The regulars in the diner all had a theory, Jim Baines was dead, murdered, his body found on waste ground at the back of the council offices. Charlotte, the cook who was also Mrs Baines was not in the kitchen, compassionate leave, but the routine of coming into Al’s was too much for her and she sat on a stool at the counter whilst another flat white went cold in front of her.
She heard the chatter going on around her, the deferent whispers had long ago submitted to more vocal opinion. They weren’t bad folk she thought, she of all people knew Jim’s shortcomings, his propensity for chasing ‘skirt’, his short temper, long arms, his ability to hurt with no bruise to show, of she knew all about Jim.
Hal Greenwood, sitting as he always did in the booth nearest the bathroom was arguing with Shell the waitress. Shell was defending Jim, she always had a soft spot for him and had often taken care of him when Charlotte had been over at her sister’s in Oak Grove. Hal, whose current wife had been Jim’s first was trying to convince Shell that Jim was violent. It was not a row that would ever be resolved, each knowing a different version of Jim Baines.
In the next booth, Judge Grayson and Boyson Rider, the pharmacist were discussing who would have a motive for killing Jim. All the booths were taken when Miriam, Hal’s wife walked in and instead of joining her husband, sat next to Charlotte. “I went over to your place but when you weren’t there, I thought you might be here” she opened.
“Did you?” Charlotte whispered.
“No, I was going to ask you,” Miriam replied.
“My money is on Rosemary, she had most to gain,” Charlotte countered, “I must go and identify him, will you come with me?”
“Sure honey,” “Hal, I am going with Charlotte to the morgue to see Jim, will you pick up the twins?” Miriam hollered down the diner to her husband.
“Will do, take it easy, Mir,” Hal spoke through Shell.
Outside, there was a chill and Charlotte wrapped her cardigan around her. “Come on, Lottie, let’s go see Jim one last time,” Miriam said putting her arm around the quiet Charlotte.
In the car, Charlotte, barely moving her lips, looking out the window as the shop facades were racing past, “Thanks Miriam, for everything, bonfire out?”
“Yes, Hal took care of it, all evidence accounted for, now we all just need to hold our nerve, the detective arrives later today, shame about Rosemary, but she got away with two already, they should be able to link it all together.”
“You are all good friends, I should’ve listened years ago,” and Charlotte resumed the hunched, haunted look she had been practising for months, ever since Hal and Miriam witnessed the beating.