When Chief Inspector Terrence Morgan was called up to the Fargenstropple estate again, he assumed it was for another wild goose chase. He was wrong. This time stolen family jewels, an enigmatic debutante and radio-controlled ferrets make the case a real mystery.
Meet Chief Inspector Terrence Morgan:
Terrence was delighted to find that carpenters had already re-framed his door by the next morning. The panel of glass rested against the wall in the corridor, ready to be inserted. He tilted his head to admire the gold lettering.
He sighed heavily and trudged down the corridor to the Superintendent’s office.
The secretary there greeted him with a coquettish grin. “Why, hello, Inspector Morgan,” she said. “Have you seen your new door? The glazier dropped off the panel just before you arrived.”
“Yes, Lydia. Did you order that for me?” he asked brightly.
“Do you love it?”
“If I worked at the culinary institute, dear Lydia, it would be perfect!”
She looked puzzled and waved Terrence into the Superintendent’s inner office. “He’s just sleeping, Inspector. Go right in!”
Terrence stood in the doorway for a moment watching his superior defy gravity by the way he leaned back in his chair. The higher Terrence climbed in the police force, the more he wondered why he was not already Chief Superintendent—even on days when ferrets bit him and he fell off horses. He cleared his throat just quietly enough to make it sound natural.
The Superintendent bolted upright, and his chair spun 180 degrees to face the window. By the time he had swiveled himself aright, he had on his sternest gaze. “Morgan!”
“You should be…Oh…” He seemed to realize that he was not, in fact, angry about something. “Sorry about the glass for your door! Lydia, you know…”
“Will it be corrected, then, sir?”
“Is it absolutely necessary? This whole thing is getting rather costly, you know.”
Terrence held his breath and counted to twenty-three.
Meet Millicent Fargenstropple:
“What can we do for you today? Something brewing at Bloome Manor?”
Millicent simpered for a moment before drawing a deep breath and announcing her complaint. “It has to do with Lady Chatterly!”
“I’m sorry, who did you say?” asked Terrence, picking up a pen and clicking it open.
“Lady Chatterly,” she pouted. “She’s a cat.”
“Ah, well, my dear Mrs. Fargenstropple, I’ve heard women can be like that if they find some reason to be jealous,” he said smoothly. “Is she coveting your rose garden, then? Nothing like it in the county. I don’t believe I’ve heard of Lady Chatterly. Is she new in the area?”
“No, no, she’s a cat. A real cat.”
Terrence sighed and tried not to rub his temples too conspicuously. “A cat, Mrs. Fargenstropple? With fur? That kind of cat?”
“Yes, that kind of cat,” snapped Millicent. “Can you help me, Mr. Morgan?”
Terrence severely hoped this did not have anything to do with flowerbeds and feline toiletries. “Could you elaborate on the nature of your concern, please?” he asked.
“Lady Chatterly,” she explained seriously, “is the sort of cat that most people never notice. Not unless she becomes perturbed, but when she is upset, she releases a fearsome yowl and thunders about, knocking into walls.”
“I see,” said Terrence blandly.
“My dinner guest just last night paused mid-way through the creamed spinach course, and cried, ‘Good heavens! What was that?’”
“Creamed spinach. Yes. It is a dubious dish.” There was a pause while Terrence waited for her to continue. She did not, so he frowned sympathetically, and said, “That must have been quite disconcerting.”
“And so the trouble is within your own household?” asked Terrence. “Because this department deals primarily with concerns between citizens, you see—”
“Well, of course the cat is in my household,” she cried. “But the question is…”
“The question is…?”
“The concern is what is upsetting her so? I am convinced that we have intruders in Bloome Manor. Burglars, no doubt. Something is distressing her greatly, and it must be found out!”
“Well, now, burglars would be in our department,” said Terrence brightly. “Has anything gone missing, then?” he asked, reaching for his notebook.
Millicent closed her eyes solemnly. “Only the serenity of our home.”
“Ah,” he said, clicking his pen closed again.
“For weeks and weeks now.”
Terrence steadied himself. “Weeks and weeks of invisible burglars in your home taking nothing, but frightening the cat at meal times?”
“Precisely. Can you help me, Inspector? The Chief Superintendent said you were his very best man for this sort of thing.”
Meet Jessica Hadley-Merrill, the debutante:
Terrence gulped. He was not fond of horses. At least not the sort that sat underneath him. He preferred to watch them racing around tracks with betting odds to win a race. “Hello Miss…Jessica. I…er…didn’t bring my riding clothes…”
“Oh, we don’t have to ride,” she said. “But the horse frightens the hounds. We’ll just walk across the grounds, if you prefer. If anyone but Aunt Louisa drives down that gravel lane, the dogs go wild and chase, but if we sneak in quietly—”
“With a horse…”
“With a much larger animal,” clarified Jessica, “then they leave us alone.”
“Well then, lead the way!”
Terrence was aware of a difference in Jessica as they walked. She seemed much more confident, though no less feminine. He worried at first that her assurance came because she felt herself far superior to him, but dismissed this notion when she continued to speak to him with respectful tones. Crumfellow’s words lingered in his mind, and he began to daydream. He was confused, therefore, when Jessica stopped walking and looked at him.
“Have you thought of something, Inspector? You look deep in thought. A clue?”
“What? I…er…was thinking about what you were saying,” he said.
“About the ferrets? It is alarming how many people disregard them, but Aunt Louisa is convinced that they are the brightest of animals.”
“Ferrets?” asked Terrence. “Oh, I…Rather weasley little things, aren’t they? Smelly?”
Jessica’s laugh was light as a breeze. “She bathes them in lavender water! Can you imagine?”
Terrence tried to think of something to say, but only one thought came forward clearly. “You seem to be the only sane member of this family.” He immediately wished he had thought of something else.
However, Jessica’s eyes showed no reproach. “Sanity depends on what you think is real, doesn’t it? And who’s to say what is real, since no one ever agrees?”