Welcome to my contribution to the A to Z Challenge. My theme this year is Murder Most Foul, which, for you, my blog visitors, means that you will be sharing in The Case of the Cursed House, or rather the bare bones of it.
Everyday, I will be revealing more about my developing Cozy Mystery: descriptions of scenes; character details; locations; clues to the mystery. And, at the end of each post, you will have the chance to vote on whodunnit. So, without further ado, on with the case...
Story Notes (since we're at the climax of the story, these notes are a lot more detailed than the previous episodes)
Given that she's been up half the night, Aisha is sent home once Lord Michael has been arrested. She grabs some lunch at a supermarket and then goes home. She plods up the garden path to her home and her step mum, Jamini, is in the garden again,. As soon as she sees Aisha, she drops the metal bar she is manhandling around the garden and goes to her. She wraps an arm around her shoulders and guides her into the kitchen, sits her down and puts on the kettle. Jamini asks if everything is alright. Aisha smiles tiredly and says that they arrested someone, but she's not sure they have enough evidence to convict. There's nothing physical, only circumstantial, but she thinks Barnwell is a good interrogator, so she'll probably get her man.
Over a cup of tea, Aisha starts talking about the people in Wittrenham. How she thinks it will be a long time before they get over 2 murders. She says she is particularly worried about Lady Emma, because she told her that Wittrenham was her escape from what happened to her parents and now it's all up in the air. She says it must have been awful, both parents dying like that.
Jamini sits back then and tells her that Emma's father isn't dead.
But she lost them both, Aisha checks.
Yes, but not because he died. He killed her mother. He had a psychotic break by all accounts, and murdered his wife over some perceived break of etiquette. He's in Broadmoor. It was all very sad. Some people thought Emma was going to crack up as well, like her father, but then Michael took her under his wing and we all breathed a sigh of relief.
Aisha sits back, sipping her tea. Something is nagging at her, so she asks if Emma was a stickler like her father.
Jamini says yes, she was ever so precise and fussy. Very unusual in the art crowd they belonged to, but everyone knew to mind their p's and q's around Emma. Her art was the same, very exact, she'd spend days straight trying to get something just the way she wanted it; she could be a bit strange after one of those sessions even before her dad killed her mum. Everything had to be just so.
Aisha asks how far Jamini thinks Emma would go to have things just so.
Aisha goes upstairs to get changed, but things are still nagging at her. She's worried about Emma, and when she starts thinking about Jon and his need to carry out Bill's wishes, she starts to get really concerned: he could still be in danger. It's nothing more than a hunch, though, so, in her civvies, Aisha decides to go back to Wittrenham, just to check things are alright.
When she arrives in Wittrenham, Aisha goes to Jon's cottage, but Bethany answers the door and tells her that Jon has gone up to the Court House. Aisha heads up there, calling Barnwell as she goes, but Barnwell is interviewing Lord Michael, so she leaves a message, telling Barnwell that she thinks something is wrong, and that she has gone to see Jon, because she is concerned he's in danger.
Aisha goes to Court House and finds the side door open. She goes in and follows voices to the library. She finds Jon pouring two glasses of wine. He greets her and welcomes her in, saying that Emma and he have decided to drown their sorrows with some Manor cellar wine while working on how to make the future better than their pasts. Emma smiles, but the smile doesn't reach her eyes, especially when Jon offers Aisha a drink. She says thank you as he passes her a glass, but Emma is watching her a little too closely to make her comfortable and so, as she takes the glass, she catches it with her sleeve, upending it all over Jon's trousers.
Aisha makes a show of apologising and hurries him out towards the kitchen to clean up. She is then left with Emma in the library. She asks Emma if she is alright, that Michael's arrest must have been a shock.
Emma agrees, but says the best way to move on is to get on with things. Then she asks Aisha what she's doing in Wittrenham, isn't her job finished.
Aisha says she's still a Weald and Romeny Marsh Liaison Officer, and that means looking after everyone on her beat.
Emma suggests that she had been neglecting the other villages on her beat in the last few days.
Aisha agrees, but says no other villages have had two murders, and she is still concerned about everyone in Wittrenham.
Emma walks around the sofa table that the wine is standing on, watching Aisha as she goes. She plays with a letter opening that is sitting on the table and Aisha backs off a little.
Emma tells her that for a police officer she isn't very professional. She says she can see the fear in Aisha's eyes. She asks when she knew.
Aisha says she wasn't absolutely sure until just now.
Emma smiles, taking proper hold of the letter opener.
Aisha asks why.
Emma - because my fool of a husband couldn't do things properly if I made him a list. I have been clearing up his messes and smoothing over his disputes since I married him. I have to say this is the biggest one he has ever managed. I couldn't see him arrested for fraud.
Aisha - so Bill had to die?
Emma - I liked Bill, he was such good company, but he wasn't a man to be persuaded of anything. I did try my feminine charms, but Bill already knew my disposition and he did not bite. If he had, we would have been sharing a game of tennis about now.
Aisha - but you were poisoning him for so long, wasn't there another way?
Emma - the rat poison was a lucky find. you could say it inspired me. I began with small doses, to see what effect it would have. Of course, I had know idea the man was actually dying anyway.
Aisha, so why didn't you leave it at that. Bill was dead.
Emma - Elves, you mean? He was a snivelling weasel, no backbone. He was about to go and confess all to the police. He didn't know about Bill, but even so, he could have made things very difficult for Michael.
Aisha - he was afraid of you, wasn't he.
Emma - terrified; apparently he was quite perceptive.
Aisha - And now it's Jon's turn, you've poisoned the wine, haven't you.
Emma nods - He's told me all about the plans for the artists' retreat. Coupled with the plans for that awful developmental eyesore, I can't let Jon turn Wittrenham into a disaster zone.
Aisha steps back as Emma moves towards her. Jon walks in at that point, still brushing off his trousers, and looks up to see Emma brandishing the letter opener. Emma begins to turn towards Jon, who is frozen in shock. Aisha grabs the bottle of wine and smashes it Emma's feet. She yells at Jon to run and get help and then lunges for Emma as Jon flees. Metal contacts with skin and Aisha yells as the letter opener scrapes over her ribs. She dives past and runs for the door. Emma does not follow, but when Aisha practically falls into the hallway, Jon is disappearing out of the front door, but Emma comes out of the second door to the library, between Aisha and the exit.
Door slamming behind Jon, Aisha runs for the stairs, up towards the darkened hallway, Emma growling in pursuit. Aisha makes it to the top, but the sharp point of the letter opener catches her on the back of her shin and she falls onto the hallway floor. She scrabbles away and turns on her hands and knees to see Emma closing down on her, letter opener brandished aloft.
Emma - you have ruined everything!
Aisha - you could never get away with killing Jon.
Emma - Michael is in custody, he can't have done it, and the rest of the poison would have been found in Alice Rigden's tea caddy. There's nothing else for it now.
Emma raised the letter opener even further, but then she glances up. She freezes, her eyes open and, dropping the letter opener, she screams as she puts her arms in front of her face. She steps backwards quickly, too quickly, and, as cold air rushes past Aisha, Emma loses her balance on the top step and stumbles backwards. Aisha tries to grab for her, but she misses. Emma tumbles down the stairs. When she lands, she is not moving, her head is in a very odd position and her eyes are open. Aisha looks down at her through the bannisters, and, she can't be sure, but next to her ear, she thinks she hears a female sigh.
And now it's time to vote again - be honest, did you work out whodunnit?
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