PAPERBACK BOOKS
MADROC MAYHEM


 
The peaceful life sustained by a few people living in a Cornish village is disrupted by a startling discovery.

Several crimes are committed at this time with nothing in common, except they all eventually lead to a significant situation, which could have a disastrous effect on the population of Britain and, eventually, the world.

The characters mainly have different agendas but when necessary work in unison as unexpected and accidental discoveries are made.

In Store Price: $AU28.95 
Online Price:   $AU27.95

ISBN:   978-1-921574-14-6 
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 285
Genre: Fiction
/Crime

Cover: Clive Dalkins

 

 

Author: Joan Lewis
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2009
Language: English


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Author Biography 

Joan Lewis was born in Hertfordshire in the UK and worked for five years in a National Newspaper office in London, after which she married and spent the next eighteen years bringing up four children, but always found time to write.

The family travelled with their children to Eire in 1964 and for four years lived outside Dubin in a small village. In 1970 they moved to South Africa during which time she worked for a multi-millionaire as confidant and assistant but later gained a position with a firm of Accountants in Johannesburg. They moved to Australia in 1985 where she worked for a firm of Accountants until her retirement in 1995.

She now resides on the Gold Coast in Queensland enjoying her writing, especially crime mysteries.

Chapter One 

 

Saturday: 11 August

 

Blissfully unaware of the tragic event to later unfold Frederica Palmer Conan, Fred to everyone, a thirty-year-old whose Titian hair and classic looks could have been seen in Renaissance portraits, stretched her curvaceous body languorously between her Egyptian cotton bed sheets. Donning a pair of cream pants and chocolate coloured shirt, she went downstairs to make toast and coffee looking forward to the week-end ahead.

She sat at the kitchen table sipping coffee and breathing in the wonderful aroma of the freshly made brew. Looking outside she could see the colourful array of flowers she had nurtured, even though she was still unable to remember their names. Life is good despite losing Jonathan three years ago she decided.

Jonathan, her late husband, had been a foreign correspondent who had spent a great deal of their married life overseas on assignments. His final assignment had been in Romania reporting on a fresh outbreak of hostilities between two gangs in a small town. Sadly he and his cameraman were killed by crossfire.

After Jonathan’s funeral, attended by many friends in the media and newspaper world, Fred continued living in the two-storey stone rambling cottage she and Jonathan had bought four years earlier in Lower Madroc on the west coast of Cornwall.

Lower Madroc adjoins Higher Lower Madroc and both villages enjoy a friendly rivalry by holding an annual darts match in the Madroc Half public house which, as the name suggests, sits between the two villages. At the moment Lower Madroc is the current champion which Higher Lower Madroc has vowed to change next year.

Fred, a fully qualified psychologist, began a new career as a photographer, a previous hobby, and had converted one of the two barns in the grounds around her cottage into a studio. She retained two staff, one her friend and confidant Julie Magee and an eighteen-year-old, Anthea Semmens who, despite her young age, continually excelled in the technology of digital photography.

Clearing away the breakfast things Fred discovered it was already ten o’clock. As her hair appointment was at eleven o’clock she climbed into her trusty Mini and made her way to the High Street, managing to park in a side street.

She had time to call into the Golden Memories antique shop, only a few doors away from the hairdressers, to choose a suitable silver present for her friends, Rita and Brian Thompson. They were giving a lavish twenty fifth wedding anniversary party tonight. She knew she should have done this earlier but had been caught up in her work and hoped she would find a suitable gift.

She pushed open the door of the antique shop and entered. It was a treasure trove of old and well loved furniture. In one corner stood a mahogany cabinet appointed with old fashioned brass handles. In another corner Jasper Samuels, the owner, had hung glorious straw hats swathed in lengths of tulle and feathers on a brass hat stand.

Fred sighed musing that entering this shop transported you back to the grandeur of the Victorian and Edwardian era.

“Good morning, Fred,” said the jovial gentleman dressed like a character from one of Charles Dickens’ novels. Although ridiculed by many of the locals, Jasper always maintained the tourists loved his attire.

“Morning, Jasper,” she replied.

“Come to browse this time or may I help you with something?” he enquired.

“As usual I am late buying a present and I need something silver for a twenty fifth wedding anniversary,” Fred explained.

“Oh I see. Do you know if the couple have any particular interests which might suggest the kind of present they would like?” Jasper asked hoping to make a profitable sale as business had been a little slow of late.

“I know they like the medieval style,” she said eyeing a few plates lining the walls of the shop, although most of these were brass or copper.

“I tell you what I do have,” Jasper said in a conspiratorial manner. “A replica Black Prince dagger. These have become quite a collector’s item. I have one at the back of the shop.” He disappeared behind some bead curtains and reappeared holding a dagger with an ebony and silver handle and stainless steel blade.

Fred examined the dagger and remembered the antique glass case Rita and Brian had recently purchased for their billiard room. She decided this would make an excellent addition to their existing collection of various antique daggers and pistols.

“This is quite an impressive piece I must say,” Fred remarked. “How much?”

“Well, they are new on the market and are also a limited stock item, but for you Fred, as a valued customer, shall we say £200?”

Fred replied with a smile “Shall we say £150 and you have a deal?”

“Done,” he said in mock dismay. “You drive a hard bargain, m’dear.”

The purchase made and the dagger safely placed in a black box Fred said her farewells to Jasper and made her way to the hairdressers very pleased with her acquisition. 

After leaving the hairdressers she stopped at the newsagents to buy silver wrapping paper and bumped into Samantha Bostock, a pathologist with the Pendlehurst Police. Sam, a six-foot-tall athletic woman with short blonde hair, a wonderful smile and sense of humour, was married to the local vet, Peter also six feet tall, lean with a craggy face and gentle disposition. Sam told friends that whenever a child took a pet to his surgery Peter would put his ear to the animal’s mouth and pretend the injured creature was talking to him.

“Hi Sam,” Fred said and gave her a hug. “Are you going to Rita and Brian’s tonight?”

Sam nodded. “We wouldn’t want to miss it for the world. They sure know how to throw an extravagant party. What are you doing here?” she asked.

“Buying wrapping paper for their present I have only just bought. I haven’t seen you for ages. How about coming back with me to have a spot of lunch and catch up?”

“Sounds good, but where shall I leave my bike?” Sam replied. Half the time Sam forgot to prepare food and evening meals were usually a take-away.

“That’s alright,” Fred replied. “We can put your bike on my car rack.”

They secured the bike on top of the Mini and chatted happily until they reached Fred’s cottage.

She prepared a light lunch of French breadsticks and cheese accompanied by a glass of Spanish Riesling and they sat in the kitchen gazing out towards the green fields surrounding the college and riding school adjoining Fred’s property.

Sam asked, “Do you know the other couples going tonight, Fred?”

“Only a few of them,” she replied. “Rita and Brian move in different circles since Brian became involved in a gaming club in Belgravia.

After drinking their wine, whilst listening to Debussy’s Images for piano emanating from the radio, Sam stretched.

“I must go before I fall asleep,” she said. “Thanks for lunch. I’ll see you tonight.”

Fred lifted Sam’s cycle from the roof rack and with a wave and a shout of “Don’t fall off,” she returned to the kitchen to clear the dishes.

Going into the lounge to read the paper, she fell asleep on the couch and woke with a start. It was five o’clock. She headed for the bathroom to change for the party. What to wear, what to wear, she wondered opening the bedroom closet. Her taste in clothes was not ostentatious. She chose a white Grecian style dress purchased in Ankara where she last holidayed with Jonathan four years ago. She sighed, picked up her camera and checked it over. Naturally she had been assigned to officiate as photographer tonight and knew you were only as good as your equipment.

Rita and Brian lived about an hour’s drive away so she climbed into her Mini and drove through Lower Madroc to Higher Lower Madroc. They lived in a large country house at the edge of the village. You certainly couldn’t miss it tonight, as along the winding driveway Brian had arranged masses of silver balloons and bells tied to lampposts lighting the way to their front courtyard.

Fred heard general chatter and laughing so the party had got off to an early start. As she parked in the front courtyard Brian came out to greet her. He was good looking, of medium height but powerfully built. The kind of man who would be an asset in times of trouble.

“Thought I heard your car driving in,” he said.

“How did you know it was me?” Fred retorted as she alighted from the car.

He replied “All cars have a certain sound and one always knows which friend is in which car.” Brian used to be a car salesman many years ago so there could be some truth in that.

“Come in,” Brian said slipping an arm round Fred’s waist. He never missed an opportunity to latch on to a woman’s anatomy somewhere but it was a harmless gesture.

“How are you love?” Brian asked.

Before she could reply he turned to her and said, “Now don’t get mad, I am not deliberately matchmaking but you’re sitting next to Sebastian Doyle tonight. He’s no fuddy duddy, in fact he’s about your age give or take a couple of years. He is the new Detective Chief Inspector at Pendlehurst Station replacing Garth Melly, who has retired to his cottage in the Highlands of Scotland. Garth couldn’t make it tonight and asked if I would extend the invitation to Sebastian as a goodwill gesture. I am sure you will find a lot in common, especially with your police connection.”

Fred’s police connection was as an occasional criminal profiler and the last thing she wanted to discuss with anyone. She knew he meant well but she really didn’t appreciate being partnered off with a member of the force, or anyone else for that matter.

Rita came towards her and kissed her on both cheeks offering a glass of champagne which she took thankfully as she followed her into the lounge to greet the guests already gathered.

“You look stunning in that dress,” Rita said. “I feel quite dowdy beside you, you wretch.” Rita always tried to soften the blow of Jonathan’s absence by complimenting her.

“Now, now, you know no one can compete with you,” Fred retorted teasingly. “Where did you get that dress?”

“Well, believe it or not,” Rita replied, “I met this wonderful woman, Gloria, at the last fund raising event for the Animal Shelter League that was held in Penwithian a couple of months ago.”

“I don’t remember that,” Fred said.

“Oh that’s right; it was when you were in London on some photographic show. Anyway Gloria told me she had just completed her first label and was hoping to open a boutique in the Portabello Road area in London. I asked her round to our apartment in town to show me some of her designs and was so impressed I gave her a commission to make a dress for my twenty fifth anniversary and, voila.” She twirled round making the bottom of the silver georgette swirl into beautiful folds around her legs. “I was so pleased with the end result I invited her and her husband here tonight. I’ll introduce you later. I believe he is someone high up in the Diplomatic Corp.”

“The dress is gorgeous Rita and you look beautiful,” Fred told her.

Rita beamed and looked liked the cat who ate the cream.

Fred presented her gift to them. Giving her a kiss and big hug they told her they were going to place all their presents in the study and open them tomorrow when they were completely sober.

Rita made her way to the dining room while Brian took their present into the study. He came back with a man in tow whose apparent self confidence made his five feet eleven inches height seem over seven feet. He was solidly built with short thick prematurely greying hair. He was not handsome but had what, with a photographer’s eye, she would call a character face almost Neolithic, his eyes a lavender colour neither blue nor violet were quite distracting when he looked at you directly.

“Fred, this is Sebastian Doyle who has just moved to Pendlehurst. Sebastian, this is our dearest friend Fred Conan. You two are seated next to each other tonight so I thought you might like to break the ice beforehand.” With the introduction completed, Brian turned and walked away leaving them standing there.

“I am sorry you have been lumbered with me tonight,” Sebastian said with an apologetic smile. “I think we are the only two singles attending the celebration.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Fred replied. “I am used to it. Brian hates to see a woman unaccompanied. Sometimes I think he is still living in the forties. It does have its compensations though as I have met some very interesting people at times.”

“I shall do my best to fall into that category, even though I am surprised you are unaccompanied. Sorry, I am being too personal,” he said with another apologetic look on his face.

She smiled but ignored his remark. “How are you settling in at Pendlehurst Station?” she asked.

“Slow but getting there. You know how it is? When a new broom arrives there is always a great deal of speculation but I have a great team of people. In fact, I am quite impressed, but don’t tell any of them I said that.”

Fred laughed and promised not to. She excused herself as Rita had specifically asked her to take photos of the dining room and table before everyone sat down to eat.

The dining room looked superb. A walled mirror reflected the shimmering crystal chandeliers hanging from the high ceiling down to the glittering silver candelabras on the long rosewood banquet table. It was complemented by silver goblets placed along the only splash of colour, a crimson velvet runner down the centre of the table. Once Fred had completed her task Rita announced dinner was being served and the guests poured into the room to take their allotted seats.

Sebastian joined Fred and as they moved along the dining table to find their places she introduced him to Alistair Notley and his wife, Sara.

“Hello, Sara,” Sebastian said kissing her on the cheek. “I haven’t seen you for years.”

“Well, well, the prodigal son has returned,” she said with a smile.

Sebastian did not reply.

“Let me introduce you to my husband, Alistair,” she continued. “Darling, this is Sebastian Doyle who is now at Pendlehurst Police Station.”

 “I never done it, Guv,” said Alistair laughing as the men shook hands. “Isn’t that what they all say, Sebastian?”

“No such luck I’m afraid. If only one could believe what is written our lives would be a lot easier I can assure you,” Sebastian replied.

As Fred and Sebastian moved further along Fred whispered to Sebastian. “Alistair is Brian’s accountant and apparently quite a whiz when it comes to investments. How long have you known Sara?”

“I went to school with her, or at least my sister, Mary, went to school with her. I just dragged along behind,” Sebastian replied.

After greeting a few more guests such as Reginald and Guinevere Trenowden, Reginald having been Brian’s best man at his wedding, and Matilda and James Caxton, Rita’s parents, Fred and Sebastian found their places at the table.

She again excused herself from the company whilst she photographed the table from different angles, to capture the guests enjoying the ambience, and returned to her place looking forward to what she knew was going to be a wonderful gourmet experience.

“Rita loves to cater,” she told Sebastian. “Not that she does it herself mind you, but she is certainly the designer of the event.”

On Fred’s left sat a distinguished looking man of about fifty. He turned to her and smiled.

“My name is Pierre Bouchet and this is my wife, Gloria.”

“Oh yes,” Fred said turning to Gloria, “Rita told me you had designed her gown. I must congratulate you as it is absolutely stunning and so right for the occasion.” Gloria smiled an acknowledgement.

“I am Fred Conan and this is Sebastian Doyle,” she said pointing a hand in his direction. Pierre inclined his head in greeting and they proceeded to enjoy the delights being placed before them.

Fred noticed that Sebastian had not fared quite so well in the company next to him. It was Rita’s mother, Matilda Caxton, who spent the whole time tut tutting about the expense of the evening.

The meal was superb with much clinking of glasses and a few inevitable bawdy jokes at the expense of Rita and Brian and their ability to remain together for so long.

After the guests had consumed everything placed before them they were ushered out to the balcony. A trio played and quite a few couples began dancing in the cool summer evening. Later a firework display lit up the night sky and squeals of delight were heard at every explosion of colour and formation.

Fred moved through the crowd of guests taking more photographs. As she approached the back of the crowd with her camera poised she snapped a couple coming forward onto the balcony from another direction at the side of the house. They were straightening their clothes and smiling at each other. Fred turned away and returned to Sebastian’s side in the middle of the crowd to watch the final display of fireworks.

Eventually everyone gathered in the formal lounge on the other side of the house to enjoy a farewell drink before embarking home.

Suddenly one of the hired waitresses burst into the room screaming

“He’s out there,” she screeched pointing to the window overlooking one of the balconies, “and he’s got a knife.” Her face was as white as a sheet.

“Who is?” Fred asked moving to look out of the window.

“A masked man. He was crouching behind the bins outside the kitchen when I went out to put rubbish in one of them. He sprang out at me so I ran back through the kitchen,” she replied. “He really scared me.”

Rita went over to the girl and gave her a glass of brandy putting her arms around her shoulders while she drank it in one gulp.

Fred watched Sebastian dash out of the room and reappear in the lounge panting a little and announcing. “He must be agile as there is no sign of anyone in the garden.”

“What happens now?” Fred asked him.

Sebastian replied, “I shall have to take a statement from the waitress and will arrange for a couple of police constables to search the grounds thoroughly. A patrol car will be organised to pass by at intervals during the night,” hastily adding, “not that I suspect he will return.”

“Oh thank you, Sebastian,” Rita said. “It will be a comfort to us I can assure you.”

Fred went over to Rita. “Should we search the house to see if anything has been disturbed?” she asked.

Brian shook his head and Fred saw a flicker of alarm in his eyes at this suggestion. She knew it had not gone unnoticed by Sebastian either.

“I don’t think he had time to steal anything,” Brian said. “Everyone is tired tonight but I’ll make a search in the morning.”

“Alright Brian, but I would like you to call in to the station tomorrow and make a formal statement for insurance purposes let alone anything else.”

“Yes of course, Sebastian.” He turned to his guests and said, “I do apologise for all this and hope it has not completely spoiled your evening,”

There was a general shaking of heads and murmurings of not at all and everyone hoped nothing had been stolen, especially with so many presents in the study. Reginald Trenowden started up with, “For they are jolly good fellows” and soon everyone in the room raised their glasses and chanted along with him. Collecting their coats and shouting goodbyes to all and sundry the guests made for home after giving their phone numbers to the constables before they left.

Sebastian went over to Fred.

“Are you driving home alone?” he asked. “I don’t really think the intruder will hang around tonight but I would be happy to organise a constable to accompany or follow you.”

Fred prided herself on being self sufficient and besides this was in the shire of Madroc. Nothing really bad had occurred here for years.

“That is kind of you,” she said. “I have my mobile with me so I am sure it will be alright and I promise I will keep my car doors locked until I reach home.”

“If you are sure but I will see you out to your car.” He led the way outside whereby she got into her Mini and drove out of the courtyard.

He sighed but smiled. Although not pleasant this attempted burglary had provided him with a perfect excuse to speak to her again.

Fred wished she had not shown so much bravado as she drove home. At one point something darted into the middle of the road and she screeched to a stop ready to scream. Looking through the windscreen she could see it was a vixen, no doubt looking for a chicken to kill for her cubs. Furtively looking in all directions, her heart pounding in her chest, she revved up the engine and put her foot down hard on the accelerator hoping and praying nothing else crossed her path before she reached home.

As she sped along the road into Lower Madroc she passed a patrol car. She thought she was going to be pulled over, but they were obviously on another call and she continued until she was in her own courtyard and safely inside the front door, where she let out an enormous sigh of relief. She needed a night cap and poured herself a brandy and sat in the kitchen for a while.

The brandy had a calming effect and she thought of the many photographs of the celebrating couple and their guests she had taken. She was looking forward to choosing the six Rita and Brian might decide to keep as a permanent reminder. Suddenly she realised she had not thought of Jonathan all night, making her feel a little guilty, but she could not deny she had enjoyed a wonderful evening and would contact Rita and Brian tomorrow to thank them.

Suddenly feeling tired she dragged herself up to bed after first checking all the doors and windows were locked. “Come on now scaredy cat, the police will be out and about the area for a while,” she said and consoled herself with this until she finally fell asleep.

 

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