On October 20, 2012, Peter Nichols, Katie Browne, Adriana Widdoes, and Tom Dibblee allegedly ate dessert at Patina, a Los Angeles fine dining restaurant whose manager had a faintly European accent, despite his assurances that he came from St. Louis. Allegedly they ate five desserts each, split two bottles of Evian, two bottles of Patina’s cheapest champagne, and, allegedly, they wore the best clothes they had. And also, allegedly, a possible prostitute named Maggie Mull drank at the bar there alone, later that night.
Crime scene? LAPD Detective Benjamin caught word that it was.
Suspect One: Peter Nichols
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Mr. Nichols, thank you for coming in. Please close the door. Have a seat. Be comfortable. Be friendly. We could be friends. We might wind up being friends after this. It all depends. Have you eaten?
PETER NICHOLS: Yeah. I just ate a peanut butter and honey and raisin sandwich.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: I envy you, though I phased out raisins a long time ago. But that’s beside the point. Unfortunately tonight I have only a chicken Caesar wrap. It’s like a burrito but more American. It’s finger food, Mr. Nichols. I will use my hands. Do you mind if I eat?
PETER NICHOLS: No.
(Detective Benjamin bites into chicken Caesar wrap and chews.)
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Mr. Nichols, I understand you ate dessert at Patina, a high-end Los Angeles nightspot.
PETER NICHOLS: Yes.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Tell me about Patina, Mr. Nichols. Tell me about fine dining. Tell me about finery. Detail your experience. Tell me about Patina.
PETER NICHOLS: We shouldn’t call it Patina. We should call it “Veneer.”
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Let’s stick to what happened, Mr. Nichols. This isn’t philosophy. This is the facts.
PETER NICHOLS: Ok.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: You were quoted saying, “Patina should save the snobbish attitude for Paris. This place is a flop.” Do you recall saying this?
PETER NICHOLS: No
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Was Patina a flop?
PETER NICHOLS: All I did was eat dessert. Five of them. My teeth hurt at the end.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Five desserts, Mr. Nichols. That indeed seems like too much.
PETER NICHOLS: I would admit to that.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: You describe yourself as a “country sheik.” Do country sheiks eat five desserts often?
PETER NICHOLS: Sheiks in the Arab world are powerful figures that determine the law. They have the funds to purchase anything. “Country sheik” for me connotes someone who can live comfortably in the country and be envied by others. This is who I am. Dessert doesn’t enter into the equation.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: What were you wearing that evening?
PETER NICHOLS: A coat and tie.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Where did you get dressed?
PETER NICHOLS: At Katie’s house.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Who is Katie?
PETER NICHOLS: Katie Browne is a girl from New York City. Her father is a dentist and she has perfect teeth. She and I are acquaintances. We have never hung out one on one. What I can tell you I’ve gleaned from group settings only. But she has very fine teeth. Her father extracted her teeth when she was young, with Novocaine.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Excuse me?
PETER NICHOLS: Well, only when they were about to fall out already. He massaged the process.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Needles and massages don’t often go hand in hand.
PETER NICHOLS: Neither do desserts and the number five.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: What happened at Patina, Mr. Nichols.
PETER NICHOLS: What happened was we went to dinner. Well, we went to Patina. And I shouldn’t say we went to dinner because we had dessert. We had dessert with champagne, and then I drank a coffee.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Did you have a favorite, Mr. Nichols?
PETER NICHOLS: You’re talking to a man who lives in a truck and eats ice cream by the carton.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Meaning…
PETER NICHOLS: I thought it might be important for you to know about me. You know, character details.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: I’m quite capable of doing my job, Mr. Nichols.
PETER NICHOLS: I guess I liked the first one. It was pistachio and lemon based, with a mushy bottom. It was dolloped with what they called “rose air.”
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Define this “rose air.”
PETER NICHOLS: I think there’s soap in it. It looks like soapy bubbles on a plate. I took a spoon of it and put it in my mouth.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Keep going.
PETER NICHOLS: It was on a plate, though I wasn’t sure if it was food. And this was a point of discomfort for me. Though I still willingly did this, put the air into my mouth. And it kind of tasted like rose product, like bathroom spray or scented candle…
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: You put the air in your mouth, but you remained suspicious…
PETER NICHOLS: At one point, I asked Drew the waiter how the rose air was made. He said it was alchemy, and then laughed. But it was a point of tension because I wanted to know if the rose air was soap. I wouldn’t have minded if it was. In fact, I would have liked if we had paid good money to eat soap.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Do you consider yourself odd, Mr. Nichols?
PETER NICHOLS: No.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Let’s discuss the booth seats, Mr. Nichols.
PETER NICHOLS: The main thing about the seats was you had to slide in a significant distance to get to where you were going to sit. You had to scoot. Like, you could imagine the maitre d’ advising you to “scoot” under his breath. Like this was some kind of kid camp.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: An idiosyncrasy exacerbated by the booth’s depth.
PETER NICHOLS Exactly. I slid in an extremely long ways. The booth was deep. I was really in it. And I didn’t move for the duration of the meal.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: At no point did you leave the booth?
PETER NICHOLS: No, I did not, and neither did Adriana. Only Tom and Katie left the booth.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: They left in order to…
PETER NICHOLS: To use the restroom.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: And roughly at what times did they leave?
PETER NICHOLS: I would say probably an hour into the meal. Tom was the first one to go, followed shortly by Katie.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Let’s start with Tom. What did he do in there?
PETER NICHOLS: I believe he checked his blood sugar. Tom’s a diabetic. Five desserts for him is a hazard.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: And Katie, when did she leave?
PETER NICHOLS: I believe she left ten minutes after Tom got back.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Do you know what she did there?
PETER NICHOLS: I think she took a piss.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Excuse me?
PETER NICHOLS: I think she urinated. (Nichols ruminates.) But getting back to the seats: I did actually experience some discomfort in the form of a rather sweaty rear end. I didn’t quite notice this until the prospect of standing up arrived. At which point I wondered if something was going to be visible, because I wasn’t wearing underwear under my pants. When I stood up, a bit of air got into them and it felt cool. Air was there.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Where is there?
PETER NICHOLS: There would be specifically about halfway up my hips to halfway down my buttocks.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Why was there air there?
PETER NICHOLS: I don’t know.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Was this air in any way sexually charged?
PETER NICHOLS: The air in my pants or the air in general? The air in my pants was sexually charged by default.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: And the air in general?
PETER NICHOLS: I’d say there was some sexual tension in the air. I mean, I think it’s inevitable and healthy. There… I guess… I have suspected Katie of having an attraction to me, though currently she is an acquaintance. I think that at one point was in my head, and made me kind of wonder about how I would respond to some of her actions, if I was on more intimate terms with her. Though there were some things that did strike me as uncomfortable.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: She made you uncomfortable?
PETER NICHOLS: She made me uncomfortable. She was fretting about the bill. She regretted that we ordered Evian instead of tap.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Do you regret ordering Evian, Mr. Nichols?
PETER NICHOLS: I regret nothing, Detective. Nothing.
Click here for Detective Benjamin’s interview with suspect two, Katie Browne.
Patrick Benjamin is a writer living near Los Angeles. He lives with his sister and grandmother.
Peter Nichols is a poet, rock climber, and vagabond originally from Toledo, Ohio.