Prompt Day #168: The mortician is obsessed with a certain something he comes in frequent contact with. What is it? How does it affect him? How will it be his undoing?
This story is dedicated to my Father in Law, Mike Dowdy. He is one of my biggest supporters and reads all my prompts. I hope you like it, I think you’ll see why this one is yours.
Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Dead Cold
“Mr. Addison, thank you so much for the lovely job you did on our Harold, he looks so peaceful, just like he is sleeping.” Harold’s wife wiped her tears away with a lace hanky. “And this delicious spread makes these long arduous days more bearable” She held her small cocktail plate up as if to accentuate her words. The owner of the Funeral home, Mr. Williams Sr. happened upon them just then.
“Yes, I must admit, when we hired Ben on as a mortician I had some doubts. Could a lifelong chef successfully navigate such a severe career change?” Mr. Williams took a bite of cracker with the chef’s famous pate spread.
Ben chuckled respectfully, “Well, I’ve gone from preparing dinner to preparing loved ones. It’s still a very important service.” He looked down for a minute “I’ll admit, mortuary school was a spontaneous decision when I couldn’t find another restaurant willing to take a chance on an old dog like me. But I know the service industry, and I’ve come to love this job.” He patted Harold’s wife on the shoulder and headed back to the kitchen, checking the status of the pate on his way by.
It had been a huge change to go to mortuary school, but after two years of job searches, he wasn’t getting any younger. Mr. Williams was kind enough to give him a shot and he proved to be a hard worker, staying late and taking constructive criticism as best he could. He’d taken it upon himself once about three months into the job, to prepare a fruit and cheese tray for the mourners and it went over well. The fact that the funeral home provided snacks as part of their viewing services boosted their business six fold. The Williams’ encouraged him to continue even providing him a small budget to purchase the required food-stuffs.
He frequently had to put some of his own money in to provide the service but he enjoyed the feedback and holding on to a small piece of his old life as well. And then Josh Whittaker, the owner and proprietor of the Inn at the Cliff’s was tragically killed in a car accident. For twenty seven years Ben had worked at the Inn under Josh’s father Sam. When Sam passed on, he left the business to Josh who immediately “released” Ben and other older members of the staff and replaced them with a bunch of his young college buddies.
Josh’s death changed Ben’s income for the better and began an obsession that would eventually lead to his undoing. When Josh Whittaker’s body arrived, Ben unpacked the red biohazard bag containing the man’s organs and stuck it in the big refrigerator. He always did this before embalming and then would return them after the fact. He knew it didn’t make a difference really but keeping them cool would keep the stink at bay longer.
It was when he put them in the fridge that the idea for a kind of revenge danced into his head. He opened the bag and took out the liver. Later, while the embalming was in process, he prepared the liver into a pate that was subsequently fed to the Whittaker family and fellow mourners. It went over like gangbusters. Mr. Williams declared Ben’s pate should be on every snack tray and began to pay a little more towards the “bereavement buffet”. Ben kept the extra money and began collecting pate recipes.
Soon, every mourner took home a bit of their loved ones compliments of the chef mortician. He loved creating a dish rather than just chopping up fruit and cheese. His pate was universally requested and business was booming. For deceased loved ones who hadn’t had autopsies, he had to consult an anatomy text but soon he could butcher a corpse as well as any pig or steer. Only once did he have to use kidneys to make the pate because the cause of death was cirrhosis of the liver and even the great chef Ben Addison couldn’t find decent meat after cutting out all the bad spots.
As Williams and Sons thrived, so did Ben. The chef mortician was pocketing most of the food budget while feeding family their lost loved ones. He’d been doing it for so long, he no longer felt badly or guilty about it. In fact, he often went home and slept well on the compliments he’d received on his delicious spreads. He felt as if he was doing the families a kindness, his way of emotionally supporting them.
It was the funeral of a local car dealership owner that did him in. The man had died after a short illness that was diagnosed as an undiagnosed disorder known as Addison’s disease. His dark skin would need a lot of make-up. Ben pulled his liver out of the bag. It was large and Ben had learned this often meant a fatty liver (from a good old fashioned American diet) which resulted in a pate close to that of Foie Gras, a gourmet dish made of fattened goose liver. It created a smooth, buttery pate and he was excited to get to work on it.
Once he had the embalming started, he went to work prepping the liver. Ben’s only handicap was never tasting the dish. He based it on smell alone; that and almost thirty years of high end cooking. He served the pate at both viewings and because the liver had been so large, he had a small amount left over for the Williams’ family.
Mr. Williams was the first to get sick but it was the deceased’s six year old grandson who died first, followed by several other family members including the deceased’s mother. Mr. and Mrs. Williams passed next and over half of the mourners who’d attended the funeral were hospitalized with a stomach flu-like illness.
The Williams’s were three days in the ground when the order came for exhumation of the dealership owner as well as the Williams’s and the grandson. Ben, the only person who remained completely well, was brought in for questioning. After answering every question with “I don’t know, I don’t attend the services” and “No, I didn’t notice any unusual smells or fumes from the body” he was left alone in the room. After an hour, the detectives returned with much more pointed questions. “Where did Ben purchase the liver that he used for the pate?” and “Could he produce any receipts” followed by “Surely he’d kept at least a few receipts given that the food budget was kept separate from is pay.” Ben continued his denials until the detective leaned in close.
“Mr. Addison, what you do not know is that while we were questioning you, Mr. Carlisle’s wife who had fallen ill and is currently dying in the hospital broke down and told the doctor that she had poisoned her husband with Thallium and now believed perhaps his corpse had somehow given off fumes or something that sickened all the mourners and funeral home owners. But that doesn’t make sense, does it, Mr. Addison, because one would assume that you would be the sickest, having prepared the body.” The detective paused, staring down at Ben. “And you know what else is a strange coincidence, Mr. Addison? That you don’t have a single receipt for the liver you use in the pate and when Mr. Carlisle’s body was exhumed, the liver of all things was missing from the biohazard bag. Isn’t that a strange coincidence, Mr. Addison?”
“I think I’d like to call my attorney” Ben said.