|Chef Russell Jackson - The inspiration for the Pulp Fiction writing contest.|
“Quinn Lawrence, happy birthday!” Chef Jackson said, reaching out to shake the man’s hand. “I’m so pleased to be here at your hotel in Vegas.”
“CJ, it’s great to have you at the Morrocan. We’re thrilled your team agreed to come and share your culinary specialties with us,” said the handsome man, exquisitely dressed in a tailored three piece suit. “You remember my wife, Elsa?”
“Hello,” The buxom red head purred as she cuddled up to her husband.
“Of course. Elsa, looking as beautiful as ever.” Chef said before taking her delicate hand, “And may I add, that is an exquisite necklace you’re wearing!”
“Thank you.” Elsa said, tucking a strand of her long hair behind her ear to show off an enormous pear shape diamond pendant. It shimmered and sparkled in the candlelit entryway of the grand ballroom.
“Fifty carats. Nothing but the best for my dollface.” Quinn said, taking in every detail of his surroundings. “Now CJ, I’m intrigued to see what you’ve come up with this evening. Hope there aren’t too many surprises.”
“I’ve created a special dining experience in your honor that I think you’ll enjoy.” Chef said. “Now, let me show you to the bar, where the rest of your party is waiting.”
Quinn shot Elsa a quizzical look, but she only batted her eyes and smiled.
As the grand doors opened, a familiar and friendly voice echoed, “It’s about damn time the man of the hour arrived.”
“Holy hell, Darby Jones!” Quinn grinned as he walked over to greet his friend. “I thought you were halfway around the world playing in some underground poker tournament?”
“And miss your 50th? No way, man!” Darby laughed, his blue eyes dancing as the men embraced in a handshake turned manly hug.
“Ah…your better half.” Quinn said, turning to sweep a petite brunette off her feet, “You look lovely, as always, Mary.”
“It’s good to see you, Quinn. Happy Birthday.” She said, as he set her back on the ground.
“Let the experience begin!” Darby exclaimed.
“Indeed,” said Chef Jackson. “In honor of this momentous occasion, I’ve taken the liberty of preparing simple yet succulent food for you to enjoy, and the staff is here to cater to your every need. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to check on things in the kitchen. My assistant, Ben, is here if you need anything and your server, Kristi is here to get you started. I’ll be back shortly. Enjoy.” Chef gestured to the man and woman in the room, then closed the grand doors behind him.
“Tonight, we will begin with a celebratory shot.” Kristi handed each guest a small glass with tiny flame on top.
“To my wonderful husband,” Elsa raised her glass.
“The best friend a man could ask for,” Darby raised his.
“And one helluva guy,” Mary added, as she lifted her glass.
“Bottoms up!” said Quinn, as glasses clinked.
“Excuse me, this way please,” Kristi said. Everyone turned and followed her to a large high-top table in the center of the room. As they sat, she passed out menu descriptions. “All our food is simple, fresh and delicious. You’ll start your experience with hors d’oeuvres. Then proceed through many carefully created courses all served in a relaxed atmosphere.” Each of the guests nodded with approval as they skimmed the course descriptions. “And here’s Jim now with your next round of drinks.”
After the bartender placed a berry concoction in front of everyone, Kristi soon returned with two platters of fresh flavorful hors d’oeuvres. Raising their glasses, everyone toasted again. Bluesy jazz trumpets streamed through the speakers, while the friends shared the first course and caught up on time passed.
“Oh my goodness, that was simply delicious. I can’t wait to see what comes next,” Elsa smiled, putting her hand atop her husband’s.
“This was a spectacular idea, dollface.” Quinn said, as Mary and Darby nodded in agreement.
Just then, the room plunged into blackness. The ladies screamed in surprise.
“What the hell is this?” Quinn demanded.
“Is this part of the experience?” Mary asked, her voice quivering.
“I hope not. I’m not a fan of pitch black parties.” Darby wrapped an arm around her.
“Damn it!” Quinn said, his jaw clenching as he looked at his phone, “No service. I’m going to get to the bottom of this. Everyone stay here,” he said. With his phone light, he strode toward the entrance.
BOOM! CRASH! BANG!
“Who’s there?” Darby yelled as his penlight outlined a faint figure.
“AAAHHH!” Elsa screamed.
“What happened, dollface?” Quinn said, at her side in an instant
“Someone hit me over the head, then there was a quick tug around my neck and now…my necklace…it’s gone.” Her voice wavered, as she rubbed the back of her head.
Seconds later a door slammed, then the emergency lights clicked on as another door opened. Shadows danced on the walls in the dim lighting as Chef ran into the grand ballroom, “Everyone okay?”
“Hell no, we’re not okay, CJ. My wife just got knocked upside the head and someone stole her necklace…in the dark… at my 50th birthday party…in my own hotel!” Quinn’s voice boomed.
“Are you sure? Concierge said it’s just a simple power outage in this wing.”
“This is no power outage. This is a heist. Where’s my security team?” Quinn muttered, his fists clenching. “When I find whoever did this…”
“Whoa, Quinn. We’ll get to the bottom of this.” Darby said, resting a comforting arm on his friend’s shoulder. “No one’s getting out of this hotel with that diamond.”
“You’re right. The auto-locks have probably been enacted, which means we’re all stuck here.”
“Which also means the thief can’t get out,” Darby said. “Take a deep breath. We’ll find the diamond.”
“Find the rest of the staff. One of them knows something,” Quinn’s voice turned hard.
“CJ, we need to get a hold of security and then find the staff.” Darby said, taking charge briefly.
“You got it. I’ll start with the main office.” Chef said. As he pulled a two way radio from his belt loop, a blood curdling scream erupted throughout the private room.
“Dear God!” Mary gasped, bringing her hand to her throat.
“What do we do?” Elsa asked.
“Office A, do you copy? Office A?” Chef called on the main radio channel. Nothing. “Damnit! What’s going on?”
“I’m going to investigate. A hundred to one, that scream has something to do with the missing diamond.” Quinn said, moving in the direction of the scream.
“Let’s stay together until we know what’s happening.” Darby added, ushering the ladies behind Quinn and Chef as he brought up the rear.
“CJ, ideas?” Quinn asked, pulling the heavy ballroom doors open.
“Let’s start in the offices and move forward.” Chef said.
“What the hell?” Quinn said, stumbling in the dark narrow hallway.
Screams filled the entrance as the women saw Chef’s assistant lying on the floor, bound with duck tape.
“What happened?” Quinn bent, peeling the tape from his mouth.
“I don’t know. Someone hit me from behind and I woke up like this.”
“Where’s the rest of the staff?” Chef asked, but Ben only shrugged.
“I’m pressing on.” Quinn said, anger radiated from his body.
When he got to the back of the wing, the office door barely budged. Pushing all his weight into the door, it flung open and a feeble barricade crashed to the ground. The emergency light flickered in the back of the room. “Found the rest of the staff.” Quinn muttered, raising his arms in surrender and stepping to the side. “Damnit!”
“What the…oh no!” Chef said, as everyone entered the office one by one.
“The doors weren’t supposed to lock,” Jim, the congenial bartender, said as he pointed the barrel of a revolver at Kristi’s temple while he hid behind her. “But we can still make this work.”
“How’s that?” Quinn said, moving in front of the group. Chef flanked him on the right and Darby on the left with the ladies safely tucked behind them.
“All I want is the necklace. Nine million will settle my gambling debt in Jersey.” Jim said, squeezing Kristi’s neck a bit tighter.
“So what do you want, besides my necklace?” Quinn asked, his eyes narrow slits.
“To walk out of here. I know one of you has a key. I get out and you all stay locked inside. No one gets hurt and I’ll be out of the building before the lights come back on,” Jim said, inching his way to the door.
“That so? Then what?” Quinn asked.
“I’ll pay off my debt and eventually…eventually…everything will be fine…”
“Not on my watch! ARGH!” Kristi shouted. Stomping on Jim’s foot, she elbowed him in the gut.
Without a second thought, Chef stepped up and chopped the bartender in the throat, then kicked out his knee. Jim tumbled to the ground, his gun sliding across the floor.
“Well played, service professionals!” Quinn said, stepping on the bartender’s throat as he bent over to grab the gun. “Did you really think you could pull one over on me? Huge mistake,” Quinn whispered, reaching into Jim’s pocket and pulling out the brilliant pear shaped diamond. “And I’ll take this back.”
The room buzzed and the lights flickered on as security flooded through the doors, “Over here officers,” Kristi called, then walked to Quinn. “U.S. Marshall, Kristi O’Neal,” she said holding up her badge.
“You’re not a server?” Chef asked.
“Only undercover,” Kristi said, “And I must say, that was one a hell of throat chop, Chef.”
“It was nothing,” Chef shrugged with a sly smile.
“Is everyone alright, Mr. Lawrence?” Kristi asked,
“Yes, we’re alright. Thanks, in part, to you. How did you know, Agent O’Neal?”
“I’ve been tracking this guy for awhile. He’s a wanted cat burglar with a severe gambling problem. The financial destruction left in his wake is devastating. We had a tip he was posing as a bartender, preying on the some top players in Vegas. I was assigned to shadow you this evening, sir. I hate that he got the upper hand for a short time, but now that the suspect has been captured. I think it’s time you get back to your party.”
“Yes, my love deserves his party,” Elsa said, as she leaned up to kiss him on the cheek.
“I agree 100%, dollface,” Quinn said, pulling Elsa close. He delicately placed the diamond around his wife’s neck. “Alright, CJ, after that killer throat chop, my expectations of the SubCulural Dining experience have risen to new heights.”
“And I intend to surpass those expectations, Quinn. Just give me a few moments. Please have a drink at the bar. I’m sure you could use one.” Chef said, happy to return to the comfort of the kitchen.
“Indeed! You sure know how to keep things interesting, Chef Jackson.” Quinn said. “Now, I cannot wait for this dining experience you’ve created…I hear it’s R[E]VOLUTIONARY!”
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