THE TROUBLESOME APPRENTICE
While investigating the death of a friend and client, Maddy Hamilton, Xavier Thorn (reputed to be the greatest sleuth in England) is greatly impressed with Maddy’s nephew, Victor, and offers him a job as his secretary. Aware of Xavier’s history of firing secretaries, Victor garners a promise that for three months he cannot be fired.
Vic then proceeds, in Xavier’s view, to be cheeky and impertinent at every turn. Xavier endures the impudent pup because Victor is most skilled in extracting the truth from clients and intuiting facts with little evidence to assist.
As they solve a string of cases, Xavier discovers a few more important details about his troublesome apprentice, such as her true gender, and the realization that she has awakened his long dormant heart.
“Heed my words, Victor, for if you disobey me tonight, I will torture you each day forthwith and you will never be allowed to accompany me on another mission.”
His dark eyes narrowed as he studied her, evidently trying to determine if she intended to obey his orders. “Consider it a test of your ability to follow my instructions and do not dare fail.”
“I won’t.” Vic ensured her response sounded less surly and more sincere in tone.
Xavier placed his hand on her back. “Good lad. Now, if Inspector Stone received my note, his men are probably watching the exterior of your house. When this man…, let us call him Mr. GewGaw, arrives, they will no doubt insist upon sneaking up the stairs to stand ready outside the door. I’ve forewarned your impudent butler, lest we have a commotion. However, the key reason I mention this, Victor, is to warn you to remain in the closet. If Inspector Stone burst into the room, he might mistake you for the murderer. You will thus remain hidden until I retrieve you. Do you understand?”
With a sigh, Vic nodded her head.
“Good. Now not another word or you will find yourself in hell.”
She wanted to say threats were not necessary, but she feared her protest might toss her into the promised hell, since he had said ‘not another word’.
Vic learned much about her new profession over the next four hours.
Lesson one: Waiting for a criminal to show might rank the most tedious and boring occupation in the world.
Lesson two: Remaining perfectly still, stuffed into a dress closet for hours, caused muscle cramps that hurt like bloody hell.
Lesson three: The desire to sniffle can reach a level of mental anguish in less than an hour.
Lesson four: One should always go to the water closet before beginning a surveillance mission.
Lesson five: If not for the mental torture of sniffle prevention, the pain of muscle cramps, and great need for a toilet, a person waiting to assist would surely fall asleep, for the body is accustomed to sleeping when it’s dark and nothing is going on.
Lesson six: The profession of banking has its good points and should be reassessed.
A soft bumping noise distracted Vic from her list. At first, she suspected Xavier had dozed off and fallen onto the floor. However, as further noise sounded, including the breaking of glass, Vic knew their plan had come to fruition. Soon, they would have Aunt Maddy’s killer.
Vic listened as the window opened followed by a great deal of huffing and wheezing. Finally, the sound of feet thudded onto the floor. Drawers opened and closed while someone systematically searched Aunt Maddy’s room. As time went on, Vic questioned the wisdom of her hiding place. Soon, the man would open the closet to search it as well. Vic readied herself to leap out, deciding surprise would be her best defense.
She could hear the man breathing outside the closet and readied herself for attack. Before the door actually opened, the lights in the room came on and Xavier spoke with a deadly calmness that sent chills down her spine. “Lost something?”
Liza O’Connor lives in Denville, NJ with her dog Jess. Having an adventurous nature, she learned to fly small Cessnas in NJ, hang-glide in New Zealand, kayak in Pennsylvania, ski in New York, scuba dive with great white sharks in Australia, dig up dinosaur bones in Montana, sky dive in Indiana, and raft a class four river in Tasmania. She’s an avid gardener, amateur photographer, and dabbler in watercolors and graphic arts. Yet through her entire life, her first love has and always will be writing novels.