By Donna Easto
The three friends, Madeleine Arnold, Angus McAllister and John Wilson Murray, spent a pleasant evening in Ms. Maddie’s cozy home. The dinner of boiled Partridge, croquettes of rice, seasonal vegetables and escalloped tomatoes followed by Almond pudding was evidence of the hostess’ cookery skills. The two men, eloquent in their praise, were rewarded by a rare treat, a digestif of home-made White Currant Cordial.
Cordials in hand and seated before the fireplace, the conversation turned to John’s work as a detective. He amused his hostess by recounting how he’d nabbed a felonious church organist, who’d turned out to be a fraudster wanted across North America. The couple marvelled at his description of the advances recently made in the new field of forensics. Maddie was particularly interested in the finer details of how information was obtained through autopsies. Angus, uncomfortable with this line of conversation, muttered, “John, do you not think this topic is too grisly for the ears of a lady?”
“Nae, Angus, “I find your lady asks intelligent questions. Truly, she’s as forthright and unsqueamish as my own dear Mary.”
The men left at 9 p.m, promising to meet Madeleine at the cafe for breakfast the next morning. Deep in their own thoughts, they walked in silence the short distance to Angus’ tidy cottage by the creek. Before retiring, the men sat on the front porch, sharing old stories and enjoying a whiskey nightcap. Angus, suspicious of his friend’s unexpected arrival in Lumby Village, haltingly asked, “ya know, I’m happy to see you, John, but ye came without warning. I canna help but feel that you might be avoiding something back in Toronto. Aye?”
“Angus, I’m just worn out. The tabloids have made me out to be some sort of “Sherlock Holmes,” and I canna get a moments peace in Toronto. Every time there’s a murder, I”m hounded for answers – even when it’s not my case! To be honest, I’m here to rest. I need to get as far away from murder as I possibly can.”
“Well, I think I can promise that there’ll be no murder in Lumby Village while you’re here. There hasn’t been one since….1882. You’re welcome to stay as long as you’re able. Unfortunately, you may find peace hard to find here too – I regret telling those raucous youngsters who you are, I’m sure the whole Village knows about you by now. We should get to our beds. Maddie’s an early riser, she’ll expect us at the cafe by 7.”
The cafe served a real working man breakfast: bacon, eggs, home fries, plain bread with tea or coffee. Maddie loved breakfast. Coffee was a particular treat, something she never made at home. “I never seem to get the grind just right,” she offered in explanation. While slowly savouring her third coffee, an uproar from outside shattered the moment. Grabbing the cup, she ran out with the men to discover a most startling sight.
Albert Duggan’s black horse, Jazeer, was found lathered, wild-eyed, and riderless. More astonishing, its saddle was cinched tight – under its belly. It had to be deliberate, but why? And, where was Albert? Four men quickly mounted up and headed out to the Duggan homestead. The crowd headed to the cafe to await a report from the unofficial posse. Most agreed that Albert was overall a decent sort. However, his part-time job as a tax collector sometimes put him in conflict with a neighbour. One wag suggested that it must be a prank played by a disgruntled farmer after Duggan demanded he pay up.
NEXT: A Startling Discovery