Penelope stepped into a dark, dirty but quiet room. A few customers sat talking in low voices in one of the back tables. Penelope noticed that one of them had a large scar across his cheek. He looked up briefly then immediately returned to his conversation. A large woman heaved herself off a stool at the bar, then waddled her way over to Penelope.
“Is there something I can do for you miss?” she asked.
Penelope showed the woman the picture. The woman smiled.
“Let me get you a bowl of soup,” she said. Penelope watched impatiently as the woman pushed the door of a backroom open, then returned with a piping hot bowl of soup.
Penelope didn’t realize how hungry she was until she smelled the soup. She sat at one of the bar stools while the woman carefully sat herself back down. Penelope dipped her spoon into the bowl.
“This french onion soup is a day old,” she said to the woman. “But I swear my sister Lulu made it.”
“Quiet, child,” replied the woman, her eyes moved towards the back table. The other customers finished their conversation then left the bar.
“Your sister came through here with a bunch of pirates,” said the woman, after the door closed.
“But why did she make the soup?” asked Penelope.
“The head pirate complained that he was hungry and he would have nothing that came out of my kitchen. Instead he made Lulu prepare a soup,” the woman recounted.
“Did she look okay? Were the pirates mistreating her?” Penelope asked.
“I noticed a bruise on her cheek, but she seemed okay,” replied the woman. “She said if you came by, I was to give you this.” The woman handed Penelope the note.
No time. Don’t follow me. I’ll be all right.
Just then, the door to the tavern swung open with a crash. Instinctively, Penelope ducked down behind the bar. The man with the large scar on his cheek entered with the a group of men behind him. He scanned the room.
“Where is she?” he asked the woman. “Where is that pretty gal?”
“She left, Bolo” replied the woman. “If you hurry, you might catch her. She said something about heading back to the center of town.”
“I don’t believe you,” Bolo replied. “Men, spread out and find her!”
The men started searching the room, knocking down chairs and tables. Bolo went into the back room. Finally, they all congregated at the bar.
“Click, click,” the woman cocked her shotgun. “Okay, hold it right there Bolo,” she said.
“Get out of my way Shirley. This isn’t any of your business,” Bolo replied. Before Shirley could react, Bolo knocked the shotgun out of her hand. The shotgun went off, hitting one of Bolo’s men. After a moment of shock, Bolo angrily pushed Shirley aside. He searched behind the bar but Penelope was gone.
Here is a link to the recipe for Soupe À l’Oignon, or French Onion Soup, the soup Lulu made for the pirates. It’s brought to you by Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child.