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:
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