Simon Brett

Mrs Pargeter’s Package

Mrs Pargeter #3

1990, EN

A trip to Corfu is not Mrs Pargeter’s usual idea of a holiday, but keeping a recently widowed friend company overrules her misgivings. But when that friend starts behaving strangely and then is found having apparently committed suicide, Mrs Pargeter resolves to get to the bottom of the mystery.

? Mrs Pargeter’s Package ?


As the coach zigzagged through the darkness in a grinding of gears, Mrs Pargeter reflected that this was not her preferred style of travel. She knew that she had been spoiled by the late Mr Pargeter, but felt strongly that his insistence on first class facilities at all times had been more than mere pampering. Travel, it had always been his view, was a tedious necessity, the important part of any journey was what one did on reaching one’s destination, and therefore the less strain the actual business of transportation involved, the better. The cost of attaining such comfort, however high, was money well spent. It had been particularly important in the late Mr Pargeter’s line of work that he always arrived anywhere with all his wits about him.

However, one will suffer a lot in the cause of friendship, and it was a mission of friendship that had brought Mrs Pargeter to Corfu in these atypical circumstances. Joyce Dover, now tense beside her, peering anxiously through the coach window at the occasional light on the hillside, had been in a bad state when she first suggested the mutual holiday. Mrs Pargeter could not but sympathise; the void left in her own life by the death of the late Mr Pargeter was still a daily ache of melancholy; and Joyce had recently lost her husband, Chris. Though Mrs Pargeter had never met the man in question, she knew what her friend was going through, she knew how much nerve proposing the trip must have required, and had been happy to agree to the proposal.

She had offered to make the arrangements herself. As well as taking the burden of such details off her friend’s troubled shoulders, this would also have ensured a level of resort and accommodation in keeping with her own – admittedly rather high – standards. Money never appeared to have been a problem for Joyce, but if there had been any difficulty, Mrs Pargeter would have been happy to subsidise her.

Joyce, however, had been adamantly opposed to this offer of help. Activity, she insisted, was the therapy currently required, and arranging a holiday would be an ideal distraction for her. She and her husband had never been to Greece, it was therefore an area without prompts to painful memories, so it was to Greece that they would go.

And before Mrs Pargeter had had time to drop a few hints about the parts of Greece she thought most suitable and the hotels she thought most comfortable, the bookings were made. A fortnight’s package tour in early June to Agios Nikitas on the north-east coast of Corfu. Self-catering in the Villa Eleni.

Self-catering? It was remarkable, Mrs Pargeter reflected, what one would do in the cause of friendship.

So it was in the cause of friendship that she had turned up at Gatwick Airport two hours early to check in for their charter flight. It was in the cause of friendship that she had sat at Gatwick Airport for the five hours that that flight had been delayed. Friendship had made her pretend enthusiasm for plastic food in a cramped Boeing 727 full of screaming children, and friendship now found her shaken about in the back of the coach that wheezed along the switchback coastal road from Corfu Airport to Agios Nikitas.

But Mrs Pargeter did not repine or complain. Hers was a philosophical nature. Life with the late Mr Pargeter had taught her not to set too much store by anticipation. Don’t waste energy in fear of the future, he had always said. Wait and see what happens, and when it does happen you’ll be surprised at the resources you find within yourself to cope with the situation.

So Mrs Pargeter smoothed down the bright cotton print of her dress over plump thighs, let the warm air from the coach window play through her white hair, and waited to see what the next fortnight would bring.

? Mrs Pargeter’s Package ?


“Could I have your attention, please?” The tour rep, who had identified herself in a fulsome English girls’ public-school accent at Corfu Airport as ‘Ginnie’, shouted above the groaning of the coach’s engine.

It took a moment to get the attention of all the party. After the discomforts of their journey, and in spite of the lurches of the coach, a good few had dozed off. Keith and Linda, the young couple from South Woodham Ferrers in Essex, who had just got their eighteen-month-old Craig off to sleep, complained of the interruption. Mrs Pargeter, who had provided Craig with an unwilling target for airline-food-throwing practice during the three-and-a-half-hour flight, also regretted his return to consciousness.

“Sorry,” said Ginnie, in a voice that didn’t sound at all sorry. Presumably she too was feeling strained after five hours waiting for them at Corfu Airport. “I just wanted to say that we are very nearly there. In a couple of minutes, we turn off the main road down to Agios Nikitas. I should warn you, the track down to the village is pretty bumpy.”

“What, bumpier than this one? Must have more bumps than the mother-in-law’s car,” said the retired man in the beige safari suit, who at Gatwick check-in had appointed himself the life and soul of the party. Mrs Pargeter had decided at the time that a little of him would probably go a long way; the total lack of reaction to his latest witticism suggested that ten hours in his company had brought everyone else round to the same opinion. Even his weedy wife, in matching beige safari suit, was unable to raise the wateriest of smiles.

“Anyway,” Ginnie continued, “because we’re rather later in arriving than we expected…” – grumbles of the you-can-say-that-again variety greeted this – “and you may be hungry…” – this was endorsed with varying degrees of enthusiasm – “when we get to the village, some of you may want to go and have something to eat, and others want to go straight to your accommodation. So what we’ll do is stop first at Spiro’s taverna and offload those who want to eat, while the coach’ll take the rest to their villas.”

“And what’ll happen to the luggage of the taverna party?” asked Mrs Safari Suit.

“It’ll be delivered to the villas. Be quite safe there till you’ve finished eating.”

“That’s a relief,” said Mr Safari Suit, and then slyly added, “Cor! Phew!” The pun had elicited only minimal response when he’d first used it in the Gatwick departure lounge. Now, on its eleventh airing, it got no reaction at all.

“Er, excuse me, Ginnie,” asked Linda from South Woodham Ferrers, “you mention Spiro’s, but there is more than one taverna in the village, isn’t there?”

“Oh yes, there’s Spiro’s and there’s The Three Brothers and there’s Costa’s and the Hotel Nausica. Try them all by all means, but, er, the general consensus of clients who have been here over the years is that the atmosphere at Spiro’s is the best. And the food, actually.”

“Do they all have Greek dancing?” asked the Secretary with Short Bleached Hair.

“Yes, there’s Greek dancing most nights, and then each taverna has a party night every week. Special menu, dancing displays and so on. Costa’s has his on Friday, the hotel on Saturday, Spiro on Monday and The Three Brothers on Wednesday.”

“Oh, right, we’ll try Costa’s tomorrow,” said the Secretary with Short Bleached Hair to her friend.

“And are there any nightclubs?” asked her friend, the Secretary with Long Bleached Hair.

“Not nightclubs as such. Not in Agios Nikitas – though of course things go on pretty late in the tavernas. If

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