In The Cold

by Russ

‘And would Miss Ruby Halesworth like to tell us all where she was on the evening of Friday the eleventh?’ said Captain Reginald Shaw with a slight slur, topping up his tumbler as he spoke.

‘We’ve been over this Pau… Captain,’ replied Miss Halesworth through gritted teeth. ‘I was having drinks with the girls that night.’

There was a shuffling of paper and exchanged glances as the other guests tried to find where this information fit into the script. At the bar, Dennis the landlord smiled behind his beard with anticipation.

‘Girl’s who smoke cigars?’ Captain Shaw asked, his eyebrows raised in scepticism.

‘And why not? It’s two-thousand and twenty-fucking-one, Paul!’

There was a cough.

‘Sorry. Captain Shaw,’ Miss Halesworth corrected herself.

‘It’s 1948, Sue,’ a small voice whispered towards Ruby Halesworth.

Susan placed her cigarette holder in her mouth as she tried to get back into character.

‘If you don’t have any more relevant questions to ask, Captain,’ she said. ‘I think it’s time for a smoke break. Everyone?’ she began to rise from her seat.

Dennis had tolerated his wife’s insistence they hold these murder mystery nights at their pub on the proviso the only character he’d ever be asked to play was ‘bartender’. As a retired policeman, he had no intention of spending his leisure years pretending to be back at work. This was the first time anything interesting had ever happened.

‘Actually, I do have more questions, Miss Halesworth!’ the Captain announced. Ruby took a sharp breath and sat back down. Captain Shaw noticed his glass was empty and added more whisky to it.

‘What is his name?’ the Captain spat.

Miss Halesworth looked around for help.

‘Can we just get back to the script?’ a voice jumped in. ‘Whatever is going on with you guys, I don’t think…’

‘We’re here to solve a crime! Aren’t we?’ the Captain was spilling from his glass as he spoke now.

‘Yes, a murder…’

‘Yes! The murder of a marriage! This woman has murdered a marriage!’

‘Paul…’ there was no hint of Ruby Halesworth left now, this was all Susan.

‘Yes, Susan?!’

‘Paul,’ Susan hissed through gritted teeth, her face was crimson. ‘I think it’s time to go home.’

‘What home, Susan?!’ Paul’s features were moving closer to green. ‘There is no home! Not anymore. Maybe you should go to HIS home!’

‘I’m really sorry about this everyone,’ Susan addressed the room, getting to her feet. ‘Paul, come with me, let’s talk about this outside.’

‘In the cold, Susan? Out in the fucking cold?!’

‘Yes, I think some fresh air might…’

Susan was cut off by the sudden change in Paul’s expression. In an instant, everybody knew what was about to happen but nobody had the power to stop it. The realisation hit Paul with only a fraction of a second’s warning and the gathered players looked on helplessly as hisO gazpacho re-emerged and coated the beef Wellington in the centre of the table.

‘For fuck’s sake, Paul,’ Susan said. ‘Is it any wonder I…’ she cut herself off.

Behind the bar, Dennis shook with unrepressed mirth and sat on his hands to prevent himself from applauding.