Your Goose Is Cooked (A LaTisha Barnhart Mystery) (20 page)

“I used those flake things.”

Hardy, plus food,
not add up to gourmet. Not even edible. This conversation was not going to go well. “How much did you use?”

He scratched his head.
“The whole box.”

I eyed the lump again. “And what are those brown things?”

“Thinking about potatoes made me think about beans. I added some of those you had up there by the box of potatoes.”

Straight from the bag.
“You have to soak them first. You’ll break every last false tooth in your mouth trying to chew those things.”

Hardy tilted his head at me. “When you make them, they’re soft.”

“That’s because I soak them, then I cook them a real long time.” I picked up the spoon beside the pot and poked at the mixture. This is why I did the cooking. The mixture had thickened into a soft ball.

Hardy peered into the pot over my shoulder
.“Doesn’t look too good.”

I poked my spoon at him. “I have all that broth frozen in the freezer. Why didn’t you eat that?”

His smile was huge. “I did.
Two of them.
Potato soup sounded better than a third one.”

I picked up the pot and tossed the contents, before running water into it to let it soak. “You go sit yourself somewhere out of the way and I’ll see what I can come up with.”

He ambled over to the table and hitched his drawers up on his thighs before bending himself into the chair, taking the rubber band off the paper and snapping it open. “Wonder what Michael has to say about the murder?”

“Since that paper’s two days old, nothing.”

I heard the crinkle as Hardy turned a page, which would put him at halfway through the edition. There’s not much news to report in Maple Gap. Though I expected the next week’s paper would be full of the details of our latest murder. Poor Michael, he always seemed to miss the scoop.
A huge problem with weekly papers.

“Obituary in here for a funeral tomorrow evening at Carl’s.”

I spun some flour into a pot with melted butter. I knew what Hardy was thinking. “Think you’ll be up to helping out at the Goose by then?” Funerals always brought in extra mouths to feed.

“Sure. My gums feel some better. By tomorrow I should be back to my old self, complete with six-pack abs and sleek physique.”

“Six pack?” I hooted. “Honey, you missed that and got the keg deal.”

A sprinkle of thyme, some fresh ground pepper, sea salt, and parsley went into the pot. I stirred the herbs into the flour mixture and let them get warm before removing it to cool.

“I’m a fine specimen.”

I rolled my eyes. “You are.
A fine speck-of-a-man.”

He didn’t answer, so I darted a look his direction in time to catch him, his shirt raised, belly exposed, alternately
out his stomach and sucking it in.
Not much fat on his body, but his belly wasn’t as taut as it used to be.
“Pick out that belly-button lint.
Never seen such a wad.”
I hid a smile and added some frozen diced onion to the pot. “You want your cheese soup spicy?”


His tone let me know I’d properly deflated his self-image. Something would have to be done about that. I turned the heat down to low and left everything to simmer a few minutes. Turning, I caught Hardy’s eye and motioned him to come to me. He met me halfway and I pulled him to me. “What’s got you so worried about how you look?”

He inhaled deeply and exhaled on a soft sigh.
“Nothing now.
You smell good.”

“Probably the scent of bacon and eggs from the Goose.”


I pushed him away. “That’s my deodorant.”

He spit a laugh. I returned my attention to the soup and stirred in shredded cheddar until it melted, then ladled some into a bowl. “Here you go.”

He’d slipped back into his chair to continue gaping over the paper. I put the bowl in front of him. His hand was on the spoon before his eyes slipped shut and his lips moved in silent prayer. Three seconds of heartfelt thanksgiving. Growing up, my aunt prayed for world peace and waited on the answer to arrive before we got to eat.

He smacked his lips. “This isn’t spicy.”

“I decided you had enough fire to keep me warm.
Too much more and you’d be approaching hot.”

His brown eyes creased at the corners and the spoon fell from his grasp. “I like the way you talk.”

I went to him and pulled his head to my waist in a hug, stooping to kiss the top of his head.
Got to keep the home fires burning.



Chapter Twenty-One

By the time I got to the Goose, prep for the evening meal was in full swing. Hardy, his engine purring quite nicely, had trailed me back over to the restaurant, declaring
fine and dandy and ready to work. Drugs helped.

Before leaving, we’d spent some time deciding on his outfit for his Dumpster dive. “You can leave it in the car and change after church.” We never had time to come home between closing the restaurant and getting to church, so he’d have to wear his church clothes to the Goose.

He ogled every pair of pants in his drawer, finally pulling out a good pair of cotton twills.

I stopped him. “You’re not wearing those to go Dumpster diving.”

“They’re dark,” he pouted.

“Pick one of your polyester
you can wear the others to church.”

“But those never feel right when you make me wear them.” he groused.

“Because you go around in your pastel polyester stretchers looking like some leisure suit pretty boy.”

Hardy twinkled at me. “You think I’m pretty.”

Surely, I did. His heart was sweet and loving, and the prettiest thing I knew. But I wasn’t telling him that. “Girls are pretty. Men are handsome.”

We finally settled on a dark blue pair of polyester pants that had a run in one leg. Just when I’d thought to rid his wardrobe of all things polyester, he’d gone and stocked up when we’d spent time with his mother at Bridgeton Towers Assisted Living and Nursing. One of the residents had been weeding out clothes he no longer wanted. You think that would have sent a message to Hardy.
Out of style.
But, no, not him.

Since we didn’t have uniforms at the Goose, it really didn’t matter what he showed up in as long as he did his job. He wore his cotton twills and left his dumpster diving polyester in the car to change into after church.

Hardy tied on an apron and stuffed an order pad into the pocket. “You man the kitchen.”

“You mean
-man the kitchen.”

He flashed the source of our pending whopper of a dental bill. “Yes. I mean WHOA-MAN.”

I slapped at his bum and sent him on his way. He looked mighty cute in those cotton twills.
If only I could get him to lose the polyester.

I can’t tell you how pleased I was at all that William and Elizabeth had accomplished in my absence. Salt-and-pepper shakers had been refilled, everything washed and put away,
the dishes for the evening meal were simmering or waiting for the final plating.

The bell signaled a steady stream of customers for most of the evening, mostly out-of-towners due to the funeral over at Carl’s place. I got a lot of compliments on the food, especially William’s bread and the cobbler. Lionel showed up for his cobbler and ended up getting three plates. The only promised sampling of my peach cobbler that didn’t show up for his portion was Chief Conrad. I keep track of these things.

I’d sent Elizabeth and William home for the day, so Hardy and I, working together like the well-oiled machine we had become in our four decades together, did the closing work. I glanced over the menu William had prepared for the following week, noting a term I didn’t understand.

Come again?

After going over the list more slowly, I realized he had made notations for
a different
bread each night, though the
was listed under breakfast. I gave a silent nod to the idea of William’s specialty breads. Everyone loved baked goods. Judging by the compliments I’d received that evening, who knew, maybe we could kindle enough interest to begin a bakery.

One problem.

But it was
problem. I could handle things if I was in control, but if William started springing fresh baked breads for every meal, I could see my willpower turning into won’t-power. Pounds would jump back on my frame and I’d be using a needle to inject insulin because I was out of control.

I groaned.

Hardy hiked himself over to me. “Everything’s put back together.”

“You ever hear of chocolate

You talking
black babies?”

I should have known not to ask. His hand was at the back of my
his fingers cool against my skin, his voice amused. “Don’t you have enough grandbabies without thinking on another one of your own?”

“You’re talking foolish.”

,” he muttered. “Sounds like a fancy term for more than one baby.” He leaned over me to stare at the place on the menu. I directed his gaze to the notation William had made under breakfast.

a bread
And Chocolate.”

“Chocolate bread?”
Hardy grimaced, quickly replaced by a smile that revealed all those new teeth. “I’d rather talk about babies.”

him. “Honey, you’re in the use it or lose it stage!”

He winked.
“Purring like a Mercedes.”

Looking at him bent over like that, his face inches from mine, teeth shining bright, it struck me that somehow, this time, I didn’t mind all those teeth so much. He did look dashing. “You still need to get the front one made gold.”

“As long as I can still work my magic on you.”

He could. But I wasn’t saying it. Instead, I hoofed to my feet. “You need to shake some of that magic right into Old Lou so we won’t be late for church.”


Hardy and I arrived five minutes before service started. I wanted to use that time to sit and unwind, but Dr.
didn’t let that happen. He caught us as we were headed down the aisle.

“How’s my patient?”

Hardy displayed Dr.

“You’re a fast healer.” He clapped his hand down on my man’s shoulder like Hardy had won a triathlon. “Don’t forget I want to see you back in my office tomorrow afternoon. Check with Molly on the time, I never can keep my schedule straight.”

Hardy slinked into our pew, no doubt his spirits dampened by the prospect of another visit to the dentist’s chair.

Before he could get away, I decided the time had come to ask Dr.
about the fund-raiser. “I’ve been meaning to run by and ask if you’d sponsor a cook-off to raise money for the

The dentist got real sober. “It would please me greatly. They’ve been through a lot. If the whole thing with the necklace would get cleared up, I could give a bigger donation from the insurance money.”

Our song director stood and headed to the front, signaling the congregation to settle in and settle down. I nodded at Dr.
and took my place next to Hardy. He grabbed a hymnal and we stood and turned to the first song selection. At first, I didn’t utter a word, letting the music roll over me, listening to Hardy’s voice eek out some not so well-chosen notes. Funny how he could play the piano like a prodigy, but butchered every song he tried to sing.

He nudged me with his elbow, asking with his eyes why I wasn’t singing. So I added my voice to the congregation, letting the notes slide from my mind to my vocal chords. Hardy always said my voice covered a multitude of sins, meaning the fact he couldn’t sing. He swapped hands and held the book in his left, grabbing mine with his right and twining our fingers.

Other books

Burying Ben by Ellen Kirschman
Big Girls on Top by Mercy Walker
The Christie Curse by Victoria Abbott
The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson
Loving Her by Hutton, CM Copyright 2016 - 2023