darius and chums - and the missing sapphire

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    The author is an aspiring writer who lives with his wife

    and pet Dalmatian in South Wales. Whilst Cwmlas is

    mythical, it reminds him of happy places he frequented

    in his early childhood.

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    Mr OSullivan this is for you.

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    Copyright Jeremy Damian

    The right of Jeremy Damian to be identified as author of this work

    has been asserted by him in accordance with section 77 and 78 of

    the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may bereproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any

    form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,

    recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the

    publishers.

    Any person who commits any unauthorized act in relation to thispublication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims

    for damages.

    A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British

    Library.

    ISBN 978 1 84963 924 8

    www.austinmacauley.com

    First Published (2015)

    Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd.

    25 Canada Square

    Canary WharfLondon

    E14 5LB

    Printed and bound in Great Britain

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    Acknowledgments

    I am indebted to my cousin, Peter Murphy, a TV consultant,for his helpful advice, sound judgment and encouragement,

    which enabled me to get this book published. Thank you,Peter.And to my wife, who is more computer literate than I am,

    for providing much needed assistance in the booksformatting, as well as practical support and guidance. Thank

    you, Brenda.

    Finally, I must acknowledge my publishers for giving me,an unknown author, the chance to get this story published.

    So, to all the editors and production staff at AustinMacauley who have assisted me, thank you.

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    Chapter One

    As the winter sun rose over Cwmlas, an extraordinary

    village that nestled in a secluded Welsh valley, long

    forgotten by the rest of the world, Darius was sitting in

    his favourite armchair, warming himself before the

    fire. He wasnt thinking of anything in particular, justindulging in pleasant daydreams. He had washed his

    face and trimmed his shaggy whiskers that morning,

    and was waiting in his study for Mrs Hedges, his

    housekeeper, to tell him that breakfast was ready.

    Darius was an amateur detective but no ordinary one

    he was The Daring Detective. Indeed, that was how

    the local Gazette had described him in the latest editionof the paper, which was the main source of news to

    everyone besides word of mouth, that is. And that

    description was really quite apt because he confronted

    villains that no one else would and solved crimes that

    no one else could; in fact, nothing delighted him more

    than helping the police to round up and pen the local

    miscreants.

    Darius leaned back in the armchair and stretched

    his legs so that he could toast his toes in front of the

    crackling fire. He was wearing a pair of blue, cotton

    pyjamas with a stripy dressing gown that was tied at

    the waist with a braided cord. He looked up at the

    portrait of his great-grandfather that was hangingabove the mantelpiece and thought what a fine fellow

    he was. Generations of his family had lived in this

    comfortable, old house down the years, and now

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    Darius was the sole occupant with Mrs Hedges, of

    course, who had been there for as long as he could

    remember and who had known Darius since he was a

    young pup. He had a great fondness for her becauseshe had really been a nanny to him when he was

    growing up. For some reason, she constantly wore

    black clothes, as if she were in perpetual mourning,

    although she did have a contented life. She was quite

    happy looking after Darius, and took pleasure in

    keeping the house clean and tidy and making sure he

    ate well; and she was a very good cook. Her onlyirritating feature was that she shrieked a lot because

    she was going deaf. She thought that if she couldnt

    hear herself, nobody else could.

    As Darius dreamt about what it would have been

    like to live in the good old days, a dark shadow

    interrupted his thoughts, like a bad memoryresurfacing, and the outlines of a leering, evil face

    started to creep into his consciousness. But his sharp

    mind resisted immediately and dispelled the disturbing

    image in an instant. Yet, his body still shivered

    momentarily as if someone had just walked over his

    grave. He settled back into the chair and returned to

    happier thoughts; but not for long as Mrs Hedgespiercing voice ripped through the air and snapped him

    out of his reverie.

    Mr Darius! Breakfast is ready and its on the

    table!

    He knew better than to dawdle, so he quickly

    popped his feet into some black-and-white check,

    fleecy slippers, rose from the comfort of the armchairand walked smartly into the dining room.

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    Good morning, Mrs H, he said. Did you sleep

    well?

    I never have a good nights sleep, Mr Darius, she

    moaned, because my rooms too cold and the waterpipes are noisy. You know that Ive got a bad back and

    I need warmth to soothe it. When are you going to get

    someone in to fix the radiators?

    Yes, I really must make a note to get that done,

    Darius replied sympathetically. Leave it to me, Mrs

    H.

    Most mornings during the cold weather, they had asimilar conversation before breakfast but Darius never

    got around to fixing the radiator in Mrs Hedges

    bedroom. It was not that he didnt care about his

    faithful housekeeper; it was just that something else

    more important usually came up which distracted him.

    Whilst his bedroom was on the first floor, she had herown living quarters in a separate wing on the second

    floor of this large red brick house. Darius never

    ventured into that part of the property, so he couldnt

    say whether the heating system worked properly or

    not, but he believed her; though she did tend to

    exaggerate. Darius suspected (but was too polite to tell

    her) that she simply enjoyed the chance to bristle aboutthe irksome radiators and her make-believe lack of

    sleep because, invariably, she was fresh and alert at the

    beginning of each day. He supposed too that theirs was

    one of those conversations that had become a kind of a

    ritual, so that, if the radiators were ever fixed, she

    would feel something was missing from their early

    morning dialogue.Whats for breakfast? Darius enquired.

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    A medium boiled egg, just as you like it, two

    rounds of hot buttered toast with your favourite orange

    marmalade and a pot of piping hot tea.

    Splendid, absolutely splendid, Mrs H! A feast fitfor a king! Darius replied.

    Oh, go on with you, Mr Darius, Mrs Hedges said,

    blushing slightly at his extravagant praise for what

    was, essentially, a simple meal; but, really, she liked

    him complimenting her on the food she cooked for

    him, even though he did go over the top sometimes.

    She handed him the Gazette and withdrew to thekitchen to have a bite-to-eat herself. Darius sat down at

    the table and, for a moment, savoured the smells

    wafting upwards from the hot food in front of him,

    before tucking in. He first cut a slice of toast into

    fingers and dunked each one into the soft, yellow yolk,

    causing it to ooze over the side of the egg. Afterfinishing the egg, he spread a thick layer of marmalade

    over the other slice of toast and munched it greedily.

    Delicious, as ever, he thought to himself. He then

    poured a cup of tea, stirred in one level teaspoon of

    sugar and sipped the invigorating hot liquid. He simply

    couldnt start the day without a steaming hot cuppa.

    After sighing with contentment, he opened thenewspaper and glanced routinely at the front-page

    story. Although Cwmlas was a country village, there

    was always something happening which caught his

    attention particularly if the story concerned

    somebody who was up to no good. He wasnt

    disappointed on this occasion. In big, bold, black

    letters followed by smaller print, the headlinescreamed:

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    LADY SERENAS SAPPHIRE HAS BEEN

    STOLEN the police are making enquiries but

    have no suspects yet. Perhaps, this is another case

    for DariusThe Daring Detective.Hmm, Darius mused, it looks like the police

    may need my help once again. I must visit them

    straightaway to offer any assistance I can.

    He left the dining table and proceeded upstairs to

    his bedroom to get dressed.

    Since it was a very c