6th September 2018 at 12:09 pm #54700
First chapter of new whodunit. Does it work? The feedback here is so helpful I thought to chance my new book for a few comments. thanks to all who are so kind to offer them
Murder at Pelham Court
‘I must inform you, sir, that a body has been discovered on the front doorstep.’ Gregson announced.
This elicited no response. Lennox was entirely occupied tying a Bibio fly having received a small box of precious seal fur for the exact purpose. He’d teased the fur along the hook, tied a splash of red dubbing around it and was now winding silver wire around a hen hackle feather to complete the dry fly. It should prove perfect for wild trout on the windswept lake.
Gregson would prefer to quietly withdraw at this point before Major Heathcliff Armory Lennox’ temper shortened. Heathcliff Lennox was known as Lennox to his handful of friends who were quite aware of his aversion to the name his romantically minded mother had foisted on him.
‘I’m busy!’ Lennox replied, wholly absorbed. Gregson stayed in the doorway, addressing the Major’s back. All he could see was his thick blond hair above broad shoulders lit by a shaft of light from the windows, the chiselled features of Lennox’s face were focused very firmly on the table clamp holding the delicate fly hook.
The butler again considered retreat; however, the circumstances were particularly singular, and he felt he must persevere. ‘It is rather urgent, sir.’
Lennox straightened up, the fly tied off and completed. He stood back to better survey his work. ‘Who was it?’
‘I do not know sir, he is in no condition to furnish a name.’
‘What are you talking about Gregson?’ Lennox looked at his butler with sharp grey eyes under lowered brows. ‘Didn’t you ask him?’
‘He is dead, sir.’ Gregson replied.
Lennox eyed his butler narrowly. Gregson had been his Batman throughout the four years of the Great War. They both knew more than they wanted to about death; Gregson was hardly likely to be mistaken in the matter. Lennox swung on his heel, left the gun room which doubled as his sport and fishing tackle workshop and stalked to the front of the large manor house. Gregson followed closely, trying to outpace Lennox to reach the front door first – he failed; Lennox yanked the door open and walked out into the fresh winters day. It was crisp and cold with a brisk wind keeping the clouds from the washed out sky, a weak sun shone, illuminating the body of a large fat man lying on his back across the broad stones laid in front of the Georgian portico.
Lennox looked dispassionately down at the body – the man was indeed dead.
‘Call Doctor Fletcher would you Gregson.’ Lennox ordered. Gregson retreated back indoors where it was a great deal warmer. The Major squatted down on his haunches and felt for a pulse in the fat man’s neck – there was nothing. He looked him over – the corpse had little in the way of hair, he was a ball of blubber; rolls of chubby flab under his eyes, cheeks and chin, fingers like pudgy sausages.
It must take a lot of effort to move that sort of weight around.
The skin was blue-grey, eyes bulging wide open – the froth in the dribble of saliva around the flaccid open mouth was evidence enough that this man had breathed his last.
Lennox rose to his feet, probably heart, he thought. No sign of blood or injury, although he’d have to roll the body over to be sure and that would be a mammoth task.
Why was he on his doorstep? Lennox looked down the length of the curving drive where the wrought iron gates stood open in the elaborate stone gateway. No car parked in the grounds, no motorbike or bicycle, no tyre tracks in the recently raked gravel. Conclusion – the man had walked in.
I should keep the bloody gates shut.
He took a closer look at the dead man’s clothes, which were cheap and shabby. A heavy coat made from a mix of coarse wool and cotton, grubby collarless white shirt stretched tight over the bulging belly, string vest showing between the gaping front, brown suit, brown tie, scuffed, muddied shoes, no hat, but a faint red ring on the man’s forehead indicated he’d worn one. Lennox flipped through the man’s pockets – nothing at all, not even a wallet, except he heard a rustle of paper somewhere inside the coat lining. He felt around until he found the hidden slit in the seam and pushed his fingers down to extract the single sheet of folded paper. ‘Countess Sophia Androvich Zerevki Polyakov.’
Definitely not the name of the fat man, Lennox thought. So what is this about? And what the hell is keeping Gregson?
The butler puffed with exertion as he returned.
‘Sorry for the delay, sir. I notified the doctor and the police.’ This was said with some pride at the show of initiative. Lennox smiled briefly, Gregson was an old woman with nitpicking tendencies and overfond of Irish whiskey, but he was a willing and game old soldier.
‘Good man.’ He replied. ‘Where’s Mr Fogg?’
‘I’m not too sure sir. Probably hiding under your desk sir.’
‘Did he alert you to the body?’
‘He did sir.’
‘Always was useless with anything dead.’
Lennox felt in his pocket for his box of cheroots, found it, pulled one out and lit it with a silver Dunhill lighter and blew smoke into the clear cold air as the Police arrived with a jangle of an alarm bell. The Chief Inspector lowered himself carefully from an old Crossley motor car followed by a more sprightly Sergeant. The driver, a round-faced Constable, remained in the vehicle with his hand on the rope attached to the brass bell fitted on top of the roof, presumably in the hope of ringing it again. Lennox sighed in exasperation; he’d planned to spend the day fly fishing, and that plan was increasingly fading into the distance.
‘Good day, Major Lennox.’ Chief Inspector Rawlinson said.
‘Inspector.’ They politely nodded in greeting.
‘Take a look at him, Walker.’ The inspector ordered his young sergeant to examine the body – bending was a task better suited to a younger man.
‘E’s dead sir.’ Walker declared after a quick inspection. ‘An I can’t see nothing that killed ‘im.’ Nowt in his pockets neither, but there might be more if we turned ‘im over.’
They were interrupted by a highly polished red Riley Eleven driving at speed through the gateway, it drew up in a spray of gravel, the doctor jumped out and came over to Lennox to shake his hand. He raised his hat to Gregson and the police and looked down at the whale-like corpse. ‘Well, well old chap. A body! Game and pheasant is more your style – what have you been doing?’
‘Not one of mine Cyril, and I doubt he was shot. No sign of a wound or blood anywhere.’ Irritation was creeping in, Lennox wanted to be elsewhere.
‘Hmm,’ Doctor Fletcher said and swiftly examined the dead man as the small group looked on. He stood up rubbing his hands against the cold. ‘Need to roll him over.’
They looked at each other. Lennox bent and put his arms under the fat man’s shoulders. ‘Get the torso Sergeant. Cyril, turn the legs.’
They heaved him over, pushing him hard and finally rolled him onto his stomach with a thud as he slumped against the stone flags. There was nothing to see other than the creases in the corpse’s coat. The sun vanished behind a grey cloud as the doctor and sergeant checked the body and again failed to find anything significant.
‘Take him to the morgue Inspector, I’ll have a better look at him there.’ Doctor Fletcher said. ‘Heart attack looks most likely, so I doubt there’s much here for you gentleman to concern yourselves with.’
Fletcher turned to follow Lennox into the house as Gregson held the door open for them.
‘Apart from the lack of any identity.’ The Chief Inspector remarked.
Lennox and the Doctor turned back to regard the policeman.
‘One moment.’ Lennox dug the folded sheet of paper from his jacket pocket and handed it over. ‘I found this.’
‘You should have given me this when I arrived Major.’
‘My apologies.’ He snapped. ‘ I forgot about it.’
‘I hope you’re not hiding anything, sir. It does seem strange that this man has died on your doorstep and you not knowing him. Or so you say.’
‘I can assure you, I have no idea whatsoever who this man is.’ Lennox anger was rising.
The Inspector read out the name on the paper, stumbling over the foreign words. ‘Countess Sophia Androvich Zerevki Polyakov.’ He stared up at Lennox. ‘And you don’t know her either?’
‘No.’ Lennox snapped again. Except he did, and his day suddenly seemed a lot more complicated than when it had started.
24th September 2018 at 11:25 am #55554
And all the comments have gone from here too….
24th September 2018 at 8:23 pm #55598
I noticed disappearing comments too. Very odd. Something wrong with the platform?
24th September 2018 at 9:07 pm #55599
Hi Kate, I guess so. Fingers crossed they evict the gremlins soon!
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