I love to write mysteries So here is a chapter one of my newest mystery.
It was a brisk Saturday afternoon in mid-November. We had a drought this year. So the trees, that surrounded our house in Chelsea, didn’t change from their spring color of green to their fall colors of red and orange until recently. My dear cousin Hadassah and I were sitting in the parlor. It had been a year since her marriage that I had last seen her. For at the time, I was in England giving birth to my first child when she was on her honeymoon in Egypt. Her marriage to my husband’s brother, Selim, who is now a retired police officer, I am happy to announce is going very well. They are expecting their first child sometime in February. Our maid Mary had just finished setting the tea things on the table when my five-year-old son, Luke walked in. He was followed by his devoted nursemaid Ava who was holding his one-year- old sister Bethia. When I say devoted I mean extremely devoted. Luke hardly leaves the house without her.
“Why hello Luke,” replied Hadassah as Luke paused in front of her.
“Have you been in the garden again?” He shook his head no, self-consciously placing his hands into the pockets of his trousers.
“Let me see your hands,” I said firmly. His head bowed he took out his hands and showed them to me.
“Luke Kraal what on earth were you doing in the garden? Your hands are filthy!” I exclaimed examining them.
“I was digging for buried mummies, mama.”
“Who gave you the idea that there are mummies buried in the garden?” There was no reply.
“Anyways go upstairs this instance and wash your hands. Or you will have no scones with your tea,” I scolded.
“Yes, mama,” he replied sadly walking out of the room. Ava placed little Bethia in her high chair and followed Luke out.
“Don’t be too hard on the boy my dear cousin. He was only having fun.”
“I know but he has been destroying the rose beds for days now. I have no idea where he got the scheme that there was mummies buried in the backyard. I was rather hoping he would grow tired of what he called ‘excavating’ and go back to playing with blocks and cars like a normal three –year- old boy.’” Hadassah laughed.
“You can’t blame the boy Marie for showing interest in what his family has been doing for generations.”
“Our family hasn’t found any mummies that I’m aware with.” I was just about to get up and go see what my notorious son was up to when he returned. He climbed into a chair beside Hadassah.
“May I have a scone now Auntie?” She turned to me.
“Yes, if your mother says so.”
“May I mama?” He asked innocently fluttering his eyelashes.
“Are your hands clean?”
“Yes.” Hadassah examined them.
“They are fairly clean,” she announced. I turned my attention to my daughter who had begun to fuss. Picking her up and placing her in my lap, I fed her, her bottle.
“Ah, here are the ladies. Drinking their tea and gossiping.” Selim waltzed in and kissed his wife.
“You are late,” declared his wife looking up into his eyes.
“I’m so sorry my dear. I was having a beastly time translating part of the Book of the Dead. I was finally persuaded by Jamaal to give it a rest and go home.” He pulled out a chair and sat down beside Luke. His expression showed that of someone who was distressed.
“Speaking of my husband where he is? He should have been here by now.”
“In the museum’s library, I presume. He was copying a map of the valley of the Kings when I last saw him.”
“Do not be too distressed Selim. The key to the translation will come to you all in good time, I’m sure of it. If you like I’ll be more than happy to help you with the translation.”
“Will you Marie?” His face lit up as he spoke.
“Of course, I will help you. And I’m sure your wife can help as well.”
“Oh! But my skills are terrible. Nothing near as grand as yours cousin.”
“That is why I want you to help. It will be good practice.” Blushing out of embarrassment, she silently took a sip of her tea.
“Don’t be ashamed Hadassah… What is it James?”
“This letter arrived madam.”
“Who is it for?”
“It is addressed to you madam.” He placed it down in front of me and walked out.
“As I was saying don’t be ashamed of yourself Hadassah no one expects you to be perfect at it.”
“My father does,” she muttered only loud enough for a trained ear like mine to hear.
“May I hold Bethia?” Nodding, I gently handed her Bethia. I tore open the letter.
“What does it say?” Rising I went over to a draw and pulled out paper and pen.
“It is an invitation to a dinner party,” I announced over my shoulder writing a refusal as I spoke.
“Really! How wonderful. You are going are you not?”
“I’m afraid I must decline. I have more important things to do.” I returned to my seat with the note of refusal.
“Let me see the letter.” Hadassah took the letter and read it.
“The day of the party is not until Saturday. You don’t have work that day.”
“I know I don’t have work that day. But I have other duties to attend to,” I retorted.
“The children for one. I can’t just leave them here. Plus I have my other studies to work on.”
“We can watch the children for you Marie. Besides you are only going to Kent.”
“What is this all about?” inquired my husband walking in.
“You have been invited to a dinner party and Marie is refusing to go,” stated Hadassah defiantly handing him the invite.
“Oh but we must go dear.”
“Why?” He placed his arms around me.
“For two reasons: (1) I have been dieing to meet the Kensington family. I hear they have quite a collection of Egyptian artifacts. (2) We have not been able to go out alone since the children were born,” he argued in between kissing my neck.
“We’ve never left the children before,” I murmured softly.
“I know my love. It will be a good experience though and it will do you some good. You work to hard.”
“All right,” I conceded for I knew I had lost the argument. He sat down and begun pouring a cold cup of tea.
“Luke what have you been doing? Your fingernails are stained with dirt.” Luke silently looked down at his plate.
“I was just about to inquire about that brother,” declared Selim. I must confess I had almost forgotten he was here. He was extremely silent throughout the entire discussion. Probably out of fear of being scolded by one person for not joining their side and be praised by the other for joining their side.
“Luke has been ‘excavating’ in the rose garden again,” I declared. Jamaal and Selim exchanged chuckles.
“I don’t see how this is amusing.”
“I’m sorry my dear. It’s just that hearing this event has brought back fond childhood memories of spending afternoons digging for buried treasure.”
“Yes, but you had the Egyptian sands as a backyard not an English countryside.” We dropped the subject for the moment. But I knew it would soon be brought up again.
“Did you find anything?”
“No, papa” was the regretful response.
“I’ll tell you what on Saturday… which reminds me did you write a reply accepting the invitation, Marie.”
“No not yet.”
“Anyways on Saturday, if you are a good boy, I’ll show you how to properly excavate.”
“Well certainly Luke.” I rang a little bell.
“Yippee!” Luke cried jumping out of his seat. This time Hadassah joined in the amusement. Apparently it seems I was the only one who reproached the idea.
“Now if you are done with your tea, go and run along with Ava.”
“Yes, mama.” Taking hold of Ava’s hand, he skipped joyfully out into the hall.
“Come to papa,” cried my husband picking Bethia up from Hadassah and cradling her in his arms.
“Jamaal I beg you please don’t encourage him!”
“I don’t see why I can’t.” He began bouncing Bethia on his knee.
“Cause it shows Luke he can go around digging up the garden whenever he pleases.”
“I wasn’t referring to the garden when I told him I would show him how to properly excavate.”
“No, I wasn’t. I was referring to the sandbox that Jonathan made him.”
“I beg your pardon my dear.” I changed the subject.
“What were you doing at the museum that took so long?”
“I was in the middle of preparing for a lecture.”
“Copying the museum’s map of the Valley of the Kings?” I inquired my eyebrows raised.
“Yes, the lecture is on the Valley.” I had noticed that Bethia had fallen asleep. So I took the liberty of replying to the invite accepting the offer of invitation.