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© 2012 Honora Finkelstein & Susan Smily
Ariel Quigley Mysteries

Excerpt from The Chef Who Died Sautéing

   
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Prologue

Thursday, September 5th

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, Washington, D.C. “You disgusting pervert!” shouted a woman’s voice from behind the vertical files. A piercing scream instantly  followed the words.  Dennis Walker and Joel Abrams looked at each other wide-eyed and jumped up from the table in the center of the  history section where they had been doing research.  “It’s got to be the flasher!” Dennis took off toward the stacks in the direction of the scream, with Joel hot on his  heels. They knew there had been some episodes in that library with an exhibitionist—the guy was jumping out of the  stacks and showing his Willie to unsuspecting women. But he had always managed to elude the security staff and get  out of the building before anyone could catch him.  They followed the scream to its source—an elderly woman being held by a young companion, who pointed down  the aisle between tall shelves of books.  “The freak went down there and turned right,” she said, as the elderly woman continued to scream like a police  siren. Dennis and Joel ran off in the direction the woman had indicated, following the sound of thudding footsteps on the  carpeted floor. They saw the man dart out the exit doors and down the hall to the opposite side of the building. He  went right past the elevators and into the literature section of the library. A group of women sitting in a circle of chairs  in the foyer reading poetry to each other looked up and turned their heads to watch the chase. They stared  openmouthed at the flasher with his raincoat flapping around his skinny, naked legs.  Joel shouted, “You take this door, and I’ll take the one over there. He won’t get away this time!”  As Dennis ran into the room, the flasher turned between the card catalogue and a row of tall service desks.  Dennis moved in behind him, and Joel appeared at the opposite end. The flasher pulled to a stop, realizing he had no  place left to run.  He turned to Dennis, laughing and holding his raincoat wide open. “Okay, you caught me! Do you want to cuff it?”  Joel got out his cell phone and called 9-1-1, while Dennis held his arms outstretched to block the passageway.  People began getting up from the tables in the center of the room and gathering to see what the commotion was  about, and Dennis turned his head slightly to ask for help.  “Someone see if we can get security up here,” he said.  Just at that moment, the flasher lunged at Dennis, slamming him hard in the chest.  Dennis stumbled backward and fell, cracking his head against the corner of one of the tall desks and collapsing  onto the floor. The flasher jumped lightly over his body, but two other men grabbed him and held him.  Joel bent over Dennis. Blood was seeping out from the back of his head.  “Ariel,” Dennis whispered. Then his head rolled slightly to the side, and his eyes glazed over.  “Oh, my God!” Joel said, turning to look at the flasher. “You’ve killed him!” 

Chapter One

Friday, September 5th, One Year Later

I had the kettle in my hand and was turning toward the counter where a Mikasa teapot and cups sat on a Delft-tile  tray. “Don’t step on the cat!” Bernice shouted.  Suddenly there was a squeal and a blur of fur, and I went tush over teakettle and found myself sitting on my  keester in the middle of the kitchen floor.  “Too late,” I muttered.       *** My name is Ariel Quigley, and my life changed the day I tripped over that cat. Bernice Wise, whose cat had just  spooked me, is a 55-year-old Jungian psychologist who runs a private practice out of her sprawling 18th-century  Colonial-style home in Alexandria, Virginia. She’s also a student in one of my evening poetry classes. In fact, in the  past year she’d signed up for the class two sessions in a row. From listening to her poetry in the classroom, I’d been  impressed with her sense of humor and her practical wisdom. She was also earthy and gregarious—just fun to be  around—and we were beginning to develop a friendship. So she had invited me for tea, to be followed by dinner at a  local restaurant where I would be her guest.  And there I sat, my eye position almost exactly level with her knees, and my life about to change in ways I had  never imagined.  Bernice laughed and rescued me from my position on the floor. “I should have warned you—Freud the Cat is  always underfoot. While I refill the kettle, why don’t you go into the pantry and grab a box of cookies?”  The cat, a tabby-point Siamese, had skittered away after our encounter, but as I walked into the pantry, I saw her  hiding under a shelf, from where she silently glared at me.  “I’m sorry,” I said, apologizing to her. “I didn’t see you. I mean, how could I have done it on purpose? I don’t even  know you.”  The cat sniffed and backed away, slowly edging her way out of the room, eyeballing me as she went to be sure I  didn’t make any sudden moves.  “I’m really sorry,” I called after her.  Bernice answered from the kitchen stove, “If that’s about the kettle, don’t worry. Hardly anything spilled. If it’s to  the world in general, I would guess you’re either Catholic or Jewish.”  “Oh, I just don’t want the cat to be mad at me,” I called back. “I’m feeling a little bit down today, and having a cat  mad at you is kind of like making a teddy bear mad. Pets and stuffed animals are supposed to be supportive.”  “Don’t worry,” Bernice answered. “She’ll probably forget it by the time we’ve finished our tea.”  I eyeballed a shelf with about fifteen different varieties of fancy cookies. Somewhat overwhelmed by the choices, I  slipped into a sort of daze.  Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder, and I jumped straight up in the air.  “Yikes!” I shouted. I turned to see who had come in behind me, but there was no one there. I felt the hair on my  neck bristle. I wondered what Bernice would think of me if I told her she had a ghost in her pantry.  Copyright © 2006 Honora Finkelstein & Susan Smily