Read Your Goose Is Cooked (A LaTisha Barnhart Mystery) Online
Authors: S. Dionne Moore
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Your Goose Is Cooked
S. Dionne Moore
Spyglass Lane Mysteries
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®.
Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984
Used by permission of
. All rights reserved.
Mulligan, my Southern-Fried critique partner and
extraordinaire—the heart of an angel and the mind of a criminal all rolled into one. Your day is coming, girl. Love
And to Marsha, the black sheep in our family and the person
would have been in her youth. Poor Mike. And, hey, call me. No, really.
“Order up!” Hardy Barnhart slid a plate of eggs and bacon through the pass-thru separating the kitchen from the front counter of our restaurant, Maple Gap’s new hotspot, Your Goose Is Cooked. As his boss and wife, I felt it my duty to take him to task. We had customers who’d been waiting far too long for their breakfast to appear. I leaned down until I could see Hardy through the narrow opening.
“It’s about time, Hardy Barnhart. What’d you do, go out back and slaughter the hog to get the bacon? You’ve kept Dr.
waiting for twenty minutes. This is the second time today I’ve had to make excuses for your slowness.”
He watched me with wide eyes, looking mighty cute in that apron. Grizzled gray-black hair, dark cocoa eyes with long lashes that our babies had inherited, and that saucy smile I knew, oh, so well. “It was that omelet that messed me up.”
As if I hadn’t practiced with him at home. We’d gone through a dozen eggs while he learned to eyeball the proper set of the eggs and the quick flick of the wrist that produced a perfect omelet semicircle.
“Got to make sure the eggs are almost set before you use your spatula to halve it, else it
Hardy wiped his hands down the front of his apron.
“Took me three times to get it right.”
At least he was trying.
Trying my patience.
“Next time, just you call me back there. No use in everyone having to wait so long for you to have practice time.”
Hardy grinned, not a spark of sorrow in his skinny hide. “So fire me.”
His grin got wider as his hands moved down to tug on the strings of the apron double wrapped around him. “Good. I’m going home and taking a nap.”
I huffed again, balanced the cup of coffee, a glass of orange juice, and the bacon and eggs on my tray and carried it to table six, where Dr. Lansford
sat across from Carl
A doctor and an undertaker, respectively.
is a dentist-doc, not a doctor-doc.
“I just fired the cook, Dr.
He let out a hoot of laughter. “How many times does this make,
I frowned. “I lost count. You’d think he’d have learned his lesson by now.”
“I think you’re soft on him,” Carl chimed in. “Seems he feels the same way about you too. You’re the only couple I’ve seen who can’t stay mad at each other for more than a minute.”
This from a man fresh out of divorce court.
“Been married too long.
Time is too short to stay mad. If anyone should be
about that, it’s you, Carl.” I slid the plate of food in front of him. “I’ll get your ketchup.”
He unfolded his napkin and swiped it across his nose. A solemn fellow, Carl always wore the requisite funeral home director clothes.
A crisp black suit and conservative tie.
Handsome thing in a sober kind of way.
“Flossie wanted her freedom.”
That would be Flossie
about four months ago; now it’s Flossie Monroe, maiden name in place. If I missed my guess, Carl wasn’t too happy about the whole divorce thing, not that I asked. I try to stay out of where my nose isn’t needed.
eyed his plate like the hungry bachelor he was. “
be back tomorrow, right?”
I rolled my eyes at that. William Seymour, my full-time cook, had off on Mondays. “He better be
I’ll be good and ready to put my feet up. At least the lunch crowd is content with soup and sandwiches.” Hardy could at least grill chicken and pile on cold cuts without problem.
I shoved through the swinging batwing doors separating the dining room from the kitchen and stopped short. As if speaking his name had conjured him up, William Seymour himself stood in the middle of the kitchen.
On his day off.
I can tell you I wouldn’t set foot into this restaurant on my day off.
If I had one.
But something about the crazy look in William’s eyes made me snap down on the cheery greeting about to leave my lips.
William motioned me closer, as if he had something he wanted to whisper in my ear. Which I knew he could, but the rest of the town didn’t think possible. You see, William’s reputation as a recluse was bolstered by the fact that he didn’t speak.
So the rumor that had circulated through Maple Gap, Colorado, for going on three decades was that William Seymour, age forty-six, was deaf.
I knew different.
When he had come in, application for the job as cook in hand, I’d put him to the test. To my surprise, he demonstrated his ability to make béarnaise sauce for a succulent peppercorn sirloin roast I’d made up earlier in the day. Like everyone, I’d heard the rumor he was deaf, and knew it to be a fact he never spoke, but I did wonder why all of a sudden he’d come into Maple Gap looking for work, when he’d supported himself by selling his artwork online for so many years. William reminded me of my son Shakespeare, who liked his music and his composing far better than he liked people.
As far as the job of cook was concerned, William’s deafness wasn’t an issue; he’d be reading his instructions off my order pad anyhow. But after watching him for a few days, I got suspicious. Orneriness got hold of me, and I decided to put the long-standing rumor to the test.
So one day, I did. While William carefully sliced a beef roast, I picked up my biggest pot, and sent it crashing to the floor right behind him.
He jumped and glanced my way.
I flashed him my brightest smile.
He still never spoke, preferring to write his thoughts, so I went along with the whole charade. It wasn’t my business to hang him for his foolishness. If the opportunity presented itself someday I might set him straight, but until then . . .
Now, though, standing here all wide-eyed and pale, William just looked desperate.
He darted for the dry-erase board I kept by the prep area and scribbled madly. The words formed in his strong, bold strokes. I HEARD SOMEONE HIRING SOMEONE ELSE TO KILL THE MAYOR.
I eyed that boy hard,
leaned in close to take a whiff. Someone in Maple Gap was hiring a hit? “
William flinched, rung his ear with his index finger, and pointed at the board.
Keep the secret.
from the bottles on an overhead rack, pointed at William to tell him to stay put, and darted out to deliver the bottle to table six before I forgot. When I skedaddled back to the kitchen, William was busy writing on the dry-erase board with one hand, mopping sweat from his brow with the other. As I steamrolled up to him, he moved his hand so I could see what he’d written.
I HEARD TWO MEN TALKING IN THE MEN’S RESTROOM OF THE GRAB-N-GO. I GOT NERVOUS AND WAITED. WHEN I THOUGHT THE GUY WAS GONE, I OPENED THE DOOR AND THERE HE STOOD, SO I DID WHAT I ALWAYS DO . . .
Which meant he pretended he didn’t hear a thing.
. . . BUT HE SAW ME!
I pulled out my order pad and wrote: PEOPLE AROUND HERE THINK
DEAF, REMEMBER? WHAT DID THIS GUY LOOK LIKE?
William ran a finger under his tight collar and grunted. He picked up the marker again.
YOU FOUND OUT I COULD HEAR, WHAT IF SOMEONE ELSE KNOWS IT TOO? WHAT IF HE SEES ME WORKING HERE? I watched as his hand formed a few more letters to make out the words HE LOOKED, but the bell above the restaurant door signaled another patron. I pulled a frown, torn between wanting to get more information from him and running this restaurant.
I scrubbed aside his hand and scribbled a quick note:
His eyes got real wide and he slowly erased the board and wrote his reply.
AFTER CLOSING TONIGHT.
At the sound of Lester Riley’s voice honking out a greeting, I scrambled back into the dining room and glimpsed the councilman taking a position next to Doctor Theo and Carl at table six.
So much for waiting to be seated.
I grabbed a menu out of the holder, my mind ablaze at Hardy. If that man hadn’t pulled his shenanigans, I’d have been out here where I was supposed to be and could have shown Lester to his seat.
I cruised over to the entrance of the restaurant, reminding myself that if Hardy had been in the kitchen when William arrived, he might have left without telling me what he’d overheard.
The flames of my anger fell to a low simmer as I butted the door open and landed my eyeballs on Hardy’s backside. Nothing like an eyeful of wild plaid pants clinging to the bum of my beloved to give me a headache. After all these years, I still couldn’t peel plaid polyester pants out of Hardy’s wardrobe without him screeching like a plucked peacock. His hind end wagged back and forth, his head stuck underneath the hood of our car. Old Lou, as we referred to our ancient Buick, was groaning more than normal. Hardy was thinking they were Old Lou’s version of the death rattle.
“What you doing out there?” I barked. “You’ve got a kitchen to run.”
He didn’t respond. It took me a minute to remember his iPod, which also explained his hind end waving around. I got up real close, tapped his shoulder, and pointed to my ears.
He popped out his
and straightened. “
problems with your hearing?”
I crossed my arms and huffed. “My ears are just fine, thank you very much. You need to haul carcass back into that kitchen before the lunch rush. Now get!”
He grinned. “You fired me.”
“Well, I’m rehiring you.” I glanced at the sight of Old Lou’s exposed engine. “Why are you fooling with this thing? You don’t know a thing about cars.”
“I know how to keep an engine finely tuned.” He flashed his gold tooth and waggled his eyebrows, striking a little pose.
“Honey, that engine died long ago. You think I can’t tell the difference between the purr of a Mercedes Benz and the cough of a Model-T? Now get yourself back into that kitchen before I pull the choke on your Ford.”
out his lip as if hurt, but I knew that amused gleam in his eye. He reached as high up as he could, fingers stretching hard, and caught the edge of the hood, letting it slam downward. “Think it’s time to hand her over to Lionel. He’s
to buy Old Lou for years.”