Murder in the Neighbourhood: A Diane Dimbleby Cozy Mystery (6 page)

BOOK: Murder in the Neighbourhood: A Diane Dimbleby Cozy Mystery
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♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠

 

Driving away from the police station, Mrs. Thomas feels anger creep through her shoulders and back. Her face feels flush, and her head is beginning to ache. She needs to calm down.

She pulls over to the side of the road and turns off her engine. She closes her eyes and attempts to calm her breathing. 
Of course Carys has a will, who doesn’t have a will? They just haven’t found it yet. It will all work out.

Mrs. Thomas thinks back to the relaxation audiobook she had borrowed from the library. The instructor on the CD had said to visualize a beautiful place. Mrs. Thomas closes her eyes and visualizes the tropical island that she wishes to live on. The sunset over the crashing waves helps to calm her anger and anxiety every time. And if all goes to plan, this tropical place of serenity will soon become a reality.

 

♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠

 

Richard is tossing and turning in bed. Unsurprisingly, he has not been able to sleep since Saturday.

He gets up and goes to the kitchen. He checks all the bottles on the counter to see if any have any drops of beer or whisky left. Richard rarely drinks, perhaps a pint on his birthday, but this weekend is far from orthodox.

One of the bottles is still half-filled with ale. He chugs it despite the beer being unappetizingly warm. He sets the bottle down on the counter so hard that it smashes in his hand.

“Bloody hell!” he shouts.

Richard runs to the bathroom and unrolls a wad of toilet paper to wrap around his bleeding hand. He stares at the red soaking through the outermost layer of the tissue and then looks straight in the mirror at the bags under his eyes.

“You are a bad person,” he says to himself over and over again.

 

♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠

 

The next morning, Darrell leaves home before the children are even out of bed. He’s only done that a handful of times in the past. Even though it’s early, when he arrives at the station he finds the forensic report waiting for him on his desk.

“Note to self, I owe the whole forensic lab a round at the pub,” Darrell thinks.

Before he even takes a sip of his coffee, Darrell starts reading. According to the fingerprint analyst, two sets of prints were found on Mrs. Thomas coffee cup. One set belongs to him, which makes sense because he hadn’t been wearing gloves when he removed the cup from the bin. 

The other matches a set of prints found at Carys’ Jones house.

Darrell realizes that it is almost a certainty that the woman he spoke to last night is a liar. She could have been lying about being a relative of Carys’. Or if she is, in fact, Carys’ cousin, she lied about not seeing Carys after Carys left Wales. How else could she explain her prints being in Carys’ Apple Mews home?

Darrell also reads in the forensic report that a sample for DNA analysis was also obtainable from the cup, but it will take a few days to compare that particular DNA with Carys Jones’.

“Good morning Bob,” says Darrell to Sergeant Webster sitting at a desk on the other side of the room.

“Good morning, Sir. I got your note and am starting the background check on Rosalyn Thomas. I also left the information you asked for on Carys Jones’ caregiver, Richard Butler.”

“Thank you, Bob.”

Darrell finds the folder on Richard and opens it.
Currently lives in Apple Mews, employed by Mrs. Carys Jones, clean criminal record, clean driving record. Former address: 128 Wilbury Lane, Shrewsbury.

“Why do I know that address? Bob, can you look up an address for me?” Darrell asks.

“Sure thing, sir.”

“Look up 128 Wilbury Lane, Shrewsbury, please.”

After a minute, Sergeant Webster comes back with, “It’s the address for Safe Refuge, the men’s homeless shelter sir.”

“A homeless shelter?”

Darrell suddenly remembers Diane telling him that Carys worked a lot with the homeless charity here in Shrewsbury. Carys might have met Richard at the shelter, and then hired him for a proper job to get him off the street.

Yet Darrell does not like where his mind is heading. He does not like to judge a man just because he had once had a bad string of luck, but he cannot help wondering: Richard hit rock bottom once… has he again? And has he taken Carys down with him?

Chapter 6

 

Without letting another second pass, Darrell picks up the phone to call Diane. Although she knows about Carys’ so-called cousin, the shady Mrs. Thomas, Darrell wouldn’t put it past Diane to invite her in, should Mrs. Thomas come knocking at her door.

And then there’s the question of Richard. Darrell is pretty sure Diane is already suspicious of the man, but if he
is
the killer, he could probably, at the very least, intimidate a woman 15 years his senior.

Darrell doesn’t like to hover, but he has to make sure Diane is safe.

“Hello!” Diane answers cheerfully.

“Diane, I need you to promise me you’ll stay inside, at least until I can ensure your complete safety.”

“But Rufus and I couldn’t resist. We just had to get outside to enjoy this beautiful day.”

“You’re outside right now? Bloody hell!”

“Darrell, calm down. What is it?”

Darrell has let his worry, albeit disguised by his temper, get the best of him. After counting to ten in his head – isn’t that what all the experts tell a person to do to keep their wits about them? – he explains that there are two plausible suspects: Richard Butler and Rosalyn Thomas. Both could easily get to Diane, in one way or another.

“I’m not usually one to give ultimatums, but if you do not stay inside your cottage, at least for the day, I’m going to have to take Rufus to the RSPCA.”

Diane bites her lip to keep from laughing – she’s not used to hearing the inspector talk so sternly to her. Then it hits her: he’s right. She is putting herself in a precarious position every time she steps out the door.

“Not to worry, Darrell,” she says. “I’m quickly going to run to the shops to buy some doggie pee pads for Rufus. That way neither he nor I will have to leave the house for the rest of the day.”

“Thank you Diane. We’ll chat soon. Stay safe.”

Darrell hangs up the phone and heaves a sigh of relief. He then flips open the folder on his desk that he’s recently labelled ‘Carys Jones’. On top, he notices a business card that says ‘Henry Taylor, Solicitor.'

Darrell suddenly remembers that they haven’t tracked down a possible will of Carys’. He dials the number on the card and leaves a message on the voicemail for the solicitor to call him back as soon as possible.

He looks over to see Sergeant Webster, who is on the phone and furiously taking notes.

“Find much on Mrs. Thomas, Bob?” Darrell asks after the sergeant hangs up.

“She’s not as angelic as she might appear, sir.”

Darrell walks over to Sergeant Webster’s desk to hear what his man has found out. The sergeant tells him that he’s confirmed that Mrs. Rosalyn Thomas is from Aberystwyth, Wales, and that her mother and Carys’ mother were sisters.

What’s more, Mrs. Thomas has a chequered past. Sergeant Webster pulls up her criminal record on his computer. Darrell immediately notices the mugshot. He’s positive it belongs to the same woman he met last night. The cold glare he had witnessed while she watched him from her car is staring at him again from Sergeant Webster’s computer screen.

“That’s her,” says Darrell confidently.

 

They look at her file up on the screen. A few years ago Mrs. Rosalyn Thomas had been charged with intent to commit insider trading fraud. She served a two-year community sentence where she was ordered to meet with a probation officer and a counsellor on a regular basis.

“She lives in Swansea now sir, and I was able to get hold of her bank records,” says the sergeant. “When I asked the bank manager to send them over, I don’t think he meant to, but he snickered on the phone.”

Sergeant Webster shows Darrell the printouts from the bank. It is clear from the big, fat negative sign that Mrs. Thomas is not only broke – she’s in the red.

“Thank you Bob. Now we need to figure out her movements from Swansea to here. Did she really only arrive here the day after Mrs. Jones’ murder?”

“Already done, sir. She took the train from Swansea to Shrewsbury on Thursday. Then I found records that she hired a car at the railway station.”

“So she arrived in Shrewsbury two days before Mrs. Jones died. I don’t suppose you’ve located where she’s been staying since she arrived?”

“She checked into a Bed & Breakfast just outside Apple Mews on Thursday night.”

“Well done Bob!” Darrell shouts, slapping the sergeant sportsmanlike on the back.

After nearly choking on his coffee, Sergeant Webster looks delighted to have impressed his superior.

Darrell races to the phone on his desk and asks the operator to transfer him to the South Wales Police.

“Hello, this is Inspector Darrell Crothers from the Shrewsbury Police Force. I’d like to talk to someone who may have had dealings with a Mrs. Rosalyn Thomas of Swansea.”

It just so happens that one of the inspectors who worked Mrs. Thomas’ fraud case is at the station and able to take Darrell’s call. The Welshman tells Darrell that he remembers Mrs. Thomas well. How did he put it? “
He has never seen someone so greedy - so in love with money – in his life.”

Talking to people who knew her, the Welsh inspector found out that apparently Mrs. Thomas was always wanting to borrow money from people and that she would always try to wiggle her way into people’s lives just to have a large piece of their pie. She was a gambler too and lost lots of money, from making bad investments to making hefty bets at the casino. That’s why, as part of her sentence, she was ordered to seek gambling addiction counselling.

Darrell hangs up the phone. It’s clear that Mrs. Thomas is quickly climbing her way up to the top of the suspect list, but first there’s something that needs to cleared up once and for all.

“Bob, thanks again! Your work is the bee’s knees!” says Darrell, grabbing his coat. “I’m headed to Apple Mews to see Richard Butler.”

Richard lives in a small apartment above Apple Mews’ pub. Before climbing the long staircase to Richard’s front door, Darrell briefly wonders if he should have called some backup.

At the top of the staircase, Darrell sees a messy pile of newspapers and leaflets littering the front stoop. He gently shoves them out of the way with his foot and knocks on the screen door. After a minute and no answer, Darrell knocks again, harder this time.

He can hear something inside and then notices one of the slats of the front window blinds move.

 

“Richard, it’s me, Inspector Darrell Crothers. I’m sorry to bother you, but I just need to have one more chat with you… just to finalize some details. It won’t take long…”

Darrell can hear the chain slide out of the lock, and the front door slowly opens. In front of him stands Richard, in an undershirt and boxer shorts; his hair is ruffled, and he clearly hasn’t shaved in days. Richard holds open the door without making eye contact with the inspector, and then trudges over to the small sitting room.

Inside, Darrell’s first instinct is that Richard’s apartment has been ransacked. Upon closer scrutiny, however, the empty beer bottles, the clothes strewn about, and the overflowing kitchen sink all seem to indicate a man who has “let his place, and himself, go”.

Richard removes a pizza box and a pair of trousers from one of the chairs so the inspector can sit. He doesn’t even bother to move the heap on the couch where he’s now sitting.

“I’m not going to ask how you’re getting on because clearly you’re going through a rough patch,” Darrell says, trying to infuse his voice with compassion. “But we need to clear some things up.”

“Yes,” says Richard, meekly.

“First, is it true you used to live at the Safe Refuge shelter in Shrewsbury?”

Richard nods his head.

“And is that how you met Mrs. Jones?”

“Yes. I met her at the soup kitchen. She was nice to me from the get-go. We’d have all these wonderful talks. After a while, she told me she knew I was capable of holding down a job… of making a new life for myself… she hired me to be her caregiver… she believed in –” Richard stops, feeling a sob coming on. He closes his eyes and holds his breath.

“Take your time Richard,” says Darrell considerately. “Now, about your accounts of what happened on Saturday—”

“You mean the day Mrs. Jones died!?” cries Richard.

“Yes, that day. It appears as though you may have got some of your facts mixed up… it’s understandable. You were probably in shock…”

“It’s all my fault,” says Richard, now crying more explicitly.

“What do you mean by that, Richard?” asks Darrell quietly, trying to maintain some composure in the conversation.

After some minutes, when Richard is able to reach a calm state, he explains that he has been hiding something from the police. He did, in fact, arrive at Mrs. Jones’ place while she was still alive. They had chatted, and before she laid down for her nap, they decided Richard would indeed make lamb casserole for her dinner.

But what Richard had been too ashamed to admit is that he had left Carys’ home for a short time to go to the grocer’s. He had realized he had no onions or rosemary – he didn’t think the casserole would taste half as good without onions
and
rosemary.

“So when I went out to buy them ingredients, whoever must have killed Mrs. Jones did it while I was gone! And you see, I didn’t lock the door when I left. So it’s all my fault. I wasn’t there to protect her, and I let them in.”

“Richard, it’s not your fault. I don’t expect anyone in Apple Mews locks their doors. It’s only the fault of those who committed the dirty deed. You remember that! Thank you for telling me.”

For the first time in days, Richard feels a weight lift off his shoulders. It feels good to have finally “confessed his sins” to somebody.

 

The inspector then asks him if Mrs. Jones had even mentioned a cousin named Rosalyn Thomas.

“Oh yes, a couple of times. I remember because the day before she was talking on the phone to somebody and she seemed quite annoyed. I asked her if everything was all right… she said, ‘Oh, it’s just that cousin of mine… Rosalyn.’ The way she said ‘Rosalyn,’ I could tell her cousin must be a pain in the arse!”

“Thank you Richard. You have been very helpful!”

Darrell shakes Richard’s hand and rushes out the door. He is now ready to arrest Mrs. Thomas for the murder of her cousin. First though, he races over to Diane’s cottage just up the road.

Diane’s writing session is interrupted by an incessant knocking at her front door. Both she and Rufus run towards the sound. Then Diane stops. It’s at times like this – when a murderer is lurking about – that she wishes she had a peephole in her door.

“Who is it?” she asks assertively.

“It’s me… Inspector Crothers… Darrell.”

“Well why didn’t you say so?” she says jovially, opening the door. “Have you come to make sure Rufus and I haven’t succumbed to cabin fever?”

Disregarding Diane’s humour, Darrell immediately tells her that he’s about to arrest Carys Jones’ cousin, Rosalyn Thomas, for her murder.

“That can’t be possible,” says Diane adamantly.

“But there’s her criminal record, she lied about being in Mrs. Jones’ home, she arrived in the area two nights before the murder….”

Diane holds up her hand, which immediately stops Darrell from arguing further.  She motions for the inspector to follow her up the staircase to the second floor of her home. They stop in front of a railing, one that looks remarkably similar to the one in Carys’ home – the railing that Carys was thrown over.

“I’m guessing this Mrs. Rosalyn Thomas is not some bionic bodybuilder….” says Diane.

“No, not at all,” laughs Darrell. “Actually, she’s quite frail looking. But her beady eyes more than make up for it, I can tell you that.”

“Now, can you imagine this Mrs. Thomas being able to lift Carys over the railing… even if Carys was unconscious or already dead?”

“You’re probably right,” says the inspector. “Unless she hides it well, Mrs. Thomas does not have enough strength do that.

Darrell’s mind is whirling. He had been so sure that Mrs. Thomas was the murderer. Everything points to her: her lust for money, her demand to see Carys Jones’ will, lying about not seeing Carys since their days in Wales, arriving in the area before and not after the murder….

But she couldn’t have done it alone…

… she could have had help though.

“That’s it! Mrs. Thomas has an accomplice!” yells Darrell. “I need to go talk to Richard again.”

Darrell hurries down the stairs and out of Diane’s cottage without even petting Rufus goodbye. On the way back to the apartment over the pub, Darrell looks over to see Richard sitting on a bench on the edge of the green.

“Richard!” shouts Darrell, running across the lane.

Richard looks up with a serene smile on his face. “I haven’t been outside in days.”

“Richard, I forgot to ask you about Mrs. Jones’ other caregiver…”

“Brian?”

“Yes, that’s it, Brian. You mentioned he went on holiday. Do you know where?”

“I’m not certain, but I think he said Wales. That’s where he’s from anyway.”

BOOK: Murder in the Neighbourhood: A Diane Dimbleby Cozy Mystery
7.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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