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The Twelve Days of Christmas Mystery

The Treasure of Claresby Manor

Laura took a bottle of wine out of the fridge and made her way to the study. It was a longish walk, down the chilly corridors past dusty suits of armour, through the Great Hall with its high beams and carved musicians’ gallery disappearing in the darks shadows above, and into the panelled room beyond. Had not every inch of the house been familiar to her, it might have felt eerie so empty and gloomy it was as the last beams of evening sun made their reluctant way through the mullioned windows, barely reaching the furthest corner. Her study, however, was warm and welcoming with a fire burning to ward off the chilly late summer nightfall and her favourite pieces of furniture in comfortable abundance about the place. She set the wine down and took a couple of glasses from an ornate oriental cabinet. As she did so, a bell rang from the front door. Again a longish walk until she could swing open one of the creaking double doors at the entrance. A tall, slightly gangly man with light hair and strong features stood waiting. He too held a bottle of wine.

“Ooh, more wine,” commented Laura happily. “I just unearthed something from the cellar, but half the stuff is undrinkable, so it is just as well to have a backup.”

The man bent to peck her fondly on the cheek and followed her in. Once back in the study, Laura sat down in a red, plush chair of great antiquity which oozed a greyish stuffing from one corner. She would not have considered the fact, but the dim light enhanced the attractions of her pale, oval face, delicate features and lustrous auburn hair. The man, turning to pass her some wine, cast a glance at her which suggested that he, at least, was not oblivious. Laura sipped the wine with some trepidation.

“Well, it’s not corked.” She observed the golden liquid in the cut glass with a critical eye. “It’s not cloudy either. I think it is a dessert wine; I hope it’s not too sweet for you? I can’t tell you what it is as the label had dissolved.”

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