The dining room began to fill up and the business of lunch helped to restore the frazzled nerves and bring everyone back to a feeling of normalcy. The dining room was a favourite gathering place for residents, outside of meal times, as it was located in the center of the building. Anyone going anywhere had to go along the hall that led to the room so it was natural for them to stop in and sit down for a cup of tea and read the paper, a book or just visit with staff. Although there were no windows, it was still a bright and cheerful room with pale yellow walls and blue curtains. Plants were tucked into the corners and artwork with Parisians scene added the feeling of being somewhere exotic. There was a general feeling that this was a special place and everyone hated the thought that anything could disturb the serenity.
One of the servers had arrived with a cloth and moped up the spilled tea before it reached the edge of the table, others began serving bowls of soup and trays of sandwiches. The disturbance seemed to have been forgotten but Emma noticed that her neighbour still hadn't come for lunch and suspected something more was going to happen.
Unlike Mrs. James, Emma was popular with both staff and residents and her table was usually one of the first to have all the seats taken. She suspected part of the reason was because her son, Richard, was a police detective and the others liked to hear about his cases. Although she didn't like being the centre of attention, she was proud of her eldest son and didn't mind doing a bit of bragging about him. Her husband had also been on the police force so she had lots of practice sounding as though she were giving inside information while not telling anymore that what could be read in the papers.
Mr. Sutherland, a retired scientist in the early stages of Parkinson's disease carefully replaced his cup onto the table, was the first to as a question. "Is your son working on any interesting cases at the moment, Mrs. McCabe" "He is very concerned about the murder of that jewelry store owner", she replied. Her voice had dropped to a conspiratorial whisper that caused the others to lean forward a little. "I don't know if he has any leads but, of course, he doesn't tell me everything." She smiled at the eager faces looking back at her and thought how funny it was that everyone was watching her. She had spent her whole life being an observer and now she was being observed. She wasn't sure if she liked it or not but it did bring a bit of excitement into the lives of the residents who, previously, had only a change in the menu or someone's illness to interrupt the routine.
"Maybe Ethel James did it" Lillian Hastings loved to shock people and often made outrageous statements. "Oh, Mrs. Hastings, what a thing to say. Mrs. James wouldn't shoot anyone." Jenny MacMillan had just brought the dessert to the table and her reaction brought a delighted grin to Lillian's face. The young girl blushed and hurried to the next table.
"That child is going to have to get a thicker skin if she is going to work here", Lillian said.
"She's still young. There is lots of time for her to get crusty like us old people." Emma liked Jenny and wished Lillian wouldn't tease her so much.