Skip to content

The Heinz Ketchup American. An Ophelia Perhaps Mystery. Part 1.

DSC05239My mother called me Fi Fi and my father called me Pumpkin, but to my neighbors and writing students, I’m Miss Ophelia Perhaps, neighborhood detective. I live with a very difficult cat named Ti Jean in the tiny room of some family friends in Summertown, just north of Oxford.

After a brisk walk down Banbury every morning, Dennis brings me coffee with a slice of cake every day at the Albion Beatnik Café. I sit there in his front room and talk with old Mr. Briggs most mornings, except Sundays. That’s when his wife makes him go to church.

I spend most evenings over glasses of Pinot Gris in the Oxford Wine Café. In between the two cafes, I teach people to write and occasionally my neighbors ask me to help them solve mysteries.

But this rainy Wednesday morning, something’s wrong. The Beatnik is still locked at 10:14 a.m. Where’s Dennis? And where’s Mr. Briggs? Oh, hold on, there’s a note. “Emergency. Back later.” This can’t be right. And who wrote the note?

I call Mrs. Briggs, but she’s not much help.

“Mrs. Perhaps?” she says with a quaver, “I don’t know a Mrs. Perhaps.”

“I’m a friend of Oscar’s. We meet at The Beatnik every morning. He may refer to me as Ophelia.”

“Oh, you’re that person!”

“Right. Well, I’m a bit worried. There’s a note on the Beatnik door that says there’s been an emergency.”

Mrs. Briggs is silent. “Yes. There was. Oscar had a heart attack last night. I suppose you could call that an emergency.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. Is he alright?”

“They’re doing tests today. I’m off to see him at hospital in a few minutes.”

“Is there something I can do?”

“Oh, no, dear. We’ll be all right.”

“Okay, I’ll be back in touch in a few hours. Cheers.”

I walk down to Joe’s. I need a drink. Melissa was serving.

“Fish and chips and a glass of Pinot . . . the usual, Melissa.”

“Pinot at 11 a.m.? Seems a little early, even for you.”

Yeah. It probably is.”

There’s something very comforting about chips. I use British condiments with my chips now that I’ve been here eight months, and HP brown sauce is today’s choice. As I dip each hot chip into puddles of spicy brown glop, I think about Dennis and Mr. Briggs. If Mrs. Briggs didn’t want me to come, why is Dennis at the hospital?

I signal to Melissa to bring the check.

“Oh, Mrs. Perhaps, a gentleman already paid your check. He told me he’d wanted to pay for “that nice American woman at table 6.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I think he was an American. Had on a black trench coat and a kind of American hat.”

“What kind of American hat?”

“Like I see those rappers wear backwards, except he had it on frontwards.”

“Like a baseball cap?”

“Was it? I don’t know anything about baseball. It was just a rapper’s hat turned round.”

“Did it have a logo or a symbol of some kind on the front?”

“There was something written on it, but I don’t remember what. Anyway, he seemed more of a Heinz ketchup American, you know, somebody who hasn’t been here long. Not a brown sauce American like you.”

I left Joe’s in an unsettled state, standing at the front door threshold, looking up and down the sidewalk through the drizzle for a black trench coat. Not seeing one, I popped open my umbrella and headed home to give Ti Jean lunch. Ti Jean gets angry when he’s hungry.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *