They laughed as the elevator opened. Stu was waiting for them, grinning.
“Beautiful job. Where to now?”
“Lunch,” Liat said. “I’m starving.”
“We’ve got the whole city to choose from.”
“Sarducci’s,” Liat replied.
Dwight pulled out his phone and made a call. “They’ll have a private dining room for us. Go to the back door,” he told Stu.
“You got it!”
“Let’s eat, then you need to discuss the schedule for all your interviews with Dwight and your agent.”
“All my interviews? I thought there were just the two.”
“After this? Everyone is rabid to chat with you.”
“I was hoping that my statement would make them less interested, not more.”
“Ride the wave, dear,” she advised. “This is a great forum for you.”
“For the show, you mean.”
“No, for you. You believe everything you said today. There are more important things than gossip and celebrities. If we spent as much time worrying about the country and less time worrying about movie stars, we’d be a far better place.”
They pulled up to the back door of Sarducci’s Italian Restaurant. The hostess, a tall blonde woman, met them at the door and led them to a private dining room. When Stu had parked the car, he joined them. Hors d’ouevres circulated on Venitian glass serving trays, accompanied by champagne. Soon, lunch was served.
Austin took his first bite. The flavors rolled across his tongue and he smiled. “Divine,” he said as the waitress refilled his water. “Please give my compliments to the chef.”
“I will, Mr. Templeton, thank you.”
The waitress moved away, but Austin caught her sleeve.
“Ask her if I detect a hint of anise and just a touch of—” he smacked his lips a second. “No, fennel, not anise. It’s really unique.”
A few minutes later, a short, petite woman with long black hair and a chef’s cap, walked into the room. The men rose, including Austin, though he had no idea who she was. Grinning, she came over to him, her hand out.
“You’re good. You tasted the fennel. Not even my father caught that.”
“There’s cardamom too, but I didn’t catch that until after the waitress left. Nice background to the garlic, onion and pepper.”
“Are you a chef?”
“No, I just love to eat. I can barely boil water, but I appreciate good food. It is delicious, Chef. Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome. Come back any time.”
“Thank you. If you keep cooking like that, I’ll eat here all the time.”
“I’ll keep cooking like that.” She winked and left.
Applause followed the chef out. A waiter closed the door behind her.
Dwight’s phone rang. He wandered away from the table before answering. “No kidding!” He couldn’t seem to contain his delight. “Thanks, Babs.” He scurried over to the table. “How soon can we get to Riverside?” he asked Stu.
“If we hurry and there’s not too much traffic, forty minutes, an hour tops.”
“Come,” he gestured to Liat and Austin. “Elaine, you too.”
“What? Where?” Liat asked.
“We’ve been summoned,” he replied. “To the Presence.”
Obviously understanding, the women stood, preparing to go. Stu dropped his napkin and hitched up his pants.
Austin frowned. “What are you talking about?” Austin followed Dwight to the door.
“Honestly, do I have to tell you everything?” Dwight stopped, incredulous.
“Apparently, yes. What’s the Presence?”
“It’s not a what, it’s a who.”
“Okay, that then.”
© 2015 Dellani Oakes