Keeper Of Secrets — an audio story

Keeper Of Secrets — Unseen 18:03

Susan, a bereaved daughter, stumbles upon her grandmother’s journals. Stories hidden from the family of adventures, spies, a mysterious discarded toy, lost loves and revenge flash before her eyes sparking a desire to escape her ordinary life.

In a dusty attic, Susan holds her sadness in check as she attempts to organise her mother’s stored memories. Boxes of journals written by her grandmother reveal a hidden secret life lived out during the modern world’s most dangerous conflict. Time slows down as the young woman relives her ancestor’s exciting life. The quiet dismissive old lady that she knew does not fit with the vibrant idealistic young woman she reads about in these journals. The identity of the mysterious ‘Keeper Of Secrets’ is ultimately revealed and this revelation leads Susan to a decision — she is going to escape from her ‘ordinary life’ and live a secret life of her own.
BOOK TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2OHQd7X_Jo

Time To Go Home

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I’ve been away for a long time, and now I’m going home. 

My whole life is in this bag except for the clothes I stand up in.

I couldn’t go without one last look.

I wouldn’t say that I love the sea, but I would say that it sustains me. This little coastal town took me in when I needed to be invisible.

I was expecting the usual small town attitudes, but that’s not what I found. They didn’t exactly embrace me, but they didn’t run me out-of-town on a rail either. Funny expression that; where the hell do you get a rail at short notice? And why not just chuck them in the back of a ute and dump ‘em at the city limits? Seems like a lot less trouble to me.

But what would I know?

hopper.gasI didn’t want to draw attention to myself, so I went looking for work as soon as I arrived. I packed groceries on a Friday and Saturday, worked at the service station whenever one of the boys needed a day off and did odd jobs at the distillery during the whisky season.

Getting somewhere to live was also mysteriously easy.

Ma Weston runs a boarding house. The kind of boarding house you read about in books.

Breakfast at 6:30 am dinner at 7:00 pm, and if you were late you went hungry. Ma Weston could cook — boy, could she cook — no one was late to the table in this house. Not only was the food amazing the portions were ridiculous.

Ma Weston got her start in the boarding house business when her husband was killed working on the rigs in Bass Straight. It was one of those huge storms that Bass Straight is famous for. Someone said that it’s one of the roughest stretches of water anywhere in the world and on the night Mr Wilson was washed off the rig it was close to Armageddon. The wave that took him went over the top of the rig. Think of how high those things are and then imagine a wave big enough to go over the top of it.

And I thought that I had troubles. 

3430504504_7a3545f5d2The rig workers did what they could for Ma Wilson and their most practical contribution was to make sure that her boarding house was always full of rig workers. Some even stayed a night before heading home.

Now that’s loyalty.

After six weeks on a rig with a bunch of smelly, hairy men with nothing to do but work sleep and jerk off, the last thing most blokes would do would be to prolong their absence from home, but that’s what they did, and it got her through those anxious years.

These days most of the rigs have shut down, but those that are still going continue to remember Ma Wilson. I got to know a few of the regular blokes. We would share the occasional beer on a Friday night.

Landing in an oil rig town was a wise decision.

Oil rig workers are a strange lot; a bit like the Foreign Legion. They come from all over, and most of them are running away from something, so they understand a bloke who never wants to talk about his past. They don’t speak of the past, and neither do they ask.

I enjoyed my time here, but it is time to go home.

Alister McLean is dead.

I got the word a couple of days ago.

The rest of his gang are old and behind bars.

No one is looking for me anymore.

I’ve lived this way for so long I’m not sure that I can live any other way.

Never own more than you can shove into an old suitcase and be ready to go at a moments notice.

They nearly caught up to me a couple of times, but my luck held.

I remember a particularly talkative bloke on a train from Melbourne to Bendigo. Lots of annoying questions.

I’m pretty sure that he knew who I was but he wanted to make sure before he made the call.

Ten thousand reasons to dial those numbers.

He wasn’t too bright, and I gave him the slip. The second last time I saw him, he was in a phone booth gesticulation wildly. I wonder what they did to him when they found out that he’d lost sight of me?

I could see him frantically searching the platform as my train back to Melbourne pulled out.

I felt a pang of sorrow for this poor bloke. I know what it feels like to get that close to the brass ring — except in my case, I grabbed it. 

Jack Vettriano Painting 72

I’d been giving McLean’s missus a really good time for several months.

She was discreet, I’ll give her that. She needed someone; don’t we all?

I treated her as well as I was able. She was just like the rest of us who were living this life; she was juggling a grenade with the pin pulled out. It was exciting, but if you dropped the damn thing, it was going to end very badly.

McLean was an arrogant prick, and he never thought that Agnes would be looking when he punched in the code to open the safe. She played the dumb blond to perfection; she was anything but. I liked her a lot, and I was surprised to find that she knew what I was up to.

She came right out and said it.

“Billy, I know why you’ve been so nice to me. You want to know if I know the combination to the safe?”

You could have breathed on me, and I would have fallen over.

Honesty seemed like a good idea.

I’d rarely tried it, but there had to be a first time.

“It’s not just that Agnes, we had some good times, didn’t we?”

“Yes we did, and all I ask is that you leave some of it in the summer-house, behind the books.”

“There’s a lot of books out there kid. Exactly which books do you want the money to be behind?”

I’m not sure that McLean could read, at least not complete sentences, but he had me stock the summer-house with “lot’s of books that rich people like.”

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 11.47.59 amI did exactly as he asked and paid way over the odds to an old bloke who used to be a teacher.

He was old, and his wife was off with the fairies, and he really needed the money.

He obviously didn’t want to sell, and he’d knocked back a heap of book dealers, and by the time I got to him, he was practically in tears. He’d spent a lifetime compiling the collection.

It was the ‘first editions’ that the dealers were after.

This bloke had one of the most amazing collections of children’s books I’ve ever seen.

OldDesignShop_HolidayFunCoverThe only photos of children in his house were very old, and they didn’t look like photos of grandchildren.

He looked sadly at me when I handled them.

I knew better than to ask.

I offered him five times what the dealers had bid. What did I care? McLean could afford it.

I gave the children’s books and the first editions back to the old bloke.

He didn’t say thank you, he just took the money and the books and walked back into his house.

As I loaded the boxes into the back of McLean’s Bentley, I wondered if he would notice that the books were way over-priced.

He didn’t.

They had leather bindings with gold embossed titles.

They looked like they belonged in a posh library and that was all he cared about.

Eventually, Agnes chose the complete works of Charles Dickens as her hiding place. She thought about it for quite some time, and I smiled. 

“Excellent choice.”

I don’t know what she was expecting me to leave her in that literary hideout, but I was impressed that she didn’t set a figure; she left it up to me.

The pile of money made the Dickens editions stick out a bit, but there was no way McLean was going to notice.

I knew he didn’t trust banks, but I have to say that even I was amazed by the amount of cash jammed into that safe.

Mostly large denominations and they fitted nicely into an old brown suitcase. 

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Paintings by Jack Vettriano, and Edward Hopper.

Enjoy my work. Then buy me a coffee?

Enjoy my work. Then buy me a coffee?

Brown Oxfords

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an excerpt from the new Sam and Scarlett mystery ‘YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS.’

“You look like you are a million miles away.”

“No, I’m here. On this tram; heading into the City. This tram is going into the city, isn’t it?” said Sam.

“Yes, it is.”

The two men were sitting opposite each other on a sparsely populated number 12 tram. Sam would get off this tram in about half an hour when it reached the top end of Collins Street — the Paris end. The man asking the questions would alight from the tram much sooner.

“What happened to you, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“How do you know that something happened to me?” said Sam

“Your hair is cut very short, and it doesn’t suit you. I’d say, head injury.”

The inquisitive man was about Sam’s build, and he was probably a few years younger. He looked familiar, but these days everyone looked like someone he should know, so he didn’t ask. Much later, Sam would regret that decision.

Sam wasn’t looking directly at the man, but he had been looking at his shoes.

“Brown Oxfords. You don’t see quality shoes like those much these days,” said Sam. The rest of this man’s outfit was out of place — a bit scruffy, but again, Sam said nothing.

“They belonged to my brother. I wear them to remember him. So what happened to you?” said the man with the brown shoes.

“Some bozo T-boned me at an intersection and ran away and left me. The old me would have gone after him with a tyre iron, but the new me just sat there and bled robust, mildly honest blood. Quite a lot of it as it turned out. Of course, I don’t remember any of this, but the ambulance driver liked to talk, so he told my wife all the gory details — kind of him to do that.”

“Did they catch the bloke?”

“Not yet.”

“Would you know him again if you saw him?”

“Mate, I only recognise my wife because she has a tattoo with her name written across her arse.” Sam was suddenly aware of the little old lady who was sitting next to him. “Sorry lady, I didn’t mean to say arse.”

“That’s perfectly okay young man. You sound like you have been through a lot, and you did get hit on the head.”

“Thanks, lady. I don’t want to upset anyone. I want the world to be peaceful and calm. What do you think my chances are?”

“Not very likely, I’m afraid,” said the little old lady.

She wasn’t all that little, but she was old. Sam guessed at about seventy-five, but who can tell, especially with women? She was well dressed in that way that older people were. They dressed up when they went out. Pride in appearance. Sam wondered when her husband had died. She still wore her rings, but he could tell that she was alone, and he wondered how he knew. Sam wondered about a lot of things.

“Are you sure that you wouldn’t recognise the man driving the car that hit you?” The man in the brown shoes was still talking, but Sam had blanked him out momentarily. Brown Shoes sounded insistent.

“No mate, I wouldn’t recognise him. I was sleeping at the time. Large hole in the side of my head with a big chunk of my life leaking out.”

“It’s been nice talking to you Sam, but this is my stop.” Brown Shoes was on his feet and deftly jumped off the stationary tram as it waited for the traffic lights to turn green at Barkley Street.

“There used to be a shop that sold model cars just over there.” Sam pointed to the far street corner. “I’d get off the tram on the way home when I was a kid and spend ages in that shop. Why can I remember that so clearly and not be able to remember marrying my wife?”

“It won’t do to get yourself all worked up. People with head injuries need to be patient and calm.” The old lady put a hand on Sam’s arm. It felt nice to be touched by a caring stranger.

“You sound like you know a bit about this stuff?”

“I was a nurse in my younger days. Saw a lot of boys with head injuries during the War.”

“Did they get their memories back?” There was a touch of desperation in Sam’s question.

“Some did, but it took time. It helped if they had loved ones around them. Does your wife love you, Sam?”

“She says she does, and I want to believe her, but how did you know my name was Sam. Did I tell you?” There was that desperate tone again.

“No, the other man called you Sam. That is your name, isn’t it?”

Sam nodded.

“I didn’t like the look of that man, and I’m pretty sure that I could describe him to a police artist if I had to.”

“I believe you, lady.”

Sam did believe her. He always believed little old ladies. Most people dismissed them as ‘biddies’ or ‘nuisances’, but Sam knew better. Old people notice things and people who notice things are like nuggets of gold to a private investigator. It was an old lady who gave him his big break in the Jameson case, and it was an old professional boxer who told Sam where the Collingwood Strangler lived — not the exact house, but the right street. The rest was straightforward. These two cases helped to build his reputation and gave him excellent fodder for his two most successful novels — thinly disguised fiction based on these two instances. None of this would have happened if Sam had dismissed the observations of two elderly citizens.

“That probably won’t be necessary, but you never know. Do you have a card?” Sam was joking, but the little old lady opened her black patent leather handbag and drew out a pristine white card. The font was conservative and the content ‘to the point’.

Mrs Joanna Beed

03 97876313

“Thank you, Mrs Beed.” That was another thing that Sam had learned. Never call old ladies by their first name. They really don’t like that.

Dr Doug had asked Sam to make a list of the things that he did remember and another list of the things that he would like to remember. He got the notebook out of his inside pocket and wrote, I remember not to call old ladies Joanna. At the back of the book he wrote, I want to remember my wedding day. One list was considerably longer than the other, but over the last few weeks, the other list was catching up — ever so slowly.

The tram was slowing down and ready to stop at the Edinburgh Gardens, not far from Sam’s beloved Fitzroy Football Ground. Joanna Beed gathered her things.

“You take care of yourself Sam. A fine young man like you has lots of important things to achieve. I hope you remember your wedding day soon. I’m sure it was a special day. Don’t forget, if you need me to identify that man for you, I’m only a phone call away.”

“Thank you, Mrs Beed. I’ll be fine. I promise. Enjoy your day. You brightened up mine.” Joanna Beed smiled and stepped down from the tram after looking carefully to see if some impatient motorist was trying to sneak past the stationary tram. Every Melbournian knows that getting off a tram on St Georges Road is an adventure in dodging death.

She made it safely to the footpath, and as she did, she looked back at the tram and gave a dignified wave. Despite himself, Sam waved back.

Sam’s world had changed drastically. From dodging bullets and signing books to sitting on trams talking to old ladies while trying to piece his life back together.

~oOo~

The rest of the journey was uneventful. The tram was thinly populated, and no more conversations broke out. Sam’s half of the tram contained a young married woman, probably on a shopping expedition. Confirmation arrived when she got off at the same stop as Sam. Shopping in the expensive end of town, says her husband was ‘well healed’. Probably in RealEstate, Sam surmised.

The only other inhabitant was a man who was wearing a good suit that was poorly maintained. His expensive shoes were scuffed and dusty. The man had the air of someone who had recently lost his job. There was a caring woman in his life, but she was absent at that moment.

Writers do that — they can’t help themselves. They see interesting people, and they begin to build a backstory.

The dusty shoed gentleman stayed on the tram, and Sam wondered if he rode the tram all day for something to do — a memory of his previous daily routine.

The number 12 tram snakes its way at the top of Collins Street, so even though you may be lost in thought, you know that you have entered the City proper. As a child, this meant that the magic of a day ‘in the City’ was about to begin.

Sam stood in the doorway of the tram and looked back at his seat. So began a routine that he’d learned as a child, “Always take a look back at your place after a long journey. You may have put something down and forgotten it or something may have fallen out of your pocket.” These words rang in his ears on the frequent journies to Dr Doug’s office.

If only it were that simple: if only he could look back and see all the things that he had forgotten, lying on the seat next to him.

If only’s were a waste of time. What was needed was hard work and patience, something that he had in spades. Or, at least, that is what he had been told.

~oOo~

Crossing the road from the tram stop is always an adventure. City traffic has little regard for pedestrians and people getting off trams are considered fair game. Motorists hate trams. They see them as large green and gold obstacles sent to earth merely to annoy and make them late for wherever it was that they so desperately need to be.

Having arrived alive and in one piece, Joe, the doorman swung the large glass door open and greeted Sam.

“How are you this morning Mr Bennett?”

“I’m as fine as can be expected, Joe. How’s the wife and kids?” Because Joe’s appearance in Sam’s life had come ‘post-accident’, Sam found it easy to remember him.

“The kids are fine God bless em, but the missus is worried.” 

A severe man in a dark suit brushed past them both and grunted.

“Why worried Joe?”

“The word is that the building owner is planning to put in an automatic door, so no more Joe.”

“Don’t you worry Joe. I’ll buy the bloody building if I have to, but you are not going anywhere until you want to.”

Joe smiled and thought that Sam was trying to be supportive, but he had heard rumours about Sam’s wife’s spectacular wealth — maybe he meant it.

Sam was serious, and he put it in his notebook on the way up to Dr Doug’s floor. Scarlett knew everyone so she would know who to contact. Sam needed stability in his life, and Joe was always there. Sam needed that — someone who was always there — always where he was supposed to be.

The elevator doors opened, and Sam walked into Dr Doug’s office, smiled at his secretary and felt his pocket ensuring that he still had the three typed pages. Dreams are hard to capture, but Sam had managed it, and soon he would share them, yet again, with the man who was helping him to piece his life back together.

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illustration credit: http://www.gerasimon.com.au/collins_street_melbourne_oil_painting.htm

Favourite Day of the Week

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Until recently, Thursday was my favourite day of the week.

When I was a kid, it was Friday — only half a day in a classroom and sport all afternoon with the sweet promise of the two-day weekend stretching out into the delicious distance.

Then I grew up, and Saturday was my day to love and be loved. The movies, a romantic dinner, and maybe, just maybe, a long night with a willing warm body.

I’m losing my love of Thursdays — it may come back, but today the aura is ruined.

“Senior Sergeant, you mentioned that the victim was aged 50, worked as a Real Estate agent and was found on the side of the road. Is that correct?”

“Yes sir, exactly as it says in my report.” The bloke asking the blindingly obvious questions, and ruining my Thursday was Inspector Verago.  Or ‘Verago the Impaler’ as he was lovingly known to all those who loathed Internal Affairs.

“The Lexus was located, but not for several days,” he said.

“We were operating under the assumption that the victim was struck by an angry husband and it took a while to eliminate him from our enquiries.” I hate the jargon, but when you are speaking to a duck, it is best to quack so that you know you are being understood.

“Why did it take so long to track down the car?” he said.

“It took three days because we are a small country station and all our forensics are handled by Melbourne Central, and the case was not considered to be a high priority at that stage.”

“Why didn’t you consider it to be a high priority Senior Sergeant? More important things to be getting on with?”

The sarcasm was to be expected. The Police force runs on sarcasm in the same way that politicians run on bullshit — and besides, he wasn’t here for a friendly chat, he was here to see if he could hang this cluster-fuck on me, and thereby take some of the heat off his masters.

“It was our number one priority sir. I was referring to senior management in Melbourne, sir.”

“It doesn’t say that anywhere here, Senior Sergeant.” He pronounced Senior Sergeant as though he felt my rank was honorary, or at least temporary.  If I didn’t find a way to get out from under this mess, he was going to be right.

“Your report doesn’t say where the victim was heading, were you able to ascertain that?” he said.

“Away.”

“Away from where?”

“From what we can piece together, mostly from Mrs Simpson. He thought her husband had come home unexpectedly, and he legged it out the back door and over a neighbour’s fence where he commandeered a bicycle. He proceeded to peddle in an easterly direction for approximately 10 kilometres before being struck from behind by a Lexus four-wheel drive. So, in answer to your question — away.”

There was that jargon again — quack, quack.

“All of this should have been in your report Senior Sergeant,” he said.

“Most of it is sir — just not all in the one place.”

Precious minutes of my beloved Thursday were ticking away, and I was no closer to working out if this half-wit had already decided that I was to be the fall-guy.

“I noticed that you included in your report that the victim’s dog howled at the precise moment that he was killed. How did you know that, and why did you include it in your report?”

“The victim was a real person. A flawed one to be sure, but a real one nonetheless. He had a wife and kids and a dog, all of whom, presumably, loved him. The detail about the dog came from his wife, and I thought that it was unusual enough to include in the report.”

The cold truth — the dog was the only creature on the planet who loved this bozo, so I thought it deserved a mention. When the facts were printed in the newspapers, it was evident that the victim was a self-interested arsehole who made a speciality out of servicing lonely wives, but rarely did the same for his own. His kids thought he was a loser, and the community felt that he was a typical Estate Agent — always out to do his clients out of their money. On the other hand, his dog loved him unconditionally, and to his credit, he treated the dog well. Any bloke who was kind to his dog deserved to get one positive mention in a sterile Police document.

The inane questions continued for about two hours.

I made a pretty good job of answering them, and I knew that my report was thorough and there was little room to accuse me or my team of negligence. But only time would tell.

If his job was to fit me for the role of scapegoat, then that is what I will be. If he has any integrity left he will know that time will show that I did my job well and I’m hoping that he won’t want to put his signature to a lie.

Early in the afternoon, he buggered off in his shiny official car, and everyone in our tiny country station breathed out.

I told the team that after shift we were meeting at The Royal — the only decent pub in town. The drinks were on me which meant that everyone would be there.

We knew that the future of our station was tenuous before the slightly bald, philandering Real Estate agent got knocked off his bike. Now it was positively precarious. There was only one thing for it — enjoy the days we had remaining. Heaven, and a bunch of brass hats, only knew where we would end up, but we knew we had done our duty, and no one can do more than that.

I proposed the toast.

“May the black dog who howled when his master left this world find a warm bed and a happy home, and may the bastards who are splitting us up find cold comfort and a broomstick up their arse.”

There was that jargon again — quack, quack.

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This story is now part of two of my books —

TRUST

SLIGHTLY SPOOKY STORIES

Rufus Goes To The Country.

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After the War, everything changed.

If we learned anything, it was that life is precious and fleeting; and there isn’t a moment to lose.

I was only a little girl but I remember being told that many of the young men from our town would not be coming home. I remember the tears when my three older cousins were killed.

But that was then and this is now.

My parents think I’m just a little bit scandalous; at least my father does.

I think my mother secretly approves.

I live my life by my rules. 

I make my own money.

I drive my own car.

The car is packed and my faithful companion Rufus is by my side; we are heading to the country house of Sir William McInnes. 

He’s my publisher. 

I write those ridiculously lurid romance novels which my publisher sells by the thousands. Everyone wants a bit of naughtiness in their lives, even if it only comes between the pages of a book.

I bought the Lagonda with the proceeds from my second book, ‘Hearts Afire’. It’s still in print and it’s success means that my publisher takes my calls. Not that I ring him all that often but it’s nice to know that I’m important. 

Rufus loved me even before I got a publisher. 

Our favourite game —— every time I got a rejection letter I would give it to Rufus and he would tear it to shreds. 

It was cathartic for both of us but it came to a halt when I noticed the words ‘unfortunately’ and ‘regret’ appear in Rufus’s poo. I love this dog and I would not like to think that shortsighted publishers were damaging him as well as me.

When I’m writing a new book I read each chapter out loud to Rufus and as long as he doesn’t fall asleep I know I’m on the right track.

I swear to God he howled when the heroine in ‘The Flame and the Flower’ met her untimely end.

Rufus isn’t my muse but he is the best judge of what works and what doesn’t.

Once, I tried something new. I wrote a ‘whodunnit’ in the style of Agatha Christie. 

Rufus walked out of the room. 

I went back to what I was good at.

I run my ‘chaps’ past Rufus as well. If he doesn’t like them, they have to go.

I’ve lost a few very yummy chaps that way but what’s the good of having a dog and barking yourself?

My favourite ‘chap’ is Desmond. 

He isn’t very exciting but he is bright and Rufus loves him. 

We sort of grew up together; sort of went to the same schools. He knew me and liked me before I became a success. I love my freedom but I’m not sure how much longer I can keep on saying no to Desmond’s proposals. A girl has to settle down sometime; but not just yet.

I mentioned the Lagonda. 

I bought it off a young chap who works in the city. 

He lost his shirt when the market turned down. 

He’d been trading his own account, which is very naughty for a stockbroker. Penny stocks; they’ll get you every time. 

My grandfather warned me against them. 

He made a fortune when he shorted the market just before the crash of 1907. Made an absolute bundle then frittered it away on women, fast cars and slow horses.

Drank like a fish as well.

Broke my grandmother’s heart and by the time my father came of age there was nothing left except for the house and a collection of broken down cars.

Despite all the mayhem, I really liked my grandfather, and I think he liked me.

This weekend is going to be very interesting. 

Desmond was supposed to be coming with me but he got called away. He works at the Foreign Office and he often gets called away. He never tells me anything about his work because he knows I can’t keep a secret.

Among the guests for this weekend is an American film producer and I think that Sir William is trying to sell the film rights to one of my books. He is probably hoping that my pretty face will clinch the deal.

I don’t need the money but seeing my name on the silver screen would be very pleasant indeed.

Rufus loves going anywhere in a car, particularly the Lagonda. All I have to do is open the little wooden box I keep the keys in and Rufus starts to dance.

He’s an excellent passenger. Sits quietly. Rides the bumps and leans into the corners. He never falls over, no matter how fast I go. I had a set of goggles made for him and he looks really cute when he wears them. They stop the bugs from getting into his eyes. Unfortunately I forgot to bring them on this trip.

It’s not a particularly long trip to Sir William’s country house but I like to break the journey up by stopping at Beaufort. It’s one of the few country towns that is right on the main road. I have to slow right down when I drive through it so I might as well stop.

Curiously, it has a small French cafe.

Not the sort of thing that you expect to find out here in the back of beyond, but there it is. The cafe is run by a French chef who moved to this country a few years ago after falling in love with a local girl. The townsfolk have no idea how lucky they are to have such an excellent chef running a small cafe in their tiny town. His Quiches are ‘to die for’ and his Patisseries are ‘out of this world’.

I’m gaining weight by just typing these words.

A cup of excellent coffee to round off the meal and I take Rufus for a walk so that he can have a sniff around and relieve himself. Rufus is an excellent cafe dog. He sits quietly and doesn’t beg for food, but I usually give him a bit of what I’m eating. He even behaves when other dogs walk by with the single exception of Dachshunds. It must be something to do with those stumpy little legs. He really can’t stand them.

From Beaufort it takes less than two hours to reach Sir William’s grand estate. It is generally believed that there is no longer any money in publishing. You wouldn’t say that if you could see Sir William’s house. It sits on about twenty acres of grounds and I saw at least two gardeners on my way up the drive. Fortunately the main gates were open and I waved at the gentleman standing near the entrance but he didn’t wave back; rather rude, I thought.

Sir William met me at the front door and I’m not sure how he knew I had arrived but I wasn’t thinking about it at the time. He suggested that I might want to freshen up before tea and I wasn’t sure if he was alluding to my appearance or just being polite.

He should try belting through the countryside in an open top Legonda and see how fresh he looks.

I decided not to be annoyed and followed his man to my room which was up a delightful staircase. The room was at the front of the house facing south, with an excellent view of the amazing gardens.

I made myself presentable just in time to be called for tea.

Tea was served in the library and the view through the French doors was remarkable. Hydrangeas are a feature of Sir Williams garden but I doubt that he would know one flower from another. The house and the gardens are status symbols to him; a way to impress business associates, and this was a business function if ever there was one.

The Hollywood producer had settled in and instead of tea he had what looked like a large Scotch in one hand and enormous cigar in the other. For a moment I thought that Sir William might have brought in an actor to play the part of a clichéd American producer, but apparently he was the real thing.

Initially, I wondered why Sir William was making all this fuss over the book rights to one of my books. Then I realised that he was trying to sell the producer on a series of films using my books as the inspiration. Putting it that way, it made a lot more sense. Especially if you threw in the rights to several of the other titles that Sir William handles. A few hundred thousand was now looking more like a couple of million, and Sir William would get to keep at least thirty percent. Not bad for a weekend’s work.

Unfortunately this idyllic scene was not to last.

Next morning I was awaked by the sound of Rufus barking.

For a second I wasn’t sure where I was, but as the fog cleared I remembered that I was a guest of Sir William but I was wondering why Rufus sounded so far away. I had closed the bedroom door so that Rufus would not disturb anyone in the night. He tends to wake up around four in the morning and do his rounds. He likes to make sure that I am safe and having a good look around seems like the best way to achieve this.

Some kind soul had bought me a morning cup of tea but had left the bedroom door ajar and Rufus had seized the opportunity to go outside and do his business.

Unfortunately his ‘business’ had taken him into the bushes where he found the lifeless body of our American film producer.

From the way the body was lying I would say that he had fallen, or was pushed, out of his second story window. He was quite dead and had been so for several hours.

I know what dead people look like. I worked for a summer at our local hospital. I told my mother that I was gaining experience for my future career as a writer. I’m not sure if she believed me, but she let me go. To be honest, my goal was spending money, boys and parties; and I succeeded on all fronts. Along the way, there were several dead bodies.

A dead body is a dead body, but some dead bodies cause more problems than others.

Sir William is not going to be happy and neither are the rest of the guests as we will all become suspects and will have to endure an endless round of questions and suspicious looks.

At least Rufus will be spared the tedium.

No one ever suspects the dog.

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Painting by Roy Putt

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Enjoy my work.? Then buy me a coffee?

Enjoy my work.? Then buy me a coffee?