Today I will prevail. Today I will eat rice and miso for breakfast, take the bus to the university, study hard for eight hours and return to my flat to read academic papers in the evening.
When I came to Edinburgh from Tokyo, it never occurred to me that anything would get in the way of my silent, solitary, studious existence.
But already I can hear feet on the steps outside my appartment. It’s Mrs Watson, from the fruit shop next door, with another armload of produce. I forgot today is market day.
“Mooli!” she cries, waving giant radishes at me. “Shit-tacky mushrooms! Look at this I found. What is it? It’s got Japanese writing on it so it I bought it for you.”
‘Chinese, I think, Mrs Watson,” I say. “But thank you.”
And while she’s there fluttering around in my kitchen, trying to pack the food into my overstuffed refrigerator, I hear the rumble and thump of Malcolm on the stone floor of the passageway.
“I’m making a pork pie, Keiko,’ he says when he arrives in the kitchen doorway, filling it. His butcher’s apron is already rusty at the middle. I look away. “Come down at lunchtime, when I’ve got the jelly poured in and it’s chilled. You’ll love the jelly, like you told me.”
It’s true; I did. I told him that gelatinous textures were very dear to Japanese palates and since then he has tried to remember every bouncing, wobbling foodstuff Scotland ever knew.
“I’m not sure I’ll be here at lunchtime, Malcolm,” I say and then regret it as he bows his head, letting that long hank of hair fall across his face.
“I’ll slice you a wedge and make a picnic,” he tells me.
“Yo! Keeks!” Fancy is here. My best friend in Painchton – and so in all of Scotland – comes tumbling in and sits herself down at the kitchen table. She has dropped off her little girl at school and is making the most of the half hour before work. “Looks like a party,” she says. “Hiya, Mabel. Hiya, Malc. Good thing I got extra.”
She pushes a bag across the table top towards me. I recognise the logo of McLuskie’s the Bakers and also recognise the transparent patches where the oil from the pastries has seeped into the paper. I sniff. Savoury.
“Smells like my very own mixture,” Malcolm says. “Pies?”
Fancy nods. “Pies, Keeks,” she says. “Mutton pies. Scotland’s contribution to world health. Stick the kettle on.”
“You really shouldn’t . . .” I say. “There’s no need . . .”
“I’m only here to remind you about the community quiz tonight,” says Fancy. She’s taking the pies out of the bag and handing them round.
“I’m doing a hog roast,” says Malcolm.
“I’ll get my big pot out and make a nice potato salad,” Mrs Watson adds. “I can do tatties for fifty in my big pot.”
“Thank you,” I say, defeated again as I knew I would be. “You are all so kind. Thank you.”
You can read more about Keiko in Come to Harm, published by Midnight Ink.
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on May 18 for the chance to win a print copy of COME TO HARM. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes and you will have three days to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. Make sure to check your SPAM folder.
Meet the author
Catriona McPherson writes the Agatha, Macavity and Bruce winning Dandy Gilver series, set in her native Scotland in the 1920s. A DEADLY MEASURE OF BRIMSTONE won a third Bruce at Left Coast Crime in Portland this year. In 2013 she started a strand of darker (not difficult) standalones. The first, AS SHE LEFT IT won an Anthony award and the IndieFab Gold for Mystery. THE DAY SHE DIED is currently on the shortlist for an Edgar. Since 2010, Catriona has lived in California with a black cat and a scientist and is proud to be the 2015 president of Sisters in Crime. Visit her at www.catrionamcpherson.com.