuff was attached to her left arm and an oximetry device to her index finger. An IV was feeding electrolytes and intermittent analgesics into the back of her hand. Her supine body was artlessly draped over a hospital bed. The sedation had obviously started to wear off some time ago: her hospital gown and bedsheets were twisted, as though she had been wrestling with something. No peace, even in unconsciousness.

The events preceding her current situation rushed in without warning. Jack. Evan.

She quickly resurveyed the vicinity for visitors. She was alone.

She exhaled in relief. She hadn’t realized that she had been holding her breath.

I need to get out of here! Before Jack or Evan find out where I am and decide to confront me. I can’t face either of them right now. I can’t deal with the mess that is my life right now…

A little panicky now, Malorie took stock of her physical condition. Hands and feet: present. Head: unfortunately, present. Despite pain meds, the headache was both stabbing and throbbing, but it was tolerable. Carefully, she skimmed her abraded fingers over her face. They came into contact with gauze wrapped around her head. Perversely, she prodded it to see how badly it hurt. She winced. Not too bad.

Cautiously, she pulled herself into a sitting position. Slight vertigo assailed her for only a moment. She edged her leg off the bed. Ouch! Her knee was sore. The next leg joined the first. The sharp intake of breath announced that that knee hurt, too.

She sighed. Who the heck hit me, anyway?

Malorie put out an arm to steady herself as she inched her way into a standing position. Pleased with herself, her dry lips pulled into an uncomfortable, stupid grin.

She wearily divested herself of all medical paraphernalia. Even the IV, though it nearly caused her to gag. She did not do well with blood.

After fortifying herself with an indulgent mouthful of water from the cup at her bedside, she started hunting for her clothes. They weren’t far but they were barely usable. The concrete had nearly shredded her slacks. Her dressy knit top had gaping, bloody holes at every pressure point.

Terrific.

She found a hospital robe hanging in the bedside closet and clumsily slipped her shoes on. It would have to do.

Attempting stealth, she awkwardly peeked around the curtain. The other occupant of the room was in much worse shape than Malorie.

This must be the trauma unit, she thought, absently, while scouting the exit for intruders. Looking across to the bathroom mirror, she tried to assume a look of perfect health and confidence.

She exited the room.

Nurses and orderlies buzzed around busily. All overcapacity beds appeared to be filled. Several medical personnel were debating treatments and potentially transferable patients. Unit clerks were speaking urgently on telephones or running charts to physicians. No one seemed to spare her a second glance. Why should they when most of their patients were immobile?

Malorie headed down the corridor and genuinely smiled, sensing the ease of her escape.

“Hey!” a female voice called out.

Malorie walked faster, though the pulling and stretching of her flesh exacerbated the soreness of her muscles.

“Hey!!”

The voice was closer this time. Malorie plunged carelessly into a waiting room on her right and closed the door.

The inhabitants of the room stopped all conversation and peered at her in surprise. The silence emphasized Malorie’s heavy breathing. Recognition set in.

Evan sat on one side of the room with his casted leg propped up. His pallor testified of fatigue. The picture on the opposite side of the room was much more astonishing.

Jack’s hand rested on that of none other than Celine Richelieu.

The door opened behind Malorie before anyone could react to her entrance.

“Ms. Shawe!” the nurse exclaimed. “I was just coming to check on you! What do you think you’re doing?!”

The first name on the ID tag read “Esmerelda.” Malorie opened her mouth, but nothing came out.

Evan stood as Esmerelda fussed about and continued.

“The CT scan was negative but the quality left something to be desired so they want another one to be sure. This place is a madhouse tonight and your condition was stable so we…”

“Why doesn’t she wait with us while you arrange things, Esmerelda?” Evan interrupted, charmingly. All eyes went to him. “I’ll watch out for her,” he murmured, vehemently.

Esmerelda’s mouth turned up at the corners and her eyes twinkled. She winked at Evan and left the room.

The silence descended again. No one seemed to know what to say.

“I hit you with my car.”

Malorie followed the voice to Celine, her face incredulous.

“What?!” Celine continued, defensively, “You ran out from between a row of parked cars! I couldn’t stop in time!”

Evan hobbled towards Malorie. Celine’s self-important tirade was halted by Jack’s hand on her arm.

Something struck Malorie at that moment. Jack was being “familiar” with Celine and Malorie didn’t care! Evan’s evident exhaustion was far more consequential to her than any budding romance between her bête noire and ex-boyfriend, regardless of the fact that he had professed a wish to renew their relationship. She was ashamed that she’d let Jack get to her head.

Malorie’s face was beatific, as she turned toward Evan, eager to share her revelation.

A wave of nausea doubled her over just as Evan reached her. He grabbed her and gently eased her onto to a bank of chairs.

“What’s wrong?!” his alarmed voice reached her through a barrier of mental peanut butter. Malorie’s vision was rapidly going tunnel on her.

“Jack, grab that nurse!” she heard Evan demand frantically.

Her last thought as the lights went out and she melted bonelessly into Evan’s arms was that she was in love with him.