Two Down, Bun To Go
Oxford Tearoom Mysteries ~ Book 3
A sinister phone call in the middle of the night throws tearoom owner, Gemma Rose, straight into the heart of a new murder mystery--this time with her friend, Seth, arrested as the key suspect! The grisly killing in the cloisters of an old Oxford college points to a bitter feud within the University--but Gemma finds unexpected clues popping up in her tiny Cotswolds village.
Meanwhile, her love life is in turmoil as Gemma struggles to decide between eminent doctor, Lincoln Green, and sexy CID detective, Devlin O'Connor... whilst her quaint English tearoom is in hot water as she struggles to find a new baking chef.
With her exasperating mother and her mischievous little tabby cat, Muesli, driving her nutty as a fruitcake--and the nosy Old Biddies at her heels--Gemma must crack her toughest case yet if she is to save her friend from a life behind bars.
** Traditional English Chelsea Bun recipe at the end of the story!
AMAZON UK: http://www.hyhanna.com/bun-amazonuk
TWO DOWN, BUN TO GO By H.Y. Hanna
The Third Oxford Tearoom Mystery
A phone call in the middle of the night is never a good thing. Gemma is concerned when Seth calls and not only asks her to retrieve a letter, but to make sure she remains unseen by the police as she does so. What she wasn't expecting was that the police were at Oxford to investigate a murder...and she certainly never imagined that Seth had been arrested as the murderer! Cassie insists that Gemma investigate and the Old Biddies are already on the case. Will Gemma be able to help clear Seth? Will her argument with Devlin over information regarding the case push her closer to Lincoln? Will her mum survive a travel adventure to Jakarta? And will she be able to find a new cook for her tearoom?
H.Y. Hanna has once again pulled me into village life in the Cotswolds. Gemma is dealing with change as she looks to find a new baker for her tearoom and tries to see if a relationship with Lincoln would be better than with Devlin...all while trying to clear Seth of murder charges. Hanna also looks at the not so pleasant aspect of this bucolic countryside; the issue of homelessness plays a major part of TWO DOWN, BUN TO GO. The homeless are treated with respect, yet not romanticized, nor villianized. Hanna paints a realistic picture of some people who happen to be sleeping rough.
When I read Hanna's books I get caught up and swept away in her words. One of the final scenes in TWO DOWN, BUN TO GO was an exhilarating rush that left me gasping for breath! Full of humor, there's always a well plotted modern take to the traditional British mystery. The Oxford Tearoom Mystery series is a fantastic series with warm and witty characters. There's the right amount of quirkiness and fun to make you care as well as laugh. The Old Biddies and Meusli are each a force unto themselves, not to mention Gemma's mum! I can't wait to see what's in store for Gemma, Meusli, and the rest of the gang.
When you’re jolted awake by the shrill ringing of the phone at two in the morning, somehow you always know it’s going to be bad news.
Groaning, I dragged myself out of the depths of sleep and heaved up on one elbow, reaching for my phone on the bedside table. It slipped from my fingers and fell to the floor. Argh! I leaned over the side of the bed, groping frantically in the dark until my hand found something flat and hard. I scooped it up, fumbling to answer.
It was my friend, Seth Browning, and the fear in his voice jarred me instantly wide awake.
“Seth? What’s the matter?” I sat up in bed.
“Gemma—” His voice was low and strained. “I need you to do something for me.”
“What? What’s happened?”
“You need to go to Wadsworth College. Now. And—”
“Wadsworth? But it’s the middle of the night!”
He ignored me and kept on speaking, “Go to the Porter’s Lodge and look in Professor Barrow’s pigeonhole. There’s a note from me in there—God, I hope it’s still there!—I need you to remove it.” He paused, then added urgently, “And don’t let the police see you.”
“The police?” Seth, what on earth is going on?”
“I can’t explain now, Gemma,” he said desperately. “Just trust me and do what I say, please?”
He was scaring me. “But Seth—”
“Okay, okay, but how am I going to get in? The college gates will be locked at this time of the night and I’m not one of the students. I don’t have the keys.”
“You can get in from my side. There’s a connecting gate through from Gloucester.”
“There is? I never knew about that.”
“It’s not public knowledge, but those of us in the two colleges know about the shortcut. There’s a wooden door leading from the rear wall by the Master’s House in Gloucester into the Walled Garden on Wadsworth’s side. You’ve still got my spare keys, right?”
I did. Like the typical absent-minded academic, Seth had a tendency to be so wrapped up in his books and research that he forgot practical everyday things. After yet another expensive visit to the locksmith for a new set of keys, Seth had finally asked me to keep a spare set for him.
“Yeah, I’ve got them. But aren’t you at Gloucester yourself? Seth, you’ve got to tell me what’s going on! Where are you? And why are the police involved?”
“Just get the note quickly. Please.”
Then the line went dead.
I lowered the phone and stared at the screen glowing blankly in the dark, as if it would give me the answers. I brought up the call register and noticed that it didn’t show Seth’s name. It was an unregistered number. So he hadn’t been calling from his own phone. What on earth was going on?
I can’t explain… trust me… please. Seth’s desperate voice echoed in my mind. I’d never known him to sound like that. Brilliantly clever but very shy, Seth had chosen a life of academia and remained at Oxford after he’d completed his Chemistry degree and graduate studies. He had been one of the youngest post-doctoral scientists to get the Senior Research Fellow position at Gloucester College, and divided his days between research and giving lectures and tutorials to students. He was usually the calmest, most precise and methodical person you could meet. What on earth could have happened to make him so rattled?
I pushed back my duvet. It didn’t matter. Seth was one of my oldest friends—we’d known each other since that first week when we’d started as Freshers in Oxford together. I didn’t know what was going on but just the fact that he was asking for my help was enough.
I switched on the bedside lamp and scrambled out of bed, shivering in the chill of the room. I dressed quickly, putting on several layers for warmth. It was mid-January and Oxford was deep in the grip of a harsh winter, with icy winds and ominous grey skies dominating the days. Going out now, in the middle of the night, would be freezing. I pulled a woolly sweater over my head, then added an extra fleece top for warmth, zipping it snugly up to my chin.
I glanced back at the bed where my little tabby cat, Muesli, was sitting amongst the rumpled blankets. She tilted her head to one side as she regarded me with her bright green eyes, then she jumped off the bed and trotted to the bedroom door.
“Meorrw?” She looked over her shoulder at me expectantly.
“No, Muesli,” I whispered. “It’s still the middle of the night. You can’t go out now.”
“Meorrw!” Muesli gave a petulant twitch of her tail.
“Sorry…” I muttered, easing her gently away from the door.
I opened it and slipped out, shutting it quickly behind me before Muesli could follow. Then I tiptoed downstairs, going slowly as I didn’t dare switch on any lights. In the hallway, I hesitated, wondering if I should leave my parents a note. They’d be worried if they awoke and found my bed empty, with no idea where I’d gone. On the other hand, I didn’t know what I should say; how could I explain why I was going out to Wadsworth College at this time of the night? Not without mentioning Seth’s phone call and something—some instinct—held me back from doing that.
I sighed. This was another problem with moving back to live with your parents. I wasn’t used to having to account for myself to anybody anymore—after eight years of living and working in Sydney, freedom and independence were things I took for granted. Now it was weird to be back in a position where you had somebody worrying about you.
I’ll be back in less than an hour, I thought. No need to leave a note. Least said, soonest mended. Not exactly the right proverb for the situation but close enough.
I let myself out of the house and inhaled sharply as the cold hit me. It was frigid and a light fog lay on the street, turning the glow of the streetlights into pale halos in the night sky. I pulled my scarf up to cover my mouth, then unchained my bike from the railing at the front of my parents’ house, climbed astride, and pushed off.
At least the streets were empty at this time of the night. I pedalled as fast as I could, the cold air biting my cheeks as I peered ahead into the mist. My parents lived in the leafy suburb of North Oxford and I followed the main artery of Banbury Road into the centre of the city. The bike sailed silently past rows of elegant Victorian townhouses, past the various University departments and colleges, until it merged into the junction at St Giles’. Normally swarming with hordes of tourists in the day, it was now eerily empty and silent. The Martyrs’ Memorial loomed out of the mist ahead of me and I let the bicycle freewheel past, skimming down Magdalen Street and then curving around into the wide boulevard of Broad Street.
Filled with many of Oxford’s most iconic buildings—those “dreaming spires”, Gothic towers and grand college quadrangles that you saw on all the postcards—Broad Street was the symbolic heart of the University, the closest thing to the “campus” that tourists were always searching in bewilderment for. It was difficult for them to understand the collegiate system and that “Oxford University” was really spread out across the whole city, made up of nearly forty colleges and an assortment of department buildings, research laboratories, and libraries—all interspersed with the original houses, markets, and buildings of the historic town of Oxford itself. There was no campus—the entire city was the campus.
Wadsworth College was one of the member colleges, tucked in amongst the cluster of ancient buildings that occupied the end of Broad Street. I cycled down the lane, past Wadsworth itself, and pulled up in front of Gloucester College next door. At least the brisk pedalling had warmed me up. Clouds of steam billowed from my lips as I got off the bike and paused to catch my breath.
Like many Oxford colleges, Gloucester had a pair of giant medieval wooden doors guarding its entrance, their thick surface reinforced with iron bands and studs. College gates were usually shut in the evenings but all students (and college staff) were given keys to the wicket door—a small, narrow door cut into the wooden surface of the gate—so that they could come and go at any time.
Seth’s keys worked easily and I swung the wicket inwards, stepping into the main quadrangle. It was deathly quiet. Quickly, I began to make my way across the college grounds to the south side, where its wall abutted that of Wadsworth’s. I was fairly familiar with Gloucester—not only had I been here several times in my undergraduate days but it was now Seth’s affiliated college, and it had also been involved in a murder case which I got embroiled in recently. I located the Master’s residence and, after a bit of searching, found the small wooden door embedded in the stone wall alongside. Funny how I had walked past it so many times without even noticing.
A few minutes later, I was stepping noiselessly into the Walled Garden of Wadsworth College. Wadsworth was one of the slightly smaller Oxford colleges (though what’s considered “small” in Oxford is still spectacular everywhere else) and one I wasn’t so familiar with. If I remembered rightly, the Walled Garden was at the rear of the college. To get to the Porter’s Lodge, where the pigeonholes were located, I would have to find my way to the front gate. I looked around, trying to decide which was the quickest way there.
Facing the Walled Garden was a large imposing Georgian building, all tall grid windows and classical columns, which I guessed was the college library. To the left of the library building was an archway. I walked over and peered in. A long, narrow passageway—almost like a tunnel—cut through to a courtyard beyond the library. No, wait, it wasn’t a courtyard, I realised, as I caught a glimpse of multiple Gothic arches and ornately carved pillars at the end of the tunnel. I remembered now—this was the Wadsworth College Cloisters. Many Oxford colleges had cloisters, a remnant of their monastic roots, usually situated around the college chapel.
To my surprise, I saw lights at the other end of the tunnel. And movement. Lots of movement. Why all the activity? The Cloisters were in an isolated corner of the college, away from the student dormitory quads, the dining hall, and the main quads. It should have been dark and empty at this time of night but I could see beams of torchlight scanning the area, the powerful flashes of a camera, and the crackle of a radio… a police radio?
Suddenly I remembered Seth’s warning about not letting the police see me. What was going on? Why were the police here? I hesitated, fighting my natural instinct to go towards the activity and ask someone for an explanation. I remembered the urgency in Seth’s voice and turned instead in the other direction.
On the other side of the library building, the Walled Garden opened up into a wide path which led towards the front of the college. I hurried down this now, passing through a smaller quad and then the main quadrangle of Wadsworth College. I quickened my steps, crossing the flagstones of the quad as fast as I could without actually running; I didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself.
A high medieval gate tower was situated at the far corner of the main quad. The front gate of Wadsworth College led into the tower, so that all visitors had to pass through the tower to enter the college. Situated next to the front gate was the traditional Porter’s Lodge, where the college porters—who provided a combination of security and concierge services—had their desk and office. It was also where the pigeonholes were located.
I slowed as I approached the tower. A group of students were gathered around the doorway to the Lodge and, from their drunken laughter and rowdy behaviour, I guessed that they’d probably just left a party. Most parties in college rooms were usually shut down after midnight and these were probably the last stragglers who had been kicked out. They were still in high spirits, monkeying around, laughing and teasing each other. The girls were wearing short dresses with flimsy cardigans for warmth and many of the boys had only a shirt, with no jacket or coat.
My God, aren’t they cold? Then I felt a wry smile tug my lips. I’m sounding like an old granny. It wasn’t that long ago that I had been part of a crowd like that, with nothing more than a skimpy dress and high spirits to keep me warm. It seemed like a lifetime away. In a way, it was a lifetime away. Though it had only been eight years since I’d left Oxford for that graduate fast-track executive position in Australia, it felt much longer. Maybe it was because I’d changed so much since then and come to realise that all the things which had seemed so important to me, meant so little now. For one thing, I’d never thought I would give up that prestigious high-flying career to come back to Oxford and open a village tearoom…
Then a figure stepped out of the Lodge into the quad and cut short my reminiscing instantly. I saw the black uniform, the peaked cap.
Quickly, I ducked my head and shoved my hands into my pockets, assuming the slouching gait of a typical student. I sidled over and joined the edge of the rowdy group, hoping desperately that the constable wouldn’t look this way. Wrapped up in my multiple layers of wool and fleece, it would be obvious that I didn’t belong to the group if he really looked.
I risked a glance in his direction. He wasn’t looking. In fact, he had his head down, talking into a radio. He drifted past the group, walking down the quad towards the rear of the college.
I breathed a sigh of relief. I waited until he was a good distance away, then turned hesitantly towards the Lodge entrance. Would there be another constable inside? Did I dare risk it? The memory of Seth’s voice flashed through my mind and, taking a deep breath, I went up the steps into the Porter’s Lodge.
To my surprise, it was empty. Even the porter’s desk was unmanned. I frowned but didn’t waste time trying to figure it out. That constable could return any moment.
I hurried across to the far wall, which was covered by rows upon rows of wooden cubbyholes. These were the pigeonholes, the University’s internal mail system and yet another charming quirk of Oxford life. It might seem an archaic way to communicate but it was surprisingly effective. Each morning, the porters received mail for the students at their college address and carefully distributed the items into the correct pigeonholes. You could also leave messages for a fellow student or college tutor in their pigeonholes, as well as small items that were borrowed and returned. If you wanted to send a message to someone at another college or one of the University departments, there was the handy “pigeon post”—a free service which operated between all University buildings. Just label your envelope “By internal mail”, drop it into the wooden post box in the Porter’s Lodge, and it would be delivered by the next day.
In the “old days”, notes left in people’s pigeonholes were the quickest ways of reaching them, better even than leaving a note under their bedroom door. After all, you might not return to your room during the day, especially if it was situated at the top of four flights of stairs at the far end of college, but you always passed by the front entrance several times a day and it became routine to pop into the Porter’s Lodge and check your pigeonhole regularly.
I’d always thought that this quaint old system would be killed off—what with instant messaging apps and emails—but looking at the wads of paper and envelopes bursting from several pigeonholes, I was pleased to see that it hadn’t been abandoned. I scanned the wooden compartments, reading the names on each label. They were arranged in alphabetical order and I found “Prof Q. Barrow” easily—one of the pigeonholes on the top row. I glanced quickly around, then stretched up on tiptoe and pulled the sheaf of papers out of the compartment.
There were two stamped envelopes, a photocopy of a journal article, a flyer from the Oxford Past Times Society, and a folded piece of notepaper. I unfolded the latter and instantly recognised Seth’s illegible scrawl. I shoved it into my pocket, returned the rest to the pigeonhole, and hurried back out of the Lodge.
And not a moment too soon. I saw that familiar figure in the peaked cap coming back across the quad. Quickly, I stepped behind the group of students, keeping them between me and the policeman as he walked past. I slipped around to the other side and began to walk away as nonchalantly as I could. I had just begun to relax when I heard the voice behind me.
“Excuse me, miss…”
I faltered and turned slowly around to find the constable walking towards me.
“Yes?” My voice came out in a squeak and I hastily cleared my throat.
“You a student here?” he said, coming closer.
I swallowed. Should I lie to the police? The answer was out before I realised it.
“Yes, I am.”
I held my breath. If he asked me to produce my university card, I was stuffed. I did actually have my old university card in my wallet but a quick glance would show that I wasn’t a member of Wadsworth and even wishful thinking couldn’t make me look like the photo of my fresh-faced, eighteen-year-old self.
“Can you tell me if there’s another way into the Cloisters from here?”
I relaxed slightly. “No, there’s only one way in and out of the Cloisters. You have to go through this quad and the smaller Yardley Quad, around the Walled Garden and then through a tunnel at the back of the library.”
The constable scratched his head and gestured to the side of the quad we were standing in. “But… aren’t the Cloisters just on the other side of this wall here? So aren’t you doubling back on yourself? Isn’t there a cut through?”
I shrugged. “Not that I know of. It is a bit of a roundabout route but that’s the way the college was built.”
“Righto,” he said, making some notes on his pad. “And aside from the back gate by the student staircases, is there another way out of the college?”
I hesitated. I couldn’t lie about this. “Yes, there is another gate. It’s in the Walled Garden. It’s a wooden door that leads into Gloucester College.”
“Ah…” He wrote busily in his notebook, then gave me a nod. “Cheers.”
He turned away and headed back into the Lodge. I hesitated. I should have taken this opportunity to escape, but curiosity was killing me now. What on earth had happened?
I drifted towards the student group again and gently tapped the arm of a freckle-faced youth.
“What’s going on? Why are the police here?” I asked.
“Oh, hadn’t you heard?” He giggled drunkenly. “There’s been a murder in the Cloisters!”
I stared at him incredulously. “A what?”
“Old Barrow’s come to a sticky end,” said another boy next to him, with more glee than sorrow. I guess Professor Barrow hadn’t been particularly popular with the students.
The first boy nodded, his eyes bright with excitement. “And they got the killer too! Caught him red-handed, apparently. Some young don over from Gloucester—”
“No…” I said faintly, a horrible suspicion beginning to dawn on me.
“Oh, there’s no doubt,” said the boy with relish. “The head porter found him standing over the prof’s body, holding the knife and covered in blood.”
A girl squealed in the group and leaned over to join the conversation. “Is it true? Is it Dr Browning over at Gloucester? Fancy that! I’ve had tutorials with him. I never thought he’d be the type.”
“Wait… No… this can’t be right,” I said desperately. “There must have been some mistake.”
The freckle-faced boy looked at me solemnly. “There’s no mistake. Professor Barrow was stabbed through the neck and killed. The police have arrested Seth Browning for murder.”
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