By Chris Cook
Copyright © Chris Cook 2017 All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author.
Maybe the windows had ice inside and out but she still felt it was home. It didn’t take her long to get a fire going in the downstairs hearth and soon the whole house was feeling warm and cosy. Such was the benefit of a small cottage.
It was not long after 9.30 and barely light between the narrow lanes when the bell unexpectedly rang. It was still tinkling as it swung to and fro when she opened the door.
Standing there was a rather shivering cold looking lady well wrapped up but still not handling the cold well.
‘Come in please.’ said Annie.
‘Would you like to sit here?’ continued Annie gesturing to a chair beside the fire.’
‘Tea?’ Annie continued.
Annie already had the kettle on the kitchen range so within a few minutes she returned with the hot tea in a nicely decorated fine china cup and saucer.
‘Thank you,’ said the lady, grabbing the warm cup in her frozen hands. She was obviously of good breeding but terribly stressed by something.
‘Here is one of our cards, how can we help you?’ Asked Annie
‘Sylvanus Kent. I need his help.
It is not easy to say now, but, someone is trying to kill me,’ said the lady with choking emotion in her voice.
‘Perhaps I can take some details and then we can see how we can help you.’
‘Yes, but please help me. I am so afraid.’
‘We will do everything we can.
Can I take your name?’
‘I am the Countess Maria Bassano.’
‘That is a wonderful name if you don’t mind me saying so?’ replied Annie.
‘But it is no good to me dead. Now I must go before I am spotted.’ She immediately jumped up and placed down the empty cup before dashing to the door.
‘How will we find you?’
‘I will find you again, if they don’t get me first. Here.’ She said passing a sealed envelope to Annie.
With that she was gone into the cold outside, shutting the door and leaving the bell rocking and ringing again.
Annie sat in a muddle. She was having trouble making sense of what had just happened. She must get a message to Sylvanus who was at his London practice for another couple of days before returning to Brighton for Christmas.
This lady Countess was obviously in terrible trouble and had decided that Sylvanus was the one who could get her out of this predicament.
Annie sat, head in hands trying to plot a course of action. She occasionally glanced out of the beautiful bow fronted window of the house which was now the office of Sylvanus Kent, detective and iatric doctor. At least it said so in gold lettering on the window.
This was their first Brighton client and Annie was scared she had messed things up already.
‘What would Sylvanus think?’ She said aloud to herself as if asking the oracle for answers. ‘Perhaps he would say – ‘Where does she live? Who is after her? What does she look like even?’ In all these things Annie felt she had let him down. All she had was her name and a note.
Annie decided to write down all she could about the lady.
Short about 5 ft 2 inches, well dressed, pretty in her mid to late 20’s. Spoke well but with a delightful Italian accent.
Annie was good at accents having previously worked for a short time in the seafront bar of the Imperial Hotel.
Just then the door bell rang again.
Annie could see a gentleman at the door, this time somewhat taller than her previous visitor.
She opened the door.
‘I would like to employ the services of Sylvanus Kent.’ He said in a husky voice.
‘Very good,’ said Annie. ‘Please be seated. Would you like some tea?’
‘Please sit down sir I will be with you in a moment.’
Annie was soon back with the tea made from the hot water already on the range.
The man quickly scurried away from her desk where he had been standing and pawing the papers.
‘My name is James Baker,’ he said.
Annie hurriedly sat at the desk and threw a blotter over her previous notes about the Countess.
Taking another piece of paper, she wrote.
‘And your address?’
‘I have no time to discuss this now. All I will say is that I am afraid. I am afraid that they will get me. They will kill me.
I must go now.’ He said, as he stood and shuffled toward the door. His cloak was long and trailing on the ground.
‘Here is our card,’ said Annie handing him one of the newly printed stack of cards.
‘Please may I just have a contact address?’ she continued.
‘Not now I must hurry, I will be in touch.’
With that he left. No further details. Not even a sealed note like the Countess.
Annie hurriedly sat and continued her writing.
‘Gentleman, Well dressed. Moustache, Late 20’s. Under threat of killing. Gruff voice, Queen’s English voice of Surrey / London area. No address given.’
Annie once again sat perplexed at the desk.
‘Was this to be her life from now? Taking scanty details from people who believed their life was in danger.
The old saying that once is once, twice is co-incidence but three times is something meant went through her mind as she stared out at the lane outside the window. It was still busy with fishermen returning with their catch. Dragging and jiggling their nets and floats along the brick passage between the houses.
She wondered if her third visitor would come and how she could possibly do better.
‘If they won’t talk any more to me how can I make them?’ She puzzled.
Soon a thought came into her head. Sylvanus must be told as soon as possible. His London office was near to Victoria station where the new locomotive line had a terminus. If she could get a letter on that train perhaps Sylvanus could be alerted sooner to this crisis in Brighton and return earlier.
‘Also, there is the new penny post which may get to him likewise.’ She thought
He already planned to return for Christmas day with his beloved Annie but an imminent murder or two may focus his attention.
Annie started a note to Sylvanus in her very best Sunday school writing
We have had two clients enter the shop today already. Both suspect they are the targets for murder.
Please return to Brighton on your first occasion to offer advice.
Your ever-loving Annie.’
She blotted the ink and addressed the envelope before sealing it in an envelope with red wax and the impressed SK seal that Sylvanus liked to use for correspondence.
She repeated the process and sealed it into another envelope to which she affixed one of her penny black stamps.
This done she could wait no longer for her third client and headed to the station.
‘Gone out for 30 mins – back soon,’ said the note on the door.
Outside, the smell of fish was strong. These lanes had been the home of the Brighton beach launched fishing fleet for years and the fishermen had only the short walk south to find their boats.
Now in its newly found wealth, the Lanes of Brighton had become a novelty to the rich and famous who regularly weekended here to partake of the health-giving waters.
Annie zigzagged North West towards the North Laines and the newly completed London Brighton and South Coast railway terminus which stood at the top of Queens road looking south towards the sea.
Beside the station was a red letterbox sporting the letters VR to celebrate the new postal service which had recently been introduced to enhance communications throughout the commonwealth.
Annie posted the stamped letter before continuing to the station.
Next, she summoned up all her confidence and bravery and approached a platform where a snarling locomotive was hissing and steaming, ready to take the train to London.
‘Could you take this letter to London and see it is delivered. It is a matter of life and death,’ she asked the man in uniform.
The ticket collector looked a little perplexed.
‘I am afraid I have no means of dealing with this but I will ask the guard if you like? I can’t promise of course.’
With that the collector ambled past the locomotive to the last carriage and entered.
A few moments later, he returned to Annie.
‘The guard says he will do what he can. He lives near Victoria so he may deliver it himself by hand. No guarantees though I am afraid.’
‘Oh, thank you, thank you,’ replied Annie.
‘No promises like I said.’
‘Whatever you can do,’ added Annie.
She felt perhaps that a gentleman or less attractive lady may not have received such a response from the ticket collector but times were difficult for ladies and they must use all their guile.
With that Annie began her return journey to the house
She enjoyed walking past the excitement of the taxi rank as a long line of passengers waited for their horse drawn carriage to their accommodation.
The air was still damp and heavy cold and heavy and the horse’s breath steamed from their nostrils as they pulled away from the rank and headed seaward.
Down the hill a little way she cut through the graveyard of the newly built Unitarian church which was resplendent with it’s white painted facade of Venetian windows and Doric columns.
Then she skirted the magnificent Royal Pavilion palace grounds and past the Theatre Royal before heading into the Lanes proper.
How Brighton had changed in the last 9 months or so since she started work there and in the ten years since she first visited the town.
She soon arrived at the door of the house and let herself in to enjoy the warmth still generating from the coal fire in the hearth. At this time of year smoke from the fires hung heavy on the rooftops of the tiny fishing community and did not help lung and chest conditions.
Her mind flipped back to her father who had been suffering in recent years. He lived just 8 or so miles away at the North foot of the South Downs hills which separated the coastal strip where Brighton sat from the green weald interior of Sussex.
She hoped her dear dad was well and continuing to enjoy his life. He was the village builder, carpenter and undertaker and had a nice workshop behind the pub. The pub where he spent a significant part of his life and earnings, but she loved him dearly.
To her delight there were no more letters or messages left and no sign of a third person in fear of their life.
All she could do now was to await the return of Sylvanus and hope. Hope that the murder threats were unfounded and that Sylvanus hurried back to spend Christmas with her. They had planned to go to her parents on Boxing Day but that Christmas was to be their first together and she had some lovely and special presents for him.
That afternoon in London was like many others, Sylvanus had three Psychiatric clients to handle which was most, if not all his London practice. He was helping one overcome the trauma of war. Another, overcome by the trauma of grief and the third he was assessing for her husband. He believed she was losing her mind and being a dowager Duchess he was prepared to spend some money to alleviate her plight.
It was around four in the afternoon when a hefty knock came at the door of his elegant whitewashed town house on a fashionable Pimlico square. A young slightly shabby gentleman stood outside.
‘I have a letter here from Brighton for you sir.’ He said in a breathless voice.
‘From Brighton you say?’
‘Yes, it was handed to me on the train where I am the guard and I have taken it upon myself to deliver it to you sir as I was informed that it was a matter of life and death.’
‘Well thank you young man. Here is a little something for you.’
The man’s eyes bulged as he was presented with what would be a week’s wage on the railway.
‘Never mind young man. I have too much money and I am merely trying to redistribute and share some of it out.’
‘Thanks be to you sir.’ He said doffing his cap and withdrawing into the street and back into the darkness of the December evening.
Sylvanus swiftly opened the envelope. Was Annie in trouble? – What was this life and death situation?
He quickly read that Annie had been confronted with two persons who believed they were being hunted.
‘What is wrong with Brighton? It seems such a happy town but deep down there was an undercurrent of danger like in all big cities.’ He thought.
His mind turned to Annie and how desperate and alone she must feel. Being a Psychiatrist made him able to empathise with the feelings of others at the drop of a hat, sometimes all too much and he had learned to let go of cases which were physically weakening him.
‘I must go to her as soon as I can,’ he decided
‘I believe that one day in the future we may have a device which will transport us in time and space but for now the nearest to this is the locomotive,’ thought Sylvanus. He was quite an inventor in his own mind. Most of his inventions like those of Leonardo Da Vinci were far ahead of their time. So far ahead that the technology was not available to make them happen.
‘Perhaps even a device which we can talk into and be seen and heard from afar. Or perhaps, a machine which can send writing around the world in a moment. An infinite library of all the assembled thoughts of the human race all available instantly.’
For now, the best he could do was to send his servant Arthur to Victoria to buy a ticket for tomorrows train to Brighton.
He pulled the bell chord to call Arthur from the kitchen.
‘You rang sir?’
‘Yes please, would you be so good as to take this money and get me a seat on a train to Brighton mid morning tomorrow. I have a few things to attend to first but then I shall be away for Christmas and not returning for a few days hence.
You will find that Molly the housekeeper has a turkey for your meal and some presents for you all.’
‘Thank you sir.’
‘No! Thank you Arthur. You may keep the change from the ticket price. Now be off and get me a good seat ‘
Arthur nodded as he reversed from the room before turning turtle and dashing as fast as his feet would carry him to the station.
‘I expect one day that we will be able to buy tickets without leaving our home or even our chair. How amazing would that be?’ Sylvanus mused
Within the hour, Arthur was back with the tickets.
‘You have a nice seat in First class facing the engine. The carriage is fully covered and glazed. It’s for the 11.00 A.M. train.’
‘Excellent. Have the horse and carriage prepared to get me there in good time. I am off to pack my clothing for the trip before my sleep.’
‘Oh, and Arthur, did you get enough residue from the purchase of the ticket for an ample bonus?’
‘I did sir, most generous.’
‘No! You are the generous one Arthur. Thank you again for all your attention.’
Sylvanus slept a very restless night. He was excited at the prospect of seeing Annie but apprehensive about how she had been with the worried clients and simply living on her own in the bustling fishing village.
Sylvanus was also worried about the clients who were desperately fearing an imminent death. What on earth must they be feeling like?
Fifty miles or so south in Brighton Annie slept intermittently, worried if she had really done her best for those poor people. It wasn’t just some lost cat but a potential lost life they were talking about.
At nine in the morning there was a knock on Sylvanus’ door
‘A letter for you sir.’
‘Thank you Arthur. Bring it in would you.’
Arthur entered Sylvanus’ bedroom and approached his large four poster bed raised up with multiple mattresses.
Arthur handed Sylvanus the letter on a silver tray.
‘Thank you Arthur.’ I shall be ready to go to the station within the hour. Have my case brought down and loaded on the carriage then would you?’
Arthur left Sylvanus with the letter and headed downstairs.
Sylvanus immediately noticed from the writing and seal that it was from Annie. Inside he found a perfect duplicate of the other letter.
‘Clever.’ he thought ‘She covered herself with a royal mail letter in case the other note via the train didn’t reach me. She is a good girl and a great assistant.’
It wasn’t long before Sylvanus was on his way to the station. Arthur accompanied him to assist with the handling of his luggage.
They soon turned into the busy forecourt of the station. There were taxis and carriages everywhere preparing for a festive holiday.
It was not long ago that a trip to Brighton from London would be considered a day’s epic adventure. Now within an hour or two at a break neck speeds of around 25 miles an hour Londoners can be beside the seaside.
People could visit friends and family on the coast and be back within the day. It was a breakthrough for the country and making the country smaller.
‘One day,’ Said Sylvanus to Arthur, ‘we will be places within the blink of an eye. Perhaps we will even fly at the speed of a comet across the sky.’
Arthur nodded disbelievingly.
Arthur carried his lordship’s baggage to the platform where a porter continued the journey to Sylvanus’ seat.
‘See you after Christmas Arthur. Make sure you and the others have a wonderful time.’
‘I will sir.’
Sylvanus passed the open rooved carriages of third class who some felt were at great danger of death at such speeds. Sylvanus could imagine how in certain circumstances too little or too much air could enter the body. Sylvanus trusted the human form to correct these imbalances and gave them little more thought.
Sylvanus mounted the first-class carriage of the train and prepared for the journey to the coast.
He was first in the compartment and settled on the western side so as to have the morning light behind him for the journey so he did not have to strain to see the beauty of the landscape.
Soon two other people climbed in before the train set off with a scream of whistles and frantic flag waving from the guards.
Then with a cloud of steam the train lurched forward and gathered speed as it headed south over the River Thames and to Clapham Junction where so many railway lines crossed, Sylvanus could not believe the complexity of the iron road or rails set out before him.
‘Isn’t it amazing?’ Sylvanus exclaimed.
The man opposite nodded. He had removed his thick overcoat and was sitting in a light-coloured suit which was unusual for England. His long grey bushy beard spread out across his chest like a vast bib tied onto his head with his long grey bushy hair. He was in his sixties and was rather rotund like he had a good life.
‘Have you been abroad recently?’ asked Sylvanus intuitively seeing his attire.
‘Yes, only last month I was with an archaeological dig in the middle east.’
‘How wonderful, did you discover anything?’
‘Yes, some beautiful artefacts which we brought back for museums and collectors.’
‘How wonderful. I so love the British Museum. I visit often to acquaint myself with the artefacts of the world but fortunately thanks to the likes of you fine gentlemen I do not have to leave these shores. What are conditions like in Egypt this time of year?’
‘Completely beautiful and between Luxor and Aswan there is so much beauty to be discovered. I simply love floating down the Nile and hopping off to explore the amazing beauties of the land.’
The two chatted occasionally as they headed for the coast.
Sylvanus enjoyed the tunnels.
‘Can you imagine the enormity of the task to make a hole through thousands of tons of rock and soil which remains open and doesn’t collapse on our heads?
This is the longest tunnel on the line at Balcombe and soon we will be travelling over one of the most beautiful viaducts which is built across the river Ouse valley, again another marvel of human engineering.
Watch when we come out of the forest we will see the valley East and West of us.’
Sure enough the valley was laid out before them beneath the viaduct still misty and moisty in the chilly morning air.
‘It is astonishing.’ Said the archaeologist.
Yes, man and nature working in harmony.
‘You seem very knowledgeable about the countryside.’
‘I have done this journey many times now in the past couple of months. You could say I am commuting for work. I have an office in London and one in Brighton so it is Brighton I am heading for now to share Christmas beside the sea.’
‘How wonderful. I am afraid I must be back in London for Christmas.’
Sylvanus could tell he did not want to discuss his circumstances further so continued to relate his history of Sussex.
‘You know the forest here was the source of the wood for the ships which defeated the Armada didn’t you? And the Ironstone here gave birth to the British iron industry?’
‘I did not sir. Very interesting, such a pleasure to have the company of a knowledgeable gentleman, one who can teach me, a humble Professor.’
‘Kind of you to say so sir, my friend Dr Gideon Mantell of Lewes has found all manner of creatures in the rocks of this area. Some he likens to terrible giant lizards he is calling dinosaurs.
We will soon be passing through the Clayton tunnel mined through the younger chalk rock of the South Downs.
Once through the tunnel we will be in the realms of Brighton
Try to catch a glimpse of the tunnel entrance. The farmer said he would let the railway tunnel through his land, only if they created an impressive castle entrance so they did. Crenulations and parapets all in total order.’
Soon they were inside the tunnel ploughing through clouds of smoke which was fighting to evacuate the cramped dark space.
Very soon after passing through one more tunnel they arrived in the sidings outside Brighton station. The town was starting to sprawl out to their left or East, as the moneyed gentry and all others of the support community, railway workers and new found businesses set up beside the sea.
After a short wait at the signals they were allowed in to the platform. As the train trundled off, another came powerfully past them building up speed and steam as it started the return journey to London. Smoke billowed everywhere around their windows and some entered the carriage leaving an acrid tarry tint to the air.
Finally, the train arrived at the buffers and Sylvanus gathered his belongings and buttoned up his thick coat against the cold.
Already the frozen corpses of people in the third-class open trucks were making their way to the warm brandy stall where they struggled to get some heat back into their bodies.
Sylvanus alighted the train with his new-found friend.
They both paused for a while to admire the snorting beast of a locomotive that had drawn them the 50 miles or so.
‘What manner of inventions can mankind develop to take the place of the humble horse?’ Asked Sylvanus
‘Yes sir. It is amazing the power unleashed from the coal creating these herd of horses which pulled us today on the iron road to Brighton.’
‘Well it has been a pleasure to meet you,’ said the professor.
‘A pleasure indeed sir and I hope we meet again soon.’
‘Yes, let us hope so,’ replied the professor as he joined the queue for the horse drawn cabs.’
‘I am walking. Good for the soul on a cold frosty morning,’ said Sylvanus.
The two cabs that were currently loading had fully steaming horses, sweating and puffing in the heavy damp atmosphere of the coast.
Sylvanus has already decided he would walk to the house as horses not carriages could not negotiate the narrow twisting pathways of the Lanes.
He turned left through the churchyard of the new Unitarian church where only months ago, he stood suspected of murder himself and entered the North Laines heading south towards the house.
He trundled past the bonnet shop where he had bought Annie’s first bonnet and had re-entered the previous week to buy her a special Christmas bonnet.
By the time he arrived at the house the chill was starting to invade his bones even though he was walking briskly.
His mind spared a thought for the poor wretches sleeping rough under the fishing boats who had no walls and roof to surround them. They had been drawn there by the rumour of prosperity which exuded from the town.
He proudly admired the golden sign writing on the window stating Sylvanus Kent, (himself,) Psychiatrist and detective.
He knocked at the door with the silver end of his cane as if to give Annie the ultimate surprise.
In a moment; the door was opened and her realisation was written across her face. She looked so relieved to see him.
She leapt and clung her arms around his neck disturbing his top hat in the process.
‘Oh Sylvanus, I have missed you so much.’
‘I you, more.’ He replied.
He shuffled inside the house with her still clinging round his strong neck before dropping his bag and wrestling the door shut, where he returned her affection with a sensual kiss on the lips which seemed to last for hours.
‘Let me get you something warm. What would you like?’
The temptation was too much for him.
‘Perhaps an hour or two in bed curled up with you. Or failing that a hot tea and some soup.’
‘The kettle is on the range so make yourself comfortable and I will bring tea and put on the vegetables for soup.’
‘Sylvanus quickly spirited a couple of items from his bag into the bottom of the office cupboard before warming his hands by the fire for a while.
He could feel the excitement and energy joining their bodies even from the next-door room.
When his hands were warmed through he ventured silently into the kitchen and embraced Annie warmly from behind, clasping her hands on her stomach.
‘Mmm,’ she said contentedly. As he held on and watched her prepare the tea and stir the soup over her shoulder
It did not make it easier to complete her tasks but she enjoyed his touch and affection.
‘OK. It’s ready go, sit up at the table like a good boy.’
As they sat looking at each other occasionally sipping tea or taking a spoonful of soup the silence was easy. Soon enough Sylvanus opened the conversation.
‘So how have you been Annie?’
‘Fine in my health sir. In my body, I missed you and in my mind, I have been concerned over the clients that visited.’
‘I can imagine. And well done for getting the message to me. I came as soon as I could tie up my affairs in London.’
‘I know, thank you sir.’
‘Have you heard any more from them?’
‘No sadly not, but sometimes no news is good news, so I hope they are well and their fears have not been well founded.’
‘I agree. I think we need to have a proper discussion after lunch about the clients and discover as much as we can about them. That way we will be ready to hit the ground running if they return or heaven forbid if their worst fears come to pass.’
‘I agree, and I have a note for you from the Countess. She is the one that most concerned me. The other gentleman had seemed more fishy, if you excuse the neighbourhood, about him.’
‘I do love your turn of phrase Annie. I can’t wait for us to spend out lives together. My thoughts have been with you and how strong and wonderful you are, not only as a companion but also as a business woman.’
His words warmed and heartened her. She wanted to hug him again but the table was between them.
‘How was your time in London?’
‘London is just a distraction to me now. I believe I helped my clients to come to terms with their dilemmas but the task and their journey is long before they will be cured from their angst.
I was lying in bed one morning thinking of you and thinking how a good detective case in Brighton would interest me, then lo and behold, later that day your letter came giving me no option to come immediately to you.’
‘I am afraid it was not a missing cat or dog case to open with but a case none the less.
‘Yes, and one or two which if I can solve them, will lead to more notoriety and fame for our little enterprise.’
‘More tea?’ She said rising from her seat and collecting his empty cup.
‘Yes please, and this soup is amazing, the perfect antidote to a cold and frosty Christmas Eve.’
She ruffled his hair playfully as she delivered a fresh cup of tea to the table.’
‘Of course, tomorrow we have the day together for Christmas. The office will be closed to all comers and it will be just you and me and perhaps we can also afford ourselves the same privilege on Boxing day too.’
‘That would be wonderful. Some presents in the hearth and a promenade along the sea front to quietly take in the air. Weather permitting of course,’ she dreamed.
After lunch was finished Annie gathered up the soup bowls.
‘Is there anything else you would like?’ She asked Sylvanus.
‘Well you already know about the hugging session in bed and the need to talk about that, but otherwise nothing.’
‘Perhaps we should get the information dump done then, to leave room for the bed part.
‘Nice idea and I see little reason why we should not shut the office early as it is Christmas eve to make way for the celebrations.’
Annie smiled warmly.
‘Let me give you the letter and then you can ask me whatever you think fit.’
‘Let’s do it in the office then. It will focus our minds on business for a while. You lay on my couch Annie and I will sit at the desk and take notes.’
‘Am I under investigation?’
‘Not at all but it helps to relax having your legs lifted from the ground and a comfortable relaxed person will be able to give more memories up.’
‘Interesting,’ she replied ‘but first here is the letter from the countess.’
Annie handed the envelope to Sylvanus as he settled at the desk and opened his writing pad before she jumped up on the adjacent couch.
‘I think I will give you Power of Attorney to open all letters addressed to me in my absence Annie. That means you are an extension of me and can disclose valuable information earlier. If that is alright with you?’
‘Yes, if it is alright with you?’
‘I have no secrets so why should it not be?’
She looked relieved at the prospect as Sylvanus carefully opened the envelope with his paper knife.
He started scribbling even before he opened the contents.
‘What are you writing Sylvanus?’ asked Annie.
‘Anything and everything that occurs to me.
I have put thus far: -
Good quality paper and envelope, the faint perfume of expensive scent from the paper.
Fine blue ink blotted not left to dry in a light pointed quill, likely by a woman’s right hand.
The paper is headed Countess Maria Bassano
There is no address stated
I am writing to avail myself of your services. I believe that I am under threat of death. I see them everywhere and they follow me at all times.
I do not know who it is, or why but I have a feeling of great trepidation in my bones.
Mmm. A serious case indeed. This lady clearly believes that her time on Earth is limited and is very anxious and afraid. We need to find her and get to the bottom of this before we find her dead. There is no doubt she believes the threat is very real.’
‘It is very creepy Sylvanus.’
‘Yes, but we will do all we can to help her. Now tell me how you found the countess.’ he enquired of Annie.
‘She seemed very distressed and distracted.
To me she seemed to definitely feel that someone was following her and watching her and this was why she could not stay to talk to me.’
‘Good and her dress?’
‘She was dressed in a beautiful navy blue cloak over a nicely lace edged sapphire blue dress. Very beautiful, very tasteful and very expensive.’
‘You see,’ said Sylvanus. ‘This is why ladies are so much better than men at description. A working man would probably say. She was a toff, pretty face and slim waist and that would be it.’
‘Now you come to mention it she did have a slim waist as I remember and was approximately 5 feet 4 inches but she had heeled shoes with pearl decoration, so in reality she was probably five feet two.’
‘Excellent and how did she speak?’
‘She spoke with a southern European accent perhaps of Naples.’
‘That is astonishing how did you surmise that?’
‘Well I spoke to many guests in the hotel and amongst other things I tried to place their accents. This lady spoke much like a gentleman who stayed at the hotel, who came from Naples. He was a merchant I believe, and traded in exotic fruits and wines from Southern Italy, by boat from Naples to Southampton and Shoreham.’
‘This is a very useful skill Annie. You are an expert in so many departments.’
Annie felt herself blushing; to her it was merely her inquisitive nature.
Can you tell me anything else about her?
‘Nothing special. Just her overwhelming cry for help and her depth of despair. It is not right that such a beautiful lady with so much going for her should be so distraught.’
‘I agree. She needs us to protect her. I am also concerned that she did not leave an address.’
‘I know and I feel myself to blame but she insisted on leaving that moment and nothing I could do would dissuade her. I hoped for the address to be in the letter but as you say sadly it is not.
‘How about the other gentleman?’
‘He was altogether more puzzling to me. Something about him was not right. Call it female intuition but there was something.
He sported a perfect haircut and a perfect black pencil moustache.
His attire was city gentleman with a top hat over his black hair. He would not have been much more than five feet four in height, beautifully turned out though.
His voice was gruff like he was recovering from a dose of flu. His accent was also that of a city gent, probably one from Central London, perhaps the Westminster area. He was less agitated but eager not to tell me too much and felt the need to leave before I could find his address.’
‘Ah yes, and a James Baker by name I believe. A good non-descript name if I say so,’ added Sylvanus.
Annie nodded appreciating the wisdom of Sylvanus.
‘Is there anything else you noticed about him?’
‘No sadly he was gone in a moment, if anything, even more suddenly than the Countess.’
‘Well I hope, like her that he does not succumb to death. Do you think there is any link between these two people Annie?’
Annie thought for a moment before replying.
‘I suppose I immediately thought there must be a link because how often does someone come in to say they are fearing their death was near. I naturally thought there must be a link but maybe everyone in Brighton is fearing death in some way.’
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“Love To Be” is a detective murder mystery novella set in Victorian seaside Brighton. It is Christmas 1841 and society archaeologist Countess Maria Bassano has discovered a unique legendary treasure as well as the love of Lord Richard Goodfellow. Surprisingly she informs Sylvanus Kent that she fears for her life. Within hours Sylvanus also has another visit from a mysterious mustachioed man who also fears for his life. How many murders will there be before Sylvanus can find the killer. “Love To Be” is an exciting mystery novella of approximately 32,000 words Murder & Mystery in a Victorian fishing community. Psychological detective Sylvanus Kent’s in a race to find the killer. Two magical treasures protected by curse Two strangers who fear for their life