A mysterious Institute operating in total secret and in a very remote area of Canada attracts Bill’s attention. Like the proverbial bulldog, once he gets his teeth into something he will not let go. As Bill tussles with the problem dead bodies begin to turn up and many awkward questions need answering. Bill tackles the mystery of King John’s lost treasure, but alas has limited success, though his hunt for Institute secrets leads him to unearth more than mere bodies and murder.

Excerpt from Magnuscarter

“What’s mock treasure?”

“He means the hunt is a mockery,” Morag said and cuddled up close behind Newf and leaned over, giving him a kiss.

“What for, Bill?”

“I’ve bought a partnership in a mining exploration company for you and me. We’re each twenty percent shareholders.”


“And, we’ll be doing a test on a brand new treasure hunting device at a place called … er, Mus-something. Anyhow, it’s a lake several hundred K north of Sault Ste. Marie.”

Newf looked at me with a puzzled expression on his face and then he said. “I fort we was going to Norfolk to ’unt fer King John’s booty.”

“That too. This is only a preliminary. I thought you might just like the trip and if this gadget works it might just be the answer we’re looking for.”

“So you can crash in the wilderness an’ leave me to drown in the bogs.”

“Not exactly. I just thought it might be a good place to hide the body so when I dump you there’ll be nothing to find, and no incriminating evidence.”

Newf laughed. “Roger that, Bill. You can count me in. Will there be any bad geezers wiv guns?”


Magnuscarter by Wentworth M Johnson

Book 9 in the Bill Reyner Mystery Adventures

The Legend

Chapter One

Some say that King John of England, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, known as Lackland, was a bad king. Like most things in ancient history, it is only a matter of opinion and of course who wrote the history. Either way the Magna Carta and the unusual death of The King are well documented facts.

To stir up trade and keep an eye on his magistrates, King John spent most of his life on the move, stopping only to throw huge parties. The wine and beer consumed at these parties and the utensils used created work and helped to maintain a busy commerce for the local inhabitants. A large entourage of troops, camp followers and even governing officials travelled with The King and partook of his generosity.

In October of the year 1216 The King’s entourage moved from Yarmouth in Norfolk England and eventually finished up in what was then called Bishop’s Lynn where another slap-up shindig was held. Bishop’s Lynn stood on the edge of a tidal swamp known as the Great Lavar; today it is called The Wash and to reach Lincoln the often-dangerous Wash had to be crossed. The night before the intended crossing King John overindulged – as was usually his way, but this time on peaches and new cider. Needless to say he became very sick.

In the thirteenth century both medicine and hygiene were unheard of. The local practitioner of doctoring and The King’s advisor could do nothing for The King, who’s health rapidly deteriorated. The decision was made to move the ailing monarch by boat up the swampy river to Wisbech and then by land to Newark near present day Peterborough. A day or so after King John had left for higher ground the leading military officer made the decision to move the entourage across the tidal Wash swamp to be close to His Majesty. This proved to be a fatal error in judgement, for the tide came in and the swamp opened up, swallowing all but a handful of survivors, who barely reached the other side. The King’s treasury, crown jewels and private possessions sank into the murky depths. On the 18th of November 1216 King John of England was informed of the disaster and shortly thereafter succumbed to his illness and died of dysentery.

That’s all very interesting and I do love a good treasure mystery, but I had never given King John a second thought until now. Though I remember that when I worked on the Houdini Heist, someone mentioned the story, but who cares about long dead kings and their mythical treasure? I would expect that after eight hundred years there wouldn’t be much to find even if you knew where to dig.

Our new house, donated by my wife’s father is larger than some hotels. In fact I think it’s larger than the hotel I own just the other side of Hamilton. We all live together in the same building … in different apartments of course. The servants are a pain in the rear end, but I do like the fact that they do all the work, leaving my grandmother to do her own thing in her own way.

Newf the old retrograde, had at last come home from the hospital. The dumb twit had given his bulletproof jacket to his girlfriend Morag and then promptly took a bullet in the chest. We almost lost him, but a small fortune and some excellent doctors managed to pull him through. His spine had been injured and now the twit goes most places in an electric wheelchair thing. We have a therapist come in every day and poor old Newf gets tortured for a good hour at a stretch … the theory being that they will eventually teach him how to walk again.

It is amazing how resilient Newf is. Even after being in a coma for just over a week and suffering several operations, he is as chipper as ever. You would think he had spent his entire life in a wheelchair. He would make a joke of zooming around the house in his thunder buggy, as he calls it. We sat in the indoor swimming pool room and watched Morag and Deloris exercise in the water. Quite often Newf would partake as it relieved the stress on his bones.

“I had a queer phone call yesterday,” I said.

He gave me one of those sideways glances and said in a hushed voice, “You ain’t fell for another lesbo, ’ave yous?”

“Not that kind of queer, you twit. This geezer asked me if I was interested in the Magna Carta.”


“Well don’t you think that’s a bit off the cuff? Like some dink calls and asks a dim-witted question like that. I mean, like, well … the Magna Carter.”

“So what was he sellin’?”

“Well that’s it, nothing. He just wanted my opinion on the Magna Carta.”

“So what is it?”

I sighed. Poor Newf’s education leaves something to be desired. Now history is not my strong point but even I know what the Magna Carta is.

“You ignorant twit, the Magna Carta contains 63 clauses, which is the basis of all modern human rights. Without it you’d probably be someone’s slave.”

“Huh, I am someone’s slave; ’ave bin since I met you.”

“Ingrate. The great charter was signed by King John in England around 1215 I think.”

“Like quarter after noon?”

“Pillock. The year 1215.”

“So what did this telephone geezer want?”

“Don’t know. He seemed extremely knowledgeable on the subject of King John, but he never actually came to the point. I thought, or at least got the impression that he wanted something but was too timid to ask for it.”

A huge smile slowly crept across Newf’s face and after a few seconds he said, “I gotta brill’ scheme.”

“Go on then. Don’t keep me in suspense; let’s hear this brilliant idea of yours.”

“Why don’t we look for King John’s treasure? Just fink of it! There ain’t gonna be any gun totin’ madmen, no nicked paintings or lost submarines. The worst that could ’appen is some ancient dead geezer comes after us wiv a bow and arrah.”

“You know! Newf, if you had a brain you’d be dangerous.”

“I take that is a ‘no’ then.”

Although Newf is an idiot, occasionally he comes up with a reasonable idea. Not being an expert on history I cornered Gran later that same day. She was sitting minding her own business in the lounge. Oh! my mistake, it’s called the drawing room, even though no one ever does any drawing in it.

“What’s up, Gran?”

“Oh, William dear. Young William Tan is having his lessons; I thought I would come sit here in silence with my book.”

“So what you reading?” I walked over and sat beside her. Poor old girl, she looked rather tired these last few days.

“Oh, just a book I found in our Library. You know William, we should collect useful books, or old books. Why don’t you invite your friend Young Harvey over here for a holiday? I would imagine he could stock us up with books of higher interest.”

“What do you know about King John, Gran?”

She looked at me with some surprise on her face. “King John? Which King John would that be?”

“Oh, like there’s more than one?”

“Oh lots, dear. There were several King Johns of Poland, Casimir and Sobieski. There was at least one King John of Portugal and one or two of France.”

“So how many did England have?”

“Only one dear.”

“So my question concerns him – the one in England.”

“King John, Duke of Aquitaine – a very unfortunate king indeed. Most of his troubles were because he opposed the Pope. Poor man should never have been king in the first place.”

“Is that all you know about him?”

“Good heavens, no. Other than King Henry the VIII, I would say he is the most interesting monarch of ancient times, though strictly speaking he falls into the medieval category. Did you know he signed the Magna Carta? I believe it was the 15th of June 1215. Poor man had very little choice, a sort of national mutiny, you see.”

I sighed. “Gran, for heaven’s sake, I don’t want a history lesson. I merely asked if you knew anything about him.”

“Which I suppose leads us to your second question, William, which is?”

“I wanted to know if you’d heard of King John’s treasure.”

“Yes dear, I would say every schoolboy has heard the legend of King John’s treasure.”

“Did it really exist, Gran?”


“North wants to go look for it.”

She smiled sweetly. “Dear William, many people have looked for the lost treasure, but none have ever come close.”

“I found Fiend’s Gold; no one had ever got close to that either.”

“This is different, William dear. In the sixties they spent a great deal of time, money and labour on the project. I do believe it was supported by several universities. Absolutely nothing was ever found. You would need a great deal of geological knowledge. Plus you have to study the tides, silt movement and the changing landscape.”

“What do you mean changing landscape.”

“The Wash used to extend all the way to Wisbech but the monks built ditches, drains and canals which eventually led to the draining of the entire area. Now Wisbech is miles inland.”

“Kilometres inland, Gran.”

“Yes, dear.”

“So to put it in a nutshell, you don’t think it would be a good idea.”

“I did not say that. I implied it would be very difficult. I surely would not want you to build up too much hope and finally be disappointed by finding absolutely nothing.”

“Newf, I mean North wants to do it. What d’you think?”

“It just might be the project to get him walking again. The lad needs an interest other than Morag. That reminds me, is he ever going to marry that young lady?”

“I’ll ask him, Gran.”

“So what brought up this King John idea, William?”

“I guess it all started with a phone call.”

“I see. Does that mean that someone else is interested in the same project?”

“No, Gran, just a discussion.”

“Have you read the newspapers lately, dear?”


“I thought you might be interested in that strange case up north.”

“Gran, I told you North and I have finished with detective work, too many people carry guns these days.”

“Yes, dear, I know, dear, but this is a simple case that I am sure you could amuse yourselves whilst solving it. You see, a young lady was found dead in the middle of the road wearing only a nightdress.”

“So what’s so peculiar about that? She probably walked out of her house and had a heart attack or something.”

“No, dear. It said in the paper that she recently had given birth and was found on a lonely road up north more than twenty miles from the nearest house.”

“You mean thirty kilometres, Gran.”

“You don’t find that intriguing?”

“Not in the least. The cops will do a fine job. I’d rather look for King John’s treasure; less likelihood of getting shot at.”

Boy! Talk about the third degree. You ask a simple question and receive the Spanish Inquisition. I made my exit as quickly as possible. However the thought of another project did interest me a little. Newf could do with the distraction and so could I, as long as there’s no gun-slinging. Deloris, my wife, is pregnant and showing it. If I’m clever I can arrange for the birth to occur when yours truly is unable to attend. All I have to do is get a project going and then come up with the perfect excuse and the birth can proceed without me. After Newf’s torture lesson I asked him if he’d like to go to Hamilton with me.

“What for Bill?”

“Just some time away from the girls. I’d like to take a look at the library.”

“The library? Like you think it might not be there anymore?”

“No you twit, I want to know more about King John and his treasure and all that.”

He stroked his chin thoughtfully for a moment as a smile slowly spread across his face. “You know, it’s there in the library that I first saw you. You was working on the TOD murders.”

“Yeah I know. So what yah saying?”

“You’ll ’ave to do the drivin’. I can’t drive until I takes a test again.”

“Newf, I love you like a brother; would I ever make you do anything you don’t want to?”

“Yeah, all the time.”

“Shut up and let’s go.”

Although he can sort of walk, we took his electric wheelchair thingy. I didn’t want him falling down and me having to carry him like a baby. Actually, he was doing extremely well. The therapist said if he keeps going the way he is he’ll be walking before next year.

I ran round to the back of the house and collected the SUV, while Newf motored to the front door. I didn’t want to be chauffeured; I wanted it to be a boy’s day out without nosey servants. The wheelchair thingy can fit in the back while Newf sits up front with me – just like old times.

The main branch of the Hamilton Library is huge and well suited for wheelchair traffic. All floors are accessible by elevator and the isles are wide and smooth. Our quest would begin on my favourite floor — that being the third. We moseyed along directly to the lady at the enquiries desk. “Excuse me,” I began. “We’d like to see something on the subject of English History.”

She smiled sweetly. “What exactly, sir?”

“We’s interested in King John,” Newf blurted out.

Again she smiled sweetly and punched a few keys on her keyboard. “Hmm. It’s quite a popular subject; looks like we have several dozen books on the subject. Is there anything in particular that you are interested in?”

“Yes,” I said. “We’re interested in the legend of King John’s lost treasure.”

“Oh yes. There’s several books on that particular angle.” She hit another key and her printer spat out a list with brief descriptions. She handed the list to me and said, “Select the ones you want and I’ll have them brought up for you. Do you wish to take them out?”

“No, we’ll read them here, thanks.”

“Very good.”

Newf and I moved over to the reading area where we could examine the list.

“So what we looking for?” Newf growled.

“You see after that strange phone call, I thought it might just be a decent quest, say our next summer project.”

“What, the phone call?”

“No you berk. The treasure. No one has ever managed to find even the slightest trace of it.”

“So you figured we can find it.”

“Yeah exactly. Now which books shall we read?”

We selected four, one of which was appropriately entitled ‘The Lost Treasure of King John.’ The lady quickly located the volumes for us and we sat in a secluded area to brush-up on our history. Newf took to it like a fish to water. In moments he was nose deep in the project.

After about fifteen minutes studying, he said, “Yah know, Bill. I reckon we could find this treasure, what wiv your nose fer gold, shouldn’t be too ’ard, should it.”

“Why the sudden confidence?”

“Well, it says ’ere a Roman Bank runs roughly from Clenchwarton to Tilney All Saints.”

“So, what’s a Roman Bank when it’s at home?”

“The Romans tried to keep the sea out and built a erf bank. John’s men would ’ave started their last trip on the swamp side o’ the bank. So all we ’as to do is look between there and a place called Sutton Bridge.”

“Yes, you nit, but it’s like hundreds of feet below the surface. It’s not going to be sitting there for someone to just go and pick it up.”

“I reckon you can do it, Bill.”

Carefully I closed my book and looked at Newf. “You know, your trust and belief in me is what keeps me going. I tell you what, I’ll make a bargain with you.”

“Yeah, like what?”

“You get back on your feet and promise never to let anyone else wear your bulletproof vest, and I’ll take you on this trip to find King John’s treasure. All at my expense.”

“What about Morag?”

“Now that is an excellent question. I’ll add one more proviso to my original deal, you have to marry that girl and stop kissing her in public – it’s quite sickening.”

“That’s two.”

“Alright, one and a sub clause.”

It’s difficult to explain the relationship that Newf and I share. He’s like a brother, but somehow I love to tease him and call him names. He’s actually very smart when he wants to be. He never had the chance of a good education like me, but his father seems to have taught him some very unusual skills. Newf can navigate in almost total darkness and never seems to get lost. There are very few locks he can’t open and would you believe he not only can and does eat anything.

Gran would be the whiz on this case. She solved our first mystery, Fiend’s Gold. Gran’s a darling, but these last few years she seems to have slowed down a lot. In the old days she did all the cooking, and man can she cook! Now though, she leaves menial tasks like that to the household staff.

Deloris and I got married last year and now that she’s expecting her first baby, I have to watch what I say or do. I already have a son by my first wife, little William Tan. I have supposedly given up detective work, mainly because it’s too dangerous. Would you believe in almost every case we had I was the one who got shot, but last time poor old Newf caught the lead and it almost killed him. With my money and Deloris’, we certainly are set for life. We all live in the same huge house and there are no monetary problems. Detective work is off my list of things to do but, and that’s a big but, why not look for treasure? That’s not really detective work, is it?

Deloris does these annoying breathing exercises every night before she sleeps. She lays there with only her silk trousers on grunting and groaning, and then excitedly counting. Looks like a grounded albatross trying to take flight. I can’t take all the bouncing around so I sit on the chair waiting for the demonstration to end. I have to pretend I’m enjoying it all so as not to upset her. Eventually, all the activity comes to an end and we can settle down for the night.

“Why do you do this every night?” I once asked, climbing onto the bed beside her.

“For our child. I need the oxygen for his brain. Healthy mom, healthy child.”

“Okay, so what you think about the legend of King John?”

“Well I won’t be drinking any peach cider, if that’s what you mean.”

“No, and it was peaches and apple cider. No, what I mean is, well … Newf needs an interest. I thought looking for the long-lost royal treasure might just help him recover.”

She smiled, rolled over and kissed me. “I love you, Mr. Reyner. You are truly a thoughtful man. I think it would be a fabulous interest; it’s educational, geographical, and not dangerous. There is one thing though.”

“Which is?”

“No overseas travel until junior is born.”

I pushed her flat and then put my ear to her tummy. Man, talk about industry. The noises going on in there would put any factory to shame. Whilst I was listening to the bubbling, gurgling and rushing sounds he or she kicked me right in the ear.

“You sure it’s not twins then,” I said jokingly.

It was settled, for in my mind I could see Newf and myself enjoying the Norfolk warmth and searching for the legendary treasure of King John. It really didn’t matter if we found it or not, what the hey! It’s a holiday we can all enjoy. I decided we would all go, Deloris, Gran, Newf, Morag, William Tan and the newborn. The sea air would do us all good.

Three Musketeers

Chapter 2

There were several things to get neatly tucked under my belt before I launched a massive treasure hunt. There were birthdays, including an actual birth, a wedding anniversary and of course Gran wants me to arrange for Newf to marry Morag and Gran’s got a bee in her bonnet about that dead woman found on a road somewhere up north. After Newf shook hands with the Grim Reaper I put my foot down, there’ll be no detective work at all for him or me. If Gran wants to know how a dead near naked woman got in the middle of a road up north, then she can find out on her own.

When a physiotherapist wasn’t torturing Newf he would spend a lot of time in the swimming pool just to ease the weight of his aching muscles. He also liked to play that disgusting game, snooker; of course Miss Suck-my-face-off would be there glued to him. This particular time I wandered into the pool area to see what they were up to and a few moments later Griffin, our butler, came into the room.

“Sir,” he said in his usual noncommittal way. “Mr. Barker the gatekeeper reports that there are three gentlemen to see you and wish to enter the grounds.”

“So who are they?”

He handed me the cordless phone. “Mr. Barker is on the phone, sir.”

“Thanks. This is Reyner, so who wants to come up to the house.”

“Three gentlemen, sir, claiming you would like to see them.”

“Really, what kind of car are they driving?”

“It’s an old banger, sir, a Ford, I think.”

“No, tell them to clear off. Give them any excuse you like – no appointment no entry.”

“Yes, sir.”

I handed the phone back to Griffin. “I don’t want anyone coming up to the house unless I know who they are and what they want. If they call again tell them to make an appointment in the normal fashion.”

“Indeed, sir.”

“Getting picky,” Newf shouted as he tried to climb from the water.

“No, just careful. Remember there is a motorcycle gang out there still nursing a grudge as someone I know in this pool destroyed their bikes.” I leaned down and helped him to his feet. “Can you walk?”

“Not very well. You and Morag ’old us and I’ll get to the seat.”

“So how’s your physio coming along?”

“I walked five steps today all on me own wiv no ’elp.”

I sat on one side of Newf and Morag sat on the other. “Newf,” I said in my most officious voice. “I’ve been thinking and have decided we will look into the lost treasure of King John, but there are a couple of provisos.”

“What more?”

“No, just listen, give me space.”

“Go on then.”

“First, you have to learn to walk, and second you have to marry that girl who’s always stuck to your face.”

“Sound’s good to me, so what’s the prob.”

“Great. I figure we’ll start work planning today. There’s a load to get done. Gran can help. I’ve got to organize my birthday, Gran’s birthday, my wedding anniversary, Christmas, William Tan’s birthday and your birthday. On top of all that I have to organize an expedition to Norfolk England.”

“What about Deloris?”

“What about her?”

“Well, first she ’as a birfday just like everyone else. Then yous gotta ’old ’er ’and when she pops the sprog.”

“Newf you have a knack of saying things in a way that would put a priest off religion. She’s going to have a baby, not pop a sprog.”

Griffin walked back into the swimming pool room. “Excuse me, sir,” he said.

“Yes, Griffin?”

“It’s the three gentlemen again, sir.”

“I thought we had got rid of them.”

“They seem to have made an appointment through Mrs. Hubert, sir.”


“I have asked them to wait in the lobby, sir. Mr. Evans our chauffeur is watching them.”

I sighed. “Very well, have them conducted into the den, I’ll be there in a short while.”

“Very good, sir.”

I scooted off to the den so that I could pretend to have been working on secret documents when they arrived. Quickly, I slipped in behind the desk and opened a blank folder from the top drawer. After a few moments Griffin knocked.

“Come in.”

The men were ushered into the den as I closed the folder and carefully placed it back in the drawer, then I rose to greet them.

“So what can I do for you gentlemen?” I said shaking hands with the first.

“John Magnus,” he said and grinned from ear-to-ear.

“So?” I asked and calmly sat before offering a hand to the others.

Magnus was tall and slender, about 40 years old with thick dark hair well-greased down. The man was at least clean-shaven and neatly dressed in a business suit.

“Mr. Reyner, sir,” he said and eased himself down on a chair opposite me. “Have you ever heard of King John’s treasure?”

“Yeah, what’s more I’ve been in the area where it was lost.”

The other two stood behind him looking like bodyguards. Magnus continued, “Actually, sir, we came to you because of your fame in the field of finding things, such as treasure.”


Poor chap looked as nervous as a virgin on her first date. “Sir, we can help you find it.”

“Who said I am looking for it?”

“That’s true, sir, nobody, but, well … I … that is, we have a device that can locate such a treasure.”

“And?” I encouraged.

“Well, sir, I … well, that is we, … well … would you be interested in finding a king’s treasure if we did all the work, sir?” The poor fellow turned quite pink and perspiration trickled down his brow.

“Maybe. What’s your proposal?”

“Oh, well, right. You see, I’m John Magnus, M.A., B.A. My thing is history.”

“I’m not interested in academic qualifications. What’s your proposal?”

“Oh, right. I, er … that is we … well, we’re looking for a backer.”

I smiled “And you want me to cough up the cash so you can take a holiday looking for the impossible?” He looked terribly disappointed. For a moment I thought he was going to burst into tears.

The medium height geezer with the heavy bottle glass spectacles spoke up. He looked about 25 years old but almost totally bald and he seemed rather animated like a drug addict about to throw a conniption. “I’m David H. Carter, P.Eng. My expertise is computer programming, you know.”


“We’ve devised the perfect algorithm of Doppler soil analysis. We can find anything. It’s not a con or a joke. We can do it, I promise you that.”

“So who’s the third musketeer in your team?”

The last member of the trio, a man in his fifties with a large moustache and a heavy build said, “I’m Paul Manningham, M.A. Geology’s my field.”

I thought for a moment or two then said, “I’m sorry, gentlemen. I can understand how you feel, but I have all the money I need so why would I bother to risk capital on a venture that is doomed from the very beginning?”

Paul Manningham took up the challenge. “Sir, the system we have developed will work for oil, gold, or any other mineral. It would prove invaluable for anyone prospecting for a tunnel. The system gives an X-ray view of the subsoil. Even without King John’s treasure the system is invaluable.”

I decided to string them along for a while just for amusement. “I thought you were looking for the Magna Carta.”

“Oh no, sir,” said Magnus. “We have the Magnuscarter — that’s how we’ll find the treasure.”

“Magnuscarter?” I queried.

“Yes, sir. It’s a system we have developed. You see, I’m Magnus and he’s Carter … get it? Like Magnuscarter.”

I nodded without saying anything. These guys were either absolutely stupid or suffered from over developed brains or maybe both.

Magnus looked at me with imploring eyes. “You see, sir, we would like to field test it.”

“So go ahead and field test it.”

He shook his head sadly. “We can’t. You see, the logistics — we just can’t.”

I sighed. “Listen, why don’t you get your presentation together and present it in a reasonable fashion. This smattering of info crap is getting on my tits. Now either you have something to offer or you don’t, which is it?”

The older guy, Paul Manningham tried to bolster their failing request. “You see, sir, the system works on paper, and even in uni tests, but the entire system can’t be tested because of the magnitude of the exercise. We hoped you would be interested – help us complete our development and share in the profits. Simple investment in a going concern, so to speak.”

I looked at him and frowned for a few moments and then said, “So, where exactly is it going? Like, I mean what exactly do you want from me?”

He smiled warmly. “Sir, for a full-scale test we need an open area of at least ten kilometres in diameter and we need to build thirty GPS controlled geo-echo recorders. Oh, yeah, and we’ll probably need an airplane or a helicopter.”

“You gotta be kidding me,” I said and chuckled.

Manningham looked most serious. “Not at all, sir. We have one echo recorder and a geophone, which we have tested. The system works; we’ve used a computer simulation and it surely works, sir. But most of it is theory and simulation. We need to do a full-scale field test just to iron out the bugs.”

“Alright,” I said grinning. “You present me with a working plan, a list of what is needed, and an itinerary of operation and I’ll consider bankrolling the operation.”

Griffin led the men to their car and saw them off the property. I had some serious thinking to do. My lawyers up in Parry Sound would perform their usual duty and take their usual cut. There was no way I would enter into a money pit without some legal documentation setting out the rules. I had decided even without consultation with the three musketeers that there would be five partners of equal share – Newf would be the fifth. The only reason I didn’t include Gran was simply that she seemed more interested in that near-naked dead woman.

A whole week drifted by before I heard from the three musketeers again. This time only Mr. Manningham turned up, driving an old, beat-up car. As the gatekeeper recognized him, he was allowed to drive up to the house. Griffin informed me that I had a visitor.

“In the den please, Griffin.”

“Indeed, sir.”

Not wishing to be thought of as a layabout, I performed my usual trick of pretending to be very busy. Manningham entered carrying a briefcase; he looked most businesslike. You could easily see the man had been round the block a few times – well experienced I mean. When he spoke his moustache wobbled from side to side in an unusual way.

“Take a seat,” I ordered. “So what have you got for me this time?”

He eased himself down onto a chair and placed his case on his knees. “Well, sir, I have a proposal for a field study.”

“Okay, and please call me William, or even Bill definitely not sir. If we are going to be partners in this venture, we should at least be on a first name basis, don’t you think?”

“Yes, sir. My name is Paul.”

“Okay, Paul, let’s see what you have.”

“Yes, a full field test would cost too much. I thought it would be better to do a small-scale demonstration first.”

A knock came to the door and Griffin put his head round. “I’m sorry, sir but there is a rather excited gentleman on the phone for you.”

“Okay, I’ll take it.”

Griffin entered and handed me the cordless then retired from the room and closed the door behind him.

“Hello,” I growled into the phone.

“Oh, sir, this is Harold Stilton. I desperately need your help. It’s a matter of … well, it’s very important.”

“I’m kind of busy at the moment, would you like to call me later?”

“No, and I can’t discuss it on the phone. May I come to see you?”

“Alright, call my gateman for an appointment.” I turned off the phone and turned to Paul. “Sorry about that. Some people think I have nothing to do all day except listen to tales of woe. Now, where were we before the interruption?”

“You should get yourself a mobile, you know a cell phone.”

“I have one but I never remember to carry it around the house. So what were we discussing?”

“A test.”

“Ah! yes, a demonstration or a test?”

“Erm! Both, actually. A full-scale test would cost something in the region of half a million dollars. I figure we can perform a small field experiment for less than $50,000.”

“Without getting too technical, explain what you mean.”

“Sure. A full test would require thirty wells each with a G. E. R. A. or gera, and each one would cost around a grand to sink and each gera would cost about ten grand a piece.”

“I said not too technical, I didn’t say anything about codes. What the hell is a gera?”

“Oh, it’s a geological echo recording array.”

“So be it. So what’s the low-cost test? Explain that to me.”

“Oh! That. Well, I figure that using only three geras, we’d be looking at a field cost of only around thirty grand, then there’s the drilling gear and getting to the site.”

“Okay,” I said trying to be friendly. “So what’s with the briefcase?”

“Oh, yeah, that. Well I’ve brought survey maps of the proposed test site, and if you are interested, all the technical details of the gera.”

“No, I’ll leave all that crap up to you. One thing though, where is the proposed test site?”

“Oh, yeah, that. I thought we don’t want to attract any attention, so we should go where no one lives. I’ve chosen a site up by Lake Muswabik. I’ve written the coordinates down.”

“Never heard of it. I suppose it is in Canada?”

“Yes. It’s inaccessible, that’s why I chose it.”

“If it’s inaccessible, how you gonna get there?”

“Oh, yeah, um! It’s not that inaccessible. It’s about 280 kilometres due north of the Soo.”

“North of the Soo? Where’s that?”

“Oh, well, I mean Sault Ste. Marie.”

“Oh! that Soo. So how do you propose we’re gonna get there?”

“I thought we could use a Beaver float plane and land on Lake Muswabik. We’ll need transportable drilling gear.”

“Alright. I’ve decided that North, that’s Mr. East, will also be a partner. That makes five of us, at exactly twenty percent share each. You guys will share in the cost, by coughing up if and when we hit pay dirt. My lawyer’s working on the details at this very moment. When the paperwork is complete we can all sign it and the work can begin, providing you are all in agreement.”

Somehow it felt good; at last I was in charge of things again. We certainly wouldn’t want Gran on this expedition and there was no likelihood of motorcycle gangs, irate Italians or art thieves on this gig. Newf will love it. I found him in the billiard room playing snooker. He claims it’s good therapy because he has to stand to make his shot.

“Newf, you old retrograde,” I jibed on entering.

He sank gracefully to his electric wheelchair. “You ruined my shot, Bill. I ’ope this is gonna be worf it.”

“O’ course it is.” I plonked my backside down on the billiard table almost directly in front of him. “How’d you like to go on a mock treasure hunt somewhere up north?”

“What’s mock treasure?”

“He means the hunt is a mockery,” Morag said and cuddled up close behind Newf and leaned over, giving him a kiss.

“What for, Bill?”

“I’ve bought a partnership in a mining exploration company for you and me. We’re each twenty percent shareholders.”


“And, we’ll be doing a test on a brand new treasure hunting device at a place called … er, Mus-something. Anyhow, it’s a lake several hundred K north of Sault Ste. Marie.”

Newf looked at me with a puzzled expression on his face and then he said. “I fort we was going to Norfolk to ’unt fer King John’s booty.”

“That too. This is only a preliminary. I thought you might just like the trip and if this gadget works it might just be the answer we’re looking for.”

“So you can crash in the wilderness an’ leave me to drown in the bogs.”

“Not exactly. I just thought it might be a good place to hide the body so when I dump you there’ll be nothing to find, and no incriminating evidence.”

Newf laughed. “Roger that, Bill. You can count me in. Will there be any bad geezers wiv guns?”


“’ow about, polar bears, or dead Italian sailors?”

“None of them either.”

“Great, when do we leave?”

“As soon as our new partners can sort out the details.”

Griffin entered the room. “I’m terribly sorry, sir, but it is that excited gentleman again. He handed me the cordless and stepped back awaiting me to finish and give further orders.

“Hello,” I barked in a stern fashion.

“It’s Harold Stilton again, sir. I’m at your gatehouse and the gatekeeper will not allow me to pass.”

“What are you doing at my gate?”

“I have to see you, sir, it’s vital. A matter of life … well it’s imperative that I speak with you alone.”

“Listen, I’m a very busy man, that’s why I have a gatekeeper. I can’t see you at this time. Phone my butler and make an appointment. I can’t see you today.” With that I switched the phone off and handed it back to Griffin. “Griffin, if he calls back, tell him I’ll see him … let’s say tomorrow. Maybe that’ll get him off my back, he is becoming rather a nuisance.”

“Very good, sir.”

The following day Paul Manningham turned up in a Land Rover. Again the gateman allowed him in and then phoned the house to report the entry. While he was calling me another car slipped in behind Paul’s.

The day had turned out cold with a little drizzle. I stood in the doorway waiting for him to park his vehicle. The other car drove directly to the porch and this scruffy little man jumped out without bothering to close his car door.

“Mr. Reyner, sir,” he called breathlessly. “I have to see you, it’s imperative.”

I stood my ground. “So what’s so important that you have to break into my estate?”

He stood before me wild eyed and panting. “It’s my daughter, sir. She’s been murdered.”

Hit and Run

Chapter 3

Harold Stilton looked terrible, like some second-rate hobo. His clothes were dirty and worn and his car looked like it had narrowly escaped the scrap dealer. I just hate it when people beg, but in this case I felt more annoyed than anything else – the audacity of the fellow.

“So you’re Stilton?”

“Yes, sir, please, please just hear me out.”

I sighed and called over to Paul Manningham. “Paul, I’ll be with you shortly. Ask Griffin to show you into the drawing room.” I then turned my attention to Harold. “You, sir, are beginning to be a pain in my side. I hope this is the last time you’ll be dogging me. Come, we’ll talk in the den. You can tell me all your woes in private.”

Griffin was just inside the main entrance, I told him to see to Paul Manningham while I took care of Stilton. We entered the den and I closed the door.

“So why all the cloak and dagger shit?” I asked and sat at my desk.

I thought he was going to start crying, he pulled a face and his eyes looked watery.

“You have to help me, Mr. Reyner, you have to.”

“I don’t have to do anything. Take a seat and start from the top and I’ll be the judge as to who gets my help.”

“Yes, sir.” He eased himself down onto the chair opposite me and leaned on the desk in an anxious pose. “Sir, my daughter was murdered and I need you to help me put the culprits in jail.”

“Culprits? So why don’t you tell me the whole story?”

“Yes, sir.” He took a deep breath and began. “When Jenny was fourteen she ran away from home. You see her mother had died and I took up with another woman. It’s just that the two of them didn’t get along. One morning after a real flaming row, she upped and left. Never took a thing with her, just upped and left.” He paused and looked into his open palms.

“Go on, what happened then?”

“She did contact us once … yeah, it was just the once. Anyhow, she had gotten herself a secretarial job in Toronto. Seemed that the poor kid was at last doing something right. I wanted her to go to university but, well, she said she wouldn’t come home until I got rid of Darlene – that’s my new, er … new lady.”

“So you never married this new wife replacement?”

“No. Anyway, we never heard no more of Jenny, it was as if she’d dropped off the map entirely. Then I gets this peculiar note. It said she’d escaped and was coming home.”

“Peculiar in what way and escaped from where?”

He sniffled a bit and wiped a tear from his eye. “Well, we hadn’t seen or heard neither hide nor hair of her for five years. Would you believe, five years? Then we gets this second note: Daddy, I love you. I’m coming home.” He stopped talking as his throat closed up for a moment. When at last he controlled himself he said, “She said she couldn’t bring her babies as them lot at the Cormorant Institute wouldn’t let her.”

“I think you have left me somewhere out in left field. What’s a Cormorant Institute, and what do babies have to do with anything?”

“The point is she’s dead.”

“Who, Jenny?”


“So why don’t you tell me what happened and forget the history lesson.”

“That’s her they found. She were dead in the street.”

“Okay, I understand most things, but would you like to elucidate?”

“Jenny was coming home, but they stopped her. They killed her and left her in the street.”


“She escaped from them Cormorant lot and they killed her to stop her talking. Don’t you see?”

“No, where?”

“Oh, she were killed just a little north of Arthur.”

“And that’s where the Institute is?”

“No, the Cormorant is up at Opinnagau.”

Now, I’ve never thought of myself as thick, but this guy made as much sense as chocolate snow tires.

“Alright,” I said trying to calm the man down. “So if she was supposed to be at The Cormorant Institute, why, or how did she die at Arthur? You do mean Arthur just north of here?”

“Yes, she escaped but they must have caught up with her at Arthur and killed her there on the spot.”

“Okay, so what exactly do you think I can do about anything?”

“Get them arrested, they are bad people.”

I sighed. This guy was obviously suffering from grief and not thinking too well.

“Alright, so why don’t the police do something? I would hazard they might just be better at it than I am?”

“The Cormorant lot have perfect alibis, but they are to blame, I know they are. You need to prove it to protect all the others.”

“Others, what others?”

“It’s what they do.”

I shook my head in amazement. “So how do you know all this and why don’t you tell the police and let them do their thing?”

“I know because she smuggled a note out to me a couple of years ago. The cops won’t do anything because the Cormorant lot are supposed to be all legal and upfront like.”

The best way to get rid of this guy was obviously just to get rid of him.

“Alright, I’ll look into this thing for you, but first you have to tell me why you think I should.”

He wiped the tears from his face and after a couple of short coughs he said, “You solved the TOD murders, this is just another one like it, but these guys are scientific instead of religious. You have to do it to protect all the other girls they have in their grip. That’s why I came to you, I knew you would not only want to do it but you would be the only person in the world who could do it.”

I hadn’t the heart to tell him that I no longer did detective work; my only interest being treasure hunting. Maybe I could get Mr. Spadafora, an associate of mine working on it. I convinced Harold that I would look into the Cormorant Institute for him and that he shouldn’t worry any more – everything was in good hands.

After the poor fellow left I had to see to Paul Manningham. As if I didn’t have enough to do, now I had a murder to solve as well – assuming it to be murder. Gran was the one interested in this case; I should talk to her.

Paul had brought the weirdest-looking gismo with him. I found him taking it easy on one of the sofas in the drawing room, with a glass of beer in his hand.

“Enjoying your day?” I asked sarcastically.

He leapt to his feet. “Oh! sure, sorry.”

“Nothing to be sorry for. So what’s the purpose of this visit?” I made myself comfortable on a chair facing him.

“Ah, oh, well, yes. You see I brought a gera to show you. And well, a … well, a sort of bill.”


He laughed. “Oh yeah, it’s a bill for Bill. I’ve ordered two new GPS controllers so we can build two more geras.”

I nodded as if I really understood. “I see. So how much is the bill?”

He coughed in a form of mock embarrassment. “Well, you see, we have to have them for the test.”

“And how much?”

“They’re $6194 each.”

“We haven’t signed the agreement yet, but still you have the bill?”

“I can explain. See, well it takes time to get them, they’re custom built in Toronto. I’d like to get a local preliminary test completed this year. Then we can spend the winter solving all the problems and planning our next excursion.”

“I thought you said the thing worked and there wouldn’t be any problems.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s right, but there’s still calculations to solve. We’ve never actually done a real live test. Three units will be enough for a local assessment test and we should be able to get the software running.”

“So what’s with the fencepost?”

Again he laughed; I think only to humour me. “This is the gera.” He commenced unscrewing the fifteen-centimetre diameter tube to show me it’s intricate interior. The thing looked about a metre in length with a fancy plug arrangement at its top. Once the outer shielding had been removed he pointed to a complicated looking device and said, “This is the heart of it.”

“I’m nontechnical. I can drive a car or fly an airplane, but I have no inkling as to how they work.”

“Ah, you see that’s the pistol,” he said.

“Pistol? What is it some form of weapon?”

“No. I have three specially loaded 12-gauge cartridges. That’s what makes the bang so we can record the echo.”

“Okay, but I don’t see what that has to do with GPS.”

“The GPS is a perfectly accurate time signal, that’s how it navigates. I use the time signal to fire the cartridges in a rotation, one every 250 milliseconds.”

“Okay, I’ll buy it. But don’t plague me with technicalities, remember I’m totally green.”

“So can I go ahead and have two more built?”

“Sure. When’s the test?”

Paul lit up like a kid with a new Christmas present. “Great. I’ll get them ordered and we’ll have a test firing in less than a month.”

At dinner that night I asked Gran what she knew about this woman who was found just north of Arthur. She’s a funny old girl – Gran that is. After I posed the question she carefully placed her knife and fork on the table and glared at me with deep furrows in her brow for a few moments.

“William,” she said in an admonishing voice. “Why the sudden interest?”

“Why ... oh, that’s easy. I thought it might make a nice distraction for Newf … sorry, North.”

She smiled sweetly. “Very well. At approximately 5 a.m. the post office inter-city vehicle discovered a body on the number 6 highway approximately 5 kilometres north of Arthur. The woman turned out to be a young lady who had been missing for several years.”

“So what is so very different about this incident? It could be just a case of jealousy?”

“There are several peculiarities, William dear. Firstly the lady was totally unknown in that area. Secondly she was dressed only in a hospital nightgown. Thirdly, there had been no traffic on that part of the road all night.”

I shook my head in disgust. Gran of all people should understand the unlikelihood of such statements.

“Gran, there’s no way they could know that no one used the road throughout the night.”

“Ah! but you see, the works department had a road traffic counter recorder running at Arthur and at the Damascus intersection. The instrument reported no vehicular traffic at all that very night.”

“Oh, well, I don’t think being dressed in night gear at night is all that suspicious. Maybe she ran out of a nearby house.”

“It was a hospital gown, dear. No hospital has reported her missing and there is no house nearby.”

“Okay. So how do you know no one in that area knows the woman?”

“Simply because the police had difficulty identifying her. Strangely, the woman is originally from Dundas.”

I had to smile at that one, as I already knew it.

“So how’d you feel about a quickie up north, Newf?”

“Yeah, great. Me an’ you back on the trail … great.”

“Have you ever heard of a place called Opinnagau, Gran?”

“No, dear, where is it?”

“That’s what I need to know. How about the Cormorant Institute, have you heard of that?”

“No, dear, I have not heard of that either.”

“Wow, that’s unusual, Gran, I’ve caught you out twice in the same day.”

“Opinnagau, sounds Indian,” Newf said. “I reckon it must be a reserve or a Indian lake. I’ll look it up on the Internet for yous. Why you interested in them two names?”

“I’ll let you know when I have the answers, Newf.”

Sunday turned out to be a beautiful day, especially as I managed to deter both Deloris and Morag from accompanying us. This was to be a Newf and Bill affair, just as it used to be in the old days. Besides, I hate having to pull Morag off Newf’s face every five minutes. I helped Newf into the passenger seat of the Rolls, folded his hand-operated wheelchair and put it in the trunk.

“It’s great, ain’t it, Bill. Just me an’ you togever again.”

“Yes. This one’s just a quick look-see. There’ll be no shooting or bashing involved, just a as you would put it, a quick butcher’s-hook.”

I drove directly to Greensville then to the 5 highway, then east to the 6 highway. The 6 goes all the way to Tobermory, about three hundred kilometres. Arthur sits just above Fergus about fifty kilometres from Dundas.

As I turned onto the 5, Newf said, “I’s found somefing out about the Cormorant place for yah.”

“Oh yes, what?”

“They’s a medical research place, guess where they is.”

“Are,” I corrected. “Go on then where are they?”

“Them’s at a place called Opinnagau. It’s a lake T, H & G.”

“T, H & G?”

“Yeah, to hell an’ gorn.”

“Okay, like where exactly.”

“Hundreds of miles norf of Sault Ste. Marie,”

“There isn’t anything hundreds of miles north of the Soo. There aren’t even any roads.”

“That’s right, Bill, T, H & G. Remember Severn’s Island?”

“Who could forget it?” It was in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

The local police detachment at Arthur turned out to be the next best thing to totally hopeless. Newf suggested we try a shop – like they’d know anything. Leaving Newf in the car, I walked into a local-variety corner store. “Excuse me,” I started. “I’m looking for information on the dead woman found-.”

The shop lady, a young Asian girl, cut me short. “Should speak to old Sam.”

“Sam? Where would I find old Sam?”

“Sits near the cemetery.”

“Great, thank you.”

Finding the cemetery was easy and correspondingly, finding Sam was also easy. An old fellow sat on the wall near the cemetery entrance. Fortunately for him, the weather was fine and quite warm.

“Sam,” I said approaching the old man.

“Arrh. Like who’s askin’?”

“I’m Bill Reyner.”


“No, why, do I look like a cop?”

“Don’t speak to no cops. I got nothin’ to say to cops.”

I turned and there was Newf standing and leaning against the Rolls. Quickly, I paced out the couple of metres and grabbed his arm.

“I ain’t no cripple, Bill. I can manage. Just keep your ’ands orf.”

“Yeah, you fall down and Morag will kill me. Hold me for support and shut up moaning.”

Old Sam laughed. “Sittin’ here, you gets to see it all eventually.”

“I’m told you’re the expert on local affairs,” I said addressing the old man. “What can you tell me about that dead woman they found up the road a bit?”

“You a cop?”

“No, I told you that already.”

“Then what you want to know for?”

“I represent her father. I’m just doing him a favour as he’s too upset to come himself.”

“It were the boaties.”

“Boaties? What exactly do you mean?”

“I tell yah, it were them boaties. Them’s the only ones who don’t register.”

“Have you any idea what he’s talking about, Newf?”

“Yeah. Put me down, Bill. Let me sit on that wall by the old fellah.”

I eased him over and allowed him to settle beside old Sam. “So, explain to me why a boatie doesn’t register.”

“Them boaties bridge the counter. Don’t want no cop knowing they’s smuggling. It definitely were them; couldn’t be no one else.”

“Oh, I get it,” I said as the light of dawn began to shine. “You mean that Boaties is a family name and they somehow or other bridge the road counter.”

The old man turned to Newf. “An’ you let this twit drive you about. Is he safe?”

“Alright enlighten me.”

Sam shook his head in disgust. “I don’t talk to no cops.”

“I’m not a cop, for crying out loud.”

“You’re thick enough to be a cop.”

“I guarantee he’s not a cop, Sam,” Newf assured him. “He’s my best friend an’ besides cops don’t drive Rolls-Royce cars.”

“Hmm, well, boaties be them that knocks off boats. O’Brien be the name.”

This time it was my turn to do the head-shaking. “Knock-off as in a copy or imitation or knock off as in steal.”

“I’d check his drivin’ licence,” Sam said. “What kind o’ bloody fool do you let drive you around, son?”

“Well it’s ’is car, Sam, an’ ’e is me friend. An’ yes, sometimes ’e is a bit fick.”

“The O’Briens drive over to the lake and hauls boats out of the water. They takes them from tourists where they park. They takes them to their boat sales place. Ain’t you ever heard of a chop shop?”

“Yeah, but not for boats.”

“They carries a bridge for crossing counters, false plates for cameras an’ scanners to listen to the cops.”

“Okay,” I agreed. “So you think they ran this woman down.”

“I don’t think nothin’. I know they dun it.”

“So where would I find these O’Briens?”

“If you’s got a death wish, you can find them at their sales place, on Fourth Concession.”

I took out my wallet, peeled off a fifty-dollar bill then handed it to Sam. “Thanks, Sam. Buy yourself a few beers on me.”

He snatched the money. “Thanks. I’ll use it to buy a wreath for your funeral if you’s visitin’ the boaties.”

I helped Newf back into the Rolls then walked round and climbed in. Newf seemed a little nervous. “You ain’t gonna find these O’Briens are yah?”

“Yeah, o’course I am.”

“But I can’t give you any backup. If they’s trouble I can’t ’elp.”

“I’m not going to start a war. I’ll pretend to be interested in buying a boat: they are boaties, aren’t they?”

“Just as long as yah don’t start no fightin’.”

“Don’t worry, Newf; we’re customers, not competitors.”

“So ’ow’s this gonna tell you what ’appened to that woman?”

“Who knows? We’ll just nose around a bit and see if we spot anything suspicious.”

It turned out to be rather easy finding the Fourth Concession and even easier finding the boaties. A huge field absolutely filled with boats of just about every shape, size and description was easy to spot from a long way away. The main gate lay open and without hindrance I drove up the boat-lined road to an aircraft hangar-sized building. On arrival two gentlemen met us, each with a shotgun under his arm.

“Hi,” I greeted, climbing from the car and putting the largest smile on that I could muster.

“What you want?” asked the taller and ugliest of the two.

“Hi. I’m looking for a boat.”

“So where’d you leave it?”

“No. I mean I’m looking for a new boat.”

“We don’t sell new boats.”

“New to me, then.”

Ugly sighed. “So who sent you?”

“Who? Oh no. I was just driving by, saw your sign and thought, well … I am looking for a new boat why don’t I just drop in and see what you have? Might even get myself a deal.”

“We don’t have any boats in your price range.”

“Oh, I can afford it.”

Ugly came right up to me and placed the butt of his gun on his shoe and growled, “Our boats are rebuilds. Ones that sank, burned or were grounded. They are all rebuilds; we don’t have any new ones. You’ll be looking fer brand names.”

“That’s okay; I’m looking for something on the cheaper side. I didn’t get rich by squandering, you know.”

“We only deal with dealers, not hobbyists. You’ll have to check with a dealer, not us.”

I shook my head. “Sorry, I just thought you might like to make a buck or two.”

“We do, we can, and we will. But there ain’t much profit selling one, if yous want three or four then we can maybe make a deal.”

“Oh,” I turned and looked at Newf. “How’d you like a new boat, say one for you and your wife?”

Newf took up with the spirit of the game and grinning said, “Me two sons might like one each if they’s cheap enough.”

“Okay,” I said turning to ugly. “I just might be in the market for three boats, can you deliver?”

Ugly smiled, picked up his shotgun and tucking it under his arm, said, “Then I’ll show you around mate.”