Giancarlo’s Green Grape Salad
“When men care and have the courage to act,” said a deep baritone behind them. “Justice will be served.”
Detective Giancarlo Mendoza stood tall and imposing just behind Mama Lou, Ethel Mae and Ms. Earline. For such a big man – well over six feet, two hundred pounds – his movements were graceful, silent. He was a homicide cop with a stern face, his full lips drawn in a firm line, however, his wide eyes, ones that flowed from golden brown to molten amber were expressive and lacked the cynicism of many of his peers. He was a former student of both Mama Lou and Ethel Mae and in Mama Lou’s considered opinion, a certified hottie.
“Gianni,” Mama Lou snapped. “You can’t be slipping up on ol’ folk that way. You’ll give somebody a heart attack.”
“Mama Lou,” he said, his mouth softened into a grin as he leaned down to kiss her cheek. “You’re going to outlive us all. You’re too stubborn to do anything less.”
“You got that right,” she agreed. “I’m glad you were able to come.”
“It’s my pleasure,” he said. “though I’m not sure how I’ll be able to help.”
“We’ll figure it out,” she said. “Ms. Earline, this is the friend I was telling you about. If there is any way we can make Pastor Griffin accountable for this mess, he’ll help us find it.”
“First, where would you like me to put this?” Detective Mendoza indicated the Corningware bowl in his hands. “Then we can put out heads together and see what can be done.”
Ethel Mae said, “What is that? It looks delicious.”
“It’s my mother’s recipe. Green grape salad. I thought it might go well in this heat.”
“Mmm-mmm,” Mama Lou smacked her lips. “And you cook too? Boy, I wish I had a daughter.”
“This doesn’t exactly require cooking. I just mixed the grapes with cream cheese and sour cream, sprinkled in some brown sugar and nuts – Voila!”
Ms. Earline said, “My third husband knew his way around a kitchen too. Sexiest thing I ever saw.”
“Ms. Earline,” Ethel Mae choked out. Redness suffused the bronzed cheeks of the big, tough detective. “The things you say.”
Ethel Mae escorted Detective Mendoza to the buffet table. As they walked away, Mama Lou asked, “what time do you suppose Pastor Griffin will get here today?”
Ms. Earline said, “I’m not really sure. He typically shows up just before the food is served, in time to pray over the repast – and get the first plate, of course. But it’s a bit odd that Charlotte showed up on her own.”
The two women were quiet for a few moments as they watched Charlotte emerge from the treeline. She was alone, her expression tight, her movements jerky and tense. One of the mothers called out to her and she pasted on a bright smile and walked over to the big tent.
“The deacons are planning to take this opportunity to confront him. He’s been avoiding them and this may be their last chance. There’s been a motion to relieve him from the pulpit.”
Deacon Perry emerged moments later and beelined towards the men gathered around the BBQ pit.
“I almost wish that they’d wait,” said Ms. Earline. “He’s not going to go quietly.”
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