So, here I was.
On a freakin’ vacation for the first time in…um, never. And I end up in a mansion full of crazies solving a murder. Wow, that does sound like fun.
England of all places, but hey, I had followed a rather voluptuous chick, who had subsequently dumped me in soggy old London. But that was OK, because at the first hotel I checked into I met a saucy little chambermaid. Vacation looking good. A jolly holiday indeed.
Then I got a phone call.
The gray landscape laughed at me. Not that I had said anything particularly funny.
Here I was, on my first trip to Europe, dumped by a girl in Paris, finally starting to enjoy myself in London with a cute little room-service babe, and I get summoned out into the cold, damp middle of nowhere…freezing. Definitely out of my element.
A herd of sheep whisked by. Mocking.
“Shut up,” I said through clenched teeth, standing and shivering at a fork in the country road. I should have never answered the phone.
I had settled into a cozy London hotel room with a bubbly little room-service girl. The phone rang, and I picked it up between kisses.
“Hello,” I mumbled through my new friend’s lips.
“Yes. I would like to meet with you; it’s very important.”
“How important could it be? Do you really think I’m going out in this rainy, damp weather when it’s so nice here?” I squeezed. She giggled.
“It could be worth 100,000 pounds to you.”
I dropped the girl on the floor. “Where do you want to meet?”
That was two hours ago. I was kicking myself now. If I didn’t need the dough so badly, I wouldn’t have agreed. But the chance at that kind of money…well, opening my own detective agency had always been kind of a dream.
So after a quick goodbye to my lady friend and a taxi ride to the middle of nowhere, here I stood. A stray lamb scuttled past. He didn’t openly mock me as I stood out in the cold drizzle without a heavy coat. He just shot me a sheepish grin and ran off.
I would’ve yelled out some derogatory sheep comment, but headlights in the late afternoon murkiness caught my attention. As the car approached, I recognized the make: a 1994 light blue Bentley. Sharp.
The car rolled to a stop. I stood nervously, my taxi long since departed. A tall figure emerged from the back seat. The driver stayed put.
“I say,” the figure spoke out, opening a large, tan umbrella. “You’ll catch your death of cold.” He motioned for me join him. I walked over and he offered me another umbrella. I gladly accepted.
He was a man in his late fifties—exceptionally fit but drawn in the face. We walked to the edge of the road. As he looked out over the hilly, rocky terrain, he sighed, visibly shaken.
“There’s an old tale of a man who escaped from Dartmoor prison,” the man started suddenly, staring straight ahead. “He wandered into these moors and found the terrain even more terrifying than his previous entrapment. They say he threw himself off a cliff and met his death. He could find nowhere to run.” He sighed again and looked at me. “That is the way I feel.”
I nodded, unsure. What am I, a shrink? Should I ask about his father?
He stared for a minute making me all the more nervous.
“I’m sorry, lad.” He extended his hand, “I am Winston Forsythe, the third. Forgive my ramblings; I am not myself. What is your name again?”
“Sibley. Filton Sibley.” I shook his hand. Strong grip.
“Oh, yes. What a terrible name,” he laughed. I bit my lip. I had had about enough.
“What exactly can I do for you, Mr. Forsythe?” I said, getting impatient and a little chafed.
“I’m afraid someone is going to try to kill me,” he said, looking away.
“Yeah, that can be a problem.” I smirked, looking past him across the bleak landscape. “So, Mr. Forsythe, why did you call me?”
“I have an acquaintance, a Mr. Bill Schroeder of the CIA. He is a friend of yours, is he not?”
“Yes, he is not.”
“Nevertheless, he suggested I contact you while you were on vacation in London.”
“How did he know…?” I started, wondering how the CIA knew my whereabouts. I smiled. They must be keeping tabs on me, especially since I showed them up on the Bedd case. “You said something over the phone about money?”
“Of course.” He smiled weakly. “Find out who the murderer is, manage to keep me alive, and I will pay you 100,000 pounds.”
“Sounds easy enough,” I shrugged. “When do we start?”
“Immediately, if possible. The killer has left me several notes. Here,” he offered a scrap of yellowed paper, “read this.”
“Tonight you die, Forsythe.”
I nodded. “Wow. Gets to the point fast.”
“Doesn’t it? I’ve received many leading up to this. I received that one this morning.”
“So you have some suspects in mind, I would hope?” I asked.
Forsythe nodded. “My house is filled with them.”
“Well, I guess we could start there,” I said.
“Would you like to go into town and pick up some of your things?” He asked, walking toward the Bentley.
I smiled at the thought of the room-service babe, but then I thought about the pile of dirty laundry in the corner, the musty motel room, the outstanding bar bill…
“No.” I walked around the car, running a hand over the fine automobile and smiled. “I think I’ll just use some of your things.”