School Holiday Sleuth – Idyll Interrupted – 3

The meal that evening was the first time they were all together again since the barbeque on the beach, and it felt like a world away. Blandford had, once again, left for the night leaving a colleague guarding the door. The day had been a long one but as Anna had bought the makings of a massive lasagne with her she’d got on with cooking, especially as it was clear that Blandford wasn’t going to get to her statement today.

Elden was the first to speak. “I haven’t told the children yet but I can’t imagine they will be very upset.” He clearly viewed this sentence as self-explanatory, but, of course, Barry didn’t understand.

“Not upset?”

“Oh, yes, sorry, Janice and I have only been married for five years and to say she wasn’t a maternal type is the understatement of the century. The children live most of the time with their mother and we were seeing less and less of them. This week they are with my parents and next week I had planned to take them to our house in France on my own, just to spend some time with them.”

Everyone continued eating quietly, respecting Elden’s need to talk for as long as he wanted. “I realise that it was a mistake to marry Janice but I wouldn’t have wished this on her. Have the police said anything about what they think happened?” He looked around the table in anticipation.

“What? You mean apart from that you did it?” the laughter broke the tense atmosphere and Anthony’s witty retort earned him a slap on the back from Colin. Anna looked at Anthony. He was much younger than his partner and clearly spent much of his time working at the fitness club showing clients how to use the equipment. He was fit and lean with strong features and a broad smile. Probably very photogenic, Anna thought, marvelling that he was such an accepted member of the group, considering the age difference. On a roll now, Anthony continued, “Are we still going to get some golf in this week?”

“I don’t think it is appropriate for me to join you, but don’t let me stop you.” Elden was pragmatic. “I guess you’d better clear it with Blandford though.”

The men moved into the lounge after dinner. Anna hung back, not liking the assumption that the women would clear away, but wanting to be part of the conversation. Indra was subdued and Anna got the distinct impression that there was a complex history between her and Rebecca. In contrast, Rebecca chatted about her work, her exhibition and her frustration with Robert. It was clear that Janice and Elden’s wasn’t the only marriage that was difficult.

“What shall we do while the men are playing golf?” Anna tried to change the subject. “As they are going out that way, we could go to St Ives?”

Indra’s enthusiasm for the idea brightened her demeanour considerably. “Oh yes, I would like that” she declared. “Let’s go to the Tate Gallery, their coffee shop does amazing cake.” It wasn’t quite what Anna had in mind but she knew someone at work who would be thrilled with some Tate Art postcards. “That’s arranged then.”

 

Persuading Blandford to let them have a day “off” was surprisingly easy, especially as Elden was remaining behind and would be available for further questions. Following last night’s conversation in the lounge, Barry was of the opinion that, in concentrating heavily on Elden, Blandford didn’t seem to be making much headway. In contrast, Anna’s ability to listen, notice the detail and ask the right questions meant that she was, he thought, probably close to wrapping it up. As they travelled alone together in the car, it was a good opportunity to catch up.

“Most of the conversation in the lounge last night centred around the Fitness Club. They all seem to be involved in it but they can’t work out what’s going wrong” Barry began. “They are talking about bringing in a forensic accountant to go through all the books.”

“Elden, Robert and Neville have all put a lot of money into the business,” Anna replied. Barry had learned not to be surprised at what she knew, or ask how she knew it. “I would think analysing the accounts is going to give them answers they don’t want to hear. Did they talk about Janice’s involvement?”

“Briefly.” Barry replied. “From what they were saying, Janice and Colin worked together to set it up, drawing up the Business Plan, securing investors and purchasing equipment. I also think Janice was involved in appointing the first staff.”

“Now that is interesting,” Anna responded, “So it is likely that she bought Anthony in? I wonder if Colin knew him before he started working there?”

Barry wasn’t sure how that was relevant. “I’ll see if I can find out today.”

“Also see if you can find out if Janice was still involved in the payroll. It seems to me that Janice was intent on bringing the Fitness Club down,” Anna said thoughtfully. “It is strange after all the work she put in but I think she was manipulating everyone to try to make that happen.”

“Really?” Barry looked even more confused. “Why?”

“I’m not sure, maybe to punish Elden for the failure of their marriage and his siding with his children. She was clearly planning to discredit everyone in the group, one way or another.”

“Clearly,” Barry smiled, knowing that most people would join him in thinking that it wasn’t clear at all.

“I need you to do something for me today Barry, while you are playing golf. It is important but you have to be subtle.” Subtlety had never been Barry’s strong suit. “You are going to have to be observant. Look out for anything that isn’t quite right.”

“That isn’t much to go on,” Barry grumbled.

“I know, but if I tell you what I’m looking for you’ll be too obvious.”

Barry had to concede that his wife knew him well. “OK, I’ll do my best.”

Anna, Rebecca and Indra arrived in St Ives and headed straight for the coffee shop where they discovered that Indra had been right, they did sell amazing cake. Indra chose a huge slab of coffee cake. “I’m having a holiday from being a dentist,” she laughed. It was the first time Anna had really seen her smile and, as Rebecca went off in search of facilities, it seemed an appropriate time to ask Indra. “You are such a close knit group, how did you all meet?”

Indra was pleased to talk about her friends. “Well, Neville and I met at university and the practice opportunity came up in his home town after we graduated so we went for it. Neville, Robert and Elden were all thick as thieves at school along with Colin’s older brother, Jeremy, and that is how they got into golf, they played together as often as they could during the sixth form. How they all managed to get decent A Level results as well, I don’t know.” Anna laughed, pleased that Indra was opening up.

“Elden’s first wife was a local girl, she was lovely but she moved away when Elden’s head was turned by Janice, around the time she first started working with Colin on the Fitness Club.” Indra looked thoughtful, her love of gossip getting the better of her. “I think Colin is driven by the memory of his brother, Neville says it was always Jeremy’s dream to get into sports psychology, he’d accepted a place at Loughborough University.”

“Talking about me?” Rebecca bounded up to the table. “The ladies is miles away,” she laughed “what did I miss?”

Anna interrupted Indra’s denial that she had been the topic of conversation, “How did you meet Robert?”

“Oh, err, how dull, OK, well…” Rebecca seemed completely flummoxed by the question and took a sip of her coffee. “A boyfriend liked to play golf so I hung around in the club house on cold days and met Robert. He was so handsome and wise, a lot older than me of course, and when my boyfriend dumped me for someone else,” she shot a swift cautionary glance at Indra, “Robert was there for me and swept me off my feet.”

“Come on, lets get moving, I want to visit that fudge shop on the front after we’ve been round the gallery.” Indra bustled them all along on their afternoon exploration of St Ives.

“They are good golfers, that is for certain.” Later that night, after an evening meal of Chinese takeaway, courtesy of Neville and Indra, Anna and Barry took a walk down to the beach. Hand in hand, and with the light fading, they reached the sand and paddled in the lapping water. “I must get some more practice in if I want to keep up, Neville’s a left-hander like me but he’s got a much lower handicap.” Anna wasn’t really interested in their golf skills. “There are some things, to report,” he continued, smiling at her obvious impatience. “Firstly, Robert had to buy a new glove, which was odd because I was with him last weekend when he bought one at the club. He looked all through his bag but eventually just went back to the golf shop.” Anna looked thoughtful. “The second thing was that Neville couldn’t find his putter, can’t play without that, but we found it in Robert’s golf bag.”

“In Robert’s bag? Could it have fallen out in the boot room?” Anna asked.

“You tell me, you’re the only klutz when it comes to golf bags, everyone else manages to navigate around them.” Barry chuckled.

“The one and only time I’ve knocked them over, none of the clubs fell out and I didn’t see a glove, no” Anna replied indignantly, although she had to concede that golf bags did seem to throw themselves about when she was near.

“Things are becoming a lot more organised in my head now.” Anna waded a little deeper into the surf. “Janice had such a lot to be angry about, I just wonder who she pushed the hardest.”

“Are we in any danger?” It was the first time the thought had crossed Barry’s mind.

“I don’t think so,” Anna replied. “Of course I wouldn’t want to let the murderer know that they are about to be rumbled, so you might want to be careful what you say but I think this has been in the planning for a while, very clever it is too. We just need a few more strands of evidence to take to Blandford, he has got to be the one that concludes the case.”

“OK,” Barry pulled her away from a larger wave, “I don’t want to lose you, and I think our children would be quite upset,” he joked.

“Who would make your cheese rolls?”

“Quite.” Barry laughed “Disaster.”

Mmm…Cheese Scones

I have blogged recently about my struggle with IBS and going gluten and sugar free, it doesn’t make for an easy life and although I manage the gluten free diet well, I fall down on the sugar aspect unless I’m completely cold turkey ruthless. I’ll admit it is also not always easy for my work colleagues. 

This year our SLT (there are 7 of us) decided that we would each take it in turns to bring in a cake to help keep our brains active through the long afternoon meeting. Some baked, some got their other half to bake, some popped to the local supermarket, some got the Heads PA to pop to the local supermarket. It seemed to work ok. But what was I going to bring? 

Cooking and I have always been on friendly terms. We have a pact, I won’t follow a recipe too religiously if it won’t let me produce something that is completely inedible. My family are all healthy and I don’t think I have ever produced something that no one can eat. 

So Cheese Scones seemed to be the answer when it was first my turn. Gluten Free flour would work fine, scones were pretty simple, handy to transport and good finger food. Solution. 

I should add here that 2 of our team are vegetarian so it has to be the ‘right’ cheese. I forgot about this until I came to start baking (late on the evening before the meeting – scones don’t keep for long) and I realised that I didn’t have vegetarian cheddar in the fridge, but I did have vegetarian Stilton…

So I maintained a healthy disregard for the recipe and I baked them with the Stilton. They smelled like freshly made bread, warm and doughy, they looked ok – nicely browned, they rose well (I had already got to grips with the challenges of cooking with GF flour) they had a bit of a weird green tinge but, hey, they looked edible. 

By the time they came out of the oven it was late and my stomach wasn’t going to handle tasting a scone at that time of night, so I just popped them into an airtight container all ready for work. 

At 2.30 the following afternoon, I remembered the scones and presented them to the SLT. “Are they vegetarian?” An AHT asked as he peered into the container. I know I disappointed him by happily affirming that they were. 

Knowing the difficulties I was going through, they all had no choice but to try them. “Why are they green?” The Deputy Head asked. I explained the unusual ingredient but assured them that I hadn’t put much of it in. 

Unfortunately, you will recall that recipes and I nod with a passing acquaintance at the beginning of the process and then part company. I had, in fact, put the whole pack in to make 7, rather chunky, scones. 

They were dry (that would be the GF flour) they were crumbly (ditto – and therefore not the ‘finger food’ I had hoped) and worst of all, they were beyond overpowered by the strong taste and smell of a particularly ripe Stilton cheese. 

I’ve got to hand it to my colleagues, everyone of them ate their scone (albeit slowly). We drank a lot of tea that afternoon (I think GF flour must continue to absorb moisture in the stomach) and once we had all survived the experience, the SLT meeting took some time deciding to what better use my scones could be put. Here are their top 6;

1. As foundation stones for our new classroom block (the Head is keen to future proof it for more than single storey potential he said).

2. Crumbled on the windowsill to act as a dehumidifier in the old single glazed Victorian building. 

3. As weights to keep the temporary goalposts securely in place on windy days.

4. Placed in the far corner of the field to keep all the rodents in a 5mile radius fed and busy (and away from our glue sticks – rats love glue sticks, who knew?)

5. Kept as a ‘be warned’ cooking disaster in Food Technology

6. As bollards to ensure no one parks on the field on open evening. 

Needless to say, I was made to promise not to go to so much trouble again and so I have just bought cake for the rest of the year…that is…until this week!!!!

Happy summer everyone.