Double Double Cross & Sasha’s Linguini

Sasha was back. She was born in North Louisiana but for the past several years had been an expatriate living in Malta. She returned to visit from time to time. Now she and Darcey were busy in the kitchen.

After a cold, miserable winter with snow almost every day, it was finally warming. The snow was melting. Trent decided to go for a walk to enjoy the bare sidewalks.As he reached a corner, he spotted a face he had seen before. Adrian Rutherford. A killer of the worst sort. He knew the Anchorage cops were constantly on the lookout for the man. He was sitting in his car, a woman standing at the door talking to him. Trent hugged the wall, listening. “I don’t want to kill him,” the woman whined. “I can’t do it.””You don’t have to,” Rutherford said. “I’ll take care of him You just hold him until I get there.” He pressed a semi-automatic into her hand. It had the distinctive shape and gold color of an FN Herstal Tactical 509 nine millimeter. Holding it with two fingers as though it was something dirty, she dropped it into the bag hanging from her shoulder.

Rutherford roared off in his car before Trent could go after him. Instead he called homicide detective Lee Mortimer at APD.”An old friend of ours, Adrian Rutherford, is back in town,” Trent said when Mortimer answered the phone.

“Where can I find him?” Mortimer said.

“I’m not sure,” Trent replied. “I can only tell you he’s working with a woman. No doubt they have a target in mind. Also no doubt someone is going to wind up dead if we don’t get to them first.”

Trent went quickly upstairs to their penthouse on the top floor of the building, calling out to Darcey as he entered. Leaving Sasha in the kitchen, Darcey responded to the urgency she heard in his voice. She found him in the room in which they kept their weapons. He had selected an FN Herstal Tactical 509, a nine millimeter.

“Arm yourself and keep Sasha busy,” Trent said.

“Are we expecting trouble?” Darcey asked as she selected another version of the FN Herstal Tactical, this one unusual in that it used .45 caliber cartridges rather than the usual nine millimeter common to semi automatics. She slid it into a drawer while Sasha was busy at the stove.

“Just spotted a guy who always means trouble,” Trent said “I already called Lee Mortimer. Not sure what’s going to happen. I just know we better be ready.”

Trent brought the black Escalade from the garage with little hope of catching Rutherford. He drove in circles for a while before giving up and returning to their building. And then he got lucky. As he entered the building he ran into his friend and neighbor Guy Stern, a man Trent knew to be wealthy. Today Guy was as pale as a ghost. Guy barely spoke. He held a small box in thus hands

“Good afternoon, Guy,” Trent greeted hi

Guy only nodded.

Trent ran to the Escalade, anxious to follow the women. He was behind them all the way to the edge of town. Eventually they stopped in a small secluded house. He heard the shots as he got out of the Escalade. He was enraged when he thought his friend had been killed.

He dialed Mortimer, speaking as quietly as he could, telling him he was sure someone had been murdered. His FN Herstal in hand, Trent stepped inside the house. To his surprise, his friend Gus was bound but alive. Rutherford was holding a box of obviously expensive jewelry in his hands. The body of Rutherford’s companion lay dead. Trent had no doubt Gus would be next.

“On your knees, sleasebag,” Trent said, or you’ll get the same treatment your friend got!”

Rutherford swung around to the sound of Trent’s voice, measuring his chances. For a moment Trent thought he would try it with his Smith and Wesson Governor, that unusual revolver that will accommodate both .45 caliber cartridges and .410 shotgun shells. That explained the two shots Trent heard. Rutherford had given his partner one of each. He hoped Rutherford would try him. But he waited too long. APD Homicide Detective Lee Mortimer stepped into the room. He saw the body of Gayle Cobb, Rutherford’s unfortunate partner,”You’re lucky this state doesn’t have a death penalty, Rutherford. “As it is, you’ll be on a walker if you ever get out of jail.”Meanwhile in the kitchen, Sasha was regaling Darcey with the adventures of an expatriate, her weariness of Malta, and her plans to move to Germany. As they talked, Sasha guided Darcey through the dish she had made up one lonely night on Malta.

Sasha’s Linguini

1/2 pound linguini, cooked according to the diections

Far more spinach than seems called for, washed and torn into pieces

1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

7 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

5 cloves garlic minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup white wine

grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Meanwhile in the kitchen, Sasha was busy rinsing and tearing spinach leaves. She was working feverishly with far more energy than one would have thought necessary. But she knew when they were tossed in the pot they would shrink to nothing. And so they did.

Under Shasha’s direction, Darcey put half a pound of linguini on to prepare as directed.

Sasha chopped seven sun-dried tomatoes and minced five cloves of garlic. Satisfied that the spinach was rinsed and ready, she tossed it into a bowl, along with the chopped sun-dried tomatoes and the minced garlic. .

Add the spinach and sun-dried tomatoes to a pan along with a quarter cup of white wine, and the lemon juice. Stir the spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. The spinach will quickly shrivel. Add the garlic toward the end being careful not to overcook it.

When the linguini is done, use tongs to drop it into the spinach and sun-dried tomato mixture. Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

As they ate, the ever observant Sasha asked if, next time, she could have a gun, too.





The Puzzle of the Hospital Murders Continues as Trent Joins an Anchorage Friend for Lunch at Fromagio’s (Conclusion)

Trent Marshall and Darcey Anderson returned to Anchorage a week after the third hospital murder. The fourth patient was killed the following week.

Trent was having lunch with his friend Pete Kott at Fromagio’s, a deli that specializes in cheese. While Trent would take a few samples of Fromatio’s excellent cheese home with him, he and Pete both ordered Coppa Cubano Melt sandwiches.

“You say four people have died in the same hospital, killed by an overdose of the same painkiller?” Pete repeated. “It does seem like more than a coincidence.”

Trent looked at him.

“Yeah, I know,” Pete said quickly. “You don’t believe in coincidence. Who were the victims?”

Trent went through the list. There was the woman who was a potential witness in an upcoming trial who was first thought might have been killed by the defendant; the terminally ill man who might possibly have been suicidal; a woman who had minor but painful surgery; and, finally, just a guy who had suffered a painful injury and had nothing in his life that would indicate a reason for him to be murdered.

“Sounds like a serial killer, all right,” Pete said. “Do you have their names?”

Trent had committed the names to memory. He reeled them off. Pete looked up quickly when he heard the third name.

“Did you say Lacey Lansbury?” he asked.

Trent doubled-checked the names before answering.

“Yes, Lacey Lansbury. Do you know her?”

“I know of her,” Pete replied. “Her husband is Kevin Lansbury. He’s a doctor. A fairly well known guy in town.”

“A doctor? Really?” Trent said, thoughtfully. “A well known doctor?”

“Well, better known for other things,” Pete chuckled. “A friend of mine who belongs to a private wine connoisseur club told me Lansbury’s application for membership was rejected because he’s such a well known philanderer. I mean, someone has an affair and can be forgiven, but apparently old Doc Lansbury chases every woman he meets. I heard he has a newyoung beauty on the line now. I also heard his wife was tired of his carrying on and planned to divorce him.”

“Interesting,” Trent said. He thought Pete had just supplied the answer to the serial killer puzzle. They didn’t have a serial killer. They had someone wanting to make people believe there was a serial killer. What they really had was a guy who wanted to get rid of his wife. He would have to give some thought to best way to take care of this guy. Anyone as heartless as the murdering doctor deserved nothing in the way of mercy.

“I think you just helped me solve this puzzle, Pete,” Trent said. “Now we’re in Fromagio’s. Let’s have lunch.”

They both ordered Coppa Cubano Melts from Fromagio’s limited but delicious lunch menu. The sandwiches contained both coppa and prosciutto, thin slices of pork, similar but coming from different parts of the pig. There were chopped cornichons, the small, sour French pickles that Trent especially loved, and the Swiss-like Emmental cheese. It was all held together with dijonaise, the delightful mixture of mayonnaise and Dijon mustard.

They ate in silence for a couple of minutes.

“Would you put this sandwich in the good category,” Trent asked, “or great?”

“I’d say it’s great,” Pete replied.

“Yeah, so would I,” Trent said. “Darcey will love the cheese I’m going to take home but I think she’ll enjoy lunch at Fromagio’s even more.”


Puzzles: Another Death & What Do You Call This Sandwich? (Part Three)

“A third death in three weeks?” New Orleans homicide detective Jordan Booth asked his friend, Trent Marshall. “All in the same hospital with the same overdose of the same pain killer? Sounds like there’s a cultivador de la muerte at work.” Trent looked at Jordan with surprise.

“When did you learn to speak Spanish?” he asked.

“I pick things up occasionally from customers,” the homicide detective said with a smile.

It was a mild day in New Orleans with a light drizzle of rain. Trent and Jordan were enjoying French 75 cocktails as they sat under the shelter of the upstairs gallery in the old house on Governor Nicholls Street. Trent’s wife, Darcey Anderson, and Ivy Ford, the elderly black lady who became Trent’s surrogate mother when his own parent died unexpectedly young, were in the kitchen preparing dinner.

“Anonymous tips to the press seem to be popular these days,” Jordan said, “but they are usually about political issues. Why would someone want to purposely draw attention to a potential serial killer?”

“Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?” Trent mused.

“Yeah, and since you’ve convinced me that there’s no such thing as a coincidence, I also wonder if the anonymous tip came from our serial killer.” Jordan concluded. “Who was the latest victim?”

“A woman who had a tonsillectomy,” Trent said. “Usually done in childhood. More painful for adults but usually not painful enough to require heavy painkillers. In fact, no painkillers had been ordered for this woman.”

“That pretty much tells the story then, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, I think so,” Trent replied. “Looks like we have a serial killer at work in Anchorage and he wants attention. And it’s probably someone who works at the hospital. Or has easy access.”

At Darcey’s call, they went downstairs to join her and Ivy in the dining room where a stack of sandwiches waited.

“This is a good sandwich, Darcey,” Jordan said. “What do you call it?”

Darcey laughed.

“I don’t know,” she said. “We had some ground beef. And we had some reindeer sausage we brought back from Alaska. We ground up the sausage and mixed it with the hamburger.”

“We thought about making some slaw but didn’t have any cabbage,” Ivy added.

“We had kimchi though!” Darcey said. “So the sandwiches are part burger, part Alaska sausage, with a little Asian fusion. I have no idea what to call them.”

“Kimchi?” Jordan said with surprise.

“Ivy loves it,” Darcey laughed. “She always has kimchi.”

“It makes a good afternoon snack when I’m watching my shows,” Ivy said, proudly.

Jordan Baron’s Mystery Sandwich

1/2 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon brown sugar

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound ground beef

What do you call this sandwich?

2 links reindeer sausage, ground

Salt & pepper to taste

kimchi

hamburger buns

Combine ketchup, brown sugar, and garlic. Stir to mix well.

Mix the hamburger and ground sausage. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook in a non stick skillet until browned, probably nine or ten minutes. Add ketchup mixture. Stir to combine and cook for another minute or two.

Serve on hamburger buns topped with kimchi to taste.

As Jordan would say, “Bon temps!”

Another Death. Is It Murder? Darcey Considered It While Making Stuffed King Crab (Part Two)

Back in New Orleans Darcey searched the online Anchorage paper every morning. While they were still in Alaska a woman in one of the city’s hospitals was killed by an overdose of pain killer. It might have been an accident. But it was suspicious because the dead woman was scheduled to be the key witness in the upcoming trial of another woman, a notorious criminal.

Two weeks after their return from Anchorage, a second article appeared.

Another patient died in the same hospital as the first. Killed by an overdose of intravenous pain killer. John Manetti, however, had been terminally ill. Was his death a suicide? Could this really have been a rare coincidence?

She would show the article to Trent as she had the first. He didn’t believe in coincidence. But a terminally ill patient dying in a hospital in which another patient had been murdered, and by the same method, might not be a coincidence. But the latest victim might have got the idea from the murder. Not a coincidence but perhaps a copy cat.

Meanwhile, it was time to get busy in the kitchen. They had brought king crab south with them and she knew it was best to use it quickly.

Darcey Anderson’s Stuffed King Crab

2 king crab legs

1/4 cup butter

1/2 onion, minced

1 rib celery, minced

1/2 roasted red pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons green onion, chopped

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon white wine

1 cup bread crumbs, divided

1 egg, beaten

Stuffed King Crab

salt & pepper to taste

Break the crab legs into sections. Cut the shells with scissors, leaving a finger-sized opening the length of each section. Remove the meat from each section and mince it. Set the shells aside.

Melt the butter over medium heat. Saute the onion, celery, and red pepper until they are soft and starting to take on color. Add the green onion and parsley. Cook a minute or two longer. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up any bits that are stuck to the bottom.

Remove from the heat. Mix in the crab and 1/2 cup bread crumbs. Add the beaten egg. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix well.

Stuff the leg sections with the crab salad. Place cut sides up in an oven proof dish. Sprinkle generously with additional bread crumbs.

Bake in a 400 degree oven until the bread crumbs are browned, about ten or fifteen minutes.

As Darcey would say in New Orleans, “Bon temps!”


Murder and Oyster Stew on a Cold Alaska Winter Day (Part One)

Darcey laid the newspaper aside and stared out the large windows at the snow-covered view from their penthouse on the edge of Bootlegger’s Cove in Anchorage. The article she had read had her considering its meaning.

A patient at the city’s largest hospital had died from an overdose of fentanyl. Debbie Ziering recently underwent gallbladder surgery, a relatively minor but very painful procedure. But that wasn’t what attracted Darcey’s attention.

Ziering had been the only eye witness in the trial that resulted in the conviction of Aurora Henning for multiple heinous crimes. Darcey didn’t know Henning but had seen her. It was hard to miss the woman, Darcey thought, since she played the role of the popinjay. Her arrogance was, at the least, offensive.

The entire city, it seemed, had breathed a sigh of relief at the woman’s conviction. Her lawyers had already filed an appeal. Now if that motion was granted the star witness would no longer be available. It was possible the charges would be dismissed and Henning would again be free to threaten the peace of the city.

She would show the article to Trent when he got home. But first, it was time to make oyster stew.

Darcey’s Oyster Stew

4 tablespoons butter, divided

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 green onions, chopped

Darcey’s Oyster Stew

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons white wine

3 tablespoons flour

oysters (2 8 – 10 ounce jars, drained with liquid reserved)

milk

1 cup heavy cream

Worcestershire

cayenne, salt, & coarsely ground black pepper to taste

In a heavy stock pot or large sauce pan, saute the green onions and parsley over medium heat in one tablespoon of melted butter and one tablespoon of olive oil until the vegetables are soft and taking on color.

Deglaze the pot with the wine. Let the wine simmer until it is almost completely reduced.

Melt the remaining three tablespoons of butter. Add the flour and stir to make a white sqauce. When the white sauce has reached the desired consistensy, mix the reserved oyster liquid with enough milk to make two cups. Pour into the pot and add the oysters. Cook briefly, only until the oysters have begun to curl.

Add the heavy cream and several dashes of Worcestershire. Season to taste with cayenne, salt, and pepper.

Heat thoroughly for a few minutes but don’t let the liquid come to a boil.

Stay warm!

The Unsolved Murder Will Wait; First, Crawfish Bisque

Who killed John Sturgus?

Sturgus was the first police chief in Anchorage. He worked as a policeman in Montana and Washington before coming to Alaska in 1913 to search for gold. Like so many others before him, he didn’t find it.

In 1916, Anchorage already showed promise of becoming the city it now is when it was selected as the headquarters for construction of the Alaska Railroad. Sturgus made his way to what was then a tent city to find a job.

Thanks to his previous background in law enforcement, he was appointed a deputy U.S. marshal. On January 1, 1921, Anchorage became a home rule city and Sturgus became its first police chief. His tenure in office would last less than two months.

Anchorage had a sizable lawless element in those days. Organized crime controlled a section of what is now downtown. Though the city had voted to outlaw alcohol, bars operated openly. There was no attempt to hide the prostitution and gambling. Young girls who wandered through the area were often harassed and threatened.

Around nine o’clock on the evening of February 20th, Anchorage resident Oscar Anderson met Sturgus on the street. They exchanged greetings and each went his own way. Anderson was the last person to see Sturgus alive.

At 9:15 a shot was heard. Those arriving on the scene found Sturgus lying in a stairwell next to a drug store. He had been shot once. Though he was still breathing when he was found and was taken to a hospital, he died shortly before eleven o’clock. He died without speaking.

And that’s when the mystery began.

He was shot with his own gun. Though only one shot had been heard, there were two expended bullets in the gun.

While Sturgus was known to carry two hand guns, only one was found on him.

Most curious of all was the lack of any sign that anyone else had been on the scene. That was mysterious as the area was covered with snow.

It had been impossible to solve the murder in 1921. It was more so a hundred years later. It was even difficult to get to know exactly who Sturgus was. While he and his family were accepted by the young community’s socially elite, there was some evidence that he had a darker side.

He had recently been heard making light of the criminal elements in the town. He joked about being “…hot on the trail of the despised thief who steals milk from babies, groceries from the storeroom and laundry from the hallways.” There were also rumors that Sturgus frequented the gambling halls himself and had a fondness for faro, known in those days as “bucking the tiger.”

Sabine Parish Sheriff Jack Blake laid the story aside and sat thinking. As an experienced lawman himself, an unsolved crime was frustrating. Especially when it involved the killing of a fellow cop even if it occurred a century earlier.

He wasn’t going to solve the mystery this evening. Perhaps it was one he should pass on to his friend Trent Marshall. It was just the sort of adventure that would interest Trent.

But for now, he detected the deliciously delicate aroma of his wife’s crawfish bisque. The mystery of John Sturgus’ murder had remained unsolved for a century. It would wait until Blake had his fill of Jennifer’s crawfish bisque.

Sheriff Jack Blake’s Favorite Crawfish Bisque

1 cup peanut oil

1 cup flour

1/2 onion, chopped

1 rib celery, chopped

1 roasted red pepper, chopped

1/4 cup white wine

1 pound crawfish tails

Sheriff Jack Blake’s Favorite Crawfish Bisque

2 green onions, chopped

salt & pepper to taste

water sufficient to cover

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

First, in a large stock pot, make a dark roux with the oil and flour.

Saute the onions, celery, and roasted red pepper in the roux until the vegetables have softened.

Deglaze the pot with the white wine.

Add the crawfish, green onions, and bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour in enough water to cover. Simmer for an hour.

Sprinkle chopped parsley over the bisque as garnish.

Wilderness Danger & Darcey’s Oyster Casserole

Three people sat in the long station wagon.

It was 1959. The father, mother, and young son were on the Alaska Highway. Somewhere in the wilderness of British Columbia. Or maybe the Yukon. It was hard to tell. They were in that section that wove in and out of the two provinces.

The Alaska Highway was all wilderness in 1959. A long gravel road that wound through the woods and mountains of western Canada.

A trailer, built by the father, was attached to their vehicle. Everything they owned had been loaded into it.

Up until a few minutes earlier, they were proceeding north to Alaska. Proceeding slowly. But proceeding. Then came the frightening screech and their vehicle came to a sudden stop. The father crawled under the car. When he emerged minutes later, he didn’t have good news. It looked, he said, as though the damage was serious.

Now they sat in the stalled vehicle wondering what to do. They knew there were no facilities for either people or vehicles within miles. Even if there was they had no way to get there. To strike out walking through the wilderness could have serious consequences.

Then came the noise. A rumbling, rattling, rustling noise.

The father and mother looked at each other. They tried to keep their son from seeing the concern in their eyes. What could it be? Could this day get any worse?

A grader came around a bend in the road. A crew leveling the gravel highway. The same grader that threw up the rock which damaged the young family’s vehicle.

One man was in the cab of the grader followed by two others in a pick up truck. They rolled to a stop near the young family’s stalled car. The highway crew was appalled when they realized they were the cause of the damage to the vehicle.

All the men worked together to unhitch the trailer. They used a chain to connect the car to the grader. The young family crowded into the cab of the pick up truck with one of the highway crew. The other members of the crew followed, slowly pulling the car along.

The young family soon found themselves in the highway crew’s camp, consisting of several Quonset huts. The crew lived in the uniquely rounded structures with their families. One of them invited them in for dinner and gave them beds in which to spend the night.

Darcey’s Oyster Casserole

When they awoke the next morning, they discovered the camp mechanics had worked all night. Their vehicle was repaired. The crew had driven back to reattach the family’s trailer. All was in place for them to be on their way.

The Canadians refused payment of any kind. Except for four relatively fresh tomatoes the father’s aunt had given them when they stopped by her house four days earlier. Fresh vegetables were hard to come by in the wilderness.

“And that’s why Robert likes Canadians,” Darcey said. “Did he ever tell you that story?”

It was a warm but stormy December evening in New Orleans. Trent and Darcey sat in the parlor of their home on Governor Nicholls Street in the Veuix Carre sipping flutes of Prosecco as they watched the rain pour down and the lightening flash.

“No, he never told me that one,” Trent replied.

Darcey smiled as she drained her glass.

“Let’s have dinner,” she said.

Darcey’s Oyster Casserole

1/2 cup butter

1 cup green onions, chopped

2 tablespoons Worcestershire

1 quart oysters, (reserve juice)

1/2 cup parsley

2 tablespoons pickled jalapenos

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

bread crumbs (Darcey favors Panko)

In a heavy skillet, saute the green onion in the butter. When soft, add the Worcestershire and oysters. Cook until the oysters begin to curl.

Add the parsley, pickled jalapenos, and cheese. Continue to cook until the cheese is melted. If the mixture gets too thick, thin it with some of the reserved oyster liquid.

Spoon the mixture into a buttered, oven-proof baking dish. Cover with bread crumbs.

Cook in a 350 oven until the casserole is bubbly . It should take about fifteen minutes. If the bread crumbs aren’t brown, zap the dish under the broiler for a minute or two.

As they say in New Orleans, “Bon temps!”




Crawfish Beignets on A Winter’s Day


It was December but you couldn’t tell it by the New Orleans weather. Trent Marshall and Darcey Anderson sat on the gallery of their home on Governor Nicholls Street sipping peach martinis. Both were wearing short sleeved shirts and jeans. Trent had made crawfish beignets that awaited the call to dinner.

Crawfish Fritters

He had also talked to their friend retired Alaska State Trooper Colonel Robert Monk earlier in the day. Robert reported Alaska was far different. Very cold and a lot of snow in most of the state. It reminded Trent of the story Robert told him about when he and his parents first arrived in Alaska.

“It was a long time ago,” Trent told Darcey. “Robert was just a boy. He said that first winter was the most beautiful he ever saw. Relatively mild temperatures, lots of snow. Those huge, fluffy flakes that are so beautiful.

“His dad came home one day and said, ‘I’m told this is a most unusual winter.’

“Robert said the second winter was the worst he’s ever seen,” Trent continued, laughing. “Very cold. Hardly any snow. What snow fell was quickly blown away by the heavy winds leaving nothing but ice. Travel was miserable and dangerous.

“His dad came home one day and again said, ‘I’m told this is a most unusual winter.’

Trent took a dramatic sip of martini before continuing.

“When the third winter rolled around, Robert’s dad came home one day and said, ‘I’m not buying this unusual winter stuff any more.’ “

Darcey laughed. Trent flashed his biggest smile.

“Let’s go have some crawfish,” he said.

Trent Marshall’s Crawfish Fritters

peanut oil

2 cups flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

salt to taste

1 cup buttermilk

3 eggs

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1/4 cup tarragon, chopped

1/2 cup parsley, chopped

1 cup corn kernels cut fresh from the cob

2 tablespoons mild green chilis (cans can be found in the Hispanic foods section of most grocery stores)

1 pound cooked crawfish tails

Mix dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry. Don’t overmix. The batter should be slightly lumpy.

Drop balls of batter into hot peanut oil and fry. They should cook in about four minutes. When done, set the fritters on a plate covered with paper towels to allow them to drain.

As Trent would say, “Bon Temps!”

Chiang Kai Shek’s Gold Served with Trent Marshall’s Lasagna

The sweet aroma of lasagna in the oven filled Trent Marshall and Darcey Anderson’s Anchorage penthouse. It was the week before Christmas and it was cold. Trent and Darcey had brought their family to Alaska to enjoy a white Christmas. It was cold but not cold enough to keep the girls of the family from their holiday shopping, though Ivy was heard grumbling about ice and snow as they left.

After he got the lasagna in the oven, Trent lost himself in a tome from the book shelf that included a section on the removal of Chinese gold reserves from the mainland to Taiwan when Chiang Kai Shek led his army and several hundred thousand civilians fleeing the victorious communists at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

When Chiang realized he had lost the war, he secretly began moving his forces to Taiwan. He flew almost five hundred military aircraft to the island along with twenty six naval vessels. He also used several dozen ships to smuggle China’s complete gold reserves from the mainland. Before Mao Zedong realized what was happening, Chiang successfully moved some 135 tons of gold plus several national artistic treasures to Taiwan. It was that huge cache of gold that would serve as the basis of Taiwan’s future commercial success.

Trent was vaguely familiar with the story. His interest was stirred the previous weekend while on a family trip. As it was unseasonably warm then, Trent took Darcey, their daughter Kelli, Darcey’s mother Betty, and Ivy, Trent’s surrogate mother, on a drive through the mountains south to Seward.

While the women explored the shops along the water front, Trent strolled along the dock looking at boats. One in particular attracted his attention. It was an old boat. He thought it came from the first half of the twentieth century. The name, written in faded paint on the bow, said “Chuan.” it seemed somehow familiar to him.

He learned in his research that day that Chiang used many ships and aircraft to spirit the gold away from the mainland. Eighty or ninety of those ships eventually defected back to the communist government. One sank. And one simply disappeared. The Chuan.

It wasn’t known if the Chuan was carrying gold when it vanished. With 135 tons of gold moving to Taiwan there would certainly be a temptation.

Trent closed the book and looked thoughtfully out the window, his gaze following Cook Inlet. Perhaps another adventure was shaping up.

But first…lasagna!

Trent Marshall’s Lasagna

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup onion, finely chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound ground beef

2 pounds canned tomatoes

8 ounces tomato sauce

6 ounces tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine

2 tablespoons Worcestershire

1 teaspoon oregano

Lasagna

1 teaspoon basil

1 teaspoon sugar

Creole seasoning & pepper to taste

1 cup ricotta

1/2 cup parmesan, grated

1 pound mozzarella, grated

lasagna noodles

Saute the onion in olive oil until it is soft and beginning to color. Add the garlic and cook a minute longer. Don’t let the garlic burn. Add the ground beef. Stir to mix well and continue cooking until the meat is browned.

Add all the remaining ingredients except for the cheeses and noodles. Gently simmer the sauce for at least an hour and up to four hours.

Create layers in an oven proof pan beginning with a thin layer of sauce. A glass dish is best.

Next cover the pan with noodles. Trent uses pre-cooked noodles. Then make layers as follows: a thicker layer of sauce; crumbles of ricotta; sprinkles of parmesan; a layer of mozzarella. Repeat the layers, ending with sauce and then mozzarella.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Terrific when snow is on the ground!

Collards & Corn Bread Are Great But What Does 7:48 Mean?

Jacques Houston snapped awake.

7:48.

He could see 7:48 in his mind. He could see it clearly. What did it mean? 7:48. Was it a time? A significant time? Was something pivotal in his life going to occur at 7:48?

The numbers stayed with him through the following days as he went about his routine in New Orleans’ French Quarter. 7:48.

Jacques wasn’t smart. He didn’t have to be smart. He worked for a man who was and who was invested in numerous businesses that operated well outside the law. Jacques didn’t have to think. He only had to do as he was told.

Jacques was also not involved in the 21st century. He had neither mobile phone nor computer. He had a television but received only over the air channels. He watched old movies and sitcoms. He wore a cheap, old-fashioned wrist watch. His most prized possession was a Thompson submachine gun, the last of which was made in 1945. It was still a vicious, effective weapon.

He went to the restaurant his boss used as his office at mid day seven days a week. He stayed there usually until about ten o’clock in the evening. If the boss had something for him to do he received his orders verbally. Otherwise he waited.

On Sunday he was given a package and told to place it in a particular place in a particular manner in the home of homicide detective Jordan Baron. The cop, Jacques was told, would be gone on from 4:30 until 6:30 that evening. It was vital that Jacques get into Baron’s home during that period. He must be gone by 6:30.

Jacques thought he knew what was in the package. He wasn’t especially interested. Baron had been causing problems for the boss recently. Jacques assumed the boss decided to get the cop out of the way.

Collard greens & corn bread.

It was easy to bypass the security system at Baron’s apartment and pick the lock. It took a few minutes longer than Jacques had planned but he thought time remained plentiful.

Once inside, Jacques placed the duffel bag he carried on a table. He first removed his precious Thompson and laid it carefully aside. Then the package.

As he went about placing the package and preparing it as he had been instructed, he didn’t worry about time. He had plenty.

He thought that until he heard the click of a revolver being cocked. Then he heard the voice.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Detective Baron said. “You’re thinking you can reach that antiquated weapon on the table and lace me up with twenty rounds.”

“But I know I can get off one round from this antiquated weapon,” Baron continued, waving the Webley revolver Trent Marshall had given him, “that will rip through your brain at least two seconds before you can touch the Thompson.”

Jacques wasn’t smart. He was smart enough not to test Baron’s theory.

The detective called for the bomb squad. Then he maliciously made Jacques sit on the package on the bathroom floor, his hands cuffed to the piping under the sink. He left Jacques there with the door closed. If the bomb exploded before the squad arrived they would lose Jacques and part of Baron’s bathroom. Neither would be a great loss.

“But you were supposed to be gone until 6:30,” Jacques protested as he was led away by two uniformed officers.

“Yes, and I was forty-five minutes late,” Baron said.

Jacques looked puzzled. Baron suddenly realized why. He laughed.

“Today is Sunday, March 9th, Jacques,” Baron said, “the first day of Daylight Savings Time. We set our clocks an hour forward last night.”

“Nobody told me,” Jacques mumbled.

As he passed the large clock on Baron’s wall, he didn’t notice the hands pointed to 7:48.

With his home returned to normal and no damage done, Baron took the collard greens and corn bread, leftovers from dinner at Trent and Darcey’s that evening, to the kitchen. They knew it was one of his favorite meals. They made it especially for him.

He especially liked the way they made their collards because they use tasso, that delicious, spiced Louisiana ham. If tasso isn’t available, any good quality ham will do or, in a real emergency, even bacon.

Jordan Baron’s Collard Greens

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

8 ounces tasso, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds

5 cloves garlic, minced

3 – 4 pounds collard greens (about four bunches) with the thick stems removed and the leaves torn into pieces

salt & pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil. When it is hot but not smoking, add the onion and tasso. Saute until the onion is softened and beginning to show color, and the tasso has begun to brown. Toss in the garlic and continue cooking for no more than a minute or two. Be careful to avoid burning the garlic.

Add the collards and enough water to comfortably cover them. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about an hour, or until the greens are cooked through.

If you’re really smart, you’ll serve the greens with corn bread.

As Jordan Baron would say, “Bon temps!”