I started writing a murder mystery some time ago, this is the next instalment.
If you want to read this story from the beginning click on this link:
The Last To See Him
It was quite early in the morning when the telephone rang. Alice had only just brought in the breakfast tray consisting of a soft-boiled egg, toast, some marmalade and the compulsory cup of strong tea.
Placing the tray down on the bed next to Lady Patterson, Alice went and answered the phone.
It wasn’t every day that Audrey Patterson took breakfast in bed. In fact, she would usually have been up, washed and dressed by now, but she had slept badly and her head was being rather a pain. Her mind kept going over and over the events that had taken place. The murders of her friend, Claudia Halifax and her Maid, Elsie, had affected her badly. She had sworn to catch their killers, or it may well be that the killer of Claudia and of Elsie were one and the same.
When she couldn’t sleep, she’d decided to get up and sit in her chair by the window and do some knitting. The yarn was still strewn across the floor, it was a bright, scarlet red. She wasn’t a particularly good knitter, in fact, it was just as well that no one was ever going to wear anything she knitted. Until fabrics that spontaneously unravelled due to a myriad of dropped stitches came into fashion, there wasn’t much call for anything that Audrey made. It wasn’t what she knitted that mattered, it was the process of knitting that helped to calm her brain. It didn’t seem to help this time. She’d stayed up until three in the morning before finally getting back into bed. She’d rang for the maid at 7am to ask for a breakfast tray and thankfully Mrs Buscombe and Alice had duly obliged. So here she was at just past 8am and still in bed and tucking into her egg and soldiers.
Alice came bustling into the room declaring “Mam, Mam, it’s Sir Alfred on the telephone, he says it’s absolutely urgent he speak to you. I told him you were still in Bed and he said he still had to talk to you.”
“Thank you, Alice. Can you fetch my dressing gown, it is on the back of that chair?”
Putting on her dressing gown over her white linen nightgown she eased on her slippers and made her way down to the telephone. She only had the one telephone in the house, which was in the hall. If she kept getting early calls like these she’d have to have another installed in the bedroom. She sent Alice on ahead to tell the impatient caller she was on her way.
Arriving at the telephone she snatched the receiver out of Alice’s hand and tetchily she said “Yes?”
“Audrey, something has happened. You must come along, I’ve sent a car for you, it should be with you in about twenty minutes. Don’t waste time asking questions, I’ll tell you everything when I see you.” With that, Sir Alfred put the phone down.
She was feeling perplexed and annoyed. ‘You can rather go off people’, she thought to herself. How long did he say? Twenty minutes! She was going to have to hurry.
With amazing efficiency, Audrey had managed to wash, dress and arrange her hair, none of them quite to her liking, but adequately enough to escape comment from her gossipy neighbours. She was standing ready in the hall when the doorbell rang and a policeman was standing there.
On the street, a smart black Wolseley police car waited for her.
Within moments they were speeding through the streets of London with the blue light flashing and the sirens going. Audrey felt thrilled, she had never ridden in a Police car before. Any cursory glance at her would have told anyone how unlikely it would have been that Audrey Patterson would have ended up in one. At least under normal circumstances. She had neither the youth or sturdiness required of a policewoman or the hardened appearance of a common criminal.
Weaving in and out of the morning rush hour traffic the car abruptly came to a halt somewhere in Westminster. As Audrey got out of the car, fussing with her long mauve skirt, she got her bearings. She was someone near Whitehall. She looked up at a Victorian building that she recognised from visiting only the other day.
Sir Alfred came up the metal stairs from one of the basements and came over to her looking quite grim.
“Hello, my dear, I’m afraid you’re in for rather a shock, but I thought you should see this.”
“What’s happened? That boy, Christopher Copeland?”
“I’m afraid he’s committed suicide. He left a note, I thought you would be interested in seeing it.”
Carefully Sir Alfred manoeuvred her down the metal stairs and into the familiar apartment.
It was very much as she had left it. She could still see signs of her cursory attempt at tidying up.
Walking into the bedroom, she saw the body of that poor boy. His blond hair hung limply across his forehead, the skin pale. Someone had closed his eyes, but she remembered them, a piercing, honest blue.
Next to the body, on the bedside table was a glass of water, almost empty, a few powdery dregs remained, and a scrap of paper.
The scrap of paper was a piece of expensive blue writing paper, the top half of which had been torn off. On the remaining scrap and written in strong dark ink, were the words,
“I confess, I did it. I cannot bear this suffering any more. I hope one day I will earn your forgiveness.
Audrey read the suicide note. It said very little and yet told so much.
“How did he do it?” Audrey was surprised at how incredibly sad her voice sounded. She had hardly known him, but she felt so sorry for him.
One of the Policemen replied to her “He overdosed on sleeping powders. There was a box of them in the bathroom cabinet.”
Audrey nodded automatically “and who do you suppose he was talking to when he said, ‘I hope one day I will earn your forgiveness?”
Sir Alfred responded, “Well, he could have been talking to the world at large, or to his victim, Claudia Halifax, or he may have been addressing you, my dear. You were the last person to see him alive, you know?”
A sharp look came into Audrey Patterson’s eyes and she responded forcefully.
“Oh No, Alf, I am absolutely positive I wasn’t the last.”
The End….For now
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 21/August/2018