It was a wet, cold day in the rolling hills of Devon, England. Rain pelted mournfully against the windows of Thorn Darling-ton’s country estate, home of his famous butler school. Thorn had been in a bad mood for several weeks, coinciding with the commencement of Maldwin Feckles’s butler classes over in New York City.
“I know his school will be pathetic, but he’s doing this to ruin me!” Thorn had cried when he heard the news. “He knew that I was planning to open a branch of the Thorn Darlington School for Butlers there next year. He’s stealing my thunder! On purpose!”
Thorn sank his rotund body into a leather club chair that squeaked in protest whenever he sat down. He sipped the tea that his own butler had just delivered. His whole body ached. The dreary weather seemed to have seeped into his bones, and the aggravations of the day were driving him over the edge. His Thorn Darlington School for Butlers, which had been in existence for over thirty-five years, was about to begin the two-week refresher course that was worse than the six-week intensive program. The course was often filled with a bunch of “know-it-alreadys.” Thorn knew that all they wanted was the Thorn Darlington certificate, which would naturally increase their chances of finding a proper butlering job. Thorn put up with their attitudes because, after the course, most of them would find jobs through Thorn’s placement agency.
He had quite a racket going.
Thorn bit into a tasty shortbread cookie. As he chewed, the frown on his face grew deeper and deeper, while his bushy eyebrows twitched up and down. Just thinking about Maldwin Feckles’s nerve drove him nuts. And now he’d heard that Maldwin was getting publicity for that bloody school, publicity that should have been reserved for him. Feckles was going to be on television in New York City with his students. It was maddening!
Many new butler schools had tried to imitate the Thorn Darlington School, attempting to steal business from him, but they had all quickly shut their doors, failing miserably after one mishap or another. Now Thorn was ready to conquer New York, and he had no intention of letting an oddball wanna-be like Maldwin Feckles get in his way.
In the fall, Maldwin had taken Thorn’s refresher course but had stormed out of Thorn’s office when he realized he was not among the applicants being sent to interview for a job he desperately wanted. He had said he was going to make Thorn very sorry.
Thorn had just snorted and laughed.
Maldwin took off for a holiday in New York City, where he accidentally landed a butlering job, then started his classes. And so far, Thorn had not been able to do anything to stop him.
The phone on the table next to him jangled, fraying his nerves to the breaking point. With great irritation, he answered it.
A few moments later the first broad smile in weeks spread across his jowly face. “A suspicious death and possible burglary right across the hall from Maldwin’s butler school? How delicious! I don’t think it will be too hard to stir up a bit more trouble around there now, do you?” Thorn’s infrequent laugh bellowed through his gloomy office. “Old Maldwin Feckles is going to be very, very sorry he ever stuck his nose into the business of running a butler school. Very sorry indeed.”