Authors: Melanie Jackson
Tags: #mystery, #washington, #beer, #saint patrics day, #shamrock, #cozy mystery, #hope falls, #chloe boston
Version 1.0 – March, 2012
Published by Brian Jackson at Smashwords
Copyright © 2012 by Melanie Jackson
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I love Saint Patrick’s Day, but not enough to dye my hair green. Even though it was an extra-special celebration we were having this year. Hope Falls had partnered with a sister city in Ireland. Derrydown, and the Irish mayor had come to our town for a cultural exchange and to join us in our Saint Patrick’s Day festivities.
I was a little unclear about how our cultures differed this time of year. The citizens of Hope Falls were guzzling Guinness and eating soda bread while wearing their Celtic jewelry and singing Irish songs in the rain. Perhaps it was the corned beef that set us apart. They don’t actually eat corned beef on Saint Patrick’s Day in Ireland. Mayor Seamus Gilhoolie had told me so.
Though I’d drawn the line at dying my hair, others had not. My father had resisted the temptation, being afraid that his fellow mayor would think he was mocking the man’s country if he showed up in emerald locks, but a lot of city officials had not shown such good taste. That included some of Hope Falls finest. And the not so fine, like Dale Gordon. His wife, Cousin Althea, had made him do it. She is sometimes mean in a domineering way. I thought it made him look even more like a fool than usual.
Today, the morning of Saint Patrick’s Day, we were gathered together at the falls to witness a unique display. While other cities might dye their rivers green in celebration of this day, we in Hope Falls were about to dye our waterfall. That’s right, Keith Regan and several others from the public works department were up river in a flotilla boats loaded with gallons of river-friendly biodegradable green dye just waiting for the signal to start pouring the festive coloring into the river. Within minutes, the dye would diffuse throughout the river and be carried over the falls producing a Saint Patty’s Day display like no other. The town officials, Mayor Gilhoolie, the town’s folk, and several news crews had gathered at the falls to memorialize the event. As the daughter of our current sitting mayor, I had been given the honor of joining the dignitaries on the grandstand setup on shore— our grandstand being two bleachers brought over from the local high school.
“Mayer Gilhoolie,” I commented, “I heard that you got into town yesterday. How have you enjoyed your stay in Hope Falls so far?”
“I had a terrible case of the red-coats’ revenge yesterday. It kept me in my motel room all day,” he replied. “I must have made the mistake of drinking the tap water.”
Oh. Red-coats’ revenge. I’d never heard it put that way before.
“Surely it couldn’t have been our water that caused your difficulties,” the head of our sanitation department retorted before I could speak. His hair happened to be green. “Hope Falls’ water is some of the sweetest in the world.”
“Have it your own way,” the mayor conceded without conceding anything.
A wave of excitement passed through the crowd as news spread that the dye had been released. I felt foolish getting excited by such a childish display but had to admit that I was sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation of the sight. What can I say? I’m a cheap thrill-seeker.
“Is that green I’m beginning to see?” someone asked.
“No, it’s too early yet,” my father replied. “It will still take several minutes for the dye to make it to the falls.”
The dignitaries slipped back into silence, watching the river for some change. I spotted Gordon patrolling the crowd. The people he passed giggled behind his back at his green hair. What a buffoon.
Though my first attempt had been less than successful, I still felt the need to draw the Irish mayor into some form of conversation.
“Are you looking forward to the Saint Patrick’s Day party tonight, Mayor Gilhoolie?”
“I’m looking forward to the Guinness,” he replied. “I can’t say I’m fond of corned beef though. The cabbage makes me windy.”
The man was obsessed with his bowels.
“You don’t have to eat the corned beef,” I explained. “The restaurant we’ll be dining at serves some of the finest cuisine in the state. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.”
“Aye. I’ll enjoy not spending the night in the loo, that’s what I’ll enjoy.”
I was beginning to understand why the dignitaries were so quiet and sullen. The mayor from Ireland was a bitter old man. No wonder no one wanted to speak with him. I for one gave up trying. My father looked to me and winked indicating that he’d had no better luck during his time with the man. Instead of attempting to engage the mayor, I watched the falls and waited in silence.
I grew excited when the shade of the falls first started to change. Several people stood and pointed. I stood with them. The crowd started to cheer. Then, all at once, things went horribly wrong as the falls turned a vivid crimson.
“Why is it red?” I heard someone ask.
“Maybe a whale has been slaughtered up river,” someone else suggested.
“Don’t be an idiot, how could a whale swim up the falls? It must be the salmon!”
But the crimson waters did look like they were saturated with blood. As the falls foamed pink at their base, the dye spread out and began to turn the river red.
“Good Lord, Mary, and Joseph,” Mayor Gilhoolie exclaimed, probably remembering his Bible lessons. “Sure now but that is a terrible sight.”
I looked to my father who was already on his cell phone.
“Get me Keith Regan on the line immediately,” my father ordered.
I watched anxiously as my father waited to be connected.
“Hello, Regan. This is the chief,” my father finally said. “No, not that chief, the other one. This is Mayor Boston is what I meant to say. What the hell are you doing up there?”
There was a brief pause as my father listened.
“Of course the dye wasn’t supposed to be red. We’re celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day not the anniversary of the Valentine’s Day massacre. Stop dumping the dye now!”
There was another pause.
“What do you mean you’ve already dumped it all? Good God,” my father said, looking to the increasingly crimson river as he terminated the call.
I glanced around the stands and saw that the crowd was already beginning to disperse. Amongst them there were grumbles of dissatisfaction. Many of the children were crying as their parents tried in vain to explain that no whales had died. Gordon was trying to maintain order; but let’s face facts, it’s hard to take orders from a man with green hair. Meanwhile, the news crews were having a field day. Several reporters were rushing the stands in the hope of getting a few words from my father.
“Chloe, would you do me a huge favor and get Mayor Gilhoolie out of here?” Dad asked. “He isn’t…um… press-friendly.”
“Sure, Pop,” I replied. “Mayor, would you mind accompanying me back to your motel?”
“Anything would be better than staying here,” he replied. “If I’d wanted more damp weather, I could have stayed home.”
We slipped from the stands unmolested. I led the way to my car parked out on the street.
“I’m sorry you had to see that,” I told the mayor.
“Terrible, just terrible,” he muttered under his breath.
Personally, I didn’t see what was so terrible about the display. The red color was cheerful. Bright even.
Actually, on second thought, I guess I did. The river I grew up on was now looking like it was running thick with blood. The mayor had it right. It was almost as if a biblical plague had been cast down upon the town. For a brief moment, I was fully prepared to be overrun by locusts or for it to start raining frogs.
I let Mayor Gilhoolie into the passenger seat of my car and climbed in behind the wheel. As I started the engine, the mayor laid a hand on my arm to stop me.
“What do you say we stop off for a drink before going to my motel?” he suggested.
I saw no harm in his suggestion. We had some time to kill. Besides, our local German restaurant, Harry’s Hofbrau, had decked itself out for Saint Patty’s and I kind of wanted to show it off. They were even serving green beer which was sure to impress. So, on Main Street, we pulled into Harry’s lot and went inside for an authentic German-American Irish celebration.
“Chloe, you came!” Harry said with arms extended wide the moment we entered his restaurant.
While Harry hugged me, Mayor Gilhoolie eyed him suspiciously, looking fully prepared to defend himself if hugs were to be administered to all customers. Instead of a hug, Harry turned to my diminutive guest and extended his huge beefy right hand.
“Harry Schmitt,” Harry declared. “Welcome to my Hofbrau.”
“Seamus Gilhoolie, mayor of Derrydown, Ireland.”
“No! Not the Irish mayor?”
“The very one,” I explained.
“Well, in that case, come in and let me serve you a pint of Guinness.”
“That’s more to my liking than hugs and handshakes,” Gilhoolie agreed.
Harry led us to a booth containing a large table made of pine. Garlands of metallic green shamrocks were strung from the sturdy wooden beams overhead. The traditional Bavarian oompa band muzak had been replaced with Irish jigs. Other than that, it was too early to have attracted any revelers, other than the usual barflies who always hung out at the place and a small group of young men gathered in one corner of the restaurant. Harry returned with two steins filled with foaming Guinness. This actually brought a refreshingly attractive smile to the mayor’s face. What happened next squashed that smile like a bug.
“And for the mayor, a special celebration treat,” Harry said, setting a green plastic bowler hat down on the top the mayors head. “Phew. I was worried that it would be too small since they were out of the adult sizes.”
The mayor’s eyes shot up trying to see his gift. The frown that accompanied the glance showed that he had probably guessed. To his credit, Gilhoolie didn’t immediately cast the garish chapeaux aside. Instead, he waited for Harry to leave before delicately removing the offending headwear and placing it gently on the table.
“Sorry about that,” I apologized softly. “I guess we’re all just a little excited to have an Irish dignitary in town.”
“Quite alright,” the mayor replied, greedily eyeing his Guinness.
But Harry wasn’t done offending. Before we could sip of our beers, Harry arrived with two steaming plates of corned beef and cabbage which he set before us.
,” he said, bowing and backing away from the table.
Again Gilhoolie frowned. Lifting the knife from the plate, he poked at the plate of meat before pushing it away.
“Look at the fat on that thing. I don’t know how people can eat it. Give me a steaming cup of clam chowder any old day of the week.”
“Do you eat much clam chowder in Ireland?” I questioned.
“No, of course not,” the mayor replied, somewhat rattled by my question. “But I enjoy it all the same.”
Finally we came to the matter of the Guinness. I’ve never been much of a drinker. This particular beverage I viewed as the equivalent of stagnant pond water. So I lifted my glass and sipped sparingly before smiling and placing the glass back on the table. Gilhoolie eyed his drink ravenously like a cat that just spied a mouse. When he raised his glass, it wasn’t to take a delicate sip. Oh no, he threw his head back and quaffed the entire stein in one go. I watched his Adam’s apple bob up and down as he swallowed. Some of the beverage ran down his jowls as a result of pouring the stuff faster than his mouth could accommodate it. His glass hit the table with a bang, he exhaled a mighty sigh of satisfaction, and he wiped the sleeve of his well-worn coat across his slightly green lips. I wondered if Harry was using plain old food coloring in the beer.
“Now that’s what I call a Saint Patrick’s Day tradition,” he declared with a mighty belch. “What about you, lassie? Why don’t you be downing yours so we can order another round?”
“I’m sorry to have to say it, but I’m not much of a drinker,” I admitted. “And I need to drive. Perhaps you’d help me?”
There was no need to make the offer a second time. The mayor reached across the table, grabbed my glass, and downed it as he had the first. This time it felt as if his concluding belch actually blew my hair back from my face. The smell was atrocious.
“Barkeep, another round,” Gilhoolie called. “And would you be so good as to take these plates away.”
Harry was fast to satisfy the mayor’s order since there were few in the place to serve. But before I had the pleasure of watching my guest demolish two more steins of Guinness, I saw his eyes light up at something he spotted across the room.
“There’s a dart board hung on that wall over there,” he said, standing as if mesmerized by the sight.
Gilhoolie carried his beers in a trance to the corner of the restaurant containing the dart board. The group of young men I’d seen when we’d entered was already playing. This didn’t stop the mayor from inserting himself into the middle of the action.
“Care to play a game against someone with talent?” Gilhoolie challenged.
“Yeah right, old man,” one of the young men responded. “I wouldn’t feel right taking your money.”
I recognized the young man as Pete Sands, a jock in high school who now oversaw construction work. Pete was always known for having a keen eye and a winning record at all sports. I’d seen Pete playing darts here at the Hofbrau before, so I knew he was experienced at the game. I didn’t hold out much hope for the mayor’s chances against him, but Gilhoolie accepted the challenge without wavering.
“Care to put some money where your mouth is?” he asked.
“How much did you have in mind?” Pete replied.
“What do you say we begin with a twenty?”
To my surprise, Gilhoolie was the first to hit double twenty and begin scoring. By the time he’d finished the two drinks he’d brought to the game, his and mine, he’d scored three hundred and the game was over. I applauded politely while Pete Sands snarled.
“Beginner’s luck,” Gilhoolie explained slyly with a wink at me. “What do you say we give it another go?”
“Are you willing to up the stakes?” Pete asked.
“Name your price.”
“Double or nothing.”
The second game was over faster than the first. During the game, Gilhoolie ordered a glass of scotch to accompany his Guinness. Pete Sands joined him when Gilhoolie offered to cover his tab. By the end of the eighth game, a surprising number of drinks had been consumed and the mayor was becoming quite gregarious. I also noticed that his accent had diminished.
“Tough luck, lad,” Gilhoolie smiled as he accepted his winnings greedily.
“What do you say we increase the difficulty level this time?” Pete asked.
“Let’s toss the darts from back there,” Sands replied, pointing to the far side of the restaurant.
“You’re on! But first, let’s order another round.”
“What do you say we slow down with the drinking?” I suggested, belatedly thinking of my responsibilities.
My suggestion was ignored. Pete tried to keep up with Gilhoolie as the two men downed their drinks. They were both staggering by the time they headed to the far side of the restaurant from where they could barely see the dart board behind the last row of booths. I figured that anything within twenty feet to either side of the dart board was in danger and removed myself accordingly.
“This will be a challenge indeed,” Gilhoolie observed.
“Let’s play for one hundred.”
The first toss from Pete Sands missed the dart board entirely but did strike the smoke stack on the old stove and ricocheted further into the restaurant to embed itself into the red vinyl cushion of one of the booth seats.
“Is there anything you can do to stop this?” Harry asked.
By this time Harry and I had ducked behind the bar for protection. Pete’s next toss flew over our heads hitting a rum bottle with such force that it fell from the shelf and shattered.
“Let’s wait until they’re unarmed, and then take the darts away from them,” I suggested.
Harry nodded his head in agreement. Apparently neither of us wanted to leave the protection of the bar while the darts were still flying.
The remaining darts were thrown in all directions embedding themselves in the walls, seats, and floor of the restaurant. When all the ammunition was spent, Harry and I dashed out to collect the lethal weapons before the opposition could reload.
“Alright, that’s enough of that,” Harry demanded, approaching the two inebriates.
“What? You aren’t calling an end to our game, are you?”
“I certainly am,” Harry insisted.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” Pete added.
“Come with me, Mayor Gilhoolie,” I interrupted. “I’d better get you to your motel. I’m sure that people are wondering where you are.”
“Party pooper,” the mayor proclaimed, not sounding the slightest bit like an Irish mayor.
Taking hold of Gilhoolie’s arm, I guided him from the Hofbrau— much to Harry’s delight— and poured his seemingly liquid body into the passenger seat of my car.
“Hey, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you let me drive?” the mayor suggested as I started the engine.
Ignoring his suggestion, I began the short trip to his motel. The mayor had more to say along the way.
“Hey, I bet you a pound I can beat you at long distance darts.”
Odd, I thought, the Irish pound had long since been replaced by the Euro.
“Hey, why don’t we stop off for a drink on the way to my motel,” the mayor said before passing out.
Oh great, I thought. How was I going to explain this one to Dad?