Serial Killers: The Banquet Chef (Part 3) by Robb White
- Serial Killers: The Banquet Chef (Part 1) by Robb White
- Serial Killers: The Banquet Chef (Part 2) by Robb White
- Serial Killers: The Banquet Chef (Part 3) by Robb White
Part 3: The Banquet Chef
She ordered the mushroom ragout and polenta, the chicken and sausage casseroles to be brought out in a synchronized order. Sheer luck had prevailed because the only thing the class officers could agree on were Doritos and salsa dips; they’d compromised with a buffet style meal and deferred to her for the dishes. Single-plate entrées would have undone her. During the bustle of supervising dishes heading into the dining hall, she often added extra spices for color and, in the case of the beef and rice casserole—made with some ingredients that would have made even the most exotic chef blanch unless that chef happened to reside in a certain island in the Indian Ocean where cannibalism is practiced—a spice to mask the pungent aroma of gamier organs cooked flambeau and to assist the appetite.
Lupe made eye contact with her from the kitchen window but didn’t acknowledge her, which suited Adoncia fine.
When all the guests were served and the caterers reassigned to table duties, she began to breathe again. Her heart was a trapped bird, trying to batter itself out of its cage. She felt calm enough to venture out of the kitchen. As she assumed, no one but the women at one table remembered her.
“Adoncia, que onda, hey, girl,” Lupe said when she saw Adoncia approach their table. “What’s happening?’
“Ni modo,” Adoncia replied with a shrug. “Nothing much.” Her high-school slang came back like a remembered sadness. When she first met Lupe, a brash girl from the suburbs, she didn’t talk much, which led to Lupe calling her fresa, “stuck-up.”
“I didn’t care for them ham hocks and red beans in that soup, Adoncia,” Lupe said. “I still got bits stuck in my teeth.”
Gabriella intervened in her behalf for once. “Lupe, why you hafta be so gross, chica?”
Rosa pointed to something glossy on her plate. “What was that, Adoncia? I’ve never tasted that before.”
“It’s speckled dace,” Adoncia said. “A very rare fish.”
Lupe reached across Rosa to poke the remnants with a fork and stab a piece with her fork. “I ate one of them things, too—just delicious, Adoncia.”
Adoncia instructed the waiter to bring the only two of these rare “fish” to their table—“with the chef’s compliments.”
“You know, when I seen it on the plate, I folded this part over like this, see, and it look like a—you know, a pene de un hombre.”
Lupe said the Spanish in a stage whisper. The women laughed. Adoncia’s stomach churned with bile. Maybe that was taking things too far—but, no, she would not regret anything, come what may. Her sisters were all that mattered. The awkward silence, her inability to make small talk exhausted her more than she would admit. However, she was satisfied they’d all eaten what she’d prepared for them and those classmates who never looked at her twice. Adoncia said her goodbyes and left for the kitchen. Before she was out of earshot, she heard Lupe in her exaggerated whisper say something that had them all laughing again.
Her father used to botch Americanisms, dumb sayings, whenever she went crying to him for comfort after some child said something to hurt her feelings: Little girls who laugh at last, laugh mucho major . . .
Back in the kitchen, she slugged down a tumbler of whiskey from a bottle someone had left on serving tray. She took a piece of paper out and did a quick calculation. She estimated that a hundred pounds of her “specialty meat” had been consumed by the diners that night. All of it in the IG tracts out there among the tables and the laughter and the drinking, the tables segregated by the same cliques that rejected her from those long-gone days. She estimated another hundred pounds of filet, shoulder cut, and rib were stored in a tote in the walk-in freezer she’d ask two of the stronger caterers to haul out to her car before they left. She had a sausage-maker at home that would accommodate another fifty or so pounds of unused meat.
She’d promised Rosa to bring her some more Swedish meatballs and gravy the next day. “That was so yummy, Adoncia. You must give me the recipe . . .”
Not likely, Ms. Rosa López y González, not likely—
She would offer the remaining uneaten food to be divided among the caterers. Scraps to go into the dumpster. The garbage bags at the bottom would be doused with several pans of cooking grease. A daunting mess that would keep any dumpster diver at bay.
When she poured the soup down the drain, a tooth rattled around the sink. She wasn’t sure whose it was or how it got into the kettle.
Too bad Lupe didn’t get it, she thought. Something else to stick in her craw. Lupe had always worried about her weight back in high school, duct-taping her boobs for cleavage and wearing those tight Lycra skirts as though she were heading to a nightclub instead of a Home-Ec class from Mrs. Santiago. Knowing where that tooth had been a few hours earlier might send her running to check into a clinic for women afflicted with anorexia.
That thought amused her. She took another sip of whiskey to steady her nerves for the clean-up to come. She had another thought, different from her father’s and a much older, darker saying, she suspected: La venganza es un plato que la gente de gusto prefiere el frío. In the language of her adopted country: Revenge is a dish that people of taste prefer cold.
That was a better thought to end her long, horrific day with.
Robb White lives in Northeastern Ohio. Many stories and novels feature private investigator Thomas Haftmann or Raimo Jarvi. In 2019, White was nominated for a Derringer. A crime novel, The Russian Heist, won Thriller Magazine’s Best Novel of 2019 award, and a short story, “Inside Man,” was selected for inclusion in Best American Mystery Stories 2019. New Pulp Press is bringing out a second collection of Haftmann stories, including the novella of the title: The Dearborn Terrorist Plot & 4 Stories.
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Stephanie Ellis writes dark speculative prose and poetry and has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her longer work includes the folk horror novels, The Five Turns of the Wheel, Reborn, and The Woodcutter, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused (all via Brigids Gate Press). Her dark poetry has been published in her collections Lilith Rising (co-authored with Shane Douglas Keene), Foundlings (co-authored with Cindy O’Quinn) and Metallurgy, as well as the HWA Poetry Showcase Volumes VI, VII, VIII, and IX and Black Spot Books Under Her Skin. She can be found supporting indie authors at HorrorTree.com via the weekly Indie Bookshelf Releases. She is an active member of the HWA and can be found at https://stephanieellis.org and on Blue Sky as stephellis.bsky.social.