I entered Plum Tree Cottage, not to the sound of Puccini, but to the sound of laughter — male laughter. I darted towards the kitchen. Which unsuspecting man had Finolla sunk her claws in today? I almost put my ear to the door, but to quote Finolla, “one should never listen at doors, especially if there’s a chance one’s going to get caught.”
Instead, I inched open the door and found Finolla in Adam’s arms and, if I wasn’t mistaken, they were doing the tango. I’ll be honest, I was speechless. Not so Finolla.
“Josie, darling, you’re back and just in time.”
“Just in time for what?” I could hear the petulance creep into my voice and, gosh darn it, I couldn’t do a blessed thing to stop it.
“To be my partner. Adam here is hopeless. Here, let’s show him how it’s done. I’ll lead, shall I?”
Before I had a chance to protest, Finolla pressed a switch on the CD player and Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango blasted across the toaster. Next thing I knew, Finolla had me in a vise grip, arms locked, toes pointed and was leading me across the floor towards the dustbin. Our faces were cheek to cheek and I took advantage of this.
“What the heck do you think you’re doing?”
“Oh darling, don’t tell me all those dance lessons were wasted?”
I heard a snigger. I was going to slap Adam Ward when I got out of this.
“Argentinian tango, darling. That summer in Buenos Aires with Tomás. Bueno!”
“It was Joaquín,” I corrected, instinctively kicking my leg backward from the knee. “And I got hives from my polyester hot pants.”
Finolla dipped me and I hung on for dear life. “I’d forgotten that part. All that calamine lotion. The Pink Panther had nothing on you.”
“Yeah, it was hysterical,” I hissed.
Finolla broke away, letting me tumble to the floor. “Oh, Josie, was it really that bad? Remember the empanadas, the chimichurri, the Malbec?”
“Mum, I was thirteen.” Although, as a matter of fact, I did recall the Malbec — it had been superb.
Eunice followed my gaze. “Meat fuel’s the blood,” she added, grasping a deadly-looking carving knife from the table and spinning it like a majorette in a baton twirling competition.
“So, Ms Perkins—”
“Perkins was my maiden name,” said Eunice, with a scowl. “Maiden! So antiquated, so patriarchal, do you not think?”
We all stood around and thought about this for a second.
“I go by the goodly name of Mountjoy,” Eunice continued.
“Is your husband with you?” I asked, interested to see what type of husband Eunice had managed to snag. Warlock? Wizard? Public accountant?
“He is betwixt this world.” A smile coursed Eunice’s lips. “I poisoned him!”
“Oh, don’t be silly, Eunice,” said Mabel Jane, rescuing the knife and returning it to the table. “He got gastroenteritis eating snails in Marbella and died of complications.”