As soon as I began talking to Mina, I knew my cast of characters was complete. An Iranian born architect now working in Toronto, she was the perfect person to design the house with the secret room that led to a hidden passageway. How serendipitous that we shared a bench and began talking while waiting for our tour of the Tower of London, two days before our trip ended.
I already had Irina, the Bulgarian beauty who greeted every guest at our hotel with her mile-wide smile. She monitored the comings and goings of the guests including Graham Eaton, who checked in every Wednesday at 3:00, with a different woman dangling on his arm. She was usually dressed in a slim skirt, dripping over her slender hips and long legs like butter over hot sweet corn.
Then there was Anastatia from Greece, our server in the restaurant every morning who effortlessly transferred notes between tables as easily as she served plates heaped with back bacon, eggs, baked beans, fried tomatoes and black pudding. Genuine and friendly, she could be anyone’s favorite grandmother.
Claire was the natural observer in the group. I watched as she placed her wide bottom on the stool at the counter from her perch on the third-floor bookstore café. Her calf-length plaid skirt and her print blouse with the Peter Pan collar was complimented by her little-girl cotton socks with a lace cuff, and loafers. Once settled, she turned on her laptop and adjusted her large headphones to hold back her long frizzy curls. And began typing, frantically, only stopping to look out onto the plaza.
Perky was the perfect description of Fionna, the twenty-something who was everyone’s favorite bartender. With dimples as wide as the Irish Sea that separated her from her home in Belfast, she was the charmer. Milk-white skin and auburn hair tied into pretzel-like knots above each ear, I wondered what conversations she overheard that could be of value to others.
Lastly, there was Mary, the buck-toothed 50-year-old sitting across from me on the underground, with lipstick too pink for her age. With her pencil in hand and sketchbook close to her bosom, she continuously stole looks over the top of her glasses at the man to my left. When he got off at the Victoria Station, she slammed her book shut, placed it in her handbag, and followed him onto the platform.
This was my trip to London. What would you expect from a woman who has an active imagination and is slightly addicted to British mysteries, books and on TV, especially those that feature strong women problem solvers? The Magpie Murders, Broadchurch, Vera, Annika, and let’s not forget, Agatha Christie.
As soon as I took my seat on the city bus our first day in London, I began plotting. It seems now I have the perfect cast along with a great setting that gives me lots of options. The only thing missing is the story.
Of course, we saw all the famous landmarks and took in two theatrical productions. Yes, we became experts on the Underground (subway system). We walked the London Bridge and discovered the Borough Market, and shopped for our dinner at the food hall in Harrod’s. And maybe, just maybe, some of those attractions will make it into my story. Only if the characters take me there.
Note: Each of the characters are real women I interacted with or observed, but their backgrounds are completely fictitious as are their names. Except Mina, she really is an architect.