The woman who arrived for the appointment was a sigh of silk and tall brunette as she slid into the booth for her free consult. The waiter appeared a moment later, before we’d had a chance to introduce ourselves properly, perhaps a touch too prompt and efficient for the siesta service, but maybe he’d been short-tipped one time too many by young money boys who hadn’t earned their lunches yet. He smiled and greeted us with a trio of small plates: an amusing salmon croquette, two shining slivers of smoked trout, a dollop of crab leg meat and mayo. “That’s on the house, Sam. You shouldn’t be such a stranger all the time.”
“Thanks, Mac. Ask Pierre to go easy on the paprika just this once.”
Mac grunted like a butcher working through a primal and backed away, never turning his back to his guests, always the pro, even if overly punctual for the meet and greet. I turned my attention, finally, to the tall glass of water seated across from me.
“So, how can I help you, Miss Smith?”
“It’s Missus, and it’s about a man.”
Isn’t it always. “Husband?”
“No. Candy. Candy Corn.”
Of course. Candy Corn. Sweet, insipid, palate destroying. It seems like a good idea and you tell yourself the last time was a fluke batch, something gone wrong at the candy corn factory, maybe, or maybe just a stale Halloween bag that was left on the shelf overlong. Something that looks so right can’t possibly be so wrong. You grab a handful and stuff them into your mouth and your teeth settle into the waxy sweet until it melts across your tongue and spreads into a mashed up memory of all the bad mouthfuls of stale corn syrup and corn starch and corn emulsifiers that you have forgotten and were glad to be rid of and you’ve made a fool of your senses once more.
“I want you to tell me all about him,” I said, “and how I can be of service. But let’s enjoy this seafood sampler first.”