Bananas Foster and a Dead Mobster

BOOK: Bananas Foster and a Dead Mobster
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BANANAS FOSTER AND A DEAD MOBSTER

 

by

 

A. GARDNER

 

 

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Copyright © 2015 by A. Gardner

Cover design by Yocla Designs

Gemma Halliday Publishing

http://www.gemmahallidaypublishing.com

 

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

 

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CHAPTER ONE

 

The last time I did this I almost died.

I tilt my pan to prevent my clothes from bursting into flames. The caramelized banana sauce oozes to the edge—a mixture of bananas, butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. The drizzle of rum burns as soon as I light the flame. I smile as I watch the crowd gathered around my demonstration booth break out in applause. A perfect Bananas Foster.

"How long do you think she'll be at it?" my roommate, Bree, whispers. She arranges bowls of vanilla ice cream and waits for my banana sauce to be finished. After the school's smuggling operation, dating back to when Calle Pastry Academy was founded, made it to the press, Mr. Dixon, the school's President, has been trying to mend the academy's reputation with the community. A permanent booth at the local farmers' market won't erase multiple arrests and a murder.

But free samples might.

"Try asking her," I respond, glancing at my new kitchen-mate. "I dare you."

Georgina continues talking on her cell phone when she should be refilling serving platters with Bree's key lime coconut cupcakes. They're a big hit this morning.

"It's the nanny again," Karl chimes in, matter-of-factly. He straightens the bridge of his glasses and jumps right in to do Georgina's job. "Or maid. Or whatever she is."

Just like Georgina and me, Karl and Bree were also assigned to work the academy's booth this weekend, featuring baked goods straight from our student bakery and simple cooking demonstrations. Except Georgina seems to have a different understanding of the term
work
than I do because she's assumed the role of silent supervisor.

"Her name is Ingrid," I inform him. "I met her yesterday when I went to Georgina's apartment to practice fondant bows. Nice lady."

I wipe the beads of sweat forming on my brow as I plate generous helpings of my banana sauce onto scoops of homemade vanilla ice cream. It's a typical summer morning in Georgia, which is cake crumbs to Southerners. I'm still getting used to the humidity and also the feeling of being baked in a convection oven until I'm lightly browned whenever I set foot outside. At least, I
wish
I were being lightly browned. In my case, it's more like Pepto-Bismol pink.

"Whoa there, Poppy," a voice comments. I glance over my shoulder to see that my new pastry instructor has finally emerged from his cave. "You're serving ice cream topped with sauce, not sauce with a dab of ice cream."

The day I met Otto Chimenti was the same day he paired me with Georgina for the remainder of my studies. He claimed that you don't always get to choose who you work with in the real world. Thank the pastry gods that all we have to do is share a mixer and sometimes an oven. Chef Otto might be America's most eligible celebrity
chef
bachelor, but he wouldn't have insisted we work together if he knew about our little oven incident that could have burned down half of campus.

Now Georgina's scores are dependent on mine.

Hopefully that means no more bake-time sabotage.

Why couldn't I have gotten someone like Karl? Who cares if he's an endless pit of useless trivia—Bree's words? He pulls his weight. That's all I need to pass pastry school. A partner who stays up all night perfecting a recipe.

Chef Otto discreetly rubs the sweat from his glistening cheek. His cinnamon hair matches his choice of footwear for the day. He scans people passing as if he's expecting a massive group of fans to bombard him with autograph requests. He keeps his favorite signing pen in his jacket pocket for such occasions.

"Ingrid, just put the rest of those boxes in the hall closet, okay?" Georgina spots Chef Otto and quickly hangs up. She proceeds to take over Karl's effort to set out more cupcakes. "You're looking a bit parched, Chef." She eyes her prize—the man on campus that every girl can't stop staring at.

"Oh, I'm fine, Georgina." Otto flashes her a pearly grin. One that makes me shake my head. "Well, maybe a sweet tea if you would?"

"Happy to," Georgina replies. She touches a strand of her dark blonde locks and runs her fingers gently down her neck as she steals another glimpse of her steamy pastry instructor. Her attraction to him is obvious, and Chef Otto seems to use it to his advantage.

"Such beautiful desserts," an elderly woman comments as I hand her a sample of my Bananas Foster. She's wearing a powder blue sun hat and an elegant dress to match. She takes a nibble of a banana chunk drenched in my brown sugar and cinnamon sauce. "Mmm. I love the way you stop cooking it before the bananas get too mushy."

"That's just my personal taste."

"Your taste is exquisite, young lady." A Southern accent rolls off her tongue like wildflower honey. I'm willing to bet this woman was once a proper debutante. A classic Southern belle. "I'm Miss Hattie Mae Scott, but you can call me Hattie Mae. And you are?"

"Nice to meet you, Hattie Mae. I'm Poppy Peters."

The genuine glow on her face cancels out the wrinkles and sunspots on her complexion.

"Did you make these heavenly coconut cupcakes as well?" she asks.

"Oh
, those
." I glance down at the display of assorted cakes that Bree excitedly put together. She made most of them herself, and it shows. She has a knack for piping frosting so it looks like a fluff of sugar porn. Sugary perfection that forces you to take a second look. And then a taste. I grab Bree as she's putting together more to-go boxes. "Actually, my friend Bree made those."

"Huh?" Bree looks at us, confused.

"Bree, this is Miss Hattie Mae Scott, and she's a big fan of the coconut key lime cupcakes."

"Really?" Bree reaches out to shake the old woman's hand. Her strawberry blonde ponytail matches the strawberry shade on her round cheeks. "They're not too sweet? I didn't want them to have the tartness of a lemon bar."

"They are perfect," Hattie Mae responds.

"Thank you." Bree lightly claps. Chef Otto hones in on our conversation like a vulture looking for meat to pick.

"You have a nice day, ma'am," he chides, smiling long enough for Hattie Mae to study his face. Otto pauses and waits for Hattie Mae to smile back.

"I think I'll have another look at the Tallulah's charm bracelets. Excuse me, folks." Hattie hurries off, politely taking her sweets with her to finish elsewhere.

"I'm not as popular with the older crowd," Otto remarks. I do my best to hold in a loud chuckle as Chef Otto Chimenti retreats back to the corner of our booth to catch up on emails on his phone. Karl nods as he fills orders, telling customers a little too much information about the ingredients we use and the role of baking powder versus baking soda.

"Someone better make an announcement that a celebrity chef is on the premises before he has a heart attack," I joke.

"I think he already tried to make one, but the guy with the mic looked at him funny," Bree answers. A lively, heavyset man in a chocolate pinstripe suit approaches us. He narrows his eyes and studies our baked goods like he's reading a lunch menu.

"Actually," Karl chimes in from across the booth, "in order to have an announcement made over the speakers, you have to submit a written request to the county, and then they send it to the Farmers' market Committee, and then they send it to—"

"Karl," Bree butts in, rolling her eyes.

"The exceptions of course are announcements concerning safety and lost children."

"
Karl
," Bree says again. She tilts her head toward the customers he turned away from just to make sure we knew the proper procedures. He refocuses on the task at hand as he scratches the side of his plump cheek.

"Oh, right." Karl adjusts his thick-framed glasses and continues serving customers.

Georgina finally returns with a cold glass of sweet tea from a few booths over. She joins Otto in the corner, having also bought a glass for herself. She clinks her glass against her instructor's and giggles. The man in the pinstripe suit breaks his concentration like he's ready to order.

"You know where that was invented, don't you?" the man comments as he eyes the rest of my bananas Foster. His forehead is glimmering under the sun, but he doesn't seem to care.

"Um—"

"New Orleans," he goes on. "Or NOLA, as the kids like to call it nowadays."

"I hope mine measures up." I offer him a sample, and he kindly accepts.

"I'll let you know." His eyes wander up and down our grassy aisle until he spots a nearby tent with lots of empty tables. He takes a small bite of his ice cream and continues walking.

"Now that's a place I'd love to visit," Bree says, wiping a few cake crumbs and drippings of spilled banana sauce from the counter. "But I know it would be horrible on my hips. I'd eat my weight in beignets." I chuckle. "And
you,
Poppy, would go into a sugar coma."

"It would be worth it though," I reply.

Bree continues cleaning until the rest of Karl's customers stroll away, looking satisfied with their selections. I glance at the other booths in our section—one set apart from the produce and meats. The Academy's booth is grouped in with all the knickknacks and concessions. To one side of us is an elderly gentleman who arrived just as early as we did to load up deep pots with raw peanuts. His boiled peanut sign is drooping to one side, and it looks like he wrote the word
Cajun
above it at the last minute with a black marker.

One booth over from
Southern Charms & Accessories
is
Sweet T Soaps
. A setup that caught my eye the minute I arrived for my morning rotation. Not because I have a penchant for bars made of honey and goat's milk, but because the majority of the soaps look like cake. Georgina actually muttered something about smothering the competition until she noticed that their cupcakes aren't edible. They're meant to be thrown in the bath rather than your mouth.

"Did he buy anything this time?" Karl comments, observing my remaining samples of warm Bananas Foster.

"Who?" I ask.

"The man in the pinstripes," he clarifies. "He was here yesterday too. I saw him over at the soap stand. He didn't buy anything from us though."

"No," Bree answers, clenching her jaw.

"Hmmm." Karl resumes rearranging the scones and sweet rolls in alphabetical order.

"I swear…" Bree mumbles. "No one ever taught him to keep his comments to himself."

"Would you rather have
my
partner?" I look to Georgina who is still enjoying an ice-cold glass of sweet tea instead of helping Bree wash utensils.

More customers come and go until all my Bananas Foster has been served. Bree prepares for our next live demo to herd in more foot traffic. It seems to be working wonders so far, and I won't be surprised if her spicy cocoa chip cookies—her new recipe—gathers the attention of the entire market. Combining two unlikely desserts to make one mega delight is Bree's latest hobby. Cayenne cookies are just the beginning.

Bree sets out her ingredients as well as a plate of the finished product for people to try. Chef Otto quietly leaves our booth to stretch his legs, and Georgina immediately returns to checking her phone messages. Karl counts and then recounts our remaining inventory for the rest of the day, bobbing his head up and down like he's running through a mental checklist.

The heat reaches through to my core, and I take a moment to close my eyes. I imagine that I'm back in my air-conditioned apartment, sipping a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade. I don't know how I'm going to make it through this heat wave without stripping down in the middle of midterms.

My moment of relaxation comes to a screeching halt.

Bree drops her serving platter of cookies and grabs my arm as a blood-curdling scream trumpets through the open field. Every booth falls silent.

Another scream pierces the Georgian sky and forces my heart to do an unexpected reboot.

Bree and I look at each other—the same look we once exchanged in the student bakery after my former pastry instructor, Mr. Harris, tried to hold me hostage with his kitchen knife. I look in the direction of the scream and immediately bolt for the seating tent.

I stop—Bree slamming into my back—when I see a girl trembling at the entrance. Her whole body shakes right down to the wavy strands of her cotton candy hair. An artistic blend of pink and blue layers that resemble the fluffy spun sweet.

She is glaring at a man. He's sitting at a table in the corner hunched over his bowl of melted Bananas Foster. His pinstripe suit is perfect, except for a crimson stain. I take a few more steps toward his body.

I gulp.

It's the man who visited our booth less than an hour ago…and there's a knife in his back.

 

BOOK: Bananas Foster and a Dead Mobster
8.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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