Some said that after it had happened - the murder, that is - the Fairwood boy had gone abroad. Had nothing to do with it, of course, but had gone all the same. When the solicitors tracked him down, forty-five years later, he was sleeping rough in New York City with his few worldly goods in a wire shopping cart. They offered him the entire estate. He had refused to sign. Six months later, he died of exposure under Brooklyn bridge, the warmth and welcome of his childhood home still only a signature away. He had no regrets.
When it all came out in the town paper, the solicitor went on record as being just as baffled as everyone else, one question beginning to seep through the town's gossip channels and leaving a sticky trail of suspicion in its wake.
What was so bad, people began to ask themselves, that a man would choose to die alone and frozen thousands of miles away, rather than return to that house?
And tongues began to wag, and thoughts began to turn back to that night when little Cathy Ross the cook's daughter was found, her limp, bloodless body stuffed up the kitchen chimney.
"Of course, the Ross murder was a sensation in 1959," Mr John Mandeley muttered in his dry, cracked voice. Buried behind a pile of leather-bound first editions, Mr Mandeley hardly ever moved from his sagging chair except on those rare occasions when a customer needed assistance. Or, indeed, came in at all.
Today was Tuesday, and Mr Mandeley had a rather well-worn routine on Tuesdays. He was now running ten minutes behind schedule, the kettle boiled but the tea still not poured. The reason for this was the sunken-eyed woman leaning on his counter. "...They arrested the gardener, but couldn't make it stick," he went on, warming to his theme and forgetting his Darjeeling. "No. No, she wasn't killed in the house, you see. No blood anywhere. Only stuffed up the kitchen chimney afterwards. There were other deaths in the house itself, though. Would you like to hear about those?"
The woman blinked heavily, but nodded. She seemed determined to keep awake.
"Well. Back in 1633, three servants were accidentally poisoned in their sleep as the lime plaster on their walls dried. And something similar in 1812 - five maidservants, suffocated because of the fumes from the coal fire. Though some say it was the arsenic in the wallpaper of the Blue Room. Chimney was blocked, you see. Dangerous thing, an unswept chimney."
The woman nodded again. "I'm not using the chimneys," she said. "I've put in electric fires instead."
Mr Mandeley lifted his chin. "Very wise, Miss."
"I was hoping to speak to Mr Bishop, actually," the woman said, squinting apologetically. She didn't want to appear rude. "I heard that he was the chair of the Local History Society, and I just wondered..."
"It's his day off. Guy can't tell you a thing about the Fairwood estate that I haven't already told you," Mr Mandeley said, sniffing. "His father wrote the book on it, but," he tapped his temple, "I have it all up here."
"Is there an actual book?" the woman looked around at the shelves. "Could I see it?"
"There is," Mr Mandeley was not in the mood to cooperate; he wanted his tea, and she had stung him with her request to speak to Guy. "And you can buy it. This is a bookshop, not a library."
"When does the History Society meet?" The woman was persistent. "I'd like to join it..."
"Wednesdays." Mr Mandeley turned in his chair, scrutinising the pile of dusty tomes before him. "They meet in the old Scout hall on Cliff Walk."
The woman - Caroline, her name tag said, not that Mr Mandeley really cared - thanked him for the information, and trudged out of the shop.
YOU ARE READING
The Crows (Complete First Draft)Paranormal
"Every murder turns on a bright hot light, and a lot of people have to walk out of the shadows." - Mark Hellinger **BEING RE-WRITTEN. NEW VERSION WILL BE PUBLISHED WITH NEW CHAPTERS, NEW ADVENTURES, AND NEW CHARACTERS!** Follow me on Twitter @ CMRos...