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 and studied the gentleman sitting opposite who repeatedly wiped his balding head with a handkerchief. ‘Sir, where did you say you found this manuscript?’

‘Well… I didn’t exactly find it. It was… um… part of my inheritance.’

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

‘Kent. Michael Kent.’

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

‘Oh, um… it was handed down on my mother’s side. My mother changed my surname name 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. He didn’t mention it?’

‘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.

Holiday Reading – Memory of Dread (a 6 part murder mystery) from the archives

Because the individual chapters/parts were originally posted from Part One to Part Six they are in reverse order in the 🦋 Memory of Dread category on Riverside Peace so here are all links in the correct order for your holiday reading.

Memory of Dread – Part One             Memory of Dread – Part Two

Memory of Dread – Part Three          Memory of Dread – Part Four

Memory of Dread – Part Five             Memory of Dread – Part Six

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.
🦋 A note from the author: I do hope you enjoyed Memory of Dread.
If you missed any parts to the story here are all the links.

Memory of Dread – Part One

Memory of Dread – Part Two

Memory of Dread – Part Three

Memory of Dread – Part Four

Memory of Dread – Part Five

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.

Did you miss:
Memory of Dread – Part One

Memory of Dread – Part Two

Memory of Dread – Part Three   

Memory of Dread – Part Four

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.

Did you miss:

Memory of Dread – Part One    Memory of Dread – Part Two   Memory of Dread – Part Three

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.

Did you miss:     Memory of Dread – Part One          Memory of Dread – Part Two

MEMORY OF DREAD – Part Two

🦋 a short murder mystery for the Christian reader – Part 2 🦋

The gate slammed behind Brenda, causing her to shudder. The sounds of prison still echoed in her mind.

Frank Davies reached for her elbow to steady her.

‘It’s all right, Frank. I have to do this sooner or later.’

They walked down the autumn leaf-covered pathway that led to Brenda’s home, still ribboned off by the authorities. A uniformed police constable stood with his hands behind his back in the opened doorway, blocking their way. The badge showed his name to be Hoxley. Frank handed the thirty-ish Hoxley a copy of Brenda’s bail conditions, one of which she could collect personal items from the bedroom of the crime scene under the supervision of her lawyer.

Hoxley tipped his cap to Brenda. ‘I’m sorry, Mrs Stanton. Please accept my condolences.’

Brenda nodded and tried to smile and wondered at the thought of how strange a statement it was, made by one of those who had arrested her.

Frank led her into the front entry toward the stairs but Brenda froze and her head involuntarily turned toward the opening that led to the study where she had last seen Charles. Another police officer stood to the side of the wide double doors. An outline of Charles’ body had been drawn on the carpet. A darkened dried bloodstain remained in the beige plush pile they had chosen together when they refurbished after their fifth wedding anniversary. Brenda shuddered and forced herself to look away. She felt Frank nudge her gently forward snapping her out of her nostalgia.

Part way up the stairs she paused to glance over the rail and beyond to the kitchen. Her chin lifted slightly and her nose wrinkled before she proceeded up the steps to the bedroom. Frank stood just outside in what seemed an attempt to Brenda as an unspoken gesture of privacy.

In the bathroom, Brenda reached for her make-up bag. Her eyes fell on Charles’ razor and the aftershave bottle that she had purchased for him on a recent trip to Hawaii. The familiar scent lingered on Charles’ robe that hung behind the door. Silent tears flowed as she forced herself to pack a small suitcase she had placed on the bed. There’s no time for memories right now, she pondered while shoving some clean nightwear and underclothing into a zipped section inside the suitcase. She methodically continued to pack, stopping briefly to fold Charles’ bathrobe around their wedding photo.

Brenda closed the bag and zipped it. Looking around the room, she considered tidying up the mess the police had made searching for who-knows-what.

‘Are you ready to leave?’ Frank asked, approaching her quietly and reaching for her suitcase.

‘Yes. Yes, please let’s go.’

She turned and walked promptly to the landing where she stopped suddenly. Her head jerked downward.

Frank moved quickly to her side. ‘What is it?’

A slight thump beneath caused them both to move to the railing and look over. The officer that had been by the double doors had drawn his gun and was rushing in the direction of the kitchen.

‘You heard that, right?’ Brenda whispered.

‘I think we all did,’ he replied, nodding toward Hoxley who had rushed into the front entry hall.

‘But what was it? It’s the same sound, the same…’ She sniffed. ‘The same odour.’

Frank sniffed too and then shrugged.

They continued to the stairs and began the descent. Partway down Brenda stopped again where she had paused earlier. She sank down onto a step and touched her forehead with the palm of her hand.

‘Are you all right?’ It was Hoxley.

‘Yes, thank you. I thought I saw something…or at least remembered that I had seen something.’

A gunshot sounded, then nothing. A few minutes later the other police officer returned.

‘There’s something definitely strange going on here,’ he said to no one in particular before he replaced his gun into its pouch.

Brenda looked down at him. ‘W…what…?’

Young Hoxley dashed toward the kitchen generating strange looks from both Frank and the other officer. Brenda just let her head droop slowly forward to fight off a moment of dizziness.

It seemed to Brenda that Hoxley had just materialized in front of her a few steps down. He placed a glass of water to her lips.

‘Thank you,’ Brenda said after a few sips and taking the glass from him.

‘What do you mean by there’s something strange going on here?’ Frank suddenly demanded. ‘Shouldn’t we take a look? Who were you shooting at? What’s going on around here? Shouldn’t I…I…’

The other officer rushed up the stairs before he could continue. He grabbed Frank’s elbow and pulled him roughly down the last few steps and out of Brenda’s hearing. However, she did notice the signal for Hoxley to stay with her.

Brenda thanked Hoxley again and gave him the glass before attempting to stand, but he gently placed his hand palm-down on her shoulder to keep her seated.

‘I know I heard something that night,’ she began, ‘and I saw something. I just can’t remember what.’

‘It’s all right Ma’am. We’ll get to the bottom of it. Leave it to the authorities. Inspector O’Malley has had two officers here since day one keeping an eye on things. A few things don’t fit, but we’re working on it.’ Hoxley sat beside her and took something from his shirt pocket. ‘In the meantime, you may like to get some help…and maybe some other answers.’ He handed her something that looked like a business card and Brenda took it distractedly.

At that moment Frank returned. He appeared exasperated but Brenda didn’t know him well enough to read him. Although he seemed to be a good lawyer, he was also a very strange man with not much in the way of compassion.

Brenda gave her thanks again to Hoxley after he helped her into the car. He smiled through the side window and returned to his post by the front door. The thump of the closing boot lid startled her and she watched in a daze as Frank opened the driver’s door and got in.

‘What’s that?’ Frank asked, peering over the driver seat at Brenda.

She stared at a small card in her hand. She wondered momentarily how it got there. ‘City Central Family Church,’ she read aloud.

‘Ah…that’s not far from my own church. If you want, I can take you to either one on Sunday. I haven’t been for months. I never get the time these days. At least not since my wife up and left with the kids.’

When Frank turned the corner the tree lined street disappeared from sight. His one-sided conversation seemed to fade into a haze of an all ready confused dream. She studied the front of the card and then the back. There was a phone number for a Peter and Cheryl Hoxley.

God and church had never been a priority in their busy lives. The only times they had gone to church were for weddings or funerals. ‘If there is a God…why would he let this happen?’ She whispered.

Placing her hands in her lap she looked out the window barely aware of Frank’s constant chatter. ‘God, help me. Help me to remember. Help the authorities find Charles’ killer. Please God…’

‘Frank?’ Brenda finally interrupted as his pristine restored Cadillac pulled to a stop at the motel. ‘What did that other police officer have to say to you that I couldn’t hear?’

The engine silenced along with his chattering. ‘Sergeant McDougal? Um…nothing for you to worry about. It um…appears the police have some new leads. That’s all I should say for now.’

With the short conversation ended, Frank led her to the motel lobby. He was about to place the suitcase down to wait for the elevator when reporters and cameramen rushed toward them. The ding of the elevator announcing its arrival had them rushing in before the doors opened fully. Brenda whimpered as the doors closed. Frank pressed the button for the fifth floor.

© Chrissy Siggee

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

🦋 Did you miss
Memory of Dread – Part One