Cover & Excerpt
An Adam Thomas Mysteries novel
Drugs, forgeries, antique smuggling, and murder. Who said cooking was for sissies?
During his month-long sojourn in chef’s school in Georgetown, Texas, retired scientist and newspaper columnist known now as the Trashy Gourmet, Adam Thomas once again finds himself embroiled in the middle of a murder mystery. He is there when someone stabs Chef Elacroix with one of his customized carving knives and poisoned him. It is a crime in which Adam becomes a consultant to his friend Captain Roland Waits of the Georgetown Police Department in order to carve out clues that the police can’t.
Together with his girlfriend Kathy Rossi, Adam sifts through facts, questions fellow students, and narrowly avoids becoming one of the increasing number of corpses. Adam entangles the reader in a rapid-fire adventure, hashing through the worlds of cooking, drugs, forgeries, antique smuggling and sailing to uncover the hardboiled truth and crack the case.
Genre: MysteryPurchase links: This title is temporarily unavailable. Scroll to the bottom to find links to see David Ciambrone's other titles
Release Date: November 7, 2013
Publisher: Taliesin Publishing
Adam hung up the phone and leaned back in the leather desk chair in his den, staring out the window. No good deed goes unpunished. Next time I’ll let someone else find the body. He jerked upright as Kathy called from his kitchen. The smell of the frying pork chops caused his stomach to growl.
“Dinner’s ready. I don’t want to have to call you again, mister. This is the third time.”
He glanced at the picture of his girlfriend, Kathy Rossi, on his desk. It had been taken on their cruise to Alaska earlier in the year. Her blonde hair was wind-blown around the collar of her light blue ski jacket as she stood next to a totem pole. Her five foot four figure seemed dwarfed by the huge pole. He rose and walked into the eating nook by the kitchen and took his chair at the table.
“Sorry. Paul called. My editor at the paper wants me to write the story about the body being found at the plating shop. Like I need to be reminded again of what happened.”
Kathy placed the last serving dish with the pork chops on the table and sat. “Can’t he find someone else?”
“Sure, but I was actually there, and I found the body, or what was left of it.”
“Did the police question the owner yet? What’s his name?”
“Bill Elacroix. I think so. From what I remember, he was in the kitchen of his restaurant planning for the evening seating. There were kitchen employees there who vouched for him.”
Kathy dished out her mashed potatoes, string beans and a pork chop for herself. “Did he know who it was?”
“No. I don’t think anyone could identify the body by looking at it. What was left of it was pretty much unidentifiable. There are some fragments of clothing, but I don’t know how much. I didn’t stick around to take a good look. It was nauseating.” He helped himself to the food.
“How did the body get there?” Kathy started to cut her meat, then looked up at Adam. “Any ideas?”
“It was placed there. The person didn’t just jump in a hot acid tank for the fun of it. The sides of the tank are too high for someone to stumble in and there is nothing above it except a lift, which is high up, so he or she didn’t fall in. No, the body was put there.”
Kathy took a bite then asked, “You had a key. How did the person who did it get in?”
“You ask a lot of questions.”
“I’m a lawyer. Remember? We ask questions.”
“According to what I heard the cops discuss while I was there, the door to the shipping dock was jimmied.”
“You still taking those cooking school classes you signed up for? They weren’t canceled, were they?”
“No. They’re still on.” Adam cut his pork chop and started chewing. “And yes, I’m still going. I think I’ll stay away from the plating shop, though. I’ll just write up the procedure for doing the special passivation process and get my discount.” He swallowed his piece of meat. “This is really good. What did you do different?”
“I cooked it with some rosemary from your garden.” Kathy looked down at the seat of the chair next to her as she swallowed some food. Monte, Adam’s black cat, sat looking up at her. He put his paw on her leg. “Looks like our furry friend is on his chair and wants to sample our dinner.”
“He goes to you because you cater to him. He’s supposed to be on a diet. He should eat his diet cat food the vet recommended.”
“He’s so cute. Here ya go, Monte.” Kathy cut up some of her pork chop and put it on the wooden seat of the chair next to the cat. It was gone in a flash. He pawed her leg again. “More? You are going to get fat.”
“He is fat. You’re spoiling him. That’s why he sits there next to you.”
“Yes, he knows a soft touch when he sees one.” She gave Monte more meat and a few small pieces of potatoes. He ate them, then jumped to the floor and rubbed his furry body against her leg and marched off, with his tail held high, into the game room. Kathy looked back at Adam. “How’s the column coming?”
Adam put his fork down. “I’m not doing ‘Ask Aunt Kay’ any more for the Sun since Paul changed papers. The ‘Trashy Gourmet’ column is just starting and I have more research to do to kick it off. That includes going to cooking school.”
Kathy grinned. “Speaking of that, you can practice by cooking for us.”
“I planned on that. I can use you as my guinea pig.”
“Pig? Keep that up, sir, and you are going to have a cold winter.” She finished her dinner and started to clear the table. She looked over her shoulder as she carried some dishes to the sink. “Pig, huh?”
Adam gave her a forlorn look. “Just a figure of speech.”
She scrunched up her nose and laughed. “You just worry about my figure. Speaking of figures, when are you going back to the gym?”
“Tomorrow morning. You staying tonight?”
“No, sorry. I have an early court time in the morning and need my sleep. Anyway, all the materials I need for court are at home.”
“You’re up early. I’ll get you your breakfast, you fat fur ball.” As the cat looked on, Adam poured dry cat food into Monte’s dish, gave him fresh water, and then looked to make sure the coffee pot had gone on with the timer. “Good. The coffee’s ready.” Monte looked up at him, and then continued to eat.
While he ate breakfast, he made a list of things he needed to do for the day. When Adam finished, he cleaned the kitchen. He went back to the table to pick up the yellow pad when he spotted Monte sitting next to the tablet like he was reading it. “Monte! Get down off the table.” The cat stretched, then scampered off to the floor and strolled into the game room. Adam tore off the page with his notes. Retrieving his keys, wallet and towel, he started for the garage and the gym at the Georgetown Recreation Center.
After an hour workout he returned home, showered and changed. He kept thinking about the person he saw duck between the buildings at the plating shop. Was it a man or woman? With the jacket and baseball hat pulled down and the angle, he couldn’t tell. Maybe he should have told the police. Maybe it was just an onlooker who decided to go when he looked that way. Maybe he was thinking too much. He shook the thought from his head as he entered his den. Adam called his voice mail. There was a message from Bill Elacroix.
“Adam. Can you come by the restaurant about two this afternoon? I’d like to go over some of the materials for the class with you and the other students and then talk about your special process for the plating shop. I’d like to talk to someone who knows about these things.”
Adam grabbed his lists of to-dos and supplies he would need for his cooking class, and headed for the garage. He took the tan Honda van and drove to the Round Rock Outlet Mall to shop for the special knives and other paraphernalia he’d need.
After shopping and a quick lunch, he drove to Bill Elacroix’s restaurant in Georgetown, Gabriel’s. He parked in the sheriff’s personnel parking lot. He figured no one would mess with a car there. After locking the vehicle and grabbing his notebook and supplies, he strolled to the restaurant on Austin Ave.
The teaching school had a separate kitchen, apart from the main one used by the restaurant. When Adam arrived, there were five other people standing around holding notebooks like his. Near the stainless steel refrigerator stood three women. Two men sat on stools next to the main counter where food preparation was demonstrated. They all glanced at him when he entered, but no one said anything. Adam took up a stool with the men and introduced himself. The smells, of food being prepared and spices in the regular restaurant kitchen, wafted in.
The young man next to him with short blond hair shook hands. “I’m Steve Wooley. I’m here to earn credits toward my certificate as a chef at the Austin Culinary Institute.”
The second man smiled, “Hi, I’m John Gordon. I’m just interested in cooking and now that I’m a semi-retired insurance agent, I can indulge my new hobby.”
Adam introduced himself, explaining he wanted to advance his cooking hobby. The door opened and Bill Elacroix entered, followed by another man, a few years younger than Elacroix. He strolled to the center of the kitchen and motioned for the women to take seats with the men. The younger fellow stood to the side.
Bill straightened his black striped apron on his five foot eight muscular body. His thick, black wavy hair looked like it was styled in Hollywood. He flashed his electric green eyes at the women and bestowed a crooked smile on the men. “Good afternoon. I am Bill Elacroix, your instructor for this cooking class and owner of Gabriel’s.” He pointed to the young man standing near him. “This is my sous chef, Mark. I’d like to take some time today to get to know each of you a little, go over the class materials and answer any questions before we get started tomorrow.” He nodded toward a tall brunette. “Nice to see you again, Margie.” He smiled at Adam.
The woman smiled and nodded. Elacroix talked briefly with everyone, and then went over the subjects in the class outline. Elacroix described the types of pans they would use, the fact that a good chef can’t have too many gadgets and displayed his personal knives. He stressed the need for a set of really good knives and that every chef had his or her own. “Let’s take a short break and then I’ll have Mark give you a tour of the main restaurant.”
The other two men went outside. John pointed out one of the women he thought was attractive as he left. Adam stayed in his seat going over some notes he’d taken when the woman John pointed out came up to him.
“Hi, I’m DiAnna.” She hopped onto the stool next to him. “Why are you taking this class?”
“I am interested in cooking.” Adam looked her over. Cute, short, great figure, blonde with an oval face and great smile, fit and a nice personality. He swallowed. Kathy wouldn’t like me being around her. He noticed the ring on her left hand. “I like to cook and figured this would help me out in the future. How come you’re here?”
“I like to cook, too. My husband thinks this is a waste of time and I cook well enough now. But I like to learn.”
“Yeah, we men can be hardheaded like that sometimes.”
“Did you hear about what happened yesterday at the plating company down the street? Doesn’t Mr. Elacroix own it?”
“Yes, he owns it. And I was there. Matter of fact, I found the body.”
DiAnna’s hand flew to her mouth. “You did? How awful. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. It was a shock finding it in the acid tank. The police and the medical examiner had a worse job. They had to get it—or what was left of it—out.” He glanced up as Margie walked out the door toward the main kitchen. “I wonder where she’s going?”
“Oh, didn’t you know? I heard that she has been in these cooking classes before.”
“That could be why he acknowledged her earlier.” Adam closed his notebook. “What’s her name again?”
“Margie, Margie something or other.” DiAnna shook her head. “She has an attitude and definitely doesn’t like me or the other lady.”
“I said I thought Mr. Elacroix was cute.”
“Oh. And the other woman?”
“Elaine. I think she’s having an affair with either the sous chef or Mr. Elacroix. That and she’s younger than Margie and…well, you know.”
Adam tilted his head and frowned. “How did you ascertain all that in such a short time?”
“I got here early and was just milling around, and heard Margie telling Elaine that ‘he’ was a pig and was going to dump her for someone else.”
“She called Mr. Elacroix a pig? I didn’t see that attitude expressed here a short time ago.”
“Him or Mark. She raised her voice, so I assume she was angry or very upset with Elaine and her affair with one of them. Would you like some coffee?”
“Huh? Oh, sure, just sugar, please,” Adam said as DiAnna jumped up and headed for the large silver coffee maker.
DiAnna looked at the small note attached to the machine and turned to Adam. “Looks like it’s broken. It says there is fresh coffee in the hall. Will you go with me?”
“Yeah.” He hopped off the stool and went with DiAnna into the hall. They spotted a silver coffee service on a small wooden table covered with a white cloth down the hallway toward what appeared to be a storeroom. They walked to it and started to get their coffee when DiAnna dropped her cup and screamed.
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