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.

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

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