Authors: C T Mitchell
Tags: #Murder in the Village
Murder in the Village
C T Mitchell
Copyright © 2015
by C T Mitchell
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Lady Margaret’s birthday was coming up, and it wasn’t
something she was too keen on thinking too hard about. There wasn’t anything
wrong with birthdays, really, she just didn’t feel as old as her birthday cards
told her she was, so she was disinclined to open them. She’d have the cake,
but the reminder of getting older? Not so much.
She was drinking her first cup of tea of the day, standing
in the large kitchen of her bed and breakfast property, Lawlers Loft, she ran
on the outskirts of town, reading the paper. There wasn’t really anything noteworthy
happening in the small town of Bangalow, New South Wales. One of the quieter cities
in Australia, it was an old favorite of Maggie’s and her late husband’s during
their many travels over the years from the UK. For some reason it struck her
as the perfect amount of quaint and city life, kind of a cozy village and it
suited her perfectly since she decided to move here after her husband passed
She bought the bed and breakfast on Lawler’s Lane, and was
the strange mother-figure of the small town. Everyone loved her, even though
she was a bit forthright. Her posh British accent, not to mention her
knighthood, was much the talk of the district and it certainly helped in
getting onboard with the local community councils; great venues for Maggie to
listen in on the town’s gossip.
Disappointed in the lack of enthusiastic news reporting for
the week ahead, Maggie refreshed her tea and strolled over to the little
picture window over the sink. Clad only in her bathrobe, she was caught off
guard by the knock at the door.
“Who on Earth would be ringing me at this hour?” She wasn’t
expecting any deliveries for the inn, and the mailman would never ring her so
early for fear of catching her in her bathrobe. And Lord knows that even
though she was in decent shape for her age, she was pretty sure no one wanted
to see that. After all, it wasn’t proper.
Nevertheless, whoever was at the door was knocking so
adamantly that they couldn’t be kept waiting. She hurried to the front door,
careful to look quickly through the foyer to make sure no guests would see her
in her robe, and shuffled to the door. When she opened it, she gasped a
little, greeted by the flushed cheeks of Inspector Tom Sullivan of the local
“What’s the matter, Tom?” she asked, making sure the robe
was closed all the way and pointing to his reddened cheeks with her free hand.
“Cat got your tongue? Or has it just been a while since you’ve seen someone
other than your wife in a bathrobe? Don’t flatter yourself, dear. I’m not interested.”
Inspector Tom cleared his throat mid-laugh and asked to be
let in. He didn’t look, Maggie thought, like he was really in the mood for
joking. Though she was glad she got that one in, because seeing his cheeks
flus was worth all the flack she would catch for it later. She waved her arm
out in front of her and gestured for him to go into the kitchen quickly.
He did as he was told and shuffled in with a medium sized
box under his arm.
“Tom, you’re soaked, hun. Do you want some dry clothes? I’m
sure I can find you something around here?”
“Aaah, no thanks, Maggie.” The thought was going through
Detective Sullivan’s mind as to how Lady Margaret would have some men’s
clothing in her possession considering her husband had passed over ten years ago.
Anyway he thought better of it to ask.
“I hate when you call me that. So what do you need? Anything
at all, you know that, Detective. Let me take your coat.”
Tom let her remove his coat, and she draped it over the back
of one of her kitchen chairs. Eventually, when she saw that he wasn’t going to
stop pacing her kitchen floor, dripping wet, without saying anything, she made
him a cup of tea. Maggie tapped him on the shoulder, breaking his train of
thought. Tom grumbled a bit and nodded his thanks to her, taking the saucer
from the older woman’s hands.
“Thanks, it’s been raining all night, and I just never dried
out. I appreciate the warm tea, Lady Turnbull.” He made a fake salute to her
with his small tea cup and hoped she would appreciate him using her proper
“Well, hopefully you don’t catch pneumonia and die an old
fart. You really should take better care of yourself. Now what brings you
here? Do I need to call the Mrs. and let her know where you’re at.”
“No thanks, mam. I appreciate the sentiment. But I’m not
really speaking to anyone at the moment.”
Maggie’s eyes perked up and one eyebrow danced across her
forehead. “Oh really?”
“Yes, really. Don’t go getting all excited about it, it’s
nothing like that.”
Maggie grinned widely at her friend. “Oh I think it’s
exactly like that, Tom! You know me, and it’s nearing my birthday, even! This
must be your gift to me, a juicy secret case to be solved on the quiet. That’s
very kind of you.” She dipped her head to him and he half-chuckled, “Now what
have you got for me, here?”
“My socks are soaked through, Lady Margaret. I’m freezing
and I don’t want to be here all day, I’m knackered. I came to you because I
don’t want to be airing out my dirty laundry all over town. I’d much rather
come to you, since you have a way with these sorts of cases, than to have it
broadcast all over town. It’s from my Aunt in Byron Bay, she sent it in the
post and I wanted you to have a look at it before I took it to the Station.”
“Alright alright, cool your horses. Settle your spirit,
love. You look shaken, what’s going on? Why do you want me to look at it
first?” Maggie asked.
Tom handed her the box, and Maggie eyed him carefully.
Whatever was in the box has him pretty worked up. “It’s probably a book of
some sort, I’d imagine.”
She pried the lid off with one hand, and half expected there
to be an old sandwich or something inside of it. When the lid finally came
loose, Maggie swallowed hard. Nestled into a crimson-colored piece of fabric
was a jar. The jar was cloudy inside, and had a liquid in it, held securely by
a firm piece of cork. Inside the bottle, which Tom looked away from as soon as
she opened it, was a slender finger. It was floating in some sort of liquid,
and upon a quick smell of the bottle, Lady Margaret assured him that it was
formaldehyde. She could see the color in the Detective Inspector’s face grow
lighter, and he looked as if his stomach was a little queasy.
Lady Margaret regained her composure quickly and squared her
shoulders at the kitchen table. “This is not what you were expecting, I take
The Detective shook his head and brought a fist to his
mouth, looking as though he were about to be sick. “No!” He shouted, suddenly
upset. “I thought it was an old book or something that she’d gotten you for
Only a few moments later, Maggie was showing him to the
front door. Detective Tom apologized profusely for the interruption and
confusion, and excused himself to the police station at Lismore to try and
figure out what the package was all about.
Maggie watched as he went back to his car, not quite fully
dried out yet, still holding the plastic bag under his arm. He had barely
wanted to wait for her to wrap it up, but she’d insisted, so that he could
maintain privacy. Those goons at the police department had no business asking
questions about a beat up old shoe box; just yet anyway.
Lady Margaret Turnbull, beloved bed and breakfast owner and
part time sleuth of Bangalow, New South Wales, freshened her tea and returned
to her kitchen table. No sooner had she grabbed her pad of scratch paper and
begun to doodle on it, her mind raced with all the things she’d taken in.
She wasn’t given much time before the Detective had replaced
the lid on the box, but in that short time, she’d gathered that it was a young
woman’s finger. It was a ring finger, probably belonging to a woman in her
twenties. Tom was no spring chicken, and his aunt must surely be in her
sixties, so she imagined that it belonged to a young engaged woman, since the
finger was still adorned with an engagement ring.
Getting dressed quickly in something she could be seen
around town in and be proud, Maggie hopped into her car. The darling car, a
1968 Mercedes 450 SLC, red with white leather, perfectly engulfed everything
that was Lady Margaret Turnbull in a nutshell. It was classy, fun, sporty, and
full of life at any age. And it turned heads, which she loved.
She climbed into it and checked her hair in the rear view
mirror. She couldn’t get the “ring finger in the box” out of her head, and she
wanted answers. Those answers sure wouldn’t be coming from Detective Sullivan,
as soon as she’d opened the box, the man had clammed up like a school boy on
his first date. This left the ring, itself, as being the only other lead in
She’d seen many rings like this one advertised on
television; it was no ordinary engagement ring. An expensive jeweler in
Lismore had been advertising rings exactly like these for months. They were
very unique, and Maggie admitted to herself that she’d envied them on more than
With wedding season approaching, the jeweler had been
offering the rings at a reduced price. Nearing the shopping center where
Lismore Family Jewels was located, Maggie pulled into the car park located
underground. She usually hated driving around in town, mostly because people
were in general impatient arses, but this morning the drive had not been so
Trotting up to the entrance of the shopping center, Lady
Margaret was pleased to see that the early morning crowd was much thinner than
normal today. The shops were opening one by one, and she took a seat on a
bench outside the jewelry shop. It was one of the last ones to open, which
Maggie took note of. She was careful not to look as though she was staring,
and she carefully eyed the man inside the shop who was directing the other
sales clerks to their stations. It was time to have a chat with the man.
Meanwhile, as Lady Maggie rose to confront the jewelry store
owner, Inspector Tom Sullivan was leaned over his desk at the police station
with his head cradled in his hand.
“Auntie, auntie….listen…” he said quietly.
“No, you listen, dear. I sent you no such package. I’m
certainly not dead, and I have all of my fingers! So whatever you found in a
jar inside a box has nothing to do with me. And quite frankly, you’re making
me nervous. You sound quite shaken up. You should get some sleep…or make a
cup of tea.”
As he was trying to hang up the phone, the Detective Inspector’s
Sergeant bursts through the door and tries to interrupt his conversation. The
young officer had no tact when it came to when and where he was invited to
speak, and was always in a hurry. Tom liked the guy, but Sergeant Daniels
always seemed to be running late, and everyone else’s time suffered for it. He
hung up quickly and turned to Sergeant Gerard Daniels with a sigh.
“Sir,” the young man was breathing heavily, as though he’d
jogged down the hall….and everywhere else he’d been that morning.
“Sir, I’ve only found three women reported missing in the
last few weeks. These are the only three that fit the description from the
forensics lab.” Gerard handed him three pieces of paper fresh off the
printer. The finger apparently belonged to a Caucasian woman in her early
“She’s had a manicure pretty recently,” Tom said aloud.
“Now we just need a body to go with this finger.”