Dead Wrong Chapter 1
Charles Abernathy was somewhat of a recluse. Everyone in the town of Bangalow knew of him, though very few actually knew him. Some even made up legends about what he did all day besides stand in his window looking down at them and their less fortunate lives. The truth was never as fun as their made up tales. The truth was actually quite boring.
Charles struck it lucky when working as a financier in Lloyds of London. Fortune came quickly, but Charles decided to be smart about how he played his hand. It would have been easy, oh so easy, to spend his newfound money on drinks, women, and gambling. Instead, he chose the smart path by investing his money in the market.
At first, the market was slow in returning his investment. Isn't that always the case? After the initial sluggishness, it began to pick up and left him with plenty of money to spare. Now that money was truly not an issue, he turned his eye to a new place to live. That place turned into Barnesdale Manor. He saw opportunity where others had not. The manor cried out for someone to give it the love and attention it needed. Could no one else see that?
That day Charles decided the manor would no longer be neglected. It could easily be made into something attractive and restored to its original glory. That was twenty years ago. Through lots of hard work and planning, he built up Barnesdale Manor into what it deserved to be.
Despite the label of 'recluse,' on occasion Charles enjoyed a few drinks at the local hotel or golf club and even took out his 'lady friend' Jan Dupree for a meal at a nice restaurant. This behavior just further confused the town gossips. Was he a Jay Gatsby or a Howard Hughes? Which was it? The only person who knew the answer was Charles Abernathy, and he wasn't talking.
Alfred Logan, the Bangalow postmaster, flipped through the mail to be sorted for the day. He knew all of the house numbers as well as the names of the residents who lived in there. He may sort the mail on auto-pilot mode, but nothing slipped by Alfred Logan. Nothing.
That's why it was so strange to see a brightly colored registered letter in the mix for Charles Abernathy. It had been a while since he had last seen one of those so, well, overdone. Whoever sent it to Abernathy certainly meant business. Instead of placing the letter back in the stack like he should have to wait on a received-letter signature from Mr. Abernathy, Alfred picked up the phone to call Mr. Abernathy at Barnesdale Manor. Maybe, if he was lucky, Mr. Abernathy would actually answer. Wouldn't that be a hoot? He could say he talked to THE Charles Abernathy, owner of Barnesdale Manor and resident recluse. Alfred's stock in the village would rise for sure.
If only Mr. Abernathy actually picked up. The phone rang five times before someone finally answered.
“Hello, yes! This is Alfred Logan at the post office.” Alfred spoke a little louder than he intended to. Part of it was shock and part of it was nervousness of the 'now what?' variety. He called and Abernathy picked up. What happened next? “I have a registered letter for Mr. Abernathy. Could he come in to pick it up, please?”
“Yes, I will be there shortly.” Abernathy hung up without further comment. The buzzing of the disconnected line filled his ear before Alfred thought to hang up. Just like that. Mr. Abernathy coming down to the village and his post office. He didn't quite believe it, and he's the one that made the phone call!
Alfred watched the clock and tapped the certified letter against the counter in time with the ticking. Would Abernathy show? It shouldn't take more than ten minutes to get from the manor to the village. It would be just like him to spoil all of Alfred’s fun. Here he was with an opportunity to tell a 'Charles Abernathy sighting' story and the man himself was going to spoil it, he just knew it. When had Abernathy done anything that anyone expected him to do? The day after never, that's when.
The bell jingled above the door. Alfred looked up in surprise. It was him! Charles Abernathy! Now he really had a story to tell. Most 'Charles Abernathy sighting' stories were weeks, even months, old. Now he had a fresh one.
“I'm Charles Abernathy,” he said, as if Alfred didn't know who he was. “You have a certified letter for me?”
“I’m sorry to call you in, Mr. Abernathy, but I thought you should see this.” Alfred slid the letter across the counter. “I’ll need you to sign the slip, please.”
Alfred watched as Abernathy signed his name with a flourish, stuffed the letter into his breast coat pocket, and left the post office as suddenly as he had appeared. Some people had no manners. Especially the rich.
Instead of going straight home like he normally would (people stared in the village), Charles decided to grab a bite to eat at the Bangalow pub. As he ate, he looked at the letter in his hands. This was the second letter he received about the issue at hand.
The first wasn’t sent registered, so it was clear whoever sent them meant business. Little did the sender know, no one pushed Charles Abernathy around. He'd do it his own way and no one else’s.
The letter dared him into the past of the Manor and suggested that Charles should hold a scavenger hunt to help reveal all. A scavenger hunt, Charles pondered. He smiled as the idea took shape, but he didn’t really know anybody in the village. But perhaps if he did organize such a hunt with the help of Jan Dupree, then he could showcase the lovely renovations he painstakingly had carried out at Barnesdale Manor.
Done. Yes, he would organize a scavenger hunt, invite guests, and make it a great big, extravagant game. Maybe then he'd get some answers and unlock the mystery contained in the mysterious letters. But first...food for the guests.
Living alone, he prepared his own, simple meals. Inviting guests to Barnesdale Manor would involve much, much more than he was prepared for. He needed a caterer and he knew just the person for the job – Janette Wilson.
Janette frowned once Charles explained the situation and what he had in mind for meals. “All that, prepared and delivered in ten days? It just can't be done, Mr. Abernathy. I'm sorry. You'll have to go elsewhere if you're looking for someone to cater your event on such short notice.”
“What’s going on?” Abe Wilson, Janette’s uncle and the pub owner, asked.
“I have asked your niece to prepare some catering for my guests and myself,” Charles said. “She has unfortunately declined.”
“Declined?” Abe raised both his eyebrows at Janette questioningly. “Turning down work isn't your style, Janette.”
“It's not so much the meals as the timeframe,” Janette explained. “Mr. Abernathy wants everything prepared within ten days.”
“We can do that!” Abe said. “We’ve been in tighter spaces than that and have made great meals for people! Just write up a list of everything you want, Mr. Abernathy, and we'll have it at your door when you need it – and not a second later.”
“Excellent,” Charles said. Calling on his social days in London, he scribed down a list of meals from appetizers to desserts. “I'll see you both in ten days.”
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