Cook and run—those were Granddad’s instructions to me this evening. I was supposed to make the chowder for his dinner guests from the retirement village and get out of the kitchen. Then he would add the final ingredients and claim credit for the whole meal. This ruse was part of his campaign to win the heart of Lillian, the Village’s most attractive widow. Her departed husband, a gourmet cook, had spoiled her for men who didn’t know their way around a kitchen. To convince Lillian of his cooking skills, Granddad has no qualms about passing off my recipes and my dinners as his own creations. I go along with his hoaxes, grateful that he gave me a home when my life in New York fell apart.
Six months ago, my dream job as a cookbook publicist turned nightmarish and my gorgeous fiancé turned cheater. I now live with Granddad in his ramshackle Victorian near the Chesapeake Bay and eke out a living as a café manager at the local athletic club. The food in the Cool Down Café is healthy and the conversation energetic among the new friends I’ve made there. Last month, the murder of a club member really spiced up my life. Except for the murder and its aftermath, I’ve enjoyed living in Bayport, Maryland, a historic waterfront town filled with tourists and retirees, several of them coming to dinner tonight.
The dining room table was set for seven. Granddad’s friend, Lillian, arrived early and headed straight to the kitchen. I hid behind the wall between the back staircase and the kitchen, waiting for her to leave so I could get back to cooking the chowder. Okay, I also wanted to eavesdrop because I didn’t entirely trust her. From my perch on the fifth step, I heard her tell Granddad that his clam chowder looked delicious. “Instead of clam chowder,” he said, “we should call it scam chowder.” Lillian laughed and said, “Scam chowder for the guest of honor. Let’s wait until dinner is over to spring the trap on that crook. The drinks, your delicious chowder, and a sweet dessert will soften him for the kill.”
Granddad had invited a crook to dinner! Later I found out what kind of crook—a man who scammed senior citizens out of their savings. Even before the dinner started, I had a bad feeling about Granddad’s plan (or was it Lillian’s plan?) to trap a scammer, but I couldn’t figure out how to stop him without confessing that I’d eavesdropped on him and his girlfriend. He never listened to me anyway. So I just finished cooking, went up to my bedroom, and hoped for the best.
Sounds of laughter from the sitting room before dinner and the hum of conversation from the dining room convinced me that the evening was going well. With Granddad’s chowder dinner well under way, I could sneak out the back door and go for a walk. As I crept down the stairs to the kitchen, I heard a woman cry out in the dining room: “Food poisoning! That’s what it is.”
I restrained myself from zooming into the dining room and confronting the accuser. Doing that would expose my grandfather as a liar. To support his claim that he’d made tonight’s dinner without my help, he’d told his guests I wasn’t home. I rushed out the back door and ran around to the front of the house. Granddad would be annoyed that I crashed his party. Too bad. He needed my help, though he might not admit it. I opened the front door and called out, “I’m home, Granddad.” As I approached the dining room, no one at the table even glanced at me. They all stared at the man with thinning blond hair. He groaned and pitched face first into the chowder. The scammer, I presumed.
You can read more about Val and her Granddad in Scam Chowder, the second book in the “Five-Ingredient” mystery series, published by Kensington. The first book in the series is By Cook Or By Crook.
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About the author
Maya Corrigan lives near Washington, D.C., within easy driving distance of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the setting for her Five-Ingredient Mysteries: By Cook or by Crook (2014) and Scam Chowder (2015). She has taught courses in writing, detective fiction, and American literature at Georgetown University and NOVA community college. A winner of the 2013 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in unpublished Mystery and Suspense, she has written short stories published under her full name of Mary Ann Corrigan. Her website features book news, contests, recipes, trivia, and quizzes about mysteries.