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An Unhappy Customer

This week's prompt came from a contest run over the weekend, by an Australian site. The initial challenge was 500 words in 55 hours for a $500 prize. We were given six pairs of adjectives to include. I added the option of 1000 words by Friday noonish, for no prize. I chose the latter, and did a detective story. My six pairs are in bold. 928 words.

An Unhappy Customer

Detective Dubois peered into the sink full of cold and greasy water. There was a shiny, silver glint below the surface. Might be more than just a dirty old pot. He rolled up a sleeve, reached in and pulled out a teapot. Heavy, expensive looking, except for the large dent in one side. Which seemed to match the dent in the dead chef’s head.

Dubois had dropped in to this tiny little restaurant for lunch, attracted by the promise of an authentic English High Tea. It had sounded interesting, in spite of the owner’s name being Chan and the fake flowers in the window boxes. The inside was more of a mock tea room, with poorly done landscape reproductions on the walls, doilies at each place setting, and a sideboard covered with silver plates and dishes. He’d started with a very nice tea, sweet and pungent, but the rest of the meal had been downhill, with small portions that were overcooked and over-decorated. All served by a very bored waitress. The only other patron seemed very disappointed with his own food, complaining to the obsequious owner in detail about each specific problem with his meal. When the chef appeared, a skinny young black youth, the patron had been scathing in his criticism, repeating his litany of faults.

"Tyrone, when will you learn to cook, you miserable creature," he said. "Do you need to just go back where you came from? I’ve told you how to prepare this, now I must insist you redo it and bring me what I deserve."

“You don’t deserve crap, you fat turd,” had been the response of the chef.

In truth, Nigel was a large man, but Tyrone had not helped matters.

Chan, the owner, had then appeared and while seeming to side with the chef, still requested the meal be redone properly.

With that, Tyrone headed back to the kitchen and Nigel and Chan both headed down the back corridor, marked “Office” and “WC”.

“I’ll likely puke up what I’ve eaten so far,” Nigel announce in leaving.

Dubois sighed. Such drama. The waitress smiled at him. "Sorry sir," she said. "He’s like this every time, yet keeps coming back. Tyrone is really trying, he doesn’t deserve that abuse. How was your food?"

"Sorry to say, not that great," said Dubois. "But it’s not your fault, okay? Let me see the dessert menu."

He picked something safe, ice cream, and sat back as she disappeared into the kitchen.

There was a shrill, piercing scream, and Charlotte was back, her face pale. She waved her hand behind her. "He’s dead. There’s blood all over."

"Who?" said Dubois. "Where?"

"In here," she said, rushing back into the kitchen.

By the time he got back there, she’d been joined by both the owner and Nigel. All had managed to step in the pool of blood by Tyrone’s head and were already accusing each other.

"Stop," said Dubois. "All of you, quiet. And stand over by the wall." He needed them where he could see them all. He called the crime in on his radio, then turned his attention to the crime scene. It looked like Tyrone had been hit with something blunt, but there was no obvious weapon that he could see.

Until he found the teapot.

"I knew it," said the owner, pointing at Nigel. "You hated him and his cooking, so decided to bash him."

"With a silver teapot? Don’t be silly."

Dubois pulled out his scratched and weather-worn notebook. "Nigel. Where were you when this happened?"

"I was in the toilets, with a stomach cramp from his food."

Dubois licked an ink-stained finger, turned a page, and started to write, "Okay, and Chan, you were ...?"

"In my office, on a conference call."

"Hmm. And you, miss?" He peered at her nameplate. "Charlotte?"

"Out with you, taking your order," she said. "Tyrone was my friend, I’d never hurt him. We were even going to start dating."

Chan laughed. "You? You weren’t good enough for him."

Dubois moved in before Charlotte could attack Chan. "Calm down, everyone."

"You always seemed to side with him," said Nigel. "Was he more than just an employee to you?"

Chan scoffed.

"At any rate," said Nigel, "he had potential, but he needed criticism, not praise. Maybe, if he’d worked at it, you’d even start getting tour buses back again."

"Yeah, and start moving some of that silver crap," said Charlotte. "So Tyrone could unload more on you. Oops."

She put her hand to her mouth. This time it was Chan that needed to be restrained.

"Shut up you tramp, you got your cut too. And the tourists didn’t know any better, they thought it was a great deal to bring home some real English tea service.

"Interesting," said Nigel. He held up a badge for Dubois. "Inspector Nigel Heathbottom III. I hesitated to speak up earlier, as you seemed to be doing quite well. We suspected Chan was fencing stolen goods for Tyrone, selling them to unsuspecting tourists. The locals of course never came in here, or else they would have seen their own things."

"It’s a frame up," said Chan. He dashed to the door, only to run into the arms of the arriving police.

Nigel smiled. "At least I won’t have to eat here anymore. Poor Tyrone was trying, but Chan didn’t care. And poor Charlotte, well, blinded by love. Dubois, after we finish up here, may I suggest a nearby pub for some real English food, and a cold pint?"


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Joyce Juzwik

I really enjoyed this. First of all, great use of the prompts. This was a tough list to work into a story, but you worked them all in very well. Second, but actually even more important, is the story. I like detective stories, and Detective Dubois is a great character. What made this even more interesting is that there was an undercover Inspector in the middle of it. Nicely crafted mystery with a perfect ending. I can picture Dubois and Nigel chatting about their respective cases over some lunch and a cool one.

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