Chapters 4 – 6  Wherein we become further acquainted with the occupants of Briarfeldy Manor and Black Springs Abbey

Previously in Hold Gently the Shadows:
Preface, Chapters 1 – 3

 

Chapter Four                                                                                                                     

In her dream, Paola was very young, maybe three years old. She was in the company of two little boys, one around her own age, the other four or so years older. It was late afternoon and fog was rolling in. Through the haze, an olive-green truck took shape as the children approached. Up close, they could see that the truck had rust spots and the paint was faded.

“Stay away,” whispered Paola fearfully. The boys either didn’t hear her or didn’t care. They hurried toward the vehicle, and she had to run to keep up, her short legs tripping over weeds and gravel.

Although she awoke feeling disturbed, she pushed the dream aside and settled in for a busy day of editing a manuscript for her father. Owen had invited her for dinner tonight and she had already notified Carmen that she would be skipping the evening walk.

“I tidied up before you came,” Colin told her when she arrived. “We’re having a special dinner with dessert and everything, and you and Dad get wine.”

“Awesome!” said Paola.

“A simple meal, actually,” said Owen. “Baked salmon and vegetables.”

“And don’t forget, apple crumble for dessert,” said Colin. “Usually, we just have fruit or pudding.”

“It smells wonderful,” said Paola, taking a seat at the table.

After dinner, Colin went to his room to play. Owen and Paola settled into the living room to relax over coffee. Conversation turned to their landlords, Bram and Mavis.

It was widely accepted that the Galvinstons were among those founding families with extraordinary giftedness. Members of the families were said to be carriers of a rare genetic mutation which occasionally produced unusual sensointuitive abilities. Although retired from midwifery, Mavis was still sought out for advice ranging from health issues to matters of the heart. Bram, retired professor of ancient languages, was happy to merely be a carrier of the gene since it freed him to keep a sober eye on the rest of his effervescent family living in abbey condos at nearby Black Springs.

There was also a general belief that Briarfeldy Manor chose its tenants rather than the other way around. According to town lore, it even chose its new owners, the Galvinstons.

The manor had been empty for several years after the death of the elderly owners who left no heirs. When no will could be located, it was taken over by the town. Mavis and Bram had no intention of leaving their comfortable home on Warren Avenue until the day they attended an estate sale preview of the mansion. As Bram would later relate, they felt an inexplicable desire to protect the house from unappreciative strangers. They purchased the mansion outright and the sale was called off.

“I feel Briarfeldy Manor chose me,” said Paola. “How about you?”

“I have no doubt,” said Owen.

Following the death of his wife from ovarian cancer, it was all Owen could do to care for his year-old son and manage work responsibilities. He put his house up for sale and began apartment searching. Constable Garth Mayberry, who worked with him at the Ontario Provincial Police detachment in town, suggested he talk to his in-laws who were renovating an historic mansion.

The day he visited the Galvinstons was the first time Owen experienced joy since his wife’s death. Mavis and Bram immediately told him they had the perfect spot for him. They led him to a lovely unit on the main floor fresh with the scent of new paint. Across the hall was the mansion’s original library, its walls lined with floor to ceiling books. In a state of bliss, Owen retrieved his son from the babysitter and rushed home to begin packing.

Paola had a similarly enthralling account of her arrival at the mansion. Newly graduated from York University with an English Studies major, she was nursing a broken heart over a recent breakup with a medical intern.

Wishing to remove herself from everything familiar, she told her parents she didn’t want to live at home any longer. When they offered to help her find an apartment, she insisted it not be in the city. Her parents were taken aback since she’d just accepted a promising position as Junior Editor at Walker Crispo Press.

“What about your job?’ asked her mother, dismayed.

“I can proofread and edit anywhere I have a computer,” she replied.

“Do you have a particular place in mind?” asked Walker Crispo.

“Somewhere peaceful,” she said.

“Get your coat, Blanche,” Walker advised his wife after he recovered from Paola’s surprising announcement. “We’re taking our daughter for a ride.”

As they drove along on that sunny spring day, Walker explained that a long-ago professor of his lived in a place called Creekside.

“Bram Galvinston was always talking about how quaint and serene it was,” he told them. “He may have some accommodation ideas.”

Prepared to resist her parents’ meddling, Paola remained silent in the car’s back seat. But when they drove to Creekside, she was captivated by the town’s Victorian atmosphere, and impressed that it had a hospital as well as live theatre in the beautifully restored Victoria Hall.

When Walker inquired where the Galvinstons lived, he was directed to Briarfeldy Manor. During a tour of the exquisite old house, Paola impulsively asked if she could have one of the new apartments. Bram and Mavis showed her a cozy suite on the uppermost storey. Paola instantly knew it was meant for her, and so her new life began.

Then there was retired high school teacher, Crawford Quinn, living across from the owners on the second floor. His wife had been dead three years and his son, Alistair, teaching in Toronto, before Crawford went scouting for an apartment. He had long wanted to travel extensively without having to worry about the upkeep required of house ownership. Crawford was a firm believer that Briarfeldy Manor tried to prevent him from leaving on the day of his first visit. He could barely tear himself away long enough to put his house up for sale, and knew he would never call another place home.

As for Carmen, she’d been staying at a local bed-and-breakfast while contemplating a career change to full-time author. Then, before leaving on a book tour, she became curious about renovations being done on an old mansion. She checked in on the place one day, thinking it might provide inspiration for a future novel. Once inside, she felt an immediate connection to the building, and admiration for the amiable new owners. The feeling was mutual and she was offered an apartment on the top floor.

Carmen had not made a firm commitment to moving there when she left on the book tour. Nonetheless, the apartment was still waiting for her when she was rescued from Ravensglen following that fateful tour. It waited for her again during her mysterious four-year absence, the rent being covered by her mother, Agnes Deleaney.

Agnes belonged to one of the town’s founding families, the Dorrians, which is why she knew her daughter would be safe with the Galvinstons should she return to Creekside. Because of her misgivings about Ravensglen, Agnes paid her daughter’s rent while she was alive and left provisions in her will to retain Carmen’s unit in the event of her death.

After reflecting on the strange good fortune that brought each tenant to Briarfeldy Manor, Owen put his son to bed and rejoined Paola in the sitting room.

“Remember how Carmen agonized over keeping Sasha Deleaney-Wolfe as her legal name for the sake of the baby?” asked Paola.

“She did further fretting when the time came to use it on Noah’s birth certificate and acknowledge Bartholomew Wolfe as the father,” said Owen. “All in all, it’s worked out well how Noah secretly remains in the abbey while Carmen maintains the impression of living alone in her unit here.”

“How fortunate that Eula adores the baby and loves being his nanny. She cried when she first held him because she aches for her own lost children,” said Paola.

A few days after Noah’s birth, Carmen’s family from London visited her and the baby at the abbey. Since her sister, Kate, died, it was a small family, consisting of her niece, Paisley, her nephew, Dorrian, their father, Andrew, his second wife, Nicole, and their child, four-year-old Mikey. Seeing them made her miss her mother, Agnes, all the more.

Although happy to see them, Carmen was shocked to see how much her niece and nephew had grown in the missing four years. Dorrian, who bore his grandmother’s maiden name, was in his first year at university. Paisley, as vivacious as ever, was in sixth grade.

“Why didn’t you visit us after you returned to Ravensglen, Aunt Sasha?” asked Paisley.

“I don’t know,” said Carmen.

“You weren’t to mention Ravensglen,” said Nicole.

Carmen felt suddenly overwhelmed by her family’s presence, and was relieved when they left a short time later. That same day, she announced that she was ready to return to Briarfeldy Manor, and would visit Noah daily at the abbey.

Bram said he had the perfect solution to keeping her daily treks secretive. He hired a contractor to install lighting and reinforce the beams and stone walls in an old tunnel running from the basement at Briarfeldy Manor to a nearby farm. The tunnel had been there since the manor’s earliest days when the property included oilfields and farmland. At the time, family members and servants changed from their oil encrusted boots and clothing at the work site before returning to the manor via the tunnel.

Although the farm and oil fields had long been sold, the owners of the manor retained two acres of land closest to town. The only building on these acres was a locked equipment garage which concealed a trap door leading to the tunnel.

“Whenever you leave the abbey, you’ll be able to park your car in the garage and walk or bike the rest of the way home,” Bram told Carmen. “That way you can freely move between Black Springs and Creekside without revealing your whereabouts.”

“To add to the subterfuge, you can use my car and leave yours at the manor,” said Eula. “No one will expect you to be driving it. Besides that, it has tinted windows.”

“But then you wouldn’t have a car,” said Carmen.

“I’ve never driven it since I came to the abbey. I have my own reasons for lying low, and Abbess allows me to stow it away in a shed here,” said Eula.

Shortly after that conversation, Carmen’s abbey and manor friends chipped in to purchase her a bicycle with an attached child carrier. Since then, Carmen drove Eula’s black corvette stingray from the abbey to the farm garage, and from there, biked the rest of the way home through the tunnel.

“I always feel Carmen’s returned from Adventureland when she joins me for our evening walk,” said Paola.

“She pretty much has,” said Owen.

Before she left Owen’s apartment for her own, Paola told him about the peculiar weakness she experienced when Alistair read his poem at the library about the children and the green truck.

“It was as if I’d stepped into the scene,” she said. “Then last night I dreamed about it. I was a child again. I was there, and I was terrified.”

“Perhaps you should talk to Alistair,” said Owen. 

 

Chapter Five

Andrew Clery felt surely besieged. His wife, Nicole, pregnant with their second child, was miserable with morning sickness. His mother-in-law, Marta, phoned daily to harangue him about her daughter being overburdened with the care of four-year-old Michael and eleven-year-old Paisley. And most frustrating of all, Paisley herself had become quite impossible.

In desperation, he called his ex-sister-in-law.

“Sorry to bother you so late, Sasha,” he said, “but I knew you were at the abbey during the day.”

“Is everything okay?” asked Carmen.

Ever since he left her sister, Kate, for his young receptionist, Carmen was not especially fond of Andrew. Nonetheless, she’d been forced to develop a civil relationship with him after Kate died and her niece and nephew moved in with him and Nicole. Dorrian, who was fourteen at the time of his mother’s death, hated his new living arrangements. Now, away at university, he was much happier. Paisley, on the other hand, had adjusted well, even welcoming the arrival of baby Michael with step-sisterly pride.

“Nicole is expecting again and suffering terribly from morning sickness,” said Andrew. “

“That’s too bad,” said Carmen, unable to stir up much sympathy to accompany her words.

“It’s Paisley, though, who’s giving us the biggest problem. You see, Nicole’s mother, God help us, is coming to be with her daughter until sometime after the baby’s born. She stayed almost a year after Mikey was born. Paisley says she’s too bossy.”

“Wouldn’t getting a housekeeper be simpler?” asked Carmen.

“We have a housekeeper, and she’ll be staying on as well.”

“Oh,” said Carmen. “So, how do you think I can help?”

“Paisley wants to attend the abbey school,” said Andrew. “She’s been talking about this since we visited you after Noah was born.”

“She wants to board there?”

“Actually, she mentioned boarding with Eula and Noah.”

“I have no idea what Eula would think about that,” said Carmen. “Let me get back to you.”

As soon as the call ended, Carmen’s thoughts were flooded with images of her smiling, vivacious niece and godchild. Sadly, apart from the brief family visit after Noah’s birth, all memories ended with the girl’s seventh summer, the summer following Kate’s death. And even that summer was strangely hazy. Yes, it was the summer of the book tour which marked the edge of the vortex into which her memories swirled away.

Needing no further reflection, Carmen phoned Eula Jennings and then, Sister Fazeela, principal of Abbey Academy. To her tremendous relief, both said they’d be happy to meet with Andrew.

“What grade is Paisley in?” asked Sister Fazeela.

“Six.”

“Let me know when to expect your brother-in-law. I’ll have him meet Sister Peggy who teaches sixth grade, and we’ll show him around the academy.”

The following day, Andrew made a brief lunch stop at Creekside before driving ten kilometers south to the abbey named for its proximity to the village of Black Springs. He recognized the obscure laneway winding through the woods by its wooden entrance sign reading, ‘Black Springs Abbey’ and in larger lettering below, ‘Abbey Academy’.

Minutes later, he drove into the cobblestone parking lot facing the front of Black Springs Abbey. Renovated a decade earlier, the neo-gothic structure retained its dignity and authenticity. After stepping from the vehicle, Andrew took a few moments to admire the building’s pale-yellow brick exterior and the ornate brackets under the roof’s projecting eaves. Third-storey dormer windows gazed serenely from the mansard roof with its refurbished slate tiles. Wide stone steps led to a double oak door beneath a sparkling stained-glass transom window.

The acreage surrounding the abbey was beautifully landscaped. Flagstone paths meandered into the front wooded section and into the back meadow. Arbours, gazebos and a large fountain stood as sentinels among winter-ready trees and shrubs. In the back field, six oil pumps nodded rhythmically up and down.

As Carmen had instructed him to do, he proceeded around the side of the abbey, passing a locked exit door on the side of the building until he came to a thick wooden gate set into a high stone wall. He tugged at a rope attached to an iron bell atop the wall and soon heard the sound of approaching steps on the stone pathway. With a squeak, a peep hole opened in the gate’s grille, and with a click of bolts, the gate swung open on creaky hinges.

“We’ve been expecting you, Dr. Clery,” said the elderly porter, admitting him into a garden enclosed in a stone wall. She wore sandals and a blue chambray pinafore over a long tunic of the same colour.

“Marvelous place,” said Andrew.

“You should see it in summer with the fields covered in wildflowers” said Sister Helen. “There’s a lovely old labyrinth back there too, perfect for meditation.”

On Andrew’s prior visit, he and his family had taken the elevator inside the front door directly to the third-floor condos. This day, however, he was introduced to a glimpse of abbey life. Behind the side exit door life were the back stairs remaining from the abbey’s earliest days when they joined the old kitchen to the upper floors. The stairs remained for safety and fire regulation reasons, and also because they added to the building’s heritage charm.

“Sisters once occupied this entire place,” said Sister Helen, “but now we have modern quarters here at the back and directly above on the second floor. The architects were careful to replicate the plaster and ornamental wood trim in rooms and hallways throughout the remodeled abbey.”

“How many sisters live here now?” asked Andrew.

“Seventeen. Ten novices and seven of us who’ve been here for a while.”

“Mostly teachers?”

“No, only Sister Fazeela and four of our novices are teachers.”

“And the others?”

“Well, there’s Mother Abbess. Then, Sister Colleen, who manages the kitchen, Sister Bernice, organist, Sister Martha, our lawyer, and Sister Janini who runs the retreat centre. Except for Martha, we’re all getting along in years. What a blessing we have so many novices to help us now.”

On their way to the academy, Sister Helen pointed out the main office. They lingered in the chapel long enough to admire the magnificent pipe organ and the mosaic patterns adorning the sanctuary. Sun filtering through stain glass windows cast ribbons of colour across the marble holy water font and over the ornate pews lining the nave. A faint scent of candle wax and incense drifted through the air.

Continuing down the hallway, they came to a large double door. Sister Helen entered a code and the doors glided open, disappearing into their wall pockets.

“These doors are kept open during school hours,” she said. “On weekends, holidays and overnight they’re always closed.”

She escorted him to the academy study hall where he found Carmen, Eula Jennings, and two sisters waiting for him. Carmen introduced him to Sister Fazeela, the Principal, and Sister Peggy Ann, teacher of grades five through eight.

“So, Paisley will be in a class with four grades?” asked Andrew.

“A small class,” said Sister Peggy. “Paisley will bring my class size to fifteen students.”

“Each year, we cut off admissions to the academy at sixty students despite having a waiting list,” said Sister Fazeela. “Paisley will be an exception at sixty-one. We have four classrooms: junior and senior kindergarten, grades one through four, five through eight, and nine ten. Most of our students are day students since we limit boarders to a dozen. As well as our four qualified classroom teachers, we’re blessed with exceptional music and art instructors. We have a wonderful school choir and several budding artists. Tuition fees include classroom music plus two hours of private lessons weekly. Students can choose piano, organ, harp, cello.”

“Impressive,” said Andrew. “Paisley has been taking piano lessons. I’ll leave it up to her to choose what she’d like to study. If you accept her, that is.”

“Are you able to bring her here tomorrow?” asked the principal.

An hour later, having paid his daughter’s tuition fees plus uniform costs, Andrew left the abbey and turned towards home.

Parked discreetly at the roadside, Robin watched him leave. She had followed him in from Creekside, hoping to catch sight of Carmen. Tonight, she would report to Raven that, while she was making progress, continued surveillance was essential. She had not yet told Raven about the second stakeout project, the one dearest to her heart.

 

Chapter Six

Paisley insisted she couldn’t possibly pack everything she needed into a single suitcase.

“You don’t want to antagonize Eula by bringing too much stuff,” Nicole told her stepdaughter. “Remember, you’ll be sharing a room with Noah.”

“Carmen says she’s soon going to start keeping Noah with her overnight,” said Paisley.

“It’s about time,” said Nicole. “That baby is already two months old.”

“Your mother looks after your babies until they’re walking,” said Paisley.

“Don’t get sassy, young lady,” said Nicole. “Unlike Sasha, or Carmen, or whoever she thinks she is, I’m here all the time with my babies.”

“Sorry, Nicole,” said Paisley. “You’re really a very good mother.”

“Nicole is right in telling you to limit your packing,” said Andrew. “As it is, you’re going to have a closet full of uniforms,” said Andrew.

“A closet full?” asked Paisley.

“For the cost of them, they should fill a closet,” said Andrew. “I hope you appreciate the money we’re spending on you.”

“I do, Dad,” she said. “But to get back to the packing, I still need shoes, underwear, pajamas, robe, slippers, my iPad…”

“You’ll have your backpack,” he said.

“Perhaps you can also take one of my oversize handbags,” said Nicole, relenting.

“Yes! I love you, Nicole!” said Paisley.

Midmorning, Andrew and Paisley left London for Black Springs. Nicole had packed sandwiches and bottled water for them so there would be no lunchtime delay. She and Mikey wanted to accompany them, but she felt too queasy to risk the long trip. Leaving a teary Nicole and a loudly protesting Mikey behind, father and daughter set out.

When they arrived at Black Springs Abbey, Andrew pressed the front door bell and was greeted by a teenage boy neatly attired in navy pants, long-sleeved white shirt, navy vest and a plaid green and navy tie. As father and daughter followed him down the hall, the door clicked shut behind them.

The boy left them at Sister Fazeela’s office and returned to his class.

“Andrew is this week’s hall monitor,” said Sister Fazeela. “It’s one of the assignments given to our senior students.”

She then led them on a brief tour of the academy, pointing out the art room, music room, library, study hall and gymnasium. As they stopped at each classroom, the students respectfully rose from their desks or activity circles. Sister Fazeela introduced Andrew and Paisley to each of the four teachers, Sister Rose in the Junior and Senior Kindergarten room, Sister Marion with Grades one through four, Sister Gail in the nine and ten classroom.

When at last they entered the room that would be hers, Paisley smiled shyly at her teacher, Sister Peggy, and awkwardly surveyed her future classmates. The students, eight boys and six girls, eyed her with open curiosity.

“Paisley will join you tomorrow,” said Sister Fazeela. “I know you will make her feel welcome.”

The principal returned to her office while Sister Peggy left her classroom to assist Paisley in the supply room. A hum of voices followed her departure until she stepped back to remind them they were to be doing silent seat work.

The supply room was compactly organized into sections for school uniforms and school materials. Skirts, trousers and blazers were on hangers, everything else on compartmentalized shelves. Sister Peggy assisted Paisley in selecting a navy blazer, plaid kilts, navy slacks, khaki shorts, gym shorts, navy vests, long and short sleeve white shirts, long and short sleeve green golf shirts, navy tights and a navy cardigan. Assuring them she would look after classroom supplies herself, she sent them off laden with bags and packages.

Alerted by Sister Fazeela, Carmen was waiting for them in the front foyer. Andrew and Paisley followed her into the elevator and up to the condos.

“Is Noah with Eula?” asked Paisley.

“Upstairs waiting to see you,” said her aunt.

A wide hallway with arched ceilings and black and white tiled floors ran the length of the third floor. In keeping with abbey style, the walls were wood paneled with ornate trim. On this level, however, the walls were shades of cream, and the arched condo doorways, dusky rose.

Individual condos were decorated in pale off-whites that varied slightly from unit to unit. Every condo had two or more gabled windows, and these were treated with stain glass and carpeted window seats.

Eula’s was at the farthest end of the corridor, and as they made their way towards it, Carmen named the occupants of the other units.

As one exited the elevator, the condo to the right belonged to nurse practitioner, Azur Moonstorey-Barkley, her neurologist husband, Xavier Tennyson Barkley, and their children, twins Violet and Sarah age fourteen and eleven-year-old Tennyson. Across from them lived high school teacher, Graeme Kilgour, his artist wife Dillian, and their children, Meri, eighteen, and Gideon, sixteen.

Two smaller units on the right were owned by a Canadian writer living part-time in France and a couple from Arizona looking for a unique summer place. On the left side of was a common sitting room as well as a unit owned by two actors with apartments in New York and Paris.

At the end of the hallway were the large corner units, one owned by Eula, the other by Detective Sergeant Garth Mayfield, nephew of the Abbess, and his wife, Hilma Moonstorey, a talented cellist, harpist and organist. Garth and Hilma had two children, Eilidh, eleven, and Erin eight.

When Carmen knocked on her door, Eula rushed to admit them. She directed them to take the uniform packages to her guest bedroom, and waited while Andrew and Paisley retrieved the girl’s luggage from the car.

“Beautiful place you have here,” said Andrew when he returned.

“I just recently had the good fortune to buy it from a retired Toronto couple who had second thoughts about life in a small village,” said Eula. “Before that, I had a suite on the second floor.”

She went on to relate that she’d arrived at the abbey fifteen years ago when she’d been seeking a place to write novels in peace and quiet. The sisters assigned her a room on the second floor next to Sisters Janini and Fazeela who were novices at the time. A few months later, young Hilma Moonstorey was hired as House Manager to assist the sisters with shopping and gardening in exchange for organ lessons. Already an accomplished musician, Hilma was given a room near Eula and a second one to house her harp and cello.

The four of them attended chapel and ate in the refectory with the other sisters. While Hilma and the novices were busy throughout the abbey with various tasks, Eula mostly kept to herself.

At the time of Hilma’s arrival, plans for abbey condos, a retreat centre and updated accommodations for the sisters were already underway. Responsible for hiring staff, Hilma recruited Eula to be receptionist and house mother of the forthcoming retreat house. In her new position, the writer remained in her second-floor suite as the sole permanent inhabitant of the second floor.

In the ensuing years, more novices arrived, and the Abbey Academy was established. Most of the students were day students, but the academy’s stellar reputation soon necessitated accepting some students as boarders. Sister Janini was now in charge of the retreat centre and student residence. And until recently, Eula maintained a suite there.

“I’m sure you were happy when a condo became available,” said Andrew.

“I certainly was,” said Eula. “I’d have taken any one that came up for sale.”

“Do you want me to put my clothes away, Eula?” asked Paisley.

“Sit with us until your dad leaves and then I’ll help you,” said Eula.

Paisley took a seat on the sofa beside Carmen who was holding a sleeping Noah on her lap.

“Are you a famous author like Aunt Sasha, I mean Carmen?” asked Paisley.

“I make a good living from writing mysteries,” said Eula, “and like your aunt I write under a pseudonym. Mine is Jay Pilgrim.”

“Do you have family nearby?” asked Andrew.

“My parents are dead,” said Eula. I have a few cousins, whom I’ve never met, living in England.”

What Eula didn’t share on this occasion, and in fact, rarely ever shared, was the nightmare situation that brought her to Black Springs Abbey. It had taken her a while to confide her story to the Abbess.

She’d met Franklin Jennings in a mall where she was signing books. She was young and naïve, he handsome and charming, a wealthy widower with two teenage children. In true fairy tale fashion, he swept her off her feet and brought her to his mansion. Early in their marriage, they had two children who died in infancy.

While grieving over the second death, Eula came to realize that her husband was an unprincipled philanderer. Requiring her to plan lavish dinner parties and otherwise manage his household, he was free to disappear for days on end pursuing business heavily mixed with pleasure. Whenever she questioned him about rumours that reached her ears, he intimidated her with threats and wild rages. His children hated her despite her endless attempts to please and placate them.

In her misery, she resumed writing, penning mysteries under the pseudonym, Jay Pilgrim. Initially, she arranged for her publisher to hold her earnings in trust. When her books became unimaginably popular, she hired a lawyer and financial advisor, swearing them to secrecy about her identity and whereabouts.

Early one morning she fled Franklin Jennings and his loveless household. Although she’d been longing to escape for several years, she had no idea where she was going. Driving a black corvette stingray coupe, she sped as fast as she legally could for several hours before daring to stop at an O.P.P. station outside Creekside.

It was there her luck began to change for the better. She confided in a young constable that she needed help finding a safe secluded place. Garth Mayfield ran her name through the system and, satisfied that she was respectable, phoned his Aunt Jane, Abbess of the abbey in a nearby village, Black Springs.

Dilapidated and overgrown with ivy at the time of Eula’s arrival, Black Springs Abbey provided an ideal hiding place. Without asking any questions, the Abbess allowed her to park her car in one of the abbey sheds in case anyone came nosing around. She assured her she was there for her whenever she needed assistance or wished to talk. Eula knew immediately that she was finally and truly home.

Robin was nowhere near the abbey on the day Paisley Clery became a student there. She was in Creekside, making several slow drive-by passes in the vicinity of Briarfeldy Manor. Satisfied there was little activity anywhere near the manor, she decided to return at dusk to follow Paola and Carmen should they go on an evening walk. As she prepared to drive away, she noticed an approaching school bus.

The bus came to a stop in front of the manor and waited until a grey-haired woman came through a gate at the side of the property. The woman walked quickly to the bus, smiled at the driver, and claimed a young boy who ran to meet her. Hand in hand, boy and woman walked to the gate and locked it behind them.

I believe I’ve just met the formidable Mavis Galvinston, thought Robin. Not sure who the young lad is, but I’d love to make his acquaintance.