The following is an excerpt from my second Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Deadly Catch! It is the follow-up to The JAWSfest Murders, and the predecessor of White Shark, Pretty Vineyard Girls, and Dead And Buried. I really hope you enjoy it!
“Keith! Be polite for crying out loud!” A very attractive woman with long brown hair came out of the kitchen. “You must be Charles; I’ve heard a lot about you. I’m Cathy.”
“It’s nice to meet you ma’am. I’ve heard a lot about you too.” He reached out and shook her hand. She had a warm smile and smelled of patchouli.
“You can stow that ‘ma’am’ crap right now. I’m not the queen of England.” She laughed at her own joke. “Let’s get you some wine or would you prefer beer?”
Keith jumped in. “Don’t let her kid you, young man. She thinks she is the queen of England, true enough!”
“Oh shut up.” Cathy rolled her eyes. “Honest to god!”
Charles couldn’t help but laugh at the two of them. Something about them made him feel right at home. “I’ll have a white wine, Cathy. Thank you.”
“Coming up.” Cathy went back in to the kitchen.
“Let’s move into the living room.” Keith leaned in to get a kiss and a hug from Laurie. “How are you mon petit chou?”
“I’m good, old man. How about you?”
“Just great. Just great. Catherine is tickled pink to have you here. Wait until you see what’s for supper!” Keith ushered his guests into the living room with an enthusiasm that made Charles think that it was really Keith who was tickled pink to have the company.
The living room was pine floored with a vaulted pine ceiling. In the centre of the ceiling was a large fan and placed high on one of the walls was a brass arrangement of maple leaves, a symbol of their Canadian roots. The furniture was dark brown and overstuffed. It looked a little dated but very comfortable. Keith motioned for them to sit down and they did. It was a nice room, thought Charles. There was a large picture window and Charles sat so that he was facing it. It looked not toward the street but rather into the large and wooded backyard. Charles thought that was a brilliant idea. Most people would think the house was backward.
“You’re wondering why we built the house like this, aren’t you? Figure it out smarty-pants?” Keith grinned warmly.
“I think I’ve got it and I think it’s brilliant.”
“Well, tell me then.”
“Why would you want to waste a view on cars going by? Who wants a view of the street? You have a huge, peaceful backyard; why not look at it all day? It’s quieter too. At night, I wouldn’t imagine that you get a lot of traffic out here. Do you get any traffic out here?”
Keith shook his head. “Not even in high season.”
“Well then, why not?” Charles looked down through the picture window. “You have a huge deck. It looks like we’re over a walkout basement too? This is a great set up. It’s like being at the cottage. If you have kids over, you can see them playing in the back rather than by the road. All houses should be built like this. Besides, I always liked a kitchen at the back of the house anyway.”
“You’re all right with me, Charles!” Keith grabbed him by the shoulder and laughed.
“What did I tell you?” Laurie motioned at Charles. “I told you that you guys would get along you grumpy old man.”
“When did I say that we wouldn’t?” Keith asked innocently.
“Ha! Ha! That’s a joke!” Cathy walked into the room with a bottle of wine to refresh their glasses. “You warned Laurie about Charles’ intentions left, right, and centre.”
Keith squirmed in his seat and looked a little sheepish. “I was just looking out for our girl! D’accord??”
“All right.” Cathy gave him a squeeze and sat on the arm of the couch beside him. “He always goes French when he gets emotional.”
“That’s all right. I speak French.” Charles said.
“You do?” Keith, Cathy, and Laurie all answered in unison shock.
He looked at Laurie. “Why are you so surprised?”
He looked at Keith. “J’ai étudié le français à l’école pendant huit ans. J’essaie de l’utiliser si je ne l’oublie pas.”
Keith’s eyes lit up. “C’était excellent, mon ami!”
Cathy looked sideways at Laurie and rolled her eyes. “Uh-oh, they’re bonding. Now he’s ‘mon ami’!” She chuckled. “That’s enough you two.”
Charles looked at Cathy apologetically. “I’m sorry Cathy.”
“For what? Never apologise for knowledge. Especially for knowing a language! That’s wonderful! Now come on, everyone at the table for supper. It’s ready!”
The living and dining were in the same room. They got up from the couches and headed over to the dining room table. It was oak with a medium finish. It had the feel of elegance and antiquity. Cathy left the room and came back immediately with a large tray. “Christmas in July! I thought a turkey dinner with all the fixings was just what the occasion called for.”
Charles’ face betrayed his exuberance. “Holy crap! That’s amazing! What are you trying to do to us? We may never leave!”
Keith got up in his spot and began to carve the turkey while Catherine brought in the side dishes.
“Do you need some help bringing things in?” Charles asked.
“You stay where you are, mister. This is your first time here. If I need anything, I’ll make her do it.”
Cathy motioned to Laurie. “I’ve got it covered. Start digging in.”
Mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans with almonds, turnip, squash, green salad, sunshine carrots, home made buns, and of course the turkey, this was the perfect meal. Charles couldn’t remember the last time he was this happy. Is this what it would be like to live on the island? Living on Martha’s Vineyard with Laurie and having Sunday night supper with Cathy and Keith? That seemed to be about as good as life could be. Other than the occasional, “thank you” and “yes please”, the table was quiet while people passed dishes and fixed their plates. Charles cut into a homemade roll and it steamed as he pulled it apart. He hoped that no one noticed exactly how much butter he had put in it.
Keith reached his hands out across the table and Laurie and Cathy took them instinctively. The two ladies then reached for Charles. It took him a second before he realised what was going on. He took their hands and bowed his head with the rest of them.
Keith said grace. “For what we are about to receive and for our new friend, may the Lord find us truly grateful. Amen.” The two ladies repeated the “Amen.” Charles did not.
Keith cut into his plate and the rest of them followed suit.
“Catherine, you’ve out done yourself again.” Laurie spoke with her mouth full of turkey. She tried to do it as delicately as she could but she swooned from the rapture of the homemade food.
“This is amazing.” Charles did not speak with his mouth full. First time as a guest, his manners were out in full force.
“Thank you very much you two. Keith and I figured that since Charles didn’t come down for Christmas, we would have Christmas now!” Catherine smiled at Charles.
“It was a wonderful idea. Thank you.”
Laurie turned her attention toward Keith. “Keith, how did you know Bill Cunningham?”
Keith yelled out. “What time is it?”
Laurie and Charles were both startled. “It’s ten to eight. Why?”
Keith turned to Catherine waving a finger. “I told you! I told you! You’re doing the dishes!”
Catherine scrunched up her face. She was not happy. “You couldn’t have waited eleven minutes? Damn! All right! All right! Get your finger out of my face, Keith!”
“Have you two completely flipped your lids?” Laurie stared at the two of them, her forkful of turkey frozen in mid-air.
“We had a bet.” Keith was beaming. “We knew that you were coming over here because you wanted to talk about Bill Cunningham and Steve Christie. I said that you wouldn’t even be able to wait until supper was over before you brought them up! Catherine had more faith in you. She said you’d wait until after supper and we were all in the living room with coffee. So we said eight o’clock. Whoever lost, had to do the dishes!” Keith turned toward Cathy. “And that’s you!!”
“Yes, yes, don’t be a jerk.” Cathy was pissed. She took a swig of wine. “This is your fault!” She said to Laurie. “You’re helping me!”
Laurie laughed. “Yeah, okay.” They all laughed.
“But you’re not talking about corpses over my dinner table. You can wait until supper is over. Pick another topic.” Cathy mocked scolding them but everyone knew that she was serious in her sentiment. She topped up Charles’ glass. “Charles, tell me about your family. You’re from North Bay, right?”