"Why, Randa, I didn't think there had to be a reason to have lunch together," I was trying to be gracious while wanting to smack the smug look off her face, "I was just looking forward to getting a chance to talk with you when not surrounded by noise and such." I smiled back, ignoring the eyebrow raised on her face. I had to give the family points for arrogance in spades.
"Ah, I wish it were all so simple. You, my dear, are a breath of fresh air. But I know you are here far too late," with this cryptic comment she exhaled and pushed her plate away. She reached towards her handbag with a decidedly purposeful air.
Smiling at the seemingly gothic melodrama Randa was producing ,I casually nibbled on the broccoli florets with a light lemon sauce and some toasted pine nuts. The steamed vegetable had been lightly tossed with the sauce and accented with the nuts yet the chef had been careful to retain the crispness of the broccoli. I rarely ate out so it was a pleasure to taste someone else's cooking. This chef was careful to keep the fat and calories down on the menu and yet still was able to retain the tasty flavors of the courses. I mentally analyzed the recipe and catalogued it to be used at a future date. The bistro was surprisingly better than I'd expected. Looking about, I wondered if the chef was capable of being tempted away if I offered a job in my company. Automatically I picked up a matchbook left next to the candle hurricane on the table and placed it in my purse. I planned a follow-up visit on a future evening to see how well the dinner menu fared.
Randa finally pulled out a stack of folded clippings stuffed into her purse. With the air of an executioner she shoved them towards me. Dipping her head she said, "Sorry about this. I should've given you these much earlier. My only excuse is I didn't know he'd start again. He promised me it was all over -- that he now knows better."
Mystified, I picked up the scraps of newspaper carefully blocked into shapes of irregular size and form. Some were yellowed with age while others had a pristine whiteness of recent clippings. Still unclear on what I was being entrusted with, I asked Randa what they were.
"These are the facts backing the reason you are no longer safe. He will kill you. I saw him yesterday and he was acting like he did back before the treatments. You have to leave him. Today if possible." Her tone wasn't teasing. She was perfectly serious.
Randa's fish was reduced to tatters of pink flesh with bones and garnishments while I was still swallowing her heavy words. She wanted me to leave Randolph. She gave me some random clippings and fears.
"You must go! Heed my warning. Read the stories. I am sorry I waited so long." With that dire utterance Randa tossed down some money. The bill hadn't even been delivered and I certainly hadn't finished my main course. She apologized and told me she'd done all she could and fled.
I sipped from a glass of ice water with a slice of lemon floating amongst the cubes. Glancing at the newspaper clippings, I started to pick one up when the waiter bustled over, fussing at me. He was concerned because Randa had left most of her meal untouched with the exception of the scattered bites from her fish. He was very worried something was amiss. Consoling the panicked server, I told him how much I enjoyed the food. When I asked the name of the chef I was disappointed to learn it was in fact the owner.
Fearing I wouldn't be left alone to read the articles Randa gave me, I stuffed them all into my purse unread. Before I closed my purse I took out one of my business cards. Then I gave it to the still hovering waiter for him to give to his boss. I mentioned I would be interested if the bistro was ever seeking more work. As I attempted to finish my delicious meal, the waiter left me to return with a large man behind him.
"Miss, this is our chef and owner, Jean Claude Danziger." The waiter then ran off to his other tables.
Jean Claude Danziger was from France and still retained the attractive European air about him. I hadn't realized they grew them that large in France. Most the Frenchmen I knew were petite and fine boned. He thanked me and we began to talk about cooking. Jean Claude and his hospitality further delayed me from the clippings. We ended up exchanging a few cooking tips and agreeing to meet up at a future date. His style and flair made me think of him as a possibility for a limited partnership and with the way my business was growing I knew he would be a valuable asset. He said he would talk to his accountant and see what types of figures they could arrive at and that he would get back to me very soon.
Little did I know that Jean Claude would prove to be another unknown mistake I'd made. After much protestation he allowed me to pay the bill with the money Randa had left. Being a touchingly sweet Frenchman he snapped his fingers at a waiter hovering to bring me a rose. As I started to leave he handed me a lovely long-stemmed red rose and swept my hand up for a chaste kiss. Claiming I was enchanting and that he looked forward to doing business with me, he escorted me to my car.
Momentarily I'd been distracted from Randa's gloom and doom talk by the bistro's owner and the ambiance of his restaurant. My mind whirled with ideas for business. Using my cell phone once I got in my car, I called work to hear the latest crisis. Knowing the articles weren't going anywhere I headed back to work to untangle the mess my temperamental pantry chef had woven in my absence. I didn't get home until late that evening. By the time I walked through the front door I was blurry eyed and exhausted. Randolph wasn't home either, but a note he left mentioned Randa was ill so he'd be staying at the house, meaning his family home, for the evening. He wrote I wasn't to worry and not to bother calling if I didn't make it back home before nine pm.
Concerned, I checked the clock knowing fully well it was closer to midnight than nine pm. I worried Randa was sick from the salmon she'd eaten earlier. Then I thought she probably had the flu -- that would account for her strange behavior earlier in the day at the bistro.
Recalling the lunch, I grabbed my purse to retrieve the bits and pieces of newspaper articles that Randa had ominously delivered to me over twelve hours earlier. I turned on the television in the family room to catch the last bit of news. The newscaster was doing a recap of the top stories at the ending of the program. A huge fire was engulfing a popular dinner spot and a live report was being relayed to their studio to finish out the segment.
My purse dropped from my hands as I saw the bistro in flames. It was the same place I'd enjoyed eating at earlier with Randa. A tense, beautiful blonde bit out vivid descriptions of fire and drama for the viewers to morbidly enjoy. Using my remote control I raised the volume. She said earlier in the evening the owner-chef known to all as just Jean Claude had been brutally beaten, left for dead and his restaurant torched. Answers were sketchy but apparently it was robbery with a possible connection to local gang activity. Jean Claude was in critical condition at a local hospital and wasn't expected to survive the incident.
Bile rose in my throat. Instinctively I grabbed the clippings from my purse. At a glance I saw the words fire, murder and unexplained tragedy randomly jump out at me. Taking a deep breath I set about chronologically arranging the articles. Finally I figured the time span covered almost two decades from beginning to end and the dates seemed the best way to keep them in order. No specific names caught my eye but all of the locations sounded familiar. The earliest was dated twenty-three years before, I started reading them, and my exhaustion was pushed aside.
Wayward Youth -- Vandalism and Battery, A sign of our times?
Columbus, Ohio. Local police are concerned over the growing numbers of acts of indiscriminate violence to the elderly community residents. The numerous reports of youths being seen fleeing crime scenes led Officer Glen Muldroy to say the parents should exercise better discipline over their children.
Officer Muldroy stated, "Yeah, what we're seeing is too much free time and not enough parental involvement. These kids are running wild. Things like this will happen."
The scene Officer Muldroy referred to was one involving Mrs. Wainwright, a local retired middle school teacher, and she reported that she was called outside by a young teen claiming her cat was injured. Once Mrs. Wainwright, a divorced, single resident, left her home one unidentified youth struck her with a baseball bat while another set a neighbor's dog inside her home. The dog proceeded to chase her other five cats around the living room into the rest of the house generally wrecking the retiree's home.
Any information concerning this incident and others can be called to...
Fire Claims Abandoned Apartments
Akron, Ohio. Mid-Thursday a historic community was decimated by a suspected arsonist. The Fairview Apartments were burnt to rubble in an intense blaze set by gasoline soaked garments. The fire department was slow to respond due to varying causes. The Fairview was built post-World War Two for young soldiers and their families.
The neighborhood had attempted to give it surrounding buildings a facelift the previous year. Local historic landmark status had been applied for and was under consideration. The apartments, owned by Arnold Schmidt, had drastically raised the rents to pay for what he called much needed renovations. Many longtime residents were unable to meet the higher costs and since moved out.
The early morning fire caused no deaths but twelve occupants needed medical attention due to smoke inhalation. Mr. Archibald, a retired shopkeeper, luckily sounded the alarm in time to alert the remaining tenants. The neighboring fire department was unable to respond because of another emergency call reported on the other side of town. This proved to be a deserted vehicle on fire started by a careless smoker's cigarette. The other city fire crews were responding to a fraudulent call of a non-existing house fire at the same time as the Fairview was burning.