Authors: Cynthia Gallant-Simpson
Tags: #mystery, #british, #amateur sleuth, #detective, #cozy mystery, #female sleuths, #new england, #cozy, #women sleuths, #cape cod, #innkeeper
A Cape Cod Cozy Mystery
Published by Cozy Cat Press at Smashwords
Copyright 2011 by Cynthia Gallant-Simpson
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Who can give law to lovers? Love is a greater
law to itself.
“No one in Provincetown liked Edwin Snow III.
Well, no one but his faithful and devoted pit bull, Patton.”
That was the voice of Daphne Crowninshield,
my new best friend and also a British expatriate, on that snowy
April morning when the village mystery began to unfold. On that
chilly spring morning, as I stood with Daphne and the other
villagers, prevented from getting any closer to the dead body lying
in the snow than the yellow police tape allowed, my world shifted
on its axis. But, this is not principally a story about me. No, it
is about a village and its people, old grudges, misunderstandings,
love, hate and the perpetual determiner of the mood of New
Englanders--the quixotic weather. I am but a participant. Edwin
Snow III is the star. Albeit, a fallen star.
Spring is not coming this year---April Fool!
Every year, as residents reached their limit for tolerating icy
North Atlantic wind, long, gray days, snow, sleet and freezing
rain, invariably there would be two or three days of pure delight.
All it took for a collective sense of hope to rise was that
welcome, sudden change in the weather. The promise of spring.
Warming breezes, lots of sunshine and little green shoots daring to
peek out of the earth all contributed to something akin to a
healing tonic that swept through the village. However, “April on
Cape Cod is” as Daphne said in her sardonically descriptive way,
“as quixotic as a wily fox on steroids.”
The year of the mysterious death of Edwin
Snow III was no exception. As southern New England held its
collective breath waiting for menopausal Mother Nature to decide
whether to bring forth spring or to cling to winter for a while
yet, there were a few tantalizing spring-like days. Like hermit
crabs the villagers crawled out of their winter-imposed isolation
and began outdoor projects like raking yards, washing windows,
painting storefronts and gazing longingly at the flats of pansies
in front of Daisy Buchanan’s (a pseudonym for Annie Buckley who was
a devoted fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books) Narrow Lands
Then, to the dismay of everyone, it
It snowed and snowed and snowed, burying the
fledgling daffodils and crocuses as well as the prematurely
heightened spirits of the villagers. That year, the town meeting
had voted to eliminate from the budget the snow removal at the
Pilgrim Monument due to financial concerns. So Bill Windship, the
self-appointed keeper of the Pilgrim Monument and Museum, had
bought a new snow shovel at the Land’s End Hardware Store. The town
had let down his precious Monument but he would not.
Bill Windship was also the owner of the
Army-Navy Supply Store on Commercial Street and a dedicated and
learned historian of everything concerning the Pilgrims. He acted
like they had stayed and settled in and been the life’s blood of
Provincetown when, actually, they had split for greener pastures at
the end of their first winter here. But for Bill, the only really
worthwhile tourist site in the entire village was his beloved
Bill had opened the Army-Navy Surplus Store
when he was just a young man and he had grown wealthy over the
years selling WWII Navy pea jackets, canteens, disabled howitzers
and other surplus he had bought by the truckload at the inception
and still had not depleted. Exotic seashells from the tropics--by
way of the Jersey shore, cheap Indian cotton clothing, old fishing
nets hand-made by the early Portuguese fishermen and a thousand
other things that tourists loved to pick through in search of
treasures, kept the store full all summer long.
He closed the store the day after Labor Day
each year and re-opened for Memorial Day because his wares held
little appeal for the year-round population. Of course, he did
re-open briefly at Halloween for locals looking for something to
wear to costume parties. Every fall, Bill, who was a wealthy man in
his own right, considered selling his “gold mine” business and
retiring to warmer climes. But every spring, his interest was
revitalized. Now, in his mid-eighties, the self-appointed advocate
of the Pilgrim Monument had accepted that he’d die in Provincetown.
He and Edwin Snow had been schoolmates.
As Bill told the story to the Chief of
Police, and I later heard it after I made the fortuitous
acquaintance of Officer Finneran, the Chief’s right hand man, the
day had started out well but quickly descended into the realm of
horror for poor Bill. On that snowy, late spring day when Edwin
Snow III’s crumpled body was found at the foot of the Monument,
Bill had disobeyed his doctor’s orders.
Bill had walked the six blocks from his house
to the Monument huffing and puffing. Two heart attacks had weakened
the once strong man. “Light exercise,” as the cardiac specialist
had advised, hardly meant a long walk followed by shoveling snow.
As it happened, only two weeks earlier, Bill’s younger brother had
forced him to get a cell phone. “Time to move into the twenty-first
century. What if you fall and can’t call for help? No one will hear
you from the deserted area of the Monument.” Bill had countered,
“So what. That’s where I prefer to die, anyway.” But he had
acquiesced, and on that snowy morning, gazing down at bloody snow,
Bill had used the cell phone to call in the death of his long-time
enemy, Edwin Snow III.
Fortunately, the snow was light and fluffy.
Bill had been working slowly. He had all day. Not that anyone
visited his precious, historical site in winter. But, Bill’s pride
and love of his Monument drove him to clear the walk. He was making
pretty good progress, he told Chief Henderson, when the shovel hit
something solid. Leaning down to inspect the shock of red snow just
under the light top covering caused him to totter and stumble. The
shovel stopped him from falling and he braced himself against it
until he could catch his breath. Remembering the phone in his
jacket pocket, he called the police station.
Chief Chet Henderson and Officer James
Finneran were there within minutes. Yellow police tape went up and
Doc Hooper, the medical examiner for the lower-Cape had been
summoned and was on his way from Orleans within eleven minutes of
Bill’s call. Before I arrived, Officer Finneran was called to an
early morning domestic dispute and so, our paths did not cross on
that particular day. That would come later.
The crowd quickly gathered only because Emily
Sunshine, out for her regular early morning walk, happened to take
a route that passed by the Monument. Seeing the police car, as she
told me later, she quickly ducked behind a huge oak tree from where
she could see the bloodied, old and tattered tweed coat that she
knew belonged to none other than Edwin Snow III.
Like Paul Revere but minus his trusty steed,
Emily immediately headed back into town to spread the alarm. Had
anyone heard Emily’s little singsong however as she peered around
the tree at the death scene, they’d have been either confused or …
“Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.”
Had I not decided to morph into an amateur
sleuth, inspired by my love of cozy mysteries, probably foolishly
believing I could help, things might have turned out very
differently. As Officer Finneran pointed out once we became
friends, my actions just might have ended in my being dead as the
proverbial door nail, as well. C’est la vie!
However, not one to turn my back on a chance
to dig into old mysteries, and in keeping with my former career, I
became privy to assorted, fascinating village secrets. One of those
being, as Emily Sunshine eventually shared with me, why she’d
intoned the old nursery rhyme at the scene of Edwin Snow III’s
Within minutes of Emily’s arrival back in the
heart of the village, nearly every resident of Provincetown was at
the death scene. If it hadn’t been for the snow covering, it might
have been summer and the line of arriving people a queue waiting to
climb the Monument. By that time, Chief Henderson’s hope that he
could keep the terrible incident under wraps until the autopsy
report was completed had exploded. Much later, back at the police
station, he berated Emily Sunshine to Officer James Finneran. “Damn
that nosy woman. Ran all over Provincetown like the town crier
calling it murder. She had no right. The man was miserable and he
took his own life. End of story.”
Thus, two camps quickly formed. The suicide
camp and the murder camp. Neighbor pitted against neighbor over the
question. Friends argued their positions on the street, in the
stores, at the bars and in the privacy of their homes. The town
buzzed like a frenzied bee hive. Chief Henderson was furious about
how the whole incident had gotten completely out of hand. Then, on
top of that, someone called the Boston papers with an anonymous tip
that it might have been murder.
Reporters descended on Provincetown like
lemmings on holiday. Weather notwithstanding, gawkers arrived from
everywhere to view what the Boston Globe called, tongue in cheek,
“a monumental death.” Either someone had overheard the Chief call
it that or, it was so obvious a tag that originality was a toss-up.
Bill Windship was naturally, totally appalled.
The only good to come of it all was that the
tourist season got an early start. It seemed sad to me that poor,
old Edwin Snow’s death had only brought smiles to the villagers and
no one but probably his faithful pet Patton missed him. Only much
later, after I took on the persona of amateur sleuth, having
fashioned myself on an amalgam of my favorite feisty, female,
undercover investigators, did I discover one person saddened by his
I knew the old man, Edwin Snow III, lying
bloodied at the foot of Pilgrim Monument only by sight. Actually,
he had once bestowed on me a look of complete disdain and
disapproval with never a word uttered between us. But that will
come later. As you can imagine, it came as a seven on my Richter
scale when the village’s least liked, most miserly and nastiest
curmudgeon reached out from the grave to influence my life. To
change its course, I might say.
On the morning of the death of Edwin Snow
III, Provincetown Chief of Police, kindly Chet Henderson, stood
looking down at the newly fallen snow (no pun intended) as if it
might contain a vital clue. As if it might reveal how octogenarian
Edwin Snow III had managed to climb the locked up tight, two
hundred and twenty-five foot tall granite tower, the iconic Pilgrim
Monument, and jumped. Chief Henderson removed his cap and scratched
his head. What he saw challenged his imagination as well as his
logical policeman’s mind. His gout was also troubling him standing
there in the cold air.
Back at the station, the Chief repeated his
sentiments for Officer Finneran who later shared them with me.
Standing in the un-spring-like snow, the Chief had recalled his
beloved, deceased wife Trudy’s quoting of T. S. Eliot each and
every year at that time. “April is the cruelest month.” That
particular April certainly was for the dead man.
As an especially grueling winter had turned
to spring on Cape Cod, everyone held their breath. It was not
unusual for winter to hang on tenaciously even into May. My
Scottish grandmother had a saying that seemed appropriate. Granny
MacLaughlin referred to anything slow in arriving as being “as
reluctant as sheep to the shears.” That sluggish spring, two
questions hung over the seaside village like precarious icicles
waiting to fall. Until that morning, foremost had been the
perennial New England quixotic weather question. The second
question being more of a mystery wrapped in an enigma and
presenting all with a challenging puzzle had to do with Snow’s
mysterious death. Not at all mysterious for some, but for others, a
call to arms. Suicide or murder?
Even there, at the scene of Edwin Snow’s
demise, the villagers began to pin irreverent labels onto the scene
before them. “The abominable snow-man.” “Fallen Snow.” “Curmudgeon
on ice.” Please don’t misunderstand. These were not unkind people.
Far from it. They were good citizens and good neighbors. A mixed
bag of long-time year-rounders comprised of fishermen, shopkeepers,
restaurant owners, innkeepers and the usual variety of trades
people necessary to keeping a small village humming along. As a
newcomer, I had felt welcomed almost from the first. No, they were
not unkind people; however, Edwin Snow III had tested their
patience for decades. Everyone had a story about Edwin’s mean and