Quanisha’s Bacon Quiche
The whine of a rapidly approaching engine distracted several of the parishioners, their heads turning towards the road to seek out the latest arrival. The motorcycle traveled at break neck speed around the corner, spewing rocks and gravel in its wake.
What in the world?
The bike, a gleaming fire-engine red sports bike, veered off the road and into the parking lot of the Friendship Community Church. Rather than stopping, it continued onto the grass, cutting a circuit around the tent. The driver’s pace had slowed enough to allow a trail of children, teens and young men to run in its wake. It was clear the kids recognized the driver even if Mama Lou and Ethel Mae didn’t.
“Who is that?” Mama Lou watched as the driver cut the engine then tossed long, jean-clad legs off the bike.
Uncle Frank sidled up next to their small group, his girth puffed out in pride. Most of the young people and a sizable number of adults had abandoned the buffet line to greet the new arrival. Ethel Mae chuckled to herself at Agnes Bradshaw’s shrieks of protest.
Frank said, ” I ‘speck that’s Quanisha Jones, Ms. Portia’s granddaughter home from college. She always was one for making an entrance.”
Even as he spoke, the driver peeled away the biker’s helmet, revealing a huge, fluffy Afro beneath. The young woman was vibrant and soaked up the well-wishes from adults and peers alike.
“Hey, y’all,” she called out over the heads gathered around her. “Sorry I’m late. I just made it in from Atlanta this morning but I wouldn’t miss the chance to get at Ms. Earline’s deviled-eggs or Ms. Loretta’s Lasagna. Y’all did leave me some, right?”
Ms. Loretta peeled from the crowd and pulled Quanisha into a hug. “Come on in here, girl. Wash the dust off. We were just about to serve.”
Quanisha slipped out of the straps of her backpack. She gestured towards the satchel. “I brought quiche. Since I didn’t come empty handed, maybe I can get an extra helping of Uncle Frank’s catfish too.”
Ms. Loretta glanced up and down Quanisha’s lean frame. “Baby, where do you put it?”
Darren popped up on Quanisha’s other side. “Hey Q. Give me the keys. I want to take the bike for a ride.”
“Boy, please,” scoffed Quanisha. “You barely old enough for training wheels.”
Mama Lou, Ethel Mae and Mendoza watched as the group trailed back over to the tent. Agnes Bradshaw re-organized her serving line and at least for a few minutes, order was restored. For a little while, the congregation could set aside their troubles.
Mama Lou said, “Anybody seen Charlotte lately? She ran off towards the church right after Pastor Griffin arrived but I hadn’t seen her since.”
They glanced over the sea of heads, shaking their heads against a growing concern. “I haven’t seen her either,” said Ethel Mae. “Deacon Perry and Kieran still seem to be gone too.”
“That’s too bad,” added Mendoza. “I wanted to have a chat with them . . . Izzy seems to have disappeared too. You don’t suppose . . .”
Mama Lou, Ethel Mae and Mendoza turned towards the pastor but he was still ensconced under the shade of a huge oak tree, spread out in the lawn chair, his face now obscured by a huge straw hat. He sat alone, and there was no sign of either of the missing people in his vicinity. In fact, everybody seemed to make a point to avoid that area, not even looking in their leader’s direction.
Mama Lou expelled a sigh of relief. “The last thing these folk need is another confrontation. But we need to talk to Charlotte.”
Ethel Mae watched as Delilah, burdened with a paper plate heaped full of food in one hand and a large beverage cup in the other, carefully made her way across the lawn towards the pastor.
Ethel Mae said. “Why don’t we head on over to the church and see if we can’t find her? Detective? Perhaps you could wait out here to keep an eye on things?”
Before either of them could respond, a long piercing scream rent the air. They looked up in time to see Delilah, standing just behind Pastor Griffin, the food and drink spilled at her feet. For a millionth of a second, nobody moved but stared mutely at the young woman who continued to scream her throat raw. Delilah stared in horror at the butcher knife in her hand, the gleam of fresh blood dripping from the blade. The sight of the utensil appeared to strike terror but she seemed equally incapable of releasing it.
Pastor Griffin was slumped in the lawn chair, his hat now skewed to the side, giving a glimpse into wide open, lifeless eyes. As Mama Lou, Ethel Mae and Mendoza hurried over to the screaming mother, they could see the spreading stain of blood on the pastor’s back and a growing puddle beneath his seat.
Pastor Griffin was dead.