Aunt Bessie Invites (An Isle of Man Cozy Mystery Book 9)

BOOK: Aunt Bessie Invites (An Isle of Man Cozy Mystery Book 9)
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Aunt Bessie Invites

 

An Isle of Man Cozy Mystery

 
 
 

Diana Xarissa

 

Text
Copyright
©
2016 Diana
Xarissa

Cover
Photo Copyright
©
2016 Kevin
Moughtin

 

All Rights Reserved

 

For Stacy, because without her help I wouldn’t have as much time to
write!

Author’s Note

 

Welcome to the ninth book in the Isle of Man
Cozy Mystery series.
 
I try to make
each book stand on its own, but as the series progresses, it gets more
difficult.
 
My characters are
changing and developing, and I really do recommend that you read the series in
order (alphabetically by the last word in the title).

Most of the characters continue throughout
the series, and I had great fun with this book by inviting almost everyone
we’ve met thus far to Bessie’s Thanksgiving feast.
 
Some of the characters also appear in my
Isle of Man Romance Series, although they are about fifteen years older there
than in the Bessie books.
 
(Bessie
had just passed away in
Island
Inheritance
.)

This is a work of fiction and all characters
are entirely fictional.
 
If they
bear any resemblance to any real person, living or dead, that is entirely
coincidental.
 
The island businesses
mentioned are also fictional, although the historical sites are all real.
 
Manx National Heritage is also real and
is tasked with preserving and promoting the island’s amazing history.
 
The employees of Manx National Heritage
in this story are all fictional creations, however.

The photo on
the cover is of the Ramsey Harbour Swing Bridge.
 
It was built in 1892 by the Cleveland
Bridge and Engineering Company and takes both road and foot traffic across the
Sulby River.
 
It was refitted and
painted in 2013-2014, so it wouldn’t have looked exactly as it does in the
photo when this story takes place.

As ever, I
have used British spellings and terminology as much as I can.
 
There is a glossary in the back of the
book for readers outside of the British Isles who might not be familiar with
some of the English and Manx terms used.
 
No doubt some Americanisms have slipped into the text as well, and I do
apologise for those to my readers who are in the British Isles!

I’d love to
hear from you.
 
My contact details
are in the back of the book.
 

 

Chapter One

“Thank you again for driving me around
today,” Bessie said to Doona as they drove slowly along the road towards Ramsey
Harbour.

“It’s the perfect day for being out and
about,” Doona replied.
 
“It’s cold,
but clear, and the sun is shining.
 
I don’t mind the cold nearly as much when the sun is out.”

“It looks lovely shining on the water,
doesn’t it?” Bessie asked.

Doona slid her car into a space and looked
out across the harbour.
 
“It’s
beautiful,” she replied.
 
“And I
love all the little boats.
 
Maybe,
if I really do inherit millions, I’ll buy a little boat.
 
Would you like to come sailing with me?”

Bessie shook her head.
 
“I’m not much for sailing,” she told her
friend.
 
“The ferry isn’t too bad,
if I need to get across for some reason, but otherwise I’m quite happy to stick
to dry land.”

The pair climbed out of the car.
 
Bessie headed towards the pavement that
ran in front of a row of small shops, with Doona on her heels.
 
Anyone going past who noticed the pair
might have imagined that they were mother and daughter, rather than friends.

Doona was in her early forties.
 
Her brown hair was highlighted, and
today she was wearing her glasses, rather than her usual coloured contact
lenses which
gave her bright green eyes.
 
After some rather upsetting events the
previous months, she’d lost some weight, but she still had curves, unlike her
companion.

Bessie was probably around twice Doona’s
age, but she didn’t like to talk about such things.
 
Her grey hair was short and almost
exactly matched her eyes.
 
She was
only a couple of inches over five feet tall, while Doona was a few inches
taller than Bessie.
 
Bessie had
always been slender and age hadn’t changed that.
 
She kept herself fit by walking daily
along the beach where she lived, often venturing out two or three times each
day to enjoy the sea air and the exercise.

“Here we are,” Bessie said, stopping at the
last storefront.
 
“The Swing Bridge Restaurant.
 
No creativity in the name, as the swing
bridge is right outside their windows, but the food is delicious.”

Doona followed Bessie into the small restaurant.
 
It felt dark inside after the bright
sunlight outdoors, and Bessie found herself blinking as her eyes worked to
focus.

“Ah, Bessie, we were just wondering when you
would arrive,” a voice greeted her from behind the hostess stand.
 

“Lisa, I hope I didn’t keep you waiting,”
Bessie replied.
 
She gave the woman
a quick hug before introducing Doona.

“Doona, this is Lisa, the assistant manager
here.
 
She’s coordinating everything
for our feast,” Bessie told her friend.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Doona said
politely.
 

Lisa was slim and was neatly dressed in
black trousers and a matching shirt.
 
The red jacket she was wearing was the only thing that differentiated
her from the waiters and waitresses.
 
She was probably no more than thirty, with long brown hair in a neat
ponytail.

“I do hope you’re planning on having lunch
with us today,” Lisa said to Bessie.

“That’s why we timed our visit as we did,”
Bessie replied.
 

Lisa showed them to a small table in a quiet
corner and left them with menus.

“I must say it’s a treat having a day off on
a Monday,” Doona said after the pair had ordered their lunch.
 
“I could get used to this.”

“I don’t suppose you have enough holiday
time saved up to let you take every Monday off for a while?” Bessie asked.

“Anna would like it if I did,” Doona
replied.
 
“She’s very keen on
getting us to use up our holiday time.”

“Why?” Bessie asked bluntly.

Doona shrugged.
 
“Maybe it’s a lot of bother for her,
keeping track of it all.
 
Or maybe
because she just likes telling us all what to do.”

Bessie sighed.
 
She knew Doona wasn’t fond of the
policewoman who’d recently been assigned to the Laxey station where Doona
worked at the reception desk, but it was increasingly clear that Doona really
disliked Anna Lambert.
 
“It isn’t
getting any better, then?
 
Working
for Inspector Lambert, I mean.”

Doona shook her head.
 
“I don’t know why they even assigned her
to Laxey,” she complained.
 
“John
was doing an excellent job without her.
 
I know she’s supposed to handle the administrative duties and leave John
with the investigative work, but really she just seems to get in the way of
everything.

John Rockwell had originally moved to the
island to work as an investigator in the Ramsey branch of the CID, but various
circumstances had led to his being put in charge of the Laxey station.
 
Anna Lambert’s appointment was meant to
give him more time to work in the area he loved, investigation, rather than
having to sit behind a desk all day figuring out the staff schedule and
ordering supplies.
 

“So she isn’t helping John?” Bessie asked.

“I suppose she is,” Doona admitted with a
frown.
 
“But she seems to pick and
choose how she helps so that John still ends up with a lot of jobs that she
really ought to be doing.”

“How does John feel about her?”

Doona shrugged and then looked away.
 
“I haven’t, that is, John’s awfully busy
at the moment,” she muttered.

Bessie didn’t press the point.
 
John was in the middle of a fairly civil
divorce and Doona had her own complicated personal life.
 
Bessie was pretty sure that John and
Doona were attracted to one another, but the timing wasn’t quite right for them
to get together.
 
It seemed as if
they weren’t even really speaking at the moment, though, something Bessie hoped
she could help them sort out eventually.

After a delicious lunch, Lisa joined them at
their table.
 
“Here’s the final
menu,” she told Bessie.
 
“Please let
me know if we’ve missed anything.”

Bessie ran her eyes down the printed
card.
 
“Turkey and gravy, stuffing,
mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, assorted vegetables, bread
rolls, pumpkin and apple pies,” she read slowly.
 
“I think it’s all here.

“And thank goodness we had lunch before you
read through it,” Doona said with a laugh.
 
“Even with a full tummy, that list made me hungry.”

Bessie smiled.
 
“It does sound good.
 
A good, traditional Thanksgiving
feast.
 
I can hardly wait.”

“It makes a change for us every year,” Lisa
said.
 
“We’re usually getting ready
for Christmas dinners through most of November.
 
Your Thanksgiving meal is very like a Christmas
one, of course.”

“When we were in Ohio, we always had ham for
Christmas dinner,” Bessie replied.
 
“But I really love turkey and all the trimmings.
 
I’m more than happy to have it for both
meals.”

Bessie had been born on the Isle of Man, but
her family had moved to the United States when she was a toddler.
 
They’d returned to the island when she
was seventeen.
 
Now, many years
later, Thanksgiving was one of the few American traditions she still
observed.
 
There was just something
special to her about a day set aside to be grateful for all of your blessings.

Because she liked to spend the day
surrounded by as many of her friends as possible, she had her Thanksgiving
celebration on the Saturday after the official feast in the US.
 
That way no one generally had to take
time off work to attend.
 
For many
years she’d cooked the meal herself in her tiny cottage by the sea, but as the
years had passed the celebration had grown.
 
Now she hosted the event at a local
restaurant, letting them handle the cooking while she enjoyed the day.
 
This was the third year in a row that
she was having the meal at The Swing Bridge restaurant, and she was
anticipating another delicious feast.

“I’ll just take you upstairs for a quick
look at the banquet room,” Lisa told her.
 

Bessie and Doona followed the woman through
the restaurant and up the stairs.
 
The first floor room was large enough to hold several round tables.
 
In total, the tables could seat around
fifty guests.

“Do you have any idea on numbers yet?” Lisa
asked.

“I’ll get back to you,” Bessie said.
 
“I’m still waiting to hear back from a
few people.
 
At this point, I expect
there will be about forty of us.”

“Are
there
going to
be any children, and do you want to do a separate table for them if there are?”

Bessie shook her head.
 
“There might be a few children, in fact,
we might even need a highchair or two, but the children can sit with their
parents.
 
I can’t imagine they’d
enjoy being all lumped together at one table.”

Lisa nodded.
 
“And you’re going to get us the turkeys
we need, right?” she asked.
 
“Our
farmers don’t start delivering turkeys until December.”

“I’m going out to the Clague farm from
here,” Bessie told her.
 
“I’m going
to make sure that Eoin has my turkeys just about ready.”

“And you really don’t want any holiday decorations
in here?” Lisa asked.
 
“We could put
a Christmas tree in the corner, just to brighten up the space a bit.”

“Absolutely not,” Bessie said firmly.
 
“When I was a child, Christmas
decorations didn’t go up until after Thanksgiving.
 
It was almost magical in the shops.
 
The day before Thanksgiving they’d be
just as plain and boring as ever.
 
Then, on the Friday after, the first official shopping day for
Christmas, there would be Christmas trees and fairy lights everywhere.
 
I know some poor people had to work late
into the night on the Wednesday to make it happen, but as a child it felt
magical.”

“It must be nice to have that clear start
date for the Christmas season,” Doona said.
 
“Over here shops just start putting up
their decorations whenever they feel like it, so it seems like some are
dripping in fairy lights from October, while others barely manage to get anything
up before mid-December.”

“I understand that things aren’t necessarily
still done that way in the US,” Bessie told her.
 
“Apparently many of the shops now
decorate earlier than was traditional when I was a child.”

“But we won’t,” Lisa assured her.
 
“If you don’t want any Christmas
decorations, that’s fine.”

“Last year you did a lovely job with the
leaves and pumpkins,” Bessie told her.
 
“It was very autumnal and exactly right for Thanksgiving.”

“Great.
 
I have some good ideas for this year as well,” Lisa said.

Bessie walked slowly around the room,
imagining it full of her friends.
 
While many of the guests would be old friends, she had invited a number
of people for the very first time.
 
If everyone came, it would be her largest Thanksgiving ever.

“Thank you again for coming by,” Lisa said
as she escorted Bessie and Doona back down the stairs.
 
“Please ring if you have any questions
or concerns.”

“I know everything is in good hands,” Bessie
told her.

“I’m just sorry it’s nearly two weeks away,”
Doona said as she and Bessie walked back to Doona’s car.
 
“The menu sounds amazing.”

“The time will fly past,” Bessie assured
her.

Back in the car, Doona headed north.
 
“You’ll have to give me directions,” she
said after a short time.
 
“I still
get lost outside of Laxey Village.”
 
Doona had grown up in the south of the island, moving to Laxey only a
few years earlier during an unpleasant divorce.
 

“With all the new roads going in, I’m not
sure I’m much better,” Bessie said with a laugh.
 
“But the old Clague farm is a landmark
property.
 
It’s been there for
hundreds of years.”

BOOK: Aunt Bessie Invites (An Isle of Man Cozy Mystery Book 9)
6.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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