As you may recall, Mottley’s longstanding friendship with Chief Inspector Forthright reached a breaking point in Mr Mottley Gets His Man:
“I’ll grant you see things, Mottley – things we might never pick up on. I let you muck in on this case because I thought you might be useful. Mucking, indeed! Look what you’ve done, here.”
Mottley jumped to his feet. “But for me, you’d be haring about the Continent after a rock that’s right under your nose!”
“So you say. But what have you accomplished? Your father-confessor act in the stables? You handed the killer a weapon. Your grand idea to watch Sir Hugo’s room – pointless. Anyone could have returned that key. Jackson would have arrested Davison, but we listened to you. I’ll never forgive myself that.”
“But I was right. Davison wasn’t guilty.”
“Damn it, Mottley! Who cares if you were right? Two men are dead. If Davison were in custody, at least he’d be alive.” Forthright towered in front of the fire, his shadow spreading across Mottley’s chair and up the wall like some ancient high priest of Nemesis…
Which rather painted me into a corner. I knew Forthright belonged in the next story. Even Forthright knew he belonged in the story. But how do old friends come back from a devastating breakup?
Fortunately for me, Mottley took care of things in his own fashion:
Detective Chief-Inspector John Forthright unfolded himself from the police car into the stifling air. The fine old trees surrounding the manor should have cast a dappled, inviting shade on a hot summer’s day. Instead, the thick foliage and high yew hedges felt breathless and confined. Oppressive.
The gay ribbons on the knocker sagged, and the azalea blooms had gone tatty.
Forthright loosened his tie and took off his hat. Sergeant Warner hoisted his camera gear from the boot, grumbling about the damp. Sergeant Hindon gave a coarse rejoinder, retrieved his fingerprint kit, and slammed the boot shut. Warner set fair to bicker.
“Ready?” Forthright’s word hung in the still air.
“Yes, Chief.” The two juniors scuttled to his side. As they mounted the three steps to the front door, it opened and a fair-haired young man in shirtsleeves backed toward them.
“Yes, yes, I’m going now. No, Aunt Titchy, you stay. Look, I’m gone already!”
Forthright’s jaw dropped. “Mottley?”
The figure turned, and gaped in unconscious mimicry. “John!”
“What are you –” they both blurted, before Mottley plunged on. “Of course! I’m glad it’s you. Can’t stop, I’ve got to get to church.”
He slithered between the policemen’s broad shoulders and sprang down the steps.
“Here, wait! Oi!” Forthright called. “You can’t just …”
But Mottley had already disappeared around the side of the house.
“Dammit.” said Forthright. He reached for the door, only to find a young lady with blonde curls and smart clothes hastily thrown together.
“Oh, excuse me!” she cried, at their near-collision.
“Scotland Yard, miss,” snapped Forthright.
“Oh, thank Heavens. Do go in, they’re expecting you.” She gazed down the drive. “Did someone just –”
Mottley roared around the corner in his Minerva cabriolet.
“Oh, Edmund, wait!” The blonde flew down the steps and intercepted him at the main drive.
“Yes, that’s better,” said Mottley. “In you get.”
“Look here!” Forthright burst out. “What’s all this? You can’t go off –”
“Susan Parton, John Forthright,” said Mottley. He pointed at himself. “Family wedding.” Then at Susan. “Bridesmaid.” He jerked a thumb toward the house. “Murder.”
He pointed down the drive. “Guests arriving at church. Vicar’s still here.” He circled a hand in the air. “Very sorry, sudden tragedy, please no visitors, et cetera.”
The tyres spun briefly on the gravel and the Minerva sped away. Susan turned in her seat to call through her cupped hands, “Nice to meet you!”
* * * * *
Mr Mottley & the Plushbottom Conundrum is Book 3 in the Mottley and Baker Mysteries. For more sneak peeks, fun news, and special discounts and freebies on mystery books, subscribe to my newsletter. It’s a fun party, we’d love to have you!