Bagels for Tea [A Fannie Zindel Mystery]
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by Serita Stevens, Rayanne Moore
Description: Almost any sixtyish widow and grandmother would want to rest and recuperate after solving an international case of murder and intrigue (Red Sea, Dead Sea), but not Fanny Zindel. Shortly after her safe return home, she's off to Yorkshire, England, as the B'nai Brith representative to the Clifford's Tower Memorial service. The trip to York provides the perfect opportunity to visit her beloved granddaughter, horse-crazy Susan, who is attending the nearby Taddington Agricultural Boarding School. Of course, mayhem follows Fanny wherever she goes, and before she has even checked into her hotel, she has broken up a domestic squabble and found a new friend also attending the conference. The visit is going wonderfully until Mary Louise Malbys, a malicious classmate, engineers Susan's expulsion from school. Matters go from bad to worse when Mary Louise is murdered and Susan is the prime suspect. Mistrusting the efforts of the local police, Fanny launches into an investigation of her own with the reluctant assistance of Nathan Weiss, the semi-retired Mossad agent who had come from Israel, at Susan's urging, for a surprise visit with Fanny. Clearing Susan is not so easy, especially considering the sheer number of people with motive and opportunity for doing away with the nasty Mary Louise. Once again, though, Fanny's insight and determination put her on the right track to trapping the killer in a very sticky situation.
eBook Publisher: Hard Shell Word Factory, 2001
eBookwise Release Date: May 2004
14 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [331 KB]
Reading time: 221-309 min.
"Stevens and Moore have created a warm, funny and intelligent elderly grandmother-sleuth who is sheer delight! I would love to read more from these authors, who have preserved the art of the unpredictable mystery and yet have not lost the author-reader connection because there is so much of our daily lives and interactions described in a delicious manner!"--Viviane Crystal, The Write Lifestyle
I DARTED across the clay, frantic to get a racquet on that cross-court smash from Amanda Klarner. Ms. Smarty-Pants-Klarner couldn't possibly take the B'nai Brith Northside Senior's Tennis Championship from me after I'd held it for so many years! Suddenly, pounding across the clay surface, as heedless of the familiar twinges in my sixty-five-year-old joints now, as I had been swinging from that balcony in Israel this past summer, I felt myself stumble.
No, I thought. Not like this, not Fanny Zindel sprawled like an empty overcoat on the smooth clay while Ms. smarty-Pants-Klarner grinned and bowed to the crowd and accepted my trophy!
As I pitched forward, I batted at the ball with my last gasp. Unfortunately, I batted instead of trying to catch myself. I went down hard, bashing both knees and skidding on the heels of my hands, rolling onto my side as my new Donnay racquet went flying across the court in front of me. I had only one reaction. I looked for the ball.
It teetered on the top of the net. My side... her side... mine... I couldn't even breathe, not for a million, unless maybe, breathing would push that ball over a bit. Moving like my Morris, he should rest in peace, on his way to get his bridge worked on, the ball dropped, at last, into Amanda's forecourt. Down the face of the net like a man in a barrel down Niagara Falls, and just as impossible to retrieve.
I felt tears in my eyes. From the pain in my arthritic knees, I can tell you, they weren't. The months of hard practice had paid off. "Game. Set. Match!" came over the loudspeaker. Yes!
The silence of several hundred people, each holding his breath, was broken with cheers, hoots, whistles. And all for me, Fanny Zindel, winner of the tennis trophy six times in a row. The ball girls rushed to help me up, ask if I was all right, but I was in no hurry to find out what I had scraped besides the frame of my Donnay Pro One and both my knees and palms which already burned like an oven being koshered!
As my hands gripped the trophy bowl, it's silver cool against my scraps, the director of the country club which was hosting our tournament pushed through the crowd and tugged at my elbow.
"Fanny! There's an emergency call for you. It's long distance."
"Long distance?" I nearly lost my grip on my trophy. Nobody pays those charges in the middle of the afternoon unless it's bad news, I thought. I shoved my trophy into my friend, Sadie's, waiting hands and hurried into the main building.
"Hello," I said, shakily, retrieving the receiver from the director's desk.
"Fanny Zindel?" It was a man's voice. I didn't recognize it.
My first thought was something had happened to Nathan. After all we had been through together in Israel, I had hoped his future assignments for Mossad would be less dangerous.
"Yes," I said.
"This is Joseph Bacha, Karin's husband."
Relieved I was, then he told me about Karin's health. "Her gallbladder?" I said. "So, when's the surgery?"
"That's the problem," Joe answered. "It's scheduled for Thursday, when Karin is supposed to be on a plane to England for the Clifford's Tower Memorial Service, in York."
"Such a shame. I know she was looking forward to being the delegate."
"Yes," he said, suddenly sounding as awkward as if he were asking for my daughter's hand in marriage. "We need you to be the replacement delegate" He rushed on before I could turn him down. "We really have no one else, Fanny. I know it's short notice, but you are the vice-president, and you mentioned you would be going to England again."
"Joe, I just got back from there. A few months ago, only. My own house I hardly know anymore, the Hanukkah things hardly put away, the Passover cleaning to be done, and the cats--"
"Fanny. We're desperate. You can have Karin's ticket, first class, if only you'll set her mind at ease. I know it doesn't get you to New York, but you were going to come for the national board meeting next month. If you come now instead, you won't have to come a second time. I'll even see to it that B'nai Brith contributes something toward your hotel bill in England."
Well, I thought, a trip back to see Susan and the famous Clifford's Tower Memorial for practically free, I could hardly turn down. On my budget, another trip like that I couldn't have afforded for two years, at least.
"It wouldn't do for Karin to go into surgery with worry on her mind, Fanny."
That did it. Guilt. I should have her life in my hands? Still, I could hardly believe my ears as I heard myself accept his offer. "I would love to go for her, Joe, but I have to see if Sadie could watch Susan's cats while I'm there. I can't just leave them to nosh on poor Mrs. Krepalski's canary."
I had been taking care of the little bird since my dear neighbor had started with the Alzheimer's and forgot her dear dead husband, the fact that she was ever married, and breakfast lunch and dinner for herself as well as the canary. Last summer she'd still been at home, but now she was in a full-care place, the Jewish Home for the Aged. So her children couldn't help it they all worked and lived too far away to look in enough.
Me, I did what I could, but if she fell, who could pick her up? A woman my size -- a perfect ten just like when I used to model in Chicago -- get Mrs. Krepalski, who was no size ten, I can tell you, up off the floor? Never. I realized Joe was shouting for joy in my ear.
"Oh, Fanny! Thank you, I was counting on your help." He sounded less like Mr. Gloom and Doom now, even with his Karin practically on the gurney already. "When will you know for sure?"
"Hang on a minute, can you?" I set the phone on the glossy mahogany desk and went to the window. Through the Irish lace I could see Sadie still clutching my trophy and taking my bows as if she had dropped that shot into Amanda's forecourt herself. "Sadie!" I yelled, and leaning over the bright window boxes, waved my headband at her. "Come!"
As she trotted over, my trophy dangling from her hand, I shouted: "I need you to look after the animals, Sadie."
She looked curious, but she nodded and kept coming. "What's going on?" she shouted back.
I gestured for her to wait a moment and hurried back to the phone. "How long will I be gone, Joe?"
I ran to the window. "I need to be in York for about a week and a half."
She was so shocked she missed her step and almost tumbled into the hydrangeas. "Something's happened to Susan?" she shrieked, and began running and asking HaShem's help before she even knew. From shouting it all out the window, I didn't have the strength or desire. Sadie, always thinking the worst, I thought, and shook my head as I turned back to the phone and told Joe I'd see him in New York late the following afternoon. While he went on thanking me some more, I looked around the director's office until he ran down. Such blessings as he was calling down on me I wouldn't want to interrupt, just in case God, HaShem, was listening for a change.
Like a palace it was. Paintings. Knick-knacks of glass and china in fancy-shmancy cases with glass doors and locks! On one side was a wet bar with a solid brass sink and bottles, as many as the clubhouse restaurant I would have bet my Susa-le's favorite cat. And from cut crystal glasses? Enough to put a good chandelier to shame. Such a club we used for our tournament. Such a club some of our members belonged to! Me, I couldn't afford to have a glass of tea in their patio. So impressed I was, I almost missed Joe saying he had made a reservation for me to New York.
"Yes, I'll be sure to call and confirm the flight. Thank you for thinking ahead." I wondered if he had been so sure of my help, or if he had made a reservation because he knew he would find someone to take Karin's place no matter what.
I hardly had the phone back in its cradle when Sadie burst into the room. "So, what kind of trouble is Susan in this time?" Worried as she was she looked around at the office with her mouth hanging open like a door on a refrigerator when my son Marvin is around. A composer, sitting all the time at the piano and stuffing his face, he should be five-hundred pounds. Feh! Like a rail that one. Maybe that was the trouble with his marriage. His wife, Sharon, would have had to be in the kitchen twenty-four hours a day just to fix him noshes.
I gave Sadie my offended look, like Alfred Hitchcock announcing a commercial. My granddaughter may have left her boarding school for a summer holiday my Larry, her father, hadn't exactly approved, but she was a good girl and Sadie had no call to think the worst. Of course, later, I wished I had known an omen when it sank its teeth into my ankle.
"My Susa-le is not in any trouble!" I said, taking my trophy from her and buffing her fingerprints from the inscription with the hem of my tennis skirt. I should have recalled what a knack my granddaughter had, trouble was to Susa-le what dill was to a pickle.
As we walked back to the clubhouse where the celebration banquet was being held, I explained everything to Sadie. She was happy to watch the cats. Well, at least willing, she said, trying to look a little put upon. An actress Sadie wasn't. Didn't Charlie Dickens, Susan's favorite Himalayan, jump into her lap every time she sat down in my house? Of course. And that one knew who liked him. The same with the rest.
The banquet hall was almost full and we had to weave our way to our seats at the head table.
I looked around the Viewridge Country Club. Fancy-shmancy like the office, and everything done up like an old English estate. Soon, I would be seeing the real thing. And Susan. I felt my kishkes, insides, flop over with excitement. Travel my life had not been exactly filled with. Of, my Morris would take me to the Catskills every year or occasionally to one resort or another around the country, but outside the U.S. of A.? Not until last summer when I finally got my wish to see the Holy Land. Now, here I was, off again.
Shpilkes I had through the luncheon, so I couldn't sit still. I could hardly wait to get home, call my granddaughter, and pack. Winter clothes I would need; March in England is no place for tennis shorts and a tank top. But I would take my playing things. You never know when you might get invited to a match, and wasn't England the home of Wimbledon? At last the endless luncheon was over and I hurried Sadie through the crowd of well-wishers.
I had hardly set my trophy in its place of honor on my mantel when the phone rang.
Oh, good. It was my daughter-in-law, her Royal Kvetchness. She thought maybe the cats answered the phone? Putting on my sweet mother-in-law voice, I answered, "Yes, Judy." She hates that name.
"You still keep a kosher kitchen, don't you, Mother Zindel?"
She should ask? A little less observant I might be now, because of my arthritis and since Morris was gone, but kosher I'd kept for sixty-five years, why would I change? "Yes, Judy, since before you were born," I said, trying to remain sweet, for Larry's sake. "Why?" As if I didn't know. Something there was she wanted I should make for her. God-forbid she should break her own nails.
"Well, Mother Zindel, I was thinking." That alone was an experience I'm sure she would find different, but she soon went on talking. "You know that noodle kugel you make so well..."
"You mean the same noodle kugel I made so well for your sisterhood last year, and the year before and the year before that? The one you told them you had slaved over for days?"
"I never exactly told them I made it, Mother Zindel. I merely said it was an old family recipe."
From my old family, I thought. In spite of all my years on the stage, I really had to fight to work some sympathy into my voice. "I'm sorry, Judith, I'm going back to England tomorrow. I'm afraid I won't have time to make you a kugel." I hung up.
The phone rang again almost immediately.
"England? You can't afford another trip on your own."
"I'm going as the B'nai Brith delegate to the Clifford's Tower Memorial. The president's sending me in her place. I have to hurry and pack Judith, goodbye."
I hung up again, and this time when she called back, I didn't answer.
Later, I would phone her husband, my Larry, at his law office and tell him. Maybe he would want to send something along for Susan. My granddaughter I would call when the rates changed.
I carried on with my packing. Tomorrow, I would be in New York. The day after in old York. It seemed only yesterday that I was taking my granddaughter back to her school from our Israel tour. Tour? From tours like that one I never want to know. Guns, spies, fraud, blackmail and kidnapping, never mind murder. The only good thing was Nathan. And him I wasn't so sure of right off, I can tell you.
While I packed, I made a few notes so I shouldn't forget anything in my rush. I wanted to be sure and call my cousin, Doris, when I got to England. A country estate, she had now, up near Easingwold, an hour north of Susan's school. Tourists came from everywhere to see her gardens and her Henry the Second gothic chapel. Besides, Doris was widowed now, although she and her husband, Bernard, had been touring when I was there last. My sympathies I should offer. Close we were, and just a card doesn't do.
When my son Larry and his wife, Judith, had first decided to send Susan to a boarding school near York, it was Doris who sent them a list of good girl's schools. Of course, I had complained about the location at first. But my rabbi had assured me that the legendary Rabbis's curse on York and the threat of Harem, Hell, for Jews who went there, were only superstitions. I folded another sweater into my suitcase. How things change.
It's almost funny now, remembering how happy I was to be traveling to Clifford's Tower, with Rabbi Schecter's assurance that despite rumors, everything was safe. Feh! Safe my rabbi didn't know. From now on, if I want safe I'll stay home and crochet, feed the cats, maybe play a little tennis.
Copyright © 2001 by Serita Stevens and Rayanne Moore