Murder in the Village: A Lady Margaret Turnbull Cozy Mystery Book (International Cozy Mysteries 2) (2 page)

BOOK: Murder in the Village: A Lady Margaret Turnbull Cozy Mystery Book (International Cozy Mysteries 2)
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Chapter 3

Back at the shopping center, the little bell on the door dinged
as Maggie walked in.  The man she assumed was the manager looked surprised to
see her for some reason, and checked his watch absentmindedly.

“Are you open?” she asked.

“Yes, yes ma’am,” he replied.  “We’ll be here until six.”

“Ah very good!  I’m in a bit of a hurry and was wondering if
you could be a darling and show me one of those rings you advertise on
television.”

The man eyed her curiously, wondering if this woman in her
mid-fifties was about to be proposed to.

“Oh no, no dear.  It’s not for me!  I just wanted to ask you
a few questions about them.  They’re so pretty.”  Maggie watched as he decided
whether or not to humor her, and when he returned with a tray of rings similar
to the one in the jar, her face lit up.  “Oh, they’re beautiful!”

The man went through the usual list of reasons to buy such
beautiful and unique rings, but Maggie stopped him mid-sentence.

“Do you remember, perhaps, selling one of these to a woman
sometime in the last month or so?”

Taken aback, the manager took two actual steps back.  “Why
on earth would you want to know something like that.  Have we met before?”

“No of course not, I just…one of my friends had one just
like this and I was wondering if you were the one that sold it to her.”  After
another half hour of clever fibbing, Lady Margaret left the jewelry store with
three names and addresses of men who had purchased a ring from the tray in the
last three months.

One of the names, Maggie noticed, was for a young man who
lived on the same street at the Detective’s aunt in Byron Bay.  It might be a
coincidence, but Maggie doubted it.  These things were seldom coincidences;
they were generally revered as juicy, wonderful details that led her to solving
a crime that the police department couldn’t handle.

Returning to her car, she threw down the top and pulled out
of the park way, headed for the police station.  When Detective Tom Sullivan
saw her breeze through the station doors, a picture of class, his skin crawled
a bit.  He knew he shouldn’t have involved her in this, though knowing her she
already had the perpetrator tied up in the trunk of her car begging to be
fingerprinted.  He hated when she came to the station, why didn’t she just
phone him with her hunches as she usually did? No time for personal insecurities,
Tom needed to talk with Lady Margaret.

Chapter 4

Just as Tom was approaching Maggie, Sgt. Gerard Daniels
rocketed out of an office door.

“Sir!  A woman in her twenties was just pulled out of the
river…she’s missing her ring finger.”

Tom nodded to his sergeant and kept walking toward Maggie. 
As much as he hated involving Lady Margaret on cases directly, he had to admit
she’d been an incredible amount of help on many occasions.  He’d be a fool not
to ask her.

“Well,” he said when he reached her.  She jumped a bit when
he came up from the side, and it made him happy to have startled her.  The
Detective imagined that it probably didn’t happen very often.  “Let’s go.”

“What’s that, officer?  Are you taking me in?”  A sly smile
wandered across her face and she put her hand to her chest dramatically.  “I’m
sure I didn’t do anything…”

“Alright, alright.”  Tom grinned and laced his hand through
the crook of her arm.  “Come with me.  Something’s just come up…literally.” 
Maggie’s eyebrows danced across her face and Tom shot her a grin.  “In the
river.” 

He knew she loved this part, where things were just starting
to get interesting for the normal police force was the part where Lady Margaret
Turnbull started working her magic.  As much as Tom hated to admit it, the
little boy in him loved watching her brain work.

“Happy to go along, Detective!  But I’ll take my own car if
you don’t mind.”  Maggie turned her nose a bit in false protest.  “It’s much
more stylish than a police panda car.”

“That may be perfectly true, Lady Margaret.  But I won’t be
able to debrief you if we’re in two separate vehicles.”  Maggie looked
disappointed, but ultimately caved pretty quickly.  “It’ll be fine, your car
will be fine here, and we’ll come back and pick her up later.  The boys will
make sure she gets lunch.”  Tom winked at her.

As soon as they pulled out into traffic, Lady Margaret
pulled three sheets of paper from her purse and waved them at Tom while he was
driving.  “Let me debrief you, first.  These three gents all bought rings like
the one we discovered.  And one of them lives very near your Aunt.  What do you
make of that?”

Unexpectedly, Tom grabbed the papers from her and pulled out
the one that lived near his hand, he folded it up and slid it into his jacket
pocket while steering with one hand.

“No offense, Lady Margaret, but I really don’t want you
getting involved in the case in this way.  This perpetrator seems to be
especially vicious, and I don’t need to lose you due to your lack of police
training.  It was dangerous going and getting these.”  He looked at her, and
rolled his eyes at the grimace she was sending across the cabin of the police
car.  “What?!  It was dangerous.  How did you even get anyone to—you know
what.  Never mind.  I don’t want to know.”

Before long they pulled up to the pier on the banks of the
Condamine River where the body had been discovered.  There were a handful of
officers walking around and some police tape being strewn about in places that
didn’t make any sense to Maggie.  She loved the excitement of the scene and
started to get out of the car.

“Huh uh.  You stay here.”  Tom pointed his finger to the
seat like he was instructing a toddler.  “I’ll come get you when I need you. 
It’s dangerous down there and you’re in proper shoes.  No sense in dirtying
them up if you don’t have to.”

Reluctantly, Maggie agreed, but not without a significant
amount of scoffing.  Five minutes later, though, as Tom was getting his
bearings on the scene, he saw Maggie traipsing down the embankment toward where
he was standing.  There really was no telling that woman what to do.  He should
have diverted her by saying she had to come down.  Then she would have stayed
put.

“Lady Margaret, seriously!  You’re going to break your
ankle!  Didn’t I tell you to stay in the car?”  He trotted out from under the
pier and up to give her a hand.  She accepted, as any lady would do, and didn’t
say a word until they were settled underneath the pier again.  She motioned for
Tom to get back to whatever conversation he’d been having, and after rolling
his eyes a few more times, he did just that.  She undoubtedly just didn’t want
to miss any details, and Tom couldn’t fault her for that.

When he was done talking, Maggie turned to him.

“I noticed something in the mud up there on the hill.”  She
pointed to where she had walked from.  “I didn’t want to disturb it because I
knew the forensics team would want to get a picture of it in situ, but it’s
worth looking at.”  Tom was always impressed when she used proper police terms,
but he always immediately pictured her reading Nancy Drew novels late at night.

“Show me,” he said.

The two of them climbed back up the hill some ways and
Maggie pointed to the ground.  “I believe that’s a ring box, Detective
Sullivan.”

“Stay right here.”  He started back down the hill and
stopped mid-stride, turning back to her and reaching his hand out in kindness. 
“Please.”

Moments later, he came back with a forensics photographer,
and when they gotten what they needed, he slipped on a latex glove and pulled
the box from the mud.  Turning it a few times in his hands, he didn’t say a
word, and then dropped it into a clean evidence bag.  On the outside of the box
was the name Lismore Family Jewels.

Chapter 5

The Detective and his team confirmed that Pete Evans, one of
the names on the slip of paper that Maggie managed to rustle up, had purchased
the ring on the severed finger.  Once they reached his house, Evans told Tom
that he purchased the ring at the jewelry store in town.

Apparently, and Tom wasn’t even the slightest bit convinced
of his story due to the trademark shift eyes of the person telling it, he’d
asked Alison Clay to marry him on the river bank where they had found the box. 
The two of them walked back to the restaurant on the promenade where they then
had a lovely dinner to celebrate their new engagement.

They drove home separately, and since it was a week day on
the evening he proposed, Pete assumed Alison had driven back to her parent’s
house.  That was, as he claimed, the last time he saw her. The next day,
Alison’s mother listed her as a missing person.

In Tom’s mind, there were too many unanswered questions in
the case.  Maggie wondered why sending the package to the Detective personally
was something the perpetrator chose to do, it seemed a bit bold.  And why did
the attacker use his aunt’s address?  Maggie suggested to Tom that it could
have been done on accident, or possibly to derail the investigation.  It was,
she thought, a strange thing to do for a serial killer, though.

The following day, Tom phoned Lady Margaret to inform her
that there was a second body with the same description.

“Have you received a shoe box for this one, too?”  Maggie
asked.

“No, I sure haven’t.  Not that I’ve seen, anyway.  Maybe it
was a fluke?”

“I doubt it.  Strange things are rarely a fluke.  Hold on a
moment, please.”  Maggie walked to the door where the postman had just come
in.  She’d seen him there, in the foyer of her bed and breakfast, a thousand
times.

Today, though, the sight of him stopped her in her tracks. 
He was holding a shoebox and the clipboard he normally carried when she was
required to sign things.  The only person that had her address that would have
anything to do with the case, other than the Detective himself, was the owner
of the Lismore Family Jewelry Store.  “Send a car to Lawlers Loft. 
Immediately.  I’ll call you back.”

She knew that within ten minutes there would be a car at her
door, so she sat tight with the box and readied herself for whatever was to
happen next.  A fresh coat of lipstick and a pair of earrings later and she
opened the door for the officer.  The young man, whose name Maggie could never
remember because he was a very forgettable face, sat quietly with her and
sipped his tea like a timid gentleman in training until Detective Sullivan
arrived.

“Okay, Lady Margaret.  A lot has happened in the time since
you had me send the car.  Branson, you’re excused.  Thanks so much.” 

The young man thanked Maggie for the tea and set his cup and
saucer in the sink before leaving as quietly as he’d come in.

“This guy is killing these girls because he was refused; at
least that’s my theory.  His own proposal to his girlfriend was refused, and
the profiler and I truly believe he’s acting out on other people because of it. 
It’s pretty basic, but you get the drift.

Anyhow, he bought the three rings at the jewelry store in
the mall, and when I swung by to question the manager you spoke to, he wasn’t
around.  The other workers mentioned that he’d gone on an unscheduled vacation.”

“Mmmm…do go on.”

“Yeah, my thoughts, exactly.  Should’ve called in sick,
because you can’t get much more suspicious than that!  I’ve got his name and
address.  Want to ride along?”

Maggie nearly jumped from her seat.  “Do I!”

At the apartment complex, the landlord informed the two of
them that Mr. Bruce Diamond had not gone on vacation as far as he could make
out…he’d left altogether.  Mr. Diamond had moved out three days ago.

“He was never a problem,” the landlord said.  “He even paid
the last month’s rent.  He mentioned that his girlfriend had taken a job out of
town and he wanted to follow her.  Seemed a good enough excuse as any, I’d
say?”

“No way is she moving for a job.  That woman’s been
abducted,” Maggie whispered to Tom as they walked down the hall.  “I’d wager
these three killings are a warning to her that she’d best accept his
proposal…or else!  He’s probably obsessed with her and can’t stand to see any
other woman with a similar ring on their finger.”

Tom scoffed.  “That seems a bit far-fetched even for you,
Lady Margaret.”

Maggie raised an eyebrow as they walked.  “Does it??  Then
give me another explanation that better describes a crazy person.”

“Nah....you’re probably right as usual.  It’ll be faster if
I just admit that out loud.  If you’re right—“

“Don’t tease me, Detective.  You know I’m right.”

“—then he won’t stop until he’s killed his girlfriend. 
We’ve got to find her before that happens.”

Chapter 6

“Perfect!  You did perfectly, thank you so much.”  Tom
slammed the phone down and jumped from his chair, slinging his jacket over his
shoulder.  He quickly dialed Maggie’s number with his free hand.

“Lady Margaret!  The clerk at the Byron Bay Jewelry Store
just phoned to say that Mr. Diamond ordered a ring.  He told him yesterday to
come back today to pick it up.  And he’s phoned us this morning.  Sergeant
Daniels and I are on the way to apprehend him.  Daniels is going to pose as a
clerk and I’ll be waiting outside when he shows up.”

“His girlfriend is probably being held somewhere in town,
Detective.  Did you ever get any information on her?”

“I sure didn’t, but I’m hopeful we’ll get it out of him. 
That’s why Daniel’s is posing as the clerk, he’ll try to get her name and
address before we grab him.  He’s wearing a wire so I can hear the address when
he does, I’ll send a team out immediately after.”

An hour later, Daniels is in place, and Diamond walks into
the shop.  The other clerks were on lunch, and Diamond strolled right up to the
counter, where the Sergeant did his job exactly as he was trained.  He asked
for the name and address of the girlfriend for insurance purposes, which is
something that Bruce Diamond knew to expect as common practice.  In this case,
however, Diamond actually refused to give the information.

“I’m the one buying the ring and I’ll use my information for
it.  I value our privacy.”  Diamond told him.  “If she refuses the ring, it
will still be paid for, and I’ll keep it as a keepsake.”

Daniels did not argue, as he knew that would only raise
Diamond’s suspicion. Detective Sullivan, however, heard the whole conversation
in his earpiece and simply waited for Diamond to come out.  When he left, Tom
would simply follow him, convinced he’d lead him to the girl.

While he was waiting, however, he received a call from the
Lismore Police Station.  The desk sergeant reported a woman had called in a
reported that her daughter didn’t come home last night.  She was worried, and
the daughter’s name was Libby Carter.  Her boyfriend’s name was Bruce Diamond. 
The hairs on the back of Tom’s neck stood up, he thanked the sergeant and
gripped the steering wheel.

As soon as Bruce exited the store and pulled into traffic,
Tom followed him at a safe distance.  They were headed to the downtown area as
best as he could tell.  Something about the direction they were headed didn’t
feel right, and sent goose bumps down his arms.  The central business district
was busy, even for a popular seaside tourist town and he didn’t want to lose
the guy in traffic.  He called in to have a few unmarked cars dispatched to
assist in an eventual chase, just in case.

A full half hour later, Diamond dropped down into a car park
below the popular Byron Bay Hotel in the Byron Bay CBD.  Tom followed and
watched him exit the vehicle, and he received word that a Byron Bay police
constable was on site near the car park elevator.  Carefully, the officer
followed Bruce Diamond to his room and radioed Tom the location:  Room 651 on
the sixth floor.

A few minutes later, Tom and the Hotel security officer met
the constable outside the room.  He listened for any noise, and when he heard a
faint string of muffled sounds followed by a very audible scream, he used the
security officer’s master key to open the door.

As the three men burst in, they saw the young woman being
held over the balcony railing by Bruce, who was holding her left ring finger in
front of her face.  Libby Carter fainted just as Tom reached her, luckily he
grabbed her arm firmly enough that he could swing her back toward him and she
collapsed into his chest.  The Byron Bay police constable slammed handcuffs
onto Diamond and forced him to the ground.

Since her finger was severed shortly before she was rushed
to the hospital, Libby’s finger was able to be reattached.

That evening, after a long day of filling out paperwork and
then filling Maggie in on the details, Detective Sullivan left to stay the
night at his Aunt’s house in Byron Bay.

In the morning, they would go shopping together for a
special book for Lady Margaret’s birthday.  It would be a tall order, Tom
thought, because it would have to top the early birthday gift of her being able
to help on another case.  And he knew it would be hard to top that.

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