Death of a Notable – Murder Mystery, Part Ten – The End

This is the Tenth and final part of a Murder Mystery that I have been writing.

This story started as a tribute to the great Agatha Christie. I now appreciate what a master craftsman she was.
This is the first part if you want to read it from the beginning:
https://talesfromthemindofkristian.wordpress.com/2018/04/27/death-of-a-notable-a-murder-mystery/

Slowly, he felt himself regaining consciousness. His head was still rather painful, particularly where he’d been hit. He became aware of the hard wooden chair he was sitting on, and the fact that his ankles were tied to it. His arms too were tied behind his back. As his vision slowly came into focus, he realised the room was very dark, except for one small table lamp. The room was incredibly smoky and hot. It reeked of a mixture of cigar and cigarette smoke and sweat. He couldn’t see anyone else in the room, but he could feel he wasn’t alone. It was one of those strange things, an extra sense that most people seemed to possess. You can always tell when you are alone, or when you aren’t. You can also tell if someone was staring at you, even if you can’t see them. They have experimented with that phenomenon with one way mirrors. Most people glanced up and looked at the person staring at them, even though they could only see a mirror. He felt that way now. He knew someone was staring at him. He gave a slight involuntary cough and the lamp on the desk was turned into his face, the light blinding him, and a deep quiet voice came from somewhere behind that light.

“Ah, Inspector Thorpe, you are back with us again. I am pleased that the bang to your head wasn’t too severe. I apologise if my associates were a little rough with you. I am afraid they exceeded their brief slightly. I asked them to bring you to speak to me, and unfortunately they decided to do it this way, rather than just to ask you. It may be that they did not think you would be willing to come easily and they were instructed not to draw attention to themselves. It is likely they thought this was the quietest and easiest method. Would you like a cigarette?”

It was the voice of a gentleman, soft and refined but with a commanding and slightly menacing air. It made the Inspector shiver slightly. Or that may have been a slight concussion. The Inspectors voice was a little hesitant.

“Yes, please, I could do with a smoke.”

He felt a movement behind him and the ropes binding his wrists together were untied. He moved and stretched his arms to relieve the stiffness in the joints. How long had he been unconscious for, he wondered?

Another person stepped up to his right side and offered him a packet of cigarettes. He took one and put it between his lips. The man then struck a match giving off that strangely pleasant aroma of phosphorus. The Inspector leaned forward towards the hand that held the lighted match and touched the end of the cigarette to the flame, carefully to make sure he didn’t set his moustache alight. He had a couple of puffs, inhaling deeply and blowing the smoke into the already smoky room. He felt a sense of calm come over him which made him realise just how terrified he had been.

The two heavies had retreated back into the shadows. He still had the bright lamp shining in his eyes but he could make out the shape of someone sitting behind a large imposing desk.

He tried to keep his voice calm, he didn’t want to show his nerves, but it still sounded not as assured as he would have liked.

“What would you like to speak to me about?”

The man behind the desk chuckled slightly.

“Excellent Inspector, I admire your spirit. I wanted to talk to you about your current investigation into that unfortunate death of Dr Lancaster. I understand you have progressed rather well.”

“Yes, I have already detained a suspect and I believe I will shortly be ready to turn that detention into a formal arrest. I know the ‘how’ and the ‘who’, but the why still eludes me.”

“Well, let me be frank with you Inspector. We feel that your enquiry has gone far enough and we feel you need to cease your investigation immediately.”

“I don’t understand. Who are you?”

“I represent a branch of His Majesty’s government, a rather secretive branch, but important none the less. It is our wish that you close down your enquiry. We want you to conclude that the young man simply died of accidental asphyxiation. It is the matter of national security. You are a patriot I take it?”

“Yes, of course, I am, but I also strongly believe in justice and the rule of law. I can’t just shut down the investigation when a young man has been murdered. There are others involved too who are already aware that this is more than just an accident; my sergeant for one, the forensic officer, Hoskins, for another. Then there is a lady, a fan of Agatha Christie, who has already worked out quite a lot on her own.”

“I have taken care of your Sergeant Sheldon and your forensic officer. They have both been promoted and transferred to other divisions. I have also had some of my men pay a visit on a certain Mrs Audrey Patterson and have persuaded her of the virtues of remaining silent. She is, coincidentally a friend of my wife’s.”

“Your Wife? Then you must be….?”

“Yes Inspector Thorpe, I am Charles Atwood. My Wife tells me you haven’t heard of me, which given my position, I am rather pleased about. I don’t like people knowing who I am, or what I do. It would rather make my job much harder than it already is. I hope you are not going to make it harder either? I hope you are going to agree to close down the investigation and release my wife.”

“You said that it was a matter of national security? I don’t see what this has got to do with national security. I only see a man trying to get his wife off of a murder and I will have no part in that kind of corruption.”

“I see you are a rare man of morals, Inspector Thorpe. I assure you though, that this is more than just the fact I am protecting my wife, dear to me though she is. What I am about to tell you is top-secret. My wife did murder Dr Lancaster, but only because we were instructed that it was a matter of national security that Dr Lancaster should die. You see, we have had our eye on our Dr Lancaster for some time, since his university days, in fact. You may not be aware of it, but Cambridge University is rather a hotbed of Bolshevism and communist thinking and we were concerned that the good Doctor had rather drifted into that world. He was, of course, a brilliant scientist and had been working extensively in radio waves and also some rather dangerous areas of nuclear physics. We suspected he was passing information on his progress to the Russians through a secret network. We hoped to bring him back into the fold by offering him a lucrative government job; a job where we could make use of his brilliant mind and also keep a closer eye on him. Unfortunately he turned us down flat. It was then that we received the order to terminate him. Europe is in a bit of turmoil at the moment, I am sure you are aware. Italy and Germany have both got Fascist governments and of course Russia is now under the control of Tsar murdering Bolsheviks who are hell-bent on spreading their dangerous doctrine around the world. Britain is a bastion of democracy and moderate thinking; a beacon of light in these dark times. It falls to British intelligence to ensure we do not allow either the Fascists or the Bolsheviks to gain too much power. Usually of course we are more subtle by far than the American CIA or the Soviet secret police, but sometimes situations call for a less than subtle approach. Dr Lancaster had to die. I am afraid that I decided to take advantage of the fact that my wife had certain friends and they had invited Dr Lancaster to dinner. My wife was an agent in the past; that is where we met. She hasn’t of course taken part in direct operations for a number of years, but it seemed providence was playing into our hands. She undertook to despatch Dr Lancaster by placing a small tablet of Strychnine into her own drink, then knocking Dr Lancaster’s over enabling her to hand him her drink. It worked like a charm of course. Strychnine, as I am sure you are aware, doesn’t work as quickly as other poisons, like Cyanide. It normally takes between twenty to thirty minutes to take effect, which, of course, it did, when everyone was eating dinner. I hope now you agree that this was a matter of national security? Your cooperation would be regarded in government circles with much gratitude, Chief Inspector.”

*

A few days later, at the breakfast table of number 12 Cavendish Square, Mayfair, Mr Winthrop was just helping himself to another plate of devilled kidneys when his wife gave a loud exclamation. She was seated at the table eating a croissant smothered with strawberry jam and holding a letter that she had just started reading. The look of startlement on her face made Mr Winthrop ask her with some genuine concern “Is everything all right dear? You look like you’ve had quite a shock. Who is the letter from?”

“It’s from Scotland Yard; it’s from Chief Inspector Thorpe. He says that the forensic analysis has come back negative and that Dr Lancaster died of accidental asphyxiation after all!”

“Sorry, I don’t speak that medical mumbo-jumbo, in plain English please dear.”

“It means, Algie, that he just choked to death. No foul play. Case closed.”

“See, I told you everything will work out in the end, didn’t I? We can hold our heads high in public now can’t we. Now, who shall we invite to dinner? How about Sonia and Peter Eversley; they’re always up for some fun.”

The End (but not quite)

There will be an Epilogue coming soon……

Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 06/May/2018

Death of a Notable – Murder Mystery, Part Nine

This is the Ninth part of a Murder Mystery that I have been writing. It is supposed to be in the style of the great Agatha Christie. In a way, Mrs Christie has been a mentor. I hope you can see her influence in this work. 

For those of you desperate for the end…we are almost there, I estimate just one more instalment and possibly an epilogue. I hope you are STILL enjoying the story.

This is the first part if you want to read it from the beginning:

https://talesfromthemindofkristian.wordpress.com/2018/04/27/death-of-a-notable-a-murder-mystery/

At Scotland Yard, Inspector Thorpe was going over with Sergeant Sheldon all the information they had gleaned so far on the Dr Lancaster case. They had a large board up on the wall and had put up a list of all possible suspects, methods and motives with red string used to connect each combination, however likely or unlikely. When it came to the motives the Inspector had to admit they were a little but slack. One possible motive was that Mrs Winthrop had been having an affair with the deceased and her husband, in a fit of jealousy, poisoned the fellow. However, Mr Winthrop’s whereabouts on the evening had been thoroughly checked and he had a cast iron alibi in the pretty form of Miss Virginia Colt, an actress at the Dominion theatre.

Sergeant Sheldon gave a yawn, he wasn’t naturally a morning person.

At that moment there was a knock at the door and one of the forensic officers came in.

“We’ve tested the soup Sir. We took samples from the tureen and his own bowl. No trace of poison in either of them.”

“How about the bit that was spilled on the table-cloth? Did you take a sample of that?”

“Yes sir. It came back negative too.”

“Thanks Hoskins, leave the report with me. So, Sheldon, it wasn’t in the soup after all. What do you say to that then?”

“It doesn’t make any sense to me Sir. Not at all. What shall we do now?”

There was a slight gleam in his droopy, brown eyes as he replied to Sergeant Sheldon.

“Give Mrs Atwood a call and ask her if she would please come and help us with our enquiries at her earliest convenience.”

*

Audrey Patterson was just enjoying some marmalade on toast with her morning coffee, her husband having just gone to work, when the door bell rang. Tutting to herself, she put the toast down and got up to answer the door. They were quite comfortably well off, but unlike some of her friends, they just couldn’t run to having a lot of domestic staff. She had a Cook and a woman who came in to clean twice a week and that’s all that finances would allow. Lacking that tower of strength, the Butler, Mrs Patterson answered the door herself.

On the doorstep were two men. They were smartly dressed in black suits and brightly polished shoes.

“Excuse me, are you Mrs Audrey Patterson?” One of the men asked in deep tones.

“Yes, I am.” She replied, a little hesitantly. They didn’t look like they were selling anything, but they could suddenly produce the latest model of a vacuum cleaner and begin a demonstration at any moment. She’d had quite enough of that sort of thing.

“Can we come in for a minute? We have something important to speak to you about.”

“I’m sorry, we don’t need anything at the moment thank you.” She attempted to close the door, but one of them had put his foot in the way.

“We really must Insist on speaking to you Mrs Patterson.” Said the other man rather menacingly.

Stepping backwards, she walked into her hallway. The two men followed her in and closed the door behind them.

*

In a very plain interview room at Scotland Yard, Inspector Thorpe was sitting at a small desk. Next to him was Constable Chapman, efficiently taking notes in her notebook. Opposite sat Mrs Patricia Atwood, who was not really looking her best. Her dark grey dress was utilitarian but not really fashionable. Her make up looked as though it had been applied in a rush. Her painted on eyebrows didn’t quite match.

Inspector Thorpe used his silence method to see how Mrs Atwood would respond.

The sound of the clock ticking on the wall seemed to echo around the room, becoming almost like the chimes of Big Ben. Mrs Atwood didn’t break the silence, but her manner became more agitated as she fidgeted in her chair and twisted a silk handkerchief in her hands.

Suddenly, the Inspector asked “So, I understand you are teetotal Mrs Atwood.”

Taken by surprise, Mrs Atwood replied “Oh, erm, yes. I was brought up a strict Methodist. I never touch alcohol; not a drop.”

“Then why did you ask Hargreaves for a margarita. He told us you had one.”

“Oh, I was just being polite. It seemed like the thing to do. Didn’t want to cause any upset. I didn’t drink it.”

Her voice was quavering, she looked a little moist on her forehead and around the eyes. Of course, ladies don’t sweat, they glow. It looked like Mrs Atwood was starting to glow quite badly.

“But you upset Dr Lancaster’s cocktail, didn’t you? Why did you put Strychnine in your glass?”

“I don’t know what you mean. I didn’t. That’s preposterous.”

“Ah, but you see, you were seen doing it.”

Mrs Atwood looked up suddenly and her eyes widened. Her voice was rather hoarse.

“No one could have seen me. No one was looking, I was too quick. I…”

“Would you like to make a statement now Mrs Atwood, or would you rather wait until you have a Solicitor present?”

“I don’t want to say anything.”

Constable Chapman read Mrs Atwood her rights and detained her into custody.

Inspector Thorpe felt satisfied with himself. Of course, she was right, no one had actually seen her, but he had seen her in his own mind. It was a powerful thing, your imagination, when presented with all the facts, it often filled in the gaps for you. It wouldn’t, of course, be admissible in court, unless you got them to confess though. The Inspector went back to his office and as it was getting quite late, he prepared his report ready to file the next day.

Later, just as the Inspector walked towards his car, he was suddenly aware of two figures approaching him in rather a suspicious way. He turned towards them but one of them managed to get behind him and he felt a hard whack on the back of his head and he fell forwards, his head spinning. He was vaguely aware of being carried into the back of a dark van when he lost consciousness.

 

End of Part Nine….

Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 05/May/2018

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/mentor/

 

Death of a Notable – Murder Mystery, Part EIGHT

This is the Eighth part of a Murder Mystery that I have been writing. It is supposed to be in the style of the great Agatha Christie.

For those of you desperate for the end…we are almost there, I estimate just one or two more instalments. I hope you are STILL enjoying the story.

This is the first part if you want to read it from the beginning:

https://talesfromthemindofkristian.wordpress.com/2018/04/27/death-of-a-notable-a-murder-mystery/

 

Mrs Patterson arrived in the afternoon. She looked much the same as before; an air of daring action about her. Perhaps a bit less fancy in her attire than the last time they’d met. She was wearing a smart brown jacket and skirt with a black roll neck sweater that set off her row of pearls nicely. She had on a matching brown pillbox hat with a black bow. As ever, it was her personality that shone through. Her cheeks had a pink flush, entirely natural, and she leaned forward in the chair she’d been invited to sit in.

The Inspector appraised her. He also deliberately didn’t say anything at first. It was a technique he liked to use. If someone has something to hide, the silence became deafening and most people just have to fill it.

Mrs Patterson just looked at the Inspector and said “Well? Your Sergeant said you wanted to see me. I presume that I was right, it was Strychnine wasn’t it? That’s why you’ve called me in, isn’t it?”

“How did you know it was Strychnine Mrs Patterson?”

“I knew it! I just knew it was, because of the contorted body and his face went purple, it was quite disfigured. I’ve read that Strychnine does that. Whereas Cyanide tends to smell like bitter almonds.”

“Where did you read that Mrs Patterson?”

“Oh, in my Agatha Christie books, of course. I am such a fan. Do you read Agatha Christie? You should, in your profession, you’d get lots of excellent tips. So, thank you for calling me in and telling me.”

“Is there anything else you’d like to tell me? Did you see anyone drop anything into his soup, perhaps?”

“No, I didn’t see anything like that Inspector. I’m sorry I don’t know anything else.”

“Thank you, Mrs Patterson you can go now.”

Just as he got up to shake her hand, she turned and saw the bottle of Whisky he kept on his desk, for medicinal purposes, of course. Then she let out a little gasp.

“Are you all right Mrs Patterson?”

“Oh, I’ve just remembered something odd. Really quite strange now I come to think of it. Patricia was drinking Margaritas.”

“Why is that strange, they’re quite popular aren’t they?”

“Yes, but Patricia’s teetotal! That is the only time I have seen her with a drink in her hand. Unless it was tea or coffee. How very odd.”

“Thank you, Mrs Patterson, you’ve been a great help. I would appreciate it if you kept what you have told me to yourself for the moment. It may be absolutely nothing but it may be important.”

Inspector Thorpe rubbed his hands together, he finally felt he was getting somewhere.

 

*

Later, that evening, at Number 12 Cavendish Square, Mayfair, a domestic argument was taking place between Mr Algernon Winthrop and his Wife. Actually, Dorothy Winthrop was calmly looking at herself in the mirror and applying a cyclamen pink lipstick to her pouted lips. Her Husband however was talking in a rather agitated manner and at the same time trying to put on a bow tie.

“I have just given that Maid, Alice, the sack. She wasn’t doing her job properly, and I think she’s stolen my grey suit. I haven’t seen it since last Thursday.”

“Alice was the name of the last maid dear, you know, the one who left us rather suddenly and we agreed to tell everyone she left to get married?”

Mr Winthrop calmed down a little bit at the reminder of his past domestic indiscretions. His wife had been a tower of strength during that little ordeal. There could have been a terrible scandal if she had decided to divorce him.

“I wanted to say, old thing, how sorry I was about that Doctor chap. I know you were rather keen on him. Are you terribly cut up about it?”

Mrs Winthrop turned to look at her husband. He really was rather a dear. He had such an innocent mind. She was shaken at what happened, of course. It was a nasty shock. Should she tell her husband the truth, that there wasn’t anything really between them, or should she milk the jealousy for all it was worth? She could do with a new gown, this mauve satin one was so old fashioned. She’d get a bright red one next; scarlet or Crimson, she enjoyed playing on her husband’s guilt, or his jealousy.

Getting up from her dressing table, she helped her husband with his bow tie.

“Come on Darling, we’ll be late for dinner. Gerry and Jocelyn won’t invite us again if we’re too late.”

“Don’t worry about that dear. We’ve never been so popular since we had someone die under suspicious circumstances. Everyone seems to want to know the details.”

“Well I just hope they clear the matter up soon. We may have been invited out to dinner a lot recently, but no one’s been accepting our invitations. We may end up social pariah’s if they don’t get to the bottom of it soon.”

*

At number 37 Lorrimer Park Crescent, Chelsea, Mrs Audrey Patterson was waxing lyrical to her husband.

“You know this whole thing is completely fascinating. Something is definitely wrong. That young man for instance, I know I am a little rusty when it comes to science and at the time I wasn’t really paying much attention, but I’d swear now that most of what he was talking about was quite wrong. It’s very odd. Now I look back, nothing was really as it should be. There was Jane Courtney who was as much an empty-headed nitwit as usual, but can anyone really be that vacuous? Then my hostess, Dolly Winthrop, she used to be an actress you remember and she always seems to be playing a part somehow. Now Patricia Atwood, she’s the quiet one, and it’s always the quiet ones you’ve got to watch. I can’t forget that image of her in my head, standing there with a margarita in her hand!”

Mr Patterson looked up at his wife, a mixture of mild adoration and concern in his eyes. She always got herself worked up like this. Her imagination was limitless. Calmly he said “Look, love, I would put all this out of your head if I were you. There’s something about this business I really don’t like and I would hate to see anything happen to you. Keep your head down Audrey.”

She looked back at him and smiled. He really was a darling man, a bit dull perhaps, but a darling all the same.

End of Part Eight….

 

Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 04/May/2018

Death of a Notable – Murder Mystery, Part Seven

This is the Seventh part of a Murder Mystery that I have been writing. It is supposed to be in the style of the great Agatha Christie.

For those of you desperate for the end…we are almost there, I estimate just one or two more instalments. I hope you are enjoying the story.

This is the first part if you want to read it from the beginning:

https://talesfromthemindofkristian.wordpress.com/2018/04/27/death-of-a-notable-a-murder-mystery/

It took two days for the forensic team to make their report.

Sitting in his dark and dreary office in Scotland Yard, Inspector Thorpe read the in-depth toxicology reports on Dr Lancaster. He prized himself on being able to keep his face blank of all emotion. He liked to think he could play a game of poker and no one could tell if he had a good hand or not. However, his eyebrows raised ever so slightly as he read the report, he couldn’t help it.

Sergeant Sheldon came into the room just then with a file on another case they were working on.

Inspector Thorpe looked up and said to him. “She was right you know? It was Strychnine. They found it in his blood alright. Quite a high dose too. They weren’t taking any chances. It still remains to be seen why someone wanted to do him in. You went to his place of lodging didn’t you, what was it like?”

“Pretty dingy really. It’s in Pimlico, quite a nice area, but it was a flat divided up into three rooms. He shared it with two other blokes, both of them scientists. One working at Imperial College and the other working in the labs at Kew Gardens.”

“Were you able to talk to anyone there? Get some idea of why anyone would want to kill him?”

“The bloke who works at Imperial College was there, his name is.” Sergeant Sheldon paused to check in his note-book. “Sydney Shawcross. The other lodger, James Aldridge, wasn’t there. He works long hours at Kew and goes in very early. I asked Mr Shawcross about Dr Lancaster. He had known him at Cambridge University and so when he was looking for somewhere to lodge in London it seemed a good idea to move in with Dr Lancaster. Apparently, Dr Lancaster was looking for someone to share the rent with. Mr Shawcross has lodged there for four months. Dr Lancaster had been there for just over a year. I asked if Dr Lancaster had seemed himself lately and Mr Shawcross said that actually Dr Lancaster had been a bit down the last couple of weeks. Mr Shawcross said that on the last day he saw him he seemed particularly odd. He was wearing his best suit and was just off to a party and yet when he said goodbye Mr Shawcross said that he’d sounded like he knew he wasn’t coming back. I asked him if he thought Dr Lancaster was the suicidal type, but he said that you never can tell. Naturally I checked to see if he was behind with his rent or was particularly hard up. His landlady confirmed that he had fully paid up his rent. His bank has confirmed that while he was never a big spender, he had enough income to cover his needs. Do you think it was suicide then sir?”

“Highly unlikely, Strychnine is not a pleasant way to go and he’d hardly want to do away with himself at a party surrounded by people. Maybe he had a premonition. They say it sometimes happens; people get a sense that something is going to happen to them. I remember hearing how that actress, Gloria Angelino, who died in that plane crash a couple of weeks ago, had given a lot of her possessions away a few days before.”

“Funny you should say that Sir. Mr Shawcross said Dr Lancaster sold his car last week. That’s a bit rum isn’t it? What should we do next Sir?”

“I think we will need to speak to Mrs Patterson again. She knew straight away about the Strychnine. Was it a clever guess, or did she know?”

While he was talking the Inspector was fiddling with a small black cylinder with gold decoration. It was the lipstick he had found outside the Kitchen. He had forensics dust it for fingerprints and they’d found a clear set, but it didn’t match any that they had on file. He took off the top, the colour was a delicate coral pink. He had a sneaking suspicion of who it belonged to. His mind went back to the night that poor young man choked to death. Well now they knew he was poisoned. He recalled interviewing one lady after the other. One particular lady had walked in with a waft of exotic oriental perfume and wearing a dress of soft coral coloured chiffon.

“Sheldon, get Mrs Patterson in. Oh, and give Mrs Jane Courtney a call and ask her if she could come and see me too.”

*

Mrs Jane Courtney sat demurely in the Inspectors rather drab office. She seemed to brighten up the place a bit. Inspector Thorpe got up and opened the window to let in some fresh air. That perfume was a bit overpowering in such a small space.

The Inspector took out the lipstick from his pocket and placed it in front of him on his desk. He kept looking directly as Mrs Courtney, he wanted to observe her reaction.

She looked down at the lipstick and gave a small gasp. She reached out her hand, then quickly she brought it back down to her lap. Her eyes became wide and vacant.

“Do you recognise this item Mrs Courtney?”

“No Inspector, Why should I?” Replied Mrs Courtney in soft clipped tones.

“It was only that judging from your reactions just then, it rather gave me the impression that you did. We were able to get some fingerprints from it, I hope you wouldn’t mind letting us take yours to see if they match?”

A change came over Mrs Courtney. She became less rigid and her eyes seemed to convey a little bit more intelligence. Her normal doll-like expression became more human. She spoke, and her voice was different too. Not quite the ultra-refined clipped tones of before.

“Yes Inspector, I admit it, it is mine.”

“Then why did you deny it?”

“It is because I am not sure where I lost it. Where did you find it, by the way?”

“In the basement area outside the kitchen door.”

“Yes, I suspected I must have dropped it in there or in the kitchen. I only found out I’d lost it later that evening, when I wanted to apply some more.”

“Well what were you doing downstairs in the Kitchens Mrs Courtney, it was hardly your place to be there was it?”

“I will be honest with you. I was visiting my Aunt, she’s the Cook. Mrs Silverman. I was in the habit of calling on her when I was invited to that house for dinner. I’d always pop in before hand and have a cup of tea with her. Naturally, it is something I’d rather keep secret. My husband is a terrible old snob. As it happens, we were having a really lovely chat and that was why I was late to arrive for dinner.”

“What were you talking about?”

“Only gossip, my aunt was just telling me that it looked like Dolly was getting her own back on that cheating husband of hers. She thought that she was getting quite friendly with that young scientist chap, that’s all. I must say she did seem quite shaken at his death, didn’t she?”

The Inspector took down the information about Mrs Courtney’s family, her maiden name and that of her parents. He also asked if she could bring in a copy of her birth certificate at her earliest convenience and bid her good day.

She reached out and took the lipstick from his desk and left, taking that heady oriental garden with her.

He thought about what she had told him. It was an easy lie to disprove if she wasn’t related to the Cook. He remembered Mrs Silverman as being large and dark. Mrs Courtney however was fair. Although when he’d looked closer he could see a touch of dark at her roots that indicated her short blond locks were not the result of nature but of artifice. It would explain why she was there in the Kitchen and probably why she wanted to keep it secret. She had risen to an exalted rank through her marriage, it was probably natural that she wouldn’t want people to know she was related to the cook. Although it did put her in the right location to be able to administer poison into the soup. It was too soon to eliminate her from his list of suspects.

End of Part Seven…..

Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 03/May/2018

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/observe/

 

via Daily Prompt: Observe

A new appreciation for Agatha Christie

You may or may not be aware but I began writing a murder mystery. Some of you may observe, it is in the style of Agatha Christie. This was originally a challenge set by my tutor on my creating writing course. I also weaved into the story the word prompt – Notable. This was my story Death of a Notable – A Murder Mystery,

See here for the link:

https://talesfromthemindofkristian.wordpress.com/2018/04/27/death-of-a-notable-a-murder-mystery/

I have always been a huge fan of Agatha Christie, well at least since the age of 12 when my English teacher was rather scandalised to learn that I was still reading Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. Of course there is nothing wrong with those authors or their work. I recommend Enid Blyton’s Folk of the faraway tree, as it is a light-hearted fantasy worth of being well read. Roald Dahl was a very entertaining author and his books from James and the Giant peach to The Witches, are still deservedly entertaining children the world over. That is the point though, they were, in my teacher’s mind, very much children’s books and he felt I should have moved on to something a little more adult.

He lent me a copy of Agatha Christie’s Crooked house, which incidentally was one of Mrs Christie’s own favourites. I was hooked from then on. I probably own 90% of the books she wrote, including her entertaining autobiography. 

Having taken a stab (if you pardon the use of the word) at writing something of a murder mystery I have a new appreciation for what she managed to do. Let me tell you, it is incredibly hard. 

To weave a number of different alternatives into the story, each one believable; to put in certain clues, some real and some red herrings, it is nerve-wracking. You instantly believe that the solution is so obvious that people are bound to guess it. You worry that you have made it too easy, but then you are also in danger of weaving so many little plots that the whole thing becomes annoying for the reader. You have to create characters and once having done so you are bound to ensure that each one doesn’t behave out of character unless there is a very good reason for doing so. 

That is another hard thing, you must have reasons for things to be believable. You find yourself saying to yourself “But of course people would have known straight away that someone altered the clock” or “They would have seen them pick up that knife”. I am sure that Mrs Christie would have done the same. Yet, she wrote the most amazingly complex plots, and deftly created some entertaining characters. She leads you round by the nose making you suspect everyone in turn and yet never really guess the whole answer, maybe if you’re lucky you may have worked a bit of it out, never the whole thing. 

Having dipped my toe into writing this genre, I realise just how hard it is. To write a crime novel where you know who the person, that may be easier, I may have to try it in the future, but to write a mystery novel like Mrs Christie so expertly did, that has been one of the hardest things I have tried to do. I have loved the challenge, but I have to admit, my attempt is but a mere parody of the real thing. It is a loving tribute.

Bravo, Mrs Christie, let us all raise a glass (hopefully without any Cyanide in it) and toast to a literary giant and give thanks for the huge volume of work she has left us. 

I am off to re-read some of my favourites:

A Murder is Announced

Sleeping Murder

The Big Four

Cat Among the Pigeons

and of course,

Murder at the Vicarage.

Tell me, are you a fan of Agatha Christie? What are your favourites? Do you prefer Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot? 

Let me know what you think.

All the best 

x

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/observe/

 

Death of a Notable – Murder Mystery, Part Six

This is the Sixth part of a Murder Mystery that I have been writing. It is supposed to be in the style of the great Agatha Christie.

For those of you desperate for the end…we are almost there.

This is the first part if you want to read it from the beginning:

https://talesfromthemindofkristian.wordpress.com/2018/04/27/death-of-a-notable-a-murder-mystery/

Inspector Thorpe yawned. It was Eleven thirty now. Well just one more interview then he could go home. He’ll file the report in the morning. Then they will have to wait for the results from the forensic team before taking any further steps. He had to keep an open mind about it. It could very well have been just an accident. Young men do choke to death, thankfully not too often, but it does happen. He wondered what Mrs Winthrop and the Young scientist had talked about for nearly half an hour before her other guests started to arrive. She was rather glamorously dressed too. His thoughts went through all the likely and unlikely scenarios before he brought himself up short again and reminded himself that as yet nothing was proved. He had one more hurdle to jump before he could leave too.

He decided to have the courtesy of visiting the cook in her own domain rather than have her come to him. It was a mark of respect that he hoped the cook would appreciate.

As he walked into the kitchen, he was amused to see Sergeant Sheldon sitting down drinking a cup of tea while the cook was reprimanding him with her large arms waving around. She was a statuesque woman of large proportions with black hair piled up on her head in the tight bun to keep it out-of-the-way. She had on a plain dress with her sleeves rolled up and a white apron. Her overall appearance was like that of a large opera singer. Only it wasn’t singing that was coming out of her mouth but an emotional tirade. Then she noticed the Inspector and her tirade was directed at him.

“So here you are at last? Have you any idea of how late it is? I have got to be up at six to start on breakfast. I do need some sleep you know! Well now you’re here, would you like a cup of tea? I think there’s one in the pot.”

“No please don’t trouble yourself. I will just ask my question then we will be off and leave you. I am sorry for the wait, I had to make my way round everyone. I must say you keep a very tidy kitchen.”

Inspector Thorpe hoped this would make her a little less hostile. It did seem to work.

“Yes, I can’t stand mess and disorder. Actually, the wait gave me time to do a thorough clean of all the work tops. So, what would you like to ask me Inspector?”

“Is there anything you can tell me about this evening?”

“Well I was down here the whole time. I never go upstairs, except to go up to bed; my room is on the top floor. I know there was a young man who choked to death. I hope you don’t think there was anything wrong with my cooking. There wasn’t a bone in that consommé, I can assure you.”

“I understand that he didn’t have the consommé, he had mushroom soup instead.”

“Oh, that explains it. I made the beef consommé and Reg, that’s Mr Hargreaves, took the soup upstairs. I was just warming up the mushroom soup that we were going to have for our tea. I had made it for the previous evenings dinner but there was quite a bit left and waste not want not I always say. Then Reg comes back down and grabs the saucepan, pours the soup into another bowl and walks away with it, without so much as a by your leave!”

“There was nothing else you can tell me? Nothing out-of-order?”

“No Sir, nothing what so ever. Except of course we have a topside of beef that didn’t get eaten. I will have to do something with that. I can’t think of anything else out of the ordinary.”

As she spoke, she kept stroking her hair which seemed to the inspector to be quite a nervous tic. She looked him right in the eye though. Perhaps his mind was playing tricks. It was late and sometimes you start reading too much into things.

“Thank you for your time. We will leave you now. Good night.”

Sergeant Sheldon quickly downed his tea. There was a door to the street from the kitchen that opened onto a basement with steps up to street level.

“Can we go out this door? Save going back through the house and disturbing everyone” Said the Inspector.

“No, you don’t want to go that way, that’s just for the servants.” Said the Cook rather taken aback that they would use a servant’s entrance.

“Has anybody used this door tonight at all? Anyone come through here?”

“No Inspector, no one at all. I can attest to that, I have been here all evening. The door is kept locked.”

“Well we’ll just use it to leave now if that’s OK.”

The Inspector turned the key and opened the door to the outside. In the basement area it was full of the usual collection of dustbins, kitchen waste and other bits of rags. It looked like a tramp had made his home there at some point, judging from the bottles and the pile of old clothes. Then he saw a small cylindrical object, black with just a touch of gold decoration. It appeared to be a lady’s lipstick. What was that doing there? Without drawing attention to himself the Inspector knelt down to tie up his shoelace and deftly picked up the lipstick with his handkerchief and put it into his pocket.

Turning back to the Cook who was standing at the door wiping her hands on her apron, the Inspector said “Good night.” Then they climbed the metal staircase up to street level. He heard the kitchen door close and the lock click.

Inspector Thorpe turned to Sergeant Sheldon and said, in a rather abrupt manner “Right, off you go Sergeant. I will see you first thing in the morning and we’ll write up the report then.”

They parted and both went back to their homes in far less fancy parts of London.

End of Part Six….

Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 02/May/2018

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/abrupt/

 

Death of a Notable – A Murder Mystery, Part Five.

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:

https://talesfromthemindofkristian.wordpress.com/2018/04/27/death-of-a-notable-a-murder-mystery/

 

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

 

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via Daily Prompt: Sleeve

Death of a Notable – Murder Mystery Part Four.

This is the Fourth 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:

https://talesfromthemindofkristian.wordpress.com/2018/04/27/death-of-a-notable-a-murder-mystery/

 

The Inspector was getting rather tired of asking the same questions over and over again.

So far, he had spoken to three ladies of the rather spoiled set and he still had to speak to the lady of the house, the Butler, the maid and the cook.

He contemplated the three different ladies he had already seen. One was nervous and on the defensive, was it the natural effect of being present when someone chokes to death, or was it more than that? Then another lady, ornate and decorative but with the apparent air of being without a brain. Was she really brainless or was it all a clever act? Then the first lady, Mrs Patterson, with such personality who had just blurted out the question “Was it Strychnine?” So offhand it was apt to astonish even him, an old seasoned veteran of Scotland Yard. 

Of course, it was early days with nothing concrete to suggest that the young man had been poisoned at all, he could have just choked, but he didn’t like the look of the body. It was all contorted and rather beastly. He felt in his heart that this was going to turn out to be a murder enquiry. He wasn’t going to do anything flash though. He was known for his doglike tenacity to the process. It had earned him his nickname of ‘Bloodhound of the Yard’ something he was rather proud of. He looked up at his Sergeant with droopy eyes.

“OK Sheldon, let’s have the lady of the house in and see what she has to say.”

Sergeant Sheldon returned and held the door open for Mrs Winthrop. She was wearing a pale purple satin gown which clung rather daringly to each of her curves. She was no longer a Lady in the first flush of youth, indeed she was well and truly middle aged, and yet clearly had no qualms about her body. The Inspector rather admired her for that. So many women, his wife included, spent so much time worrying about whether they were too fat. He was already supporting his wife on her third different fad diet of the year. This one involved chewing your food one hundred times before swallowing. Meal times now took hours, but he put up with it for her sake. Sure, his wife had a few bumps but he loved every one of them and wished she didn’t feel so self-conscious. Here was a woman who too had a few bumps but was quite happy for the world to see them, completely content with herself. Inspector Thorpe definitely admired Mrs Winthrop’s confidence. Her dark curly hair had just a touch of grey at the temples, which she had attempted to hide under a black sequined band. 

“Are you almost done Inspector? I would so like to retire to bed, it has been rather an ordeal and I have a slight headache coming on. Also, my Husband will surely be home soon and I don’t want to be awake and have to explain what’s happened to him when he does. I would rather tell him in the morning.”

“Yes Madam, I am almost finished. I will still need to speak to your Butler and maid, and the cook also, but that shouldn’t take too long. Can you tell me how you knew the deceased?”

“Well I didn’t know him that well. I first met him at an event in Pimlico. He was giving a speech on the importance of mechanical engineering and my husband wanted to go. We spoke to him briefly afterwards to congratulate him; he had spoken so eloquently. Then not long afterwards we met him again at a party in Bloomsbury. We found him very charming and I asked him then if he would like to come to dinner at some point and we could discuss more about his work. He seemed amenable to the idea. Then I mentioned it to my friends and they all seemed keen and so I arranged this little soiree. Seemed like such an excellent idea at the time but now I’m afraid it’s so awful. Such a poor young man.”

She sounded genuinely upset at the death of this young man. She had not known him very well though. His suspicious mind couldn’t help but think that perhaps she wasn’t quite as upset as she was making out to be.

“Why were no husbands invited along too? You said yourself that your husband was interested in mechanical engineering and yet you didn’t allow him to join you?”

“Well Inspector, he does so like to dominate a conversation. All our husbands are like that. They are all important men in their respective fields and I didn’t want to be pushed into the background. I wanted to be able to ask my own questions.”

“What is it your husband does for a living?”

“He is chairman of the board of trade. He worked his way up from nothing. Started with a market stall, then started a shop that sold everything, a ‘supermarket’ he calls it. Well he became very successful, I’m proud to say. They do say he’ll likely be in the new year’s honours list.”

“And how about the other lady’s husbands?”

“Jane Courtney’s husband is in the colonial office. Undersecretary of something or other. Audrey Patterson is married to a Scientist who works to the government. I am not sure what exactly he does. Patricia Atwood’s husband is quite high up in government, but she can’t tell us exactly what though; apparently it’s top secret.”

“Thank you, Mrs Winthrop. Can I ask you about your servants? How long have they been with you?”

“Hargreaves has been with us for years, so has the cook, Rachel. The maid, Sarah, only started a few weeks ago. Our previous made, Alice, left to get married.”

“Would you say they are reliable?”

“Oh yes. Hargreaves and Rachel definitely, I can attest to their devotion and loyalty. Sarah seems all right, but as I say it’s early days. Alice was so much more competent.”

“Before I have a word with your servants, I would just like to ask you if you felt there was anything odd about tonight that you would like to tell me? Anyone behaving slightly off?”

“Not really. Although now I come to think of it Patricia Atwood was very nervous all evening. I thought it strange because she normally is as quiet as a mouse. She knocked over Dr Lancaster’s drink when we were all talking, waiting for dinner to be served. They were both drinking Margarita’s and she gave him hers instead then got another from Hargreaves. Will that be all? Shall I send in Hargreaves to you?”

“Yes, thank you Mrs Winthrop, that will be good. You can retire to bed, I am sure Hargreaves can show us out when we are finished.”

So that was interesting, said the Inspector to himself. Strange that no one else had mentioned the drink being spilled.

End of Part Four…..

Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 30/April/2018

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/astonish/

 

via Daily Prompt: Astonish

Death of a Notable – Part Three

I started writing a short story in a murder mystery / Agatha Christie style a couple of days ago. This is part three. Part two is linked below.

https://talesfromthemindofkristian.wordpress.com/2018/04/28/death-of-a-notable-part-two/

Next Inspector Thorpe called in Mrs Jane Courtney. As she walked into the room, the overpowering smell of an oriental garden came wafting in with her. She was younger than Mrs Patterson, in her late thirties, judged Inspector Thorpe who was known for his accurate guesswork. Mrs Courtney had short styled blond hair and a Chiffon gown of coral pink. She had a wide-eyed vacant look in her eyes, that either betrayed a rather shallow minded brain, or a brain calculating enough to want to give that impression.

“Oh, Good Evening Inspector, I am so glad you called me in next, I really must get home or my husband will be frantic with worry. He does fuss so. I told him I’d be home by Eleven o’clock and it’s nearly that now.”

“I am sorry to have kept you waiting so long Mrs Courtney. Could you tell me how well you knew the deceased?”

“I didn’t know him at all really. Of course, I knew of him. He was quite the upcoming scientist and inventor. Something to do with radio waves I think it was, but I must say I understood very little of what he was saying.”

“Did anything strike you as odd about his manner?”

“Well he wasn’t dressed very well and he was younger than I thought he would be. I knew he was young, but somehow he appeared younger. He wasn’t a very polished speaker, I expected someone who had been received at court to have been better at conversation. I was a bit disappointed to tell you the truth, not at all what I expected.” Mrs Courtney leaned forward and opened her eyes wide.

“Can you tell me about this evening? Who arrived first?”

“I arrived last, I’m afraid. They were already having cocktails when I arrived. Dr Lancaster was talking to Mrs Atwood, I must say she looked totally bored. I had only just been handed my Martini when Dinner was served. I was seated next to Audrey Patterson and opposite Patricia, Mrs Atwood. The poor Doctor was diagonally opposite me so we didn’t talk at the table. Not that there was much time for table talk. The soup was served and then we set to eating it. Then Dr Lancaster started choking and his face was all flushed, and he died. Most distressing, it’s never happened to me before.”

“No, I can understand it must have been very unpleasant for you. Thank you Mrs Courtney. I think you can go home now. Please leave your address with my Sergeant in case we need to ask you some more questions later. Thank you for your full cooperation.”

Inspector thought to himself what a different character Jane Courtney had been to Audrey Patterson. She was outwardly prettier but seemed to have a far less interesting brain. Well let’s see what the next lady is like.

Mrs Patricia Atwood had a rather sour face. She had on a rather old-fashioned maroon velvet gown. Her dark eyes darted around the room in a quirky, nervous fashion. Inspector Thorpe tried to put her at her ease.

“Thank you so much for helping me with my enquiries. I am sorry to have kept you waiting.”

Mrs Atwood pursed her petulant red lips and then subjected the Inspector to a bit of a tantrum. “I have been waiting here for hours, I wanted to go home to my husband but your Sergeant wouldn’t let me. It seemed to take them ages to take the body away. It is very upsetting seeing someone die before your eyes. Can’t these questions have waited for another time?”

“These are only my preliminary enquiries; you can go home once I have asked you a few questions. Can I get you a drink to calm your nerves?”

“No thank you. Please get on with it.”

“How well did you know the deceased man?”

“I have never met him before tonight, although My Husband has spoken about him often of late. Dr Lancaster was a scientist and was working on some invention that the War Office was keen on. My Husband had met him a couple of times, in the course of his job. My Husband is Charles Atwood, I dare say you’ve heard of him, he’s quite high up in the Government.”

“No Mrs Atwood, I can’t say that I have heard of your husband. I understand that you were seated next to Dr Lancaster at dinner and had chatted to him earlier in the evening. Is there anything you can tell me about?”

“Well the young man was dreadfully dull. He could only talk shop about science and I rather switched off I’m afraid. I didn’t notice anything strange.”

“Nothing at All?” Asked the Inspector as he leant forwards and gave Mrs Atwood a direct stare. She failed to meet his eye. Her eyes darted up to the ceiling then down to the floor. It was clear she was agitated, but was it just because she was impatient to get home, or was there something more to it?

“No Inspector Nothing at all.” She replied. “Can I go home now?”

“Yes Mrs Atwood, please leave your address with my Sergeant and return to the comfort of your husband.”

End of Part Three…

Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 29/April/2018

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/tantrum/

via Daily Prompt: Tantrum

Death of a Notable – Part two.

Yesterday I wrote my first ever attempt at an Agatha Christie style murder mystery.

I have linked to it here:

https://talesfromthemindofkristian.wordpress.com/2018/04/27/death-of-a-notable-a-murder-mystery/

I was challenged with continuing the story, and so here is part two. 

Inspector Thorpe, known as the bloodhound of the yard, had seen the crime scene and the forensic team had been in and taken everything they needed and removed the body. It wasn’t just the hangdog look on his face, with his wrinkles and droopy eye lids that had given him his nickname, but also his uncanny knack of picking up on a line of enquiry and following it to its end. The kindest thing that could be said of his face was that it had character. In addition to the wrinkles, he also had dark brown eyes and a large droopy brown moustache. He was generally good-natured and knew how to act tactfully among the wealthy set. He usually got results and quickly.

Now he would begin his investigation by speaking to everyone who was present. The lady of the house, Mrs Winthrop, had allocated a small study to him for this purpose. At that moment he was in the study with his sergeant, Sheldon who had been finding out as much about the victim as possible.

“So what have you been able to find out about him so far then” Asked the Inspector of his sergeant.

Sergeant Sheldon was a younger man than the inspector, in his late thirties with a large muscular frame, blue piercing eyes and light brown hair neatly parted on the left. He coughed and began speaking in his deep, soft voice.

“Well Sir, His full name was Jeremy Joseph Lancaster and he was 27 years old. He studied at Cambridge University, Maths and Physics, then went on to do a masters and a doctorate in mechanical engineering. He’s unmarried and lives in Pimlico in a shared apartment with two other scientists.  His family all live in Norfolk, a Mother and Father in their fifties and a younger sister who still lives at home. So far, there is nothing to suggest why anyone would want to do away with him.”

“And who are our main suspects. Who was present at the poor lad’s death?”

“Mrs Dorothy Winthrop, who owns this house and was giving a small dinner party. Her husband, Mr Algernon Winthrop is a name at Lloyd’s and consequently worth a packet. He wasn’t home though. The other guests were all friends of Mrs Winthrop; Mrs Audrey Patterson, Mrs Jane Courtney and Mrs Patricia Atwood. None of them had their husbands with them. The other people present were the Butler, Reginald Hargreaves and a maid, Sarah Jones. There was also the Cook, Rachel Silverman, but she remained downstairs,”

“Thank you Sheldon, I suppose I shall start by speaking to the guests so they can go home. I’ll speak to the lady of the house last of all.
Show in” The Inspector paused to cast an eye over the list of names and chose a name, simply because it was his wife’s name. “Show in Mrs Audrey Patterson please.”

The door opened and in walked a woman of middle years with short curled brown hair and a bright intelligent look in her eye. She was dressed in a black gown that sparkled with sequins. She was neither what you would call fat or particularly slim. She had personality though.

“Good evening Inspector, I am Audrey Patterson, you wanted to speak to me? That poor, young man. I suppose he was poisoned, was it Strychnine? The way his limbs went all jerky, if it was poison it looked more like strychnine than cyanide to me.”

The Inspector was rather taken aback by this onslaught. He spoke slowly and calmly, in the hope that it would have a similar effect on the lady he was supposed to be questioning. Had he known Audrey Patterson better he would have known that any efforts to calm her were in vain.
“We have only just taken samples. We will not know for some time what the cause of death was, beyond asphyxiation, or which particular agent, if any caused it. I am impressed with your knowledge. Do you know much about poisons Mrs Patterson?”

“Oh I studied Chemistry, you know, at Oxford and I worked in a laboratory for a time, before I married Mr Patterson. I enjoyed my job; I never really wanted to give it up. What would you like to ask me Inspector?”

“How well did you know the deceased?”

“I didn’t know him at all. I only met him this evening. I hadn’t even heard of him, although he was supposed to be quite famous. Dolly, sorry, Mrs Winthrop invited me to dine with her tonight to meet this young man who is supposed to be well-known. I must say, although you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but I found him rather dull.”

“How far had the evening progressed?”

“We were still eating our starter, soup, when he started choking. It was really rather awful. He went purple.”

“Were you all eating the same thing?”

“No actually we were all eating Beef Consommé but Dr Lancaster said he was vegetarian and so he was given mushroom soup instead.”

“I see. How long after he began eating the soup did he start choking?”

“Oh, almost immediately, he could only have had two or three mouthfuls.”

“Thank you. So to confirm, you did not know the deceased or know any reason why anyone would want to kill him?”

“No I had never met him before tonight, but there was something odd about his behaviour. He seemed to be quite nervous all evening, but that may have been his usual manner.”

“Thank you Mrs Patterson. Oh, one other thing. Why were none of you accompanied by your husband’s tonight?”

“Well that was Dolly’s idea, Mrs Winthrop’s, I mean. She said that she wanted to speak to Dr Lancaster without the constant interruptions from our husbands. We told them it was a bridge evening and they’d be bored. My Husband didn’t mind, he’ll probably have a few whiskies and a couple of cigars and be quite content not to have me fussing around him.”

The Inspector didn’t doubt it for one minute. Tactfully he just said.
“Thank you, I think you can go home now Mrs Patterson, please leave your address with my Sergeant so we can contact you if we need anything else.”

“Thank you Inspector. Can you let me know if my hunch was correct? About the Strychnine, I mean. I would so like to know if I was right.”

“I am afraid that the information would have to be kept confidential, but you may find something about it in the local press. Good night Madam.”

End of part two…

Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 28/April/2018