Authors: Susan Conant,Jessica Conant-Park
Tags: #General, #Women Sleuths, #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective
TURN UP THE HEAT
Gourmet Girl Mysteries
by Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant
TURN UP THE HEAT
Dog Lover’s Mysteries by Susan Conant
A NEW LEASH ON DEATH
DEAD AND DOGGONE
A BITE OF DEATH
PAWS BEFORE DYING
GONE TO THE DOGS
THE BARKER STREET REGULARS
THE WICKED FLEA
BRIDE AND GROOM
GAITS OF HEAVEN
Cat Lover’s Mysteries by Susan Conant
SCRATCH THE SURFACE
TURN UP THE HEAT
Jessica Conant-Park & Susan Conant
BERKLEY PRIME CRIME, NEW YORK
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.
Copyright © 2008 by Susan Conant and Jessica Conant-Park.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
The name BERKLEY PRIME CRIME and the BERKLEY PRIME CRIME design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Turn up the heat / Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant.—1st ed.
1. Carter, Chloe (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Restaurants—Fiction. 3. Waitresses—Crimes against—Fiction. 4. Boston (Mass.)—Fiction. I. Conant, Susan, 1946–II. Title.
a loyal friend,
who survived college dining with Jessica
For sharing amusing insight into the culinary world, narrating chef antics, contributing phenomenal recipes, and answering questions about fish trucks, we thank Jody Adams, Maria Angels and Julio Veliz, Michael Garrett, Justin Lyonnais, Bill Park, Mark Porcaro, and Michael Ricco.
For outstanding editing skills, we applaud David Grumblatt.
For assistance in testing recipes, we thank John and Meg Driscoll, Katrina Grumblatt, and Tony and Alexa Lewis.
For their unfailing help, we thank Natalee Rosen-stein and Michelle Vega of Berkley, and our agent, Deborah Schneider.
TURN UP THE HEAT
May in Boston. There’s nothing else like it. After almost six straight weeks of apocalyptic rain, the sky had suddenly turned an all-but-forgotten blue, the temperature had risen to the miraculously high sixties, and, best of all, the outdoor dining area at my boyfriend’s restaurant was finally open. Josh Driscoll, love of my life, was the executive chef at the five-month-old Newbury Street restaurant, Simmer, and tonight, for the first time ever, Simmer’s fortunate patrons would be able to savor the fruits of Josh’s culinary genius while dining on the sidewalk patio. When Josh had called me earlier today, he’d practically been singing into the phone. “Chloe Carter, my lovely lady, you better get your ass down here to the patio tonight! It’s going to be nice!” Josh’s spring fever was highly contagious: I was as excited as he was.
As Josh’s girlfriend, I obviously had a major in at Simmer. Even so, my friends and I had had to wait forty-five minutes for an outdoor table that could accommodate all five of us, the five of us being me; my best friend, Adrianna; her fiancé, Owen; my social work school buddy and teaching assistant, Doug; and his new boyfriend, Terry.
Newbury Street restaurants were jammed tonight. The good weather seemed to have awakened everyone from hibernation, and all the outdoor eateries in this high-end area were packed with diners. Simmer was no exception. As we waited inside for a patio table, I looked around and, as I’d done before, felt amazed at how beautifully the place had turned out. I’d been around while Gavin Seymour, the owner, had been renovating the location, and I’d seen Simmer at its worst, with electrical wires dangling from the ceiling, holes in the walls, and floors made of crumbling concrete. Now, beautiful dark brown tiles covered the floor, modern light fixtures hung from the high ceilings, and wood moldings framed the textured walls. Gavin had wanted to create what he’d called a “worldly” feel to the restaurant; he’d been eager to have the decor and the ambiance announce that Simmer’s menu wasn’t limited to one style of cooking but was inspired by cuisines from around the globe. The room was filled with square tables and high-backed chairs. Because Josh had helped Gavin to pick out the china, the glassware, and the silver, I knew that all of it had been as expensive as it looked. Votive candles placed at each table gave the room a mellow glow and flattered everyone’s complexion. I loathe eating at restaurants where the lighting casts a yellow tone or a weird shadow on my face; no matter how good the food is, it’s hard to enjoy myself if I’m worried about resembling a ghoul.
And God forbid one not look sensational on Newbury Street, right? The problem with coming here to see Josh all the time was that I felt obliged to dress up. I mean, everyone in this sophisticated section of Boston was either independently loaded or living off someone else’s money and, in either case, was a regular customer at Barney’s. There was hardly an uncoiffed head of hair, a manicured hand not weighed down with Cartier jewelry, or a wallet not busting with platinum credit cards. I was torn between feeling totally nauseated by the disgusting display of wealth and pathetically eager to look as if I belonged. My deceased uncle Alan’s monthly stipend kept me easily afloat, but I didn’t have the money to go flinging bills around at Agnes B. and BCBG. I’d long ago run out of appropriate outfits to wear to Simmer and did my best to make my T.J. Maxx pants look like Chanel. Granted, there was a Gap on Newbury Street, but there were hardly streams of diners here in oversized hooded sweatshirts. It always took me at least an hour to get out of my apartment when I was going to Simmer. It never occurred to me to leave without pressing my wavy red hair between the burning blades of my flatiron; people on Newbury Street did not have frizz! And then I had to spend twenty minutes pretending that my L’Oreal makeup actually was from Paris, all the while slathering my blue eyes with brown liner and trying to color my pale cheeks a fresh-from-Barbados bronze. By the time I’d finished, I always felt passable on Newbury Street, but I remained basically disconnected from the obscene wealth that hit you at every snobby shop and from the stick-thin bodies that you passed on every corner. Not that there was anything horribly wrong with my body. But the average twenty-five-year-old around here weighed a hundred and ten pounds, and I was fifteen over that.
We’d just sat down at one of the ten tables that had been squeezed into a gated area on the sidewalk in front of Simmer when Josh appeared at our table. “Chloe, I just heard you guys were here. I’m sorry you had to wait so long.” Josh leaned down and kissed me before brushing his arm across his sweaty forehead. He was dressed in his once-white chef’s coat, now covered in permanent food stains from previous months plus fresh stains from today. His dirty-blond hair was damp at the hairline, and his eyes were heavy with exhaustion, but even the dark circles and puffy bags couldn’t take away the sparkle of excitement. Business had been steady, and if tonight was any indication of how the spring and summer were going to go, Simmer was about to really take off.
Josh tossed a filthy dish towel over his shoulder and reached out to shake hands with Owen, Doug, and Terry, and then circled around the table to give Adrianna a kiss on the cheek. “How’s it going, Mama?” he asked affectionately. Adrianna was almost five months pregnant but already looked about to go into labor before tonight’s dessert.
She rolled her eyes. “Going great if you don’t mind constant heartburn, fatigue, swollen hands, and having your ribs kicked from three to five in the morning.”
“Owen kneeing you in his sleep again?” Josh grinned, and then rubbed her shoulder. “I’m sorry. I know you’re having a hard time.”
“Yeah, it’s okay. I’m just grouchy. And starving.” She looked up at him hopefully.
I can help with.” Josh nodded assuredly. “I gotta run. I think Leandra is your waitress. Order whatever you want, and I’ll comp it for you.” One of the perks of being the executive chef at Simmer was that the owner, Gavin, let Josh sign off on orders so we didn’t have to pay for anything except a tip. “I’ll try to come out again later if I can.” Josh made his way between tables to the front entrance. One couple seated near the door stopped him. Josh smiled as he accepted what I knew were compliments about his food.
Leandra appeared moments later. I’d met her a number of times before, because Josh’s overwhelming work schedule meant that I was spending lots of time hanging around Simmer trying to catch glimpses of my boyfriend. In fact, I was beginning to look and feel like a barfly. Leandra was petite with very short white-blonde hair that somehow upped her femininity. (If I chopped off all my hair I’d look brutish!) She needed no makeup on her annoyingly symmetrical face, and Simmer’s unisex staff T-shirt and pants left no doubt that Leandra was voluptuously female. I saw Adrianna, her usual supermodel body now rounded, scowl and toss her long blonde hair back over her shoulder. I involuntarily ran my hand down my own hair, checking for any dreaded frizz.
Leandra handed out menus. “Sorry. Hope you haven’t been here too long. I can’t believe how busy we are tonight, and they didn’t schedule enough servers. Can I get you some drinks to start?”
“I’ll take a Kirin,” Doug said. “You want one, too?” he asked Terry.
Terry nodded and put his hand on Doug’s knee. I still had a hard time grasping that Doug and Terry were a couple. Their homosexual relationship didn’t bother me in the least; what alarmed me was Terry’s style. He looked like a woman-obsessed rock star or maybe the host of a VH1 show on hair bands of the eighties. Every time he opened his mouth, part of me expected him to burst out singing, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy,” “Unskinny Bop,” or “Eighteen and Life.” With thick, wavy, highlighted brown hair and rocker clothes, Terry was a total contrast to my social work school mentor, Doug. Doug was anything but conservative—on occasion, he wore neon—but it took most people, my parents excluded, about four seconds to figure out that he was gay.