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At the Tillicoultrie Inn

by Margaret Rumford

Table of Contents
Table of Contents
parts: 1, 2, 3


Dorrie was the first to reach the man’s side. Her first thoughts were: Could the crab be off? Surely the food wasn’t that bad.

By now his wife was hysterical, screaming, “Felipe!” over and over. For the second time in two days, Dorrie pressed her fingers to someone’s throat to find a pulse. This time there was none.

“I’m a doctor,” one of the guests said, moving beside her. He put his hand on her shoulder. “Let me look at him.” He was the father at the table for six. When he stood he led the distraught woman to one side, said, “I am afraid, my dear, your husband is dead.”

“No! No!” she shrieked. “He’s only forty-five. His doctor said he would last for years.” She began to sob.

Dorrie noticed Rhod and his partner heading towards her. “How can we help?” asked Rhod’s companion, his Caribbean accent partly overshadowed by Cockney.

“I don’t know,” she said, avoiding Rhod’s eyes. “Euan suggested giving everyone a stiff drink. Could you do that?”

“Sure.” Rhod took his friend’s arm. “Mel, let’s get these people into the bar. Come on, mate.” Before turning to go, he said to Dorrie, “We’ll talk later.”

While wondering if that was a threat, a shaken Dorrie announced to the guests, “Please come to the bar. We’ll bring you something to steady your nerves. I’m sure you need it. I’m so sorry your evening has been spoiled.”

She arrived at the bar just in time to see Rhod take down two bottles of Connor’s prized premium Scotch. Connor’s going to kill me, she thought. Later, it hit her. Mel? Was he the food critic, Melrose Jones? If so she was definitely dead meat.

When Euan re-appeared from the kitchen, she had never been more relieved to see anyone. As far as she was concerned, he could take charge.

“My mother just called from the hospital,” he whispered. “Astrid’s awake but in a lot of pain. But there’s no permanent trauma to the head or spine. She’s going to be okay, eventually.

“Thank God,” said Dorrie.

“Astrid asked how you were doing,” Euan continued. “Mum told her, brilliantly.”

“She did? How kind,” Dorrie sniffled.

Two hours later, after the police had carried the zippered plastic bag containing Mr. Molina’s body onto their boat, they led Mrs. Molina, still in a state of shock, to sit beside the officer in charge. Then they took off. Dorrie was grateful the police had agreed to let the doctor accompany the poor woman.

Later, when two motor launches arrived for the other guests, Euan and Dorrie walked down to the beach to see them all safely away. Before Rhod boarded, he took Dorrie aside.

“Hey, kiddo, I know you’ve a lot on your mind,” he said, “but have you been avoiding me?”

“A bit,” Dorrie admitted, studying her feet. “I’m sorry I destroyed your show.”

“Far from it! The whole thing’s gone viral!” He enveloped her in a hug. “Our ratings are over the top. The country is crazy about you.”

“You’re kidding.” He’d definitely been at the Scotch, she decided.

“Not bloody likely. My producer has been trying to locate you all week. What amazing luck, finding you in the wilds of Scotland.” He squeezed her tight. “I want you back on the set, sweetie, as my assistant, especially now I know you can cook. By the way, you did a great job dealing with everything tonight.”

“The girl’s magnificent,” Mel agreed. “Dorrie girl, we’re going to offer you a contract.”

Speechless, she imagined actually appearing week after week on television. Fate appeared on her side at last. This was the chance of a lifetime. Her path to Delectable Dining.

Dorrie, slowly coming back to earth, asked, “Are you Melrose Jones, the critic?” She held her breath, knowing his review could make or break the inn.

“No, I wish I was,” said Mel. “I’m Mel Jackson, Rhod’s agent and, as you’ve probably guessed, his partner.” He lowered his voice. “We hope you’ll keep that to yourself. Rhod gets a lot of mileage out of his over-the-top macho nonsense.”

“Not to worry,” Dorrie said. She glanced towards the boats and saw Euan watching her.

“We’re anxious to have you sign a contract,” Mel continued. “I’ll fax a preliminary one tomorrow. We’ll sort out the fine print later.”

The sudden revving of the launches’ engines created tension in Dorrie, a reminder of the stress and craziness at the television studio. Until that moment, she hadn’t realized how relaxed she was here. Here, despite the tension of preparing dinner for twenty, she had had control over what she was doing, despite Euan’s constant interfering.

After Astrid’s accident, how could she desert her and the inn? And how could she face the family if she let Kate down? What had she learned from Rhod’s slapping meat around? Nothing. Her brief time with Astrid had been almost as good as a Cordon Bleu course. When Kate returned, surely the two of them could manage until Astrid was fit again.

“The offer is tempting,” she told Mel, “but no. Thank you. You see, I’m needed here.” It had crossed her mind that possibly the contract was a bribe to keep her mouth shut.

“Take time to think it over... twenty-four hours?” Mel said. “You’ve a lot of camera appeal.”

“Really?” Dorrie wasn’t so sure.

“Don’t let me down, kiddo,” were Rhod’s final words as he and Mel boarded the launch.

“What was all that about?” Euan said, after the boats sped away.

“Rhod offered me a contract to be on Kiwi Kooks!” Dorrie said. “I could become a star.”

“Good for you,” Euan said. “If it’s what you want.”

“I turned him down.” Dorrie smiled up at him.

“You turned down an offer to star on national TV?” Euan said.

“Yes.” Dorrie turned and gazed across the loch where the full moon had lit a path towards them across the dark water. “I like it here, in Scotland.”

“Good choice, girl.” He grinned. “Let’s celebrate with some of Connor’s Premium before we prepare for tomorrow’s lunch.”

“Oh my God, I’d totally forgotten that.” Dorrie drooped. “I’m so tired.”

“Why not ask the team if they’ll stay over tonight and make an early start tomorrow?” Euan suggested.

Twisting strands of her hair around a finger. “Will you stay, too?” she whispered.

“Och, someone’s got to help you save the inn from disaster.”

As Euan put his arms around her, Eluf suddenly shot into sight, horns down, eyes ablaze, hell-bent on destruction, it seemed.

“Darned goat!” Dorrie shrieked.

“Run!” shouted Euan. He grabbed her hand and, laughing, they raced to the safety of the inn.

Copyright © 2018 by Margaret Rumford

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