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Chapter Six – Where Ignacio Fernandez Dons a Suit

Where Ignacio Fernandez Dons a Suit

Once I returned to my aunt’s home it was close to lunch and Fernandez was waiting for me in the hallway. No doubt he was used to Patrick’s return from his walk by then and assumed I should be back the same time, which I also was. Opening the door I was forced to keep my hold on Sigurd with only one hand but managed nonetheless. I refused to put the little creature down even though by that time he had really soaked through my bodice and, I wagered, spread mud all over it. It was a strange sensation to realise I actually did not care a lot about that. All I paid attention to was Sigurd’s well-being and that was far from being fulfilled.

‘My lady, what is that you’re carrying?’ Fernandez asked in what I could only think was shock, had he in truth shown any visible sign of the kind.

‘I believe it is a dog, Fernandez, though I am not sure which type. I, or rather Patrick, found him down by the river. Somebody had tried to drown him in a sack.’

‘I say!’ He exclaimed and hurriedly tried to smooth this over. ‘That is, madam, I mean to say such behaviour is absolutely unacceptable.’ It seemed Fernandez was a dog-enthusiast.

‘My sentiment exactly!’ I looked down at Sigurd’s black, sleek head and felt my heart swell as he looked back up at me. He was still cold and shivered slightly but he seemed to be in much better spirits altogether. ‘Should we try to get him clean, do you think? Then maybe give him some food?’

‘Madam, I think that is a very good idea, indeed.’

A couple of minutes later I lowered little Sigurd into a tub of warm water in the kitchen, still wearing my dirty day dress. He struggled slightly but then relented and I was able to massage soap into his entire fur, and then rinse it. Once he was clean I saw what an adorable dog he was and he had stopped shaking.

‘My little Sigurd, darling boy! Who’s a good boy?’ I asked as I wrapped him in a towel and put him on my lap. Fernandez placed a bowl of meat and cheese in front of us and Sigurd sniffed toward it. Carefully, bite for bite, I fed him while Patrick regarded us from a chair across the table.

The puppy fell asleep afterwards and I stayed on the chair. I did not want to wake him up but I knew I had to eventually. After all I still needed to get ready for that dance at Clarissa’s in the evening and even if I mostly wanted to stay at home with Sigurd now I felt I should at least make an appearance if I expected to be invited to other things while visiting.

‘Oh well, darling, I think I need to get ready. You shall stay in my room, of course, though this evening I think you need to remain in the kitchen with the cook.’

At my words the woman, who had been bustling around the kitchen, frowned slightly. She was not as careful with disguising her emotions as Fernandez was. It seemed she did not hold a great love for dogs, either, if her expression was anything to go by. That, I decided, was her loss entirely. I picked Sigurd up and found the maid. My aunt really did not keep much staff.

‘Could you draw up a bath for me, please?’ I asked the girl.

‘Certainly. Would you like me to attend you while bathing?’

‘No thank you,’ I replied after due consideration and then proceeded up the stairs. I had not really had time to have a bath since I arrived and looked forward to it immensely, but I wanted to conduct it in privacy. I was used to having one every day but there simply had not been time earlier in the morning.

Sigurd seemed exhausted and fell asleep at once on the little bed I made for him in a corner. I suppose he was too tired to be afraid of his new surroundings, or maybe he was a brave little dog. It remained to be seen. I deemed it safe to leave him there because it did not look as if he was to be waking up any time soon. Entering the bathroom I found a tub full of steaming water waiting for me and after undressing I sank down into it gratefully. I had time to notice my dress was indeed ruined but there was not a lot to do about that. Later on I would order a few new garments and have them sent here.

The warm water enveloped me and I sank back against the edge of the tub and relaxed. It was strange really, I mused, that even though I had only been in this town for less than twenty-four hours I felt a connection and, if I searched my soul, I did not in fact long for home as much as I had thought I would. Taking a deep breath I sank down with my head beneath the water and remained for a while, listening to how funny all sounds are under the surface.

I emerged again and started to browse the different shampoos and soaps on display, finally settling for one which smelled like roses and vanilla. I lathered my hair and body and rinsed it away, then got out from the tub. It took hours for my hair to dry, so I went back to my room and curled up in bed. To my surprise I felt my eyelids grow heavy almost at once, but it was so comfortable to be clean and curled up in a warm nest of duvets and pillows. I fought the tiredness for some time before giving in and drifting off.

‘Miss? Madam? Madam! Please, you need to wake up and get ready!’ It was the maid’s voice and slowly opened an eye.

‘Mmm?’

‘You must get ready for Clarissa’s evening dance, miss, if you wish to be on time.’

‘Oh, of course,’ I said and sat up, staring at the girl. ‘Goodness, I realise I haven’t even asked you your name. Please, what is it?’

‘Geneva, miss. Now, please come up and get dressed. While you do that, should I take your dog out for you?’

I had almost forgotten about little Sigurd and followed the maid’s glance. He had sat up on his bed and was regarding me bleary-eyed. It seemed he had also been out the entire time.

‘Please, that would be very kind of you. What is the time?’

‘It’s already six! I thought you were awake and didn’t think to check.’

‘It’s alright, it’s not your fault.’ I waved her apology away. ‘Just come back in a little bit and help me with my hair, please. The rest I can do on my own.’

To tell the truth I do not think I would have been so slack back in Manhattan but there was something with the country here which made me very relaxed. I saw little point in stressing it and slid out of bed and started to peruse my frocks, which someone, I suppose Geneva, had hung up in the wardrobe. It was a difficult choice seeing as I did not really know what a dance in this town would be like, but in the end I settled for a glittery affair of which the skirt ended mid calf.

That was when I saw my hair in the mirror and I stopped in utter shock. It looked like a bird’s nest. The only thing saving the situation was the fact that my hair is so heavy it could not actually stand in all directions. I shook my head at the image – Geneva would have a handful. Just then she came back in.

‘Are you ready, madam?’ she asked me while trying not to smile at my hair.

‘I believe so,’ I said gravely. ‘Do what you can, please, Geneva. I must look somewhat presentable when I arrive at Clarissa’s.’

‘Oh I shouldn’t think she has the right to comment in the slightest.’ I stared at her while sitting down in front of the make-up table. She looked slightly ashamed but not enough considering her rude words. When she realised I was watching her in the mirror she pursed her lips before continuing. ‘I do apologise, but Clarissa has a reputation of being, well… Servants talk, you know. Her staff isn’t happy.’

There was not a lot I could say about that, really, so I nodded magnanimously, showing I forgave her slip of tongue.

‘So tell me,’ I said instead while she brushed my hair, ‘has anybody ever been escorted by a butler before?’

She giggled in response. ‘I should say not, but it will certainly be great fun!’

‘Oh, to tell the truth, I’m not so mortified as all that. I thought I would be more uncomfortable, but oddly enough I look forward to the looks I will get. Obviously I couldn’t have it back in Manhattan, but here one must make do. When will my aunt be back, do you think?’

‘She told me to expect her back late tonight, she did.’

‘Oh? Why did she not tell me as much?’

My question was only met with a shrug and I let the conversation die, while watching the progress Geneva made with my hair. About fifteen minutes later it was finally resembling something and yet another quarter of an hour served to present me with a rather impressive hairdo. Geneva had drawn it back from my face, but let it hang lose down my back, and she had donned several large feathers in it. All in all I looked very exotic after she had also applied my make-up. I winked at her with one sooted eye.

‘Marvellous job, Geneva. You may go, I shall come downstairs in a little while after I have said goodbye to Sigurd.’

The little dog in question already seemed to know his name because at my use of it he came waddling over. I presented him with my hand and was rewarded with a soft puppy nose pressed against it. His eyes were fixed on mine and once more my heart flooded over with feeling for the little thing.

‘I have to go away for the evening, darling, but I’ll be back in a few hours. Be a good dog when I’m gone, please. Don’t bully the cook, alright?’

He did not reply, for which I was pretty grateful. The day dogs begin to speak is certainly not something to look forward to. I picked him up and carried him down to the kitchen, since I did not think he could manoeuvre the stairs just yet. The cook still frowned when I deposited him in the kitchen but said nothing about it. With a deep breath I went to the hallway and found Fernandez waiting for me.

I had to draw a little intake of shocked breath. When being surrounded by staff in uniforms for many years you cease to really pay attention to how the person in that uniform looks. I had not made any particular notice of how Fernandez looked when I arrived, or earlier that morning, but now he was dressed in an evening suit of excellent quality. It was not black, I noticed, but rather a dark blue which suited his exotic appearance. His skin was simply a little darker than the Brits and his hair was raven black, and in honour of the evening it was smoothed back. He offered me his arm.

‘Shall we, my lady?’

‘Goodness me, Fernandez, you look very handsome indeed!’

‘Please, call me Ignacio for the evening. That is, though you certainly have already guessed, my name.’

‘Ignacio, how very foreign!’ I exclaimed and he grinned at me.

Together we exited and he opened the car door for me before climbing in next to me. By then it was half past seven, and two hours and twenty seven minutes left until I would stare in astonishment at the scene of a crime.

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Chapter Five – In Which Our Heroine Learns Hearts Can Heal in the Most Unlikely Way

I believe I remained staring dumbly at the closed front door for quite some time but was, in the end, thankfully interrupted, even if the interrupter was not anybody I expected. As I was busy staring I became aware of a sound coming down the stairs. I did not at first pay it any attention since I was caught up in thought about the horror in having a butler introduce me to the society of this town. It may be situated far out in the country but I was fairly convinced letting a butler handle your introduction was not common even here. The sound behind me stopped when I was mentally going through which evening robe to wear and suddenly I heard a demanding ‘Mrf!’ behind me. Quickly I turned around.

‘Madam,’ Fernandez said at the same time, which made me jump as I had been quite unaware of his presence still in the hallway. ‘His lordship Patrick wishes to speak to you.’

In front of me on the stairs stood Patrick, the dog.

‘Goodness, Fernandez, don’t sneak up on me like that. Why is that dog referred to as ‘his lordship’,’ I asked though I thought I knew the answer. You see, Patrick looked at me happily, though still with a hint of haughtiness which rather, I had to admit, suited a lord.

‘Madam Kynaston wishes for him to be referred to in such a way.’

I nodded. There really was not a lot more to be said on that subject even if I was deeply impressed with Fernandez’ ability to keep a straight face while sharing this explanation. I suppose you did not become a butler without possessing some talent suited, in other people, for the stage. Patrick wagged his tail at me.

‘Do you reckon Patrick would like a walk, Fernandez?’

‘Madam usually takes him out about this time, miss. I think he would enjoy a walk very much.’

‘Very well then. I shall go change into something appropriate, if you could prepare him for me meanwhile, please, Fernandez.’

‘Very good, my lady.’

It is true I did not have a lot of clothes suiting a walk in the country side but one simply has to make do sometimes. I could probably buy something better in town at some point, after all the garments for sale here should be matching the living conditions.

When I returned downstairs, at least wearing sturdier shoes, Patrick was already sitting at the door. Fernandez held out a leash to me saying, ‘Not that he normally needs one, my lady, but just in case.’

With that Patrick and I headed out. Since I had no real idea where to go I simply followed Patrick’s lead, averting my gaze to give him some privacy when he relieved himself against a few rose bushes. He seemed to appreciate my sentiments because he wagged his tail at me once I looked at him again. It appeared we had reached a marvellous understanding and I was convinced our relationship could only grow from there.

Patrick trotted along the streets, sure of our direction. It was a very quaint place, I had to admit. The streets were cobbled and many of the houses were made in Tudor style, with the beams visible on the outside. I just could not understand why the Brits insisted on cramming everything together so dreadfully, and shook my head at the silly notion. Though I suppose the space on an island is always limited and you have to make the most of it. I made note of some clothes shops and similar on our way so I could return to them later once Patrick was safely resting at home.

In the end we reached the other side of town and entered the countryside down by the river. Patrick ran ahead and suddenly, once we were by an open meadow, he took off. I panicked and started to run after him, terrified I would lose my aunt’s dog, but there was no chance I would catch up. Just then Patrick made a sharp turn back to me, then away again. He ran to and fro over the entire meadow and I quickly came to understand he was not planning to escape. It seemed he merely wanted to run, for several minutes. Once I had reached that conclusion I sat down with my back against a tree and watched him. The sun warmed my face and I squinted to protect my eyes from the light. It was more pleasurable than I had supposed, to do nothing else than sit by a tree in the meadow.

Patrick bounced back to me eventually and lay down next to my outstretched legs, gazing out over the river.

‘I do say, dog, you look quite philosophical.’

He wagged his tail once in response, and I began stroking his head. The fur was soft. Just as I was relaxing and had finally made up my mind about which dress I should wear in the evening, he lifted his nose to the wind and began sniffing it. Then he stood up, head erect and nose up, and trotted off down toward the river, quickly disappearing in the tall grass at the beach. I realised this was not the same movement as before and jumped to my feet to follow him, leash in hand. When I caught up with him he was pawing something on the ground and whined at it. Spotting me he ran over, in what appeared to be distress.

‘Wraf!’ he told me and ran back to whatever it was he had been pawing before. It looked like some old cloth.

‘No, bad dog, get away from that! It’s disgusting, and wet!’ He did not listen to me in the slightest but only looked up at me again and barked. Then I saw the cloth move. ‘What in…’ I mumbled and edged closer. Patrick bounced in encouragement.

The cloth moved again and a faint whine came from underneath it. Surprising myself as much as I no doubt surprised Patrick, I stopped caring about whether or not I would ruin my dress and the fact the cloth looked dirty. I lifted it and saw it was an old sack, and inside it was unmistakable movement. Heart pounding wildly I struggled to untie the knot, which was difficult in its wet state, while Patrick watched in silence. Finally succeeding I opened the sack as much as possible and inside it I found a puppy. No doubt Patrick had been attracted to the smell of another dog.

The little thing looked up at me, eyes filled with fear and right then and there I fell in love completely with the creature. It was black and sleek, with the most startling blue eyes and floppy ears. I could see it was a bigger kind of dog than Patrick, because it was nearly his size already, but right now it was only a baby and somebody had left it in the river to drown.

‘Who could do that…’ I mumbled while slowly reaching out with my fingers, so I would not scare it. Patrick kept his distance and that would not be the only time he displayed his great depth of wisdom.

At first the little thing shrunk back as if trying to hide among the folds of the sack and my heart nearly broke. Somebody had made it scared of people, this tiny creature. Patrick laid down and stared at me.

‘No, are you telling me to follow your example?’ I asked him. He merely kept staring and with a sigh I sank down onto my stomach. That seemed to help a little because the puppy sat up a bit straighter and when I reached out with my arm again it slowly neared it with its nose and started sniffing my fingers. I ached to touch it but could see that it was not quite ready even if it was shivering with cold. Poor little thing!

After some time it got up and took a step toward me, then another, and another, until it had left the sack behind. I did not dare to get up yet so I turned over a bit on my side and then simply remained on the ground. This did provide me with a rather good angle for such observations and I established the puppy was a male. A couple of steps away from me he looked up and into my eyes. It seemed there was a question within them, the ultimate question whether or not he could trust me, forever, if he could safely give his puppy heart to me. His eyes were so intense I understood he wished this with all of his little being and I decided to take the leap.

‘Yes,’ I whispered and even if it is said that dogs cannot understand humans that way, or that they have no emotions, I am certain I saw the greatest relief and love in those eyes, just before he hurried over and cuddled up against my chest. He was wet and smelled like dog, but also of what I would realise was a certain scent only puppies have, and he was shaking against me. Patrick came up to us and in the safety of sitting right next to me the little one had the courage to return his greeting.

‘I believe I just got a dog, Patrick,’ I said. ‘What should we call him?’ I asked him as I held the puppy close and got to my feet. I wanted to get him back to my aunt’s house so I could have him cleaned and warm. There was no question of looking for a previous owner because I thought it was quite clear they had wanted to be rid of him. If they wanted him back now they could plead their case for as long as they wanted.

‘I shall name you Sigurd,’ I told the tiny creature clutched to my chest. He only sighed in response. Looking down at him I saw he had fallen asleep and as I was walking with him back through town, an eccentric’s eccentric niece less than a day in residence and already outrageously soaked through, a piece of my own broken heart was stitched and mended.

‘Sigurd means ‘victory’ and ‘guardian’, my dear,’ I whispered as we made our way back.

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The Eye-Dancers Review (Real Life Post)

I finished the copy Michael S. Fedison sent me of the Eye-Dancers!

This was an interesting read in many ways. The author has created very compelling characters who speak to you. Each one is unique and the author has managed to create a way of expression and a language which is different for each character carrying the point of view. I liked this, because you could recognize whose point of view it was simply by the language the character used. Also there were no silly descriptions of looks or environments, but everything in that department was placed carefully into the text in the appropriate place. The consequence was that there wasn’t a lot of description, especially not of how people looked, but that wasn’t necessary either. You got a hint, and could imagine the rest yourself.

The story line was interesting, and it was fun to see how the author has played with the thought of parallel universes using quantum physics. I’m a bit tired of all theories we can’t yet understand to be explained away with the usage of quantum physics – just slather it on and it can explain almost anything. I guess that it is our era’s equivalent to magic spells. However, those are just my personal feelings. As a way to carry the plot forward it was a clever solution.

I did feel the climax of the story to be lacking a little bit. The story itself ambles along in its own time, because it contains a lot of the characters’ thoughts and emotions on their situation. Sometimes I felt there was a bit too much of this, but at other times not so I think my general opinion is that in this particular story the characters’ opinions matter. Then the crescendo happens and I got the feeling of ‘Oh, was that all?’. I had wanted more of a build-up and release. However, there was a clear story-line which was always kept on track without being all over the place.

The world the characters went to was also interesting and to be honest I wanted to know more about that. Part of me wished that they could have remained there but then again I have a love for the kind of era the world reminded me of.

All in all this was a good read and well executed.

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Nemesis or not? (Real Life Post)

I thought I had the plot more or less finished by now and then it hit me that maybe my dear Matilda needs a nemesis? After all, some great fictional detectives do! Sherlock Holmes has Moriarty. Phryne Fisher has Murdoch Foyles. Not all of them do, I mean, I don’t think Hercule Poirot has an archenemy?

This requires some thinking indeed.

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Chapter Four – Pickled Revelations

As the following morning wore on I found myself becoming increasingly infuriated with my aunt. When I had first woken up it had been merely a tiny flame and I was still able to think of other things such as how delightful my quaint little room was. The beams in the ceiling were particularly lovely, as well as the leaded Tudor windows. A fluffy carpet covered the wooden floor, the bed had beautiful hangings and the writing desk was polished until it shone. The room also had an adjoining bathroom. All of it was very comfortable to say the least, if not as grand as that which I was accustomed to.

However, by the time breakfast was to be served, which was at nine (my aunt did keep very early hours), I was nearly boiling with rage. Who did she think she was? I could not countenance it a moment longer, I thought as I flounced down the stairs.

Fernandez was waiting at the bottom for me and he showed me into the dining room.

‘Oh good morning, dear niece,’ Phyllida greeted me when I entered the room.

‘Good morning.’ My voice sounded fierce even to my own ears and in other circumstances I might have been embarrassed at its harshness but this time I was filled with a righteously burning fire.

‘Is something the matter?’ my aunt asked casually while putting jam on a piece of toast. Well, there was no sense in avoiding the subject, so I replied honestly.

‘Yes, actually. Truly, who do you think you are, aunt, traipsing around the country-side pretending to solve crimes?’

Her eyes could not have become any wider. ‘I beg your pardon?’

‘Yes! You may have money enough to involve yourself in such pastimes at your leisure, but it’s certainly very cruel to do so at the expense of the poor people who get tangled into your delusion.’

She actually sputtered and seemed to get tea stuck in her throat. A horrified Fernandez hurried into the room and began, to my astonishment, to support her and pound her back in an attempt to assist her in coughing the drops away. Finally she regained her breath and turned to me with tears streaming down her cheeks. Impatiently she swiped at them with a napkin.

‘Thank you, Fernandez. What would I do without you?’ Her expression became thoughtful once she had taken a new sip of tea and calmed down a little. ‘Is that what you think?’

‘Why, yes, I believe I just made clear what I think. It seems to me you believe yourself to be some sort of… lady Sherlock Holmes? What on earth gives you the impression you have the knowledge to solve crimes, and take honest people’s money for your services? It’s ludicrous to believe some amateur lady is able to solve crimes which baffle the police force!’

‘Oh my dear girl, but this is entirely my fault!’ she burst out with true emotion while filling my cup herself with steaming tea. ‘Please, begin your meal and let me explain, but first let me assure you your accusations, though realistic and, I know, coming from a place of consideration for your fellow men and women, nonetheless are completely false.’

I almost felt slightly guilty when she phrased the words so utterly reasonable, though I was not yet prepared to admit any wrong. Still very much suspicious I nonetheless sat back with my tea and a buttered piece of toast.

‘Now, I shall tell you. As you know both your mother and I inherited an obscene amount of money from our father when he passed away. Your mother still chose to marry, but I had no desire in that for myself. Neither did I need it, after all there is plenty of money to support myself to live in luxury for the rest of my life.’ She interrupted herself with a sip of tea. ‘I needed to find other things to do with said life rather than raise a family, and that’s how I ended up in Britain. Perhaps you haven’t reached that line yet, but there are only so many items you can buy with money before you lose interest. For me that point came a long, long time ago and I no longer knew what to do with my time. At that point there was a crime committed where I lived back then, and mind you this is twenty years ago, and the police were unable to solve the case. I was distraught, because nobody could help, or so I thought. The chief inspector there had the sense to call on help in the form of a remarkable man called Ignatius Paul Pollaky. Mister Pollaky was a private detective and had one of the keenest minds I have ever encountered. It’s true he had retired several years before that, but thanks to a kind heart he nonetheless agreed to help with the case.’

Despite myself I was intrigued by her story and realised I had been chewing the same bite of toast for quite some time. I hurriedly swallowed. Aunt Phyllida kept giving her account.

‘In any case, he managed to solve it all. I was impressed beyond belief with his capabilities and once everything was settled I begged him to please take me on as a pupil. He taught me a great deal, though I also studied under Mister Charles Norris, Alexandre Lacassagne and Bernard Spilsbury. That, darling girl, is what I have been doing since I left the States. I should have told you yesterday, after all you must have the same kind of brain as I have. Truly, I should have realised you would question this.’

She smiled at me and I began to blush. The colour simply crept up my face and when it reached my lips I could no longer keep silent.

‘Oh I am so sorry, aunt. I was simply so scared you might injure people by some… some fancy of yours!’

‘No, I understand, really, I do. I would have questioned in the same way. Let’s talk no more about it, alright?’

‘Alright!’ I nodded. It was now much easier to continue with the rest of the meal. Fancy that, I thought, my aunt really was a true detective. Speaking about that… ‘How did you come up with the name, anyway? The Old Herring Detective Bureau is rather, well, unusual. Not what one would think a detective business to be referred to.’

She looked at me and that twinkle I was already a bit wary of entered her eyes. ‘I like herrings. They’re quite pretty, not to mention tasty. Yet, few people pay them homage. I figured they ought to long for their own recognition by now, don’t you think?’

I was stunned and unable to reply. Fortunately she took pity on me that one time and without warning the room was filled with her tinkling laugh. ‘Dear girl, it simply is too much fun to watch people’s reactions when I tell them the name! Though, I do actually like pickled herring now and then.’ She reached for the tea-pot and poured herself some more. ‘So, what would you like to do while you are here? There are a fair amounts of sights in this country which are quite lovely. I believe there is even arranged tours in Jane Austen’s footsteps, to towns important to her in some way. They are said to be lovely, and very relaxing.’

‘I don’t know if relaxing is what I need the most, to tell the truth. Perhaps what I need is also to keep busy.’ Phyllida’s eyes creased in sympathy with my words.

‘Miss Kynaston?’ Fernandez had glided into the room and held an envelope in his hand. ‘This just came for you, Miss.’

‘Very good, Fernandez, thank you.’ She quickly opened it and read. ‘Why, Matilda, it seems you might be kept busy after all! We have been invited to that girl Clarissa’s dance tonight. News travels fast, it seems.’

‘Oh not that fast. We were briefly sharing a train compartment yesterday, though I am not certain how she found out I was staying here. I never mentioned I was visiting you.’

‘I believe she has some powers of deduction of her own, darling. Would you like to attend? It begins at eight o’clock this evening.’

I shrugged. ‘Why not? It could prove interesting.’ The toast really was most delightful, I figured while auntie returned to reading her newspaper. Now, what should I wear for the night?

‘My my, I didn’t see this coming,’ Phyllida exclaimed softly with her eyes glued to the page before her. I felt my stomach clench. Had the news about me spread this far so quickly, despite my beliefs on the contrary? I need not have feared, however, it was not about me at all. ‘Tsar Alexander’s daughter, that Anastasia, is getting married.’

‘Really?’ I asked, interest piqued. It would have been marvellous to attend such a wedding.

‘Yes, they don’t reveal to who. I’m glad though, it was a close call there for a while, with the Bolsheviks. Personally I am rather pleased the Tsar managed to rally in the end.’

I nodded in agreement. It had been all over the news last year, how the Tsar family had been taken hostage and things had indeed been looking grim, when they managed to stage a genius counter-attack involving some very interesting new electrical inventions.

I was just beginning to get into the spirit of a relaxing breakfast in a beautiful dining room, this too in Tudor style which I had not noticed when I arrived in a rage, when aunt scared me so badly I nearly fell off the chair.

She suddenly slammed her hand down onto the table surface.

‘Damn it! Pickled herring, pickled, pickled… yes! I should have seen it coming as soon as I tasted those pickled onions!’ She exclaimed while looking slightly mad.

‘What?’ I imagine my eyes were like saucers.

‘Yes! Of course, devious man! Such a cunning trick, but of course the treasure is in the boat house!’ She pointed her tea-spoon at me and accentuated each word with a violent stabbing of the air with the same spoon.

‘The treasure is in the where now?’

‘The boat house, girl, do try to keep up.’

‘What on earth are you on about?’ I got up as she got to her own feet.

‘It’s too much to explain, but I have to go to York at once.’

‘What? Why?’

‘Because I have solved a crime!’ she said triumphantly, waving the spoon in the air, and began bustling around. I followed her out of the dining room and into the parlour.

‘But you had breakfast? How can you sit and relax and… read about the Tsar while having a crime unsolved?’

‘Oh dear Matilda it doesn’t do to work oneself up into a tizzy. Breakfast is a very important meal. Besides, what could I have done anyway at a lull in the investigation? Though now it is all so clear! Fernandez, tell the maid to lay out some clothes, quickly, please! Oh, and do bring this spoon back to the kitchen.’ She gave the spoon to the man who did not have a hair out of place, and whose face did not give away the slightest thought that my aunt may, indeed, be mad as a hatter. A second later she had opened a cabinet and brought forth a pearl handled revolver. I quickly took a step back.

‘Goodness, don’t be silly, Matilda. It’s not loaded – yet!’ With that she hurried up the stairs while I remained, stunned. A couple of minutes later I heard her descend once more. Somehow she had managed to get dressed and have her hair and make-up done. This was a feat I would never master like she had. ‘I’ll take the car, expect me back this evening if all goes well.’

‘But the dance?’

‘Hm, yes. Oh, Fernandez will just have to accompany you and introduce you. Unconventional, I know, but we are eccentrics so I believe nobody will even bat an eyelid. Now,’ she said, kissing my cheeks loudly, ‘do your best to make a lasting impression, my dear. See you soon!’

The door closed behind her and she was gone. I was left alone in the hallway of a house I did not own, in a country I did not know and twelve hours later I would find myself investigating a crime I had no idea how to solve.

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My First Book-Review (Real Life Post)

A few days ago I came across this blog: The Eye-Dancers. The idea for the book sounds intriguing, which I naturally mentioned in a comment to the author, Michael S. Fedison! On Friday evening he sent me an email and long story short is that I was sent a free copy of his book, which I will then review on my blog (and Goodreads, of course!). Hopefully I will finish during the week, so keep an eye out!

The Eye-Dancers

I am very excited to be doing my first review like this!

The image is borrowed from Michael S. Fedison’s website.