TWO SIMON GRANT MYSTERIES
HIDING THE ELEPHANT – Chapter 30
‘She’s got such nice long legs. I wish my Elaine had legs like that.’
One of the rare memories. Mother was bathing Emma in this very tub and Mrs. Hill, the housekeeper, stood at the door. It was usually the other way round. Mrs. Hill would vigorously scrub the narrow back, moving the long strands of curly hair out of the way. Mother, sleek in a low cut black dress, her dark auburn hair pulled off her face to show off the clear lines of the beautiful facial structure, bringing in her perfume.
And Mrs. Hill chiding her, invariably. ‘Dr. Martin! Your dress will get wet and stained.’ The number of times Mother had asked Mrs. Hill to call her by her first name. She could have saved her breath.
Emma would get a hug and a kiss anyway and Mother had to flick soapsuds off her wrap and her upper lip.
‘Philippa! We’re running late again,’ would inevitably boom from downstairs.
‘Coming!’ Mummy’s funny look in the direction of the call, hands splayed in helpless resignation. ‘The master calls. I’d rather pop in there with you and keep my tootsies warm.’ And she’d be gone.
‘We’re the pillars of society here, Philippa. We’ve got to show our faces.’ Emma could picture Daddy’s face, rather large, natural pink struggling to come out from under golfer’s tan.
‘Very well, my dear. Let’s go and prop up the society for a couple of hours.’
Mummy could make her laugh even when she didn’t entirely understand the joke. It was the voice.
Much later, on the nights when Daddy couldn’t help bumping into the grandfather’s clock on the landing complaining it hadn’t been worth going, the wine was decidedly second rate, it was repeating itself on him, Emma’s ears would half wake, waiting for the door handle on her bedroom to turn.
‘You may be more comfortable in the spare bedroom tonight, dear. Mrs. Hill’s got it ready for you.’ And Mummy would slide noiselessly in, straighten Emma’s duvet and bury her mouth into the tangle of dark red curls. She was probably gone within minutes but Emma had never heard her leave.
But when Mummy didn’t have to go out and prop up her corner of the local society, or wasn’t on duty at the maternity ward or writing a paper for the Royal College of Obstetricians, or away on a conference, she would chat to Pippa, asking her opinion on the season’s fashions and the latest pop charts and give Emma a bath, a lengthy, noisy and wet affair that involved plastic duck races and bubble fights.
Like that night when Mrs. Hill admired Emma’s legs.
Emma couldn’t understand how could her seven year old legs be longer than Elaine’s who was ten and much taller than her. The half smiles the two women exchanged told long legs were good and she knew it had something to do with boys. Boys were going to like her long legs. At that point, those two admirable objects were full of cuts and bruises on either side of flat, bony knees. Boys must have a very funny taste. She extended her leg to show how long it was and stuck her big toe into the mouth of the cold water tap. The inside of the metal felt cold and furry but she pushed the toe further in, waiting to be noticed.
LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS – Chapter 30
There was a great deal Dr. Gordon Bennett could have worried about as he sat in the Palace dining room. For a slow, methodical deliberator like himself, asking a police inspector, albeit a former student, to lunch like this was a rash decision. The one he may still get to regret. But, he didn’t feel he had too many choices. So, instead, he worried about the food. He’d learned virtually everything there was to know about wine and most of it he actually enjoyed, but food seemed destined to remain an eternal mystery to him. Sara had said that the only right thing to do was to order what one felt like eating, but that seemed like too much of a risk. He’d heard it said that a gentleman never eats soup for lunch, but the present Dean had been seen on more than one occasion pull a sachet of instant chicken and noodle out of his gown and happily pour boiled water out of a kettle over it. He would even use his thick, stubby finger to reach the last of the noodles from the bottom of the mug.
He smiled into the red leather bound menu, with only a trace of envy of such freedoms. A mushroom omelette, he decided. With wilted lettuce salad and followed by ice cream. As non-descript as possible.
He hadn’t booked, and the restaurant was very busy, so he had to accept the table for two hastily set up along the length of the wall between the doors to the kitchen and to the men’s toilet. Even that was a concession on the part of the headwaiter made under the pressure of Dr. Bennett’s steady gaze. People tended to do as they were bid under that gaze when its owner was so minded. For a few minutes he wondered whether it would be better to let DCI Hamilton-Grant sit next to the kitchen or the lavatory, then allowed himself to be guided by the light. It would be to his, Dr. Bennett’s, advantage to sit with his back to the light. Which left Hamilton Grant next to the toilet. Much the best arrangement all around. Less traffic on that side and it wasn’t as if there were any unpleasant odours wafting out.
Ostensibly, he was here today on Angel’s behalf to approach the management about renting the exhibition space from them. Which he fully intended to do. After lunch.
He looked at the clock above the entrance door. Five minutes to one. The one thing he still hadn’t made up his mind about was whether to tackle the link Superintendent Spriggs had implied between the Finsbury girl and the La Chasse murder. Spriggs hadn’t actually said what the link was, only that there was one. Better leave it alone and leave the initiative to the policeman. Whenever Dr. Bennett played chess with Lupus, the senior partner at Lupus, Magnum & Magnum, his chief client firm, the only worthy opponent he’d ever met, he’d choose the black.
There was no need to mention the poor Finsbury girl anyhow, he decided. It was all such a long time ago. No one could be expected to remember anything of importance about it.
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