With a growing thirst, Brenda Jump watched Mick Chadwick top up a glass of Campari with a dash of lemonade.
“Joe’s had you working today, then?” Mick asked.
“Tight old sod,” she complained with a scowl towards the podium where Joe Murray was busy setting up the disco. “The dray men were working this morning, so he insisted on opening the Lazy Luncheonette. The drivers were in for breakfast from seven o’clock onwards, and by half eight, the place was empty. It stayed like that all morning. After the dray men, we had about two customers, and one of them was a woman who just wanted to use the toilet. He finally locked up at twelve.”
Mick grinned. “Serves the tight old sod right. He’ll be outta pocket by the time he’s paid your wages and other overheads. Okey-dokey, Brenda; half of lager for his lordship, lemonade for Sheila, and a Campari and lemonade for you, let’s call it four fifty for cash.”
Brenda handed over the money, picked up the drink and crossed the floor to the podium where Joe was untangling leads and jacks for his equipment. Sheila Riley sat alongside him, casting her eye over the assembled members of the Sanford 3rd Age Club.
“Good turn out,” Sheila commented, “and look, Les Tanner has put on his uniform for her Majesty.”
Tugging a Gordian knot of cables to the point where he threatened to break one or two, Joe grunted. “Daft old twonk.”
Sheila frowned. “It’s respect for the monarch, Joe.”
“It’s an excuse to relive his glory days as a part time chocolate soldier,” Joe retorted. “He loved the Brasso and bullsh… bullshine.”
“He served his country,” Sheila maintained.
“Playing toy soldiers on the outskirts of York every weekend?” Joe threw the bundle of cables down and reached for another from his equipment bag. “He’s like all the Territorials. A waste of my taxes.”
“The one thing we can be thankful for is you were never Minister of Defence,” Brenda told him. “You’d have them fighting with catapults and then they’d have to find their own elastic.”
Unreeling one cable, Joe hooked a radio pick-up into the console, then took his mike and tested the head with a few light taps. Satisfied that it was working, he put it to one side. It rolled across a tray and clinked against a couple of empty glasses. A high-pitched whine emanated from the speakers. With an irritable frown, Joe snatched the jack from the console.
Charlie, the barman, picked up a tray of empty glasses nearby. Sheila hurried to finish her first glass of lemonade before dropping the empty on the tray, then turned her most determined eye on George Robson. “You are not having the Sex Pistols and God Save The Queen.”
“Why not?” George demanded. “It’s the Jubilee.”
“Yes and if Joe plays that, half this room will mutiny.” Sheila waved at the club members gathered around the room. “We’re all monarchists.”
“Well, I’m a republican,” George snapped. “The monarchy is an outdated institution.”
“So is the Conservative Club in this town,” Brenda pointed out, “but it doesn’t stop you enjoying the cheap beer there. And you’re not complaining about taking the day off for the Jubilee are you?”
“Who won the bloody Civil War, eh?” George wandered grumpily off.
Joe sat down and sipped at his lager. “Just about ready,” he said. “Pass me the microphone, will you, Sheila?”
She looked around. “Where is it?”
“There on the table. Next to you.”
She shook her head. “No it isn’t.”
Joe whirled round to look at the barren table. “Well, where the hell is it?”
Sheila and Brenda shrugged. “Joe, if you…”
“One of these thieving sods has had it,” he interrupted.
“Well it wasn’t George,” Brenda said. “Joe, why not…”
He waved her into silence. “This lot think they can con me? The best private detective in Yorkshire? Think again.” He got to his feet. “Right, listen up everyone,” he bawled. “One of you has nicked my microphone and I want it back. Remember this, whoever you are. I’ve solved murders by people who had twice the brains you have. If you think you can get away with it, you’ve another think coming. Bring it back. Now.”
“Only if you promise not to sing, Joe,” Alec Staines called out.
Joe glowered. “If you’ve had it, Alec…”
“I haven’t touched your bloody microphone. Have you checked your wallet? It’s probably in there.”
Sheila tugged at Joe’s sleeve. He half turned to scowl at her.
“Sit down and stop making a fool of yourself,” she insisted.
“That microphone cost me four hundred notes,” Joe protested. “I am not letting it go.”
To the background rumble of members’ discontent, Brenda said, “You don’t have to. The microphone was switched on. Plug the jack into your control board and listen to it.”
With a puzzled frown Joe did as she ordered.
The clinking of bottles came through the speakers, followed by a low humming of Land of Hope and Glory.
Suddenly, the voice burst into song.
Lager, bitter and Guinness Vodka and Bacardi It all adds up to a profit Loadsa money for me.
Silence engulfed the room. Attention focussed on the bar area where Mick, on his knees filling the chillers, went into a second impromptu verse.
Brandy, whisky and Pernod Gordon’s and Lamb’s Nay-vee I am making a fortune To keep me in the gray-vee.
While Mick began the third verse, Joe hurried from the podium and strode across the dance floor.
I don’t care if they order One pint, two pints or three The silly buggers keep spending All for the Queen’s Jubilee La-la-la Silly buggers keep spending All… for… the… Queen’s… Jubi…lee.
Mick’s head appeared above the bar. “Oh. Hiya, Joe, didn’t see you there.” His voice bounced round the room. “What can I do you for?”
“I can’t fault your profit drive, but could you just check your tray? I think Charlie cleared away my microphone with the empty glasses.”
Mick stared beneath the bar, then reached down and picked up the microphone. “Were you lot listening to me just then?”
Joe nodded and a loud cheer went up around the room. Face glowing bright crimson, Mick handed over the microphone.
On the podium Brenda shook her head, and with a wry smile said, “Another Sanford 3rd Age Club mystery solved, and on the Queen’s Jubilee too.”