54 Recipe for Murder

The pool closing was not only a blow to regulars like Mrs. James. It was one less activity to occupy Greg’s daughters and on Tuesday, she phoned him. She customarily checked in with him on Mondays to talk about the past weekend, sharing any special moments or confirming upcoming plans or dates.

“Mrs. James, I’m wondering now that the pool’s not in service, could I donate a ping-pong table to the association? Everybody uses ours at work, not so much for exercise as for relaxation. Would there be room for one, do you think?”

“We’d have to think that through. Not sure I’d be the best one to teach Poppy and Pansy to play though I do know how.”

“Oh, I’d handle that.”

“We have a special meeting tomorrow night about the pool, and the bluff. If you come, you could offer it.”

*   *   *   *   *

Sitting in the lobby had yielded up a good many residents for Mrs. James to meet. Gertie however, she’d met one afternoon at the pool with the girls. Since that time, by common accord, Gertie found a more amenable time slot for laps, after supper when the danger from noisy, flailing, attention seeking children was past. Nonetheless, she remained on friendly terms with Mrs. James and even enjoyed the girls, when on dry land. Mrs. James had invited her to have tea, any late afternoon. On Tuesday afternoon, Gertie knocked gently and announced herself through the door.

“Gertie, come in, come in. You’re just in time.”

“I especially wanted to look in on you, today. Gervase told us as we came in last night that you’d discovered the man in the pool. Must have been a terrible shock. How are you?”

“Oh, I’ll be fine. Yesterday, I was a bit shaky. Would you like a weaker brew?” She poured out for Gertie and passed a plate of cookies. “I’ll wait until the tea is a little stronger, more bracing, as my mother used to say. Have you been interviewed?”

“With my dad, last night. They must have talked to a lot of people. Enough to identify the man but not enough to figure out what he was doing here.”

“Yes, Gervase gave me a morning update.”

“My Dad’s worried that this will be trouble for our association.”

“I’m terribly afraid he may be right. We’re calling a special meeting for tomorrow evening.”

In the condo fee, some associations provide dedicated recreation facilities, both indoor and outdoor.

In the condo fee, some associations provide dedicated recreation facilities, both indoor and outdoor.

“There’s a very good view of all that mud from our unit, if you’d like to see.”

“You needn’t have every resident in the building into your place. I’m sure it’s just as good from the solarium. But it’s very nice to know people are concerned. She poured very black tea into a milky cup. “Tea isn’t my only consolation.”

“Do you think it was murder, Mrs. James?”

“Murder? Hard to believe. Not to say that couldn’t be the case, mind you. Odds are more likely a case of accidental drowning. The difficulty for us will be if we bear any collective responsibility. Plus, it raises the question of our building security. I must say with Gervase at the helm, I never considered us vulnerable. Not that I blame him. He wasn’t even here when it happened.”

“I suppose the police will know when it did. Why do you think Mangold was here in the first place?”

“I’d have thought that of all people, anybody called Mangold would have stayed away. Perhaps all the detection will come up with something. In the meantime, I fear that our joint reputation will suffer and hurt re-sales.”

“That’s one of the reasons I came to see you. Dad and I were talking about an idea that might address this very problem. I know you have a committee working on a recipe collection. Perhaps you know that I have an interest in animals. My idea is to combine the two. I’d help you on the committee and then offer to publish and distribute a cookbook beyond our own association. Proceeds from the sale will be donated to our organization of choice. What do you think?”

“Splendid idea. A morale booster here and a touch of public relations there. Have you done something like this, before?”

“My first venture into my family’s business. Dad assures me that the right connections are all there for the asking and that he’ll walk me through that part of it. You wouldn’t have to take on any more work, other than putting up with me.”

“Anything to put a fire under our resident cooks.”

“These cookies are tasty. Are they going in the book? Let’s make our first executive decision and not title it ‘Recipe for Murder’.”

“Not this cookie, and I agree. I wonder if we could generate more interest in the project based on the pets that live here. The girls asked me once if we had a list of them.”

“Do we?”

“Doesn’t exist. I’m sure I could manage to find out. After all, pets are allowed so there would be no reason to hide that information.”

“As well as some residents keep hiding their recipes from you?”

“Or their secrets from the police?” Gertie blushed at this remark. “Does your Dad think this might help restore a sense of community? I was concerned even before yesterday, what with the business next door, and the Cabots, and now with this new death, and the bluff collapse…who knows what people will think.”

“His goal, he says, is to inspire others to do something for somebody else, not necessarily to prove that we are not all murderers.”

“Of course, you are perfectly right. Mr. James always warned me about looking too much on the dark side of things. Your idea might be just the spark we need. We’ll want an updated committee, though.”

“Who’s on it?”

“It’s not what you could describe as an active group. Mrs. Pardoe, because she likes to entertain, the Benjamins, but they’re so busy with their restaurant, Mr. Arbuthnot, before he became president, and Mrs. Cabot was, God bless her, and Peter – I don’t know his surname – Hans’ friend.”

“Small wonder you are stalled out! Let’s find some new faces. In spite of how hard it usually is to recruit volunteers, my Dad says people like to be in on a success story and that’s what we aim to be. Once we get the recipes collected, we can assign specific tasks to make it easier to attract help. Plus, we’ll be responsible, not them, for the end product.”

“Have you thought of ways to inspire more people to contribute?”

“One way, maybe. Let’s ask them to give a memory about a pet. Most everyone’s had a pet, or a friend or relative with a pet, at the very least. The memory won’t have anything to do with the recipe they contribute, but it will make us seem more like animal lovers and less like murderous monsters, wouldn’t you agree?”