This is the Fifth part of a Murder Mystery that I have been writing. It is supposed to be in the style of the great Agatha Christie.
This is the first part if you want to read it from the beginning:
Sergeant Sheldon came into the room and spoke to the Inspector.
“Are we nearly done sir? I have been trying to keep the cook from going to bed until you’ve spoken to her but she is getting rather agitated. I don’t like the way she brandishes her rolling-pin at me.”
“I am just going to speak to the Butler, Hargreaves and the maid then I will come down and speak to the cook. Tell her I won’t be too long and I am sorry to keep her up.”
“Going to speak to the Butler, you know what they say Sir? It’s always the Butler who did it!”
“If it was, it would make our life a lot easier, but you know as well as I do that isn’t the way it goes.”
The Butler, Reginald Hargreaves came into the room. His appearance was unruffled and he gave the impression that he was seldom shaken by anything, even someone choking to death at dinner.
“You wanted to speak with me Sir? I hope you don’t mind keeping it brief, I’m afraid the Cook is rather anxious to get it all over and done with so she can get to bed.”
“Yes Hargreaves, I just wanted to check with you the order of the night. Who arrived first and what happened.”
“Well first to arrive was Mrs Patterson, the clock was still chiming seven o’clock. I was always given to understand that it was polite to arrive ten minutes late to a dinner party. Obviously, Mrs Patterson hadn’t been aware of that bit of etiquette. I showed her into the drawing-room and the Mistress greeted her. I went back down to the kitchen to prepare everything for cocktails. Then at ten past Seven, Mrs Atwood arrived. I served Cocktails. The Mistress and Mrs Patterson both had Cosmopolitans and Mrs Atwood and the Young gentleman had Margaritas. Then at Half past Seven Mrs Courtney arrived. I took her into the Drawing room and served her a Martini. It wasn’t long after that I rang the dinner gong and announced that dinner was served.”
“What about the young man? When did he arrive?”
“I’m not entirely sure about that Sir. I didn’t let him in, I believe the maid, Sarah did that when I was helping Rachel, the Cook, lift down the largest soup tureen. That would have been about half past six, Sir. I imagine the mistress had asked him to come early.”
“Tell me what happened at dinner.”
“Well I brought in the soup tureen and Sarah and I began ladling it into the bowls and serving it to the guests. I had just placed the bowl in front of the young man when he said he couldn’t eat it. He was one of them new vegetarians. When I was young we hardly got to eat meat and was glad to get it and here was a young man who refused to eat it! The Mistress asked me if we had an alternative available. As it so happens there was some mushroom soup left over from the night before, the Cook and I were going to have it for our tea. I took his soup away and replaced it with a bowl of the mushroom instead. He’d only had two mouthfuls when he dropped his spoon splashing it all over the clean table-cloth. Then he began coughing and choking. I was just about to phone for an ambulance when he died. The mistress asked me to call the police instead.”
“Thank you. Is there anything else you can tell me? Anything odd about the deceased?”
“No Sir. Nothing at all. Apart from his vegetarianism, there was nothing else strange about him. Until he choked to death the evening seemed to be progressing as normal.”
“Thank you, Hargreaves. I shall now speak to the maid before I go downstairs to speak to the Cook. Can you bring her to me?”
Hargreaves came in with a very timid looking young girl who couldn’t be much older than sixteen. She was dressed in a typical maid’s outfit with a white frilly cap on top of her black hair.
“Now tell the Inspector what he asks Sarah and no elaborating on silly details, just answer the questions. We don’t want to be here all night.”
The Inspector interjected, “Thank you Hargreaves, please let the cook know I will be down shortly. How long have you been working here Sarah?” Asked the Inspector as kindly as he could to alleviate her obvious distress.
“only six weeks Sir. This is my first position too, as House Maid. My Mother is a cook in a house in Chelsea and I grew up helping her as kitchen maid. When I got this position, she was ever so pleased.”
“So, you like it here, do you?”
“Well, I don’t know. Mrs Silverman, the Cook, is quite strict. She’ll cuff you round the head if you talk back to her. The Master makes me feel uncomfortable, I don’t like being in the same room with him alone. The mistress is very nice though.”
“Tell me about tonight. I understand you let the young man, the one who died, in to the house.”
“Yes Sir. The doorbell rang out but Mr Hargreaves was busy and so I went. I opened the door and it was this young man. I remember he was quite tall and had on black round framed glasses. He was quite smart. The Mistress wasn’t ready yet, so I asked him to wait in the study. The room we’re in now, Sir.”
“Was it unusual for you to answer the door?”
“Yes, Mr Hargreaves usually answered it.”
“Do you remember anything strange that happened that evening? Apart from the young man dying of course.”
“No Sir. He didn’t want to eat the soup and so he was given something different but that was it.”
“Thank you, Sarah, you have been very helpful. You may go now.”
Bobbing a quick curtsey, Sarah dashed out of the room.
‘One more down, one to go’, thought the Inspector to himself. ‘These preliminary questions were quite onerous but they had to be done. Sometimes you pick up something interesting that people then contradict later on. I like to keep a trick or two up my sleeve for later on.’
End of Part 5…..
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 01/May/2018