Who Killed Toby Glovins? Third Excerpt

It was dusk by the time Freddie returned to Foxgrove Park. At this same hour yesterday, they’d found Toby dead. Instead of entering the house, he walked a little way down the drive toward the Vixen and let himself in through a latched iron gate in the garden wall. He wasn’t ready to face anybody yet.

Toby Glovins cover detailThe garden was quiet, seemingly abandoned, but as he wandered the shrubbery, he heard the sound of someone sobbing. Freddie traced the sound to the pavilion. The decorative lanterns that had been hung up around the lawn remained unlit, but there was enough light cast from the Vixen’s windows for him to see Amelia weeping in the bower they’d made for her.

“Mellie?”

She lifted her face from her handkerchief. “Freddie?”

“Are you all right?”

“I’m fine… as well as can be expected. I had to get away. Everyone means well, but I can’t bear to hear one more person tell me how lucky I am to be free of Evvy. I don’t feel lucky! I’m sorry about the flowers,” she added nonsensically. “You worked so hard on this silly bower and now it’ll have to come down before they wilt and turn brown.”

Freddie ventured a few steps closer. “Do you want me to leave you alone?”

“No,” Mellie answered after a moment. “Since you’re here, you might as well stay.” She patted the wooden bench as an invitation to join her. “Are you still investigating?”

“Yes,” he said as he sat down.

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Who Killed Toby Glovins? Second Excerpt

Toby Glovins cover detail“Freddie.”

When Freddie left the Vixen, he headed toward Foxgrove along a path that skirted the outer garden wall. Inspector Deffords stood waiting for him. “I thought you’d gone.”

“I had some business with my men before they packed up, but I wanted to talk to you before I went into Foxborough.” He offered a cigarette and Freddie was grateful to take it; he hadn’t had one since before breakfast.

“I can’t say I’m surprised to find you in the middle of this,” Deffords told him. “Not after that business with Bertram Marsh, then the Putey girl who was mixed up with your cousin Wilfrid. Now a body turns up in your uncle’s back garden.”

“Do you mind that Uncle Percy’s engaged me?” asked Freddie.

“I won’t object. I can’t if Sir Percival insists and my superiors allow it–and they do. Even the higher-ups know to stay on the good side of the local nobs, and not just where murder’s concerned. As long as everybody important in Norfolk is an uncle of yours, I might as well make use of it. I know how your class closes ranks. Sir Percival’s family won’t tell me a thing, but they’ll tell you. You can ask them questions. Play detective all you like, but I want you to be careful. It’s safer to stay out of murders. I’ve said so before.”

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Excerpt from “Who Killed Toby Glovins?”

Toby Glovins cover detailThe bride’s and groom’s friends prepare decorations in the garden the evening before the wedding…

The last chain of flowers was finished as the sun sank out of sight behind the garden wall. Bicky and, at his brother’s insistence, Dotty joined the girls and Felix to help hang the garlands up around the bower frame. Evelyn, who had been working swiftly to finish before sunset, put down the knife he’d been using to trim the flower-stems, washed the green stains from his hands in the water from one of the tubs, and hastily left. Phillip went over to Kell and the two began to talk quietly.

Freddie lay back on the grass and stared at the sky overhead as twilight settled in. The color had waned from bright, cloudless blue to a dusky lavender and was beginning to deepen. It was a beautiful evening, still, clear, and quiet. He could hear Kell and Phillip whispering together, and the smell of Kell’s cigarette in the cooling air made him wish he had one of his own.

There was some animated discussion at the bower, then Felix, Piggy, and Perdita came to stand over him.

“The girls,” announced Felix with a grin, “have a proposal.”

“A dance!” cried Perdita. “There’ll be lots of dancing tomorrow. We need to practice.”

“We need boys. We can’t all dance with Felix,” Alma said with her customary giggle, but she managed to claim Felix for her partner just the same.

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Another Excerpt from “Cousin Wilfrid”

The investigation begins:

After lunch, Kell and Phillip accompanied Billy to the Rose and Crown. They’d discussed their plans with Freddie and agreed that this would be the most effective way to get information. The village inhabitants enjoyed few things more than gathering at the local pub to discuss their neighbors’ comings and goings. Surely, all of Abbotshill was talking about Wilfrid. Why not take advantage of it?

At the Rose and Crown, the trio made their way to the bar together. While Kell and Phillip obtained their first pints of the local brew, Amyas Barlow waved eagerly to draw their attention and summon them to his table.

Seated with Amyas was Aloysius Whittaker, called Lad by his friends. He was a broad-shouldered, flaxen-haired, thick-headed but good-hearted youth of 25, son of the mayor of the nearby town of Stowmarket. Since Lad and Amyas were as good a point as any to begin their work, Kell and Phillip picked up their glasses of beer and joined them.
Continue reading “Another Excerpt from “Cousin Wilfrid””

Excerpt from “Cousin Wilfrid”

From The Abrupt Disappearance of Cousin Wilfrid:

On Monday morning while he breakfasted at a little table in the bow window of his room, there was knock at the door. Freddie looked up from his plate of bacon and eggs, wondering who it could be. Billy, who was packing Freddie’s suitcase, left off this task to answer it.

The local constable, Robert Cochrane, stood in the hallway. He looked relieved to see Billy, for the two had been friends from childhood.

“G’morning, Bill. I’d like to speak to your Mr. Freddie, please, if you don’t mind.”

“What’s this about, Rob?” Billy asked.

“It’s that cousin of his, Mr. Babington-Loewes. He’s gone missing.”

“Missing?” said Billy; from immediately behind him came an echo: “Wilfrid’s missing?” He turned to find that Freddie had left his seat at the table to join them at the door.

“That’s right, Mr. Babington,” Rob answered. “He left Abbotshill last Friday night and no one’s seen him since.” Noting that Freddie was still in his dressing-gown, he added apologetically, “I don’t wish to trouble you. I know you’ve been poorly and I wouldn’t’ve come if it wasn’t important.”
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Another excerpt from “The Family Jewels”

The Taggarts weren’t an old county family like the Babingtons, but had gained prominence a generation ago following the success of the Taggart boiled sweets factory in Colchester. Mr. Taggart was also the local MP. Freddie had met him once or twice at his aunt’s house on social occasions and, whenever he got off the train at Abbotshill Halt, couldn’t help seeing the conspicuously large and jarringly modern house where Mr. Taggart lived when Parliamentary duties didn’t keep him in London.

While Freddie wasn’t among Mr. Taggart’s constituents, many of his relatives were. When he gave his name to the parlormaid, he and his companions were shown into the drawing room. Mr. Taggart, a chubby man of about fifty dressed like a country squire, was in conference with a robust lady of middle age whom Freddie had also seen at his aunt’s and assumed to be his wife–but Mr. Taggart introduced her as his sister, Mrs. Broadbelt.

Once Freddie had explained what brought him, Mr. Taggart nodded solemnly. “Nettie and I were just discussing it. It sounds most peculiar.”

“I’ve heard of your investigations from your aunt, Mr. Babington,” said Mrs. Broadbelt, “although I had no idea that you’d taken it up as a profession.”

“I’ve only done it to help members of my family before this,” Freddie acknowledged. “I suppose this will be my first professional case. I’d like to find out more about that cottage,” he began as he took a seat. Billy and Rob remained shyly near the door; Rob twisted his cap in his hands and Billy eyed the cut-glass bowl on the sideboard filled with Taggart Toffee Treats and the red-and-white bull’s-eye candies known as Taggart Targets. “The Fairchilds tell me that it’s your property, Mr. Taggart. It used to belong to your mother?”

“Yes, that’s right,” said Mr. Taggart. “The cottage was Mother’s. She and our father lived there when they first married and when we were small children, before he came into prosperity. Father built this house for her when he had the money, but Mother preferred her old home. After he died, she returned there to live until she passed away last summer. After Mother’s death, the cottage sat empty for months until young Florrie married. I offered it to her and her husband as a honeymoon home.”

“Did anything odd like this happen when your mother lived there?”

“No…” Mr. Taggart glanced significantly at his sister.

“It’s the jewelry,” she concluded. “I’ve always said it was still in that cottage!”

“Jewelry?” said Rob, suddenly alert. “What jewelry is this, Ma’am?”

“Mother’s.” Mrs. Broadbelt explained in more detail, primarily to Freddie: “She had some lovely pieces–pearls, rings, a set of antique gold combs, and a famous emerald necklace worth more than all the rest together. You can see it, there.” She pointed to a portrait on the wall above the fireplace, depicting an elderly lady wearing a dress in the style of 1900 and a magnificent collar of green stones. Rob examined it more closely. “It’d been in Mother’s family for generations before their fortunes took a bad turn. All her own mother had left were these jewels and she held on to them to the end. Mother was just as loath to part with them.”

“I believe she sold a few small pieces to help father begin his business,” Mr. Taggart interjected.

“Yes, but nothing she truly valued. That necklace was her prized possession. It had always gone from mother to daughter and Mother was determined to carry on the tradition. As her eldest daughter, I should’ve received it at her death. From eldest daughter to eldest daughter, it always was, but since I have no children, Mother thought it more fair to divide her jewelry between all her daughters and granddaughters.”

“But the jewels was never given to anybody,” said Billy, speaking for the first time. “What happened to them?”

“Well, you know the way of old ladies,” said Mr. Taggart. “In her last days, Mother grew rather scatter-brained and began to worry about her jewelry box being stolen. We think that she must’ve hidden it someplace safe, but she never told us where. Perhaps she forgot. We went through her things after her funeral, searched the cottage, but never found it. That was well over a year ago.”

Excerpt from “The Family Jewels”

A mystery set in the 1920s, continuing the adventures of Frederick Babington.
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It was a beautiful, crisp, and colorful autumn afternoon. Frederick Babington, who was visiting his aunt in the Suffolk village of Abbotshill, decided to take a walk. Though the injuries he’d received during the Great War had taken a long time to heal, he was beginning to feel truly well again. His leg no longer pained him and he’d discarded his cane.

Billy Watkins, Freddie’s manservant who had saved his life during the war and looked after him diligently since, insisted that he take a coat in case the evening grew chilly and not tire himself by going too far. Freddie promised to be back in time for dinner and grabbed his tweed coat down from the rack by the front door on his way out.

He had delightful time wandering the country lanes around Abbotshill, climbing the green hills and kicking up piles of golden and russet leaves that had fallen under the trees. At dusk, he headed back toward his aunt’s house by way of the Rose and Crown pub; a pint of the local beer seemed just the thing to complete his outing.

The taproom was crowded, but the girl at the bar smiled when she saw him. “We’ve been hearing some talk about you tonight, Mr. Freddie,” she told him as she filled a mug from the tap. Freddie didn’t understand this remark, until she lifted her chin to indicate a table in the corner behind him. “Bill’s been here near an hour, telling everybody what a fine detective you are. Our constable was interested in particular.”

Freddie turned to look over his shoulder and located Billy seated with the village constable, Rob Cochrane. The two were deep in conversation and hadn’t noticed his entrance. Curious as to what they were saying, Freddie picked up his mug and made his way toward their table.

As he approached, a familiar voice could be heard through the chatter of the crowd: “I tell you, Mr. Freddie’s awfully clever. He’s solved plenty of mysteries, private-like for his family, you understand, but he likes a puzzle even if it’s nothing to do with murder. If anybody can figure out this one of yours, Rob, Mr. Freddie can.”

Freddie was deeply touched by the recommendation. There was an old saying: No man is a hero to his valet–but Billy evidently thought well enough of him to sing his praises in in public.

“So you think he’ll see me?” asked Rob.

“If I ask him to, he will,” Billy assured his friend. “Whyn’t you come up to Abbot House with me? We’ll put it before Mr. Freddie and see what he thinks.” It was then he realized that Freddie was standing behind him; Billy’s face colored, his mouth opened and shut, and he ducked his head.

Freddie beamed at him affectionately. “Ask me what, Billy?”

“It’s Rob here–he’s got a puzzle as needs working out.” Billy waved to indicate his friend.

“Bill says I ought to come to you, Mr. Babington, ’bout this matter I was called to look into,” Rob explained. “There’s been no crime as such, but it’s an odd thing. Billy was telling me you like to investigate odd things. I thought as you might want to have a look at it yourself.”

“What is it?”

Rob made as if to rise–he thought it disrespectful to be seated before a gentleman–but Freddie gestured for him to stay where he was. Rob remained seated, but sat up a little straighter in his chair as he reported, “There was a cottage broken into this afternoon on the far side of the village–not burgled, Mr. Babington, as I say. Nothing’s been taken. But here’s the curious thing: the furniture’s been shifted about.”

“Shifted about?” echoed Freddie. “You mean, someone came in and rearranged their furniture?”

“Not so much ‘rearranged,’ more like pulled out of place. I’ve been constable in these parts for three years now, and it’s the most peculiar bit of mischief I’ve ever seen! Can you tell me why anybody’d want to do such a thing?”

Another excerpt from “Maiden In Light”

Laurel follows her uncle one night to discover what goes on during the wizard’s secret vigils:
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After sunset on Midsummer eve, as twilight deepened, Laurel hid and waited impatiently in the shadowed thickets of the chapel garden.

From her first days at the castle, she’d watched Lord Redmantyl go out on the nights of Equinox and Solstice, on May Night, Maryemas, Candlemas, and All Hallows, and she wondered each time where he went. The wizard would never tell. If she looked out of her dressing-room window in the late hours, she sometimes saw strange, glowing lights out on Greenwaters Island—the unnatural color of wizard-fire. Something spectacular was happening and she was eager to discover what it was. Her uncle’s promises that she would understand when she was a wizard herself did not satisfy. She sensed a tantalizing, ominous truth behind this mystery. Her training told her that she was being prepared for great vigilance. Each exercise indicated a magical purpose which required enormous power uncontaminated by external influences. She was armed as a knight errant for battle, but against whom? What foe did she defend herself against? Wizard’s Keep was the key.

She couldn’t wait until she became a wizard; she must know now.
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Another excerpt from The Wizard’s Son

A traveling troupe of actors performs their own interpretation of a very old and highly symbolic play
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After dinner, Redmantyl brought Orlan downstairs. “You’re going to see a play tonight, Little One,” he said.

A stage had been set on the courtyard above the Plaza. Torches blazed on the walls and huge squares of black canvas hung across the southern side. There were few props—painted chairs, a baptismal font, an odd pile of lumber and canvas with a platform at the top, and a large, sheet-draped object at one corner—but Orlan looked around, wondering, as his father took him across. They sat on the Plaza just below the steps. All the servants, the off-duty guards, and the more prominent citizens of Lyges sat behind them, on benches and cushions. Orlan saw none of the thespians who had been rushing about all day.

“It’ll be starting soon?” He looked up at his father.

“At any moment,” Redmantyl answered softly. “Hush.” And as Orlan began to squirm with impatience, a young maid in plain dress—Anyse—walked out from the Bottom Hall and curtsied pertly.

“Our noble patron, Lord Redmantyl, his household, and welcome guests from Lyges,” her voice rang out clearly. “We the members of Redmantyl’s most kindly sustained thespian troupe thank you all for your favor and bid you attend the tale we perform tonight. `Tis a sad but worthy story of a man of pride and temper and of his grievous sins. With no more apology nor delay, we humbly present our tale of times long passed and people long dead, of Oedipus, the tragic King.” She bobbed again and exited.
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Excerpt from “Maiden In Light”

Laurel attempts to bring out her timid cousin Igren’s latent magical abilities.
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“Igren, will you have another lesson?”

“If you wish.” The girl rose from the coucherie by her dressing-room windows, where she’d been watching the rain, and came to Laurel. “What shall we do?”

“We must test the nature of your ability. You may command best within the mental medium.”

“The- What-?”

“Some magic has no influence in the material world,” Laurel explained, simplifying the lengthy and tortuous passages she’d gathered from a dozen sources on the subject in her quest to discover an answer for Igren’s talents. “A mental magician exerts her will only in the mental energies of other people and living creatures. She senses them—she reads the thoughts which pass through another mind and she can disrupt them and command their actions.”

“Another of your books,” said Igren, with a smile. “What does it mean?”

“Such magicians cannot cast spells and so are not counted as true wizards, but they are no less magical.”
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