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Unknown Diners

By Michael Walsh All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Romance


Their longstanding friendship deepens when wine and food reviewers Lorne and Catherine meet again seven months after she was widowed by murder. As they help each other work through their traumatic pasts, they become entangled in the dark world of sexual perversion and body modification. They face mutilation and death from past tormentors as they scramble to unravel organised manipulation in the restaurant trade. This is a story of passion and suspense in a dark corner of the human condition.

Chapter One

Pierre panned the remote camera to table four. “That the one?”

“Yeah, that’s him.” Samir tapped the monitor. “Who is he?”

“One of the promoter’s contacts. Seen him at some of her things. Wine writer I think. Don’t know his name, but I can get...”

“You do that,” Samir snapped. “Bring up the seating plan.” He zoomed in the monitor and leaned closer. Sure looks like the boy.

Pierre worked the computer mouse to open a file. “Name’s Lorne Wilson.”

“That’s him. Plant a tracker. Have him nabbed well away from here. Don’t mess him up. Bring him to me in one piece, no holes. I want the slow pleasure of changing that. Cost me seven years.”

“He the one that sent you up?”

“Don’t screw it again, not on this one, or it’ll cost another knuckle.” Samir slammed his hand to desk the like a cleaver and smiled.

Pierre jerked his hands back, thumbing his stump as he looked up and nodded. “We’ll get him for you, Sir.”

“You do that.” He checked his watch. “I’ve other things to do.” After scanning the surveillance monitors, he opened the office door and strode through the restaurant to the reception desk. He ran a finger over the seating diagram, then tapped table four and smiled. So at last, Big Lorne. Been a long time coming, hasn’t it? Samir headed out into the evening, pausing only to hold the door for a woman to enter.

Catherine nodded thanks to the man, stepped into the restaurant and paused. Do I still want to do this? Dammit, it’s not want. I need to do it. Wonder who Cynthia’s seated me with. She blew out a deep breath as she approached the reception podium. “Catherine Isselstein,” she said.

The hostess checked the list, then nodded to her right. “This way, please.”

As Catherine was shown to her window table, a man rose from it and stepped forward, extending his hand.

Oh, thank God, it’s Lorne. Catherine smiled and raised both arms as she neared. “I need a hug, Lorne. It’s been too long.” They merged and remained silent for a long while. So strange. Being here. With him.

They ended the hug, kissed cheeks then stood back smiling as their eyes explored. “People are looking.”

“Good, so am I. That’s a great dress.” He ran his eyes over it again, then back up to her face, shivering as he did. “I find it difficult not to look at you.”

“And your eyes are still as flattering. Come, let’s sit.” She turned her head and nodded. “We’re holding up the wine round.”

He held her chair, moved to his seat and watched as the bottle was presented. “We’re starting with a Franciacorta from Ca’ del Bosco, the 2011 Dosage Zéro,” the sommelier said as she poured. Then saying, “Tanti saluti,” she continued to the next table.

Lorne held his glass toward Catherine. “To your re-emergence. We’ve missed you — I’ve missed you.”

“It’s strange being here again. Even stranger without Nathan. This was our favourite window.”

“So Nathan? The police... Did they ever get any leads?”

“Nothing. They’re calling it a cold case now. He went out to review a restaurant and didn’t come back. No clues. Nothing.”

“I saw little about it. It seems there was a publication ban.”

“It’s been a recurring theme across the country. They’re trying to keep the sensationalism out of the media.”


She looked down at the table and shook her head. “He was found in garbage bags two weeks later, dumped in a lane in Gastown.”

“In garbage bags?”

“Tortured... butchered.” Her shoulders quaked as she lifted her napkin to her mouth and held it there.

“Are you okay? Please tell me what to do here. I’ve never had to handle... Are you sure you want to be here? Shouldn’t you be with friends?”

“I am with friends.” Catherine wiped her eyes. “I have so few.” She shook her head again. “Two only. Isn’t that sad? Two friends. You at these things and at the tastings, and Cynthia every few weeks for lunch.” After blowing out a big breath, she continued, “I hadn’t realised how reclusive I’d become until...”

“Family? What about them?”

“On the Island. I went across with them after the services. My emotions were all over the place. I couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t read. Couldn’t write. Couldn’t be around people — not even my folks. I had to come back and crawl into a hole.” She wiped her eyes again. “So sorry to be dumping this on you.”

“Now that’s an ironic twist, you being sorry for me.” He reached across the table and touched her hand. “I wish I knew what to do here. I have no experience with comforting. I don’t know what I should...”

“Just be here. Just be you. You’ve always made me happy.” She tilted her head and gazed into his eyes. “Actually, I came to this thing hoping you’d be here. Maybe talk... Sense your energy.” She forced a smile. “I want to be happy again, Lorne.”

She blew out another deep breath, shook her head then lifted her wine glass. “This is great bubbly. Let’s concentrate on being here. Enjoy this evening. It’s been almost seven months now, time to carry on with life. Please help me move beyond this.”

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