Connie Brockway
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Hot Dish

Hot Dish

EXCERPT

Steve Jaax, the now famous artist who sculpted Jenn Lind's face in butter twenty years before, has come to Fawn Creek for one reason: to get it back. Unfortunately, it's been kidnapped and Jenn's family do not like the idea of paying a ransom for it.

Jenn's mom stopped, remembering the phone buried against her shoulder. She thrust it towards Jenn. "I don't know who this is, Jenn, but he knew you were here before I did. He's been calling all morning insisting he has to speak to you and that he cannot possibly leave a number where you could return his call. Then about ten minutes ago, he called insisting that you'd arrived."

Jenn took the phone and held it to her ear. "Yes?"

Pause.

"Yes, this is she."

Pause.

"I'm listening."

A longer pause.

"Forget it." She took the phone from her ear, depressed the off button, and handed it back to her mother.

"Who was it?" Cash asked.

"I don't know. Some guy," Jenn said. "He claimed he has the butter sculpture and said he wanted a thousand dollars to return it."

Steve felt his heart stop in his chest. He opened his mouth but no words came out. "He wanted..." was all he managed.

She turned to him, head nodding empathetically. "I know." She sounded completely taken aback. "Can you believe it? A thousand dollars for—"

Abruptly the phone rang in her hand. She pushed a button and raised it to her ear.

"Hello? Oh. Well, that makes all the difference." Another pause. Steve reached for the phone but she lifted a finger, waggling it in the manner of one saying, "I have it covered" while she nodded at whatever was being said to her from the other end.

"Forget it," she said. "I know what I said but I was being sarcastic. Really. Yes, that means no."

By the time Steve realized what she meant to do, she'd already hung up.

"You didn't—"

"Of course not," she said. "He wanted five hundred dollars this time."

"Is that who that was?" Nina exclaimed. "He called here yesterday and asked for five hundred from your father and me."

"You said no?" Steve's voice came out as a whisper.

"Of course, we did." Nina sniffed. "Hallesbys don't submit to blackmail."

"But, it it's worth—" he trailed off. He didn't know what it was worth.

"Not much, I'm afraid," Cash said. "Nina had it appraised some time back and well, the guy said its only value is as an oddity."

"But...Picasso's cocktail napkins sell,"

"Yeah," Cash said gently. "But you can frame those, you're not Picasso --sorry—and you're not dead. The bottom line on the butter head, Steve, is you can't frame it, you can't exhibit it, and eventually it's going to degrade to the point where it's unrecognizable. It's not all that pretty now." He gave Jenn an apologetic glance. "Sorry, honey."

"I don't care," Jenn said. She really looked like she didn't care, too. "I like the idea of it being a Picture of Dorian Gray sorta thing. The Butter Head of Jenn Lind. And as my sins grow darker and my soul more corrupt the butter head—"

"That's nice, Jenn," Nina interrupted. "Don't worry, Mr. Jaax." She patted his hand consolingly. "Whoever it is will likely realize they've targeted the wrong people and just abandon it somewhere. I mean who in Fawn Creek would pay five hundred dollars for a block of dehydrating butter?"