“Insufferable, pompous, arrogant, debauched idiot,” muttered Sir John as he sat in the breakfast room of the Shalimar.
“Are you still going on about Lord Hollingbury?” said Marie.
“Well of all the nerve,” said Sir John.
“Can I get you tea or orange juice?” said Mrs Pimplenick, landlady of the bed and breakfast.
“Do you ‘ave any coffee?” asked Marie. Mrs Pimplenick looked aghast.
“We have tea,” she said.
“Can I get tea and orange juice?” asked Sir John.
“It’s one or the other,” said Mrs Pimplenick in exasperation, pointing at a small menu on the table.
“Two teas then,” said Sir John. “For a change.”
A man came into the breakfast room wearing overalls. He carried a large box which had the warm odour of smoked mackerel.
“Here you go Mrs P,” said the man. “This month’s delivery.”
Mrs Pimplenick looked put out.
“This should really be delivered via the tradesmen’s entrance,” she said, suddenly acquiring the diction of a minor royal.
“It’s bloomin’ heavy though,” said the man as Mrs Pimplenick rolled her eyes.
“There’s been another one you know,” he said.
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” said Mrs Pimplenick, trying to indicate Sir John and Marie by a tilting of her head. The gesture seemed to go unnoticed as the man continued.
“Another disappearance Mrs P,” he said, “another fisherman who didn’t come home. That’s the third this month. Mr Wombly this time.”
The landlady made a snorting noise and her accent descended several social strata.
“We’ll they’ll be mourning that loss in the Cock and Bull,” she said. “He never seemed to be out of there. I’m surprised he lasted this long.”
“That’s not true anymore,” said the delivery man. “He is, well he was, a reformed character. Went to that new church that Rev Phillips runs. He got right off the booze and on the straight and narrow. Tragedy is what it is.”
“Excuse me,” said Sir John. “What disappearances are these?”
The delivery man turned round and saw the Jennings for the first time. He face dropped in shock.
“Oh, oh, it’s nothing,” the delivery man said. “Just some local gossip.”
Mrs Pimplenick walked off shaking her head and carrying the large box of mackerel easily in her large arms. When she reached the kitchen the man leaned over the Jennings.
“But the gossip is there’s something not right about the water. Ever since they made that promenade, people have been disappearing. Fisherfolk and the like. All locals, never the tourists. Which is just as well as people here don’t want it getting out. Bad for business see. Don’t tell anyone I told you.”
At this the man left, looking about himself as he did.
“That must be what that lunatic was talking about yesterday,” said Sir John. “Something wrong with the water eh, maybe…”
“Mon cher,” said Marie, “we are supposed to be ‘aving a holiday.”
Just then Mrs Pimplenick returned with two cups and a teapot.
“I’m afraid I’m out of milk,” she said, “so you’ll have to have it black. Also the sugar doesn’t come until Tuesday.”