The Reclusive Aristocrat – Part Thirty-seven

Chapter Sixteen (completed)

Ketteridge House, Leicestershire, England, end of February, 1816

“Porter! Come with me!” Alex shouted at the batman cleaning boots in the small room next to the kitchen and startling him in the process. “We have urgent business in the village.”

They bundled themselves into their greatcoats, hats and scarves and headed for the stables.

“Major, the vicar! Shouldn’t we wait for ‘im?”

“He drove here himself.”

They tore from the estate at a thundering pace. Alex still marvelled at the wonder of regaining his eyesight almost completely, which allowed him to ride a horse again. His beloved stallion, Titan, had adapted splendidly to his riding and corrected his master’s errors to a fault. They reached the Turnbull house in less than a quarter of an hour. Alex jumped from Titan and tossed Porter the reins.

“Major, for heaven’s sake, wait fer me! Ye don’ know what’s inside!”

Alex did not listen. He drew his sword and his pistol, nevertheless. He kicked the door and it swung open with a crash.

“Good Lord, Alex! You scared the bloody daylights out of me! What is happening?”

Dr Orme was kneeling beside the body of a man. A rope – no, a noose – showed around his neck and his face was the awful sight of a hanged man; tongue sticking out of his contorted mouth, eyes bulging in a greyish countenance. Nevertheless, Alex knew fairly certainly that this was Peter Johnston, and it appeared that he took his own life by hanging himself. The dead man’s face was very similar to that of the man who attacked Rowena on the evening Emma Rose was born.

Fairly certain he might be, Alex mused, but not completely so. That night his vision had not yet returned fully, and moreover, it had been dark and foggy in the graveyard.

“Bloody bleedin’ ‘ell …” Porter’s soft but heartfelt curse roused Alex from his momentary stupor. Bloody hell, indeed. Alex, in his capacity as Earl of Ketteridge was the magistrate for this part of Leicestershire and would maybe have to order an inquest.

“Richard, would you do a full autopsy? Even though it is crystal clear that he did himself in, I still want a complete report on this.”

“Ah, well, Alex, that is where you err. He did not commit suicide. I discovered this when I cut him down. Look here, if you please?”

Dr Orme raised one of the corpse’s arms and showed Alex the almost invisible bruises which were typical when the hands were bound.

“The murderer must have used something soft but strong like silk or brocade to bind his hands and incapacitate him so that he could be hanged without too much resistance. Afterwards the bindings were removed yet we have not found them here. This was a carefully planned murder, Alex. It is only because the man must have put up a severe struggle that I am able to see the marks on his wrists.”

Richard was right, of course. It was murder, and Alex was bound by honour and duty to find out what happened and who the culprit was. However, he could not in all honesty declare that he was certain about the corpse’s identity.

“Porter, what do you think? Is this Johnston?”

“I dun’ know, major. It were awfully dark in that cemetery. I didn’ see ‘is face at all, remember? I just tried te tackle ‘im but he was too bloody quick fer me. Bloody limp isn ge’ing any be’er with time!”

Alex cursed under his breath. There was someone who could identify Peter Johnston, but Alex knew he could never ever asked Rowena to do that.


Rowena had just returned from the nursery where she had fed Emma Rose, when her husband’s strong voice sounded from the hall below. She had heard the front door knocker earlier, so there must have been a visitor. Therefore she was puzzled as to why Alex and Porter needed to depart so urgently when someone had called on them. She rushed downstairs and managed to waylay Meg before she disappeared into the servants’ quarters.

“What was that all about, Meg? Where are they going?”

“I have no idea, Rowie. I saw the vicar leave, just now. It seems odd that the reverend should depart without greeting you.”

Rowena snatched her thick woollen cloak and sturdiest bonnet from the stand and hurried through the back door to the stables. There was no time to fetch her half boots, so her slippers would have to be ruined, but she did not care.  She was till struggling into her cloak when she watched Alex and Porter racing down the drive towards the village. Reverend Bonneville followed them at a more leisure pace, allowing Rowena to attract his attention by waving vigorously at him.

The vicar halted his gig and lifted his hat. “My lady, whatever is the matter? Can I be of service?”

“Yes, Mr Bonneville, you can take me with you. I need to follow his lordship to wherever he is heading.”

“My lady, I do not think …”

“You could tell me why his lordship is rushing down the road at breakneck speed without waiting for you to accompany him. Clearly you have told him something that requires this urgency, so you can enlighten me as well now.”

Mr Bonneville looked so forlorn that Rowena took pity on him. “Very well, sir. Please tell me where they are heading to.”

“My lady, forgive me. A body was found in old Turnbull’s house, and since his lordship is the magistrate, he had to be informed. The man – God rest his soul – took his own life.”

“But … why the haste? Is it anyone known in the village?”

“No, my lady, this man is a stranger we have never seen before. I cannot fathom why his lordship departed so hastily, my lady, unless it is because this is the first time he is being called upon as magistrate and he desired to appear diligent?”

Yes, Rowena mused, that would be so adequately typical for Alex. “Thank you, reverend. I wonder if you could take me there? I do so want to watch my husband execute his duty.”

And also, she had a fair inkling who this man was, and if she was right, she needed to know.


“Wait, Rich,” Alex asked, when Dr Orme gestured to the two farmhands to help him take the corpse away. “Did you cut him down?”

“Yes, with the help of these lads here. He is still a large man, even though he must have had little to eat in his last weeks. It is a wonder he survived this long during the harsh winter we have had.”

“I suppose he was staying in this empty house?”

“Yes, as you can see, there are some leftover possessions of his. He had a makeshift fishing pole and some snares but it must have been difficult to catch something in this weather.”

Alex nodded and dismissed Carter and his farmhand, since they had better thigs to do than to loiter here.

After the man left the room, Alex began investigating the surroundings, a large part of which had been the kitchen when the house had still been occupied. A ramshackle table and a few broken chairs, a cupboard, a simple straw mattress and a pile of rags in the corner, that was all. No indications as to who the man had been. There was not even a bag or box to stuff his clothing, which he must have had if he indeed was an army deserter. The murderer must have taken it with him.

Devil take it, but he wished he would have been able to see Johnston’s face more sharply on that gruesome night. He simply had to be certain it was Rowena’s former lover. He knew she had been opening up to him earlier when she was still convinced of the man been killed at Waterloo. Suddenly, Alex felt that it was paramount to him for Rowena to open up to him. He could not fathom why this fact was almost of vital importance to him, but there it was; he wanted, craved, could not function without Rowena’s affection. It was frightening him to no end. Deuce take it.

The rumbling of wheels outside drew Alex from his musings.

“That must be the reverend,” he said. “I asked him to come back here after he warned us at the manor.”  Rising from his knees, Richard conceded, “This poor bloke is all his, since there is nothing I can do for him anymore.”

However, it was not only the Reverend Bonneville who entered the scene of catastrophy.


Fantastic Beast 2

The movie arrives in cinemas this November

1st trailer has been released for the sequel to that snoozefest FANTASTIC BEASTS: CRIMES OF Grindelwald which is out November.  At the end of the first film, the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald was captured by Magical Congress of the United States of America, with the help of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). But, making good on his threat, Grindelwald escaped custody and has set about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pureblood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings. In an effort to thwart his plans, professor Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists his former student Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the

Jude Law plays a younger version of Professor Dumbledore

dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world.

The Wind that Shakes the Barley 2006



Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, this gripping drama by Ken Loach (Raining Stones) is set during the early days of the Irish Republican Army, when British occupation of the Irish radicalized many a citizen and caused some to take up arms. Cillian Murphy plays Damien, a medical student on his way to London when he witnesses a couple of atrocities committed by British troops. Instead of becoming a doctor, he turns into a leading and respected figure in an IRA division led by his brother, Teddy (Padraic Delaney). The film provides some fascinating historical insight into the nascent resistance movement as it was in 1920, and Loach brilliantly conveys the profound emotional transition young men had to make to become saboteurs and killers. Loach’s realistic style is absolutely mesmerizing, with many scenes built around the dynamics of large groups: contentious meetings, torture sessions, battles, celebrations, and the like. One has the sense of history as a pool of energy, and one also develops a kind of Renoiresque appreciation for the fact that different people on opposing sides of a life-or-death issue have their reasons for believing what they believe. As the story moves along, subtle shifts in the perspectives of men and women who had once agreed to be absolute in their fight for freedom results in a tragic yet understandable schism among Irish patriots. The final half-hour of The Wind That Shakes the Barley says a lot about how the Irish, including people who had known one another all their lives, turned their wrath on one another for so many decades. This is an outstanding film, featuring the best performance yet by Murphy (Red Eye). –Tom Keogh

The Wind That Shakes The Barley (FULL MOVIE)

Titanic: Blood and Steel

Titanic - Blood and Steel 2012

Dublin, Ireland 1910


Falling for a Dancer 1998

Ireland 1937.

Adapted for television by the novelist herself, Deirdre Purcell’sFalling for a Dancer is the compelling story of young, well-to-do Elizabeth Sullivan (Elisabeth Dermot-Walsh – From Time to Time), who becomes pregnant after a fling with an actor and loses her carefree life forever. In shame, her parents banish her to the remote Beara Peninsula to marry an older, widowed farmer (Dermot Crowley – Babel) with four children of his own.

Youthful dreams of happiness fade away as Elizabeth learns to cope with motherhood and a loveless marriage. Then, at a village dance, in the only escape she has from her harsh existence, a momentary flirtation with Danny (Colin Farrell – Crazy Heart, Miami Vice) ignites a chain of tragic events. Only with insight and her strength of character will Elizabeth ever survive intact.

This film was far better than I expected. What a delight.  I’ve never seen Liam Cunningham better.