Excerpt from Another Story

"Odd Goings-on..." Cover

From Odd Goings-on at Ferndell Farm and Other Stories, a collection of short non-murder mysteries set in the 1920s, featuring detective Frederick Babington:

 

Priscilla’s Precious Pearls in a Pie

1

He had dreamed of lost and stolen jewels since the very beginning of his work as a consulting detective. Here they were at last—an iridescent pile of matched pearls, each slightly smaller than a pea, bundled into a lady’s practical-sized handkerchief. Each had a tiny hole drilled through its center, the interior of which appeared to be tinted slightly red.

“I had them cleaned,” Mrs. Hillingdon explained. “I took them to the same man who does my dentures. He’s a marvel at removing tea and cherry-juice stains. I’m afraid I’ve always been too partial to cherry pie for my own good. I insist on my cook baking one for my birthday every year instead of cake. I never cared for cake. Imagine our surprise when we found what we thought were so many pits—Mrs. Parmiggen never leaves pits! But these were pearls, a necklace worth of pearls. Now, how on earth did they come to be in my birthday pie, and who could they possibly belong to? Answer those questions for me, Mr. Babington, and I’ll believe you’re the greatest detective since Sherlock Holmes.”

Freddie smiled at the hyperbole. Mrs. Hillingdon was a widow of a certain age, a good-humored woman of moderate means but no pretensions, somewhat stout, somewhat grey. She had come from Woking to present him with a handkerchief full of loose pearls and a most intriguing puzzle.

“I hope I’ll be able to live up to your expectations,” he answered. “None of your friends or relatives owns a string of pearls?”

“No, nothing so fine as these. You can see for yourself that they certainly aren’t Woolworth’s. Someone must surely be missing them, and yet I’ve seen nothing about a theft in the newspapers. Much as I would love to keep them as lost property, I can’t in good conscience. I must do what I can to locate the owner.”

“And you believe that must have gone into the pie as a necklace?”

“Yes, although the string was broken. We found bits of it baked onto the crust. I had those thrown out once we were certain we’d recovered all the pearls from the pie, but I did keep the clasp. I hoped it might help to identify who these belong to. There are initials and a date on it.”

“Yes.” Freddie plucked out the small gold oval that also lay within the folds of the handkerchief. It too had been cleaned and the two hooked pieces joined together.

He walked to the window of his study and held the clasp up to the light to see the engraving better—and received a surprise more astonishing than the mystery that Mrs. Hillingdon and her birthday guests had received.

“As a matter of fact,” he announced, “I can tell you exactly who these pearls belong to.”

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Odd Goings-on at Ferndell Farm and Other Stories

Storylandia, Issue 35

Where to buy: Amazon; Kindle; ePub and other formats available upon request.

Sample pages

Finding the late Mrs. Taggart’s missing jewels had made Freddie Babington famous. People with problems began to come to him, hoping to engage his services as a private detective. Freddie expected his new career to involve thrilling cases such as restoring diamond necklaces to Duchesses and secret plans to government ministers, perhaps rescuing a kidnapped heiress or two. Most of his cases were more mundane–but every once in a while, a client with a truly strange and interesting problem came to his door.

Excerpt below:

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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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The Ghost of a Tower

Or, the story behind a cover photo.

The photograph for the cover of Who Killed Toby Glovins? was taken at a place called Layer Marney, which is about 1/2 an hour’s drive outside Colchester in the UK. I went there at the end of the same day I wandered around the lanes of the Suffolk countryside in search of Abbotshill; after I visited Lavenham, I drove south again down around the other side of the city. This was my last stop of the day.

Let’s call this part of the journey “Looking for Foxgrove.”

Layer Marney towers

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Now on sale: Storylandia 19, Who Killed Toby Glovins?

Where to buy: online store; also Amazon (eligible for free shipping); and Kindle.


Sample pages

Where to buy: online store; also Amazon (eligible for free shipping); and Kindle.

Who Killed Toby Glovins?
Kathryn L. Ramage
ISBN: 978-1-942007-10-4

Freddie Babington has solved two mysteries. When he travels to Norfolk in the autumn of 1923 to attend the wedding of Amelia Marsh and Evelyn Tollarhithe, he doesn’t anticipate a third murder investigation. Then, on the evening before the wedding, a friend of the groom is found stabbed under circumstances that look compromising for Evelyn. Freddie agrees to take the case for Amelia’s sake. As Freddie digs deeper behind the friendship between Evelyn and Toby Glovins, and uncovers old family secrets, he learns that the question of who murdered Toby is more complicated than it first appears. And so, he discovers, are his feelings for the disappointed bride.

Kathryn L. Ramage has a B.A. and M.A. in English lit and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She lives in Maryland with three cats. As well as being the author of numerous short stories, novellas, and essays, she is the author of “Maiden in Light,” “The Wizard’s Son,” and “Sonnedragon,” novels set on an alternate Earth whose history has diverged from ours somewhere during the medieval period. All three are part of an intended series of fantasy novels that mostly take place in a dukedom called the Northlands, a part of the Norman Empire that roughly covers the north-eastern U.S. For more information, please visit her website at www.klr.wapshottpress.com.

Also by Kathryn L. Ramage
The Wizard’s Son
Maiden in Light
Sonnedragon
Storylandia 10: Death Among the Marshes
Storylandia 16: The Abrupt Disappearance of Cousin Wilfrid

Where to buy Storylandia 19, Who Killed Toby Glovins? At this online store; also Amazon (eligible for free shipping); and Kindle.

The Wapshott Press, publisher of Storylandia, is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Tax deductible donations can be made here: https://www.paypal.me/TheWapshottPress and thank you so much for your support!

In Search of Abbotshill

Abbotshill had never been Frederick Babington’s home, but he was as fond of it as he was the environs of Marsh Hall. This tiny village ten miles from Ipswich had once been the site of a medieval abbey, now in ruins. In these modern times, a collection of quaint cottages, a post office, and a brown-timbered tavern sat at the convergence of five country lanes on one side of a mill pond. On the other side of the pond was the old mill with its enormous wheel, more cottages, and shops around a green. The Mill Wheel Inn sat adjacent to an on-request railway platform.

Pond

Abbotshill doesn’t really exist, nor is it based on any particular village between Ipswich and Colchester. I scouted the general vicinity via Googlemaps before I wrote The Abrupt Disappearance of Cousin Wilfrid, but this was a part of England I’d never actually visited–until a few weeks ago.

On May 25, I rented a car in Colchester and drove east on the A12 out into the Suffolk countryside. I knew I wouldn’t find any place that exactly corresponded to my idea of the village where Freddie visits his aunt, but I thought I’d see what was really there.
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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.
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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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