Friday, March 21, 2014

Welcome to Finder's Keep

I was pondering what to write about today, playing with a few ideas that just weren't begging to be told, when I got the sudden idea -- "What if Thomas Magnum lived at Downton Abbey?"

"What, indeed?" said the Dowager Countess.  "Another American?  Next thing they'll take up drinking tea and making a musician their King."

Welcome to Finder's Keep
by Jon Stark
(remember, this a writing exercise…)

"Watson!"  Mr. Carson Higgins's voice bellowed across the yard.

"I'm right here." said Thomas Watson, standing up from where he had been stretching near the terrace.  "What do you want this early in the morning?"

"Early?" demanded Higgins, "It's after staff luncheon.  But never mind that.  There's a Lady here to see you.  She's waiting in the library."

"A Lady in waiting, is it?"

"You should put a shirt on." said Higgins.  He returned to the house, a masterpiece of stone, brick, and wood that had stood its ground for three hundred years.  Inside there had been updates, but in the typical English way, everything was subservient to the house itself.

TW wiped the sweat from his upper torso and face with a towel, tossed it casually over a garden chair, and pulled on sweater.  He was quite curious about who this waiting woman was and headed straight for the library.

Lady Regina Brighton stood with her back to the door, presumably admiring one of the many priceless antiques that the Lord of the house kept on display.  Thomas cleared his throat.  "Good morning, Reggie."

She spun, startled, and then quickly recovered.  "It's Lady Brighton now."  Her voice was cool, even inside a drafty British mansion.

"You look good."  TW was lost for a moment.  It had been just over three years since he had seen her in Rhode Island.  Providence had brought them together, and it appeared, or at least he hoped, that it was doing so again.

It wasn't.  "I'm serious, Watson.  There will be none of that."

Carson Higgins entered the room with a tray of tea.  "How do you take it, my Lady?"

TW snorted.  "You drink tea now?"

"2 with milk.  Thank you, Mr. Higgins."  He beamed at her and quickly made up the cup.

"Me too.  I'll take 2 with milk, Mr. Higgins."  TW was flippant, mocking them both.

"Must I remind you in the presence of our guest that the staff does not serve the staff?" said Higgins.  Reggie raised her eyebrow.

"Staff?" said TW.  "I'm a guest just like she is."

Carson looked at TW, then at the Lady Brighton.  "I don't believe I see any resemblance at all."

Reggie laughed and it was just like the old laugh, the old Reggie.

"What brings you to Finder's Keep?" said TW.

The laughter stopped.  "One of my maids is pregnant.  She said it was a boy from the village but I don't believe her."

TW motioned to a chair and sat opposite.  "Because you've seen something?"

Reggie nodded.  "I think so.  And there are things I haven't seen too.  Like boys from the village that fit the bill, or ever show up at the manor, or have stepped up to claim the girl."  Reggie paused for a sip of tea.  "She's quite a nice girl.  I expect a local chap would be proud to wed her.  Especially with her employed at the big house."

TW considered a moment.  "So you think it was Lord Brighton and want me to find out the truth."

"It sounds so awful when you say it aloud." said Reggie.

He leaned forward and took her hand his.  "It is awful.  Will your husband be traveling in the near future?"

"He's planning a business trip to Edinburgh on Wednesday.  I expect him back Friday next."

"Alright.  Invite me to dinner tomorrow.  I want to see him interact with the staff."  He looked at Reggie until she looked back.  "And you."

"That's simple enough.  I'll tell Carson on the way out." she said.

TW laughed.  "That won't be necessary.  The old bugger's been listening to the whole conversation.  He's put on 100 pounds in the last six months and can't see much of anything, but his hearing is still A+.  Isn't that right, Mr. Higgins?"

TW winked at Reggie.  She stood.  "I'll see you tomorrow."  He walked her to the door.  "You know, it is good to see you Thomas."

Reggie's visit was very upsetting to Tom.  He had really liked her back in the States and he didn't much care for the idea that her husband was tired of her.  He was too preoccupied to notice Carson Higgins slip up behind him.

"Will that be white tie or black?"

TW jumped and spun around.  "Higgins!  Don't sneak up on me like that.  And black, I think."

"Very good, sir.  I'll try to see if I can make out the difference, what with my failing eyesight."  Higgins walked off, stiffly and proud with a $3 smile lighting his path.

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