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The First Chapters

Cover Design-Maidstone Conspiracy

To whet your appetite for this delicious blend of murder mystery and love story, here are the first five chapters (… and you can get the rest, of course, at: http://amzn.com/B016OUM81S)

 

THE MAIDSTONE CONSPIRACY

PROLOGUE 

Colorado Springs, CO

April 12, 2010 

“I’m heading home,” Paul Winston said. “Promised the kids some baseball after school.”

 “See ya tomorrow,” replied Bill Daniels, his senior vice-president.

Paul walked down three flights to street level. He strolled casually toward his pickup parked at the curb nearby, caught up in the sights and sounds and smells of early summer.

A few steps from the truck the wealthy entrepreneur felt himself hit from behind, forcing his body against a parking meter. Paul reached out to keep from falling. He couldn’t hold on, landing on his back. Paul looked up. A disheveled-looking man stood over him. An old revolver was clutched in his right hand. 

Good God! he thought. That son-of-a-bitch just shot me!

“What the hell?” Paul tried to challenge his young assailant. The words were a garbled wheeze. The unshaven face above him was familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. 

Paul watched helplessly as the shabbily dressed man raised the old weapon. His mind was shouting at him to flee but his body wouldn’t respond. The gun jumped, and then jumped a second time. Paul heard loud bangs as two bullets slammed into his chest with enormous force. He couldn’t breathe.

“Right! That’ll fix you, ya greedy bugger,” he heard the man say. “Bloody well serves you right!” 

‘Why?’ Paul tried to ask, noticing the British accent. Only his mind could form the words.

CHAPTER ONE

Durham, NC

20 Years Earlier

Paul Winston was studying hard for the last of his MBA final exams at Duke University’s business school when his cell phone rang.

“Hello?” he said.
There was no response. He sensed a presence at the other end, but no sound.
“Hello?” he said again. “Who’s there? What’s going on?”
There was a muted cry of anguish.

“Oh, Paul!” He heard Emily’s voice cry out, convulsed with grief.

“What is it, Emily?” he said. “What’s going on? Are you all right? Do you need help?” 

“It’s Mom!” his sister cried. “It’s Mom and Dad!” she corrected herself. “They’re gone,” she sobbed. “They’re both gone! A crash! Dad’s plane! They were killed, Paul. They’re dead. Oh my God, Paul!” 

“What?” Paul said. He struggled to grasp what he’d just heard. “What… what happened? How?” 

“The plane, Paul,” Emily said. “It crashed and exploded. Dad was landing at the ranch… on the airstrip. Mom was with him. George said the plane blew up while landing. He says Mom and Dad must have died instantly. Oh my God, Paul! Can you come right away, please? There’s something not right about this. I just know! I need you, now!”

Paul tried to console his sister while she struggled to share with him the few details she knew about the tragedy. They sat in silence on the phone for a few moments then exchanged words of comfort, knowing nothing they could possibly say would bring them solace. 

Finally, Paul said, “I’m on my way, Emily. I’ll see how soon I can get a charter and let you know. Are the police there?” 

“Yes, they’re here,” she said. “But something’s wrong. I’ll explain when you get here. Hurry, Paul!”

“I’m on my way, Emily,” he repeated, too shocked to think of anything else to say. 

Paul called Jerry Appleby, the head of the charter aircraft company at Raleigh-Durham International Airport that Paul’s father had helped finance years earlier. Paul explained what had happened. Once his Dad’s friend managed to get past his shock, he told Paul a Learjet was due to land soon from a one-way trip. He would have the plane prepared immediately for Paul’s flight west across the country.  

Paul’s next call was to a friend at the Colorado State Patrol. 

“I’m so very, very sorry, Paul,” Josh Schroeder said. He and Paul had been buddies through high school. “For what it’s worth, Paul, I will personally see we do everything we can to find out what happened. Right now, all we have are a lot of questions and not many answers. We both know your Dad was an excellent pilot. This doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Paul was at the top of his MBA graduating class at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in Durham, NC. He’d enrolled at the request of his father, Ted Winston, a successful Colorado entrepreneur and rancher, after being asked to take over the family’s rapidly growing business interests. At 28, he was the eldest of three children. Both of his sisters were married and pursuing their own careers.

During the 17-mile taxi ride to Raleigh-Durham airport, Paul tried to shake off the fog of grief clouding his mind. He needed to think clearly. He knew that as the eldest of the three, his sisters would look to him for leadership through this horrendous calamity that had befallen their family.

 

CHAPTER TWO 

Colorado Springs Airport

“This is terrible… horrendous, Paul. I’m so very sorry,” George Underhill said as they met at the Colorado Springs airport. The ranch foreman’s eyes were red. He grasped Paul’s hand and then put a muscular arm around his shoulder. They walked together into the executive flight terminal building. 

“What in the world happened, George?” Paul asked, struggling to hold his composure. “How could this happen? Dad had thousands of hours on that plane. He’s landed hundreds of times at the ranch. This makes no sense, George! What went wrong?” 

“We don’t know yet,” George said. “People from the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) have just arrived. Maybe they can give us some answers. The Sheriff’s Department has the site cordoned off.” 

“Where are Mom and Dad?” Paul said. “Where did they take them… their bodies?”

“Colorado Springs,” George said. “The coroner took them, and the sheriff has ordered autopsies. It’s normal in accident cases.”

“Paul!”

He turned quickly after hearing Emily’s voice calling out. His diminutive sister was running across the small reception area. She collapsed in his arms. Her cries of grief drew everyone’s attention.

“Oh, Paul,” she said after a few moments, tears streaming down her face. “Thank God you’re here! Let’s go home!” 

“Where’s Roberta?” Paul said.

“She’s out at the ranch,” she said. “She drove out with Stephen and their kids.”

He wasn’t looking forward to seeing Roberta. There’d been a strain between him and their youngest sister since they’d been teenagers. Paul didn’t understand why, and Roberta steadfastly refused to discuss it. He’d finally decided to just let it go.  

That wouldn’t be quite so easy now, he thought. 

Emily grabbed Paul’s arm and began pulling him toward the entrance.

Paul glanced back at George. The big ranch foreman raised an eyebrow and tilted his head sideways sympathetically.

  

CHAPTER THREE

 Earnscliffe Manor

Maidstone, England 

While Paul’s chartered jet was landing in Colorado Springs, Lord Percival Winston, the 11th Earl of Prescott, was dying. His frail body lay in a huge four-poster bed dominating the master suite at Earnscliffe, a 500-year-old manor house nestled among the picturesque hills of Kent, southeast of London.

“Willard,” he whispered to his cousin, “It’s time. 

Lord Percival’s breathing had become shallow but he still managed to whisper a few words from time to time, despite the cancer ravaging his internal organs. He’d just ordered all life support disconnected. 

“Don’t talk like that, Percy,” Willard said, mostly for the benefit of the few family and staff gathered at his bedside. “You’ll be up and about again before you know it. This is just a setback. It’ll pass.” 

Percival managed a weak smile. At 83, he was the eldest of five children. His only surviving sibling, Ted, was the youngest. Their other brother and two sisters had been small children when they were killed in the Blitz during the Second World War. Percy regretted that he and his late wife Mary had been unable to have children. He missed her terribly, the love of his life. She’d died 17 years earlier. 

I wonder if Willard has any idea what comes next? Percival thought. 

He was aware that Willard expected a large inheritance. That wasn’t going to happen. Percival had seen to it. He’d told his second cousin many times that for 25 years he’d been living off the inheritance he might have hoped to receive. Lord Winston had grown tired of giving Willard handouts. In his mind, that amounted to more than the inheritance Willard had any right to expect. So, in the absence of a direct heir, Percival had bequeathed the bulk of his considerable wealth and his title to his only sibling, Ted Winston, in America. 

Willard refused to believe he was not the natural heir, even though being a second cousin put him some distance from the usual lines of succession. He wasn’t about to let matters rest. Secretly, he’d made plans to challenge the will after Percival’s death. Willard knew he wouldn’t have long to wait. 

CHAPTER FOUR

Two Months Later

Two-Dot Ranch, Colorado 

“Looks like an avgas leak may have caused the explosion,” the man said. “We’re positive that sparks coming from the starboard brake while landing ignited a leaky fuel line. This caused the explosion that killed your parents.”

Ray Alvarez was not one to mince words. He was in charge of the NTSB team investigating the deaths of Ted and Catherine Winston. “We’ve not ruled out foul play,” Ray said.

 “Why is that?” Paul said.

 “We found evidence the fuel line going into the starboard engine may have been tampered with,” Alvarez said. “The same with the brakes. In fact, CSP is treating this as a probable homicide. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation is also looking at the evidence. We’ll hear back in a few weeks.”

 “Are you serious?” Emily said, her eyes wide. “Who would want to kill Mom and Dad?  They were just ordinary people… really nice people who were always going out of their way to help others. This makes no sense.”

 “These things rarely do,” Alvarez said as he rose to leave. “I’ll make certain you’re kept informed.” 

 “Thank you, Mr. Alvarez,” Emily said as she led him to the door. “We really appreciate you coming all the way out here to give us your report. That was very kind of you.”

Alvarez nodded. As the NTSB investigator walked across the wide veranda of the big two-story stone ranch house, Emily noticed a brown van coming toward them on the long gravel road that led from the highway to the ranch. 

 “Looks like someone’s sent us a package,” she said over her shoulder to those gathered to meet with Alvarez:  Paul, Roberta and her husband Stephen, Emily’s husband Jeremy, ranch foreman George Underhill and his wife Elizabeth.

Earlier in the day, they’d also attended the release in Colorado Springs of the coroner’s report on their parents’ deaths. Listening to the report had been difficult. It had stopped short of identifying a cause, normal procedure for coroner’s reports, but they were disappointed just the same.

Emily watched as the UPS van pulled up. The deliveryman jogged from the van across the wide paved driveway, up the six steps and across the 20-foot covered veranda.

 “Sign here,” he said. The unusual package was addressed to her brother. It had a regal appearance, and bore a return address in the United Kingdom.

Paul opened the package while the others were busy discussing what Alvarez had shared with them.

 “Holy smokes!” he blurted out, commanding everyone’s attention.

Paul chuckled, sitting back in what had been his Dad’s favorite armchair.

 “Well now, if that don’t beat all,” he added. “Will you look at this?”

Paul held up a regal-looking letter. He handed it to Emily, who scanned it and then said, barely containing her excitement:

 “Paul, is this for real? It says you’re now an English nobleman, an earl. Is it true… that you’re the most direct descendant of Dad’s brother… of Uncle Percy?

 “You know?” Emily added, “I never gave it much thought when Dad used to tell us stories about his older brother, that he was an English nobleman, like Grandpa Winston used to be. It says here that Uncle Percy’s official name was Lord Percival Winston, the 11th Earl of Prescott.

 “This letter says he passed away about two months ago,” Emily said to the rapt attention of those gathered. “It’s from his solicitor, that’s ‘attorney’ to us Americans. I wonder why nobody from the family over there called us? Anyway, Uncle Percy had no children… no direct descendants, so apparently this means that you, Paul… you’re the next in line to inherit his title and his estate.

 “All I can say is congratulations, big brother!” she said, a smile lighting up her face.

Paul stood to his full six-foot, two-inch height and stretched, stunned by the news. Everyone was grateful to hear some good news for a change. They understood that the title would have gone to his father, Ted, had he and Catherine not died in the plane crash. That thought cast a somber mood on the moment.

The group congratulated Paul, and then assembled around Emily wanting to read the letter from the English solicitor she was passing around. All except Roberta, who stood apart, looking askance at her brother.

 “What does this all mean?” she demanded, repeating her sister’s question with an entirely different tone. There was a hard edge in her voice. She sounded like the trial lawyer she’d become. Her crisp words belied a mixture of envy, annoyance and impatience. “Are you the only one getting an inheritance from Uncle Percy’s estate? What about us? Will you be moving to England? Does this mean George will be taking over running the ranch on his own? Who’ll be running Mom and Dad’s other businesses?”

 “Hold on, Roberta,” Paul said. His face had a strained smile, struggling to be patient. “I’m not sure about any of this right now. It’s all rather sudden. I don’t know what to make of it yet. First, we’ll have to find out if this thing is authentic… not someone’s idea of a cruel joke. I’ll call that English solicitor in the morning. It’s after business hours there now.”

The next morning, Paul phoned his late uncle’s solicitor, Malcolm Witherspoon, in London, then called his sisters together in their parents’ den:

 “Mr. Witherspoon confirmed what we know: that Dad would have inherited Uncle Percy’s title and the bulk of his estate… had he still been alive. Evidently, how this works is that the eldest of each succeeding generation of Winstons inherits the title and whatever goes with it.

 “Mr. Witherspoon told me that Uncle Percy’s will expressly continues a centuries-old tradition that requires each subsequent Earl to swear under oath to, above all, use any inherited financial resources to preserve Earnscliffe Manor and the honor of the title. Failure to do so means forfeiture to the next nearest relative. Beyond that, the sitting Earl or, in the case of a woman now, the Countess, is free to use inherited monies as he or she considers appropriate.”

 “That’s not the least bit appropriate,” Roberta protested. “We’re heirs too!”

 “I really don’t care,” Emily piped up. “And we are not heirs, Roberta. Paul is the rightful heir, period. Regardless, we each have the money and the shares Mom and Dad left us in the ranch and their businesses. Thanks to them, Jeremy and I have more than we could ask for. To be blunt, Roberta, I’d rather have Mom and Dad and Uncle Percy back rather than be discussing their wealth. Besides, all of us have successful careers. So who cares? And good on our big brother, the soon-to-be Earl of Prescott! How exciting is that?”

 “Well, I don’t think it’s right!” Roberta shot back.   

 “Frankly,” Paul said. “I have no idea whether the financial resources involved are all that substantial or not. We’ll just have to wait to find out. I could be inheriting a financial disaster. Mr. Witherspoon wouldn’t go into detail on the phone. He promised to courier me more information. The first thing I need to do is check out what all of this means, in detail, and then go from there. I’ll keep both of you in the loop. That’s the best we can do for now.” 

Until attending Duke University, Paul and his Dad along with foreman George Underhill had operated the thriving 5,400-acre spread called Two-Dot Ranch, one of the largest beef cattle operations in southwestern Colorado. Paul was unmarried and immensely popular among single women for miles around. Many young beauties dreamed of marrying this budding businessman/rancher with movie-star good looks. His charm, laid-back manner and ear-to-ear grin had left a trail of sparkling eyes and fluttering hearts among scores of eligible young women and tears when he’d left for Duke. After his parents died, the school had granted Paul his MBA based on the high honors marks he’d maintained throughout the two-year program. 

*    *    *

During the weeks following the emotional trauma of their parents’ funeral and the probate of their wills, Paul had to grapple with another decision – whether or not to leave the life he was being groomed to pursue, especially with the cause of their parents’ deaths still under investigation.

 “What do you think, Emily?” Paul said over the phone one day. “Should I go?” It was his fifth or sixth call to Emily – he’d lost count – since receiving the letter from England. His sister and her husband, Jeremy, had returned to their home and careers in Somerville, Massachusetts, near Boston.

 “Paul,” Emily said, chuckling warmly to the brother she loved dearly. “My answer is the same as the last five times you called and asked me the same question. Yes! Absolutely! Go to England. Become an earl. What the heck?  What have you got to lose? Not a thing!”

 “Have I called you that much?” he said, embarrassed. “Sorry. It’s a hard decision, Emily. George thinks I should go… assures me he’ll be fine running the ranch on his own. I know he can. Besides, he has an added incentive now, with Dad and Mom leaving him a 10 percent interest.”

 “Go, big brother!” Emily said. “Go, for heaven’s sake!”

 “One other thing, Emily,” Paul said. “My friend Josh called this morning about the crash to brief me on the investigation. Josh says the fuel line on Dad’s plane was definitely sabotaged. The forensic unit at the CBI is convinced Mom and Dad were murdered, Emily. CSP has started a full homicide investigation.”

After a long silence, Emily said:  “Have you told Roberta?”

 “I called her,” he replied.  “She just said, ‘That’s what I expected.’ A bit odd. She didn’t seem all that surprised and rushed me off the phone. Maybe she’s into a big trial or something else right now.

“Anyway, Josh told me they have few leads, that the investigation is close to stalling. He told me we should try getting on with our lives,” Paul said. “He told me to go ahead and move to England; promised to keep me posted.”

“He’s your friend,” Emily said, “and he’s giving you good advice.”

Paul knew it would not be easy to leave behind his hometown, growing business interests and thriving ranch. He and George had debated the pros and cons during those weeks. George argued that even if Paul changed his mind, the experience would be well worth it. Besides, he was still young and had the option of returning home anytime.

Although in his uncle’s will the beneficiary was his late father, Paul decided that he would honor the request that the new Earl relocate to England, at least for a while, and pursue the responsibilities of an English nobleman. He admired his uncle’s foresight at having included the phrase at least for a while among his wishes and not making permanent relocation a condition. Paul was certain that’s what his father would have done and would have wanted him to do.

Before moving to England, Paul gathered his parents’ various business interests under a holding company separate from the ranch. He called it Prescott Enterprises in honor of his uncle. Paul also asked George to become general manager of the ranch instead of foreman. After all, he now was a partner and would be in charge. George had worked hard over the years. His new status represented quite an achievement. George was the son of a hard-drinking cowboy and a promiscuous barroom ‘entertainer’ who never married. He’d been a street kid, forced to support himself before reaching his teens.

Paul admitted he was curious about living in England given his heritage, especially what life would be like as a nobleman. Paul and his sisters held dual citizenship, all three having been born in England like their father. They hadn’t been back since they were small children. He was intrigued by the prospect of living in an ancient manor filled with a host of servants.

From conversations on the phone with Percy’s solicitor, his uncle’s will apparently had left him a few rental properties and some financial resources.

 

CHAPTER FIVE 

Earnscliffe Manor,

Maidstone, England 

The news had spread like wildfire. Excitement rippled through the social elite of picturesque Maidstone and area. The newest Earl of Prescott was about to take up residence in one of the city’s most imposing landmarks, nearby Earnscliffe Manor. The historic estate was nestled in the lush rolling hills of Kent, aptly nicknamed The Garden of England. 

Earnscliffe had been home to the earls of Prescott for centuries. His uncle’s many friends and admirers, his neighbors and the Manor staff joined together to plan a gala evening reception and ball welcoming the 12th Earl. It would be the social event of the season. The guest list included nobility, ambassadors, prominent politicians and local dignitaries. Planners arranged for a grand entrance in the great hall of the meticulously restored manor, where Paul would be formally presented to the 147 invited guests.

Willard Winston, Paul’s distant cousin who occupied a luxurious gatehouse on the estate, volunteered to advise Paul about preparing for the welcoming party. Paul was grateful for his cousin’s help. He was unfamiliar with English customs, particularly concerning formal events like this. Willard, who was 23 years older than Paul, told the charming bachelor it was essential that he make his appearance with a date. Willard offered to find a suitable young woman to join him.

 “Are you quite certain about this, Willard?” Paul asked. “I don’t know anyone here yet. Is it appropriate for me to appear to be dating one of their eligible young women so soon after my arrival?”

 “Most definitely, old boy!” his English cousin reassured him enthusiastically. “Most of your other guests will come as couples. You and your date will fit right in. This way you’ll be sure of making a splendid show of it! And it will be a melding of cultures, and all that, you know. You’ll be a sensation, you’ll see… you’ll make a huge impression on everyone!”   

And quite an entrance it was.  He walked down the steps of the grand staircase from his second floor master bedroom with Sylvia McCracken of Maidstone clinging to his left arm. The room fell ominously silent. There were audible gasps and a few giggles.

Paul sensed immediately that something was terribly wrong. He caught the eye of the butler, Carlson, just back from vacation, who motioned him discretely to a side room. He excused himself from Sylvia, who was already slightly tipsy.

“Lord Prescott,” Carlson began. “May I be permitted to speak candidly?”

“Of course,” Paul said.

“Thank you,” Carlson said. “May I ask your lordship how you came to have Ms. McCracken as your date for this evening’s celebration?”

 “My cousin, Willard, made the arrangements for me,” Paul replied. “Since you were away on leave, he took the initiative and invited her on my behalf. I just now met her. Is something wrong?”

 “Yes, Milord,” Carlson said. “I believe there is. I must tell you, sir, that Ms. McCracken is the proprietor of the most famous, ah, how should I say it?  Forgive me, sir… the most notorious house of ill repute in all of Kent. I can’t imagine what in the world inspired your cousin to do so.”

“I can,” Paul said. He struggled to control his anger toward Willard.

When Paul returned to his guests and to ‘Sylvia, The Madam,’ he sensed bemused reactions from the assembled guests, and then restrained exchanges with Paul or, mostly, polite silence. Some guests were unable to contain their amusement. A few quiet chuckles were heard. Others were chagrined. Most left early. 

The next morning at breakfast, Willard could barely contain his merriment over the cruel trick he’d pulled on his American cousin… second cousin he corrected himself, wanting to put as much distance between the branches of the family as he could manage.

 “Right! Just like the bloody hillbilly he is!” Willard laughed heartily to his wife, Alice. They were having breakfast in the spacious kitchen of their historic two-story sandstone home surrounded by tall oak trees on the edge of the Earnscliffe Estate.

Willard slapped the table with glee, reliving the night before. He was delighted with himself for embarrassing his ‘cowboy cousin.’ Alice was dismayed. She saw Willard’s nasty trick as his immature way of venting his anger over Paul having inherited the bulk of the late Lord Winston’s estate. Willard was livid about the comparatively modest bequest their uncle had left him. 

As the closest relative living in England, Willard assumed he was entitled to inherit virtually all of the extensive assets. At the very least, he expected to inherit their home and a substantial sum of money. To his dismay, he couldn’t find a lawyer willing to pursue the legal challenge he wanted. In Willard’s opinion, the late Earl had seen fit to leave him an insulting pittance, which was not true. In fact, his inheritance consisted of a generous income and the use of the two-story, four-bedroom gatehouse rent-free for the rest of their lives. Willard also conveniently overlooked the fact that he and his family had already lived there rent-free for more than 25 years. During that time, Willard had dabbled in numerous failed pursuits, mostly financed by Percival who tried to get Willard to become self-supporting, to no avail.

 “Well, you know,” Alice said pleasantly, “We really must be civil to the young fellow, my dear. He is, after all, our landlord now.”

 “Bloody hell,” Willard exploded. “Just imagine, us beholden to that uncivilized Yankee fool,” he ranted.  “Good God! He’s a fucking cowboy, for Christ’s sake, Alice! It’s a damned embarrassment to the family name, that’s what it is! It’s a bloody insult to England!”

Willard stomped out of the room and headed for his den, muttering. He had more immediate problems. Their trouble-prone son Reginald, better known as Reggie, was due for parole from prison. He’d been convicted of trying to sell valuable artifacts stolen from Earnscliffe Manor. It was Reggie’s latest brush with the law.

As if I don’t have enough deal with, Willard grumbled as he dialed the phone on his desk. On top of it all, we have a thief… a criminal in the family. Bloody hell!

 “Blantyre House Prison, warden’s office,” a bored female voice answered the phone. 

 “My son is due for release tomorrow,” Willard said. “I’m wondering what time I might pick him up.”

 “Has he completed his FLED?” the voice snapped back. 

Her attitude did nothing to improve Willard’s state of mind.

 “His what?” Willard asked.

 “His FLED.  His FLED… His Full License Eligibility Date – FLED,” said the now irritated voice. “Prisoners must have that form filled out to be released.”

“I expect so,” a flustered Willard responded. The irony of the acronym escaped him. “My son called me that he’s to be released tomorrow morning on parole. Is there a scheduled release time?”

The voice replied curtly: “We start daily releases sometime after breakfast. I cannot tell exactly when a given prisoner will be released. You’ll just have to wait. Freed prisoners exit through the front gate.”

She hung up on him.  

Two years earlier, police had found Reggie, their troublesome 22-year-old son, passed out drunk behind the wheel of his aging car. He’d driven off a country road into a ditch on the outskirts of Maidstone. Artifacts stolen from Earnscliffe Manor were in the back seat. Police and the news media, in Maidstone as well as surrounding Kent County, had been notified of the theft immediately by the curator at Earnscliffe, who’d hoped the thief or thieves would be intercepted before they got too far. It worked. 

A police search of the vehicle also discovered a World War II Webley Mk IV revolver in the car’s boot. Reggie professed surprise. He was unable to produce a license for the weapon or a permit to transport it. A records search of the serial number identified the owner as Reggie’s father, who’d served briefly as an officer in the Grenadier Guards. When police arrived at Willard and Alice’s home to inquire about the Webley, Willard explained that he had obtained the old revolver as a memento while serving with the Guards. It wasn’t being transported legally, and the police knew it. But at least Willard had registered it, as required by law. The constables who visited Willard, feeling intimidated by his apparent titled stature, had dropped further action.  Their supervisor agreed.

Local police forces often looked the other way when persons connected to the nobility committed minor infractions, as they had for Willard and Reggie. But they were unable to overlook Reggie’s theft of the artifacts from Earnscliffe, since the theft was not minor and all of the local news media had already reported it. Police did follow procedure by recording the serial number of the Webley. Before returning the weapon to Willard, they also had the forensic lab at New Scotland Yard in London conduct ballistics tests and take photos of the rifling marks, impressions made on bullets by the lands and grooves inside the barrel. The rifling marks matched nothing on record, but the photos were added to the files anyway.

 

***

 

 

Hi There:

Hope you have enjoyed this excerpt. You can order an ebook or a paperback copy at: http://amzn.com/B016OUM81S.  

Best Regards,

James Osborne

 

3 comments on “The First Chapters

  1. olganm
    November 30, 2015

    Good luck, James!

  2. Bette A. Stevens
    December 8, 2015

    Great intro, James! Just downloaded my copy of “The Maidstone Conspiracy” and sharing your post & my purchase on Amazon as well.:)

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This entry was posted on November 29, 2015 by in Collected Short Stories.

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