Driven to the Edge: Chapter One
By Coral Bale, known on the Forum as Reefgirl
Coral’s first serialized story was a murder mystery featuring Lady Amethyst (Amy), and it appeared in TABI’s Tracker Newsletter. Driven to the Edge is the sequel to the first mystery and features Lady Amy, her tarot cards and the unfolding of new aspects of life in early 20th-century high society circles in the UK. The Tracker Newsletter was discontinued before the completion of Driven to the Edge, so we’ve decided to publish the entire story on the blog. Coral begins here with a summary of the first story for those who may have missed it, and then we go on to the first installment of our ‘racing’ themed sequel.
Lady Amethyst ‘Amy’ Richmond is a society clairvoyant and tarot reader, daughter of Douglas Richmond 3rd Duke of Hampshire and the late Emerald Chatelaine from New Orleans.
The story starts when Amy reads for a group of Bright Young Things and predicts death for one of the group. Later on in the evening, Daisy, the eldest of the group, is found dead in the parlour, the police are called, and Amy gets on very well with an American detective called Daniel Tempest (the King of Swords). Amy explains the cards to Daniel who take the ‘weirdness’ in his stride, but there is something about him that makes Amy suspicious.
Amy chats to her father about Daisy’s husband, and her father explains that Geoffrey is ‘a bad egg’, a womanizer with money problems; Amy starts to wonder if he killed his wife, who was very rich. Amy and her best friend Petronella ‘Nell’ Stockton-Ellis start asking questions about Geoffrey and Daisy.
In a casino, Amy meets the brother of one of the Bright Young Things and asks if Geoffrey was in debt. Daniel Tempest also turns up looking for gossip about Geoffrey, and the evening ends with another death. This death shakes Amy more than she lets on; it also makes her something of a pariah with her ‘set’. Another tarot reading shows Amy that they’re being manipulated and there will be another death. A telephone call to Daniel confirms the death of another of the Bright Young Things.
Amy and her brother Charlie identify the body, to save her mother from more grief, which helps Amy reconcile with the set. She goes to pay her respects to the family and feels murderous malice from someone in the room. She is also handed another clue, which she passes on to Daniel.
The murderer reveals himself at Daisy’s funeral and attempts to kill her to stop her revealing the truth, but in the nick of time, Daniel arrives. After an explanation of how Daisy was killed, Daniel reveals he’s a Pinkerton Agent who was hired to find Daisy’s husband who was suspected of various crimes in the USA. Daniel then proceeds to open a Pinkerton Branch in London, with Amy helping him.
The new story, Driven to the Edge, is set about six months after these events in the early months of 1929, about eight months before the Wall Street Crash.
I was sitting in the reception area of a little office in Knightsbridge reading some paperwork from the last case Daniel and I worked on – another woman wanting us to find out whom her husband was having an affair with.
I’d started working for Daniel Tempest, Pinkerton Agent, some eight months ago, after we’d caught the killer of Lady Daisy Knellar, an old friend of mine. My main task was to pick up gossip from my upper class circle of friends and ask my tarot cards for advice.
Let me introduce myself: my name is Lady Amethyst Richmond, daughter of the third Duke of Hampshire. I’m what the Tatler calls a Society clairvoyant, and I also work, occasionally, for a Private Investigator.
Our receptionist Janet came through from the kitchen with a tray of tea.
“Time for elevenses my lady” she said.
“Janet, please call me Amy, when I’m here I’m equal to you and Daniel,” I replied with a smile.
“Oh I couldn’t do that,” she replied as she put my tea and a couple of homemade shortbread’s on the table. I gave up trying to argue with her and just smiled as she knocked on Daniel’s door with his coffee.
Janet was a treasure! Daniel had employed her three months ago, when the business really started to take off, and we couldn’t cope with all the calls and paperwork anymore. Mrs Phillips, our cook, recommended her; she was an old friend of her family and had recently moved to London from Scotland to be closer to her daughter. In the three months she’d been working for us, she had turned our business around and made us more efficient, as well as being an excellent spy. Many times, she’d been able to find out information by knocking on doors in the disguise of collecting for various charities, looking for her lost dog or pretending to be lost – nobody suspected a middle class Scotswoman of being a spy.
I put down the paperwork and picked up the newspaper to read about the funeral of James Munroe, a racing driver who’d been killed at Monza in an accident. I sighed: this had been the third driver killed this year, and it was only February! I’d been to see one of the races with my best friend Petronella Stockton-Ellis, known to all as Nell (she’s a photographer and she specialises in portraits and wants to branch out into what she calls ‘action shots’). I had to admit; the photographs she took at Brooklands and the motorbike racing at the Crystal Palace were spectacular.
The telephone rang, but when I moved in order to pick it up, Janet rushed out and waved my hand away.
“Good morning, Pinkerton’s Detective Agency, how may I help you?” she said into the receiver. I took the opportunity to go into Daniel’s office.
“Anything new?” I asked.
“No nothing, I don’t think there’s a woman involved in this, seems to me it’s gambling and drinking” he replied. I sighed.
“That’s what it seems to me too, none of my friends have any gossip about it, even Janet is none the wiser. All three of us have drawn a blank, so it’s safe to say her doubts are misplaced.”
Daniel nodded and looked over my shoulder at Janet who was waving at us from the outer office. “It must be important if she’s doing that” he remarked.
We walked into the outer office.
“I have a Michael Munroe on the phone, he says he’s the brother of yon James Munroe, the young driver killed in Italy last week, he wants to see you as soon as possible,” she said.
I looked at Daniel, who nodded. “We’ve got nothing doing today, we’ll be here whenever he wants to meet,” he replied. Janet relayed this and said he’d be in the office in half an hour.
As we waited for Michael Munroe, I began to wonder about all the deaths there’d been in motor racing recently. I knew it was a dangerous sport and accidents were commonplace, but there was something I couldn’t put my finger on about the most recent ones, something wasn’t right.
“I hope this isn’t another divorce case, for once I’d like a juicy case that doesn’t involve us spying on a wandering spouse,” Daniel said.
“We rarely get men looking for grounds for divorce, the law favours them anyway,” I replied, and Daniel nodded.
There was a knock on the door, it opened and Janet showed a man in.
“Mr Michael Munroe to see you” she said and closed the door.
“How do you do, I’m Daniel Tempest, and my associate Amy Richmond,” Daniel said. We all shook hands and sat down.
“I take it you’ve read about my brother James’ death at Monza last week.” We nodded. “It was no accident, he was murdered.”