Updated: May 19, 2021
"Have you completely lost your mind?!" the crack in his voice sent chills up my spine. I was surprised how much I was enjoying his terror.
"Mr. Spivey, would you please calm down. You're embarrassing yourself," I leaned in as if I was trying to not be overheard by anyone else. But we were alone in the kitchen of my restaurant.
Once bustling with the sound of pans and plates flying, me calling out orders, and my staff happily responding with a 'Yes, Chef', was now quiet and dark. The smell of a building being empty for an extended time already creeping in. I walked around the steel chair Mr. Spivey was securely fastened to like a shark. The shiny bald spot atop his head, the sweater covered in cat hair, the smell of sweat and cheap cologne. How was I ever afraid of this man?
"The meat in the shells is small and shriveled and dry," I read from the piece of paper in my hands as I continued circling "each shell contains what looks like the retracted scrotum of a hairless cat."
"'It's rottenness is both inherent and cosmetic'," I interrupted, my volume rising with my anger as I continued to read. "'It is culinarily insipid and morally insidious.'"
"Okay, I may have been a tad dramatic on that one," he nodded and lowered his gaze, the sweat beading from his forehead.
"There will be casualties in the restaurant trade as a result of the current economic turmoil; I sincerely hope that Delish is one of them," my voice trailing off as I finished reading the review. I lowered the paper and stopped in front of my prey, looking down at him with cold unfeeling eyes.
"I-I-I'm sorry, Erin-"
"Chef," I hissed.
"Of course. I'm sorry, Chef. I was coming down with a cold that week, actually," he smirked as his eyes bulged, searching mine for a hint of mercy. "My taste buds were in no condition to be giving a review. Certainly not a fair one! How about I call my editor and we start working on a retraction and official apology to you, Chef? What do you say? We can fix this!"
The laughter came bubbling out of me, quiet at first then it took on a life of it's own. Filling the space and echoing off of the stainless steel appliances and cold tile.
"Fix this?! Fix this?" I waved around the room. "There is no fixing this, Mr. Spivey! Delish is dead. Thanks to you! We needed that review. We prepped for it for months! Everyone knows a sparkling review from Mr. Spivey can rocket a new restaurant into infamy and success in this town. Instead of sparkles, we got shit!"
I leaned back on the steel counter, gripping the edge until my knuckles were white. I could feel my face contorting with the wave of emotions. I needed to pull it together. This was only the beginning of what I had planned for our evening together. I took a shaky breath and forced a smile, standing up straight and clapping my hands together.
"But I've got a special treat for you and that pallet of yours, Mr. Spivey," I circled around and grabbed the handles of the serving cart, wheeling it out in front of my special guest.
"P-p-please, I just want to go home," I watched as his chin trembled and the tears appeared. This show of weakness was disgusting. I'd expected more fight from him.
"You know," I lowered my voice, holding his gaze "people said that was the harshest review you had ever given in your career. I looked it up. You've given over 300 reviews. And mine, was by far the worst. Had the food really been that bad?"
I hadn't meant to sound so sad when I asked the question. For a moment, he saw me as the human being I once was, and he hung his head.
"I'm so sorry, Chef," he cried. "They encourage us to leave punchy reviews. They get more clicks and readers. Your food wasn't that bad-"
"Enough of that," I waved his apology away. Now was no time to start feeling bad for this killer of dreams and destroyer of lives.
I stood up straight again, one hand on my hip as I leaned over gripping the white sheet that I had placed over the serving cart to conceal my surprise. I turned to him and smiled, "I sure hope you brought that appetite, Mr. Spivey!"