THE FOUNTAIN OF DEATH
(A Perfectly Silly Mystery)
by Kerry Marie Sloan
Copyright © 2017 STARGAZER BOOKS LLC
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This STARGAZER BOOKS Kindle edition September 2017
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Edited by Linda Sloan
Design by Dan Yager
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Control Number: 2017936662
eBook ISBN: 978-1-944523-05-3
Print ISBN: 978-1-944523-02-2
To Elena, Dan, and my parents.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1 - Arrival
CHAPTER 2 - Kingsly Hall
CHAPTER 3 - Katherine, ANTS, and Wilberforce
CHAPTER 4 - The First Warning
CHAPTER 5 - The Police and a Guest
CHAPTER 6 - The Second Warning
CHAPTER 7 - The Detectives
CHAPTER 8 - Divide and Conquer
CHAPTER 9 - The Third Warning
CHAPTER 10 - Setting the Trap
CHAPTER 11 - The Rescue
CHAPTER 12 - Weddings
Katherine's List of Words You May Not Know
Other Works By Author Kerry Marie Sloan
The village of Kingsley Green was abuzz with the news. An heir to the vast Kingsley estate had finally been found! For nearly ten years the ancestral home of the Kingsleys had stood, almost abandoned. Time and neglect had transformed the hall into a dark and forbidding place.
Fantastic stories regarding Kingsley Hall abounded in the village. People spoke of an ancient curse, a vast underground maze, and a fountain that could foretell the future. Yet, no one really knew what dark secrets, if any, were concealed within the old building.
Before the discovery of an heir to the Kingsley title, many believed that the estate was destined to fall to ruin. But now, everything had changed. The new owner planned to take full possession of Kingsley Hall and restore the place to its former glory. For the inhabitants of Kingsley Green, this was a cause for celebration. But not everyone in the town greeted the news with joy. The evening of the announcement, on a hill overlooking Kingsley Hall, two men could be found, deep in conversation. “Not quite what you’d planned, is it?” asked the first man, quietly. He was older than his companion and was gazing down at Kingsley Hall thoughtfully.
“Of course it’s not what I’d planned,” answered the younger man, in a soft voice.
“And why do you say what I planned?” he continued. His voice, although gentle, held a note of anxiety. “We’re all in on this now, whether you like it or not.”
“I suppose you’re right,” replied the first man slowly.
“Of course I’m right,” said the younger man.
“What I don’t understand,” he began speaking again, taking up a train of thought that had been bothering him for some time, “is how this happened! I thought our plan was foolproof!”
“We’ve been over this many times,” said the older man. “The Kingsley estate and fortune were being held in trust until a legitimate heir was found, or after the passing of ten years, and in that case…
“I know,” whined the younger man. “We don’t have to review what we thought was going to happen. It’s just that we came so close! I don’t see how they could have found a real heir. We all thought the Kingsley line was dead!”
“I suppose we were wrong,” sighed the older man. “I didn’t think there were any Kingsleys left, and I never knew that there was a branch of the family in America. But from what I’ve heard in town, this new heir was an orphan. He didn’t know anything about his family connections until Barnaby located him.”
“Curse Barnaby, and the whole lot of solicitors! Everything was fine until he began meddling in this affair!”
“That’s his job though,” replied the older man. “We knew that things weren’t going to be the same once old Stevens died. He was a good lawyer, but certainly not as thorough as this Barnaby fellow. From what I can tell, Barnaby made it his personal mission to get the Kingsley case sorted out. And I suppose he did, in a way.”
“Yes,” answered the younger man, “but not in a way that I like! And not in a way that allows us to continue as we had planned!”
“I still think we need to wait and see what happens when the new heir arrives,” replied the older man, reasonably.
“Wait and see!” said his companion, trying hard to contain his agitation. “Is that all you can say? Where is that going to get us? And while we’re waiting, what’s going to happen to our plans?”
“All I mean,” replied the older man calmly, “is that once the new owner arrives, there are bound to be changes. And maybe some of those changes will be for the good.”
“No,” said the younger man, a steely resolve behind his gentle tone. “There aren’t going to be any changes, not if I can help it.”
“But he is the new owner of the hall,” protested the older man. “What he wants is going to get done. We might as well make the best of it.”
The younger man glared at his companion through the gloom for a moment before moving away from him. Kingsley Hall loomed out of the darkness, eerily lit by the moonlight above.
“I’m not going to make the best of anything,” mumbled the man to himself, as he glared into the night, his normally gentle features changed by emotion. “Kingsley Hall is rightfully mine, and it’s going to stay that way, no matter what I have to do.
CHAPTER 1 - Arrival
A glorious summer day had just dawned over Kingsley Hall. Despite the early hour, a hum of excitement was disturbing the stillness of the peaceful morning. Seth Kingsley, the current lord of the manor, was expecting the arrival of his bride-to-be later that very day, and all sorts of preparations were in progress. Servants were scurrying about the house as if their very lives depended on it, and Seth was in a rare state of nervous excitement.
“Mildred, are you sure we have enough chocolate…and what about ice cream? Cordelia likes both and I don’t want her to be disappointed,” said Seth, worriedly. Seth, who had been hanging about the kitchen all morning, had already asked this same question several times, and the cook was at her wit’s end.
“Sir,” began Mildred, trying without much success to hide her impatience, “we have enough chocolate and ice cream to feed a small army.”
“That’s what worries me,” replied Seth, his brow creased with concern. “Cordelia can consume as much, if not more, than a small army.”
Mildred, a plump, middle-aged woman, had worked at Kingsley Hall since she was a child. She had been devastated by the state of disrepair that the hall had fallen into after Aloysius Kingsley’s death almost ten years earlier. Seth had worked miracles since he inherited the hall, and the house was grander than she had ever remembered it being. She gazed at Seth with real affection. Although she had only known him for a short time, she was already very attached to him.
“Don’t worry, sir,” she said, reassuringly. “I’ll make sure everything goes smoothly for your bride-to-be. I’ve been at this hall for more celebrations and weddings than I can count, and you can be sure that yours will be the best.”
“With your cooking there’s no doubt of that,” said Seth, grinning at Mildred. He took a deep breath and seemed to relax for a moment. However, relaxation did not last long as yet another worrying thought occurred to him. “Mildred,” he said, “what about our plans for dinner this evening? Do you think that we have enough rolls and butter?”
Mildred sighed. It was going to be a long day. “Sir, we have more than enough of everything. You don’t have to worry.”
“And,” she added, suddenly inspired by a wonderful thought, “I thought I saw that Mr. Pembroke, your neighbor from Blakesley House, walking about the grounds this morning. Didn’t you say that you wanted to speak with him about something?”
“Yes,” said Seth slowly, pulling his thoughts from rolls and butter back to the present. “Yes, I actually did,” he said, with enthusiasm. “Thanks for reminding me. That will be the perfect thing. I’ll go find Percy!”
Seth set off, all thoughts of Mildred, chocolate, and rolls gone from his head. Mildred shook her head at the retreating figure of Seth as she continued her work in the kitchen. He would be out of her hair for a little while at least. Despite her genuine liking for Seth, she had to admit that he was not too smart.
“All beauty and no brains,” she sighed. “Just like all the Kingsleys.”
“Are you sure we’re in the right place?” Katherine asked her cousin yet again, as their small car swerved onto the long circular drive that graced the front of Kingsley Hall.
“Of course we are,” said Cordelia, with a light laugh. “I’d know this place anywhere from all of Seth’s descriptions. It’s quite nice, isn’t it?” she said happily, as she slammed her foot down hard on the gas pedal.
“Oops…sorry…I thought that was the brake,” Cordelia giggled as she tried to slow the car down. “I keep getting mixed up.”
“That’s okay,” said Katherine, through clenched teeth. She was trying her best to ignore her cousin’s horrific driving, but it was a losing battle. She should have never agreed to let Cordelia drive!
“I hate to mention it,” added Katherine, trying to sound calm, “but should we be concerned about those two men in the front yard shooting rifles at us?”
“Oh, don’t be such a ninny,” replied Cordelia, with another giggle. “You worry too much!”
Before Katherine could come up with an answer, one of the men in the front of the house began running furiously towards them, gun still in hand. As soon as she caught sight of the man, Cordelia squealed with delight and quickly turned the car off the paved drive into a flowerbed, coming to a sudden stop only a few feet from the side of Kingsley Hall.
Katherine took a deep breath, trying to regain her composure after Cordelia’s latest demonstration of her driving “skills.” Before she could settle her nerves, a gunshot rang out.
“You’re sure you aren’t worried about the rifles?” asked Katherine again.
“Would you stop being so serious about everything?” answered Cordelia, as she hopped out of the car. “It’s Seth! He’s certainly not going to kill us.”
“Not on purpose,” said Katherine, under her breath.
“My dear, dear marshmallow puff!” shouted Seth Kingsley happily, as soon as Cordelia emerged from the car. A look of doglike devotion and perfect happiness overspread his features.
“My little chocolate torte!” responded Cordelia. “How I’ve missed you!” She ran into his outstretched arms, and the two clasped each other close, completely content in their long awaited reunion.
“Ah, Katherine,” said Seth happily, as he caught sight of her standing by the side of the car. “I’m so glad you’re here. It’s been such a long time!”
“Almost a year since we last saw you in America,” responded Katherine, with a smile. “It’s so good to see you again,” she said, as she took his hand.
“But we weren’t expecting you so early!” Seth said, a shade of concern passing over his face, as he looked from Cordelia to Katherine. “I don’t think everything’s ready yet!”
“We wanted to surprise you!” said Cordelia. “We arrived in London late last night, just as planned. But instead of waiting for old Aunt Dorcas to join us this afternoon, we decided to leave early this morning. I couldn’t wait. But we can help with whatever needs to be done. You don’t need to worry.”
“But lunch,” said Seth, worriedly. “I don’t think it will be ready for another few hours, and I’m sure you must be starving by now.”
“Well, we did just eat breakfast…” began Katherine.
“Don’t be so silly Katherine,” interrupted Cordelia. “Of course we’re starving. Breakfast was ages ago. But we’ll be okay for a little while. I brought some snacks with us, just in case.”
Seth breathed a sigh of relief and looked at Cordelia with love. “You think of everything dear, don’t you?”
As Seth finished speaking, his companion, the other man who had been so wildly running about the yard when Katherine and Cordelia arrived, jogged up beside them.
“Ah, Percy! So sorry old fellow, I’d almost forgotten about you! Katherine and Cordelia, this is Percy Pembroke, our closest neighbor here at Kingsley Hall. Percy, this is Cordelia, my fiancée, and Katherine, her cousin.
Percy, a large, overbearing man, flashed a charming smile. “Delighted,” he boomed, as he energetically shook hands with Cordelia and Katherine. “Seth has told me many wonderful things about both of you.”
“Percy was just showing me how to shoot a hunting rifle,” explained Seth, grabbing the rifle which he had thrown to the ground at the sight of Cordelia. “Percy is quite an avid sportsman. He’s going to help me restock the grounds with all sorts of wild game. We have plans for lots of shooting parties and hunting expeditions! Here, let me show you how it’s done…”
As he spoke, Seth began swinging his gun all over the place, ready to shoot at whatever caught his fancy.
“Perhaps we should hold off until we have a few more lessons,” said Percy quickly, as he took the cocked rifle from Seth’s eager hands and began to unload it. “We don’t want to frighten the ladies,” he added, condescendingly.
“Oh yes, of course,” said Seth. “You two city girls aren’t used to all of this outdoor excitement.”
“If you pull that lever it will be easier to unload,” said Katherine, watching intently as Percy struggled with the gun. For an expert, he seemed just as inept as Seth. “Although I wouldn’t presume to know anything about it, being a lady and a city girl,” she added, with an innocent smile.
“Yes, of course,” mumbled Percy, in annoyance, as he finally unloaded the rifle.
“Seth,” interrupted Cordelia eagerly, “can we please have a tour of the house? I’ve been dying to see it for so long!”
“Of course, my dear,” said Seth adoringly. “How could I have forgotten? I’m sure you two would like to freshen up as well. If you walk through the front door, Humphries, the butler, should be there. He’s very efficient…always lurking about doing something in the butler line. He’ll show you to your rooms, and then we can have the grand tour in a few moments. I just have a few things to finish up with Percy here first. We’re off to speak with Farnham, our groundskeeper, about all of the details of our first hunting party…”
Cordelia gazed lovingly at Seth, “Don’t be too long,” she said with a smile, as she and Katherine walked towards the house.
CHAPTER 2 - Kingsly Hall
A few hours later, Seth, Cordelia, and Katherine were basking in the afterglow of a delightful meal. They were seated around a large table in the fancy dining room, finishing off the remains of their luncheon feast.
“I hope you’re not too tired from the tour of the hall,” said Seth, gazing devotedly at Cordelia as she scooped up some chocolate cake crumbs from her plate and deposited them daintily into her mouth. “It’s a gigantic place!”
“It certainly is,” said Cordelia. “But it’s lovely too…I know I’m going to enjoy living here.”
“And the meal we just had! It was remarkable!” she added, with a contented sigh. “If all Mildred’s cakes and pies are going to be that good, I might start skipping lunch and dinner and going right to dessert. Why fill up on real food when there’s dessert to eat?”
Seth smiled. Mildred had outdone herself with preparations for lunch. The meal was unquestionably a success.
“Mildred really is a splendid cook,” said Seth.
“And such a nice, kind woman as well!” Cordelia replied, enthusiastically. “I’m sure I’ll have lots to talk with her about!”
“I’m glad you like her,” said Seth, happily. He was hoping Cordelia would approve of all of his arrangements at the hall. “And what did you think of the other servants?”
As part of their tour, Seth had formally presented the staff of Kingsley Hall to Cordelia and Katherine, both the old servants who had been connected to the Kingsley family for years and the newcomers that Seth had hired upon his arrival.
“Well, I think Humphries is a jewel!” replied Cordelia, enthusiastically. “So knowledgeable about everything … and such an attractive man! Don’t you think so Katherine?”
Katherine smiled at Cordelia. Large meals always made her cousin extremely talkative. “He’s certainly not handsome in the usual sense … but there is something strangely appealing about him,” she answered thoughtfully. “Although I can’t quite put my finger on what it is.”
Seth started at the two girls in amazement. “You’re talking about Humphries the butler?!”
“Of course,” said Cordelia, with an amused glance at Seth. “Unless you have several more attractive men named Humphries hidden about the place.”
“Did you notice that Humphries is old, bald, and overweight?!” replied Seth. “He’s probably the most efficient man I’ve ever met, but he is always lurking around and politely coughing…I don’t find that very attractive.”
Cordelia looked at Seth and sighed. “That’s what butlers are supposed to do, you silly man! For my part, I think Humphries is fascinating!”
“Enough about Humphries!” said Seth in exasperation. “What did you think of the other servants? How about Farnham, the groundskeeper? I hope you didn’t fall in love with him too!”
“Oh! That poor, dear Farnham!” Cordelia exclaimed. “Such a gentle, sweet face…just like a little baby! The poor boy seems to be so lost and helpless…I just wanted to scoop him up and care for him.”
Seth groaned. “I don’t understand! First Humphries and now Farnham! Farnham’s an adult….he’s definitely not a baby! Plus he’s crazy…not quite right upstairs, you know. I don’t know what you women see in him! You’re just as bad as Mildred. She calls him her little lost lamb, or something just as revolting!”
Cordelia smiled at Seth’s words. “You’re exactly right. He’s a poor little lost lamb. And that’s just what I’m going to call him from now on.”
“But what about the other servants?” asked Seth, anxious to change the subject from the fascinations of Farnham and Humphries. “Marguerite, Connors, and Jack are all came highly recommended, but I’d like your opinion of them as well, dearest.”
Cordelia narrowed her eyes slightly at the mention of the other servants. “I’m not sure. I don’t know if I liked the looks of that Connors. What did you say he was … the chauffeur? He’s much too skinny … and he has shifty eyes. Have you noticed? You can’t trust anyone with shifty eyes. And did you see that he was eating an apple when we met him in the stable? Why would anyone eat fruit when there’s chocolate available? It made me suspicious.”
“Maybe he likes apples,” said Seth, reasonably.
Cordelia looked at him incredulously and then continued speaking. “And Marguerite! I didn’t like the looks of her either. What did you say she does around here?”
“She’s the scullery maid,” answered Seth, despondently.
“Why do we need a scullery maid? I don’t even know what a scullery is! Plus, she claimed that she was French, but I know she was lying. I asked her about les gateaux … you know how I love my French desserts … and she thought I was talking about some kind of toe infection, and not cakes!”
Katherine hid a smile. She knew her cousin too well not to realize that there was more to Cordelia’s opinions than simple first impressions. Cordelia liked to drive her own car and was probably afraid that Connors, the chauffeur, would take over that role. She also knew that Cordelia didn’t like attractive, young women hanging around Seth. And Marguerite, the scullery maid, was certainly attractive and young.
“Kingsley tradition dictates that we have a certain number of servants at the hall, but if they really bother you, I suppose we could …” began Seth.
However, before he could finish speaking, he was interrupted by a loud shriek, which suddenly rang out from the kitchen.
“What could that be?” said Seth, jumping up from his place at the dining room table.
He walked quickly towards the kitchen, which adjoined the dining room, followed closely by Cordelia and Katherine. As they entered the room, they were met by chaos. It was clear that the butcher had just made a delivery, as there were various cuts of meat piled high on the table. The kitchen was full of people, all talking at once, and it was hard to tell what was going on.
Mildred, who was in the center of the group, was in tears. She was being comforted by Humphries and Connors. She kept repeating the same phrase over and over as she attempted to gain control of herself. “It’s murder, that’s what it is … murder.”
Marguerite was standing nearby, holding a large bag of laundry and looking extremely uncomfortable. The gentle Farnham, the little lost lamb, was next to Marguerite, an uncharacteristic dark cloud over his normally peaceful brow. He was staring at the table and scowling horribly.
Jack, the boot boy, was also in the kitchen, a place he often frequented. He was a scrawny young boy of about twelve, and he was thoroughly enjoying the chaos. That is, the chaos allowed him to snatch a few choice morsels from various cupboards and counter tops, chewing and swallowing each bit of food rapidly.
“What is going on in here?” said Seth, as loudly as he could in order to be heard over the din of the servants.
As soon as they noticed the presence of Seth, Cordelia, and Katherine, the commotion ceased as quickly as it had begun.
“Why, sir, we were just…” sputtered Mildred, still in tears.
“It’s the meat….” interrupted Marguerite.
“Actually,” said Farnham, with a fierce glare at Marguerite, “Mildred is upset because this isn’t our order. It was supposed to go to Mr. Pembroke at Blakesley House, not to Kingsley Hall. It was left here by mistake.”
“And, to make matters worse, the butcher tracked dirt into the kitchen when he was making his delivery,” Farnham added, with a gesture towards a few spots on the otherwise immaculately clean floor. “Isn’t that right, Mildred?” he asked softly.
“Why, yes, that’s all it was,” she said, with a sniffle.
“I’m sure we’ll figure it all out and get everything squared away again, as soon as possible,” said Humphries to Mildred, comfortingly.
“Yes, yes, of course,” agreed Seth, happy the matter was being resolved so quickly. “Whatever needs to be done Humphries, you make sure it happens. And Mildred, please don’t worry about these things. They do happen, even in the best run households.”
A few moments later, Seth, Cordelia, and Katherine were back in the dining room. Order had been restored in the kitchen, and the servants had returned to their normal tasks.
“Quite a conscientious woman,” Seth began after the three were seated comfortably again. “To think that she would be so upset by such a small matter!”
“Yes, but don’t you think that was odd?” asked Katherine.
“Odd?” said Seth in surprise. “In what way? I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.”
“Well,” said Katherine slowly. “I don’t think that Mildred…or any of the other servants...were telling us the entire truth. Something strange was going on in there. Did you hear what Marguerite said about the meat? Mildred’s the cook…why would she be so upset by meat? It doesn’t make sense. Don’t you agree Cordelia?”
Cordelia, who had been silent since the three returned from the kitchen, had a pained look on her face, and she seemed not to have heard what Katherine had asked.
“What was that, Katherine?” she said absentmindedly.
“Oh, never mind,” said Katherine. “It’s not really that important. I’m probably just imagining things.”
“I’m sorry,” said Cordelia. “I was just so distracted by that horrible boy in there. Did you see how much he was eating?”
Seth looked at Cordelia curiously. He hadn’t thought that the presence of skinny Jack would upset her so much.
“That was just Jack, the boot boy. I was lucky to get him,” said Seth. “I was told when I inherited the house that we needed a boot boy, and, according to the people in the village Jack’s the best there is,” said Seth.
“But I’m sure we don’t need him! I don’t even have any boots!” Cordelia protested.
“The Kingsleys have always had boot boys,” replied Seth, “It would be a horrible breach of tradition if we didn’t have one now.”
“Well …” Cordelia began. She lowered her voice to a whisper and looked around carefully before continuing. “I think we had better keep an eye on him. I can tell he’s no good. No one eats that much without some sort of ulterior motive. He’s up to something….I’m sure of it. And I’m going to find out exactly what it is!”
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Katherine's List of Words You May Not Know
(aka The Glossary)
to write or speak in favor of, to publicly support.
to form a union of individuals that combine efforts towards a common goal.
at a distance, especially in feelings or interests, to stand apart.
a person who wants to overthrow by violence all forms of government, without a purpose of establishing any other system of order to replace the one destroyed.
showing enthusiasm or great interest in.
to be proper for, appropriate, to suit, to fit.
to confuse, as with idle comments or irrelevant arguments.
to break or rupture.
to obsess over morbid, depressing, or painful thoughts or memories.
a beautiful or innocent person, especially a child.
watchful and discreet; cautious; prudent.
logically connected; consistent. Harmonious in structure.
to behave as if one is conscious of descending from a superior position, or higher rank.
careful, cautiously guided by one's sense of what is correct, just, and right.
the affect, result, or outcome of some earlier event.
showing disdain, or scornful disrespect.
to form an opinion, to judge, regard.
to be depressed in spirit; disheartened.
causing or being the subject of regret; lamentable.
in a manner expressing contempt or ridicule.
to lay waste; to render desolate.
showing of scorn.
displeased and discontented.
hanging loosely in disorder; unkempt.
indicating rejection; to remove from consideration often flippantly.
to divert attention.
spooky; uncanny, so as to inspire superstitious fear.
ornate; marked with intricate and often excessive detail; complicated.
to exert oneself; to make an effort; strive.
showing an abundance of energy.
to settle in snuggly, to be securely covered.
seeking to evade, prevent from discovering truth.
To magnify beyond truth, overstate.
state of annoyance, or irritation.
state of enthusiasm, very joyful.
to display abundantly and conspicuously.
to pester, to persistently disturb, to torment.
pleasant, agreeing in feeling, action, or attitude.
undecided, doubtful, or disinclined.
very ugly, repulsive.
any system of people or things ranked one above the other.
something that causes shock or horror.
completely clean, without spots or stains.
impossible to be understood or comprehended.
in a manner indicating disbelief.
without skill or aptitude.
to take action that puts you in the good graces of others.
a seeking of truth, knowledge, or information.
unbearable, not to be endured, intolerable.
a state of aroused curiosity, fascinated.
to be completely preoccupied with a single topic.
rudely arrogant, dictatorial.
to be overcome completely in thought or feeling.
haughty, to make a display of one's own importance.
rather heavy, fat, chubby.
an effort to attain, to chase after.
a meeting at an agreed time and place, typically between two people.
set apart for special occasions, or a particular purpose.
with firm resolve, determination.
resounding, echoing, amplified.
to return to a former state or owner.
something that annoys, or irritates another.
a small room, normally near the kitchen where food is portioned, or utensils are stored.
to move stealthily.
very much in love.
state of being alone.
stated clearly and in detail, so there is no confusion.
to overpower with superior force.
to repress, put an end to the activities of someone.
to avoid causing offense.
to be blemished slightly, a trace of contamination.
small details, often trivial.
a long outburst of negative speech.
to change in form, or structure, to morph.
insignificant detail, of very little importance.
to have motives other than those expressed, to conceal the true desire.
not conforming to rules, not proceeding in the expected manner.