“This was his last meal?” the detective asked as he looked at the victim’s unwashed plate, congealing, dried steak juices webbing its surface.
“Yea, looks like he was overdone,” quipped his partner.
The detective’s eye skimmed over the other dishes – five plates all in the same unwashed condition, a cast iron skillet and rectangular griddle with bits of charred steak clinging to the ridges. “Looks like a feast. Were there guests?”
“Nah, the victim was one of those foodie sorts.”
“A gourmet,” the detective muttered. He raised the plate closer to his nose and sniffed the rich, bloody aroma.
“Yeah, well, he had a regular series in the local paper called ‘The Dish Around Town’. The girlfriend said he’s working on an article about kinds of steak and decided to have a sort of taste test buffet last night,” the partner paused and added, “guess he got stuffed.”
The senior detective again refused to ease his grim expression. Death wasn’t funny. “What’s the girlfriend’s story? Were they on good terms? Did she eat any of the specimens?”
“Says she was at work all night watching over a sick animal. She’s a large animal vet. Apparently, the sanctuary doesn’t want any more bad publicity after the recent bison escapade.”
The detective put down the plate, turned to his partner, looked him straight in the eye and asked “Didn’t one of the animals die during the re-capture?” He turned to walk out the kitchen door, “I think it’s time to talk to the girlfriend.”
Da, da, dummm… To be continued.
After an evening trolling the shelves of my favorite bookstore I had two new editions on my to-read list: The Rhino with the Glue On Shoes edited by Lucy H. Spelman and Ted Y. Mashima and Steak by Mark Schatzker. The first is a collection of exciting, uplifting and sometimes saddening stories of unusual vet problems. The second is a man’s search for perfect steak. Never, would I have guessed that both would lead me to murder.
First I learned about Dr. Florence Ollivet-Courtois having to recapture a herd of escaped bison using the dastardly named anesthetic, Immobilon. Also known as M99 or Etorphine, Immobilon is highly toxic to humans. Dangerous enough that eating an animal that at any time was shot with this drug will kill you. “This would be the perfect murder mystery. Why has no one done this, yet?” I exclaimed to my co-workers. Bison was available at the supermarket. I could eat that.
Then I learned about steak — eating steak, analyzing steak, feeding steak, and steak variety. I was fascinated, disgusted and salivating (and a little disappointed in the author’s reliance on chain restaurants and large-scale ranching operations in the U.S. while seeking out the local flavor everywhere else). Based on a little estimation, it’s likely that modern mass-produced cattle would not need a dose of Immobilon, but the extinct Auroch would. Which, turns out, isn’t entirely extinct because its been regrown. I saw veins of intrigue marbling their way through my meaty murderous plot. I wouldn’t have to eat bison I could search out really awesome steak.
Then, I realized that I’m not writing a book. I am not being paid to write this blog and my budget will not allow for a pricey steak binge. An appearance by Research Girl was needed in order to find the single steak that could survive being cooked by me with minimal preparation. Bastrop Cattle Co was chosen — in large part because their website listed places to purchase their grass fed, free range beef. Wheatsville Co-op — the store closest to me and only 34.9 miles away from Bastrop — was the chosen store.
Ever so once in a while, I try to imagine what the Meals to Die by series reads like to someone who doesn’t know me. I imagine they might forget about the very successful murder mystery genre and become concerned…hesitant to eat those freshly baked cookies. Then last night happens. On deadline, even though there were three months to prepare, I start my grocery shopping. I pick up a bottle of estate bottled red wine, a head of organic lettuce and reach for the steak. It’s frozen. It’s 7pm. At this point I have to make a decision. I can attempt to quickly defrost it at home in a hot water bath. I can choose the unfrozen Niman Ranch beef advertised as the best beef in the world. I can choose to cook a pre-made, locally sourced bacon and cheddar burger or pesto-gorgonzola pinwheel, but it seems wrong to contaminate my story with stuff. I can eat steak for breakfast. At home I open the bottle of wine, toss a salad and have them both with leftover pizza. I oversleep and enjoy a tender, tasty steak brunch.
The people of the world have nothing to fear. The plot isn’t a problem its the planning.
For a moment the detective paused in the doorway to look at the girlfriend sitting on the tan microfiber sofa. Ankles crossed, hands on her knees, she looked straight ahead to the wall. Her face fought expression. He walked the three steps to cross the room and held out his hand to introduce himself.
“It’s a sudden shock, I’m sure, but I’m going to have to ask you a few questions. You’ve probably answered them already, but if you’ll humor me, I always have to double-check everyone’s work. The press love it when the story goes wrong. I hear you work for the wildlife sanctuary, so I’m sure you understand.”