written by Mary Beth
“It was never supposed to get this far,” Professor Talbot muttered to himself as he paced the corridors outside Malorie’s room. He wondered how he could have made the same mistake again, and let another person get so close to danger.
He thought back to that time last year when Interpol sent out feelers for an agent to work undercover tracking an assassin that had left a string of bodies across Europe. First there was Chef Pierre Poisson, acclaimed Directeur of Le Cordon Bleu, found dead of an overdose just days before a budget meeting, during which he was preparing to override the plan for large increases in professor salaries; then Signor Giovanni Uccello, up and coming restaurateur who was found drowned right before the grand opening of La Cipolla Rossa, his third restaurant in Milan, and who’s wife was very happily spending his money with her current boy-toy; and finally Heinz Schafe, considered the heavy favorite to win La Citadelle de Chocolat, the international chocolate competition. The European cooking community was up in arms and desperate for Interpol to solve these crimes.
The authorities had one small lead, a physical feature that seemed to be shared by someone connected to all three crimes. In every case, there was a young woman with one blue and one green eye. Whereas the condition is rare and was worth pursuing, it wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute anyone. They needed someone on the inside who could definitively say whether all three women were in fact the same person. And, if so, was she also the killer? The undercover agent would have to have a strong culinary background because of the victims’ connection to food.
Enter William Peele, Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard, whose superiors were anxious to get him away from London for a while. His last case had ended with the murderer getting off on a technicality. And then the witness that he’d sworn to protect had become just another victim of “random violence”. Everyone knew it was retaliation but couldn’t prove anything. Peele’s thoughts were constantly on revenge, which wasn’t helping him solve his current caseload. All that combined with the time he’d spent as chef at a London restaurant, while he was still in University, made him the obvious choice.
And so he had entered the world of undercover work and his new persona, William Talbot, had been born. At first, getting used to the name had been rough. So was letting go of his straight-laced demeanor, which worked well in law enforcement but stuck out like a sore thumb once he left the hallowed halls of Scotland Yard. On the instructions of Interpol, he’d begun hanging out at food conventions and international cooking competitions, watching and listening for anything out of the ordinary. He also watched for young women with two different colored eyes.
Finally, Interpol’s luck turned. An inept bank thief, caught in the middle of the robbery, tried to trade information on a more serious crime for leniency. He had hired an assassin to kill his wealthy uncle, a celebrated Spanish chef, who had originally planned to leave his nephew his fortune. His uncle didn’t approve of his playboy lifestyle and began to talk about changing his will. The thief wanted his uncle out of the way before that happened. Sure of his luck, he had gambled away his payment for the killer, and then robbed the bank to replace the money. The killer caught wind of his capture and disappeared, but not before the local authorities got her description – a young French-woman with one blue and one green eye.
Then another stroke of luck – there were mutterings of a job in America, and the possibility of a meeting in Cannes. Quickly, with the help of a local snitch, introductions were made. Interpol manufactured evidence of an ill-advised liaison with a student in Talbot’s past that Celine could use to blackmail him, and William Talbot became Celine’s unwitting accomplice.
He gained her trust by letting slip some previously unreleased information he had gotten from an “insider” at Scotland Yard headquarters. Thanks to him, she now wore contacts that made both her eyes a brilliant green. His instructions from Interpol were clear – get enough hard evidence of her next murder and protect the victim at all costs. The first part he’d managed well enough. In his position of professor, he’d been able to pass on quite a lot of personal information to Celine, helping her set the time and place of the murder.
But all the planning they had done together had gone flying out the window last night. Talbot wondered what had caused Celine Richelieu to make her move now. The original plan had been to wait until the old man died. Was that what she had been about to tell him in his office last night before they heard someone moving in the outer room? Could Richard Constantine be dead? Or was it something else that had made her act precipitously.
And why had she let herself get caught? She was much too cautious to allow that to happen without an underlying reason. He knew he had never had her complete confidence and now he wondered just how much he didn’t know about the plan. He only knew he felt sorry for Malorie. Poor girl, she had no idea that her life was in danger. All these questions flitted through his head as he turned to knock on her door. Sticking his head in to check her progress, his last thought was to wonder if she’d told Evan yet that she was still married to Jack.