Free Fiction: Chapter One of The Lawn (A James Lalonde Mystery Short Story)
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information, address the publisher at: hello at ameliahay dot co dot uk.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Hello, Book Lovers!
I’ve been considering sharing the opening scene of my mystery short story for quite some time. And, I’ve finally overcome those nerves and decided to press the publish button. So, here is a revised and edited version of the first chapter of my mystery short story, The Lawn, that has a special tie-in to my mystery novella, Missing.
About the Mystery Short Story, The Lawn
James Lalonde is the editor of the Northampton Tribune, when Will Thatcher, doesn’t show up for work, James attends an afternoon tea with Alistair Carmichael in his place. The lovely autumn afternoon tea comes to an abrupt end when a body turns up on the lawn of the Carmichael Estate with strange markings on his neck.
But, something is missing, a priceless painting is off the wall. However, it’s no ordinary painting, it’s a Van Gogh purchased in an auction a few months ago.
After discovering fresh tracks, most likely left by the murderer James realises the murder is still in the estate.
Can James figure out who the thief and murderer are before he is next?
Steam poured out of the hood of a silver Ford Focus as it came to a grinding halt in the middle of a one-way lane near the Carmichael Estate, north-west of Northampton. William Thatcher punched his steering wheel.
‘Come on, you lazy piece of crap.’ William threw his body back against his seat and admitted defeat.
He ran his fingers through his light-brown, greying, and thinning hair and sighed. As he fumbled around for his phone, his smartwatch struck against the armrest.
‘It’s 7:01 am. Good morning,’ a Mickey Mouse voice called out from the mini speaker.
Thatcher gave his navy bomber jacket a final pat down before reaching over to the door handle.
‘Shit, I’m going to be late,’
William pushed the car door open and slammed it behind him as he made his way towards the front of his car. He lifted the hot metal and jumped back as the steam gushed out from the engine.
A few months earlier to calm his angry wife, he agreed to leave his laptop and tablet in the office and today; he left the house without charging his mobile phone, like an idiot. And, now this was the universe’s way of punishing him. Not that he believed in the existence of a deity or any of that new-age nonsense.
But, there was one thing he was sure of, he would miss the morning meeting with the chief editor of the Northampton Tribune and an opportunity to trade his assigned story about the Carmichael Estate opening to the public with a new art exhibit. He pulled out his smartphone from his front jean pocket. His eyes fixed on the sign that flashed up on the screen—Less than 10% battery.
And, that’s when he noticed the words, no signal, screaming at him from the top left-hand corner of the screen.
He looked around the deserted road. There was no one in sight, other than the large manor house the Carmichael family had owned for the last one hundred years. Today, in residence was Lord Carmichael’s eldest son, Alistair. He was a pompous ass. And, his only way of contacting his boss, James Lalonde and a towing vehicle.
Will took a deep breath and turned around and made the trek towards the eastern gates of the property.
A tear broke the silence of the tree-lined property as Will Thatcher flung his left leg over the top of the pedestrian gate.
He looked down at his Ralph Lauren jeans and sighed. At 47, he was far too old to be doing anything that resembled parkour. As he looked down towards the other side of the fence, he lost his balance and plummeted towards the ground, landing shoulder first. A loud crunch followed by sharp never-ending waves of pain poured over his upper body.
Will sat up and clutched his shoulder. A tear rolled down his cheek as he slowly rose from his sitting position and floundered along the edge of the gravel driveway towards the house.
With each step, a new wave of pain rose over his body, and another tear trickled down his cheek.
As Will walked past the small caretaker’s cottage and up to a small set of stairs towards the side lawn, a large white panel van pulled up outside of the front door of the manor house.
Will sat down on the stairs clutching his shoulder, out of breath. The pain was becoming unbearable. As he leaned back against the stone wall that separated the caretaker’s cottage from the side lawn, he squinted at two tall men carrying what he assumed to be a large painting with a white linen cloth draped over both sides. The gloved men slid the artwork inside the van, then turned around and disappeared into the house.
Surely, the artwork should arrive for the exhibit, not leave?
Thatcher winced as he pulled out a phone from his jeans then clicked the home button. His eyes fixed on the sign that flashed up on the screen—Less than 9% battery.
Despite the overwhelming feeling of pain rushing through his body, curiosity got the better of Will, and he dragged his weary frame off the stairs towards the white van. Will looked around. There was not a single person in sight. He crept towards the front of the truck and found the driver seat empty. Another wave of pain rushed over his body as he leaned up against the van.
Everything within him wanted to drag himself towards the house and call for help. But, there was another part of him, that more curious part that needed to look under that white linen cloth. He loved art, and as an aspiring artist in his younger days before he turned to journalism, he used to spend his free time walking through the many art galleries in London, when he and his now-wife, lived in a small studio flat in Covent Garden.
What’s the worst that could happen?
Will shuffled along to the open back door of the panel van and lifted the white sheet to reveal the side of the painting. He gasped, as he threw back the entire blanket to unveil the masterpiece that lay in the back of the van.
‘Oh my god,’ Will muttered to himself as he slipped his phone out of his front jean pocket and slid his index finger along the screen to access the camera app. ‘You’re a Van G—’ He said as he felt a thick rope wrap around his throat.
As he started to choke, he cast his eye towards the darkened screen of his phone and in the reflection Will looked into the eyes of his attacker.
I hope you loved the first chapter of my mystery short story, The Lawn. The chapter title is called “engine fail.” If you want to read the rest of the short story for free sign-up to become a James Lalonde Insider by filling out the sign-up form below this post, or click the button below.
Happy reading, everybody!