On Borrowed Time

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English
50 pages
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Lord Randolph and Lady Serena Buxton’s orderly lives are upset by Pinkerton Agent Stuart Montgomery’s unexpected arrival at their estate in England. And this is no ordinary social call! Montgomery is investigating four suspicious deaths at an American aviation company, and of the two remaining partners one is the old friend of Lady Serena’s. Can Montgomery convince his friends to return to America with him in hopes of finding the missing piece to the puzzle that will help him close the case? Serena has her doubts. Her concern for her friend, Sir Hilary, is overlaid by her fear that Randolph may once again find his life in danger from an old adversary who once left him for dead. Does Montgomery really want their assistance? Or is his case just an excuse to renew a potentially scandalous association with her? Time is running out as events escalate revealing more secrets than ever suspected.

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Publié par
Date de parution 09 mars 2014
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781773622132
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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ON BORROWED TIME The Buxton Chronicles Book 2 By Victoria Chatham Digital ISBNs EPUB 978-1-77362-213-2 Kindle 978-1-77145-194-9 WEB 978-1-77362-214-9
Copyright 2014 by Victoria Chatham Cover art by Michelle Lee All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any mean s (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.
*~*~* ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS To my critique partners A.M. Westerling and Brenda Sinclair for their invaluable insights and to the various librarians, museum staf f and agencies that helped me with my research into the early days of flight.
CHAPTER 1 “Our lives couldn’t be any more perfect than they a re right now.” “Shh,” Lord Randolph Buxton warned his wife. “Let’s not tempt fate.” He took Serena’s hand and intertwined their fingers , lifted hers to his lips and brushed a kiss across the back of her knuckles. “But wasn’t it fate that tempted you out of your of fice to rescue me from our children?” “No, more like boredom with having to review contra cts on such a beautiful day.” “How ungallant of you.” Serena pulled a face at him . “Nevertheless, I am so glad you suggested that Nanny Rachel take Daniel and Fra nces in for tea. Our children quite wore me out.” “I would never have thought it.” Randolph smiled wi th pleasure at the vibrant glow in her eyes and the youthful flush in her cheeks. H e tucked her hand into the crook of his elbow as they strolled along a gravel path whic h circled a carefully manicured lawn. When they turned back towards their house, Serena s hook Randolph’s arm. “Look, Hobart is waving to us.” Randolph frowned and checked his wristwatch. “It’s too early for dinner. What can he want?” The gravel scrunched beneath their feet as they hur ried towards the terrace steps down which their elderly butler made his way. “You have a visitor, my Lord,” Hobart huffed, clear ly out of breath. “I invited him to step into the library.” “Who is it, Hobart?” asked Serena. “A Mr. Montgomery, milady.” “Montgomery? Good Lord, what’s he doing here?” Rand olph released Serena’s hand, sprinted up the steps and disappeared through the doors into the house. “It’s alright, Hobart.” Serena noticed the look of uncertainty at the impromptu visit on the butler’s face. “Mr. Montgomery is a friend f rom the United States of America. You’d better set an extra place for dinner and have Mrs. Griffiths prepare the Blue Room. I suspect Mr. Montgomery will be staying, if only overnight.” Hobart stood to one side as Serena thoughtfully fol lowed her husband. Montgomery, a Pinkerton agent, had been employed to investigate a fraudulent situation at the Cold Creek gold mine in northern C alifornia in which Randolph was a major shareholder. The two not only worked together but also become fast friends and maintained their friendship through casual correspo ndence. She liked Stuart Montgomery, but she shivered as a chill that had nothing to do with any breeze raised the small hairs on the back of her neck. Had Randolph been right? Had she spoken too soon? *~*~* Randolph pushed the library door open. “Montgomery, good to see you.” He extended his hand in greeting as he rushed in. “What brings you here?” Stuart Montgomery stepped forward and shook Randolp h’s hand, a smile of greeting splitting his face. “Just in the neighborh ood, Buxton. Thought I’d drop in and say hello.” “If you were just in the neighborhood, then I’m an Irishman,” Randolph scoffed, not believing him for one moment. “Drink?” “Would you happen to have a whisky and water?” “I knew you were a man after my own heart.” Randolp h hefted the whisky decanter and poured a generous measure of four fingers each into two cut crystal glasses. “Help yourself to water.” Once they adjusted their drinks to their liking, Ra ndolph indicated the deep leather chairs beside the fireplace. Montgomery sank into o ne of them and looked around. Floor to ceiling shelves, each shelf packed with bo oks, lined the walls. Running on a set of rails in the oak parquet floor, a ladder reached to the highest shelves. A brass balustrade surrounding its top step gleamed with th e luster of much use. “You’re never likely to be short of reading materia l, are you?” Montgomery waved his hand at the shelves. “Never. And the rate at which Serena continues to s tock it amazes me. She is a voracious reader.”
Serena came into the library in time to hear this c omment and nodded her head in agreement. She gave Montgomery as warm a smile as s he could muster, hoping he would not see her apprehension. “How nice it is to see you again,” she said as Mont gomery rose to greet her and shook her proffered hand. “What brings you here?” “He says he was just in the neighborhood,” Randolph remarked drily. Serena shook her head. “No, no, Mr. Montgomery, tha t will not do. Everyone who comes to our neck of the woods has a reason to be h ere, especially someone like yourself who is from so far away.” She poured herself a drink from the decanter on the buffet, then perched herself on the arm of Randolph’s chair as their guest regained his seat. “Well . . .” Montgomery paused and swirled the whis ky in his glass. “I will admit to having something of an ulterior motive.” He peered into the golden liquid as if it might giv e him inspiration. Finally he looked up. “What do you know about aeronautics?” he asked. “Not very much,” Randolph replied promptly. “Seemed rather a madcap idea when those Wright brothers of yours got their aircraft o ff the ground back in . . .oh, when was that? 1901?” “December 1903, actually,” Montgomery replied. “And I couldn’t help noticing your wristwatch. A Cartier Santos, if I’m not mistaken?” Randolph glanced at his watch, the handsome Roman n umerals stark against the white face. “Yes, but what’s that got to do with ae ronautics?” “Cartier designed that watch for his friend Alberto Santos Dumont.” “Oh, I remember that name.” Montgomery saw Serena’s face light up as if proud of her recollection. “Didn’t he win some competition o r other for flying a dirigible around the Eiffel Tower?” Montgomery cast her an appraising glance. “That he did. He wanted to be able to tell the time without having to remove his hands fr om the flight controls. His friend, Cartier, solved the problem for him by designing th at watch.” “That’s all very fascinating, but what’s that got t o do with anything?” A vertical line creased Randolph’s brow as he concentrated on Montg omery’s reasoning. “That watch means you already have a connection to aeronautics and that, my friend, is the wave of the future.” “You really believe that?” “Absolutely I do.” Montgomery took a sip of his whi sky. “Back in 1911, Fred Wiseman flew a letter from John Olmstead, the postm aster and mayor of Petaluma, California, from there to the mayor in Santa Rosa. As far as I know, it was the first commercial airmail flight.” “Forgive me for changing the subject, Mr. Montgomer y,” Serena finished her drink and replaced the glass on the buffet, “but where are you staying?” “In Stoneton, at the Wagoner. It seemed a tidy esta blishment.” “Oh, it is, but I’m sure you will be far more comfo rtable here.” She rang the bell set in the wall beside the fireplace. In answer to the summons, the butler soon let himself quietly into the library. “Hello, Hobart. Please se nd John or Owen to collect Mr. Montgomery’s luggage from the Wagoner and have Mrs. Watkins send the accounting here.” Montgomery stood up. “Lady Buxton, that’s too much.” Serena shook her head. “No, it’s not. You helped sa ve my husband’s life in Cold Creek and I can’t thank you enough for that. And pl ease, do call me Serena. I feel we know each other well enough to forgo the formalitie s.” She sat down again on the arm of Randolph’s chair, aware of an undercurrent of expectation between the three of them. The moment R andolph sprinted up the terrace steps to greet their visitor she sensed that Montgo mery must have some purpose, a purpose yet to show its face. Her stomach clenched as she took a breath and as ca lmly as she could asked, “So why are you really here, Mr. Montgomery?” “It’s Stuart.” Montgomery returned the first name c ourtesy Serena offered him, but there was a hint of hesitancy in his voice as he ad ded, “I’m here to ask for your help.” “Well, you know you can rely on us to help in any w ay we can.” Randolph lifted his glass in a cheerful salute. Serena’s heart lurched at such a sweeping statement . She shot Randolph a warning glance and tried to control the censure in her voice. “Careful, my darling, you
may want to revise that decision when Stuart tells us what he’s working on.” After a moment’s thought Randolph asked, “So whatev er it is has to do with aeronautics?” “An aircraft development company, to be exact.” Mon tgomery sipped his whisky before continuing. “The company is owned by Hiram R . Stillwater whose very loose connection with the Wright brothers sparked his int erest in the possibilities of flying. He gathered a group of associates with similar interes ts together to raise money for his project, but the terms of the contract were odd to say the least.” “In what way?” Serena’s raised eyebrow emphasized h er question. “If one of the partners died, his shares were then distributed between the remaining partners rather than going to the decease d’s family.” “Oh.” Serena thought for a moment. “You mean like a tontine.” “A what?” Her comment puzzled Montgomery. “A tontine,” Serena repeated. “It’s a type of inves tment plan devised ages ago by a Neopolitan banker, Lorenzo de Tonti. Actually, he d idn’t really invent it, only modified it from other types of investment schemes of the time. Each investor pays into the plan and gets an annual dividend on his or her capital, with the shares going to the remaining partners as they die.” “Serena, there are times when you astound me,” Rand olph admitted. “However did you discover that fact?” Serena waved her hand at the stacks of books around them and smiled. “There is a world of information lining these walls. I read i t a while ago when I was looking for something else. The thing about a tontine is, whoev er remains gets the whole pot.” “That sounds exactly the same as with Stillwater’s business.” Montgomery stroked his chin as he mulled the thought over. “There were six investors, now there are only two left. Stillwater himself and Sir Hilary Blenkin sop-Brown.” “Hilly?” Serena opened her eyes wide in surprise. “You know him?” Montgomery asked. “We hunted together with the Quorn and Berkeley and . . .” Serena stopped, noticing for the first time the calculating gleam i n Montgomery’s eyes. “But you knew that, didn’t you?” “I must admit, Sir Hilary did mention your name but I thought it better at that stage to not disclose our association.” “Why ever not?” Montgomery looked at Serena, then Randolph, and too k a deep breath. “Stillwater has a security team in place at his man ufacturing premises. The head of that team is someone you both know.” Serena and Randolph looked at each other. “Who?” they asked in unison. Montgomery took a deep breath. “The deputy sheriff from Cold Creek. The same man w ho I’m sure hit you over the head, Buxton, and left you for dead in that mine sh aft,” he said. “Namely, George Stiles.”