Just hear me out for a second, please, All right? Tell you what. I’ll put down my shovel, and you put down that rusty pipe, and we’ll talk, okay? Just talk.
I know you want to keep fighting, and I understand that. We’re not going to settle our differences any other way. But, you know, we are up here on this narrow metal catwalk. And I’m just a little concerned about what might happen to the loser of this fight.
This used to be a chemical factory, did you know that? Mr. Rosemont bought it at auction about six years ago. He used like three phony corporations based out of the Cayman Islands to keep it off his balance sheet, but that’s not important right now. What is important is that whatever’s in those giant chemical vats right under us probably isn’t any too stable.
I don’t know if the chemicals are corrosive or not. What I do know is that this is a very narrow catwalk, and it’s made of metal, and whatever vapors there are may have corroded the metal somewhat. Not to mention that the roof is maybe a little leaky, and there’s probably some rust. And I don’t think that these railings are really up to code.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Mr. Rosemont killed your partner. I get it.
You want revenge. Sure you do. I am not saying any different. I am saying that I should take that staircase and go down to the first floor, and you should take that staircase behind you, and we’ll meet in that big open area over there, and we can start fighting again.
I am not saying Mr. Rosemont’s not a bad guy. Because he is. I mean, he’s a meth dealer. But he takes care of his people, you know what I mean? I got a 401(k) and dental insurance, thanks to him, and if you get lucky with that pipe and bash my head in, I get workers’ comp.
Yes, you could bash my head in just as easily over here. But then I end up falling in one of those vats. And maybe I grab at you and we both fall down there. That’s going to be messy. We can do this just as easily down there as up here, don’t you think?
If it means that much to you, we can fight over there, by the forge. There’s a big pool of molten metal or something. I don’t even know why we have that running, to be honest with you. We’re making meth here, not doing blacksmithing. But Mr. Rosemont pays the utility bills, so what do I care?
No, I’m not just going to let you take Mr. Rosemont out. Look, you probably don’t remember this, but you killed my partner.
Yes, you did. You shot him in the guts with an arrow from a crossbow. You said, “Next time, don’t cross me.” Ha. Real funny. Wasn’t real funny when I had to carry his coffin at his funeral. His name was Mike, and he had a wife and three kids. You think of that?
So, yeah, I want to knock your brains out with this shovel just as much as you want to shove that pipe up my ass. I am not saying that we shouldn’t do that. All I am saying is that maybe we go downstairs first, okay?
I’m gonna take a step back, and then you’re gonna take a step back. Then two steps, and then three steps, and then we’re both at the head of our respective staircases. Then we both race down to see who gets to the ground floor first. You can even slide down the bannister if you want. I don’t even care.
Why can’t we do the sensible thing here? I mean, I don’t even know how we got up here. I think I was thinking about dropping that light fixture on your head, but that thing is bolted in there pretty good. I’d need twenty minutes with an impact wrench to even get it loose.
No? Really? I knew you were a bastard, but I didn’t know you were such a jerk. Okay. Here goes. You want a piece of me? Come on. Let’s do this. Let’s have this senseless, violent confrontation here, on this rickety piece-of-crap catwalk, suspended over a chemical plant, with open vats of God-knows-what kind of horrible corrosive shit down there. Let’s go. Show me what you’re made of.
Okay then? Okay. Now we’re talking. See you downstairs, chump. Don’t drop your pipe on the way down.
The website for Trattoria Pappardelle says that it’s located on Washington Square and that the head chef is Paulo Lunetti, which is two lies for you right there. It’s like four blocks north, and the chef’s name is actually Paul Mooney, and he’s from Staten Island. I know this because I dated his sorry ass for three years before he dumped me right before he got this job in Manhattan, the slime. That means Trattoria Pappardelle has been open about four months now, so if you want to go there, you should do it soon, by which I mean before the Health Department closes it down.
Trattoria Pappardelle serves traditional Italian fare in an intimate, romantic setting. What that really means is that Paul talked the owner to keep the lights turned down so no one can see how ugly the food is. It does have these cute red-and-white checkered tablecloths, so there’s that, I only mention this because Paul thinks that cute checkered tablecloths are tacky, which shows you how much he knows.
When you get there, ask Katie the hostess if you can sit on the left side. Not that it makes that much of a difference, because the food is the same either way. and the same cheesy murals are on either side. But the tables on the left are Wilma’s, and the tables on the right are Kameron’s. Wilma is not really a very good waitress, and she will try to talk you out of ordering any of the lobster dishes, even though lobster is like, really cheap right now, and most of it is sustainably farmed. But Wilma is essentially a nice person and won’t ever do anything like have try and have sex with your boyfriend in the back of a VW Touareg.
I am not saying that, if you happen to go to Trattoria Pappardelle, that Kameron will try to talk your boyfriend into having a quickie in the back seat of a German crossover vehicle, just because she did that to my boyfriend, who is now my ex-boyfriend, but I am saying that Kameron will put her slut hands all over your food and you don’t really want that.
Trattoria Pappardelle is BYOB, but they will set you up with a corkscrew and wine glasses if you ask nicely. Orlando does the dishes, and he’s usually very conscientious about the glasses being clean but he’s not there every night, so make sure you check for spots. Paul is too much of a wuss to fire Orlando, even after that time he was gone for three days and Paul had to drive all the way down the Jersey Shore to bail him out after he’d gotten picked up for drunk-and-disorderly on the boardwalk at Point Pleasant.
You probably want to get the soup. It’s the one thing that Paul actually does well, the lying slug. The roasted cauliflower soup with lamb sausage is your best choice. Paul put it together when he was at Cucina Vito’s in Perth Amboy and they had a lot of cauliflower and lamb sausage left over after some catering gig, and it turned out better than you’d think. At least it’s better than the minestrone, which is mostly a way for Paul to use up vegetables that aren’t exactly fresh anymore. The only good thing about the minestrone is that Paul always adds freshly cooked conchiglie before he serves it, because if you add in the pasta when you cook the soup, the pasta gets overcooked, and Paul cares more about overcooked pasta than he does about people, even people that are close to him and who let him borrow thirty-five hundred dollars to finish his last semester of cooking school.
You want the soup because the appetizers are mostly garbage. Paul buys the ravioli from Sysco, because he’s too lazy to put down his PlayStation controller and go into the kitchen and make fresh appetizers. Then he just throws some sun-dried tomatoes on top and says that’s gourmet dining, which is a joke. The only thing that’s any good is the roasted eggplant dip with brown butter and balsamic vinegar, because Andre, the sous-chef, makes that himself. Paul is a big giant baby and he thinks eggplant is gross. It’s one of the few things Andre gets to do on his own, and he works hard on it, and it’s really good and you should try it.
All of the salads have chopped red onion in them, which is gross, so don’t get the salad.
You pretty much can’t go wrong with any of the pasta dishes at Trattoria Pappardelle. This is because one of the few things that Paul is actually good at doing, other than being emotionally unavailable and immature, is making pasta. Kevin is the saucier, and he does a really good job on the pasta sauces, so you’re pretty much set. I am not saying that Kevin is really a nice person, because he isn’t, and he smokes. I have it on good authority Kevin told Paul to dump me when he got the job in Manhattan, because thought I was taking up too much of Paul’s time. But it is not like Kevin screwed Kameron out in the parking lot, or went to Bermuda with Lisa from Liberty Travel not two weeks after he broke up with me, the way Paul did. You can order the linguine with quail or the wild boar ragu with penne with confidence.
Trattoria Pappardelle’s reputation is built on their chicken parm, which is not because it’s all that good but because Paul uses bigger chicken breasts and pounds them thin to make it look like you’re getting a lot bigger portion than you actually are. Paul thinks most people are cheap bastards, and the only way you can get them to come in the door is either with two-for-one coupons or by making them think they’re getting a deal on the chicken parm. The problem with the larger chicken breasts is that they don’t have that much flavor and aren’t that juicy, so Paul salts the hell out of the chicken to make up for it. So don’t get the chicken parm unless you want your blood pressure to go up the way mine did when Paul dumped me for no reason, the louse.
The best item on the menu is the braised veal chop with the saffron orzo. Paul used to be really sniffy about veal, and the only reason it was on the menu in his old restaurant was that he said that the owner kept complaining that he left it off. But then when he lost the lease on the old restaurant, he took me to Italy for two weeks, which at the time I thought was so incredibly romantic until I found out that he put the airfare on my credit card without asking me first. Anyway, we went to Naples, and had dinner at this amazing restaurant on this historic piazza, and I was just convinced he was going to ask me to marry him then and there, but of course he didn’t, because Paul wouldn’t notice a romantic moment if it hit him in the face with a bottle of pinot grigio. So I ordered the veal chop, and Paul made fun of me for ordering it, and I told him it was better than anything he knew how to make. So he tried a bite, and then he ended up eating half of it, and then went in the back to ask for the recipe, which once they found out he was a cook, they basically put him to work while I was sitting at the table all by myself eating about a half-dozen zeppole and feeling bad about myself. But it really turned Paul on to veal, and so you should probably order that.
They don’t have zeppole at Trattoria Pappardelle, which is probably a good idea because they’re incredibly fattening, but it’s a shame. The main thing most people get is the cannoli, which is pretty good, but be sure to order the flourless chocolate cake. Paul decided to have a gluten-free menu, which was a good idea on his part, but the only dessert that they could figure out that would be gluten-free is the flourless chocolate cake, and Paul hates flourless chocolate cake because he’s not really good at making pastries in the first place and you have to watch it to make sure it doesn’t fall. So be sure to order the flourless chocolate cake, but cover your ears when you do, because Paul gets really cheesed off when anyone orders it and you might hear some bad words.
Trattoria Pappardelle is wheelchair-accessible and kid-friendly, although don’t bring up the subject of having kids around Paul because he won’t ever talk about it and will try to make you feel bad for asking. The restaurant takes American Express, Visa and MasterCard, but not Discover even though lots of people use Discover and I told Paul a hundred times that he should take it but he won’t because he let his Discover balance get too high that one time and they raised his rate and he still holds a grudge. I give Trattoria Pappardelle four stars, but only if you get the lasagna and the flourless chocolate cake, and if you sit on the left side of the restaurant. Except that I give it one star if you’re that bitch Lisa from Liberty Travel, who can die in a fire as far as I’m concerned.
As most of you know, I decided to take three weeks off to bum around Europe. I know a lot of you were jealous about it, but I had saved my money and I had a lot of paid time off I had to burn this year, and I’ve always wanted to see more of the world than just central New Jersey. You probably saw my Instagram of me with the Eiffel Tower, right? Or my Facebook post about visiting the site of the Berlin Wall, right? What I’m saying is, you know I’m in Europe. I’m not making that part up.
I say this, because everyone’s gotten one of those e-mails that’s from their friends, and the friend says that they’re trapped in Europe, and all their money has been stolen, and they’re desperate. You know what I mean. I think that happened to Brett once, right? We all got this email from Brett, saying he was in Ankara, and he had been robbed and beaten, and needed a few dollars to tide him over until his flight left for Newark? Remember that? And remember that it turned out that Brett wasn’t in Turkey after all, but had gone to the Poconos for the weekend with Marcie from Accounting?
So, you see, it’s a very common online scam that people use to fool you and say that your friend is in trouble, and you should wire them money to this PayPal account so they can get home safely. And it’s really annoying, and we can all agree that it’s a terrible thing and you should be very suspicious of anybody who sends you that kind of e-mail.
Having said that, I am stuck in Vienna, and I have no money, and I would like very much to get home, so I’m asking all of you to loan me twenty bucks, which I will totally pay you once I get back.
I know what you’re saying. “That Dan, he’s such a kidder, this is all an elaborate practical joke.” Well, the joke’s on me this time. I took the train down from Berlin, and it arrived a little later than I thought it would, and I couldn’t find a cab at the train station. So I decided to walk to my hotel. Sounds reasonable, right? I bring up Google Maps, and it says if I take this one dark alley, I can knock ten minutes off my walking time, and that turned out not to be a good idea. Somebody snuck up behind me and hit me in the back of the head with something very hard and blunt.
I woke up in the alley, and promptly threw up. Whoever-it-was took my phone and my wallet and that amazing Prada black leather messenger bag that I was carrying all my stuff in. I went straight to the police, who sent me to the hospital, where I was diagnosed with a concussion. The hospital was nice enough to agree to send me the bill, so there’s that. The police said they’d try to track my credit cards, but also said it was kind of a lost cause. I spent the afternoon in line at the American Embassy, trying to get a new passport, and they said to come back tomorrow.
Luckily, the concierge at the hotel took one look at my Bundespolizei report and was able to honor my reservation, so I got to spend the night in a real bed and not wandering the streets. But the Europass people wouldn’t issue me a new pass until Monday, so I’m stuck in Vienna without any money or any credit cards through the rest of the week. And it’s cold, and I can’t wear my jacket because it smells like vomit.
I am writing this from a cyber cafe near Beethoven’s house. The guy who was using it left fifteen minutes on the timer, so I have just enough time to send you this quick e-mail asking all of you to send me twenty bucks. I haven’t eaten all day and I am starving. I am probably going to have to start rummaging the Dumpsters behind bakeries trying to score some stale Sacher torte if I don’t get some kind of money.
Look, okay? I know how this sounds. Believe me. But I really really really really really am injured and starving in Austria, and I would kill for a schnitzel right now, and I will totally pay you back once I get back home, all right? Seriously.
Since I don’t have access to a camera, or a scanner, I can’t really send you the police report or my CAT scan or the business card of the guy from the Embassy that wouldn’t give me my stupid passport today. So the only way I can prove to you that this is really your old buddy Dan, stuck without any money in Vienna, is to tell you something that only I would know, something that you could check. Right?
So here goes. Behind my office door, there’s a hook. There’s a dry-cleaning bag hanging on the hook. Inside that dry-cleaning bag is Marlene’s cashmere sweater — the one she said was stolen, the one that she’s been complaining about for weeks. I confess. I borrowed it one day when the air conditioning in my office was just unbearable, and she was gone to that continuing legal education thing in Philadelphia. I accidentally spilled hot chocolate on the sleeve, and I took it to the dry cleaner, and it got lost there, and when she freaked about it, I was too scared to put it back in her office. I was waiting for the whole thing to kind of die down, after I got back from vacation, but I never got the chance to. Sorry, Marlene! But at least you got your sweater back.
Recap: I am in Vienna and my PayPal account is tied to my e-mail address. If you could please send me twenty bucks, that would be great, because I am cold and starving on the mean streets of Vienna and I will pay you back when I get home. Thanks!
How about because we drove to the mall last night, and you said before we left the house that you didn’t have to go potty, and you didn’t even make it as far as the Quick Chek before we had to stop the car so you could go potty, that’s why.
Because, hello, it’s a 71-hour drive to the North Pole. That means 71 different pit stops for you, at minimum, and there is no way I am going to drive this minivan for 71 hours straight stopping at every single fast-food restaurant and convenience store on the Al-Can. And once you get past Saskatoon, there aren’t even a lot of Tim Horton’s on the way.
Yes, it is totally that far. And that 71 hours just gets us to the part where the roads end, okay? You have to take, like, a dogsled to get the rest of the way. And I don’t know how to drive a dogsled. Do you know? Okay then. So we’re not going to the North Pole.
We’re not taking the Polar Express. That was just a story. There’s no train that goes that far north, and besides, you were terrified when we saw the movie. You want to ride on that actual train? No? Well, then. Fine.
But there is no actual train. That was all made-up.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. I never said Santa was made up. Santa is real.
And the elves.
And the workplace. All that is real. But the train part, that’s just a story.
No, we couldn’t take a plane. There would be nowhere to land it. The runway is big enough for a sleigh, but not an airplane. It wouldn’t work.
Even if you flew over the North Pole in a plane, you still wouldn’t see Santa’s workshop, because it’s not really real.
That’s not what I’m saying. Santa is real. That’s not made up. But the whole “North Pole” thing is really just a metaphor. You know what a metaphor is, right? Like when you say you’re hungry enough to eat a horse? But you’re really not going to eat a horse. That’s too much to eat, and you wouldn’t want any horsemeat anyway.
Actually, they eat it in France. It’s a delicacy. But that’s not the point. The point is that, look, nobody really knows where Santa’s workshop is. It could be anywhere. We say it’s at the North Pole, but that’s really just a metaphor for a place that’s far away and cold and impossible to get to. It’s not a real place.
Well, the actual North Pole is a real place. And people have gone there. Arctic explorers. And polar bears. Mommy flew over the North Pole that time when she went to that conference in South Korea. But even if we went to the real North Pole, which we are not going to do, you wouldn’t find Santa’s workshop. It’s hidden. People aren’t supposed to go there because it’s so magical.
But that was just a movie, buddy. It’s not real. It was a movie set, and Santa was an actor. A guy named Tim Allen. Did you know he was Buzz Lightyear? Because he was.
No, we can’t get on Buzz Lightyear’s ship and go to the North Pole, either. Just forget I said anything, okay?
Because, like I said, it’s a metaphor.
No. I mean, yes. In a way. I mean, you can look at Santa Claus that way, if you wanted to. You could say that Santa was just a metaphor for human kindness and goodness and decency and love. That’s certainly one way to look at it. But Santa Claus is real, though. He’s a real guy. Don’t worry about that part.
No, the Transformers can’t take you to the North Pole. They’re just toys.
Well, technically, since you got them for Christmas last year, they have been there before. But they were in a box. They probably don’t know the way back.
I imagine the real Transformers could take you to the North Pole, if they were real, but they’re not. They’re just pretend.
I think Optimus Prime and Santa probably are friends.
Hey! There’s Starbucks. You want to go to Starbucks? You can get a nice hot chocolate. Want to?
And a cookie. Sure, why not? Let’s go to Starbucks and have a cookie.
We’re not going to the North Pole after we get done at Starbucks. Okay? Give it a rest.
Because I said so.
Because Santa Claus is watching you right now to see if you’re going to listen and do what I say.
He is too real.
Okay. Come on. Unbuckle out of that car seat, and let’s go get a cookie.
Honey, I know you’re about to go down to the marina to look for clues, but do you have a few minutes to sit down for a quick champagne brunch? I’ve ordered us both the quail egg omelet, with the sweet potato hash browns you like. And there’s fresh strawberries, too. Lionel went all the way down to Long Beach to the fruit wholesaler to make sure they were good and ripe.
That’s wonderful, sweetheart. Just sit down. I promise I won’t keep you long.
I know you’re working hard to solve the murder of Ramona Fairchild. I’m proud of you for being willing to help the police find the killer. And believe me, I know how much you enjoy solving murder mysteries. After you retired from being CEO of your own company, I was worried that you wouldn’t find something challenging to do with your time. Solving these mysteries has definitely been challenging, and I know it’s been rewarding, too.
I just think that maybe you’ve been spending maybe a little bit too much time on them lately.
Please understand, I’m not telling you to quit on the Ramona Fairchild case. I know she was your close friend from college, and I think that you’re on the right track in thinking that Baron von Ravenscroft knows more than he’s been telling. I was just thinking, though, that once this case is over, maybe you might consider taking a little break from solving murder mysteries, that’s all.
I know I’ve said this before, and I don’t want to sound like a broken record. But you have to admit that you’ve spent a lot of time lately on murder mysteries. Before this case, you had the Santa Monica smuggling ring, and the Griffith Park Garrotter, and the case with that horrible one-armed man in Silver Lake. It’s just been one murder mystery after another, and I think it’s time we sit down and had a real heart-to-heart about what it is you’re trying to accomplish.
Darling, you know I love you. I support you. And I understand how important solving these mysteries is to you, week in and week out. I just think that a little hiatus is in order, don’t you?
I do think we’re both overdue for a vacation. But this is exactly what I’m talking about. We went to Tahiti, and we weren’t on the beach for five minutes before that mysterious dead body floated up on the tide. We went to Florence, and we’d barely set foot in the Uffizi before you got roped into that case involving those stolen Carravagios. We couldn’t even go to your niece’s college graduation in Boston without you single-handedly apprehending the MFA Murderer. We haven’t had a vacation in the last three years that hasn’t been interrupted by you trying to solve a mystery.
Well, yes, and succeeding. Fine.
No, I am not being ungrateful. I do appreciate that you saved me when Amanda Grayson tried to frame me for murdering Stanton Overholt. I said so at the time, and I’ve said so every time you’ve brought it up since then. And I am very glad you rescued me when the Corazon y Corazon Cartel kidnapped me in Mazatlan that time, but that was really your own fault for interfering with them on their own turf.
Sweetheart, you are not listening to me. I am not saying to never get involved with another murder mystery again. I would never say that. I know how much it means to you. I know that you get a real sense of satisfaction every time Detective Spelling snaps those handcuffs on another murderer and hauls him off to jail. It’s just that murder is almost a constant part of our lives now, and maybe it shouldn’t be.
Yes, I have been talking to Sally McMillan a lot lately. What about it? We have completely different situations, you know that. Sally is trying to get her husband to retire. You’re already retired. And you’re enjoying yourself, which is fine. But there are other ways to do that, darling.
Well, there are! We haven’t been to the chalet in Idaho in months. You were raving about that Peruvian bistro in Century City for days, and we haven’t been back there once. We missed two concerts that you wanted to see at the Hollywood Bowl because you were on a stakeout out in Oxnard. We haven’t even done so much as to take a quick sail over to Catalina lately. The yacht is just sitting there at the marina, gathering dust. In fact, why don’t I ride down there with you? I could take a quick look at it and make sure everything is shipshape.
Oh, wait. When you said that they found poor Ramona’s body at the marina, I just assumed you meant Marina del Rey. You didn’t tell me she was killed at Redondo Beach.
It makes a huge difference, doesn’t it? I mean, the Baron was arrested on Venice Beach at 10:05 that night. You told me the coroner said the time of death was 9:45. There’s no way the Baron could have killed Ramona in Redondo Beach and then gone all the way north to Venice in twenty minutes. So that means he must be innocent, doesn’t it?
f it’s not the Baron, then the logical place to start is the other people who have yachts on that slip. Maybe one of them was aboard when Ramona was killed. Didn’t you say you saw Maurice Desrosiers when you pulled up to the crime scene? I’m not saying it was Maurice, but you might check and see if he has an alibi. I mean, he certainly had motive.
Of course Maurice had a motive, dear. Didn’t you remember? Ramona and Maurice’s sister were both up for the same role in that Leonard Shapiro movie. And when Ramona won the part, Maurice’s sister committed suicide. That was right before you retired, otherwise you probably would have been in on that investigation, too. I know that‘s just circumstantial. You’d have to have physical evidence, his DNA or something.
All right then, darling. I understand. Go to the crime lab and check it out. But we are not finished having this conversation. Go solve your mystery. But when this is over, we’re going somewhere for a vacation where there aren’t any murders to solve. All right? Promise me, sweetheart.