Pour Some Gravy On: Hammersmith (twenty)
Pour Some Gravy On
Piggott came to sit, next to Hogben, settling into this chair with a luxuriant spread, and motioning to the waiter attending them.
“Give me a slab of that roast…pour some gravy on. Think I’ll have a bite after all.” He winked at Mossbunker.
The next half-hour went as forecast by these signs. Even Aimee, who was feeling the strain of her corset, nodded to a few more potatoes, a last roll. It was something to do. Piggott ruminated over his plate. Curach, filling their two glasses from a carafe, began a private chat with Vic.
“And so…the note she left said, I’ll be getting that you had in mind.” Curach cocked his head. He prompted further. “But she said also…”
“Also,” Vic began…but here shot Aimee a glance. His face looked to her somewhere between hangdog and caught-red-handed.
“Also.” He straightened in his chair, and under her eye, gave this patent role a better essay. “She wrote down, I will let the customer know we don’t give extras.”
“And she may well do.” Curach sighed. “Ah, but room enough, Mrs. Bard, to hear Vic describe it, for a young married couple to share the premises. June, now, may feel a filial obligation…”
“What! Is June thinking of marrying?”
“I doubt she can be.” Curach answered this too.
“If it helps you at all, Minnie’s mother was on the stage.”
“Born Leybourne,” Hogben put in.
Since they were throwing hints at one another, it was fitting Mossbunker should—showing a sudden keenness—wake to their table-talk, and take charge.
“Indeed, these foreigners like to make a channel, for all their relatives to float in upon. Yes, I am never surprised to hear of a houseful of jabbering…Leybournes, we will say.” Mossbunker expressed a second laugh. He took up the envelope, and what he drew from this was a clutch of images printed on card stock. “Hogben, have a good look at these. Comment, if you choose. Then I will put a question to you.”
With every evidence of a desire to bolt—another inch of clearance added between himself and the table, two quick glances in succession darted at the door, a third seeming to take the waiter’s measure—Hogben accepted the photos from Mossbunker.
He murmured, perusing, “That’s the professor.”
“You don’t deny it.”
“Looks like the professor. Looks a lot like him.”
“My agents,” Mossbunker said, “are professional men. Will you look more closely…not at the man you have identified, but…I believe there is a chalked up schedule on the wall behind. What would be, were I to demand you name the fellow, your answer, sir?”
“Le Fontainebleau…” Hogben stopped, having pronounced this, and said, “Well.”
“Your partner was born near a city of that name, yes. Mr. Hogben, the schedule.”
Hogben looked. A second or two passed, while the strain in his eyes grew. Then:
“Holy Moly! That says April eleventh!”
Vic stood, reached across the table, snatched the picture, and said, by way of excuse, “Gimme that!”
“You’re not accusing Monty of…of being party to…”
Wrongdoing, Aimee supposed. Of course, he was. Why, though, did Mossbunker care to machinate over a petty swindle, one aborted in any case?
And Monty, for having fallen into a stupor, astonishment frozen in his eyes, convinced her. She’d have bet her remaining silver dollar he was not in cahoots with whatever his late…erstwhile…partner had done.
“Madam, perhaps you were not listening, when I said to Mr. Hogben he might elucidate as he chose.”
“Must have been down under water, holding his breath,” he elucidated, dazed.
“Hold it!” Vic said.
“You’re thinking, Mr. Mossbunker, there was money involved. Let me tell you, we never earned so much we couldn’t spend it, getting to the next stop. I mean to say.”
He said nothing more. Via an elbow applied to the ribs, Aimee’s persistent counsel had been, shut up, you’re walking into a trap.
“Cranston.” She dared it. “You say you have a question?”
“Aimee, that’s Shaw. Don’t tell me it isn’t.”
She glanced at Vic, noted in the photo he slammed beside her plate, the damning schedule, noted the man whose hand was on the sleeve of another she’d never seen—and who looked to have been drawing him into place, so that the hidden camera might add that detail to the composition—did have Shaw’s face.
“Dang! I wouldn’t have pegged him. What is he, Mossbunker? A sort of detective?”
Silence fell heavy at this juncture of their fuss subsiding, and Mossbunker having had two things demanded of him, the table became aware…
Of his regarding them with Jove’s thunderbolt in his eyes.
“The question. Hogben, are you with us, or are you against us?”
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)