Saturday, 9 December 2017

22 - Done and dusted

Sunday July 22


Apart from Dorothy’s phone call late on Saturday evening, when Robert had told her that he was now resigned to Cleo’s never-ending energy and had to be satisfied with Dorothy’s information that there had been a lot to discuss and meetings at HQ, Cleo and Dorothy had no contact until Dorothy walked down to Cleo’s cottage early on Sunday morning to drive in with her to HQ.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

21 - Almost done and dusted


 Saturday July 21


“You are not to get involved in Cooper’s murder case, Cleo,” Robert said as he got ready to leave for the shop.
“I’m already involved, Robert, but I’ll take it carefully.”
“Your nipper is sending messages that he wants to see the light of day, Cleo.”
“What’s a nipper, Robert? I hope you aren’t referring to my baby with that awful word.”
“It isn’t  nasty, Cleo. You hear it a lot in this country. You could say bambino or kid.”
“Dorothy called it a bun.”

Friday, 24 February 2017

20 - The assignation

Friday July 20


Gary phoned Cleo early and, told her for the nth time that he loved her and was looking forward to seeing her at the bistro when Dorothy met her old flame. Being on the cautious side, Gary organized a plain car staffed with a plain-clothes armed squad team to park nearby and was himself armed for the occasion.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

19 - Skeletons in the cupboard

Thursday July 19

On Thursday morning, Cleo and Dorothy made a very early start, intending to get to Brighton, talk to Mrs Riddle and return all in one day.
Dorothy knew Brighton from her London days. Trips to the seaside had often taken her there and over the years she had visited all the monuments and been blown over many times on the pier. Cleo had never been to Brighton.

18 - Kelly

Wednesday July 19


Dorothy met Cleo at her office for breakfast and a review of the ongoing cases, but also to talk about Mrs Baines, since Cleo and Gary were due to question her later that morning. Before they had bitten into the first of Dorothy’s inimitable bagels. Gary phoned with the news that the Baines’s questioning was postponed until the afternoon so that Kelly could be questioned that morning.
“What time?”
“At ten-thirty.”
“Shall I bring Dorothy along?”
Of course. The more the merrier!”
“See you then,” said Cleo and rang off.

Friday, 27 November 2015

17 - Harry

Monday cont. then Tuesday

Harry Marble was located less than an hour after the Metropolitan Police had been asked to trace him. Marble had recently been arrested for theft, but released after the robbed lady had said the jewels had reappeared. That incident rather dampened Harry’s enthusiasm for being a toy-boy.

16 - Speculation

Monday July 17


Monday July 17
As usual on a Monday, Robert was up at four and boasted that he would get through the day without yawning. Cleo assured him that she would also get up early enough to take Mrs Riddle to Middlethumpton station before going to HQ to discuss the latest event. Robert cursed the day when he had encouraged Cleo to solve mysteries – it could be said that he cursed the day Cleo had started working regularly with Gary.

15 - Jessie

Sunday cont.

Sleep was, however, something that even Robert was going to have to postpone. Shortly after that squabble, an extremely agitated Mrs Riddle phoned.
“Someone’s trying to get in, Miss Hartley. What shall I do?”
“Have you called the police?”
“Not yet.”
“Well, please do that. I’ll be over as soon as I can.”

14 - The Blakes

Sunday cont.

Cleo knew she would have to approach the Blakes carefully. A phone call to Dorothy secured her support. They would meet at Cleo’s cottage and take in a bagel and coffee for lunch, much to Robert’s disgust, since Sunday lunch was traditionally roast day and his menu would be ignored until evening. Dorothy would tell the Blakes her tale about writing up the history of the village and they would go on from there.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

13 - Mrs Riddle

Sunday July 15

Since Robert thought it bad form for Cleo to go off sleuthing on a Sunday morning, in his view a day of rest that belonged to him, Cleo was forced to emphasize the necessity of finding Dr Marble’s killer as soon as possible to avoid further bloodshed. Working on a Sunday was part of her job. He should go to church and sing the other church choir members into the ground, after which he could spend an hour at Delilah’s bistro buying rounds of drinks for all and sundry and come home thinking his morning had been more productive than hers.  

12 - Cupid

Saturday cont.


At just before five, Cleo reluctantly ended her tryst and drove home. On the way she phoned Dorothy on her Cell phone and told her she that would pick her up in fifteen minutes to pay an unscheduled visit to Dr Marble if she could make time.
Less than an hour after Cleo had parted reluctantly from  her lover, she and Dorothy were walking briskly up the drive to the front door. It was ajar.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

11 - Tanner

Saturday July 15

It was early when the two sleuths got to Tanner’s lodgings. To Cleo’s surprise, Jim Tanner was quite a youthful character, not at all like Delilah had described him. He was full of the joys of spring and seemed to have recovered from not getting his pub back, though that was because, as he confided in Cleo, he was going to open a chip shop somewhere near and gave Cleo and Dorothy no indication that he wanted to return to manage the Dog and Whistle. Cleo gave no indication that she knew he had wanted to and been a worry to Delilah, who might admittedly have been making a mountain out of a mole-hole.

10 - An evening out

Friday cont.

Cleo’s friend Delilah Browne had lived in Upper Grumpsfield for most of her life so it was logical that Cleo would try to find out more about the locals. She had worked as a barmaid for her former boss, Jim Tanner, who had retired from running the pub when it started to lose money, but still owned the building. Cleo wondered if he could remember something. What did Delilah think of that idea? Did he know the old Kelly couple, by any chance?

9 - Marble Hall

Friday cont.

Cleo was grateful for Molly’s information although it did not mean that she would make any progress. With nothing to lose, she phoned Dr Marble and was dealt with by a female who said she was his housekeeper, but also kept the appointment book. Cleo made an appointment for the later that day.

The Coppins case was getting more complex by the minute. There had still been no news from Chris Marlow, but a conclusive verdict on the cause of Mrs Coppins’ death was essential.
It was clear that Betty Coppins had not drowned. Had Kelly put some lethal substance into her drink, waited till the poor woman was dead and then shoved her into the pond? If so, why had he raised the alarm? Cleo answered that question as soon as she had asked herself: Mrs Coppins was meant to be found and Kelly wanted the police to think it was Jessie’s deed. That would explain why he had phoned Cleo. He was hoping to avoid suspicion by pretending to have found the woman, but surely no one with as suspicious a mind as Cleo Hartley would believe that version of the case.
On the other hand, now something else was at stake. It was important to find out just how corrupt Kelly was.
***
Dr Marble had officially retired, but was still working from home as a solicitor because he had not yet found anyone suitable to take over his business. His house was a villa in Thumpton Close. Number 22 was set well back from the road and surrounded by tall trees. The windows were hung with heavy red velvet drapes that made the house very dark inside, but Dr Marble liked it that way.
The housekeeper opened the door. Single men often had retainers, elderly butlers who preferred to continue working rather than living somewhere cramped on a small pension. They were also used to doing most of the tasks of a housekeeper and the shopping. Retainers tended to regard the homes of their employers as their homes. They were usually men, but Dr Marble’s retainer was an older woman. Cleo wondered if she was his wife, though the woman wore no wedding ring and was extremely polite in a way that suggested that she was employed rather than kept.
“Come this way, Madam,” she invited. “Dr Marble is expecting you.”
The appointment was for three p.m. and Cleo was early, but Dr Marble was sitting behind his mammoth carved oak desk waiting for her. He bore an air of self-importance that Cleo thought might make it difficult to ask him the questions she needed to, but he smiled benignly and Cleo decided that he was probably quite friendly after all.
“How can I help you, my dear,” he started, then glanced in the direction of the door and called out “You can go now, Mrs Riddle. Bring us some tea, please.”
“She’s my cook and general help,” he explained. “She means well, but she is rather inquisitive, I’m afraid.”
The belated sound of Mrs Riddle’s footsteps on the wooden floor panels in the hall confirmed that she had been hovering.
“So am I, Dr Marble...“said Cleo.
“...and that’s why you are here,” Dr Marble finished for her. “Aren’t you the lady who runs the detective agency?”
“Yes. Here’s my visiting card, Dr Marble,” said Cleo, handing him her business card, which he read carefully.
“So what are you investigating that brought you here?”
“I need to know more about the former owners of Kelly’s farm, Dr Marble.”
“Oh dear. Has Kelly been up to some sort of mischief?”
“That’s what I’m trying to find out, Dr Marble.”
“You know, Miss ummm Hartley,” the solicitor started after consulting Cleo’s card, “I’ve often wondered about Kelly.”
“Are your referring to the gossip that went round claiming he was not genuine?”
“He appeared out of the blue and I had known the people he said were his parents for a long time. But they were dead so I could not ask them about the son they had never mentioned before, and the will Mr Kelly Junior handed in after the tragic death of Mr and Mrs Kelly Senior looked genuine, but it was not my work.”
“Are you quite sure, Dr Marble?”
“Well,” he said, smiling, “I do a bit of detecting myself now and again. You have to if you are a solicitor.”
Cleo thought oh no, not another amateur sleuth, but tried to look impressed and nodded encouragingly.
“I didn’t draw up the original will, you see. It was before I came here, but I did take over the business of my predecessor, and I had some letters typed by old Mr Kelly. I compared them with the new will. It was definitely the same typewriter.”
“But isn’t it strange that you should be suspicious enough to do that?”
“Not necessarily. Sometimes people forge relatives’ signatures to get their hands on the inheritance and had re-written the content of the will to express their position as beneficiaries. I did not know Mr Kelly so I thought it was better to check on the veracity of what he said and the authenticity of the will.”
Cleo would have loved to say that in the case of documents that were written on the same type-writer, it wasn’t necessarily the same typist every time. These days it would be impossible to investigate typing with any success, since printers were in use, so it was only the signatures that could give the game away. But that first will had been made almost half a century previously and the second will would not have been a product of digital technology, either.
“The signatures on the wills and the letters were the same, Miss Hartley.”
Basing the authenticity of a will on its signatures was too trusting, Cleo mused.
“Do you still have the documents, Dr Marble?”
“As a matter of fact I do, but I should not be showing them to you.”
“As a fellow detective, you would be able to let me glance at them, wouldn’t you?” said Cleo in her most persuasive voice.
Dr Marble got up laboriously and went to bookshelves in the corner of the room. The fat ring-binders were squeezed in alphabetically, so the solicitor found the appropriate file very quickly. Cleo looked at the documents. They had all been written on the same typewriter; the lower case letter ‘s’ had a curious little extra mark at the end of it and that letter of course appeared on all the documents. The wording of the second will was brief. It left all the Kelly possessions to their son, Patrick. The signatures were like the ones on the first will, but look shakier and more indistinct. Cleo pointed that out, but it was pointed out to her that the Kellys were much older when the second will was made, so their handwriting would be a little shakier. There was otherwise little that could have made the will contestable. While Dr Marble was went to the vestibule and called out to Mrs Riddle to serve the tea immediately, Cleo took photos of the wills with her mobile.
“As you saw, the first will left everything to NSPCA. There were no other relatives except Patrick Kelly, so no one challenged the will,” said the solicitor.
“Not even the police, Dr Marble?”
“Certainly not. My work is always impeccable, Miss Hartley.”
“I didn’t mean that. It just seems strange that the Kellys made the second will without any legal assistance.”
“I didn’t tell anyone that I had nothing to do with it, but some other notary might have been present.”
“No. The will was on neutral paper rather than on business paper, Dr Marble. I should not think that any notary would use plain writing paper for a legal document.”
“I don’t suppose the police noticed. I’m afraid I didn’t.”
“What really puzzled me, Dr Marble, is that if Kelly had appeared quite out of the blue, and a few days later the old Kellys were dead, surely someone must have been suspicious.”
“I was, Miss Hartley, but I could not have proved anything and as you pointed out, to my shame I had missed an important detail. As far as I knew, the Kellys were in good health and died suddenly from air pollution in their bedroom. I but had no valid reason to doubt that the oil stove was defective.”
“Did the Kellys ever mention a son?”
“As I already intimated, they didn’t, but when you’re in my business you know that most families have black sheep,  and even skeletons in their cupboards, Miss Hartley. It’s not for a solicitor to question motives or even facts, if they are logical and feasible. We notaries follow instructions.”
“I suppose you do.”
Cleo pressed on, though Dr Marble was now becoming quite irritated.
“Did you never wonder why the Kellys had not made the second will in your presence, Dr Marble?”
“I stopped wondering about people’s antics long ago.”
Dr Marble stood up. He was anxious to see the back of Cleo, but she persisted in her questioning.
”The signatures on the second will are by the same people, but are unreadable, Dr Marble. Didn’t that bother you?”
“The Blakes were older, too.”
“What sort of time frame are you giving the whole business, Dr Marble?”
“Well, the marriage contract between Kellys Senior was made about 50 years ago when this office was still run by my predecessor, who happened to be my father. I was still studying and helping out when I had time. Then the new will was produced by the son after the old people died. Patrick Kelly would have been in his mid-twenties then. I was only a lowly assistant in those days.”
“So you would not have made the will with the Kellys anyway,” said Cleo.
“I did not say that, Miss Hartley. I merely told you that this firm did not make the second will. It would have been on our notepaper.”
“Did you ever try to get in touch with the Kellys?”
“Funny you should ask that. My father was thinking of retiring  and I wanted to get know people he had worked for, but I had never met.”
“That’s interesting, Dr Marble.”
“I had been looking at old documents and was, to be truthful, touting for business. If the people had not been to us for a while, I would phone them and offer our services.”
“That sounds like normal business practice,” said Cleo, musing that double-glazing firms tended to have similar sales tactics, only they probably used phone books.”
“Now I think about it, I can remember that I rang them shortly before their death to ask if they wanted to update their will. But I didn’t get to talk to them. Patrick Kelly answered the phone and said they were ill with influenza and could not come to the phone that day. I had no reason to doubt what I was told, especially when he said he was their son and would be looking after their business affairs in future.”
“You have a remarkable memory, Dr Marble.”
“It all seems like yesterday. You’ve made me remember things I had forgotten all about.”
“The Kellys could have died of the flu, of course,” said Cleo.
“But it was common knowledge that they were gassed by the heating oven in their bedroom, Miss Hartley.”
“I wonder if they were dead before that oven gave off its carbon monoxide gas?”
“I don’t think the police went into that at the time.”
“If Kelly was not the son of those people, and even if he was, he might have hurried their deaths along.”
There was slightly too long a pause before Dr Marble’s reaction.
“That never occurred to me.”
Cleo had Dr Marble’s full attention now.
“The gas poisoning might have been faked after the Kellys died, so that it would look like an accident, while the heater had actually been manipulated. I find it curious that no one seems to know when Kelly came to the farm in relation to the death of his parents. He might have been there, killed them and then gone away for a few days, after which he returned to find them dead.”
“You’re making it sound terrible,” said Dr Marble-
“ In fact, I talked to someone who had seen him a week before the parents died,” said Cleo dramatically.
“It’s a horror story, Miss Hartley.”
“But it makes sense, doesn’t it?”
“It does. I only met him when he brought the will. He said he had found it among their papers.”
“And he came to you after the death of the parents, didn’t he?”
 “Oh yes. I’m sure of that because he said he had found them dead.”
“That timing must have been in his statement to the police,” said Cleo. “But it was his story. It does not have to be the truth.”
Dr Marble looked alarmed.
“I’m sure you acted in good faith, Dr Marble, so don’t worry.”
“But I do worry, Miss Hartley. What if he is a murderer? He might murder again, and the next victim might be me, if he thinks he’s in any danger of being revealed for what he is.”
***
Did Dr Marble have a guilty conscience after all? He was starting to get hysterical, so it was just as well that the Mrs Riddle came into the room bearing a tray of elegant china with a matching teapot containing a brew of what Cleo dreaded most: perfumed tea.
“Now you don’t get upset, Dr Marble,” the housekeeper said.
“I’m not upset, Mrs Riddle,” the solicitor insisted.
“It’s his heart, you see,” Mrs Riddle explained to Cleo in almost a whisper. “He shouldn’t get excited.” In a loud voice she added “I’ve brought you some coffee. You may prefer it.”
“Wow. That’s great. Thanks,” said Cleo. “We’ve nearly finished our meeting now, Mrs Riddle.”
Mrs Riddle nodded and left the room. She knew her place, or seemed to.
“Kelly won’t find out that I’ve been here, Dr Marble.”
“Can I rely on that, Miss Hartley?”
“Of course, but do you really think he wants to kill you? Surely he has no reason.”
“Do killers always need a reason, Miss Hartley? You are the expert.”
“As an expert, I would say they don’t, Dr Marble. Those killers are the hardest to catch.”
“I’ll make sure my door is locked tonight.”
“Do that, though murders happen during the day, too,” said Cleo. “I’ll see myself out, Dr Marble, and thanks for talking with me. The coffee was wonderful, by the way.”
“I wish I could tell you more,”.said Dr Marble. “Deep down, Mr Kelly’s identity has always troubled me.”
***
Cleo was glad to be outside that dark villa. She had escaped the tea thanks to Mrs Riddle. One thing bothered her a lot, however: Dr Marble had not been really curious about why she was making inquiries about Paddy Kelly. Did he know something that he had not told her?
Dorothy had often said that delving into the past could reveal a motive in many cases. Had the pursuit of Paddy Kelly’s putative guilt or even questioning Dr Marble about past events been a good idea? What a pity Dorothy had not been around at the time the older Kellys met their death.
Cleo decided to ask the Blakes about signing the second will. She phoned and they said she would be welcome any time, especially as she wanted to talk about their dear departed friends, the Kellys. Cleo was already working on the premise that they had either not witnessed the second will or had been coerced into doing so. She was not sure if pursuing the death of Kelly’s ostensible parents was going to provide clues to the death of Mrs Coppins, but it would shed light on the kind of person he was


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

8 - Delving deeper

Friday July 14

From being at a loose end in her office, Cleo was now facing a lot of work. She was anxious to exonerate Jessie even though she had doubts about her innocence. Cleo could not believe that the girl had escaped from that institution to find and kill her mother. On the other hand, Kelly could have stage-managed the whole nasty business without any trouble and was using Jessie as a scapegoat. 

7 -Gone with the wind

Wednesday cont. 

As promised, Gary organized a search of the crypt in the evening, when it was thought that Jessie was most likely to seek shelter there. But despite a thorough search, no sign was found that Jessie had been there.

6 -An uninvited guest

Wednesday cont. then Thursday

It was as if some kind of trouble was waiting to happen..
When she got back to her cottage, Dorothy was horrified to see that her front door was wide open and the door key was in the lock! She was almost sure that she hadn’t forgotten to lock up , but she had been nervous when she left and preoccupied with her appearance. What would Gary say?

5 - Risen from the dead

Wednesday cont.

Cleo was at Delilah’s bistro by midday, intending to put her and Mitch in the picture about Jack Cooper but to leave the old friends ask them to let Dorothy get on with the meeting without joining them at the table with oodles of small talk. Admittedly, none of them could imagine the meeting getting out of control, and they were all curious. Gary would also be there to take a look at the guy who had ditched Dorothy half a century ago.

Monday, 16 November 2015

4 - Morning has broken

Wednesday July 13

At the Hartley cottage Wednesday morning started with a phone call from Gary. Robert had just extricated himself from his duvet and taken a cold shower to wake up.
“It’s seven o’clock in the morning,” Robert shouted down the phone. “Couldn’t you at least wait till after breakfast?”

Sunday, 15 November 2015

3 - Jack Cooper is back

Tuesday July 12

When Gary left Cleo’s cottage several hours later, Cleo was left wondering how she had had the nerve to indulge her passion for Gary in there. She did not even have a guilty conscience. In fact, she felt elated and defiant. A walk through the cool evening air to her office refreshed Cleo. She could still feel the warmth of Gary’s body and the intensity of their love-making. They belonged together. Their emotional confusion was heightened by the knowledge that Robert was still very much present in Cleo’s life. The lovers both realized that they were part of each other’s life and there was no end in sight. Something had to happen to change the situation that Cleo had brought upon them through a false sense of loyalty to a kind man who was simply not the guy she wanted to be with.
***

2 - Kelly

Monday cont.

Cleo and Dorothy drove to Kelly’s farm, inevitably passing Hilda Bone’s house on the way. Dorothy could not help looking at Hilda’s front window and was not surprised to see the net curtain move.
“Hilda is controlling the road again,” Dorothy announced. “She’s wishing for exotic animals in baskets, I expect.”

1 - A murky start

Monday July 11

Business was slack at the Hartley Agency. Cleo wondered how long she could afford the luxury of a detective agency that scraped a living from wayward husbands, wives leading double lives, household pets disappearing and other cases that barely qualified as such, even if Dorothy Price was enjoying herself tremendously.