Exercising The Little Grey Cells

 

The following is a short story example by one of our own to encourage entries in our YCM Catholic Detective Short Story Competition! Hopefully you enjoy this one and are inspired to write your own! – Emily

 

“I should have made an excellent detective,” exclaimed Prudence Fairweather, casting aside the latest Agatha Christie novel onto the lounge beside her.

“I don’t think a moustache would suit you dear,” replied the droll voice of her husband, “Nor were you ever the type destined for spinsterhood.”

“Oh Rupert, is it so wrong to want a little adventure?”

Her husband peered over the top of his newspaper. “Short of marrying an Australian soldier you nursed during the war and immigrating to Australia after a month long courtship?”

“That is beside the point.” Though the reflection was nice, the last two years had been an awfully fun adventure.

“Then your current situation is a touch too dreary my love?”

“You should expect me to say so I expect,” she sighed for good measure.

“The life of a doctor’s wife in rural Australia is far cry from the active one of a V.A.D. during wartime.”

“Precisely,” Prudence sighed again, but this one was more sincere. “I am not so low in spirits but let’s just say that a certain amount of stimulation of the little grey cells would not go amiss.”

“Charlie’s babble not enough for you?”

“Oh Rupert, Charlie is the plumpest, most delicious baby going around but he is only ten months old, he is not yet the most accomplished conversationalist.”

A silent intermission ensued. Prudence patted her bob absently, perhaps another cut was in order? Or a shopping jaunt, she could use a new hat, perhaps in burgundy?

“Then would you consider joining me on an errand tomorrow?”

“Charlie naps after lunch.” And mornings did not suit her presently.

“Precisely.”

“And the errand?”

“Never fear, you will not need to don the nurse’s garb, your glad rags will do.”

“Then it is a social call?” She sat on her hands, something was afoot.

Her husband studied his newspaper. “Monsignor O’Malley has asked if I might accompany him tomorrow at Mrs Donoghue’s, after lunch.”

“The wealthy pastoralist’s widow? Is she unwell?”

“No, my dear, but she may well be the victim of a robbery.” He paused, quirking his eyebrow. “I don’t suppose you would wish to join us?”

Prudence squealed with delight. What a good sport her husband was.

 ***

 She would have preferred to travel by car but Rupert would not sanction driving his prized automobile on the rocky tracks that pretended to be country lanes, no, it was for in town only. It was a shame, she enjoyed watching him drive the automobile, an expression of gay abandon on his often neutral face.

His expressions were subtle, but she could tell, by the slight arch of his brow, that he was enjoying their outing already. And that gave her pause.

At length they arrived at the Donoghue homestead and, after being divested of their coats and hats, they were ushered into a spacious parlour. Natural sunlight flooded the room and Prudence gasped with delight.

“The view is exquisite!” she squeezed her husband’s arm.

“Indeed,” he lowered his face to hers, “are you still unaccustomed to the open spaces of Australia?”

“I should say not but even you must agree that the view is perfect.”

“I do.” He conceded but Prudence rolled her eyes.

“Rupert, I meant the view outside the window.”

“A thousand pardons my love.” But he did not look sorry at all, he had that same puppy dog face that she had found irresistible when she had nursed him back to health in England.

“Enjoying the view?” Monsignour O’Malley barked as a way of announcing his presence.

“Very much,” Prudence smiled. She felt much affection for the crotchety old priest, even if he had insulted her baking abilities at the last parish fete. Cooking was not something she had much aptitude for nor did she lose any grief over it, her husband’s housekeeper had stayed on after their marriage and it was a good thing too. How else was one to sneak out for detective adventures after all, if one was tied down by the apron strings of housework?

“You’re looking thin Mrs Fairweather,” continued the priest, “are you well?”

“Quite.” She had only lost a pound, if that. Was it so noticeable?

“You’re all here then,” Mrs Donoghue’s cold tones sliced through the air and despite the fair day Prudence shivered. Mrs Donoghue had always appeared to be an astute, if haughty, study and Prudence had tried, unsuccessfully she was ashamed to admit, to befriend the older woman at the myriad of parish fundraisers they had attended over the last couple of years. The Pentecost Ball, before Charlie’s birth, was a particular example. She could only surmise that it was her Englishness and former Protestantism that offended the Donoghue matriarch’s Irish Catholic sensibilities.

“I have fired three companions,” Mrs Donoghue began, without preamble, once they had each been served their tea. “All of whom were sent packing without references.”

“Monsignor O’Malley had mentioned that some sentimental items were misplaced,” Rupert said.

“Misplaced indeed!” spluttered Mrs Donoghue. “They were stolen.”

“Now, now Mrs Donoghue,” Monsignor O’Malley chided, “let’s not be so hasty.”

“I am not in haste Monsignor and well you know it. There are several items of jewellery that I had intended to pass on to my daughters that I cannot account for.”

“What are the items?” Prudence interjected. Her tea long forgotten amidst the talk of theft.

“Why?” Mrs Donoghue met her with a steely gaze.

“Well, I should expect that the police will want a description of them, in order to recover them for you.”

Mrs Donoghue sighed. “Then at least one person believes me. I must confess that I was not pleased to learn that our Doctor Fairweather was taking an English bride but perhaps you are not such a bad egg after all.”

“Much obliged,” Prudence shared a quizzical gaze with her husband.

“My mother’s gold crucifix is missing,” continued the Irish matriarch, oblivious to any offence her words may have caused. “As well as my mother of pearl Rosary beads and a cross pendant inlaid with emeralds. They are excellent pieces certainly, but their sentimental value far outweighs their monetary value.”

The emerald cross was familiar. Though Prudence could picture the necklace she could not place where she had seen it.

The cross was still on her mind as they took their leave. Obliged to visit the powder room she returned to the foyer where she detected lowered voices. Pausing beside the doorway she strained to hear their conversation.

“It is as I suspected,” her husband intoned, “though I am hardly an expert. I shall wire a colleague of mine in Sydney who is an expert in this area. It should advise him very strongly to visit us without delay. He is capital fellow and will know the best way forward.”

“And in the meantime?”

“The family must be informed that we have our concerns and we must keep her as calm as possible. It is evident that she is easily roused when she considers her listeners unsympathetic. Our local constabulary may be patient but these regular bouts of theft will soon prove an annoyance to them.”

Prudence backtracked and walked into the foyer, timing her entry to bid farewell to the Catholic priest. Donning her cloche hat, she took her husband’s proffered arm and climbed into their waiting sulky.

“And what is your professional opinion my dear Poirot?”

Elbowing her husband in the ribs she smiled. “It is all rather straightforward…my little grey cells have had very minimal exercise.”

“Oh really?” Rupert adjusted the reins and raised a brow. “Need I remind you that as a Catholic now, my dear, lying is a sin one is required to confess.”

“The case might have proved difficult were it not for my recognition of the emerald cross. Niamh wore it to the Pentecost Ball, it complimented her gown perfectly. Her mother has already given it to her.”

“Then the case?”

“There was never any crime. Mrs Donoghue is losing her faculties.”

“Hardly that!” Rupert scoffed. “Her short term memory is gradually eroding but her faculties are excellent.”

“Oh Rupert you old bean, you knew all along!”

He grinned, and nudged her shoulder. “I should not have wished to deny you your adventure in detection.”

“It shall be my last I fear,” she sighed impressively.

“Yes,” he cleared his throat. “I expect it’s time you availed me of the fact that Charlie is to have a sibling.”

Prudence groaned. “One cannot hide anything from a doctor.”

“No indeed.”

“Then perhaps you ought to be the lead detective.” Prudence contemplated his chiselled features. “After all, I think a moustache would suit you well.”

 

 

 

 

Filed Under: FeaturedJust For Mum

About the Author: Emily is a former ACPA award winning editor and journalist turned stay at home mum and blogger. She lives on a farm in regional NSW with her husband and their five children where she spends the time she should be doing housework reading books and writing posts.

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