Welcome to 2013. I thought I'd kick this year off my making my latest murder mystery, Camera...Action...Murder! just 99c or 75p (UK hyperlink) for us Brits! This will be for a limited time only.
My other new is my romantic suspense, A Very French Affair is with my editor and I hope will be published next month, and finally my 5th Diana Rivers murder mystery, ' Evil has some unfinished business' I'm over half-way through writing!
I thought it would be a good idea to whet your appetites with an excerpt from Camera...Action...Murder!...as you will see the tension slowly builds...Enjoy!
Fifteen years ago.
For some reason, Diana didn’t want to go any nearer the stage, which was surprising since she had once loved it. Instead, she felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. She stood quite still as she stared towards the back. She remembered.
She remembered the deathly silence once her friends had disappeared backstage to the dressing rooms. She heard the door slam as it echoed along the corridor. She recalled the director was always berating the cast for allowing doors to bang shut during rehearsals saying ‘silence backstage was as important as during an actual performance’. Diana remembered smiling while she imagined what her friends were up to. She didn’t mind finishing off the painting on her own, there wasn’t much left to do. Then, some minutes later, she remembered the sudden plunge into darkness as the auditorium and stage lights were suddenly extinguished. She made a tentative laugh and called to her friends, telling them to stop arsing around and to put the lights back on. Then there was that silence: a silence which seemed to go on and on until…she heard it. A single muffled footstep off to her right and on the stage. There was a rustle, and she felt something light brush against her foot upon the ladder and then something took hold of her shirt. She screamed and in her terror shied away from whatever had touched her, and then she slipped. She somehow knew that whatever was lurking there was evil and she had to get away.
Knowing the theatre layout, she rolled from the foot of the ladder, kept low and slithered across the stage as quietly as she could towards the front apron. She kept her wits about her, guessing where the edge of the stage was, and once she reached it knew she could slip down onto the floor in the stalls. There was a series of rapid footsteps away from her, a click, and suddenly there was a single light shining down upon the stage. She cast a look around and saw nobody there, but knowing they would return within seconds she realised she had to get to safety. Scared and hardly daring to breathe, Diana tensed when she heard the footsteps coming back. Where could she go? And that was when she had the idea. The prompt’s pit was just ahead. Two rolls and she disappeared over the edge into the pit. She was lucky that the last prompt had left a cushion on the seat which broke her fall…
…Diana withheld the scream which was threatening to undo her and crawled as quietly as she could beneath the stage. Her shirt was torn by whoever had grabbed her, and she heard it rip once more as it caught on a protruding nail. If only she could make it to the rear of the theatre and the fire-escape doors…or she could run to the dressing rooms and be safe with her friends. She remembered choking back her sobs of terror and reaching the corridor; help wasn’t far away…she heard footsteps…
Diana Rivers hadn’t intended to visit England that summer. The novel she was writing wasn’t going too well, and the last thing she wanted was another disruption in her world. For a woman who seldom let obstacles get in her way, life was currently—if she was honest—not going according to plan and even a little boring.
The previous few years had been eventful. Diana had been instrumental in discovering and solving two murders, a fifty-year-old mystery, and helped prevent a serial killer from murdering her last chosen victim. Since those momentous events, things were now definitely a lot quieter.
Being bored was a new experience for Diana. It wasn’t because she disliked living in an old stone house halfway up a mountain in the foothills of the beautiful Troodos Mountains in Cyprus…far from it. Neither did she resent being a mother to two-year-old Poppy or wife to handsome Steve. The truth was, she hadn’t settled down to write more than a few chapters of her latest novel since her daughter’s birth.
Poppy was adorable: a playful, happy little girl and a normal two-year-old. She ran rings around her father, and Diana was overjoyed that at long last they had been blessed with a child in their marriage. Diana knew the problem was of her own making, and despite having loads of ideas floating around in her head for at least two new books, she couldn’t get past those first few stumbling chapters. She knew she really needed a diversion and a break, but so far, she was being her usual stubborn self and not admitting this to anyone.
Steve recognised the signs and had suggested a holiday to entice her away, but to no avail. Diana told him she could handle the situation, and the result was definitely stalemate.
So, when the email arrived from England that morning with an invitation to visit and stay with the Macphersons in Cheltenham, Steve was delighted when Di announced, “What fun it would be to go.” He should have thought the idea through more thoroughly because wherever Diana went in the world, chaos and mystery seemed to follow her. What’s more, he thought darkly, after everything she went through the last time we were there, I’m amazed she’d even contemplate it. He should have known…
“Look, Steve, we’ve received an invitation from Duncan and Isabelle Macpherson to go and stay with them. But that’s not all. You remember that play we acted in the last time we were in Cheltenham? It was called The Holbein Legacy, and this is the most exciting part of all…guess what?” Diana said when she rushed into Steve’s workshop that morning waving a print of the email under his nose.
Steve paused what he was doing and looked at her with a patient, albeit puzzled, expression on his face. She looked flushed and excited.
“Well?” she asked.
“Di, how can I possibly begin to guess what’s in the email? Just tell me. I’m in the middle of rewiring this lamp, and it’s bloody tricky because there’s hardly any wire to play with. Chinese junk again.”
“Tssk, Mr Grumpy! You’re going to be impressed when I tell you. They’re only going to make a film out of the play! Can you imagine? And we’re invited over for a few day’s visit to meet some of the film cast. I wonder who they’ve chosen to play our roles.”
This time, she did capture his attention. “I see what you mean. That is interesting. Let me have a look then.”
Diana passed the sheet of paper over to Steve and shot him a triumphant look. “I knew you’d be fascinated.”
Steve read the message through and looked up at Diana. “It says we’re invited because we were members of the original stage cast of The Holbein Legacy. We’re being asked to take part in a day or two of filming and a photo shoot with the original cast. How extraordinary. That means they must be inviting all the others too. I wonder if anyone we know will be there and which film stars will come. It doesn’t say.”
“Not all the original members will come…Emily for one, if you remember. She’s sadly no longer with us, and there are bound to be a few more we know nothing about. It’s so easy to lose touch.”
“You’re right. I’d forgotten about Emily. Do you reckon Duncan’s still a womaniser?”
“I bet he is. Despite Isabelle’s hooks in him, he always was quite the Casanova.” Diana laughed.
“So you’d like to go then? Visit the Cotswolds and stay at the Macphersons’? What about Poppy? And are you sure you want to go away? You haven’t wanted to lately if I suggested it.”
Diana looked pensive. “Steve, so many questions! I do like the idea of a few weeks or so away and seeing some of the old cast. Staying at the Macphersons’ swanky house and meeting some film stars will be amazing! But as for Poppy, I’m not sure. I don’t really think a two-year-old would be welcome in Isabella’s home, do you?”
“I’m not sure you can call it a home. It’s almost a stately home displaying Isabelle’s family treasures. And I agree. I don’t think we can take Poppy. Perhaps we could ask Robert and Libby if they’d help out for a few days. Or Geraldine…she loves kids too.”
“No, we’d better not ask Geraldine. As much as she loves Poppy, she has the bar at The Magic Teapot to run and her own grandson to look after. I wouldn’t want to burden her any more. No, Robert and Libby are a great choice, and they’ve offered before. Besides, it’ll be good practice for when their own baby arrives next year.”
“But Di, don’t forget we’ll be staying near Cheltenham. That’s what we’re talking about. Are you sure? It’s bound to bring back old memories, and I don’t want you upset.”
“Yes, I know, but what happened was a long time ago, and I’ve put it firmly behind me. Besides, as you say so often, I attract trouble, and there’s nothing I can do about that! So let’s do it. And I’m positive about Robert and Libby being happy in looking after Poppy.”
“If you’re really happy, darling, then I‘ll go along with it. Shall I leave you to ring and organise your cousin?”
“Yes, I’ll do it now. Are you coming in for coffee, or shall I make it and we’ll have it in the courtyard?”
“Give me five minutes, and then I’ll have conquered this Chinese puzzle. I’d like it in the courtyard, since it’s such a lovely morning.”
Diana left Steve with his wiring and headed towards the kitchen. She knew she was taking a risk revisiting the scene of a previous unsolved crime, but she was sure she could handle it.
The drive from the south coast up to the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire was one of Diana’s favourite scenic routes. It was no wonder thousands of tourists visited the area. The Cotswolds were well known for gentle hillsides (wolds), sleepy villages, and for being so typically English. She loved the non-cemented dry-stone walls everywhere. The eighteenth- and nineteenth-century walls represented an important historical landscape and were a major conservation feature.
Diana spent some years in Gloucestershire in her twenties, which was when she first met Steve. She was already a member of Duncan Macpherson’s theatre company when Steve joined. Within days, the two young actors had fallen in love and spent whatever free time they had together. They explored the surrounding countryside in an old MG roadster, which was Steve’s pride and joy, and learnt a lot about the ways of the local farmers. During the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries—the medieval period—native Cotswold sheep were famous throughout Europe for their heavy fleeces and the high quality of wool they produced. Cotswold wool commanded a high price, so the wealth generated by the wool trade enabled wealthy traders to leave their mark by building fine houses and wonderful churches, known as wool churches. Whenever Diana caught sight of sheep on the hillside, she was reminded of this and thought it one of the classic Cotswold images.
Diana and Steve had arrived in England three days before and lost no time in driving down to Hampshire where Diana’s cousin, Robert, lived with his wife, Libby. Di was particularly fond of her cousin and his new wife, especially since she had played a hand in getting them together. Robert had suffered the loss of his first wife and baby daughter some years previously in a tragic accident. When Libby arrived on the scene, Diana thought the attractive nursing sister the perfect partner for her kind and considerate cousin.
When Diana first rang and asked if they would mind having Poppy for a few days, she heard the enthusiasm in Libby’s voice at once. Diana was relieved. Although she hadn’t left her precious daughter with anyone else before, she trusted Robert and Libby implicitly.
“We’d love to have her! She’s such a dear little thing and so good. We’ll have tremendous fun taking her out, and it’ll give Robert a good excuse to take time off. He’s been working extra hard lately and needs a change. When can we expect you? Is there anything special we need to get in for her?"
Diana ran through some details and then, after having a quick word with her cousin, said she and Steve were looking forward to seeing them a couple of weeks later. The intervening time flew past, and Diana felt her feet hadn’t touched the ground since she had first received the invitation.
Steve and Diana stayed with Robert and Libby for a few nights, and Diana swore Poppy remembered them from their previous visit a few months before. Within minutes, she was rushing around the English household, terrorising their Labrador puppy, Sam, and Diana was confident her daughter felt happy and safe there. Having settled Poppy, Diana and Steve left her on the living-room floor with Sam and set off for Havershall House. The drive up had been enjoyable but uneventful. With barely a half hour to go, they were feeling relaxed yet excited at seeing a lot of the old co-members of the cast once again.
“It must be fifteen years since we were last here at the house,” Steve mused, changing down a gear to let a small herd of cows head into a field. He paused to wave at the herder and resumed their journey.
Diana nodded. “Easily. We finished the season of The Holbein Legacy and then did a short spell of Shakespeare for the festival. God, that was exhausting! I hated doing Romeo and Juliet over and over again. And what about the Merchant of Venice…?” She laughed. “Remember Clare Thomson as Portia when she’d put on weight and her costume pants split up the back during her big speech? ‘The quality of mercy is not strained’ etcetera, etcetera, and eek! Suddenly there she stood, exposing a shocking pink pair of satin French knickers! All I can say is, it’s a good thing thongs weren’t in vogue then! And as for ‘mercy not being strained’, her bottom was certainly straining in those pants. Ha-ha!” She wriggled down into her seat, giggling, and Steve joined in.
“I do. What a fright we all had. Duncan nearly had a fit. Who was playing Shylock that time? Was it Russell? He nearly dropped his stage knife in shock…he was standing right behind her. No one knew whether to laugh or keep a straight face. Ah, good times. We had a lot of fun, even if the pay was appalling.”
Diana wiped her eyes. “Don’t make me laugh anymore. My mascara’s already run. I want to look presentable. No doubt all the others will be looking their best. I’m going to be up against some exquisite film stars, I bet.”
Steve took his eyes from the road for a second and glanced at her. “You look good to me, and there’s only a faint smudge under your right eye. That’s it, you’ve got it.”
Di dabbed at her eyes with a tissue and took the opportunity to drag a hairbrush through her long glossy hair. She smiled at her husband. “Are you sure?”
“Hun, how can I not be sure when I’m sitting next to the most gorgeous green-eyed woman in the world. You look perfect to me.”
“You’re only saying that because you know Duncan and Isabelle have enormous beds in their guest rooms, and we won’t have any little intruders tonight.”
Steve chuckled. “Yes, Poppy sure does pick her moments. But I honestly had forgotten about the beds. Things are looking better all the time!”
“We’re nearly there, according to that last signpost. It can only be another mile or so.”
They sat in silence until, rounding a bend in the road, they came across an imposing pair of gateposts set before a gravelled drive, flanked with huge rhododendron bushes. Diana looked around her. “I remember them and being told those old weathered posts have sat there for over two hundred years.”
He laughed. “They still look distinctly phallic to me!”
Steve steered the car between the gateposts and began the four-hundred metre or so drive up to the imposing building standing at the end. The present house standing in the grounds was a neo-classical design by Robert Smirke and was built in 1819. Over the years, the original house had been added to since its early beginnings, and Diana remembered there was a canal leading from an eighteenth-century water garden down to a lake. She had always admired the gardens, despite never having had the opportunity before to explore the vast acreage properly. With this visit she hoped to rectify that. Glancing up, she noticed a length of crenelated wall on the second floor. She assumed there would be an adjoining flat roof and vowed to explore it if she got the chance. The view would be stunning.
Someone must have been instructed to wait and welcome the expected visitors because before Steve could even consider where to go, a young man dressed in what could only be the household livery hastened down the steps from the front door to show him where to park their car.
Hiding a smile, Diana muttered to Steve, “I thought servants in uniform were a thing of the past.”
“Welcome. Welcome to Havershall House. I’m John, and Mr and Mrs Macpherson are waiting for you in the drawing room with refreshments. I’ll get one of the members of staff to show you to your room and escort you down when you’re ready.”
Steve and Diana’s room was on the west corner of the house, overlooking both the front and side gardens. The latter led to a proper maze, while in the front Diana could see the lake with the main lawn sloping down towards it. A fountain stood just off the drive with a statue of a wood nymph, a tiny deer at her feet. Surrounding the grassy areas and acting as a backdrop, lush deep woodland framed the area.
“What a gorgeous view,” she said. “I can see the lake from here. I hope we get a chance to explore later—I’d like to stretch my legs after our drive. How do you feel?”
Steve joined her at the window. “Fine, actually, but a walk around the grounds sounds good. Look who’s just appeared from around the corner of the maze hedge.”
Diana peered in the direction he indicated. “I think it’s Russell with Isabelle. Yes, it is. He hasn’t changed much, has he? A bit greyer than I remember, but we’ve all changed. She looks the same too, although she could be even thinner, if that’s possible. So, if Russell’s here, I wonder who else we’ll see.”
“Most of the old gang, I should imagine. Now, soon as you’re ready, we’ll go down. I remember from last time where the drawing room is. Doesn’t that sound old-fashioned? We don’t need a maid to show us.”
“Hang on a minute, those two intrigue me.”
“Well, think about it. Russell and Isabelle were never the best of friends when we were last here. I wonder why they’re together now.”
“Di, they’re two people simply strolling around the grounds. Perhaps they bumped into one another.”
“But what?” he asked, irritation evident in his voice.
“Oh, nothing. I just think it’s strange because when Emily and Russell got together he was really off Duncan and Isabelle.”
“Remember, we’ve been away for a long time. People can change.”
“You’re right, I—oh, listen, Isabelle sounds like she’s having a whinge. Now why am I not surprised?” She laughed.
Despite feeling it was impolite to listen to other people’s conversations, Steve was intrigued. Both he and Diana strained to hear the conversation across the distance between the house and the maze hedge. Russell looked like he was about to go off in a different direction when Isabelle caught him by his arm.
“It was a good idea of yours to rope Sebastian in to deliver the costumes here. And by the way, the costumes are perfect, Russell.”
“Thank you. I believe we both have a good eye when it comes to period dress. Those last-minute minor alterations to the two main female costumes have made all the difference.”
“Yes. But I still can’t understand why Caroline gets to wear the better dress. Surely Joanna Bullen as the leading lady should wear it? Caroline’s only a minor actress after all. This irritates me no end. You know how I feel about the little slapper.” She let her hand drop from his arm.
“I do know, and yes of course, Joanna is the star. But Isabelle, her costume is quite magnificent in its own right. Besides, the one Caroline will be wearing is far too short for Joanna. There’s a good six inches difference in height between them, and the fitter couldn’t or wouldn’t alter the dress, as it would be ruined. It is an antique after all.”
“Even so,” she grumbled, “Caroline shouldn’t be the one who shines above everyone else. I find it extremely annoying.”
“More to the point, did your boys finish painting the boat? Was the paint you bought a good colour match in the end?”
“Yes. They’re a bit short-staffed around the estate, so they were slow, but they’ve finished it at last. They’re so idle at times. It’s in the boathouse. Do you want to see it? I’m not sure I have time to take you down there, and it’s a bit of a trek in this heat. You could go by yourself.” Isabelle was on form, Diana noted: as petulant and complaining as ever.
“No, no. I’m sure it’ll look good. You did a grand job finding a picture of a boat of the period. I don’t need to see it until tomorrow. It was a good idea of yours to use it.”
“In that case I’ll leave you. I really must check luncheon is in order, and I need to change. Goodbye, Russell. I believe our business is now finished. We needn’t speak about this any further. The costume shop will receive my cheque in the post tomorrow.”
Russell stood watching Isabelle while she hurried round to the front of the house. He gave a tiny shake to his head as if he couldn’t believe her attitude.
“Oh! What do you make of that?” asked Diana in a quiet voice.
“It sounded like Isabelle has chosen some costumes for the film. I never knew she was interested in the wardrobe. I’ve no idea what she meant about a boat though. Perhaps it’s to be in one of the shots. Now, are you going to gaze out of that window, spying on the guests, or can we go down and have something to eat and drink? I’m starving.”
“Of course not, darling. Just let me tidy my hair and put some lippy on, and I’ll be with you.”
Walking into the room and seeing so many familiar faces was like it was only yesterday since they had all last met.
Their host, Duncan, was the first person to lay down his coffee cup and greet them.
“Steve, Diana! How wonderful of you to come and all the way from Cyprus, too. How are you, my darling?” he enthused while kissing Diana and holding her just a mite too long and close. “You’re looking as beautiful as ever. I believe you have a daughter now? I must say motherhood becomes you. Steve, my boy! You’re looking fit and well. How are you enjoying life? Are you still working? You’re surely too young to retire. Come and help yourselves to tea or coffee.” He turned and called over their heads to a small cluster of people gathered by the open doors leading to the garden. “Isabelle, my dear, come and see who’s arrived.”
Diana studied Duncan once he released her and saw he too hadn’t aged much. His hair was still thick and dark, with just a sprinkling of grey here and there. His body looked lean and fit beneath his casual polo shirt and trousers. She remembered his clear blue eyes and recalled how they used to light up whenever he first met a pretty girl. Duncan definitely hadn’t changed. Diana smiled inside; despite his philandering, Diana always thought he acted appropriately when it came to running the company. His private life was his own affair.
A woman broke away from the party standing near the open doors and made her way over to where Steve and Diana waited. Duncan’s wife, Isabelle, was blonde and petite. She was about fifteen years younger than Duncan’s fifty-five years, but the passing years hadn’t been quite so kind. Although no expert, Diana was sure Isabelle had undergone facial surgery, and her bosom appeared larger and firmer than she remembered. Once she drew close, Diana could see she wore a substantial amount of make-up, and her lips were overly full and fleshy. Botox and a facelift! My, my, Di thought as they greeted one another. She really has gone to town with the facials this time.
Isabelle had never been beautiful. When she was younger, she was the perfect plain Jane. Her hair colour was true mouse, although it was obvious an expensive salon had added the blonde streaks, and her eyes were a muddy grey-brown. Her figure was forgettable too; ‘as straight and as interesting as an ironing-board’ Steve once said to Diana after crossing words with Isabelle. She also remembered her acerbic tongue. Steve and Diana never could understand why the handsome and witty Duncan had married her. Except, perhaps it was because the then Miss Havershall was rich. It was Isabelle who owned the house and surrounding land. Havershall House had belonged in her family ever since it was built, and because she had no brother, Isabelle inherited the estate when her father died.
Isabelle held out a cool and powdered cheek to Diana. She kissed the air between them, making sure their faces didn’t quite touch. “How nice of you to come…Diane isn’t it? My goodness, but you’re so brown. Don’t you ever worry about all those facial lines or skin cancers living in such a hot place? I don’t think it would do for me, and Duncan likes his little English rose just so. Steven, you’re still looking so handsome. Now I can see how the sun certainly suits you.” This time she presented her face to Steve and greeted him properly.
“Diana, I’m Diana.”
“Do come and have some coffee,” Isabelle said, ignoring Diana’s mutterings. She tucked Steve’s arm firmly in her own and led him over to a well-laden refreshment table. Diana looked cross and then laughed under her breath. They had never got along in all the time Diana had been a member of Duncan’s company, so Isabelle was hardly going to change now. At least Duncan still appeared to like her!
“Why the amused smile? Have you been given the royal brush-off from the ice queen too?”
Diana spun round, hearing the deep voice in her ear and beamed. “Russell! How lovely! I was wondering when you’d show up,” Diana squealed, hugging him to her and planting a big kiss on his lips. She stood back to get a proper look at him. “Actually, Steve and I saw you from our room before we came down. You were coming out of the maze. It’s so good to see you after all these years. How have you been? What work have you been doing lately?”
Russell laughed, shaking his shaggy dark locks at her. “Slow down, I’ve been fine. You might remember when I left the company—Duncan’s company, that is—I took time off from acting and did something completely different. Since I already had my teacher’s training qualification, I went back to teaching. I teach speech and drama with English, part-time at the local school. When I found the acting bug again, I joined the Playhouse Company in Cheltenham. You remember the Playhouse Company always performs at the old Montpellier Baths.”
Diana did indeed remember the Playhouse Theatre but not much about its history and said so.
Russell expanded. “You might recall the Playhouse Theatre started life as the Montpellier Baths in 1806. Because the first mineral springs were discovered in Cheltenham, it was transformed it into a spa. Gentry from all over the country came to drink the waters because it was so healthy. In 1898, the baths were bought by the Cheltenham Corporation and converted into a swimming pool and slipper baths. Just before the end of the Second World War, the Cheltenham Council realised the town’s lack of theatrical facilities and converted the swimming pool into a theatre, and in April 1945, the first play was performed. It was that old pot-boiler, Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw. Since then the auditorium and ‘green room’ have undergone refurbishment. It’s a great theatre, and the Company members are very friendly.”
“It seems you’ve learned your history well,” Diana teased once he had finished. “Do you find it a friendlier place than when we were all together at the Everyman?”
Russell’s eyes darkened as if in pain or anger, and Di realised with a shock he still thought back to those black days of his. After a second he seemed to snap out of it, and standing more upright, he replied, “We had some good times at the Everyman. It’s a great place, and I’m proud to have starred in a theatre which was opened by Lilly Langtry. Do you know the theatre underwent a three-million-pound refurbishment in 2011? It looks quite something now. I hope you get a chance to look over the old place while you’re here. That is, if you feel up to it and can ignore what happened?”
“You’re as bad as Steve. I’m up to it. What happened is history, and yes, it would be good to visit. I read about the refurbishment earlier. Changing the subject, do you know who else is arriving today?”
“I only know about a few of the old crew. And we’re expecting Caroline, of course.” He bent and whispered in her ear. “She’s Duncan’s latest find, and where he’s concerned, quite a girl if you like them blonde, and very keen to get on, if you get my meaning. Personally, I think she may be nothing more than a little gold-digger, who’s a bit free and easy with her favours, but perhaps I’m just feeling jaded with Duncan and his starlets. I’m from the old school, of course. Going back to the old crew, there’s Clare, Joanna, and Patrick, who are all here. There will be others, but I forget who Duncan said was definitely coming. The film stars or starlets I don’t know at all. So we’re in for an interesting few days. Oh, here’s Patrick now. I say, what a face on him! I wonder why he’s looking so worried. He knows everyone from the old cast. I always remember him being calm and steady. Patrick, we’re over here!” He waved, and Diana turned to see a bearded fellow with a short ponytail standing in the doorway and looking round. If Russell hadn’t said who he was, she didn’t think she would have recognised him. He looked very dishevelled.
Patrick ignored Russell’s raised arm. Instead, he took a deep breath, turned towards Duncan, and rudely pointing a shaking finger at him, called, “You! I want a word now, if you please.”
There was a hush as everyone stopped talking and turned to see what the fuss was.