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Haunted to Death


A Jamie Brodie Mystery


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons – living or dead – is entirely coincidental.


Smashwords Edition


© 2018 Meg Perry. All rights reserved.


This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


The Jamie Brodie Mysteries


Cited to Death

Hoarded to Death

Burdened to Death

Researched to Death

Encountered to Death

Psyched to Death

Stacked to Death

Stoned to Death

Talked to Death

Avenged to Death

Played to Death

Filmed to Death

Trapped to Death

Promoted to Death

Published to Death

Cloistered to Death

Haunted to Death


Prologue


Forres, Scotland

October 2017


Adam Grant pushed through the door of the Red Lion and scanned the pub until he spotted Scott Fraser in the next-to-last booth. As he approached, Scott lifted his hand in greeting. “I started wi’out ye.”

“I see that.” Adam dropped into the booth across from Scott and took a sip from the pint that Scott had ordered for him. “How are ye?”

“Fine, and yersel’?”

“No’ bad. Spent half o’ the day in meetings about the clan gathering.”

“Have ye heard from the Brodie?”

“No’ yet. I did have a bit o’ information from Mary Carr at the castle, though.”

Scott raised his eyebrows at Adam over the rim of his pint. “Aye, and wha’s that?”

“Jamie Brodie is coming for the gathering. Bringing his whole family. They’ve let the castle for a week and a half.”

Scott grinned. “Och, Moira’ll be pleased to hear that. She and Jamie were thick as thieves by the end o’ last summer.”

“Mm. I’m thinkin’ young Jamie must have some money.”

Scott considered that. “Aye. Ten days in the castle, and six weeks in East Lodge last year? No’ exactly a tourist budget.”

“Nor a librarian’s salary. Even in California.” Adam shrugged. “But he doesna act the part.”

“Nae. As down to earth as you’d want, both him and the Ferguson lad.”

Scott and Adam’s conversation moved on to more detail about the upcoming clan gathering. They finished their pints and headed out, saying goodbye at the pub entrance.

They didn’t notice Calum Gordon, the disheveled man who slouched out after them, weaving slightly as he went to his motorbike.

In the recesses of Calum Gordon’s ale-soaked brain, an idea was forming.

Morayshire, Scotland


Late July 2018

Wednesday


I flipped on the blinker of the rented Vauxhall wagon and turned left from the A96 onto the tree-lined drive. In an identical vehicle behind me, my brother Kevin followed. From the back seat of my car, my brother Jeff said, “This is our land? I mean, not ours…”

I said, “I know what you mean. And, yes, it is.” I slowed to allow Jeff and my sister-in-law Valerie to take in their first view of our ancestral pile.

Brodie Castle.

My immediate family was visiting the United Kingdom - specifically, Scotland - for two weeks. We’d landed in Glasgow three days ago. I’d stowed the family in a hotel within walking distance of everything; they’d seen the sights while I met with several of my friend Fiona Mackenzie’s relatives, interviewing them for the new book I was writing. Now we were scheduled to stay for a week and a half here, on the opposite side of Scotland, in the Laird’s Apartments of Brodie Castle. The castle was currently owned by the National Trust. After the last resident laird and his son had both died in 2003, the living quarters were remodeled into self-catering accommodations that could sleep fourteen people.

There were eight of us. We’d have plenty of room.

I pulled to the side of the drive, and we clambered out of the cars. Val said, “Dave, Jeff, Kev, Jamie, line up here. I want pictures.”

We lined up in chronological order. My dad, Dave Brodie, retired Marine; my oldest brother, Jeff, a veterinarian; my middle brother, Kevin, a cop; and me, an academic librarian.

As we posed - Val kept moving around, taking photos from different angles - I studied our significant others. Jeff’s wife Valerie, the stereotypical farm girl. Kristen Beach, sleek and stylish; Kevin’s wife for nine months, my fellow librarian at UCLA for twelve years. Claudia Stratton, my dad’s lady friend for ten months now, who’d fit into our family like a missing puzzle piece.

And my husband, Pete Ferguson, watching in amusement as we Brodie men followed Val’s orders.

Kristen was wandering from the drive toward the surrounding trees, her head swiveling to and fro as she attempted to absorb it all. I called to her, “Whaddya think?”

“It’s gorgeous. I understand why you love it here so much.”

Pete said, “Wait ‘til it rains. You might change your mind.”

Kristen scoffed. “Are you kidding? I spent my first ten years of life in Seattle. I adore rain.”

Satisfied with her photos of us, Val lowered her phone and gazed around the landscape. “Is this farmland as fertile as it appears to be?”

I said, “I guess. I don’t know what they grow here, though, other than grain and livestock.”

Dad said, “Come on, everyone. I’m anxious to see the inside of this place.”

We drove to the public parking lot - the castle was open to tourists daily in the summer - then followed the unmarked lane that led to the back of the castle, where we found two cars already parked. As we piled from our vehicles, a man emerged from a door in the back wall of the castle. He was probably around 70, wearing work pants and a sweater, a flat cap on his head. He grinned at us crookedly. “You’ll be the Brodies, then?”

My dad said, “That’s right. I’m Dave Brodie.” He held his hand out to the man.

“Angus Grant.” Angus shook my dad’s hand. “We’ll be distant cousins.”

“It’s always a pleasure to meet a cousin. These are my sons and their spouses.”

Angus nodded to us as a group, either failing to note or failing to care that there weren’t matching numbers of men and women. “And a fine-looking lot, they are. Bring your things and come with me. I’ll guide ye to your rooms.”

We gathered our luggage and followed Angus into the castle. I’d seen pictures of the Laird’s Apartments, where Ninian Brodie, the grandfather of the current clan chief, had lived until his death, but I’d never been inside.

The pictures didn’t do the place justice. Like the rest of the castle, the accommodations covered three floors. Immediately inside the door from the parking lot, to the left, was a tiny bathroom. The hallway leading into the rest of the house was lined with pictures of Brodies.

The next door led into an enormous dining room, with a table that would seat at least 16. Past the dining room was a landing with a grandfather clock and a spiral stairwell that twisted up to the top floor. We signed the guest book then followed Angus through the next door into the kitchen. Pete sucked in a breath. “Whoa.”

The kitchen was huge and fitted with every appliance one could hope for, including a multi-oven range, and several wooden hutches that Val was salivating over. One of them displayed a full set of china; others held pots and pans. A farmhouse sink occupied one corner.

Claudia said, “We can cook while we’re here, right?”

I said, “Absolutely. That’s the idea of self-catering.”

A small breakfast table stood in the center of the room. It wasn’t large enough to accommodate all of us - but that long dining room table was just down the hall. Angus opened a closet door. “Here’ll be your laundry facilities.”

We climbed to the first floor - what we’d call the second floor, in the States - and entered the main sitting room. The walls were lined with art; the furnishings appeared to be comfortable enough. Around the corner was a mini-kitchen with another hutch holding cups and glasses; a sink, and a toaster. Perfect for making tea and toast if one was to become peckish in the middle of the night.

We next came to the first bedroom, with two single beds. Angus said, “None of you’ll be staying in this room, I’ll guess.”

We murmured agreement. He nodded sagely and led us on to the next bedroom, which had a double bed and an adjoining bathroom with shower stall. Dad said, “Claudia, how about this one?”

“Yes.”

Dad and Claudia dropped their bags onto the bed, and we continued on our tour. Next we came to another bathroom - meant to serve the bedroom with the twin beds - that was far more old-fashioned, with a tub, sink, and toilet. The next room was an office, with comfortable chairs, a desk, a TV, and a terrific view of the gardens. Angus said, “This is the room with the computer connection. It’s dodgy throughout the rest of the apartment.”

Pete said, “Jamie, you’ll be writing in here.”

“Yup.” I lowered my computer bag to the floor beside the desk, and we moved on to the second floor - third floor, to us - where the rest of the bedrooms were.

The master suite was gorgeous, with a four-poster double bed and a seating area. Angus said, “This was the laird’s room.”

The accompanying bathroom, once again, lacked a shower. Kristen said, “Who wants this room?”

Pete remained silent. I knew he was hoping for a room with a shower. Jeff and Val glanced at each other, conferring by some sort of long-married code, and Val said, “Why don’t you and Kev take this one?”

Kevin said, “I won’t object to that.” He and Kristen left their bags, and we moved on.

The next two bedrooms both had twin beds. The nearby bathroom had toy soldier wallpaper; this must have been the kids’ area. Not that there had been kids living here for a long time. The following bedroom also had twin beds; the last we came to had a queen-sized bed.

Jeff, Val, Pete and I looked at each other. I said, “Someone’s gonna have to shove twin beds together.”

Val said, “The joined twin beds will form a king-sized, and you two occupy the most real estate. Why don’t you take a twin room?”

Pete shrugged. “Works for me.”

Val was right. Pete was 6’4”, and I topped out at just over 6’2”. Our combined heights were the most of any other couple combination. Angus said, “That’s the tour, then. I’m the caretaker for the grounds; I live just a quarter-mile down the road, toward town as you leave the main drive. I’ll give you my mobile number, and you can call if you need anything. Day or night.”

Dad said, “We appreciate that.”

We all entered Angus’s cell number into our own phones. He distributed keys to the outer door, then said goodbye and disappeared down the stairwell. Jeff and Val helped Pete and I rearrange the beds in the room we’d chosen, then went back to their own room to unpack.

Pete said, “We’re sharing a bathroom with Jeff and Val.”

“Unless we use the spare one on the floor below us.”

“Either way, it’s a bathroom with no shower. That’s going to present a problem.”

I turned from the wardrobe, where I was hanging my clothes, and raised an eyebrow at him. “We don’t have to have sex in a shower, you know.”

“I know. But if we’re not in a shower, we have to be quiet.”

I laughed. “Everyone’s gonna have to be quiet. Although the walls are thick.”

Pete frowned. “Maybe we can figure out how to do it in the bathtub.”

“Uh… I don’t know about that. I don’t think we’ll both fit.”

Pete got a gleam in his eye that I recognized. He’d accepted the challenge. “I bet we can work something out.”

I was saved from having to respond by Val, who stuck her head through our open door. “Once we’re unpacked, what’s the plan?”

I said, “We need to go into town for groceries. Do you two want to cook tonight, or eat out?”

Val shrugged. “I don’t care. Pete?”

“Let’s cook tonight. Val, you and I should plan menus so we can make a grocery list.”

I said, “We’ll be eating lunch most every day in town, probably. Once the clan gathering starts, there will be food galore.”

The other reason we were here was to attend a Brodie Clan gathering, the first to be held in years. The festivities would start on Saturday, in the nearby town of Forres, so we had a few days to settle in. Brodies were attending from all over the world, and the current clan chief - who lived abroad - was scheduled to appear at the opening. The president of Clan Brodie of the Americas, a guy from Tucson that my dad had met several times, would also be there.

Dad and Claudia appeared, dressed in walking clothes. Dad said, “We’re going exploring. Anyone want to join us?”

Kevin and Kristen had come into the hallway outside our room as well. Kristen said, “Absolutely. Let me change my shoes.”

Pete and Val sat down to construct a grocery list, and suddenly it was just Jeff and me. I said, “What do you think?”

“It’s intensely ornate, isn’t it?”

I laughed. “Wait until you see the tourist side of the castle. The Brodies had a taste for fine art and antiques.”

“So why the financial problems? Why did the old man have to sell to the National Trust?”

I spread my hands in a wide shrug. “These Brodies had centuries of financial mismanagement behind them. I think the last laird was property rich and cash poor. He couldn’t afford to keep the place up anymore, so he sold to the Trust with the understanding that he could live here for the rest of his life.”

“How did his heirs feel about that?”

“They were wildly unhappy. The grandson, the current clan chief, sued to get the property back, but he lost.”

“Huh.” Jeff looked around our room. “I think I’d have found a way to keep it.”


Pete and Val completed their list, and they, Jeff, and I headed out to the Co-op in Forres. We found parking on a side street - the Co-op was on the High Street, nearly in the center of town - and entered the store. Pete handed me a list of non-perishables, and Jeff and I wandered the aisles, hunting the items. We turned the corner in our search for the spice aisle, and I ran headlong into someone I knew.

Adam Grant was another distant cousin whom I’d met the previous year while I’d been here on sabbatical, writing a history of the Brodie family. He was older than me, probably near 50, with a shock of graying red hair and a trimmed beard.

He greeted me joyfully. “Jamie! Mary Carr at the castle told me ye’d be here for the Gathering.” He eyed Jeff. “Who’s this?”

“This is my oldest brother, Jeff Brodie. Jeff, Adam Grant. He’s a town councillor.”

Jeff and Adam shook hands. Jeff asked, “Are you related to the Angus Grant we met at the castle?”

“Aye, he’s me second cousin.” Adam grinned. “You’ll be meetin’ lots o’ Grants this week, and we’re all related to you.” He lifted his nearly-empty basket. “I’d better be gettin’ the messages. I’ll see the two of you soon.”

We said goodbye to Adam and located the spices. Jeff asked, “What’s getting the messages?”

“Shopping. Messages as in a grocery list. ‘Get the milk, get the bread…’ Get the messages.”

“Is everyone in town a distant cousin?”

“No, it just seems that way. Anyone you meet named Grant or Fraser, though - they’ll be related somehow, back in the mists of time.”

“What about the Douglases?” Our paternal grandmother was a Douglas; my dad’s oldest brother was Uncle Doug, and my middle name was Douglas.

“There aren’t many around here. The Douglases were mostly down south, along the borders. There is one ruined castle here in Moray that was a Douglas stronghold from the 14th century to the 15th.”

“So our great-great-grandfather Douglas wasn’t from here?”

“No, he was from Inverness. Did you even read my book?”

Jeff laughed, but it was a guilty laugh. “Um - I’m still reading.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Seriously, I am. I even brought it with me. I’ll show you.”

I rolled my eyes at him. “Okay, fine. Help me find the cinnamon.”


Back at the castle, we found Dad, Claudia, Kevin, and Kristen gathered around the small table in the ground-floor kitchen, drinking tea and eating shortbread. Dad pushed the package towards me. “We found it in the pantry. Dig in.”

I accepted a piece and leaned against the wall, staying out of the way of Pete and Val as they unloaded groceries. “What do you all want to do first tomorrow?”

Val asked, “What time is our complementary tour of the rest of the castle?”

“In the morning, at 9:00, before the castle opens for regular tourists.”

Dad said, “Okay, so we’ll do that first.”

Kevin said, “We want to spend some time in the town. Soak up the atmosphere and see our great-uncle’s plaque.”

Dad waved a shortbread cookie in the air. “Right. Have to take pictures of that for Sarge.”

I said, “He has pictures of that. He took one himself.” My grandfather had come with my uncle Doug to visit Brodie Castle and Forres years ago, when I was in college. A photo of the plaque honoring his brother, my dad’s uncle, Woody Brodie, who’d served here in World War II, hung on his wall.

Dad grinned. “He doesn’t have pictures of me with it.”

I laughed. “True.”

My grandfather, Ed “Sarge” Brodie, had joined the Marines out of high school and served in the Pacific theater during World War II. His older brother, Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Brodie, had gone to college first for an engineering degree, then joined the Army Air Corps as an officer. Before the U.S. had officially entered the war, he’d been sent to Scotland to assist the Royal Air Force in building radar installations along the northeast coast.

While there, he’d captured a German spy, and transported him to the air base at Forres at the request of the RAF. He’d stayed here for a few days after, and the townspeople had clutched him to their collective chests - a Brodie, come home, and a hero to boot.

When the townspeople had learned last year that I was Woody’s grand-nephew, their doors had opened wide to me. I’d heard as many stories about Woody as I had the Brodie history I’d come to collect. I’d been bemused by the fuss, but Pete had found it unremarkable. He’d said, “It’s a small town. Small towns love their heroes.”

I supposed he was right.

Pete had taken pictures of me next to the plaque honoring Woody’s heroism, which was affixed to the stone wall of the Town Hall. I’d emailed them to everyone in the family.

I said, “Okay. Castle tour, then into town.”

Val said, “Pete and I want to find the Transition Town office and chat with those folks. There are several of us who want to start a chapter in Oceanside.”

I glanced at Pete, who hadn’t mentioned that to me; he returned a “why not?” shrug. Claudia said, “Transition Town?”

Jeff said, “It’s a movement for towns to become locally resilient and self-reliant. It started here in the UK, and Val learned that Forres is a Transition Town.”

Pete said, “So is Santa Monica. But Alamogordo is not.”

I said, “There you go. Another project for you to tackle when we move.” Pete and I had built a second home in Alamogordo, New Mexico, home of Pete’s brother, Steve. We intended to move there in a couple of years.

Kristen said, “I want to have lunch in a pub.”

I grinned. “That can be arranged. The Red Lion Inn is right off of High Street. Its pub grub is terrific.”

Dad asked, “Jamie, what time tomorrow are you and Pete leaving for Edinburgh?”

I said, “Mid-afternoon. It’s only a three-hour drive.” I’d promised to buy Fiona a drink as thanks for her assistance with my latest book. I was structuring the content around the Mackenzie family. Fiona had provided me with nearly a hundred documents and introduced me to her father and uncles in Glasgow, all of whom had been delighted to discuss family history with me. I had hours of recordings to transcribe from my phone, which I hoped to finish while we were at the castle.

Val said, “Perfect. We’ll come back here after lunch, and you guys can head to Edinburgh while the rest of us...rest.”

Pete and Val finished unloading groceries and started figuring out how to take advantage of the multi-oven range and all the pots and pans provided. Kristen declared that she was going for a long soak in the deep bathtub next to their room. Claudia said she was ready for a nap. Dad and Jeff went to the sitting room with books, and I headed for the office and its wireless connection to begin transcribing my interviews.

By 6:00, Pete and Val had produced a dinner of roasted chicken and potatoes with a salad. I pitched in to help clean the kitchen. Once that chore was over, we scattered. I was headed to our room to finish unpacking when Pete grabbed my elbow. “How about a walk?”

“Sounds good.”

We meandered around the property, taking in the landscaping, no particular goal in mind. We were well away from the castle buildings when Pete nudged at a clump of grass with his toe. “It would be tricky to run out here. Too many holes and tufts to trip you up.”

“Yeah. We should stick to the driveways.” I inhaled deeply. “Cut grass and clean air. Is there any better smell?”

“Only the smell of the desert after a hard rain. It’s…”

He stopped as a man stepped out from the shadows between two clumps of shrub, startling me. “Brodie.”

I didn’t recognize him, and didn’t care for his demeanor. “Who the fuck are you?”

He sneered. “Calum Gordon.”

Calum Gordon was probably in his fifties, although it was hard to tell. He was about 5’9”, overweight, with a cigarette hanging from his lip. He was standing with his feet planted apart, swaying drunkenly.

I said, “Am I supposed to know who you are?”

“Nae. Not yet, anyway.” Gordon thought that was hilarious. His laughter dissolved into hacking coughs.

Pete and I looked at each other. We could take this guy in a fight, no question, but he didn’t seem to be looking for a fight. I said, “What do you want?”

“I want you to listen to me.” Gordon pointed a finger at my face. “Your precious uncle, who’s got his name plastered on the town hall?”

I thought, What?? “What about him?”

Gordon sneered. “He was a spy. For the Nazis. I’ve got proof. But I’m willing to burn that proof for the proper - let’s say - incentive.”

I spluttered. “You’re blackmailing me?”

“Nae. Such a nasty word. Just making a business deal, aren’t we?”

Pete had his cop face on. He said, “Where’s the proof? Show us.”

Gordon turned his unsteady gaze to Pete, and quailed a bit. “I don’t have it with me, do I? I’m not stupid.”

Pete shook his head. “Ah, Mr. Gordon. I think that’s exactly what you are.”

I said, “I don’t believe you for a second.”

Gordon was insulted. “I’ve got the documents. I’ll show them to ye, all right. Tomorrow.”

Pete said, “We’re busy tomorrow. It’ll have to be Friday.”

“Friday, then.” Gordon pointed at his feet. “Right here in this spot. Midnight.”

I said, “We’ll be here.” I didn’t add, With reinforcements.

“Until then, Brodie.” Gordon turned, swayed a bit, then staggered away.

We watched him go. Pete said, “Well. That was random.”

Bizarre. What proof could he possibly have?”

“Probably nothing. Or something forged. What’s his motive? He’s at least a generation younger than your uncle.”

“He’s a Gordon.”

“So?”

“In 1645, a Gordon burned Brodie Castle. The fire destroyed all of the family papers, which not only would have helped me write my book last year, but might also have proven our descent from the Bridei kings.”

“And there’s still a feud going? That’s a hell of a grudge.”

“Not only that. Gordon put a curse on the Brodie chiefs. No son born in the castle would ever become heir to the property.”

Pete snorted. “You don’t believe that, do you?”

“Of course not. But back then, people took such things very seriously. The Brodies and the Gordons have hated each other for centuries.”

He grinned. “I bet there was a Romeo and Juliet situation somewhere along the way. A beautiful Brodie girl falls for a dashing Gordon boy…”

I laughed. “True, but totally irrelevant.”

“You really think the family feud explains why this particular Gordon wants to shake you down?”

“I have no idea. When we see him next time, let’s ask him.”

“Uh huh. I think tomorrow, when we’re in town after our castle tour, we need to ask around about Calum Gordon.”

“Agreed.”


Back at the castle, the rest of my family was strewn around the sitting room, various adult beverages in hand. Val was drinking something…orange? Pete snagged two cans of beer from the fridge for us, and we settled in with the others. Dad asked, “How was your walk?”

I said, “Terrific, until we ran into a guy who’s trying to blackmail us. Val, what the hell are you drinking?”

Val smirked at me. Everyone else responded with variations on, “BLACKMAIL?? WHAT??

I told the story of meeting Gordon and our conversation with him. “Dad? Is there any possibility that what he said is true?”

Dad was shaking his head firmly. “Absolutely not. Uncle Woody would have sacrificed one of his own eyes before helping the Nazis. When Shana married Stefan, he had a few things to say about it.”

My Uncle Doug, Dad’s oldest brother, had three daughters who had been born and mostly raised in Germany while Doug was stationed there with the Marines. Shana, the oldest, had stayed behind when the rest of the family had moved back to the States, and had eventually married Stefan, a terrific German guy.

Jeff asked, “Is there any way he could have been coerced into it?”

Dad said, “I don’t see how.”

Kristen said, “I’ve only heard bits and pieces of Woody’s story. How did he become a hero to Forres?”

Dad waved an empty can. “I’ll need another round for this.”

I stood to refresh his supply. Val said, “Hey, while you’re at the fridge, can you bring me another one of those orange drinks? Iron something.”

“Blech! You’re drinking Irn Bru? What the hell are you mixing it with?”

“Vodka.” Val smacked her lips. “Yum.”

“Oh my God…”

Kevin said, “Um, hello? Blackmail story?”

“Okay, okay.” I hustled to the fridge.

Dad accepted his fresh beer with thanks. “Here’s the story. Woody was born in 1918, six years older than Sarge. He graduated from college in 1940 with a degree in electrical engineering. It wasn’t obvious then that we’d be joining the Allies, but Woody joined the Army Air Corps anyway. They recruited him for his degree, mostly.”

Pete said, “Not the Marines?”

“No. I think my grandfather had a few words to say about that, but it was the right thing for Woody. He was a brilliant man. He’d have been wasted in the trenches.”

My dad’s grandfather - Woody’s father - had been the first Brodie to join the Marines, and had served in World War I. Dad said, “Anyway. Before long, the Army sent Woody over here to Scotland. They knew he had fairly recent Scottish roots. The Royal Air Force was building a ring of radar stations along the coast, and Woody ended up at Dunnet Head Radar Station. You’ve been there, right, Jamie?”

“Yep.” Dunnet Head, in spite of the claims of John O’Groats, was the northernmost point of the Scottish mainland. I’d seen the empty concrete bunkers that had held the radar installation.

Dad continued. “One evening, Woody was out walking along the cliffs at the coast, and he spotted a guy trying to climb the cliff. Something told him to keep quiet. He had binoculars with him, so he trained them on this guy, and saw that he was wearing a German uniform. Woody backed up a bit from the cliff so the German wouldn’t see him, and drew his sidearm. When the guy topped the cliff, Woody captured him and marched him at gunpoint to the radar station.”

Val whistled and clapped. “Way to go, Uncle Woody!”

Val was apparently taking advantage of her brief break from motherhood to tie one on. I raised an eyebrow at Jeff; he rolled his eyes.

Dad grinned. “Exactly. The radar station wasn’t equipped to hold a prisoner there. The chief called his superiors and they decided to move the German to a small, out of the way RAF field - in particular, the one here in Forres. There were closer fields, but the RAF didn’t want the spy to see any installations that were larger or closer to the coast. They sent Woody and one of the RAF officers to escort the German to the RAF station at Forres. They flew down there that night and locked the guy up in the local jail until the proper authorities could come and take custody of him.”

Pete asked, “So how did Woody become such a local hero?”

Dad sipped his beer. “He was owed a few days off, so he decided to spend them in Forres. He knew about Brodie Castle - his grandfather, the Alexander Brodie that emigrated to America, had told the kids stories about it - and Woody thought he might take a look at it. By the time he woke up the next morning, everyone in town knew that he was there because he’d brought in a German spy. Someone at the police station had spread the word, of course. By morning the spy was gone, on the way to someplace else to be questioned.”

I asked, “Did he meet the Brodie Castle Brodies?”

“Yes. But not right off. He was eating breakfast in the hotel when the town leaders appeared, invited him to the town hall the next day, where they presented him with the key to the town, several bottles of whiskey, a kilt, I don’t know what else. Woody hung out for a couple of days, taking walks and drinking with the townspeople in the pubs. At one point there was a meeting arranged for Woody with the clan chief at the time, Ian, the 24th Brodie chief.”

I said, “He’s the one who cultivated daffodils.”

Everyone said, “Ah.” We were too late in the year to see them bloom, but the castle grounds were planted with thousands of daffodils, and the library was full of books on daffodil horticulture. Ian, the 24th chief, was the daffodil enthusiast.

Dad said, “Right. He also met Ian’s son, who was briefly home from the war.”

I said, “Ninian. The one who ended up selling this place to the National Trust.”

Val grumbled. “Shouldn’t a’ done that.”

Kristen snickered. “You’re drunk, Mrs. Brodie.”

Val blew her a raspberry, which made all of us laugh.

Dad said, “In a few days, Woody went back to Dunnet Head. He didn’t return to Forres until the war was over, when he stopped by the town briefly before shipping back to the States. He was discharged from the Air Corps, moved back to Beaufort, married my Aunt Jean, began teaching math at the high school, went for a master’s degree in education, and eventually became principal. A few years after the war, he and Jean traveled back here when the town dedicated that plaque to him. They proclaimed it to be ‘Woodrow Brodie Day.’ Ninian was clan chief by then, and he came to say a few words.”

Claudia said, “It doesn’t sound like there’s any room in there for spying.”

Dad was vehement. “Hell, no. This Gordon guy can’t have any genuine documentation. He’s hoping that we’re dumb enough that he can make a quick buck.”

Jeff snorted. “Too bad for him, then.”

Kevin asked, “When are you meeting with this Gordon clown again?”

“Friday night at midnight.”

“I’m coming with you.”

Pete said, “I’d expect no less.”

We said good night and headed to our respective rooms. I put on my pajamas, dug my bathrobe out of my suitcase, and headed for the bathroom, where Jeff was already brushing his teeth. I said, “We’ll have to get used to sharing a bathroom with more than one person again.”

He grunted and spit. “It’s all yours.”

Back in our bedroom I saw that Pete was eschewing pajamas. I said, “If we have to run into the hall in the middle of the night, you’ll be sorry you’re naked.”

He frowned, but realized the logic behind my statement. “Yeah, okay. Bottoms only, though.”

I hung my robe on the hook behind the bedroom door. “Are you and Val gonna cook a big breakfast?”

“That’s the plan. Although if Val’s hung over, it might be just me. Our tour of the castle is at 9:00, right?”

“Yep.” I crawled into bed and spotted a book on Pete’s nightstand. “What are you reading?”

“Ohhhh…” He smirked and showed me the cover. It displayed two bare-chested men, both wearing kilts. “We’re back in the sexy Highlands...I thought we might find this appropriate.”

I laughed, shaking my head, and reached for the book. “A Laird for the Laird. Nice.”

“Their kilts probably aren’t right.”

I pointed to the man on the left. “Well, this one’s Royal Stewart. I’m not sure about the other one. Gunn, maybe? What are the guys’ names?”

“I don’t know yet. I haven’t started reading.”

I flipped to the first couple of pages. “Hey, they got it right. One guy is a Stewart and one is a Davidson, and I think the Davidsons belong to Clan Gunn.”

Pete climbed into bed beside me. “How do you remember all this clan stuff?”

I shrugged. “I dunno. Years of reading about it, I guess. Is this historical fiction or modern day?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t started reading.”

I laughed. “Yeah, okay, you said that.” I flipped through a few pages. “I hope it’s historical. That would be more interesting.”

I handed the book back to him. He took it and tossed it onto the bedside table while cracking an enormous yawn. “Think I’ll start it tomorrow night. I’m bushed.”

I slid under the covers and turned out my bedside lamp. “Won’t argue with that.”

Thursday


The next morning it took a few minutes to negotiate bathroom time between Jeff, Val, Pete and me. Val was squinting and scowling from a hangover, but upright. She allowed us three males to take our morning leaks, then closed the bathroom door in our faces.

Fifteen minutes later she emerged. Pete went next, as he was supposed to help cook breakfast. I could already smell coffee. Someone was up - maybe my dad, who’d never broken the boot camp habit of waking by 5:30 in the morning. I decided to see if maybe, by chance, his and Claudia’s shower was free. I pulled on my bathrobe, filled my pockets with toiletries and a clean pair of briefs, and went downstairs.

Dad and Claudia were indeed up and dressed. Dad was carefully placing bacon in a frying pan; Claudia was sitting at the table, sipping coffee. She saluted me with her cup. “Good morning!”

“Back atcha. I was hoping to cadge some shower time from you.”

Dad said, “Sure. Make yourself at home.”

“Awesome. Thanks.” I turned to go back to the first floor just as Val appeared, pulling her still-damp hair into a ponytail. She poked me in the shoulder. “You’re cheating.”

I poked her back. “I’m resourceful.”

I trotted up the stairs to the sound of Dad and Claudia’s laughter.

Once showered, I went back to our bedroom to dress. Pete was pulling on a t-shirt; he stared at me. “You cheated.”

I tapped the side of my head. “Boy genius.”

“Yeah, right.” He threw his dirty briefs at me, which I dodged. “I smell bacon.”

“Dad’s started frying. Val’s down there too. You’re late.”

“Argh!” He dragged a hoodie over his head and hustled out of the room.

I dressed in a leisurely fashion and caught Jeff as he came out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel. He stopped at the sight of me. “You’re supposed to be last.”

“Yeah, well, the last shall be first.”

He yanked his towel off and tried to snap me with it; I dodged that too, stuck my tongue out at him, and ran downstairs.

Kevin and Kristen were setting the long table in the dining room when I arrived. Val was scrambling eggs; Pete was making towers out of toast. I rummaged for jam, marmalade, butter, salt and pepper. Jeff appeared, fully clothed; Claudia carried platters of eggs and bacon to the table, and we tucked into our fry-up with enthusiasm.

By 8:55 we had restored the kitchen to its sparkling clean state, made our beds, and brushed our teeth. We formed up and walked around to the front of the castle, where the docent was waiting for us.

Her eyes widened a bit at the sight of us, but she didn’t react otherwise. “Good morning! I’m Mary Carr. I hope you found the accommodations to your liking?”

Dad said, “Yes, thank you. They’re fantastic.”

Mary smiled. “And do I understand correctly, that you’re all Brodies?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Dad introduced the rest of us.

“Well, welcome to your ancestral home! Are you descended from the Brodies of Brodie?”

I said, “Yes, ma’am. From James, the 21st clan chief. His youngest grandson, George, is our ancestor.”

“Ah. Excellent.” She turned and unlocked the door to the castle. “Come with me.”

We stopped in the entry hall, and Mary turned to us. “Have any of you visited before?”

I said, “Pete and I have. None of the others.”

“Well, the rest of you are in for a treat.” She beamed. “The Brodie family has long been renowned for its style and artistic taste. The art collection is of national importance, and the castle furnishings were built by some of the top makers of fine furniture of the day.”

Style and artistic taste. Pete was biting back a grin. I edged up behind Kristen and whispered in her ear. “The lady is expecting style. You’d better move to the front of the pack.”

She shushed me. Mary the docent was leading us into the first room.

The library.

I’d spent several hours in here last summer, both doing research and marveling at the collection. Mary waxed enthusiastic about the books and the art on the walls, and spoke of Ian, the 24th clan chief, who’d developed the passion for daffodils. As she wound down her spiel, Kristen raised her hand.

Mary said, “Yes?”

Kristen said, “I’m a librarian, so I’m curious - how are the books arranged? Is there some sort of classification system?”

“Er.” Mary was nonplussed. “I’m afraid I don’t know.”

I snickered. I knew she’d say that. I’d asked the same question the first time I’d ever visited the castle, about fifteen years ago, with Ethan Williams, my boyfriend through college and grad school. I’d studied the problem myself, last summer, and determined that the arrangement didn’t make any sense that I could discern.

Kristen said, “Hm.”

Mary cleared her throat and gave Kristen a look that bordered on baleful. “Let’s move on, shall we?”

She led us up the stairs and into the first drawing room, where she pointed out several family portraits, stopping at a large painting of a family. “And here is your ancestor, James, the 21st Brodie of Brodie, with his wife and children. His oldest son didn’t live long enough to become chief, so when James died, the title passed to his grandson, William.”

I said, “Who was the older brother of George, our direct ancestor.”

“Yes.” Mary nodded to me. “You know quite a bit about your family history.”

“Yes, ma’am. I wrote a book about it last year.”

Mary’s eyes widened. “Oh! You’re Jeremy Brodie? I thought…”

“Yes, ma’am. I go by Jamie as a nickname.”

“Oh my. Well, your book is quite the sensation around here, you know.”

Pete snickered. I was skeptical. “Um - thank you.”

Mary said, “Then you must know the tragic story of James’s wife, Lady Margaret Duff.”

“Yes, ma’am.” I pointed to the picture. “In 1786, Lady Margaret was sitting by the fire in the room upstairs from this one. Everyone else had gone to bed. She fell asleep, and an ember from the fireplace caught her gown on fire. She burned to death before anyone could help her.”

My entire family sucked in a collective breath. Claudia said, “How awful. How old was she?”

“Around 40, I think? James lived on for many years but never remarried.”

Val, the only mom in our group, asked, “How small were her children?”

“The older kids were teenagers. The two youngest girls were nine, ten, somewhere around there?”

Kristen asked, “Does she haunt the castle? I would.”

Mary clucked quietly and, to my mind, somewhat disapprovingly. “No. There is a castle ghost story, but it involves the death of the 23rd laird, Hugh, in 1889. He was abroad in Switzerland and had locked his office before he left, instructing the staff that no one was to enter. One night the staff heard thumping and moaning from the office, and a sound like rustling of papers. The next day they learned that the laird had died that night. Some believe that his ghost returned to his office, unhappy because of unfinished business.”

Val was looking around at the family photos. “These Brodies don’t look anything like you all.”

It was true. The Brodie chiefs were all thin-faced and dark-haired with prominently hooked noses. Dad said, “Sarge claims there was a Viking in the woodpile. I don’t know about that, but I do know that my great-grandfather, the Brodie who came to the States, married a girl who’d been born on Lewis. There was enormous Scandinavian influence on the Western Isles. And his mother, my great-great-grandmother Brodie, was born in Wick.” A town on the northeastern coast, not far from Dunnet Head, which had belonged to Norway for centuries.

Mary looked faintly disapproving of the thought of Vikings. Pete leaned over to me and whispered, “I’m glad that you didn’t inherit the Brodie nose.”

As we climbed to higher floors, Mary chattered on and on about the paintings and antiques. I noticed that Jeff was growing increasingly antsy. At one point when Claudia was asking Mary about some particular doodad, Jeff leaned in to me. “I don’t get it.”

“What?”

“The last chief who lived here, who sold the castle...he sold it because he couldn’t afford to keep it up, right?”

“Right.”

“He could have sold off just one floor of this stuff and made enough to keep it going for years.”

“I know. Apparently he didn’t want any of the interior to be broken up in any way. His stuff was more important to him than holding on to the castle as a home.”

Jeff snorted. “Bad decision.”

“Yeah, his grandson thought so, too. The current clan chief. But...these Brodies have a long history of making bad financial decisions. They’ve lost a ton of the land they used to own, and lost the castle itself once. One of the lairds made a good marriage and got it back.”

“Sounds like the sensible Brodies were all younger sons.”

I grinned. “That’s right. And don’t you forget it.”

He spluttered. “I wasn’t talking about now.”

Mary cleared her throat again. “Ahem. Shall we move on?”


An hour later we emerged into the daylight, blinking against the sun filtered through high clouds. Val said, “Wow.”

I said, “Our last ancestor to live in the castle, George, was born in 1802. Most of the decorative furnishings were probably added after that. The frou-frou isn’t our fault.”

Kristen said, “It’s a gorgeous museum. But it’s hard to imagine families with kids living there.”

Jeff said, “Lucky for us, they did.”

We all laughed. Dad said, “Okay, who’s up for a distillery tour?”

The rest of the family planned to tour the Dallas Dhu and Benromach distilleries, then join Pete and me in town for lunch. Once the others were on their way, Pete and I drove into Forres with the intention of learning what we could about Calum Gordon.

We parked in the center of town and walked a couple of blocks to the post office, where the proprietor was a closer cousin than Adam Grant - Catherine Russell, who was descended from an older sister of our ancestor, George. I’d spent hours with Catherine last summer, discussing family history.

As with many post offices in villages in the UK, this one was part of a Spar store. Pete snagged a couple of Cokes from the cooler for us, while I went to see if Catherine was behind the counter.

She was. She gasped in surprise to see me, then came around the counter to give me a firm hug. “Jamie! I’d heard you’d be in town, but I wasn’t sure when you’d arrive.”

“We got in yesterday afternoon. How are you?”

“Och, I’m well.” She grinned at Pete as he approached. “And there’s himself. Where’s the rest of your family?”

“Visiting Dallas Dhu. I’ll bring them by to introduce them later. Listen, Catherine, I need some information about a guy named Calum Gordon.”

Her expression immediately clouded. “That eejit. What d’you want with him?

“Is there someplace we can talk?”

“Aye.” Catherine called to a young woman who was stocking shelves. “Lucy, I’ll be in the back for a wee bit.”

“Aye.” Lucy moved to the register.

Catherine led us behind the counter and into a tiny room that served as an office. She produced one chair besides the one at the desk, and nodded at a stack of cases of soup. “One of ye can sit there.”

I perched on the soup. Catherine said, “What’s this about Calum Gordon?”

I told her what had happened the night before. She was incensed. “That piece of rubbish. You doona believe him, do you?”

“Of course not. But we wanted to gather more dirt on him before we saw him again.”

“He’s the town drunk. Nasty jakey. Lives in a caravan out on the edge of Elder George Farm. Not far from your castle.”

A caravan was what we’d call a trailer. Pete grimaced. I said, “Not far enough, anyway. How does he live?”

“Steals, mostly. Out of people’s gardens. We have to run him out from here about once a week. He spends more time in jail than out.”

“What does he have against Brodies? Surely not the old feud.”

“Nae.” Catherine curled her lip. “Somewhere he’s overheard talk of you, and he’s cooked up this scheme to make a bit o’ money. He’s so addled on the drink, he probably thinks it’s a grand plan.”

“Everyone in the town knows him?”

“Aye. He’s the most despised man in this part of Moray. Most of the folks around have had some sort o’ go with him.” She crossed her arms firmly. “You should tell the polis.” Polis was how the Scots referred to their police.

I asked, “Is there a particular officer I should speak to?”

“Aye.” She picked up her phone and sent a text. We waited for only a moment, and her phone beeped with a response. “Roddy Simpson. He’ll be expecting you at the station.”

“Roddy Simpson. Awesome. Thanks, Catherine.”

She waved that off. “Any trouble for Calum Gordon is a public service. I’ll see you Saturday night at the gathering.”


We left the post office and struck out on foot, walking the length of High Street. High Street became Victoria Road, and led us away from the center of town. We passed Grant Park and the East Lodge, the house we’d rented last summer. Another 200 yards on was the local headquarters of Police Scotland.

The station was housed in a two-story stone building set in a green expanse of lawn. We walked up the ramp to the door. PC - Police Constable - Roddy Simpson was waiting for us in the entryway. He was young, probably a few years younger than me, and looked sharp in his neatly pressed uniform. He shook hands with us as we introduced ourselves. “Come to the back wi’ me.”

We followed Roddy down a hallway, past the stair to the second floor, to a small warren of cubicles. A couple of other constables were at computers, laboriously typing reports. Pete grinned in recognition, no doubt remembering his days of typing reports for LAPD. Back when he and Kevin had been partners.

Roddy sat behind a desk and waved us to chairs. “I hear Calum Gordon has made some trouble?”

I said, “That’s right.” I told the constable about our encounter the previous night.

Roddy shook his head. “Daft, Calum is. His brain’s nearly gone from the drink. D’ye think there’s any truth to what he’s saying?”

I said, “No. I figure he has some documents he forged himself, and he believes we’re stupid enough to fall for it.”

Roddy eyed us. “Ye doona look stupid to me. You…” He nodded to Pete. “You look like a polis.”

“Ten years on the job, about ten years ago.”

“I knew it. Anyway. I doona believe Calum to be dangerous, but he might carry a knife. I think I’ll park up the drive a wee bit tomorrow night, and see what’s what wi’ him.”

I said, “Catherine described him as a waste of space.”

“Aye, that he is. No one in the town has use for him, even his own relatives.” Roddy shook his head. “Someone’s likely to stumble across his body after he’s been dead for days, out in that falling-down caravan of his, once the drink does him in.”

I had to agree. We thanked Roddy and said goodbye, and walked back into town. We were scheduled to meet the rest of the family at Maclean’s Bakery for Scotch pies and other delights, but we were a bit early. As we passed the local Church of Scotland, St. Leonard’s, I said to Pete, “Let’s stop in here a minute.”

He frowned, gazing up at the facade of the church. “Is it Catholic?”

“No, doofus, Church of Scotland is Presbyterian. We passed the Catholics a couple of blocks back. Come on. I know the minister.”

We pushed open the heavy front door of the church and turned to the left, toward the wing that housed the church offices. I stuck my head in through the door to greet the receptionist. “Hey, Mrs. Sutherland.”

The plump gray-haired lady looked over her reading glasses at me and beamed. “Jamie Brodie! We heard you’d be in town.”

“Yes, ma’am. Is the minister in?”

“Ach, no, he’s away home for a meal. Is there anything I can help you with?”

“Probably. What do you know about Calum Gordon?”

Mrs. Sutherland’s face twisted into a grimace. “Ah, that scoundrel.” She lowered her voice, even though I thought we were the only people in the building. “Would that he’d get on with drinkin’ himself to death and leave us all in peace.”

I said, “So he’s caused trouble for you?”

“Aye. Not so much me as my brothers. They were in school together as young lads.” She shook her head regretfully. “Tortured the others, did Calum. A right bully.” She gave me a sideways look. “How did ye come across him, then?”

I gave her a brief synopsis of our encounter with Gordon. When I said “spy,” she gasped. “No. Your uncle was no more spy than I am. Ye’ll not pay that one a penny, will you?”

“Of course not. Don’t worry about that. We just wanted to collect more information before we saw him again. And we’re taking the police with us next time.”

She relaxed. “That’s all right, then. Maybe the polis will lock him away for a good long time.”

I said, “Yes, ma’am. That’s the plan.”

Mrs. Sutherland smiled up at us. “You’ll be attendin’ the clan gathering, then?”

I grinned. “Of course. Wouldn’t miss it.”

“You’ll likely see the minister there.” She straightened and pressed her hand over her heart. “We wouldna likely have the Church of Scotland without the Brodies, you know.”

I said, “Yes, ma’am. As one historian wrote, ‘The Brodies’ historical importance rests on vindicating the cause of the Covenant.’ Although I can’t say I agree with the tactics of ol’ Alexander the Good.”

Mrs. Sutherland eyed me, amusement in her expression. “Aye, perhaps. Devoted to the cause, he was.”

I said, “Yes, ma’am. And ‘an intemperate bigot,’ he was, as well. Quoting the same source.”

“Hm. Be that as it may.” She gave me a knowing grin. “Next time you see Calum Gordon, you give him a good thump from me.”

I grinned back. “Yes, ma’am.”

We hustled down the street, past the Town Hall where my great-uncle’s plaque gleamed in the sun, and into Maclean’s. My family was already in line, ordering. The girl behind the counter was familiar to me, although I couldn’t remember her name, and she waved. Once we had our bags full of meat pies and mouthwatering desserts, we set off in a clump for Grant Park. Once there, we spread out on the grass, opened our sacks of goodies, and dug in. Between mouthfuls of Scotch pie, Pete and I told the others what we’d learned about Calum Gordon.

Kevin was pleased to hear that we’d be accompanied by the cops at our rendezvous tomorrow night. “Your postmistress is right. He could easily have a knife. Not that we couldn’t take it away from him, but that’s a lot easier to do with a billy club.”

I said, “Yeah. After talking to everyone this morning, I’m feeling better about the whole thing.”

Ha ha.


After lunch, Val, Kristen and Claudia stayed in town to explore (Val), shop (Kristen), and visit the library’s genealogical section (Claudia). We left one car with them, and Dad, Kevin, Jeff, Pete and I squeezed into the other to return to the castle.

Dad, Jeff and Kevin retired to the sitting room to sample their whiskey purchases. Pete and I packed an overnight bag and drove toward Inverness, to pick up the A9 for the three-hour trip to Edinburgh.

As we headed into the Cairngorms the day grew overcast, with occasional sprinkles. I glanced at Pete in the passenger seat and asked, “How do you think it’ll go down tomorrow night with this Gordon character?”

“One of several things will happen.” Pete counted on his fingers. “One, he won’t show up, because he was too plastered to remember what he did last night.”

I said, “I dunno. He seemed pretty determined.”

“True. Two, he’ll show up and hand us some papers. We’ll demand to have them authenticated, and he’ll refuse. Then our cop friend - what’s his name?”

“Roddy Simpson.”

“Right. Roddy will step out of the darkness and arrest Gordon, and our adventure will be over.”

“You said several things. That’s only two.”

“Oh. Well, he could also come armed with a knife, as Roddy suggested. In which case, Kevin and I will disarm him and beat the shit out of him.”

“Roddy might stop you.”

“He might. Or he might give us a few seconds, then step in.”

I said, “We don’t want to get Kevin in trouble for police brutality.”

“Nah. I seriously doubt that Gordon will bring a knife. He wants money. He saw us; he knows we’re younger, fitter, and faster than he is. He won’t want to piss us off. Whatever happens, ol’ Calum is getting arrested tomorrow night, and for something far more serious than public drunkenness.”


We stopped for petrol at a station north of Perth, then continued our journey. We located our hotel car park and checked in. Both Pete and I were delighted to see that our en-suite facilities had a shower big enough for the two of us. I asked, “Did you bring that book about the lairds with you?”

He unzipped his bag and extracted the book, waving it at me with a grin. “Hell, yeah.”

But that would have to wait. We changed into slightly dressier duds and went downstairs, onto the street, and two doors down to our favorite Edinburgh pub.

Fiona was already there, accompanied by her boyfriend, Finn Murray, another Glaswegian living in Edinburgh, whom we’d met last summer. Finn was a lecturer in art history at the University, a calm, agreeable guy with blond hair and blue eyes. Quite the contrast to purple-haired, easily excitable Fiona. We greeted each other enthusiastically and ordered pints and bowls of vegetable soup then found a table.

“So.” Fiona arranged herself at the table. “How is Brodie Castle as a holiday let?”

Pete said, “Not enough bathrooms. But the kitchen is fantastic.”

Finn laughed. “One WC per house. The bane of old houses in the UK.”

I said, “No kidding. There are four bathrooms, but only one shower. And one of the bathrooms is beside the entryway.”

Fiona said, “Also typical. Walk into almost any house in Scotland, you’ll find a cludgie right near the front door. It can be convenient at times.”

Pete chuckled. “I guess so.”


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