Pulling The Wool: A Magic Garden Mystery (Book 1)

BOOK: Pulling The Wool: A Magic Garden Mystery (Book 1)
4.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Pulling The Wool: A Magic Garden Mystery (Book 1)
Demy Watts

© 2016 by Demy Watts

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Chapter One

, it’s choppy out there!” Zinnia Amesbury complained as she slammed the front door, shutting off the cold wind. “Are you in the kitchen, Fern?”

Fern Amesbury popped her head from around the door, towards the back of the cottage, her long brown ponytail bobbing behind her.

“Yes! In here, Aunt Zinnia! I’ve brewed us a cuppa!”

“Thanks, love. Just what I need.” Zinnia shivered as she pulled off her coat, along with her matching rainbow-coloured knitted hat and scarf, shaking out her short blonde hair. Closing her eyes and muttering a few incantations under her breath, she snapped them open to watch the fireplace roar to life with a healthy burst of flames.
Ahhh, that’s better
, she thought, as she took her seat by the fire.

Fern walked into the front room, holding the two cups of tea, a plate of biscuits hovering in the air behind her, which all landed safely onto the coffee table. She settled into the sofa with a smile as she warmed her hands around the hot mug of tea.

“How was your afternoon? So nice of you to work on a Sunday. Any better luck with Roman?”

Fern was aware that Zinnia was having a little trouble with one of the horses in the field nearby.

Zinnia shook her head, pulling her eyebrows together. “No, not yet. He’s stubborn as a mule and I told him just as much, which seemed to affront him even further. We decided to give each other some space for the remainder of the afternoon.”

“I’m sure you’ll get through to him. Don’t worry - you always do. You know you’ve broken through to the toughest of animals.”

“Hmmmm. I’m thinking that I may have to throw in a little spell if he refuses to cooperate for much longer. Poor old farmer Jerry is at his wits end with him. He even mentioned selling him on if his behaviour doesn’t improve by next weekend.” Zinnia took a sip of her tea and closed her eyes. “Good tea, Fern. I can taste the mint and fennel herbs.”

Fern let out a little laugh. “I was trying to be discrete…but you picked up on them so fast.”

Zinnia shot her a grin. “My darling, I have been a witch for a lot longer than your eight years.”

“That’s very true. Can’t believe it’s been eight years already, since my sixteenth birthday. How time flies.”

A sad look washed over her face and she quickly ducked her head.

“I know, Fern. It’s zoomed past. I miss your mother all the time as well.” Her voice lowered gently. “But I know Iris is watching over us… and she’d be so very proud of you and your sister.”

“I hope so…I just wish I had a better relationship with Calla. I mean, she’s my only sibling…and yet she hates me.” Fern shrugged her shoulders and shook her head.

“She doesn’t hate you, my love…she’s just a little uncertain of where she stands with us. Of course, with you being the one to inherit the full set of the family gifts, just like I did in my family, it’s made her feel a little left out. Especially, with how close she was with Iris.”

Fern nodded her head slowly. She couldn’t help it that she was one bestowed with the magical gifts instead of her younger sister. It wasn’t

“I’ll try harder with her, when she returns back from her backpacking trip.”

“I know you will, dear. But it’s not you who has to make a bigger effort. We had a long talk before she left last week and she’s promised to help out with The Magic Garden when she’s back.”

Fern raised her eyebrow. Calla had turned her nose up at the suggestion of going into business with her. But not perturbed, and with Zinnia’s backing, Fern had bought the literally, d
local florist business in their small village of Thackery and had renamed it The Magic Garden. She managed to turn it around and business was now flourishing with new customers and plants. Of course, it helped that with a little bit of magic, the plants and flowers always bloomed a little bit brighter and the flowers lasted a lot longer too.

“Well, that’d be interesting. I know she’s never forgiven me for coming to live with you shortly after my sixteenth birthday. Hopefully, if we work together, we may just rebuild our relationship again.”

Fern stood up and took the empty mugs back into the kitchen. Zinnia trailed behind her.

“The other reason I’m home early, apart from giving Roman some thinking time, is that I have some news.”

“Oh, really?” Fern placed the cups into the sink, and turned around, giving Zinnia her full attention.

Zinnia lent up against the frame of the kitchen door, crossing her arms.

“There’s a new vet in town, Owen Gordon. And you’ll never guess what?”

“What? Tell me.”

“He’s down from Scotland…and just happens to be Willie’s nephew.”

“Willie’s nephew! Really? Why, I didn’t realise he had any extended family. Certainly, we haven’t seen anyone from his side in Thackery since his poor wife passed away.”

Zinnia tucked her hair behind her years. “Yes, I often wondered why he stuck around after her passing. I thought he’d go back to Scotland, but it seems the slow paced, low-crime village life in Thackery suits him just fine.”

Fern snorted. “I’m not sure he actually
anything much as our village police constable. I mean, it’s not like he has a crime to solve each month around here. I think the last time he was called out was when those passing travellers were playing their music too loud - and that was what, a month ago?”

“Well, it appears that he may be busy for a while now.”

“Oh really? Why?”

“Come, let’s sit.”

Fern’s large green eyes were wide with interest as they walked back into the cozy sitting room. They settled onto the sofa once again.

“Okay, so, Owen stopped by the field earlier and introduced himself. And I might add, he’s not too bad on the eye, either…” Zinnia winked and Fern felt her cheeks heat under the scrutiny. Zinnia was always trying to meddle in her love life, or rather, her very lack of it. She waved her hand away dismissively at the comment, waiting for Zinnia to continue.

“So, after we exchanged pleasantries for a while, he mentioned that very sadly, three of Sir Chesterton’s prize-winning sheep, were found dead in the early hours of this morning.”


“Owen ruled that they were poisoned!”

Fern’s jaw dropped open in shock. “Poisoned! How on earth would they have been poisoned - with what? Or dare I say, by

“That’s the mystery. Obviously Sir Chesterton takes great pride in his sheep and we have no idea why anyone would commit such a horrible crime. But he did discover that they died from Azalea poisoning.”

Fern was quiet for a moment whilst her thoughts processed everything that was being said.
Azalea poisoning?
It was a fairly common plant in the village - she even sold them at The Magic Garden! And she had quite a few customers who had bought the shrub from her over the year.

“That’s terrible, Zinnia. Why would someone do that to him - to the poor sheep?”

Zinnia shrugged her shoulders. “I’ve no idea, Fern. I just hope we get to the bottom of it soon. It can’t have been a pleasant death for those poor animals.”

“I agree.” Fern shook her head, her thoughts jumping all over the place. Jokingly, she looked at Zinnia. “I guess I’m a suspect too?”

Zinnia frowned at her niece. “This is no laughing matter, Fern. I expect you will be questioned too in due course.”

Fern visibly paled as she watched her aunt gather her basket of knitting wool and needles. “Since I’m home early, I may quickly drop in on Betty and see if she needs any more help with her knitting. She mentioned she was having trouble with the sleeves on the jumper she’s making.”

Fern looked up and offered her a small smile. “Sure, I’ll see you later.” She watched as her aunt pulled open the heavy oak front door, letting in a blast of cold air, as she quickly shut it behind her. Fern sighed. You wouldn’t guess that spring was around the corner with the cold front of weather still hovering about.

Pinching her eyebrows together, Fern sat back in the armchair, pondering on the news.

Hearing the sound of scratching she looked up to see her cat bounding elegantly down the stairs.


“Hi, Essie.”

“Ugh, dear girl. You do know I’m not partial to being called that, right?”

Fern held her hand up in mock surrender as she watched him stroll across the room to Zinnia’s vacant seat. In one effortless leap, he settled himself quite comfortably onto the chair.

“My apologies. I must remember to address you by your proper name.
Lord Cameron Spencer Essington IV, Earl of Thackery
. There. Is that better?”

“Hmmmm. I agree, it does tend to be a bit of a mouthful. I
Essie is okay. So much better than that awful
name they called me at the shelter
Anyway, pray tell, why do you look so worried?” Fern watched as he groomed his paws.

“I think I’m a suspect in a local crime.”

He immediately stopped mid lick. “Tell me everything. And speak properly, please. I can’t bear the mumbled talk of humans.”

“I don’t mumble, Essie.”

“All humans do. Now, do continue.”

Fern relayed the facts that Zinnia told her.

“So, let me get this straight. You’re telling me that Sir Chesterton Pince-Wittington’s, prized sheep are being poisoned - one by one, and no-one knows who’s committing said heinous act?”

Fern nodded. “Yes and because it’s Azalea poisoning, I’m automatically a suspect too!”

“Well, that’s nonsense.”

“Quite. I agree, of course.”

She watched as he resumed his grooming. Fern didn’t like to interrupt as he often told her that some of his best ideas came to him whilst he concentrated on preening himself. Finally after a few minutes, he spoke.

“You’ll have to talk to the animals, Fern. Discover what they’ve seen. And clear your name.”

Fern shook her head. “I don’t know if I
, Essie! I mean I can talk to you fine, but-“

“You’re concerned that your powers only work because I was once a human.”

Fern nodded miserably. “Exactly.”

“Look, I know you haven’t been most successful in your endeavours with animal conversation thus far, but I think you should work on developing this skill. Most of the time, animals are just as freaked out when a human can understand them, as humans would be if they realised animals could speak. Keep trying, dear girl.”

Fern looked at the roaring fire. “Okay, Essie. I’ll give it another go. If I recall correctly, they have a couple of barn cats on the property.”

Essie visibly shuddered. “Barn cats. The lowest of the low.”

“Lord Cameron! That’s rather snobbish!”

“Yes, dear. I’m aware of that, I can’t help it, although I do try. But trust me, they’re
.” He looked at her with sorrowful big amber eyes and Fern immediately softened. It must have been hard to be in-between worlds. Lord Cameron was cursed by an ancient Warlock and spent the past few centuries loitering around his family’s old holdings. Fern had rescued him from a shelter a few years ago and he was the happiest he’d ever been since his curse.

“Okay, I’ll figure out how to get to the cats…It can’t be that hard to persuade them to try and talk to me.”

“Indeed. Failing all that, I’m sure a tin of prime tuna will go far in exchange for information.” Essie jumped off the armchair and stretched out his paws against the rug. “Speaking of which, what’s for dinner tonight?”

“Home-made mackerel and tuna casserole?”

Essie began to purr loudly, circling and rubbing himself affectionately against her legs.

“Just purrrfect, Fern!”

Chapter Two

ern woke early
the next morning, with a knot in her chest. She hadn’t slept well all night, and sick of tossing and turning, she gave up the battle for sleep.

Slipping on her running gear, she tiptoed down the stairs and past the living room, not wanting to wake her aunt.

“Going running?”

Fern nearly jumped out of her skin and held her hand against her rapidly beating chest. Backing up, she spied Essie curled up on the sofa, one eye open as he quizzed her.

“Whoa, you scared me!”

“I would have thought that by now you would have been used to my appearance.”

“Haha, very funny. I just assumed you would be fast asleep too.”

She watched as he jumped off the sofa and stretched, running his paws over the scratching post.

“Mind if I join you? Not for running or anything silly of that sort, but I wouldn’t mind a morning stroll around Burton Hall.”

“Burton Hall? Your old family home? But that’s just a wreck now!”

“Tut, tut, Fern. That’s my home you’re talking about. I am aware that it’s in shambles - a
as you so aptly describe it. It’s just nice to reminisce sometimes.”

Fern raised her eyebrow, but said little. Quietly, they slipped out together into the cool morning air. Walking along, Essie was the first to break the companionable silence.

“I’m detecting some nervous energy.”

“Guilty. I’m worried, Essie - about what will happen to me. Also, that someone in our lovely village has become an animal killer.”

They walked along the country lane; Fern revelling in the beauty of seeing the new leaf buds on the trees. The onset of Spring was always her favourite season, signifying a time for re-birth and new beginnings.

“You’ll be fine, Fern. But you must use your powers to find out who is behind this.”

“I know, I agree. Time to put my skills to the test.”

They walked on for a few more minutes, down the winding country lane, until they came to the stream, which ran through the village.

“Okay, this is where we’ll part company. I’ll see if I can find out anything from the other cats too.”

“Thanks, Essie, that would be great.” Giving him a smile, she lent down and dropped a kiss on his head. Then she picked up her feet and began a light jog, through the still-sleeping village.

n hour later
, she was back home and freshly showered for the day ahead.

The delicious smell of coffee wafting through before she walked into the kitchen. Zinnia was reading the morning paper at the table, coffee cup in her other hand.

“Morning, love. Did you enjoy your run?”

“Morning. Yes, it was fresh outside, but also very peaceful. I didn’t have a particularly good night’s rest, though.” She pulled out a chair, reached for her mug and poured herself some coffee.

Zinnia folded up the paper and removed her reading glasses. “Don’t worry, we’ll get to the bottom of this. It’s very shocking and I’m hoping it won’t be long until the criminal is found.”

“Me too.” Fern drained her coffee and stood up. “I feel I have a long day ahead of me. Good luck with Roman today, hope he’s come to his senses. Drop in later if you’re free for an afternoon cup of tea.”

“Thanks, I’ll try. See you later, love.”

ern walked
the short half-mile distance into the village, keeping a lookout for Essie, whom she noted hadn’t yet been back for breakfast. She hoped he was alright - perhaps he was conducting a spot of sleuthing of his own.

“Morning, Fern!”

Fern looked up to see Betty waving to her from a few yards ahead.

“Good morning, Betty! How’s that jumper coming along?”

“All sorted now, thanks to your aunt! Have a good day, love. I may be in later for some spring flowers.”

“Please, do, Betty. I have some beautiful new daffodils that have just come in. You should see how large their heads are!”

“Oooooh! I shall definitely come by in the case.”

Fern waved and continued the short distance to her shop, smiling at a few more locals along the way. It was such a small and friendly town – the very thought that someone amongst them was the sheep-killer, was most unsettling.

She soon arrived outside The Magic Garden and used her key to open the door. The morning’s delivery would be out the back and it would take her some time to get that organised.

Throwing herself into her inventory, Fern was lost in roses and gerberas, when she heard the doorbell jangle.

“I’ll be there in just a minute,” she called out from the back room. Dusting herself from leaves and foliage, she stood up with a smile on her face, ready to greet her first customer of the morning.

Coming through the door, she felt her pulse quicken with nerves at the sight before her.

“Oh! Good morning, Willie, er, I mean Constable Gordon.”

Willie Gordon was a large set man with a shock of red hair and pale blue eyes. Which were now eyeing her warily. Fern felt her cheeks colour under his gaze.

“Morning, Miss Amesbury. Do you have a few moments, please? I have a few questions I’d like you to answer.”

“Oh, yes, of course.” Fern ran her hands down her apron, waiting for him to speak first.

“I take it that your aunt has told you about Sir Pince-Wittington’s sheep being poisoned?”

“Yes, she has. I’m very sad to hear that.”

“Hmmm. So you’re aware that Lady Cecily had called on Owen Gordon to come over and check on her husband’s diminishing flock?”

Fern nodded and he continued.

“Well, as you know, after the investigation was concluded, Owen ruled that the cause of death was poisoning from azalea shrubs.” He glanced over at her buckets of fresh flowers.

“I don’t know why anyone would do that, Constable Gordon. It must have been a horrible death for those poor sheep.”

“Yes, it certainly was. The Pince-Wittington’s don’t grow that shrub on their property…but we’re all aware that you stock the flowers. I can’t seem them though - are you out of stock?”

“Of course I stock them. I’m a florist. But if you’re implying that I had anything to do with-“

He held up his hand and Fern at once stopped talking.

“Miss Amesbury, please don’t put words into my mouth. I merely said that you have access to these shrubs.”

“So you’re saying I’m a suspect?”

“Well, it would appear that way, until we find the real culprit.”

“But I didn’t do it. I’ve no motive to kill Sir Pince-Wittington’s sheep!” Fern felt her eyes prickling with tears and she quickly blinked them away, willing herself to get a grip on her emotions. There was something about Willie Gordon’s attitude, which always made him seem suspicious towards the Amesbury women and she didn’t appreciate it.

“Let’s just calm down, Fern. I’d like to have a list of customers who have purchased azaleas over the past three months.”

“Of course, of course.” Fern took a deep breath as she tried to gather herself.

“Does anyone come to mind at the top of your head, who may have purchased these recently?” He opened his notebook, pen poised for action.

Fern knitted her eyebrows as she recollected her thoughts. If only he wasn’t staring at her so intently, she might have recited a quick memory spell.

“Let’s see. Farmer Jerry’s wife was in here last week and I seemed to recall her buying quite a few different plants. I’m pretty sure that azaleas were in the order too. Okay, who else?” She bit her lip trying to remember which of her customers may have purchased the plants. “Also, Martha from the Fishmongers commented on them, but I can’t seem to recall if she actually bought some – that was over two weeks ago. But, I don’t seem to recall anyone buying them in the last week or so…”

Willie frowned, seeming somewhat disappointed with her answer.

“I’m sorry, but a lot of the locals have bought the shrubs in the past, even before I took over the shop. I’d say almost everyone in Thackery has purchased azaleas at some stage.” She shrugged her shoulders, apologetically.

“I understand. Do you have any idea if anyone is growing these flowers in bulk in the village?”

“No, I’m afraid not.”

Sighing, Willie closed his notebook and pen and put them away in his pocket.

“I must see your books too.”

“Yes, certainly. I’ll get them to you this afternoon.”

He nodded his head, seemingly satisfied. They spoke for another minute about the sheep.

“Good. I’ll be off now, but I’m sure I’ll be back with more questions for you another time. You’re not planning on going anywhere, are you, Miss Amesbury?”

“Not at all, Constable. I’ll be here.”

“Good morning to you, then.”

Fern gave him a small smile and watched as he swept his eyes over her flowers once more, before he departed the shop.

Slightly shaken at the gravity of the situation and having never been in this position before, Fern exhaled a loud breath and sank back onto her stool.

She decided she’d do some investigating of her own once she consulted her paperwork. Fern had put together plenty of orders in her time at The Magic Garden and the purchases were always recorded in her books.

She hoped she’d be able to be a lot more helpful to Willie Gordon the next time she saw him.

BOOK: Pulling The Wool: A Magic Garden Mystery (Book 1)
4.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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