A raw food mystery novelette, part 1
Recipes in italics
“Yes, I see you. Wait one minute, please.” My dog Chippy, a terrier, was doing her little “I have to go out” dance, which involved faint but urgent whining while circling intently around an imaginary tree seemingly planted in the living room floor. Telling her to wait only bought me about five extra seconds of patience from her.
I grabbed her leash and snapped it onto the D-ring on her jacket, which was really a harness. I quickly slipped the key to my apartment into my jeans pocket, although by now she was dancing about more frantically, and I knew I was doing all this far too slowly for her timetable. I scooped her up into my arms and started down the hallway a bit faster, mindful that there was only limited time before it would be too late.
I was about to stop a few doors down the hall and ring my neighbor Mrs. Marchetti’s bell to ask if she wanted to bring her dog along for a walk too—a daily ritual for us—when a man I had never seen before came ambling out of her apartment ahead of me with her little Yorkshire terrier, Monty, in tow. Monty seemed completely nonplussed by the fact that someone different was walking him rather than his owner. That was strange. So who was this guy, and where was Mrs. Marchetti? He preceded me onto the elevator, apparently unaware that it was customary in our building to allow ladies to go first. With the now-panting dog still in my arms, leash hanging, we rode down in the elevator, a ride that was completely silent except for the sound of Chippy whining and hyperventilating.
The apartment building was only a couple of minutes from Central Park, but when urgency hit, that two minutes seemed like hours. My dog apparently had a bladder the size of a football, because these panicky bathroom breaks did not occur often. However, she was notorious for waiting until there was only approximately a space the size of one molecule left in her bladder before alerting me that she had to go out. Thoughtful of her.
The elevator did not stop until we reached the main floor, and I bustled ahead with the dog, not stopping to look behind and see where Mrs. Marchetti’s dog was going with her mysterious stranger. My dog soon happily relieved herself under the shade of an old tree, and then we took a leisurely stroll through the park, stopping here and there to examine a squirrel or look out over the water.
When we returned to our floor, I kept a wary eye on Mrs. Marchetti’s apartment, but there was no further sign of the stranger or her dog. Curious, I thought. But now the dog and I were both hungry for a snack, and I had to get back to my work. As a writer, a main driver of my life was deadlines, and the deadlines were looming.
Washing my hands, I dried them on a handwoven towel--a relic from the days when I had time to weave--and got out the cutting board. I sliced up an avocado and a tomato, drizzled them with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkled them with a little Himalayan pink sea salt and some crumbled feta cheese, and added a few Kalamata olives on the side. The dog was begging for some of my snack, but dogs can’t have avocadoes, so I gave her a small carrot instead and then carried my dish into my study. This room had a panoramic view of the park, which was lovely because of the expanse of trees and the layout of the park.
With my glass of pomegranate-orange juice, spiked with some Perrier and a little pinch of stevia, I toasted a silent tribute to the park’s designer, Frederick Olmstead, whose vision and massive efforts in the 19th century afforded me this great view in the 21st. Then I stretched out on the chaise longue where I liked to settle in with my laptop and work.
I was deep in the mental thicket of a complex plot when the doorbell rang and the dog sprang to her feet. An interruption was the last thing I needed at the moment. I strode to the door, dog at my heels, and peered through the keyhole. It was the mailman, Alan, with a package-a box of my dog’s favorite treats, imported from a shop in San Francisco near where we lived one summer. I opened the door and smiled. It was nice of him to bring it all the way up to my apartment and not just leave it in the mailbox tray on the main floor.
“Thank you, Alan!” I said warmly.
He smiled back. “No problem,” he demurred. “I had to come up this way anyhow to deliver a package to the lady in 504.”
My hand stopped in mid-air as I was about to set my package on the entryway table. “Mrs. Marchetti?” I asked.
“Yeah, that’s her. She wasn’t home, though. Some guy there.”
Now my curiosity was piqued. “Do you have any idea who that guy is?” I asked.
“Naw, I dunno,” he said.
“Well, where is Mrs. Marchetti then? We walk our dogs together almost every day, and she didn’t say anything yesterday about not being here for our walk today.”
“You know, I don’t know,” Alan answered. “Maybe she went out of town to see her daughter over in Jersey—ya think?”
“Actually, she just saw her daughter last week, so I don’t think so. I’m just a little concerned, you know. Suddenly she’s gone and this strange guy is in her apartment. It makes no sense.”
“Yeah, I guess. I gotta be getting’ along, though. Let me know if you think I should report it to anybody.”
I was half tempted to tell him to do just that, right that minute. I just wasn’t sure, though. “Okay,” I answered finally. “I’ll let you know.”
As he walked away, I stood for a moment reflecting on Mrs. Marchetti’s last words to me yesterday: “I’ll see you tomorrow, dear. I’ll stop at the Magnolia Bakery in the morning and bring you a cupcake. You want chocolate?” I had given her the thumbs up sign. Chocolate was my favorite. She usually stopped at the Magnolia when she was at Grand Central Station, or Grand Central Terminal as they now called it. Would she be coming back from somewhere, and if so, from where?
I suddenly had a craving for the chocolate cupcake I had anticipated but not received. I decided to whip up the next best thing instead—a batch of my raw coconut chocolate macaroons. Quick, easy, and wonderfully chocolatey. I had tasted these at Catch a Healthy Habit Café and then later found the recipe on the Internet. So good!
All I had to do was mix together 3 cups of shaved coconut, 1 1/2 cups of cacao powder, ¼ cup of raw coconut oil, ¾ cup of agave nectar, and a pinch of sea salt, then roll the mixture into balls. I popped one of the balls into my mouth, followed by another a few moments later, and then put the rest in the refrigerator, covered, to harden up a bit for later. They were supposed to go into the dehydrator, but I liked them better chilled.
Back in my study, I curled up anew with the laptop. I had finally wrapped my mind around the complex plot once again when it occurred to me that I had the perfect excuse to stop over at Mrs. Marchetti’s and try to find out what was going on. I could pretend I didn’t realize she was not at home and bring over a couple of the newly delivered dog treats for Monty. I threw two of the treats into a little gift bag, picked up Chippy, and presented myself at Mrs. Marchetti’s front door.
I rang the bell, but there was no answer. Hmmm. Turning to go back to my place, I was stopped by a male voice. “Mrs. Marchetti isn’t home today. What can I do for you?” I turned to face the mysterious stranger standing in the doorway, and he was gazing down at the bag in my hand as though it contained a deadly weapon.
“Oh—these are just some treats for her dog. Where is Mrs. Marchetti, by the way?”
“Good question,” the man answered. So he didn’t know where she was either? Who was this guy?
To be continued in part 2.