Murder by Bequest (Sherrod Colsne Mysteries (non-sequential))
By John Yantiss
On a frigid Friday afternoon in February, Eleanor Harkness shows up at the door of the “granite palace,” Sherrod Colsne’s New York townhouse. Her unexpected yet incredibly fateful and ironic appearance not only knocks Colsne’s normally unflappable assistant, Monty Weston, off stride, but takes both of them down a winding path of romance, past and present, and decades-old, bitter hatred.
With the story opening on the scene of a “family squabble” between the two main (series) characters, Sherrod Reinard Colsne (pronounced kōn, with silent “l” and “s”) and Montague Boyd “Monty” Weston, the latter makes casual and unwitting mention of a recent and bizarre murder in an attempt to arouse his employer and friend to action. Action in this sense means business, the work of a professional detective. Little does Monty know that his choice of stimulus is prophetic. When he storms out to go for a walk, even though it is bitterly cold, he almost literally runs into Eleanor Catherine Harkness, eldest scion of the murdered man, Bertrand Wellman Harkness, IV. Convinced that the authorities are botching the investigation, she has come to hire him, Monty, to find the killer. She chose him because since high school she followed his career, having succumbed to a “béguin” for him.
After learning the purpose of her visit, and explaining that he cannot undertake to do the job for her without Colsne’s agreement and participation, indeed, direction, he takes her into the office. Colsne swiftly divines the situation, and graciously invites Miss Harkness to explain her mission in detail, offering his deepest sympathy for her loss. The upshot is that he, Colsne takes the job, and after the formalities of retainer—to establish his bona fides, should there be family or official objections—and personal preparation, the three travel in Colsne’s Cautsfield town car to the Harkness mansion. Once there the adults of the extended family, gathered to deal with the recent tragedy, is summoned to a meeting in the large drawing room.
Introductions all round, Colsne’s statement of his capacity, as hired by Eleanor Harkness, and the many and varied reactions, constitute the real beginning of his investigation. As it turns out, one of the family by marriage, a British nobleman, the Duke of Burlingham, Grantley Eric Baden Siddons, is known to Colsne from the latter’s earlier years in his native England. This also proves to be a significant factor in unravelling the mystery, as His Grace knew the deceased intimately in his youth; indeed, it was during their post-university days that the beginnings of the current affair began, though none is immediately aware of that reality.
Next morning, Saturday, Eleanor calls Monty, a cry for rescue. She needs him there with her, being harried to exasperation, and must go to a hotel to get away from the family, many of whom feel her to have made a gross mistake in hiring Colsne. Monty goes to her and, after a confrontation with her mother, Camille Hyde Harkness, whisks her away to, not a hotel, but the granite palace. With Colsne’s full approval she is ensconced at East 75th street, and the investigation deepens and expands, some of it unbeknownst to Monty—itself a not unfamiliar move on the part of Colsne.
Sunday Colsne goes to the Hotel Chevalier to meet Bertrand Wellman “Bertie” Harkness, V, who has indicated that he knows something about his father’s death. At the same time Monty goes to see Assistant Chief Connor Niall Dundee at Leonard Street. While there, a call comes from Colsne at the Chevalier. Bertrand, V has been shot and killed, with Colsne himself targeted as well, but not wounded, excepting his pride. With Monty as close to out of control as he has ever been, he and Dundee rush to the scene, where Colsne describes the assailant as a short, slim, bearded (goatee) character, very active and, from the nature of the bullet wounds on the victim, an incredible sharpshooter.
Weather has played its own part, this being the weekend of the “blizzard of 2006,” delaying and preventing certain investigative measures and activities. On Sunday, in pure Holmesian manner, complete with the fog of pipe smoke, Colsne resorts to one of his excursions into anagogic reasoning, to discern a path where all seems dark and hidden. Later that day he has some of the Harkness family over for further examination. The inquiry is violently interrupted by an outburst of automatic weapon fire out front. Guardedly, but as quickly as possible, Colsne and Monty, along with Rivers and Alec, who join them in the glass-strewn foyer, make their way to the front steps, only to find a critically but not mortally wounded Allison Harkness, shot multiple times from the street or opposite sidewalk.
On the fourth day, with Dundee’s assistance, Colsne invites all of those present at the first gathering in the Harkness mansion, together with one Unka Jahrah, a grand-nephew of the now deceased Maharajah of Mandunapur, Aalam, father of Bertrand Wellman, IV’s first and all but forgotten wife, Kiran. Jahrah is brought by three of the operatives on whom Colsne calls when extra help is needed. Solution and climax come together with a final, freakish slaying that takes place before Colsne can publically identify the bête noire.
With details provided by Colsne, in the epilogue Monty gives his readers a full explanation of how a romance and elopement on the Indian Sub-continent, a quarter-century before, resulted in a triple murder by a maniacally passionate, yet subtle and wily woman. His purpose in penning the narrative is given in his introduction, and he hints at subsequent accounts.
Books by John Yantiss
by John Yantiss
Sir Guy Hugo de May, Marquis of Maubrey, now President and CEO of Tower Of London Aegis, or TOLA, is in Jacksonville, Florida for a conference with an American partner firm, Biocon, and Organic Processing Technologies, Inc., a rival enterprise claiming that it owned the rights to a very special CPU, or at least the bio-electrical materials and manufacturing procedures used in producing it. That CPU, with SW developed by TOLA, form “Erelim."
by John Yantiss
"The Weerwolf Problem" (Dutch spelling) forces Monty Weston, assistant, and de facto son to Colsne, to reassess all that he had come to accept about the monsters that had once been part and parcel of most people's belief systems prior to The Industrial Revolution, and the subsequent explosion of "scientific" discovery. No less nerve rattling is the truth behind a series of freakish animal deaths in Upstate New York, found in "The Golden Dart."