Monday mornings in Inveralba
were a busy time. Children rushed off for school. Their parents headed to
work, whether in the village or driving the commute to the city. Many took
trains. Drayton yawned and looked out the window. “At least it’s not
raining.” He got dressed, hooked up his computer and downloaded all the
pictures he’d taken of the book in Angus’s croft. Relieved to see a phone
line in the room, he sent the pictures to an old friend, adding a note with
instructions and offered a large reward if he got it back to him in 24
hours. He disconnected after that, slipped his laptop back into the suitcase
and went downstairs, not worrying about the huge phone bill he'd leave Elsie
to pay for.
“Oh, I’m glad to see you, Mr.
Steele,” Elsie said, seeming somewhat frantic. “It appears we have a thief
in our midst. You’re not missing your wallet, are you?”
He felt in his back pocket.
“No, it’s still there.” An impish smile stretched across his cheeks, knowing
he’d emptied the missing wallets and taken their shells out to the rubbish
late in the night. He’d crawled out the window onto the roof, slid down the
drainpipe and deposited the leather into the can.
“That’s not all. Several of
the guests are missing their jewels. I hope you didn’t bring any with you,
Drayton. Nothing’s safe until we catch the thief.” The stolen jewelry,
carefully hidden under the roots of a tree before climbing back into his
room, were safe for now.
“This is horrible, Elsie. If
there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know,” he said.
Talk around the breakfast
table was nothing but suspicions and accusations toward one another and
visitors to the B&B. At the first opportunity and without casting guilt on
himself, Drayton excused himself and left. On the way out he stopped Elsie.
“Excuse me, luv, but could you tell me which of Angus’s many relatives he’s
particularly fond of, in particular, a young girl? I’d like to buy her a
“That would be his brother’s
lass, Fiona. He spends as much time with her as possible, sort of feels
responsible for he since her father’s death. Have you been to Angus’s croft
“I went by yesterday, but he
wasn’t home, as you predicted. I left a note. Why do you ask?”
“Angus, bless his heart, is
an odd sort of character. He’s got no electricity, no appliances and a lot
of cats,” Elsie said.
“I noticed. Well, I’m off.
Oh, wait. Where does Fiona live? I’d like to pop by and meet her,” Drayton
“She lives with her mum,
Mairi. She’s a widow. I think her number is 290. Yes, it’s 290 Cheshire
“Thank you, Elsie. You’ve
been of more help than you’ll ever know.” Drayton made a mental note to
bring the old woman a bunch of flowers. That would flatter her and encourage
her to share more information when he needed it. He went to the tree and ran
his hands under the roots, pulling out the jewels. At the Post Office he
bought a padded envelope and mailed them to his house in Truro. He wrote a
note on the back, advising his mother not to open it, if she knew what was
good for her and that he’d come to collect his mail in a few weeks.
Cheshire Road was easy to
find. Drayton strolled casually down the street, looking for 290. “Ah, there
it is. It’s sitting off by itself. Good.” He walked past, not seeing any
signs of life. Braving it, he walked up to the window and looked inside.
“Nobody’s home. It’s my lucky morning!” After he went around the outside of
the house to make sure nobody was in the garden, he turned the knob. “It’s
locked.” Fists pounded on the wooden door. “Why is it locked? Nobody else in
this retched town locks their doors. What are you hiding, Fiona and Mairi?”
After trying both doors, he
attempted to lift the windows. All were locked, except the one over the
kitchen sink. Standing a bucket on end, he stood on it. Though a tight
squeeze, he managed to get into the house. “Clean. Fiona and her mum like a
clean house.” The kitchen cupboards, full of labeled cans, were his first
target; he ripped the labels off and tossed the cans onto the floor, nicking
the linoleum and denting gashes in the wood. He opened the refrigerator and
threw all the food out, poured the milk bottles upside down on top of the
food, and tossed the fresh vegetables into the living room. “What are you
hiding, Fiona?” The bedroom drawers were emptied with haste on the floor.
“Well, it looks like Fiona’s mum likes to wear pretty things.” He blew his
nose on a pink frilly nightie and threw it on the floor. He tossed every
box, every jar on the shelves and every item in every drawer onto the floor.
“Nothing. This is one smart girl. She doesn’t want to leave anything where
someone might find it.” An hour later he left, snickering at the door when
he saw the mess. “Not so tidy now are we, Fiona’s mum. Naughty, naughty.” He
walked down the street toward town. “Maybe it’s time to pay Angus another
visit. He turned and headed toward Anstrathven Street.
* * *
Fiona didn’t come home after
school. She went right to Bruce’s Meadow to meet Elspet and Callum. Both of
them showed up after a half an hour wait. “Are you ready? Good. Let’s go see
Uncle Angus. I can’t wait to go and visit another place. I wonder where it
will be this time?” Fiona let her imagination run wild.
“It might be a cold place
this time,” Elspet said. “I brought my cardigan, just incase.”
“I hope it’s another warm
place. I like going to visit places where it’s warm and doesn’t rain so
much,” Callum said. They ran hand in hand to Uncle Angus’s house.
* * *
Mairi walked home from the
bakery, smiling, thinking about how happy she was, knowing Johnny was coming
over for supper that night. When she opened the front door she screamed. “Oh
no! How did this happen? Fiona? Fiona?” She shut the door behind her,
running to check and see if Fiona was in her room, or worse, hurt. “There’s
something horrible going on here.” She picked up her phone and rang the
McAllisters. “Anne, are the men back from hunting? Good, may I speak to
Johnny.” The phone went silent while she waited. Her eyes wandered from room
to room. Tears rolled down her cheeks. “Johnny, can you come over. It’s
horrible.” She dropped the phone and fell to the ground in sobs.
When Johnny arrived, he
opened the door and went inside, finding Mairi curled in a ball. “What
happened?” He cradled her in his arms and picked her up. He talked soothing
words to her as he laid her down on the couch. “You sit here. I’ll get a
blanket.” He went into her bedroom and came out with a woolen blanket,
wrapping it around her. He sat on the floor next to her. “Now, tell me
exactly what happened.”
* * *
“Is he home yet?” Callum
peeked in the window.
“Why are his cats outside? He
wouldn’t have left them to starve. Let’s go in and make sure everything’s
all right,” Fiona said.
Elspet turned the doorknob
and they went in. “It looks all right to me. Let the cat’s in. They must be
thirsty and hungry.” She filled their bowl up with water and poured some
fresh cat food from the bag Angus kept by the back door.
Fiona and Callum rounded up
the animals and herded them inside. “He’s not home yet. We might as well
wait. I’m sure he’ll be here soon.”
They sat on the couch for a
few minutes. “We might as well play with his blocks,” Callum said. He found
them and poured them onto the floor. Within seconds Fiona and Elspet joined
him. They were building a tall tower when the door opened.
“Uncle Angus! You’re back!
We’ve been waiting for you. We want to go and get the next jewel.”
“I’m glad you’ve made
yourself at home. Let me eat something and unload my bag and then we’ll see
what we can do,” he said. When he sat in the chair near them he whispered in
Fiona’s ear. “And where do you think you’ll go this time?”
Fiona laughed out loud. “I
don’t care, Uncle Angus. I just want to hurry and get those jewels. There’s
some strange things happening around here and the sooner we get them the
“What do you mean, strange
“Well, first of all, there’s
Johnny and Jimmy Thomson,” Fiona said.
“They’re staying with our
family in the guest rooms,” Callum said.
“There is something strange
about them, but my mum likes Johnny, so he can’t be all bad.”
“All right; enough of this
gossiping and wild imagination. You stand near the fire and I’ll get the
orb.” Angus took it out of his bag and sat down again. “Are you ready? Oh
my, I nearly forgot. You’ll need some money.” He pulled out a wad of paper
money from his pocket. “One more thing, Fiona. You now have the power to
make fire. All you have to do is command it in your mind.”
“Wow! Thanks for letting me
know. It might come in handy, depending on where we go. Are you both ready?”
She looked at Callum and Elspet. They nodded. “Daleth shapish yam,” Fiona
said and the three of them disappeared.
“I don’t think she understood
what I said to her about the fire, do you, Marmaduke?” The cat sat in front
of him, waiting to climb into his lap. “Ah well, she’ll find out soon
enough. I wonder where their adventure will lead this time.” Angus closed
his eyes and enjoyed the warmth of the fire.
END OF BOOK 1