I started writing a murder mystery some time ago, we are almost at the end now.
I wish to apologise to readers. I expected this to be the last part, but I find that it is longer than I realised. That’s what comes of writing a story ‘on the hoof’ so to speak, rather than having it all planned out. I hope you will forgive me that there is a little more to come. I will endeavour to have it finished as soon as possible.
If you’d like to read this story from the beginning, click on this link:
A Factor in being Catholic
At Audrey’s request to see Lord Halifax, the butler took a deep breath. It seemed to say that he’d never heard such an audacious request before. She was trying to remember the butler’s name. She had after all, dined there on rare occasions. She had been very good friends with Claudia Halifax but her husband had always been an austere man who didn’t like company much. The name came back to her, it was Burroughs.
“He is at home, isn’t he Burroughs?” She asked, hoping that using his name might make him a little more helpful.
“Yes, he is Madam, if you would wait in the hall, I will enquire if he is receiving visitors.”
Audrey stepped into the large hallway, it was nice to be out of the wind. She remembered the statue by the door, it was of St. George standing with one foot on the dragon’s head and a sword ready to decapitate the beast. She always found it distressing and not at all welcoming. Perhaps that was why Lord Halifax kept it there, to scare away visitors.
Burroughs returned promptly and stated “Lady Patterson, if you would be so kind to wait in the Study, Lord Halifax is just finishing his luncheon and will be with you presently.”
“Thank you, Burroughs.” She responded and followed him into a small oak panelled room. It smelt of polish and beeswax. Burroughs then turned and left her alone in the room, no doubt to attend to more fitting duties.
The room had been decorated in a gothic manner. A tapestry depicting a religious scene, Christ’s sufferings on the cross, adorned one wall. There was a heavy oak bureau along another wall and in the corner was a kneeling pad and a table on which a very old family Bible was lying open. She walked over to it and noticed some rosary beads and a picture of the Sacred Heart. She had never been into the room before. Nor had she ever discussed religion with Lord Halifax, but it was clear that he must be a Roman Catholic. If this little shrine was anything to go by, he was as devout as a priest. Religion wasn’t something that particularly bothered her. She was Church of England herself and she tried to live by Christian teachings, but it wasn’t something that she thought about overly much.
The fact that Lord Halifax had been such a devout Catholic was just something she had been unaware of before. That probably accounted for his cultivated air of rectitude.
She had a look at the books on the small bookshelf. They were mainly religious books, the life of St. Francis of Assisi, the devotions of St Agnes, a biography of Pope Pius XI and a book about the Jesuits. None of them sounded like interesting reading to her.
Next Audrey walked over to the bureau. Nothing jumped out at her as being out of place. There was a bottle of blue ink next to a fountain pen, one of those scratchy kinds that needed to be refilled from the inkwell rather than one of those newer models that took cartridges. There was also plenty of good quality writing paper. Maybe she should just leave a note for Lord Halifax.
Just then, the door opened and Lord Halifax walked in, he gave her an appraising look.
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting, Lady Patterson. I understand you wished to see me.” His outward countenance was one of stiff formality, only his eyes showed something else. Could he be annoyed?
“Thank you for seeing me Lord Halifax” despite being one of his wife’s best friends, the interrelationship she’d had with her husband had never been that strong. She had never progressed to calling him by his first name, Cedric. He had always been ‘Lord Halifax’.
“I haven’t had much of a chance to speak to you since Claudia’s funeral, but there is something concerning her death that I wanted to see you about.”
“I would rather not discuss that, if you don’t mind” He responded forcefully. She’d been right, he was angry.
“You see, Claudia spoke to me not long before she died. She told me something that I think you should be aware of. I have also acquired something that once belonged to her and thought that you might like it back.”
“Well, where is it then?” He asked brusquely and held out his hand.
“Oh, I haven’t got it with me. I came to invite you to afternoon tea, at four-thirty. I would be much obliged if you could come. I know Claudia would have wished you to.”
She walked over to the door and turned to see Lord Halifax standing by the bureau and looking extremely pensive.
“Thank you, Lady Patterson, I will endeavour to be there. For Claudia’s sake.”
Audrey left the house and walked down to the corner. A young man was playing the violin, he had his cap laid out in front of him and some people had already left him some coinage. He was playing one of her favourite pieces by Paganini, and although he was clearly no virtuoso his playing was adequate. She rifled through her purse and through a couple of shillings into his cap, the young man smiled at her and played a little faster.
She walked up to the main road and managed to hail another cab. This time she was heading home. It had been a busy day, she had forgone any lunch and she hadn’t had a cup of tea since breakfast. As the car drove towards Chelsea a thought struck her. She suddenly realised that the fact Lord Halifax was a Catholic could have a bearing after all. Catholics were not allowed to Divorce. That could well be a factor after all.
Very nearly The End
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 27/August/2018
This story contains the following word prompts:
Today’s things are: statue, priest, violin