Updated: Sep 30, 2021
Ding ding ding ding diiiiiiiiing!!!!
Murielle Sanders opened the oven and was greeted by the pleasant smell of a spinach and ham quiche. Donning her blue floral oven mittens, the 64 year old petite woman pulled the glass baking dish out of the oven and set it on a daisy shaped heat pad. Placing the oven mittens on the counter top, Murielle brushed a wisp of graying hair away from her face. She took up a bowl, again with a floral design around the edge, and sprinkled cheese over the quiche. She placed the glass dish back in the oven and reset the timer.
A massive black Rottweiler came into the kitchen and nudged the short woman. Her hand came down to pat his head lovingly. He plopped down on his haunches, his giant tongue lolling out of his mouth and gazed up at her pleadingly. Murielle chuckled reaching into the bowl of cheese and giving him a handful of shredded goodness.
“There you go Cheddar. That's a good boy.” The monstrous head, roughly the size of a melon, lapped up the shredded cheese so gently that the woman's hand barely moved. Murielle had enough time to wash her hands and towel them dry before the timer went off again. Taking the quiche out of the oven she set it to cool and went to change her clothing.
When she reappeared she was wearing a well tailored peach dress suit. Murielle liked to look nice when she went out for visits, especially since this was for a new neighbor. She wanted to make a good first impression. Murielle Sanders always brought a freshly baked quiche to anyone that moved to Sunnyveil. The small town was famous for her quiches and while Murielle was more than modest about her talent it had become something of a tradition for her to bring one to new arrivals.
Picking up the quiche the petite old lady left her home and walked to her car. It was only a short drive across town to the arrival. Once at the front door she juggled the quiche so she could elbow the doorbell and waited patiently. Murielle had no idea who was living here now but she was sure they'd love Sunnyveil. Smiling brightly, she waited for the door to open.
* * *
Benjamin Augustine found himself standing in the doorway of his new home with a still warm quiche turned over on his head. The 67 year old man watched as the melted cheese and egg added a rather interesting color combination to his gray cashmere sweater. He picked a bit of ham off the sleeve of his blue dress shirt and let it fall to the floor with a sigh.
“Murielle my dear if I had known this was the type of greeting I'd get after not a word in so many years I swear I would have written more often.” For that statement he was given a slap to the face and he winced as Murielle turned on her heel. She stalked off indignantly towards her car without a backwards glance. He sighed and closed the door, setting about cleaning up the mess on his carpet.
He was bending over to drop another chunk of ruined quiche into a trashcan when his doorbell went off angrily. He opened the door and Murielle stormed inside, her face an angry thundercloud.
“You've got a lot of nerve showing up after forty years with not even a letter or phone call to explain why you left me standing on my porch waiting for you.”
“Actually it's been forty-two ye-” Benjamin stopped when he saw the warning look in her eye and decided it would be best to start over. “Murielle I'm sorry. I did send you a letter...”
“One letter!” Her voice quivered with fury. “One measly letter that was barely a page long. I was young and in love but I wasn’t stupid then and I'm not senile now. Don't try to pull one over on me Benjamin Augustine. I'm too old for that.” She paced back and forth across his living room, her shoes making little tapping noises as she went from carpet to hardwood floor and back.
Benjamin sighed and rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. “I do apologize Murielle. If you'll excuse me for a moment.” Before she could protest, which she was about to do, Benjamin moved to a side door and exited the living room. Murielle was left to stand there fuming, tapping her foot on the hardwood floor.
She was only there for several seconds before a gorgeous silvery gray cat appeared from beneath a black leather couch. It started to rub against her leg purring loudly. At first Murielle nudged the cat away in irritation but the creature was more than persistent, adding mewing noises to the display. Finally, Murielle crouched down so she could pet the cat.
“Ah Murielle darling I see you've met our new guest.” It took the petite old woman a moment to realize Benjamin, who had walked back in wearing a clean and crisp black silk dress shirt, was talking to the cat. As he walked over and scooped up the cat, who purred all the more furiously, she noticed for the first time that he was walking with a cane. She felt a pang of regret at not knowing what had caused him to need the use of the cane.
Memories of a strapping young man of 25 taking her out to the local diner for milkshakes and roller skating dates wandered unbidden into her head before she firmly pushed them away.
“You named the cat Murielle,” she stated flatly as she watched the furry creature nuzzle Benjamin lovingly.
“Well this is actually Murielle III. She seems to be the most like you though. Care for a cup of tea?” He cut off the sharp remark she was about to make as he turned quickly and made his way into the kitchen. Murielle had no choice but to follow him with a glare trained on his back.
In the kitchen Benjamin pulled out a box of tea and chuckled as he tapped the side. “I always loved your Jasmine tea, Murielle.” He set the box down and started to boil water in a sleek black tea kettle. In fact, the majority of the kitchen was decorated in black and platinum color schemes. Overall it looked very modern and completely the opposite of Murielle's floral country style kitchen. Setting two silver lined black porcelain tea cups on the table Benjamin took a seat across from Murielle. She had remained silent this entire time. The silence dragged on until the teakettle went off and Benjamin got up and retrieved it. He filled each of their cups. Murielle hid her surprise at the fact that he put two lumps of sugar in her cup, exactly the way she liked it. She sipped her tea not willing to be the first to break the silence.
“Murielle you must understand how difficult this has been for me,” Benjamin finally said over his cup. Murielle watched him with an icy stare, small hands folded in front of her.
“What's there to understand? I wanted a commitment and you weren't ready. Telling me face to face would have been more appropriate but I can understand. We were both young. Your letter said all that needed saying under the circumstances.” She lifted her tea and took another sip watching him over the brim of the cup.
Benjamin sighed and rubbed his temples. “Murielle listen it's not what it seems like at all,” before he had gotten a chance to finish something smashed through the window and landed on the table. Murielle had a chance to see a little flashing red light before Benjamin jumped to his feet and grabbed her arm forcing her towards the doorway.
“Benjamin what on earth-” another crash came through the window in the living room and Benjamin stopped only long enough to grab the cat and Murielle's purse, shoving the latter into the petite woman's hands before urging her forward. He moved surprisingly fast despite having his cane nestled under his arm.
The two ran outside, or ran as quickly as two senior citizens can move while holding a cat and a walking cane, and climbed into Murielle's car. “Drive!” ordered Benjamin right as Murielle jammed the key in the ignition. Her adrenaline was pumping and she wondered momentarily if she had taken her blood pressure medication that morning. When the first explosion went off in the house behind her she threw caution to the wind and slammed her size 6 white shoe down on the accelerator sending her pink Cadillac sailing down the street.
Aside from Murielle's heavy breathing and the occasional unhappy yowl from the silver cat squirming on Benjamin's lap, they rode in silence. As they were getting closer to the business part of town, business meaning dozens of little shops festively decorated for summer and the flock of tourists that inevitably came out for the season, Benjamin put his hand on the rear view mirror and re-adjusted it.
“We're being followed,” he said matter-of-factly as he studied the mirror.
“We're what?!” Murielle turned to look at him, then quickly moved her attention back to the road.
“There's a black Ford Explorer several yards back. Rather hard to miss if you don't mind my saying.” The cat had settled down somewhat and Benjamin set his walking cane down between the chair and doorway of the Cadillac so he could stroke her fur with his free hand. The silver cat was actually starting to purr again.
Murielle looked in her mirror and was dismayed to see that they were in fact being followed by a black Ford Explorer.... and it was gaining on them. The light in front of them turned yellow and Murielle slammed her foot on the gas turning the wheel sharply to the left. The Cadillac lurched to the side from the sudden acceleration but made the turn with only the hint of a fish tail.
Murielle looked in her mirror and pursed her lips as the black SUV blazed through the red light causing another car to swerve and honk angrily. A determined look came across the little old lady's features and she continued to accelerate, making hair pin turns the old car shouldn't have been able to make.
“I hope you know I'm expecting a full explanation,” she said giving Benjamin a sidelong glance as they gunned through another yellow light. Benjamin lifted an eyebrow at her and shifted his weight as he was pressed against the door when the pink Cadillac careened around a circle.
“I was formerly a secret agent for the FBI and our pursuers are no doubt after us because they want to know about something I was previously engaged in.” He spoke simply, as if he were describing the weather or commenting on the scenery.
“You don't honestly expect me to believe-” Murielle's words were cut off sharply and the cat leaped out of Benjamin's arms, claws digging into the dashboard as the Ford Explorer slammed into the back of the car.
“Oh bother,” Benjamin scowled and re-adjusted the rear view mirror. “You're going to need a new paint job,” he commented off handedly noting the pink streaks on the fender of the Explorer.
Murielle set her jaw rightly. “Better make sure your seat belt is on,” she said pressing her foot on the accelerator. The pink Cadillac lurched forward putting a little bit of distance between the two vehicles. They started to near a turn and Benjamin inhaled sharply worried about the car's turning capabilities at such speeds. Suddenly Murielle slammed both tiny feet on the brake causing the tires to screech in protest. There was a sudden sound of crunching metal and the passengers of the Cadillac lurched forward as the Explorer plowed into their rear. Murielle calmly rolled down her window and gave the people in the other car a most unlady-like hand gesture then fixed a loose strand of gray hair and put her foot on the gas.
The Cadillac inched forward then began to move at a normal speed while a hiss and puff came out the front of the Explorer. Their radiator was cracked clean in half while the Cadillac had only sustained damage to the rear fender, meaning that it had come unhinged and now hung at an odd angle. The exhaust pipe was also bent a little and tiny puffs of smoke came out every so often but thankfully the car was built like a tank, unlike the newer SUV.
“I guess 'Ford tough' isn't all it's cracked up to be,” Benjamin said turning back in his chair and settling back down. It wasn't long before Murielle pulled into her driveway. She parked the car in her garage making sure to close the door behind them. Once inside Murielle closed the door leading in from the garage and leaned against it. Benjamin looked around at all the floral decoration and seated himself on the couch, his cane resting next to him as the silver cat bounced off his lap and went exploring.
“Was it really true?” Murielle asked not moving from her spot by the door. Benjamin sighed and scratched his head then smoothed out his hair.
“Yes Murielle. That is why I sent you the letter. After I got the call telling me I was accepted I could not really visit you and explain my situation. The position I was given did not allow for such liberties. You must believe me. I wanted more than anything to be with you but I simply could not.”
“I find that rather hard to believe. You didn't contact me once all these years to even let me know you were still alive. Yet I'm supposed to believe that you cared about me that much? Why did you have to come back into my life now after all this time?”
“Because he gave you something rather valuable.” Both Benjamin and Murielle turned to look at someone coming down the stairs. The man was wearing a business suit and had a gun trained on them. A silencer was attached to the barrel. Benjamin tensed, his hand reaching for his cane.
“Ah ah ah.... none of that now Mr. Augustine. We wouldn't want to make any blood stains on Ms. Sanders’ lovely carpet now would we?” The man motioned for Murielle to move over to the couch with his gun and she obliged although she gave him an icy glare the whole time.
“What makes you think he would have given me anything?” she asked with an indignant sniff. She sat with her back straight, her hands folded neatly in her lap.
“Why else would he have kept track of you all these years?” He pulled a little black book out of his pocket and tossed it to her. Murielle caught it and looked from the book, to the man, to Benjamin. “Open it,” it was more of an order than a suggestion and she did so even as Benjamin shifted uncomfortably beside her.
“Murielle Sanders awarded the prize for Best Quiche in the Tri-County area. Murielle Sanders, takes the gold again with her award winning quiche. Sunnyveil's own, Murielle Sanders, awarded Best of State for her Vegan Quiche.” Murielle read the titles of articles dating back for years. All of them were about her and the quiches she baked. “I don't understand,” she said feeling like those women one sees in movies, the ones that have had stalkers for months and never knew, only in her case it had been decades.
“Oh it's rather simple. Our good friend Mr. Augustine here has been keeping tabs on you thanks to your exceptional cooking skills. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't you give her the book that started her off?” Benjamin rubbed the back of his neck and frowned at the man.
“Is this really necessary Jack?” Benjamin frowned at the other man. “I've told you so many times I don't have what you're looking for.” The man in the suit shook his head and chuckled.
“Oh but I think you do. You don't expect me to believe that you truly got rid of something so valuable?”
“It was not mine to keep.” Benjamin started but the man cut him off.
“Nonsense. We all knew how much it was worth when we did our first assignment. Once it disappeared none of us were allowed to leave the facility for months while they investigated. Now you will tell me where it is or so help me I'm going to kill her while you watch.” Jack moved forward training the gun on Murielle. Benjamin opened his mouth but at that moment a horrified yowl came from the other room.
A silver streak came flying through the doorway and scrambled between Jack’s legs then leapt into the air aiming for a shelf on the wall. A black monster of a dog came launching into the room after the cat, teeth bared in an terrifying snarl. Jack didn’t even have enough time to recover from the cat clawing before the dog slammed right into the back of his legs intent on catching the cat it had seen moments earlier. Jack's legs buckled and he fell backwards, his gun going off and making a “thunk” noise as the bullet pierced the drywall two feet above Murielle's head.
Faster than a man with a limp should have been able to move, Benjamin was on his feet and standing over the man in the suit, pulling a thin sword out of his walking cane and holding it to the man's throat. “Drop it,” he said placing a foot on Jack's wrist and pressing down until the man released the gun.
“Cheddar no!” Murielle pulled on the dog's collar as he tried in vain to reach the cat on the shelf. By now the poor thing looked like a porcupine, emitting low growling noises while its tail swished back and forth angrily.
Benjamin pulled a cell phone from his pocket and hit the speed dial. “Agent Waters? Yes this is Augustine. I was right about Agent Felstine. Have your men move in.”
* * *
Several hours later Jack Felstine was being taken away in handcuffs. Benjamin finished giving his report to a man in another black suit that nodded and walked out. He turned and gave Murielle an apologetic smile.
“I really had hoped this wouldn't happen. I had hoped our first meeting after so long would have been.... quieter? Anyway I'm fairly certain his efforts were for naught. I doubt you even have what he was looking for.” He rubbed the back of his neck as she stared at him with a frown. Getting up from the couch where she had been sitting this whole time she walked over to the bookcase where a still disgruntled Murielle III sat watching everything. Moving the cat aside gently she pulled a cook book off the shelf. Coming back to the couch she sat down and opened it to the first page. Slowly she removed an old yellowed envelope and held it up watching his expression.
“Is this what he was after?” she asked. Benjamin nodded slowly, incredulously. “How did you know I'd keep it all these years?” He gave her a little shrug.
“To be honest, I didn't.” Murielle turned the envelope over in her hands.
“What's so special about this letter? You barely said anything in it at all. Just that you loved me and you hoped I would understand. In more words of course, but still. Is it some sort of secret code for something?” Benjamin chuckled and came to kneel before her plucking the envelope from her hands. He turned it over to show her the front.
“Hardly that complex my dear. Look,” he pointed to the stamp on the front. It was a picture of pink little peaches with portly Asian ladies clinging to the tops. Overall a goofy looking stamp but she hadn't really thought of it at the time. “This right here, Wun Ti's famous Asian Peaches. There were only twelve of these ever printed and it was worth 2.5 million back when I joined the FBI. Our first mission was to stop terrorists from killing Wun Ti's daughter. Out of seven operatives I was the only one who managed to make it in and bring back Su Min Ti. To express his gratitude Wun Ti gave me this. Needless to say... the FBI tried to seize it. The only thing I could think of was to send it to you to keep it safe.”
Murielle looked at the stamp then back at him. She blinked twice then drew her hand back and slapped him hard across the face. “That's for making me worry all these years.” Leaning forward she took his face in her hands and kissed him tenderly. “And that's for coming back to me in one piece.”
Benjamin smiled and rubbed his cheek. “So... how about one of those famous quiches?”