|Murder in Edwardian Suburbia
Author: cloogle PM
AU story. "I am like every other woman; it is you that is loose. To unwind is to allow a trap to form; a noose with which one might hang one's self. You kid yourself that such freedoms exist."Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Crime - Chapters: 13 - Words: 41,331 - Reviews: 15 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 12-24-11 - Published: 01-23-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6679293
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Full Mobi (Kindle) and ePub (iPhone) e-book formats of this story can be found on my profile. :)
This is the final part of the story. Thank you for reading. Claire x
"I'd like to thank you all for gathering here this evening." With a keen clap of her hands, Kate greeted the higgledy-piggledy group that was sitting on a semblance of variegated and hurriedly-assembled chairs. "As you may be aware, Miss Emma Scribbins and I have been attempting to prove the innocence of Alfred Snell, so far with little success." Emma gave a small timid wave and the audience muttered to each other restlessly. "However, we now have a suspect and for those unfamiliar with Mr Frederick Massey, please take a long look at the sketch that is currently being passed around the room. So, where was I?" She paused and looked around at the motley crew, and then caught Emma's eye. Emma waved a piece of paper in the air. "Ah, yes, I'd like to begin by allocating assignments. Firstly, come morning, we shall require someone to visit the bakery, speak to Mr Jones and ascertain exactly when Massey is due to make his next delivery."
"Put me down, my dear," Doctor St. John offered. "I'm fond of an early constitutional."
Kate nodded. "Very much appreciated. Now, once the good doctor has found us out a time and place to be, we need two or three of you to act as 'gossipers'." A few hands shot up, including Matilda's. Kate smirked. "Perfect. I'll have Emma guide you through the topic for discussion afterwards. Lastly, we require volunteers to visit the cottage hospital and keep a close eye on Mr Brookes; should he pull though, we must be informed immediately as he may hold knowledge pertinent to the case." Kate selected suitable candidates from the group and Emma noted down their names. "Now, remember that this man, if he is the guilty party, he may be dangerous. So please, please be aware. Be cautious." Kate took a deep breath, looking down at her notes momentarily. She felt a strange sort of positivity grow in her chest and beamed with internal pride. Finally, it would seem, she had found a cause that excited her. She had found her place.
The streets were empty bar one lone person. Keeping to the shadows, back to the wall, the figure slipped its way along the cold, moonlit alley. Were it not for the light scuff of boots against brick, the movement would be almost inaudible. Slowly, with a push, the gate inched open.
"What was that?" Emma spluttered through a sip of ginger ale, her propped up feet falling to the floor with a thunk as she looked frantically around the room.
"The wind," Kate replied cuttingly. "Are you going to have a mild aneurysm every time you hear a noise louder than the sneeze of a mouse?" she asked dryly as she nestled back into the armchair.
"No," Emma exclaimed with mock affront and a sly smile. Setting down her bottle, she shuffled to the edge of her seat. "I'm going to... well, go outside."
"Yes, yes. Off you go," said Kate absently, appearing to stare at the fire. She was, in fact, observing Emma using the reflection of the mirror atop the low mantelpiece. Gazing lazily, she watched as Emma rose and enshrouded herself in a shawl. Kate couldn't help but grin. Closing her eyes and biting the end of her thumb she allowed herself, for a brief moment, to feel elated. "Emma?" she called and sat up primly. There was no response. Kate found that she was quite alone. "Oh well, never mind."
Easing open the back door, Emma crept out, her intention not actually for the privy, but instead for a little night surveillance. Since early that morning she and Kate had taken residence in the vacated Brookes house. Despite the time alone, it had not been a comfortable day. They had both been on edge. At any moment a murderer was due at their door.
The glow that radiated from the light in Emma's hand proved insufficient. Almost immediately, her foot caught on a tin bucket brim full with rain water. With a girlish yelp, she stumbled and dropped the lamp; it cracked and spat small pools of flaming oil across the cobbled stones. She took a moment to lean back and take in the sight of the stars, the barest spit of rain making her eyelashes flutter.
She was so distracted by the sight of the clear night sky that she completely failed to notice the tall figure stepping up behind her.
Impatiently, Kate rapped her fingertips rhythmically on the chair's wooden arm, looking around for the local newspaper. Pouting at its absence, she instead reached out to jab the fire with the poker a few times. Her ears pricked up when she heard the sound of a creaking floorboard, but upon hearing a gust of wind whistle through the letterbox, she dismissed it. A few seconds later and the noise came again. Slightly more wary, she called behind her: "If you're seeking to frighten me by jumping out, I won't scream like I did earlier."
"You hit me!" Sullivan bemoaned, clutching his cheek.
"You startled me!" Emma clenched her teeth and looked apologetically at the inspector. "Sorry," she said, wrinkling her nose. "What brings you here?"
"I just needed to leave a message for you both," he said, rubbing his gloved hands together. "And also inform you that we've had a visit from Frederick Massey at the station."
Emma looked gleeful. "Then our plan worked!"
Sullivan looked bemused as they both bobbed down to pick up the shards of broken lamp. "Plan?"
"We spread a little rumour that Mr Brookes was going to go to the police tomorrow, and that he would be telling you who the real murderer was. We made sure Fred heard about it, expecting him to come to this house to further bribe Mr Brookes. I never expected him to go the whole hog and give himself up."
"Well he certainly did give himself up, but not for the murders, I'm afraid. However, he did have a very interesting story to tell."
"You know, I wasn't expecting you to be here, so this is a little unfortunate," Gerald Clement hissed into Kate's ear, adding a cluck of his tongue as he pulled the lace across her throat. "I was hoping that Brookes would be at home so I would put an end to his nasty rumours, but I'm now starting to wonder if they came from a different source. What do you think, Miss Ashurst?"
Kate strained against his chest as he tugged at the garrotte. Clearly, he wished her to listen because he had not yet begun to cut off her breathing, but she was restricted enough not to be able to speak or call out.
"If you hadn't got involved," he huffed through a sneer as Kate fought to grab behind her, "this would have been simple. No one else need have died." He pulled the lace a fraction tighter and Kate squealed quietly. "I don't do well with betrayal, but meddling I despise even more."
Bea stepped around in front of Kate. "Yes, he really does, I'm afraid."
Kate looked around her frantically, tears in her eyes, silently praying for Emma to walk back into the room.
"You see," Bea continued, "all dear little Millicent Brookes had to do was collect a watch we had passed to our little messenger donkey, Frederick Massey. It was Gerald, of course, who guided her suitor Alfred to our lovely pawnbroker about a favour in exchange for a dirty old ring. Should either of them ever have been accosted for handling stolen goods, our names wouldn't even have passed their lips. And so it was begun: our little business." She slapped her gloved hands together. "Lo and behold, Millie completed the collection successfully, but the latter part, which was to pass the watch to Mr Balcomb for him to sell on our behalf, she did not complete." Her lip curled and her hands clenched into fists. "And that wouldn't do." She smiled, somewhat relishing the thought.
Gerald snorted and Kate cringed as he added: "The little magpie kept it for herself."
"Of course - and this may tickle you - once Gerald retrieved the watch from her corpse," Bea continued with a smirk, "we had Massey take it to Mr Brookes and bribe him into saying he'd seen Alfred board the cart headed for the Grange. Isn't that wonderfully ironic? Casually tossing him the very same object that she had stolen from us and which henceforth brought her death?"
Despite the physical restraint, Kate still managed to raise a doubtful eyebrow.
"Well, I thought so." Bea sniffed with contempt. "Of course, the idiot took his time in coming forth to the police, but a few more threats conveyed via Massey - he's our lovely messenger donkey - finally did the trick. After all, no one really suspected my Gerald, did they?" she scoffed. "Not even you." She pressed her finger to her lips. "Though I suppose you did have a moment yesterday, when I visited you. That meeting was a little awkward to say the least; you see, I had no idea you'd seen me at the train station that day, so I had to reveal a little more than I had originally intended. Personally, I just wanted to inform you of Gerald leaving town so that it might not be mysterious, but, no, you had to get the bit between your teeth." She tilted her head to one side and looked pitifully at Kate. "It looks at though this will be your last case,DetectiveAshurst. What a shame; you were doing so well," she uttered condescendingly. "But thank you for shifting all blame onto Massey. The whole town has been talking of it. Our little donkey has become a convenient scapegoat." In her hand, Bea held a white handkerchief embroidered with the initials F.M. Pulling out a small pair of scissors, she sliced a small nick on Kate's forearm and pressed the cloth to the wound to draw a little blood. Holding it aloft, she let it flutter to the floor. "Those terrible men, the flour boy and the butcher's assistant: weren't they an evil pair?" Her eyes flashed devilishly as she mimicked what the town's people might say.
Kate felt the increased restriction across her throat as Gerald began to tighten his grasp. She struggled for breath and kicked her heel against his ankles. "Cohorts in crime, apparently," Gerald laughed.
"So, no questions or comments?" Bea turned her ear to Kate jokingly. "Well, thank you for listening; you've been a delight to behold."
Nearby a door slammed and Gerald became momentarily distracted. Kate's eyelashes flickered and her limbs slackened suddenly. Gerald, unprepared for the change in weight, let her drop heavily to the floor. He looked at her slumped figure, eyeing her curiously and nudging at her limp arm with his boot. Narrowing his eyes, he prepared to stamp on the back of her hand, partly through rage, the rest as a test of her current state. Instead, he suddenly yelped in pain and Bea cried out his name.
With rage in her eyes, Emma stood with the poker by her side, panting angrily. Gerald, still breathing but unconscious lay across Kate's still body. Over by the fireplace, Sullivan had Bea restrained. Panicking, Emma threw down the poker with a clang and grabbed hold of Gerald by the foot to drag him off Kate. Falling to her knees, she pushed Kate onto her side and hesitantly detached the brooch from Kate's neck and unbuttoned her collar. "Are you hurt? Kate, are you hurt? Please?" Emma felt a hand squeeze her arm, and she watched as Kate's eyes blinked open. Emma's hands flew to her face. "Thank God," she said, buckling over.
"I chanced my luck and feigned a faint while his grip was loose." Kate rubbed at her throat, which was red and sore.
Emma nodded, overwhelmed with gratitude as she tidied Kate's hair out of her eyes. "You must feel terrible."
Kate smiled widely and, with Emma's help, got to her feet. "No, actually, I feel superb." Despite looking dishevelled, blood-stained and limping, she dusted herself down gladly and approached Bea, who was trying to worm her way out of Sullivan's grasp. "Here you may now have my comment, Mrs Clement. I believe that this shan't be our last case; indeed it is merelythe first." Bea went to speak, but Kate silenced her with: "A verbose tongue is such an undignified quality in a woman. Save your words for the day when you need to beg the judge for your life."
"Well, goodnight, ladies," Sullivan doffed his hat, about to board the cart in which the Clements were contained. Pausing for a moment, he thought to give one more comment. "Good work," he said with a nod. To Kate and Emma it seemed like extremely high praise.
"Inspector, before you leave, I have just one question." Kate raised a finger. "How did you know where to find us?"
"Oh, yes, that reminds me, of course. Mrs... Peg -" he narrowed his eyes as he tried to recall "- something-or-other came to the station this afternoon and requested that I pass on the knowledge that Mr Brookes is on the road to recovery; she apparently couldn't pay you a visit herself since she had 'too much on, what with the laundry and everything'." He rubbed at his chin thoughtfully. "Had Mr Massey not appeared at our station doors, I would have informed you sooner."
Emma grinned widely. "That's brilliant news."
Sullivan smiled. "Oh, and Miss Scribbins," he said, looking a little coy, "I meant to ask you, regarding our -"
"If it's about our walking out together," Emma interjected quickly, "then I completely apologise because I, uh, mistookyour suggestion. I am, in fact, promised to another, uh, and have been for quite some time." She beamed at him, wide-eyed, hopeful that he wouldn't feel too rejected.
"I see, well, perhaps Miss Ashu-"
"Also taken," Kate said abruptly.
"Then goodnight it is." The inspector stepped into the cart and took his seat next to the driver. Smirking he added a final remark. "Though I suspect this won't be the last time we meet."
Kate and Emma waved as they watched the horses walk on. Arm in arm, they stepped back inside the empty house and closed the door. Kate pursed her lips. "So, you are promised to another, are you?" she said, slinking her arms around Emma's waist.
"'Fraid so." Emma nodded. "My lover is attractive, charming and astute." Her eyes twinkled. "And you... you're also taken?" she asked with a wry smile.
"Oh, no, I lied. Completely unattached," Kate said mischievously.
First jabbing Kate in the side cheerfully, Emma then looked at her with distinct want in her eyes. Heatedly, she waltzed Kate backwards towards the stairs, where Kate found herself forced to sit as Emma began unbuttoning her tight waistcoat. "Oh!" Kate said suddenly, her mind full with the thoughts of chalk, flour and sugar. "Why did Millie have the white dust on her back if Fred didn't kill her?"
"Aha. Well, Fred Massey was at the Grange that night; he was making a delivery. Gerald, having heard from Jesse Balcomb that the watch never reached its destination, beat up Fred, at first thinking he'd taken the watch. Fred told Inspector Sullivan that there was flour all overGerald's overcoat. So that's how it got onto Millie's back. Satisfied?"
"Absolutely. I don't like loose ends."
"No, I know, because you've very thorough, Miss Ashurst," Emma said, leaning in teasingly to nuzzle Kate's cheek with her nose.
"That I am, Miss Scribbins, that I am." With that, Kate grasped at the bodice of Emma's dress and pulled her down into an ardent kiss, pausing only to further add: "And don't you ever forget it... for as long as we both shall live."
Emma, her eyes bright with joy, nodded at the slightly mawkish gesture of commitment. "Yes, for as long as we both shall live."
Kate smiled sweetly at her companion. "Now get off me, please; these stairs are dirty. Besides, we've got Mrs Brookes and family to find."
"You are kidding, aren't you?" Emma frowned. "Haven't we done enough for today? It's dark."
"It is never too late -" Kate was stopped when Emma, grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns, took her hand and pulled her through to the sitting room. "What are you doing?"
"We're going to make a bed by the fire, and you're going to stop drivelling on about Mrs Brookes," Emma dictated.
"But -" A fingertip swiftly silenced her.
With a sense of finality to the matter, Emma lay a seductive kiss on Kate's lips and gently kicked the door to a close.