The Mystery Of Anna Grace – Episode 33

When Albert and Robin returned, Robin reported that there was some damage to the boathouse. The men had used a crowbar to force the door, but had obviously decided the dilapidated boats and canoes weren’t worth the bother.

It was hard to tell with the rain, but Albert said they had found the remains of a fire in Little Wood.

“As the police suggested, they’d possibly been watching the house for a while,” Robin said.

“There was no fire there the other day,” Dean pointed out. “I took Rufus for a walk down that way and I would have seen it.”

By now Katarina and Mrs Cecilia were back and they were having a conference of sorts around the dining-room table before dinner.

As Albert had predicted, Mrs Cecilia was much sharper than Charlie would have expected.

“Dean, when you were sleeping in the barn did you hear anyone else around the place?” she asked.

“Sometimes,” Dean replied. “I heard the foxes and some guys shouting one night.”

“Do you know what they were saying?” Robin said.

“Something about pictures or art stuff. I stayed out of their way. There were too many blokes like that when I was sleeping rough.”

“Can you think of anything else?” Robin asked gently.

“They were smokers. Hate it myself. I tried to persuade my mum to give up for years.”

With that Dean slouched off.

“Grant said something about a gang who were stealing to order. It might have been them. They make off with valuable artwork or silverware. There’s a market for foreign collectors,” Robin told them.

Katarina got to her feet.

“It’s time to stop this talk of robbers and eat,” she said. “Dean and Charlie have made stew, but I make a sponge pudding. Too much excitement today – you need some good food.”

As dinner was served, Mrs Cecilia explained that any paintings of value had been sold down the years to pay for the hotel’s upkeep.

“We had nothing special,” Mrs Cecilia said. “None of the Graystones had an eye for art. They were all cloth merchants and farmers. However, there were a few fine tapestries.”

“Anna mentioned tapestries in her journal,” Charlie commented.

“They used to display them in the library and in the games room, but when the Great War came they were put into storage. There are photos of them somewhere,” Mrs Cecilia said.

“Where?” Charlie asked.

“Who knows?” Mrs Cecilia replied and Charlie could tell that she had already lost interest.

“Mum, weren’t the tapestries in the boathouse? Maybe that’s what they were after!” Robin cried.

“The tapestries were never in the boathouse. Those were the tennis nets,” Mrs Cecilia argued. “We kept them there because we used to set up a court on the lawn nearest the lake.

“No, the tapestries were in the summerhouse from the time I was married. Oh, how I wish we could still have the tennis parties.”

“I did some research on the computer just before the break-in,” Charlie put in. “Tapestries were more useful than paintings in days gone by. They could be used to keep out draughts, and if the household had to up sticks, they were much more easily transported than cumbersome paintings.

“Anna knew there were two tapestries that dated from well before her time.

“She made sure they were looked after. Her husband wanted to spend more money on expensive Chinese wallpapers, but Anna pointed out that they already had all the decoration they needed with the tapestries.

“Her interest might have come from her background in textiles – Anna was a silk weaver’s daughter. Perhaps her father had taught her that the tapestries would have been worked by very skilled weavers and were valuable,” Charlie continued.

“When Dean and I went down to the summerhouse a few months back, we saw some long tube shapes wrapped in old tarpaulin. I just assumed they were the old tennis nets, but now . . .” Charlie felt that another piece of the jigsaw was slotting into place.

“Albert, I think we should take a little trip down to the summerhouse,” Robin declared.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.