Rue Jollie, Akaroa, New Zealand
Dermot Mustang opened the white wooden gate and stepped onto Rue Jollie in his highly polished Salvatore Ferragamo black lace-up shoes, making sure the rambled rose bush that his gran had let get away on her (and him, now that he had been staying with her for over three months) didn’t snag his freshly pressed chino’s.
He walked briskly toward the sparkling aqua waters of the Akaroa harbor and was soon on Rue Lavaud, the main street of Akaroa—a small village on Banks Peninsula. The Rue meandered between old characteristic, very colourful buildings displaying a lavish amount of French colonization.
Tourists dawdled down the Rue toward a cluster of shops and passed Rene, a buxom middle-aged woman draped in a bright silk kaftan, opening her artisan shop. Tufts of grey hair protruded from underneath an orange and green turban which sat firmly on her head. Rene chatted to Henri, a bespectacled little old man leaning against his bike. As Dermot approached, the couple turned and waved.
“Nearly eight o’clock,” Rene greeted him as she twigged her turban slightly to the left. Her eyes were more puffy than usual and Dermot knew instantly Rene and Henri had company the night before—in the form of Johnny Walker!
“Must be nigh on three months, you be one of us now,” Henri added.
Dermot pondered the comment. He probably had to agree—he was now one of the local gossipers that met up EVERY morning at 8 a.m. outside Rene’s artisan shop. He wondered how that had happened. He wasn’t really a gossiper, was he?
“Did you hear those gangsters held up another jeweller’s shop yesterday?” Rene asked.
Henri nodded and Dermot said, “Let’s hope they stay up the North Island and don’t head down our way.”
Henri frowned. “We wouldn’t recognise them anyway. All that weird get up. The geezers gone and wore John Wayne and Patsy Rigger clobber on their last hoist!”
Rene popped a shoulder, weirdo’s! “More interesting, did you hear old lady Jessop had to have all her teeth pulled out?” Rene gushed as she opened her mouth to emphasise the deed. She touched the side of her cheek and then horror flashed across her face. “Ooh, I think I can hear the phone,” she lied and she rushed into her shop.
Once inside, she went straight to the antique mirror she had for sale, which hung on the wall next to a small porcelain monkey that recently had its nose glued back on. Henri was under the misapprehension that Rene hadn’t noticed he’d broken the monkey and subsequently mended it—how could she not? He’d mismatched the paint so hideously, even Stevie Wonder could have told the difference!
Rene scrutinised her left cheek. Even though the mirror had water damage she could still see an inkling of seven o’clock shadow her razor had missed that morning. She rushed to the bathroom and repaired herself.
By the time Rene had restored her dignity—her opinion—and returned to the Rue, Henri had told Dermot about the young girl who’d shop-lifted several cakes of chocolate from the local grocer shop and ended up so sick she had to be hospitalised.
“So, this is almost the big day Dermot,” Rene babbled. “Moving out of your grans house, starting your detective agency.”
“I won’t be opening up for two more weeks. I have a lot to sort out first.”
“Wouldn’t you do better in the big smoke? I can’t see you getting much work-ado, hereabouts,” Henri said as he stooped down and scraped some blue paint from his mostly white gumboots.
“You mean like three months ago? When Dermot caught the murderer of the body found in the shallow grave?” Rene queried gesturing toward the bush-clad hills behind the village.
“That’s the reason I’m setting up here. Not likely to happen again is it?” Dermot said as he followed her gaze.
“That was jest good luck youngin, that you was here to catch the murderer,” Henri said.
Dermot did not agree. The whole drama was very bad luck—as far as he was concerned—that he was there and got inadvertently involved in his first case. A MURDER!
“Anyway, bet you can’t wait to get your first client,” Rene added.
Dermot wasn’t sure how he felt about investigative work. Sewing daringly cheeky knickers was a lot less dangerous! He wondered how he’d ended up in a situation with two extreme career paths—sewing and sleuthing. But he had to acknowledge as far back as he could remember, his future career paths interwove with each other.
As a youngster, he was a lonely kid with a fanciful mind. He conjured up imaginary friends and together they traipsed about the neighborhood finding missing cats and newspapers. At School he was bullied but when he invented a fictitious Mustang Car Empire (naming himself as the grandson) which gave him a bit of ‘cred’ in the school playground, the bullying all but ended. However, by then, he’d been bullied out of his preferred extracurricular subject and into home economics—needlework and crafts—which he discovered, he quite liked!
In his teens, his mother, who could only be described as a domineering heath fanatic and herb remedy obsessive, had to go to work. She became a perfume sales marketer, saturating their existence with new branded perfumes—suddenly he gained a sense of smell second to none!
About the same time he met Sophie, a wannabe model, and ended up sewing her a pair of daringly cheeky knickers which propelled her to a succession of catwalk commissions and the start of his secret hobby!
With the familiar CLICK CLACK echoing down the Rue, Dermot’s memories vanished.
He turned toward 19-year-old Francesca Yobbotti wearing her trade mark impractical footwear for Akaroa, who was sick to death with Rene telling her all the time how she would end up tripping over and killing herself or ending up with the most horrendous bunions! Today, Francesca was sporting high wedges—corked undersides, white pointed leather topsides sprinkled with velvet yellow and black caterpillars.
With the arrival of Francesca, the 8 o’clock gossiping group of Akaroa, was complete.
Francesca noted Rene’s glare at her stylish shoes, could read her mind and decided there and then she’d put a hex on the old girl. She flashed her heavily mascara eyes at Rene and gave her a sultry dark smile, knowing that the old woman would soon be complaining with the worst bunions her doctor had ever seen!
Half an hour later and a few doors along, Dermot stood outside an old wooden building sporting the sign above the doorway, Mustang Private Investigator’s Agency. It had been a tourist jewelers shop until 18 months ago. He stepped inside his new office. The jeweler’s reception counter was still there. His gran had given him a couch, a small table, a brown leather swivel chair, a mahogany desk and a grey metal filing cabinet. His mother had bestowed on him a year’s supply of green tea but as yet he had not purchased a tea pot.
He removed his Salvatore’s and replaced them with a pair of trainers. Then he retrieved a pair of white overalls from his filing cabinet, pulled them on, snapped on a pair of heavy duty plastic gloves and for the next four hours he scrubbed the wooden floors of the Mustang Private Investigator’s Agency.
After he’d finished scrubbing and cleaning for the day, he changed his clothes, sat in his swivel chair and hoisted his legs up so his shoes rested on his desk. He smoothed the front of his white shirt—buttoned up to the neck—placed his hands behind his head and leant back in thought.
Once again, he found himself pondering his current situation. Sure, he’d recently caught the murderer of the young woman found buried in a shallow grave near Akaroa. The papers had hailed him a budding natural. But the readers didn’t know he’d been thrown into the case by accident and he’d had the best incentive to catch the killer.
They also didn’t know he’d spent a lot of time head-down in a toilet bowl, spewing his guts out at the mere mention of a dead body. Admittedly he hadn’t seen the body discovered in a shallow grave. BUT he had seen another dead body. And even today, three months later, his stomach pitched at the memory of the body he’d sort of been dragged into exhuming by two daft locals—after the body had been buried for 48 hours in its previous resting place! And it had all taken place in the secrecy and cover of night.
Yip, he had a pretty fragile stomach when it came to dead bodies. And it didn’t help that his memory was in 3D and full techno-colour!
Sure, he’d solved that case, his one and only case, but it was tough going and he wouldn’t have gotten the result had it not been for his friend Jack and Jack’s cousin Poppy.
Thank God for good old kick-ass Jack. He also had thanked God—on numerous occasions—for Poppy Summers. She was one hell of a woman...school girl...whatever, she was one hell of a whatever!
He momentarily wondered about his mate Jack—was he still wandering around the countryside aimlessly? Or had he settled down? But most of all, had he started to sort out his soul-destroying demon?
Dermot’s thoughts drifted back to himself. Should he have gone into business as a P.I. and leased an office all on the back of one success? He wasn’t sure he could make any money because he was only going to take on finder’s cases such as cheating wives, husbands, missing kids.
More than anything, he wondered what it was going to be like, to be a real private eye.
He didn’t have to wait long.
A rap on his office door shot him upright, in time to see a young woman open the door and burst into his office.
“Your advert. You have to help me. He’s dead. He’s been murdered. Funeral Saturday,” she gushed.
By then Dermot had stood up and gestured for her to stop. “I’m sorry Miss, ah...” was all he managed before she went into another burst of half formed sentences.
“Have to go. Address. You will? Money. Of course. Money.” She thrust an envelope into his hands. “Time, date, place—here,” and then she left, slamming his office door shut behind her.
Was that what it was like to be a professional private investigator? He had always imagined several lengthy meetings with a client while they poured over photographs and he listened to their reasons for suspicion. Then later he figured he’d input everything they discussed into a newly created database and name it Mustang Case File #2.
He was still standing, flummoxed, when the door opened again and amid a waft of lavender, his gran walked in.
“What’s your problem?” she grumbled.
Dermot opened the envelope and the note in his hand and said, “I’ve got a client...um, I’ve not got a client.”
“Huh? What client?”
“A bird...ah, a young lady just spent 45 seconds here, in this office, she just burst in.” He was mindful that the female who he’d sort of had a conversation with, had no resemblance to a young lady. He reckoned she was 5ft 4 inches tall and weighed 8 stone 4 lbs. She had two silver plated rings in her left nostril and wore gothic make up complete with black lipstick. Her fair hair was a mix of dreadlocks, fuzz, green sparkly bobbles and she wore a dirty blue striped sweater, ripped Stella McCartney blue jeans and yellow trainers with red shoe laces. She also had a very unusual perfume!
He opened the envelope—10 $100 notes fluttered out and onto his desk and he realized his Salvatore Ferragamo shoes had cost him (actually his mother had bought them as a present to mark his new career) $60.00 shy of the $1,000 retainer. Private investigating didn’t appear to be a very lucrative job option.
He read out the note. “‘Jim McGrath, Service at the Anglican Church at 1 p.m. Saturday 27th January. I’ll meet you afterwards, outside the Oxford Jaycee Hall, Main Street. I’m sure its murder.’ And she’s scrawled Tamsin Holder,” he added.
Oxford? The case was in Oxford? He was suddenly very interested indeed.
“You did tell her you weren’t opening up until Monday week? I hope you told her you couldn’t take on any clients at the moment?”
“Well, no. I couldn’t get a word in edgeways. She just rushed in, babbled and then she split.”
His gran frowned and ran an aged spotted hand through her wiry graying hair, “You can’t go off playing detectives just yet. We had a deal, remember?”
“I know. But what can I do?”
She rummaged through his filing cabinet and retrieved a manila folder. “I’m heading to the airport first thing in the morning and I expect you to be up in Auckland within the week. So, get that money back to the young thingy, and your apologies,” she called as she opened the office door and then she was gone.
He watched her pull away from the curb and a smile twitched the corners of his mouth. She cut a formidable figure in her BMW convertible with its top down. A large formidable figure! She hunched over the steering wheel, her grey wiry hair frizzing in the breeze as she careered down the street with her hand ready to hit the horn and blast any slow driver that got in her way.
Harriet Mustang, his gran, was not your usual Grandmother. Cantankerous sprung to mind. She ran a large business called Pavlova Corporation (P.C.) in Christchurch—with a factory staff of over twenty who cooked and packaged exotic pavlovas and an office administration and marketing team of eight, (two had recently stopped working at P.C. and had not been replaced). Harriet was expanding her operations to Auckland and she had brokered a deal with him—a part-time human resources position at her corporation in return for financing his start-up costs for his P.I. agency.
However, being a P.I. wasn’t on the top of his list of aspirations. Number one was definitely leaving home. He was 20 years old and sick of being told what to do by his mother, Natasha Mustang, the owner of a type two domineering personality! Her vegetarian fare, telling him he had to eat this herb and drink that naturopath remedy to keep him healthy, wealthy and wise, was driving him bonkers!
He had finally left home. But it appeared he’d managed to trade one very bossy Mother for a very bossy Gran!
Then the thoughts of being bossed around disappeared when the image of the redhead Poppy Summers, who just happened to live in Oxford, sprung to mind. Suddenly, he couldn’t wait to have an excuse to go the 150 k’s to a funeral, even if it meant catching up with the young thingy for a few minutes.
Dermot had called it a day and was just walking up the cobbled path to his grans villa when he received a text from his friend Sophie: Ring Me.
His mind flicked to Sophie’s ass, lace and satin. He rang her, put her on speaker and by the time she answered he had opened the double door wardrobe, grabbed his globe 22 sewing machine and was starting to set it up on the wooden dresser.
In Auckland, Sophie squealed, “Dermot. This is it! The big one.”
“That’s great. Tell all.”
“All the others have just been cat-walks and the like. But this one...I may get a one-year contract. But as usual, it comes with...” she purposely left him to finish her sentence.
“More knickers? One offs?”
“Yip, you got it.”
“I have to do the interview next week.”
Dermot felt his blood pressure rising. “Sophie, you need to start giving me more time.”
“I know. But it doesn’t work that way. And they want black!”
BLACK? Nadia Chantilly Black? Within ten seconds he reckoned he’d said yes, leapt to the other side of his bedroom to an old dresser and pulled out a drawer revealing his collection of satins and lace. He carefully picked each one up and lay them gently on his bed—an array of colours.
Eagerly, he sought out the Nadia Chantilly Black lace. It turned out to be ten times the price he thought he was paying when he’d bought it on-line. Those blimmen decimal places. What a mistake! But he was convinced when he’d plucked up enough courage to actually cut the material, he’d make Sophie famous!
And now he would.
Once his excitement abated he wondered how long it would take to create Sophie’s new knickers—they were quite different to the normal ones he’d sewn her. “Make sure they’re black and the band needs to have two domes, for unfastening” she’d told him. It sounded a bit kinky. But he doubted Sophie would be into anything like that.
His mind flicked to his new case...a dead bloke in Oxford, then to Poppy who lived in Oxford and then to her cousin Jack who didn’t live anywhere in particular. He reckoned Jack had rested his head in a doss house in nearly every town in NZ, and probably under several bridges as well. He was a lost cause! Dermot rang him.
“I thought you’d gone back up North,” Jack drawled.
“Well I did, but only for a week. I had to pack everything up at Mother’s townhouse and ship it all down here,” Dermot answered.
“So, you’ve left home?” Jack chuckled. “When I rang your old lady, she said you’d come back to live with her, in Auckland.”
Dermot winced. His mother was a pain in the proverbial. And transparent. She didn’t like Jack, especially as a friend for her son. Even though she was 1,000ks away, she was still trying to control him.
“I’m setting up a detective agency in Akaroa.”
“Really? On your own? Well good luck with that,” Jack said as he remembered witnessing Dermot’s face coloring green on many occasions. Still, if it didn’t involve dead people, Jack reckoned Dermot just may make a go of it.
“Where are you?” Dermot asked.
“Nelson. Just sort of...finished a bit of a building job.” He wasn’t going to tell Dermot his boss had caught him with his wife and he’d been fired on the spot.
“I was hoping you were close by. I’m heading to Oxford Saturday afternoon and spending a couple of minutes at a funeral. Bit of a miscommunication with a girl who wanted me to investigate a suspicious death. I’m not taking the case on, just giving her retainer back. But seeing as I’m there, I want to catch up with your cousin. However, I may be in her bad books.”
Jack laughed loud and long. Finally, he said, “You think I could mend bridges between you and Popps? That’s a laugh. I got a bridge the size of the San Francisco Golden Gate! No, best I avoid Popps...and her mother.”
Dermot sighed. Jack and Poppy, would they ever change?
“But, as luck would have it, I just got a text from a pal,” Jack said. It was actually from a chick he’d met on tinder. “In Timaru. I was thinking of heading your way soon, so if you give me the details when you’ll be in Oxford I’ll meet you there. And I’ll ring Popps to make sure you get to see her, but I don’t plan seeing her unless it’s in a crowded situation, like a funeral.”
That night, Dermot found it difficult to sleep. He tried to work out what to say to Tamsin Holder. “Sorry, I’m only taking on clients in Akaroa.” “Sorry, I’m fully booked for the next few weeks.” “Sorry, I have to be in Auckland in a few days-time managing the staff of a pudding factory.” He figured he’d stick with the latter—after all, it was the truth.
The rest of his wakeful hours his thought was of Jack’s cousin Poppy, and would she be pleased to see him?
The function room in the Oxford Jaycee Hall was standing room only. Everyone who knew Jim McGrath, no matter how distant their relationship was with him, wanted to express their condolences for his sudden death to his wife Ellie McGrath.
The people of Oxford gathered for weekend markets, A & P Shows, the Oxford football club book fair, the great Oxford garage sale, the Oxford garden country fate, the Annual Day in the Country event and of course—funerals. Yes, it was a gossipy little town!
At funerals, the locals spent the first few minutes reciting honorable pieces of flattery about the deceased, and the rest of the time they caught up with their friends and relatives with idle gossip.
“So, what exactly does he look like?” Aggie Middlemiss asked Poppy Summers. Aggie was a small aging matronly woman, the undisputed know-all of the North Canterbury district. She’d been dubbed Martha Longhurst, Coronation Street’s busy body of yesteryear.
Poppy twiddled a lock of her coppery red hair between her fingers as she described her cousin. “Jack’s a few years older than me, in his mid-20’s, about six feet something-or-other, dark hair generally pushed back off his face.” She stared vacantly above the black felt hat that was squashed firmly down on Aggies grey curly hair and attempted to recall exactly what her cousin looked like. “Slightly askew shoulders and...I don’t think he’s cute, but I know many girls who do. It’s his eyes I think, and a slight Canadian accent.”
“So why is he coming to Oxford?” Aggie enquired as she edged a little closer to the table laden with plates of sandwiches, cakes and scones. Poppy watched her select the largest creamed scone, raspberry jam ready to dribble down her fingers.
“To catch up with me. He’s been away. So, I said he may as well meet me here. Good a place as any,” Poppy said. She wasn’t about to tell the nosey-parker that Jack wasn’t coming to see her at all. He was coming to see his friend, Dermot Mustang. Jack had rung her last night and asked her the low down on Jim McGrath and said he was heading to the funeral.
“What on earth for? You couldn’t possibly have known Jim McGrath.”
“Quite right Popps. Mustang reckons there maybe something not quite right about his death, but its hush-hush.”
“Did Dermot ask if I’d be there?”
“Why would he do that? Oh, right, you’re sort of mates, aren’t you? after Akaroa and all that.”
Poppy had fumed. MATES? Dermot had obviously told Jack their relationship was just friends and not...and not what? Lovers? What a laugh! BUT, she did think that after THE KISS he did feel something for her, albeit confusion. And then when they’d parted, he’d given her the distinct impression he’d be coming to see her within the week. But here they were, three months later and not a hide-nor-hear of him. THREE MONTHS! She had to concede that Jack was probably right. Dermot Mustang was not after a girl!
She flicked back to the present. Aggie tried to eat the scone without dribbling jam down her chin. She didn’t succeed. “I remember Jack now. That awful business. Ruby wasn’t it? Has he gotten over it yet?” Aggie asked as she looked across the sea of faces and spied one of her friends. “Oh, must go, need to catch up with her,” and as she licked the raspberry jam off her fingers, palm and wrist, she barraged her way through the throng of mourners.
Outside in Pearson Park, Tamsin Holder sat on the stone wall. Her straggly bleach dyed hair, torn jeans, a holey pullover and dirty trainers stereotyped her as a rebellious annoyance to the older generation.
She’d been waiting for ages and was just about to climb down when her attention was claimed by a roaring engine. She watched a motorbike speed down the main street and stop outside the Jaycee Hall.
Jack, still straddling the heaving bike revved the engine three times then cut the motor. He kicked the stand down, dismounted from the Vincent Black Lightening, took his helmet off and shook his head. A few clumps of dark hair fell loosely over his forehead and Tamsin Holder drooled.
Seconds later, a white convertible BMW pulled up behind the bike. Dermot Mustang alighted and walked up to Jack.
“How the bloody hell are you Mustang?” Jack greeted his friend with a whack on his back, then cast a pleasing eye over Dermot’s set of wheels with the number plate Pav Mag. “Got your old grandmother dancing to your tune, I see.”
“We have a deal, I have this baby whenever she doesn’t need it—she’s up in Auckland for a week. She’s one hell of a...SHE!”
“You’re referring to the car, not the Gran?”
“You’ve met the Gran, so you know the answer to that,” Dermot answered. Both men walked around the car and patted the bonnet, admired the gleaming paint work then stood back and gave it their utmost approval. “She’s a dream.”
“I’m glad you made it,” Dermot said. He cast an eager eye over Jacks face and was pleased to see there were no signs of any recent injuries. Could that mean Jack had stopped fighting every man that looked sideways at him? Punching out at anyone and everyone in the hope of ridding himself of years of anger?
“What?” Jack caught Dermot’s intense stare.
“Nothing.” Dermot lightened up and said, “I’m a bit apprehensive seeing your cousin again.”
“What’s with you two?”
“We’re just friends,” Dermot answered quickly.
“Well obviously,” Jack said. There would never be anything other than just friends as far as he could see. Dermot was back to wearing his shirt buttoned up to his neck again, ironed with a crease down each arm—Christ, his chinos had a crease down them too, AND he was wearing that damned pansy cologne again! From Jack’s point of view, the guy was too obvious...he’d talk to him later.
Jack glanced across the road and spotted Tamsin Holder looking their way. Blonde hair, the same color as Sophie’s—he’d seen one photo of Dermot’s muse—who was one hell of a babe! “So, how’s Sophie? How’s it all going with the secret hobby? Or is it all over? Stitched up? Zipped up?” he chuckled.
Dermot looked about nervously. “It’s all over—”
“Good. I knew it was just a stage you were going through,” he said and patted Dermot on his shoulder in a very manly way.
Dermot staggered slightly off balance, and then rectified his stature. He so wanted to let it be, but it could rear its ugly head later on, and there was no telling where it would lead—he knew all the wrong people could get to hear about his knickers!
He braced himself. “I was going to say, it’s all over...to Sophie. But she doesn’t look as though she’s giving up on it. She’s getting even more gigs on the catwalk.”
Jack feigned a who cares expression and put his hand up, “Hey, it doesn’t worry me...one little bit.”
“You’re the only one who knows, apart from Sophie of course,” Dermot said looking nervously at Jack.
“No worries. Your secret is safe with me.”
Tamsin had recognized Dermot and she took the time to evaluate her new employee. He looked like he was in his early 20’s, nearly 6ft tall. Dark spiky hair, flattened at the sides. Slim build. But his friend on the bike was more to her fancy. A bit older she suspected, good looking, strong shoulders and underneath his black leather jacket she knew he had a fabulous hunky physique. And, Oh My God! What. A. Bike! Things were starting to look up.
She jumped down from the stone wall and skipped across the recently mowed lawn toward the men.
“Hi,” Dermot greeted, recognizing her perfume instantly—a blend of Dior, peppermint toothpaste and marijuana.
“Hi.” She flicked strands of hair out of her eyes, shook his hand limply, then switched her attention to Jack and stared up into exceptionally large blue eyes. “Thanks for coming,” she added not taking her eyes from Jacks.
“Miss Holder, there’s been a misunderstanding. I’ve only come to return your money,” Dermot said and handed her the envelope with the 10 $100 notes.
She cut back to Dermot. “Your advert said you’d help. And I need help.”
“I’m sorry. But you didn’t give me a chance to explain the other day. I’m just setting up in business, I can’t start a case for over two weeks, the advert did say to contact me after that date.”
“That’s too late. You’re the one who solved the case of the woman found in a shallow grave in Akaroa?”
“Yes, but, I can’t...”
“I get it. You’re angling for more money.” She held the envelope in her left hand and waved it under Dermot’s nose. “This is just a retainer. I can get more.”
Dermot didn’t doubt her and he had a pretty good idea what industry the money would come from. “It’s not about money,” he said.
“It’s always about money,” she retorted. “Mr. Mustang, we aint got much time. I chose you. This is the only opportunity to observe all the suspects of Jim McGrath’s murder all in one place. I don’t have time to find another private investigator. If you don’t do your job right now, A KILLER WILL GO FREE!”
Tamsin set her lips tight and held a defiant eyeballing challenge with Dermot for over ten seconds. Then he blinked.
He realized she was in a bind—her own fault. But the man was dead and she’d obviously thought it through—it would be a perfect opportunity to observe behaviors, listen to gossip, see any potential motive for murder. He didn’t readily like Tamsin, but he respected her. She had guts. And a dominant personality. He suspected there was no such word as can’t in her vocabulary.
“I could spend a few hours here, then let you know what I find out, if anything.”
She held her forthright composure, but the little twitch of a smile did not go unnoticed. “And your friend?” she gestured toward Jack.
“Hi, names Jack. I was just passing through,” he flicked a wary glance toward Dermot who had that look in his eye—can you stay a bit and help me out—that Jack had recognized from his stint in Akaroa.
Dermot fronted up. “Two pairs of eyes are better than one. How about it? It’ll only take an hour or so.”
“OK. I said I’d catch up with Popps for a minute or two anyway, so as they say, two birds with one stone? And then I’m splitting.”
Thank God for that! There was no way Dermot was going to miss the opportunity to catch up with Poppy, and he certainly needed a buffer between them should Poppy get verbal. Or, maybe Jack may need a buffer between himself and his cousin. Whatever, even when she was barraging him, Dermot didn’t really mind, he just wanted to be near her. What a plonker he was!
A few hours with Poppy—to see which way the wind blew and he sure hoped it was gale force in his direction—then back to Akaroa for a couple of days designing and sewing Sophie’s new knickers. He could hand them to her at the end of the week, when he flew up to Auckland to help his gran at the P.C. Board Meeting. Yip, all done and dusted! Sewn up! He liked having a plan.
“Has it been going long?” Dermot asked Tamsin as he gestured toward the Hall.
“About half an hour. Everyone who’s coming will be here by now,” she said.
“So, what’s your relationship with the deceased and why do you think he was murdered?”
“I’ll explain later. Now I implore you, you can’t waste any more time.” She wrote her cell phone number on the envelope and slapped it back in Dermot’s hands. She gave Jack a lecherous smile then turned back to Dermot. “But first things first. There’s someone you need to meet.” Tamsin grabbed Dermot by the arm and secured her shiny green finger nails around his wrist and led him to follow her.
“Where are we going?” he asked as she herded him across the road and away from the function hall. He looked back over his shoulder. Jack’s grin was enormous.
Half a block down the street she stopped at a Church and turned to him. “You have your business cards with you?”
He pulled his wallet from his trouser pocket, opened it up and in the uppermost plastic card holder was a few business cards. The cards had a photo of himself, his P.I. certification number, contact details and underneath was printed, Mustang Private Investigator’s Agency.
“I just bought a couple with me, didn’t think I’d be needing any today.”
She studied the card. “Perfect. Now when I tell you, all you have to do is give one of your cards away. You don’t need to say anything. Just sort of do what I tell you to.” She slid her hand up to his elbow. “Come on.”
But Dermot stood firm. “What’s this all about?”
She gave a knowing gesture toward the Church (which he didn’t understand). “Quick, they’re waiting for you. You’re holding up the works.”
Tamsin linked his arm in hers and together they walked the concrete path that led to the entrance of the ancient stone clad Church.
Inside the Church, it was dark. Sunlight filtered through some stained glassed windows illuminating pews at random, but overall it was difficult to adjust his focus from the outside sunshine.
A clergyman dressed from top to toe in black, walked briskly down the aisle of the church to meet them as they entered.
“This is highly irregular, Miss Holder,” the man in black said as his pasty white face folded into distaste.