Monday, 30 July 2018

The Killing of the Thousand and Second Night Chapter 4

    Here is another chapter of my yet unpublished book. If you haven't read Chapters 1, 2, and 3 you can find them all on this blog.

Chapter 4                               

        Harriet had been unable to settle Charlotte down and she heaved a sigh of relief when Doctor Christie arrived. He had inadvertently been delayed and although another doctor could have attended, Charlotte refused to see anyone else, other than Christie. The medical practitioner had spent over an hour with his patient before informing Harriet that her friend was composed and was now in a fit state to speak with the police.

    Alexander Ashdown, Inspector MacGregor's second problem witness was easier to placate; after drinking some strong tea spiked with a good shot of dark rum, that Harriet had prepared for him, he collected himself and agreed to speak with MacGregor again, on the officer's return.

    With only five minutes to spare, before Guy was expected, Harriet made her way back into the library. The house was so quiet, even the coal ash from the burning fire, dropping down through the iron grate into the ash pan below it, made Harriet’s eyes search the room for an unexpected intruder.

   She shivered slightly, as she examined the stark surroundings she found herself in. The red velvet curtains that hung on a shabby wooden pole above the window frame and the polished wax cloth on the floor had certainly seen better days. Threadbare described them perfectly.  Harriet hadn’t noticed before, but her friend’s house didn’t demonstrate any of the wealth, the Ashdown’s were said to have.

    The sound of muffled voices and footsteps walking across the tiled hallway, made Harriet’s stomach flutter momentarily. She swallowed hard when the library door was knocked and then opened. “Come in,” Harriet rose up from the leather winged chair she had been sitting on, on seeing that her visitor was as she expected, Guy MacGregor.
    “Hello Harriet, I hope you’ve got good news for me,” Guy spoke with only a hint of a Glasgow accent. His move to London as a young policeman had meant that he had clipped his sing-song pronunciation.
    “Hello again Guy, yes I have. Both Charlotte and her father-in-law are now fit to answer any questions you may have of them. With whom would you like to speak with first?”
    “Mrs Ashdown please and if you care to stay with her, I don’t have a problem with that. She’ll probably be more at ease if you’re with her,” the truth was Guy MacGregor had no interest in Charlotte Ashdown’s well-being. He just wanted to spend a little more time with Harriet and familiarise himself once again, with her outstanding beauty. As Harriet went to walk passed him out of the room, he caught hold of her arm and said,
    “I’m sorry for my childish behaviour earlier Harriet.”
    “I know you are Guy,” Harriet stroked his hand gently and smiled, before leaving the room to get his much-anticipated witness. She knew he was sorry and had an impulse to hug him, but oh my goodness that would not be proper.

        Charlotte’s hysteria had passed, but her mood was subdued. Harriet tried to make polite conversation with her friend but found her very unresponsive. She prayed that she would be a little more forthcoming with Guy because he could be real bloody-minded when he wanted to be.

    Harriet descended the stairs in front of Charlotte, whom she knew was following her somewhat reluctantly. When both women were standing in the square-shaped reception hall, Harriet turned to her friend and said,
    “No need to be frightened, my dear. You've nothing to fear,” she couldn’t help but notice that Charlotte’s face had waned. Charlotte forced a smile and nodded in response to the words of reassurance from her friend. Harriet started to move towards the short passageway that led to the library when the door of the drawing-room opened and Guy appeared and he said,
    “Ladies this way please, Mr Ashdown thought you would be more comfortable in here, the fire in the library needs stoking,” before he disappeared back into the room Harriet observed that Guy had removed his outer coat and that he still cut a dashing figure. The tweed suit he was wearing, most definitely suited his tall slim stature.

    When the ladies entered the warm room, the policeman was standing with his back to them. But Harriet was aware that he was watching them in the overmantel mirror. His eyes followed every step they made and as he turned to face the two women he said,
    “Please sit down, ladies. I believe one of your servants has arrived Lady Harriet, she should be bringing some tea along in a moment.”
    “That will be Sarah my parlour maid, I sent a message earlier by cab, for her to come here and help out temporarily. I hope you don’t mind Charlotte?” Harriet looked for approval from the mistress of the house.
    “Thank you, Harriet. Well since, since, Jeannie,” Charlotte struggled with her words; she swallowed hard and continued, “I’ll need to find someone else.”
    “You can hold onto Sarah as long as you need, my dear,” Harriet was now sitting down beside her friend on a large shabby velvet sofa, opposite the fireplace. Temporarily she was overwhelmed by a similar feeling to that of a naughty schoolgirl who had been summoned to the Headmistress’s room.
    “I’m so glad the staffing problem has been solved for the time being,” the note of sarcasm in Guy’s voice didn’t go unnoticed by Harriet, but she decided not to retort. He carried on, “ Thank you for allowing me to speak with you Mrs Ashdown; I hope you’re feeling better,” he didn’t wait for her to reply, he continued, “I need to ask you about Jeannie. Although it seems you weren’t at home when her murder took place, I think you will be able to help me in finding out a bit more about your maid.” Harriet could see Charlotte visibly tremble when Guy used the word ‘murder,' but her friend took a deep breath and nodded in acknowledgement of Guy’s reasoning for questioning her.

    Harriet had never seen Guy with such a stern look on his face; sitting down on the club curb that surrounded the fire he opened his notebook and said, “Mrs Ashdown, how long has Jeannie been in your employ?”
    “I’m not sure, I’ve been here for six or seven years and of course she was working here before I ever became the mistress of the household.”
    “So you didn’t employ her?” Inspector MacGregor looked slightly puzzled.
    “This was my husband’s parental home and all the servants including Jeannie were hired by Mrs Ashdown, John’s mother.”
    “All the servants, I was under the impression that you only had the one and that was Jeannie?”
    “Yes, we do; I mean we did. Let me explain, several months before John and I married, his mother passed away. John was very concerned about his father as her long illness had also taken its toll on him. So John decided, it would be best that after we married, we move in with his father. Therefore I took over the day to day running of the house.”
    “I understand that, but what happened to the other servants?”
    “We no longer needed them. I was fit, young, healthy and as I had kept the home for my own mother until I married, I was capable of doing the day to day duties in a house this size, with only one servant.”
    “So who decided to keep Jeannie on?”
    “Both John and I knew that Jeannie was good with his father and he liked her. He can be somewhat difficult sometimes, therefore we decided that she was the correct person for the job. She could coax and cajole him into doing things that we never could have.”
    “How did you and Jeannie get along?”
    “We respected each other?”
    “So you didn’t like her much?”
    “She was rather brash and could be very coarse on occasions, which wasn’t to my taste, Inspector. But I didn’t dislike her, the main thing was that she served John's father well and caused me no problems.”
    “You say that your father-in-law liked her, so they never had a crossed word?”
    “He was very fond of her and I can’t remember a time that he ever complained about her or scolded her in any way. I believe she was originally employed as a tweeny and therefore grew up from girl to woman, in this household.”
    “You had no qualms about leaving your father-in-law alone with her?”
    “No of course not, she was true and loyal to him,” Charlotte’s voice became rather defencive.
    “When did you and John arrive home from your mother’s?”
    “Late last night,” Harriet noticed that Charlotte seemed to become uneasy, she was beginning to fidget and shuffle her feet across the floor.
    “And you were away for three weeks?”
    “Yes, we were. I had been tired of late and John thought it would be good for me to get a change of air.”
    “So you aren’t as healthy as you first thought?”
    “I was just a bit run down, we all have our off days Inspector,” Charlotte looked down at her folded hands.
    “And John was with you for the three weeks in Wemyss Bay, I believe that's where your mother lives?”
    “Yes she does live there and John accompanied me.”
   “ Mrs Ashdown, why do you think your father-in-law didn’t think it was strange that he hadn't seen Jeannie for a couple of days? he added quickly, "especially when she was looking after him.”
    “I’m sorry, I can’t answer that, you would need to ask him that.”
    “I did earlier, but I thought I would ask you too. I’ve already asked your husband.”
    “Oh, all I can think is that he forgot, sometimes he’s very forgetful,” Charlotte’s answer was hesitant, Harriet thought.
    “Finally Mrs Ashdown, can you confirm that it was your husband that discovered Jeannie’s body?”
    “Yes, he did; when there was no sign of her when we arrived home, I went up to her quarters in the attic. I knocked on her door and when I got no reply, I became concerned. I called her name out several times, but she didn’t answer,” Charlotte’s top lip quivered, then she continued, “I tried the door handle, but I found the door locked. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I came downstairs to ask John's advice.  It was he who suggested that we use the spare key. I was rather reluctant because she guarded her privacy, but John said we had no alternative. Because of my hesitancy, he said he would go alone; so he did and well the rest is history.” Charlotte’s voice wavered slightly but Harriet couldn’t help but admire her friend’s strength of character; having answered Guy’s questions so robustly.

    Guy flicked through the pages of his notebook, then rubbed his chin. Harriet could see that he was deep in thought. He raised his head, looking at Harriet firstly, she could feel his eyes penetrate hers. Unusually he made her feel rather self-conscious. He quickly turned his gaze away from her, he was now looking at Charlotte raptly and as he opened his mouth to speak, the door knocked then opened.
    “Excuse me, I’ve made some tea as requested Sir. It took me a bit longer than I expected. I was getting my bearings, finding where the tea things were. Sorry, but I couldn’t find any cake or biscuits. But I’ll get baking as soon as I find the flour and things,” Sarah, Harriet’s senior housemaid, put the tea tray containing four plain white cups, saucers, sugar bowl, milk jug and a silver plated tea-pot, down on the occasional table located between the two women and the policeman.
    Guy put his notebook into the inside pocket of his jacket and he said,
    “Thanks, Sarah, that’ll be all just now. I’m sure the ladies will welcome a cup of tea, I know I do,” he looked from one woman to the other, a smile gradually crept to his face  and he asked,” Will I be mother?”  Harriet could see Guy’s twinkle in his eyes had returned. His demeanour was no longer of a stern policeman; that appearance had been put away along with his notebook.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Piggy in the Middle


    The longest lunar eclipse is going to happen in our skies tonight. Unfortunately, it won't be visible everywhere in the world but for those of us who are fortunate enough to see it, it will be a spectacular sight. 

    We will be able to gaze into the sky for 1hr 43minutes as the moon becomes a deep shade of red. This is an astronomical phenomenon of this century and can only happen when the Sun, Earth and Moon are aligned exactly, or closely. With the Earth acting as piggy in the middle, the moon will pass directly behind our planet into the Earth's shadow.

    In many places in the world, it will be a time to tell great tales to excite the imagination of both children and adults alike. I know in many locations throughout Spain there will be tales told in the light of the full moon (Cuentos a La Luz de la Luna llena) with the main protagonist being the moon.

    While being piggy in the middle isn't always a great experience, tonight it will be. I hope you get the chance to enjoy it.

'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
    Your ring?' Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
So they took it away, and were married next day
    By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
    Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
    They danced by the light of the moon,
          The moon,
          The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
Edward Lear 1812-1888

Monday, 23 July 2018

Meet Author Richa Sambhy Mediratta


    Today in my 'Author Spotlight' I'm delighted to introduce you to the fabulous Richa Sambhy Mediratta. Richa is an Indian, self-published author of young adult fiction and her debut novel, Goan Chase was published in October 2016.

'Leave now or pay the price.'
Jai and his friends, Nirvaan and Ayesha, are super excited to be in Goa for their summer holidays. The three youngsters visit Jai's aunt who lives in a sprawling villa with a private beach.
Just when things appear to be too good to be true, their host narrowly escapes a fatal accident. Much to their distress, 'accidents' continue to occur, putting everybody's lives in danger.
Is there an evil presence in the house? Somebody who wants to harm them? But, why? Jai, Nirvaan, and Ayesha must race against time to solve this mystery before anybody else is harmed.
If that were not enough, they have to battle with their inner demons. Demons that threaten to come in the way of solving the mystery itself. Demons that will only bring them closer to the hunter waiting patiently for the final strike...


  • Richa thanks for joining us today. Please tell us about the first story you ever wrote.
The first story I ever wrote was ‘The Magic Crystal Ball’ when I was six! It was a fantasy story about an evil witch and how she wreaked havoc in other people’s lives using that magical crystal ball. Come to think of it, I should return to this story and get it published, right? 😊

  • I know you have had work published in various publications and websites. Do you feel that this has helped you develop your writing skills and confidence?
Absolutely. As every author I know of would agree, the only way to get better at writing is to write, and then write some more. This is especially true when you’ve just started writing and are still finding your voice. I wrote several different types of articles and stories when I began, and that not only helped me gain the skills and confidence required to be a professional writer, but also helped me learn what I enjoyed writing the most.

  • Although as you are a mother of a young daughter and a corporate consultant you won't have lots of free time on your hands. But when you do have some time, what type of books do you like reading in your spare time?
You’re right about this one—I don’t have much free time! But, I remain a voracious reader because I love reading. I’m partial to the mystery/suspense and fantasy genres, so you’ll find me reading books in those genres most of the time.

  • The first book in the, Take Three Mysteries series is, Goan Chase. What was your inspiration behind this book?
As a mother, I’m deeply affected by issues pertaining to children. There was a time when I was reading material about the struggles that children with learning disabilities face on a day-to-day basis. One such struggle was stuttering, and that kind of struck a chord with me, as I’ve met children and adults who stutter. I’ve seen how stuttering affects their self-image and how people around them react to their stuttering. That’s how Jai, the main protagonist of Goan Chase, came to life!

I wondered how Jai, a stutterer with low self-esteem, would act if he encountered a difficult situation, like a mystery. How would someone who doesn’t believe in himself go about solving a mystery? That’s how Goan Chase came to life!

  • Are your books available in both Hindi and English language?
Currently, my book is only available in the English language. I’m seriously considering translating it into Hindi and other world languages! Getting your book translated, however, is a separate project on its own so it will have to wait until I’ve written all the books of the series.

  • Are you planning for you protagonists Jai, Nirvaan and Ayesha who feature in the Goan Chase to join the readers in the rest of the series?
Definitely. These characters are the soul of the series; without these characters, there would be no series. Apart from the mystery, their friendship is my favourite part of the series; it’s heart-warming, funny, and I love writing about it!
Readers will see these three characters in each book of the trilogy and solving a new mystery in every new book.

  • Is it possible to tell us the next title in the series and give us a little teaser?
Well, I haven’t finalized the title as yet; I’m still deciding between 50 possible titles. But, I promise it will be catchy!
I’m going to be revealing bite-sized teasers on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter in the coming months, but here’s a teaser question about the next mystery for now:

How do you catch a robber when you don’t even know you’ve been robbed?

The second book is Jai, Nirvaan, and Ayesha’s toughest test yet (psssttt … more dangerous too!).

  • Finally Richa, can you give any advice to the thousands of budding authors we have out there about living their dream?
There is one thing I would like to stress on—you have in be in for the long haul. As I’ve discovered over the last couple of years since I became an author, it takes more than fantastic writing to be a ‘successful’ author. So, in addition to improving your writing, which you should, learn the techniques to market yourself and build an author brand/platform.
Great dreams require greater effort, so don’t let the inevitable struggles deter you from doing what you love. Improve constantly. Persist till whatever time it takes to reach your goal. Last but not the least, enjoy your journey!

    Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule today and I know you would be happy for readers and fellow authors alike to catch up with you on social media and via your website and they can on the links below.