Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Who are the JC's?

Here is the opening to the third South Downs Murder Mystery, 'Who are the JC's?' I do hope you enjoy it and, of course, buy a copy! 


As Ruth Goldstein was helped by the waiter to take her seat at the table the gentleman on her left greeted her. 'Good evening,' and gave her a bright smile, his hazel eyes twinkling.
She returned his greeting, then concentrated on the menu. Eventually the table was full and the waiter took their orders, after which the eight diners introduced themselves.
Ruth, knowing from experience that they might never see each other again after this meal said, ruefully, 'I'm sorry, but I probably shan't remember your names.'
The lady on her right chuckled. 'Don't worry about it. None of us will.' She then lowered her voice, 'Bit of a waste of time really.'
'True,' Ruth agreed. 'But at least we don't have to wear name badges.'
'Now that would be truly awful. Like being on a school outing.'
The Wine Waiter reached their table and, after he had ordered a bottle, the man on Ruth's left turned to her. 'You don't drink?'
'No. Never have, although my late husband did.'
'I'm sorry to hear that he is no longer with you.'
'Thank you. He died four years ago. Your wife is not with you?'
'I'm divorced.'
'Oh dear. So many marriages seem to fail these days. I'm sorry, but what did you say your name is?'
He gave her one of his charming smiles. 'Don't worry about it. I'm Josh. Like you I am on my own on this cruise.'
'And you are retired?'
'Not really. I don't have what is called a day job. I work for myself and have staff to look after the business.'
Conversation ceased whilst they consumed the first course and Ruth looked around the table. Two couples she thought were probably in their mid to late sixties. Two ladies together. Sisters or friends? Probably in their seventies. Josh, wearing heavy gold rings on both hands, an expensive suit and silk tie, whom she thought was in his mid-sixties. Young enough to be her son. And she wondered what they all thought about her.
What they saw was a dumpy figure in a mid-range beige and green dress. Her short iron grey hair was well cut and showed her round face off to advantage. She had never worn much make-up and now that her sallow skin was wrinkled she wasn't tempted to overdo it.
Josh return to their conversation. 'I noticed that as you were being shown to the table a couple of waiters greeted you.'
'Yes, I've been on the Oriana before.'
'I guessed that. This is my first time. I usually go on Cunard but thought I would try P&O for a change.'
Conversation then became more general until coffee when they discussed what they had chosen to do that evening.
'What are your plans, Ruth? Going to see the show?' Josh asked.
She shook her head. 'Not tonight. I'm very tired. I'll have a read and an early night.'
'So you will be fresh to begin your cruise tomorrow. Very wise. Where would you advise for breakfast?'
'This dining room. The Peninsular,' she reminded him of its name.
'So I might see you in the morning.'
At that point there was movement around the table as the diners prepared to leave.

'Milly, I am so lucky to have met such a nice gentleman,' eighty-three-year old Ruth Goldstein told her younger friend as they sat at the kitchen table in Milly's kitchen on a dull September morning.
'It certainly sounds like it. Very nice to have a bit of company. How lucky he was on your table the first night.'
'Wasn't it?' Ruth was recently back from her latest cruise. Since the death of her husband she had taken to cruising in a big way. 'You know I love my cruises. I get to meet some really delightful people, see places I've never seen before. And, of course, there's my dancing.'
Milly Stewart had met Ruth and her husband, Reuben, at the Assembly Rooms where they and other friends went regularly to the ballroom dances. Following a few months of mourning Ruth had been persuaded back to dancing. 'They have dancing every evening on board?'
'Most evenings. Even if the dance hosts aren't there, there is some music playing for us.'
'Which ship was this one?' Milly couldn't keep up with the ship's names. All she could remember was P&O and Cunard.
'The Oriana. My favourite. It has a proper ballroom. Some of the other ships I've been on have dancing in the Atrium which isn't very nice.'
Milly decided not to go there. She had heard Ruth's complaints several times before. 'So tell me about your gentleman friend.'
Ruth tittered. 'I wouldn't call him that. After all he is about twenty years younger than me. Very smart. He's retired,' (which makes him at least sixty-three Milly thought), 'but he does own some property that he rents out.'
'So he's well heeled.'
Ruth leant across the table and whispered, 'He's a millionaire.'
'Really?' As they were in Milly's kitchen she wondered why her friend had whispered the words.
'Yes. And so generous. On one of the Dress Nights. You know, posh frocks and dinner jackets,' she expanded at Milly's puzzled look, 'he bought champagne for dinner.' The old lady sat back with a satisfied smile, her brown eyes twinkling.
'Very nice.' Not being a lover of champers Milly didn't know what else to say. And as she knew Ruth didn't drink alcohol wondered why buying a bottle of fizzy wine was such a big deal.
'And before we got off the ship he bought me this.' She pulled a gold chain from under her jumper.
'That's lovely, Ruth. Must have cost quite a bit.'
'Probably. He wouldn't buy rubbish.'
'You didn't choose it?'

'No, it was a total surprise.' But she didn't confess to having bought Josh a parting gift of his favourite aftershave.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Antiques in the Attic - Part 1

This is the first book in the South Downs Murder Mysteries. Unlike the Cleo books it is written in third person and involves police procedural. Hope you enjoy it - and, of course, buy a copy. It is not only available on Kindle but also in paperback (from Amazon).

"Did you get them?"
"You know where they are?"
"It's like this, mate, 'e didn't tell us nuffin'."
"You said he would."
"Well 'e didn't."
"You'd better try again."
"Bit difficult."
"Better you don't know at the mo, but I got n'idea where they are."

Not another wet and dreary day, Sarah groaned as she drew the curtains and viewed the bedraggled garden.
And she should be feeling happy.  The divorce was over, she was free and Kevin was paying her maintenance.  And so he should, she and her friends agreed, some pointing out that he was lucky they didn't have any children.
But at least I'd have some company and something useful to do, she mournfully mused as she went downstairs to get breakfast.  Should she have it in the kitchen or take it back to bed?  It was Sunday, the shopping done, the house clean and no chance of gardening.  Bed, she decided, gathering up from the front door the heavy bundle that made up the Sunday paper and putting it on the stairs - it was too heavy to throw up to the landing.
Whilst waiting for the coffee to drip her thoughts turned to Kevin and his reaction when she had told him a few months ago that she wanted a divorce.

"But why?" he whined, a sorrowful look in his sky blue eyes.  Eyes that she had once thought were beautiful.  "We're doing alright.  We're both working, have this nice house and a car.  And money in savings."
"What else do we have?" she asked, glaring across the table at him."We work, we come home, eat, watch telly and go to bed.  We never do anything else."
"But when we've got enough money saved we can start a family.  We always said that."
"Kevin, that was six years ago and I can't remember when we last made love," she expostulated.  Looking at his mean mouth and cold blue eyes she wondered now what she had ever seen in him. 
He turned away awkwardly and cleared his throat.  Why on earth did this married man in his thirties always get embarrassed when sex was mentioned, she wondered.

(Oh yes, her closest friend and confidante, Zelda, had a theory or two.  One was that Kev was impotent and the other that he was a latent homosexual.  But then Zel always had theories about people.)

"Look, er, well," Kevin began as he looked out of the window at the garden, "I can move into one of the other bedrooms.  Yes, that's what I'll do," he added more decisively as he turned to look at her.
"Kev, I don't think that is going to solve our problems."
"But we get on okay and are good friends."
"Is that what we are?  Good friends?"
"Of course."
She shook her head, her loose long brown hair swinging in a way he used to like.  Or, at least, had said that he did.  "You really don't get it, do you?"
"Get what?"
"I'm bored.  B-O-R-E-D."
He looked puzzled.  "How can you be bored?  I'm here every evening and weekends."
"Kevin Stewart I would like to do things other than a boring office job, come home and cook a meal, wash up, then sit and watch television programmes in which I have absolutely no interest whatsoever."
"But you read," he whined.  "Perhaps that's why you're bored."
"Grrr.  Reading is the only thing that keeps me sane.  I'm sick of doing a boring job, housework, cooking and cleaning up," she reiterated.  "You don't do anything about the house to help."
"But I'm working all week."
She had slammed out of the room.

I must get a new toaster, she reflected as she buttered the almost singed bread.
Carefully carrying mug and plate she went to the stairs, realised the newspaper was too bulky to fit under her arm so went on upstairs without it.  She'd read it later.
The rain was still pouring down.  Obviously this was turning into a typical English summer.  Sarah sighed and returned to her book.  Might as well have a longer lie-in.  Now she was on her own she could please herself.  No more whining and whingeing from he who should be obeyed.  She put down her book.  "I can change my job and get a career," she told the walls.  Why had she only just thought of that?  Probably because she'd had too much else on her mind, she ruefully reflected.
The telephone interrupted her contemplation of a future career.  "Hello."
"Hope you're sitting down," Zelda responded .
Sarah chuckled, "I'm still in bed and thinking about finding a career."
"Hold that thought.  I haven't got much time.  Gotta go to the grandparents' for lunch.  Have you got the radio on?"
"No, I'm just enjoying the silence."
"So you won't have heard."
"Heard what?"
"First of all, what car does Kev drive?"
"Not sure but I think Milly said he'd bought a Ford Focus."  Milly being Kevin's mother with whom Sarah had a good relationship.
"Oh dear."
"Why?  What's happened?"
"According to the local news a man has been found dead in his car on the Downs not far from Findon.  It’s a Ford Focus."
"Do you know how many men drive a Focus?"
"Not a lot.  It's supposed to be recognised as a woman's car," Zelda responded dryly, "but I've seen a lot of men driving them.  But what if he's committed suicide…."
"Not Kev.  First off, he hasn't the guts and, secondly, he loves himself too much."
"But his Dad died of cancer."
"So what does that have to do with anything?  They didn't particularly get on.  Too much alike," Sarah added dryly.
"Yeah, but he might have thought he had cancer and what with the divorce and then his Mum not taking him in….."
"Nope.  He might have been upset about losing his housekeeper but he'll hope to soon find a replacement.  What he doesn't realise is that there aren't that many gullible women out there."
"Especially when it comes to a divorced man."
"Exactly, but I’m sure he's got his sob story worked out."
"Whatever.  By the way, why wouldn't his Mum have him back?  Seen sense?"
"She has a gentleman friend."
"Good for her."
"Yes.  He looks after her and takes her dancing.  And he's persuaded her to go on a cruise with him."
"Oh, wow.  You always liked her didn't you?"
"We get on really well.  She was dead chuffed when I told her I was getting a divorce.  Told me it was the best thing I could do as the Stewart men weren't known for changing their attitudes."
"Bet Kev didn't like it when she refused to let him move in."
"I'm sure.  Plus it must have been a shock to find out about George.  I hadn't told him."
Zelda laughed.  "I would have loved to have seen his face when he found out."
"Me too.  Apparently, when he turned up on her doorstep with his laden car, George opened the door."
"Well played!"
"I thought so.  It was a good idea because then Kevin couldn't bully his way in.  Had to go to a hotel."
"Did he tell you this?"
"Of course not.  Milly told me.  He told me he wouldn't stay with her until that man had gone.  What he doesn't know is that George doesn't live there."
They laughed then Zelda remembered she was in a hurry and they rang off.

Sarah was destined not to have a longer lie in as, no sooner had she picked up her book again, than the front door bell pealed.  She got out of bed to look out of the window.  A strange car.