Deception On the Danube
Deception On the Danube
Nothing really happened after the late lunch. Most of the passengers returned to their cabins, probably to have a siesta after such a huge buffet. A few left the Sunna and walked into the village. No one opted to go for another bike ride.
Burke wasn't sure what to do and so he just stayed in his chair as the room emptied.
Then Thierry Delisle, with Renata Hable at his heels, walked over.
"Our people seem to have relaxed," Delisle said. "That's good. It's already been a difficult day."
Burke asked if Delisle wanted him to do anything.
"Just check that the bikes are ready for tomorrow's ride. By the way, the route will be our scheduled one along the Danube, not the side trip I asked you to plan. The police have indicated we can leave here by 10 tomorrow morning. That means we're back on track minus one day. Our next stop will be Krems."
Burke nodded. Was the investigation into Wilson Talbot's death finished?
Then Delisle said he needed to do some planning with Hable and so they left.
Burke was alone in the dining room except for three servers cleaning up the tables. Then he spotted Claude strolling toward him, holding two thin glasses and a small pitcher of water.
"Judging by your face, Paul, I think you need a pastis," Claude said, dropping on the chair beside Paul.
Burke was surprised at seeing pastis in Austria and said so.
"Well, I agree it's not something you find around here which is why I brought it with me from home," Claude said, adding a dash of water to his glass and watching it turn milky white. "I also figured I probably wouldn't end up drinking alone, you being a pastis aficionado."
Burke smiled and poured a heftier measure of water into his pastis. He didn't want anything too strong. "You've been busy, Claude." He was glad to have the company, knowing the bikes could wait.
Claude took a sip from his pastis and nodded his approval. Then he looked at Burke. "Reinhard and I had to go full speed to be prepared, but he's a good man without the massive ego of so many chefs these days and we get along wonderfully. Plus, he has real talent. He's at least as good as I am. It also helps that we have two eager, smart sous-chefs."
"So, everything is working out."
"It is. I worried at the start that working in a new kitchen with another chef would be a recipe for disaster, but it's been excellent. I could get used to working on a ship although the hours can be a little long. The only things I'm missing are my herbs from Provence, but that's to be expected since we're not in France."
Burke could see Claude was moving into an old routine he liked to do. But he didn't mind. He could use a distraction.
"You know, Paul, I used to think Austrian cooking focused entirely around breading veal and making dumplings that sank to your toes, but Reinhard has taught me otherwise," Claude said, an impish grin working at the edge of his lips. "Of course, I also thought the Austrians were more talented in the kitchen than the English who believe boiling a potato to death is the pinnacle of culinary skill."
Burke laughed at that one. Claude, who firmly believed the French were the world's culinary masters with the Italians a distant second, was always doing a variation on the "nations who can't cook" routine. This was a slightly redone version.
"Of course, you shouldn't laugh too hard, Paul. You come from a country where drowning french fries in cheese curds and gravy is considered a national treasure, despite the fact you can hear your arteries harden while you eat it."
"Claude, you're getting into dangerous territory when you attack poutine. But I'm glad it's working out for you in the kitchen."
Thanks to Claude and Hélène, Burke had a decent understanding of the pecking order in a professional kitchen and how easily jealousies could occur. But Claude's kitchen aboard the