Sharon was already packing a good-sized tote as she and everyone else hung up. Her mind was buzzing through the whole host of possibilities as she dropped evening shoes and a cocktail dress and her makeup bag into the tote. She quickly added a brush, then ran downstairs and looked at her kitchen. There wasn’t much she could bring, but she did finally wrap her good knives in a towel and added the package to the tote.
She did make one stop before heading to the Metro. On the corner near her townhouse was a small bodega and butcher shop. The butcher knew her and while he was somewhat surprised by her request, he did have an option. Sharon called Mark immediately.
“What?” asked Mark.
“Sir, I think we’ve scored some beef tenderloins. Whole ones. And a wheel of manchego cheese, plus a boatload of olives,” said Sharon. “I just need someone to pick them up.”
“Terrific. Let’s see… Gus said he’d be willing to do some running and so did Tanks. What’s the address and who’s the contact?”
Sharon gave him the information and told the butcher that he’d be getting a call. From there, she ran to the Metro stop.
Cordelia and Rebecca Cooper were waiting for her at the Vienna Metro station.
“We’re going out to the farms,” Cordelia said to Sharon as they hurried to Cordelia’s small sedan.
“Can’t I drive, Mom?” Rebecca asked.
“Are you out of your mind, girl?” Cordelia retorted. “We’ve got split second timing going on here.”
The drive into the Virginia countryside was somewhat tense, but the rewards were three country-style hams and several bushel baskets of vegetables. After checking in with Melody, the women stopped at a supermarket, then went directly to the children’s home.
Mark was already there. The kitchen proved to be quite large, with two industrial range and oven units, a full-sized commercial refrigerator that was at least half-empty and a full complement of utensils. In addition, Mark had pulled a tall warming oven from the White House kitchen.
Gus Guerrero had picked up the beef, cheese and olives from the bodega near Sharon’s townhouse and had even better news.
“A raw bar?” Sharon gasped.
“With crab, shrimp and lobster,” said Gus. “Turns out the governor’s catering company was getting desperate since it was going to be too small for the Smithsonian folks. But still, there was all this seafood already delivered. We scored it for our party, instead.” Gus let out a hearty laugh. “This whole town is going crazy. It’s only four events and a wedding. In August, no less.”
“Those three are pretty big events,” said Melody, frantically sifting through the sheets of paper on her clipboard. “But a raw bar will help. When will it be here?”
“By four,” said Gus.
It was already close to one in the afternoon when Mark and Sharon surveyed the collection of ingredients as Rebecca, Matt and an older teen from the home looked on.
“We’d better get those hams soaking,” Mark said. “But what do we do with them?”
“Do we have a slicer?” Sharon asked. “Maybe we could do paper-thin slices and serve them on plates with the cheese and olives, like tapas.”
“I don’t think we have a slicer,” Mark said, looking around the kitchen. “I suppose I could slice them by hand.”
“I can do that,” piped up the young girl from the home.
She was somewhat chunky, with dark, chocolatey skin, and about average height. Her dark eyes shone with excitement.
“Um, I’m Lena,” she said, suddenly backing off. “I really like cooking and I’m good at it. I think. I bet I could slice that ham pretty thin.”
Mark looked at Sharon, who shrugged and nodded.
“Okay,” said Mark. “We’ll give it a try. But those hams need soaking first.”
“Oh, I know,” Lena said. “My grandma used to cure her own. Had to soak them for a week before we could eat them.”
Lena set to soaking the hams in the huge two-part sink in the kitchen while Mark and Sharon debated the rest of the menu. In addition to the beef, they had six turkey breasts to consider. They finally decided to cook the beef on the stove top and bake the turkey breasts. As for sauces, Sharon talked Mark into doing a wine-based sauce for the turkey and a more traditional gravy for the beef.
“It’s not the usual sort of thing,” Sharon said.
June, for her part, had started making calls the moment her plane landed.
“The freaking Police Fund has already snagged every freaking table and chair in the city,” she complained to Karen Tanaka over the phone.
“It could be worse,” Karen said, sorting through bolts of fabric at a fabric store in the suburbs. “We could be in the middle of the social season.”
“But that’s also why we can’t get the tables and chairs,” sighed June. “I wonder if we could get away with borrowing from the White House stash.”
“Good question,” said Karen. “It is a charitable event and it is in a crisis situation. But there could be fall out from the opposition about using government resources for a private entity.”
“I wonder what the home has available.”
“I already checked. They have one long table and about twenty chairs. Wait. It’s going to be a buffet anyway, right?”
“Why don’t we set up a few tall tables and use the home’s sofas and see if we can score some more over-stuffed furniture and make it a more relaxed, more party-like kind of thing.?”
“Great idea. We can do the hors d’oeuvres outside on the lawn, then serve dinner on the first floor, like usual, only there won’t be table settings, just furniture and a some tall tables. And let’s keep to a multi-color scheme, say rainbow pastels?”
Karen looked over the bolts of cloth and thought. “Rainbow pastels should be doable. There’s a warehouse store near here. I should be able to pick up the flatware and plates, as well.”
“And Mark says to save your receipts. We’ll get you reimbursed, okay?”
“We’ll see,” said Karen.
As it turned out, Melody had found a stock of tables and chairs from her husband, Roy’s, church. Karen was able to find enough fabric to make instant table clothes and ribbons for the chairs. She bought plates, silverware and glasses at an outlet in the Virginia suburbs. June pulled several vases and dishes from her personal collection and made centerpieces from those. Matt, Tony, Jodi, Tiffany, Rebecca and Kira were drafted to pass hors d’oeuvres, and Mark drafted his assistant Gen Flowers and a couple of her friends to serve drinks.