The Magician: Chapter 8 (An Andromache Jones Mystery Short Story)

About The Magician: An Andromache Jones Mystery

“I am about to set you a challenge, Miss Jones, one that has very real life and death consequences.”

Andromache Jones has somehow managed to capture the attention of The Magician and finds herself caught up in The Game, his challenge that has very real life and death consequences, and not only for her. Can she complete the test he has set in the allotted time and live to see another day, or will failure, and The Magician triumph?

Read Chapter 1 Here or find the Index to All Chapters Here

Chapter 8

The Finale

It was lucky that Mac did not pass any speed cameras as she pushed her Beetle to its limits. She retraced her route back past The Black Horse Inn, through Market Higham and then took the next right-hand turn, leading to Hatton Cross.

Hatton Cross was either a large hamlet or a very small village. It did not have a shop of its own and its pub had closed its doors to the thirsty and the hungry a few years previously, Mac guessed, from the state it was in.

Driving slowly through Hatton Cross, she scoured every nook and cranny for an envelope, a balloon or anything else that The Magician might have left for her. It wasn’t until she had exited the village that she noticed a red balloon tied to a hedge.

Without looking for a place to park the car, she just stopped and got out, running over to the balloon to fetch the next, and hopefully the final envelope, which she opened as she ran back to the Beetle.

The end is in sight, Miss Jones. Go to Flinders Forest. Drive the car down the track into the woods and then pull over when you reach a fence that blocks your path. Then travel on foot according to the directions below:

N300, NE104, E54, NW276, W192, SE83

The gravestone marks the spot.

She picked the map up from the passenger seat and located the forest. She had approximately a four or five mile drive in front of her. She started the car and went. On the way she made one last phone call.

‘I’m on my way to the forest. How long do I have left?’

‘Twenty two minutes.’

‘Is that all?’

‘I am afraid so.’

‘Is it enough?’

‘I can’t answer that.’

‘It isn’t, is it? You and your bloody game,’ she hissed. Mac was the first to hang up this time. It took all the strength she could muster to remain calm and composed as the thoughts of what her grandmother was going through threatened her self-control again.

Ten minutes later, she had parked the car by the fence and was looking at the instructions. What can the numbers mean? Think, Mac, think! The only answer she could come up with was that the letters referred to compass directions and the numbers how many steps she needed to take.

She quickly paced out the first twenty or so steps to gauge the distance between one footstep and the next and then broke out into a run.

100 steps.

The trees were spaced quite far apart, which aided Mac in her run through the woods.

200 steps.

As she ran, she trained her eyes to look immediately at the ground in front of her to ensure that there was nothing to trip her up, and then back up and straight in front, so she could see where she was going.

300 steps.

She stopped, turned to the north-east and started moving again.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5…25, 26…

The incline increased slightly and she began breathing heavily.

71, 72, 73…100, 101, 102, 103, 104.

She stopped, faced east and again broke out into a run.

19, 20, 21…36, 37, 38…49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54.

Then north-west.

100…150…200…250…273, 274, 275, 276.

West.

1, 2, 3…51, 52, 53…112, 113, 114…141, 142, 143…188, 189, 190, 191, 192.

She was almost there. She wanted to call out to her Gran that she was coming, if she could only hold on, but the warning about talking to anyone other than The Magician or herself rang in her ears.

She was now moving south-east, but the tree density was thicker here, and she couldn’t see that far ahead. She had to negotiate around tree trunks that blocked her path, and branches that wouldn’t let her pass.

38, 39, 40, 41…

She stepped around an old oak and resumed her path.

54, 55, 56, 57…

The forest was silent and the beating of her heart pounded inside her head.

71, 72, 73 – BANG! The echo of a gunshot reverberated all around her; birds were scared out of the trees and took to the skies.

‘No! No! No! I am here!’ she screamed, counting out the last ten paces which brought her to a tree that had a red arrow carved on to it. She turned to the direction it was pointing to and there, less than a hundred yards away was a gravestone.

‘I’m here, Gran! I’m here!’ she called out, forgetting the rules and barely able to see through the tears that were flowing freely down her face unnoticed. She reached the grave which had “Iphigenia” carved in Gothic script across its face and fell to her knees.

She began scraping away at the disturbed mound of earth which lay in front of the headstone.

‘I’m coming,’ she sobbed, ‘I’m coming,’ trying her best to dig through the soil with her bare hands.

After what seemed an eternity she scraped the skin off the tops of her fingers as she hit wood and the top of the coffin. She uncovered the edges, so she could pull the lid off but was bemused when she found the casket was two feet wide and three feet long. Her confusion stopped her crying.

She finally pried off the lid, but now blood was trickling down her fingers. She flipped the wooden cover back to find the box was empty, except for another phone and a letter. She reached in to grab them, now feeling utterly exhausted, perplexed and yet thankful that her grandmother wasn’t lying there, dead.

The phone rang before she had a chance to do anything.

‘It seems you were not quick enough, Miss Jones. Time ran out.’

‘Where’s my grandmother?’

‘Now, don’t get cross with me.’ The Magician paused. ‘Your grandmother is safe and sound back in Bramblesgrove with the rest of your family.’

‘She’s at home?’ Mac started crying again with relief. ‘She’s at home? She was never here, was she? She was never in any danger? How can you be so cruel? All of this for your stupid little game?’

‘This is a warning, Miss Jones. I like you, and for that you are lucky. Iphigenia could so easily have been dead in that box. Think of that next time you see your grandmother, and remember this kindness I have offered you.’

Kindness? Kindness? You have put me through hell.’

‘I spared your grandmother. I didn’t have to. You did not complete the challenge I set you in the allotted time, and you are still alive because I will it. The other contestants were not so lucky. Be grateful.’ Then the phone went dead.

Mac then completely broke down. On the one hand she was so relieved that this hadn’t been The Game she had been led to believe back in The Magician’s lair, but on the other he had emotionally tortured her for nothing more than his amusement.

She didn’t know how long she spent curled up crying in the dirt. When she calmed down, she noticed the unopened letter in front of her. Ripping the top off, she pulled out the expensive stationary and read the words written in the now familiar spidery hand:

Congratulations, Miss Jones. The Game did not claim any blood sacrifices this time, but be in no doubt, you will hear from me again. The Magician


Thank you so much for reading The Magician. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it and sharing it with you.

If you are on Goodreads, I would be eternally grateful if you could rate and / or review it, as this will help me so much in the future when it comes to showing publishers / agents that there are already readers out there who like Andromache Jones and her mysteries.

The next story I’m planning on sharing here is, The Apparition, which is the second short story in the Andromache Jones Mysteries.

Thanks once again for reading and all your kind comments.

Sammi x

The Magician: Chapter 7 (An Andromache Jones Mystery Short Story)

About The Magician: An Andromache Jones Mystery

“I am about to set you a challenge, Miss Jones, one that has very real life and death consequences.”

Andromache Jones has somehow managed to capture the attention of The Magician and finds herself caught up in The Game, his challenge that has very real life and death consequences, and not only for her. Can she complete the test he has set in the allotted time and live to see another day, or will failure, and The Magician triumph?

Read Chapter 1 Here or find the Index to All Chapters Here

Chapter 7

Tick-Tock

Mac pulled out of The Black Horse Inn’s car park and continued on the road heading away from Market Higham. She was at a loss as to what she was supposed to be looking for. The panic she had felt earlier quickly changed to numbness. She was beginning to think that it was The Magician’s plan all along to see her fail.

Then she thought she saw something strange in a field to the side of the road. When she found a place to pull over, she got out and ran back to the field, covering a distance of about a quarter of a mile. She walked over to the gate and peered in. Halfway up, in the middle of the farmer’s crop, appeared to be a red balloon.

Her intuition hitherto had been spot on. She had been guided to take the right roads and turnings, and led to the balloons that she could so easily have missed. She sent up a silent prayer thanking the Lady and hoping that neither she, nor her intuition, would desert her just yet.

Mac climbed up and over the fence, careful not to do herself an injury, and then broke out into a run between the rows of plants. She pulled up sharp, breathing hard when she reached the balloon, which was tethered to the spot by a heavy stone. Mac picked up the rock and found hiding beneath it another envelope, which she quickly opened.

Sacrificed was she to the Huntress

Virgin goddess of the moon

Sentenced to pay for others mistakes

Failure will surely lead to her doom

The words danced before her eyes. This can’t be happening. I need to get back to the car. The new riddle went round and round in her head. She knew immediately who had been buried alive.

The women of Mac’s maternal line were always given ancient Greek names; the reason for it wasn’t important, but it had meant she had a very good grasp on Greek mythology. It was no hardship for Mac to decipher The Magician’s riddle; the words spoke of Iphigenia, the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. Agamemnon had offended Artemis, the virgin goddess of the hunt and moon. In order to placate the goddess and banish the ill-fortune that was stalking him, he offered to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia, to her.

Iphigenia was Andromache’s grandmother’s name.

Mac stumbled her way back to the car, tears flowing freely down her face. She tripped and fell; she grazed her knees and her hands in an attempt to break her fall. She sobbed; one time she even screamed, but she no longer cared. She needed to find her grandmother. She needed to save her grandmother.

The return trip seemed to take ten times as long; she knew fear of failure was playing with her mind now that the focus of The Game had a name and a face. The name and face of one of the people who had helped raise her; who had taught her the tarot.

When she reached the car, she fell into the driving seat. She knew she needed to get going, but again, she had no idea of where to go. She didn’t know if she had enough energy or control to use the pendulum again; her hands wouldn’t stop shaking. It was then that she noticed another envelope tucked under the windscreen wiper.

For a minute she sat staring through the glass, unable to move. He is close by, she thought, slowly turning to look out of her window. Being under The Magician’s constant gaze was eating away at Mac’s composure. He watched me stop the car. He watched me walk to the field and find the balloon. He watched me realise that he had taken my grandmother and buried her in a coffin somewhere, and he probably knows I don’t know how to find her.

She started crying again; there was nothing for it. She needed to get it out of her system and deal with it as quickly as she could. At first she cried because she loved her grandmother, then because she felt so helpless. Last of all she cried because she was angry. She picked up the mobile phone from the seat next to her and dialled.

‘This is what you call fun? Answer me, goddamn you!’

‘Pull yourself together. The Game is in full-swing. Your anger and lack of concentration will get you both killed.’ He hung up.

His sharp tone stunned her for a moment, forcing her to clear her head. She got out of the car and retrieved the next envelope from under the wiper, but waited until she was back in the driver’s seat to open it.

Ma Cheri, I have watched you work your pendulum magic and been amazed by how you have stumbled upon my clues. The next test is one of general knowledge; some questions will be easy, some might be a little harder. The answers to the questions will spell out your next destination. And remember, Ma Cheri, the clock is ticking. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Faithfully yours, The Magician.

The questions:

*The second letter of the second name of the woman who lived with seven dwarves.

*The first letter of the Greek alphabet.

*The first letter of the first name of “Lawrence of Arabia”

*The Egyptian God of the Moon and Magic?

*What is the third most abundant chemical element in the universe?

*The seventh element in the periodic table.

*Which feast closes the seasonal celebration of Advent?

*The XVIII letter of the alphabet.

*The seventh letter of a compendium of knowledge.

*On which of the two of New Zealand’s main islands is Christchurch to be found?

*The country whose capital city is Ljubljana.

Mac looked at the questions and knew she couldn’t answer them all. She picked up the phone.

‘Would you be so kind as to tell me how much of my designated time remains?’

‘Of course. One hour and ten minutes. Good luck.’

Mac quickly got out her notebook and pen. She wrote numbers next to each of the clues on The Magician’s note, and then drew eleven short horizontal lines across a page in her notebook. For a brief second she thought of the game “hangman”.

She read the questions. Number one is obviously Snow White that gives us ‘h’ as our first letter. She wrote the letter above the first line.

Number two was easy too; who didn’t know that ‘alpha’ was the first letter in the Greek alphabet. The letter ‘a’ was placed over the second line.

Number three had her stumped; Lawrence of Arabia had always been Lawrence of Arabia to Mac even though she knew that was not his real name. Thank you, Hollywood! She knew that the answer to number four was “Thoth”, so she entered a “t” assuming that the question asked for the first letter, although it wasn’t stipulated.

Number five and six were chemistry-related questions and her knowledge in this area was fairly limited. Number five she had no idea about, but at a stretch she thought number six was doable. After all, when she was in school she’d had to learn the first twenty elements of the periodic table off by heart. She didn’t think she could reach twenty now, but then she didn’t have to. She only needed to remember the first seven.

‘Hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron, carbon…what comes next, what comes next…oxygen is eighth and fluorine is nine, but what is seven, Mac? Come on, think…’ She started again. ‘Hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron, carbon…nitrogen…? Nitrogen, I think that’s right. Nitrogen’s chemical symbol is an “N”.’ She added that into the corresponding place in her notebook.

Next question: asking a pagan about a Christian celebration isn’t playing fair, she mused, even though she thought she knew the answer. Advent was associated with Christmas, so she added “c” into the next space, and an “r” into the one following as Roman numerals caused her no difficulty.

The next question had two possible answers. A compendium of knowledge was an encyclopaedia, the seventh letter of which was an “o”, however, in an encyclopaedia the seventh letter might refer to the letter “g”, which was the seventh letter of the alphabet, and the order in which information would be catalogued. She looked at her page and wrote “o / g” in the space. Looking at the letters that preceded it, Mac didn’t think that the answer was likely to be “g” but she left it there just in case.

Mac had never been to New Zealand, although she did know that its two main islands were called ‘North Island’ and ‘South Island’. However, on which one Christchurch was located, was a mystery to her, but there could only be two answers, and from the other questions, she believed that the first letter of either of them must be one she needed. In the space in her notebook she added “n / s”.

The last question, she knew; European geography, she could manage. The answer was Slovenia. In the final space she entered an “s”.

That was it; that was all she could do. There were two empty spaces, representing questions she had no idea about; she couldn’t even make an educated guess. Then there were two questions, one after the other, where there were two possible answers. Perhaps if they had been spread out over the word it wouldn’t have mattered so much, but as she looked at the page before her, she believed it wasn’t good enough, and that it had taken her far too long.

She got out the phone and asked for a time update. She only had forty-five minutes left. The Magician didn’t sound too concerned as he spoke to her on the phone, but then Mac wondered why he would. It was all the same to him.

There was only one thing left that she could do now: get out the map and try to find a place on it that fitted with what she had scribbled in her notebook. She folded the map so that the quarter the pendulum had indicated to her was facing up. She began systematically tracing her finger along all the roads, starting with the main ones, before going back to the beginning and following the minor ones.

Her hopes were raised and then dashed when she stumbled upon a place called Halton Claton. The first name of the village fitted perfectly but the second did not. She resumed her search.

As she approached the top of the quarter that was facing her, she finally found it. Hatton Cross. Mac started the engine and began to drive.


Chapter 8, the final chapter, coming next weekor you can read the whole short story right now, for FREE, over on Wattpad

The Magician: Chapter 6 (An Andromache Jones Mystery Short Story)

About The Magician: An Andromache Jones Mystery

“I am about to set you a challenge, Miss Jones, one that has very real life and death consequences.”

Andromache Jones has somehow managed to capture the attention of The Magician and finds herself caught up in The Game, his challenge that has very real life and death consequences, and not only for her. Can she complete the test he has set in the allotted time and live to see another day, or will failure, and The Magician triumph?

Read Chapter 1 Here or find the Index to All Chapters Here

Chapter 6

The Black Horse Inn

Even though the signpost to Market Higham said three miles, it felt much longer. The winding country roads prevented Andromache from getting up any speed in the car for fear of running into the back of a tractor or some such vehicle going around one of the many blind corners.

The longer The Game went on, the more frayed her nerves became. She wondered how The Magician could always be watching her, and why he felt the need to. Was it from fear that she would cheat or was it from the sheer enjoyment of the entertainment? She was feeling self-conscious being under constant scrutiny, for she believed every word he said. The risks were too great to think otherwise.

Eventually a sign on the village limit revealed that Mac was now entering Market Higham. She slowed down to see if she could see whether the village had its own pub. Again panic rose in her stomach as the buildings started thinning and the village ended.

Cursing herself for not heading towards Higham Castle, she started to look for a place to turn, but there was nothing that her Beetle could cope with. All she could do was carry on and follow the road that led to nowhere as the seconds and minutes slipped away from her.

However, fortune must have been smiling on Mac, for soon she spotted a sign swinging from a stand-alone post at the roads edge indicating that here was The Black Horse Inn. If she had turned around when she had intended to, she would never have reached it.

Mac parked the car in the empty car park. She only now realised she had no idea what time of day it was, and she prayed that the pub was open. She exited the car and headed over to the main entrance. She pushed on one side of the swinging double doors, sighing with relief as it allowed her through.

She now found herself in the bar of an old coaching inn, characterised by the dim lighting and the open fire place surrounded by copper kettles of various sizes and old horse brasses. Much to her concern, the bar was empty.

‘Hello?’ she called out. It made her feel embarrassed as she didn’t like being loud, but what else could she do? ‘Hello?’ she tried again even louder, but no one responded to her. It reminded her of a Walter De La Mare poem, The Listeners. The lines “tell them I came and no one answered, that I kept my word, he said,” seemed awfully fitting.

Mac approached the door that had “private” written across it in large letters etched on a brass plate. She pushed it open; there was a tiny corridor that led to another door around the corner.

‘Hello?’ she called again, just as a man of about sixty walked through the other door.

‘It does say “private” on the door, doesn’t it?’ His manner was sharper than she expected.

‘Oh, sorry about that. I called out a few times but no one answered. I don’t want to come across as impatient, but I’m in a bit of a hurry,’ she replied lightly, hoping to appear friendly, but deep down she knew this was wasting time.

‘Are you here to collect a package someone left for you behind the bar?’

‘Andromache Jones, that’s me.’

‘Come back through to the bar and I will get it for you.’

They took the few steps back into the bar, where he retrieved The Magician’s package. ‘Here you go. Can I get you anything to drink?’

‘Sorry, I am just passing through. I only have time to stop and pick this up.’ Mac thanked the landlord and swiftly departed The Black Horse Inn.

When she was back in the safety of the car, she tore open the package. In it was an old-looking key wrapped in another letter.

Do not lose this key I give you

For there is only one

Now start again for which you seek

Lest out of time you run

Although The Magician had cautioned Mac not to lose the key, there was nothing in the letter that would help her on to the next stage of her journey. She picked up the phone.

‘How long do I have left?’

‘Hello, Miss Jones. Perhaps we could employ the use of our manners while we chat? I don’t know what your mother or even what your grandmother would say if they knew how you were speaking to me.’

‘You don’t know my family.’

‘Miss Jones, I know a lot more about you and your family than you give me credit for. Crabtree Simpson’s career is doing well thanks to his gifted girlfriend. Oh, that’s you, isn’t it? You would be surprised – or perhaps you wouldn’t? – to learn what his colleagues think of him and the way he uses you to climb the career ladder. Do you ever wonder if you were to lose these precious gifts you possess, would he still be with you? Or are you convinced that what you have is love?’

Tears started to form in Mac’s eyes; she swallowed hard. There was nothing she wanted more in the world at that moment than to fall into Crab’s arms and forget this ordeal. ‘You have made your point.’

‘Please don’t think that I want to upset or distract you, Miss Jones. I have the utmost respect for you, and you deserve more than a leech for a boyfriend. Now shall we change the subject?’

‘Please do.’

‘How are you finding my little game? Challenging?’

‘I suppose so.’

‘You suppose?’

‘You expect me to drive around the countryside in the hope that I am just going to stumble across your clues.’

‘You put that pendulum to good use back at the lair.’

‘I don’t have time to ask the pendulum to help me with every decision I need to make. It takes too much out of me, and you didn’t exactly provide me with enough time to recover.’

‘Noted, but as I explained earlier, I don’t understand all the processes involved. It was not intentional. I will remember that for next time.’

‘Next time?’

‘A little joke, Miss Jones, a little joke. Now you had a question for me?’

‘How long do I have left?’

‘Two hours and counting.’


Chapter 7 coming next weekor you can read the whole short story right now, for FREE, over on Wattpad

Mail From The Edge of My Mind (triptych)

Photo by meo on Pexels.com

I

“You’ve got mail, it beeps.

I’ll never get used to this chip in my brain.

Complete interconnectivity, they said.

The inside of my head is itchy.

Yet I’m so much more aware of myself, my capabilities now.

Photo by Giallo on Pexels.com

II

The message is a reminder: Today no work because I’m on holiday. Yay!

Lazily, I decide I want a lie in. But I can’t settle.

It feels like I’m wasting time.

I should do something noteworthy. Memorable.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

III

Eyes closed, I wonder what to do.

I hear the sound of the ocean.

I open my eyes and there before me, swimming, is a dolphin.

The sea is warm.

I’ll write a postcard home, I think…


Written for: Weekend Writing Prompt # 304: Mail | Word count: 3 x 37 – So, I might be cheating a little writing a triptych, but once the idea was embedded in my head, I could think of nothing else to write 😉

The Magician: Chapter 5 (An Andromache Jones Mystery Short Story)

About The Magician: An Andromache Jones Mystery

“I am about to set you a challenge, Miss Jones, one that has very real life and death consequences.”

Andromache Jones has somehow managed to capture the attention of The Magician and finds herself caught up in The Game, his challenge that has very real life and death consequences, and not only for her. Can she complete the test he has set in the allotted time and live to see another day, or will failure, and The Magician triumph?

Read Chapter 1 Here or find the Index to All Chapters Here

Chapter 5

Getting Out

Mac ran over to the door, before remembering it was locked.

‘Damn!’ How am I supposed to get out of here? She looked around the room; it was the first time she had properly studied it, but it did no good. There were no other doorways or windows.

She began pacing the floor, running through her predicament aloud. ‘If I have been given things that suggest I need to be outside, then there must be a way out of here.’ She pulled on the door handle, angry that she couldn’t see an immediate answer to the problem before her and so was astonished when the door gave way, and she ended up on the floor looking back up at it. The door had never been locked; it only sounded like The Magician had locked it.

‘Well, that was a surprise.’ She stood up and dusted herself down, before opening the heavy wooden door as wide as it would go. The corridor outside the room she had been held in was poorly lit, but at least it wasn’t pitch black. She took a few tentative steps out into the hallway, looking down one wall, across the floor and back up the other as she slowly moved along it.

The end of the corridor joined another one, just as dimly lit, creating a T-junction. Which way, left or right? Mac wondered to herself. There was nothing around her that she could see to suggest which one was the right way. She could of course, go one way and if it led to a dead end simply turn back round. The problem was there wasn’t enough time and there was the added possibility of getting lost.

She turned instead to her trusty pendulum, and went through the same motions as earlier to test its responses. When these were clarified she stepped into the new corridor and took a few paces either way, facing the new direction.

‘Is this the way that will lead me out?’ she asked. She was given one positive and one negative response, and followed the advice from the pendulum accordingly. There were no turnings off the corridor and again, when it ended, it formed another crossroads. However, when she stepped into this one, she could in fact see a short flight of stairs that appeared to be illuminated from where she was standing.

‘Daylight!’ she whispered, and moved towards it. She climbed the few steps and opened the door at the top, and this time she found herself outside, breathing in fresh air.

Mac looked around her; there was nothing here but a few trees and a dusty track that led away from the old building she had been kept in. Sitting on the track was her beloved Volkswagen Beetle. She made her way over to the car, but began starting to question how easy things had been so far. She pulled the phone out of the pocket, and accessed the contact list. There was only one number stored in it, under the name The Magician. She rang the number.

‘You are doing so well, Miss Jones, I must say. The others were completely fooled by my door-locking illusion.’

‘I don’t have time for a casual chit-chat. Can I drive the car or not?’

‘Yes. And Miss Jones?’

‘What?’

‘You have two and a half hours left.’ Then the phone went dead.

Mac jumped into the Beetle and pulled the map and envelope out from her bag. She gave the riddle another cursory glance, but nothing new struck her. Focusing on the map, she then began to plan her route to the correct area, when she cursed her own stupidity. She had no idea where she was. She dumped her bag and the map on the chair next to her while she commanded herself to think, think, think. In the end she only came up with one solution. She was going to have to drive and find a signpost. At least in the UK, she thought, one thing we have a lot of is road signs.

She dug out her car key from her pocket and turned it in the ignition. Then very carefully she began to drive along the bumpy dirt track. Luckily it was not very long, perhaps half a mile or so. It brought her out on to a country lane. However, to leave the track she had to get out and open a gate.

As if it was signifying someone’s birthday, one red balloon had been tied with string to the gate post. At the end of the string was another envelope, addressed in the same spidery script to “Miss Jones”. Once the gate was open, Mac grabbed the letter and dashed back to the car to open it.

It contained another set of instructions:

At the Inn of The Black Horse

A present for you behind the bar

Give your name to the landlord

Then return to your car.

There was nothing to say where The Black Horse was so as she had determined earlier she was just going to have to drive. Even if she came across anyone, she couldn’t ask them for directions or even a location for fear that The Magician would shoot her, and also thereby condemn her unknown loved one.

Mac started up the car again, and pulled out into the lane, opting to take the right-hand turn. After a few minutes, panic started to set in. He had said there were only two and a half hours left; how much time am I going to need to do this? Do I even have enough time?

Minutes passed and no sign materialised. She began to question her decision, when she came upon another junction, with signposts. Three miles to Market Higham, One mile to Higham Castle; do I take the shortest or longest? The Magician would expect me to head to Higham Castle, especially if I am in a panic about the time ticking away. She took the turning for Market Higham.


Chapter 6 coming next weekor you can read the whole short story right now, for FREE, over on Wattpad

The Magician: Chapter 4 (An Andromache Jones Mystery Short Story)

About The Magician: An Andromache Jones Mystery

“I am about to set you a challenge, Miss Jones, one that has very real life and death consequences.”

Andromache Jones has somehow managed to capture the attention of The Magician and finds herself caught up in The Game, his challenge that has very real life and death consequences, and not only for her. Can she complete the test he has set in the allotted time and live to see another day, or will failure, and The Magician triumph?

Read Chapter 1 Here or find the Index to All Chapters Here

Chapter 4

The Riddle

The Magician walked over to the door and picked up his bag. He crossed the threshold into the corridor and began to pull the door to.

‘It is time. I wish you good luck, Miss Jones. Let The Game begin!’ He shut the door firmly behind him, and Mac was left with the sound of a key turning in a lock which echoed around the room.

For a few minutes she was too stunned to move; her mind was completely devoid of anything. Then all at once, she was up at the table looking at the resources she had in front of her.

There was the mobile phone The Magician had spoken about. She put that straight into her pocket. Then she noticed the small handbag she had been carrying – when was it? – whenever The Magician must have kidnapped her. It had been emptied and all the contents placed on the table, that was except for her personal mobile phone. That was missing, presumed confiscated.

She returned the brown lipstick to her bag, along with an emery board, her purse (which she checked was still full of her money and cards, not to mention a photo of her family and boyfriend Crab), a pen and notebook, as well as a few other miscellaneous items.

The one item that stood out to her was her pendulum; she took it out of its protective pouch and held it close to her. It was fashioned out of lapis-lazuli, cone-like in shape and attached to a sterling silver chain, at the end of which was a small amethyst sphere. At least I have you, she whispered to it, though at the same time she cursed herself for not packing one of her tarot decks in her bag before she left the house. It was not like her, and today, the one day that she needed them, she didn’t have them to hand. She slipped it back into its pouch and placed it in her handbag.

Next she picked up her car keys which were also lying on the table. She placed them in her other pocket but wondered whether she would actually need a car, and if she did, could she use it. She didn’t know if she was expected to leave the room, let alone drive to a different location, and the car itself wasn’t actually on the table.

The only things left were an envelope that had “Miss Jones” scrawled across the front in an archaic, spidery script, and a folded up map. Mac opened the envelope and pulled out a few folded sheets of expensive notepaper. The first sheet was a letter signed by The Magician, that Mac proceeded to read:

Ma Cherie. The Game has begun, and the clock is ticking. Enclosed with this letter you will find a riddle that you must solve. If you fail in this task, someone dear to you will die, as will you. As you progress along the challenge, not only will you find clues to help you save this soul from the arms of death, you will find clues as to the identity of the one who shall perish should you not complete The Game in the allotted time. I am watching you. Good luck.

The Magician

As Mac read the words left to her by her kidnapper, tears began to form in her eyes. She willed herself not to cry for there wasn’t the time, but it was too much. Why was this happening to her? What right did this madman have to make her play such a sick game? She banged her hand on the table in front of her out of sheer frustration, but it seemed to clear her head of any emotions that would cloud her judgement. She looked at the second sheet of paper, and found on it the riddle that The Magician had mentioned:

The ground is my roof now

I live in a house of wood

The Earth Spirits embrace me

I’ll soon be gone for good.

As she looked at the words written in the spidery hand, she knew at once the meaning of The Game: to find the loved one whom The Magician had buried alive somewhere. The room spun as images she did not wish to see swam before her eyes. She held on to the table for support, took a deep breath and felt herself steady.

She looked once more at the riddle, looking for the clues that The Magician had alluded to, but if they were there she couldn’t see them. Instead of panicking, she moved on.

I have been given the map for a reason. She picked it up and opened it out. It showed an area, ten miles square, depicting nothing more than countryside, forests and small villages. Somewhere in here is someone I love, waiting for me to come and save them.

The detail on the map wasn’t that great, but she was thankful for her pendulum. It would definitely come in useful for the task that was ahead of her. She folded the map into quarters, pressing heavily along each fold, before opening it up again and spreading it out on the table. Then she reached into her handbag and retrieved her pendulum.

The first thing she did was test her “yes” and “no” responses. She held out her left hand and asked to see the response for “yes”. When she was satisfied, she swapped hands. Suspending the pendulum over her right hand, she asked to see the response for “no”. All other movements of the pendulum did not matter; they implied that there was no definite answer to the question.

She took in a deep breath to calm herself and then held the pendulum over each quarter of the map in turn. She asked one question: is the one which I seek, the one that the riddle speaks of, hidden within this quadrant? She checked each quarter of the map, receiving one “yes” response and three “no’s” from the pendulum, which was a good clear sign.

Mac then gathered up everything that was left on the table, the map, the letter and riddle included, and stuffed them in her handbag. She had narrowed down the search area by three quarters, and hadn’t even left the room yet. Surely that had to be considered a good start?


Chapter 5 coming next weekor you can read the whole short story right now, for FREE, over on Wattpad

The Magician: Chapter 3 (An Andromache Jones Mystery Short Story)

About The Magician: An Andromache Jones Mystery

“I am about to set you a challenge, Miss Jones, one that has very real life and death consequences.”

Andromache Jones has somehow managed to capture the attention of The Magician and finds herself caught up in The Game, his challenge that has very real life and death consequences, and not only for her. Can she complete the test he has set in the allotted time and live to see another day, or will failure, and The Magician triumph?

Read Chapter 1 Here or find the Index to All Chapters Here

Chapter 3

The Rules

Suddenly the notion that The Game was real dawned on Mac. The way in which he said he hoped she would make it home made her blood run cold. She was going to have to play, whether she wanted to or not, if she wanted to live.

‘Time is moving on; we have a schedule to keep, I’m afraid. On reflection I should have allowed more time to sit and talk with you; it is not often I make mistakes, and it is even rarer that I admit them.’ He began pacing the room.

‘We have established why you are here, we have named the players. The start of The Game approaches,’ The Magician said in an excitable tone. ‘But what is a game without rules?’ he asked rhetorically. ‘It wouldn’t be fun without a set of parameters in which to confine The Game, would it?’

He walked over to Mac, removed her blindfold and untied her wrists. The sudden light hurt her eyes; she considered trying to make an escape, but quickly realised that in this condition and with The Magician’s penchant for planning, she wouldn’t get far.

‘Your eyesight will be blurry for a little while yet. I have no fear of you seeing enough of me to provide a decent description to the police, if you live. Of course, I hope you do survive, but rules are rules, and we must stick to them or chaos will reign.’

Mac looked around, trying to make out details of the room she was in, but nothing stood out. She saw blurs of dark colour. She could see a faint light hanging from the ceiling.

Nevertheless, when The Magician stood in front of her, she could see what he was wearing. He looked like something out of a Victorian costume drama; he was dressed very formally. Black trousers, white shirt, black dress shoes that clicked slightly as he walked. Over the white shirt he wore a waistcoat, and over that a dinner jacket; on his head was a top hat, and soft, white cotton gloves graced his hands. He appeared to be holding a crystal-topped cane. However, just as he had informed her, Mac could not make out any features of his face, bar his facial hair; a broad black moustache swept in waves above his mouth, and a pointed goatee beard sat on his chin. For all she knew these were fake and had been glued onto his face.

‘You have a dramatic style.’

‘Thank you for noticing, Miss Jones. It goes with my dramatic nature, don’t you think?’

‘It’s very… Victorian.’

‘I knew you would understand. The era of real gentlemen, when the name magician meant something. If only we had had the chance to meet before now…every magician requires a beautiful assistant.’ He picked up one of her hands in his gloved hand and kissed it. ‘But alas, The Game calls.’

‘I have a question.’

‘That’s what I want to hear, that you are getting into The Game. It makes it so much more likely that you will survive. Ask away.’

‘What is the purpose of The Game? What does it entail? What is the point of it?’

‘Well, the purpose is to test your levels of deduction and the gifts you possess; it entails a challenge made up of smaller tests, and the point of it? To see whether you can beat me at my own game.’

‘But what do I have to do? Have I to steal something? Solve a riddle?’

‘That will become clear shortly. Any other questions?’

‘No.’

‘Good, now on with the rules…

‘Number one: you must play,’ he said, beginning to pace the room as his movements became more animated. ‘Refuse to play, and I will be forced to shoot you in the back of the head.

‘Number two: you must play alone. Speaking to anyone other than The Magician, moi, or yourself, will result in a bullet to the back of the head, unless of course, you are instructed to do so.

‘Number three: you may only use the items that you begin The Game with. These items can be found here on this table. If it’s not on this table, you cannot use it. Use something that isn’t on this table, and you will find a bullet in the back of your head.

‘Number four: the only phone you can use will be the one on the table; you are not allowed to use any other phone until you complete The Game.

‘Number five: if by chance you come across a computer or any other device that is connected to the internet, you are prohibited from using it. No internet access is allowed whilst The Game is in play.

‘Number six: do not test my commitment to my rules. I will be observing you at all times. Break the rules and you will die. You will of course, be aware that some of your predecessors did not heed this warning. I have had to dispose of six out of the past twelve contestants.

‘That makes you contestant number thirteen. I hope you approve as it was no accident. The number thirteen is considered sacred in witchcraft, is it not?’

‘It is.’

‘Splendid. So, the rules have been laid out. All the pieces of the puzzle can be found on this table. If you need to speak with me, my number is in the phone. I stress, if you are unsure of something, ask first, or you will regret it, ma cherie.

‘One more thing, the challenges I create have a time limit. If you don’t successfully complete the test within the allotted time… bang,’ he said, holding his fingers in the shape of a gun.

‘Your time limit is three hours, three minutes and three seconds. I like to be precise. Again, I hope you are pleased with the reference to another sacred pagan number.You have been truly inspirational in this challenge and I must thank you for that. The others were so common and…well normal. To compete with a clever witch, a psychic one at that, has really made me think about what I am doing. It has posed a challenged in itself.’

‘It’s a shame that you didn’t delve a little deeper into The Craft and come across the ‘harm none’ tenet. Then perhaps there would be no need for The Game.’

‘Where would be the fun in that? I thought that you understood, about me, about The Game. I was wrong.’ He sounded hurt.

‘Murder is not fun.’

‘And neither is failure, Miss Jones. I hope you will remember that.’


Chapter 4 coming next weekor you can read the whole short story right now, for FREE, over on Wattpad

The Magician: Chapter 2 (An Andromache Jones Mystery Short Story)

About The Magician: An Andromache Jones Mystery

“I am about to set you a challenge, Miss Jones, one that has very real life and death consequences.”

Andromache Jones has somehow managed to capture the attention of The Magician and finds herself caught up in The Game, his challenge that has very real life and death consequences, and not only for her. Can she complete the test he has set in the allotted time and live to see another day, or will failure, and The Magician triumph?

Read Chapter 1 Here

Chapter 2

The Players

Mac felt her head spin. The man with the exuberant personality would not stop talking, and what he said made little sense to her.

‘So now we know why you are here. I did promise you fun, Miss Jones, didn’t I?’

Mac was struggling to bring her thoughts together into one coherent whole. Are the drugs still affecting my mind? she wondered. Whatever the reason, she was finding it hard to respond to this madman.

‘The next step would be for me to tell you who I am. I’m assuming that you still haven’t guessed it? No; such a disappointment. I wonder with that failure already under your belt, how you will fare during The Game. Let’s just say that past games suggest the odds are not in your favour, but you might surprise us all. These things are not a foregone conclusion; a single roll of the dice can change a player’s luck,’ he offered enthusiastically.

‘So, who am I? I am who? Of course, in this business one cannot simply go around revealing their true identity willy-nilly. There must be some safeguards in place for the conductor of our little game-playing ensemble. Luckily for me, I have a rather exciting pseudonym; it conjures up the perfect image. I, Miss Jones, am…The Magician.’

Mac gasped for a variety of reasons. She realised she had heard of this man after all, and was concerned that her activities had caught his attention.

The Magician had been making the national news for a year now. Every month or so, he would abduct a private investigator that he believed was at the top of their field, according to a written statement he had issued to a news channel. He only played his game with the best, pitting one great mind against the other.

‘You know my name. That pleases me, in a vain sort of way. I wonder why you did not connect the dots before…’

‘The other detectives you had chosen were always in the papers. I am not. They worked on high profile cases. I do not. They were considered the best-of-the-best. I am not.’

‘Don’t sell yourself short, my dear. If I did not think you worthy, you would not have been chosen. There is something different about you; something that I have not faced with the other competitors.

‘You are the first female contestant. Your feminine intuition combined with your other gifts interests me. I want to understand how your mind works, how you reach your conclusions, how you solve the puzzles that are put in front of you.

‘With you, I get the enjoyment of The Game plus the chance to observe how a very different mind works…pleasure and the opportunity to improve my own game; who could ask for more?’

‘But why me?’

‘Have you met any other female private detectives, Miss Jones?’

‘Some, not many.’ At this moment, she wondered if explaining that she wasn’t really a private detective, only a witch that dabbled in the work of a private detective, would change things. Listening to the way the man was rabbiting on, she thought not.

‘And out of those few, how many specialise in the catching of philandering spouses and the search for evidence which might suggest a pre-nuptial agreement would be advisable before a wedding? Does that sound like a critical mind to you? Does that sound like someone who is worthy of my attention, and what’s more, my time and effort? Of course not. Some private detectives are more paparazzi than Sherlock Holmes.

‘You should be honoured to be here now, Miss Jones, talking to me. It shows what respect I have for you and what esteem I hold you in.’

‘I shall have to disappoint you again then; I would rather be at home, sipping a nice, hot cup of tea.’

‘Then let’s hope you make it back there.’


Chapter 3 coming next weekor you can read the whole short story right now, for FREE, over on Wattpad

The Magician: Chapter 1 (An Andromache Jones Mystery Short Story)

About The Magician: An Andromache Jones Mystery

“I am about to set you a challenge, Miss Jones, one that has very real life and death consequences.”

Andromache Jones has somehow managed to capture the attention of The Magician and finds herself caught up in The Game, his challenge that has very real life and death consequences, and not only for her. Can she complete the test he has set in the allotted time and live to see another day, or will failure, and The Magician triumph?

Chapter 1

The Game

The metallic taste in her mouth and the lingering chemical odour were the first clues that indicated to Andromache Jones she had been abducted. In quick succession, other hints followed: the blindfold over her blue eyes; the bindings around her slender wrists.

She was of medium height and not very broad, but she was stronger than she looked. However, with the aid of a chemical or drug, she would have been easy to overpower.

Sitting as still as she could, Andromache strained to hear the sound of movement that would point to whether she was alone or if there was someone else in the room with her. She heard nothing; nothing except the sound of her heart pounding in her ears and the repetitive drip-drip of a leaky pipe or tap.

The air was damp and cold, and clung to her purple-streaked, light brown hair that reached her shoulders and stuck out at funny angles when it wasn’t being restrained by a blindfold.

The air also had a peculiar taste to it, or so she thought. However, her analytical mind quickly accepted that this might be the result of the combined effect of the taste in her mouth, the chemical soreness in her nose and the disorientation of her predicament.

Andromache, or Mac, as she preferred to be called as “Andromache” sounded far too formal and always led to questions about Troy, Prince Hector and The Illiad, had made a few enemies in her twenty-four years of life, and she had annoyed a few more on top of that. This was directly the consequence of two things: her forays into the world of the private detective and the gifts she had been born with.

By trade, or perhaps destiny depending on which way you looked at it, Mac was a psychic. However, her love of mysteries and puzzles had naturally pushed her towards helping out her policeman boyfriend on a few of his cases. This led to his quick advancement up the ranks and inflamed her desire to solve crimes and conundrums, with the aid of her psychic gifts, naturally.

Mac was not clairvoyant; she didn’t see the dead. She was sometimes capable of clairaudience where she could receive messages and guidance from a spirit in the form of speech, but this was quite a rare occurrence. She was however, clairsentient; she could feel the presence of the dead. Nevertheless, these abilities did not really help her in the pursuit of answers. The tarot cards, crystal ball and pendulum on the other hand, very much did.

She had played her part in the capture of murderers, drug dealers, burglars and even a bank robber. She had located lost children, stolen jewellery and once a kidnapped tenth generation pedigree dachshund. Of course, her involvement in such cases was kept very much out of the public eye; she did not seek fame and the police did not want their association to become public knowledge.

However, that did not mean that others outside of these circles were oblivious to Mac’s role in such cases, as her current dilemma seemed to prove. Mac racked her brain, trying to think of who could have done this to her and yet it seemed somewhat of an over-reaction for most of the cases she had been involved with, especially recently. So she turned her attention away from the world of sleuthing, instead focusing on her other area of employment.

From her little cottage in the village of Bramblesgrove, Mac ran River Gardens Mystical Services, from which she dispensed herbal medicine, periodically taught yoga, offered readings, and as a member of the Coven of the Silver Star, an international coven network, cast spells. She regularly taught classes and wrote literature on metaphysical subjects, and within this circle, she was deemed quite famous, much to her embarrassment.

Yet here also enemies lurked, in the form of other witches jealous of her abilities and her success. Sure, some of them would like to see my luck change, she mused, but would any of them go to the length of kidnapping me? To what end?

Just as she was about to answer her own question, footsteps, faint at first, could be heard. Mac felt the first flurries of panic in her stomach, as she sent a silent plea up to the Goddess asking to keep her safe. Then she mustered up all her courage and forced herself to calm down. Looking weak and terrified would do her no good.

‘You’ve come round! How delightful!’ exclaimed the voice of a man, a voice she did not recognise. ‘Welcome to my lair. This is where all the fun begins, and as always, I promise all my guests lots of that.’

‘You have people over often?’ Mac asked dryly. She was annoyed at the jollity in his voice; she had prepared for menacing, not merry.

‘Oh, regularly,’ he replied, clapping his hands together. ‘Not as often as I would like, because my parties take so much planning. It’s all in the detail, you understand. Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we have yet to be properly introduced.

‘I obviously know who you are. Miss Andromache Jones, the “Fortune Teller Detective” I think a newspaper once called you? What am I saying? I know that is exactly what they called you as I have the clipping on a board in my library. I do my research, you see.

‘Now your turn; have you worked out who I am yet?’ he asked, sounding thoroughly excited to hear what she had to say.

‘To be honest, I haven’t the foggiest. The whole thing feels a little surreal to me. Perhaps if you were to take off my blindfold I might have a better chance of working out who you are?’

He laughed heartily before replying. ‘Clever, clever, but no. I must admit I am a little disappointed in you. Out of all my guests I would have put money on you working out my identity. Why not ask your spirit friends for a clue? I would love to see how that voodoo-Ouija board-magic, or whatever you call it, works.’ Mac remained silent; she wasn’t going to play his games if she could avoid it. ‘No? What a shame. I personally don’t understand any of it, this spiritual, paranormal, talking to trees nonsense, so any insights I gleam from our time spent together shall be worth their weight in gold, I have no doubt.

‘And as for my identity, I shall just have to tell you who I am, but it will have to wait for a moment. You might have a more pressing question that you want me to answer.’

‘Such as…?’

‘Miss Jones, please try to play along,’ he pleaded. ‘It’s more fun with two.’

‘This might be “fun” for you but don’t expect me to enjoy myself. I am bound and blindfolded; I think I have been drugged…where is the “fun” for me in all of this?’

He quietly chuckled at her outburst. ‘And I thought you didn’t want to play?’ he said, teasingly, ‘but you did exactly what I asked of you. Your question might be better phrased as “why am I here”?’ He paused, before resuming. ‘Go on, ask me.’

‘Why am I here?’ Mac asked, as she felt the fight draining out of her.

‘For The Game, of course.’

The Game? What game? What are you talking about?’

The Game, the chase, the puzzle, call it what you will. I am about to set you a challenge, Miss Jones, one that has very real life and death consequences.’


Chapter 2 coming next weekor you can read the whole short story right now, for FREE, over on Wattpad

An Andromache Jones Mysteries Update

At the start of the month (in this post), I said that while I was on my blogging break over Christmas and New Year, I had been working on my witchy sleuth cosy mystery series, the Andromache Jones Mysteries. I also said that this year I was planning on reposting The Magician, the first short story in the series, here on the blog. The reason: it’s been 10 years (last October) that I released The Magician out into the world as a free ebook. It seemed a milestone worth celebrating.

In order to do this, I’ve had a long list of things to do, some of which are still in progress:

  • New covers needed to be designed (Done ✔)
  • I wanted to re-edit the story, just to make sure it aligned with some of the newer Andromache stories I’ve been writing (Currently in Progress 🖋)
  • This website needed updating because some of the content in the AJM link on the menu looked dated (Done ✔)
  • Wattpad needed updating so that it had the current edition of the story (Currently in Progress 🖋)
  • The new covers needed to be added to Goodreads (Not done ❌)

The only thing I have consciously decided not to do at this time is to update the ebook (available at Smashwords and other online sites but not Amazon). The reason is two-fold. First, the majority, though by no means all, of the recents reads have come from Wattpad. Secondly: because I’ve been pondering taking the ebook down, so when time is at a premium (why are there not more hours in the day?!), it feels like I would be wasting it . Of course, I may change my mind…We shall see…

New covers for The Magician and The Apparition

I had so much fun re-designing the book covers. I love the original ones but I felt they suggested the stories were more thriller-mystery rather than cosy mystery. They also look a lot more professional, but then I’ve got 10 years more experience at designing book covers.

What do you think?

About the Andromache Jones Mysteries

Andromache Jones is a tarot-reading witch from the sleepy village of Bramblesgrove, where she runs River Gardens Mystical Services. From here, she gives tarot readings, casts runes, gazes lovingly at the moon and stars, plays with crystals and herbs…and sometimes solves crimes. She likes to think of herself as a part-time private detective who untangles mysteries, but really she is an amateur sleuth who happens to attract trouble – and troublesome clients.

The Magician is the first (short) story in the Andromache Jones Mysteries. Andromache Jones has somehow managed to capture the attention of The Magician and finds herself caught up in The Game, his challenge that has very real life and death consequences, and not only for her. Can she complete the test he has set in the allotted time and live to see another day, or will failure, and The Magician triumph?

You can read more about the Andromache Jones Mysteries, and my plans for the series, over on this newly updated page.

When can you expect the first chapter of The Magician to be posted on this site? Tomorrow…If you do have a read of it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Brightest Blessings,

Sammi x