Chapter 2: The Inherited Secret

Abby and Liz returned to the records room just as the sun was beginning to rise over the sleepy English village of Bourton-on-the-Water. Their exciting discovery and the breakfast that they quickly consumed gave them energy. The day had a particular crispness about it as if autumn was soon to arrive. 

The space was just as they had left it—scattered papers, a solitary lantern that was still weakly flickering, and the alluring aroma of old-world mystery. Sébastien Tremblay’s association with the Blackwoods was a topic that was always racing through Abby’s head. At the time of the new moon, there was an air of portent. Abby sensed that something big was about to happen.

A knock reverberated throughout the space as they dug deeper into the Blackwood ancestry in the dusty window’s early light. Thomas “Tom” Hawthorne, a local historian, entered. He was a man of average height with sandy hair and eyes that seemed to twinkle with stories, and he walked with the aid of a silver-tipped walking cane. He exuded a certain charm, which Abby found both intriguing and marginally off-putting.

Tom greeted Abby, saying, “I heard you were in town.” His eyes gleamed with interest. “I learned that you were investigating the Blackwood ancestry—a little bird told me.” He approached the two women, the tapping of his walking cane echoing in the room. They could see that he carried a large suitcase.

After greetings and introductions, Tom volunteered his help. He was a veritable knowledge vault with his deep familiarity with the town’s past and the genealogy of the Blackwood family. “The Blackwood family tree is located in the front of this old bible from the late Earl of Blackwood.” Tom opened the suitcase and showed her an old black Bible of chiselled leather resting in its glass-topped box inside the suitcase.

Abby was immediately captivated and appreciated his assistance. Eager to learn more about the Blackwood family’s history, Abby questioned Tom about his research into this missing link. “What else do you know about the family?”

“I have transcribed that hand-written tree into a document that will be most useful for you.” He withdrew a thin journal from the suitcase and opened it to show the family tree.

Abby and Liz peered at the document and made some notes as they deciphered the family links. They learned of a scandal that had been carefully disguised beneath the appearance of respectability. It seems that one of the Blackwoods had fathered an unborn child in the past. The only clue to this on the tree was a line drawn beneath the 7th Earl of Blackwood (Horace Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood) and a question mark below. 

Tom explained. “Although this child had been exiled and was now lost to time, I have traced him to Sébastien Tremblay, a direct descendant of Horace.” A shiver went down Abby’s spine. The pieces were gradually fitting together.

Tom then displayed the next page in his journal, revealing the links in Sébastien Tremblay’s lineage. In an excited whoop of delight, Liz spotted the link back to the 7th Earl of Blackwood. “Who was this man?” Who was the mother of the illegitimate child? “And what does all of this have to do with the murder at the manor?”

The barking of the dogs kept on leashes in the Bourton-on-Waters Historical Centre’s front garden signalled the arrival of another person, which cut off their conversation. Detective William “Will” Grady immediately exuded authority with his towering presence in the doorway of the records room. Will was an experienced investigator with keen eyes that saw everything and a strong gut instinct for when something was not right.

His tone was solemn as he said, “The murder was not a senseless act of violence.” It was planned and deliberate. The murderer was acting with complete knowledge.

The impact of Will’s comments hit everyone in the room, and stillness descended. A planned murder, an illegitimate heir, and a covert marriage were all intertwined in a multi-generational web of deceit and intrigue. They were only beginning to unravel the puzzle, and Abby knew it. The inherited secret was obviously public knowledge here in the village, but there were still more mysteries to learn and webs to untangle. 

Each immersed in their own thoughts, Abby and Liz prepared to delve more into the muddy waters of the Blackwood family’s past as the sun sank and created lengthy shadows over the room. Both Tom and Will, well known to each other, bid them both good afternoon and strode from the room together, deep in conversation.

“This inherited secret has started a series of events that will rock the Blackwood family to its very core!” said Tom. “And it will alter the path of Abby’s research for all time.” 

“There is no going back, now that the ghost of the past has started to move. Those two have no idea that the investigation they have started is far from over. Things are just getting started,” replied Will.