[Elderhostel Mysteries & Fiction Writing Techniques]

Killing Thyme
by Peter E. Abresch


Chapter One

    Just great.
    An hour late and counting.
    First the chef croaks. Now Dodee's plane is late. And when they get to the hotel, the parking lot will be full, he'll have to find agarage a million blocks away, which will charge him a fortune, and he'll get lost walking back in the cold.
    Just absolutely great.
    A piercing whine jerked James P. Dandy's attention from the Arrivals monitor to the big window opening onto the tarmac. A jetliner rolled by, casting a glint of winter sun off its aluminum body, followed by a small baggage truck trailing white exhaust in the frigid air.
    Welcome to BWI, Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
    Jim glanced around the deserted waiting area, gate D24, making sure no one was watching, then picked up a section of the Baltimore Sunabandoned on one of the seats.
    A blazing banner at the top announced, Inside: Fewer Patrons Visit Baltimore County's Fantasy of Lights, but Jim's eyes focused the headline halfway down the page.
    Calvin Goodknight Succumbs to Poisonous Mushrooms.
    Just absolutely great.
    He pulled out his reading glasses, slipped them over his ears.

Calvin Goodknight, owner and head chef of "The Good Knight's Table," a regular on Baltimore's popular television show, "A Dash of Thyme," and a member of the technical board of directors of the Chef's Culinary College of Baltimore, died yesterday after ingesting poisonous mushrooms while lunching with friends aboard his houseboat,Chivalry. The chef had collected the golden chanterelle mushrooms from the wild on a trip to Washington state. While guests aboard the houseboat experienced queasy stomachs, only Mr. Goodknight, who had the lion's portion, became violently ill and was pronounced dead shortly after arrival at the University of Maryland Hospital.

    Jim tossed the paper back on the seat.
    So who was going to run the Elderhostel program?
    He pocketed his reading glasses and checked the Arrivals againto see twenty minutes had been added to her flight.
    An hour and twenty minutes late and counting.
    So what the hell was Calvin Goodknight doing eating poisonousmushrooms? The guy was a chef, for God's sake. And Jim was suppose to eatsome of his food? He didn't think so.
    Yeah, well, he knew so now that the guy was dead.
    Everything was falling apart. He wouldn't be able to park inthe garage. And the program chef was dead. And the knife -- what about theknife?
    The Elderhostel letter said he was suppose to bring a chef'sknife. Hell, he didn't own a chef's knife. He had his carving knife, eightinches and razor sharp, but would it do the job?
    He shouldn't have come. Stayed home, is what he should havedone. Build a fire in the fireplace and let the winter float by. Insteadhe'd be locked up in some institutional kitchen with God-knows-who teachingthe course and everyone laughing at his eight-inch carving knife.
    Jim expelled a deep breath through puffed out cheeks.
    Dodee Swisher.
    Yeah buddy.
    That was the problem.
    It wasn't the plane being late, or Calvin Goodknight dying, or the knife.
    It was Dodee Swisher.
    He had met her on an Elderhostel in New Jersey, studying bonsai, one of a thousand different learning adventures offered throughout the world for those over fifty-five. Dodee, there with her aunt, didn't look near that old, and might not have been since spouses and companions can be younger.
    They had practically been roommates then.
    Would be now.
    How was that going to work?
    Back then Jim had been worried if his plumbing was fully functional, and together they had found out it was. Which was really great. But how was it working now, nine months later?
    That was the problem.
    No, the problem was, did he really like her?
    Well, that was dumb. He did like her. Spoke to her a couple of times a week on the phone.
    But suppose he forgot how she looked?
    He straightened his new jacket, something L.L. Bean called weathered leather, bought to replace the one that he had ruined rolling around in the New Jersey surf as he battled a killer.
    See, that was another thing. They had been murder suspects then, until they had solved the case. It had bound them together. If there had been a trial instead of a confession, they would have renewed that as witnesses. Now nine months had gone by.
    Reality can blur into fantasy in nine months.
    He had begun to think of Dodee, maybe because she taught aerobics, as a Demi Moore, except, of course, her hair was like ripened wheat, eyes blue as cornflowers, and she was about to become a grandmother. But lately he had been getting her mixed up with his image of Penny. Anatural mixup with all Penny's pictures around. Thirty-five years of marriage occupied a lot of memory that had hardly dimmed in the three years since her death.
    What if Dodee forgot how he looked?
    He tucked a teal-colored, brushed-twill shirt into his stonewashed jeans, the thirty-three inch waist a testament to working out five hours a week.
    Suppose they liked each other over the phone, but couldn't stand each other in the flesh?
    He took another deep breath and let it out.
    Now that was the problem.
    Get off on the wrong tack and it could be a loo-oong week.
    Jim watched another airliner whine by the big window, felt atap on his shoulder, and spun around.
    And there she stood.
    Dodee Swisher.
    At five-foot-two, wearing flat shoes, she was a goodten-inches shorter than him, wheaten hair in short, loose curls, blue eyes crinkled around the edges by a shy smile.
    She wore a pair of blue slacks, a white oxford shirt and agold vest, and a red parka, open, with black leather patches on the shoulders, unbalanced from hefting a carry-on bag in one hand, a pocketbook and flat sketchbook case in the other.
    "How, how," -- he had to suck spit into his suddenly dry mouth to get the words out -- "how did you get here?"
    "I found another plane that came in sooner."
    "Great. I mean, that's really great, I mean, it's great to see you." He threw out his hands. "Welcome to Maryland."
    "Thank you." She gave him the shy smile again.
    And he realized he had to do something: hug her, kiss her--on the cheek, the lips? What? Something?
    But now.
    He bent and put his arms around her, and she turned her faceup to him, blue eyes inches away, a moment of hesitation as the sweet smell of her herbal perfume drew him in, and then he kissed her, on the mouth, innocent, warm, and felt her soft lips welcome him back.
    And the glacier of apprehension chilling his mind started to melt away like an ice cream cone on a hot summer day.

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Reviews of Killing Thyme:

      James P "Jim" Dandy, a retired physical therapist, signs up for a gourmet-cooking Elderhostel in Baltimore to be with his lover, artist Dodee Swisher. When chefs and students at the Elderhostel start dying off, Dodee launches an investigation, and Jim feels obligated to help out, if only to protect her. This second Jim Dandy mystery offers a difficult, surprising plot and moves at a snappy pace. Abresch capably captures the atmosphere of the gourmet-cooking life, and his portrayal of Elderhostels is nicely detailed. Despite the fact that numerous characters suffer food poisoning throughout the tale, readers will find the food descriptions mouth-wateringly irresistible. Recommend this appealing mystery to fans of foodie crime series by Katherine Hall Page, Phyllis Richman, and Diane Mott Davidson.
-- John Rowen, BOOKLIST

      "Killing Thyme" by Peter Abresch
      Second in a series. Set in Elderhostel locations
      James P. Dandy, physical therapist and emergency medical technician, first attended a New Jersey Elderhostel on bonsai to distract him from the grief of his wife's death. Now he's at another Elderhostel, this one in Baltimore, with artist Dodee Swisher, whom he met in New Jersey. Besides enjoying each other's company both in and out of bed, Jim and Dodee stumble onto murders and work out the solutions ahead of the police. Abresch depicts his characters with a gentle but ruthless pen, bringing them to life on the page. He imparts detailed knowledge of cooking and tickles the reader's fancy with sly references to Rex Stout's corpulent food-loving detective, Nero Wolfe. With six corpses littering the landscape, who will be left to prepare the meals? Fun for all, whether you cook or not. --Linda Hutton, Mystery Time

      People over the age of fifty-five are entitled to go to Elderhostels, courses on a particular subject held at reduced rates. Lodgings are also heavily discounted. Jim Dandy and Dodee Swisher met at a bonsai Elderhostel and bonded in search of a killer. They became intimate when they faced death. Their relationship continues though at a distance. They are finally getting together, after a nine month hiatus, in Baltimore to attend a cooking class provided by the local Chefs Culinary College.
      Both Jim and Dodee look forward to dining at some of the fine restaurants mostly catered by the college's faculty. However, one of the chefs is killed due to eating poisoned mushrooms, which he personally picked. Dodee thinks that seems odd, but not as much as when a second chef dies in front of her eyes. When a third person also dies, Dodee sees the connection and over Jim's objection investigates the deaths.
      Even with Jim as her companion, she still finds herself in dangerous predicaments from a killer who wants the recipe for murder to remain hidden.
      Peter Abresch, author of BLOODY BONSAI, has written a new James Dandy Elderhostel mystery, KILLING THYME, that is better than its wonderful prequel. The established relationship of the lead couple is fully integrated into the delightful story line. Jim is a witty and complex player whose one liners will leave the audience laughing. Mr. Abresch has started a series that appears to be a winner. --Harriet Klausner

      Killing Thyme is the second title in the James P. Dandy Mystery series. The first being Bloody Bonsai. I knew there was more to cooking than my mother had taught me. After this mystery I will certainly be more choosey about my knives and cooking oil. Jim Dandy and Dodee Swisher get together in Baltimore for a lesson in love, cooking and murder. When they show up at their second Elderhostel, a cooking class, they didn't expect to be in the middle of another mystery. But when the chefs start dying off, someone on the inside has to help solve the murders. Who better than Dodee and a reluctant Jim? These two are charming and work well together. It looks like Mr. Abresch has found his niche. His characters are well developed and likable. His mysteries unexpected. Brenda Sue, My Shelf Books

Killing Thyme
ISBN: 1885173687 $ 23.95
cloth - 5" x 8" - August 1999

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