If it’s Saturday night, you can always find me at my favorite bar. The Watering Hole has been here on Hotel Street since World War II. Originally the first floor bar of one of the many “hotels” that serviced our service boys during the war, it hung on to become a popular saloon. The second and third floors were converted from bedrooms to a dance hall and a pool hall respectively, and currently serve as headquarters for the Culinary Institute of Hawai‘i.
You learn a lot sitting here at the bar year after year. I’ve come to suspect that there’s more than just a cooking school upstairs. For one thing, all the people you see headed upstairs are dressed in black suits and ties.
Now I know you may say, “Hey, so even though this is Hawai‘i and the only people who still wear suits in this town are lawyers, so that probably only means practicing law doesn’t pay what it used to, and these guys need a second job, so coincidentally they all want to be chefs.”
Okay, suppose I give you that. What about the dark glasses then? I mean all these guys come in here, into The Watering Hole, day or night, and keep their sunglasses on. This is a real bar. It’s dark in here, as dark as any decent bar should be. And you say, “Well hey, maybe all these lawyers have developed job-related eye problems, and that’s another reason why they’re looking for a career change.”
Then how about the guns? Now I know most lawyers should carry firearms given their line of work, but what about the earpieces? Did they all lose their hearing along with their eyesight?
Put all those clues together, and you’ve got me sitting here on any Saturday night, watching all these black suited, sunglass and earpiece wearing, firearm bearing, up and coming cooks flowing in and out of here, and wondering what kind of secret recipes are being cooked up there.
I’d just hit the head, and was coming back out to the bar through the hallway, when the elevator dings open and out staggers this guy in a black suit and sunglasses, his earpiece dangling on his shoulder, and he reaches out and grabs onto me.
I catch him and lower him to the floor. He’s leaking blood like a genetically modified turnip, and as I lay him down, I can see that his shoulder holster is empty. The knife in his gut’s a silver and pearl handled dagger. I collect knives, and this would be a prized addition to my mantel.
“Take this,” he whispers to me, his voice all raspy like he might die at any second. He shoves this envelope into my hand and goes limp as an infinity curve.
Just then the elevator opens up again, and two men dressed in black suits and sunglasses with earpieces and semiautomatics drawn trip over me and the corpse and go sprawling.
This is all the encouragement I need. Forgetting about the knife, I jump up and hightail it back down the hallway, out the back door, and down the alley out onto Hotel Street. I hear them shouting behind me and shots fired, but no bullet has stopped me yet, so I keep on sprinting.
I feel kind of like what Usain Bolt must feel after he’s had a few. I mean I am Asian lightning. How fast I can’t judge, but none of the bullets are flying faster than me.
I head into the deserted business district. Just then I spot a Pauoa Valley bound bus headed my way. I jump on and collapse in a seat. It takes me all the time to my stop to catch my breath. By the time I let myself in my front door I am sober.
Grabbing a beer from the fridge, I sit down at the kitchen table and pull the envelope out of my pocket. On the front are the words Top Secret.
What did I tell you. If the guy dying and those other two shooting at me doesn’t convince you about what I said is going on above The Watering Hole, then I hope that makes it clear I’m correct.
I open the envelope and there’s a single sheet of white typing paper. Here’s what it says:
Secret Culinary Institute of Hawai‘i Biscuit Recipe
2 ½ cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon butter
1 cup milk
As much Plutonium-239 as needed depending on size of biscuit (Uranium-235 may be substituted as necessary)
It wasn’t hard to see that they were using the word “biscuit” as code for the word “bomb.” The rest of the note was instructions on how to “cook” it.
At the very bottom was this: “If you got this note from me, it means I was dying when I met you. Please get this to the Swede, and he’ll reward you for it.”
The Swede. Now who could that be?
I go into the living room and switch on the TV. Surfing through the channels, something catches my eye. I sit up and pay attention. You know how sometimes all the forces of the universe seem to align? Well I have to tell you that this was one of those moments. I can’t understand what he’s saying, but I realize immediately who the Swede is, and I have come face to face with him through fate, just as fate put this recipe for mass destruction in my hands. I hit the pause button on the remote.
Would a celebrity of his status have a listed number? I punch him in on Google, and sure enough, there’s his cell number. What are the chances of that?
“Yes, hi, I need to talk to the Swede.”
“My name is, uh, John Smith. I live in Honolulu. A guy wearing a black suit and tie, sunglasses, and an earpiece who was dying over at the Culinary Institute of Hawai‘i gave me a recipe to give to the Swede.”
“This is the Swede. How did you get this number?”
I am amazed that his English is perfect. I say, “I found it on the internet.”
“Damnit. I’ll have to fix that. The recipe. Can you email it to me?”
I hesitate. “The note says I’ll get a reward.”
“How’d you like to get dead?” the Swede asks. “Because that can be cooked up pronto.”
“Well, I didn’t give you my real name.”
“That was obvious,” says the Swede, “but you forgot to block your cell number.”
“Oh, damnit,” I say, “it’s too late to fix that. Well, I wouldn’t want to end up dead, so I’ll definitely send it to you right away.”
He gives me his email address, tells me to memorize it and then eat it and the recipe paper washed down with a glass of clam juice and a sprig of mint.
I have neither, so I choke it all down neat.
I sit back in front of the TV and hit the pause button again. I am truly amazed at how unintelligible and jolly he is here on the show, but how clear were his words and how menacing his voice in real life. Now that’s acting. I’ve always been a fan of the Muppets, and the Swedish Chef has always been one of my favorite characters.