The Twelve Clues of Christmas, Sneak Preview 2.
Lady Hawse-Gorzley motioned me to sit in one of the arm chairs then went over to a table in the corner and picked up a decanter. “Sherry all right for you? Or would you prefer something stronger? A brandy maybe after your travels?”
“No, sherry would be lovely, thank you.”
“Always have one myself before dinner. I suppose the sun has to be over the yard arm, wouldn’t you say? What time is it, by the way? Damned grandfather clock has given up the ghost again. It’s been in the family since seventeen hundred so I suppose one can allow it the odd temper tantrum, but dashed awkward time to do it.”
“It’s about five thirty,” I said, consulting my wrist watch.
“Is it, by George. A little early for sherry, but in the circumstances, I suppose we can bend the rules, what?” She poured two generous glasses and handed me one. “God, how the time has flown today. I don’t know how we’re going to get everything ready for the guests in time. Those damned police tramping around all day.” She perched on the arm of a nearby chair and knocked back her sherry in one gulp. “Like another?” she asked and looked in surprise that I hadn’t yet started mine. “Come on. Drink up. Do you good.”
I knew that good breeding did not allow one to ask too many questions, but I was dying of curiosity. “Lady Hawse-Gorzley, you mentioned that the police had been here all day. What exactly have they been doing?”
“Tramping all over the place and upsetting my servants, that’s what. Damned impertinence. All because our stupid neighbor had to go and kill himself in our orchard. Of all the inconsiderate things to do, especially when he knew I had people coming. Still that was par for the course with him. Didn’t care a hoot about anybody but himself.”
I tried to digest this while she knocked back a second sherry. “Your neighbor killed himself? Committed suicide, you mean?”
“I hardly think so. If you wanted to kill yourself you probably wouldn’t bother to climb a tree first, would you? Not unless you wanted to fall and break your neck and our fruit trees aren’t that big. No, the police think it was an accident. Carrying a loaded rook rifle with him, somehow slipped or knocked the gun and it went off in his face.”