by Dawn Knox
house wine to go with the Chef’s Special
Previously: Having avoided a terrifying, badger ambush and a deadly, chocolate avalanche, Sat Nav guides Eddie, Brian and Gideon to Great Puddington - the spy pig’s final destination. So, is this goodbye to Gideon?
“For once, things are going our way,” remarked Eddie as Monsieur Brioche waddled ahead of them, leading the way to a table by the window.
“Monsieur Guttle reserved ze best table in ze restaurant for you, Messieurs.” The penguin pulled the red velvet chair out for Eddie to sit down and the one opposite, for Brian. There was a pile of telephone directories on Brian’s chair and he helped the muttering monkey on to the top of them.
“Stop sulking,” whispered Eddie when the mâitre d’ had gone, “there’s nothing wrong with being short.”
“And you can’t wait for an excuse to point it out, can you!”
“Stop being so prickly! Look, we’ve finally got rid of Gideon and after a slap-up meal, we can be off. In a few hours we’ll be in Hummus-on-Sea and we can relax and start a new life. Now, let’s just enjoy this meal. We’ve certainly earned it.”
“Yes, I suppose so. And it is a relief to get away from the sat nav. One more verse of Frère Jacques and I’d have gone mad.”
“There is only one verse.”
“So why did it go on for hours? Every time I thought it had finished, someone started it up again.”
“Messieurs?” said the waiter, “May I recommend ze chef’s special to start, and zen for ze main course, ze chef’s special?”
“Yes please,” said Eddie.
“How d’you know we’ll like chef’s special?” asked Brian when the waiter had gone.
“Who cares? Gideon’s paying.”
“But Eddie, Gideon hasn’t paid for anything the whole time we’ve known him. He doesn’t appear to have any cash.”
“No, he always pays by cheque,” said Eddie winking.
“But this is Great Puddington, the place where spies come to train and renew their licences. Don’t you think the folks here might be wise to the old disappearing-ink-on-the-cheque trick?”
“Too late now,” said Eddie, “the waiter’s bringing our chef’s special.”
“What d’you mean you can’t pay?” said Eddie when Gideon arrived, “why did you book us a table in an expensive restaurant? You know we’re skint!”
“Well, old chap, I must confess, it was a bit of a ruse.”
“Ruse? Ruse?” screeched Eddie.
“Lower your voice! The waiters are looking,” said Brian.
“Iz zere a problem, Messieurs?” asked Monsieur Brioche, who was flanked by two burly penguins.
“Er, do you take cheques?” asked Eddie.
Monsieur Brioche shook his head, “Zis iz Great Puddington. Cash only.”
“Well, my good penguin,” said Gideon, “it’s like this. I’m afraid I’m a bit short at the moment and I’m going to have to request Option B.”
“What’s Option B?” asked Eddie.
One of the waiters scuttled off to the kitchen and returned with some rubber gloves. He pulled one of the fingers and released it with a ‘thwack’.
Eddie screamed, “It’s no good searching me! I haven’t got anything!” he backed away with his wings raised.
“For you,” said Monsieur Brioche, handing one pair of rubber gloves to Gideon, “for you,” he said passing another pair to Brian, “and anozer pair for your excitable friend who iz standing against ze wall. You will find ze washing up in ze kitchen. Zat way!”
“It’s no good searching me!” mimicked Brian, doubling up with laughter.
“All right, all right!” said Eddie, “I panicked. I’ve seen people use rubber gloves before and it wasn’t pretty. Before you know it, your gizzards are intimately acquainted with your parson’s nose.”
“Well, no harm done, eh?” said Gideon.
“What d’you mean? If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t be elbow deep in soap suds.”
“I’m very sorry, chaps, I thought the meal would keep you here in case I failed my test and needed a lift out of here. And sadly, I did fail. But I hadn’t quite thought it through. I’m so used to paying for everything with a cheque and I’d forgotten that no one would accept one in Great Puddington.”
“You failed your test?” asked Brian, “What does that mean?”
“It means I have to do a spy’s refresher course but I simply can’t afford it.”
“Can’t you just resit the test?”
“It’s not permitted if you fail everything.”
“Yes. Apparently, I’m too fat, too unfit and too slow. I didn’t hit any of the targets at shooting practice and my explosive device failed to go off.”
“Is that all?” asked Eddie sarcastically.
“No,” said Gideon, “I think I might have indisputably failed when I shot the examiner with my pen… Well, it’s an easy mistake to make.”
“But why d’you think we’re going to take you anywhere?” Brian asked, “I don’t want to spend the next few hours strapped in the van seat with you again.”
“Yeah!” said Eddie, “I think you were the one who kept Frère Jacques going for hours.”
“Well,” said Gideon, “it’s like this, chaps, when we get to Hummus-on-Sea, we’ll need somewhere to live ̶ “
“We? What d’you mean we?”
“Do you have any money to rent a place?” Gideon asked.
“I do, or rather I have a cheque book and we could rent somewhere rather nice overlooking the beach.”
“He has a point,” said Brian.
“This is beautiful!” said Brian opening the glass doors leading to the roof terrace, “just look at that sea view! And we’ll have a bedroom each!”
“Are you sure we can afford the rent on this?” asked Eddie.
“I’ve just given the cheque to the agent, old chap. So, the answer is yes, we can. Well, until our cheque scam is discovered.”
“Let’s order pizza and celebrate!” said Brian, “I’m starving, lunch was hours ago. That chef was a bit stingy with his special.”
“Ah!” said Gideon, “I’m afraid that might not be possible, not unless you can pay.”
“Write the pizza delivery person a cheque.”
“Ah!” said Gideon again.
“What do you mean Ah!”
“Well, I gave the estate agent my last cheque and without a spy’s licence, I can’t get another special cheque book.”
“You mean we haven’t got a bean between us?”
“I think you can count on it,” said Gideon.
“Let’s not panic,” said Eddie, “at least we’ve got an apartment. Tomorrow, we’ll get jobs. It can’t be that difficult. This is a busy town and I’m sure we’ll all be employed before we know it.”
“Hey look,” said Brian holding a ducat coin aloft, “I found it down the back of the sofa! Shall I ring for pizza?”
“No, we need to look for jobs. Go and get some fish and chips. We can read the newspaper once we’ve eaten.”
“You’re going to love it, I promise,” said Eddie the following day as they walked along the promenade, “the pay is excellent and the hours are short.”
“Is it legal?” asked Brian.
“Then why won’t you let me see the advert?”
“We’re nearly there and then you’ll be able to see for yourself,” said Eddie turning into a dingy, side street.
“It’s a bit seedy down here, old boy,” remarked Gideon.
“That’s artists for you,” said Eddie vaguely. “Look, this is the place.” He opened the door and led them into a large studio filled with easels.
“Greetings, gentlemen!” A chubby cat in a paisley kaftan glided towards them, her bangles jangling discordantly, “No need to be overawed, tiny creature,” she said to Brian, “I may be famous throughout the Isle of Macaroon but I assure you beneath all my talent and flair, I am a mortal, just like you… Well, not greatly like you… but you get my drift.”
Eddie, anticipating that when Brian spoke, it might not help their job prospects, inserted himself between the monkey and the cat.
“Leonora Da Finchy! How wonderful to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you and your brilliant paintings!” Eddie said, bowing politely.
“Well, of course you have, and here are a few of my babies,” said Leonora, her bangles jangling as she swept her paw through the air, drawing attention to dozens of framed paintings on the studio wall, “Now, how can I be of assistance? Have you come to buy a masterpiece? Or to enrol in my wonderful painting class? No? Well, a selfie with me, perhaps?”
“Actually, Miss Da Finchy we’ve come about the job.”
“Oh! Well, why didn’t you say instead of wasting my time? You can go in that cupboard over there to change… and then pose over there…” the bangles clashed as she indicated first the door, then two sofas on the raised area in front of the easels. “Class begins in ten minutes. If my students like you, I’ll consider keeping you on, although I only really wanted two models but we might be able to work the tiny creature in somewhere.”
Eddie reached behind his back and slapped his hand over Brian’s mouth.
“Thank you,” he said leading Gideon and Brian to the changing cupboard door.
“Don’t forget,” she called after them, “every stitch off. I want flesh and lots of it. A nude model should be just that… nude.”
Eddie managed to open the door, push Gideon and Brian inside and close it before the word ‘nude’ ricocheted off the walls and ceiling, followed by the words ‘Not on your life!’
“It’s all right for you, Eddie old chap, you’re only wearing a jacket. When you take that off, you’re practically nude. And Brian isn’t wearing anything but a hat. As for me, I’m wearing a tailored dinner suit.”
“It’s not going to fit much longer if we can’t afford to eat…”
“Point taken, old chap. Can you pass me that hanger?”
“I feel ridiculous!” said Gideon, “if she only wants two models, why don’t you both do it?”
“Because if we all do it, we’ll have three wage packets instead of two. The sooner we get some money together, the sooner we can find better jobs. Now, are you ready? We need to go out.”
“Just a few more moments, old chap…”
Eddie opened the door and peeped round it. He gulped and closed it softly.
“What’s the matter? Don’t tell me you’ve gone shy!” said Brian.
Eddie gulped again.
“No, it’s Leonora, she’s… she’s…” he whispered.
“She’s what?” asked Brian.
“She’s sharpening pencils!”
“She’s sharpening them with an axe.”
“Perhaps her pencil sharpener has broken? Let me look!”
Brian opened the door and peered through the gap.
“Crikey, you’re right! And have you noticed those paintings behind her desk?”
“No, art appreciation wasn’t exactly on my mind.”
“Well, I suggest you look,” said Brian, shuffling out of the way to make room for Eddie.
“I see what you mean,” said Eddie with a gasp, “on reflection, I think we ought to get dressed and run.”
Gideon seized Eddie and Brian by the scruff of their necks, “Not so fast! You brought us here, old chap, let’s see it through. So, she’s sharpening pencils with an axe and you don’t like her paintings. It could be worse. We could starve to death.”
“You don’t understand!” wailed Eddie, “Those paintings are of beheaded chickens!”
Gideon pushed them both out of the cupboard, “We’re ready, Miss Da Finchy!”
“Excellent! Some of my students have already arrived, so if the pig and the chicken could drape themselves artistically over the sofas, I’ll take the tiny creature next door. He’s much too hairy for this class. I told you I need nude models, he looks like he’s wearing a fur coat.”
“Well, this isn’t too bad at all,” said Gideon, “if one closes one’s eyes, one can’t see all those people peeping at one. And I must say, the students seem to be a jolly lot, judging by all the laughter.”
Eddie glanced at the clock, carefully avoiding the decapitated chicken paintings. “Still another fifty-eight minutes to go.”
“Have two whole minutes gone already?” asked Gideon, “My, my, isn’t time flying?”
“Shh!” said Eddie, “Did you hear that? Someone’s screaming.”
“I think it’s that hedgehog at the end easel, she keeps shrieking with laughter. I don’t think she’s taking this lesson seriously, at all.”
“No,” said Eddie, “there’s definitely someone screaming… oh, it seems to have stopped.”
Leonora appeared at the door of the studio, pushing what looked like a scrawny, pink-skinned rat in front of her. He had his hands crossed over his modesty and he was glaring at Eddie.
“There, that’s much better, tiny creature,” she said, “now, go and join your friends.”
“Brian? Is it you?” asked Eddie aghast, “What happened to you?”
“I will never forgive you for this, Eddie! That was agony! If my hair doesn’t grow back, I’m going to sue. I thought she was taking me into a candle-making class when she started talking about hot wax. But I can tell you, she had no intention of making candles!”
Links to previous stories in The Macaroon Chronicles series
The Macaroon Chronicles Prologue and the Three Wise Monkeys - http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-macaroon-chronicles-prologue-and.html
#ChickenInCustard - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/02/chickenincustard.html
The Fine Print - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/02/the-fine-print.html
French for Cheese - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/02/french-for-cheese.html
Porkies and Espiggy-onage (Lies and Spies) – https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/03/porkies-and-espiggy-onage-lies-and-spies.html
Nearly Death by Chocolate - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/03/nearly-death-by-chocolate.html
About the author
Dawn’s latest book is ’The Basilwade Chronicles’ published by Chapeltown Books. She enjoys writing in different genres and has had romances, speculative fiction, sci-fi, humorous and women’s fiction published in magazines, anthologies and books. Dawn has also had two plays about World War One performed internationally. You can follow her here on https://dawnknox.com, Facebook here DawnKnoxWriter or on Twitter here https://twitter.com/SunriseCalls