The place was new and fresh. A classy paint job and fabulous tables, decorated from wall to wall with simple décor. I was fortunate to be here for a while and take it all in. I needed to order a board of different foods to try. Yet, I still thought it bizarre how few people were joining me in the latest and greatest restaurant.
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"Good evening, sir," the waiter greeted. "My name is Jonathan and I will be your waiter. How may I serve you this evening?"
I glanced over the menu, deciding what I wanted to eat.
"The steak, for starters," I began. "I will be here a while, so you can bring a bottle of the '87."
"Very good, sir," the waiter murmured and with a nod, he was away.
"Jonathan," I murmured to myself. "Not a name from around here and he certainly didn’t look like a Jonathan."
It wasn't the first time the waiters assumed false names to better present themselves. Still, that was a curiosity among many in the restaurant. Food soon arrived. The waiting time was almost non-existent. Just enough time to get comfortable.
"Your steak, sir," Jonathan announced, lifting a chrome dish. The steak was set off the centre, artists arrangement. "May I?"
I nodded and Jonathan began to pour the wine. He was an expert, professional in presentation. Holding the bottle alone his forearm, both fanciful and practical. The staff was either head-hunted by the owner or well-trained.
"Jonathan, can you answer a few questions for me?" I asked.
Jonathan appeared hesitant at first, but that hesitation passed in a blink.
"Sir," Jonathan nodded. "What do you wish to know?"
"Who is the owner of this establishment?"
"That would be Monsieur Garcon."
"Garcon? As in 'boy'?"
"Yes. Garcon is also the head-chef, having been a waiter before."
"A waiter here?"
"No, when he first started his study in the business. He studied cooking and business, among other skill sets."
"And he is the head chef? Isn't that a lot for one man to carry on his shoulders?"
"Garcon bears the burden well, sir. He ensures quality in everything he does and for years he has come to perfect his craft."
"Thank you, Jonathan."
The waiter left me and I began to eat. Now, there is only so much one can do with food. The ingredients, spices and sauces can create a wonderful array of tastes. Yet, I have experienced them all. At least, I thought I did. Something about that steak was familiar enough for me to remember its brilliance. Yet, it was unique enough for me to know I had never had anything like it before. That contradiction was another curiosity I added to my list.
I savoured that steak.
Next came the wine. I drank the ‘87 before, but this was something different as well. No wine is ever the same, there are always subtle differences. Yet, this wine was, once more, something else. I rested back in my chair and stared at the empty plate and glass. Something was so strange about what I saw.
I was the only one in the restaurant now. The dim, yet well-positioned lighting illuminated the table. A magical sense washed over me, yet I held strong and maintained a professional demeanour.
I snapped my fingers.
"Sir," Jonathan greeted once more with a small smile.
"The soup today?" I asked.
"We are serving a butternut soup today," Jonathan replied. I cringed, butternut being a favourite of mine. I didn’t want to be biased. "Yet, Monsieur Garcon made two specials for today."
"A second soup? How is it?"
"Something he describes as both spicy and comforting. A treat, in my opinion."
"Then I will have that."
Jonathan left me and I raised my eyes from the menu. The glass had been filled once more. I didn't notice him do it. I thought I would have heard him lift the bottle and place it back at least. Minutes passed and soon a soup was placed in front of me.
It was a warm orange, yet milkier than other soups. Thick and upon investigation, potatoes were resting at the bottom. The smell was wonderful and despite the filling steak in my stomach, my mouth watered. My appetite rekindled almost immediately and I began to eat the soup with delight.
Once more, I savoured my meal.
"Jonathan?" I asked the air and from the air, he seemed to appear.
"How may I serve you, sir?" Jonathan asked.
"I wish to speak with Monsieur Garcon."
"He will be with you shortly, sir."
When Jonathan left I noticed the sounds of the filled restaurant. I had been so absorbed in my meal I did not notice the new patrons. I glanced over their faces. Each one attended to by a waiter or waitress, every face had a smile. It was heart-warming.
"Good evening, sir," a smooth voice murmured.
Monsieur Garcon stood before me, dressed in chef's attire. He was a tall man, clean-shaven. Even his tall, white hat couldn't hide the lack of hair on his head. Well-built; kept himself fed and fit. In short, Garcon presented himself as a solid man and chef. That was appearance alone.
"I want to commend your food, Monsieur," I told Garcon. "Both meals were outstanding and I can't wait to see what you do with the dessert."
Garcon smiled humbly.
"I thank you, sir," Garcon replied. "I promise you, whatever you decide to enjoy this evening, it will be to your satisfaction."
"You have not given me a reason to doubt, everything is perfect."
Garcon was about to leave, but I stopped him.
"Yet, I felt the steak could have used a touch more pepper," I smiled. "Still, I supposed that comes down to my tastes."
I didn't see Garcon's face, but I noticed him nod. He left me, passing Jonathan. Jonathan's face glanced at Garcon and soon his smile vanished. It was a look of terror. The waiter looked in my direction, wearing such a mournful face. My face must have replied with confusion.
Jonathan looked down.
The music cut off shortly after the gunshot. I heard screams in the kitchen and soon the panic spread to the restaurant. I stood up, staring towards the kitchen doors. As the staff fled the kitchen, I saw through the gaps a body lying on the ground. Blood pooling beneath the deceased head chef. A gun smoking not far from his still hand.