Chapter 2.08 – Haute Cuisine

At 9am on a Monday morning Ralf did not expect a run-down bar on the outskirts of Forgotten Hollow to be very busy. As it had been every other time Ralf had set foot in this sad establishment, the place was almost deserted except for two people; Fred Wino, a local drunkard and the owner, Joe Taverner, who offered a friendly greeting.

“Officers! Welcome. Drink? On the house, of course.”

Ralf had hoped it would be a quick in-and-out kind of visit. Hopes dashed as Jessica took a seat at the bar next to Fred and opened her mouth.

“Got any snacks, Joe? I’m famished! The night I’ve had!”

Joe nodded, scanning his stocks under the bar. “We’ve got pork rind, beef jerky…”

“Jessie won’t want any of that,” Fred mumbled, clearly drunk. “Will you? She’s one of them hippy types.”

Jessica smiled. “Got any crackers?” Joe nodded. “Crackers and orange juice for me then Joe, thanks.” She turned to Fred. “How’s life treating you Fred? Mum says she hasn’t seen you at the group for a while.”

“I don’t need no group,” Fred said, his words slurred. “And hey, I can’t complain. How is your mother anyhow, Jessie? Still seeing purple people?”

“Not now she’s back on the wagon and on these new meds. Although she’s still hearing the voices. They think that might be permanent…”

Ralf let Jessica’s voice fade into the background as Joe placed her orange juice on the bar and asked him again. “Drink, Chief? Think we’ve got some of that light beer, somewhere.”

“Beer? I’m on the clock, Joe. Just give me a piña colada.”

Joe clicked his tongue in his disapproving way and reached for the rum. “Are you here about those missing girls?” He nodded towards the television. “Because those goons at the SBI told me not to talk to anyone about them.”

“No, we’re not here about that festering cesspit of a case. We’re looking for someone. Does the name ‘Caleb Vatore’ ring any bells?”

Joe eyed the officer suspiciously before he casually replied, “Can’t say it does.”

Fred scoffed; his attention diverted away from his riveting conversation with Jessica. “You know Caleb, Joe! Lily’s brother. Young fella, funny hair, always in here looking sad, necking that green stuff.” He waved in the general direction of the back bar. “What’s he done?” Fred asked, eyes wide, pleading for gossip.

“It’s an assault allegation,” Jessica replied with a mouth full of crackers.

“Nah,” Fred laughed. “You’ve got that wrong. Caleb? Assault someone? Softest beggar I ever did meet; wouldn’t say boo to a moose.”

“Goose,” Joe corrected. “The phrase is ‘wouldn’t say boo to a goose’.”

“Why would you say boo to a goose?”

“Why would you say – never mind. He socked Dale on Saturday. Allegedly,” Joe hastened to add, glancing at the officers. He cleared his throat. “I wasn’t watching at the time.”

Fred suddenly sobered up as he registered Joe’s words. “I missed a brawl? Between Caleb and Dale of all people?” He whistled. “Well, shit a brick! Excuse my language, Jessie.”

Joe shrugged. “I didn’t see it. Heard Will and Dale talking crass about that Moss girl, again—”

“I told you! Will’s involved!” Fred said triumphantly, whacking his fist on the bar. “Why else would he do a runner?”

“I slipped out to make a call,” Joe went on, ignoring Fred’s outburst. “Then when I come back in, Dale’s spitting blood all over my clean floor and Caleb’s gone. Might have been Will who punched him, for all I know. He didn’t even check if Dale was OK, he just left.”

“Wangshaft? Nah, only assaults women, that one,” Fred spat, angrily. “The git. Still, more likely to be him than Caleb. Lives with his sister for sod’s sake and takes his drinks in them poncy glasses.” Fred looked at the half coconut that Ralf was drinking from. “No offence, officer.”

“Do you have any CCTV?” Jessica asked, looking around.

“Nah, never got round to installing any,” Joe replied. “We don’t usually get trouble in these parts.”

Ralf snorted.

“It could have been Will who clobbered Dale,” Joe murmured. “Dale wouldn’t admit that; too afraid of the Wangshafts.”

As was everyone. Ralf finished his drink and stepped off his bar stool. “Might as well close the case now then,” he muttered. “Drink up, Jess. Let’s head back to the station.”

Jessica obediently downed her orange juice and shovelled one last handful of crackers into her face before hopping down to follow Ralf from the building. They stood together out front and Ralf took this moment to get his words in before Jessica had finished chewing.

“Nice and easy. Done and done. You alright to drive us back, Jess? Good, let’s go.”

Jessica swallowed her mouthful. “Oh, you are good, Boss!” she gushed.

Ralf turned back, surprised. “I am?”

“Yes! The whole casual, ‘I’m your friend, forget I’m a cop’ approach? Absolute genius! Even going so far as to have a mocktail!”

Ralf wasn’t about to admit anything to the contrary. “Well, you have to know how to handle these things…”

“For sure! I am learning so much! All that information we gleaned about our mystery man.”

Ralf didn’t have a clue what she was on about. “So much information! Let’s test you, what did you pick up?”

“Oh! Put me on the spot, why don’t ya? Well, Joe’s first response was that Caleb socked Dale, then he backtracked, so I’m not buying that Will did it. Also, we know that Caleb Vatore is either this guy’s real name, or at least his main alias, that he lives with his sister Lily, I presume that must be the same Lilith Vatore we previously identified, right? Sounds like Caleb’s a regular here, necking ‘green stuff’ which must be absinthe. That’s strong; there’s no way he’s going to trek all the way back to Del Sol Valley night after night on that. No, they have a place around here, for sure. So now I guess we’ll be heading back to the station to compile a map of possible residences to check out, yes? Ooh, although if he punched him after they were talking about the Moss girl, maybe he knows April. But then if he did, this case wouldn’t have landed on our desks, right? SBI would be all over this Vatore guy.”

They would. Even less work for him to do. Might even make a 3pm clock off today. “Yes,” Ralf said. “Well done, Jess. You didn’t catch everything I did, but most things. As you’ve shown yourself so capable, how about I leave you to log all the details?”

“Boss, really?” Jessica’s eyes glittered, full of the hope and promise that Ralf had long lost. Or may have never had. He couldn’t recall.

“Sure, whatever. Consider yourself deputy for the day, why not?”

“I’m honoured! I’ll be the best stand-in deputy you’ve ever had! You’d better watch out, bad guys of the world! ‘Cause Deputy Jessica Spoon is here and she’s gonna take you down.

Lilith was still fuming. Chuck hadn’t accepted any excuses, any explanation of why he shouldn’t cook and prepare that wretched gift. She didn’t have the energy to mesmerise him or to argue and she could hardly tell him that it was a human organ. That the sick man who tormented her thought this sort of prank was hilarious.

Lilith had to leave the room to stew and to try not to pass out. She had reached a point where even she, with her deadened senses, could detect Chuck’s heartbeat from across the room. Her control was wavering; she needed him to hurry up and leave already and if that meant him eating that thing, so be it.

When she returned to the kitchen, Chuck was patiently waiting to tuck into his grim fare across the table from a place that been laid for her.

“I’m starving. It’s not haute cuisine, but I’m sure I’ll have had worse!” Chuck motioned for her to join him. “Please.”

“I’m not hungry,” Lilith huffed.

Chuck looked affronted and Lilith instantly felt bad as she took in his downcast features, listened to his hurt thoughts. She gingerly took a seat across the table from him, trying not to look at the dish he had served.

“Thank you. I appreciate what you’ve done, but I’m vegetarian,” she muttered.

Chuck laughed. “You could have told me that before! Can you still eat it if you pick off the kidney bits or is it a moral barrier?”

“Definitely the latter.”

If Lilith had a functioning stomach and she wasn’t made of ice and steel, she might have vomited. Instead, she closed her eyes against yet another wave of dizziness. She reminded herself that she only had to survive a few more hours. She’d take Chuck to Joe’s. She would somehow make it to work. She would grab one of the emergency O-negatives from the chiller to tide her over – to hell with the paperwork – and she wouldn’t pass out or turn feral while operating.

Then she’d carry on as before. Better than before. Free, at last.

Only a few more hours… I can do it.

She could sense Chuck watching her; he was in a house with a hungry vampire and he was worried about her.

He’s so kind. What a shame he’ll be prey. Probably Melinda’s; that’s how things always seem to go.

“When did you last eat something, Lilith?” Chuck asked. “You look pale.”

Of course I’m pale. I am a three hundred and twenty-one year old walking corpse. Lilith shrugged. “Couple of days ago? I don’t know. I’ll grab something at work. I’m fine, Charles.”

“You don’t look fine, you look like death.”

I am death and yet I am fine. I’m always fine. Go and find your ungrateful vampire daughter before she loses herself.

Shit. Did I say that, think it or project it? I can’t even tell.

“I should go and get ready for work.”

Lilith pushed her chair back and rose from the table, her head spinning in circles as she spiralled to the floor.

She sensed him moving, knocking over his chair in his effort to get to her as quickly as possible like a huge, clumsy dog clamouring to its owner. She felt him lifting her. Holding her.

His hands are like fire. Thumping fire.

He must have a death wish.

He’s too close.

“Don’t touch me,” Lilith hissed.

Chuck immediately let go of her waist but as he did she wavered again. He stood with his arms outstretched, his hands poised inches to either side of her, ready to catch her.

“I’m truly sorry but I couldn’t just let you fall.” His voice was so solid, so warm, so calm. The absolute opposite of what she was feeling. “Lilith, you can’t go to work and perform surgery like this. You’re not fine. You’re talking nonsense.”

He reached for her hand and she let him take it. He turned it over in his own. “You’re absolutely freezing,” he muttered.

He pressed his fingertips gently against her wrist in a few locations, growing more and more confused. She watched him without emotion, wondering how long it would be before she attacked him. Not long.

His touch seemed to burn her. She watched him trace her still veins, almost expecting him to leave blisters in his wake, her restraining threads slowly snapping. She heard him ruling out each logical explanation in turn until finally he had nothing left.

And neither did she.

“How?” he asked. “How is this possible?”

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15 thoughts on “Chapter 2.08 – Haute Cuisine

  1. Ha, Ralf. Feels like it’s almost a skill to be this inobservant and apathetic. It’s an interesting way you’ve positioned this – makes me feel giddy when it looks like our gang might almost (almost) get away with the massive trail they left behind, but at the same time, I want the police to crack it. Let’s see what the SBI do with the information about Caleb. Hopefully they’re more competent than Ralf. Or hopefully not. Lol.

    Oh dear. Lilith did try.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those fine skills got Ralf where he is today. So, let me get this straight… you want the gang to get away with all their murder and assault, but you also don’t because you want the police to crack it, but not the SBI, although you kind of do, yes? 😂

      Is that almost a compliment for Lilith?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Aww why are you pitting all my favourite characters against each other still. NOO Chuck!

    Kidney beans! Oh man I will never look at that dish the same way again. Considering how sims seem to fart nonstop after they eat it I think it’s plenty fitting in this context xD

    I like Jessica. Can she and Eva be cousins? Distant fam? Soul sisters? Nathan will be so perplexed but I’m sure no one minds. It’s awesome that Jessica takes her job so seriously. I’ve more respect for her than Ralf for sure. 😀

    Ew Will. Even his side profile makes me puke. Lolol All men in tropical islands must have a poncy moment :joy: It’s part of the paradise. 😀

    “”He’s so kind. What a shame he’ll be prey. Probably Melinda’s; that’s how things always seem to go.””

    What does this mean? 😮 There’s something I’m not seeing here.. And is his name Charles? Or Chuck? Is Lilith mixing up names because of her thirst? I’m as dazed as her now xD

    I love how you described Lilith losing control. It made me so sad. And she turned into her dark form too. I hope Chuck survives somehow. 😦 Lilith you still got your head in dark form, right? Right? Right? I mean you didn’t kill Caleb. You can do it Lilith!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Who are your least favourites? I’ll pit them against each other next.

      Yeah, I gave up on my kidney mushroom CC and put it in the bin where it belongs. Frank and beans it is.

      Ah! When you introduced Eva, one of my first notes was ‘reminds me of Jessica!” Yeah, we’ll call them cousins. 😁

      DISCLAIMER: Fred’s opinions do not reflect my own. If men wanna drink out of martini glasses, half coconuts or sparkly pink unicorn tumblers it’s cool with me. Feel like I should add on my site somewhere ‘character views do not necessarily reflect the views of the writer’. On a big, pink sparkly banner.

      Well, so far we’ve had Caleb kill his main carer, Nathaniel and then April drain Sandy, so she could just be basing it on that… we’ll see. 😉 Charles Bucket is his real name, but everyone calls him Chuck. Except Lilith when she’s trying not to eat him, evidently.

      It made me sad too and it made Lilith very sad. And Chuck. Basically everyone is sad now and the kidney is going cold so just a shitty morning all round really.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Will be hard to pit my least favourites. Those would be like.. Will and Fred and Ralf or smth lol. Aw, I’m looking forward to your next project. You’ll get there! If not kidneys then liver! xD

        Woooo! Awesome. Eva’s got fam! Excited to see Jessica crack the case even more now. Hope she doesn’t die to one of the vampys lol. And stay human xD. No worries about Fred’s logic. I do that with my characters too! I’ll need a lot of disclaimers then. >.> I pointed it out to take a jab at Fred, not the writer. 🙂

        Ohh okay that makes sense! Oooh Charles/Chuck is a world of difference of a name. Chuck is definitely friendlier even though I like Charles. Reminds me of Bingley immediately though. lol.

        OOf yes. Small consolation. Didn’t eat kidney, end up being eaten instead. xD

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t know if it’s because of Ralf’s… uh, work-ethic, but Jessica was pretty impressive in this chapter! She noticed and connected all the clues (even if they were mostly thrown in her face by drunken Fred, holy cow that guy gossips), thought out the next steps and is actively following up on leads now. Who knows? If they track them well enough, Ralfica might actually stumble right into Team Runaway. Which probably won’t end well, what with them all being vampires and all. And Seth hanging around in the background. Eesh. xD

    I wonder what group Fred and Jessica’s mother are in together. An AA group? Therapy group? Improv? Amateur karaoke?

    Oh gods, Chuck T.T Lilith has a ridiculous amount of self-control. But even she has her limits it seems, and the poor guy getting that close to help while she was famished was it. I hope she can control herself well enough when parched to only take what is necessary, and not drain him dry. On the bright side, at least this stopped Chuck from eating actual human flesh. No offense to his cooking skills – I’m sure it was prepared properly but my gods I’m glad he is spared from that moral cliff dive in the future. You know, if he survives.

    Damn it, Seth. Lilith is trying so hard and it just never works out, and this time I’m absolutely blaming you. I’m adding another battery-powered crackly radio to the pit pile.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ralfica sounds like a disease. Besides, Ralf is going to hand the case file over to the SBI now and go and play golf, job done, so you probably wont see those two again.

      You’ll find out more about their group later, but I think Fred and karaoke are two things I never want to put together.

      They all have their limits but yes, bright side, no cannibalism! Although Lilith was once human so it’s still sort of cannibalism. Also, the previous time we saw Chuck trying to cook, he set his wife on fire so he’d have probably died from some horrific bacterial infection or something if he’d eaten it.

      Seth is laughing at your final comment. Make of that what you will.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jessica is going to stumble into catching up with our three idiots. Oh man, it’s a race to the bottom.

    I love how disinterested Ralf is in doing…anything.

    I’m trying to ignore that Lilith is on the verge of doing something really heartbreaking.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, so lemme see here. Jessie´s poor mom is a bit… erratic, as they say, then? Or maybe she´s actually been chatting with sixans, who knows. Either way, I´m guessing Fred had been trying to stop drinking for a while, then given up.

    Joe´s a good guy, though. He´s always been sort of okay, but he shows what he´s really made of here. Won´t tell on Caleb, will he? And he´s cool as a cucumber about it, too. M-hm. A good guy, indeed. 🙂

    Jess is really good, though, and that´s dangerous. She may have gotten though one run-in with vampires more or less unharmed, since April hated her low-iron blood and all… but. Well, I hope she gets, like, promoted or something and off this case before something nasty happens to her. Again.

    …now. I´m not sure if Lilith bases her observation about Chuck on the things we already know about only or if there´s something more to it than that. For example… we still haven´t learned about how the big vampire hunt started that led to her parent´s demise. But, if I factor in other sources… I´ve definitely heard about vampire offspring being their sire´s downfall before.

    *watches fascinated* Oh, poor Chuck. See, Lilith? That´s exactly what I meant about being a bit of a monster rather than a full on monster. Thank you for illustrating. I understand that it was dangerous to drink before, but it won´t be any safer now. A few hours overnight won´t have helped Chuck recover any significant amount and with no control whatsoever… *shakes head* Yep, it´s definitely gonna be worse now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erratic or just extra perceptive. Yeah, poor Fred, he struggles.

      We’ll learn more about the big vampire cull, eventually.

      Poor Chuck. Dined on twice in such a short space. And not even that tasty.


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