by Gerald Heys
That grandfather clock was smart, too, thought Dave. Nice bit of walnut. Restful. Civilised. Now then: One across: Woman Hitler mistook for a relative (11). Not much cop at these cryptic jobbies. The answer … a woman’s name maybe? Bloody long one if it was.
Mr Farquhar bustled into the living-room: bald and round, with a military-type ‘tache. ‘No need to get up, David,’ he said. ‘Sherry?’
‘Jolly good,’ said Mr Farquhar, going to the mahogany drinks cabinet. Dave recalled his mum used to keep a bottle of Tio Pepe under the sink.
‘An amontillado,’ Mr Farquhar said, handing him the glass.
‘Right,’ he said, taking it by the stem.
‘Hemiona’ll be down in two shakes, I expect.’ Mr Farquhar sat on the leather Chesterfield.
‘Lovely,’ he said, and sipped.
‘Reading the paper?’
‘Looking at the crossword.’
‘Oh, confounded tricky things. Not my cup of tea.’ Mr Farquhar frowned, worried. ‘I say, you’ve not filled any of it in, have you?’
‘Thank God. Hilda’d blow a gasket. Very fond of the Telegraph crossword of an evening.’
‘Look away, old chap.’
The clock ticked. Sipping some more sherry, he stared at one across again. Evangeline? Marguerite?
Mr Farquhar coughed, and said, ‘So. The building trade, is it?’
‘Property investment, that sort of thing?’
‘Just building things. You know … a builder.’
‘Oh,’ he said, frowning again. ‘A builder … Ah.’
Hemiona was at the door now. Dave looked over. Gorgeous. Classy. Little black dress. The first time he’d met her he thought she was way too posh. But, in time, he found that he not only fancied her, but liked her, too – not stuck up at all, one of the lads, a laugh. And for the last month or so, he found he was crazy for her, gaga. She was the biz. His lady. And, best of all, she was nuts for him, too. Marriage: they couldn’t wait. It was going to be bliss.
‘Daddy,’ she said, ‘Mummy says I shouldn’t be wearing this. Says I look like an absolute trollop.’
‘Does she? Well … maybe you should …’
‘She’s bloody-well not making me go out looking like some frump on Dave’s arm …’ her voice trailed off as Mrs Farquhar came in.
Handsome woman in her way, Dave thought; be nice if Hemiona ended up as well-preserved as this. But she also had the look of a school teacher from some old film: all tweeds and pearls, and dried up like an old apple.
He knew he had to stand up now. It was expected. Demanded, even.
She came over, hand extended: the duchess at the ball.
‘David, is it?’
‘Dave,’ he said as he took it.
‘Dave?’ she said, turning to her husband. ‘Do we know a Dave, Kenneth?’
‘Erm, no darling. I don’t …’
‘Ah, but we do,’ she said, turning back, pointing at his chin with a long crimson nail. ‘That dreadful oik who comes to fix the drains when the croquet lawn gets flooded. He’s a Dave, isn’t he? His trousers don’t fit him properly round the back. Builder’s … behind, do they call it, David?’ He nodded, trying to smile. Her eyes were on the Telegraph now, still in his hand. ‘I see you’ve been looking at the crossword.’
‘Just a glance. Well, just the first clue.’
‘Show me,’ she said, holding out her hand. He gave it to her: a naughty kid turning stolen jam tarts out of his pockets.
A moment of scrutiny. ‘Easy,’ she said. ‘Very easy. An anagram.’
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘An anagram of Hitler Woman. Mistook tells you that. Obvious, I should have thought. The letters rearranged make the word. Any idea what word, David?’
‘Not a clue.’
A look from her now like she was Severus Snape beating you at ping-pong. ‘Mother-in-law,’ she said.
Gerald Heys is from the UK, living and working in Prague. This is his first publication.