Case File: Something’s Cooking Under Where?
6:58 PM: Dames play games with my head. They drive me to extremes. Run me off to sit in parking lots where the glow of the streetlamps glaze the top of my smoke rings in honey. Some dames disappear in the middle of the night. After twenty years. All because I was born to fight crime. All because I missed a few dinners, an anniversary or two, while out mopping vermin off the streets. Then she gets remarried, moves on with her life like I’m some speck of shit on the toilet rim that never spiraled down. I can only counter with three hundred sixty five canned chili dinners and a new leather duster. And now I’m about to attend my second class in an introduction to cooking course at the community college. I never dreamed there’d be a first, but canned chili only gets you so far before you reach colostomy bag status. So I sit here and wait. Watch the tall brunette, the curvy redhead, and the tattooed blond–my classmates–walk past and wonder which of these fair maidens slipped a favor in the front pocket of my duster last week. It’s a silly little thing. Pink silk with eyelet trim and a round cutout on one end. Some kind of exotic lingerie apparatus, I imagine. All I know is my pocket was bare at the start of class and later that night I found the kinky surprise. It’s a real mystery. Now the only thought in my mind as I step out of the car is: which of these dames wants to toss my bacon in the skillet?
7:01 PM: I’m the snake that slithers into a henhouse. Instructor Spicer matches us to cook stations and demands we scrape together a signature dish. Last week she crawled out from under her blue-tinted beehive and stated with geriatric accuracy, “A signature dish is the best way to assess skill level.” So, I drop the plastic bag on the countertop, reach inside for a can, and plop the sludgy contents in saucepan. The aroma of preserved meat mingles with Mrs. Spicer’s Jean Nate. She says, “Is that it?” I flick the burner and set it to low. It’s my only response, because I’m Detective Maxwell Melon, and I have bigger fish to fry.
7:16 PM: I turn the heat off the chili. Plenty of time to “borrow some salt” from a classmate. First stop is Arielle Anisette. The brunette. The one with the foreign accent and the midnight braids hanging down like licorice. She swirls a sliced pear in a pan full of brandy. “What’s cooking?” I ask. She doesn’t respond, which is rude for a girl who may have stuffed naughty undies into a guy’s pocket. I take the direct approach. “Have you lost anything?” I say. “Maybe a knife or a measuring spoon? Maybe some underwear?” Her eyes go all wide and she’s like, “Ex-CUSE me?” So I change course and go with, “Can I have some salt?” She agrees, so I’ll consider her a person of interest.
7:32 PM: I try to reheat the chili and burn it all to hell. Good thing I brought an extra can. It’s a shame I’m suddenly “out of pepper”. Now I’ll have to pay a visit to Patti Pimiento. The redhead. The one with the big, green eyes and the mischievous smile. The one with the tan line where her wedding ring used to be. I go with the tactful approach and say, “Something smells good.” She smears a stripe of Velveeta on her apron and says, “It’s hamburger mac ‘n cheese. Don’t get excited.” It’s the perfect segue so I say, “You make me excited. By what you did last week.” And I wink all sly like a gunslinger. But maybe a little too sly because her eyes get all big and she’s like, “Ex-CUSE me?” I change course and go with, “Can I have some pepper?” She agrees, so I can’t rule her out as a person of interest either.
7:47 PM: I burned the second can of chili talking to Patti. Instructor Spicer isn’t happy her kitchen smells like roadkill and I have nothing to present. I’ll have to doctor up the slop I have, which gives me a chance to snag a few of Lana Lemon’s lemons. The blond. The one with the curls and the pink highlights and the technicolor inkwork up and down her body. The one with the combat boots and the parole officer and a dream to get her life on track. Before I ask her anything she says, “You remind me of my father, old dude.” That’s when I stop asking questions and move straight to the evidence. I reach in my pocket and slip the silky, pink lingerie into plain view. I hold it up for Lana to see. She grabs it, spits her gum inside, and hands it back. I never get to ask her about the lemons, so I’ll have to assume she’s still a person of interest too.
7:58 PM: My classmates leave their dishes behind, while I stick around to clean up my mess and review the evidence. That’s when Instructor Spicer comes up behind me and says, “By God, you’ve found it!” She grabs the lingerie off my workstation and snuggles the silk against her cheek. I don’t know what to say to her. I mean, who would have thought? Instructor Spicer? She’s not the dame I had in mind, but who am I to judge? Then I just have to ask her, because it’s been killing me ever since I found this depraved piece of fabric in my duster pocket, “What in the world do we do with this thing?” “It’s a cape,” she says. “For my cat. Captain Bubbles loves to wear capes.” And with that, I’m moving to close the case. It’s a good thing I like chili.
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