from the Highland Bookshop Mysteries
by Molly MacRae
On Monday nights, the four of us from Yon Bonnie Books—Christine, Tallie, Summer, and I—go to Nev’s for what I call our quality of life check. Christine calls it our weekly wind-down with occasional whisky. Nev’s is a pub that isn’t on the High Street, and doesn’t look like much on the outside. It’s tucked between Smith Funerals and the Inversgail Guardian. It doesn’t advertise itself to tourists, but it welcomes anyone who discovers it, along with their dogs.
“It’s an honest place,” Christine said when she’d proposed the meetings. “We can be honest at Nev’s and admit that not every moment of our new lives is Scotties, scones, and purple heather.”
“Meetings at Nev’s will provide the antidote to the dreich that’s bound to creep up on us from time to time,” Tallie said, using her favorite Scottish weather word.
Summer and I had easily agreed. Nev’s gives us greetings from locals and occasional smiles, a chance to unwind or unburden, a game of darts if anyone likes, and neutral ground. Nev’s provides ale and whisky, too, and comforting pub food to go with them. We’ve been going to Nev’s on Mondays long enough, now, to have a “usual” table near the door to the darts room. Summer occasionally joins the players, and Tallie usually goes along to cheer her on.
“Do you realize our daftie author has only been here a week?” Christine asked this Monday night. She was referring to the acclaimed environmentalist, Daphne Wood, visiting Inversgail as an author in the schools for a term. “Only a week and look at all she’s stirred up.”
As though taking Christine literally, I looked around the pub—at the tables of twos and threes and a few solitary patrons. A hand on a shoulder there, heads close together in a booth, laughter at the next table, a snatch of song from Christine’s dad and her mum gazing at him with her chin in her hand as though she’d just fallen in love again. Danny orchestrated drinks behind the bar. I picked out the smells of good ale, greasy chips, and wool wet from the smirr coming down outside. The one week since Daphne had arrived hadn’t stirred the essential picture of Nev’s. I could snap a photo in black and white, and except for minor details and no haze of cigarette smoke, it might be any decade for the past hundred years.
“Only a week,” Summer said. “On the one hand, that’s hardly a blip. On the other, that means it’s been a whole week since someone killed Sam Smith.”
“Not all crimes are solved quickly,” Tallie reminded her.
“No, and they aren’t all solved.” Summer raised her glass. “In memory of Sam.”
As we raised our glasses, James Haviland, from the paper, arrived and made his way over to our table. “Evening, all,” he said. “Celebrating?”
“Remembering,” I said.