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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1799320-Weekend-at-Eagle-House
by carphi
Rated: 13+ · Novella · Detective · #1799320
Chapter 2 of story
Chapter 2

The week went by quickly and soon the weekend arrived.  Julia Worthing, one of the  Barrett’s maid’s was freshening up the rooms to be used by the weekend guests.  The rooms were pleasantly furnished,  3 had double beds and three had queen beds.  All but one had views of the extensive gardens.  The odd one out had a partial view of the river.  In each of the bedside tables was placed an envelope.  All identical  except for whom they were addressed to.  Julia wondered what they might contain. She was tempted to hold one up to the light, but then thought better of it.  The Lieutenant certainly had something planned. She had observed him in his study with Lady Constance, and also the cook, valet planning and  deciding with them.  Julia definitely was thinking  he was scheming something.  But what was it all for?  Being one of the lower staff often meant she didn’t get to be in on plans, like the garden party held last summer. It was quite a big affair, being the annual party hosted by Lady Constance.  All the staff speculated for days on end what dress Lady Constance would wear.  On the day she chose a lavender crepe day dress made of silk and with it a purple  wide brim hat.

Thinking on it, she actually smiled because she had actually seen the outfit two days before the party, and she remembered Laura the parlor maid and Mary the scullery maid debating on wither it would be the cream dress  with the tapered sleeves or the red frock with the ruffles.  “Ha!” she thought to herself, they were both wrong. 

Meanwhile,  Lieutenant  Colonel Barrett was out in the garden  in the small chapel built to honor the Barrett’s ancestors, by the East wall.  In his hand he had a diagram of the wall and was counting the bricks.
“5,6,7.. Ok. Now down 1,2,3.  Right.  Jolly good this should be it!”  Lieutenant  Barrett then removed a small chisel from his waistcoat pocket and began carefully tapping out around the designated brick. He tapped around all four sides until it was loose.  He attempted to pull it out but it was still a little bit stuck. “ Needs a little bit more  then.” 

After tapping a little more, the brick was able to be pulled out.  He carefully set the brick down as he intended to slip it back after he was finished.  No one must guess the wall looked any different after than it normally did.  Behind the brick which was a largish thick brick, was  a small panel which had a sliding cover.  Behind the cover lay a envelope which contained some pictures and a couple of letters.  These he planned on using to his advantage later.  For now though, he simply put the brick neatly back in place using a little bit of mortar he had also brought  to keep the brick firm in its spot.  He wouldn’t need to go back to it again. 
In Gravesham,  Bernard and Penny had just put their cases into the car.  A MG Saloon car, cream and blue.  Bernard  had worked hard for it, after the war he had gone to work in his father’s insurance business.  He didn’t mind it but he knew if he had achieved higher than Staff Sergeant, he might of landed a better position.  Bernard waited in the car while Penny locked the front door.  Their house was a semi detached house, with a small garden.  Once in the car, Penny looked out the window and said “Oh Bernie ( Penny was the only one allowed to call him that)  what do you think it will be like?” “ Well I can say one thing, I hope that  few years has made  Barrett change a little. If he makes me feel singled out again I wont stay past dinner.”  “ I agree.  Lets hope time has changed him a little.” 
Around five o’clock  Simon and Marline Hodburry and Laurence and Helena Gornsley were just arriving at Eagle House. The house was indeed a very grand house.  Made of Cotswold stone it had  two wings, several bay windows and a sprawling garden complete with a pond with a footbridge. A small church could be seen just to the left and back a little from the house. Money for this house hadn’t come from the Army. No, Lieutenant Col. Barrett had married into this level of opulence. Yes and he had married very well. 

After parking,  The Hodburry’s and the Gornsley’s stopped for a moment to greet each other.    They had never met before.  John went over to the Gornsleys red Crossley 20/25  which the Gornsley‘s had just got out of. . He extended his hand to Laurence “ Hello, fine afternoon isn’t? My name is John and this is my wife Marline.”  Pleasantries were exchanged,  Helena complimented Marline on her hat. Looking at Helena, Marline sensed they were about the same age.  “So have you met the Lieutenant Colonel?” Laurence asked, he knew that he, himself had but wondered if John had and wanted to know what he thought of him. “ Me? No. Never had the pleasure. I didn’t serve on the front lines, I worked at the ATE as an instructor.” “Oh. I see.”  “ Well don’t get me wrong dear boy, my vision wasn’t quite good enough but they knew I had teaching skills.  I did get my teaching certificate before the war broke out.”  Laurence could see by the thick glasses John wore that must be true.  “ Very well then, I didn’t mean anything by my comment.  How was it at the ATE? “  “ All fine and good for the most part, sometimes you got a few corkers but on the whole the boys I trained were good lads.”  Looking at his watch, Laurence said “ Well then, shall we go in?”
Walking up the path, John said, “ You didn’t say if you had ever met our host.”  “ Yes, I have.  He was a rank just above me.”    They were greeted by  Mrs Georges, head house keeper.  Eagle House was a grand estate which required a fair number of staff.

  By six o clock everyone had arrived.  Cocktails were served in the lounge. John and Marline had orange juice as they did not drink.  Something Lt. Colonel  Barrett was puzzled about slightly but  John took no notice.  He didn’t need alcohol to relax and neither did his wife.  At six thirty dinner was served and everyone gathered in the dining room.  All the while everyone previously had had a chance to go to their rooms and freshen up.  However, no one, had opened their bedside table to see the envelope there. 

During the dinner a low hum of voices could be heard,  everyone introducing themselves, talking about careers they had taken since the war. Everyone invited had been involved in the war, except  Jessica Wilson and Marline Hodburry. The other wives had been involved with the war effort,  Helena worked in a munitions factory, and the other wives worked in soup kitchens or were nurses for short period of times.  The dining room was elegantly decorated, with a large Louis the 16th  dining table with powder blue chairs.  A large chandelier with large crystals hung from the ceiling.  On the walls hung a Monet, a Renoir,  and a large tapestry with a medieval scene.    The Barrett’s spared no expense when it came to the menu. A  three course meal which included Beef Wellington, lobster with butter, artisan breads, a large salad with many fruits and vegetables and several other things which had taken the cook a full two days to prepare. The Lieutenant Colonel was a slightly stout, tall man about six feet tall,  in his early fifties. He had dark brown hair with gray coming in at places.  He was dressed casually with an blue Oxford shirt, cream cardigan and tan slacks.  Laurence Gorsley was relieved. He half expected the Lieutenant Colonel to greet his guests in his full regimental dress.  Lady Constance was in a forest green dress with capped sleeves. She also had on a small diamond necklace and matching earrings. She had honey golden hair with the finger wave style.  By the look of her Jessica  Wilson guessed she was a good five if not ten years younger than the Lieutenant Colonel.

During the deserts of which there were three choices,  Lieutenant Col. Barrett  tapped his glass and said.              “ Fellow servicemen and their lovely companions, may I formally greet you all.  I imagine you may be wondering why I have called you all here.  Some of you know each other, and others know some of the others here. Ah! But that is not  only reason I have gathered you all.  I have  placed in your rooms a envelope, in there I have given the purpose of this weekend. Well now, lets get on with desert shall we?”

Nathan Wilson thought to himself. “ How very cryptic, but then again  thinking back,  James always did like puzzles.  In down times he often was doing the crossword it seemed.    After supper, the men went to play snooker, and the women to play bridge.  Except Jillian Hocksworth. She never played bridge, mainly because every time she tried she wasn’t any good at it.  No she decided  to be the first to see what was in this envelope the Lieutenant  Colonel was going on about.  She’d tell Simon afterwards but right now she was happy to let him mingle with some of his old chums again, some were more chums than some like that insufferable  Bernard Morcroft. She didn’t have any problem with Penny,  she seemed nice enough from the times she had met her which weren’t many, Army do’s mainly.  However her husband had to be the most hot headed, pompous twit to walk the face of Britain. She knew a couple at least a couple of the other guests felt the same. She wondered what Lieutenant Colonel’s purpose for inviting him was?    Walking up the main staircase and walking three doors to the right Jillian entered the room she and Simon were in.  She went to the bedside table on the side she normally slept, just writing paper and a pen. Closing it and crossing the room, around to the other side of the bed, she opened that bedside table.  There was the envelope.  Hmm Jillian thought. .. “I wonder if they were randomly put in the bedside tables. The Lieutenant Col could not of known who slept on which side“ Or could he?.”    Jillian opened the envelope and inside was a poem which read

                   Over land and  over sea and together now
                      we are for the weekend  you and me
                      something has been bothering me, ever since we
                      were fighting for our liberty.  I have the proof of what one of
                      you did, proof of something I hid away, yes I did.  But one of
                        You knows-   
                      oh yes you do- the question is  will  you get me or will I get

“How strange.” Thought Jillian.  She wondered what it meant.  She knew one thing, it had something to do with one of the guests  male, (or was it?) who knew  the Lieutenant  Colonel well.  She folded the poem and slipped it into the pocket of her blue organza dress. After taking a minute to freshen up in the bathroom adjoining the bedroom,  Jillian decided to go down and join the rest of the guests.  She didn’t want them, especially the hosts to think she wasn’t feeling well.  As she went down the stairs she decided she wanted to steal Simon away for a moment and show him the poem.  She knew she could always wait till everyone had retired to bed and show him in their room but she didn’t wish to wait.  She knew what this whole get-together was missing.  A detective or rather, two detectives, since the Colonel had already set up the mystery.    It was still a bit light still outside, the sun hadn’t set quite yet. She spied Simon at the bar just outside the billiard room having a gin and tonic.

“Back are we?” Simon teased and put his arm around her.  Simon was a good looking fellow, in his early forties. He had sandy blond hair and sparkling blue eyes.  He was about five foot eleven. Jillian remembered the first time she saw him.  It was at a field hospital on the Western front. Simon had injured his hand during a skirmish.  He wasn’t badly hurt but he has in the field hospital for a about a week as he developed a bad cold also.  Jillian was the nurse assigned to look after him. It was there they fell in love and when the war ended they got married in St. Mary’s church in Wolver Hampton. 

“Let’s go get some fresh air while its still light out.” said Jillian. “Very good then, sensing Jillian had something in her bonnet.  It hadn’t been very many years since they married, but they already knew how each other thought pretty much.  They walked in the lush garden which had lovely flowers, especially roses of all sort, planted in decorative patterns. Around the side from Eagle House,  Jillian stopped for a second.  “ I want to show you this.”  “Ah,, you have discovered what its in the envelope.” “ Yes, look  at this.”  Finding a stone bench they sat down and  Simon had a look at the poem.  After reading it Simon paused for a moment and then said “ How interesting.  He seems to be fingering one of us for something.  Well I can say this, it has nothing to do with me.” “Nor I.” Jillian.                                         
“ However, I don’t like this  ‘catch me if you can’ business. I think we need to find out what the Lieutenant plans to do by  being our own Sherlock Holmes.” said Simon. “ “Quite right.  I think we need to watch the others carefully to find out who after reading this will know who the Lieutenant means and act!”  “Yes, darling we must keep an eye on everyone and we mustn’t lead on that we are snooping.  I can’t even confide in my good chum Laurence.”  “No, we will just keep our observations to ourselves.” 

“ How will we keep our notes safe? One of the maids might discover them and tell the Lieutenant, being loyal to her employer and all.”  “ You brought your jewelry case right, the one that locks?  “ I did.”  “ Well I suggest that as well find things, we put them in the secret compartment in there and lock it.  Then we will compare each others notes by having one  these lovely strolls in the evenings.”  “Sounds like a plan. Its only Friday night, we have till Monday to prevent anything from happening.”    And with that they gave each other a brief kiss and then heading back to the house.

After the billiard and bridge games everyone said their “good nights” and went up the main staircase to their rooms. By  twelve-thirty all was quiet.  Around three Grant Pentegree woke up to get a glass of water from the bathroom just down the hall.  Passing the Wilson’s door and the Morcroft’s as well as the Hodburry’s opposite,  Grant could hear a distinct sound of paper being ripped up.  It was so early in the morning and Grant was very much still asleep, he couldn’t tell which door the sound was coming from. He tried to make a mental note of it and hoped he would remember it in the morning, not that he knew who to mention it to. The Lieutenant Colonel? Definitely not.  Not need to cause a stir, but then again he knew everyone would find them. He made a point of telling everyone about them in advance.  After getting his water Grant trundled back to his room and fell asleep.
Across from Morcrofts room and the left of the Wilson’s was Jillian and Simon Hocksworth .  Jillian, a fairly light sleeper, could hear someone ripping up paper also, but like Grant couldn’t determine who it was.  She quietly slipped out of bed,  as to not wake up Simon and peaked out the eyehole of her bedroom door.  The Barett’s estate was  large enough  to have several guests and  they made the rooms apart from their own personal quarters in the opposite wing, very much like a upper class motel and other large manors.  Peering through the eyehole, Jillian could see no one in the hall.  The ripping of paper was coming from  one of the two closest rooms to hers.  Listening carefully she could hear some one upset.  Still being very early, Jillian made a note on the notepad inside her bedside table.  “ 3 am, sound of ripping paper and I noted a sound of someone angry or upset, most likely the same person.
Plan to investigate room after brekkie. J”  Satisfied with her observations, Jillian slipped the note into her jewelry box and then went back to bed.

At eight thirty a sumptuous spread was laid out in the dining hall.  Everything from gammon to eggs in a variety of different ways, crepes.  fruit and hot and cold cereal, as well as juices in a myriad of varieties.  Plus imported coffee which was hard to get.  At eight thirty a sumptuous spread was laid out in the dining hall.  Everything from gammon to eggs in a variety of different ways, crepes.  fruit and hot and cold cereal, as well as juices in a myriad of varieties.  Plus imported coffee which was hard to get.  First up and in the dining hall were the Hodburrys,  Marline looking quite lovely in a corn blue day dress, her brunette hair done neatly in a bun.  The Morcroft’s were next to come to breakfast.  “ How did you two sleep last night.” asked Penny making polite conversation.  “ Very well wouldn’t  you say John?”  “ Oh rather and you?”  “ I couldn’t of slept better.” said Bernard. Which Simon Hocksworth was able to overhear.  Hmm slept well did he?  Thought Simon. Well if that is the case he would hardly be up at 3 am as Jillian noted. Not unless he isn’t telling us the truth.  By nine everyone was in the dining room including the Lieutenant and Lady Constance.  Observing the minimal food Lady Constance had chosen  Rosalind whispered to Helena “I dare say she eats like a bird.”  Helena quickly glancing answered “Quite.”  Lady Constance was always making sure her figure stayed trim.  Not one to go without food, but a careful eater. She knew James liked how she looked and always tried to please him. She did have one big thing over him which kept him in check as it were also.  She had the money, not him and she had control of what they did with it, all of this was well known.  When everyone had just about finished, Lady Constance tapped the side of her glass and said.  “ Good morning all, I hope you slept well and enjoyed this lovely breafest prepared by out chef..  Today’s activities will be a shooting party for men, or if you are game enough you can go along ladies but I personally don’t  recommend it.  For the ladies we have tennis and badminton in the court out back  or swimming in the pool  just to the side of the house.  The men are of course free to do these things as well.  This evening we shall have a dance in the hall. Should be great fun! The Lieutenant has arranged for a local dance band to come in for just the occasion. Well without further a-do,  the shooting party will be meeting at the back field, just past the tennis court in twenty minutes Everything is provided for you”  With that everyone began to divide up.  Grant, Laurence, and Nathan and Bernard  decided to  join the shooting party. John and Marline played doubles with Simon and Jillian.  Helena, Penny and Rosalind went swimming.  It was a glorious day, lovely sun with just a slight wind.  Before going to play tennis, Simon went back upstairs for a brief moment.  The shooting party had all ready gone to get ready..  Before going to play tennis, Simon went back upstairs for a brief moment.  The shooting party had all ready gone to assemble in the field and the women who chose to swim were very eager to get to the pool, thus leaving the rooms vacant.  He went to his own room first and went to Jillian’s beauty case and removed a couple bobby pins.  Then he went to the Morcroft’s door.  With a slight  jiggle of the bobby pin the lock was opened.  Quickly he looked in the trash bin, no sign of pieces of paper there. He looked in both bedside tables.  The poem was still there, in tact.  So, it wasn’t Morcroft.  I am surprised.  Simon thought.    Quickly he went to the Wilson’s door, went in and looked in the trash bin. There it was, in shreds like it had been torn in anger.  Nathan Wilson?  What does the Lieutenant have on him?  Simon then dashed back to his room and jotted the note  “Not Morecroft. Wilson. Interesting. S.”  and put it into the jewelry case.  Then he slipped back down stairs and outside to the tennis court.
“ Forget something?” asked John.  “Just decided to switch my shirt, the other one was too hot.”  “ Oh right mate.”  They then began to play.  If anyone had been paying attention though they would of noticed that Simon at breakfast has been wearing a light linen shirt, the same shirt he was still wearing.  Thankfully, the only one who knew that was his wife, who was outside next  to the tennis court.  At the shooting party everyone was geared up and mounted on their horses.

“Have you been on many shooting parties?” asked Grant to Bernard. “ No. Not many, but I thought I would give it a go today.”  Bernard didn’t consider being on the front line a shooting party, although in his opinion the fox today was the Lieutenant.  Grant hoped Bernard wouldn’t think  he was doubting his ability.  He was merely asking, not wanting to provoke him.
The Lieutenant led the shooting party,  the dogs were brought out and the horn blew.  Off they galloped in to the woods, following the hounds.  The meadow was thick with tall grass and wildflowers, the wood had tall trees of oak, pine, maple and various shrubbery.  The horn blew again.  Everyone racing, chasing the hounds who were chasing a fox ( especially brought in to make sure there was a fox to be chased , but no one else knew that)  Then a shot was fired.  "Ahh!"  A  pained cry  from a man could be heard.  It was Bernard.

“Who fired?” said Grant.  “I don’t know, but  Bernard seems to be wounded.”  “You did this to me!  You singled me out again!”    Bernard was on the ground, clutching is left arm to his chest and pointing to Lieutenant  Barrett with his right hand..  The man had become a bit of an oaf after the war, tubby with stout legs. His chip on his shoulder just got bigger.  “No. No I didn’t fire my gun, see, none of my bullets have been fired.  Lieutenant  Colonel James . opened up his gun to show Bernard.  “ It was one of You then.  I am going to find you out.”  At that moment  though, Bernard passed out, he was brought back to Eagle House. The attention Bernard was now getting made people forget no one else had volunteered to show if their gun had been fired.

Hodson the butler was called for, and  Bernard was driven  to,  Doctor Millingsly in town. When he returned it was found  it had only been a slight graze.  Typical Bernard made it seem like he had been mortally wounded. By the evening he was able to come back to the house, very suspicious of everyone.  Especially and even more of the Lieutenant.  Someone had fired their gun, someone meant to hit him.  However he might of had reason to think so, knowing a lot about the man.  However Bernard was easily provoked and this being a shooting party, was a perfect opportunity.  Someone did mean to hit someone, but Bernard was in the way, he was not the target.

© Copyright 2011 carphi (carphi at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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