The famous Arcadian Court on the eight floor of The Bay at Queen and Yonge Streets is closing to the public in January, 2012. The room will no longer offer meals to the public, but will instead only be available for private functions. It is a pity that this grand venue, the pride of the old Robert Simpson Company (Simpson’s) for many decades, will no longer exist as a place to enjoy a special Christmas lunch.
The Arcadian Court on the eight floor of The Bay department Store
I incorporated my memories of the Arcadian Court in the recently published murder/mystery, “The Reluctant Virgin.” In one scene, Gerry Thomson, one of the fictional detectives assigned to solve the murder, dines at the Arcadian Court with his wife, Ruth. It was an afternoon close to Christmas, and a special yuletide lunch was being served.
From the “Reluctant Virgin”
Gerry loved Christmas. It was not his responsibility to shop for presents and perform the numerous chores to prepare for the yuletide season. For him, it was a time for popping popcorn with the kids, watching presents pile-up under the tree, enjoy the smell of chocolate peanut butter cookies baking in the oven, and help the kids build snowmen in the backyard.
It also meant family outings. If the city behaved itself, and no one murdered their mother-in-law because she over-cooked the turkey or dropped her cigar butt into the giblet gravy, he might actually have time to take the kids to the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Toronto, or ice skating and tobogganing in High Park. As this moment, because he was away from the phone at the precinct, he was certain that at least one outing was a reality—lunch with Ruth at the Arcadian Court, located on the eight floor of the department store.
Gerry continued to wait as Ruth departed from the cosmetic counter and proceeded to the men’s department, where she purchased two shirts for her father. A half-hour later, after Ruth had tormented the clerks at three more departments, they entered the elevator to Gerry go up to lunch in the Arcadian Court. Gerry smiled in anticipation as the white-gloved hand of the elevator operator pulled shut the outer doors, then, the inner cage-like doors, and next, maneuvered the lever that caused the elevator to begin to rise upward.
Arriving on the eighth floor, the mellow sounds of the piano in the restaurant floated out into the foyer as the hostess wrote down their names. Ten minutes later, she escorted Gerry and Ruth to a cozy table near the north wall. The piano was playing—“It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.” In the background, the tinkle of silverware, china, and the constant buzz of animated conversation floated in the air. Excited patrons were enjoying a festive lunch in the warmth and ornate splendour of the art moderne Arcadian Room, one of Toronto’s finest dining establishments.
Ruth ordered the almandine-crusted salmon, and Gerry requested roast beef—well done. Ruth commented on the large floral arrangements positioned around the room, as she admired the tastefully decorated cornice work and the impressive columns with their ornate capitals. The enormous chandeliers sparkled, casting brilliant light across the room. Dining in the Arcadian Room was an occasion, rather than an opportunity to partake of nourishment.
Gerry had chosen the chair at the table with clear lines of sight and fields of fire, though he knew it was not necessary, as the Arcadian Court was hardly a place for mob hits or gangsters’ assassinations. Still, out of habit, he glanced around the room with the eye of a policeman rather than an observer of architectural detail. He saw “Wild Betty,” a lady of the evening, who was well known at the precinct. Her usual place of assignation was Jarvis Street, in the early-morning hours, but she was presently sitting at a table with a well-dressed older gentleman, who was likely incapable of any type of late-night endeavour.
On the far side of the room was “Harry the Ballman,” a pickpocket whom Gerry had known for years through “professional connections.” Harry was known for picking a pocket so deeply that if his target was a man, the guy was in danger of having his balls pulled out through his trouser pocket. Hence his nickname.
Gerry gazed upward and scanned the upper level that overlooked the dining area. It contained recessed alcoves that hid the diners from view. Then he saw a couple with a young boy stand-up to leave the table. The man held his fedora in front of his face, but Gerry had already recognized him. It was Tyrone Evanson, the principal of York Collegiate. Gerry’s trained eye glanced at the boy, and he knew instantly that the lad was related to Evanson. The resemblance was remarkable. From the photographs in the man’s office at the school, Gerry was certain that Gus did not have any children. Who was this boy? An illegitimate son or a nephew?
Thomson realized the possibilities of what he had discovered. If it were a son, Evanson was open to blackmail. If Stritch had discovered the illicit union, to protect his position within the community, would Evanson resort to murder?
Such a course of action was highly unlikely.
But was it impossible?