Patience is a virtue…

And I am trying to be patient! My editor still hasn’t given me the final edited version of Stoned to Death. He does have another full-time job, so I’ll forgive him – but I’m as ready as you all are to get this book out there!

Hang in there. It’s coming soon. I’m sure it will be by the end of this week.

Here’s an excerpt to hold you over:

July 28

Oxford

Monday morning we made the brief walk from Niles’s semidetached on Woodstock Road to Wolfson College, where Pete’s cousin was a lecturer in art and archaeology. Stopping Pete from looking in the wrong direction when crossing the road was an ongoing challenge. When we were safely on campus I asked, “Remind me who this cousin is?”

“Duncan Thomson. We’re fifth cousins, or something like that? Robert Thomson was his great-great-grandfather too.”

“Your great-grandfather and his were brothers.”

“Yes. Robert had three children – Donald, Elizabeth, and Adam. Donald was the oldest, and he’s the one who emigrated to the States and became my great-grandfather. Adam was Duncan’s great-grandfather.”

I nodded. “Got it.”

Duncan Thomson’s office was a typical academic lair full of books, journals and papers. Duncan himself was behind his desk, and stood when we appeared at his door. “Pete Ferguson?”

“Yes.” They shook hands. “This is my partner, Jamie Brodie.”

I shook Duncan’s hand. He was tall, slender, blond and blue-eyed, with a Scottish accent, wearing a collared shirt under a sweater. A bike helmet was on a side table. Duncan tipped his head at me. “Brodie, eh? Of the Brodie Castle Brodies?”

“Back a few generations, yes.”

He nodded. “You look like a Scotsman. Tea?”

We sat in the visitors’ chairs and accepted a cuppa. Duncan said, “I was pleased to hear from you and your sister. We’ve always wondered what became of Donald’s descendants.”

Pete said, “We weren’t close to our Thomson grandparents. We didn’t even know Donald’s name, much less that he’d been born in Scotland.”

“We knew Donald had two sons, but once Donald died, we never heard anything else from the family.”

Pete said, “I know my grandfather’s brother was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor.”

Duncan nodded. “Yes. We did know that one of Donald’s sons died in the war.”

“I was seven when Donald died, but I only learned that when Christine gave me the family tree. I wish I’d met him. All we ever heard about was the family ‘shame.’”

Duncan’s eyebrow went up. “Shame?”

Pete sighed. “That’s how my grandmother – Donald’s daughter-in-law – described Robert’s disappearance and the family’s falling apart. My mother got pregnant in high school with my sister, and her mother always said she took after the Thomsons. Bringing shame to the family.”

Duncan gave me an inquiring glance. I said, “A bloody Sassenach, his grandmother.”

He laughed. “I see. But -” He looked perplexed. “The family didn’t fall apart. What did she mean by that?”

Pete said, “We were told that after his father disappeared, Donald went to the States and the rest of the family went to Edinburgh.”

“Someone got it wrong, then. Rhona – Robert’s wife – never left Orkney. Donald did leave home, but to serve as ground crew for the RAF during World War One.” Duncan cocked an eyebrow. “Hardly the done thing, is it, a healthy young man deserting his country while it’s at war?”

Pete said, “No. I did wonder about that.”

Duncan said, “After the war, he’d saved money to help his mum and brother buy the croft they lived on. That’s when he went to the States. He’d met an American officer during the war who was impressed with his engineering skills, offered to pay for his education at the Colorado School of Mines.”

“No kidding.”

Duncan frowned at Pete. “I wonder how that tale of yours got passed on?”

Pete shrugged. “My family is a case study in miscommunication.”

I said, “Your grandmother may have adjusted the story to suit her own purposes.”

Pete said, “It sounds like it. She also told us that Donald never returned to Scotland. She left the impression that he was estranged from his relatives.”

Duncan shook his head. “Not true. Donald came back several times, for his brother’s and sister’s weddings, and for Rhona’s funeral.”

Pete said, “His brother was your great-grandfather.”

“Aye. Adam.” Duncan smiled. “He used to tell us tales of Robert and his archaeological pursuits.” His expression sobered. “He never believed Robert ran off. None of the family did. He wouldn’t have abandoned them.”

I said, “We’d like to look into the mystery of his disappearance.”

Pete said. “We’re mostly here on vacation. But Jamie’s a university librarian, terrific at research, and we thought we’d take the opportunity.”

Duncan was intrigued. “Where do you plan to search?”

“I thought I’d start with the library in Kirkwall. Go back to the newspaper clippings of the time, see what was reported.”

Duncan nodded. “My cousin Craig and his family still live and work on the farm. Their attic has a couple of trunks we’ve never opened. Maybe you could have a go at them.”

Pete said, surprised, “You’ve never opened them?”

Duncan shrugged. “They’re locked, and we’ve never found a key. One of those things we’ve meant to do when we had time.”

Pete said, “I’ve picked a few locks. If it’s all right with Craig, maybe we could open them.”

“I’ll speak to him about it.” Duncan smiled. “How long will you be in Oxford?”

“We’re leaving Wednesday morning.”

“Come to dinner tomorrow evening. My children would enjoy meeting an American cousin. I’ll call Craig this evening about the trunks.”

Pete and I looked at each other and grinned. Pete said, “We’ll be there.”

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1 Comment

Filed under Books

One response to “Patience is a virtue…

  1. Sharon Cox

    Looking forward to when I can finally buy this. It looks good.

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