Marcel stood with his back pressed tightly against the dairy pallet, arms outstretched, palms facing backwards, fingers desperately gripping onto the large tubs of heavy cream in an admirable attempt to anchor himself to something safe and familiar. As a classically trained chef whose career, and pride, centered around perfecting French dishes like creme brulee, seeking comfort in cream was certainly logical. Yet as Marcel looked at the seafood container in front of him, he knew it was futile. The stakes were now echelons above those of any kitchen he’d ever worked in. Cream would provide little comfort.
How he wished that container was filled with mussels, crab, and maybe some Mahi-mahi as he’d expected to find only moments ago. Instead, cocaine. Brick-after-brick. Carefully prepared. Carefully wrapped. Carefully packed. Carefully stacked. Carefully concealed. Carefully transported in the guise of the seafood truck, leaving the coast each day, traversing the twisting, nausea-inducing highway through the mountains, and delivering fresh seafood to restaurants just like his all over the city. Carefully orchestrated. Clever, incredibly so. Except now there’d been a mistake – sure, Marcel enjoyed a glass of scotch to take the edge off and he’d smoked some marijuana back in college – but he’d never been interested in the hard stuff. This shipment was most certainly meant for another chef, another restaurant, for someone with very different business connections than Marcel himself had.
He’d have to call the police. Yes, that would be the obvious course of action, Marcel thought. It’d be best to act quickly. Get the cops to seize this stuff and get it out of his cozy little red-brick restaurant. The next day’s lunch menu would have to be adjusted again, since obviously there was still no seafood. There was ham and salami in the walk-in though. A twist on a Muffaletta sandwich might do well. His customers always liked foods with a connection to New Orleans. . .
For a brief moment Marcel allowed himself the indulgence of dealing with ordinary concerns, but the cocaine’s presence in the freezer, and its sheer amount, quickly pulled him back to this new reality. He rooted around in the pocket of his billowy black pants for a scrap of paper to make a note of his idea for the lunch menu before placing the call to city police, an ordeal he was sure would take hours. There’d be little time for sleep tonight.
Finding an envelope, Marcel removed it from his pocket, took the pencil from behind his ear, and turned the rectangle of paper over, but never got around to writing down orders for the Muffaletta sandwiches. The invoice. He’d forgotten about the invoice; the truck’s little Italian driver that he’d never seen before, scuttling seafood containers down the reefer van’s steep ramp, through the narrow door of the red brick building, and into the kitchen, sweat pooling above his eyebrows and soaking through the back of his uniform. The envelope that had been shoved into his hands. He’d call the police soon, yes. But Marcel was a man driven by curiosity. He opened the envelope.