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An Unanticipated Announcement

August 4th, 1925

Adrian sat at the table, eating breakfast with his father, Commissioner Isaac Powell of Scotland Yard. It had been five days since Mr. Hange Hurston’s garden party at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. Gertrude Cowell had been arrested for the murder of Lady Salome Townsend.

“You did a very fine job Adrian,” said Commissioner Powell. “Solving a case in one afternoon.”

“Yes father,” said Adrian bluntly. “the mallet Miss Cowell used to strike Lady Salome Townsend matched the impact on the victim’s skull. They found bits of hair from Lady Townsend trapped in between the metal rings and the wooden mallet.”

“Still,” said Commissioner Powell as he lit a cigar and took a few puffs. “I do wonder who that Mr. Hurston fellow is. He hardly shows up at any of his parties. His popularity has skyrocketed due to murder.”

“Well, he always leaves a long lasting impression on the guests who have attended his parties,” replied Adrian. “There’s no telling what he has up his sleeves for next year.”

“Indeed,” said Commissioner Powell as he saw the family butler bring in today’s newspapers. “We shall find out next summer.”

Opening up the newspaper, Commissioner Powell skimmed through the contents. Adrian noticed his father’s eyes widen in surprise not too long after he started reading the newspaper.

“What is it father?” asked Adrian out of curiosity.

“Look here Adrian,” Commissioner Powell finally spoke, “You have to see this!”

Adrian left his seat and hurried over to his father’s side. Looking over Commissioner Powell’s shoulders, Adrian felt his hazel eyes also widening when he saw what his father had seen.

In one of the columns, an intricate advertisement was printed very clearly:

Five more parties hosted by Mr. Hange Hurston from August to December. Details for his second party this month will be included in the invitations distributed to the lucky guests. Invited guests are permitted to bring ONLY one companion.

“Extraordinary!” exclaimed Commissioner Powell, “I cannot believe that this Mr. Hurston fellow just randomly decided to host five more parties this year!”

“His first party resulted in a murder though,” said Adrian grimly. “But why would he do that? To instigate more murders?”

“Don’t be daft Adrian,” said Commissioner Powell. “Mr. Hange Hurston is respectable fellow. I doubt that one murder would keep people away from attending his parties.”

“I hope so…” sighed Adrian.

At the Beckford House, Mr. Beckford showed the same advertisement about Mr. Hange Hurston’s second party to Leslie.

“Why would he host another party this year?” asked Mr. Beckford.

“Probably to draw more attention,” suggested Leslie as she twirled a lock of her light brunette hair in between her fingers.

“I wonder where the second party will be held at?” Mr. Beckford wondered out aloud, “Hopefully it won’t be as unfortunate as the first one.”

“We might not get invited,” said Leslie. “It did imply in the advertisement that the invitations are going to be randomly distributed.”

“Who knows?” replied Mr. Beckford, “The goddess of fortune might shine upon us again. And if we don’t get invited to his second party, we can just plan another weekend outing with just the two of us.”

Leslie beamed and nodded her head. The Brighton trip didn’t go smoothly as I had hoped. She thought to herself. Perhaps I could ask father if we could go to Chichester to see Edward James’ garden.

Just as Leslie was about to go up to her room to get ready for her planned shopping trip with Harriet, her father stopped her.

“These came in the post this morning,” he said as he reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a small pile of letters. “More marriage proposals by the looks of it. Make sure you answer them as soon as you can. Can’t leave those eager men hanging on a thread.”

Leslie took the letters from her father and shuffled through them as she headed upstairs. She shuddered when she saw the letter without any wax stamp. Most likely from the same secret admirer from last month. Once back in her room, Leslie sat at her dressing and opened the letter from her supposed secret admirer:

To my little thrush,

Why are you not singing to me? I have been patiently waiting for your reply to my first letter. My heart has been yearning for you all this time, and I cannot bear to think of a life without you by my side.

Do you still wish to obtain the happiness and the recognition that you rightfully deserve? Then please say you will be mine and I will grant whatever your heart desires.

Leslie folded the letter and shoved it back into the envelope. She then opened one of the drawers of her dressing table and buried the second letter into the very bottom of her drawer, where the mysterious first letter had been placed.

If I show these to father, he’ll just tell me to ignore them. Leslie thought. But whoever is the sender of these letters will probably not stop until I actually respond to them. She then remembered Detective Adrian Powell. Perhaps she could ask him to help her find the secret admirer? However, she dismissed the notion.

“He probably won’t help me with this trivial mystery,” she muttered.

Leslie then prepared to go for her shopping trip with Harriet. She travelled to Knightsbridge in her father’s Hispano-Suiza to her favourite department store, Harrods. A series of new designs for evening wear had been advertised in a lady’s magazine she always read and she just had to get one herself.

It was a purposeful shopping trip, since she needed a wardrobe of evening wear just in case she accepted an invite to a soirée, or to see a performance at the theatres in the West End. Having her measurements taken was an exhausting procedure, but she found it enjoyable to be trying on the dresses.

As she modelled in various dresses that suited her body and style, she could tell that Harriet was dazzled by the beads and sequins adorned on the dresses.

“You look GORGEOUS!” exclaimed Harriet, “Just looking through all the catalogues and seeing you in those dresses are hurting my eyes! I’m sure many men will swoon at the sight of you!”

“Oh Hattie,” sighed Leslie. “You’re overreacting again. It’s only proper to look presentable at parties or when going to a theatre.”

“There you go with your modesty again,” said Harriet. “I wish you’d be less concerned about the rumours circulating around you. You still have me and Master Beckford by your side! Not to mention, Detective Powell…”

“Hattie!” exclaimed Leslie, “Detective Powell is of least interest in me. We only met just five days ago and I hardly know him.”

Harriet huffed as Leslie hurried back into the changing room to change out of the dress she had been trying on. The selection process was very quick. Leslie chose the evening dresses she liked, along with some matching jewellery, hair accessories, and shoes. Her purchase was packaged, and the male shop assistants and Harriet carried the boxes back to the Hispano-Suiza.

“We still have time before the end of the day,” Leslie told Harriet as they loaded the boxes into the back of the car. “Do you want to make a trip to Fortnum & Mason’s for ice cream before we go home?”

“I would love that!” replied Harriet excitedly, “It has been while since you last went to Fortnum’s. I love the gelatos they serve, especially the Knickerblocker Glory!”

After loading the boxes into the back of the car, Leslie instructed the driver to take them to Fortnum and Mason’s. As they passed through Piccadilly Circus, Leslie spotted a an advertisement on one of the passing double decked buses with Jezebel Doncaster’s image on it.

Jezebel was going to be starring in an upcoming play which was going to be performed at the infamous Crystal Palace. A play within a palace. Thought Leslie to herself. That is interesting. However, Jezebel’s image made her heart tremble. She remembered very clearly how Jezebel betrayed her; all for the sake of gaining unnecessary attention.

“Isn’t that Jezebel Doncaster?” asked Harriet as she peered over Leslie’s shoulder, “Didn’t you used to be friends with her? I heard that she’s going to make her debut in that play! I have a friend who completely adores her and-”

“Hattie!” sighed Leslie, “You know very well that I do not like to speak about Miss Doncaster! Just by looking at her image brings back so many unpleasant memories.”

“Alright…” said Harriet quietly. “I’m sorry Lady Leslie.”

They did not say anything else as they ate their ice creams at Fortnum & Mason’s, and during the car ride back to the Beckford House. The servants helped Leslie bring the boxes from the Hispano-Suiza inside. Entering her home, Leslie found her father in the dining room again, his eyes glued onto the table.

“Father?” asked Leslie, “Did something happen again?”

“Come look over here Leslie,” said Mr. Beckford. “The goddess of fortune has shone upon us again.”

Leslie went over to the table and saw the an envelope sealed with the red wax stamp with the initials ‘H.H’. Could it be?! Thought Leslie as she recognised the intricate envelope and the red wax stamp. Picking up the letter, Leslie used the letter opener to open the envelope. Taking out the letter, she read through the contents:

Dear Aristo and Leslie Beckford,

Mr. Hange Hurston cordially invites you to attend his second party at the end of August. The party will be held at Crystal Palace where guests will be entertained with an evening stage performance featuring the up-and-coming actress, Jezebel Doncaster.

The invitation was type-written again like the first invitation, with the sender’s scribbled signature at the very bottom of the letter.

“We were invited again?!” exclaimed Leslie.

“Isn’t that wonderful?” asked Mr. Beckford, “An evening performance in the spectacular Crystal Palace! The second party might surpass the expectations of the first party!”

Leslie was not listening at all. She was more concerned about how she and her father had been lucky to attend another of Mr. Hange Hurston’s parties.

At Commissioner Powell’s house, Commissioner Powell showed the party invitation from Mr. Hange Hurston to Adrian.

“We were invited to attend Mr. Hurston’s second party,” he told Adrian. “An evening stage performance at the infamous Palace made of glass! Isn’t that exciting?”

“Perhaps,” replied Adrian as he examined the letter. “Who knows what could happen.”

His hazel eyes narrowed when he saw how different the stamp bearing Mr. Hurston’s initials looked compared to the first invitation. He also noted that the initials on the specially printed paper had also changed.

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