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Authors: Geraldine Evans

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BOOK: Kith and Kill
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‘As you say, unless she herself is the murderer. Or her husband. I wonder why she didn't tell us more about Mr Adam Chambers’ debts, given her unwillingness to host the family in her Spanish home. I would have thought, when you mentioned these debts, that it would be the ideal opportunity to increase our suspicions of Mr Chambers.’

‘Mmm. Perhaps she just didn't want to look too eager to point the finger? Always makes a person look guilty. Perhaps she realized that.’ Rafferty pulled a toffee out of his pocket and slipped it into his mouth. He'd given up smoking a few years earlier and he still missed the habit. ‘See how Mary Carmody's getting on with the initial interviews of Sophia's friends. I'd like to arrange interviews with them asap. I'm sure they could tell us a lot about this household.’

Llewellyn went out. Rafferty swung round in his magisterial chair and gazed out the window. Old Freddie Sullivan was out there, putting his back into it for the benefit of any chance watchers. He seemed to be doing a late Autumn prune of the shrubs and had a goodly pile of semi-denuded twigs in the wheelbarrow. Rafferty wondered how he'd felt about Sophia Egerton. Had he come second to Sophia when it came to his wife's attention? If so, had he resented it? Had he, too, wanted to retire and had the inheritance angle prevented his leaving also? Had he even known which was Sophia's bedroom? Would he have any reason to be familiar with the upstairs part of the house? But he was a handyman as well as the gardener. That would give him reason for access and familiarity. Not to mention opportunity.

He relayed his thoughts to Llewellyn when he returned with Mary Carmody.

‘Surely,’ Llewellyn said, ‘more people would kill because they wanted a job than because they didn't?’

‘Always the critic. Mary. What do you think? We've an idea the Sullivans were desperate to retire.’


You've
an idea,’ Llewellyn murmured.

Rafferty shrugged this aside. ‘And that Sophia Egerton wanted them to stay and was using the inheritance she'd promised them as a hammer to make them submit to her will.’

‘Some days, I want to retire
now
,’ said Mary vehemently. ‘ Never mind at seventy. I'd kill for the chance.’

Rafferty turned to Llewellyn. ‘There you are. One theory substantiated. Now, do you want to have a go at my theory on Adam, too?’

‘I thought I already had. But,’ he added, before Rafferty could get launched, ‘unusually, both theories seems to have some merit and basis in fact. And both seem good enough reason for murder.’

Mary Carmody interrupted. ‘We've another theory to add to the pot. Seems Penelope Chapman has an admirer who wants her to set up home with him.’

‘With the implication being that she's another one torn between her desires and financial pragmatism?’

Carmody nodded.

‘Where'd you hear that?

‘I just got off the phone to one of Sophia's friends. A Mrs Eleanor Buckman. I've made an appointment for you to see her. I've made appointments for you to see Mrs Egerton's other friends, also, though they're few in number, with Mrs Egerton being such a great age.’

‘Good. Got the details?’

Mary Carmody handed him a list. ‘I made the first one for tomorrow as you have the post mortem this afternoon.’

Rafferty consulted his watch. ‘Thanks for the reminder. We'd better get going, Dafyd or we'll miss the show.’

Llewellyn's mouth formed a moue of disapproval at this frivolous reference.

‘Lose the sourpuss, Daff. All this opening of orifices, etc, leaves me needing some light relief. So, lights! Cameras! Action! See you later, Mary.’

Dr
Sam Dally, for all that he generally did his best to live up to his name, never delayed his work for others’ late arrival, so the post mortem had got to the weighing of organs stage by the time Rafferty and Llewellyn got there. This served to make a return of Llewellyn's sourpuss. He hated to be late for anything, but, with Rafferty as his boss, he often was.

‘Well, hello, the Tardy Twosome. I suppose you want me to supply a précis of where I've got to so far?’

‘Certainly do. Generous of you, Sam, instead of making me wait. So was she suffocated? For certain? ’

‘Yes. Do you not want to hear of my other discoveries?’

‘Other discoveries?’

‘Mmm. Like the one about someone stabbing her through the heart.’

‘What?’ This came as a surprise to Rafferty. He hadn't noticed any blood on Sophia Egerton's frivolously frilly red nightgown. But then, he didn't remember Sam making any mention of it at the scene, either. ‘How come we missed it?’

’The knife injury occurred after death so there was little or no bleeding. There was no reason, after I found the petechiae that point to suffocation, for either of us to look further.’

Rafferty whistled. ‘What a double whammy, you mean? Someone making certain? Or two separate someones? A woman who died twice. That's something new.’

‘As your perceptive sergeant would say: “Get your facts right, Rafferty”. Here we have a woman on whom two murder attempts were made. Only one of which was successful.’

‘Which came first? The chicken or the egg?’

‘I told you already. She was dead when the knife went in. Don't you listen? So, in this case, it was the chicken of suffocation.’

‘Huh. So you reckon we might have two murderers?’

‘No, Rafferty. You're still not listening. You can only be murdered once, laddie. It was the pillow wot done it, as I said. The knifing came after. Some little time after, as there was no bleeding, which, as I said, is why I didn't notice it at the scene.’

‘One murderer, who was a belt and braces type or one murderer and a second, would-be, murderer. Hmm. New scenario on me. How sad is it that there could be two members of her family who wanted her dead? But it was definitely suffocation? Can we get that straight?’

‘It is straight. You want to get the cloth out of your ears. As straight as a Roman road. Pillow. Mouth. Nose. Death. Couldn't be plainer. Have a look at the cadaver's eyes, man. I pointed them out at the time. You can see the petechiae as plain as plain. Good indicator of cause of death.’

‘And the time? Can we get a closer estimate of the time of death?’

‘Sometime between eleven-thirty and one-thirty in the morning.’

‘Thanks, Sam.’ Rafferty turned to go.

‘Are you not staying till the end? I was planning tea and cakes after.’

Rafferty gagged at the thought and managed a sickly smile. ‘I'm on a diet. Come on, Dafyd. Let's get back.’

Once they were back in the car, Llewellyn said, ‘It seems a bit rude to arrive late and leave early. There's nothing that pressing.’

‘Rudeness, like sexism, is allowed in a murder investigation. Particularly when it's mine. Besides, I haven't interviewed Freddie Sullivan yet. And I'd like to get all the preliminaries out of the way before I start interviewing the next batch, like Sophia's old friends.’

Freddie
Sullivan came as he was, in old this and that, which was presumably his habitual gardening gear. He sat himself down in one of the interviewee's chairs without any preliminaries and said, ‘You've got a job on. Getting the truth out of this family. Tight-mouthed lot when they need to be.’

‘So they'll protect their own? Even though it was one of their own that was murdered?’

‘Reckon so. Old Sophia liked to crack the whip. Not an easy woman. But, for all that, she was good to them. Gave that Penny a comfortable home when she divorced her husband, or when he divorced her. I never did get that straight. She lived in this half-derelict barn before. Her ex-husband's idea, according to my Dahlia. Penny and her old man were going to do the place up, but the relationship didn't survive the renovation.’

‘DIY can cause a lot of strains between a couple.’ He was still getting it in the neck from Abra about cracking on with their DIY. Though when she thought he was supposed to find the time to do it… Rafferty sighed and put his domestic disharmonies back in the drawer. ‘What can you tell me about the evening of the birthday party?’

‘Nothing. Only what my Dahlia told me. I didn't get an invite, you see. I was in our flat. Just as glad to be there, and all, as it doesn't sound like it would have been my sort of do.’

‘And have you spoken to any of the family since it happened?’

‘Well, of course I have. They're not quite Victorians. They do speak to the help, though they don't say much. Though I noticed Sophia's death has loosened a few tongues.’

‘Oh. In what way?’

‘That Adam. He's been running his mouth off about how much he loved his grannie and about how he'd far rather she was still here even if it did mean his inheritance had to wait.’ Freddie laughed. It was a joyous sound and indicated, that, even if his work was solitary, he was still an outgoing man. ‘I didn't believe him. Doubt if anyone else did, either.’

‘A bit of a fibber is he, Adam?’

‘He's a bit of a teller of tall tales. There's no harm in him. At least, I didn't think there was. I don't know what to think now, especially after Mr Eric told me his brother had taken a swing at him.’

‘Have the family talked about the murder much? Amongst themselves, I mean?’

‘No. Not when I've been there. Very much the Victorians’ “Not in Front of the Servant's”, then. Though they're not so close-mouthed around my Dahlia.’

‘So what – exactly has your wife heard?’

‘They're all tending to gang up on Adam as if they consider him the one most likely to have killed the old woman. Apparently that Alice is being a bit of a shrew. She seems to fair have it in for him and seems to have settled on him as the killer. Though my Dahlia told her to put a sock in it. Surprised she shut up after that. It's not like that old woman to listen to reason from anyone but Sophia.’

‘They're ganging up on him because of his debts, you mean?’

‘That and other things.’

Rafferty sighed. Why couldn't the man get to the point instead of having to have everything dragged out of him? ‘Other things? His homosexuality, you mean?’

Freddie looked surprised. He scratched his plentiful grey hair and said, ‘so you know about that, then?’

Rafferty nodded. ‘And do you think his grandmother knew also?’

‘Would have had to have been blind not to. And with her having worked in the theatre an’ all, she must have come across plenty. It's my belief that she knew all right and had decided to keep her own counsel.’

‘So you think she accepted him for what he was? As long as he didn't ‘come out’ officially?’

‘That's my belief.’

‘Does your wife have an opinion?’

‘She's not so sure. Sophia was that set on her favourite grandchild producing a son and heir. I can't see her being happy about it. She'd have badgered him to do an Oscar Wilde.’

‘Sorry?’

‘An Oscar Wilde. This is from my Dahlia. You know, the Irish playwright who got married and had kids even though he was homosexual. Like a lot of men did in his day. Couldn't blame them, I suppose. Not the times to be gay.’

‘And do you think Adam would have considered taking that route?’

Freddie shrugged. ‘Why not? A marriage of convenience to produce the kids and his boyfriends on the side? I think that arrangement might have satisfied Sophia.’

‘You know, Mr Sullivan– ’

‘Call me Freddie. Everyone does. Not one for standing on ceremony, me.’

‘Freddie it is. I was going to say, that, for a man who gets shut out of intimate conversations, you seem to know rather a lot.’

‘’I'm a noticing kind of man. And of course, my Dahlia tells me things. I come to my own conclusions. I reckon I'm right about most things.’

‘Well, thanks for your time, Freddie. Sorry to drag you away from your work.’

‘I'm not sorry. I've got demob fever now that I know we can get away permanently. I'm only too happy to lay my tools down. It's not as if I haven't almost finished squaring the garden away for the winter. I can leave the place all spick and span for some youngster to take over.’

Rafferty let him go then. ‘Do you think our Freddie is right?’ he asked Llewellyn. ‘About Sophia knowing of her favourite grandchild's predilections?’

‘It seems a logical assessment. You picked it up and you'd only been here a day.’

‘True. Must have a nose for this detecting lark. So, we say she knew and chose to ignore it. Which means Adam wouldn't have got disinherited. Not unless he turned into a raging queen, anyway. Perhaps she would have been happy with him going the Oscar Wilde route if that was the only way she was going to get that desired great-grandchild from him.’

‘She was a businesswoman. A pragmatist. Used to weighing and balancing and cutting her coat according to her cloth.’

‘Ha. You made a pun. Fashion being the family business. Is that a first or what?’

‘I think you'll find it's an ‘or what’. I have rather a reputation in my family for my dry wit.’

‘Is that so? Glad you told me. I can look out for it in future if only to give encouragement. Right. We'd better find out if Adam was planning on keeping grannie happy by aping Oscar Wilde or whether he had other plans. Remind me, we must have a look over
L’oiseau's
business premises. See the set-up. Gauge the vibes. Speak to the wage slaves. We'll need to organize a search for the knife that was used to stab her. Do you reckon we could charge whoever made the second attack with attempted murder, even though his victim was already dead?’

BOOK: Kith and Kill
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