Drew Farthering arrives in idyllic Scotland for the 1935 British Open at Muirfield hoping for a relaxing holiday, but he soon finds a mystery on his hands. Lord Rainsby, his host at Thorburn Hall, fears his business partner may be embezzling and asks Drew to quietly investigate. Before Drew can uncover anything, Rainsby is killed in a suspicious riding accident.
Madeline Farthering gripped her husband’s arm a little more tightly as they made their way through the mass of people crowding Waverley Station, certain that if they were separated in this chaos she’d never be able to find him again. Drew said something to her, but she could only shake her head and shrug.
He repeated whatever it was he had said, but the crackling announcement of a delayed train arrival blaring through the station made it impossible to make out.
She pressed a little closer to his side. “What did you say?”
By then the announcement had ended, and her shouted question drew the attention of several passersby. A blush heated her cheeks.
Drew’s gray eyes were warm and laughing. “Having fun, darling?”
She pursed her lips. “Not yet. Is Edinburgh always like this?”
“It’s a fairly busy place most of the time, I expect, but people come from all over for the tournament.”
She smiled, enjoying his excitement. “I’ve always wanted to see the British Open.”
“The Open, darling,” he corrected. “Ever and always, the Open.”
“Oh, yes, of course.” She managed to keep from rolling her eyes. “Anyway, I’ve been to our Open, the U. S. Open, and I’ve been to the PGA. They started a new tournament in Georgia, too. Last year.”
“Ah, yes, at Augusta. I remember reading about that one. Well, if they’re still having it in the next year or two, perhaps we’ll toddle on over to the States and have a look. How would that be?”
She beamed at him. As much as she loved her husband and his beautiful country, she sometimes missed the sounds and sights of her native land. “That would be–”
Madeline blinked, and she and Drew both turned toward the heavily accented voice.
“Monstrous,” the man repeated, this time on a heavy sigh, as an elderly porter looked anxiously at him. “And yet, it must be borne, must it not?”
He was somewhere in his late thirties, tall and slender, with a pencil-thin moustache and a look of pale tragedy about him. An actor or artist, Madeline decided. His ivory silk suit was flawless and quite expensive. He must be extremely successful. Either that or he had a wealthy patron. She couldn’t decide exactly what sort of accent he had. Perhaps Russian.
“Can you believe, madame?” he said, catching her eye. It was definitely Russian. “I come here to this great country to escape oppression and corruption, and what do I find?”
Madeline shook her head. “I– I’m sure I don’t know.”
He opened his mouth and then stopped short, a look of pure delight suddenly on his face. “Ahh, you are American, no? I am certain such things never happen in your country.” He swept the stylish hat from his pomaded head and held it over his heart. “Not to so heavenly a creature as madame.”
There was only the slightest tension in Drew’s smile. “Is there some way we might be of help?”
“You are too kind, sir, but I fear there is no help to be had.” Again the foreigner heaved a tragic sigh. “One can only grieve and carry on.”
“I’m very sorry, sir,” the porter said, a Scottish burr in his voice and his rheumy eyes anxious. “We have looked everywhere. Once the train has emptied, we’ll make another search and send it along to you the minute it’s found.”
The Russian pursed his lips. “And what until then? I present myself for dinner this evening looking as if I have just come from the jungle? From being three weeks lost at sea? It cannot and must not be done.”
“Misha! Misha!” A portly little woman in her mid-fifties waved from a few feet away and then bustled up to them, puffing with exertion but still triumphant. “Look what I have,” she singsonged, and she presented the foreign man with a small leather toiletry case.
The porter heaved a sigh of relief as the Russian clasped the case to his breast with one elegant white hand and used the other to bring the woman’s heavily ringed fingers to his lips.
“Oh, Madame. Madame, once again you have saved me from utter ruin.”
“Will there be anything else, sir?” the porter asked as the woman stood simpering.
“That will be all, my good man.” The Russian gave him what could only be described as a regal nod of dismissal, and then he faltered when the old man stood looking expectantly at him. “Ah, er . . . ” He patted his breast pocket and then looked with some distress at the woman. “I hesitate to trouble you, Madame, but it seems . . . uh . . . ”
She looked at him for a moment, obviously puzzled, and then realization dawned in her eyes. “Oh. Oh, yes. Yes, of course.”
She popped open her beaded handbag and rummaged through it, finally coming up with an assortment of small coins which she pressed into the porter’s gnarled hand. “There you are. We’re so sorry to have caused you any bother. My husband had accidentally put it with our things. Such a silly mistake, isn’t it, though it does look rather like his. But no harm done in the least. You’ve been a great help.”
The little man touched his fingers to the brim of his blue cap and then wove his way into the crowd.
Drew gave the woman a polite smile. “If there’s nothing else . . . ?”
“Oughtn’t you to introduce me to your friends, Misha,” she said, turning appealingly to the Russian.
“Merely passersby, ma’am,” Drew said with a tip of his hat. “If you have everything sorted here . . . ”
“Oh, yes. Certainly. It’s too good of you to try to help. Poor Misha, he can’t be troubled with practical matters, you know. The brain of the artist is simply too profound for the trivialities you and I must deal with. I’m sure you understand.”
The man was standing now with his hand spread across his shirtfront, his brow furrowed as if his recent near-tragedy had quite overcome him.
“I’m certain he bears it as bravely as he is able,” Drew told the woman, somehow managing to look earnestly solicitous.
“I am never one to complain,” the Russian said dolefully.
“No, of course not,” the woman soothed.
“The past is gone,” he sighed, “and we must carry on.”
“Good man,” Drew said with hearty finality. “Stiff upper lip and that, eh? Well, I’m afraid we have a car waiting for us, so we’d best be off. Good luck to you both.”
“Oh, dear,” the woman said, standing tiptoe as she attempted to see over the crowd. “Where is Alfred now? I don’t want them waiting dinner for us.”
“Oh, no you don’t,” Madeline hissed, tugging her husband’s arm.
He followed her toward the station exit, looking baffled.
“You were going to go back and help her. Don’t bother denying it.”
“Nonsense. I was merely trying to see where Nick had got to.” He lifted his head, looking back toward the train. “I thought I saw him just over there.”
She pressed her lips together. “And what would he be doing over there? The way he bolted off the train, you’d have thought it was on fire.”
It was too loud in the station to hear her husband’s low laughter, but she could feel the soft rumble of it in his chest. “He was rather worried about not being on the platform when Carrie’s train comes in. I don’t think he much cared for her coming all this way alone, and I can’t blame him.”
“Judging by the telegram she sent from the dock, she got along just fine. And she wasn’t exactly alone.”
But she was alone. Carrie Holland had been her best friend for just ages. Carrie’s father had walked Madeline down the aisle at her wedding, taking her own late father’s place in the ceremony in giving her to Drew. She had teased and scolded Carrie’s little brother as if he were her own. But now both father and brother were gone. Her mother had passed on years ago. Carrie had no one left.
Drew squeezed her hand. “I know you’re worried about her, darling, but I’m hoping this visit is just what she needs to put things right.”
“I’m hoping it won’t be just a visit.”
He gave her a wink. “That, my love, is where Nick steps in.”
Madeline nodded. Poor Nick. He had fallen hard for Carrie three years ago, when she and Madeline had come to Drew’s Hampshire estate, Farthering Place, as part of their European tour. Madeline had stayed and married Drew, but Carrie had gone on with her tour and then returned home. After a year of letters between her and Nick, she had come back to England to visit. Absence had certainly made their hearts grow fonder, but then the loss of her brother made it necessary for her to return home once more to care for her grieving father. Now there was nothing in America to hold her, but were letters enough? After two more years apart, would things be the same between her and Nick?
“He should have asked her to marry him long before now,” Madeline said.
Drew shrugged. “It was a bit awkward when she left the last time, you know. She had her father to deal with along with everything else, and he didn’t want to make it any more difficult for her, trying to keep her in Hampshire when she needed to see to things at home. And you wouldn’t want him to pop the question via telegram, would you? That would be shockingly vulgar.”
She giggled at the look of melodramatic horror on his face. “I suppose there are more romantic methods.”
“Mine, for example.”
She stopped short, one hand on her hip. “Yours? Your method was to nearly get yourself killed so I was forced to stay and keep you out of trouble.”
He looked positively smug. “It worked, didn’t it?”
She lifted one eyebrow and then started them walking once more. Feeling him laugh again, she prodded him with her elbow and nodded toward the platform they were approaching.
“You’d better go rescue Nick before he topples off.”
Hat in hand and tawny hair ruffled by the wind, Nick was leaning out over the track, obviously looking for any sign of the train.
Drew hurried up beside him and pulled him back a little. “Best look out there, old man. It’d be a bit of a letdown for your Miss Holland if she finds you under the train rather than waiting beside it.”
Nick’s smile was more nervous than convincing. “Just wondering why the deuced thing isn’t here yet. You don’t think there was a breakdown or anything, do you?”
“Of course not.” Madeline took his arm and gave her husband a look that discouraged a flippant response. “It’s not even due yet.”
“Isn’t it?” Nick looked up at the station clock and then gave Madeline a rather sheepish grin. “I suppose it isn’t.” Then his expression became urgent. “She is coming, isn’t she?”
“You have her telegram, don’t you?” Drew asked.
Nick beamed and patted his breast pocket, eliciting the crackle of paper. “Shall I quote it for you?”
Drew turned to Madeline, shaking one accusing finger at her. “I hold you responsible for every bit of this, wife. Here I thought I had a fine estate manager and stout fellow for any emergency, and you arrange for him to be turned into some helpless form of jelly.”
She looked at him with disdain. “Carrie and I came to Hampshire on vacation. Any jellification on the part of either of you is entirely your own fault.”
“I see,” Drew said gravely. “When we go home to Hampshire, I will see that inquiries are made.”
Knowing her reply would never be heard over the sudden clatter of the approaching train, Madeline merely wrinkled her nose at him. As soon as the train began to slow, Nick loped alongside, looking into the first-class compartments for any sign of a diminutive American girl with a sweet face and strawberry-blonde curls.
Madeline tugged Drew along behind him, pausing from time to time to stand tiptoe to peer into the soot-grimed windows. With a squeal of brakes and a hiss of steam, the engine came to a stop, and Drew nodded toward the open door of the compartment they had just passed.
“Carrie!” Madeline slipped her arm out of Drew’s and hurried over to her friend. “You’re here. You’re really here.”
“I’m so glad to see you.” Carrie hugged Madeline tightly. “I thought the train would never get in.” Still with one arm around Madeline, she reached for Drew’s hand. “How are you, Drew?”
“Pleased you could join us.” Drew gave her slim hand a squeeze, his gray eyes holding just a hint of humor as he glanced toward the front of the train. “Though I daresay not as pleased as someone I could name.”
Nick was coming back down the platform, his hat wadded in both hands and an uncertain smile on his pale lips. “Hullo.”
A tinge of eager pink came into Carrie’s cheeks. “Hello.”
Hiding a smile, Madeline moved back to her husband’s side, leaving a clear path between Carrie and Nick.
“Shall I–” Nick cleared his throat. “Shall I see to your luggage?”
Madeline glared at him. Don’t be an idiot. Don’t just leave her standing there. Don’t–
An instant later, she knew she needn’t have worried.
With a whisper of her name, Nick took Carrie into his arms, and she melted against him, twin tears slipping from under her closed eyelids.
“Come along, darling,” Drew murmured, tucking Madeline’s arm into his own. “I’m sure they’ll join us in a moment. Plumfield will see to the bags.”
They walked out into the damp and blustery June afternoon, leaving the long-parted couple still clasped together, oblivious to anyone and anything outside their embrace.
BUY DEATH AT THORBURN HALL
BARNES & NOBLE
DEATH AT THORBURN HALL is scheduled to be released by Bethany House in November, 2017. Drop me a line to let me know what you think of Drew's latest adventure. Happy sleuthing!
Would you like to read more excerpts?
GO TO BOOK ONE: RULES OF MURDER
GO TO BOOK TWO: DEATH BY THE BOOK
GO TO BOOK THREE: MURDER AT THE MIKADO
GO TO BOOK FOUR: DRESSED FOR DEATH
GO TO BOOK FIVE: MURDER ON THE MOOR