Murder in Abbot's Folly

BOOK: Murder in Abbot's Folly
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MURDER IN ABBOT'S FOLLY
A Marsh & Daughter Mystery
Amy Myers
This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
  
First world edition published 2011
in Great Britain and in the USA by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright © 2011 by Amy Myers.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Myers, Amy, 1938-
Murder in Abbot's folly.
1. Marsh, Peter (Fictitious character)–Fiction. 2. Marsh,
Georgia (Fictitious character)–Fiction. 3. Private
investigators–England–Kent–Fiction. 4. Fathers and
daughters–Fiction. 5. Murder–Investigation–Fiction.
6. Detective and mystery stories.
I. Title
823.9'14-dc22
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-153-8  (epub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8039-0  (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-385-4  (trade paper)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
Remembering
Carol
who loved Jane Austen's novels
ONE
‘
A
nother raspberry fritter? They would most certainly have been a favourite of dear Jane's.' Dora Clackington beamed, holding out the plate of burnt offerings towards Georgia. ‘I shall be taking oodles of them to the Gala on Saturday.'
Georgia Marsh braced herself. This social pantomime was growing more agonizing by the minute, and only her father's presence was making it bearable. ‘Thank you,' she said, as warmly as she could, as she took a fritter. If Jane Austen had indeed dined on these, she pitied her greatly. ‘What Gala is that?' she asked politely.
‘At Stourdens,' Dora said in tones of reverence. ‘An annual event held in Jane's memory, and this year is a very special one.'
‘You simply have to come,' Elena contributed brightly. ‘After all, there was a murder there once.'
Peter Marsh avoided Georgia's eye. When her father had diffidently broached the question of coming to Edgar House this evening, Georgia had been appalled. It was bad enough to learn that Elena – her mother and Peter's former wife – was in England, without having to meet her for the first time in some years in the presence of virtual strangers. Georgia dimly remembered Dora and Gerald Clackington from her childhood and they were pleasant enough, but Dora's effervescent jollity was making it harder, not easier, to cope with the situation.
Georgia decided to make a determined effort to keep the conversation flowing. ‘Whose murder?' she asked Elena.
It was unlikely that Peter would be any more interested than Georgia was in the answer. Just because father and daughter worked together on cold murder cases didn't mean that they automatically pursued violent death at every opportunity. Nevertheless, it was an impersonal topic and therefore to be welcomed.
Even now she could hardly believe she was engaged in small talk with her mother, who was chattering gaily (nervously?) as though the last fourteen years had never happened. Elena had telephoned out of the blue to tell Peter she was staying in Kent with her great friends Dora and Gerald at Edgar House in Harblehurst, not far from Canterbury. Would he and Georgia come to drinks there the following night, Elena had pleaded.
Georgia had fumed when Peter had broken the news, and he had fallen very silent. Now she felt ashamed of her initial reaction as she noticed how those elegant manicured hands were twisting together on Elena's lap. This was an effort for her mother too, as well as for Peter. Elena was over sixty although her fine features and model-like figure would seem to belie any advancing years.
In theory, the difficulties between them had been ironed out some time ago, but nine months earlier Elena's second husband – whom Peter and Georgia had both liked – had died at their home in France. It had been the Clackingtons whom Elena had summoned to help, and it was not for another month that Elena had told her daughter and former husband of her loss. The wound at being so disregarded still lingered with them both and only added to the uneasy relationship that had existed between them since Elena had walked out. She had been unable to cope with the double blow of Peter becoming wheelchair-bound only a year after the loss of their son Rick.
Why was she back here so unexpectedly? Georgia wondered. Just to pay a visit to the Clackingtons? Georgia doubted that, and although not a word had been said about future meetings while Elena was here, she was beginning to have misgivings.
Peter must have decided to join in Georgia's valiant efforts to keep the conversation going. ‘I know Stourdens, of course,' he said, ‘and I do remember something about a murder. Remind me, whose murder?'
‘Robert Luckhurst, the then owner.' Gerald Clackington cleared his throat in embarrassment, as though murder were a man's topic, not fit for ladies' ears. ‘It was in 1985. Found shot in Abbot's Folly – that's an eighteenth-century monstrosity in the grounds of Stourdens. Thought at first to have been by one of the villagers, who were presenting some kind of protest, but in the end the chap who owned this place went down for it. You'll know that this used to be a roadhouse before we took it over. He'd lost the licence for it – given to his wife instead – and he blamed Luckhurst who was on the council at the time. Mind you, there was a lot of gossip about his being fonder than he ought to be of Luckhurst's wife.'
‘The very idea,' Elena said indignantly. She spoke so enthusiastically that it was clear she too wanted to keep the conversation away from the personal. ‘I
knew
Amelia Luckhurst. You remember her, Peter darling, don't you?'
To Georgia's amusement ‘Peter darling' didn't look as though he had a clue who Amelia was, or didn't want to. References to their joint past made him uncomfortable.
‘Gerald and I are so thrilled to see you all here together,' Dora hastily cooed. ‘Elena is delighted you could come, aren't you, darling? So very nice.'
Georgia mentally ran through all the emotions churning away inside her, but ‘nice' didn't apply to any of them. Nevertheless, she managed to smile brightly and agree that it was.
Dora and Gerald must be in their late fifties, she estimated. In her youth Dora must have been a pretty, doll-like girl, and her soft gentle features, excitable body language and speech, and pink frilly chiffon outfit suggested that she had not moved on. Gerald still seemed the manly adoring protector he must always have been to her. He was almost Dickensian in his upright bearing and stiff formal manner. Not unfriendly, far from it, but reserved. His wife, on the other hand, made Georgia think of David Copperfield's childlike wife Dora, who might have grown to be rather like Dora Clackington, anxious to please by the only methods she knew. Then she reproached herself for making such swift judgements. First impressions were not always right.
‘Do come to Stourdens on Saturday, Peter,' Elena urged. ‘You and Georgia would be able to find out more about that murder case.' Her nervousness was becoming more apparent. ‘You might even have handled it, darling.' Peter had been a DI before a shooting incident in 1995 had put him in a wheelchair for life.
‘No. It's coming back to me though.' Peter seemed as keen as Georgia to stay on neutral ground.
What else could they do in these circumstances? Jane Austen would doubtless have handled it more smoothly, although similar emotions must have been seething away in her characters' hearts under the mask of polite behaviour demanded by the society in which they moved.
‘If the case was as cut and dried as you say, Gerald,' Peter continued, ‘that would explain why it's not at the top of my brain's filing system any longer.'
‘What happened to Amelia?' Elena asked. ‘I'm afraid I've lost touch.'
Gerald obliged with the answer. ‘She moved away, just like the killer's family. Tanner was his name, Frederick Max Tanner, generally known as Max. Wife's name was Esther. We dealt with her when we bought this place. Way back it was a coaching inn, the Edgar Arms, so named after the family who built and lived in Stourdens for a century or two. It would have been on the main London to Canterbury Road. No bypass then. You probably came here in its later days, Peter, and you too, Georgia.'
Georgia had a faint recollection of having been brought here as a child for a Boxing Day meet, where the mysterious Stirrup Cup and red jackets, referred to as pink, defied any satisfactory explanation. She sometimes wondered whether those early unsolved mysteries had fostered in her the desire to tackle puzzles, which in turn had led to Marsh & Daughter's cases. She and her father now investigated cold cases – which were usually far from cold when the truth was known – and then recorded them in a series of books which was published by her husband, Luke Frost.
Because of its origins, Edgar House had an unusual layout, so Gerald had explained. A timbered medieval building at heart, parts of it had been extended and restored over the years, and this had resulted in its now having two long wings to the main house. One of them, Dora had told Georgia with pride, had been the local Assembly Rooms. Georgia had only seen the front building so far, formerly the inn's bars. The old arched entrance through which carriages would have clattered into the yard had now been converted to become the entrance hall of the house. The large living room, in which they were sitting, had been on its left and must have been the main bar. At the far end of the room a corridor led, Georgia guessed, towards the kitchen area and the side entrance through which Gerald must have guided Peter, as his wheelchair had not taken kindly to the steps at the main entrance. Georgia had come in that way – to be pitchforked straight into Elena's arms. Whereas Elena had been overcome with emotion, Georgia had felt frozen to the spot, and then mentally kicked herself for mishandling the situation.
‘I just about remember the inn, but I don't recall meeting Tanner,' Peter said. ‘The case is coming back to me though. Didn't he continue to protest his innocence after being convicted? I suppose that's natural, but was there any doubt about the verdict?'
BOOK: Murder in Abbot's Folly
4.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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