This is a little excercise we are conducting to produce a joint crime mystery. A little bit of fun during lockdown. Miss Scarlet has reported the disappearance of Colonel Mustard. Foul play is suspected. He was last seen at the writing club in North Berwick. Surely he didn't come to any harm there? Then again, lots of weird things cloud the mind of a creative writer. Maybe there was more to this than meets the eye. (This story will be updated as the exercise continues)
Missing, Presumed Dead
“There’s been a murder” or had there. This mob knew all about murder. They had suffered like a Glasga wino who had blown the last of his giro on six bottles of El Dorado, killed one and woken up to find it’s five mates had been downed by unknown assassins in the night. It was tragic. How could such a small group of people experience so much gruesome death. It had all started with Dr Black’s brutal murder back in Tudor Mansion. He had been clobbered with the candlestick in the ballroom. I’ve dealt with a few low life’s who were blootered with a bottle in the Plaza dancehall but they weren’t as classy as this lot. The Reverend Green had a nasty experience with the lead piping in a billiard room. If that had happened in Glesga, sectarian ramifications would have been my first hunch but it didnae so it wisnae and the local plod sorted it out. Then the unfortunate Professor Plum, Mrs White and Mrs Peacock had met similar fates at various locations around the globe. This lot were proper aristocracy so they wouldn’t be seen dead in the likes of Glasgow, if you’ll excuse the pun. Naw, this lot were proper toffs, so they were hinging oot on the East Coast. Where else would you find them but North Berwick. A sleepy wee town, full of the cucumber sandwich mob, where nothing ever happens.
I had better watch my P’s and Q’s and try and get to the bottom of this. Miss Scarlet and Colonel Mustard had been staying at the MacDonald Marine hotel. A double room, lucky old goat. Miss scarlet was only half his age. I had her down as a gold digger with allowances, gifts and frequent holidays supplied by her sugar daddy. I could only imagine the benefits in it for him but it looked like his cheque had been cashed for the last time so while she was high on the suspect list, I had to keep an open mind. It was hard though. Her big blue eyes, long blonde hair, rosy cheeks and fluttering eye lashes made it hard to concentrate but I took my mind off her slim neck which ran all the way down to her bell shaped bottom and I listened to her story.
“He had heard about a writing club. Tyne & Esk, North Berwick, I think. They meet at the library on the first and third Tuesday of every month. He had just finished his research paper on Robert Louie Stevenson, and he wanted some feedback. It was all very controversial. I’m not sure about the details. It was something to do with Samoa having more claim on Stevenson than Edinburgh and that Stevenson should be more revered by campers than readers because he invented the sleeping bag. It was all extremely high brow stuff, but the dear old Colonel had just purchased the original manuscripts of the Black Arrow, The Master of Ballantrae and Treasure Island. He got them on the black market. They have been missing for years but Musty tracked them down. They must be unbelievably valuable. He set off for the writers club and I haven’t seen him since.”
"Musty", what did she see in the mouldy old Colonel. He must have been a charismatic guy. I focused on the facts and filed my suspicions about the Scarlet Lady for future assessment. I had work to do and my first port of call was the library. A man with a derogatory view on a North Berwick treasure and the resurrection of missing priceless manuscripts was more than enough motivation for robbery or murder. There was something about the Colonel though that I just couldn’t put my finger on. He sounded like a sleazy, loveable rogue with more charisma than Sean Connery on a set with Pussy Galore. I had to keep an open mind. This might not just be about writer’s jealousy over some ancient author. There could be a few motives at play.
I needed to find out who had been at the meeting.
Colonel Mustard meets The Librarian
The library was situated in School Road. It certainly looked like on old school, but it now housed the communities museum and library. The ground floor was full of bookshelves. I deduced that was the library and the museum was upstairs. It was a compact little setup with as much room for computers as books. There was a large meeting room at the far end of the computer section. I made my way through the maze of bookshelves to the librarian’s desk at the other end of the building. The librarian wouldn’t have looked out of place in a school. She looked at me over the rim of her framed tortoiseshell glasses with interest. Her schoolmistress aura oozed out of her like a costal fog that could disorientate the best of navigators, but I was well used to looking for clues in murky places, so I cut to the chase.
She was temporary cover for the rest of staff who were on a librarian's jolly. A conference for book connoisseurs on Craggy Island. That eliminated them from the enquiry. My school mistress was the main witness.
“I remember him well, a good looking, big chap with thick unkempt white hair and massive bushy sideburns which met with his thick moustache to form a unique piece of facial decoration. He was obviously a gent. The mustard uniform suit and the eye monocle added to his aristocratic airs and graces. His vocabulary was refined and well bred. He was rather dashing. He hung about the nonfiction section browsing through a few books. It had been a slow day with no other visitors, and I had just dusted down the books before he came in. He was excited about some manuscripts he’d come across and he was looking for the North Berwick Writing club. I think he had some contaversial news for them. I directed him to the meeting room, and he spent the afternoon with them. I saw Lorna, Paul, Saffire, Anne Marie, Margaret and I’m sure I also noticed Pat, but I can’t be positive. It was a smaller group than usual. I don’t know what happened at the meeting and I never saw them leave. I was busy.”
Well I had a suspect list now. I sealed off the library and set aside the non-fiction section that the Colonel had been looking through. I arranged for it to be finger printed. Musty's prints were on file. He'd been a murder supsect often enough and It would be good to know the specific books he had looked at before his meeting.
The next stage was getting statements from those members who had spent time with the Colonel at the meeting.
I read through the names. Top of the list was Annemarie. I had a contact number and I gave her a call.
“I live in Yester Castle, near Gifford. To reach it, you have to drive to Gifford Golf Course, take the path across the fields behind the clubhouse and then through the woods until you arrive at a place where the path splits. Go left, up the hill and you will find the castle. It was once the home of Hugh de Gifford, the Wizard of Yester, and beneath the castle is his famous Goblin Hall.”
My intelligence reports told me Annemarie could be away with the fairies. She wrote books about stuff like that. I was used to dealing with monsters in my line of work but the myths about Goblin Hall centred around pacts with the Devil, wizards, goblin armies, sorcery and necromancy. Had Annemarie murdered the Colonel, in Goblin hall, with a magical army. Probably not. My imagination was running wild. I dismissed all thoughts of sorcery. Yester Castle would be my first port of call.
Okay, black magic that was a new one, but I wasn't fazed. I'd dealt with satanic worship before. Some hocus pocus, ala Kazam wasn't going to put me off. I was Detective Brown and I was used to dealing with strange happenings in North Berwick. Ordinary folk thought nothing ever happened in North Berwick but I had dealt with the Devil and foiled his plots for Armageddon there. I knew North Berwick like nobody else, in fact I had ripped it apart during my investigations and my name had risen from the jumbled letters. Detective Brown, Ethrick Brown was on the case. If Annemarie was the Wizard of Yester and snuffed old Musty's lights with some Beelzebub curse, she would be taken down like all the other scumbags I'd put away. It was time to meet Annemarie and start uncovering the secrets behind old Musty's demise.
I popped into the Goblin Ha hotel for some background information on the Castle. It seemed Annemarie was well known amongst the locals. I ordered a Macallan. I asked for 3 ice cubes and started swirling the glass to help them dissolve.
“She’s an enchanting lady” said the barman.
“What, like charming?”
“Aye, charms, curses, spells and incantations. The folk in the village are terrified about her mysterious activities in the castle. Some think she’s a vampire, but everyone knows she’s into primevil magic and has a thing about the Queen of the Night. You should read the books man, read the books!”
“Aye. Ushig, Breaker, Hox and the rest but they’re only the half of it. There’s royal blood in that woman and she always talks about Glamis Castle. We all know about the vampiric deeds that place hosted. Watch yourself detective. You’re up against the forces of evil there. I’ll pray for you. The whole village will. That woman is poison. Be careful!”
I finished my drink. More mumbo jumbo. It seemed like Annemarie wasn’t the only one who was away with the fairies in this village. I made my way to Yester Castle.
I was let in by the butler. Something was cooking in the kitchen. I glanced in half expecting hemlock and lizard tails to boiling in a cauldron but all I saw was a selection of wild mushrooms. Someone had been making a mushroom stew or something. There were at least seven varieties lying on the chopping board. Brown ones, white ones, spotty ones and large capped ridged ones. This gal liked her mushrooms.
I passed the writing room where she obviously conjured up her master pieces. Manuscripts were spread on the desk. Her word processor was set up beside the printer. Pens and paper were obviously still part of her work though. An impressive display of different sized fountain pens was aligned in a case on her desk. One was missing. She was probably using it. Not everything was going well though it looked like she’d ripped up one of her manuscripts and thrown it in the wastepaper basket. She must have hated that manuscript. She didn’t just tear it in half, she had ripped it to shreds. I was led to the study.
“Tea, detective or something stronger?”
So, this was the Wizard of Yester, the Vampire Queen or the Devils Charge. I didn’t jump to conclusions. I’d been trained not to. “In an authentic Scottish castle, It’s got to be a dram, a single malt, Speyside, three ice cubes would be nice.”
She dispatched her butler. “How can I help you detective?”
I outlined my enquiry whilst the butler prepared my drink. It was ready by the time I’d finished. It was a nice malt. Large, smooth and it slipped down well. I raised my glass and she started her statement.
“I can tell you right now that I didn’t like him. Didn’t like the way he breezed in and took over, as if all we were doing was waiting for him. I had a piece of writing to share but he just waved me away as though I was some tiresome, buzzing insect. He wasn’t interested in the niceties – just introduced himself, stuck his briefcase on the table and told everyone to pin back their ears and listen. And there was something else. Behind all that facial hair there was something about him, something oddly familiar. I couldn’t put my finger on it and I didn’t stay around to listen. If nobody wanted to hear me read, I thought I might as well leave. So that’s what I did.”
Okay it wasn’t a motive for murder, but she was a definite suspect. Writers who weren’t listened to could probably be frustrated, angry and driven to desperate measures. Was it a desperate enough reason to bump off the blowhard old Colonel though? Something just wasn’t right about the Wizard of Yester. “What about the rest of the group?”
She gave me her impressions:
“Margaret – kept looking at her watch. said she was expecting an overseas visitor.
Pat seemed obsessed with the possibility of the Colonel writing his memoirs.
Lorna was not happy about the way he walked in and took over the meeting.
Saffire is normally chatty and upbeat, but she didn’t say a single word all through the meeting.
Paul– seemed distracted. Claimed it was because he felt a poem coming on.”
Paul wasn’t the only one who was distracted. Robert Louie Stevenson hadn’t got a mention. 'Was he a red herring?" I thought long and hard about my next move before deciding I wouldn’t make one. I finished my drink and my current business with the Wizard of Yester. I had a lot to think about.
I had a lot do and as interesting as my visit to Yester Castle was, I found dwelling on a witness counterproductive. Annemarie’s part in all this would come clear in due course and I had to interview all the suspects before reaching any conclusions. Lorna was next. I called her for directions. She seemed a bit theatrical.
“I live in one of the old bathing huts down by the harbour – inside it is decked out like a life-sized toy theatre with proscenium arch, cut down theatre flats making the wings, and human sized figures cut out of cardboard. There I stage my own plays to a specially invited audience. To get to it you go across the boat park behind the Seabird Centre – there is a row of huts against the sea wall. It is the last one on the right.”
I wondered just how big this beach hut could be. I had visions of tiny colourful sheds but hers sounded enormous. I popped into the Rocketeer Restaurant at the harbour. I didn’t want a meal, just a malt. They tried to point me towards a Fidra gin, but I opted for a Glenkinchie. I didn’t mind drinking the local stuff. “Three ice cubes and make it a large one.”
There was nothing large about this place. It was was tiny, but the waitress said it used to be smaller. “It wasn’t much bigger than one of those beach huts at the harbour, before we got the extension,” I was told as she delivered my malt.
“I’m looking for someone who lives at the beach huts actually.”
“Oh, that’ll be Lorna but we just call her Lady MacBeth. She’s always swanning around reciting lines from the play you know. “Out damn spot. Out.” Anyone who didn’t know their Shakespeare would think she was trying to get her dog out of that tiny shed, but she does the dagger line a lot too. “I laid their daggers ready he could not miss em.” She played Lady Macbeth once in a play and we’re not allowed to forget it. She sometimes invites her la-de-da actor pals around and they re-enact Duncan’s murder scene. In fact both her and her husband are obsessed with daggers. When I pass the shed I sometimes hear him shouting “Is that a dagger I see before me?” On other occasions, he looks like he’s seen a ghost.”
“Her husband, does he stay there too? How big is the hut?"
“It’s small, but then again so is he. I’m sure he doesn’t take up much room.”
I finished my Glenkinchie. It hit the spot and I moved on. It sounded like this witness was going to be even stranger than the Wizard of Yester.
Lorna was sitting outside her beach hut reading the three plays. I got a run down on her fascination with Robert Louie Stevenson and a quick rendition of Deacon Brodie, Beau Austin and Admiral Guinea. So RLS wrote plays as well. "Was this significant?"
The place was tiny. I was sure there was little enough room for Lorna, never mind her husband, but I noticed it was also populated by life size cardboard cut-outs just like she had said. They all appeared to be images of the same person. Some sort of King. I noticed there were holes roughly where the vital organs would have been. They were more like slits than holes. I counted them. One had four, one had five and one had eight. It seemed they had all been stabbed with the same weapon. I assumed this was Duncan the poor man whose death, the waitress had told me, Lorna loved to re-enact. I wondered what kind of performance she was going to put on here as I listened to her thoughts on Colonel Mustard.
“I was busy in my little theatre when I noticed the time. Theatre? Well, it’s not a proper theatre – more like a toy theatre than anything else but big enough for people to act in. It is in one of the huts – you know - the old bathing huts that have been resurrected and put down against the harbour wall. You can get to it by crossing the boat park behind the Seabird Centre – it’s the last hut on the right.
Well – I was so absorbed in painting one of the flats that I had to rush to get to the library, but I still got there before everybody else and settled down in the Vallis Room to wait.
Annemarie came in first - she seemed a bit rushed and excited about something. Then the others arrived – Pat, Saffire, Margaret and Paul. We were waiting to see if anyone else was coming when in strolled this vision in mustard cords with matching Ya-Ya voice, and facial hair that was definitely OTT. We all bristled. I rose politely to meet him, and he plonked himself down on my chair! He seemed to think he could take over the meeting declaring that he wanted us to listen to his research paper on RLS. He claimed to be an expert. I didn’t believe it for a minute! Well, apart from the fact that we have our own experts on RLS in North Berwick which include Martin, who wasn’t at the meeting, and myself, there was no way he was going to be allowed to take over proceedings. But there was something about him that didn’t ring true – in fact he rang very jangling alarm bells.
Anyway, Pat soon put him in his place explaining that we were only allowed 10 minutes each to read our work. Margaret muttered something under her breath in Welsh. Annemarie left early. I felt guilty about letting him waste so much of our time. Even Paul was beginning to lose his usual philosophical calm. We tried to struggle on but each time someone tried to speak up the so-called Colonel went purple in the face. In the end he got to his feet in a very dramatic rage. To placate him I suggested that he might be interested in looking at the Robert Louis Stevenson exhibits in the museum and also reading the plays I had written about RLS. If so, he could email me (my address is on the Tyne and Esk website) and we’d arrange to meet in my little theatre. At that he glared at me, shook his head like a wet dog, exited and vanished behind the book stacks. I had a funny feeling – almost like I had seen an avenging ghost.”
I wondered if old Musty would be haunting her? I deduced Lady MacBeth was one wierd sister but fair or foul, I couldn't make any assumptions yet. I bade her fairwell and went in search of Saffire.
This Saffire gal wasn’t going to be easy to track down. She had left me a message.
“My name is Saffire and I moved to North Berwick four years ago. I’m a southerner, yer typical North London girl, you know; I speak the Queen’s English and all that, so people always think I’m posh! Nothing could be further from the truth, as I’m currently of no fixed abode. It all started out well. I’d moved up here with the intention of embarking on a new life and found myself a nice little flat. but it all went downhill when I realised that I’d moved in above the neighbour from hell. I’ve heard that you enjoy a drink or two, Detective, and I’m not ashamed to say that that woman made me hit the bottle on more than one occasion. If there was something to complain about, she found it, like a dog with a buried bone – and boy did she complain. To everyone she could think of. I’d been putting up with it for years, never feeling like I could relax in my own home until finally I came up with a plan. Well, a campervan to be precise. I decided to try the nomadic life. Life on the road, waking up to a different view every morning. It did me a power of good. No more nosy, nasty neighbour to worry about, no more council tax, or gas, or electricity bills. It’s great – I’m as free as a bird!
So, finding me, Detective, will be a bit of a challenge. I like the sea, so one of the carparks or laybys with a good sunset to watch, the refreshing smell of salt air and the mournful cries of seagulls to send me to sleep is where you’ll find me. And that could be anywhere between Dunbar and Portobello. I tend to work my way up and down the coast, but I usually end up on the layby in North Berwick, just under the golf course, past The Glen, for a day or two - around about the first and third Tuesday of the month, so that I can attend the writer’s group. It’s a fantastic spot, and I meet up with quite a few ‘regulars’ when I’m there, so we often have barbeques together and share a bottle of wine as we watch the sun go down. “
I considered putting a lookout request for her vehicle, but I could do surveillance as well as the next detective, so I went for the stake out. Well, the steak out. The Glen Golf Course Clubhouse gave as good a view as you could get over the bay and Saffires layby could be viewed easily with a steak sandwich in one hand and a Malt whisky in the other. “Just the three ice cubes, thanks.” The barman did his stuff and I sipped at the Glen Grant. "Beautiful! How long has that camper van been there?”
“Oh, that’s a regular. It usually appears around this time of the month.”
“Tell me about the owner?”
“It’s some posh burd but she likes to have beach parties. Barbecues, sing songs and a few bottles of wine. We get some complaints from the members about her.”
“What about the noise?”
“No, she plays the guitar but that doesn’t bother anyone. She’s quite good actually but not great. It sounds like she had lessons once but chucked it before she had mastered it properly. No, it’s the poor golfers who mishit their balls towards her van and there’s a few of them. She chases then away from her layby with whatever comes to hand. She sits there with that sewing box of hers and she’s chased away guys with her needles, awls, unpickers and scalpels. Once she ran into her van and pulled a big wrench from under her pillow and pursued a guy across the beach. It was funny. The old guy had big beard and we thought he was going to have a heart attack. I suppose being a woman alone in a van makes her feel a bit vulnerable. It’s become a bit of a voyeur sport for us here in the bar. Most of the members know to give her a wide berth but we still have a laugh at some of the visitors. I wouldn’t like to mess with her though she’s quite versatile in her weapon choice and just grabs whatever’s at hand. Are you going arrest her? That would be a good show for our voyeur club. I’ll call up the head chef. He had a thing about her, but he’s a weirdo too. He used to fantasise about being tied up with that nylon cord she uses for the washing. He reckoned she was a proper little girl scout who might bound him up, in her camper, and induldge herself in some ging gang goolies, but that was before she started trying to maim half our members. No way he’d want that now. I’m sure no boy scouts would be happy if there goolies were removed from their ging gangs. Come on you can tell me Inspector, have another Malt. Are you going to lock her up?”
I took the malt. It was a Knockando. “I’m not sure.” I left the bar. I had an appointment with a girl scout and half the golf club were straining at the windows to monitor my actions.
She was sitting with a bottle of wine watching the sun go down. I approached slowly in case she lunged at me with the bottle but my reputation preceded me.
“Grab a glass detective. There’s a malt whisky bottle, in the cupboard, above the fridge. The ice cubes are in the freezer.”
It seemed like this girl scout was prepared. I helped myself. I glanced around the van. All the usual stuff you’d expect to find was there. Chemicals and pointy things were everywhere, and the head chef’s nylon rope was sitting on top of the washing basket. A camper’s guide to pets was lying on her bedside cabinet. I don’t think there was a section on head chef’s but what about dashing Colonels. This gal looked classy and would be more suited to a toff. I could imagine old Musty sitting here with his brandy enjoying the view through his monocle. I went outside and sat in the seat opposite Sapphire. She was good. She had been expecting me and my chair was set in a hollow and it was smaller than hers. That gave her the drop on me. She was playing mind games, but I wasn’t fussed. I had a 21year old Balvenie in my glass. My chair might have been small, but my measure was large. I’d poured it myself. “Okay then, I’m obviously expected. Tell me your story.” She did and she didn’t hold back.
“Anyway, so, the meeting in the library with Colonel Mustard.
Well, I must admit, I was a bit surprised at the way he barged in. Lorna hadn’t warned us that he was coming, and, to be honest I think she was just as taken aback as we were. He plonked himself down, right opposite me, and started going on about Robert Louis Stevenson … I know this group is all a bit in awe of him and fascinated with him as he is from around here, but I’m not, and to be honest I find him, and all talk about him, a bit of a bore. A lot of a bore, if I’m to be honest, so as soon as he started droning on (and he did have the most monotonous, tone of voice) I just switched off and thought about what I was going to eat for dinner that night. I tried to look interested, and looked in his direction, just to be polite, but that just made him seem to direct all his monologue at me, which, quite frankly made me feel very uncomfortable. He is a very sleazy looking character, in my opinion, and the way he was looking at me made my skin crawl. I didn’t want anything to do with him and I felt envious of Annemarie when she made an early exit. I had no excuse of a bus, or relatives from abroad due imminently, (like Margaret) unfortunately, so had to endure the entirety of his ‘fascinating’ revelations ... I look forward to hearing everyone else’s literary efforts at our meetings, so was feeling rather annoyed that he’d hi jacked our time together. Paul mentioned a couple of times that he had a poem brewing, and I’d have loved to have heard that – even though I possibly wouldn’t have understood it …
Pat seemed quite interested in him, but then again, she’s very polite and supportive, so maybe she was just trying to make him feel welcome. Also, she’s writing her memoirs, so maybe thought that he could be a useful contact with regard to getting published. He certainly acted like he knew everyone that was anyone … Lorna was trying desperately to get him to shut up (in a diplomatic way of course) so that she could at least let one or two of us read something, but he just seemed to ignore her and carry on, which I think she found extremely irritating. I think he is a rude and obnoxious character who is, unjustifiably, quite full of himself.
It’s a shame that Martin wasn’t there. He would have been in seventh heaven and I expect he and the Colonel would have gone off to the pub after the meeting to exchange notes until closing time! It would have been a dream come true to find a fellow fanatic.
After the meeting, I went to the toilet upstairs by the museum, as is my usual habit, and as I came to the top of the stairs, I saw the Colonel standing by the exit with Margaret. They were talking about something, but he was not speaking in the loud, overbearing voice that he’d been using in the meeting, so I stopped to listen. It was difficult to hear what they were talking about, but I could swear that I heard Margaret say something like, ‘No, no, I’m not going to do that.’ It looked to me like they already knew each other and that there was some kind of history between them. He appeared to be trying to cajole her about something, but she was having none of it, and then they said goodbye and he gave her a kiss on the cheek. The thought of that whiskery thing on his face touching hers made me shudder …”
It was a good story. It seemed old Musty had pissed everyone off. “I don’t mind if I do.” She took my glass and returned with a fresh bottle of wine and a very generous measure of whisky. I had a lot to think about. Saffire’s statement had given me food for thought. “I think he’s been murdered.” It was just a thought, but the words slipped out. The whisky was oozing through my veins and buzzing my brain. It felt good sitting here staring at the Firth of Forth with fire in my belly and a fizz in my mainframe.
“I do hope you find out who killed him though. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I have a deep dislike for the man, and I’d love nothing more than for him to move to Timbuktu - but murder … well, it’s a bit drastic - final even. And let’s face it, this is North Berwick! No, no, it really wouldn’t do. Murder in North Berwick? No. We’re not like that here.”
“One for the road,” I said, “but I don’t think it’ll lead me to Timbuktu.”
Next on the suspect list was Pat but my head was still fuzzy after last night’s meeting with Saffire. Some may have suggested I had too much Balvenie but there’s no such thing as too much. I usually stop when I’ve run out or can’t take anymore. A hair of the dog was needed but Pat’s directions were leading me into the middle of nowhere.
“My name is Pat Dickson and I am a member of Tyne and Esk Writers Group. I have been a member for nearly seven years, I joined when I moved to East Lothian after living in France for many years. I live in a very secluded place you will never have seen. It’s a bit of a come down after living in wine producing chateau for years, I now rent a tiny cottage on a farm near Dunbar. It’s called Biel Mill Cottage and it’s on the Biel Estate, which is signposted from the old A1, the road that runs west from Dunbar. You take the road up to the estate and turn right at the top, keep going and the very last cottage you come to is mine. It’s the smallest on the estate.”
I told my driver to call into Bellhaven Fruit Farm on the way. I knew they brewed cider, maybe I could pick up a malt. I got talking to an old guy who seemed to know all about the alcohol industry and wanted to tell me about it over a cider. I would have given him a wide berth, but he had a hip flask full of Jura and I had a cider to wash it down with. I was about to leave him but as an afterthought I asked him about my directions to Beil Mill Cottage.
“You're off to visit Marie Antoinette then.”
I was puzzled, “Who?”
“The last queen of France!”
He had my attention. Pat had sounded a bit uppity on the phone talking excitedly about her lifestyle in France and her disappointment with Dunbar. I liked his analogy. Marie Antoinette, The last queen of France. This guy was growing on me. I sat back down and took another swig of his Jura. “You know her then?”
“Almost intimately, but not quite. She wanted to go into business with me when she returned from France. She wanted some help with rebuilding her wine company. Her French operation had been quite slick at the Chateau le Sauvetat. They grew some nice grapes and had everything in place to fement and bottle their own stuff. They produced some decent wines, two red, two white, a rose and a nice dessert wine if I remember correctly but it all went bottom up.”
“Oh, I don’t know, cashflow problems, maybe, but I suspect it was her lack of business acumen. She didn’t impress me, so I declined her offer of a partnership.”
“I didn’t want her kind of partnership. Don’t get me wrong, she was a good-looking lady but every good entrepreneur knows you don’t mix business with pleasure and some of her contacts seemed a bit shady. She claimed to have references from a big distributer, Hayes and Jones. I’d certainly never heard of them unless you count the front men of the Australian pop duo Savage Garden. No, I was suspicious. It seemed like her previous life as the last queen of France had turned from velvet in the vineyards to thorny spines in a savage garden and I just didn’t fancy her as a business partner. She’s been in the Beil Mill Cottage ever since pondering how she lost her head and sent a promising business down the tubes.”
“To Marie Antoinette,” I raised his hipflask and guillotined the last of his Jura.
“Watch yourself detective. She’s not slow in coming forward and she shoots from the hip.”
I made my way to Beil Mill Cottage. To me it seemed quite idyllic. Set in the grounds of Beil House next to Beil Water I couldn’t see how anyone could consider this as a comedown but then again, I hadn’t seen myself as the last queen of France. I wondered if Marie Antoinette would lose the head when I interviewed her and I didn’t have to wait long to find out. She was certainly not slow in coming forward and all her guns were blazing as she recounted the day Colonel Mustard had come back into her life. It seemed like she had indeed lost her head as she spat out her statement.
“I remember the meeting when Colonel Mustard breezed in thinking he was the bees’ knees. He had a very loud voice and seemed to think we would be interested in him. We were not. We were there to read and appraise our own work. He took a seat across the table from me, and as I looked at him I felt a sense of horror. I knew this man from many years ago. He is a cheat and a liar. I could kill him.
I didn’t listen to a word he was saying. I was too busy with my own thoughts. Nobody else was listening to him either. Paul was gazing up at the ceiling, probably composing a complicated poem. Saffire was looking very cross and tried to move her chair further away from him, she was definitely not impressed. Lorna had her school ma’m face on and was probably trying to come up with a put down for him. Annemarie just got up and lef. Good on her. Margaret looked a bit flustered and I wondered if he knew him too? Oh, if they only knew what I knew about him…
I wondered if Musty recognised me? It was twenty years ago, but if I knew him, did he know me?”
I asked the obvious questions and got the expected answers.
Old Musty had been instrumental in the fall of the Chateau le Sauvetat and Marie Antoinette had lost her business. It now seemed like she’d lost her head. She was almost confessing to murder. I thought about slapping the cuffs on there and then, but I didn’t. I let her tell me about the famous Chateau le Sauvetat which had survived a grape killing, hail storm and risen from the depths only to be chopped off at the head by the scurrilous Colonel Mustard who had conned it into oblivion. She still had a few of the originals left on her wine rack. Five bottles were clearly visible, two reds, two whites and a dessert wine.
“I’m not a big wine fan, but if its all you've got.”
“I have a selection of malts we don’t touch the Chateau le Sauvetat. They are all I have left of the good times.”
I had a feeling Pat was holding something back, but she was more than generous with the whisky. I settled down with a Glenmorangie and considered my next move. This was an interesting case and Pat was as intriguing as the rest of them. I must have spent a bit of time considering my options.
It seemed like Pat already knew what I was thinking.
I had examined the intelligence files. Old Musty had been a bit of a character. Forensics had been through his room at Tudor Mansion and found the Colonel had been a bit of hoarder. He had files, diaries and newspaper cuttings spanning the last 50 years. The colonel had been around. He’d been an actor, a wine merchant, a writer, a musician and a student, to name but a few of his ventures. What had brought him to North Berwick? I had been reading the files over and over and I had found a few clues. I had my hunches. Maybe Margaret would throw some light on the subject. I checked out her directions.
“My name is Margaret Jane and I have recently retired after more than 20 years from my post as a Consultant Pathologist at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. I moved to Tyninghame, a quiet conservation village in East Lothian, to get away from murder and frankly this incident is very upsetting.
My husband and I decided to renovate a dilapidated cottage; a former pub as it happens; though I am strictly temperance having been brought up as a Methodist in the Welsh Valleys. There’s no alcohol in this house officer, I simply do not hold with it!
To find the house you head out of North Berwick in the direction of Dunbar along the A198 and take the turning signposted East Linton and Tyninghame. You’ll easily recognise the cottage as it lacks part of the roof which is currently covered with a heavy tarpaulin and there’s a lot of builders’ rubble in a skip just outside the back door. You’ll have to tread carefully as there’s a recently dug trench along the side of house where they disconnected the old telephone box. They did a dreadful job of covering it in. We had to complain time and again before they would do anything.”
I reckoned it would be a long day. I had only asked for directions, but she had practically given me her life story and a list of her current problems. I reckoned a gal who like to talk this much, would be singing like a lark when it came to the meat and bones of the case. What had she said, “There’s no alcohol in this house officer, I simply do not hold with it!” Never trust a person who doesn’t drink was my first thought, but I lived on the premise of never trust anyone, that was the curse of the detective. I called my driver but not before I’d loaded my hip flask with Glenfiddich. I’d just need to drink the famous distilled water of the Robbie Dhu spring without ice. A policemen’s lot was not a happy one.
Tyninghame had a little coffee shop. My black coffee was quickly supplemented with a jag from my flask.
“Rough day detective?” A voice behind asked. It was the local postman. I knew him well and handed over my hipflask as he sat down beside me. I told him my destination.
He finished his swig. “I’ve a couple of letters for that house. Do us a favour and give them to the householder.”
I stuffed the letters in my inside jacket pocket and retrieved the flask. My coffee was necked and with a warm glow inside I wandered around to Margaret’s address. The building work was obvious. The roof was missing, the plumbing had all been redone and shiny copper pipes were plentiful under the sink where the new kitchen units were waiting to be fitted. A skip at the back door was overflowing with rubble and old fixtures.
“Coffee would be nice?” I glanced at my surroundings. The rooms were full of building materials and there was little furniture, but Margaret had added a few things to make the place homely. Pictures of academics hung on the wall along with certificates in medieval Welsh from the University of Aberystwyth. A copy of a poem hung on the wall. I almost gave up on it as the “Y Gododdin” heading and the first stanza were gobbledegook. I assumed they were written in medieval Welsh. The frame was enormous and there must have been about 80 verses. The rest of the poem was in English though and I skim read it. 300, presumably welsh, warriors drank a lot of mead and took on a far the bigger force of the Angles in the seventh century. They got annihilated. I wondered if Margaret blamed the mead or the numerical disadvantage for the defeat.
My coffee was slapped on the table. “Black, no sugar”
“Thanks.” I wondered how I could add my own sugar from my trusty hipflask, but it wasn’t difficult. Margaret kept staring out the back door.for long periods. Maybe she was waiting on someone but all I could see was the skip which must have been due for collection. It was crammed full and a single speck of dust would have caused it to overflow. With my coffee surreptitiously sugared, I listened to her story.
“On the day in question I arrived a little late for the meeting having got lost again on the costal road. I was quite nervous as I was hoping to share a little of the memoirs I’m writing about my time as a perinatal pathologist. It was only my second meeting and was smaller than the previous one but I recognised Paul, Saffire, Pat Annemarie and Lorna of course.
I couldn’t really tell you whether they were acting strangely as I don’t really know them that well; but it was clear to everyone that Lorna was upset. She chairs the meetings and is very fair about allowing everyone their turn or so I understand. Well, this gentleman, the so-called Colonel Mustard with a false accent, if ever I heard one, all clipped vowels and a tendency to go up at the end of his sentences in a most irritating way, burst into the room partly dislodging his monocle and expecting our full attention. He threw a hefty manuscript on the table and scoffed. He then proceeded to talk, acting as if he had a right to be the centre of attention. He droned on and on about some research he’d done something about RLS not being who we thought he was or not being from North Berwick or something along those lines. I wasn’t really that interested.
Lorna was becoming very cross and the whole atmosphere was most uncomfortable. Saffire was unusually quiet and was watching him intently – I’m pretty sure she recognised him but was reluctant to say anything. Her behaviour really was most unusual. She was sitting back in her seat quietly watching, her eyes darting back and forth with her head tilted down in a submissive gesture but saying nothing, not a word.
I noticed the incomers eyes met hers a few times with an expression I couldn’t quite read; contempt, lust, derision? it was impossible to say beneath his bushy eyebrows; but I got the distinct impression that they’d met before and I could tell he was the sort of man who would make a beeline for such an attractive woman.
Annemarie was becoming quite heated as she kept trying to read the script she’d prepared; eventually she just stood up pointedly, put her coat on and left. Just walked out, no goodbyes, nothing. I was quite surprised as she always seemed so polite, but then again Officer maybe she had a bus to catch. Paul was anxiously clenching his hands and muttering about seeking our opinions on a competition entry and some poetry he’d written but Colonel Mustard was oblivious to it all, he talked on and on and on - terribly rude. It was, as I said, quite upsetting and very uncomfortable. Pat was the only one who seemed interested in him, if you know what I mean? She seemed very excited that this was an “educated military man” who must have “seen some things” in his time; I think she was hoping to meet with him later to discuss memoirs – she’s writing hers and perhaps felt it might be good to “exchange ideas”. I had no wish to meet him ever again as he really was deadly dull. Whoops probably shouldn’t have said deadly eh Officer?.
As I said I wasn’t really paying attention, I was excited about the arrival of my cousin Elinor from the states, did I mention she’s a famous writer? Well she was coming to stay from New York, and I didn’t want to be late meeting her train. Colonel Mustard collared me at the end of the meeting asking me what I thought but I brushed past him and left. I haven’t seen or been in contact with him or any of the group since; but I tell you this Officer I don’t think he is at all who you think he is- just tried too hard in my opinion.”
She was trying too hard. I had a feeling about this one and Margaret wasn’t right. She was preoccupied with the back door. All the signs were there that she wanted to talk. She was hiding something. My pen was running dry. I stuck my hand inside my jacket, for a spare, and found the letters. I was about to hand them over, but I noticed the name. It was addressed to Blodeuwedd ap Robert ap Hugh. I didn’t know much about welsh, but I knew my Welsh Murderers. She knew more about the Colonel than she was letting on and my hip flask was empty. I wasn’t going to hang about. I didn’t have the same access to justice that the medieval magicians did. I couldn’t turn her into an owl but I was certain she wanted to sing like a bird. Blodeuwedd killed Colonel mustard by the riverbank with a spear forged for a year during the hours when everyone was at mass. Ok that was Welsh mythology, but Margaret had more to tell. I just knew Margaret, Blodeuwedd or whatever her name was had committed a crime far bigger than having no alcohol in the house, but I also knew she wanted to talk. She couldn’t help herself. “Just tell me the truth Margaret, how exactly do you know colonel Mustard and what did he do?” She didn’t hoot like an owl, she sang like a canary.
“Well, of course, Colonel Mustard is not who he is pretending to be. You probably have his prints on file. He is a well-known conman. I recognised him instantly despite his white unruly hair and his attempt to appear gentrified. I knew him as Howard Pugh, when he was a bit of an upstart at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth where he pretended to be a student. He was always challenging the lecturers but his false identity was uncovered by my father Professor Robert ap Hugh ap Gwilym, the once distinguished Professor of Medieval Welsh at the University of Aberystwyth. I’m telling you, that man ruined our lives.
You see, I was born Blodeuwedd ap Robert ap Hugh. My parents, Gwenydd ap Llyr and Robert Ap Hugh ap Gwilym were academics, both specialising in Medieval welsh at the University of Aberystwyth. My fathers’ research centred on the Gododdin, a P-Celtic speaking Brittonic people of an area known as Hen Ogledd or Old North – now SE Scotland NE England. My father’s reputation was built on showing the poem Y Gododdin was written in Cumbria, deduced from the way the constellation of stars is described - only seen in that form over that region; but I digress. This young student came to my father asking him not to expose him to the authorities. He claimed to have uncovered new information on Y Gododdin. He produced images of an ancient manuscript, claiming that it was the first and original version of the poem; my father who had been anxiously searching for the “next big thing” was vulnerable, research grants were drying up and people were less interested in the purity of the language than they were in adopting an “anything goes” policy. Research in Medieval Welsh was regarded as worthless. Howard Pugh offered my father these ancient manuscripts which appeared to show that the original work was written at Cantre Gwaelod and that the poem Y Gododdin was a parody of this.
He showed my father photographs he had taken and having persuaded him to drop his allegations that Howard Pugh had no right to be a student at the University, encouraged him to publish his research in a paper entitled – Y Gododdin, y Stori Wir” (Y Gogoddin – the true story). A paper in which he claimed that the battle described at Catraeth was a later telling of a battle at Cantre Gwaelod a small drowned village off the west wales coast. He, Howard Pugh, was happy to be acknowledged rather than named as a co-author saying my father could take full credit for the work. Well of course it was readily derided and discredited following publication – the dates were wrong for the constellations described and it became clear that the “new” manuscripts had never existed. The academics tore into not my lovely dad. They claimed he had forged the documents which he could not produce; having only ever seen copies given him by the person now leading the charge against him; none other than Howard Pugh now calling himself Huw Dafis with totally changed appearance but same uncouth accent. He had passed unnoticed at the University so no-one believed my father when he attempted to discredit the upstart they claimed his rant was nothing more than the ravings of a man guilty of fraudulent research who was trying to maintain his reputation by discrediting the rising star of welsh television.
Howard Pugh/Hus Dafis had long wanted to be a star of S4C, but he was never going to make it despite his good looks; his welsh was very low brow and his accent was shocking. He was a real “Valleys boy”, rough as they come. But in his mind if he could show how the work of a distinguished academic was nothing short of nonsense, he would earn his ticket. It pains me to admit that my father was at also partly to blame for the scandal that evolved, but as I said he needed the grant money that would come out of this new line of work and he was I now realise in the early stages of dementia. But we paid a high price - the scandal led to my father throwing himself off Constitution Hill. My mother, Gwenydd ap Llyr was implicated in the deception simply by being married to my father. She lost her position at the University, became homeless and took to drink. She could be heard lecturing in the parks of Cardiff every Sunday morning on medieval welsh. The poorly educated, disinterested people who sidled past laughing, mocking her and her once brilliant mind.
I needed to escape my heritage – I changed my name to Margaret Jane Evans a name which allowed me to slip into welsh obscurity and reinvented myself as the cliched medical student, daughter of a Methodist minister from the valleys. I became a pathologist which allowed me to hide in the bowels of the hospital. Of course, I had to leave Wales as my impeccable welsh belied my invented origins.
And here he was all these years later passing himself off as a refined gentleman in a mustard suit and, I ask you, a monocle. Who wasn’t going to see through that? My blood began to boil as I recognised him instantly and his modus operandi. He pretended to have done exhaustive research and to have new information on RLS. I’d seen it all before. He had ruined my beloved fathers’ reputation and my life. He sidled up to me at the end of the meeting taunting me to tell the truth about who I really was and who my father had been. He would ruin everything I had here.
I’m not sorry - he had ruined so many lives and I could see that Saffire and possibly Pat had come under his spell. He would use them, spit them out and move on to his next victim.”
She clammed up then. She wasn’t sorry. I wondered about that. I needed a drink. "Get another car here and detain her on suspicion of murder." I told my driver. “We’ll finish her interview at the office, I just know she wants to confess.” My phone went. It was forensics they had the fingerprint results from the library. It seemed old Musty had zoned in on a book about Tyninghame paying special interest to the page about its red phone box. “Good work,” I was on the right track. “Now get out here and go through that skip at the back of her house with a fine-tooth comb."
I left the prisoner with the constable and headed back to the office. I had a bottle of Glenlivet in my filing cabinet. That would help clear my head. I hadn’t expected Margaret to blow the case wide open. I had been sure Annemarie, Lorna, Saffire and Pat had to be involved. I needed to think. What about Paul? Why hadn’t he made himself available for interview? I was sure this case wasn’t finished yet. I expected more twists and turns than you’d get in an episode of Taggart before I got to the bottom of this one. This case was far from closed.
Detective Brown's list of Interviewed suspects.
I got out the Glenlivet and poured a generous measure. I read over the statements of the other Tyne and Esk Members who had been eliminated from the enquiry.
Keith had spent the day at Edinburgh zoo studying capuchin monkeys. His story checked out and he had a lost property receipt for the iphone he’d lost there.
Isla was working full time and her clients had given her an alibi.
Kerrie had been to a dog show courtesy of her blogg and the Kennel Club were vouching for her.
Aislinn had been at home with her kids. She was going stir crazy, but her alibi stood up.
Dawn was in Germany.
Martin had been at a Pirate convention. A lot of likeminded people had said Arghh!! When asked if he was there. His alibi was watertight.
Ron hadn’t been allowed out. His wife verified that.
Bill had been hosting a dinner party. His guests could remember all his jokes and stories. He was out the frame.
My phone rang. They had found a body in the skip. Forensics were on the case. It was time to interview Margaret again. She burst like a wet paper bag.
“He followed me home after the meeting, taking the bus and waited outside in the red telephone box. Although Tyninghame is a small village he passed unnoticed as there are many “gentlemen” in the village. He grabbed me just as I got out of the car, wanting money or he would “spill the beans - Gwed Y Gwir Blod!” He was still the uncouth Valleys boy with poor welsh and a woeful accent. The red mist descended, I hit him with the nearest thing to hand, a short length of lead pipe. The blood poured onto his mustard suit, quite a sight. I left the body lying behind the skip until dark, to be honest I half expected him to recover. He didn’t. With the help of my cousin I tipped him into the skip and covered him up with bricks and various bits of rubble lying about. The blood was easily covered with sand and looked like brick dust. The following day my builder arrived with debris from another job and tipped it into the skip burying him deeper. I arranged for the skip to be replaced the next day and Elinor took an early flight back to New York.”
Well that seemed like an open and shut case, but I wasn’t happy. She was holding back. She was hiding something. I thought about her futile attempt to remove the skip. Didn’t she know nothing was done quickly in East Lothian. The builder would have laughed. “Remove it tomorrow, Aye Manyana,” before pencilling it in for next week. That was a stroke of luck. I wasn’t sure about Elinor either. “Lock her up.” We’ll see what the post mortem says before we charge her.
Forensics had been through the skip, itemised its contents and recovered the body. Margaret’s lead piping had been recovered. Freshly removed from under her sink and replaced by the new copper pipe Margaret had found one more use for it before its disposal. Blood on the pipe matched the blood which had leaked from Musty’s brain. The pipe had crushed the left side of his skull and driven bone fragments into his brain. The pathologist confirmed this would have been a fatal blow. Margaret’s prints were all over the pipe. But this wasn’t an open and shut case. I looked at Musty’s cold lifeless body on the slab. The injury to the left side of his skull was obvious but so were some other things. Someone had scraped the words plagiarist across his chest with a sharp implement. It now looked like it had been written in blood. I checked the itemised list from the skip. “Item no 326 give me a toxicology report.” Just below the colonel’s heart were some stab wounds I counted them there were five. “He’s been stabbed!” the pathologist also confirmed these were fatal wounds. The right side of his skull had also been smashed. Several wooden Fragments had been removed from the skull. Again, bone had been driven into the brain. Another fatal wound. I ran through the list of items recovered from the skip again. No’s 210-263 get them out and piece them together. This is relevant. The back of the colonel’s head had also been caved in. Glass fragments had been found and the force had again driven bone into the brain. Another fatal wound. Once more, I searched the list. Items 1025-1052. Get someone on the jigsaw puzzle.
It was obvious Margaret had been lying about the true story, but I had more than enough to charge her with murder. She was formally arrested and charged. The first part of the case had been solved. I played my first cards.
I had a theory. It was time to act. “Get me a warrant for Paul’s place. We’re going in.” Forty minutes later we were inside. “Search the place rip it apart.” It was a laborious process but two hours later we had a clue. It wasn’t much but it was enough to keep my theory alive. The group had talked about Paul’s poem and I had found it.
Murder must not advertise,
but hide behind a grin,
If you're looking for felonious types...
Count me in!
Paul was the missing link that joined the dots. “Round them all up and bring them in” I was going to pull this case together..
She didn't say much but she said enough.
"I recognised him (eventually) behind all that facial hair. He is the plagiarist who stole my work and had it published as his own. I felt it was appropriate to kill him using a poisoned fountain pen."
It all made sense. Annemarie's latest title had been delayed. She had mentioned publisher issues but it appeared the Colonel had stolen her story. I remembered the torn manuscript in her office bin. I recalled the missing fountain pen on her desk. The one found in the skip was the missing part of the set. The toxicology report showed traces of deadly poison sourced from wild mushrooms. I couldn't forget them boiling away in her kitchen.
There must have been a conspiracy after the meeting. Paul had got his bus, picked everyone up and Margaret had lured the colonel back to Tyningham for some murderous business. I remembered Saffires statement.
"I saw the Colonel standing by the exit with Margaret. They were talking about something, but he was not speaking in the loud, overbearing voice that he’d been using in the
meeting, so I stopped to listen. It was difficult to hear what they were talking about, but I could swear that I heard Margaret say something like, ‘No, no, I’m not going to do that.’ It looked to me like they already knew each other and that there was some kind of history between them. He appeared to be trying to cajole her about something, but she was having none of it, and then they said goodbye and he gave her a kiss on the cheek.."
Annemarie had left the meeting early to wartch if the colonel would take the bait and then Paul had driven them all to collect their murder weapons before heading to Tyningham. Margaret had lured him to his death.
There was no trace of Elinor, the great writer from New York on the flight roster. She had been a red herring thrown in by Margaret to protect her gang. I played my next set of cards. Annemarie was arrested and charged.
I started the interview, but Lorna had lost it. She was talking to herself but she told me what I needed to know.
“I’m sure I recognise this so-called Colonel Mustard. No – it is not the whiskers and the stately bearing that remind me of King Duncan in that production – he didn’t play Duncan (that guy is dead anyway) but someone else – could it have been Banquo or even Macduff? He is obviously acting his socks off as this character Musty. Is this interest in RLS real? Has he really become an academic or is he just a con man? I must find out. Could he have recognised me? Does he know something? Is he dangerous? I need to set a trap, some way of getting him alone. Perhaps he would be interested in my “toy” theatre. After all he is supposed to know all about Robert Louis Stevenson who was keen on toy theatres as a child. Surely that would be bait enough.”
"It wasn’t though. You used Margaret as bait. I know why you killed him. Tell me how you did it."
“My murder weapon was Macbeth’s daggers – not the props ones - the real ones that killed the actor playing King Duncan when I was playing Lady Mac. I had to do the job myself when my husband chickened out. I think there are still some traces of blood on them which will confuse the forensic guys now I have used them again on Colonel Mustard.”
I’d seen the slits on the life size figures and they looked identical to those on Musty. Forensics would match them and DNA would trace the second victim. The daggers had been found in the skip like all the other murder weapons. Seems like I had a lot to thanks the builder and his Manyana attitude for.
Lorna continued her confession. “I could feel the daggers hit bone and organs. The daggers cut through the flesh smoothly and swiftly. I pierced the body four, five or maybe even eight times. What have I done? What could be so important that I would kill for it? God. What have I done?”
I’d heard enough. "Arrest her and charge her. I instructed". I played my next set of cards.
Saffire went for the justication route.
"In my early teens I had a burning desire to learn the guitar and I begged my parents to allow me to have lessons. You’d think that most parents would jump at the chance for their child to learn a musical instrument, but my father was the tightest bastard on the planet, and the fact that he would have to pay out for them made it something that I had to negotiate for. I said that I’d sink my life savings into buying the guitar and the case (all £10.00 of it, carefully saved from birthdays and Christmas.) And I offered to do the washing up, and even dry up the dishes, every night for a month, so they gave in.
I was devoted to those lessons and never missed a single one. I practiced every day for half an hour as soon as I got home from school, and made rapid progress. I started out in a small mixed group, but one by one, all the girls started to leave, and one day, when I happened to be the only one that turned up for the lesson I found out why.
‘Mr Jenkins’ had always been very ‘touchy feely’ during lessons, but on this particular day he became a bit more daring. I was learning classical guitar and he was a stickler for us sitting in the ‘correct’ position, which was with our legs apart; the curve of the guitar between them. He sat opposite me and managed to shove his leg in there, under the guitar. It was pressed hard against mine throughout the rest of the lesson. Prior to this he’d ‘positioned’ me correctly by getting behind me and ‘adjusting’ my torso with his hand placed -- ‘inappropriately’ under my armpit -- shall we say. At the end of the lesson, when I got up to leave, he pinned me against the wall and tried to kiss me, saying that I ‘deserved one’ as I’d done so well … I managed to turn my head (which resulted in his disgusting slobber getting smeared across my face) and stretched out my arm to open the door. It was locked! I asked him why, and he said that it rattled, and he didn’t want us to be disturbed.
I bet he didn’t – the dirty bugger. He had his wife and kids downstairs! (He conducted these lessons from his house in the evenings, but he was a teacher during the day.) Thankfully the key was still in the lock and I turned it and opened the door before I fled.
I couldn’t tell my parents what had happened. I felt too embarrassed. All I knew was that I never wanted to be around that man again. The only excuse I could think of, to stop going to lessons with him, was that it was interfering with my school studies and that I needed to concentrate on my up-coming exams. My progress with the guitar halted then. He ruined what could have ended up being a career for me. I loved playing and had dreams of becoming a classical performer, but I could barely even look at my guitar for months after that, and even when I did eventually pick it up, it was never the same for me. That man killed my passion – with his own disgusting lust.
This Mustard character was him. I mean it was more than 40 years ago that this all happened. A lot could have changed. Maybe his wife found out about his perverted ways and left him. Maybe he lost everything and made a new start. Joining the army would have been a good option – they take just about anyone. He could have changed his name, started a new life … like I did. What are the odds, that we should both end up here in a little town in East Lothian, after all these years? I mean, at the writing group as well! It just doesn’t make sense …
This encounter with (so-called) Colonel Mustard has left me feeling very shaken up. It has brought up a lot of old memories and I’ve been having sleepless nights. I can’t deny that I’ve been feeling quite vulnerable alone in my campervan of late and have been thinking about getting a dog. What with Corona virus though, and self-isolation and only making essential journeys, even looking for a dog at the moment is out of the question. I don’t mind admitting though that I sleep with a very heavy wrench under my pillow at the moment, but living in a campervan gives you lots of things you could use to defend yourself … lengths of nylon cord that I use for hanging out the washing, various chemicals that I use for the toilet, not to mention all the sharp objects that I use for sewing. Needles, awls, unpickers, scalpels even. (It’s a passion of mine, along with writing, and I run my machine from the solar panels I have on the roof of my camper.)
Just because I live a nomadic life doesn’t mean that I can’t continue to be productive – and creative. And I may be a woman living on her own, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t think ahead and know how to protect myself - should anyone uninvited come knocking."
"So Musty came knocking and you killed him Saffire or at least you helped to and you didn't use scalpels or nylon or a wrench."
"How you know?"
"There was no sign of your guitar the night I visited. I found it in the skip with the body. You went with the others and beat him to death with your classical guitar. Your prints are in the blood we found on your instrument."
"No, no, Murder in North Berwick? No. We’re not like that here." She protested but she knew that I knew and she hung her head. "Arrest her and charge her." I played my next set of cards.
This lady didn't care and showed no remorse. She was one tough cookie. I already knew how she had done it. That day in the cottage I had noticed the Rose bottle had been removed from her prized wine rack. What had she said "we don’t touch the Chateau le Sauvetat. They are all I have left of the good times." I had fiound the distinctive, broken, tall, slim bottle in the skip along with pats prints and the Colonel's DNA but pat wanted to gloat over Musty's demise.
“Ok so I met this guy twenty years ago in France when I was running a chateau famous for its fine wine. Chateau le Sauvetat produced two red wines, two white, a rose , and a sweet dessert white . All were made from our own grapes, fermented and bottled on the premises. Every May we welcomed buyers from all over the world who generally placed large orders after sampling the best on offer. That particular year Colonel Mustard turned up with his card saying he was a representative of Hayes and Jones, a well known name in the trade. We wined him and dined him and he placed a very large order which was duly delivered to the address he had given us. He was very good looking in these days and was what you would call an ebullient character. What I’m telling you I’ve never told anyone. He told me that if I slept with him he would double the order. Well what was a girl to do? We desperately needed the money as we were still recovering financially from a freak hailstorm which had killed all the grapes two years earlier. The wine was delivered and we never saw a penny for it. When I phoned Hayes and Jones they had never heard of him.
He was a cheat, a liar and a philanderer. I was angry, raging angry, humiliated and if I could have found him, I would have killed him. Well last week I did. A whack on the back of his bloody big head with a bottle of Chateau le Sauvetat did the trick nicely. The financial loss ruined the Chateau and it went into liquidation in 1998”
"Arrest her and charge her" I played the next set of cards.
There was only one loose End. Paul and the community bus but I had enough now to crave a warrant for his arrest. His confession had been found in the flat. He might not have contributed much to the investigation but he did enough to incriminate himself.His poem would send him down with the rest.
Murder must not advertise,
but hide behind a grin,
If you're looking for felonious types...
Count me in!
Yes, Justice was done. They were all put away in Lockdown for a very long time. Their crimes were considered so serious that the only people allowed to release them from lock down were Boris Johnstone or Nicola Sturgeon. There is no sign of their lockdown ending and it looks like they won't see freedom any time soon. Like all good Detectives Ethrick Brown sat back with a malt and toasted a job well done. He had put away six members of the notorious North Berwick Writing club. There was no doubt he had played his cards right.