Yesterday was a very busy day with meetings, too much coffee, and a reviving dash of (freezing cold) top-down driving. Today, I don’t have to be anywhere but at my desk, attending to the day job and writing words, which is a good thing, seeing it’s WiP Wednesday. Well, I did take the chance on a brief walk in the sunshine, despite the temperature and the storm that woke us in the middle of the night. It’s gusting now, rather than outright storming, so I made it to the top of the hill and back down all in one piece. Though I do need a hedge trimmer to get my hair back in order!
As for those words… One of the three pieces of WiP I’m actively working on right now is a series of short whodunnits and spy stories set between 1912 and 1922, and I thought I’d really like to share a bit from one of them for today’s WiP Wednesday post.
Roses in December is set in an English village in the spring of 1921. Captain Frank Mallory, who spent the years before and during the war working for the British counter intelligence service, has recently lost his wife and partner, Frances. His boss, Major Joseph Dunhenning, tries to get him to take an interest in things again, and he thinks he has the perfect task for Mallory.
“Rumour in the village has it that it wasn’t the gastric flu, but arsenic.”
“Arsenic? Good god, you can’t be serious!” They’d sat down to afternoon tea in the conservatory of Richfield House, surrounded by lemon trees and orchids in beaten metal pots, and with the French doors wide open to the gentle breeze and soft light of an early summer day. It was the kind of day Frances had loved beyond all reason, though she’d never have spoilt it with talk of murder. Mallory wondered whether his guest would recoil if he leaned over to replenish his tea, or if he would consider not finishing the lemon drizzle cake Mrs. Wiggins had provided as a suitable afternoon repast along with the brew that cheered.
Major Joseph Dunhenning was made from sterner stuff, though. He eagerly held out his cup when Frank lifted the teapot and tilted his head in question. “Thank you. I thought you might want to look into it, the rumours I mean.”
“If you really think there’s a poisoner at work you should be talking to the police, sir, not me,” Mallory pointed out. “Why is it your business, anyway?”
Dunhenning’s handsome face darkened in a frown. “Murder is everyone’s business, don’t you think?”
“I agree. But we’re not talking murder. This is just gossip.”
“You know what they say – no smoke without fire.”
Or someone to fan the flames. It used to be Frances’s standard reply to the vile comment. He and Frances had made good use of people’s credulity during the four years while Europe lay bleeding, so he knew what he spoke of. “I wish you wouldn’t put it that way. Those words do more damage than an army of poisoners.”
“But what if it’s true?”
Mallory sighed. He knew that tone. Had reacted to it for years. When the major sounded like that, it was better to give in gracefully. “Who died?”