Included in this humorous Chanukah-themed homage to Dame Agatha Christie are these four short mystery stories: The Latke in the Library, Evil Under the Wick, And Then There Were Gornisht, and The Olive Cracked.
Release date: December 10, 2015
Print pages: 147
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The Latke in the Library & Other Mystery Stories for Chanukah
“HERE WE ARE, MRS. KRINSKY. You’ve got one of the nicest rooms. It looks out onto the garden. We’re very proud of our garden. I’m sure you’ll grow very fond of our garden, too. Most of our guests do. This is your sitting room, and we do hope you’ll be very comfortable. In that corner is your cozy kitchenette, for when you want to make yourself a nice cup of tea. Through that door is your bedroom. ...”
The cheerful voice rattled on. Agatha Krinsky allowed herself a small shudder. For too many weeks she had been forced to listen to the relentlessly cheery voices of nurses and aides and physical therapists. It wasn’t natural for everyone in one’s immediate circle to be so upbeat all the time.
“Thank you, Sandra. It all looks wonderful. Doesn’t it look wonderful, Aunt Agatha?”
That was Agatha’s nephew talking. Dear Sheldon. He and his wife Jean and their two children were her only living relations. It was very likely most tiresome for Sheldon to be in charge of her medical care after her fall—and now this. But did people realize how disconcerting it was to be in a wheelchair and to forever hear people talking behind your back? Not figuratively. Literally. Sandra Carstairs, the “welcoming committee” at Barnet Court, and Sheldon were standing behind Agatha’s wheelchair, which was being wheeled by “person or persons unknown.”
“Most appropriate it should end this way,” Agatha said softly.
“What was that?” asked Sheldon, sticking his head round. “Did you say something, Aunt Agatha?”
Agatha turned her head—her neck still felt a bit stiff—and looked at Sheldon. She wished he didn’t look so old. In her mind, he was still a young man with long brown hair and a reputation on the London stage as an infant terrible. Now he looked like a middle-aged stockbroker. Of course, he still wrote plays. Vile plays, in her opinion. But he was treated with respect in the press, the way the critics do when you’ve outlived their predecessor.
She knew all about that. When she began writing her mystery novels, the critics ripped them apart, mercilessly. “Who cares who murdered Arnold Aaronson?” one of them had had the audacity to write. Today his name was forgotten, while her books still sold hundreds of thousands of copies every year. And, yes, apparently people did still care about who murdered poor old Arnold Aaronson, because that book alone brought her quite a tidy sum.
Sheldon was still looking at her in that concerned way the young, or youngish, assume around the very old. She forced a smile onto her lips. “I think I shall be very comfortable here, Sheldon. Thank you.”
The features on her nephew’s face relaxed.
“There are just a few more papers to sign, Mrs. Krinsky,” said Sandra, who had come round to the front of the wheelchair. Sandra looked very young to Agatha, very young and very slim and very blond. It was the way airline stewardesses used to look, before the employment laws were changed.
“But there’s no rush,” Sandra continued to chirp. “Perhaps you’d like to have your lunch first.”
“Yes, I would prefer that.”
“I’m in my office until 4 o’clock. Come by anytime until then. The dining room is on the first floor. When you leave the elevator, turn left. You can’t miss it. Of course, today your aide, Karen, will take you to lunch and introduce you to the other residents seated at your table. It’s a very lively group. I think you will enjoy them. Just press the bell when you’re ready to go down. Oh, and we’ll be having a little Chanukah menorah lighting ceremony in the lobby at tea time, for our Jewish guests.”
Sandra left the room, leaving behind her a blessed silence. Agatha took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
“It is all right, isn’t it, Aunt Agatha?” asked Sheldon. “Jean and I looked at several places, and we felt this was the one most like a home. On a sunny day, your sitting room gets quite a lot of sunlight. And the closet in the bedroom is surprisingly large. Jean brought over the things she thought you’d like and put them away. But if there is anything missing ...”
“Other than my own home? My old life? Let’s leave the playacting for the stage, Sheldon. You and Jean have been magnificent. You’ve done everything you could. But it’s going to take me time to adjust to being an old lady in a nursing home.”
Sheldon sat down in an armchair, an armchair taken from Agatha’s old home. It almost seemed like old times. “You’re not an old lady, Aunt Agatha. It just wasn’t safe for you to live in your house
alone any longer.”
“Because of one fall?”
“Five falls, each one worse than the one before. First, you broke your collarbone. Then you broke your arm.”
“I know. I know.”
“This time you broke your leg and hit your head and got concussion. You were lying on the ground for hours, unable to move, unable to telephone.”
Agatha squirmed in her wheelchair. She found herself longing for the days when one could simply walk out of the room, when the conversation turned unpleasant, with one’s head held high. Even if she were able to wheel round her wheelchair in one deft move, where would she go after she left her room? The nurses’ station?
“We couldn’t let this situation continue,” Sheldon continued. “And you agreed to come here. At least that was my impression.”
“Yes, I did agree. You must forgive me. It’s just harder than I expected. But I shall be fine, once I’ve adjusted. And once I go back to work.”
“You have an idea for a new mystery?”
There was an awkward silence. Sheldon glanced at his watch. “I’m sorry but I’ve got to get back to the theatre. I never dreamed the move from rehab would take so long.”
“Neither did I.”
“Shall I take you down to the dining room?”
Agatha shook her head. “I’d like a few minutes alone in my new home.”
Sheldon walked over to the wall near the kitchenette. “Here’s the button for the bell, for when you need one of the staff. You’re sure you will be all right alone? I can call Jean and ask her to come over.”
“There’s no need to worry, Sheldon,” said Agatha. She knew as well as Sheldon that Jean was a busy lawyer, and so it was hard for her to get away on the spur of the moment. “I’m now in good hands.”
“I’ll phone you later. And don’t forget about those papers. They have to do with insurance matters. Jean looked them over and they are quite all right.”
Sheldon gave his aunt a kiss on the cheek and left.
Agatha took another deep breath and exhaled slowly. Then she slowly looked around the sitting room. It was a strange sensation. The room was furnished with her own furniture. Her paintings were hanging on the walls, and some framed photographs were placed on top of a chest of drawers. But everything was in a jumble. The armchair from the library was placed next to the end table from the sitting room. The painting that had hung at the top of the stairs was now hanging over the computer table. The wedding photo of her and her late husband, Stuart, had always sat on the mantelpiece. And there was so much that was missing. But she knew she mustn’t start thinking about that. If she had made the move when she was well, she could have chosen what to take
and what to part with. But she hadn’t, and Sheldon and Jean had done the best they could, under the circumstances.
And, really, the room wasn’t so bad. ...
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