Without the noisy crush of drink-loosened writers and fans in its July Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival incarnation, the Old Swan Hotel bar was hardly recognisable. This was something of a relief to Celia, as it brought back few, if any, memories of the debacle (which were, in any case, somewhat blurred).
A charming young waiter brought her a gin and tonic and some parsnip crisps. She eyed his bottom as he walked away: two delicious-looking little buns wrapped in tight, black trousers.
But Celia knew he was far too young. She had learned her lesson as far as young waiters were concerned the year before at Bristol CrimeFest.
She sipped her drink then turned to her journal. ‘Every writer should keep a journal,’ was one of the maxims she lived by. She even ran a workshop based on it, which earned her a lovely week every other year in Skyros.
‘Glamorous, for a bloody bus, that #36,’ she wrote. Indeed, for public transport, the journey back to Harrogate from Ripon hadn’t been all that bad. The seats were leather and spacious, free wi-fi was available and the heating was more than adequate. It was the business class of bus travel. She even had dared to think that perhaps the week wasn’t going to be so bloody after all.
And she had enjoyed meeting the Transdev directors back in Harrogate. They were two utterly charming men, beautifully groomed. She had rather hoped the taller one might have taken her questions about good restaurants as permission to ask her to accompany him on one of the evenings she was in town. Sadly, he hadn’t taken the hint – probably, she thought, because he was in front of his colleague – so she had pressed her business card into his hand and given him one of her Significant Looks.
The thought of this made her look at her phone to see if she had perhaps missed his call or message. There was nothing, but instead it appeared that she had further Twitter correspondence:
Far worse than in your books. Dark beyond measure. Too much for Twitter. #36Bus #haircurlingtales
Dark beyond measure! Celia liked the sound of that. She tapped @RiponOff44’s profile picture again to take a closer look, this time with her reading glasses on. Fortyish, chiselled cheekbones, startling blue eyes, white teeth showing through a confident smile: @RiponOff44 was truly something of a hottie. Purring, she slugged back the rest of her drink, then and composed a reply:
Would you like to meet? #36Bus #haircurlingtales
Her writer’s instinct told her that if crime was to be found here, then it would be in @RiponOff44’s stories. Congratulating herself on her excellent research, she signalled to the handsome waiter for another drink.