“Imagine,” Reynald exhaled into the chilled night air as he and
Willoughby exited the town car. “We are to be married!”
“It is exciting, isn’t it?” Willoughby suggested.
“A lucky lot, that’s what we are.”
“You bet. Laetitia and Jossie couldn’t be sweeter girls.”
“Yes. Well worth suffering through all those scabrous netherwidgets we
both bore over the years.”
Willoughby reeled with laughter as much from Reynald’s wry observation
as from the tiny glasses of sherry and port that they had all shared
The boys thanked their gentlemen’s gentleman, currently in post as
liveried driver, adding “We’ll see you anon, Druthers.”
Under a cold moon splintered by shards of stark, gray clouds, the pair
pulled the collars of their scissortail coats closer to their respective
necks against the winds that bit their skins and moved swiftly by legs
clad in matching vermillion twill trousers, turning down the corner of
their cobble-stoned street in the village.
Just as Willoughby felt he was about to finally loose from himself a
stealthy flatulence that had niggled him all evening after the surfeit
of potted meat at supper—indeed, it first felt as if he had overdone
the proceedings—he was unsettled by something that sounded rather like
a duck being pulled out of an uncertain mud.
He checked his smart trousers to see if he had soiled himself first and
then glanced over at Reynald, who stood stiff as a whisky chaser, with a
pained grimace on his lightly freckled face.
“Reynald,” Willoughby inquired, “What on earth has happened?”
“It would appear, dear Willoughby, that I have stepped in a sort of
substance.” He lifted up his left wing-tipped shoe, inspecting it, as
much as cautious contortion would allow.
“Do you suppose it’s Mimsy again? Cinchy Fowler’s bitch?”
“No, this is too gruesome, even for her. Is it porridge?”
Willoughby bent down and gave a gentle sniff. “It smells like refuse
from a querulous stomach. However, if my years at the culinary academy
taught me anything, I suspect it might be creamed spinach. I also detect
a faint scent of thyme. Certainly garlic. It’s still steaming.”
“Look there!” Reynald exclaimed, pointing just beyond. “There’s
It was true. In driblets, a trail of creamed spinach created an erratic
stream down the block.
Reynald scraped his wingtip on a neighboring London plane tree and the
pair moved on carefully without a word, noting that the wind had gotten
much more brisk in its deportment.
Breathlessly they further observed that the green, winding clot lead all
the way to their doorstep on 221 Basil Street.
What’s more, the closer their approach, they saw a battered,
rough-hewn conveyance at what appeared to be the end of the trail, on
the third step of the preface to the building.
“Now, who under God’s ascension would leave their filthy garbage
right there, willing us to be the sole heirs of its disposal?”
“Patience, Reynald—it’s a carpet bag.”
“I can see that, Willoughby—but why is it here? And right now, at
this hour when we’re plum rotty from the casks of fortitude we
Reynald felt a clutch in his throat before he continued with his snotty
rejoinder aimed at Willoughby. “What do you suppose that is,” he
asked hesitantly, peering through the occluded moonlight, having
observed a thick clog of red liquid emanating from the embroidered bag.
“Raspberry syrup? Treacle or jam? Red currant coulis? Can you
imagine,” Willoughby suggested, fingering his collar, “and just bear
with me for a moment, but wouldn’t you find it murdery delicious, in a
wild flight of fancy, wouldn’t it be grippingly rich, I mean just
rich—just imagine if there was a head in that bag! A perfectly severed
head that somebody left on our doorstep for we two to discover? Too
“Yes, that would be wonderful,” Reynald agreed after a moment’s
pause. “Quite the crack, I’ll agree, a real corker to share with the
boys at the club over a bottle of Amaretto—and it would be frightening
fodder for the crime novel I’m writing, The Ruse of the Wandering
Butler. But I…I’m not sure, Willoughby,” Reynald backed up,
stuttering into his hands, suddenly very afraid, observing the still
“Oh, Reynald, that rampant imagination of yours! I was merely having a
wee bit of a knocker with you. Let’s just have a look in the bag, have
a laugh—and then go upstairs and have a drink! Come now, of course
there’s not a head in there for God’s sake! Who would do such a
thing? Surely, people aren’t that dreadful!”
“I, uh, I don’t want to look. Let’s just call the police.”
“Reynald, it is only on rare occasion that a mad fiddler finds himself
drunker than you. Here we go,” Willoughby exerted, unfastening the
clasp of the interfering satchel.
What one could hardly imagine was suddenly, wretchedly, peering back at
them for they discovered there indeed was a head horrifically thrown
inside; the head of a young lady, quite shoddily torn and disastrously
pulled from the victim and after the boys vomited much of their dinner
of potted meats, sherry, and port, they ran screaming upstairs to their
apartment to get to the telephone, as much to report the crime to the
police if not more to escape the agonizing, unforgettable sight of the
head in the carpet bag and what had become the sickening stench of
Excerpted from "The Murdery Delicious Hamwich Gumm Mystery: A Comedy of Terrors" by Peter Halsey Sherwood. Copyright © 2013 by Peter Halsey Sherwood. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.