The Adventures of Xavier & Vic
The Troublesome Apprentice
By Liza O’Connor
The Key to Aunt Maddy’s Death
The Missing Husband of Mrs. Wimple
The Disappearing Scarlet Nun
The Clever Butcher’s Wife
The Rescue of Lady Anne
While investigating the death of a friend and client, Maddy Hamilton, Xavier Thorn (reputed to be the greatest sleuth in England) is greatly impressed with Maddy’s nephew, Victor, and offers him a job as his secretary. Aware of Xavier’s history of firing secretaries, Victor garners a promise that for three months he cannot be fired. Vic then proceeds, in Xavier’s view, to be cheeky and impertinent at every turn.
Xavier endures the impudent pup because Victor is most skilled in extracting the truth from clients and intuiting facts with little evidence to assist. As they solve a string of cases, Xavier discovers a few more important details about his troublesome apprentice, such as her true gender, and the realization that she has awakened his long dormant heart.
Vic knelt down to reduce her height and reached to the sill of the fireplace. “What if he knocked over the vase when searching the sill, then feared the item might have been in the vase and had fallen into the embers?”
“A reasonable possibility. Do you think he recovered what he sought in the ashes?”
“No, for he continues his search. You can see soot on the coffee table and side table drawers.” Vic pulled them open to study the contents. Dark smudges marred the napkins and doilies in the top one. The other, however, was completely empty. “How odd.”
“What did the bottom one have in it?”
“As in buttons for dresses?”
“Rather too bold for a dress, although some had been snipped from coats. Aunt Maddy collected fanciful buttons.” Vic stared at Xavier’s suit. “The ones on your vest would have caught her eye. I used to tease her she was part crow, for they are reputed to have a weakness for gewgaws.”
Pain filled her heart. She’d never tease Aunt Maddy about anything ever again. She paused and choked back the tears threatening to fall.
“Were they valuable?” Xavier’s voice lost its bark.
“Some had jewels embedded, but nothing one would kill for.” Vic shook her head. “I don’t think he came for Maddy’s collection, I think he simply couldn’t resist it once discovered.”
“I agree. How did you reach your conclusion?”
“Because he now searches the desk. If he had come for the buttons, he would have left directly.”
“And how did you determine he searched the desk last?”
“The footprints show he went first to the fireplace, and from there we can follow a trail of soot until we reach the small side table. It is here the soot stops. Perhaps he took out his handkerchief, wiped his hands, before bundling the buttons in the cloth. With his hands now clean, he ran them through his hair, either because he has a nervous tick or perhaps a stray lock had fallen into his eyes. Intending to search elsewhere, he walked to the door and tried to open it. In doing so, he left an oily residue from his hand. Finding the library door locked, he returned to the desk and, using the letter opener, pried free the center drawer.” Vic opened the desk drawer and frowned at the chaos. “He certainly searched in here. Aunt Maddy kept a very tidy desk.”
“Can you tell if anything is missing?”
“Not in this state. I would have to put everything back in place first.”
“Do it,” Xavier said. “So far all we know about the object the man sought is it isn’t paper. Had it been, he would have gone to the desk first.”
“Nor is it something he expected Aunt Maddy to value greatly, or why would she leave it on the fire sill or in a table drawer?”
Xavier stared at her.
“Nothing. Continue on with your work.”
As Vic put all the objects of the drawer back into their proper places, she discovered one thing: Xavier Thorn had absolutely no patience.
“How long could this possibly take?”
“There are hundreds of items,” Vic explained.
Xavier exhaled in frustration. “It is good I sent home my driver. He would have died from pneumonia by now. By the way, your butler has obligated you to provide me with a carriage home.”
Vic smiled at his declaration.
“I trust your smile is one of compliance. Are you not done yet?”
“I will tell you when I’m done,” Vic snapped. “And why are you suddenly so impatient?”
“Beyond the drawer, we are done here. I wish to proceed with the investigation!”
Vic stopped. “Mr. Thorn, I do not expect you to do more than what you have so ably done today.”
“Are you firing me?” Xavier asked in outrage.
“I have not actually hired you. I only wished for your advice, but it was wrong of me to think you would do this without expecting compensation. Send me your bill and I will see it is paid.” Vic had no idea how she would do so, given she had no money.
“Bloody hell! I will not be brought in and then tossed aside at your whim. Maddy Hamilton was not just a client, but a friend, and I had every intention of finding her killer before you invited me here to use me and cast me off like a dock whore.”
Vic stopped working on the drawer. Clearly, she had insulted Mr. Thorn, but what caught her attention was a particular part of his ranting. “You knew she was killed before we even spoke?”
“Yes. It is why I wished to speak to you. If you recall, that is what I said when I introduced myself.”
“How did you know she’d been murdered?”
Xavier paused, as if debating whether to answer.
“I am sorry I insulted you,” Vic offered in hopes of soothing his temper. “It was not intentional. Please understand, I loved my aunt dearly, and I can either fall apart over her death or focus on finding her killer. I believe the latter is more productive. Moreover, I would greatly appreciate your help, but it appears Aunt Maddy had little money left when she died and, until I find a job, I cannot afford your services.”
She paused and met his unnerving glare. “I should have explained my situation from the first. But before you leave, could you please tell me how you knew she’d been murdered?”
The Troublesome Apprentice
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Liza O’Connor was raised by feral cats, which explains a great deal, such as why she has no manners, is always getting in trouble, and doesn’t behave like a proper author and give you a proper bio.
She is highly unpredictable, both in real life and her stories, and presently is writing humorous romances. Please buy these books, because otherwise, she’ll become grumpy and write troubled novels instead. They will likely traumatize you.
Mostly humorous books by Liza:
Saving Casey – Old woman reincarnates into troubled teen’s body. (Half funny/half traumatizing)
Ghost Lover—Two British brothers fall in love with the same young woman. Ancestral ghost is called in to fix the situation. There’s a ghost cat too. (Humorous Contemporary Romance)
A Long Road to Love Series: (Humorous Contemporary odd Romance)
Worst Week Ever — Laugh out loud week of disasters of Epic proportions.
Oh Stupid Heart — The heart wants what it wants, even if it’s impossible.
Coming to Reason — There is a breaking point when even a saint comes to reason.
Climbing out of Hell — The reconstruction of a terrible man into a great one.
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