10:00 PM on a Sunday.
Too late to be anywhere, too early to be asleep.
The bottle that mocked me all day from his perch on my desk seems to have had his cap knocked off. And all his insides drank. Shame how things seem to go, isn’t it Mr. Harris? Oh, now you need my help? I let him know it’ll cost him, but I need the money. I take the case, stumbling out of my chair to investigate. Detective Alger, on the twin mysteries of “Where Did Zachariah Harris’ Whiskey Go” and “How Am I Going To Fill This Drunken Belly”.
I look around the bedroom; no leads. From the bed to the door along the carpeted floor I see only Harris’ label—and cap. Ah, his cap. I return it to him with a smile. See Mr. Harris, I haven’t even left the room and I’m already making progress. I follow the cap clue and wander down the stairs of my ramshackle townhouse.
Amid groans and protests of carpet-over-wood I cross into the kitchen and flick on the dim bulb. Mmmm, dishes, a slight stink, but no missing liquor. I open the fridge and happen upon half a loaf of Wonderbread. “Ah clue, I see” mumbles between my definitely sober lips. Now, for a meat. Hmmmm, no meat to be found. Shopping happened last week and I’m not going anywhere in this hungry state. Only mistakes lay at the end of that road. Mistakes, and pre-prepared brownie mixes. Nope, not for the third time this month…
I shake out of my distracted trance and find I’m leaning into the door which I’m holding open with my right hand. In my left, I see two slices of soft bread. Exactly the number I needed. Turning from the fridge, I put the bread on the counter so it can come to room temperature, put a pot of water on to boil, and go to the cupboard.
My informant’s shy but he knows exactly why I’m here. Only a cup Mr. Ida Hoan? Are you entirely certain? Secret family recipe you say? I ignore his flakey insistence for more water and get back to business. Bread, potatoes, I’m well into the race but I haven’t crossed the finish line yet. This sandwich is just a screw loose of a damn fine time. Needs something to make it pop; make it sing that song of truth and love and loss. I turn back to the open refrigerator.
A frigid white wasteland. Absolutely no signs of life: the landscape is dominated by Evan’s abominations. The lowest shelf is chock full of monuments to unthinkable watery horrors, odd shapes floating in discolored shades of brown and green. The door’s nooks are of equally little use - hundreds of bottles labeled OYSTER, HOISIN, GOCHUJANG, MUSTARD, KOSHO; foreign words from a land of unpalatable flavors. Each bottle opened yields stranger, sharper smells. The world spins. I close my eyes and think of sweeter times.
Oh, how I miss it - good, clean, wholesome. So sweet so salty, where could she be? No, we’ve been long out of ketchup. One can barely recall those long-gone times when ketchup lived here. Two good years, and a bittersweet goodbye was all she left. Now there’s only CHINESE SALAD #1, IDEAL FOR CILANTRO. It’s enough to make a fella’s heart ache.
I waste only a thought on the bottom drawer, knowing it only contains an inedible forest of green—when something reddish brown catches my eye. No, impossible. I look beyond the obscene glass necks and profane black liquids until I catch a familiar face in the crowd. The Boss. The only true boss I know around this town. I lean forward and reach out my hand. Oh it’s a pleasure Mr. Sweet Baby Ray, all mine. Your Sauce sure is the boss.
I gingerly lead him to the counter; It’s assembly time. I scoop the potatoes from the pot just as they finish, slap em on the tempered bread and liberally apply the piece-de-resistance. The second piece of bread goes on and I stagger backwards at the genius of what I’ve just done. This may be the best case I’ve ever solved; my detective’s opus. I put it in my mouth to make sure it’s as perfect as I imagine.
The potato flakes aren’t all hydrated and it provides the perfect amount of texture. The bread is soft and sweet with Baby Ray swinging in for tangy relief. I plate it and bring it back upstairs to my desk to enjoy properly. Seated, I level with my client. Sorry Mr. Harris, haven’t an idea who did it. I can tell you, it wasn’t me; I’ve been solving other cases all evening.