Part: Three – secrets in these four walls
“How can I be a part of the investigation” she questioned through the tears. Eleanor spoke first, a softly calm voice to Mrs Archer “we can’t rule anyone out Mrs Archer. We have to speak to everyone who was in this house on the night of his death and we have to eliminate each of you in turn.” She turned to look at Sarah “can you write down a list of all the people who were on this estate yesterday evening? We’re going to need to question them all.”
“Sure, that shouldn’t be a problem” she tried to force a smile as she pulled out her own notebook and started to scribble down names as Mrs Archer began to tell her version of events to Detective Locke.
“I was giving a staff meeting about today’s event… I guess that’s not happening now is it” more tears flowed as her son put a tight arm around her. She spoke through the soft tears “The staff meeting started at around 8.30ish”
“Yeah it was 8.30 I remember” her son interjected.
“I don’t think we’ve been introduced” Alec stated rather than questioned.
“I’m Michael, his son” he didn’t hold out a hand to shake he just kept his arm around his mother. Alec noticed his small body language shift when he answered his question. Micro gestures they were called. A subconscious giveaway. Without realising it he had pushed his tongue against his bottom lip before he spoke, it only lasted for a nanosecond but Alec saw it. A clear sign of someone distancing themselves from the question that was asked. Instantly Alec suspected that his lack of tears for his father and his annoyance at being his son was evident. Something he made a note of to follow up in his notebook for when he questioned him.
“Your husband seemed to have been drinking when in the bath. Is this normal?” now the probing began.
“Unfortunately yes lately. He’s been drinking more and more. He’s been very stressed lately and I don’t know why” her voice trailed off. Another note was made in his notebook.
Mr Archer increasingly stressed over something? What could that be?
Eleanor spoke as Detective Locke got up off the seat and paced around the sitting room, eyeing all three suspects as she took the lead in the questioning. “If he drank so much is it not plausible that he may have had too much to drink and did accidentally drown?”
“Not at all!” this was the first time clear anger was shown from Mrs Archer’s voice “he was murdered! He was perfectly content yesterday evening. He was going to open the estate up tomorrow that was very important to him! He wouldn’t have gone that far.”
Locke continued to write notes in his book as he gazed out of the window onto the sprawling lawn of the estate as Eleanor continued to question her. “Can you think of anyone who would want to do harm to him?” she enquired.
“He had a lot of enemies. You’ve read the paper I’m sure. This stupid windfarm idea of his had caused a lot of trouble in the village. No more so than them two” she spat that out with clear venom.
“What two?” Alec butted in as he turned to face the room again.
“Jim and Julie Bradshaw!”
Sarah spoke looking up from her compiled list of names “They live in the estate next to us. They’ve been strongly opposed to George’s idea of building a windfarm on the estate. They have an aviary on their estate and they look after wildlife, particularly birds and cultivate a lot of wild flowers. They were adamant that the windfarm would disrupt the migrating patterns of their birds and stop people coming to visit their estate”.
“Enough to kill him over?”
“You tell me Detective. You most definitely would want to speak to them. Ask anyone, at the last town council meeting over the windfarm Jim threatened to kill him if he went ahead with it”
Jim and Julie Bradshaw possible suspect? Where were they on the night?
Motive: Disruption of their livelihood and profits
Jim threatened to kill Mr Archer-
“Is there anyone else you can think of who would want to do harm to your husband Mrs Archer?”
Michael the son spoke for her “look Detective. My mother has been through a terrible ordeal this morning. Can we please reconvene this later?”
Before he could rebuff the idea Michael was already lifting his mother out of her chair and walking her to towards the door “thank you for understanding” he smiled at them warmly on the way out.
“We’ll most certainly pick this up later” Alec glanced towards Eleanor and with a nod she followed them of the door.
“The list you wanted” Sarah handed a piece of paper over to Alec. His eyes scanned the names with their job titles.
Cheree D’blon (Chef)
Sharon Jackson (Cleaner)
Maxwell Partridge (Cleaner)
Archie Bucannon (Grounds keeper)
Gerrard Neil (Server)
Paula Renshaw (Server)
He placed the names into his notebook as he took a seat again in the room. “So where were you last night?”
She took a seat opposite him and pondered last night’s events before speaking, a sadness evident in her voice. “Yesterday I didn’t see much of George I must admit. I’d spent all day in around the grounds and the house making sure everything was just right for today. Making sure the extra caterers and staff were going to be coming, making sure a hundred and one things were done.”
“When did you see him last?”
She took a moment to remember “ah yes. Well I suppose it was at dinner. It was meant to be a celebration of today. Finally coming into the 21st century and opening up this place…”
“What time?” Alec was always to the point.
Sarah was taken aback by his abrupt attitude and reciprocated it in the way she directed her answer “We always eat around 8pm.”
“And you were close? His assistant right?”
“Correct” a pang of annoyance evident in her words. Alec continued to scribble down notes as she explained how she had come to work at the estate and how she got to the position she was in now. He looked up from his notebook as she finished speaking “and while he did have enemies I don’t think they wanted him dead. Sure Jim and Julie hated George but I don’t see them as killers.”
Alec reflected on her words as she spoke and delved further in “If not them – then who?”
She shifted uneasily in her seat with conflicting voices in her head as to what to say next “I don…I don’t really know”. Alec knew that was a lie as he made another scribble in his notebook. McBride was right, there was something odd with this case. From the small conversations so far he didn’t believe a single word anyone had to say. His brain began to work overdrive trying to place motives and get to the bottom of what the three of them are hiding.
Three of them hiding something what happened last night?
While Detective Locke was interviewing, Eleanor Edgecroft had made her way up the grand staircase and found herself on a long narrow corridor. Portraits of unknown men and women peered at her as she walked, her footsteps muffled by the sounds of the thick red carpet. What have you seen? She thought to herself, if only paintings could talk. She had been at a murder scene before and it always had that feeling of foreboding. She had got an instant feeling that Alec had got too, she was getting good at trusting her gut, the same as McBride. All was not as it seemed in this house. Down the end of the corridor was the bathroom where Mr Archer had died. She recalled the pictures that had been sent by McBride on the way over here. A peaceful body under the water with a bottle of one of Speysides finest whiskies. How did anyone do it?
She heard the sounds of footsteps behind her and jumped with the surprise as a voice cracked the silence behind her “Who are you and what are you doing in here?”
She turned to face a short stocky built older man, his hands were worn and his slight stoop didn’t do his height any favours. He was clutching a large bag in one hand and a brush in the other. Eleanor pulled out her P.I badge as she laughed “blimey – You made me jump. Don’t you know you’re not supposed to creep up on young women in weird manor houses?” He just starred at her in bewilderment, who was she? “I’m Eleanor, Eleanor Edgecroft I’m part of Locke Investigative Services, I’m here as part of the investigation into Mr Archers death. You are?”
Instantly he began to relax “Sorry my love. I was not expecting anyone in here and after the sad news of this morning I’m sure we’re all on edge” he looked on with sadness into the large bathroom.
“I’m sorry for your loss” she offered a compassionate smile to him.
“Forgive me. I’m Maxwell I’m one of the cleaners on the estate. Great shame, he had his enemies and his flaws but I never had a bad word to say about him”
“Where were you last night Max if I can ask between 8 and 10pm?” she had to ask, although she already suspected he wasn’t strong enough to kill someone of Mr Archers stature, plus he seemed too cute in her eyes to do it.
He didn’t hesitate to answer “Staff meeting my love.”
“Can anyone confirm that?”
“Sure. We were all there. I had just cleaned the dinner table after their meal. I was in a rush Mr Archer wanted a long staff meeting at 8.30. We have a bell that rings to start the meetings, we have a big old clock in the stateroom you see, when that rings we know the staff meeting is about to begin. I must admit the staff meeting did creep up on me, the time seemed to go so quick. Mr Archer hated people being late so I quickly finished and went over to the stateroom. We were all there”
Eleanor jotted this down in her own notebook, a tip she’d picked up from Alec. “Sorry to probe but can you tell me who is everyone?”
“You’re just doing your job” he responded with a warm smile “all the staff members so me, Sharon oh poor Sharon. She’s only young she’s only been here a month! Cheree the chef, Archie who looks after the grounds and Gerrard and Paula the kitchen servers. Oh and Mrs Archer and Michael.”
A confused look shot across Eleanor’s face as she finished jotting down the names he had mentioned, “So no Sarah or Mr Archer?”
He raised an eyebrow “No but that doesn’t surprise me”. He continued due to the quizzical look on her face “I don’t like saying a bad word about Mr Archer, he’s been very good to his staff unlike her, his Mrs. Off the record Mr Archer and Sarah were very close and I mean very close.”
“Are you implying an affair?”
He held up his hands as he spoke “I’m not implying anything…I’m just saying they were very close. I’d often see them leaving rooms together or in deep conversation. All the staff suspect it. We’d never say anything, none of us particularly like Mrs Archer she can be very degrading and demanding to her staff so if he was having an affair, I wouldn’t blame him…”
More notes were made in her notebook, Alec had to hear this. “What was the staff meeting about?” she enquired.
He sighed as he spoke “About today. This was our grand opening. He’d been planning it for weeks now. He wanted everything to be perfect. He’s been very worried about the Windfarm deal, not many people like him for that you know. So he wanted today to go off without a hitch, a good will gesture to the community. I guess that didn’t pan out for him.”
“So who did the staff meeting when Mr Archer and Sarah weren’t there?”
She laughed “the what now!?”
“Sorry – The Dragon is what the staff refer to as Mrs Archer.” He sniggered “she said he was busy prepping for tomorrow but he liked to drink so wouldn’t surprise me if he’d had a bit too much and couldn’t be trusted to give a staff meeting. Then again I’m not surprised he skipped it, she went on for ages!”
Eleanor had gathered as much information as she could and thanked him for his time “if you need anything else let me know love!” She may well take him up on that offer. She started her walk back down towards the stateroom.
“…and where were you at the time of 8.30 and 9.30 Sarah?” Alec continued his interview “where you at the staff meeting too?”
She looked at him and sighed, she had grown tired of the questions although she appreciated that he was just trying to do his job. She just wished he would hurry up with it. “I was in my room, I was feeling unwell after dinner, I was having a Hypo” she finished, clasping her hands together on her knees.
“A Hypo? You’re a diabetic?” Alec added this new information in his head, any and every detail was always useful in these cases.
“Yes. I have been all my life. It’s a curse! In fact I don’t feel too great at the moment to be honest. I haven’t taken my morning insulin or eaten yet.”
“Don’t worry” Alec tried to offer some crumb of comfort “I’m nearly done with my questions. Can anyone confirm your whereabouts at that time?”
Another sigh, she knew how this looked “Well no. However I did call Paula at 9.30 to bring me up some more orange juice. She gave me the glass just after so I was in the house the entire time.”
“Alone when he died…interesting” he deliberated.
“I know how that looks Detective but I didn’t kill him. Why would i?” she defended her alibi, that was her story and she was going to stick to it. “Look, unless you want another death on this estate I really need to have some food and my insulin.”
Alec got up and opened the door as Sarah followed close behind, “Do not leave the estate Miss Rosedale, I still have some questions”
“I gathered” she muttered under her breath as she disappeared down the corridor. Alec had walked into the main hall as Eleanor was walking down the grand staircase. He watched as she elegantly made her way towards him. All the questions were running through his head and Eleanor was just about to add a whole lot more for him. “I’ve just had a very interesting chat with Maxwell the cleaner. I think you need to hear this”
Eleanor recited what the diminutive figure of Maxwell had told her, using prompts in her trusty notebook. Something Alec saw and kept the beaming pride within himself. “Good work Ms Edgecroft, I’ll make a detective out of you yet!” that was about as much praise as she was going to get from her tough mentor, “stay here and have a look around, dig a little deeper, I’m off to talk to the Bradshaw’s.”
- End of part three