Murder in the Neighbourhood: A Diane Dimbleby Cozy Mystery (3 page)

BOOK: Murder in the Neighbourhood: A Diane Dimbleby Cozy Mystery
12.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“In the meantime, it’s people food for you,” says Diane.

She serves herself a plate of vegetables and chicken and fills a small bowl for Rufus. She sets the bowl down on the floor, and Rufus practically inhales the contents with delight.

“I should take that as a compliment, I gather?” Diane asks.

She decides she needs something a little stiffer than a cup of tea with her dinner, so stands on her tippy toes to reach in the cupboard for that bottle of red wine she’s had for months. She suddenly remembers that Carys had given her the pinot noir for her birthday.

Diane digs out the wine opener, pulls out the cork and pours herself a generous glass.
To you, Carys

She takes her dinner and glass out to the living room with Rufus following close behind.  She sits on the couch and turns on the television. The news is on. Diane starts eating her supper while giving Rufus nibbles of her chicken. She suddenly tunes into what the newscaster is saying:


“You’re certainly her family, Rufus,” Diane says, ruffling the fur around his neck.

Diane can’t remember Carys talking much about any relatives.
Had she mentioned anybody before?
While Diane pats Rufus her hand rubs up against his collar.
The locket

“I nearly forgot, Rufus,” she says, holding the locket in her hand. She carefully removes it from the collar and tries to open it. Her fingernails are too short to slide inside the catch. She runs into the bathroom to fetch her nail file and goes back to the couch where Rufus is still sitting. She slides the nail file inside the catch and opens the pendant. A mini scroll of paper and a key fall out.

She picks them up off the floor and examines them.
This might be a mailbox key
, she thinks. She unrolls the tightly-wound piece of paper. It reads:

“4u opn sdb 2914 at bk.”

Diane immediately understands what it means: “For you to open the safety deposit box 2914 at the bank.”

Surely Carys wrote this note and hid something very important in her safety deposit box at her bank. This must mean she knew she was in danger. But for how long did she know?
I so wish she had told me.
The thought of Carys living in fear for any amount of time makes Diane’s heart drop.

“You were such a brave guardian of this important message,” says Diane, giving Rufus a little hug.

What on Earth could be hidden away in her safety deposit box
, wonders Diane. Carys was not always bountiful with sharing personal information, but Diane never once thought she might be hiding any dangerous secrets. She seemed to live such a serene life. If Carys, whom Diane considered a good friend, had another life that Diane knew nothing about, it just goes to show that you can never really know a person fully. Diane likes to think she knew David almost completely… and now perhaps Albert.

Inspector Darrell Crothers should know about the safety deposit box. Diane looks at her watch – 10 o’clock. Perhaps it’s too late to telephone him. Besides, it’s a Saturday night, and the bank will not be open until Monday, she thinks.

This demonstrates the state of shock that Diane still finds herself in. Normally she would know, as any seasoned detective would (professional or otherwise), that an investigation does not stop on the weekend. An inquiry, particularly of a
suspicious death
, can occur 24 hours a day, any day of the week. She could call the inspector who would then call and make sure a bank manager is there as soon as possible.

But on this particular Saturday night, Diane is not thinking very clearly. Normally death or even the sight of a body does not shake her, nor dull her senses or make her numb. She has a stomach for this kind of thing… normally. Unless the corpse belongs to someone she knows and cares about deeply.

Luckily this has not happened very frequently in Diane’s 62 years. The only other time her body and mind were so tense, so alarmed, so fazed, was when her David had been killed. It was surely a godsend that it was not she who discovered the body. Still, it was an event in Diane’s life she wishes she could forget, but never will.

Diane returns to watching television, making a mental note to call Darrell in the morning. Flipping through the channels, she does not even bother to pay attention to what’s up on the screen. Her mind is too busy thinking about what might be tucked away inside Carys’ safety deposit box.

Her cell phone rings, and out of habit rather than wondering who’s ringing at this hour, Diane picks it up to answer.

“Hello,” she says distractedly.

“Hello Diane, it’s Darrell.”

She pauses for a moment and her eyes widen. “Oh, did I call you after all?”

“No, I called you,” the inspector laughs.

“Oh yes,” Diane says, still a tad confused. “I was thinking of calling you. But then I thought it was too late for you. It’s not too late for me. I’m still slowly getting through my dinner. I just thought you might be reading to your little ones right now and tucking them in. Or surely they’re already in bed…”

“Yes, they’re sound asleep,” Darrell replies. “Diane, I wanted to check and see how you were coping…”

“Forget about that. Have I got some news for you!” she says.

Chapter 3


Darrell knows that when Diane Dimbleby has news, she’s not talking about a prize-winning jam or Princess Charlotte’s latest outfit. It means she has
news; moreover, it’s probably news that concerns the case of Carys Jones.

“Oh?” Darrell says inquiringly to Diane over the phone.

“I found
Why don’t you come round for a glass of wine and I can tell you all about it,” Diane says. “That is, unless you’re still on duty.”

Darrell looks at his wife, Claire, who is lying beside him in bed. She looks up from her book, knowing that this particular pause in Darrell’s voice and the look he’s giving her this very moment means he wants to go “back to work.” Claire knows better than anyone that when he’s working a case, he’s like a dog with a bone. And when a piece of evidence potentially presents itself after the sun goes down or in the middle of the night, Darrell is not one to wait until a more reasonable hour to investigate.

Claire nods her head for him to go ahead and gleefully mouths the words, “But you’re doing the wash for the whole week.”

Darrell chuckles.
I’ve got the best wife in the world,
he thinks.

“What’s so funny Darrell?” Diane asks over the phone.

“Oh… nothing, nothing,” he says, hugging the phone between his ear and his shoulder while hopping into a pair of slacks. “I’ll head over right now.”

Darrell kisses Claire’s forehead, and she whispers “Be careful.” He runs down the stairs and out the door. Unlocking the door to his Range Rover, Darrell is racking his brain trying to figure out what Diane has found. It surely has to do with Carys Jones.

Darrell is glad that Diane has come up with something and invited him over. Otherwise, it would have been a long night for him of tossing and turning and of his mind racing wondering who killed Carys Jones – he’d had a conversation with Dr. Jackson an hour ago confirming her death was no accident. Still the competitive nature he and Diane share – completely amicable of course – drives Darrell to think,
why does she always discover the good stuff?

The inspector laughs the thought away and sets off for Apple Mews. He arrives no more than 15 minutes later – a little quick for Shropshire roads, but being the responsible law enforcement man he is, he had barely gone over the speed limit the whole drive.

Darrell runs up to Diane’s front door and, forgetting to knock, bursts in. It seems that the excitement of finding out about Diane’s “news” has made him forget his manners.

Diane looks up from the couch and howls with laughter at the detective’s grand entrance. Darrell blushes and takes refuge in patting Rufus’ head.

The thought suddenly hits him - this poor dog has lost his mother and still he’s as sweet-natured as can be. Darrell does not know the dog well, but he wonders if he might still see a glimpse of pain in Rufus’ eyes. He affectionately caresses the dog, who responds with a welcoming bark.

Darrell gets up and shyly takes a seat in the armchair facing Diane.

“Have you had supper already?” asks Diane.

Darrell hesitates. He had supper – Claire heated him up a piece of her delicious cottage pie – but the leftover aroma of Diane’s crockery cooking awakens his sense of hunger.

“Of course you haven’t,” Diane winks. From the kitchen, she brings back a plate of vegetable and chicken stew and a glass of wine. 


“Ta,” Darrell says, and without hesitation, begins devouring the food before him. For a moment, he forgets his purpose for coming here in the first place.

“I have a question for you,” Diane says. “Would a bank ever consider opening its doors on a Sunday… if you, let’s say, needed to access a certain safety deposit box… as part of an investigation…?”

Darrell stops shovelling the food.

“Yes,” he says after swallowing a mouthful. “A bank manager will even open a vault if necessary. But why do you ask?”

Diane taps her leg and whistles. Rufus runs up to her and jumps on her lap.

“He’s really taken a liking to you already,” Darrell admires.

“A vault would be perfect. Do you see this locket?” Diane says, pointing to the charm dangling on Rufus’ collar. “Well, I found this message inside.”

She passes him the small scrolled piece of paper. He opens it and reads:
4u opn sdb 2914 at bk

“Wow! Excellent find Diane! I’ll have to get Liam from Forensics on this. He’s a master at cracking codes. I wonder if it’s a substitution cipher...”

“You don’t have to ask Liam for help. You can solve it right now, Inspector. Pretend a teenager has just sent you a text message. Now read it.”

“For you… open… sdb… what does
stand for?” Darrell says out loud. “……….. Oh! Safety deposit box – that’s why you were asking about the bank! Of course. Well, I’m a bloody fool!”

Darrell shakes his head and smiles at his friend. He tells Diane that he will make arrangements with Carys Jones’ bank in Shrewsbury.

“We should be able to go as early as tomorrow morning,” he says.

“What do you mean,
can go tomorrow?” asks Diane. She remembers times in the past where she’s perhaps stuck her nose in a little too close to the heart of an investigation.

“I don’t think there’s any harm in you coming to the bank with me on a Sunday morning when everyone is at church or still asleep in bed,” he says. “Plus, it’s only fair since you found the clue telling us to go to the bank.”

“Maybe Rufus should come too then, since he guarded the clue so well,” Diane giggles.

Her laughter soon turns to heartache, as her mind wanders to Carys who might have planted that clue in Rufus’ locket out of fear for her own life.

Darrell takes the last bite of Diane’s delicious stew and brings his plate to the sink. “You know, it appears that your instincts have been right…
,” he calls out from the kitchen.

“Is that right?” says Diane, wiping away a few tears from her cheek.

“That Carys’ death was no accident and that—” Darrell stops suddenly when he comes out to see Diane looking upset. “Maybe I should not talk about this… you’re too close to the victim.”

“No Inspector! Sorry… Darrell… it is because Carys is so important to me that I want to know every detail possible.”

Darrell nods his head slowly and sits back down. He goes on to describe the state of Carys’ home – the upstairs in particular was a mess. He did not know whether Carys liked to keep a clean home or not, but this did not look like a case of bad housekeeping. Books appeared to be thrown, a lamp table and chair were toppled over – it was clearly the scene of a struggle.

Darrell remembers thinking that earlier, when he was surveying the upstairs of the home, how Carys was such a brave woman indeed - although he does not share this with Diane. He could almost clearly picture this 63-year-old woman fighting for her own life, drawing energy from her resilient spirit, not her partially frail body. Judging from her bedclothes, it did appear she was having a nap before she was assaulted and killed. What a nightmare she awoke to.

“So you think our Carys was pushed off the balcony to her death?” asks Diane.

“Well no,” says Darrell tentatively. “Are you sure you want to hear this?”

Diane adamantly nods.

Darrell explains that he had been talking to Dr. Jackson. Although he had found shallow stab wounds on Carys’ abdomen and arms, the medical examiner determined the cause of death to be blunt force trauma to the head.

“Was that sustained from the fall?” asks Diane.

“No… it looks like she was already dead – being thrown over the balcony was just the murderer’s attempt to make it look like an accident… or suicide.”

Darrell goes on to reveal that he’s quite sure he and his sergeants found the murder weapon. They found a grab-rail, meant to be installed on the bathroom wall, in Carys’ bedroom. It had traces of her blood and hair on it.

Diane gasps. Carys had just bought some grab rails to have installed in her upstairs bathroom. Carys had said they were to help her on her “less energetic days.” Apparently, Richard was going to install them but hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

“Richard…” whispers Diane to herself.

“Sorry Diane, did you say something?” asks Darrell.

Diane shakes her head. “You know, I only heard her scream once,” she says, changing the subject. “I assumed she screamed when she fell. If only I had heard her before that… if I had known she was being attacked, I would have been there. I could have stopped it.”

Darrell smiles gently. “Diane it’s not your fault. There is nothing you could have done differently to change this. All of your neighbours report the same thing: they only heard one scream, if anything at all. And you did not hesitate when you heard that scream. You ran right there. That’s a true friend in my books!”

The inspector says his goodbyes and tells Diane he’ll be by in the morning to pick her up.

Lying in bed that night, a constant thought keeps Diane from sleeping for the first hour or more.
Did Carys make that dreadful scream a split second before she was fatally whacked on the head?


♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠


By the time Darrell arrives to pick up Diane, she has already had three cups of tea, done two loads of laundry and started cleaning the windows. This is not how Diane usually spends her Sunday mornings – she normally listens to the radio while leisurely reading the paper before diving into her writing.

But this is no ordinary Sunday. They are heading to the bank of her recently departed friend who has left (
who? them?
a clue (
to help bring clarity as to who was after her? to who wanted her dead?

Before Darrell even has time to exit his Range Rover to knock on Diane’s front door, she has already slammed her door shut and is waiting outside the passenger door to his vehicle.

“So you’re a morning person!” says Darrell jovially.

“You could say that.”

Leaving Apple Mews, they drive over the metal bridge constructed above the river. Darrell would much prefer sitting next to a river, fishing with his father’s mates like he had originally planned for today. But he would never be able to enjoy himself, knowing that there is a potentially strong lead that needed to be looked into immediately.

“How are you coping?” he asks Diane.

The emotional qualities are antagonistic to clear reasoning
,” she says, putting on a slight smile.

“And who said that?” asks Darrell.

“Sherlock Holmes,” she says, smiling a tad brighter.

When they arrive at Carys’ bank in Shrewsbury, Sergeant Webster and a man, wearing a grey business suit along with a grimace, are waiting for them outside.

“Someone does not look too happy with being called here on a Sunday,” Darrell chuckles.

“I’m impressed you arranged this so quickly,” says Diane.

They exit the Range Rover and Sergeant Webster introduces them to the bank manager whose scowl quickly disappears whilst standing next to the much taller and fitter Inspector Crothers. Darrell hands the bank manager a warrant indicating their authority to open Carys’ safety deposit box.

“Right, this way,” the manager says. They follow him inside, behind the counter and to the back of the bank. He unlocks a door to the vault which reveals a room with hundreds of safety deposit boxes. Diane shows him the key and tells him it should open box 2914.

The bank manager points out the corresponding box into which Diane inserts the key. She struggles for a moment to twist the key. She dries her clammy hands on her trousers and tries again. They key fits perfectly.

Diane slides the box out and places it on the table in the middle of the room.

“Wait,” says Darrell, stopping Diane from opening the safety deposit box. He turns around to the bank manager and says, “Will you excuse us please?”

The same grimace from earlier returns to the manager’s face, but quickly disappears again in response to Darrell’s stern expression. He quickly leaves Diane, the inspector, and sergeant to their own devices.

Diane steps away from the table.

“No, you go ahead Diane,” Darrell encourages.

Diane slowly opens the lid to the box. Inside they find a formal-looking document.

“It looks like a deed to a house, Sir,” says Sergeant Webster.

“I think you’re right Bob –a house on Bardsey Island by the looks of it,” says Darrell. “Now I know I’ve heard that name before.”

“Bardsey Island… as in Bardsey apples?” asks Bob.

“That’s it!” says Diane, suddenly remembering the photographs of the Celtic crosses and the seaside pasture on Carys’ wall. She had told Diane the pictures were taken on Bardsey Island. “Bardsey Island is off the coast of Wales… off the
 to be precise.”

BOOK: Murder in the Neighbourhood: A Diane Dimbleby Cozy Mystery
12.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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