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Serial fiction, one letter at a time.
A feed by Jeff McFadden
Permalink - Posted on 2017-12-16 00:00
The Hornsbury Letters
By Jeff McFadden
Copyright (c) 2017All Rights Reserved
Read Them Again at thehornsburyletters.com
Permalink - Posted on 2017-12-15 00:00
St. John’s College Receives Unexpected Windfall
The dean of St. John’s College, in Brighton, was delighted this week by the surprise donation of £97,000,000 by the estate of the late Clara Hornsbury Wittingham. Mrs. Wittingham passed away several months ago, but it has taken her estate some time to process her will.
Mr. Dennis Rockford, her estate manager, delivered the following statement on behalf of Mrs. Wittingham, prepared before she passed: “Though I never attended college, my dear brother Andrew attended St. Johns, and they were the happiest days of his life. The money I give was paid for by his life. I would have given it all to have him back.”
Mrs. Wittingham’s brother died in suspicious circumstances in 1928, though no foul play was ever found.
Neighbors were surprised to find that Mrs. Wittingham had such a fortune to give. She was said to be anything but opulent, living out her life in a small cottage in Southerham.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-12-14 00:00
Death In Paradise
Body of young woman found on popular beach
The body of a woman, identified as Bernadette Moynihan, was found washed up on on the beach near Frenchman’s Cay. A knife was still in her chest.
Ms. Moynihan had been a person of interest to the local police for a few years now, after the disappearance of a Mr. Andrew Hornsbury. Ms. Moynihan has previously had several indictments of burglary, though she was never convicted.
Locals say that Ms. Moynihan has been the leader of a gang of robbers and treasure hunters since she turned 18. Local detective James Roberts referred to these rumors as “hogwash.”
Ms. Moynihan has no known relatives.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-12-13 00:00
You traitor! I will find you.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-12-12 00:00
Body flashes Ashore In Smuggler’s Cove
The body of a young man identified as Andrew Hornsbury was found by a small fishing crew early Wednesday. The men found the body floating in the waves as they set out for their morning shift.
Police have attempted to discern the cause of death, but the body has deteriorated to such a degree that it may be impossible.
Mr. Hornsbury was said to be on the islands in search of the cause of the disappearance of his uncle, a Mr. Derek Hornsbury, who has been missing for nearly a year now. Additional rumors have been circulating that he was in search of a treasure, though no evidence has been found.
Mr. Hornsbury is survived by his sister, Mrs. Clara Hornsbury Whittingham, of Southerham.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-12-11 00:00
Sorry doll, but you should have known I don’t take orders from no one. Shame about your brother, though. He was a looker.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-12-10 00:00
I dared not believe it could be true, but your silence leads me to only one conclusion - that you have discovered my secret.
I assure you this was not my intention when we set out. But, Tom’s gambling debts have only grown, and I could not risk my share being too small. I was going to give any extra to you, I promise, and make it my life’s work to make up the difference. Surely you understand the difficulty of my situation.
Please, forgive your sister. Without at least a small sum from this venture I don’t know what will happen to us. We are desperate to offset these debts.
Please write soon.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-12-09 00:00
I hope you are well and caring for our prize, but I fear the worst. Please, take pity on your sister and give me a sign of your well being.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-12-08 00:00
Where are you? What is going on? Have you found it?
I need to hear from you.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-12-07 00:00
Have you found it? It is some long weeks since I last heard from you. I had expected to hear from you by now. I am worried. Please, write soon.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-12-06 00:00
Follow him. Get the map and key. Only let no harm come to him.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-12-05 00:00
I have divined the secrets. The parchment has been used by ink which reveals itself only through heat.
Per the instructions now revealed, a key is hidden in the small box, and the back of the parchment contains a map, also revealed in heat. The compass will be required to find my way.
I shall go as soon as I can find a boat.
We have done it.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-12-04 00:00
Find him on the beach in a hut in the evenings. Much longer and he will have discovered the location.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-12-03 00:00
I dare not let anything so valuable our of my hands. I trust no one, not even the post. Our hope now lies in discovering the secrets of these three items.
I have taken to spending the evenings in an abandoned hut on the beach. There I do what I can to attempt to coerce the secrets out of shadows of these objects. The secrets hold fast, but I believe I am nearing the solution.
I hope to be able to share it with you soon.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-12-02 00:00
It feels as though the flames of destruction are licking at our toes. We must not risk losing our only clues. Send them to me, and they will be safe. I can investigate here, and share my findings.
We have risked enough, we must not lose them now.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-25 00:00
YOU FOOL! YOU MET WITH HIM FACE TO FACE? YOU HAVE PUT EVERYTHING IN JEOPARDY.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-20 00:00
A most curious occasion arose this afternoon as I sat in my favorite cafe. I was at my usual table at about three o’clock when a woman approached me. She introduced herself as Bernadette Moynihan and asked if she could sit down. She then proceeded to explain that she had been a friend of our uncles, and offered her condolances on his passing. Not wanting to give away my sucpicion, I accepted her sympathy with gratitude, whereupon she continued. She said that it had been several years since she last spoke with Derek, and that things had soured between them. But she said that one regret she had was not returning to seek a small bag she had left behind with a few eclectic items in it. She wondered if anything resembling such an item had been recovered from his estate. I offered her my sympathies at losing such a valuable item, and assured her that if such a bag was found I would call on her promptly. She thanked me, and left .
Clearly her feint has been revealed, as no one but us knows that uncle Derek is actually deceased! I am most wary, and I know now in my bones that the secret lies in these artifacts, if only we can decipher them.
I just hope we can do so before these others realize what is in our hands.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-18 00:00
They weren’t there. The bugger must have kept them with him. What now?
Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-10 00:00
I do not wish to alarm you, but I am quite certain that someone attempted to burgle the house while I was taking my afternoon walk yesterday. I have installed a number of tamper-revealing indicators throughout the house, and several were broken when I returned.
Thankfully I had all the articles with me as I was attempting to divine their meaning as I wandered. I see now that I will have to be even more vigilant .
Have you any itews? Whispers of the Bandit seem to have quieted here of late. I am not sure what that implies. Has he gone? Or am I being plotted against?
Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-07 00:00
The pieces have fallen into his hands, but he does not know what he possesses. You know his daily routines. Take action when he is out and acquire them for us. This is our chance.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-06-28 00:00
Yesterday at half past three o’clock in the afternoon Officer Drewery knocked on the door. Over a cup of tea he shared with me the status of the investigation. Currently the department has few, if any, leads worth following. They have not found a body, though they have looked far and wide. He told me that unless a new development arises soon they will be forced to close the investigation for lack of evidence. Then, he presented me with a small bag that he said was turned in anonymously. Inside the flap is a bag with Derek’s name and address.
Inside the bag were three items:
The officer asked me if I could discern any meaning from the items. I assured him that I could not, and he left. That I cannot discern any meaning from these items is absolutely true. I cannot fathom their purpose nor why he would have had these objects with him. Perhaps they were taken and then returned by the theif in a fit of remorse?
I will continue to ponder over these things, but I have not been encouraged by their revealing in the way I had hoped. It seems our search continues.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-06-19 00:00
Your tale of discovery is a delight to my ears! Far from going cold, I believe our trail glows hot again. I have spoken to many individuals, of various reputation, across this town. The name “Bandit” has been uttered many times in these intervi ews. It seems that while his name is known widely, his face (and whereabouts) remain privileged. Now that I can have confidence that I am on the right trail I will increase the urgency of my inquiries.
Young officer Drewery paid a visit again this afternoon. He said that while the police had not yet discovered a body, some personal effects of his had been located. He refused to give me any details regarding the nature of the find, but assured me he would deliver them to me as soon as they had been observed for clues or foul play. I have not come across anything that would leave me to believe our uncle had anything stolen or lost, so I have no guess as to what the officers might have found. You can be assured that I will share the details with you whence I acquire them myself.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-06-19 00:00
This afternoon Tom and I set off on an adventure. I t was yesterday evening that I had an epiphany regarding the piece of parchment yourecovered from the body. I conferred with Tom and he agreed: the portionof that drawing is a map of an area along the River Ouse, near Southerham.I recognized i t after seeing a map in the paper this morning about an upcoming festival.
It isn’t far, and we arrived about two i n the afternoon. One of the symbols was of particular interest cio us, and we went there first. The symbol translates to "riches", and i t wasn’t long before we located the spot. Tom, being clear minded, had brough a shovel, and began to dig. He dug in several spots for the better part of an hour before his tool came to rest against a wooden box. Once excavated, we anxiously opened the crate. Peering inside, we found only one item: a piece of parchment written in our uncle’s hand. It said:
I should have known that I would be betrayed. My anger is only exceeded by my relief at having found this treasure unplundered. It seems I will now have to keep these secrets to myself, perhaps even to the grave. Give my regards to the Bandit. And tell him he is not likely to be so lucky ever again.
So now, I wonder: why was this map with our poor uncle? Had he found a betrayer? I f he knew this location was no longer secret, why didn’t he inform us?
Alas, with the empty box this trail seems to have gone cold. Have you any news that could lift our spirits in this matter?
Permalink - Posted on 2017-06-16 00:00
Tom and I may have made a breakthrough regarding the piece of parchment you found with uncle Derek’s remains. We will investigate tomorrow to see if our suspicions are correct. I will write to you promptly following our expedition.
P.S. Do whatever it takes to keep the authorities at bay. An investigation could ruin all we have worked for.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-06-14 00:00
Of course you are right. There is no going back now. We will finish the quest, whatever the cost. (And I do fear the cost.)
Give Tom my regards for his research. Your story of Mr Lord has confirmed my growing suspicions. Having talked to a number of native members of these islands, they all reported that the turtle and star are wellknown here amongst a gang that claims heritage going back to William Lord, or farther. Though they are mostly known for petty crimes, they all claim an ultimate goal of returning a treasure to its rightful owner (for a handsome fee, no doubt).
While these details have been easy to come by, I have not yet spoken to anyone claiming membership i n this group directly. It seems that my next task will require a more di rect contact.
In the midst of our dynamic state of affairs, the local police are seeking to unsettle things further. I was visited this afternoon by a young officer Drewry, He informed me that my presence on this island had been noticed, and inquired as to the whereabouts of our uncle, who is apparently the subject of an investigation, the details of which I was not given. For obvious reasons I told the yound man that I certainly had no knowledge of his whereabouts, but that were he to be discovered I would quite like to know. He seemed satisfied with my answer for now, but I find it concerning to have the police investigating so closely to our errand.
Take care and keep watch, my sister.
I will not abandon my duty to our sacred promise.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-06-12 00:00
Though the night is darkest now, our dawn is at hand. We must not waver. The reward will be great. And you, of all men, know the danger we face in failure. Our path has taken us through shadow, but the way out is forward.
Furthermore, I have news that may advance our task. Tom has been in his study for nearly three days, poring over his old texts and other records. You may recall that he studied privateering in the Caribbean for one of his books. It took him to the dark corners of the oldest boxes, but he was able to find the legend he sought.
Though he did not use the fable in his published works, the story has stuck in his mind since the first read. In 1844 Samuel Hall Lord, the most famous pirate in the history of Barbados, lay dying in his bed. As he struggled to breathe, he called his son William to his side. He told William of a secret treasure he had hidden away, lest his wealth be appropriated by the authorities upon his death.
Several months after his passing, William went in search of the treasure. When he found the site he opened the chest to find only a note where the jewels had been hidden. It was signed with the name of Samuel Lord’s first mate, Percy Haywood. William searched for over a decade before giving up, and never found the treasure.
In the collection of Tom’s records there is a sketch of the elder Captain Lord with his crew after capturing a merchantship. The captain has a single tattoo on his shoader: the turtle and the star.
I feel most confident that our intuitions were on the mark. The treasure we seek is in our blood, our inheritance, poached before we ever laid eyes on it. It is our duty to recover it.
Stay the course, Andrew.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-06-09 00:00
Dear Clara, Yet another development has left me questioning the value of our endeavour.
Last night I went down to the pub for a pint. Not in the mood for conversation I sat in a corner booth, alone. After a quarter of an hour my thought was interrupted by a hooded man who sat down acrossfrom me. The light was dim, and the hood so far over his head I could not make out his face beyond the borders of his large beard. His voice was gruff, and his message to me was full of curses. “Mind you stay out of bbsiness that ain’t yours,” he warned. And then, to my alarm, “This isn’t the first time I’ve given a warning to one of your family. Keep to yourself or you’ll be fed to the fish by week’s end.” With that he stood and left. However, as he did so I caught a glimpse of a tattoo upon his arm: the turtle and star.
I can think of no way uncle Derek’s fate can be explained but that he ran afoul of this ghastly gang of butchers. I still cannot explain how they came upon our uncle’s secret, but it is clear they know all.
I wonder now if this mission of ours is worth the risk.
Is there no other way we can accomplish what we need?
There is a boat leaving in a week. I may well be on it .
Permalink - Posted on 2017-06-07 00:00
News of your safety has lifted my spirits, though I must admit that your harrowing ordeal makes me shudder. The thought of losing you, and so soon after our uncle, i s more than I dare to consider.
I have broken the news about Derek to Mum, but she shows no indication of having truly comprehended it . When I broke the news to her she spoke at length about him, as though they were both still school children just returned home from a term at Glendelton. She is not often “present” at all these days, sadly.
I shared the news of your robber with Tom. When I told him about the tattoo he scowled and went off to his study. He has been deep in study ever since. I think he found it familiar. I will write immediately if he discovers anything.
I have pondered the runes incessantly the past several days, but have discerned nothing new. Yet, I feel as though new clarity Is close at hand, as though the dark will be lifted if only I can find the switch.
Take care, dear brother.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-06-02 00:00
My dear Clara,
I have arrived at the old house safe in body, if not in mind. I found it necessary to leave the house on coast immediately, for reasons that I will now make clear.
Two nights ago I was returning to the house atter taking my usual walk on the beach. I was deep in thought as I returned, and it wasnt until I was but a few paces from the back door when I saw a dark figurein the back room, rummaging through the desk. From my vantage point looking through the window it was clearly a large man, but I could make out no other features. I crept slowly across the path and hid myself i n the bushes. I dared not instigate a confrontation with such a figure this far from the nearest help, so I was left with no option but to watch helplessly as he dumped out the contents of each drawer. He took nothing, not even the money I keep in the bottom.
It was shortly after he emptied the last drawer when a dog began barking and he abruptly left. He exited swiftly and silently through the back door, inches from my hiding place. As he passed my I was unable to see his face, but I did see clearly a tattoo on his left calf: a turtle with a seven-pointed star on its shell.
Immediately I went inside, locked the door, and investigated the house. Nothing was disturbed but the desk, and I could find nothing missing. Even the coins were left undisturbed atop the desk. Once I’d rechecked the house and confirmed everything else was in order I emptied my closet into the suitcase and went to the docks. Along the way I stopped at old Henry’s and gave him a note to send to you immediately in the morning, which I trust he di d. I was on the next ferry back to Road Town, and safe in bed here not much past midnight.
It is clear to me that we have come within a cat’s whisker of our downfall. It is with great relief that I can tell you that I have kept the diagram with me at all times since it was discovered. Yet my fears have been confirmed: others are after it as well. Who they are, and how much they already know, I cannot yet surmise.
Tomorrow I intend to begin an investigation into the symbol of the turtle and star. Perhaps that will point the way to our adversaries.
Have you any more news about the runes? I have not been able to make sense of the diagram fragment, even in light of the clues Tom provided.
I am vexed, but feel much safer here in town.
I hope to hear from you soon, dear sister.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-06-01 00:00
15 BLUEGROVE VIEW
I AM RETURNING TO ROAD TOWN. REACH ME AT THE OLD
HOUSE. MUCH HAS TRANSPIRED. NO ONE CAN BE TRUSTED.
I REMAIN SAFE FOR NOW.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-05-31 00:00
Even as I type this my hands are still trembling with the newsof your last letter. I have found myself so overwhelmed by the weightof it that I still have not broken the news to another soul. I have hid my tears, which have been frequent.
A part of my shares your enthusiasm for the proximity of our goal,but never did I think the cost would be so high. I fear little ofmy own safety. I trust the fates, and there is little about me todraw attention. You, however, are in the thick of it. Keep your wits,my brother, as I know you will.
Tom was intrigued by the diagram in your letter. He recognizedsome of the symbols as ancient runes. Upon consultation of an oldtext he has determined the presence of the following meanings:water, reed, oak, and riches.
The implications seem clear, but without the rest of the diagramwe are left wondering about the most important detail: the location.Let us hope this information did not pass away with our uncle.
P.S. Have you seen the goats recently?
Permalink - Posted on 2017-05-29 00:00
It is worse than I have dared to fear up to this point. I haveinvestiaged the hut I spoke about previously, and what I discoveredchills my blood still. In the dark corner of this old hut, half coveredin sand I discoverd the decayed remains of our late uncle.
It was… difficult to identify him, but I have no doubt now.His shoes were the same as they ever were, made and marked by goodJohn Huss on 57th street. But his shoes didn’t give me pause. Rather,it was the knife in his back that Ifear may be seeking us next.
In our dear uncles hand remained a piece of parchment torn froma larger document that I believe to be the one we seek. I have notyet discerned if another copy exists, though I suspect one does.Those who seek the same end as us will need this piece that is nowin my possession in order to find their way.
Clara, concerning as this development is, I believe it is a sign that we are close to our goal. I have sketched the piece I foundwith our uncle below. Perhaps you are able to make sense of it.
Please mind yourself, and keep safe. Those seeking it have already killed to obtain it, so it would seem. They may be willing to do so again.
If you are able to make sense of the diagrams, please write atonce. I will now put my full energies toward finding our uncle’skillers and claiming once more what is rightfully ours.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-05-26 00:00
I have received the letters and placed them with the others. Ihope that they are not all we have to show for our efforts in the end.
I wish I had news regarding the necklace. I took it to the womanas you requested, but she was not able to divine anything new, atleast nothing we would share with me. I have continued to examineit carefully, but nothing new has been revealed beyond the marks wehave already studied.
Do not give up hope. We may find Derek yet and be able to havethe resolution we so desire.
Please do not hesitate to share any new information. The most insignificant detail could open the door for us.Tom sends his regards, and suggests you mend the jacket.
Permalink - Posted on 2017-05-25 00:00
My dearest Clara,
I fear I have failed in my quest. The old house is abandoned, and the locals say that uncle Derek has not been seen in months. I managedto find a few old photos of him with mum tucked behind an old desk.I’ve included those with this letter. Please put them with the others.
I did get a small clue about an old hut on an island not farfrom here, but the old woman who gave it to me left me less thanassured that I will find more than sand and driftwood. Have you heardanything new regarding the necklace? I fear it may now be our only hope.
Time is running out. Please contact me immediately if any news surfaces that may help our cause. Ihad hoped that it wouldnt endlike this, but I have little faith left in a positive outcome.
Give my regards to Tom.
P.S. The goats were in the field again yesterday.