Trail Of Suspicion

Trail Of Suspicion

by Judith Webb

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595263285
Publisher: Media Creations
Publication date: 07/13/2004
Pages: 236
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.54(d)

First Chapter

Chapter One


 "Aunt Harriett?"
 Harriett glanced up from the latest mystery novel she was reading and looked fondly over at her niece as she walked into the living room. Lisa's long honey blond hair swirled around her as she sat down heavily in her favorite chair across from her, stretching her toes out toward the heat of the fire. It was early yet in the evening, but on cold damp days such as this, Harriett liked to keep a fire burning all day to ward off the chill that seemed to creep into every corner of this drafty old house. Removing the reading glasses that sat perched on the end of her nose, she smiled at her.
 "Can I help you with something, dear? My� you do look rather troubled this evening. Is something bothering you?" she asked in concern.
 Lisa pulled her eyes away from the fire to look at her. "I was just wondering if um, well� I know this is going to sound stupid, but uh, do you think it's possible to go back through time?"
 Harriett raised a questioning brow. "Back through time you say? No, definitely not," she laughed. "Don't tell me you believe in such nonsense?"
 "Well, no, not really," she replied, wrinkling her forehead as she so often did when working through a problem. "Do you remember the tutor you hired to help me with my science back in high school?"
 Harriett nodded her head. "Yes, I do, Professor Robinson. I believe he's retired now. In fact, I've seen him on several occasions down in the village. Why do you ask?"
       "Well, I had some errands to run in the village today and I thought I would stop by and say hello to him. As I was arriving at the house I bumped into one of his students, a young boy named Bobby. He was there to see the professor too, only the professor wasn't home, and according to Bobby, he hasn't been home for quite some time. Apparently he has missed their last four appointments. You see they were suppose to meet twice a week for his lessons, now today being Friday, would make two weeks that he hasn't seen or heard from the professor. He told me he has been asking around and it appears that no one has seen him recently.
       "I see what you mean, it does sound rather odd," Harriett said thoughtfully. "I mean one would think that if you suddenly decided to take a vacation, you would cancel any appointments you had. I wonder if the professor has someone who comes in to clean? She might know where he is. I'm sure there aren't that many cleaning ladies in Hedgerow, it is a small village after all. Yes, I dare say it shouldn't be too difficult to find her," she concluded, eager to play the detective.
 "Actually, it wasn't," Lisa smiled. "After speaking with Bobby I have to admit I was a little concerned, so I went to speak with one of the professor's neighbors. I found out that he did indeed have a woman who came in to clean, and like you said, it didn't take me very long to find her. She told me she cleaned his house once a week, every Monday. She said she showed up like usual on Monday morning, she had her own key, so she went right in and went to work. At the end of the morning she knocked on the professor's office door to collect her wages, but when he didn't answer, she left, thinking she would just pick them up the next time she saw him. She told me she never tried to enter his office because he always kept it locked. Apparently he didn't want her cleaning in there because he claimed he'd never be able to find anything again.
 "So, the last time she saw him would have been the Monday before that, right?" Harriett asked.
 "I believe so," she replied. "By the way, there is something else I feel I should mention."
 Harriett waited patiently while Lisa once again seemed to struggle with her thoughts. Tall and thin with that creamy complexion and those beautiful blue eyes, at nineteen she had blossomed into a stunning young woman. She reminds me of her mother, she thought, looking away as she recalled the tragic car accident that had taken her parents lives so many years ago. Lisa had been just six years old at the time, she remembered sadly, feeling the familiar sting of tears behind her eyes. My, the years pass quickly, she thought, glancing back at her niece when she suddenly spoke.
 "I don't know if you remember," Lisa continued, "but I spent quite a bit of time over at Professor Robinson's during my last two years of high school. I rather liked him, you know, even though he did ramble on at times. He was quite the storyteller too. He actually believed that one day we would be able to travel back and forth through time, just like that!" she exclaimed, snapping her fingers. "You see, he believed that there were cracks in what he called the fabric of time, in certain locations around the world. I recall him saying that on a specific day or time of the year, these cracks would open up and one could then walk right through them into another time."
 "Uh huh� " Harriett said, lifting an eyebrow skeptically. "Perhaps we should be checking the nearest asylum for your professor," she suggested, laughing.
 "Okay, I agree. It does make him sound a little crazy," she smiled. "But it doesn't change the fact that the poor man seems to have disappeared."
 "Yes indeed, of course," Harriett said, trying to compose herself. "You're right, dear, I'm sorry."
 Aunt Harriett was very good at solving mysteries which was why Lisa was seeking her help with this. It's probably all those mystery novels she reads, she thought, studying her aunt. She would have made a good detective I suppose. I wonder why she never got married though? I mean she is a beautiful woman after all, even now as she approached her fiftieth birthday. She certainly didn't look a day over forty that's for sure! Her hair which was quite long and was still a rich deep auburn, was usually kept pinned up neatly in a bun. Of course, there were a couple of  gray hairs, Lisa conceded, smiling as she recalled the day she had pointed them out to her, but Aunt Harriett swore she couldn't see any and didn't want to discuss it any further!
 "Well," Harriett said thoughtfully, "I think we should start by searching the professor's house tomorrow. I must admit I'm rather curious as to why he would keep that office under lock and key."
 "Yes, I've been wondering about that myself," Lisa confessed, meeting her aunt's gaze. "I know this is going to sound crazy, but you don't suppose he actually found one of those cracks, do you?" she asked hesitantly.
 Harriett laughed. "You're right, it does sound crazy. Don't be silly now, I mean cracks in the fabric of time?" she scoffed. "What kind of nonsense is that?"
 Lisa frowned. "It was just a thought. Well," she sighed, "I just hope that nothing bad has happened to him."
 "I'm sure he's fine, dear. He probably just went off to visit someone and forgot about his appointment. He's not getting any younger, you know."
 "I hope you're right, but I have to say I have a bad feeling about this," she said worriedly.
 Harriett glanced at her watch, noting the hour as her stomach rumbled noisily. "Why don't we go down to the kitchen and see what cook has created for our supper tonight?" she suggested, getting up out of her chair.
 "Created? Don't you think you're being rather generous there? I only pray that it's edible for a change," Lisa replied, making a face. "Why is it that we have a cook who can't cook, hum? That's what I'd like to know. You know how I love food!"
 Harriett laughed. Putting her arm affectionately around her niece's shoulder, she steered her in the direction of the kitchen.
 "Yes, I know how you love food, dear, I just don't understand how you can eat so much and stay so skinny!"
 "Well, I don't think there are very many calories in burnt food," Lisa giggled.

 Lisa lifted the tarnished brass knocker on the front door of the small white stucco house then let it fall back into place with a loud clink.
 "My, my," Harriett said, as she stood behind her niece, studying the front yard. "Well, we know one thing already, don't we?"
 "What's that?" Lisa asked curiously.
 "He certainly didn't have a green thumb, or rather he doesn't have a green thumb. No need to use the past tense yet, at least until we find out what happened to the poor man," she added, glancing with distaste at the overgrown lawn and the neglected hedges that ran along its edge. "Weeds like that surely didn't pop up in only two weeks, they moved in here awhile ago, I'm positive of that!"
 Lisa giggled and lifted the knocker once again.
 "It appears that the professor has not yet returned," Harriett said thoughtfully, glancing at the closed curtains in the window. "Try the door and see if its locked, will you dear?"
 Lisa turned the handle and tried to open the door, but it wouldn't budge. Frowning, she looked over at one of the plant boxes that were nailed securely beneath each of the two small front windows of the house. Weeds grew out of them in abundance, some of them cling desperately to the stucco as they tried to crawl up the wall, while others merely hung over the side swaying gently in the breeze. Reaching toward the closest one, she took a deep breath and stuck her fingers down into the corner.
 Harriett watched her with raised brows. "What on earth are you doing with your fingers in that box, dear?" she asked. "I can only imagine what's crawling around in there! Have you lost your senses?"
 Lisa glanced back at her aunt and had to laugh at the expression of disgust on her face. Aunt Harriett had an aversion to bugs and in fact so did she, but this was an emergency after all. Digging her fingers deeper into the moist black earth she tried not to think about what could be crawling around in there and instead tried to concentrate on the job at hand. Finally, she felt a small metal object, wrapping her fingers tightly around it, she pulled it out of the dirt and smiled triumphantly, holding it out for her aunt to see.
 "I remember the professor telling me a story once about how he lost his house key. The poor man was stuck outside in the pouring rain for a couple of hours and was quite sick for a few days after too! So, he said, from that day forward he has always kept a spare key in one of the plant boxes beneath the window."
 Harriett smiled. "Well done, my dear! I guess that plant box has served a purpose after all, not the one to which it was originally intended, but a purpose none the less!" she exclaimed, casting a critical eye once more at the offending plant box. "Let's go in then, shall we?" she said, with an air of determination.
 Lisa fit the key into the lock and turned. She was immediately rewarded by a loud click as the lock slid back, and this time when she pushed against the door, it opened. Standing in the doorway, she peered into the house. All her senses seemed to come alive at that moment, between the relative safety of the bright spring day behind her and the dark interior of the hallway in front of her. Her eyes had still not adjusted to the extreme contrast of light when suddenly she was jolted out of the safety of the door frame as her aunt pushed her none to gently inside. Whirling around, she glared at her.
 "What did you do that for? You scared the heck out of me!"
 Harriett quickly stepped inside and shut the door. "Well, you don't expect us to find clues from the doorway, do you?" she whispered, looking curiously around the entry hall. Brushing past her niece, she glanced into the parlor. "Hum� well, it looks like we're alone, dear," she said mildly, shifting her gaze to another door at the end of the hall which she believed led to the kitchen. Off to her left, there were stairs leading up to the second floor where the bedrooms were located, but she wasn't interested in going up there and let her eyes slide back to the only other door leading off the hallway. "Is that his office?" she asked quietly, pointing to the closed door.
 "Yep, that's it, but how are we going to get it opened? We don't have a key," she whispered worriedly. "And by the way, why are we whispering if no one is here?" she asked in confusion as they hurried toward the professor's office.
 "Well, first of all, we're only assuming that there's no one else here. There are many places one could hide even in a house as small as this," Harriett explained. "I mean who knows, perhaps we aren't the only ones looking for the professor."
 Lisa's eyes widened fearfully. "I hadn't thought of that," she whispered anxiously, looking quickly over her shoulder.
 "As to your other question," Harriett continued, pulling a hairpin from her hair, "this aught to do nicely! What do you think?"
 Lisa looked at her in surprise. "I'm thinking that you've either been reading too many of those mystery novels or watching far too much television," she replied dryly.
 Harriett laughed softly. Bending the hairpin all the way open, she then fit it into the lock and wiggled it until she heard it click.
 "Ah� here we go!" she whispered excitedly.
 Lisa frowned. "I have the distinct impression that you've done this sort of thing before," she said, impressed, yet suddenly suspicious of her aunt's hidden talents.
 Harriett smiled secretly, quickly opening the door to the professor's office. At first glance it was obvious that the professor was not keen on neatness, there were papers strewn everywhere. A long table littered with scientific instruments, maps, papers, and an odd assortment of what appeared to be old clocks took up the entire space on one wall. At the opposite end of the room there was a large desk, its surface buried under piles of paperwork and an assortment of books. Tiny dust motes danced on a shaft of sunlight that came through a small opening of the heavily draped window behind the desk, lighting up the bookshelves that ran the length of the room. The small gift of sunlight was greatly appreciated since they couldn't very well open the drapes or turn on the light and risk getting caught.
 "It looks as though we have our work cut out for us here, doesn't it?" Lisa observed as her eyes swept the room.
 "Yes, it appears so," Harriett replied, frowning at the state of the room. "This puts me in mind of his front yard only it's inside for goodness sake!"
 Lisa giggled. "It does kind of look like it, doesn't it? Hum� well, where do we start?" she asked, looking hopefully at the table which appeared to be much less cluttered than the desk.
 Harriett followed the direction of her gaze, sighing in resignation. "I guess you can search that table, I'll take the desk, but the moment any of those papers start moving around by themselves I'm out of there!"
 Lisa laughed, only happy that she didn't have to do it. Peeking back out into the hall, she made sure that no one was there and then quietly closed the door and hurried over to the table. The first thing she noticed were the clocks. Studying them, she thought that they could be antiques, but yet she wasn't sure. Something doesn't seem quite right, she thought, but what is it? They all seem to be working fine, she observed, checking the time on her watch. Oh well, I'm sure it's nothing, she decided. Casting them one final glance, she moved down the table.
 Meanwhile, Harriett was looking at a couple of old newspaper clippings that she had found buried beneath a small stack of papers and a cup of very old coffee, judging by the film that was floating on top.
 "Have you found anything yet?" she asked, looking over at her niece.
 "Just a couple of old clocks, a book on time warps and black holes, and some papers with notes and drawings on them. What about you?" Lisa asked distractedly, looking back at the clocks. What is it about those clocks?
 "The professor doesn't seem to have left very many clues behind, but I have found something very interesting I think, it's a couple of old newspaper clippings."
 "Newspaper clippings?" Lisa asked, still studying the clocks. "About what?"
 "It's odd, I don't know why the professor would be keeping these," Harriett replied, smoothing out the wrinkles in the two articles as she laid them before her on the desk. "One is from a fairly recent edition of The London Times, but the other one appears to be much older."
 "There doesn't seem to be anything strange about that. What do they say?" Lisa asked curiously.
 "Well, it seems that on April 21, 1999, a woman from London mysteriously disappeared. Her car was found abandoned not twenty miles from here near the edge of the woods. They suspect foul play, but they don't go into anymore detail than that."
 "They're probably right too, I have to agree with them. It is odd that the professor would have that on his desk though, unless maybe he knew her?" Lisa suggested.
 "Yes, maybe," Harriett said thoughtfully. "But here comes the strange part. The second newspaper article is also about a missing person, only this one is much older. This person is said to have disappeared on August 19, 1979!"
 "I wonder what the odds are that the professor knew both of them?" Lisa asked.
 "Well, if he did know them both I would have to say that it's very strange indeed that all three are now missing, and there is more here in this article that connects the first newspaper clipping to this one. It appears that the police found his missing car in approximately the same vicinity as the missing woman's." Harriett's eyes traveled slowly down the page for the second time. Stopping suddenly midway down the article, her eyes flew back to the top of the page. "Listen to this! It says here that Henry Croft's car was found abandoned near the small town of Hedgerow. The whereabouts of Mister Croft is unknown at this time. The local police presume that an electrical storm may have been responsible for the abandonment of the vehicle. However, it is still unclear and is presently under investigation," she declared, holding up the old newspaper clipping. "Now take a look at this!" she said excitedly, handing Lisa the other article about the missing woman.
 Lisa quickly scanned the paper with her eyes. "What am I suppose to be looking for?" she asked in confusion.
 "Just look at the woman's name," Harriett instructed her.
 "Emily Croft� oh! She has the same last name as the man in the older article!" she exclaimed excitedly.
 Harriett nodded her head. "Yes, isn't that interesting? And now it appears that the professor is missing too. I wonder if all three are connected somehow?"
 "Well, there was an electrical storm here not too long ago," Lisa replied, trying to remember when exactly. "And didn't they say that there was a storm when Mister Croft disappeared?"
 "Well, that's nothing new. It's always raining here, at least that's what my bones tell me!" she chuckled.
 "Yes, but an electrical storm is just a lot of lightening, no rain," Lisa clarified. "You know, Aunt Harriett, I'm almost positive that we had that storm two weeks ago, about the same time that the professor went missing."
 "I don't see where you're going with this, dear. I mean, they didn't mention any storm in this other article here."
 "But what if there was a storm when the young woman disappeared and they just didn't put it in the paper?" she suggested.
 "I suppose it's possible. All right then, let's look at what we have. We have two missing people and a possible third. Two of them bear the same last names and both of them seemed to have disappeared in the same vicinity, so there we have a common thread, even though there is twenty-three years between the two incidents. Perhaps they are father and daughter?" Harriett suggested.
 "Yes, they could be," Lisa replied thoughtfully. "And let's not forget about the electrical storm. I feel that it's important somehow, and it does establish a connection between the professor and Mister Croft, although I admit it's a small one."
 "I think we should hold onto these," Harriett said quickly. Carefully folding the two newspaper clippings, she tucked them safely away in the side pocket of her brown suede jacket. "Are you sure there's nothing that could help us over there?" she asked, getting up from behind the cluttered desk.
 Lisa shook her head. "I don't think so, but we could take another look though just to be sure."
 "I wonder if these clocks are antiques?" Harriett asked, walking over to join her niece. "They're in excellent condition if they are, they could be worth a small fortune. It's rather peculiar though that the professor should have not one, but three that are in mint condition," she said, running her hand over the smooth walnut casing of one clock in particular.
 "Yep, I agree, and there's something about them that bothers me too, but I just can't seem to put my finger on it. Maybe it'll come to me later," she said, shrugging her shoulders. "But anyway, as you can see," she continued, walking over to the book that was lying open on the table, "the professor was studying his theory on time travel."
 "Yes, I can see that," Harriett mused, leaning forward to take a closer look at the page. "Science-fiction, that's all this stuff is," she scoffed, looking away. Spying some loose papers with some sort of diagrams and notes scribbled upon them, she reached over to pick them up. "Hum� what do we have here?"
 "Those are the papers I told you about. I haven't really had time to� oh my God!" she whispered in alarm, as a loud click was suddenly heard from the other side of the office door. "Somebody is here!"
 Harriett immediately sprung into action. Running to the door, she leaned up against it. Lisa quickly ran over to help her, her eyes wide with fear as she envisioned all of the terrible, frightening things that could happen to them if someone were to discover them in here. I mean, what if Aunt Harriett is right? What if we're not the only ones looking for the professor? Pressing her ear up against the door, she tried to listen, but her heart was beating so loudly in her ears it was quite impossible to hear anything else. Suddenly there was a loud knock right beside her ear and she sucked in her breath, not daring to breathe. Wait a minute� she thought in confusion, a burglar wouldn't knock, would they?
 "Professor? Are you there?" a woman's voice asked from the other side of the door. "I've come to collect my wages."
 Lisa looked at her aunt in alarm. "It's the maid!" she whispered frantically.
 "Professor?" the maid said once again. "Well, I find it hard to believe he's always gone lately," Lisa heard her mumble irritably. A few more moments of silence, then they heard her footsteps retreating down the hall and out the front door.
 "Whew! She's gone!" Lisa exclaimed, breathing a sigh of relief. "I thought for sure we were going to get caught! I nearly died when I realized someone else was in the house."
 Harriett laughed softly. "I dare say you'll have to learn to relax a wee bit, dear, if we're going to try and find the professor. Now, I think it's time we got out of here before someone else comes along," she suggested, folding up the papers that the professor had written on. "We'll just take these with us and look at them at home," she said, putting them in her pocket with the two newspaper clippings.
 "Home sounds great to me," Lisa said quickly, hurrying her aunt toward the door. "I'm not too sure about this detective stuff anymore, I find it pretty scary," she whispered anxiously as they stepped cautiously out into the hall.
 "Well, we can't quit now, we've just started," Harriett chuckled, closing the door softly behind them. "You do want to find the professor, don't you?"
 Lisa sighed. "Of course I do, I just don't want to die doing it, thank you!" she replied miserably. "Now will you hurry up!" she exclaimed, moving swiftly toward the front door.
 "Yes dear," she said patiently, quickly slipping out the door behind her niece. "I would just like to point out though, that you never finish anything you start."
 "Fine!," she snapped moodily. "We'll look for him, but I am not breaking into his house again, or� into any other house," she added, looking at her aunt suspiciously.
 Harriett smiled. "Of course not, dear."

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Trail Of Suspicion 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A mystery with a twist whereby the two main characters are not only interesting, but funny. I wanted to see what would happen to them and completed my read within 2 days of my purchase. Looking forward to next book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reading this book I have discovered a talented writter wich I will be sure to keep a close eye on her upcoming books. If you want to laugh, enjoy a little mystery and fall in love with the characters, then this is the book for you! Once I opened the book I found myself unable to close it! So enjoyable, I give this book 5 stars and it deserves 6! Give it a try, I promise you won't be disappointed..:-)
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's the type of book that you just can't put down. Every chapter leaves you hanging. I found it to be well written with believable characters. Loved it!