Murder in the Cards

Death is the rule, survival the exception in 1960s Soho bridge circles

When the SeeMs Agency detectives play bridge online in 2020, they don’t expect their opponent to die during the game and yet a post-mortem the next day proves Brian Deliverer was dead halfway through the night. Can a dead man play bridge?

Employed by Brian's daughter Karen to investigate his death, the team are led back to a notorious 1920s murder and to a missing teenager from a Sussex village in the 1960s.

Should they tell his daughter the terrible truth behind her father’s death even if it costs her everything?

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It is 1963, Fran, a teenage bridge ace, has run away from her father, a homophobic religious zealot, to London. Here she falls in with Bev, a mixed-race prostitute and thief. They plan to make money and free themselves from male domination by playing bridge for high stakes in clubs: both girls are happy to cheat to win. They use Polari (the pre 1967 gay language) to give signals about what is in their hands.

In this excerpt, having just won a big game in Jack’s Club, they escape to Muriel’s, where they know they will be safe from any rozzers on the prowl.

Bev is thinking about her future with Fran.

 After skipping out of Jack’s, the girls went on to Muriel’s. Fran squinted at the bright green environment laughing ecstatically. ‘Is she trying to bring the sunshine inside?’ she asked Bev, stroking her arm affectionately. ‘Should’ve brought my ogle shades’.

She danced across the room, doing a couple of jumps around the tables to the surprise of the much older drinkers. ‘Love the bamboo and plastic plants. Madam hoping they’ll grow?’

As she sashayed away, Bev beamed. Fran was crazy, but at the same time she could be Bev’s road out of hell. For too long, Bev and her children had been at the rough end of the male sex. Men and pimps came and went. The only stables in her life were Jack’s and Muriel’s, otherwise there was little care for a half-caste doxy either from state or individuals. And now Crazy Fran was showing her an alternative life, how to cheat at cards, how to stay ahead of the pimps and lily law. It was worth the risk.

Muriel had seen them enter, and she watched the new girl drop down to the rug, stroking the leopard’s head before rolling sensuously over its skin, her short skirt almost at her waist.

The girl waggled her shoulders across the fur laughing. ‘Oh Jean Paul, you sexy devil, yes, yes. Take me to France on your flying carpet. I’m going to rule the world. Give me some plastic plants, show me your quongs.’

‘Wash your mouth out, you little bitch,’ said Muriel. ‘This is a private club. Like it or get out. Who is this anyway?’ she asked Bev, staring straight at Fran, who was still lying on the rug. ‘Your latest cunty?’

Bev knelt down beside Fran, pulling her earlobe to quell her antics.

‘Ow!’ said Fran, her voice petulant.

‘You behave or I’ll tell your father where you are,’ Bev said sharply. Fran looked up, startled, then laughed slightly nervously.

Bev’s voice softened. ‘OK. Now I’m going to introduce you to Muriel. She’s the rudest woman in London, but she’s my petrol.’

Fran sat up slowly. Rubbing her ear, she raised an eyebrow. ‘BP? Best pal, with a spark?’

Bev laugh bubbled up like molten sugar. ‘You crack me up, little girl.’

‘Your magic won’t work in here,’ Muriel butted in. ‘I like ’em tougher. My Marys are special.’

Before Muriel turned to Bev, cutting out the girl with her shoulder, Fran caught the amusement hidden behind the eyes. She and Bev exchanged glances. Before long Fran was going to be Muriel’s petrol as surely as Bev.

‘Charpers everywhere,’ said Muriel. ‘You’d better park your game for the night.’

‘We’re cool,’ said Bev. ‘Fran here has taught me a whole new lay. I may even give up the trade and move to bridge.’

Muriel stared. ‘Bridge? Bridge! The card game?’

‘Yup, bridge is the packet, with Polari signals, using that cant language in a way the inventors never considered. That’s our new caper.’

Muriel’s face wrinkled with laughter. ‘Bev-er-ley! You were ever a mug for a pretty face.’

 Author Bio –

Gina has worked as a physiotherapist, a pilot, freelance writer and a dog breeder.

As a child, Gina's parents hated travelling and never went further than Jersey. As a result she became travel-addicted and spent the year after university bumming around SE Asia, China and Australia, where she worked in a racing stables in Pinjarra, South of Perth. After getting stuck in black sand in the Ute one time too many (and getting a tractor and trailer caught in a tree) she was relegated to horse-riding work only. After her horse bolted down the sand, straining a fetlock and falling in the sea, she was further relegated to swimming the horses only in the pool. It was with some relief the racehorse stables posted her off on the train into eastern Australia to work in a vineyard... after all what could go wrong there?

In the north of Thailand, she took a boat into the Golden Triangle and got shot at by bandits. Her group escaped into the undergrowth and hid in a hill tribe whisky still where they shared the 'bathroom' with a group of pigs. Getting a lift on a motorbike they hurried back to Chiang Rai, where life seemed calmer.

After nearly being downed in a fiesta in Ko Pha Ngan, and cursed by a witch in Malaysia, she decided to go to Singapore and then to China where she only had to battle with the language and regulations.

Since marrying the first time, she has lived and worked in many countries including Spain and the USA.

For a few years Gina was a Wingwalking pilot, flying, amongst others, her 64-year-old mother standing on the wing to raise money for a cancer charity. She was also a helicopter instructor and examiner and took part in the World Helicopter Championships in Russia and the USA.

She became a writer because her first love was always telling a good yarn!

Under the name Georgina Hunter-Jones she has written illustrated children's books such as The Twerple who had Too Many Brains, and Nola the Rhinoceros loves Mathematics.

She now lives in Sussex with her husband and dogs, one of who inspired the Biscuit and Pugwash Detective Series about naughty dogs who solve crimes.

Murder in the Cards is the second in the SeeMS Detective Agency series

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