Read The Grilling Season Online

Authors: Diane Mott Davidson

The Grilling Season

Five-Star Praise for the
Nationally Bestselling Mysteries
of Diane Mott Davidson

“The Julia Child of mystery writers.”

—Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph

“Mouthwatering.”


The Denver Post

“Delicious … sure to satisfy!”

—Sue Grafton

“If devouring Diane Mott Davidson’s newest whodunit in a single sitting is any reliable indicator, then this was a delicious hit.”


Los Angeles Times

“You don’t have to be a cook or a mystery fan to love Diane Mott Davidson’s books. But if you’re either—her tempting recipes and elaborate plots add up to a literary feast!”


The San Diego Union-Tribune

“Mixes recipes and mayhem to perfection.”

—Sunday Denver Post

“Davidson is one of the few authors who has been able to seamlessly stir in culinary scenes without losing the focus of the mystery … [she] has made the culinary mystery more than just a passing phase.”


Sun-Sentinel
, Fort Lauderdale

“Goldy and her collection of friends and family continue to mix up dandy mysteries and add tempting recipes to the readers’ cookbooks at the same time.”—
The Dallas Morning News


The Dallas Morning News

Also by
Diane Mott Davidson

Catering to Nobody
Dying for Chocolate
The Cereal Murders
The Last Suppers
Killer Pancake
The Main Corpse
Prime Cut
Tough Cookie
Sticks & Scones
Chopping Spree
Available from
Bantam Books

S
TANLEY
C
UP
V
ICTORY
C
ELEBRATION
Saturday, August 2
Featuring

SOUTH OF THE BORDER APPETIZERS

Layered Dip of guacamole, refried bean puree, sour cream, cubed fresh tomatoes, and Cheddar cheese Tortilla Chips Crudités: cauliflower, carrot, celery, cucumber, cherry tomatoes Mexican Eggrolls

ENTREE

Goalie’s Grilled Tuna
Grilled Slapshot Salad
Mediterranean Orzo Salad
Vietnamese Slaw
Hockey Puck Biscuits, Potato Rolls

DESSERT

Stanley Cupcakes surrounding Rink Cake
Mexican Beers, Chablis, Coffee

To Sergeant Richard Millsapps
Investigator, teacher, friend

T
he author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of the following people: Jim, Jeff, J.Z., and Joe Davidson; Kate Burke Miciak, a superb, brilliant editor; Sandra Dijkstra, a wonderfully encouraging agent; Susan Corcoran, an unflagging publicist; Lee Karr and the group that assembles at her home; Connie Leonard, an extraordinary pastry chef, and John William Schenk, an inspired and inspiring chef and caterer; J. William’s Cafe, Bergen Park, Colorado; Katharine Goodwin Saideman, for multiple careful readings of the manuscript; Mark D. Wittry, M.D., Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, St. Louis University Health Sciences Center; Richard L. Staller, D.O., Elk Ridge Family Physicians; Meg Kendal and Alan Rapaport, M.D., Denver-Evergreen Ob-Gyn; Dana Held, Cigna Healthcare of Colorado; Mary Frazee, an unparalleled herbalist of Health-Wealth, Pine, Colorado; the Reverend Constance Delzell; Julie Wallin Kaewert; Dorsey Moore; Carol Devine Rusley; Triena Harper, assistant deputy coroner, Jefferson County; Thorenia West; Sergeant Jerry Warren, and as ever, for patience and insights, Sergeant Richard Millsapps of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, Golden, Colorado.

Revenge is a dish best eaten cold.


PROVERB

Chapter 1

G
etting revenge can kill you. If you want real revenge, you have to be willing to pay. Life is not like the movies.

Unfortunately.

With these happy thoughts, I measured out fudge cake batter into cupcake liners and slid the pan into the oven. I set the timer and reminded myself for the thousandth time that I’d let go of the need for revenge. I wasn’t a hot-blooded teenager. I was a thirty-three-year-old caterer with a business to run and work to do. Half-past six on a cool August morning? What I needed was
coffee.

You never let go of the thirst for revenge.

Yeah, well. Maybe hearing other people’s sad stories sparked thoughts of my own. Or in this case I’d heard one unhappy story, one story needing justice. But what could I do for a client in emotional pain? I’d agreed to cater her hockey party. A nurse had told my client Patricia McCracken that hosting this sports celebration would distract her from her problems. But whenever we discussed the menu, Patricia didn’t want to talk about
vittles;
she wanted to
talk about
vindication.
And I was as unenthusiastic about jumping into her revenge fantasy as I was about washing dishes after a banquet.

For five years, I’d run the only food-service business in the small mountain town of Aspen Meadow, Colorado. My son, Arch, was fourteen years old. Just over a year ago, I’d married for the second time. Add to this the fact that I’d already sought punishment for the scoundrel who’d recently wronged Patricia McCracken. I’d barely escaped with my life.

I retrieved unsalted butter and extrathick whipping cream from my walk-in refrigerator, then reached up to my cabinet shelves for aromatic Mexican vanilla and confectioner’s sugar.
Stay busy
, I had advised Patricia.
It’ll help. Make your guest list. Plan your decorations.
Some people despise slates of tasks and errands. But I revel in work. Work keeps my mind off weighty matters. Usually.

Take this morning, for example. After finishing the cupcakes I needed to check my other bookings, make sure our sick boarder was sleeping peacefully, then rush to pick up Arch from an overnight party. Before zipping back to my commercial-size kitchen in our small home, I was going to deliver Arch to the country-club residence of his can’t-be-bothered father. My ex-husband, ob-gyn Dr. John Richard Korman, was the father—and scoundrel—in question. He was the man my client Patricia McCracken obsessively hated; he was the man I had escaped from. He was known to his other ex-wife and me as the Jerk. Small example of Jerk behavior: Dr. John Richard Korman would no more pick up his son from an
overnight than he would beat some eggs for breakfast. And careful of that word
beat.

I stared at the menu on my computer screen and struggled to refocus on the task at hand. After much hesitation, Patricia had finally decided that her party would be a two-month-late celebration of the Colorado Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup. But making the plans with her hadn’t been easy. One week she didn’t care about the menu; the next she obsessed about details, such as how long to grill fish. After many discussions, Patricia had finally ordered Mexican appetizers, grilled fish from Florida (the Avs had beaten the Florida Panthers in the Cup finals and I’d dubbed the entree Goalies’ Grilled Tuna), three kinds of salads, puck-shaped biscuits, and homemade potato rolls. Plus a dessert Patricia’s husband had christened Stanley Cupcakes. I sighed. After dropping off Arch this morning, I still faced a truckload of food prep. Not only that, but this evening’s event promised to be raucous, perhaps even dangerous. I mean, hockey fans? Now
there
are folks who take revenge
seriously.

I turned away from the computer. Our security system was off, so I opened the kitchen window and took a deep breath of summery mountain air. The postdawn Colorado sky glowed as it lightened from indigo to periwinkle. From the back of my brain came the echo of Patricia’s furious voice.

“I’m telling you, Goldy. I need to see someone
punished.”

I slapped open the other window and tried to block out the memory of her anger by inhaling more crisp air skimming down from the snow-dusted mountains. August in the high country brings warm,
breezy days and nights cool enough for a log fire. Heaven.

Unless you have to deal with John Richard Korman
, my own inner voice reminded me.
Then it can be hell.

Perhaps I should have told Patricia, an old friend who until now had loved cooking, to prepare herself for a descent into the underworld. I took a bag of coffee beans from the freezer, then sliced a thick piece of homemade oatmeal bread and dropped it into the toaster. The interior wires glowed red; the delicious scent of hot toast filled the kitchen.

Poor Patricia. After years of infertility and after adopting a son just before her first marriage had gone sour, she had remarried, endured a year of fertility drugs, and become pregnant. But she lost the baby. Unexpectedly, horribly, and
avoidably
, according to her. John Richard was her obstetrician. And she blamed him for the baby’s death.

Now she wanted my help. I had been married to Dr. John Richard Korman, she reminded me; I’d suffered through an acrimonious divorce. How could she deal with her rage against him? she wanted to know. How could she get through this?

I’d told her I’d cooked with much imagination when I was furious with the Jerk. But no matter what I’d said two weeks ago while booking the event, it hadn’t been enough. Patricia, short and pear-shaped, with bitten-down nails and eyeliner applied with a shaky hand, had fumed like a pressure cooker. She’d shaken her mahogany-with-platinum hair and complained that I wasn’t helping. She wanted revenge on the Jerk, and she wanted it
now.

I took a bite of the crunchy toast and looked
out my window at a dozen elk plodding through our neighbors’ property. We live just off Main Street in Aspen Meadow, but the elk pay no attention to houses, fences, or any other sort of human presence, as long as the humans don’t carry guns. In July and August the herds move down from the highest elevations in anticipation of hunting season, when hunters march into the hills in search of the huge dusty-brown creatures. When darkness engulfs the mountains, the elk’s bugling, along with their hooves cracking through underbrush, are the only heralds of their arrival. Other times, you don’t know the elk have been through until every last one of the leaves on your Montmorency cherry trees has been stripped. Deep, telltale hoof-prints in nearby mud usually betray the culprits.

A dog barked at the elk and the herd trundled off, leaping over a three-foot-high fence as if it were nothing. I glanced back at my computer screen, but again couldn’t rid myself of the image of Patricia McCracken tapping the fleshy nub of her index finger on her bone-white Corian counter.

“Everyone hates him, Goldy,” she’d declared. “John Richard Korman
and
that damn HMO that you have to belong to if you want him for your doctor. I can’t believe we signed up. I can’t believe I ever wanted John Richard as my doctor. But I’m telling you. He’s going down.”

And so then I’d heard the whole story. Patricia had been diagnosed with placenta previa, a precarious condition that jeopardizes the stability of the unborn child. Total bed rest is usually recommended; Patricia had begged John Richard to prescribe a hospital stay. She’d been denied it.

Seven months into the pregnancy, Patricia had hemorrhaged and the baby was asphyxiated. Devastated, she’d sued John Richard for malpractice and AstuteCare, her HMO—otherwise known as ACHMO—for negligence. She said her lawyers were certain she would win. But Patricia, understandably, was depressed. She wanted more, and she didn’t like the idea of waiting for vindication. She wanted … Well, what? Money? To drive John Richard out of his practice? To force him into a public confession?

“Will he admit he made a mistake?” she’d demanded of me two weeks ago. “Will he apologize? Will he confess he ruined my life?”

Next question. Naturally, I’d felt too sick to tell her the truth.

I spread a thick layer of tart chokecherry jelly on what remained of the toast. As the menu was set, the contract signed, and the first installment check written, I’d tried to warn Patricia gently. John Richard Korman was the most powerful, best-known ob-gyn doctor in town. The Jerk would not go down lightly. He
never
acknowledged making a mistake. And he’d certainly die before doing so publicly. But Patricia, whose fine-boned facial features and small, quivering nose above her plump body always put me in mind of a rabbit, had stiffened. She was having none of it. She had filed her suits. And she was out for blood.

I brushed crumbs off my hands. I hadn’t wanted to argue with her. I’d told her to sue away, we needed to talk about setting up her party. Sheesh. A headache loomed. I really needed coffee.

I greedily inhaled the luscious scent of Italian-roast beans as they spilled between my fingers into
the grinder. Tap water gushed into the well of my espresso machine. I had thought I wouldn’t talk to Patricia again until tonight, but she had called yesterday. The woman was so obsessed that she’d been frantic to share news. She’d informed me that John Richard wouldn’t be engaging in a prolonged legal battle with her. It seemed the Jerk was having severe financial problems.

Now I must confess,
that
news made my ears perk up. Being desperate for justice is a psychologically dangerous place to be. You hope that some lie, some transgression, some publicly witnessed crime will trip up your personal enemy. Nothing happens. Meanwhile, the desire for revenge can eat you up, give you insomnia, and—horrors—take away your appetite. You have to let go or die. So you need at least to
say
you’re starting over and getting on with your life. All of this I had done. But now: Was this really happening? Could I watch the sun rise, sip some espresso, and rejoice in my ex-husband finally facing the music?

The coffee grinder pulverized the beans with a satisfying growl. I didn’t want to be premature. I couldn’t imagine that there would finally be punishment for the man who had broken my left thumb in three places with a hammer. I reached for the coffee doser and touched my hand. The thumb still wouldn’t bend properly even now, seven years after the orthopedic surgeon who’d set it insisted I’d be throwing pizza dough in no time.

“He’s got to pay,” Patricia had insisted shrilly when she’d called yesterday. “I don’t understand why you could never get him to pay, Goldy.”

It hadn’t worked like that. I tamped the
grounds into the doser and remembered how stupefied I’d been when John Richard had gone unscathed. This in spite of the fact that he’d repeatedly beaten me. Time after time I’d had to escape from the house clutching Arch tightly, trying to get to a safe house. But after he’d smashed up my body and our marriage, John Richard had gone on with his life, his practice, his girlfriends, and his lifestyle. He’d remarried, divorced again, and taken up right where he’d left off. Until now, it seemed as if the man had been able to get away with anything. The odds looked good that he’d survive Patricia’s legal threats, too.

I ran scalding water into a Limoges demitasse to heat it, then fitted the doser into place. I dumped the water out of the warmed cup, delicately placed it under the doser, and pressed the button. In the face of unrelenting curiosity from the town about the progress of her lawsuits, Patricia had spent most of the last two months at her condo in Keystone, a ski resort just over an hour away from Aspen Meadow. After booking the hockey party, she’d gone back to Keystone for two final weeks of peace, punctuated only by calls to me about her party. She’d discovered what I knew well: that it was nearly impossible to avoid the nosiness and gossip of Aspen Meadow.

Steaming twin strands of espresso spurted into my cup and I frowned. When John Richard and I were married and stories had come to
me
, of his flings with patients, nurses, and anyone else who fell under his gorgeous-guy spell, I’d confronted him, cried, yelled, threatened. And I’d paid for my protests with the usual pattern of black-and-blue marks: bruises
on my upper arms from being grabbed and shaken, a black right eye. Sometimes worse.

“You must have tried to do something,” Patricia had protested. “Why couldn’t you do anything?”

I pushed the doser to stop the flow of coffee. Excuse me, Patricia, but I
had
done something. I’d stopped listening to the gossip. I’d planned a divorce as I taught myself to make golden-brown loaves of brioche, delicate poached Dover sole, creamy dark chocolate truffles. I’d fantasized about opening a restaurant or becoming a caterer. I’d dutifully kept close to a hundred of my newly developed recipes on our family computer. In one of the Jerk’s last acts before I kicked him out, he’d reformatted the computer’s hard drive. I’d lost every recipe.

I sipped the rich, dark espresso, blinked with caffeine-induced delight, and scowled at the next cupcake pan. Maybe Patricia couldn’t understand why I hadn’t done
more.
Let’s see: I’d sought help from the church. Our priest hadn’t wanted to hear about John Richard beating me up. Donations from the rich doctor might fall off. And then I’d tried to file criminal charges. But when divorce proceedings began, John Richard’s high-powered lawyer had assured me that pressing criminal charges against his client would threaten his ability to pay child support. Worse—it might even bring on a custody battle.

Faced with such consequences and the fear of losing Arch, I’d given up seeking punishment for John Richard Korman. But the law had changed, and now a bruise-covered spouse didn’t have to press charges. Back then, however, the legal system had failed me. Still, at age twenty-seven, I’d been glad
enough to get out of the marriage with my life and my child.

“I can’t believe you couldn’t convince people how bad he was,” Patricia had contended. “I mean, between you and Marla? Come on.”

During the eight years of our marriage, and even in the six years since the divorce, the Jerk’s behavior was unknown to many, dismissed or disbelieved by others. And yes, he’d dished out disdain and disloyalty to his second ex-wife, Marla Korman, who’d since become my best friend. I grinned, thinking of good old Marla. She’d kill the Jerk if she had the chance, but she’d had a heart attack last year and was trying to be careful.

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