Friday, 23 June 2017
WHO ARE THE JCs?
This is the opening of 'Who Are the JCs?', the third of the South Downs Murder Mysteries. The locations for this book, as well as a town on the South Downs, include the town of Merian (on the coast) and Southampton.
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?'
'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.
I hope you enjoyed the opener and now buy the book, read it, recommend it and - of course - give it a 5* review! For which I will love you forever!
At the moment the book is only available on Kindle - if I receive enough requests for the paperback version, then I will create it.