I started writing a murder mystery some time ago, this is the next instalment.
See here for the previous story in the chain.
If you want to read this story from the beginning click on this link:
Tears before bedtime
Audrey Patterson, dressed in a smart and modern grey pencil skirt and jacket steps out from a black London cab. She turned back from paying the driver and looked up at the grim Victorian building in front of her, a row of terraces that had been divided up into individual apartments. It was just a short walk from Whitehall and the Foreign Office. Audrey walked towards the main door to check the numbers. She was looking for number 77a, she found it was the basement flat.
Carefully she navigated the iron staircase and pushed the bell on the black painted front door.
There was no answer. She checked her watch. It was 6 o’clock on a Thursday afternoon and she had expected someone to be home, it would vex her quite terribly if they weren’t in. It was put all her plans awry.
She pushed the bell again. This time she heard someone moving inside. An eye appeared at the window in a crack in the curtains and then, not long after the door was finally opened.
A tall blond young man in purple pyjamas and a brown dressing gown, looking rather dishevelled with his hair all over the place and several days growth of a beard with more than a little red amongst the blond, stood there. “Can I help you?” He said rather groggily.
Audrey wondered if the young man had been asleep, or had been drinking, or maybe he was one of those drug addicts you read about in the newspapers. Strange, she should feel nervous but he didn’t seem the type that would hurt a fly.
“My Great-nephew, Charles Lansdowne gave me this address. Are you Christopher Copeland?”
“Yes, Yes I am. You don’t recognise me? I came to your party about a week ago? I suppose I looked a bit different then.”
“Yes, you looked quite different. It’s amazing how our appearances can be completely altered by a change of costume and a few days worth of beard, isn’t it? Of course, if I had known what nice pyjama’s you had I would have made it a pyjama party instead” She paused to see if the young man would laugh, but he clearly wasn’t in the mood for jokes. “It’s about that party I have come really. Do you mind if I come in and speak to you? It’s about Claudia Halifax.”
Audrey was taken aback at his reaction. She hadn’t expected him to dissolve into tears.
Having had no children, she didn’t really have much in the way of a motherly instinct but she did her best. She gathered him together, putting one arm out to encircle his waist and guided him back into his flat, she carefully ensured the door did not close behind her.
She led the young man in and spotting a rather untidy sofa, she gently lowered him down on that.
Looking about her, she saw that the apartment was in a similar state of discomposure as the young man was. It clearly hadn’t been cleaned for days. There was a bottle of milk left out on the table next to a bowl of soggy corn flakes. She saw a wooden chair that appeared to be almost clean and moved it closer to where the boy was sitting, still crying, and sat down. She patiently waited for him to pull himself together. It took a little while.
“I’m sorry Lady Patterson, I didn’t mean to embarrass myself like this. I have just been so miserable since Charles told me. I suppose I should tell you, I was utterly devoted to Claudia. I know she was a married woman. I know she was older than me, but what does that matter when you’re in love?”
She considered it was a rhetorical question and wisely declined to answer. Instead, she asked, “How long had you been seeing Claudia?”
“Only two months. She had been very close to another friend of mine, Peter Whitebridge but then we became close. She liked dancing and I was always quite a good dancer, Peter’s got two left feet, and a nervous tic. I think she rather liked your nephew too, once, but she liked me the best. I only found out when Charles came around a few days ago and told me. I wondered why I hadn’t heard from her. She was supposed to meet me last Saturday at the Savoy for Dinner and a dance, but she never showed.” Christopher Copeland started crying again. Not quite the collapse of before but the tear still rolled down the face. He did nothing to stop them.
Audrey refrained from pointing out that she could hardly have met him in the Savoy last Saturday because that was the day of her Funeral. The poor young man would have likely caused the next flood. She reached into her handbag, pulled out a white handkerchief and handed it to the boy who blew his nose.
She patted his hand and said soothing words.
Then she did something that was quite out of character. She tidied up. Although Audrey had come from a normal background and in her youth had been forced to do her own cleaning, it had been some time since her domestic skills, never really developed, had been called out of their latent dormancy.
She disposed of the sour milk and the contents of the bowl. Walking into the Kitchen had been another shock, but she soon cleared away most of the mess.
As she walked back into the living room, the young man was clutching his head.
“Are you all right?” She asked.
“No, I’m sorry, I haven’t really eaten properly or slept properly for days. I have a terrible headache.”
Audrey looked in the kitchen and in the bathroom cabinet and in the cupboard by the bed, she could not find any tablets or pills. Instead, she resorted to the emergency supply of aspirin she kept in her handbag. Handing the young man two tablets and a glass of water, she told him to take them. She found a loaf of bread that, although not fresh, was edible. She toasted it, buttered it and put it on a plate.
Christopher Copeland was sitting on the sofa, looking slightly better.
“Thank you, Lady Patterson. I’ve really been beside myself these past few days. My Family is all in the West Country so I haven’t anyone to look after me.”
“Well, here you go. I suggest you eat this then go straight to bed.”
Lady Patterson bade him farewell then left, pulling the door to behind her.
She wondered if she really found out anything at all.
The End… for now.