The Best Of Both Worlds – Episode 45

The inspector appeared and scribbled something in his notebook.

“As you are aware, there has been a theft. Mr Runciman has assured me that the electricians who have recently been on the premises were carefully watched. They have been questioned and searched, and I am convinced they are innocent. Therefore I must question you.”

A strange sound escaped from the back of Phillip’s throat, and Alice shifted her feet. Dorie began to cry, despite the sharp look from Mrs Wiggan.

Jenny pulled a handkerchief from her apron pocket.

“Really, Dorie, there’s nothing to fear.”

“Who is cook-housekeeper?” the inspector continued.

“I am, sir,” Mrs Wiggan said imperiously. “And I would be grateful if you could waste no time, as I have a gooseberry pie waiting.”

“I beg your pardon, Inspector,” Mr Runciman interrupted. “We are not yet assembled. Jenny, was Hester with you earlier, helping to see to the countess?”

“No, sir,” Jenny replied.

“Alice, go and find her,” Mr Runciman ordered. “And where is Mott? Phillip, go to the garden and ask him to come immediately. I must apologise for Lord Witney’s absence, Inspector. He rose rather late, and I believe he is now at pains to soothe the countess.”

The inspector flicked back a page of his notebook, then looked up.

“Mrs Wiggan, apart from the electricians, have you seen anyone unfamiliar on the property?”

She furrowed her brow.

“Well, there is a young man. A nice lad, I may add. Ben. He was here recently delivering a bottle of jam to a member of staff.”

“Strange one, that Ben Hanshaw.” Phillip, the valet, had lingered by the door for a moment. “I’ve seen him prowling around.”

“That will be all, Phillip,” Mr Runciman admonished. “Hurry along, the inspector will question you in due course.”

“To whom did he make the delivery?” the inspector continued.

“To me, sir. Jenny Callow.” Jenny felt her palms begin to sweat. “He lives at our cottage and works with my dad. It’s true he’s been to Farrington House a number of times, but . . .”

She faltered as an image swam before her eyes of Ben when he’d first arrived at the cottage, his sullen face a mirror of his past. It was hard to believe that the Ben they now knew was that same surly lad who’d barely escaped a prison sentence.

“Miss Callow!”

Lost in thought, she hadn’t heard the inspector addressing her.

“Yes, sir.”

“You were saying?”

“After he brought the jam, Ben came back to do some work for Mr Mott.”

She felt a stab of guilt. Ben had asked her not to divulge the secret that was transforming his life.

“Is there anything more you can tell me about him?”

“No, sir.” It was true, she told herself. Ben’s past had nothing to do with any of this.

Alice returned.

“I can’t find Hester anywhere!”

Alarm spread over Mrs Wiggan’s face.

“The last time I saw her, she said she was unwell. That was yesterday evening. She went to her room early.”

“Did anyone see her leave?”

Other members of staff shook their heads.

Jenny felt numb. After Hester’s exclusion from the trip to America, every member of the household had borne the brunt of her bitterness. But could she have done anything so serious as stealing and running off?

The inspector closed his notebook.

“She must be found, and ”

He was cut off by Phillip’s return.

“I couldn’t find Mr Mott, but I found something else.” He triumphantly held up an old satchel.

Jenny’s stomach lurched. It was Ben’s.

“It was hidden in a corner of the glass house, under some old pots. And look!” Thrusting his hand inside, he brought out a number of books. Then his lips curled into an ugly smile as he took out a small black box.


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