I started writing a murder mystery some time ago, This is the final chapter.
If you’d like to read this story from the beginning, click on this link:
Everything Stops for Tea
She had only taken one sip of the tea when the doorbell rang yet again. It was an impudent ring and it didn’t surprise her at all when Alice opened the door and her great-nephew bounded in.
“Afternoon Auntie, I got your note” Charles beamed at her then looked around at the gathered assembly. “What’s this all about Aunt Audrey? Did you want to make up a four for Bridge? That’s not really my game, more of a Cribbage man myself.”
“Just be quiet Charles and sit over there” Audrey pointed at a vacant chair next to Lord Halifax.
Audrey stood up and cleared her throat.
I have asked you all here to discuss the unfortunate deaths of Elsie Taplow and Claudia Halifax.
Audrey couldn’t complain she hadn’t received due attention. Several pairs of eyes were locked on her.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were going to do this?” Sir Alfred was clearly taken off guard “We were supposed to be working together.”
Standing at her full height, Audrey’s blue eyes flashed, she had never looked more alive.
“I couldn’t trust you fully. You could have very well been the killer. You came to call on me very early on that morning when poor Elsie’s body was found. You could have just come from killing her. I’ve seen it before, an old policeman, feeling obsolete and no longer useful. They go off the rails a bit. They want to make themselves important again, make themselves relevant. So why not create a murder to make them more relevant?”
Sir Alfred looked quite pale as he sat there looking up at Audrey.
She had enjoyed her little revenge but she decided to put him out of his misery.
“But of course, we have no evidence that you were acquainted with Claudia Halifax or Elsie, so it remains rather unlikely.”
Audrey walked over to her bureau and unlocked it. They could only see her back as she fiddled with something, then she turned around.
Fastened at the neck of her dress was a diamond brooch in the shape of a crescent moon. There was a definite reaction. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife.
Lord Halifax spoke “That was Claudia’s. Where did you get it?”
“Yes, Lord Halifax, it was Claudia’s, in the shape of a crescent moon, but also it represents the letter C. C for Claudia. C for Cedric Halifax. There has been a lot of C’s in this case” Audrey took out a letter from the pocket of her dress. “This letter was found in Elsie’s room. Let me read it to you.
I read your letter and you mustn’t be jealous. You may have seen me with that lady but I tell you there is nothing in it. You are the girl for me. Like I told you that night beneath the moon, your beauty is like a constellation of stars to me.
I have enclosed a token of my affection.
Meet me tomorrow night and I will prove to you there’s no one else.
Audrey paused for effect, then continued “So here we have another C. I don’t suppose your middle name begins with C does is?” She addressed Sir Alfred who coloured slightly
“Yes, actually it’s Cecil” He admitted.
“So, we have another C. And of course, we have Constable Caradoc Jones. Come in, Constable, I can tell you are listening.”
The door opened and Caradoc Jones’s face looked in, it was a face bright red with embarrassment.
“Come and sit down, Mr Jones” Audrey invited “You are the most likely candidate for the author of that note, you were, to coin a rather old-fashioned phrase, ‘walking out’ with Elsie”.
“I never wrote that note though. She was pretty, but I’d never describe her that way. What was it? A constellation of stars? Very poetic.”
“The fact that the letter was written in block capitals suggests that the person who wrote it already intended to kill her. Why else would he bother to disguise his handwriting?”
Audrey paused to take another sip of her tea. No one else appeared to be enjoying theirs.
“Charles? When did you last see your friend Christopher Copeland?” Her nephews head shot up.
“Erm, it must have been about five days ago. He hasn’t been coming into the office. I kept meaning to give him a ring or pop round to see him but, you know how things are. I’ve been busy.”
“I’m sorry to say that he was found dead this morning” Audrey looked at her nephew carefully. She looked into his clear blue eyes. A look of sadness came into them. He wiped a tear from one eye as he exclaimed: “Not, C.C!”.
“It appears that he committed suicide. Would you have said he was the suicidal type?” She asked her nephew.
“Well, I knew he was feeling rather down. About Claudia’s death. He said he wanted to die. I never thought he would actually do it.” Charles Lansdowne wailed. Then he put his head in his hands.
Audrey turned to Lord Halifax “How do you feel about the young man’s death?”
“I do not believe we were at all acquainted” Lord Halifax replied without emotion.
“No, but Claudia was. I believe you chased him out of the house with a gun” Audrey retorted.
Finally, Lord Halifax registered some emotion. He was Angry.
“So, It was that scoundrel, was it? I remember him, in the garden with Claudia. She was surprised herself when this young man tried to kiss her. Yes, I chased him out of the house. He had the gall to try to make love to my wife in my own house. I could have killed him.”
Suddenly he seemed to realise what he was saying and drew himself back under control.
After a short pause to let the emotions die down a bit Audrey spoke” A note was left by the young man’s bed. Let me read it to you.
“I confess, I did it. I cannot bear this suffering any more. I hope one day I will earn your forgiveness.
“It would appear from this that Christopher Copeland was admitting to something, was it the murder of Claudia? Who then was he addressing when he asked for forgiveness? Was it the world at large? Or was it his victim? I knew that something wasn’t quite right with this. I knew because I had visited the young man the day before. I had tidied up a bit. I had to give the young man one of my aspirins for his headache because I found no tablets or medication of any kind in his apartment. So where did the sleeping tablets in his bathroom cabinet come from?”
Sir Alfred spoke “He may have gone out to get them after you’d gone. Maybe he’d had trouble sleeping and so went to the Chemist”
“Well, it isn’t impossible. He was tired, hungry and had a headache, I don’t think he would have left the flat at all. The most likely scenario is that the sleeping tablets were left there by the person who gave him an overdose. Someone who wanted him out of the way. Something else about this, that I found strange. I did not find any writing paper in that flat, nor a fountain pen. How had he written this note then?”
Audrey paused to finish her tea then continued “The answer is, he hadn’t written it at all. Well then who had? I thought to myself, who might have an old-fashioned ink filled fountain pen and good quality writing paper? Earlier when I called on you, Lord Halifax, I noticed that you did. You wrote this note.”
Lord Halifax stood up “How dare you Lady Patterson! I did nothing of the kind!” he exclaimed.
“Oh, but you did write it. You see, I knew all along what kind of man you were. I was Claudia’s friend and she liked to talk about her home with you. She told me about how parsimonious you were with money, but how touched she was when you’d bought her this” Audrey pointed at the diamond brooch at her neck. “She told me about the incident with the maid. You had rather a penchant for Maids, didn’t you Lord Halifax?”
Caradoc Jones shifted slightly in his seat.
Audrey continued “I also found out earlier today that you are a devout Catholic.”
Lord Halifax sat back down in his chair but his anger had not subsided, if anything he looked ready to erupt again.
“Well, what has my being a Catholic got to do with it?” He fumed.
“Because Catholics, particularly devout Catholics like yourself, cannot divorce, can you? If you’d wanted to be free to marry again, your Wife would have to be dead.”
She paused to take in the room. No performer on the stage could have wished for a more attentive audience. Sir Alfred was sitting on the sofa staring up at her with a mixture of awe and puzzlement on his face. Caradoc Jones was still fidgeting on his chair and her nephew still had his head in his hands. Through the window, Audrey saw some movement on the street.
Opposite her, Lord Halifax sat proud and upright with just a flush of colour in his cheeks to show the anger he was keeping in.
“That note was written by you, I am sure a handwriting expert will be able to verify that it is yours. It was written with the same type of pen that you have in your bureau and with the same type of writing paper. It was signed ‘C’ for Cedric. Were you in the habit of signing your name in that fashion?”
“Only to my Wife” Lord Halifax shouted.
“And not to Elsie? My Maid? Who also had a letter signed by ‘C’?”
Lord Halifax jumped up again, this time both Caradoc Jones and her nephew jumped up too and grabbed him. There was a bit of a struggle and Charles punched Lord Halifax cleanly on the jaw who then stumbled back into a chair.
“That’s for Claudia, you Swine!” Charles shouted.
“That’s enough you two, settle down. Lord Halifax, I know you wrote that note, but I also know who you wrote it to. To your Wife, Claudia. How do I know this? I noticed that the top of the page was torn off. What was written on the top half of the letter? I happen to have the other half of that note, here.”
Audrey pulled out a tightly crumpled piece of blue paper from her pocket and unfolded it.
I can’t go on feeling this terrible guilt.
I hope you can forgive me for my jealous rages, I never meant to hit you.
You suspected that I was having an affair with the Maid well,
I confess, I did it. I cannot bear this suffering any more. I hope one day I will earn your forgiveness.
“I don’t understand. How did you get that?” Lord Halifax asked, his voice was muffled as his hand was holding his jaw where her nephew hit.
“The note was left next to Christopher Copeland’s body to make us think it was a suicide note and a confession. The note was written by you, Lord Halifax. How did it get there? You put it there, didn’t you Charles?”
Audrey turned to her nephew who suddenly looked up.
“You found the note in Claudia’s bedroom after you strangled her. You had stolen her brooch and had given it to Elsie who you later strangled. The brooch was found on her body. You visited your friend and gave him an overdose of sleeping powder hoping that that would solve the mystery. Cleverly you thought that if they managed to see through the suicide hoax they would then think it was Lord Halifax. I found the rest of the crumpled note in the pocket of one of your suits.”
Charles Lansdowne was shaking his head “That’s utter nonsense auntie. You should stick to reading fiction.”
Caradoc Jones spoke “No, it was you, I recognise you now. You were the man that Elsie was walking with, in the Park.”
With the reflexes of a cat Charles jumped up from the chair, the Policemen that Audrey had requested from Inspector Coulson appeared outside the front of the house, but he turned and ran to the Kitchen door to make his escape through the back door.
Just as the door swung shut behind him, they heard a loud metallic sound like the ringing of a gong.
Rushing, Audrey opened the kitchen door to find Mrs Buscombe standing holding a large iron frying pan and her nephew lying unconscious on the floor.
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 29/August/2018