“What?” I said.
“I beg your pardon?” Don said.
“Numpty.” Weedgie rolled his eyes.
“Look, Marty, I’m glad you and Weedgie came with me today, and I hope we will have a job to offer you in the near future. Let me drive you both back to Sadie’s.” Don smiled his movie star smile.
“Thanks.” I smiled back and frowned at Weedgie. “That would be lovely.”
“This will be the first weekend since Mary’s been ill that we’ve been apart.” Don waited until Weedgie had jumped to the floor then he stood. “It was good of Sadie to offer and give me a break but the truth is…I’ll miss her terribly.”
I didn’t know what to say, just smiled awkwardly as he collected his briefcase and hat. We went outside where he spoke briefly to Marjorie about finishing some letters. Weedgie and I headed for the lift.
“So, what’s the idea?” I demanded, as soon as we were out of earshot, “Why do you suddenly think he’s innocent?”
“Well, ah wis feart at first,” Weedgie began, then seeing my face, he sighed and translated, “Scared. Ah wis scared at first ’cause you jist balloobied off and left me with a murderer.” Here he stopped and glowered at me and I felt a tiny particle of some feeling that might have been…guilt? I considered this. This wasn’t good. I didn’t want to feel this.
I looked at Weedgie. “Yeah…sorry,” I found myself saying, “I just thought he might say something to someone when you were there. Anyway, you’re this big fierce dog, aren’t you? I didn’t think you’d be scared.”
“Humph.” He looked away. “Aye, ah am fierce. And don’t you forget it. Onyway, he started talkin’ tae me. Folk dae that a’ the time; talk tae dugs. Tell us things they wouldnae want their mammy tae ken. They don’t realise we can understaun’ them but when we try an’ talk back they ignore us. It’s frinkin’ annoyin’. We dugs can gie ye guid advice!” “Alright, alright,” I said, “What did he say?”
“He was greetin’ an’ talkin’ aboot Mary and how he loved her and he wanted her tae get well and he was that worried -”
Weedgie broke off as Don appeared and pressed the lift button. I took another look at him, at the worry lines etched onto his brow and thought about his manner all afternoon. It could be an act but…why act in front of a dog with no-one else around to see?
“Perhaps I’ll drop in with you when we get there,” he said, “See Mary again and perhaps Sadie will invite me to stay for dinner.”
I bit back a comment about how desperate he must be to eat as he went on;
“Yes, Sadie certainly can cook. Her dumplings are spectacular!”
At my feet, Weedgie burst out laughing. I swiftly changed the subject and Don and I talked about cars all the way down to the ground floor and out past Stacey to the car park. I admired the Zodiac again and Don asked if I’d like to drive.
I happily slid behind the wheel and Don got in the passenger side. Weedgie jumped onto the seat between us and off we went. Don gave directions and then reached onto the back seat for a small transistor radio. He switched it on, twiddled the dial and music blared out. Weedgie’s ears shot up and he joined in with a Rolling Stones’ song.
“Weedgie, for God’s sake!” I yelled above the racket as Don laughed. Apart from the noise, the impression was a bit too eerie for me. Weedgie sighed and stopped singing, but bobbed about in time to the music, humming under his breath.
“You two were just what I needed today,” Don said, grinning and shaking his head, “What a tonic. You know, I might just get a dog for Mary…she’d like that. It could give her a boost.”
It was on the tip of my tongue to say he could have Weedgie, but something stopped me. That feeling again…guilt. Or something else this time? Good grief, don’t tell me the stupid mutt was starting to grow on me?
I sighed and concentrated on my driving while Don and Weedgie murdered a few more popular songs together. By the time we arrived back at Sadie’s I was sure my eardrums were bleeding.
We went inside and through to the lounge where Pat and Eric were playing cards. Pat seemed distracted and Eric gathered up the cards as Don and I sat down.
“Your game’s off today, Pat.” Eric grinned at her and I was struck at the change in his appearance. He was wearing jeans with an open-necked shirt and sweater and he looked years younger than when I’d last seen him in his work clothes. I had the sudden feeling that Eric wasn’t meant to be a clerk in an accountant’s office…but what could I do about that?
“Hello Don.” Pat smiled and petted Weedgie. “Nice to see you again. Are you staying for dinner?”
“I hope so. Is Sadie in the kitchen?” Don stood up. “I’ll just go and ask her and say hello to Mary. How has she been?”
“She stayed in her room,” Pat said, “We haven’t seen much of her.”
Don headed for the kitchen and Weedgie followed him.
“Ah’m away tae see whit she’s massacring for tea,” he said as he disappeared through the doorway. I took the chance to ask about Don and Mary.
Pat was eager to chat and Eric shuffled the cards and started playing patience.
“Don and Mary have been married for years, but you’d think they just met yesterday, the way they are with each other. It was love at first sight, I’d say.”
“Do they have any children?” I tried to keep my voice casual and not sound like I was interrogating her.
“No, they don’t. Mary had a series of miscarriages and they gave up eventually. There was some talk of adoption, just before Mary got sick. Sadie and Colin didn’t have children either.”
“How long were Sadie and Colin married?” I asked for the sake of not appearing obsessed with Don and Mary.
Pat frowned in concentration. “I think she married a few months after Mary, so…roughly the same length of time. I never met her husband ’though. He died a year before I moved in here.”
“What did he do?” I couldn’t have cared less but wanted to keep the conversation going and didn’t know what else to ask about Mary and Don. Everyone seemed to think they were the perfect couple.
Pat talked away and I tuned out until I heard the words ‘Watkins and Scott’. “Sorry, Pat,” I interrupted, “Isn’t that where Don works?”
She laughed. “I’ve just told you. Colin and Don worked together, came up through the company but Colin wasn’t really management material, ’though I think Sadie tried pushing him in that direction. Don became Colin’s boss eventually.”
“Did Sadie tell you all this?”
“You must be good friends.” I noticed Pat’s expression change.
“We were,” she said and smiled sadly, “But then me and my big mouth…” She tailed off, made a face.
“What?” I was intrigued, remembering the conversation she’d had with Sadie in the kitchen. “What did you say?”
“Oh…nothing.” Pat obviously felt she’d said too much. “It’s all in the past now, anyway. We’re still friends.” Her words sounded a little hollow and I suspected her friendship with Sadie had cooled. I wondered what she had said to cause bad feeling between them. Had she criticised Sadie’s cooking? I grinned to myself. She wouldn’t dare.
Just then, voices approached; Sadie chattering happily and Don laughing at something she said. They appeared in the doorway and Sadie smiled warmly at us.
“Dinner’s ready,” she said, “If you’d all like to come through.”
My heart sank.
Eric and Pat went ahead of me and I asked where Lorraine was.
“At her parents’ for the weekend,” Pat said, “She’s hardly here. In fact, I think she‘s about to move out and share a flat with one of her friends.”
I felt relieved not to be facing Lorraine over the weekend but anxious to discover if Don was innocent of Mary’s attempted murder. I pondered how to achieve this as we all sat around the table. Weedgie’s bowl had been set at my feet and he appeared beside it.
“Ah went tae see Mary,” he said, “Jeez-o, Sadie’s living room.” He shook his head. “Decorated by a colour-blind pervert.”
I stifled a grin as Sadie brought the first course in and dished it out. Tomato soup. Weedgie licked his experimentally.
“We’re okay,” he said, “It’s oot a tin.”
Mary came into the room as we all started to eat and Sadie jumped up and set a place for her.
“Please carry on, don’t stop on my account.” Mary sat down and smiled around the table. “I’ve already had some soup in my room, I just thought it would be nice to have company. Darling, I thought you were off fishing with Peter?”
“We’re going up to his cottage later tonight,” Don said, “I just thought I’d say another goodbye first.”
“Oh, you two lovebirds,” Sadie said, and we all smiled politely.
“Are you going away for the weekend?” I asked Don.
“Yes,” he said, “My friend has a cottage, not too far outside London but near a river. We’re going to fish and then come back and lie about what we caught.”
Everyone laughed and Eric told a story about a disastrous fishing trip he’d been on as a teenager. He was entertaining and a good mimic as he regaled us with different accents and voices. Again, I was struck with the contrast in his personality. He really seemed to have come alive since he‘d left the working week behind.
Eric finished his tale and then Weedgie looked up from his empty bowl and I burst out laughing.
“Whit?” he said, frowning, “Whit is it?”
Pat looked down and giggled. “Weedgie looks like he’s wearing lipstick!” The tomato soup had stained the fur around his mouth and now he looked like Mick Jagger in drag.
He scowled around the group.
“Aye, right, frinkin’ hilarious.”
“Come on, Weedgie, I’ll give you some water,” Sadie said. She got up to clear the plates and I leapt up too. “I’ll help you,” I said, and ignored her protests. Weedgie and I followed her to the kitchen where she poured him a bowl of water and he lapped it up, wiping the red stain away. I signalled for him to follow me outside and we left and stood together in the hallway.
“I’ve been thinking about Don,” I said, “And I’d like him to be innocent but…we have to prove it.”
“Aye. Ah suppose.” Weedgie frowned. “Whit aboot this caterer that makes a’ the meals? We should see if they’re kosher. You don’t want tae ask Don, ’though.”
I considered this. “No…then he’d know we were suspicious.” I thought back to the conversation in Don’s car. “He was a bit awkward about it, wasn’t he?”
“Embarrassed that he couldnae cook?” Weedgie suggested.
“This is 1968,” I reminded him, “Real men don’t cook. How can we find out about the caterer without him knowing?”
“Find oot whaur Don an’ Mary live,” Weedgie said, “Ask the neighbours.”
“Good thinking.” Despite myself, I had to acknowledge that Weedgie and I were working well together. Mr. Scarlet’s words came back to haunt me; A pair. A team.
“You keep them talking at the table,” Weedgie said, “Ah’ll look for an address book or somethin’ Sadie might have.”
“Right.” I watched him head for Sadie’s living room then I went back to the kitchen where Sadie was dishing out something covered in thick pastry.
“Oh, Mark - Marty,” she said, “Be a dear and take some of these through for me, will you?”
“No problem.” I helped her transport the main course through to the dining room where the conversation was about travel. Pat was declaring she’d love to see the world and Eric was staring into space with a dreamy look on his face. I sat back down and a few minutes later Weedgie arrived by my side.
“Jings bangs,” he said, “Ah’ve OD’d oan velvet.” He looked down at the pastry in his bowl. “Whit the frinkin’ jinkies is this?”
I glanced around the table. Conversation was loud and animated, no-one was looking our way.
“Not sure,” I whispered, “Some kind of pie. Did you have any luck?”
He nodded, moved some pastry around with his nose. “Found her address book,” he said, “Sadie and Don, Twelve Fortesque Crescent, Kensington. Sounds posh.”
“Hope you didn’t leave teeth marks on it,” I said as I repeated the address in my head.
“Naw, ah didnae…and ah doubt ah’ll be leavin’ mony here either.” He chewed delicately on a piece of pastry. “You could mend a dry stane dyke wi’ some o’ this.”
“Try and eat a bit for politeness sake.” I forced myself to swallow a lump of some sort of vegetable. “Tomorrow morning we’ll head out to their house.”
“We’ll need yin o’ they alphabet books,” Weedgie said, then looked up at my blank face and explained, “Ye ken whit ah mean…it’s got a’ the streets in it.”
“Ah,” I said, “An A to Z.”
“You need an A to Z?” Pat looked at me and I blushed, wondering how much she’d heard. “You can borrow mine.”
“Thanks,” I said, getting up and lifting my plate and Weedgie’s bowl before anyone could see how little we’d eaten. Everyone else was clearing their plates. “I want to take Weedgie out tomorrow, go for a drive.”
In the kitchen, I scraped the remains of our meals into the dustbin and Weedgie looked at the cooker and then turned to me.
“Bad news,” he said and I looked warily at him, “She’s daein’ custard again.”
“Right, that’s it. C’mon.” I led him back to the lounge. “We’re out of here.”
I stuck my head around the door. “No pudding for us, thanks, Sadie,” I said, “We’re off for a walk. Nice to meet you, Don.”
“You too, Marty,” Don said, “May see you again on Sunday evening, when I come for Mary.”
I smiled and waved and then Weedgie and I made our escape onto the street. We walked to the small park where we’d eaten chips the night before, both of us preoccupied with thoughts of Mary and Don.
We sat on a bench and thought out loud.
“Ah hope it’s no’ Don,” Weedgie said, “Ah like him. But if it’s no’ him then it must be somebody in that hoose, and ah like them all.”
“What about someone at Don’s work?” I said, “Marjorie’s the classic secretary in love with her boss.” I got no further as Weedgie interrupted;
“She came in the room when you left. Don wis still greetin’ but she didnae notice. Asked if she could finish early ‘cause her husband had jist phoned and surprised her wi’ a dinner oot the night. Some hotel he’d booked fur their anniversary. She was a’ excited. Couldnae have cared less that Don was upset.”
“Oh.” I tried not to get angry. There went one of my theories.
“And Stacey? That lassie at the desk doon the stairs? She was wearin’ an engagement ring.”
“Was she?” I hadn’t noticed. Damned dog seemed to see everything I didn’t. Second theory gone by the wayside.
“I can’t see a motive for the foreman,” I said, “Unless he’s madly in love with Mary or something.”
“Would he no’ be poisoning Don, then?” Weedgie curled a lip, “Yer theories are mince.”
“My - ?” I glared at him, unsure of what he’d said but certain I’d been insulted. Then I saw the stunned expression on his face as he gazed over my shoulder. I turned to look.
Mr. Scarlet was leaning against a tree just behind us.
“Well, well, well,” he said, “The great detectives.