Cherringham - The Last Puzzle
Cherringham - The Last Puzzle
4. Questions at the Pig
"Lunch on me," Tony said.
Jack looked around at what had to be his favourite restaurant in Cherringham, or even the whole Cotswolds ... the wonderful Spotted Pig.
And for lunch - which Jack had never done - the place was packed. Co-owner Julie racing around, taking orders, and bringing them to her husband Sam whose passion for locally sourced, sustainable foods was only matched by his desire to absolutely knock diners' socks off with the taste.
Jack turned back to Tony. "No need to do that."
"None at all," Michael Edwards agreed.
But Tony insisted, and even ordered a lavish bottle of wine, again not a midday practice for Jack.
"That crowd of heirs ..." Sarah said, taking a sip of the pricey Châteauneuf-du-Pape, " That was absolutely mad, Tony."
"I know. If I ever get around to writing my memoirs, that scene will surely be one of the highlights."
Only Sarah's father seemed quiet. Sipping the wine, sitting there.
"Michael," Jack finally said. "You have ... some thoughts?"
Sarah's father had seemed to be staring off into the distance, but Jack's words brought him back.
"Um, well ... yes ," he winced as if whatever his thoughts were, they were bothering him.
"Do tell us, Michael, You were his good friend, after all ..." Tony said.
"Right, well, this puzzle thing. I know he loved the history of Cherringham ... and chess, of course. But this game ? It's ... I don't know ... bizarre . I mean, does he want any of them to actually win the inheritance?"
"He certainly isn't making it easy," Sarah said.
"Then there's-" Jack watched as Michael stopped himself, took another sip of deep red wine.
He lowered his voice.
"All that ... money? A fortune! I never knew."
"Nor did I," said Tony, "Not until I opened his 'Instructions to the Executor'."
Jack nodded at this.
Quentin Andrews was creating quite a stir from beyond the grave. And here Jack was, sitting with Michael - the one person who should have known him best - and who seemed in the dark about his friend.
"What did he tell you ... about his life?" Jack said.
"Well, over our gambits and scotches, not much, now I really come to think of it ..."
He looked at Sarah.
Did she realise that Jack was having his own thoughts?
That maybe there was something going on here, something intriguing ... mysterious ...
And for the first time he had this thought: with all that money ... who knows?
What would someone do ... could have done ... to get their hands on it?
When the main courses arrived, Sarah watched Jack as he took the measure of his steak and then moved in for the kill.
In a lot of ways he was hard to second guess - but she knew by now that a meal at the Pig meant only one thing for her American friend: a T-bone, rare, with Sam's special peppercorn sauce.
Sarah savoured every mouthful of her poached salmon - lunch out at a restaurant was a rare treat these days.
Years ago, back in London, it was a regular event - always another wealthy client to be treated, stroked, and spoiled. But the typical customers for her web agency in Cherringham were more likely to bring a sandwich from Costco's if Sarah ever suggested meeting over a bite to eat.
She watched her father put down his knife and fork, and pause.
"You know, one thing that really does surprise me ..." he said, breaking the silence, "... was the number of people at the funeral. I mean - who on earth were they?"
Tony topped up the wine glasses and Sarah saw him casually order a second bottle with a practised nod to Julie across the restaurant: "Believe it or not, Michael - they were Quentin's fans."
"Fans?" said Jack