Sports day thrills turn to chills when a murderer strikes.
Alumni, Veronica and Claire, step in when a teacher at their old school is murdered. Who would kill Georgina Maddox, and why? Danger lurks all around the gentle Suffolk countryside, and the sleuths must brave unexpected peril if they’re to bring the killer to justice.
Saturday, 9th June 1923—Morning.
The day had begun pleasantly enough. She and Claire were on their way to Fenton Priory.
Veronica felt the slipstream from the big Bentley’s passage tugging at her fine buff leather motoring helmet as they sped along with the top down. “I’d forgotten how lovely it is in this part of the world.”
She tried to ignore the knocking sound coming from the engine. It had begun several miles back, setting her teeth on edge and making Claire frown.
Tall hedgerows flew by, their banks rich with primroses as Claire guided the car along the narrow country lane. Occasional gaps where stiles and gates pierced the greenery exposed fleeting glimpses of fields, woodlands, and hills.
Claire glanced at her. “How long is it since you were last here, darling?”
“Eight—no, nearly nine years. You remember. I left at the end of summer term in fourteen.”
“I remember. We kissed—really kissed—goodbye at the school gates, and your mother saw us.” Her lips quirked. “Wasn’t she furious with you!”
“Yes, and she’s not over it yet.” Veronica sighed as she thought back. “Gosh, has it been that long since I left the Priory?”
“Yes.” Claire shook her head. “A lot has happened in the years since then, old thing.”
“I know.” She glanced at Claire. “You coming back into my life really made it better.”
“The best is yet to be, my darling.” Claire pointed ahead. “Oh, look. There's Hurren Hill.”
The hill rose on their left. One of the loftiest heights in the low-lying county of Suffolk, though Veronica knew it would barely earn a glance in most other counties. She thought of the many times she’d walked those hills as a schoolgirl with her whole life ahead of her. Had I only known then what lay ahead of me. The war. Marrying Harold. His death, and the miscarriage… Would I have done anything differently?
Claire must have sensed the darkening of her mood for she reached over to squeeze her thigh. “Buck up, darling. We’ll be there soon and have a jolly time of it, seeing the old alma mater and our old teachers and whatnot.”
“Yes, you’re right.” Veronica managed a smile. “I’m looking forward to it, really I am.”
“That's the ticket.”
They rounded the southern flank of the hill, and the familiar red brick boundary wall of the school appeared. Within a minute they turned in at the main gate, the dirt surface of the lane giving way to gravel that growled and crackled under the Bentley’s wheels. Veronica remembered the last time she’d passed through the gates, her face burning with shame and her ear stinging where her mother had boxed it. All for kissing Claire goodbye. It’s so long ago it feels like it happened to another person. She felt her heart lift. Things are so much better now.
As they drove around the bend in the drive, Fenton Priory School for Girls sprawled out before them in all its Jacobean splendour.
Two stubby wings poked out of the body of the old house. They stood either side of an incongruous two-storey rococo porch in pale limestone topped by a balcony girded with a black wrought-iron railing. Original diamond-paned windows twinkled across the facade in the weak morning sunlight. A limestone belvedere capped the roofline, running between tall brick chimneys. In the centre of the belvedere, a white flagpole bore the school banner, a navy-blue flag with two purple chevrons upraised and edged in white.
The sight of the old place brought more memories flooding back to Veronica as Claire circled the flower bed in the middle of the forecourt and drew up in front of the main door.
A handful of other cars were parked around the periphery. A girl of about fourteen trotted down the steps from the door to direct them where to park. She wore the Fenton Priory uniform of navy-blue pinstriped smock, knee-length charcoal grey skirt and black stockings. Another girl of similar age dashed indoors, no doubt, to announce their arrival.
Claire took off her motoring cap and goggles, then shot Veronica a grin as she waved to the approaching girl. “Takes you back, hey?”
They got out of the car, and Veronica stretched to ease the stiffness in her muscles. I like Claire’s Bentley, but it’s not that comfortable over any length of time. The drive up from London has been long enough for my taste.
She took off her helmet and goggles, thankful to be able to remove the things. The cap’s close fit was ideal for motoring with the top down but made her head feel hot and sweaty. The goggles made her eyes feel odd for ages afterward. She tossed both items onto her seat, ruffled her hair back into some semblance of its pageboy shape, and looked around.
The school and stable block stood unchanged as they had for centuries, but a set of foundations had been dug across the way from the stables. She nodded toward it. “That’s new.”
The girl who’d directed them walked over to help with their luggage. She glanced at the construction site. “Yes, miss. That’s for the new garage. We have a charabanc now,” she added with pride. “May I have your names, please?”
“I’m Mrs. Veronica Nash, and this is the Honourable Claire Sibfield-Murray.”
“Gosh!” The girl’s eyes went round. “You’re the ladies who solved that awful murder in Norwich last year.”
Veronica cringed. Oh, dear. Our fame has reached the depths of Suffolk. “Yes, so we did.”
“I’m Matilda Barlow.” The girl bobbed a quick curtsy.
Veronica noticed the purple tie she wore and the little silver badge of a monitress pinned on her smock, a combination she had once worn as a favoured pupil.
Matilda beamed. “I saw your names on the guest list and looked forward to meeting you. Gosh!”
Claire grinned and handed her the smallest of their cases from the boot.