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Kee Patterbee - Hannah Starvling 02 - The Gourmet Who Kept Diamonds in the Kitchen

BOOK: Kee Patterbee - Hannah Starvling 02 - The Gourmet Who Kept Diamonds in the Kitchen
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Kee Patterbee - Hannah Starvling 02 - The Gourmet Who Kept Diamonds in the Kitchen
Hannah Starvling Twilight Murder Mysteries [2]
Kee Patterbee
Twice By Lightning (2014)
Tags:
Mystery: Cozy - Culinary Consultant
Mystery: Cozy - Culinary Consultantttt
Gourmet chef Elias Babel, an expert in truffles, the highly sought-after mushroom delicacies referred to as nature’s diamonds, took a nasty fall from his hotel balcony. Friend Hannah Starvling, a former FBI agent turned culinary consultant and amateur sleuth, suspects it was not an accident. After encountering several suspects, including one who seems determined to insert himself into her investigation, she becomes even more convinced of foul play.
Now the planned working vacation with her grandparents, the stubborn Papa Jay and nosy Gran, and love interest Hymnal, is in jeopardy. And so is her life. She only has a few working clues. First, somebody attempted to kill her friend. Second, another rival chef is somehow involved. Third, the mysterious stranger, Lukas Grim, is not who he claims. And last, it all revolves around her friend’s last conscious word, "Dahlia." As for her problems, she has to deal with her Papa Jay and Gran, juggle the obstacles of a new relationship, keep her hospitalized friend alive, all while avoiding getting herself killed.

The Gourmet Who Kept

Diamon
ds in the Kitchen

 

Kee Patterbee

 

PUBLISHED BY:

Kee Patterbee

Twice By Lightning LLC

Copyright © 2014

http://KeePatterbee.com

Copyright

The right of Kee Patterbee to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

The story contained within this book is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author
’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.

All right
s reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the written permission of the publishers: Twice by Lightning LLC, Conyers Georgia.

Cover design by Adrianna Vines

More Titles in the Twilight Mystery Series:

Dedication

To my loving husband, Mr. Patterbee

Welcome to the Bistro Mystery Restaurant Extraordinaire.

Head Chef

Hannah Starvling
(a.k.a. The Culinary Detective) – Former FBI. Part-time sleuth. Full-time culinary consultant. Cool, calculating, methodical, and occasionally lost in her own thoughts. Specialty: Curiosity with a hint of genius.

Sous Chefs

Sindee “Gran” Starvling
(a.k.a. the Gumshoe Gal) – Retired restaurateur. Part-time amateur sleuth. Full time wife and grandmother. Would be great-grandmother. Totally sassy and flirtatious wife of Jayland. Specialty: All things spicy with a large dose of meddlesome.

Jayland
“Papa Jay” Starvling
– Retired Navy and restaurateur. Married to Sindee. Full time husband and down to earth, no nonsense grandfather.  Specializes in surly, grumpy, and protectiveness.

Starters

Hymnal “Hym” Miles
– Quick witted and injured small time law enforcement officer. Love interest of the head chef and able bodied sleuth in his own right.

Janine Wexler Babel
– Daughter of Johnny ‘The Twister’ Wexler and wife of the main entrée. An expectant mother-to-be, she has much to gain or lose regardless of the outcome of events.

Sides

Lukas Grimm
– Mysterious, charming, and potentially deadly. Tells an interesting story that sounds too good to be true.

Madeline Doyle
– The beautiful, jealous restaurateur. Knows more than she should. Claims relationships that may or may not exist. She has a lot riding on a new menu and no way to prove what she says is true. Served with heavy syrup.

Samori
Drogba
– Well connected chef, replacement judge, and full time mystery. Kin of old friend of the head chef’s. Often where he should not be. Rival in entrée’s specialty. Served cold and distant.

Serizawa ‘Ducky’
Kamo
–American of Japanese descent. Hard working, would be chef. A wealth of information. Knows of the head chef and seems continuously present at the right time. Or perhaps, at the wrong time. Always prepared as you like it.

Thomas “Tom”
Bigby
– Ship captain, he has a precarious job situation and lots of opportunity over a long period of time. Prepared salty with a tinge of possibility.

Johnathan “Johnny” Wexl
er
– Father of Janine Babel. Former football star. Served in large portions capable of most any physical response. Served on a bet.

A la Carte

Louie Woolridge
– Food critic and friend of the Culinary Detective.

Vera Bessinger
– Heiress daughter of Louie and friend of Hannah and Hym. She is connected to one of the main ingredients of the primary dish.

Critic
– Hound and spokesdog/mascot. A companion to Louie. Full of love, licks, and ferocity if necessary.

Ramona Betts
– Able bodied Gresham detective. Knows the head chef. Does not necessarily like her. Served churlish with a touch of jealousy.

Today’s Featured Dish

Elias Babel
, ‘Truffle Gourmet Extraordinaire’.

Preparation methods
include: Accidental. Suicidal. Or the head chef’s favorite, murderously attempted.

*Please Note*
This dish is served tossed with the diamonds in the kitchen.

Dessert

Tonight’s plaisir doux is a mystery. Toppings include: A gourmet/expert/chef. A missing case full of truffles. And a four story balcony plunge.

Prologue

One year later. A Radio interview
.

“Welcome back to WUNG, Public Radio.
You’re listening to “The Tellers” and I’m your Host, Michael Blevons. Tonight, we’re in a culinary kind of groove. An author who produced an unusual and offbeat affair that deals with the world of food and the black market. Our guest is writer and food critic, Louie Woolridge. Hello again.”

“Hello.”

              “And joining us again is his companion, Critic. Hello there, Critic.”

“Woof.”

(Laughter)

“On cue and everything. Perfect. Perfect. So, Louie. Your new book, Murderous Tastes. To steal a loose culinary reference,
it’s selling like hotcakes. Everyone seems tapped into the main character, Anna Raven. She seems so real. Quirky. Odd. Brilliant. But very, very real. Human. A lot of books miss the mark on that, but you seem to have really gotten the feel of the character. A real attribute of your writing skill. But, now, I went back and read some of your work in Food Critic Magazine. You’ve done several articles on one chef slash consultant in particular. I’m going out on a limb here and suggest that this character Anna is based on that real person. Am I correct?”

“Depends on which person.”

“Hannah Starvling.”

(Laughter)

“Yes, she’s going to kill me for revealing that, but yes, Hannah is Anna. Anna is Hannah.”

“You wrote of two instances at least where you worked with her on cases. Did this book come about based on any particular episode? She is, after all, according to you, the Culinary Detective.”

“Well, you know. It’s a mash up, but mostly, it comes primarily from the second case surrounding the food industry and illegal trade. The black market in particular.”

“And the other characters?”

“Well, you know the drill, Frank. The names have been changed to protect the innocent, but some are real, some are not.”

“Woof”

(Laughter)

“Yes, Critic, even you. It seems you are called Sleuth here.”

“Woof”

(More laughter)

“I don’t think he cares for the name.”

“Me either, but we’re buds, so all is forgiven.”

“Well, getting back. Not to give too much away, but we start with an inciting incident involving... X… and work our way back. You know. The way it started. I really didn’t expect what happened. I expected something different.”

“In a bad way?”

“No, in a good way. I’m just used to forecasting correctly. You know, the kind of book it is, the category it’s associated with, you expect one thing. You kind of flip that on its ear.”

“Good. You
shouldn’t see the road up ahead. Just like the case. You have got to see it to believe it.”

“Or in this case, read it. Now, you were more of a witness on this one. At least that’s the way you’ve written it, assuming
the character, Arthur, is you.”

“Good eye. He is and I was.
I’m more comfortable as a writer than capable as an investigator. But Hannah, er, Anna isn’t. Though she’s a skilled consultant, she’s also an amazing investigator.”

“A genius in many respects.”

“In most respects. In the beginning, real world case, she was close to the victim at one time, but she managed to distance herself from that fact and laser focus on the evolving incidents.”

“Yes, she’s brilliant. In the book, she digs and digs, eventually turning up the dirt under the dirt, so to speak. At the same time, in the real world, the real Anna, or Hannah I should say, exposed something big. Just as she does in your fantasy world, right?”

“Exactly. From the moment, she comes across the victim to the moment the case closes. In both the book and the real world, events closely parallel one another.”

“So, you have a gourmet. Something is missing. A plethora of ‘potentials’ as Anna calls them. So, who did it?”

“Well, it was… THE BUTLER!”

(Laughter and excited woofs.)

“No, sorry. You’ll have to read it. I need the money to keep Critic here in treats.”

“I’m just teasing. I did read it.
It’s really, really interesting. Now, this takes place in the fictional island town of…”

“Boon, but it’s based on…”

Chapter 1

1:30 PM. Four hours prior.

“Gresham,” Hannah Starvling said, her sea green eyes sparkling in the sun’s glow. She pointed to the outline of a small town on the island.

While waiting for landing instructions, Hannah wavered between anxious and eager. She always wanted to give her paternal grandparents a magnificent vacation. Her attendance at The International Culinary Festival provided her an opportunity to do that. The trip also afforded her the chance to fly them up in her Piper Saratoga.

Resting in the waters between the Canadian and US border, the town of Gresham belonged to the Thousand Islands chain. This was one of Hannah’s favorite places to visit for many reasons, among those being the annual event.

“The hotel will send a car for us.”

“Send a car?” Jayland ‘Papa Jay’ Starvling commented from the rear seat. “Fancy stuff, Sweetness.”

“One of the perks of being a judge at one of the events this week,” Hannah said to her older passengers.

The smile Papa Jay held lit up his face. He pointed out the window at the St. Lawrence River. “I can’t wait to get out on the water. Been forever since I’ve gone fishing. I may never go back.”

“Hah!
That’s a joke. You never even got to the car before worrying about someone breaking in. How many times have you already called Fred about Casper and Gigantor?” Sindee ‘Gran’ Starvling chided. She nudged Hannah. “Your grandpa, he’s a worry wart.” 

Papa Jay crossed his arms and gave a “
humph” sound that made Hannah laugh. Her grandparents delighted her, even when tormenting each other. The two had been together for over 57 years to date. Each was dedicated to the other, remaining in love to this day. However, one might argue otherwise from the near constant verbal jabs tossed in one another’s direction.

“All right, you two, do I need to land this plane?” joked Hannah.

“Better than the alternative, I suppose,” Papa Jay cracked.

Everyone laughed.

Gran patted Hannah’s arm. “Well, regardless, I’m looking forward to spending time with my girl and catching up.”

Hannah glanced over at her ‘Gran’ and back to ‘Papa Jay’ as she called them. The feisty seventy plus year old Starvling grandparents counted toward two of the most important people in her life. Both contributed a great deal to the individual she became, something she vowed never to forget. 

“I’m looking forward to it too, but remember, you don’t need to spend all your time with me. There’s plenty to do. The old town district is amazing, Gran. Lots of shops for you to hit.”

“Well, so much for seeing my Sweetness,” Papa Jay said in a grumpy tone. 

Gran motioned toward Papa Jay. “Ignore him, dear. We are going to blow a bundle and have a good time.” She turned to Papa Jay. “We all are.”

Not wanting him to feel left out, Hannah assured her grandfather. “I promise, Papa Jay, we’ll do some fishing.  Gran,
you’ll love the town. The locals are so nice. If you turn on that charm, I’ll bet you can make friends with one of them. In fact, Papa Jay, they might give you the heads up on the best spots to toss a line out.”

“So what kind of festival is this, Sweetness?” Papa Jay inquired.

“It’s an international food festival. Do you remember my old friend Elias Babel?”

Papa Jay scowled. “That fellow you went with at school, right?
Broke your heart? That jackass?”

“I do,” Gran exclaimed, “
the French cutie with a nice butt. You should have married him.”

Hannah shook her head. Gran
had always tried to hook her up with someone, or she reminded Hannah about the ones she lost along the way.

“Well, anyway, he’s coming and bringing some of his black truffles.”

“Parisian chocolates? Ooh. Handsome and candy. You should hook up with him again.”

“He’s married now. His black truffles are mushrooms, not chocolates.
They’re considered a gourmet delicacy. He calls them his,
Diamonds of the Kitchen
.”

“Oh, that’s a shame. Is he happy?”

“Gran!”

“Mushrooms? Diamonds? Why would anyone call fungi, the diamonds of the kitchen?” Papa Jay asked.

“Because these are hands down one of the most expensive foods on earth. Many European countries swear by them, so as you can guess, every chef and his brother want them. Chefs use them for specialty cuisine.”

“Lord, expensive fungus. I got fungus growing on my toes. Never heard of such, much less tasted one, other than the kind that goes on a burger.”

“Well, you might get the chance. Elias always brings some of his personal stash to the show. My guess is they will be available at the private dinner for the participating guests of the event. Since I fit in that category, I’m pretty sure I can wrangle four tickets, so you might get a bite.”

“No offense, Sweetness, but eating an overpriced fungi isn’t on my agenda
.”

Sweetness
.  Hannah loved hearing Papa Jay call her by that nickname. He christened her with that moniker early in life. “Your kisses are the sweetness of life,” he would tell her.

Gran
frowned. “Oh, stop your whining. Your granddaughter wants to show us a good time. You’ll eat them if you get the chance, and you’ll smile and say thank you.” An odd expression ran across Gran’s face. “Four tickets?”

Hannah bit her tongue. She still needed to tell them about Hym joining them. She made a quick attempt to redirect the conversation. “Anyway, a lot of people are attending, so there’s a lot to do, Papa Jay. Gran and you could go dancing. The festival is putting on a ballroom exhibition. Didn’t the two of you used to do that?”

Both Papa Jay and Gran brightened up. “We did. We used to do that all the time,” Gran said with excitement. Papa Jay smiled and proceeded to explain about Gran and his days of dating.

Hannah half listened as she drifted off into her own thoughts. She reckoned back to a conversation between Elias and her a few days before. They were friends for several years, remaining so after they stopped dating. Email, social media, the occasional phone call, and this event kept them connected. When he called, he sounded excited at first. He announced that he would soon become a father. Hannah listened to the joy in his words. The sound of his voice made her glad for her friend, but his tone became intense and nervous. The last bit of their dialogue bothered her. She asked him if he considered bringing anything new to the festival.

“A lot is going on here,” he said in his heavy French accent. “I have been working on things since the fall,” Elias responded. “Hannah,” a long pause mounted between the two before he continued, “I am going to need your help. Every bit of it.”

The serious sound of his voice shook Hannah. When she asked what was wrong, he said, “I can’t talk over the phone, but remember where I keep my things.” With that, he made his goodbyes and hung up.

Where I keep my things
, she considered to herself.
Things. Truffles
. In their short, few years out of culinary school, Elias made himself the go to expert on truffles. The fungus became his personal obsession. He cranked out a book on the subject. As an expert, he frequented festivals as a guest and judge. He lectured at some of the finest culinary schools and restaurant training programs around the globe. In doing so, he invested in the foodstuffs, proving he was not just an adept gourmet, but also a natural at reading markets. In simpler terms, he made himself rich to the tune of ten million plus. This made him the stuff of legend in the culinary world. Still, his focus remained on his beloved truffles. Wherever he went, he brought portions from some of the operations he invested in. To attend an event with Elias Babel became paramount to getting a taste of truffles: his diamonds in the kitchen. 
The kitchen
, Hannah noted.

“Dear, your tongue. What are you contemplating?” Gran asked.

Gran’s question brought Hannah back to the conversation at hand.
My tongue
. Hannah had a habit of rolling her tongue when contemplating and it was one of her many ‘tics’ as Papa Jay called them; quirks that acted as clues to her personality. She also occasionally wiggled her nose and upper lip, which she displayed related directly to how deeply the concentration that was taking place. Gran, being both nosy and observant, caught onto her distraction. She needed to answer, but did not want to drag her grandparents into another conversation about Elias. This applied in particular to Gran. It did not matter that it existed between the truffle gourmet and the culinary consultant. The elder snoop would insert herself into their business. 

“Oh, just the festival, Elias, and having you two along,” Hannah responded.

“Well, I hope old Grumpus don’t spoil it for us,” Gran said, thumbing toward Papa Jay. He responded with, “Harrumph.”

“Not possible,” Hannah added as she glanced back to give Papa Jay a wink. He returned the same.

It was for that reason that Gran became excited when Hannah asked them to come along on the trip. Said she wanted to spend time with Hannah. As a younger woman, she did some investigative work for the locals back in Twilight.  When she recalled those days, the elder woman’s voice and enthusiasm told Hannah how much she missed them. No longer ‘being nosy’ as Papa Jay put it, all she had left were memories of her adventures. Gran was aware that her granddaughter dabbled in amateur investigations from time to time. Hannah understood her grandmother wanted to relive the adventure via hearing her granddaughter’s tales. It was her way of recapturing the old days. 

Like Gran, Papa Jay
, too, said he wanted to spend time with his Sweetness, as well as his Scooby, his pet name for Sindee. Hannah knew it was not in his nature to get involved in other people’s business. Instead, he focused on his own life, or so he claimed. More often than not, Hannah found that things involving Gran found Papa Jay right beside her. In his eyes, his job was to protect her. ‘Less Watson to her Holmes, and more Warbucks to her Annie,” he would say.

In things involving Hannah, Papa Jay played his role as
a grandfather. Hard-nosed, protective, cautious, and loving. He wanted the best for her. Sometimes, this meant head butting. Friends went through an approval process. He scrutinized every relationship. To date, no man measured up, not that this ever stopped her from dating. Papa Jay never put his foot down and refused to let her go out with someone, but when a relationship ended, he would hug her and say the inevitable, “Not good enough for you anyway.”

Now came Hym. Papa Jay and Gran would be the first of her blood family to meet the man.
The Inquisition
, she mused to herself. She held no doubts that he would make a grand impression, but he would have to endure a grilling before he got their approval.
Grilling
, chuckled Hannah to herself.
Appropriate, but poor choice of words
. She floated back into Papa Jay’s memories.


Your grandma, she had it going on back in the day.”


Back in the day? Honey, I still got it going on, more than your tired old self.” She leaned back and poked at her husband. He grabbed her arm and pulled her forward for a quick kiss.


Of course you do, beautiful.”

As Gran launched into her take on their courtship, Hannah reflected about the truth of her Papa Jay
’s statement. Even in her seventies, Gran remained a beautiful woman. Hannah always marveled at Gran’s loveliness. Even with her bottle white hair and petite height, she still sported a curvaceous figure. Her sea green eyes, which Hannah inherited, still flirted and got into mischief.

Papa Jay
fits Gran. He still maintained good looks for his age. At six feet tall, slender, with gray-hair, even women half his age turned to get another view when he passed them by. He remained in exceptional health. Both her grandparents did. To keep their vibrant personalities entertained for an entire week would be a challenge. Lucky for her, the intervention of Hym would help. That is, if he showed up. Work presented a problem for him at the moment. The leg wound he sustained four months prior landed him desk duty until he recuperated. That would not occur in its entirety for another six to eight months. In the meantime, the chief gave him the unthankful duty of catching up on Zebulon’s multiyear backlog of paperwork. That mountain of old records work now stood between Hannah and the man she considered as a potential mate. Half of her reason for bringing her grandparents along was to meet him. If all went well, she would find a way to have a solid week of fun and go home rested.
Stop complaining
, she moaned to herself.
A couple of hours of tasting desserts. After that, a free week’s vacation with Hym. Relax and enjoy
.

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