It took one more day with Anna, and enquiries back at the station, before Blandford agreed that they were ready to invite everyone to join him in the garden on the warm summer evening, the last of their holiday. Waves crashed onto the beach below indicating wind out at sea and an imminent change in the weather. Chairs had been bought out from the kitchen and police officers surrounded the group, also eager to hear what Blandford had to say.
“This has been a complicated case.” He started. “Thank you all for your patience and,” he looked directly at Elden, “I am very sorry for your loss.” Elden nodded and shifted nervously in his seat.
“After discovering that it was possible for one of you to have committed the crime, the difficulty we have found is that each one of you had motive and opportunity to kill Janice and also that she had reason to hate each one of you. It has taken some pretty detailed detective work to uncover the perpetrator of this terrible assault.” Blandford paused and looked round the group.
“Elden, your marriage to Janice was all but over and she knew that she would be leaving the marriage with very little. She had nowhere else to turn except to Neville, perhaps?’ Blandford was trying to confirm a theory. “Had she tried to ignite something with you Neville, in order to stay in the group, but failed? You sided with your wife I’m guessing and let her down very ungallantly which caused her to threaten you and Indra.”
Neville was happy to oblige. “I’m sorry Elden but I didn’t like her, not since her stalking of Jeremy, I was probably a bit harsh when she tried it on with tears one time and I told her I’d rather eat my Dad’s false teeth. She turned totally vitriolic, started threatening all sorts of horrible things.”
Blandford turned to Indra “Janice knew that you had been good friends with Elden’s first wife and she used your love of communication, shall we say, to her own advantage one too many times, she knew too much about your patients and was threatening your dental practice.”
“We worked so hard to build it up.” Indra replied aggressively. “I wasn’t going to let her tear it all down because my husband had rejected her little-lost-girl appeal.”
“Robert had never been forgiven for the accident which claimed the life of the boy she idolised and Rebecca was disliked because she had found happiness with Robert, which became especially galling when Colin left her for Anthony.” Blandford continued. “Anthony; Janice harboured a grudge against you for breaking up her relationship with Colin and when she found out that you were Rebecca’s photography model she started blackmailing you, threatening to tell Colin that your relationship with Rebecca was something more.”
Anthony looked at Colin “It wasn’t.”
“Lastly Colin, you and Janice go a long way back, she helped you set up your club and introduced you to your partner, but you had been informed that she was blackmailing Anthony.”
“You knew?” Anthony was surprised.
“Indra told me. I knew that there wasn’t anything in it because I know you and I also know Rebecca.” Colin took Anthony’s hand and smiled at him.
“But this wasn’t about any of that.” Blandford paused, rather too much for dramatic effect, Anna thought. He clearly liked an audience, who all turned to him with open mouths.
“What was it about then?” Elden asked. “Was it one of us or wasn’t it?”
“Oh yes.” Blandford turned to Elden. “It was one of this group, but the killer wasn’t only trying to hurt Janice, they were also trying to implicate you, Neville and Robert. The golf club from Neville’s bag, the glove from Robert’s bag, the expectation that you would be the main suspect which was assisted, most fortuitously, by your discovery of the body. The killer wanted everything to be confused but because we have managed to get an insight into how everyone is linked here, we were able to uncover the actual motive. We have been in contact with the Fitness Club and asked the administrator to look through the payroll, which we know Janice completed every month. We have found three non-existent cleaners on the books being paid £700 a month each into bank accounts that can be traced back to Janice. She was responsible for the Club’s cash flow difficulties, but you know that, don’t you Colin?”
Colin opened his mouth to deny the accusation but Blandford continued. “You see, we now know that Colin has already taken some advice from an expert and he had proof of what she was doing but going to the police wasn’t enough for him, Colin took it one step further and decided to try to free the Club, not only from the fraud but also its investors. You see, I believe Colin blames you all for the death of his brother and has been waiting for the opportunity to exact revenge. We can prove it of course with DNA inside Robert’s glove and a fingerprint on the kitchen knife, which you must have found difficult trying to wield with your left hand.”
Everyone looked at Colin who sat open-mouthed staring at the DI. All the colour drained from his face as he contemplated his next move. In the battle going on inside his head, fight eventually won. “You killed my brother, all of you.” Colin raged. “With your tight little clique, constantly encouraging Jeremy to push himself further both physically and academically. Yes, I blame you all. Janice too. Jeremy hated her and her stalking of him. The day before he died he told me he was going to go to the police. He was going to get Janice to stay away from him.” Twenty years of pent up emotion came flooding out. “I didn’t come here to kill her but she found out that I knew what she was up to with the payroll and she began goading me to do something about it. She told me I was nothing like my brother, that I was pathetic and weak, that I would never expose her and hurt my friends. When I saw her through the kitchen window she smirked at me like she was winning and I just snapped. I didn’t mean to hit her as hard as I did with the golf club, but then, I thought she was dead and I knew I was free of her. The knife was right there so I just used it to confuse the whole scene. It seemed like a final revenge on her for all the pain and betrayal.” Colin slumped in the chair, exhausted.
Blandford indicated to the officers who moved behind Colin but Anna caught his eye. “Before you take him into custody, could I just ask something?” Blandford nodded. “Colin, what actually killed your brother? Have the eight of you ever talked about this?”
“We never have.” Robert interjected. “I still don’t understand what happened. He was the strongest swimmer of us all.”
“He was strong in everything.” Neville continued. “He was a good golfer, enjoyed school, tolerated Janice, who I thought he just saw as a harmless silly girl.”
“She knew that is what he thought and she didn’t like that. She very rarely talked about Jeremy.” Elden finished.
“Is that right Colin? Was Jeremy strong in everything? Was he never sick?” Anna pushed.
Colin was shaking with the anger of his outburst. “Yes. Jeremy was strong and kind as well. He was a good brother and you all took him away from me. He was never ill, apart from one episode a few weeks earlier, when he was really sick. He didn’t go to hospital, it seemed to pass very quickly but we never discovered what had caused it.”
“Janice did talk about that once, she had been very worried about him, I remember that, it happened at the golf club didn’t it?” Elden turned to Robert.
“Yes, I took him home, he was horribly sick in the footwell of my Dad’s car, God knows what he had eaten.”
Neville was thoughtful, “I asked Janice that same afternoon whether she knew what had happened but she just said she had offered him a cake she had made, but that she had eaten it too. It couldn’t have been that.” It was clear from the conversation they were having that the three had never talked about the incident in any depth.
Everyone looked at each other, not quite sure where Anna was going with this as she asked, “So did Jeremy eat or drink anything just before the swim?”
Robert shook his head. “Not that I know of, we tried to do it quietly, the club would never have given permission, only we and Janice knew it was happening.”
“He did have that almond milk shake of Janice’s. She told him her mother swore it would keep the cold out and give him energy.” Rebecca was firm in her recall of it. “It’s all the rage now but it was an unusual thing at the time. I had a sip, it was delicious.”
“I know it’s a long time ago, but can anyone remember the cake that Janice gave Jeremy?” Anna looked at Blandford directly and he immediately picked up what she was suggesting.
“It was Bakewell Tart.” Indra offered. “Cake is one thing I always remember.”
Police Officers drove Colin away and DI Blandford shook Anna’s hand as the group went inside. “Almonds. When did you know?”
“If Jeremy had told Janice to leave him alone the day before he died, I realised that he might have been poisoned. It’s a shame that it had to happen like this. If they had just talked…”
“Now at least, Robert can start to heal.” Blandford looked over to the house.
“Yes,” replied Anna. “But he’ll have to do it quick. He is going to be a Dad.”
“Come on.” Barry said putting his arm round Anna. “All this murder mystery is making me hungry. What’s for supper?”
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