The Flower Lady

It was a warm autumn night and the large restaurant in London was beginning to fill up. Shortly after eight o’clock a large group assembled at the bar, and were merrily chatting and drinking.

“Here’s Pete!” One of the group exclaimed whilst pointing to the door.

Pete Redmand was a tall, well built man. He was in his early forties and what remained of his hair, was drawn back into a stubby pigtail. On his arm was a young blonde wearing a black figure hugging dress, which looked as if it had been sprayed on her. The door was held open for him and Pete said, “Thank you kindly,” and gave the man a pound coin.

Although Pete had only spoken a few words, they were spoken in the nasal tones of a mid-Atlantic accent. All trace of his broad Birmingham accent had disappeared.

The suit he wore was louder than his phoney accent. It was deep peach, with a dark blue velvet collar and cuffs, and embossed on the back of the jacket, was John Lennon’s head.

His waistcoat was dark blue, with the opening words and music of John Lennon’s Imagine, in white on the front of the waistcoat.

Pete walked across to the bar and loudly proclaimed, “OK guys, the drinks are on me. That goes for the food as well. So eat drink and be merry.”

When at last the group of fourteen were seated, Pete grabbed the waiter and ostentatiously held up a fifty pound note saying, “If you give us good service, this is yours. If not, you get nothing.” He turned to look down the table and raised his head to address the waiter. “Bring me three magnums of your best champagne!”

In all this commotion another smaller group of six, had been caught up in Pete Redmand’s group and because of his benevolence, some of them had managed to procure free drinks.

Tony was one of the group of six; he was in his mid-thirties and wore a pale grey, corduroy suit, with a white shirt and a blue tie. He clung to Sue, his wife. After all they were her friends and even though he had been introduced, he hardly spoke. Conversation was not his strong point; he stood sipping his lager from his half-pint glass. When he was spoken to, he never once looked into the person’s eyes; instead he averted them and held on to his wife’s arm. A cry rose up of, “Whose round is it?”

The large crowd at the bar had now dispersed and Tony offered to buy the round. He made a mental note of the drinks that were wanted and shuffled to the bar. Noting that Tony had taken a long time being served, a forceful member of the group went to the bar, ordered the drinks and left Tony to pay.

Tony returned to the group carrying some of the drinks. He stood motionless, until Sue approached him and entwined her arm in his.

About an hour had passed and now that the majority of people were seated at their tables, the bar was particularly sparse, and so nobody paid attention as a mousey haired woman, who looked resplendent in a dark salmon suit and a pale salmon blouse, entered the restaurant. She had her arm entwined with a tall blond man and they headed for the Maitre D, and the woman said.

“Bonsoir James.”

“Bonsoir Madam, your table for two is ready,” he replied in French.

As she sat down, James adjusted the seat for her and handed both of them menus saying, “Bon appetit madam, monsieur,” and went off to talk to the wine waiter.

The woman leaned back in her chair saying; “I’ll choose the food, if that’s all right with you. What’s more, the snails are excellent here.”

The man nodded in agreement just as the wine waiter arrived and approached him. He ordered the wine and looked at the woman for confirmation.

She nodded approvingly, smiled and under the table reached out her arm, found the man’s knee, tenderly slid her hand up his leg and gave it a gentle squeeze. The man smiled and lowered his hand to grasp the woman’s hand and gently caressed it.

“Your choice of wine will compliment my choice of food very well,” said the woman as she looked up to see which of the diners were making all the noise. “Leonard. I know that loud mouthed, phoney Yank, sitting at the head of that table. My daughter had a crush on him once. He said he’d further her singing career. Luckily she managed fine without him. He’s a bit power crazy and always has a bimbo on his arm as an ornament.”

At approximately nine-thirty a black taxicab deposited a dark haired, pale woman, at the front of the restaurant. She wore wrap around sunglasses, a dark blue dress, matching gloves and a corsage.

Once inside the restaurant, the waiter acknowledged her booking and Anne-Marie Kellogg, headed straight for the bar. Sat alone at the bar she ordered a spritzer. She daintily sat sipping at her drink, and fidgeting on her seat, her hands were now beginning to perspire. She sorted through her handbag and found her tissues; she extracted one, removed her gloves and wiped her hands. She then produced a piece of paper, stared at it and then scanned the room. Her eyes rested upon Pete Redmand, for he was her contact. She ordered another spritzer with ice. ‘I look ok,’ she thought as she checked herself in the mirror behind the bar. Her second drink arrived; she took a large gulp and looked across the room to Pete Redmand. He stood up and walked in the direction of the toilets.

‘This is it,’ thought Anne-Marie as she paid for her drinks left a large tip, and put on her gloves. She had timed it well; Pete was just emerging from the toilets as Anne-Marie reached him and said, “Pete Redmand isn’t it?”

“Why sure Ma’am.”

“I’m a great fan of yours; may I have your autograph please?”

“Anything to oblige.”

Anne-Marie produced a piece of paper and offered it with a pen, to Pete, who asked, “Any message?”

“Yes please. To Lily, love Pete Redmand.”

Pete smiled and wrote the message. He handed Anne-Marie the paper and she said, “One more thing please.”

She threw her arm around him and kissed him fully on the lips. Her right hand found the smooth pearl handle of the stiletto in her handbag. She withdrew the stiletto from its sheath and slipped it between Pete’s ribs and straight into his heart. As she did this, her nostrils flared and her eyes grew rounder. She saw Pete’s expression change to one of shock, as his eyes opened for the last time, Anne-Marie sucked out his last breath. How she loved this final smell. Unlike making love, when she left a man, he was, finally spent.

She quickly pulled out her stiletto, threw it into her handbag and let Pete slump to the floor. She unclipped her corsage of lily of the valley, and dropped it on to Pete Redmand. She then turned and briskly walked out of the restaurant, thinking to herself, ‘it’s been two years since I contracted AIDS, during that time I’ve wasted, or was it, rid the world of, six men. Once outside the restaurant she quickly got into a black taxicab that someone had just vacated.

Inside the restaurant whilst leaving the toilet, Tony stumbled over Pete’s body. Being a nurse, he immediately checked for a pulse. Seeing the small blood stained rent in Pete’s waistcoat, he knew resuscitation was futile. He merely closed Pete’s eyelids and informed a waiter.

An announcement came over the loudspeakers; “Will no one leave the restaurant please? A crime has been committed and the police are on their way.”

James approached the woman in the salmon suit and said, “There’s been a murder madam.”

She produced a badge, upon which were the words, Detective Inspector Hammond. She clipped the badge upon her jacket and sadly looked at Leonard saying, “I’m sorry about this Darling, but business before pleasure.”

At Pete’s body she said to James, “This looks like the style of killing that’s been committed by someone we’ve named, ‘The Flower Lady’.