By T. P. Keating
Still London! Today I accepted the invitation of a weekend stay at Castle Doig.
Lord Doig himself opened the window of my bedroom and pointed to the sweeping vista before us. A chill breeze tussled his
unkempt, thick blond hair. He vaguely arranged it into semi-order with a chubby hand, while I pushed my own black curls away
from my face. A dark blue suit, light blue shirt and red tie spoke of a very formal middle-aged Englishman.
“That's London Zoo you can see in the foreground. When the wind's in the
right direction, you can smell the elephants. If they get restless during the night, these thick, crimson drapes will keep
out the noise.” He glanced at his watch. “Afternoon tea will be served at 5 o'clock sharp, in the Chinese Room.
Until then.” With a cheery wave, he let himself out.
I contemplated the view again. A freezing winter fog was beginning to descend.
It already curled around the nearer church spires and chimneys, while the distant Houses of Parliament were barely visible.
Doig Hill was becoming an island, rising out of the clouds, on which perched the ancient stones of my viewpoint. A knock at
the door. A special knock. Three together, then one after a pause.
Malcolm Fairfax sauntered in. “Tea will be served at 5 o'clock sharp, I'm
told.” With a narrow face, he wore his customary black ensemble, while his easy movements belied his fifty plus years.
“Yes, Lord Doig mentioned it.”
“I say, the deep red theme in here is most striking. My room is land of the
indigo. Looks like it's going to be an excellent weekend. The grounds are extensive, and the ruins of the Roman bath-house
are most intriguing. Because I studied ancient history at Oxford and all that.”
“Sadly Malcolm, we'll have another matter to attend to.” An eyebrow
raised itself quizzically. “I interviewed several New Emperor Coffee executives after Christmas.”
“You mean, using your wolf stare?”
“Exactly. The hypnosis revealed an intriguing nugget about last month's attempt
on my life.” We were both at the window now, entranced by the swift descent of such a thick fog. “My would-be
assassin was also a werewolf.”
“Upon my word, what might it mean, Kimberly?”
“It means that his natural loyalty had been repressed, using a hypnosis technique
similar to mine. Further questioning revealed that he had been hypnotized right here, in Castle Doig.” A soft bell rang
briefly. “That'll be tea, Malcolm. Let's not disappoint our host.” We headed for the door.
“I hope there's marmalade. I've always been rather partial to marmalade,”
I meant to ask, Jo-Beth, how are the cubs? Do give my love to Joanne, Jodene, Jolene
and Jojo. When I get a moment, I'll send them a little present each. It's funny, the stuff I miss about New York. Currently,
it's our hairdresser.
I'm pleased to say that Malcolm got his marmalade, and he didn't hold back. I settled
for scones and jam, with a cup of Earl Grey tea. Well, if I'd chosen coffee, I'd have compared it to my own brand, despite
myself. We all sat at one of several medium size tables, rather like a cafeteria. It confounded my expectations of one long,
unfriendly table, in a lofty, cold room.
Lord Doig tackled several muffins and strawberry jam, accompanied by Earl Grey
too. “Nice tea, isn't it? The plantation is still in the family, my dear,” he said, with a conspiratorial wink.
Jones the Butler, who was ancient if he was a day, tottered over to Lord Doig's elbow, where he offered him a silver platter.
Lord Doig picked up the note it carried and read thoughtfully. His face darkened. “Dear God.”
“May we help?” Malcolm enquired.
“Only if you have the address of a good undertaker. Brooke the Footman committed
suicide. In the private reading room.” He shook his head. “So soon.”
“So soon?” It struck me as a very suggestive phrase. However, I kept
my tone sympathetic. “Someone else has died, perhaps committed suicide, and recently at that?”
“Yes, Miss Duncan. But, that's a tragic secret. Who told you?”
“In the cut-throat world of branded coffee, you develop a nose for the bean
gone bad. If we examine the scene quickly, we may be able to assist you. Which will in turn means keeping the secret, secret.”
“Very well. Follow me.”
He led us along a corridor lined with polished suits of armor, down a carpeted
stone staircase, along a corridor lined with portraits of racing horses, across a large library and through a door disguised
as a bookcase. Shockingly, the body lay immediately before us, an axe embedded in the top of his head, the beige carpet forever
stained by the foul deed. Face up, or what remained of his face. A well-built man. He needed to be, to swing the axe and strike
such a deep blow.
“If you don't mind, Malcolm and I will conduct a thorough search.”
“Of course. I will be in the library. My copy of Who's Who is yet to be re-shelved.”
He retreated and closed the door.
“Crikey, Kimberly, we came here to solve one mystery and ended up with a
second.” He cautiously inspected the axe.
“Au contraire, Malcolm, this is but one thread of an evil twine, which we
shall shortly unravel.” I glanced around the ante-chamber, taking in the haphazard piles of books, large and small,
ancient and modern.
“Can't say that I'm with you.”
“Well, consider this. What if the Footman were made to kill himself, through
“Kimberly, you have the mind of an twisted genius!”
“Then the question becomes, what did he find out that cost him his life?”
“Gosh, the name of the person who hypnotized the other werewolf to attack
“Precisely.” I called out, “Lord Doig.” He joined us.
“It's obviously suicide. We'll retire for the night and leave the clear up
operation to you and your trusted staff.”
“I will show you to your rooms personally. Tomorrow, if you permit, my personal
helicopter will take us to my private island in the Thames, where we can forget about this dreadful incident.”
“Thank you, I'd enjoy that.”
“Me too,” agreed Malcolm, “although I'll be sorry not to inspect
the Roman remains.”
“The island contains the remains of a Roman villa, which we'll visit first.”
Deposited at my room, I waited for an hour before giving the secret knock at Malcolm's
door. Inside, I outlined my plan.
Not long after that, Lord Doig arrived at my bedroom, in response to my request.
“Lord Doig, look at my eyes.”
“Do you have something in them?”
“My personal doctor lives nearby.”
“Deep, deep, deeper.”
“I, can.... I....”
“Deeper still.” Lord Doig's blue eyes glazed over. “Raise your
right arm.” He obeyed. “Lower your right arm.” Again, he complied.
Malcolm stepped from behind a drape. “Raise your left arm,” Malcolm
instructed. Lord Doig obeyed. Malcolm knocked him out cold, courtesy of the wooden handle of his trusty black umbrella.
“Savile Row umbrellas, they're the best in the world. But good heavens, Kimberly,
you were right. If he'd really been hypnotized, you would have been the only one able to give him commands. How long have
you suspected him of being a werewolf?”
“I've checked his social appointments. They're empty around the full moon.”
“Gosh, the clincher indeed. What's to do?”
“If I dispatch another werewolf, within a month of culling the one that tried
to murder me, I'll get a bad wolf reputation. When he comes to, I'll suggest a suitably hefty donation to New Emperor Coffee's
fund for the Third World.”
“Kimberly, he never stood a chance!”
The fog was so dense the next day, we couldn't see more than a foot before us.
So, Jo-Beth, we went to London Zoo instead. It's nice to visit the ancestors. We placed handkerchiefs over our mouths, to
combat the fog, while Jones the Butler shuffled in front with a lantern. If this is normal for London, I'd hate to see strange!
Copyright T. P. Keating 2005