Each Friday, the Heavy Table presents a new installment of Knife Skills, a culinary novel presented piece by piece as it’s written. If you’re uncomfortable with salty language, please be aware that characters regularly use words and phrases unacceptable in polite conversation. In the author’s imagination, some members of the food service industry have a tendency to swear. For previous and subsequent installments, visit the Heavy Table’s Fiction directory.
One Maserati ride later, Robertson and Lastri arrived at Archipelago. “Where are we going?” asked Robertson, as Lastri led him to the left of the restaurant’s luminescent main entrance and into a side alley. She guided him around a row of garbage cans, startling a trio of skittish rats in the process. She typed a series of numbers into a keypad on a non-descript metal side door, messing up the first time through, swearing under her breath as she forced herself to slow down and get the code right.
With an audible beep and click, the door opened up, and Robertson found himself in an almost obscenely comfortable and tiny little bar. Four leather high-backed barstools were lined up in front of a ten-foot bar covered with some kind of unidentifiable but undoubtedly pricey skin from some sort of uncommon but durable lizard. A closed cherry-wood door led out, presumably into some nook or cranny of Archipelago. Two extremely overstuffed leather couches lined the walls. There was no bartender. In fact, Lastri and Robertson were the only people in the room, if you didn’t count those illustrated in the Mannerist paintings that lined the walls.
“Is that a Parmigianino?” asked Robertson, squinting a bit in the dim light.
“Bronzino, but not bad,” she smiled. She gently pushed him into one of the barstools.
For the first time in the evening, Robertson truly took stock of his surroundings and noticed that Lastri looked stunning — curvy, perfectly groomed, and poured artfully into a high-necked silver and chartreuse cocktail dress.
She snapped her fingers. He came out of his trance. “I know just what to make,” she said. She produced a silver tablespoon of fresh blueberries and muddled them with fresh ginger. She scooped in ice — again, using a silver scoop that Robertson had pegged for actual antique silver — and topped off the drink with gin and St. Germain elderflower liqueur before topping it off with ginger beer. “God, that’s good,” said Robertson. It was fresh and vibrant, in keeping with the resurgent spring weather. “What are you drinking?”
“I thought we’d share,” said Lastri, gently pulling the glass from his grasp and taking a long pull of the drink.
Robertson found himself paralyzed. Lastri was worth — well, a lot of money. In an ocean of restaurants and owners, she was a 4’11”, 125-pound whale. It would be stupid to try anything with her — those who liked her described her as mercurial, and her enemies would say (and in fact, had testified in court) that she was commitably crazy. Lastri grabbed his jacket lapels and pulled him in for a kiss that was delicate beyond words. He kissed her back, gently at first, intensifying, intensifying more until he somehow found that she’d made her way onto his lap. Still kissing her, he ran his hands along her flanks before committing to a full-on caress of her body. She responded by clinging more tightly to him, kissing his neck, his ears, his cheeks, and pulling off his jacket. He picked her up, and carried her over to the couch.
“Is this place locked?” he managed to gasp as Lastri slipped off her panties, a predictably festive little chartreuse lace number. She put his right hand between her legs. “I don’t know,” she said, “Fuck it, whatever.”
“Mmmh,” said Robertson, kissing her neck. “Yeah, OK.”