Aunt Bessie Joins (An Isle of Man Cozy Mystery Book 10) (2 page)

Bessie could tell that he was struggling to
count to ten before he lost his temper.
She quickly joined the pair.

“We’ve just finished sorting out the
courtyard,” she said brightly.
sure you’ll like what we’ve done much better,” she told the man who was
frowning at her.

“Have we met?” he demanded.

Bessie swallowed a bubble of laughter.
The man was so ridiculously rude it was
quite funny, really.

“I’m Elizabeth
she replied.
“We met when you first
arrived, but I know you were
on the site,
not me.”

“Are you one of the committee people?”
Christopher asked.
“If you are, I
suppose you must call me Christopher.”

“I am on the committee, yes,” Bessie

“Well, you lot have a great deal of work to
do,” he told her.
“Every single
room needs changes made.
Some of
them are absolutely appalling.
Thank goodness Carolyn asked me to come over.
There’s so much that’s wrong.”

“We gave the charities free reign,” Bessie
“They were allowed to come up
with their own theme and do whatever they liked in their rooms.”

“Yes, it does rather show,” the man
He rolled his eyes.
“Of course, they’re all amateurs, which
is sweet, but so unprofessional.”

“I think the rooms are all lovely,” Bessie
said softly.

“What is it that you do for a living?” the
man shot back.
“Or rather, what did
you do when you were younger?” he added, after giving her

Bessie was saved from replying by a new
Christopher looked past
her before she’d even opened her mouth, and then he rushed away towards the

“Caro, darling, there you are,” he shouted
as he crossed the room.
Thank goodness I’m here.”

a very wealthy woman in her mid-fifties.
She was always impeccably dressed, and she generally wore a great deal
of very expensive
whatever the
Today she was wearing a
dark navy suit, with sapphires and diamonds sparkling at her ears and around
her neck.
Her blonde hair was
pulled back in an intricate twist.

Carolyn had married a very wealthy and
somewhat older man when she was in her early twenties, and she’d spent her time
since working on keeping her body in perfect shape and volunteering all around
the island.
Everyone knew that she
much preferred positions that would put her in the spotlight but not require
her to actually do much of anything.
When tasked with actual work, she usually simply threw large amounts of
money at the problem, so hiring Christopher Hart to handle things at “Christmas
at the Castle” was completely in character.

Bessie stayed in place as the man walked
“This isn’t going well,” she
murmured to Mark.

The young man flushed.
“That’s a huge understatement,” he
“He wants to change every
room, he has ridiculously expensive ideas for the room he’s meant to be decorating,
and he’s incredibly rude.”

“The committee will have to stand firm,”
Bessie said.
“We’re in charge,
after all.
He’s just meant to be

“Carolyn will side with him, of course,”
Mark answered.
“I hope we can get
Mary and Marjorie on our side.”

“They’re both far more sensible than Carolyn
,” Bessie assured him.
“I’m sure they’ll both love what the
different charities have done.”

“I need to go and talk to the chef,” Mark
“Apparently Mr. Hart doesn’t
eat anything.”

Bessie shook her head.
Mark rushed away, leaving Bessie
on her own in the
of the banquet
She hesitated for a
moment before she walked over to join the other two.

“Oh, Bessie, how lovely,” Carolyn said,
giving Bessie air kisses on each cheek.
“Have you been through the castle?
Isn’t it horrid, what they’ve done?”

“I think it’s rather wonderful,” Bessie

“But there’s no coherence,” Carolyn
“Luckily Christo can fix

“I’m not sure anything needs fixing,” Bessie
said, wishing desperately that someone else would arrive before the discussion
grew too heated.

“The scale of the problem is almost
overwhelming,” Christopher Hart said.
“I suppose you can’t see it because you’re not looking at the big

Bessie bit back the first reply that came to
her lips and was saved from finding a more polite one by the arrival of her
friend, Mary Quayle.

“It’s just about perfect,” Mary said
excitedly as she joined the group.

Bessie smiled.
If anyone could win a fight with Carolyn
Hart, it was Mary.
Mary was about
ten years older than Carolyn, but equally wealthy, although far less
ostentatious with it.
beautifully and expensively dressed, Mary rarely wore more
than her plain gold wedding band.
The biggest difference between the two women was that Mary was a hard
worker who volunteered quietly with many different
She loathed the spotlight that her
husband, George, embraced.

“I think it needs a few little changes,” a
voice said.

Bessie was surprised to see a stranger walk
in behind Mary.

“Natasha Harper, I should have known you’d
be here somewhere, trying to steal another commission,” Christopher Hart
snarled at the new arrival.

The woman laughed.
“I think you’ll find that’s your tactic,
not mine,” she said.
“Anyway, I’m
very busy at the moment working for Mrs. Quayle.
I’m not looking for any other

Christopher shrugged and rolled his eyes.

“I hope it’s okay that I brought Natasha,”
Mary said anxiously.
“She’s working
with me on plans for
and I thought we could use her expertise.”
Mary and George were in the process of
, a large mansion a short distance away from Bessie’s
beachfront cottage.

“As long as everyone understands that this
is Christo’s job, not hers,” Carolyn said tartly.

“Oh, my goodness,” Natasha said, laughing
“This is the last sort of
job I’d be interested in.
I do home
redecorating; I don’t tart up old castles.”

“I’m Elizabeth
Bessie said to break up the awkward silence that followed Natasha’s words.
“Everyone calls me Bessie, though.”

“Nice to meet you, Bessie,” Natasha said,
offering a hand.
“I’m Natasha

Bessie studied the woman as she shook her
She looked no more than
thirty, with obviously dyed blonde hair piled in a messy bun on the top of her
She was almost shockingly
thin and pale, but her expensive black dress fit her perfectly.
In her black stilettos she was nearly a
foot taller than Bessie.

“I’m sorry, I should have introduced everyone,”
Mary said, blushing.

“I’m late,” Marjorie
said from the doorway.

Bessie turned to greet the pretty,
thirty-something blonde.

,” she said.

,” Marjorie replied.


,” Bessie answered.
She glanced around and laughed as she
everyone else was staring at them blankly.

“I teach a beginning Manx language class,”
Marjorie told the others.
is one of my

“Even though I’ve taken the beginning class
three times and still can’t say much more than what we’ve just said?” Bessie

“I just love that you keep trying,” Marjorie
told her.
“We’ll be starting again
in the new year.”

“Maybe the fourth time around it will start
to make sense,” Bessie said with a sigh.

“I think I might give it a try,” Mary
“I’d like to learn a little
bit of Manx now that I’m sure we’re settled here.”

“You’ll be more than welcome,” Marjorie told

“Charming,” Christopher Hart said

“I hope everyone is hungry,” Mark said from
the opposite side of the room.

“Starving,” Mary said.

Bessie murmured her agreement and the small
group made their way to the table in one corner of the room.

“It’s a special treat, having lunch in
here,” Bessie remarked as they all found seats.
“Manx National Heritage doesn’t
encourage people to eat in the castle.”

Mark laughed.
“As we’re all here working hard, it just
seemed easier to have something sent in, rather than going out somewhere.
Besides, the same people who are catering
for the grand opening on Friday are providing today’s lunch.
This gives them a chance to try out the
kitchen facilities we’re able to provide.”

“They aren’t using the medieval kitchens,
are they?” Bessie asked.

“Actually, they are going to be making a few
things in there on Friday evening,” Mark told her.
“More for effect than anything else,
They’re using the kitchens that
were added when the castle was a prison to prepare most of the food on Friday.
That’s where they prepared today’s

A moment later a pair of waiters appeared,
bearing trays.
While they delivered
bowls of steaming soup, the group was silent.
Mark opened a bottle of wine and served
that himself.

“I shouldn’t,” Marjorie told him.
“I’m driving.
I’m quite happy with the water that was
already here.”

Bessie noted that Christopher was served a
bowl of plain
presumably the only thing the
kitchen could provide that met his demands.

“This is delicious,” she said as she
her leek and potato soup.

Warm and crusty bread rolls were passed
around, and Bessie found herself spreading on the butter a bit more thickly
than she normally might as she watched Christopher scowling at his broth.

The main course was lightly grilled chicken
with rice and grilled vegetables, and Bessie thoroughly enjoyed it.
Christopher was served his rice and
vegetables with a piece of fish, but he simply nibbled on a few pieces of
carrot and sent the rest back untouched.
Pudding was a gorgeous Victoria sponge and Bessie was too busy enjoying
it to care what Christopher thought of his bowl of red jelly.
Once the plates had all been cleared
away, Mark sat back and smiled at the group.

“I suppose we must get down to business,” he
“ The first ever ‘Christmas
at the Castle’ opens on Friday, and really we’re just putting the final touches
on things now.”

“No, you aren’t,” Christopher objected.
“Most of the rooms are simply
They’re all obviously very
amateur and there will need to be a lot of changes made in a hurry if you’re
going to open on time.”

“I think the rooms are fine just the way
they are,” Bessie disagreed.
charitable groups were told they could do whatever they liked with their spaces
and I think they’ve all been very clever indeed.”

Christopher sighed.
“I thought you were going to be auctioning
off the contents of each room,” he said.
“No one will want to buy them if they see them displayed as they
The rooms are all just thrown
With my vision, we’ll be
able to transform each room into a perfect little Christmas wonderland.”

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