Part: One – The Murder of Mr Archer
The June warm sunshine cascaded over the grounds of the Glenfield estate in the heart of the Cotswolds. Surrounded by tall mighty Oak trees, horse paddocks and hectares of arable fields this idyllic English country estate could be traced back to the late 1700’s. After a fire had destroyed the main house in 1850 the estate was sold off to the Archer family for which it had remained ever since. Harold Archer restored the main grand house to its former glory in the late 1800’s with every stone in the long driveway to the Marble Lions that stood proudly above the main entrance door. The Archers had lived in this house ever since, passing it down from generation to generation to today’s owner, Mr George Archer.
“Are we all set my dear?” Mr Archer’s voice boomed over the rear courtyard as the multi-coloured buntings fluttered in the light breeze.
“Yes we are!” a chirpy voice replied with a beaming smile “It’s just what this place needs. Forget what everyone else thinks, it’s a great idea!” she finished her sentence as she poured a glass of champagne from a bottle that had been sitting on ice on one of the vintage tables that dotted around the courtyard, giving a delightful view of the manicured gardens and rolling hills beyond. She handed the glass to him with her ever present smile “This is for you Mr Archer”.
“I do love it when you call me that” he purred as he sipped on his champagne, the coolness of it a perfect tonic for the early evening heat. He weighed the glass in his hands with a small resigned sigh as a drop of condensation trickled down the glass “I wish everyone was as on board with this as you are Sarah. I see I received another less than happy letter today that you tried to keep hidden from me. Opening up this estate is what is needed to be done for this family.”
Her blonde flowing hair swayed behind her illuminated in the golden light as she placed a soft hand on his broad shoulder. She leaned in as she spoke delicately “It’ll go off without a hitch. I promise. Those death threats are just kids messing around. It’s nothing to worry about. I really think you should tell Catherine about them however, she deserves to know”.
“George! George!” a voice echoed behind the pair as they took a step away from each other. “There you are! Dinner is ready. Come along now you two!” the whirlwind of a woman to whose voice it belong to was Mrs Catherine Archer. The pair had been childhood sweethearts, got married at 18 and have lived together ever since, 39 years of marriage – a perfect model couple.
The pair made haste and walked through the house to the grand sitting room, the large glass windows allowed the setting suns light to pour in, the gold gilded picture frames of paintings of the English countryside sparkled as they took their seats around the oak dining room table. There were four plates set for the evening meal, Mr Archer at the head of the table, Catherine his devoted wife to the left, an empty chair and plate to his right and Sarah the house maid. Well that was her official title not that anyone on the estate ever saw her as that. She had joined the estate 12 years ago as a young girl who despite her natural intelligence never got on with school. At 16 she left and became a cleaner at the estate before eventually becoming the woman who Mr Archer would eventually rely on to run the estate, his personal assistant. Well, run everything except the bills. That was always Mr Archer’s job. One of her first jobs on the estate besides her cleaning job to earn a little extra was to baby sit Michael, the Archer’s only son and the only male Archer left to carry on the family name. Something that Mr Archer was constantly anxious about. He cast a fore-long look in the direction of the empty plate as the house servers’ poured wine into their glasses, a deep red like the anger that was welling up inside of him.
“Where is that pathetic excuse of a son?” he demanded directing his question at nothing but his sons empty presence. He emptied his glass in one felled swoop as his wife looked down, in two minds. Dinner was served, Pheasant and roasted thyme with all the trimmings and a Rhubarb crumble for dessert. One of Mr Archer’s favourites. After all this was supposed to be a celebration, tomorrow was a big day for the estate. After idle chitchat and talk about tomorrows fund raiser and opening up the estate for the first time to the public, they had finished both courses and Mr Archer a few more glasses of wine. At the end of the meal as the servers were clearing away the plates, a young slender and well-dressed man appeared, his beige skinny fit chinos tucked into a pair of brown leather Chelsea boots, a smart polo shirt and a fitted blue blazer completing his look. “Shame I missed dinner” he snorted as he wandered into the room, an arrogant swagger backing up his words.
“You entitled little bastard!” his alcohol fuelled words spat out and echoed around the hall.
“George! Stop it!” his wife held out her hand across the table.
“Oh go on Father. Tell me something new that I haven’t heard before. Let me guess…I’m a shame to you or is it I’m the biggest disappointment of a son? That’s what you said to me this morning wasn’t it?” his words laced with sarcasm ticked the dial closer to explosion as Mr Archers fists slammed into the table as he stood up.
“You boy have no idea how much you do!”
“Whatever…Father” he shot a look in his direction before continuing “go on…have another drink. What is it? Your 20th one tonight?”
Catherine raised her voice “Michael, Enough!”
Sarah Rosedale pushed her chair back and spoke calmly, trying to defuse the tension that hung in the air. “Come on Michael. I have a job for you to do for tomorrow’s grand opening” she put an arm around him and walked him to the door. He shot one last look towards his father, the hatred clear to see.
Mr Archer took another glass of wine and finished that off without hesitation, a familiar sight that his wife had grown a costumed to lately. “Why don’t you go upstairs and relax, focus on tomorrow” her words laced with compassion.
“That son will be the death of me I tell you!” he pushed his chair back as he stood up “I don’t know where we went wrong Catherine. I’ll be in the study there are few admin things to sort out for tomorrow.”
“Good idea darling. I’ll do the staff meeting, you go and relax.” they shared an embrace before departing.
An hour had passed and one bottle of Whiskey had been emptied as Mr George Archer was slouched in his well-worn leather chair in his study. 10 prize winners for tomorrow’s event had just been licked and sealed and placed in his in tray for Sarah to pick up tomorrow. He shifted uneasily in his seat, the feeling of the whiskey taking over. There were three sharp knocks on the door as a wave of dizziness and drowsiness overcame him. The door opened to reveal a blurry figure as the room lurched from side to side, the alcohol was certainly more than he’d drank in a long time as it took effect. The stress of the fight, the death threats, what weighed on the outcome of tomorrow had all driven him over the edge. He could feel a hand lifting him up and a hand around his face but his eyes wouldn’t focus on the owner. The voice was distant and muffled by another sound, the sound of running water and then it went black.
In the middle of the night a blood curdling scream rippled through the Glenfield estate as Mrs Archer found her husband dead, under the water in the bath.
– End of part One –