Thomas

The smell of fresh coffee teased my nostrils. I entered Daisy’s Café below the row of offices that overlooked a noisy intersection on Charter Row.

Daisy’s beaming smile greeted me. ‘Morning, Dave. The usual?’

‘Yes, please. Any doughnuts?’

‘Sure.’

Daisy handed me the coffee then bagged the doughnuts while I guzzled down a few mouthfuls of the piping hot brew. ‘Ah… Just the way I like it. See you later Daisy.’

I stepped back out into the commotion of the busy street and headed up the flight of stairs a few feet away. There, blocking my way, sat a vagabond. A middle-aged man, down on his luck and known to every tenant on Charter Row as Tom.

‘Tom.’ I paused to calm my tone. ‘I really need to get to my office.’

‘Can I-I-I come up? I-I-I need to t-t-talk,’ he stuttered.

‘Come on then.’ I sighed. I knew the only way to pass was to allow him to accompany me. I shook the bag of doughnuts. ‘I’ve got your favourite.’

Tom grinned. He followed me up the stairs and I handed him the bag so I could unlock the door. I stepped aside to let him enter. Closing the door behind me, I placed the coffee on my desk and opened a window.

‘Now, what can I do for you Tom?’ I watched him gulp down the last doughnut.

He choked and sprayed crumbs over my desk. I handed him my coffee. I would go without. Tom stuttered his thanks and drank before he explained his request.

He began by telling me his name was actually Thomas not Tom. His problem was a simple one. Thomas needed bus fare to a canning factory where his friend John worked as a packer. Thomas needed to go today, preferably before ten o’clock, because the cannery was employing staff this morning. He needed me to go along to speak for him. It was true enough, I understood his stuttering and asking for a position would be difficult for both Thomas and the employer.

‘Okay, you can’t go like that.’ I pointed him to the tiny bathroom and told him to strip and have a sponge bath using the sink while I checked the phone messages.

There was only one message. ‘Lord Bellamy here; I need you to find someone. If you return my call before midday the job is yours.’ I looked at my watch. ‘Ouch!’

I could hear Thomas complaining about the cold water. I gave Thomas some spare clothes I kept at the office in case I slept at the office during investigations. The trousers were definitely too long but they would have to do.

The wash, the change of clothes and a comb through his hair, made Tom respectable enough. Thankfully his thread bare shoes were hidden by his trousers. I sprayed Thomas with cologne until we both choked.

 

Thomas’s eyes widened. He seemed excited to be out of Charter Row. He obviously hadn’t been on a bus for a long time; maybe not at all. There was a lot I didn’t know about Thomas.

‘Thomas,’ I asked, as the bus neared the factory. ‘Where will you live if you get this job?’

‘M-m-my friend, J-J-John, h-he let me stay for a-a bit,’ he answered, his eyes still fixed on the view beyond the window.

We arrived at the cannery a little before ten thirty. The manager was sympathetic and understanding.

‘John would like me to give you a go’, he told Thomas. ‘I’ll give you a month’s trial. John’s a good teacher. I’m sure you’ll be fine.’

After handshakes all around, I left Thomas with the manager and returned to my office where Old Spice cologne still lingered in the stuffy air. I pressed the replay button on the answering machine and dialed the recorded number. I was pleased Thomas had the opportunity for a fresh start. I wondered now if I had a job.

‘Lord Bellamy’s residence, may I help you?’

‘Yes, this is Dave Strong, Private Investigator. Lord Bellamy left a message on my answering machine.’

‘Yes, Mr. Strong, he’s been waiting for your call. I’ll put you through.’

There was only a brief silence before the voice on the phone matched that of the recording on my machine.  He came straight to the point of his request.

‘Hello Mr. Strong.  I need someone to find my brother.’ Lord Bellamy’s voice sounded stately but urgent. ‘My brother and my father, Lawrence Bellamy, had a disagreement over twenty years ago. My brother left and we haven’t heard from him since.’

He paused before continuing. ‘Our father passed away a few weeks ago and regardless of their differences, Father left my brother half the estate. I need to find him. It’s time to bring him home. Can you help?’

This was right up my alley. I needed a good investigation and I loved finding long lost souls. ‘Yes, I can help you Lord Bellamy. Might I have some details to help start my search?’

‘His birth name is Thomas Alfred Bellamy, born 40 years ago in Sheffield. He has one significant characteristic trait that stands out. He stutters.’

© Chrissy Siggee

(Perhaps the shortest investigation in history)

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.

Archived in
Short Fiction by Chrissy at Riverside Peace

The Mystery of Keats’ Missing ‘Endymion’— Solved.

Historian Albert Winslow sat at his desk in a sparsely furnished London office. Using two large wooden tweezers, he gently unrolled the manuscript. Faded calligraphy on tea coloured paper revealed its age and fragility. With a magnifying glass he studied the almost illegible signature confirming the author, John Keats.

Winslow peered over the top of his wire-framed spectacles. He studied the gentleman sitting opposite, who repeatedly wiped his balding head with a handkerchief. ‘Sir, where did you say you found this manuscript?’

‘I didn’t exactly find it. It’s part of my inheritance.’

Removing his spectacles, the historian studied the gentleman sitting on the other side of his desk fidgeting in his chair. ‘What did you say your name was?’

‘Kent. Michael Kent.’

‘Mr Kent, this signature doesn’t appear to resemble a Kent.’

‘It was handed down on my mother’s side. My mother changed my surname when she remarried.’

‘I see. Leave it with me, Mr Kent. I’ll have it valued for you by tomorrow. Leave your details with my secretary on the way out.’ He rose and shook his client’s hand.

 

Winslow’s secretary entered his office the following morning. He looked up as she reached his desk.

‘Miss Harwich, could you please place a call to a Lord David Keats of Hampstead? Give him my name and switch him through to my office. Give me a few minutes though, I need to talk to Scotland Yard.’

‘Yes, Mr Winslow.’

It took just moments for Lord Keats’s voice to be heard.

‘Lord Keats?’

‘Yes, this is he.’

‘I believe I have in my possession your great grandfather’s missing manuscript, ‘Endymion’.’

The line was quiet for so long that Winslow thought he had been disconnected when suddenly Lord Keats continued.

‘How can that be? It disappeared after he died, in 1821?  It’s been almost a century?’

‘Yes, I know. I also know that your father, Lord Alfred Keats, passed away last week, my condolences.’

‘Thank you, but how do you know and what does his death have to do with my great grandfather’s manuscript?’

‘Your father paid me to know. You see I’m a historian and a private investigator. Your father visited me here in London on December sixth last year. The manuscript had apparently resurfaced and he hired me to investigate its location. I sent him a wire last Monday about my findings before his heart attack. Did he mention it to you?’

‘No, and I’m not sure why he would hire anyone. Until Christmas my father and I had been investigating the mystery disappearance together for almost a decade.’

Winslow carefully chose his words before proceeding. ‘Perhaps, Lord Keats, your father discovered he hadn’t been told when someone had found it. That someone decided to use it for his own financial gain.’

‘What are you implying, Mr Winslow?’

‘Let me refresh your memory. Two years ago, your cousin, Michael Kent, inherited a meagre bequest. While clearing out his mother’s writing bureau, Kent discovered a key to a safe deposit box that contained a letter from his grandfather—your grandfather’s younger brother. With that letter was your great grandfather’s manuscript. The letter described in detail how your grandfather cheated him out of his share or their father’s estate. Your great uncle stole the manuscript after your great grandfather’s death in 1821— before he could have it published. Are you following me Lord Keats?’

‘Continue, Mr Winslow. I find your hypothesis intriguing.’

‘Late last year, your cousin decided it was time to show his hand by attempting to blackmail your father. Because your father didn’t want his conniving nephew to get his hands on his money, he came directly to me. We thought it was an open and shut case until I discovered that Michael Kent had an accomplice—someone who wanted revenge for an unrelated incident years before. Unfortunately, that piece of information inadvertently killed your father. The accomplice was you. Am I right Lord Keats?’

‘You’re very clever, Mr Winslow. There’s one thing you haven’t explained. How did you get your hands on the manuscript?’

‘That was the easy part. After your father’s death, you and your cousin-initiated plan B: to sell the manuscript to a publisher and split the profit. However, your cousin decided to have it valued first. Unfortunately for you both, he came to me. I advertise my professions separately and I only display my name on the door.’

There was another notable silence followed by a murmur of voices at Lord Keats’ end of the line. ‘You’ll have to excuse me, Mr Winslow. Apparently, I have visitors.’

‘Ah yes, my friends from Scotland Yard. Blackmail is a serious crime. Good day to you, Lord Keats.’

© Chrissy Siggee

Authors Notes:

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.

English poet John Keats, born October 1795 in Moorgate, London, died in February 1821 at the age of 26 from tuberculosis. His works had been the target of much abuse including his last epic poem ‘Endymion’. John Keats never married, which should indicate that the contents of: ‘The Mystery of Keats’ Missing ‘Endymion’ – Solved’ set in the early twentieth century, is completely fictional.

Archived in
Short Fiction by Chrissy at Riverside Peace

 

Stella’s Plight – Chapter One

Chapter One

Stella’s thick black hair momentarily obscured the unpaved footpath. Another April gusty breeze sent the fringe in the other direction but not in time to avoid the muddy puddle. Conscious now of a stain that would ruin her best pantsuit she avoided looking down. She wouldn’t have been able to see much past the bundle in one arm and the heavy khaki carry bag over the other anyway. ‘Can my day get any worse?’ she mumbled.

Oblivious of the people bustling around her, Stella again focused on one thing…to get onto that train; her only escape.

Entering a short, almost empty tunnel the clicking of her heels on the concrete floor motivated her to walk faster. She dared a quick glance over her shoulder. Feeling only slightly easier, she turned a sharp right onto a crowded platform. Side stepping suitcases and groups of passengers that chatted and laughed, she kept going until she found an empty bench seat at the far end of the platform where she would be able to embark closest to the guard’s carriage.

The bundle stirred as Stella sat and eased the heavy bag from her sore shoulder. ‘Not long now, little one.’ She reached into the bag for a pacifier. Sucking was instant. Stella’s attention returned to her surroundings.

In a few short minutes, everyone had hushed and turned to face the approaching train. Returning the bag to her shoulder she stood carefully so not to lose grip of her precious bundle. Once the train had stopped completely, she stepped forward to board the carriage. Someone touched her elbow. Panic filled her until she realised that it was a short, pump woman dressed in very plain old fashion clothing. Around her neck hung a chunky cross on a simple chain.

‘Let me help with that.’ The woman took the bag without waiting for an answer.

‘Thank you, ‘Stella answered as calmly as she could before she stepped across the gap and followed the woman to a seat at the rear of the carriage. ‘Thank you,’ she said again before sitting beside her.

Stella moved the baby to the other arm to relieve the ache that had reached the point of stiffness and also to let the kind woman see her baby. ‘Thank you,’ she said, knowing she had repeated herself again.

The warm smile made Stella feel more relaxed than she had been since the day before but still kept alert of what was happening around them.

‘I’m Sister Anna Teresa, but you can call me Teresa. It’s actually what my father called me.’

‘It’s good to meet you Teresa. I’m Stella… or Stel for short,’ she added with a smile.

‘Such a sweet baby.’ The words were tender.

‘Would you like to hold her,’ Stella asked.

‘Oh, could I?’ Teresa handed Stella the bag and reached over to accept the baby.  ‘She’s so tiny. Must be a newborn.’

Stella searched the bag for the items she needed to prepare a bottle. ‘Yes…Sarah is a week-old today.’

A whistle blew and the train began to move.

Teresa watched as Stella mixed the powder. ‘Such a shame…’ she said. ‘I mean…’

‘That’s all right. I’m fine about not being able to feed her myself,’ was Stella’s simple reply. ‘Would you like to give her the bottle?’

Teresa’s huge grin was all Stella needed to hand over the little bottle and remove the pacifier. She watched as Sarah sucked furiously bringing laughs from both women.

Looking up, Stella saw the guard making his way through the carriage. She closed her eyes and sighed heavily.

‘Do you have to travel far? Teresa asked carefully.

‘As far as the train goes,’ Stella answered without thinking. ‘I mean…I’m heading back to Bourke.’

‘Such a long trip on your own with one so little.’ Her eyes now fixed on Stella’s.

In that awkward moment she leaned forward and looked down at the blotchy brown marks at the hem of her slacks. She cringed slightly and studied the other passengers in their carriage. Some were involved in conversations, reading or preparing for a snooze. Stella took a deep breath and released it slowly before making an effort to respond. ‘I am alone,’ she whispered. ‘It’s a long story.’

‘We have plenty of time and I’m a good listener…if you want to share.’

With a sense of relief, Stella slowly began her story.

To be continued….

© Chrissy Siggee – 2019

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.

Archived in
Short Fiction by Chrissy at Riverside Peace

MEMORY OF DREAD – Part Six

🦋 – a short murder mystery for the Christian reader – Part 6 🦋

Brenda gasped. ‘What?’ She stared back at Constable Hoxley then turned to Inspector O’Malley. ‘When did you find this out?’

‘This morning,’ Hoxley replied. ‘Frank Davies’ drive to claim you several years ago set him into a downhill spiral. He began skimming money from your husband’s bank accounts a few years ago as well.’

‘Davies introduced Carlos Lorenzo to Charles as a gardener,’ Hoxley continued. ‘Lorenzo was to spy on your husband’s clients for Davies and to check your comings and goings. He had an elaborate plan that would not only get you but ultimately Charles’ company and investments. Because of Davies’ dirty dealings, he unintentionally put you in danger, even from some of Charles’ clients. Why, we aren’t completely sure.’

Hoxley flicked through his notebook before continuing. ‘Davies’ plans began to come unstuck when you took a disliking to Lorenzo, whose feelings, as you know, were mutual. However, Lorenzo had already become a loyal worker, and possibly a good friend to Charles, at least someone he could trust. Because of this, Charles learned of Davies’ desire to have you and his money. But, he needed proof. The private door was your husband’s idea for private meetings with Lorenzo and clients who were aware of Davies’ dirty dealings. We suppose Lorenzo simply got tired of playing Davies’ sick games, including the blackmailing.’

Brenda sat in dumb silence. This had been going on for at least two years? It was inconceivable. Why hadn’t I noticed? Where was I when these meetings were going on in my own home? She couldn’t even speculate why Charles put up with Frank for so long, proof or no proof.

‘Six months ago,’ O’Malley broke into her thoughts, ‘Davies represented a small-time drug smuggler. The accused walked and Davies’ pocketed a large amount of laundered cash.’

‘And Charles didn’t know any of this?’ Brenda interrupted, her frustration showing from her usual demeanour.

‘Oh… it gets better,’ O’Malley sniggered. ‘Lorenzo found out about the money and dug up some more dirt on Davies.’

His toned softened. ‘But no, I don’t think your husband was aware, at least not until much later. Perhaps only recently. Charles did pay Lorenzo enough money to pay off the blackmail so Davies wouldn’t know things had changed. This we discovered in a ledger your husband kept for his own records, not that he actually recorded it as blackmail money. He recorded Carlos Lorenzo in his last tax records as a business advisor, hence a higher payment.’

Brenda stood and walked back and forth, not that there was much room with the four of them in the small office. The three officers watched her and waited. She turned to Hoxley. Her mind went back to the early piece of news that shocked her most.

‘But I hardly know Frank. He attended business lunches and dinners with us. I sometimes sat in occasional meetings where it involved my own investments but other than that, I only knew Frank as Charles’ lawyer. Why would I be attracted to Frank?’ She hugged herself and grimaced. ‘I doubt I could ever be. You are kidding. Right?’

Hoxley shook his head slowly. ‘Sorry. They were his words. I admit though, he’s one sick man and you have no way led him on.’ He turned to McDougal who had picked up the file on the Asian guy.

‘This Asian character,’ McDougal began, ‘was one of Davies’ clients. He was also a client of Charles’ for a legitimate business. Somehow after a meeting with Charles, Davies and this client, this file got caught between some of Charles’ own paperwork. When Davies went to work on the file, he couldn’t find it and figured out what must have happened.’

‘So, this file,’ she pointed, ‘is what put Charles and me in danger?’ Brenda asked directly.

‘Yes, and this is where it gets messy,’ McDougal replied. ‘You see this client, Fo-Yong-Ho, is also a member of an Asian drug ring. He had met with Davies before this meeting with Charles; the morning before Charles’ murder.’

McDougal handed Brenda the file page. ‘These numbers indicate names of drug dealers, or rather their code names.’ He walked over in two short steps and stood beside Brenda. He pointed to the third number on the list. ‘This number here for instance: 49560HO is Fo-Yong-Ho’s. This sign here,’ he pointed to an Asian character symbol before the number, ‘represents what would be the third letter of their alphabet. What’s so important about the list is that the ASIS (Australia Secret Intelligence Service) would love to get their hands on it, and as soon as we have finished with the murder case, they can have it along with Frank Davies.’

‘You mean he’s on the list?’ Brenda was beginning to understand. She ran her index finger down the page. ‘71062FB! You’re kidding: number 27. As simple as that? But, does this mean he’s just…?’

‘Just a pawn,’ the sergeant finished for her. But a valuable pawn to the ASIS.

Brenda went to the sofa and sat down. With her head bowed slightly she touched her wedding ring. She took in a slow deep breath. ‘Look, I’m grateful for you all explaining all this. It gives me an idea what Charles was dealing with. About Frank I mean.’ Her voice wavered. ‘It’s also good to know why Charles died but what I really want to know is who killed him. Was it Carlos? Was it Frank? Or… this Fo-Yong-Ho person?’

‘Let me give you the facts about your husband,’ O’Malley began. ‘He wasn’t perfectly innocent in a few things but if he was still alive, he would probably be charged for withholding information that would have led to the arrests of Davies and at least a few other names on this list. Also, the fact is he would have known sometime after he employed Lorenzo that he was an illegal resident. For those things alone he may or may not have received much more than an acquitted short term sentence.’ He returned to his chair behind the desk. ‘His gun, as you know, was registered but we’re unsure why it was in his drawer fully loaded.’

Brenda had listened in silence as tears suddenly streamed uncontrollably down her cheeks. She didn’t bother to wipe them away. Had her husband been a criminal or just plain stupid? The thought gnawed at her.

Hoxley came over and sat beside her. As if reading her mind, he said, ‘Brenda, the way I see it, the only thing that Charles was really guilty of was protecting the woman he loved. He wasn’t letting any creep-of-a-lawyer claim you, or his company.’

‘That’s about size of it,’ McDougal conceded.

O’Malley cleared his throat and gulped down his cooling coffee. ‘Let’s finish this up so Sergeant McDougal can continue his research on this Fo-Yong-Ho character.’

The officers returned to their notes and waited for each other to continue.

Hoxley took the lead. ‘After Davies discovered that the file was missing he told Lorenzo to find it or else he would report him to the authorities. Davies informed him that you and Charles would be out most of the night and that he would have plenty of time to search. Fo-Yong-Ho called Davies about 10:00 pm to question him about an error in one of the code numbers. Out of panic, Davies told Fo-Yong-Ho that he had hidden it in Charles’ home safe for security and that he, Davies, could retrieve it in the morning. However, when Lorenzo hadn’t reported back to Davies as scheduled he went to the house to see what was keeping him. Shortly after midnight Davies entered Charles’ home office by the side door, just as Lorenzo had done earlier.’ Looking up he added, ‘apparently Davies had known about the side door but assumed it was just for Lorenzo.’ Here he paused to flip to the next page. ‘Lorenzo had found the file and realized what it was or, at least he had a fair idea. Davies found him in the process of photocopying the file. He hadn’t heard Davies enter, probably because of the noise of the photocopier. Davies struck Lorenzo over the back of the head with the eagle paperweight.’

‘Forensics,’ O’Malley interrupted, ‘had discovered some dried blood on the eagle. At first they thought it was Charles’ but until today we really had no idea whose blood it was. When Davies made his statement this morning, forensics paid a visit to Lorenzo in his cell for a sample.’

‘When Lorenzo regained consciousness,’ Hoxley continued, ‘Davies was sitting in Charles’ chair. Lorenzo was tied up and Davies had Charles’ gun pointing at him.’ He looked over to the sergeant.

‘Yes,’ McDougal confirmed. ‘Lorenzo had admitted in a later interview that he had found the gun in Charles’ desk drawer and had been just checking-it-out while the photocopier warmed up. He had placed it on the desk to press the copy button. A silly mistake no matter how you look at it.’

McDougal took a moment to sip his coffee and waited for any questions. When none came, he continued. ‘Lorenzo also told us that Davies forced him to confess everything including details about the ledger that he found during his own search of the office after rendering him helpless. Davies then gagged Lorenzo and threatened him to keep quiet.’

When McDougal stopped to take a long drink, Hoxley continued the narrative.

‘Davies decided he would wait for Charles to have it out with him, only he didn’t expect the telephone to ring on your arrival. He panicked and forced Lorenzo to hide with him behind one of the large double doors he had opened so he would know when you both returned home. Once Charles picked up the phone in the office, Davies waited a few minutes to be sure you had gone upstairs. By that time Davies had figured out it was Fo-Yong-Ho on the phone. Davies said Charles raised his voice at Fo-Yong-Ho telling him that he would deal with the situation at their next meeting. Davies said he was unsure what the conversation was about but figured Fo-Yong-Ho must have used some weak excuse to call, perhaps to make a visit himself. We don’t know.’

‘Hang on…’ Brenda interrupted. ‘Back up a bit. This Fo-Yong-Ho, Charles had no idea that he was a drug dealer. Right?’

‘Fo-Yong-Ho was a client of Charles with a legitimate jewellery business, which was also a cover-up for the drug dealing, but he used the family company name when dealing with Charles.’ Hoxley checked his notes. ‘Minh Nhung’.

‘Davies has confirmed that Charles knew nothing about the drug deals,’ McDougal added for Brenda’s benefit.

After a quiet minute in thought Brenda nodded for them to continue. She was tired and felt like she had been sucked through an engine of a jet plane but she needed to know the rest so she could make sense of it all.

O’Malley’s phone rang before anyone could speak. ‘O’Malley. Yes, right. Good job! Thanks.’ He hung up. ‘A highway patrol constable has Fo-Yong-Ho in custody but more on that later. We’re almost done. Continue Hoxley.’

‘According to the telephone company the call lasted no more than a couple of minutes. Davies confirmed it. When Charles replaced the telephone receiver, he turned to follow you upstairs only he was confronted by Davies who had stepped out from behind the door with Lorenzo held tightly in his grip and the gun in his free hand. Davies claimed he just wanted to talk. His plan was to take Lorenzo as hostage and leave the country with Fo-Yong-Ho. He told Charles if he called the police or tried to follow, he’d have Fo-Yong-Ho get someone to kill you.’ He paused. ‘Davies also told us that he would never have done that and his real plan was to have you abducted and take you out of the country too.’

Brenda felt ill and must have looked it. McDougal filled a glass with water from a jug on O’Malley’s desk and handed it to her. She accepted it with thanks.

Hoxley continued. ‘Lorenzo kicked and twisted himself out of Davies’ grip. Charles made a dive for Davies but the gun was by then, aimed at Lorenzo. Charles dived between them as Davies fired, taking the bullet for Lorenzo. Charles apparently died instantly. When Lorenzo began to gag on his own vomit, Davies dragged him back out the side door to the garden before he removed the handkerchief from his mouth telling him to stay put and keep quiet or he would get a bullet in his head. Davies then went back inside, wiped the gun clean and placed it in Charles’ hand. He also wiped his prints off the paperweight but missed the blood. Because he was a regular to the room, he didn’t bother to clean up too much else. He was so flustered he left the room without the file and the photocopy he had placed on the filing cabinet behind the door when he hid there with Lorenzo. He returned for Lorenzo and left. When he realised his carelessness he sent Lorenzo back to retrieve the file but by that time they had to wait until the forensics had left. He was in the house when Davis took you back to pack a suitcase.’

‘Thinking back on it,’ McDougal added, ‘Davies’ behaviour was meant to be a distraction and probably timed your visit to make sure Lorenzo wasn’t caught. What he didn’t expect was your sensitive nose.’

Brenda took a deep breath. ‘So it was Frank?’

‘Yes. Davies was the one who pulled the trigger that ultimately killed your husband.’ Hoxley walked over and put his hand on her shoulder and sat down. ‘He died saving Carlos’ life and trying to stop Frank from proceeding with his plans.’

Brenda gave a deep audible sigh. ‘I need to be left alone. Please.’

McDougal and O’Malley quietly collected their notebooks and empty coffee cups and left the office.

He stood up. ‘Do you want me to send in Cheryl?’ Hoxley asked.

‘Not yet,’ she replied weakly. ‘Give me half an hour,’ she added. She managed what she hoped was a thankful smile.

He left and closed the door quietly.

In some ways she was relieved; relieved Charles didn’t suffer. Relieved it was all over. Relieved they had found Fo-Yong-Ho and relieved the law would deal with Frank and Carlos. Yet, a sensation of unexpected sadness tugged at her.

Carlos was also a victim and almost killed by this lunatic, perhaps trying to save Charles. Her emotions confused her. ‘Oh Charles, why?’ The pain was drowning her. She rested her head on the back of the sofa. Just as she did, a still small voice spoke within her. ‘Child, lean on me. Cast all your burdens upon me and I will give you rest.’ Brenda prayed quietly until the floodgates opened. It seemed to wash all the pain,  grief and dread of the past few weeks away in one cleansing torrent.

The life she and Charles had shared was over but she knew deep down this was a new beginning. She thanked the Lord for ten wonderful years with Charles, her safety and a closure. It was time to move on, on to a new life with her newfound faith in a God who loved her.

THE END

© 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.

Archived in
Christian Reads by Chrissy at Riverside Peace

 

MEMORY OF DREAD – Part Five

🦋 – a short murder mystery for the Christian reader – Part 5 🦋

Time seemed to move in slow motion. Cheryl was chatting away as she busied herself in her kitchen.

Although Brenda had appreciated the conversation, she was way too distracted to comprehend what she was hearing. Her hand was much better after the emergency department treated the burn and re-bandaged it. She smiled briefly as she thought of Peter’s first-aid efforts.

‘This coffee sure beats the cup Peter brewed at the police station,’ she said when Cheryl came over and sat down opposite of her.

‘Brenda, you need to rest. You really should have some sleep before Peter returns home this evening. That’s your fourth coffee since you’ve arrived. Not that I mind.’ Cheryl sighed. ‘Peter has put your suitcase in the spare room. Why don’t I run you a hot bath?  You can change into something more comfortable for a nap. Look at yourself. You’ve been in that stiff-tailored suit all day.’ She tugged at the coffee-stained sleeve. ‘I’m worried about you, and Peter’s going to be worried too if he sees you like this.’

Brenda put her cup down and reached out to touch Cheryl’s hand. ‘You two have become good friends. I wish Charles had a chance to meet you.’ She gulped away another threatening sob.

A sympathetic face looked back. ‘If I have to, I’ll undress you myself and put you in that tub, then, tuck you into bed…for at least a few hours. Cheryl gently squeezed her hand. ‘I’m going to pray with you right now.’ She paused. ‘Please. Did you get any sleep at the hotel?’

Brenda couldn’t lie. She smiled, awkwardly, and rolled her eyes toward the ceiling before bowing her head while her friend prayed the most beautiful prayer she had ever heard.

Soon she was settled into a hot bath filled with bubbles finally allowing herself to relax. She laid back, closed her eyes, and listened to the CD Cheryl had playing in the next room. The music was soothing and the words were filled with praises and promises from the Psalms. She listened and began to hum along. The tune was one she had heard a long time ago. Peace is flowing like a river, flowing out to you and me…

Later that evening, Brenda felt more relaxed and refreshed. A rest, a good meal and a fresh change of clothes did help. Peter updated her, although there really wasn’t much to tell. They were still clueless, and although a replacement lawyer had been found for Brenda, Frank Davies had not yet found legal assistance. He was being uncooperative.

‘What about the client’s file they were trying to find?’ Brenda asked after the brief update.

‘We haven’t found it. At least nothing that looks suspicious. There’s one thing though. Carlos told O’Malley when he was arrested that the gun was on the desk when he was in the house the night of Charles’ death but then he changed his statement and said he didn’t see it. After that, his information was not so forth coming.’

‘So did Carlos kill Charles?’ Brenda persisted.

Peter stifled a yawn. ‘To be honest, I don’t think he did, but, if he did, it was by Davis’ instructions…or someone else’s’ – if there is a someone else.’ This time he didn’t manage to cover his yawn in time and apologised before heading to bed.

Cheryl left a few minutes later but not until Brenda had a private moment to thank her again. Brenda stayed awhile in the living room alone with her thoughts and memories.

The next morning Cheryl accompanied Brenda to the police station at Brenda’s invitation. It would be a long day for her and she needed a friend around while Peter and O’Malley were busy with other things. Cheryl had gone to the kitchen to brew some coffee she had brought from home. O’Malley opened the door and held it open for Cheryl, who followed with two large mugs of steaming coffee.

Once the women were seated on the sofa and O’Malley at his desk, O’Malley held up a thin manila file folder. ‘We found the file.’ He opened it and pulled out what appeared to be a sheet of ordinary office paper.

‘Is that all there is?’ Brenda asked a little confused.

He stood and leaned over the desk to hand it to her. There appeared to be an Asian name at the top, some contact details, and then a whole lot of figures: mathematical symbols and what looked like serial numbers or possibly invoice numbers.

After she gave it a good look-over she handed it back. ‘What’s it mean?’

‘I’m not sure but it was hidden in the lining of Frank Davies’ briefcase. What I want to know is why someone would want to steal a single sheet of paper from your husband?’ He sat down again. ‘And, why would it lead to his death?’ He studied the paper while the women drank their coffee in silence.

Brenda began to pace. After a few minutes she looked at her watch and placed her empty mug in Cheryl’s hand when she had reached for it. ‘Thanks Cheryl. I’m afraid it’s going to be a bit of a bore for you today.’

Cheryl smiled. ‘That’s all right. I’m here if you need me. If you need some space, I’ll be in the kitchen.’ She left, closing the door behind her.

O’Malley stood up and started to leave. ‘Oh, I almost forgot. We sent the forensic team back out to your house late yesterday with some specific instructions. Once they are through with their examination, our cleaners will be sent in and have it ready for you when this is all over. I hope for your sake that it’ll be soon. I’ve taken the liberty of finding you a new lawyer, Cole Webster. We’ll hand over a few of Charles’ personal files, including his current Will. That’s if you’re happy with Webster.’

Brenda nodded before he continued.

‘There was nothing in your husband’s personal files that could help the investigation. I believe everything was left to you except for a holiday cottage which he left to his brother, Patrick.’

‘Yes, I was aware of that. We discussed it some time ago.’

‘We had the authorities speak with Patrick. Everything was in order.’ He paused. ‘Patrick has offered any assistance if you should need it and sends his condolences. I believe he’s been interstate for business trips these past weeks and wasn’t even aware of Charles’ death.’

Brenda’s hand went to her forehead. ‘I hadn’t even thought about contacting Patrick. I feel terrible.’

‘Well, it’s understandable, considering you had been detained, and Davis obviously wasn’t doing his job. Anyway, my office is yours for the day. I’ll be in and out to update you, and get files as I need them.’

He started to gather a few things from his filing cabinet and desk when they heard a scuffle outside the door. They both watched as Cheryl burst in and placed her back up against the door.

‘I believe that’s Carlos.’ Cheryl pointed over her shoulder. ‘He’s not happy.’

Carlos Lorenzo was causing a commotion in the hallway as officers tried to escort him to the holding cell after yet another interview.

The inspector sighed. ‘If he does gets off the murder charge, he’ll be serving a few years for breaking-and-entering, and stealing before being deported. Our friend Carlos is an illegal immigrant. But right now we need to separate him from Frank Davies. Davies, by the way, will represent himself. He doesn’t appear to have too many colleagues that like him. I wonder why?’ He bid farewell to the ladies and left.

Brenda wandered to a small barred window that over looked the parking lot. The bars made her cringe. Would she ever be free of these memories?

The meeting with the new lawyer went well, ending with a promise of a letter going to the magistrate that afternoon to support the new police findings. The letter was roughly drafted for Brenda’s benefit and the Will was read in full. Charles’ funeral arrangements were discussed and partially organized but a date couldn’t be determined until the investigation was over and his body released by the coroner. Cheryl had been there throughout the meeting at Brenda’s request.

After the meeting Brenda wanted to take a walk but she knew, at least for today, would be impossible. Her thoughts involuntarily wondered to the Asian man. Who is he? Where is he? What did he want?

‘Do you have any family of your own, Brenda?’

Brenda felt the urge to hug her friend, so she did. ‘Thanks for being here for me, Cheryl.’ She released her and stepped back to the window. ‘My father passed away after a long painful illness a few months ago. There’s just my mother; I have no siblings. I had finally convinced her to go with a friend on a cruise. She left the day before Charles died. I’m glad she did. I’m not sure if she could have coped with all this.’ She turned to face Cheryl. ‘Anyway, she’s due back next week when this will hopefully be all over. I called her on Sunday after you and Peter dropped me back at the hotel. I didn’t tell her anything. Just that I missed her…’ She finished and looked down at her feet.

Brenda felt Cheryl’s arm go round her waist.

This dear friend was a good head and shoulders shorter than Brenda but she had been a tower of support. She rested her head on the top of Cheryl’s. They stood in silence until a knock came and Peter entered.

‘I’m going to get us some lunch. I won’t be long.’ He stepped inside and closed the door. ‘Brenda, Frank’s told us everything. As soon as we get his interview typed up and some legal paperwork done, we can let you know what’s going on. We need to find this Asian fellow though. All we have is his name a telephone number in a motel’s reception. I’ll be back soon. We’ll need to start praying.’ He kissed Cheryl’s cheek and left.

Brenda was amazed at this couple’s faith in God. ‘Cheryl,” she said eagerly. ‘I want what you and Peter have. I mean, I need hope and you two seem to have that hope in God. Show me how to get that same faith and assurance you have.’

Cheryl’s face lit up and she encouraged Brenda to sit and pray with her. ‘This is a big day for you; in more ways than one.’

After they had eaten and the officers and station staff returned to their duties, Brenda returned to the office with O’Malley and Peter following close behind. Cheryl stayed to clean up the station’s tiny kitchen.

Once the three were seated, Police Officer Sergeant McDougal, joined them. McDougal gave a preliminary report. Most of it Brenda had already heard, except for some details of her own arrest and interview but she was able to add a few extra details to complete the report.

Constable Peter Hoxley then began his report on Carlos. ‘Carlos Lorenzo has been an illegal immigrant of some four years. A year after his arrival, Frank Davies represented Carlos for a minor traffic offense. Davies found out about Lorenzo’s illegal papers and began to blackmail him.’ He placed some notes on O’Malley’s desk and looked over at Brenda before continuing. ‘Basically, Frank used Carlos to do his dirty work.’ He nodded to O’Malley to continue.

‘Frank Davies had been working with your husband long before you and he were married…’

‘Yes, I know that.’ Brenda interrupted. ‘What does that have to do with Carlos?’

‘Carlos Lorenzo was hired to spy on you, Brenda.’ He paused to let this newest information sink in. ‘You see, Brenda, Frank Davies says he was in love with you and still is.’

© 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.

Archived in
Christian Reads by Chrissy at Riverside Peace

MEMORY OF DREAD – Part Four

🦋 – a short murder mystery for the Christian reader – Part 4 🦋

The window resembled no similarities of the peaceful beauty Brenda enjoyed in the church window just yesterday. What she recalled though was the early hours of the cold morning less than a week ago. Only it wasn’t her that sat beside Frank Davies in a stark interview room; it was Carlos.

Police Officer, and now friend, Peter Hoxley, placed a supportive hand on her shoulder. ‘Are you sure you’re okay with this?’ He stood beside the plastic chair where she sat staring through what looked like a two-way mirror. ‘They can’t see or hear you, and you are perfectly safe. They don’t even know you have been invited to witness the interview.’

Brenda took a deep breath, and then eased it out slowly, a technique a counsellor showed her at the prison. It helped somewhat throughout her short but terrifying incarceration. ‘I’ll be fine. I just don’t understand why I’m here.’

At that moment Inspector O’Malley stepped into the small room and leaned back against the door.

With eyes still fixed on the two men on the other side of the glass, Brenda began with reluctance. ‘What surprises me…and it probably shouldn’t, is the fact that Frank is here for Carlos. I mean, is it legal for him to represent both of us?’

‘It is,’ O’Malley replied. ‘At least at the moment.’ He walked over to the glass and watched the two men for a few minutes. The whispering was becoming heated and Carlos was fidgeting and shaking his fist at his lawyer.

‘I think we might begin, Mrs Stanton.’ He paused, ‘or would Brenda make things a little easier?’ At her nod, he continued. ‘I asked you to come because something doesn’t fit with Frank’s story, not Carlos’ so much. I need you to listen carefully, and when I come out Hoxley will see you to my office. I’ll join you once I’ve returned Carlos to his cell…and decide how to proceed with this lawyer character.’

Still slightly confused, she nodded in agreement anyway. She knew that Peter had described to O’Malley what had occurred with Frank the day before which may have been part of the explanation. She watched the men squirm in their chairs when the inspector entered the interview room. Peter turned a dial beside the window she hadn’t noticed before. They could now hear the voices clearly.

‘This interview begins at 9.30am. I’m speaking with a Carlos Lorenzo who is with his lawyer, Frank Davies, in regard to incidents relating to the murder of one Charles Stanton.’

‘Carlos Lorenzo, Frank Davies, are you both aware this interview is being recorded and give permission to do so?’

The two answered with clear responses and confirmed that they agreed to the recording of the interview.

Brenda shivered and pulled her jacket around her. She adjusted her posture and leaned forward.

Peter stood with his forearm against the frame of the window, watching and listening.

Carlos was speaking rapidly to Frank in his own native language. Expletives were obvious.

O’Malley raised his hand; palm facing Carlos to halt the outrage. The room fell silent.

‘Mr Lorenzo, please explain in your own words why you were in the home of Charles and Brenda Stanton in the early hours of last Friday morning.’

He cursed again. ‘I look for pay cheque. Mister Charles…he always pay me on Wen-day. I thought maybe I won’t get now he dead.’

‘Why didn’t you speak to Mr Davies in regard to your payment? He is Mr Stanton’s lawyer. Right?’

He glanced sideways at his lawyer. ‘I do not trust Mister Frank.’

Frank crossed his arms and huffed like a spoiled child.

The inspector looked at Carlos; his left eyebrow slightly raised. O’Malley continued a little quieter, a little more direct. ‘Why don’t you trust your own lawyer, Carlos?’

‘Cause he promise good pay when I start work. Mister Charles did not know this when we disgus’ money…two year ago. Mister Charles always keeps my cheque under ee-gull paper-rate on desk. If he not in office, I take. I do always.’

A deep audible intake of breath caused Peter to jerk his head to face Brenda. She looked at him. ‘I never knew that. I’ve never known Carlos to be in my home.’

The inspector continued. ‘Did you find the cheque?’

‘No. It not there.’

‘Tell me, Carlos, how did you get past the officers at the house the morning following the murder? They had been there since daylight. Before that, two other officers were on guard.’

Carlos fidgeted and Frank stood and paced.

‘Well?’ Inspector O’Malley persisted.

It was Frank who answered. ‘There’s a side door.’

‘Where?’ O’Malley’s question echoed Brenda’s, from the other side of the glass.

Peter moved closer to Brenda. ‘Are you OK?’ She sucked in her lips and nodded but had missed the first part of Frank’s reply.

‘It sounded like his closet.’ She paused. ‘Oh God,’ she whispered.

The inspector must have said something similar because Carlos continued with: ‘not clozit. Like clozit. It old window. He ren-no-vate. Missus Stuck Up did not like Carlos.’ He crossed his arms and sat back.

Heat filled Brenda’s cheeks. Her eyes stung.

Frank continued to pace.

‘Where were you on the night Charles Stanton died?’

Carlos glared at his lawyer and swore in English. ‘You tell.’

Pressing his lips together he locked his arms tighter. Frank’s jaw jerked sideways and stiffened. He shoved his hands into his pockets and returned to his seat. He glanced down at his knees and then looked into O’Malley’s eyes. ‘I think I need a lawyer.’

Brenda stood up; her mouth opened.

Carlos smiled and turned to O’Malley. ‘Carlos in Mister Charles house…with Mister Frank.’

Brenda’s knees went weak.

‘Whoa there.’ Peter grabbed her elbow and helped her back into the chair.

She continued to listen but she could no longer watch.

‘Shut up!’ Frank exclaimed and jumped to his feet.

‘NO! You shud-up’

‘That’s enough,’ O’Malley snapped back.

‘Mister Frank said Carlos must get a…’ he clicked his fingers and looked thoughtful.

‘A file, if you must know,’ Frank finished for Carlos. ‘A client’s file.’

‘Go on,’ O’Malley insisted calmly.

By now, Brenda had regained her posture but was taking long slow breaths to help ease an attack of nausea, which threatened to overwhelm her. She noticed that Peter had closed his eyes. His lips were moving in silent prayer. She touched his arm. ‘Thank you,’ she whispered.

Frank started to pace again; hands deep in his pockets. ‘It was the client that Charles was speaking to on the phone that night.’ He paused, and then returned to his seat placing his hands in front of him on the table. He sighed. ‘Carlos is guilty, but for only one thing: he entered Charles’ home that night without permission. I’ll continue this interview only after I make my allowed telephone call and have a lawyer present.’ He leaned back and folded his arms.

A smug grin crossed Carlos’ unshaven face.

O’Malley officially brought the interview to a close and instructed them to wait.

Once O’Malley had closed the door behind him he looked at Brenda with eyes that glistened. He smiled apologetically and asked Hoxley to take her to his office and make coffee for three. It was going to be a long meeting.

‘A penny for your thoughts,’ Hoxley asked, handing Brenda a steaming mug of black coffee. ‘Sorry, no milk,’ he added apologetically.

‘Black is fine, thanks.’ She sniffed the tantalizing brew and sipped. She grimaced and pressed two fingers into her closed lips but not before a sob escaped. ‘Sorry,’ she sniffled.

He handed her a handkerchief from his pocket. ‘Don’t be. That wasn’t something any of us expected…and you’re right, the coffee’s does tastes worse than it smells.’

Brenda wiped the wetness from under her eyes. She glanced down at the smear of mascara on the white cloth. ‘What will Cheryl say?’

‘She’ll understand.’ He sat on the corner of the desk sipping his coffee.

O’Malley entered the room.

Still sitting, Peter pointed to a mug of coffee beside the computer. O’Malley thanked him and sat down. He took a couple of long slow mouthfuls before replacing the cup on a cardboard coaster. Peter stood and moved a few steps to a chair near the door.

The office was small but comfortably furnished. She had sat on a small sofa of sorts that was probably the most expensive piece of furniture in the room. It was a lot more comfortable than Brenda felt in the silence. She sipped more of the foul tasting brew and warmed her hands on the cup.

‘Brenda,’ O’Malley finally said. ‘I can’t go against the magistrates court order but I think once you find another lawyer we can get some of these bail restrictions lifted. By that time we may even get you cleared of all charges.’ He looked up at his young constable thoughtfully and then back to Brenda. ‘Why don’t I have Hoxley drive you to the motel and get your things.’

‘Why? I can’t go home. Not yet.’

‘No. You can’t,’ Hoxley answered for his boss. ‘I think, what Inspector O’Malley is suggesting is that I take you home to stay with Cheryl and me until we organize a few things.’

‘It’s not quite the norm but considering the unusual situation,’ O’Malley pointed in the direction of the holding cells, ‘I think you’ll be safer with the Hoxley’s. No one, except us three, and Cheryl, will know where you’ll be staying.’

Brenda almost spilled her coffee. ‘What are you saying? Am I in danger?’

‘I didn’t mean to alarm you but there’s no easier way to say it. Yes, I believe you are in danger. From whom, I’m not sure. I’m hoping the only two involved are sitting in our holding cells. But, there’s still a missing link and I want you safe until all this is over. You can stay with Constable Hoxley and his wife at least until I can get a safe-house, or witness protection organized.’

Brenda only realised she was shaking when hot black liquid spilled on to her hand and down into the sleeve of her jacket. She felt numb. Even when Peter had rushed out and returned with ice water, she hadn’t realized her hand was scalding red. What the inspector had said in those short moments, she couldn’t comprehend.

‘Why?’ Was all she could manage as Hoxley slopped icy cold water over her hand and dabbed at it lightly with his handkerchief that he had somehow retrieved from her clenched fingers.

O’Malley sat beside her. ‘Brenda,’ he took her hand and checked it as he talked. ‘I’m hoping it won’t come to that, but you need to know before you leave here. If we uncover anything that may show you to be in danger, you have to be protected.’ He released her hand.

Her hand stayed poised in mid-air momentarily and looked down at the now stinging hand and wrist. Blowing on it she accepted the cold glass from Peter and rested it on the back of her hand, the area that smarted the most.

‘Take her via the hospital and get that checked out Hoxley. Call Cheryl before you leave here to make sure she’s alone. No visitors. Understand? At least until we know more. I’ll send an officer around until you finish up here for the day.’

‘Yes, Sir.’ Peter grinned at Brenda. ‘Looks like you’ll be explaining about the mascara yourself.’

Brenda could only force a small smile and thank them. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said to both officers.

‘Don’t be. There’s nothing to be sorry for,’ O’Malley said. There was a measure of gentleness in his voice. ‘Now, I want you to try and relax while I go into the front office and get some of these calls taken care of, and while Hoxley gets organized.’

He pointed to the seat Brenda was sitting on. ‘Put your feet up while you wait.’ Stepping back around the desk, he grabbed his coffee and left.

Hoxley followed but turned at the door. ‘It will be all right. Try and hand it over to the Lord.’ He smiled and closed the door behind him leaving Brenda to herself.

The cushions were soft and inviting but she was too distraught to relax. Resting her elbows on her knees and head in her hands, she wept. Realization had struck hard. Charles was dead. Murdered! ‘By whom? Carlos? Frank? Who? Am I in danger too?’ Brenda bolted upright. She remembered something Frank had said yesterday.

‘Who was he trying to protect me from?’ She said this aloud as Hoxley stepped back into the office. She glanced at him and repeated her question.

‘We don’t know. If we knew that we might start getting to the bottom of this.’ He wrapped a burns bandage loosely around her hand then retrieved a pillow from a locker beside the window. ‘Now, please. Try and rest.’

She smiled. ‘Is that an order, Constable Hoxley?’

‘A direct order.’ He grinned and left the room.

Finally Brenda allowed herself to close her eyes.

© 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.

Archived in
Christian Reads by Chrissy at Riverside Peace

MEMORY OF DREAD – Part Three

🦋 a short murder mystery for the Christian reader – Part 3 🦋

Sunbeams danced through small clear sections of the stained glass window that stood tall at the front of the church. A young and pretty Cheryl Hoxley smiled warmly and introduced Brenda to a few of the women as they found their way to an empty pew.

Brenda returned her greetings quietly; it wasn’t because she felt awkward. In fact, it almost felt like visiting a long lost relative. Memories of her grandmother holding her tiny hand raced into her thoughts. She had been barely eight-years-old swinging her legs back and forth under a long bench at the rear of Kingsley Chapel with her cousins. There had been a simple wooden cross that hung behind a brass eagle lectern. This was back before her parents had divorced and she moved to the city with her mother.

Peter Hoxley handed Brenda an opened hymn book. Her eyes closed to the familiar tune from the pipe organ that began with vibrancy. Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more. The words seemed to bounce off the ceiling and back down to her. I am weak but thou art mighty... Brenda allowed the words to shroud her like a hug.

Young Cheryl’s sweet voice was almost drowned out by a booming off-key male baritone. Brenda looked passed Cheryl. It was coming from the young police officer. His head was held high and his eyes closed.

‘Strong Deliv’rer, Strong Deliv’rer. Be Thou still my strength and shield…’ He sang with no care of who was watching or listening.

Following Cheryl’s lead, Brenda closed the hymn book and shut her eyes. The minister prayed a prayer of praise and thanksgiving before the congregation repeated his amen.

The service proceeded from Bible readings to prayers and then a solo by one of the choir members. Brenda couldn’t recall the hymn but the words were beautiful. The message the preacher gave was based on familiar Scripture. Ecclesiastes chapter three: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…”

When the service was over, Brenda followed the Hoxley’s to the door where they briefly introduced her to Pastor Steve Knox, a pleasant middle-aged gentleman with greying thick hair and a toothy grin. He shook her hand and thanked her for coming, hoping she had enjoyed his sermon. She said she did and smiled as they left.

They descended the steps of the church to the car parking area. Before they got to the car, Hoxley’s cell phone rang. He answered it and then turned to Cheryl and Brenda with an apologetic smile, walked over to a nearby tree and continued his call.

Cheryl opened the car door to allow Brenda into the back seat.

‘Sorry about that,’ Cheryl said, as she settled into the front passenger seat. ‘It comes with the job, but he loves what he does…and he does it well,’ she added, just as Peter opened the door and got in.

He reached over and touched his wife’s hand. ‘And, I have a very understanding wife,’ he finished with a boyish grin.

Turning back to Brenda, Hoxley turned sombre. ‘That was Inspector O’Malley. He needs to see you first thing tomorrow at the station.’ He paused. ‘Sorry’. Then he looked at his wife and smiled again. ‘But now, how about lunch for you two special ladies?’

Brenda didn’t ask why the inspector wanted to see her, but she did ask: ‘Officer Hoxley, would you mind if we drive pass my house? I just need to see it. I think…’

‘Please,’ he interrupted. ‘Call me Peter when I’m not on duty, and of course we can do that. In fact, I think it may help you. That’s if Cheryl doesn’t mind us taking a little detour.’

‘No. That’s fine,’ Cheryl replied with a warm smile.

It was a quiet ride to Brenda’s house. Peter slowed as he turned into her street. He pulled up in front of the gate and turned the engine off.

‘That’s strange,’ Brenda said softly. She looked over the leaf covered lawn and the rose garden by the gate. The dead dried up blooms created an unkempt appearance. ‘I wonder where Carlos is.’

‘Who’s Carlos?’ Peter asked.

Brenda looked at him through a haze of interrupted thought. ‘The gardener. Carlos works every Sunday, rain or shine. No matter what’s going on, he always shows.’

She looked at Peter then added, ‘his reliability is the only thing I liked about him. Charles hired him a couple of years ago. I didn’t like him. He…’ Brenda froze and stared at a spot on the windscreen. She felt suddenly cold and nauseous.

‘Are you all right?’ Cheryl and Peter asked in unison.

‘Brenda?’ Peter turned in his seat to face her. ‘What is it? What about Carlos?’

Brenda suddenly snapped out of her trance. ‘We need to go. I need to get my jacket from the motel before we go to lunch. It’s getting cool.’ She glanced at Peter, then to Cheryl. ‘If you don’t mind.’

Brenda could feel Peter studying her before he turned and started the car.

Once they had turned out of the street Brenda apologized. ‘I remember the thing I couldn’t stand most about Carlos. He smelled. No. He stunk…of garlic. I’ve always hated the smell of garlic. I refused to have anything to do with hiring him. I left the interviews up to Charles. It was the same pungent odour I smelt the other day on the stairs…and that night.’ Brenda grimaced.

Peter braked gently, pulling to a stop in front of the motel. He looked over his shoulder. ‘Are you telling me you could smell Carlos in the house?’

Her eyes met Peter’s. ‘Yes. Yes, I’m certain of it.’

A loud rap on the car window beside Brenda startled them all. It was Frank Davies, Brenda’s lawyer.

Brenda opened the window. ‘What is it, Frank?’

‘What is the meaning of this?’ He directed this question at Peter then turned back to Brenda. ‘Where have you been? Come on. I think you better get inside.’

Peter opened his door and came round to speak to Frank. ‘Excuse me, but Brenda’s bail doesn’t include your twenty-four hour a day surveillance. You were only required to escort her to collect personal belongings from the house after her release and take her to the motel.’

Frank stepped back. ‘Oh…um…sorry. I’m only trying to protect my client.’

‘Protect her from what?’

‘It doesn’t matter.’ Frank apologized again and walked hastily to his Cadillac. He got in and drove off.

‘He’s an odd fellow,’ Peter said, as he assisted Brenda from the car. ‘Do you want me to come with you?’

‘No. I’m fine, thank you. I think the media have given up following me. I won’t be long.’

She dashed into the motel and headed for her room to retrieve her jacket before returning to the waiting Hoxley’s. She wasn’t gone more than five minutes.

Peter took Cheryl and Brenda to a small restaurant. The waitress led them to a quiet table in the back, as Peter had requested. Brenda slipped into the booth first and then decided to use the opportunity to thank the couple for their hospitality and friendship.

‘I enjoyed your church service. Thank you,’ she said, and meant it. Small talk followed until their orders were taken.

‘Brenda?’ Peter’s voice was low and seriousness. ‘You were telling me about Carlos. What else can you tell me about him?’

‘I’m sorry. As I said, I left all the employment details to Charles. I know that Carlos was recommended by Frank Davies…’

‘Your lawyer?’

‘Frank was Charles’ lawyer. He hired him to do the legal stuff in regard to his contracts. Frank seemed to just appear at the police station and took over my case.’

Brenda hadn’t realized how hungry she was until she saw a server walk by, carrying hot plates brimming with food, but she still needed Peter to answer a few questions of her own before she could think about eating.

‘Peter, why do I need to go to the police station tomorrow? Does Frank know? Will I need him there?’

Their meals arrived at that moment and the next few minutes were spent enjoying the aroma and the presentation of their meals.

Peter placed his napkin on his lap and sighed. ‘I can’t say much more right now but I can tell you that we have Carlos in custody. Apparently he was the person Sergeant McDougal chased the other day.’ He reached for Cheryl’s hand, then Brenda’s. ‘My only suggestion in regard to Frank Davies is we should help you find another lawyer.’

Peter bowed his head and gave thanks.

© 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.

Archived in
Christian Reads by Chrissy at Riverside Peace

MEMORY OF DREAD – Part One

🦋 – a short murder mystery for the Christian reader – Part 1 🦋

The steel doors closed behind Brenda Stanton with a clang. It was only a few nights ago that she and her husband, Charles, had celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary. A few hours later he was dead, killed by his own revolver at close range. That’s what the coroner had said.

A prison guard stepped ahead of Brenda. ‘Move along. Don’t dawdle.’

Brenda moved one foot in front of the other, oblivious to the handcuffs that dug into her wrists.

The guard unlocked another heavy door. ‘Your lawyer’s here to see you. You have half an hour. Don’t waste it.’

The door opened with a creak and Brenda entered. A table and two chairs were the only furniture in the small room. The door slammed. She shuddered with the echo.

Frank Davies spoke solemnly as he stood to greet her. ‘Brenda, please sit. You look pale.’ He sat opposite. ‘I’m sorry about this. I’m working on an appeal for bail.’

‘Why am I here, Frank?’ Her eyes stung but no tears came. ‘I … I want to go home. I want to go back to the way it was before,’ she gulped.

‘You know that can’t happen. He’s gone. If you didn’t do it, please, let me find out who did. You have to talk to me.’

Frank sat with his right leg crossed over his left; his face expressionless. He just watched her. Waiting.

She shivered. Nothing seemed real to Brenda except the coldness of the interview cell.

‘My life was complete Frank, before I found Charles lying motionless on the carpet soaked in blood.’ She covered her mouth with both hands and dry retched.

Frank’s face contorted and handed his client a large handkerchief. ‘Take a deep breath.’

He sat back and waited again.

‘Keep going, Brenda,’ he said calmly and took a pen from his coat pocket. ‘You haven’t told anyone anything. Not even the police. Tell me what happened before you found Charles? What happened after you found him? I need to know everything. It’s important I have all the facts.’

Brenda wiped her mouth and tried to gulp away the lump in her throat. The handcuffs bumped her chin while trying to blow her nose. She stared momentarily at the metal bracelets on her wrists and the chain that hung between them.

Taking a slow deep breath she finally continued. ‘I don’t think I want to really know myself. I just want…’ Again, she breathed deeply. ‘Charles got a late night telephone call. It was unusually late, but it does happen with international clients.’ She paused and looked up at Frank. ‘From what I could understand from Charles’ side of the conversation, a contract fell through.’

‘All right, back up a bit. Do you remember the time of the call?’

‘Yes, we had just arrived home. I remember because we both looked at the clock when the telephone rang. It was almost ten minutes after one.’

‘Who answered the phone?’

‘I did.’

‘Did you recognize the caller?’

‘No. But it was a man. He was impolite and demanded to speak to Charles.’

Frank wrote in his notebook before looking up. ‘Did you stay in the room while he talked on the telephone?’

Brenda looked at a spot on the wall behind her lawyer and concentrated before speaking again.

‘I had answered it at the bottom of the stairs – in the entry hall. Charles nodded and pointed to the study. I waited until Charles picked up before I hung up. Charles turned to face me, smiled and signaled me to go upstairs and … blew me a kiss.’

Brenda sniffled quietly before continuing. ‘When I got to the top of the stairs, Charles’s voice raised something awful. I waited a moment but he seemed to have calmed.’

‘And you didn’t hear anything more?’

‘Nothing. I shut the bedroom door and put some music on.’

Frank tapped the notebook with his pen. ‘How long was it before you realized he hadn’t joined you upstairs?’

‘Well, I had a shower and … oh wait, I think it must have been almost two. I had just set the alarm clock for seven. Charles had a meeting at nine.’ She paused and studied her wedding ring. ‘I didn’t wait any longer. I just went downstairs.’

‘After the incident, the police said you were covered in blood and your fingerprints were on the gun. How can you explain that, Brenda?’

Brenda bowed her head and pushed her fists into her stomach. ‘I saw Charles. I saw blood and the gun near his hand. I just froze… I couldn’t speak.’ Her voice faded. ‘I just wanted him to be alive.’

‘And after you realized he was dead,’ Frank pushed on. ‘You called the police?’

‘No. Not immediately. I guess I should have. I didn’t want Charles to leave me. I tossed the gun aside and held him. He was gone. His eyes were open … staring.’

Suddenly the floodgates opened and Brenda sobbed uncontrollably into her hands.

Frank closed his notebook with a snap. ‘I believe you. I’ll get your bail organized.’ He packed up his notes and placed them into his briefcase.

Sniffles replaced sobs. Brenda tried to wipe her eyes and nose on Frank’s soggy handkerchief without success. Looking up at her husband’s solicitor she apologised for not remembering much more. ‘What happens now? Will the authorities believe me?’

Frank nodded. ‘They will. We’ll find answers and get you cleared.’

‘I just want to go home, Frank. I just want to climb into bed, pull the covers over my head and hope I wake up from this horrible dream.’

She drew her feet up onto the chair and put her cuffed hands over her knees. It was only then Brenda realised she was still in her bedclothes and bathrobe.

Frank stood and picked up his briefcase. ‘I’m sorry things won’t be as they were before but I hope you can move on.’

He walked quickly around the table and stood behind Brenda, hesitated momentarily, then placed his hand on her shoulder.

‘Everything will be OK,’ his voice almost a whisper.

With the interview over, Frank Davies called the guard.

© 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.

🦋 A note from the author: I hoped you enjoyed Part one, a short introduction to Memory of Dread.  -Chrissy

Archived in
Christian Reads by Chrissy at Riverside Peace

What Became of Marjorie – Chapter Five

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five

The following morning, Maisie couldn’t wait to see if Marjorie was still there. Sure enough, the two were back in the kitchen drinking coffee. This time they were laughing.

‘Well, it looks like I need to get my own breakfast this morning.’

‘No, it’s almost ready. We can eat together.’

Maisie was itching to ask what had happen to Marjorie for all those years but for now, she just enjoyed the friendly chit-chat around the breakfast table.

Later, when the breakfast dishes had been washed and put away, Marjory went upstairs for a long hot bath and dressed in very outdated but clean clothes Katie found in the attic that had belong to one of the older sisters. Then, they all sat in front of a blazing fire in the sitting room. It was clear that Marjorie had explained some things to Katie but after a deep breath she began her story.

‘It was the summer that Meryl came to stay for the duration of her pregnancy. I was barely fourteen and Meryl a couple of years older. Meryl made my life a misery and bullied me whenever no one was nearby to witness her behaviour. About three months later’, Marjorie paused momentarily. ‘Meryl must have been in her sixth month of her pregnancy and I had  gone into town alone to purchase a few sewing items for my grandmother and some ribbon for Christine. While visiting Suzie, I met a seven-year-old boy. Peter was a scruffy little fellow but a hard worker. He did odd jobs for Suzie, like bringing the wood in for the fire. Tom had never met him because he was in his shop most of the day.’

‘Why hadn’t Suzie mentioned this?’ Maisie looked from Katie to Marjorie.

Marjorie shrugged. ‘Anyway, I discovered he lived with his father in a small abandon cottage in the bush not far from town.’

‘You mean, that was him I saw, or rather heard yesterday?’

‘Peter? Yes sorry. He was just looking out for me.’

Maisie signaled her to continue.

‘I would sneak out at night with blankets and bandages. Little things at first. His father had been kicked in his chest by a horse he had bought so they could head south again before the winter hit. I had to do something. One night, Meryl followed me as far as the wood pile that Peter and his father had built away from the cottage. She told me she had waited there for a few hours for me to emerge. On my way home, I found her on the ground crying at the edge of the cemetery. She had tripped and fell belly down on a headstone that had fallen some time ago. I helped her back to the house and upstairs to her bed. I offered to summoned the doctor or at least Mother but she wouldn’t hear of it. A few days later she threatened to tell my father that she saw me with a boy and I was sharing a bed with him. I convinced her that he would want to know how she knew, which would get her into trouble too. After she got back on her feet, she bullied me even more. One night when I arrived at the cottage Peter was crying. His father had died earlier that evening. I couldn’t leave him alone with his dead father in the one-room house.’

‘Oh, that poor child,’ Katie gasped. ‘And you. Only a child yourself.’

‘It took all night to dig the grave on the far side of the cemetery close to the bush. We didn’t dare drag the body during daylight so I stayed all the next day and into the night. We used the thin mattress his father was on and rigged it up like a stretcher and used rope to tie it to the horse’s saddle. It was a slow process but we finally made it to the grave. It was a nightmare and it was after sun-up by the time we returned to the cottage and guess who was waiting for us?’

‘Meryl?’ Katie answered.

‘You guessed it. I had some explaining to do but it wasn’t going to be to her. She yelled at me and called me names I won’t repeat. Peter began to cry, so I sent her away telling her to tell whoever she wanted whatever she wanted. I never saw her again, not even when I returned to steal food.’ She looked over at Katie. ‘I only took enough for the boy and a little more for myself. He only earned a few coins for the odd jobs he did for Suzie. We had to let the horse go. We just couldn’t afford to feed it and I couldn’t let Peter try and sell it on his own. I’ve seen it a few times since. It’s a bit wild I suppose but it looks healthier. There’s plenty of dams and grassland closer to town.’

‘Why didn’t you trust any of us?’

‘I guess I thought I knew what Meryl had been saying and I just couldn’t leave the boy.’

‘Where is he now?’ Maisie asked.

‘He found full-time work at a farm just before his fifteenth birthday. It’s the old Thompson’s farm on the other side of town. I’m not sure who owns it now. I had taught Peter to read and write, gave him little history lessons about the country, where he lived and where the capital cities are. He was quite bright and always asked questions. When he moved into accommodation at the farm, he visited every few days and brought me food and purchased little things in town. He found the hooded cloak in a shed on the farm. It helped in the cold months and recently when I began to sneak into the house again. About a month back, Peter told me he was going on a trip with his boss to buy farm machinery. He said it would only be a couple of weeks at the most but he didn’t return until yesterday. When I ran out of supplies, I decided to return to the house. I had only seen the one car which was still a surprise because it’s off season.’

Katie paused Marjorie’s account to properly introduce Maisie. After the introduction, Marjorie continued.

‘The day before Peter left for the trip, I told him it was time I needed to work things out. He had new responsibilities and I had to find some way to support myself, but he made me promise not to go too far until he returned. I was contemplating heading to Melbourne or Sydney but most of my own personal items were still in my room. Hence my sneaking about upstairs. I also wonder why Maisie would be here on her own.’ She paused. ‘I’m sorry I went into your room. It was inappropriate.’

Maisie leaned forward in her chair. ‘Forgiven. We’re just glad you are here now. Did Peter know much about himself? His birth date? Full name? What happened to his mother?’ She stopped. ‘There I go again. Even as a small child, I was known as the interrogator. Dad said I should be a detective.’

Marjorie smiled. ‘That’s fine. His father Ruben kept his papers and his family records in order. His mother’s name was Susan. She was killed by a stampede of horses on a property up north at Lightning Ridge where his father worked as a property manager. Peter doesn’t remember the incident and his father only told me little bits before he died. Susan had taken their only child Peter to the river for a paddle. Peter says they went many times and remembers things like paddling barefoot and chasing butterflies but that’s about it. After she died Ruben couldn’t bear to stay there so he packed a few things on to his horse and hiked south. He hadn’t intended to stay here but his horse became lame.’

Here she frowned and spoke directly to Katie. ‘Sorry about the roast. It was his birthday and I wanted to give him something special. There wasn’t much already prepared in the refrigerator so I took the chance of anyone seeing the smoke from the wood stove.’

‘Why didn’t you come home? The family searched for you and when the last of your family were buried the solicitors tried to find you—as far away as Ireland.’

This appeared all too much for Marjorie. Her voice lowered. ‘I watched the burial of my grandparents, Father and Mother from the bushes. After they died, I couldn’t bear to return.’

Katie held Marjorie’s hands between her own. ‘Your sisters moved away. They have passed on too. You knew of Stan’s death?’

‘Yes, I was here when you first came to live with us, but I was so afraid of what everyone thought they knew.’ She sat for a moment in silence. ‘I think Father knew I was here sometimes. He may have even known a little of where I was. I would sneak into my room and sleep for hours. One night I thought he was sitting in the chair near my bed. It felt so real, but times I was so tired. I don’t sleep well in the cottage.’

Maisie shook her head. ‘I’m still amazed that no one saw you. How could you be there for all those years and not be found? Not even by a bush-walker…’

‘Or the police,’ interrupted Katie. ‘They were here for a week looking for you. I think they were actually homicide detectives from Sydney or Melbourne; because of the blood.’

‘The blood? Oh yes, I remember. I lost my scarf. I cut my finger cutting a piece of leftover meat in the kitchen here. I had wrapped the scarf around the finger to help stop the bleeding. We hid most of the time if we heard anyone but we saw no police.’Maisie leaned back and looked up at the ceiling while the other two chatted away. Finally, she spoke but more to the ceiling then the women: ‘The cottage is concealed from the road and it is about ten miles from here…and the cemetery is only 100 yards from the gate. Perhaps the police didn’t search that far.’

Katie broke into her thoughts. ‘You could be right. There’s a lot of bush between the cemetery and town and the police seemed to concentrate much of their time interviewing the family, our guests and people in town, especially Tom.’

‘Tom!’ the two younger women spoke in unison.

‘Why Tom?’ asked Maisie.

‘Tom had always been bad-mannered and can be quite unpleasant when he wants to be. He’s mellowed over the years but I was always thankful I didn’t marry him.’

‘Are you saying the police thought he had done away with me?’

‘Tom was the main suspect. He was in custody for almost three weeks before they released him. The police never returned and listed you as a missing person. Your parents were beside themselves with worry. There were rumours about a hitchhiker serial killer at the time but your parents finally decided that wherever you were, you were alive. It was the only way they could move on with their lives but they were never the same. It was your father who demanded we left your room as you left it.’

‘So, it’s possible your father knew more than he was letting on?’ Maisie waited for her reply.

‘Perhaps. I never stopped to think about how they felt. Not until years later. Peter became like a son to me. Other times he was just my little brother.’

Maisie stood to stretch her legs. ‘I hate to finish on a low but the authorities will need to be informed that you’re not a missing person anymore.’

‘She’s right,’ Katie said. ‘I still have the contact details of the family solicitor. I’ll call him today and ask his advice. He could take us to the police and explain things to them.’

Marjorie looked like a scared kid.

‘I don’t think you will get into too much trouble but you and Peter will have to show them where you buried his father, and the cabin. For now,’ Maisie said. While Katie goes into town to use the phone, why don’t you try on some of my clothes. We’re about the same size.’

This brought a small smile to Marjorie. ‘I guess I do look a sight’.

Final Notes:

Maisie stayed on for a month focusing on her new mystery novel. Marjorie and Katie spent a few days in Melbourne to clear things up with the police and shopped till they dropped. The solicitor wanted to make Marjorie the official owner of Kelly’s Inn but Marjorie insisted he left things as they were until Katie retired or passed on. They planned to share the management of Kelly’s Inn and insisted on Maisie making an annual booking—off season of course.

Peter came to visit twice while Maisie was there that winter. Her suspicions were correct. He was the young man she had met at Suzie’s and the one who had spooked her that same day. After the police closed their investigation, Peter and Marjorie invited Maisie to return with them to the cabin one last time. Katie had also been invited but declined because she needed to “right” upstairs as she always did in the afternoon. They marked Ruben’s grave with a memorial plaque that also acknowledged Susan.

The End

© 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.

Archived in
Short Fiction by Chrissy at Riverside Peace

What Became of Marjorie – Chapter Four

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Back at the inn Maisie turned the engine off and took a few slow deep breaths. She stared at her image in the rear-view mirror where blood had congealed along small scratches on her forehead. Brushing her long fringe over the wounds, she opened the door and headed inside and upstairs to the bathroom to clean up before tea.

‘I thought I heard you come in’, Katie said before lifting the lid of the pot of stew.

‘Yes, I’m back. Can I make myself a cup of coffee?’

‘Sure, help yourself. How was your trip to town?’

With Katie busy at the stove, Maisie was relieved that they couldn’t see each other. They chatted with small talk until the coffee was ready. Reluctantly, Maisie returned to the larger kitchen and sat on a stool.

‘What happened to you?’ Katie was panicked.

Maisie touched her face where fresh blood had dribbled onto the bridge of her nose and down her cheek. ‘It’s just a scratch. I stupidly went bush-walking without planning it.’

Katie fussed over Maisie and her scratches before insisting that she didn’t go off on her own again. ‘What were you thinking? You could have been mugged or murdered.’

‘Now Katie, don’t try scaring me.’ She sighed. ‘Actually, there was someone out there. I think he just yelled at me when he caught me watching his cabin.’

Katie pulled a kitchen stool closer and sat looking at Maisie. ‘What are you saying Lass?’

Maisie told her all she did that afternoon, including the unplanned bush-walk. ‘Does someone live there?’

Katie sat in thought. ‘You have been a nosy one since you’ve arrived.’

‘I should mind my own business. Right?’

‘Well since you’re a writer, I shouldn’t be surprised.’ Katie stood and switched off the hot plate. ‘Let’s talk.’

‘There is a mystery about Kelly’s Inn. I honestly don’t know the full story but I do believe it has something to do with Stan’s youngest sister, Marjorie. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was never allowed to clean nor enter her room. I’ve been tempted believe me, especially when odd things happen around here this past week; upstairs, downstairs, in the garden, even in here.’ She looked around the room and waved her hand. ‘Things go missing. Food is taken from the refrigerator.’ She sighed again. ‘That’s why I had to return to town yesterday. My roast disappeared.’

‘Why don’t you tell the police? Or ask Tom to look around.’

‘Because I don’t want trouble. Because I want to believe it’s just a frighten homeless child or a lonely person that doesn’t know they shouldn’t steal. Whoever it is, I come to believe he or she is not dangerous.’

‘Katie, whoever comes into your home has been in my room.’

With this newest bit of information, Katie looked frightened. ‘When?’

The past few days had been quite eventful and Maisie realised that something more serious may have or may happen if Katie stays on her own in the house.

‘I think we need to find out what’s going on. First, we need to open the door to Marjorie’s room.’

Katie looked shocked but then nodded. ‘You’re right. Let me get the key.’ She stepped into the small kitchen and opened a drawer. ‘Let’s go.’ She took hold of Maisie’s hand and marched off.

Maisie grinned and marched with Katie down the hall and up the stairs before Katie defiantly put the key in the lock and flung the door open. In that instance, the curtains shifted in the gusty breeze that had begun earlier.

‘Why is the window open, Katie?’

‘I don’t know. Everything could have been ruined. We get nasty storms and heavy rains at times.’ She rushed over and closed the window.

Maisie joined her. ‘Surely it hasn’t been open for all these years.’

‘I wouldn’t think so.’ After closing the window securely, Katie check the room closely. ‘There’s nothing missing that I can see but it’s obvious that someone has slept on this bed recently and with muddy clothes.’

The two examine the bedding before locking the door again on the way out.

‘How do you suppose they got into my room?’, Maisie asked.

Well there’s more than one key. She held up the small bunch in her hand. ‘These are the spare keys for guests if they lock them self out of their room. They have always been in the drawer.’

‘Where do you keep the main keys?’

‘In my room.’

‘Okay. Let’s think. Tell me about the garden gate?’

‘It used to squeak terribly and it woke anyone who slept on that side of the house. We thought it was the wind but it was checked before bedtime. Every night until Marjorie vanish, it squeaked.’

‘Then what?’

‘It stopped…until recently.’ Katie’s eyes widened. ‘What do you think it means?’

‘I’m not sure,’ Maisie pondered. ‘But it means something.’

‘It’s getting late, Maisie. Let’s go eat some of that stew.’

While eating, both women were quiet for most of the meal.

‘What kind of food goes missing?’ Maisie finally asked.

‘Well, besides the roast, which was the biggest haul, it’s usually only leftovers really or the odd cake or loaf of bread.’

‘Katie, are you up to a bit of staking out?’

‘Steak?’ Then reality hit. ‘Oh, you mean catch them in the act?’ She shook her head slowly. ‘I don’t want anyone to get hurt.’

‘It’ll be fine.’

Later that evening, the house was locked as usual for the night; the kitchen cleaned up and the leftovers put in the usual place. The two sat in the dimness of the small kitchen, like shadows they sat still as they could; talking only in hush tones.

Katie stifled a yawn. ‘Maybe we scared them off.’

Maisie was about to answer when they both heard the distinct squeak of the gate. A few minutes later the back door opened with a creak.

Katie held her hand to her mouth and Maisie tipped-toed across the floor to see better. The refrigerator door opened, spilling light across a thin face of a woman.

‘Hello Marjorie.’ Maisie spoke clearly but not too loudly.

The woman rushed to the back door leaving the refrigerator open but Maisie and Katie stood between her and the door. Her long monk-like robe dragged along the floor; the hood on her shoulders.

‘Marjorie!’ A sob caught in Katie’s throat. ‘It is you.’

Marjorie stood staring at Maisie for a long time and then at Katie. ‘How did you know it was me?’

‘We didn’t know for sure but it was a reasonable assumption.’ Maisie had answered knowing she really didn’t know until now.

The young woman dropped to the floor and sat weeping.

Katie squatted uncomfortably beside her long-lost sister-in-law and held her while she sobbed.

Maisie switched on lights and closed the refrigerator door. Not knowing what to say next, she put the kettle on.

It was a long way past midnight and after the two Kelly’s caught up on a smidgen of their lost years, Maisie said: ‘Even this nocturnal writer needs to get some sleep.’

They looked up at her as if in a dream.

‘Will you two be OK if I go to bed?’

They both nodded.

© Chrissy Siggee – 2019

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.

Archived in
Short Fiction by Chrissy at Riverside Peace

What Became of Marjorie – Chapter Three

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter 3

While waiting for Katie to call her down stairs for what promised to be a wonderful old fashion roast, she sorted her notes into themes.

The upstairs rooms were fascinating; one in particular since Katie brushed her passed its locked door. Because Katie had chatted the whole time throughout the tour, she managed to ignore some of Maisie’s questions. ‘Perhaps they remind her of some painful memories,’ she whispered. She couldn’t wait to start typing a mystery that had collided with her jumbled thoughts.

The roast dinner was superb and Maisie had to finally insist she couldn’t eat another bite, but then Katie brought out the apple pie and cream. She sat now rubbing her rather full belly wishing she didn’t eat so much. ‘I hope Katie doesn’t expect me to eat like that every night.’ She smiled despite the ache.

With notes spread around the room, Maisie sat crossed legged on the bed and typed madly away on her laptop. She laughed to herself as memories from the day of exploring interrupted her thoughts.

It was almost midnight. She stretched her legs to regain movement to now stiffened joints. The enticement to step out onto the balcony was more than she could bare as a gentle breeze kicked up the hem of the curtains that hung from the glass doors. Outside the chill of the night stung her face. She rubbed her warm hands over her cheeks and allowed the peace of the night hug her.

The crash startled Maisie and she held the railing tightly with her hands that somehow found themselves outstretched. She instinctively bent her knees so she could see past a branch that protruded across one corner of the balcony. There, just like the night before was that same hooded figure but this time it seemed to be picking itself up off the ground. She was tempted to call out but fear seemed to mute her. The figure stood and brushed itself off. The sound of glass tinkled in the still night air. Focusing on the location she tried to memorise the distance from the gate to the bush where the figure had fallen before it disappeared into the darkness.

Maisie retreated to the warmth of her room and stood momentarily with her back to the double doors she had closed behind her. She quickly drew the curtains and climbed onto the bed. Who is it? It couldn’t be Katie. This person is thinner and appeared more agile. Do I ask Katie, again? She didn’t want to upset the friendship they had formed. What’s going on around here? She paced the room anxiously then silently open the bedroom door that opened into a dimly lit hallway. She listened in the silence but there was no sound. She had learned during the tour that Katie’s room was at the other end of the long hallway but there didn’t seem to be any light showing between the floor and the bottom of the door.

It felt like hours before she closed the door again but the clock confirmed it was only a few minutes. The adrenaline she felt on the balcony began to slip away and tiredness began to overwhelm. She laid on her bed fully dressed and dozed off.

There was no knocking on her door the following morning; just the sun shining on her face. She opened her eyes then let them close. With a jolt she sat up. Hadn’t she closed the curtains the night before? She shuddered and attentively peered out. Perhaps she didn’t. Or, maybe I’m spooked by the history of this place. Closing the curtains, she gathered her toiletries and headed to the bathroom.

‘Good morning,’ young Maisie’, Katie sing-songed when her only guest entered the kitchen.

‘Good morning, Katie. I wouldn’t have thought it but I’m starving this morning.’

‘Ah, the country air is working it’s magic.’

Katie was obviously in a very good mood this morning. She glanced at her watch. ‘So, shall we call this brunch?’

Katie looked up. ‘How about scrambled eggs and hash browns?’

‘Is that what I could smell coming up the hall?’

‘Probably but I’m also cooking up a stew for this evening—unless you will need lunch too.’

‘No thanks.’ She laughed. ‘Katie, did you hear a crash last night? Around midnight?’

Katie hummed while she cooked. ‘No. unless my snoring rattled some china.’ She snorted then continued stirring the eggs. ‘So, are you hungry or not?’

Maisie left any further questions about the incident alone and ate her hearty brunch. Swallowing her last mouthful down with the rest of her coffee she stood. ‘I’m going into town. Do you need anything while I’m there?’

‘No thanks. Don’t forget to call in to see Tom.’

‘I won’t.’ Maisie rushed upstairs to clean her teeth and grab her laptop. ‘That’s strange.’  She knelt down to pick up her notes that were now scattered on the floor. The door to the balcony was still closed and the only window in the room was too small for any breeze to disturb the pile of notes. She shrugged it off, grabbed her keys and headed for the car. She slowed her steps and looked toward the side gate. Something glittered in the sunlight. ‘Glass! So, I didn’t imagine it.’

‘MAISIE!’ Katie called from the front door. ‘You left your phone on the kitchen table.’

She jogged towards the waiting Katie with an outstretched hand. ‘Thanks. I’ll be back by the time your stew is ready to serve.’ She waved and hurried to the car.

With a quick glance in the rear-view mirror she released the brake but not before noticing Katie heading toward the gate with a brush and pan. ‘So, she did hear it. My instincts tell me there is something mysterious going on—but do I want to know?’

Tom was a rough but nice enough old guy. His stories were hilarious and a little scary. His belly would bounce up and down with his enthusiastic laugh. Maisie ask question after question and probably got more answers than she needed. She also doubted if any of it was true. After she read her emails and sent the necessary replies, her mind wandered back to the past two nightly events.

Maisie chose her words carefully. ‘So, is there any ghosts still around at Kelly’s Inn?’

‘Well now, that young couple that died in the fire could be still haunting the old place.’

‘Besides the fire, what about the family that we’re there prior to you knowing Katie and Stan? Maybe even later. Has anything else occurred there?’

Tom eyed her for a moment. He stepped around the counter and returned to his chopping block and smashed a meat axe through the carcass that he had placed there as she was entering the shop earlier.

The sound of the axe slicing the bone and the silence that settled afterward startled her. She was about to speak when Tom roared laughing.

Maisie smiled gingerly not knowing what else to do or say.

‘There was the incident with Stan’s little sister. Just fourteen she was.’ He rubbed his bristled chin. ‘Now what was her name?’ He slammed the blade down hard into flesh spurting a few droplets of blood onto his butcher apron. ‘Ah, yes Marjorie. She had a feisty spirit that one. Sneaky too. She would sneak out of the house at night to meet up with some boyfriend. Rumour has it that one night she just ran off with him, or so they say.’

Interest soared and Maisie dared further questions. ‘Do you think she still alive?

‘Could be alive. Could be dead. No one recalls if any young fella disappeared at the same time. There was nothing taken from her room.’ He pointed the meat axe at Maisie. ‘Did you know her room has never been touched since that night?’

Maisie sat still—thinking. ‘Why would that be?’ she finally asked.

‘I don’t rightly know and Katie is tight lipped about it.’ He paused; meat clever in mid strike. ‘I just thought of something. I do remember something about a blood-stained scarf had been found caught on that old garden gate out beside the Inn. Police were all over the place for weeks but nothing else was found. Marjorie simply vanished.’

To change the morbid subject, Maisie asked about Suzie, Tom’s wife.

‘She’s out the back in the kitchen.’ His smile was crooked. ‘Why don’t you go and say hello. She doesn’t get much company these days. Katie stops by when she’s in town. That’s about it.’

‘Thanks Tom, I will. Can I charge my phone out there?’

‘Sure. There’s reception if you stand on the step ladder near the pantry.’ He winked and returned to his work.

This was turning out to be an interesting afternoon. Suzie was a shy woman but it was obvious to Maisie that she enjoyed her visit. They talked about Kelly’s Inn, Katie and their years of friendship and about life in a little country town.

A handsome young man stopped by to visit with Suzie but didn’t stay long. She never did get to ask his name. There was no further conversation about Marjorie even when Tom closed up the shop for the day and joined them for a cup of tea.

Before returning to Kelly’s Inn, Maisie walked round the small town and explored lanes and the very few shops in the main street then got back into her car. At the fork in the road that would take her left back to the inn or right to the main highway, she stopped to talk to a man who appeared to be a farmer. He was a cheery bloke and gave Maisie some information on local places she might like to visit. She had thanked him and made the turn back to her accommodation.

From the inn to town was about twelve miles. It was only a few miles from town when she decided to take a walk down a narrow bush-track she had seen on her way to see Tom earlier that afternoon. She had left her camera back in her room but she could use her phone for a few shots if she needed too.

Maisie picked up a small broken branch and plucked off the leaves and smaller twigs and held it out in front of her. She giggled and began to use it like a sword. ‘I have you now!’ She spoke to the dense shrub and stepped onto the narrowing path swinging the crooked branch back and forth.

A bird squawked. It rustled the bushes and flew off to avoid the approaching stranger. Maisie looked up. ‘I won’t hurt you.’

After walking about ten minutes, she decided it was getting too late to be traipsing around unknown bushland, but as she turned to go something caught her attention a little off to the right. Using the sword, she carefully pushed back prickly branches of a huge shrub and crouched low. There in a small clearing was an old run-down cabin.

‘What are you looking at!’ a voice barked from behind.

Maisie cried out when the branches smashed back into her face. By the time she recovered from the fright the bushes around her were empty. There was no one there. The cottage door slammed shut. Maisie tossed her sword into the bushes and ran back to the car. She drove off without looking back.

© Chrissy Siggee – 2019

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.

Archived in
Short Fiction by Chrissy at Riverside Peace

What Became of Marjorie? – Chapter Two

Chapter One
Chapter 2

It was just after noon when Maisie returned from her car with her laptop when she almost bumped straight into Katie crossing the hall.

The older woman was all smiles again. ‘Lunch will be served in a few minutes if you would like to join me. I hope you like homemade vegetable soup.’

‘Thank you. Yes, soup sounds lovely.’

‘OK, I’ll take it to the Great Room, as it was called. I can fill you in on its history while we eat.’

Maisie thanked her again before off-loading her laptop into her room.

The soup was delicious and Maisie said so as the two chatted at one end of the grand antique dining table that could seat twenty easily. ‘I can’t imagine sitting at this table filled with guests. Do you actually cook for them all?’

‘Not so much these past ten years. I do remember assisting the housekeeper Hilda and a second cousin of Stan’s.’ She leaned forward as if to tell a secret. ‘Cousin Merle stayed until she gave birth to her still-born son, but we won’t go into that.’ She paused while she spooned another mouthful into her mouth and tore a small piece from her home baked dinner roll. ‘When I married my husband Stan, we bought a modest cottage in town. I didn’t want to burden his parents and grandparents with another mouth to feed and to be honest, I hated the house back then and it wasn’t over friendly at times. Merle was a spoiled brat when she first came but I think her situation and Stan’s parents parenting skills changed her by the time she left.’ Katie ate a little more before speaking again.

‘Remember I mentioned Tom earlier?’ She waited for Maisie’s nod. ‘Well he was courting me for a while before I met Stan. Oh, we all turned out to be good friends, especially when Tom met Suzie and married before Stan even proposed to me. We lived in town a few years before both Stan and Tom went off to the Gulf; Stan was Navy and Tom was Army. They never set eyes on each other again.’ Her voice was almost a whisper. She cleared her throat and continued. ‘Stan was killed when his ship struck a mine just after his ship entered the Gulf. Tom returned a year later with an injured leg. He still walks with a limp. Anyway, Stan’s father wouldn’t hear of me living on my own. Besides, I couldn’t pay the bills or buy food for myself.’ She smiled at the memory. ‘Stan didn’t want his “little lady” working after we were married.’ She cleared her throat again. ‘Now, where was I? Ah yes. There were no local jobs I could do so I was contemplating returning to Parramatta where I still had family…’

‘How interesting,’ Maisie interrupted. ‘That’s where I live. Sorry. Please go on.’

Katie shook her head. ‘That’s fine. Fancy that?  Anyway, that’s when the invitation came from Stan’s parents. Of course, I had to work for my keep and I was only asked to help where I could until I settled in. After a few months, I found myself taking care of Stan’s grandmother who by then was confined to bed. She was a cranky old thing but we grew to love each other and enjoyed spending long days together doing needlework and chatting. After she died, I took over the care of all the upstairs rooms. Oh, and Merle had returned to Sydney by then and became a mid-wife or so we heard. After guests left for the day, I cleaned and readied everything up.’ Here Katie smiled. ‘I guess that’s how I got into a habit of cleaning upstairs in the afternoon.’

Maisie smiled too. ‘So how was it that you were left with this huge place. Surely there were other family members around.’

‘Sadly no. Stan wasn’t the only son who died during the Gulf War. There were three other sons and three daughters. The youngest boys both died before they married. Stan’s eldest brother returned but never married. I think he died from a broken spirit. He never spoke much about the war but it was obvious that it caused him more than physical pain. Stan’s father died in his late seventies and his mother soon after. Stan and I hadn’t been married long, so we had no children of our own.’

‘And the sisters?’

‘One went to Melbourne and married there. We heard soon after that she had died from natural causes. I never knew what. She was only in her early thirties. One sister, Christine, was living in town with her husband but they were much older than Stan and I. They never had children and Christine didn’t want the place. She died only last year in a nursing home. There was one other sister, Marjorie. She was the youngest. The solicitor who managed the affairs when Christine died even tried looking for her back in Ireland. Nothing. It was like she just vanished into thin air.’

After Katie had been silent for some time to finish her soup and bread, Maisie quietly asked about how she managed on her own for so long.

‘I down sized, I guess you could call it. I only cope with up to six guests at any one time. I open up the house on occasions for bus trippers but just for afternoon tea and a guided tour. It helps with the bills.’ She sat up straight. ‘You know what? I haven’t given you the guided tour. I won’t charge you,’ she laughed. ‘I just know you would appreciate it.’

‘WOW! Thanks! That sounds wonderful. Would this afternoon be a good time?’

‘Give me an hour while I tidy upstairs. It’s just you and me so it won’t take long.’

‘I can clean up these dishes if you like.’ Maisie stood and picked up her empty bowl.

‘Well, I don’t see why not. Thank you. You’ll find everything you need in my little kitchen. Oh, just put the lid on the soup pot and check that I turned it off. I’ll deal with it later.’

The afternoon was everything Maisie expected and didn’t expect. The building and all its history turned out to be the perfect place to break her recent writer’s block.

© Chrissy Siggee – 2019

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.

Archived in
Short Fiction by Chrissy at Riverside Peace

What Became of Marjorie? – Chapter One

Chapter 1

It was a glorious night with an Autumn full moon and a canvas of twinkling stars that stretched out before Maisie. She stood now on the only second-floor balcony of this quiet country retreat. Huge Banksias all but obliterated the front of the historic building; the perfect location to write her new mystery novel. Taking in a slow deep breath of the crisp air she took the few short steps to the railing and took in the outline of the surrounding landscape beyond the front garden.

The Last Stop Hotel had been built in 1869 but was renamed Kelly’s Inn in 1880 after a fire partially destroyed the ground floor on the same day as Ned Kelly’s death. One hundred years later, it was converted to a bed and breakfast by an Irish family of the same name who immigrated during conflicts that took the lives of family members and friends. Generations later, Kelly’s Inn had still retained its name and function. It was inherited almost a decade earlier to the Australian born Gulf war widow, Katie Kelly.

Maisie gasped with surprise at the sight of a shooting star. She watched in awe until it disappeared from view. A squeak that sounded like a gate opening or closing, brought her back to the moment. The following echo of a click confirmed it. There in the moonlight off to her right was a hooded figure who was now heading down the path and into a dark shadowed area that she perceived as the bush-land she noticed when she arrived that afternoon.

With strained eyes focusing, she waited for further movement. ‘Perhaps I just imagined it’, she mumbled to herself. After all, she knew she had an imagination that freaked everyone she knew.

Closing the balcony double doors behind her, she headed for the bathroom to ready for bed. Tomorrow, Maisie hoped, would be a day of exploring and note taking.

Maisie woke to a faint tapping at her door. Blinking at the clock beside the bed she wondered for a second where she was. Another slightly firmer knock woke her fully. ‘Come in,’ she said, before thinking about who it could be.

Mrs Kelly entered with a tray atop with a mug of hot coffee, a small creamer jug and a bagel filled with bacon and melted cheese. ‘I don’t usually serve breakfast in bed to my guests but I need to drive into town for more supplies.’

‘Thank you. What time is it? This clock doesn’t seem to be working.’

‘So, you’re not an early riser?’ The woman moved the clock back a little so she could place the tray on the side-table. ‘The clock is working fine. It’s five-thirty in the morning.’

Maisie groaned but it was too late. ‘Sorry, I often write late into the night.’

‘That’s all right’. She grinned. ‘When I return, we can sit down and discuss your nocturnal needs and later breakfast times’.

‘I should have mentioned it yesterday, but an early start would do me good today. I need to make notes and check out this beautiful place’. Maisy looked around the ornately decorated room.

Katie Kelly went to the door before answering. ‘Until I return, can I ask you to keep the “checking out” to the down stairs and surrounding grounds.’ She turned and smiled. ‘I prefer to “right” upstairs after midday.’ She winked and left the room.

Maisie smiled as she placed her feet on the floor and reached for the steaming coffee.

The largest room downstairs had obviously been the 1880 refurbished dining room or perhaps a dance hall, which could explain the size and the raised section at one end. The chandeliers above glowed dimly, but the intricate embossed ceilings held her attention.

‘Your mouth is open.’ Mrs Kelly interrupted her reverie. ‘There’s a few dust spiders up there that drop unexpectedly.’

Maisie mouth slammed shut as the woman’s jovial laugh echoed down the long hallway toward the back of the house. She gathered herself and rescued her notebook that had dropped to the floor before following her host.

With a huge grin from Katie Kelly, Maisie stepped into the outdated but awe-inspiring industrial kitchen.

‘This kitchen is amazing.’

‘Yes, it’s that. Too big when I’m here alone during the colder months. I use the old domestic kitchen.’  She pointed to an open door beside the door they had come through. ‘Take a look.’

To her surprise the smaller kitchen was no bigger than an English utility room she had seen on one of those country-life television reality shows. It had all the basics a single person would need. In fact, it was better designed than her own kitchen in her Parramatta apartment.

‘So, how was your breakfast?’ Her host peered from behind the open door of the biggest refrigerator Maisie had ever seen.

‘Lovely, thank you. I’m sorry I put you to all that trouble.’

‘Nonsense, I enjoy spoiling my guests. Even nocturnal ones,’ she added with a wink.

Maisy couldn’t help but like this motherly older woman. ‘So, how can we make this work, Mrs Kelly?’

‘For starters, stop calling me Mrs Kelly. It’s Katie. I’m not the old housekeeper.’ She paused before continuing. ‘Well, old maybe.’

They both laughed.

‘OK Katie. You can call me Maisie. I’m so glad I came across your website. Which reminds me. Do you have WiFi?’

‘No. We are too far out and I like to keep it that way.’ Katie closed the fridge door and placed the last of the shopping bags under the huge work-space that seem to possess the room. She leaned against it. ‘I use the butcher’s computer in town. Tom is happy for my guests to use his WiFi too. Just be ready for his weird tales from the past…like the one he tells about the young newly-weds that stayed in the room above on the night of the historic fire’. She pointed toward the ceiling before adding: ‘then there’s Old Ned himself but I’ll let Tom tell his stories.’ Katie slapped her ample thighs. ‘Let’s go into the sitting room. It’s warmer in there. First on the left,’ she pointed. ‘I’ll bring down a pot of tea’.

The next few hours sped by filled with hot tea, scones and laughs. Katie answered historical questions about the house and family. Maisie interest peaked when Katie mentioned the family cemetery a little way passed the side gate.

‘Last night I thought I saw someone going through the gate. Actually, I heard the gate squeak.’

Katie sat silent before answering. ‘You must be mistaken,’ she snapped. That gate hasn’t squeaked for years. I’ll check it later when I dig up some potatoes for tonight’s tea. Will you eat with me?’ she continued bringing an abrupt end to their pleasant morning.

‘If it’s no problem. I can pay for any extra meals I have.’

‘Now cut that out, Miss Maisie. You’re welcome to join me at any meal. As for breakfast, why don’t I prepare it once you come downstairs each morning. I’ll be somewhere down here. Probably in the kitchen.’ With that, Katie packed up the dishes and left the room.

It took a few minutes before Maisie moved. She was at a loss to the sudden change of mood. She was concerned that she had offended the woman and decided to immediately apologise. Entering the kitchen a few minutes later she searched for Katie but she obviously made herself scarce. With a deep sigh she returned to her exploring. It was too late to drive into town. I don’t want to upset Katie again. Still mystified, she headed back to the large room she had visited earlier.

© Chrissy Siggee – 2019

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.

Archived in
Short Fiction by Chrissy at Riverside Peace