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By Davie Henderson Medallion Press, Inc. Copyright © 2006 Davie Henderson
All right reserved.
Chapter One Kate Brodie was working on a romantic sculpture when the brass bell above her craft shop door gave a gentle tinkle. She looked up to see a Western Union messenger approaching the counter with a telegram in his hand.
"Miss Kate Brodie?" the man asked.
Kate nodded, curious. She'd never received a cable before, and had no idea who might have sent one now. She wiped her hands on her jeans, signed the messenger's clipboard, and had the cable ripped open before he'd even reached the door. It read:
FROM MESSRS ARCHIBALD CUNNINGHAM & CO, SOLICITORS AND NOTARIES, INVERNESS, SCOTLAND. TO MISS KATE BRODIE OF SAUSALITO, CALIFORNIA. IT IS OUR SAD DUTY TO INFORM YOU OF THE DEATH OF MR COLIN CHISHOLM OF GLEN CRANOCH. PLEASE CALL US ON 44 145 3327 166 AS SOON AS POSSIBLE REGARDING THE ESTATE. SINCERELY-A. CUNNINGHAM.
Kate had never heard of a Colin Chisholm or Glen Cranoch, and knew there must have been a mix-up somewhere down the line. She headed over to the faux antique telephone on the counter to let Messrs Archibald Cunningham & Co know they had the wrong Kate Brodie.
Waiting for the international connection to be made, she looked at the telegram again and indulged in a flight of fancy. She'd been doing that a lot recently. Being the Kate in Kate's Crafts stopped life seeming empty but wasn't enough to make it full-not for someone who was 36 and still single-and there were days when the quaint, Victorian-fronted shop seemed as much of a prison as Alcatraz out in the bay. For a few moments Kate allowed herself to imagine the telegram actually was for her ...
Then the phone started ringing in far-off Scotland. Kate caught sight of her reflection in a gilt-framed mirror and finger-combed her short blond hair, as if whoever answered would actually be able to see her. The face looking back at her had wide-apart silvery-blue eyes, a thinnish nose with just a hint of an upturn, and a mouth that she wished was a little fuller lipped and not quite so broad. The overall look was pixie cute, and she'd been told more than once that she had a Meg Ryan smile. She smiled wryly now at her flight of fancy, liking the sparkle in her eyes and the sweetness of her mouth-but not the little wrinkles that had recently started accompanying her smiles.
"Archibald Cunningham's office. How might we be of help?" The voice that rescued Kate from her wrinkles had a gentle Scottish lilt, and sounded like it belonged to a middle-aged woman.
"This is Kate Brodie in Sausalito. I've just received a cable asking if I would call this number, but I think there must have been some sort of mis-"
"Ah, Miss Brodie!" The woman sounded delighted. "We've been expecting your call. If you'll just be holding on for a moment."
After a succession of clicks a man's voice said, "Miss Brodie?"
"Yes, but not the Kate Brodie you're looking for, I'm afraid. I've never heard of this Glen Cranoch place before, and I didn't know any Colin Chisholm."
"Maybe not, but it seems that Mr Chisholm knew you-or at least he knew about you."
"I don't understand."
"He developed an interest in his family tree, and discovered you at the end of the last remaining branch. Something to do with a Varri Chisholm who emigrated to America in the 1920s, I believe. Does that name ring any bells?"
"I'm sorry, no," Kate said. She truly was sorry. Even though she'd known it was all a mistake she was still strangely disappointed to have it confirmed. For a few wonderful moments she'd swapped the confines of her small souvenir shop for a far more exciting place. She wasn't able to keep the disappointment from her voice as she said, "My grandmother came from Scotland, but I'm afraid her name was Mary Millar."
Archibald Cunningham laughed. "Aye, but Chisholm was her maiden name, and 'Varri' is the Gaelic way of saying Mary. Your granny likely changed her name when she started afresh in the new world," he said. "It seems as if your name will be changing too," he added.
"What do you mean?" Kate asked, bewildered.
"How do you like the sound of Lady Kate of Glen Cranoch?"
Even if Kate had known what to say, she wouldn't have been able to get the words out because of the sudden hammering in her chest and tightness in her throat. Her hands were shaking, her legs ready to give way at any moment. She eased herself onto her high stool and rested her elbows on the counter, glad of the support.
"Hello? Still there?" Archibald Cunningham asked.
"Yes," Kate said quietly. "I'm just trying to take all this in."
"Aye, well I can see how it must come as something of a surprise, right enough." Unable to hide the scepticism that followed her initial shock, Kate said, "Forgive me for sounding suspicious, but this all seems too good to be true. I feel sure there has to be a catch somewhere."
There was more than a hint of irony in Archibald Cunningham's laughter. "Oh, The Cranoch Estate has more than its share of problems, believe me," he said. "Some are very real, and others ... Well, it's probably best not to go into that just now."
Kate had no idea what he meant by that. Before she could ask the lawyer to explain, he said, "Let's just say there's not much chance that you'll be able to hang on to The Cranoch unless you're an uncommonly wealthy or resourceful woman."
"I'm certainly not the first of those things."
"Well, there's a buyer who'll likely pay a good price for the estate if you want to sell it-and my professional advice would be to accept his offer. You'd save yourself quite a kerfuffle, and probably a fair amount of heartache, too."
"What do you mean, 'a fair amount of heartache'?"
"I couldn't really explain in words. You'd have to see Glen Cranoch and Greystane for yourself, then you'd understand exactly what I mean."
"Aye, the ancestral home of the Chisholms," he told her. "Anyway, if you do want to make the trip across the pond I can get Finlay to meet you at the airport in Inverness."
"He's the handyman and ghillie."
Correctly interpreting the silence that followed, Archibald Cunningham said, "But of course you won't be knowing what a ghillie is, now, will you?"
"I haven't got a clue."
"It's a bit like a gamekeeper. Anyway, Finlay's an all-round good sort. He's at your service, along with Miss Weir-she's the cook and housekeeper-and a dozen crofters and their families."
"I'm sorry, you've lost me again. Crofters?"
"Aye, crofters. They're tenant farmers. But you can't afford to let them influence your decision about whether or not to sell the estate. Please bear that in mind if you do decide to pay a visit."
"Are these people depending on me in some way?"
"Well, let's just say that Finlay and Miss Weir are your employees; and as for the crofters, they hold their tenancies at your pleasure.
"Anyway, I can fax over the balance sheets and books if you'd like, and you can go over them with your accountant. Or, if you decide to come over here in person, I'd be happy to go through the accounts line by line with you myself. I'm afraid that whoever it is that explains them to you, though, they'll say the same thing."
"My head's spinning," Kate told him. "I don't know quite what to think about any of this, let alone what to say."
"Then don't say any more until you've had a chance for a wee think to yourself, Lady Kate. Meantime, if there's anything I can do to help, don't hesitate to call."
After thanking the lawyer Kate dialled her father's number, desperate for an answer. She was disappointed rather than surprised when she didn't get one. It was a nice morning and the chances were he'd be out sailing on Lawman, the small yacht that had been his second home since retiring from the Marin County Police Department. Unable to keep the excitement from her voice, she left a message on his answering machine: "Dad, something very strange has happened-please look into the shop as soon as you can."
* * *
Keith Brodie walked into the shop just after lunchtime, bringing some coffee, a couple of blueberry muffins, and a puzzled expression with him.
Kate did her best to explain the morning's events, but the words came out in a jumble because she was so excited.
Her father had to say, "Slow down, darling, and start from the beginning."
So she did.
When she reached the end, her father-who had talked his way out of confrontations with men carrying knives and guns and broken bottles in his time-was lost for words.
"Here's the cable," Kate said, handing him the flimsy piece of paper. It was dog-eared and almost torn in two because she'd spent most of the morning staring at it in a not entirely successful attempt to convince herself she hadn't imagined the whole thing.
Keith used his free hand to take a pair of half-moon reading glasses from the inside pocket of his vest. A bemused look crossed his face, and he shook his head as if barely able to believe what he was reading. "I knew that your mom's mother came from over there, but she never talked about the family she left behind. I got the idea there had been a bitter falling out over something because she never heard from her folks after she came to the States. Your mother and I never expected to hear from them, either. We certainly never expected anything like this."
"It's like some sort of fairytale, isn't it?" Kate said. "I keep expecting to wake up any moment and find out that it's all been just a dream."
"Well, if it is just a dream, I must be having the same one," Keith told her. Handing the cable back to his daughter, he said, "Have you thought about what you're going to do, Kate?"
"According to this Mr Cunningham I don't really have much choice-I'll have to sell the place."
"I just gave you the good news. The bad news is that the house is very neglected, and the estate has running costs I wouldn't be able to meet." She hesitated, then added, "Besides, I have to think about what I'd be leaving behind here."
"If you're talking about me, don't make that a factor."
"You're the most important factor of all to me, Dad."
Keith moved closer to the high stool, so that he could put his arms around Kate and draw her head into his chest. "You're not trying to tell me you think your dad's so old and crumbly he needs looking after, are you?"
Kate drew back to look up at him, saying, "Of course not, Dad. I just like to think we're there for each other."
"However far apart, we'll always be there for each other, Kate," he told her. "The important distance between two people isn't the one that's measured in miles."
"Dad, that's so sweet."
"It's just my way of saying I'd like a vacation in the Scottish Highlands every now and then. Just think, you could take me salmon fishing and deer hunting."
"What about this place?" Kate said, looking around the shop: at the hanging wall plates depicting Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf and Cathedral Grove; at the shelves stacked with hand-painted mugs and ashtrays; the trays of souvenir keyrings, and racks of tie-dyed T-shirts.
Watching her, Keith said, "Are you happy here, Kate?"
"Yes, I know, but that's not what I asked. Can you look me in the eye and tell me you're truly content?"
Kate sighed and looked around the shop again. Her gaze fell on a display cabinet of romantic sculptures-expressions of her unfulfilled desires and nameless longings. She'd once shaped such figures effortlessly with her long-fingered hands, but for some time now had struggled to visualize new poses or even recreate old ones. Her figures had gradually been taking on a cold, lifeless look, as if incapable of feeling love.
"I do feel stuck in a rut," she said finally. "Well, maybe 'rut' isn't the right word. It's more a daily routine that's not unpleasant, but doesn't really challenge me or let me grow. Like I said, my life is comfortable, Dad, but I sometimes feel as though there has to be a bit more to life than just being comfortable-and lately I've been wondering if I'm ever going to find it here."
"Then it sounds as if you have to at least go and see this place, Glen-"
"Cranoch-or, as Mr Cunningham called it, 'Glen Crrranochh'," Kate said, putting on a comedy Scottish accent.
Her father laughed. "Anyway, the only way to find out if it's something you could make a fist of is by going there."
"What about the shop?"
"I'll look after it while you're away. I've been a bit thoughtless, Kate. You're long overdue a break."
"What if my stay turns into something more than a break? Would you be happy to turn Kate's Crafts into Keith's Crafts?"
"Somehow I can't really see it, can you?"
Kate shook her head.
"What I can see, however, is Keith's Cabin: a nautical supplies store, with me at the helm-and, if it did well enough, somebody else at the till so that I could still go out on Lawman. How does that sound?"
Kate smiled. "It sounds much more you than Keith's Crafts."
"I could buy you out or keep you as a silent partner," Keith told her. "Either way, the money would help you get on your feet."
"Thanks, Dad. From the sound of it, this Cranoch estate would be a bit of a money pit, though."
"I just want you to know that you have options. I'd hate you to be held back in any way because of me; and your mother would have hated you to be tied up because of the shop."
"I don't want you to think I'm unhappy here, Dad. It's just that sometimes I feel the walls closing in."
"You should be feeling the wind in your hair, Kate, not the walls closing in. I have no idea what you'll find in this Glen Cranoch, but it sounds like a place where you'll at least feel the wind in your hair."
Excerpted from Waterfall Glenn by Davie Henderson Copyright © 2006 by Davie Henderson. Excerpted by permission.
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