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Fiction Crime Thriller

[Disclaimer: this story is in no way intended to be factually correct regarding the laws surrounding death row inmates and the last meals they are served.]

He is the best at what he does. Yes, he is cocky, but it has taken him more than twenty years to reach his level of expertise. That is why he was both shocked and flattered when he received that phone call that afternoon.

“What?” he practically yelled into the phone. Not every chef developed the ego that Blake had, but he earned it. Years abroad, creating a reputation that other chefs would kill for, he was allowed to be rude and arrogant. After all, his time was worth more than most people’s lives.

“Mr Collier?” the stern voice came over the phone. Blake didn’t have time for this. Dinner time on a Friday was absolutely insane at his establishment. And if it is not the president himself requesting a meal, you could bet that Blake would answer the phone with the appropriate gusto and frustration that would make you ever-sorry you called him.

“Yeah, what d’you want?”

“This is Warden Williams calling from Westville County Correctional Facility,” the Warden sounded serious but those words were enough to grab Blake’s attention.

 “I don’t know anyone at Westville County Correctional Facility.”

“Yeah, no, I know,” the Warden sounded annoyed, exasperated, and tired. Blake wasn’t quite sure why the annoyance was directed at him but he was curious about why the Warden would be calling him. “I’m calling for a very specific and, what might seem like a strange request. We have an inmate on death row and his execution is set for Monday night. He has made a request for a last meal, something called Fugu. We’ve done our research and you’re the only person in the western hemisphere that can properly and safety prepare this dish.”

Blake felt the excitement rising as the Warden spoke. The last time he made Fugu was more than two years ago in Japan where he had owned a high-end restaurant that catered mostly to Japanese businessmen and the Japanese mafia. They were the only ones who could afford his restaurant. He knew how to catch it, how to clean it, and he knew how to perfectly prepare it and plate it. It was a delicacy that, to prepare, sent shivers down his spine. The thought of once again eating it made his heart almost explode. The texture, the flavour, all starting in your mouth and creating a cacophony of sensations that spreads warm satisfaction through your body.

One wrong move though, and the fugu, which is a puffer fish, would release its deadly tetrodioxin and it would kill you if you ate it. The irony that he is the only person who can correctly prepare the Fugu for the last meal of a prison inmate on death row, was not lost on him. Why the correctional facility wouldn’t let just anyone prepare the meal and gamble on the prisoners life, he didn’t know, but it didn’t seem appropriate to ask.

“We’re going to need you to source and prepare this meal for our inmate, Mr Collier,” the Warden’s voice came through the phone stopping Blake’s train of thought dead in its tracks.

“Yes, I can do that.”

“It will need to be prepared at our facility. We will supply all the resources you will need to make this dish. We will send you further details in the next hour.”

Blake couldn’t help but wonder who was the inmate he’d be cooking for. He received the details and a handsome compensation to acquire the rare fish and the tax payers money that would undoubtably go into his pocket. Luckily, he had his connections and the fresh shipment of fish would be delivered to his door late on Monday morning.

Over the weekend, Blake’s curiosity grew thick and heavy like a storm cloud in his mind ready to burst. Who was this man that he’d be cooking for who had such a rare and exquisite taste in food? He started painting a picture in his mind of an aristocrat, guilty of some sort of white collar crime. But what sort of white collar crime would warrant a death sentence, Blake couldn’t figure out.

His curiosity grew deeper until eventually, he made the call.

“Hi, Warden Williams? Yes, its Blake Collier here. You told me I could call you with any questions? Yes, I wanted to know what would be the safety protocols in place? How would you ensure my safety? Yeah… ok. And for whom would I be preparing this meal? … Well I would need to know if there are any dietary restrictions I should be aware of… Yes, it is just fish but it is prepared with other elements. There are a lot of spices and by-products used in the preparation of this dish… Yes, I understand the systems that are in place, but I think you would understand that if I refuse to do this, you’d be stuck, scrambling for someone else to help you, or you’d be denying a dead mans wish… oh…oh, okay. Uhmm wow, okay thank you Warden. I guess I’ll see you on Monday.”

The line went dead and Blake tingled all over. He was preparing the last meal for the Westville County Ripper. Whether he was excited or star struck, he didn’t quite know yet.

***

He is the best at what he does. Yes, he is cocky, but it has taken him more than twenty years to reach his level of expertise. He earned his reputation. The name ‘The Ripper’ doesn’t just get given to anyone. It is worked for. And boy, did he work for it.

Anthony Marcei grew up quite normally. There was nothing in particular that he could blame for turning him into the monster he was. He didn’t think he was a monster though. He just wasn’t going to deny himself the subtle and simple pleasures of the world.

Found guilty on sixty-two counts of rape and twenty counts of murder, all Anthony tried to do was maintain the reputation he created for himself. Now, sitting in this cold cell, the touch of a woman and the taste of her flesh, seemed so unfamiliar and distant. The only way he could indulge himself was through an exquisite, last meal request.

“Okay, you sick bastard. I hope you’re happy. Your meal request has been processed. You’re using tax payers money to fulfil some sick and twisted fantasy,” officer Langley spat at the prisoner, his words a bitter venom. “What is it? Why do you hate women?”

“Oh, contrar, sir. Women are quite magnificent. I just indulge. They are quite an acquired taste, but once acquired, it becomes an… addiction,” the word danced on his lips, a smirk and satisfied look crossing his face.

“You sick mother…”

“That’s enough, Langley!” Warden Williams interrupted. “You can leave.” He turned to the prisoner. A sinister grin crossed Anthony’s face.

“Ah, Warden Williams. Funny you should pay me a visit tonight. I was just thinking about your sister. She certainly was the prize of my career. My trophy. Hah! I actually did have her head mounted on my wall for some time. But you knew that, you saw it for yourself. I wonder, do you still have some pictures of it somewhere in evidence? It will let me die a happy man.”

“I’m going to enjoy killing you tomorrow,” Warden Williams said, almost a whisper. The strange edge in his voice would have sent shivers down anyone’s spine. But Anthony wasn’t just anyone.

Blake arrived in quiet anticipation to the prison. He quickly set to work, carefully preparing the dish, preparing it to absolute perfection. He cleaned it carefully and thoroughly so as not to harm the man who, in a few hours would be dead by lethal injection.

In his excitement to prepare this dish, Blake got over enthusiastic and he purchased enough Fugu to feed four grown men. He did this with the hopes he could indulge in this rare meal as well. He even extended his generosity in case one of the officers or the Warden himself might want to experience what real food and real sophistication tastes like with their dulled-down, bacon-grease covered tastebuds. No doubt they would never get this opportunity again, this dish costs more than they earned in six months. He considered it his gift to the civil servant.

“Are you done? I’m going to need to inspect the dish,” Warden Williams opens door to the make shift kitchen.

“What? Now? After I’ve so beautifully plated it?” Blake felt his heart sink.

“Look, this is a prison. Not a five-star, fine dining experience. Besides, these prisoners have connections. I need to make sure he hasn’t gotten you to hide a razor blade or something in there.”

“Are you serious?” The stunned look on Blake’s face actually made the warden smile at his innocence.

“It wouldn’t be the first time, kid,” Warden Williams shrugged as he ushered Blake out of the room. He locked the door behind him and began his inspection of what, even he had to admit, was a beautifully plated dish.

***

He is the best at what he does. Yes, he is cocky, but it has taken him more than twenty years to reach his level of expertise. Officer Johnathan Luke Williams always wanted to be in law enforcement, and he was, but his goals and his pursuit to become the warden at the Westville County Correctional facility changed when his sister went missing.

He found her, or the pieces that were left of her, and he vowed that he would kill the son of a bitch that hurt her. Well, that day had arrived. He would be pulling the metaphorical trigger as Anthony Marcei was executed.

His nerves tingled all over. His heart pounded in his chest as he peered over the dish, the looming reality of what was about to happen was finally beginning to set in.

“Alright,” he stepped out of the room that housed Anthony’s last meal. Addressing two officers and Blake, Warden Williams wiped his forehead as he felt his nerves vibrate on edge. “Take his meal to him. I’m going to need a minute.”

He escaped to his office not more than a few metres away and he bent over his desk, tears dripping onto the faded wood and the scattered papers. His heartbreak could finally culminate in the satisfaction of knowing he would be doing his sister, and so many other women, justice. The monster he knew personally would never walk the streets again. One less monster lurking in the shadows.

He wiped off his face, pulled his hardened features together and went to take one last look at the Westville County Ripper.

When he walked into the room, the bloody mess hit him like a brick. Anthony’s head on the table gurgling up blood, choking on it, the life fading from his eyes. The frenzied clawing at his throat died down and his nearly lifeless eyes were bloodshot looking questioningly at the Warden.

That’s when the Warden saw the chef and his two officers in a no better position than prisoner. All spewing blood from their mouth and noses, their faces red with pain, their breathing strained as the blood from their throats and oesophagus seeped into the lungs with each breath.

“What the hell happened?” he ran to the chef as he fell to floor, he was the only one still somewhat conscious.

“We just… wanted… to taste… the food.”

And with that, the chef’s life faded from his eyes, vacant unblinking eyes left to stare at the Warden.

It was then that the reality of what he did set in. He wanted to be the one to kill The Ripper, but he knew he would never get the same satisfaction, or fulfil his vow to his sister, if he just watched an injection being painlessly administered. He needed to have a direct hand in it. He took out the little plastic bag from his pocket and threw it on the table, the ground pieces of glass, glittering in the fluorescent light, that he threw over the dish. They were never supposed to even touch the dish, let alone eat of it.

He stared at the bloodied mess around him. His eyes landed on Anthony’s lifeless body. “Man,” he thought “I hate orange.”

July 09, 2021 22:19

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16 comments

Aroob Tawfiq
18:42 Jul 15, 2021

What a creative approach to this prompt!! I love how absolutely unexpected the ending was! Great twist! Some one mentioned this earlier, but I also really enjoyed the dialogue. Very suspenseful and capturing story.

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Theresa Bhowan
05:58 Jul 16, 2021

Thank you so much, Aroob. I'm so happy you enjoyed it!

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Ruth Porritt
06:16 Jul 22, 2021

Hello Theresa, I just read this story, and I enjoyed it mightily. As soon as I read about the puffer fish, I couldn't wait to see how you utilized it in this tale. Have you read any Alfred Hitchcock horror/crime anthologies? This story reminded me of the best stories from A.H. anthologies from the 60s and 70s. (Which I mean as the highest kind of compliment.) Can't wait to read the rest of your work, Ruth P.

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Theresa Bhowan
09:10 Jul 22, 2021

Hi Ruth! This comment made my day! Thank you so much! I really enjoyed writing this story and to hear that you enjoyed reading it, really made me smile! I actually haven't read any Alfred Hitchcock anthologies, but now that you have mentioned it, I'll be sure to give it a read. Do you have any specific A.H. recommendations that are absolute must-reads?

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Ruth Porritt
10:00 Jul 22, 2021

https://www.amazon.com/Alfred-Hitchcock-Presents-Masters-Choice/dp/0394504194/ref=sr_1_8?dchild=1&keywords=Alfred+Hitchcock+Anthology&qid=1626947941&sr=8-8

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Ruth Porritt
10:16 Jul 22, 2021

Hello Theresa, Great! :) I really enjoy reading horror and crime stories, as well as writing them. I sent an Amazon link that has a hardcover copy of an A.H. anthology from 1979. (I think that's the year.) I remember that the best tales (the ones I enjoyed) were from the 1960s and 70s. Also, I don't know, but I would guess that used bookstores would still have A.H. anthologies from the 60s and 70s. (Libraries might, as well.) LOL, I should say that I don't get any commissions for recommending A.H. books. Anyway, I am going to look for A....

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Theresa Bhowan
11:49 Jul 22, 2021

Hahaha thank you, Ruth. As much as I love writing these stories, I think i love finding avid readers more, people who can share their favorites with me. It's like getting to know a long lost friend. These are some amazing recommendations, I'm going to stroll through the Internet looking for the ones that might be free online. But how do you know a story is good? When it finds a space in your mind and lives there! I actually found a great short story on Reedsy about two weeks ago about a chef in post-apocalyptic times that cooks humans for ...

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Ruth Porritt
01:16 Jul 23, 2021

Lol, yes! That’s always nice, when characters live on in the human imagination. :) I will check out the story about the chef on Reedsy, and thanks so much. :) What are some of your favorite books?

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Ruth Porritt
01:16 Jul 23, 2021

Lol, yes! That’s always nice, when characters live on in the human imagination. :) I will check out the story about the chef on Reedsy, and thanks so much. :) What are some of your favorite books?

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Theresa Bhowan
05:27 Jul 23, 2021

Where would I even begin?! It goes without saying that the Harry Potter series is an all time favorite. My favorite classic would have to be Jane Eyre. I'm currently reading the Grishaverse series and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I must admit, I thought it was just the hype, but it's really good and worth the hype. I also really enjoyed a book called Sweetpea by C. J. Skuse.

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Theresa Bhowan
11:51 Jul 22, 2021

https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/100/submissions/74422/ This is the story, it's called The Great Chef

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Alex Sultan
10:57 Jul 10, 2021

I really like how you repurposed this story for the prompt - it fits so well with the multiple POVs. I think the concept is great. The creepy serial killer with eerie dialogue was very well done as well.

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Theresa Bhowan
11:02 Jul 10, 2021

Thank you so much. I was actually a bit nervous to use that much dialogue, but it felt like a good challenge. Also, I've been listening to the podcast called 'My Favorite Murder' and it actually somewhat inspired this story as well.

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