Taos Green Chili
Dear Harold Hark,
My Name is Georges Henri Arpel. I am an officer of the court at the Palais de Justice, Paris, France. I am writing you this document at the express request of my client, Etienne Aldonze Luiz Crachat de Coucou, better known to you as Chef Aldonze-Luiz. M. de Coucou has requested that I inform you of the events which have occurred during the last few months.
On February 20th of this year 2003, my client entered the Alliance Française office in Muaratewe, Borneo, claiming to have escaped the boiling cauldron of a tribe of natives in distant Ooeeooahah. He was received with great attention and fanfare as there had been no reports of attempted cannibalism in the district for some decades. At length, a visiting Commissar de Police, M. Pierre LeConte, on leave from duties in France owing to a near fatal train accident, heard of the incident.
M. LeConte identified my client as an international fugitive from justice, wanted by the French Government as well as Interpol.
M. LeConte accompanied M. de Coucou on a flight back to Paris, where he was swiftly tried, convicted and flown to the small island of St. Pierre off the coast of West Africa to serve a sentence of twenty years hard labor.
St. Pierre is a hot humid, hellhole, surrounded by strong currents and ravenous sharks. It is reserved for France's most dangerous criminals. No man has ever escaped.
The case drew my attention and, after examining his records and a transcript of the trial, I believe I have found a loophole so large that even a man the size of M. de Coucou could walk through and into the fresh air of freedom. I must admit that his crimes are most serious, and I have no doubt that he is guilty as charged. But I am, after all, a lawyer.
Thus, I made immediate arrangements to fly to the island to interview my new client. It was here that he told me of your abiding friendship and I was ordered to inform you of his circumstances. Furthermore, I was advised that, in the event he could not pay his legal costs that you would assume all financial responsibility. This was a great relief, for all of my inquiries lead me to believe that this man is without a centime. I will keep you duly informed as my legal bills mount.
Two weeks ago, with considerable effort, I was able to have M. de Coucou removed from the general prison population of this ghastly penal colony. I arranged for him to work as the personal chef for Commandant Claude Dutronc and his family. M. Dutronc is feared throughout St. Pierre and, were it not for the fact that he oversees an island of prisoners, would be a man of whom it could be said: "He takes no prisoners." You can imagine then, that he reluctantly gave permission for M. de Coucou to live in a small room in his air-conditioned fortress/house located in the center of the island. I felt satisfied that my client would live as comfortable as possible and avoid harm until his appeal date in Paris should be set. Unfortunately, one week ago, I was informed that M. de Coucou had been caught in a compromising moment with the 18-year-old daughter of Commandant Dutronc. M. de Coucou was beaten within an inch of his life, clapped in chains and tossed into a deep dark dungeon known only as "Le Trou Duc'". He sits there in bruised agony to this very day.
Thanks to his foolishness, my visits have been reduced to ten minutes once a week. I have therefore gone to great trouble to get permission for you to communicate with your friend. All messages must go through me and will be closely monitored by Commandant Dutronc. Hopefully, by the time he receives your letter he will be allowed to answer. I would suggest that you counsel your long time associate to cease his libidinous and mischievous behavior while the guest of Commandant Dutronc and the French government! Please ask him to apologise profusely for his transgression. Any further incidents and the man will be beyond my help, although there is little he can do in his present circumstances.
After my last interview, I found the attached recipe for Ratatouille stuffed into my coat pocket. Had it been found by prison guards, I would have been disbarred and the Bon Dieu knows what would have happened to M. de Coucou.
With some trepidation I am forwarding it to you. I can only guess that it must contain a hidden message. If so, I do not wish to know. Why else would this man risk life and limb for a Ratatouille recipe? Not a very good one at that! I would have added more garlic and at least three more tomatoes.
Please contact me as soon as possible. Oh yes, one more item. M. de Coucou has informed me that you would be glad to give me a little space on his Website, The Squeeze. If any of your readers have need of legal advice while in France, I am, of course, at their service! They may contact me at my address below. If any should visit, they will also find a nice selection of men's shoes and a discounted selection of delightful Christmas cards.
Thank you for your interest. I expect to hear from you soon.
Georges Henri Arpel
Dear M. Arpel,
It is only because of your somewhat accurate usage of the English language that I am inclined to believe your nevertheless unbelievable story. Otherwise, I would have to conclude that you, sir, are Chef Aldonze-Luiz in disguise, in the act of perpetrating yet another practical joke upon my tattered thread of sanity.
Assuming that you are indeed Georges Henri Arpel, I must endeavour to put straight a few matters.
First, I am not now, nor have I ever been financially associated with M. Etienne Aldonze-Luiz Crachat de Coucou, (dit L'Espèce de Con in these parts).
I owe him nothing and would not venture so much as one worthless coin on his behalf. He has, over time, attempted to extort money from me on behalf of one hairbrained scheme after another. I have always resisted and will continue to do so with all vigour.
Second, The Squeeze as he calls it, is not his web site, but mine. It is, in fact, called The Squiz. I have allowed him to post his recipes on his own page--administered by me from the goodness of my heart--to a hungry world in the hopes that he and I might advance our separate careers. Nothing could have been further from eventuating. He is now rotting in prison and my reputation is in tatters. Not only that, but my health, both mental and physical, has suffered drastically. I have been blown half way across the world; suffered violent stomach disorders; been hospitalised over one of his recipes; had my mouth burned almost beyond further use from another--and then nearly drowned by my family's attempt to soothe the burns; watched helplessly as my wife's favourite aunt died at the dinner table from yet another of his recipes; had my good name besmirched by his ignorant assumptions based on a poor understanding of English; became temporarily addicted to Absinthe to relieve the chronic depression of this association; and through it all, had to endure the constant angst that Aldonze would somehow make it to these shores and invade my home.
Third, I do not intend to send Aldonze any message whatsoever. He is beyond rehabilitation! If I were to advise anyone it would be Commander Dutronc to see to it that he never leaves his solitary confinement. There is more at stake than his dalliance with maidens...the whole world is under threat should this beast be released.
Therefore it should behove you to drop this case instantly. Divest yourself of any dealings with Crachat de Coucou (no doubt one of his aliases, though he has gone through that many he would have forgotten his real name!) and return to Paris before it is too late. Else you shall simply become another of his victims.
With hesitation I will post the Ratatouille recipe as requested, if only to honour the unspoken contract we have with his readers. If any should remain.
I trust this will be the last I hear of Aldonze-Luiz, unless it is the news of his ultimate demise.