🦋 a short murder mystery for the Christian reader – Part 2 🦋
The gate slammed behind Brenda, causing her to shudder. The sounds of prison still echoed in her mind.
Frank Davies reached for her elbow to steady her.
‘It’s all right, Frank. I have to do this sooner or later.’
They walked down the autumn leaf-covered pathway that led to Brenda’s home, still ribboned off by the authorities. A uniformed police constable stood with his hands behind his back in the opened doorway, blocking their way. The badge showed his name to be Hoxley. Frank handed the thirty-ish Hoxley a copy of Brenda’s bail conditions, one of which she could collect personal items from the bedroom of the crime scene under the supervision of her lawyer.
Hoxley tipped his cap to Brenda. ‘I’m sorry, Mrs Stanton. Please accept my condolences.’
Brenda nodded and tried to smile and wondered at the thought of how strange a statement it was, made by one of those who had arrested her.
Frank led her into the front entry toward the stairs but Brenda froze and her head involuntarily turned toward the opening that led to the study where she had last seen Charles. Another police officer stood to the side of the wide double doors. An outline of Charles’ body had been drawn on the carpet. A darkened dried bloodstain remained in the beige plush pile they had chosen together when they refurbished after their fifth wedding anniversary. Brenda shuddered and forced herself to look away. She felt Frank nudge her gently forward snapping her out of her nostalgia.
Part way up the stairs she paused to glance over the rail and beyond to the kitchen. Her chin lifted slightly and her nose wrinkled before she proceeded up the steps to the bedroom. Frank stood just outside in what seemed an attempt to Brenda as an unspoken gesture of privacy.
In the bathroom, Brenda reached for her make-up bag. Her eyes fell on Charles’ razor and the aftershave bottle that she had purchased for him on a recent trip to Hawaii. The familiar scent lingered on Charles’ robe that hung behind the door. Silent tears flowed as she forced herself to pack a small suitcase she had placed on the bed. There’s no time for memories right now, she pondered while shoving some clean nightwear and underclothing into a zipped section inside the suitcase. She methodically continued to pack, stopping briefly to fold Charles’ bathrobe around their wedding photo.
Brenda closed the bag and zipped it. Looking around the room, she considered tidying up the mess the police had made searching for who-knows-what.
‘Are you ready to leave?’ Frank asked, approaching her quietly and reaching for her suitcase.
‘Yes. Yes, please let’s go.’
She turned and walked promptly to the landing where she stopped suddenly. Her head jerked downward.
Frank moved quickly to her side. ‘What is it?’
A slight thump beneath caused them both to move to the railing and look over. The officer that had been by the double doors had drawn his gun and was rushing in the direction of the kitchen.
‘You heard that, right?’ Brenda whispered.
‘I think we all did,’ he replied, nodding toward Hoxley who had rushed into the front entry hall.
‘But what was it? It’s the same sound, the same…’ She sniffed. ‘The same odour.’
Frank sniffed too and then shrugged.
They continued to the stairs and began the descent. Partway down Brenda stopped again where she had paused earlier. She sank down onto a step and touched her forehead with the palm of her hand.
‘Are you all right?’ It was Hoxley.
‘Yes, thank you. I thought I saw something…or at least remembered that I had seen something.’
A gunshot sounded, then nothing. A few minutes later the other police officer returned.
‘There’s something definitely strange going on here,’ he said to no one in particular before he replaced his gun into its pouch.
Brenda looked down at him. ‘W…what…?’
Young Hoxley dashed toward the kitchen generating strange looks from both Frank and the other officer. Brenda just let her head droop slowly forward to fight off a moment of dizziness.
It seemed to Brenda that Hoxley had just materialized in front of her a few steps down. He placed a glass of water to her lips.
‘Thank you,’ Brenda said after a few sips and taking the glass from him.
‘What do you mean by there’s something strange going on here?’ Frank suddenly demanded. ‘Shouldn’t we take a look? Who were you shooting at? What’s going on around here? Shouldn’t I…I…’
The other officer rushed up the stairs before he could continue. He grabbed Frank’s elbow and pulled him roughly down the last few steps and out of Brenda’s hearing. However, she did notice the signal for Hoxley to stay with her.
Brenda thanked Hoxley again and gave him the glass before attempting to stand, but he gently placed his hand palm-down on her shoulder to keep her seated.
‘I know I heard something that night,’ she began, ‘and I saw something. I just can’t remember what.’
‘It’s all right Ma’am. We’ll get to the bottom of it. Leave it to the authorities. Inspector O’Malley has had two officers here since day one keeping an eye on things. A few things don’t fit, but we’re working on it.’ Hoxley sat beside her and took something from his shirt pocket. ‘In the meantime, you may like to get some help…and maybe some other answers.’ He handed her something that looked like a business card and Brenda took it distractedly.
At that moment Frank returned. He appeared exasperated but Brenda didn’t know him well enough to read him. Although he seemed to be a good lawyer, he was also a very strange man with not much in the way of compassion.
Brenda gave her thanks again to Hoxley after he helped her into the car. He smiled through the side window and returned to his post by the front door. The thump of the closing boot lid startled her and she watched in a daze as Frank opened the driver’s door and got in.
‘What’s that?’ Frank asked, peering over the driver seat at Brenda.
She stared at a small card in her hand. She wondered momentarily how it got there. ‘City Central Family Church,’ she read aloud.
‘Ah…that’s not far from my own church. If you want, I can take you to either one on Sunday. I haven’t been for months. I never get the time these days. At least not since my wife up and left with the kids.’
When Frank turned the corner the tree lined street disappeared from sight. His one-sided conversation seemed to fade into a haze of an all ready confused dream. She studied the front of the card and then the back. There was a phone number for a Peter and Cheryl Hoxley.
God and church had never been a priority in their busy lives. The only times they had gone to church were for weddings or funerals. ‘If there is a God…why would he let this happen?’ She whispered.
Placing her hands in her lap she looked out the window barely aware of Frank’s constant chatter. ‘God, help me. Help me to remember. Help the authorities find Charles’ killer. Please God…’
‘Frank?’ Brenda finally interrupted as his pristine restored Cadillac pulled to a stop at the motel. ‘What did that other police officer have to say to you that I couldn’t hear?’
The engine silenced along with his chattering. ‘Sergeant McDougal? Um…nothing for you to worry about. It um…appears the police have some new leads. That’s all I should say for now.’
With the short conversation ended, Frank led her to the motel lobby. He was about to place the suitcase down to wait for the elevator when reporters and cameramen rushed toward them. The ding of the elevator announcing its arrival had them rushing in before the doors opened fully. Brenda whimpered as the doors closed. Frank pressed the button for the fifth floor.
© Chrissy Siggee
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.