Saturday morning, Berdie arose, exercised, did morning devotion prayers, wrote three thank-you notes for holiday treats, cooked Hugh a full English breakfast, and cleaned up after a leaking dishwasher, all before half eight. By eight thirty-five, she was at Lavender Cottage, Lillie in tow, where she met Constable Goodnight at the front doorstep. He held two electric lanterns, and the yellow crime tape still draped the door.
The policeman unlatched the door and lifted the ribbon. “House is officially cleared but I don’t want any dolts nosing round,” he grunted.
Oh, I’m up a rung on Goodnight’s respect ladder, Berdie thought to herself.
The constable lit the lanterns and handed them over to the women. “Edsel Butz will be by later to fix the electric.” The man stepped toward the garden gate. “I’ll leave you to it then.” He patted his rotund stomach. “I’ll be taking sustenance at the Upland Arms.”
Before Berdie could call out that they would ring him when finished, he was out the gate.
The women gingerly entered the front hall. Though full of tumbled goods, the cottage held a profound emptiness. Both women shivered. Berdie shut the door against the cold, but the moist English morning permeated throughout.
“Where do we start?” Lillie was bewildered.
“Sitting room,” Berdie determined. Several large boxes were stacked high in the hall. The two carefully pulled a couple of them out. Berdie deposited one at the sitting room door. “Rubbish in this one,” she directed, “and undamaged goods in the other one, to start.”
“Maybe things of distinct value we can place on the dining table,” Lillie offered and placed the goods box near the fireplace.
Though Lillie was just helping a friend, Berdie saw every mite as an opportunity to unravel the truths hidden amid the rubble. “Go carefully,” Berdie urged. “If you come upon anything that strikes you odd, give a word.”
Lillie set to and gathered upholstery stuffing strewn across the floor while Berdie went straight to the Advent wreath. Carefully she picked up the large pillar Christ candle; it felt almost wooden.
She examined its sides, top, and bottom then quizzed Lillie. “If you saw this candle, say, sitting on a dining table, would you identify it as a Christ candle for an Advent wreath?”
Lillie glanced at the candle. “No.”
“Obviously, it’s yellow, and Christ candles are snow white.”
“Quite right.” Berdie nodded and placed it in the undamaged goods box. “Does the word Bridgestones mean anything to you?”
“No.” Lillie stopped. “Maybe. We had a Bridgestones Department Store in Timsley, but it went out of business.” She continued to pick up the stuffing. “I think in the late seventies.”
Berdie removed the three weekly Advent candles from the holders. She laid them down across the hearth, bottoms facing her. She nosed closer to them and squinted. “These candles have designs carved on the bottom.”
Lillie looked at them. “Odd.”
“They’re trying to tell us something,” Berdie spoke her thoughts.
Marilyn is giving away a copy of her book, Advent of a Mystery. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!