They’re back! Florence Nightingale and Poppy Throckmorten return for another fun adventure in The Cheeky Coroner – Book 3 in the Florence Nightingale Comedy Mystery Series. Grab your copy today!
There’s a new Royal Coroner at Buckingham Palace, and he foolishly fancies Florence Nightingale. As Poppy Throckmorten chronicles her mentor’s attempts to sell the rare emerald given her by Queen Victoria, another mysterious death is attributed to the jewel. Florence and Poppy must find the murderer before more victims fall prey to the glittering green stone.
Although Florence, Granny, and I arrived at Buckingham the day before, I soon noticed that Dr. Sparks, though new in his position as royal coroner had a knack for insinuating himself into things that did not concern him. Some people did possess that way about them, sticking their noses into the Queen’s business hoping to curry her favor.
It had only been a few weeks since he replaced Dr. Fowler and yet Dr. Sparks had become a regular at court. I supposed it was his cheeky manner that secretly pleased the Queen. Although his pointed humor was never directed toward Her Majesty, he did enjoy a sharp wit. His teasing found an unlikely target in Florence. His foolish attempts to make my friend smile only caused her to avoid him. She would not allow anyone to take her lightly.
Once Queen Victoria was seated on her throne, Lord Melbourne stepped down in front of her. “Your Majesty, I would like to present Madame Tchotchke. I have reviewed her credentials as supplied by Baroness Lehzen, and confirmed she is the expert we have been seeking. She also presents herself as a psychic and wishes me to inform you that she would be honored to perform a reading for Your Majesty. The gentleman at her side is her husband, Mr. Ivan Tchotchke.” He gestured toward the couple as they curtsied and bowed.
Lord Melbourne extended his hand in the direction of the Madame. The woman walked from the assemblage into the aisle, performed a second curtsy and moved toward Lord Melbourne. Before she could reach him, Dr. Carbuncle popped in, leaned near the Madame, and whispered in her ear. The guards made a move toward him and he folded back into the crowd.
Madame Tchotchke’s long flowing skirt danced around her ankles, the bold colors of the fabric matching the beads of the many necklaces draped over her slender shoulders. A white peasant blouse sat low on her shoulders, revealing her long neck, bare back, and tanned shoulders. She was a peasant, perhaps a gypsy, but she carried herself like royalty.
“We are pleased to have your advice in this matter,” the Queen said. “We may need a written statement as to your findings to present to Parliament. Also know that you may be required to speak before that august body since the person who condemned the Averoff Emerald has already confessed his sin before them. Your statement will further cleanse the reputation of the gem.” She did not honor Dr. Carbuncle with even a glance; instead she nodded to the four Dragoons who stood nearby.
The guards approached, one carrying a velvet pillow on which rested an ornate metal box. He removed the lid and presented it to the Queen; she directed him to show it to Madame Tchotchke.
The gypsy lady moved her hand slowly over the top of the box cautiously as if fearing danger. Then she smiled and took up the emerald; it was as big as her palm. Not only did she hold the jewel in her power but also, she had a firm grip on her audience. She bobbed her hand in a weighing motion and then held the stone to her right eye peering through it. She maintained that position for what seemed like ages while mumbling something in a foreign language.
Queen Victoria leaned forward perched on her throne, rapt with attention. I was a bit frustrated with my view as the bulky guards had the gypsy woman surrounded. Snaking my way around Florence I moved to a better vantage point.
Madame Tchotchke placed the emerald to her ear as one would a seashell. What was the emerald saying to her? I wondered if all gifts from nature could speak to us. She listened for the longest time, and then nodded. As if responding to a request she slipped the stone into the bodice of her dress. From where I stood it appeared she had dropped it between her breasts.
A gasp of surprise rose from the assembly. The guards each wore a confused look. I imagined not one of them dared grab for the jewel. Lord Melbourne lunged from his post and moved toward the gypsy. “I must feel it next to my heart to be certain it speaks the truth!” she said.
Madame Tchotchke pressed her hand to her chest and spoke in a husky tone unlike her prior words, “There have been murders attached to the possession of this emerald. Long before it arrived in England, long before its journey—” here she hesitated— “on the Nile River.” She cast Florence a glazed look. “This stone was meant to give you the ability to heal; not power, but a sanctuary where lives may be saved.” Madame Tchotchke slowly reached into her bodice and removed the jewel.
With a superior smile, she turned and extended the exotic gem to the Queen. “This jewel holds no curse. It has directed me to tell you that it is the victim of a rumor most foul. Your Majesty is aware of the perpetrator and his motives.”
The reporter scribbled madly. This news would make for an engrossing story in the evening edition of The Times. I struggled to commit the entire goings on to memory for it would make an excellent addition to my journal of Florence’s cases.
The Queen did not accept the emerald, but rather indicated with a nod of her head that it was to be replaced in the box. I moved closer to get a better glimpse of the gem as the last time I had seen it we were in Athens. Yes, the huge emerald still captured the light in a magical way. A small sigh escaped my lips. Perhaps after the Madam’s blessing we would finally see the establishment of the Nightingale School for Lady Nurses.
Ivan Tchotchke moved to his wife’s side. He said nothing as he kept his dark eyes fixed on Queen Victoria, all the while licking his lips. His wife had earned her fee and he all but placed his hand out to collect it. Whatever the woman charged, it would be worth it for the relief that swept the room was tangible. The verdict had been passed, and no one had fallen over dead. The scandal begun by Dr. Carbuncle would now be put to rest.
The rumormonger stood statue-like, humiliated once more. His desperate need to discredit the emerald caused him to wallow in disgrace. I wondered why he did not slip quietly from the assembly since his presence was neither wanted nor required.
“Madame Tchotchke, you may leave us now. Lord Melbourne will arrange for your payment. In the meantime, Braxton shall see to your comfort. You and Mr. Tchotchke are welcome to stay on for a few days before returning to St. Petersburg.” The Queen motioned for the steward to collect the curse-reader and her husband. The couple curtseyed and bowed, walking backward from the room for one never turns one’s back on the Queen.
With love & laughter!