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Katie has begun this absolutely fantastic Victorian detective story, pull up a chair and take a read!

.......

As the car drove up to the small village, something didn’t seem quite right. The cabby, who was a hearty, garrulous English man, suddenly fell quite silent. The whole journey to Maybuck (which was a good two hours, if not three) had mainly consisted of Charlie (the cabby man) telling me practically his whole life story. He has 3 kids, Elizabeth (Lizzie), his 7 year old daughter, Ralph, his 5 year old son, and Nellie, his 1 year old daughter. His wife’s name is Mary.

As I stepped foot outside the reasonably comfortable passengers compartment, a spiteful chill wrapped its bony, pale fingers around me. I shivered. Charlie came off his perch, and started unloading my luggage.

“You travel light Mr Smythe, Sir.” He put my brief case and bag by my feet.

“Yes, well, I don’t think that it’s necessary to waste alm capacity when it could be used for something far more efficient,” My gaze was on the hills. They were almost completely covered in mist. It was the perfect spot for a killing, I thought.

“That’s the dead hill, the one in the centre,” Charlie piped up, clambering back onto his seat to get his cap. “Some rumours from Clara that there’s been a few disappearances on that hill, that’s how it got its name. Clara says everyone thinks it’s the girl, but Clara’s trying to bring justice to the little lass.” Charlie stuck his head in the small compartment just under his seat, and yanked out his two big bags.

I couldn’t believe that I had this perfect opportunity. Charlie’s sister, Clara, runs an orphanage, and one of the girls went missing, and soon after, there are dead people hanging off trees. Suspicious.

Jumping down, Charlie strolled towards the village, soon taking up a story of how Clara had claimed she had once seen the missing child roaming the moors. I listened earnestly, taking mental notes.

We knocked 3 times on the door, and 6 seconds later, it swung open, revealing Mrs Kenward with a baby on her hip, and a toddler by her side. She looked tired, and worn down.

“Charlie! Come in, come in, it’s freezing out there!” The women welcomed us with open arms, well, an open arm, seen as the other was occupied with the rather grumpy looking baby. I looked round the rather small hallway, already I began to feel uncomfortable with the amount of children screeching below us.

“Charlie...I...Um...I thought you were coming tomorrow, I would have put the kettle on, and ... oh!” The lady clearly hadn’t been paying close attention to the world round her because, by now, one of the toddlers was screaming on the floor as another child pounced on them, and she obviously didn’t realize I even existed.  Mrs Kenward blushed, and looked at me a little inquisitively. “I...um....Charlie, who is this?”

“Oh, Clara, this is the detective I told you about...” Clara’s eyes where fixated on Charlie’s, she evidently had no idea I was coming. “The man in my letter...?” This time, it was Charlie’s turn to blush; he shuffled around a little, and took Clara off to one side. I didn’t particularly mind, it gave me the opportunity to look around a little.  After what seemed like around 1minute, 33 seconds, Clara turned round to me, and said I could stay, but until next week, i would have to share a room with Charlie.

After the rather peculiar arrival, Clara gave us supper, and led me and Charlie to a small room in the East wing of the house. “Mr Smythe, you can sleep on the bed, Charlie, I’m sorry, but the floor is the only option for now, after all, I didn’t exactly know there were two of you...” Charlie apologized for the sixth time today, and Clara just walked out the room.

“Sorry about that sir, there was a miscommunication, I think...” The cabby man looked a bit shameful, and started arranging the blankets Clara had given him on the floor. I put my briefcase on the bed, and unpacked my bag.

“Now, Charlie, you are not to touch my briefcase. I am to wake at 6:30 on the dot, and bed is at 8:30, no earlier, and no later.  You are to be my assistance in this case, you will do exactly as I say, or you are to leave. You are also to call me Mr Smythe or nothing at all.” The cabby man looked a bit stunned, but continued to arrange the blankets.

The rest of the evening I started to plan my interviews, and a half an hour later, I smoothed down the sheets, and got into bed. The night was quite apart from the cabby man and Clara talking downstairs. I pondered over the day’s events, before slipping into a silent sleep.

In the morning I got up at my usual time, got dressed, and walked down the stone, steep steps. Mrs Kenward was feeding a baby. She jumped as I walked in. “Mr Smythe! I... I didn’t expect you up until later...” She stood up rather hastily and wiped her hands on her apron. “I’m...I’m sorry about yesterday, Charlie forgot to mention that you were coming with him, from my understanding, you were coming a week later, I had arranged for Lillian to stay with Miss Towlsworth next week so that you could have her bed...Although, I know Miss Tolsworth means well, but ... she seems to think so highly of her cats that sometimes I think that when my children go to stay with her, she sort of...I don’t know... it’s not a crime to be a Ailurophile is it now? Besides...she means well...” Mrs Kenward picked up the baby and said she would be back in a minute.

1 minute, 42 seconds later of a little crying, shuffling around and whispering, Clara came back in with no baby. “Lillian loves to look after the little ones, I was just handing Jack over.” Clara started pouring me some Barley water.

“Mrs Kenward, if that’s for me, I shant take any, I have taken to bringing my own supply of tea, thank you.”

“Oh, well, certainly then,” She poured the rest of the Barley water out and took a seat......so, Mr Smythe, you drink tea?” I could tell she was a little taken aback, but I took no notice.

“ To drink the water from the polluted, manure-filled river is like drinking away your death, I find, Mrs Kenward, so, yes, I prefer to delay my death time while I still can, before the time comes when my own body is giving itself up, weather I like it or not.” Clara stared at me, in silence, and then down at her water. She put the cup down.

Charlie came plodding down the stairs then, yawning, and still in his rather old, and tattered looking nightgown.

“Morning, Clara, Edwar......Mr Smythe.” Charlie drank 2 cups of Barley water, some bread, and some gruel. I proceeded to have a cup of tea and a slice of bread. I got out the house just as the children came tearing down the stairs at 7:34.

My first thing on my list was to interview Mrs Kenward, but that had to wait until later, when she was not so busy dishing out food to an entire house full of kids. The next person on the list was Miss Tolsworth. Clara had mentioned her to me, and I was curious to see her. Charlie knew Miss Tolsworth (or Edith) because he sometimes would take her from Maybuck into town to visit her son, Harry.

Her house was just 4 houses down from the Willow mere House, (Clara’s orphanage) although you would be surprised how spread out the houses was, well, compared to the town. Outside Edith’s house, there was a statue of a cat, and 3 cats were sat on the windowsill. Her cottage was certainly not huge, but it was not as small as the one next to hers, where Charlie said Mr Frederic Mawbray lived.

Mr Dorso (Charlie) rapped on the door 2 times, one less than what he knocked on for Clara’s door. I took a quick moment to mentally file that away.

“I’m coming!” A shrill voice echoed out at us. 5 seconds after the voice talked to us a small peephole opened, and an eye appeared.

“Who is it?” The voice said again. I was standing in the way of the eye until Charlie gave me a small push, and came into the view of the eye.

“It’s me Edith, Charlie, The Cabby man?” The lady repeated Charlie’s name 3 times before swinging open the door.

“Charlie!” How nice of you to come and visit, I suppose you are staying with Clara?” Edith was a rather small lady, slightly plump, and with glasses on the end of her nose. She wore a frilled cream dress, and her silver-grey hair was in a tight bun. She embraced Charlie in an engulfing hug, and shuffled towards me. Her eyes scanned me up and down, examining me. “Theodore? I thought you went with Maggie to.....to….anyway, that doesn’t matter, come in, come in and give Auntie Edith a nice big hug!”

I had never experienced anything like that before; she squeezed me so tight i’m quite sure she was trying to knock all the air out of me.  

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