Edward Kane and The Vinegar Valentine: Chapter 3

Edward Kane and his manservant, Mr Horse, sat at the table, glasses of whisky before them. Horse raised his glass: “Thank you, sir. Much appreciated. I know that I’ve not been meself the last couple of days, sir. A terrible case of the morbs, I’ve had.”

Edward Kane and The Vinegar Valentine. Illustration: Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane
Edward Kane and The Vinegar Valentine. Illustration: Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane

Kane smiled: “I’m sure that whatever it is that vexes you, Mr Horse – we shall find a solution.” The young Advocate raised own glass, and took a small sip.

Horse continued: “It’s these bloomin’ cards, Mr K. You know, the Valentine ones...”

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Kane almost choked on his drink and coughed in surprise. He took out his pocket handkerchief and dabbed his mouth: “Oh, Mr Horse, I did not expect you to be so affected by such…such a trifle. Many people do not receive such cards. In fact, I myself…

“No, sir, it’s not that.” Horse shook his head, “I don’t know if you’ve seen the other kind of card, the evil type.”

Kane recalled that morning’s consultation where such a ‘Vinegar Valentine’ had been sent to a lady, mocking her large ears. He nodded: “I perhaps know more than you suspect, Mr Horse.”

“Well,” Horse reached into his jacket pocket “the day before yesterday, when I was going through the mail, sir, I found this slipped under the door.” He produced a grubby envelope and handed it to Kane. The young Advocate read the block-capital writing on the envelope ‘TO HORSE. A HAPPY EVENT INSIDE’. Kane smiled: “Well, it looks promising at this stage, Mr Horse. Were you expecting a measure of good news?”

Horse nodded towards the envelope. “Open it, sir.”

As Kane was opening the envelope, he saw that it contained a card of some description. Horse shook his head. “It’s not me that’s expecting something, Mr K...”

Kane studied the card. It was a Valentine, certainly, but it was far from the usual hearts and flowers model. Instead, on the front, was pictured a bird with a long beak, reminiscent of a stork. Hanging from its beak – a basket of what looked like buns. And the words:

“Oh look at what

You’ve gone and done

For in my oven

You’ve put a bun”

Kane looked inside the card. No signature. He knotted his eyebrows, looked at the illustration again and looked up at Horse: “I don’t understand, Mr Horse, what does it mean?”

Horse sighed: “A stork, sir. A bun in the oven. And something I’ve gone and done. What do you think, sir?”

Kane thought for a moment. He lifted the glass before him. And he swallowed the whisky in a single gulp.

*****

Precisely two hours later, master and man stood over the table in the sitting room and considered the list before them.

Ever-methodical, the young Advocate had ordered that his manservant provide a list of possible recipients of Mr Horse’s amorous attentions in recent months. The list currently comprised two barmaids, Maisie – the young lady who worked for the coal merchant – three married women, a nun and a woman wanted by the police.

Kane looked at the list askance: “A nun, Mr Horse? A nun?”

Horse looked sheepish: “She was trying to convert me, Mr K. But I think I might have sent her the other way, sir...”

“Do you think that she would stoop to sending you such a communication?” Horse considered for a moment, then shook his head. Kane dabbed his pen in the inkwell, and scored through the name. “What about the others, Mr Horse?”

The manservant looked through the list: “Well it ain’t the coal-yard girl, ’cause I saw her last Tuesday and she never said nothing about this sort of thing, sir...”

Kane scored out the name, ‘Maisie’.

“...and the barmaids – it won’t be them, sir. They know what they’re about. You have to get off before your stop, if you know what I mean, Mr K...”

Kane sighed: “I am delighted to say that I have no idea what you mean, Mr Horse, but I will strike them off in any event.” Kane studied the list again: “So, Mr Horse, that seems to leave us with three married women and an outlaw...”

Horse stroked his chin: “The married ladies...Mr K, in my experience, if a married woman is a bit of a wag-tail, sir, then she don’t normally send a greeting card afterwards. So, it won’t be them.”

Kane scored out the three names on the list and nodded: “Then that leaves you with one name: ‘Madge MacAloon’ - the lady who appears to be of interest to the police. Does the card sound like her, Mr Horse.”

The manservant grinned: “Oh , I wouldn’t put nothing past our Madge, sir. A right little minx, she is...”

And their conversation was interrupted by a loud knock at the door. Master and man were still for a moment, then Kane spoke: “Are we expecting company, Mr Horse?”

Horse shook his head: “Don’t know about you, sir, but the only time you hear a knock like that, it’s when it’s The Rozzers...”

Kane sighed: “If by that, Mr Horse, you mean The Police, then I venture that you had better answer the door, hadn’t you...”