Quiche for an Informant and a Killer’s Best Friend
December 2022. Why is it that something as ordinary and familiar as a Quiche baked in a Rosenthal dish could bring back a flood of memories? Making a quiche in that Rosenthal dish wasn’t on my mind this chilly December morning as I prowled through my cupboard searching for the right plate for my friend’s birthday cake. What did a flood of memories have to do with making a cheese pie in a Rosenthal dish? What was the connection?
Then I remembered another chilly morning.
March 1983, I was preparing a quiche for the informant, Scott Fraser, who gave Detective John St. John the piece of critical information he needed to arrest The Freeway killer, Bill Bonin. As I poured the cheese mixture into the dish, smoothing the dough at the edges and then crimping those edges, I wondered what it would be like to walk into the same room where Fraser smoked one Camel cigarette after the other and Bonin drank his non-alcoholic beverage of choice: Raspberry Kool-Aid with one ice cube. I wondered if Bonin told Scott about the latest murder or if the two men shared secrets or if they cared about sports or what the bond was between a serial killer and a former loan officer. I had my list of questions, but prodding Bill Bonin’s best friend about the details of the case in front of the detective who solved it wasn’t in my game plan.
My stomach tightened and my hands felt jittery as I placed the quiche on the oven rack. My husband, Jim, came into the kitchen followed by my youngest son.
“Nice of you to bring one of your famous quiches to Scott, Janie,” he said. “I don’t know a single guy alive who doesn’t appreciate a home-cooked treat.”
I looked up, smiled, and said, “It’s more of a bribe than a treat. If Scott clams up with Detective St. John standing there, how can I get him to talk? And if I can’t get him to talk, all my hopes for writing this incredible book will go up in smoke. At least, when I meet him, I’ll be able to hand him a special gift I made. It’s still warm so it will smell cheesy and delicious.”
Who is this guy who was best friends with a notorious serial killer? My best friends play club tennis and go to Little League games. What can I say to him that can bridge our enormous differences? Will he think I’m a stuffy doctor’s wife and shut me down? Will St. John step in and help or will he watch me struggle and think I’m not up to writing his book? Will my dream of becoming a writer come down to using a cheese pie as a bribe? The stakes are pretty damn high.
Jim checked his watch, then gave me his countdown to departure look. “If you plan to impress Mr. Fraser and St. John, all the quiche in the world won’t matter if we’re an hour late. The boy’s sitter is playing with them outside. Time to go, Janie. You’ll do fine.”
I wrapped the quiche in my favorite kitchen towel, fluffed my hair, and had one final question for Jim who stood by the garage door – car keys dangling from his fingers.
“Why didn’t St. John give me at least one clue about Scott,” I asked. “All I know is he was a former loan officer who lives on disability. What kind of a lead is that?”
“Just enough to keep you off balance,” Jim said. “That’s why he’s so good. He’s a master at keeping people off balance and getting them to talk. Say things they didn’t mean to.”
I’m going up against a master at getting people to talk. Better get smart and clever fast.