School Holiday Sleuth – Idyll Interrupted – 2

DI Blandford had an irritating vaping habit. Not in the inhaling of it but in the constant fiddling with the vaporizer in his pocket. A tall and dark man with a friendly face, Anna thought that if he paid as much attention to what the people around him were saying, rather than his additive checking that the liquid nicotine was still safe in his jacket, he might learn something to help him with the case.

Blandford stood in front of the rather ugly fireplace, with its layer of ash left over from the last fire of spring in the grate and the recently spent whiskey tumblers on the hearth. He quietly surveyed the group. The lounge was bathed in the blue lights of the emergency vehicles still shining outside the front door. Everyone had been ushered into the front room so that the experts could get to work analysing the scene in order to piece together the chain of events that had led to the tragedy.

Anna knew he was waiting for someone to speak and, of course, he wasn’t going to be disappointed. Barry, with his dislike of silence and love of gory detail that came as a result of having a mother who had been Ward Sister of an ICU, couldn’t resist. “Do we know when Janice was attacked?” Anna was grateful that he had at least tried to ask the question gently in front of Elden. Blandford shook his head but saw it as an opening and turned towards Barry. “Could you tell me who you are, Sir?”

In a rather subdued fashion, they all gave Blandford their name and address, explaining why they were here, each of them giving a little more information as if trumping the last with what they thought would be important background clues. Anna was less forthcoming, she didn’t want to talk about what she already knew in front of the others until she was ready, so she was careful to stick very closely to what she was actually being asked.

Now wasn’t the time to discuss the situation in any depth, it was gone 3am, by the time the emergency teams had completed their work. Blandford ascertained that they all intended to remain at the house for the week and seemed content to let them retire for the night, to resume his work in the morning. A police officer was to stand guard as reassurance until he returned later.

Anna looked at Blandford as he patted his jacket pocket. She knew, of course, that this meant that he thought Janice had been murdered by one of them, and the police presence was to ensure that no one left the house in the night. Elden was offered a sedative, which he accepted, and they all went upstairs to bed.

“You’re not really planning to sleep are you?” Barry was still clearly wide-awake and wanted to talk about it. “Come on, I know you know stuff, tell me what you are thinking. What can I do to help?”

“OK,” Anna started. “I don’t know much for sure yet, neither of us know these people very well, but have you noticed that they are all inter-connected in some way?” Barry hadn’t. He really was under the impression that they were just a group of golf buddies who had hit upon this idea of a Cornwall tour and he felt very pleased to have been asked along too.

“No, unfortunately that is not the case.” Anna continued searching in her mind for an example that she felt confident enough to share. “I think we have to assume that one of them killed Janice and we need to get to the bottom of why.”

“How could it have been one of them?” Barry looked shocked and confused. “Janice came back to the house on her own when we were all together on the beach. We all came back up to the house and went to bed. That is when Elden found her. She’d been dead for a good half an hour I overheard the doctor say. It couldn’t have been one of us, and anyway, if she had been stabbed when we were in the house, we would have heard, surely!”

“I hope you’re not including me in that ‘us’” smiled Anna. Barry gave her a dry look and sat down heavily on the bed. “I think I know how it was done.” Anna revealed as Barry’s eyes widened, “I’m just not sure yet by who, that’s what we need to find out.”

“I can’t imagine Blandford’s going to have much success, unless he gets someone to confess.” Barry observed and then shifted slightly, realising he had sat on his toilet bag. He pulled it out from under him and peered inside to find, as expected, that his sudden weight had caused toothpaste to explode over everything.

 

The expanse of blue sea sparkled in the morning sun as Anna pulled the curtains on the new day. It was mid morning but she wasn’t surprised to find the kitchen deserted, it had been a long night. The coffee machine was similar to the one they had at home so Anna was able to switch it on and went looking for cups. On opening the door to the boot room, Anna sent all the golf bags flying on her way to the fridge. “God, it’s like being at home,” she muttered as she picked up all the bags, balancing them back onto their triangle stands and noticing again all the sand on the floor. The door to the outside was open and she smiled at the police officer. “Would you like coffee?” Anna asked.

Colin was sat at the kitchen table when she returned to the coffee machine, his head in his hands. He looked up when she entered and tried to smile. “Morning, you making coffee?” She poured him a cup and then delivered one to the officer outside, reluctantly going back inside.

“Barry tells me you own the Fitness Club?” she ventured, hoping to take his mind off whatever was weighing so heavily on him. “Yes, not for much longer though.” He looked like he might be about to cry. “You’re in finance I heard, I just can’t work out what is going wrong.”

“Not exactly,” Anna replied “but it is a big part of my job, what do you think is wrong?”

Colin seemed relieved to be given an opportunity to talk about it. “Our turnover is really close to the original business plan that Janice helped me put together. I think all the overheads and expenditure are as we forecast, but the club just doesn’t seem to be making enough to cover the basics. I’ve got a massive water bill coming up and I just don’t know how I’m going to pay it.” Colin put his head back into his hands, his nose practically dipping into his coffee.

“I thought I could smell coffee.” Rebecca came into the kitchen from the boot room, clearly having been for a morning swim. She was a tall, beautiful woman with long limbs and an ethereal look about her. “Where do the cups live? I’d better take one up to Robert too.” Anna could hear Neville talking to the policeman outside who was telling him that DI Blandford was on his way over. It wasn’t going to feel much like a holiday today and she wondered wryly whether the DI might consent to taking statements on the beach.

Blandford, on arrival, had clearly decided to start with the men, and Elden in particular, presumably working on the age-old theory that it was most likely the husband who had despatched his wife. Anna went out into the garden to look for a quiet place to read, someone to talk to and to see if the sun loungers were at all comfortable.

Rebecca was already there. “Mind if I join you?” Anna asked and Rebecca started as if she had been falling asleep. “Best not to fall asleep in the sun” Anna laughed. “No. Thank you for waking me. I am so tired recently. I’ve been so busy with work, my exhibition and all the other demands Robert makes on my time.”

“Exhibition?” Anna enquired. She usually kept up with what was going on in town, and hadn’t heard about an exhibition. “Oh no, not my usual country craft market stuff, I’ve got images going into a top London gallery in September. It’s very exciting, they think it will make my name in the world of erotic photography and want me to display in a gallery in New York next year.”

“Wow, that does sound exciting.” Anna was impressed with Rebecca’s sudden enthusiasm. “How did you come from estate agency to that?”

“The estate agency is Robert’s thing, I’ve been trying to support him but it is hard to keep finding interesting ways to make a tiny kitchen look spacious. I just started taking photographs of something I found more appealing, the human body.”

Anna could sense Barry was approaching long before he actually appeared. “Blandford’s looking for you, Rebecca.” She lifted herself off the sun lounger and smiled. “Right, my turn I suppose.”

“I’ve been talking to Neville.” Barry obviously had something to tell her. “I found out that Neville, Robert and Elden were all friends at school with, get this, Colin’s older brother”

“That’s interesting” replied Anna “Why is he not enjoying this holiday of a lifetime instead of us?”

“Because,” Barry’s voice quietened, “He died just before they all went off to university and Neville gave me the distinct impression that Robert had something to do with the death. He told me that Robert has never forgiven himself. You were right, all these people have been living intertwined lives for years. How did we get ourselves involved in this?”

“We…?” exclaimed Anna as she slapped him with her book.

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