There may be some question as to why the Piemaker, the Dead Girl, the Detective Emerson Cod and Olive Snook were participating at a comfort food convention in England.
The reason was simple, it was Olive’s idea. Olive had mapped an entire campaign composed of persistent conversation, pamphlets, prestige and convincing Chuck to ask Ned.
"I think the Pie Hole should participate in the Spectacular-Spectacular Miracular-Vernacular Comfort Food Oracular convention in Jolly Old England." Chuck bobbed on her gogo shod feet and brightly nodded her gogo hatted head.
When Chuck said jolly, Ned imagined a jolly old man with a bowl full of jelly and sparklers.
The reason for this was simple.
When Ned had been at the Longborough School for Boys for three months, five days, eleven hours and fifty nine minutes, he'd discovered a black and white television in the left attic. Though the television’s reception was poor, its reception with Ned was excellent. When he could sneak away to its electronic company, he had watched many an hour of PBS. One endless pledge drive had featured a jolly old jelly eating Englishman who waved sparklers and explained why Ned should contribute in between morsels of television. Sadly like many things in Ned‘s life, just as that pledge drive was at an end and the prospect of the final episode of “Blake’s 7” lay before him, the old television left him by way dying and no amount of slapping or tapping by Ned could bring it back.
So while his head said that he no desire to go anywhere, his inability to say no to Chuck coupled, (and how much did he long for coupling) with his long held affection for British accents, meant that he said, "Yes." He smiled. He glowed from within in a sense of sheer and utter panic.
That Olive came with them to jolly old England was to be expected. It had been her idea. That Emerson Cod came with them was not expected, as the prospect of leaving prospective clients was as dire as a Biblical plague to the knit totting gumshoe.
He said only, "There comes a time in every detective's life when he has to make a consultation." He clutched a copy of "Lil’ Gumshoe" under his arm as he said it.
Olive had the vague impression that he wanted to pray to a saint. Chuck thought he wanted to ask for a second opinion about his book with an overseas publishing potentate. Ned thought he wanted to eat meat pie, which as Ned was a vegetarian for reasons of reanimate meat, Ned avoided making as well he could, which was very well indeed.
There was some validity to each of their impressions and thoughts.
The reason for Emerson’s accompaniment had its roots in the year 1976 and in the place New York. Young Emerson, aged fifteen years, four months, three days, and nine minutes, had discovered the color purple and had taken to wearing suits that would have made his hero Shaft proud. Emerson Cod and his mother, Calista Cod, were engaged on a case that young Emerson knew would go down in history as “The Badass Adventure of Cod and Cod in New York.” For you see, the son of Irene Adler, the star of many a stage, had been kidnapped by an international villain of mystery, which was an adventure that was very badass indeed.
As Adler’s stems were long, her pipes pure, and teenage hormones rampant in Emerson’s veins, Emerson engaged in a magnificent crush on the Adler, which quite addled his mind. This was to make an impression on young Emerson, as was the hand of his mother on the back of his head (“Snap out of it!”), which quite jostled his purple hat with the purple feather.
Also to make an impression was the arrival of the Consulting Detective, which could only be described as Extremely Badass. As Calista Cod engaged in hot pursuit, the Consulting Detective jumped down from the top of a dumpster where he’d been examining the by-products of certain species of rats and took the heat-bearing suspect down with a wicked right jab of a riding crop, which was the Consulting Detective‘s weapon of choice. (“Wrong!”)
The Cods’ weapon of choice was hot lead wrapped in warm wool, but nevertheless the Consulting Detective was brilliant, badass and British.
The Consulting Detective’s ability to instantly know the truth of a person impressed even Calista Cod, (“That and two cents will get you nothing. We’re not sharing the fee for rescuing the rich kid.”) as did the rescue of the Adler’s son, which involved several extremely dangerous chases down back alleys, a wicked interrogation in a Dim Sum parlor of repute, and Emerson making a perilous crawl through a heating duct where it is sad to report, he lost a purple patent shoe.
Although, what really left an impression was the room full of gold underneath the Bank of New York, (“Sweet solid gold Jesus,” which to avoid confusion was said by both Cods) the theft of which they prevented and was in some extremely obscure and overly complicated way related to the kidnapping of the Adler’s son.
Soon their share of the bank reward money in hand, (“Since we were the ones who put you onto this case, we should get a share of the reward.”) as well as their fee for the rescue of the Adler’s son. Sadly - for Emerson at least - the son was more interested in Emerson than the mother, who was very married to her attorney. A fact of the case that everyone had ignored up until that point.
To Emerson’s astonishment, his own mother held out her hand to the Consulting Detective. (“It’s been real education watching your work.”) Since her hand was holding a cheap cigar, the Consulting Detective took it, identified the tobacco (“Blue River Crooks, Virginia tobacco, mass produced in Crook de Crooks, Pennsylvania”) and the year it was grown (“1975”). The Consulting Detective then reached into his black wool coat and pulled out two cigars that he’d been given by a client (“Given the layering of cigar smoke in your hair follicles, these will be preferable.”) and which he handed to Calista and her son. At a nod from his mother, and after a certain amount of adult ritual, that was how Emerson Cod’s first cigar was a Hecho en Cuba, Totalmente a mano Gloria Cubana cigar. This made an impression.
The final impression, as the Consulting Detective left before the smoke had finished smoking, was from Emerson’s partner, best friend, and mother, who pulled out her knitting needles and expressed her opinion of the Consulting Detective. (“Emmy, there goes a man who needs a hobby. Corpses don’t keep a body warm at night.”)
Emerson Cod had a hobby and an array of knitted throws, scarves and sweaters that kept him very warm. What he did not have was his daughter. However, he had a plan to publish a pop-up book that could serve as a map for a child to find the father who missed her. Before it could be published, he dearly wanted a (free) consultation and the Consulting Detective had answered his last three emails with, “Boring,” and “Not a case,” and “It is vital that you email me the type of shampoo that she used.” This last response Emerson thought might have been sent in error, but he had sent the relevant information.
And so it was that while the Consulting Detective was no saint, Emerson dearly wanted to consult with him, and in the end there was meat pie, but not one that Emerson wanted to eat.
Two days, five hours and twenty-two minutes after their arrival in England, Mr. Pender Pendergast, the organizer of the Spectacular-Spectacular Miracular-Vernacular Comfort Food Oracular, was found poisoned, bludgeoned, stabbed and then baked in a pie with four and twenty blackbirds.
Dead Girl, otherwise known as lonely tourist Charlotte Charles, clapped her hands to her face in a way that was both sad and delighted. Olive was less than delighted. Ned was even less delighted as Olive did not know his secret and there could be no questioning of the unfortunate dead man while Olive stood next to him with her hands clutched to her chest.
This required fast thinking on the part of Detective Emerson Cod, who with a wide smile not unlike that of a shark, if a shark wore a purple and pink paisley silk shirt, said, "Itty Bitty."
Olive perked up, because she loved it when she was Itty Bitty. "Yes."
Emerson continued, "Since this case clearly implicates you and your boss in homicidal pie making, we should do some sleuthing. I’ll look over the body for clues. You should get out there in the crowd and find out what the witnesses saw and when they saw it."
Olive was torn by the sense that she was once again being shunted aside from the central secret that Ned concealed and delight that she had been asked to participate in an investigation. Delight and desire to grill suspects won out. She clapped her hands and said, "I'll wring the witnesses like a dish rag." She scampered off to do just that.
She soon met with Mrs. Minty Marchmont, who was interrogating a chicken into a pan along with some lightly defenestrated carrots and disturbing chestnuts in oil until queasy and disappointed.
Minty smiled at Olive. "I love your accent. It’s so exotic." She perished some peas. "Since marrying my husband," she held up her hand and waggled the finger with a wedding ring, "I've met so many exotic people from so many exotic places. Me, the daughter of the landlord of the Marquis of Queensbury in Tilegate Road, Reading. And here I am, talking to someone from Papen County, America."
The husband in question, the Honorable Simon Marchmont, clutched a glass of 2002 Rubicon. "Because a day so dire that we are participating in a comfort food convention deserves a wine as dark and deliciously sinful as the silken private parts of an Argentinean Tango instructor as he rocks against you on a hot summer night." He threw back his wine and poured himself some more from the bottle clutched in his hand. “At least Pender Pendgast has met his timely end.”
Olive said, "So, you weren’t close to the late Mr. Pendergast.” She grinned up at him like a shark, if a shark wore a lime green dress and six inch green heels.
The Hon. Simon Marchmont said, “Close! Ha!”
Minty leaned over and said, “He would insist on calling the Quill and Tassel at Bray’s, that’s our award winning restaurant, signature Bread And Butter Pudding with fennel shavings, bread n’ butter pudding.”
The Hon. Simon Marchmont snarled, “He never even mentioned the fennel. What kind of foodie is that. He should have been drown in a river years ago!” He waved a hand in the air, which astonishingly managed to gesticulate both wildly and forcefully without spilling a drop of wine.
Minty eyed her husband. “It did make the Mr. ever so cross.” She loudly whispered, “He’s been drinking bottles of Rubicon ever since we got here.”
The Hon. Simon Marchmont sneered. “At one hundred and twenty-five pounds a bottle it’s cheap and sinful and that’s what a place like this calls for.” He glared at the ceiling. “Florescent lights. Florescent! And industrial carpet!”
“Yes, dear,” said Minty, who briskly embarrassed some turnips. Olive sighed, because if her first suspect had been here in the open drinking all afternoon, which the stack of empty bottles behind him seemed to confirm, it would have been difficult for him to have baked Mr. Pender Pendergast into a pie, or for that matter have walked in a straight line.
Meanwhile, of his death, all that Mr. Pender Pendergast had to say on the subject was this, "This a delicious pie." On which words, he stuffed some of the crust surrounding him into his mouth. "If I'm not mistaken, this is rendered pork lard from pigs raised in Dartmoor." Mr. Pender Pendergast crunched happily.
"Uh," said Ned, his eyes firmly on his watch.
"Look fool," Emerson cut to the chase, "I mostly care about your sorry ass in that your death implicates my associates and by association me, and I’ve got other things to be doing. So cut with the crust and tell us who baked you up."
Sadly, the fact was that Mr. Pender Pendergast had no idea who had done him in and baked him up. Having been done in in so many ways and as far as he knew hadn't an enemy in the world.
He died chewing, which would have made him happy. "At least he re-died happy," said Chuck. At which point, the local police arrived at the scene of the crime.
The local police, in the form of the Detective Inspector, took a dim view of the Piemaker in that he was a Piemaker and that Pender Pendergast had been baked in a pie.
Emerson had gotten so far as lodging his, "Aw, Hell No!” protest, when the Consulting Detective swept in looking precisely as he had in 1976, which was unlikely in the extreme, but there it was.
Since he was still brilliant, presumably still badass and definitely still British, the Consulting Detective solved the whodunit in three shakes of a goat's tail and identified the three murderers. For this was a murder so thoroughly complete that it required three murderers to complete it. In the form of the King of Diamond Chestnuts, King Butcher, the Knave of Clubs Cookies, Knave Baker, and the Queen of Strawberry Heart-tarts, Desdemona Filigree Queen Candlestickmaker.
As a follow up, the Consulting Detective threw a thoroughly baked blackbird at Ned. Given that it was quickly restored to life, which made the Consulting Detective's companion, the Good Doctor, exclaim, "Extraordinary!" Ned’s nerves were simultaneously shot with unspeakable dread and filled with the emotional glee that fondly remembered PBS engendered in him at the title “The Doctor” good or otherwise.
Sadly in the ensuing melee with the to-be-apprehended and apprehensive murderers, nuts were thrown, cookies crumbled, tarts flung and the murderers fled out the back door with the Detective Inspector in pursuit.
The Consulting Detective smiled at the lot of them coolly, nodded to Emerson, “Gumshoe,” and swept out like a hurricane of detection.
Detective Emerson Cod straightened his knit sweater and chased after the Consulting Detective. The “Lil’ Gumshoe” in a knit bag over his shoulder.
Olive galloped close behind, because the hand that she wanted was the truth, and even across a convention center, she could see that the Consulting Detective dealt hands of truth in spades or possibly aces. Maybe a royal flush. Olive wasn’t sure of her metaphor. She was sure that this Itty Bitty wasn’t going to be left behind.
Ned didn’t follow as the Piemaker had no desire to be anywhere near the man who threw a dead blackbird at him. And although this was a case that involved a corpse baked into a pie, Chuck stayed with him with only a single sigh. Also, as she reflected, someone else was sure to die soon.
Instead of hot pursuit, Ned rolled a cool piecrust, while Chuck got them both plates of Architect’s Fish and Chips made by their new friend Minty Marchmont, who loved both their accents and wanted to hear all about Couer d'Couers. The Hon. Simon Marchmont had finally given in to the results of drinking five bottles of 2002 Rubicon, and while not dead, on the morrow would wish he were for he’d still be in a place with fluorescent lighting and industrial carpeting.
Ned was in the midst of a forward push of his rolling pin when a very pretty girl with dark curling hair brushed by him while texting. Behind her, gamboled a gamboling goat on a leash. The goat nibbled at Ned and gamboled no more. Chuck marveled into her Architect’s fish and chips, which were quite good and had a North African sort of influence.
Minty got a glint in her eye. “My mother-in-law, the late Lady Marchmont had a very interesting recipe from the 1700s for disambiguated goat.” She put her hands on her hips. “I’ll get my knives.” She trotted out of the booth.
The girl didn’t look up from her phone. “There’s no need. Someone will collect the goat.” What she did not add was that it was an extremely old goat and bound to be tough. Even if it was thoroughly disambiguated, which it soon would be in a very post mortem sort of way.
After that, it could be said with some accuracy that the Piemaker was very nervous. "I'm very nervous." Ned worried at the cuff of his sleeve even as his gastro-intestinal system worried at the lining of his stomach. He worried through all the rest of the day and through the making of three separate pies and was even then worrying his way back to their hotel room.
Charlotte bounced along the busy road London road down which cars were indeed driving the “wrong” way. "There’s nothing to be nervous about. Just because the Consulting Detective threw a blackbird at you, which then came back to life in front of everyone, Emerson and Olive have disappeared in pursuit of murders, and a goat dropped dead when you touched it. Pish and tosh, we’re in jolly old England." Her smile strongly implied that she was using those words because she was in England and was feeling rather jolly herself, which was her general reaction to corpses. Being not-dead herself, she was a bit morbid.
Ned briefly allowed himself to be charmed by Charlotte Charles’ use of the words pish and tosh and jolly but could not overcome the sense that he was being watched.
He was being watched.
The Indispensable Auditor pressed down with his fork and tested the firmness of a strawberry in his strawberry pie, which the Piemaker had made just that morning. The taste of it lingered on his tongue like several poetic things metaphorically encompassing all that was good in this world and the next. Given that the pie had been exposed to a rather virulent strain of botrytis fruit rot, the fact that the fruit was as a fresh as another metaphor was a delightful clue.
He was, all evidence and rumor to the contrary, fond of delight. Less so of Delirium. That was his younger brother's province, which was why he was well pleased with his pie.
He put aside his plate and said, "I would like to offer you a job."
Ned, his key card in his hand, and his mouth open as he stood in the doorway to his hotel room, said, "What? Who are you and how did you get in here and there's no reason to be offering me jobs, because I'm a simple Piemaker and I have nothing to hide. Except my secret recipes, which I got out of a book. So they aren't secret and I have no secrets and,"
Charlotte Charles whisked around him, without touching him at all. "Hello." Her eyes widened. "Are you a secret spymaster come to menace us over mysterious and enigmatic secrets having to do with this being jolly old England."
The Indispensable Auditor, who might have been the Secret Spymaster except that information was classified, flickered his gaze over them and possibly the rest of the planet besides. "I was thinking a simple monthly annuity to be paid in recompense for some extremely simple tasks."
Chuck clapped her hands. "Recompense. He said recompense." She turned to Ned. "We could become spies and get licenses to kill, which would very convenient if you think about it." She turned to the Indispensable Auditor. "Can you give out licenses to kill?"
The Indispensable Auditor, who did not generally bother with the minutia of things like licenses as he had clerks to handle paperwork, said, "Chuck, if I may call you Chuck, if I could and did, I would hardly discuss it so early in our acquaintance." He smiled and tapped the empty plate with an index finger. "Now then, this is excellent pie."
Ned clenched his hands, for as a Piemaker by trade and an excellent one at that, he was naturally attuned to comments that didn’t actually refer to pie. "That’s what I am. A Piemaker. I make pie with fruit, which I don't have to kill with a license, because it's fruit and that doesn't take a license, unless that requires a license in England." Ned knew that he did not need a license to bake. He had watched multiple seasons of East Enders.
While Chuck said, “And by excellent pie, do you mean certain spy adventures in which we rappel up and down the walls of certain monasteries that are actually the headquarters of megalomaniacal geniuses that are intent on world domination?” She leaned forward on her shoes and waved her hands in the international sign for megalomaniacal genius.
“No, I mean it’s excellent pie. Although, a megalomaniacal genius or two may come into matters later, but first I think we should stick to pie.” He smiled at them both. He liked pie. Although, these days, he indulged less than he had in his younger years. Still, he swiped a faint swirl of strawberries with his little finger and indulged in a last taste. He wrote several things in a small notebook from his inside pocket. He wrote in a code of his own devising based on cuneiform, a jazz rhythm by Brubeck, the weight of six pence, and the pattern in which a handful of rye from his pocket had fallen to the ground on December 31st, 1899. He left without touching either Chuck or Ned. Although, he did wink one eye as he went.
Ned remained nervous.
Meanwhile, Olive was fast in pursuit of the truth.
They were also being shot at. This was unexpected, given the purported lack of guns in England, and yet it seemed as if everyone but the Americans was packing, for this was not the first but the fifth exchange of gunfire in their pursuit of Butcher, Baker and Candlestickmaker.
In addition, Emerson had been propositioned by three separate foreign potentates (one lascivious and two larcenous), had an blue carbuncle the size of his baby's fist placed in his coat pocket, which he quite liked, and jumped over close placed rooftops, which he did not like. The Consulting Detective was in ridiculously good shape and his idea of a case involved a great deal of running around. Emerson considered that he might want to exercise more.
Itty Bitty kept pace. Finally as Olive crouched behind a tree in Dartmoor Park in Chislehurst, with Emerson conveniently trapped behind a different tree, she had the opportunity to ask the burning question that had been ever on her mind. “Consulting Detective, I’ve got a need for some consultation. I can tell that you’re in the know, and I’ve got to know. What’s the what with the Piemaker?”
The Consulting Detective from behind his own tree gave her a considering look.
The Good Doctor spoke first. “Is this really how you want to know and who you want to tell it?” He glanced at the Consulting Detective and fired another shot.
This was not how Olive Snook wanted to know and who she wanted to tell her. But once of the tide of the Consulting Detective’s truth was started, like the sea it could not be stopped.
It could, however, be sung over.
Olive opened her mouth and let her song (or technically Billy Joel’s song) about “Honesty” pour out of her. She sang, “If you search for tenderness, It isn't hard to find, You can have the love you need to live, But if you look for truthfulness, You might just as well be blind, It always seems to be so hard to give,” and quite forgetting that she was in the middle of a heated exchange of bullets, spread her arms wide and stepped away from the tree.
Fortunately, Candlestickmaker was an avid music lover and put down her highly-unexpected-in-England gun, which was how she was apprehended.
Much to the chagrin of the Consulting Detective, no one would listen to him until Olive had finished singing. Still, he murmured some comments about the blackbird feathers on Candlestickmaker’s shoes, which were highly relevant, but hard to hear over the singing.
Desdemona Filligree Queen Candlestickmaker clapped.
The Good Doctor opened his mouth to say something, but it was time for more running. Emerson muttered, “This is not how I like to do my detecting,” but pushed himself to follow.
As they crept through Butcher King‘s Counting House, Olive whispered, “It’s been an honor to have been included.”
The Good Doctor smiled and moved a little closer behind the stack of counted crates. “After we’re done, would you be interested in going out for a pint?”
Olive blinked with joy, because she very much would and then she blinked with “Owe,” because the Consulting Detective had tackled her. Purely to save her from being hit by King Baker’s poisoned dart.
Olive looked up at the Consulting Detective. “Owe.” and then, “Oh! Oh, I understand.” She apologized to the Good Doctor, because given how she felt about the Piemaker, she couldn’t possibly get involved in another triangle. “Triangle is my least favorite instrument.”
In the end, the villains were safely and finally ensconced in prison, and Emerson explained about “Lil’ Gumshoe”.
The Consulting Detective said, “I fail to see the relevance of a book.”
The Good Doctor sighed. “He’ll look over the book.” He straightened his knit sweater. “And he’s taking us all out for a pint.”
The Consulting Detective grinned. “There is a pub around the corner. The Hanged Man. I kept the owner’s sister’s boyfriend’s best friend’s cousin from the noose.” They went to the Hanged Man and had free pints. The Consulting Detective turned the pages of “Lil’ Gumshoe” and said, “Juvenile, but not boring.” He made five notes on five pages that were clarifying in the extreme.
The Good Doctor looked around his shoulder, because he certainly couldn’t have looked over it. Much as he had at when they were looking at the sad noseless corpse of Jennifer Wren, (this occurred between potentate proposition one and two, but has been elided over due to time constraints) which was an image in his head that Emerson could have done without, because he‘d been thinking about eating a slice of comfort meat pie.
The Good Doctor made some suggestions for improving things like narrative flow and characterization. The Good Doctor had a small smile that turned down on itself. “I’ve been doing some writing myself lately. Hope it helps.”
Emerson was sure that it would. Any book that the Consulting Detective considered not boring could do exactly what Emerson wanted, which was something he’d gladly trade two baby-fisted carbuncles to get.
Not that he returned the carbuncle, for which he knitted a special carbuncle pouch.
On their return back across the pond, which was not so much a pond as an ocean, Emerson stored the carbuncle in its knitted pouch in his desk along with the picture of The Girl and an advanced copy of “Lil’ Gumshoe”, which incorporated the Consulting Detective and the Good Doctor’s suggested changes.
Then it was just a matter of waiting.
For every ending is another beginning.
Much like this one.
This week at the Pie Hole, on special…
Fresh fruit Oalolliberry with French Vanilla, and
Granny Smith apple with Cheddar
Lemon Tartlet with triple cream
Plum and Jasmine with crème fraiche
This week from the Posh Nosh grange Aged Disambiguated Goat with Houndnuts from Baskerville with Basil Aioli.