The Reverend Chesterton Mysteries

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic


Chapter 2 The second Reverend Chesterton Mystery Murder Most Foul

Chapter 2 (v.1) - Murder Most Foul

Submitted: April 06, 2018

Reads: 138

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Submitted: April 06, 2018

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The business of the parish had kept me quite busy these last weeks.  I had taken Lady Caroline Chesterton’s jewels to the auction house, a really high end one in London specialising in rare gems and jewellery.  I had duplicates made that I displayed in a glass case in the hallway of the Manse.  These jewels were an essential part of the Manses history and I wanted to preserve that.  I would not have sold them at all had the house and church not been in such a poor state of repair.  We had had gales last winter just before I arrived in the summer and they had taken their toll on the aging, crumbling buildings.  Needless to say I was sure Lady Caroline would approve of the use to which her vast wealth had been put.  The doubloons too had been sold and the cash placed in the bank.  The church roof had now been repaired and the roof on the Manse.  All the chimneys in the Manse had been swept and repaired and the crumbing upper floor housing the servant’s rooms had been repaired and restored to its former glory.  The kitchen dampness had been addressed now and there was no longer a musty smell.  I had kept the local builder very busy and he appreciated the work.  Nobody had much money to spend these days and he needed the huge income from the building work I provided.  The blacksmith repaired the huge black gates at the entrance to the driveway of the Manse and they were now painted black and shone in the sunlight.  The pointed arrow tips on the top of them were painted gold and looked very luxurious.  We now had more than one set of curtains for each window, and there were over 100 windows and new curtains for all the beds that needed them.  I had bought heavy brocade of the type that was used originally as I wanted to restore the Manse to its former glory not modernise it and change it.  Modern fashions in anything, be it clothes or furnishings had never appealed to me anyway.  I loved the old things.  I had not seen the spectre of Lady Caroline Chesterton since the jewels had been found.  I knew she was happy after the spirits face changed from the horrific countenance it had once been to a beautiful smiling angelic face as it had been in life.  This perfectly beautiful image was preserved forever in the painting at the head of the staircase, in a huge 8 feet by 4 feet canvas of Lady Caroline.  Her painted smile haunting, her eyes seeming to follow you wherever you went, they didn’t of course, it was clever painting.  I remembered her how she would have looked in life, after she had looked once her remains had been discovered and given a proper burial.  She had wanted me to find the jewels because she knew I would use them wisely, and by having replicas made had preserved them for posterity.  I found myself half hoping she would reappear from time to time but as yet she had not.

My days passed uneventfully until I heard the bells of the local ambulance service from the town screaming past the Manse on the main road into the village of Great Chesterton, the larger village just past our own.  Ours was simply called Chesterton, a few miles to the East was Little Chesterton, to the North was Chesterton Parva and to the West, where the ambulance were now headed in a great hurry was Great Chesterton. I have attempted to draw a crude sketch below to make our location clearer to those who are unfamiliar with the area who may be reading of my adventures.

 

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This crude drawing is not to scale and there are, of course, many more buildings and houses but for the purposes of this narrative I have included only the main ones. The village of Chesterton has the church and village hall, public house, and police station for all of the four villages, the others being very small consisting of a few cottages and farms.  All around the village of Chesterton was farmland, consisting of a good mixture of arable farming, beef, sheep and dairy farming.  The blacksmith in Chesterton served all four villages and made a good living from the arable farmers shoeing their plough horses.  Every summer in Chesterton there was a village fete which also served all four villages.  Chesterton Parva was really a large estate of private houses built just after the war.  The residents of Chesterton Parva were quite wealthy too, mostly bankers and stockbrokers and people of that sort.  But I digress from the story in the interests of geographical clarity.  Greatly curious I jumped in my small car and headed off to the village of Great Chesterton, much to the chagrin of my house keeper who was interviewing maids this morning as we needed a house maid apparently and she wanted me there as I was master of the house, although what possible use I could have been in the hiring of a maid I have no comprehension whatsoever.  As I sped down the country lanes in my little car, which had also recently acquired, I felt remarkably free.  I had escaped the business of the manse and those wretched interviews and felt like I had as a boy when scrumping apples like any mischievous boy my age.  I suddenly caught site of the white ambulance parked in the yard in front of the big farmhouse at Yew Tree Farm.  If memory served the family there, the Howtons, were good church goers and Christian people.  There were two sons, Dougie and Edward, both stout strapping lads, healthy with life in the open air with a red glow to their cheeks.  Their parents, Charlie and Annie were getting on in years, Dougie being 23 and Edward 22, but were still active due to the country living and fresh air.  The farm was doing well and they had no financial worries that I knew of.  Dougie had been seeing a woman from Chesterton Parva, a stockbroker’s wife, who was very unhappily married.  For her wealth and position it brought her no joy.  Her husband was a brute who beat her and drank heavily.  One wonders how a person who drank so much could actually hold down a job, but he seemed to manage.  Her affair with Dougie was quite the scandal and the talk of all four villages.  I drove into the farmyard and parked so as not to obstruct the ambulance, in a quiet corner near the great barn.  Cows mood from within.  Annie was distraught in the corner just by the barn and I asked if she needed help and was she alright or in need of a friendly ear, a prayer or spiritual guidance.  “Oh Reverend, it’s a terrible thing, terrible” She sobbed. She would enlighten me no further and I took her inside the house and sat her down in the warm by the kitchen range and made us both a nice hot pot of tea. “Oh Reverend, if my Dougie hadn’t started seeing that awful man’s wife. He used to drink heavily and beat her. My Dougie loves her something fierce,  They were going to run away together.  She was asking her husband for a divorce.  I don’t know if she got around to it or not. Now I don’t suppose it matters much” she finished sipping her tea between sobs.  She was terrified for her son that was clear.  What she meant by ‘it didn’t matter about the divorce’ I was yet to find out.  I rushed out to the barn to see a stretcher being loaded onto the waiting ambulance.  Blood was seeping through the blanket.  “Is he…” I began. “No but I don’t reckon he’ll last the night reverend.  Powerful smell of drink on him too.” The ambulance man finished.  I moved aside to let them do their job and when the ambulance pulled away I decided to do some digging in the barn and find out what had happened.  I almost tripped in the gloom over the sharp blades of the plough.  I bent down to inspect the blades further and there was blood on them, a good deal of blood.  I went up into the hay loft to see what had happened up there if anything.  What I found was startling.  There was a full size whiskey bottle discarded casually on top of the hay and the way the hay was thrown around there had been some kind of struggle of that I was certain.  The edge of the hay loft was edged only with a piece of 2” x 4” timber nailed on making a kind of safety edge, although how much it would serve in that capacity and to what degree of efficiency I could not imagine.  In the back edge of it facing into the hay loft a nail protruded quite a bit.  My mental notes made I got down from the hay loft and made my way to the hospital to see how Mr Robert Elliott the stockbroker was doing.  I learned from Dougie that that was who had been injured that morning.  “He reckons he came across the north pasture at around 6am this morning to speak to his wife who he assumed would be here with me.  He could barely talk and then he passed out. She wasn’t here and I haven’t seen her since yesterday lunch time.  It was 11am only when I had this conversation with Dougie.  After a somewhat tedious journey where I turned my few meagre clues over in my mind as to what might or might not have occurred in the hay loft of Yew Tree Farm, I arrived at the hospital.  I made my way to the ward and spoke to the sister who allowed me a brief visit as a man of the cloth.  Mr Elliott was unconscious but breathing very shallowly and his head was swathed in bandages as was the top of his right arm.  I waited until no staff were around and secretively opened the cupboard of the locker.  His shoes were in there as were his trousers, which were bone dry apart from drying blood stains near the waistband.  His shirt was badly ripped, shredded in fact, and soaked in blood on the right sleeve, the arm that was bandaged now.  

His shoes when I examined them bore no traces of mud or grass from the pasture and there was a deep gouge out of the toe of the left shoe, of the sort a nail would have made. I wished the man well even though I could still smell the whiskey on him, and quietly thanked the sister as I left the hospital.  I made my way back to the rectory for my tea and to mull things over some more as to what could have occurred and see if I could work out the scenario and where Christina Elliott might be as Dougie had not seen her since the previous dinnertime.  My tea consisted of ham salad and a cup of tea.  Very healthy Mrs Dawes assured me and I was sure it was but it left me feeling still hungry so I ate more than a few biscuits with my second cup of tea.  I spent the evening in my study doing church paperwork and preparing Sunday’s sermon as well as making some notes on my ideas and findings so far. The morning dawned fair and clear with no sign of rain.  Mrs Dawes and Florrie were hanging out washing.  She did not enlighten me as to the hiring of the new house maid but then I hardly gave her the chance before dashing out of the gate.  “Oh reverend, I was meaning to…..” her voice trailed off as she saw me disappearing and finished by saying to herself “and there he goes again….” .  I headed for Ewe Tree Farm.  Dougie was in the pasture so I made my way there.  It was very early around 07:30 or so and the grass was still wet with dew.  The bottoms of my trousers became saturated in just a few steps.  If Mr Elliott had walked across the pasture at 6am his trousers would also have been saturated from the dew as mine now were, yet they were bone dry when I examined them at the hospital.  Because of the livestock churning up the grass there was quite a bit of mud lying on top of the grass, especially at the gate, where they waited to be fed.  Soon my shoes were quite muddy.  “Hello there reverend, what can I do for you?” Dougie shouted from the bottom of the pasture and he began to make his way towards me.  I continued walking and we met somewhere in the middle of the pasture.  I described to him my findings at the hospital and the state of Mr Elliott’s shoes and trouser bottoms. “Did you see Mr Elliott go into the barn that morning Dougie?” I asked. He swore that he hadn’t seen a soul and had been working in this pasture when the accident happened and he heard his mother screaming.  Apparently she had come upon the ghastly scene of a badly injured Mr Elliott lying on the blades of the plough although how he came to be there was a mystery to her.  She was quite hysterical when Dougie had reached her and he ran inside to call for an ambulance.  

“Have you seen Mrs Elliott yet Dougie?” I asked the still obviously upset Dougie.  His face was etched with worry for his Christina and it was certain he had not slept well if at all the previous night.  “No Reverend, not a sight or a word” He said wringing his hands.  “I suggest we go and investigate at their house Dougie.  First we have to make one more stop at the hospital for Mr Elliott’s keys.  Come on Dougie” He followed me at a run tucking his work gloves into his pockets.  We found Mr Elliott in much the same condition as I had left him the previous day.  He was still unconscious and there was talk of brain damage.  I waited until the nurses were busy about their business and asking Dougie to keep cavy at the door of the private room I rummaged through the locker uttering a muffled prayer asking for forgiveness and assuring our Lord that I had a good reason for doing what I was doing..  On the man’s trousers was a clip with his keys on a chain that was inside his pocket.  I removed the clip from the belt loop of the trousers and took it with me.  “Come on Dougie we have what we came for” I said and a worried looking Dougie followed me out of the hospital.  He would not have made a criminal that was for sure.  This honest farm lad was exactly what you saw, a simple man of simple needs as honest as the day is long and a heart as big as a barn.  No wonder Christina fell for him.

When we arrived at their neat detached home in Chesterton Parva I saw nothing out of the ordinary at first.  The garden was neat and the borders tended. The lawn was freshly mowed and garden gnomes sat fishing around a small pond in the front lawn. I saw the reason then for the condition of the garden when I spotted a pair of floral gardening gloves.  Hardly the gardening attire of a violent alcoholic.  Dougie reached down and tenderly picked up the gloves holding them to him as tears streamed down his face.  He was worried sick and I though the sooner we got inside the house the better.  Through his tears Dougie said “She loves her garden so much. It brings her peace….” He said and his voice trailed off.  “We will find her Dougie. We WILL find her” I said stressing the will in the second repetition of the word.  I put the key in the lock of the front door and it opened on protesting hinges.  The inside of the house smelt musty and stale and I detected a hint of damp.  It looked a sad house, neglected, unloved and I guess it had not witnessed much happiness, certainly in recent years, if at all.  

The lounge was undisturbed and kept clean but there was no mistaking the fact that this was not a happy home.  There were no family portraits around the room, no happy smiling faces grinning out of holiday snaps in silver frames, no personal touches whatsoever.  Every room on the large house was the same, nothing personal.  I arrived eventually at the master bedroom.  There had definitely been signs of a struggle. Furniture was stroon around the room and ornaments had been broken.  The bed was unmade and empty bottles stood on the nightstand.  “Oh My God, ugh sorry reverend” Dougie stammered.  “Something happened here that’s for sure” I said.  Wet towels were scattered around the en-suite bathroom.  The shower drain contained a small amount of water so the shower had been used in the last 24 to 36 hours, probably just before Mr Elliott went to the farm to confront Dougie, his wife or both.  The key ring was large and as I looked out of the bedroom window I noticed a large workshop type shed in the back garden, a summerhouse, and to the side of the house was a double garage.  “Come on Dougie, we have to check the outbuildings.” I said leading the way.  We checked the summer house first. There was nothing in there.  Same with the garage.  A car had been there recently in one of the spaces because fresh engine oil had dripped onto the concrete floor of the garage.  Next to the empty space stood a small red car.  “Reverend, that’s Christina’s car” Dougie said his voice shaking. If she had left the house she did not leave in her car that was certain.  We moved onto the workshop.  The dust and debris on the floor had been disturbed recently and in the back of the workshop where the saw was located I saw a pool of blood on the floor.  I did not want Dougie to see this there was no need for him to see this.  “Dougie, go into the house and call the police” I said.  He knew then that something was wrong.  I was careful to touch nothing in case it contaminated evidence and waited outside for the police.  It was hard to explain what exactly I was doing there but my explanation and being a man of the cloth seemed to be adequate because no charges were filed and no crime had been committed, at least not by Dougie and I.  It was clear someone had met with a grisly fate in the workshop but I hoped, for Dougie’s sake it wasn’t his Christina.  It was easy to think of her with Dougie, like they fitted together perfectly.  It was impossible to imagine her with her brute of a husband.  Had they ever been happy? Somehow I doubted it.  Her husband was likely a controlling bully and she had not had the courage or the reason to leave him until she met Dougie.  I was glad she had found happiness and real love.  I doubted this would end well though and I worried genuinely for poor Dougie.  I dropped Dougie off at Yew Tree Farm and headed back to the Manse.  There was little we could do now but wait for the results of the police investigation. Mrs Dawes admonished me for being so long and that tea was getting ruined.  It was my favourite Steak and Kidney Pie and I was extremely hungry all of a sudden.  I salivated at the prospect of Mrs Dawes’ delicious Steak and Kidney Pie.  There were roast parsnips, carrots, peas and a rich beefy gravy.  She continued to witter on about how it was all dried out and ruined when she knew the opposite was true.  “Delicious as always, Mrs Dawes, delicious as always.” I said smiling and she smiled too.  We all sat around the big oak table in the kitchen and discussed the business of the Manse.  It was true, were a family.  We few who had been thrown together into the melting pot of life that was Chesterton Manse and we all got on famously.  It gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling and I knew I was home.  This house may have been a bit battered around the edges, the carpets may be a bit threadbare and the tapestries warn and faded, but this was a happy home and it was loved.  This was tangible in the air.  There was just coldness and bitter hatred and fear in the Elliott house.  The contrast was hard to ignore.  “Penny for them reverend?” said Mrs Dawes and I realized I had been lost in my own thoughts and the conversation had ceased as everyone looked in my direction as if I was about to reveal a divine revelation or epiphany.  “Nothing, Mrs Dawes, I was miles away for a second there” I said mysteriously and continued with my delicious dinner as the sun set over the West Lawn.

The next day brought a frantic phone call from Yew Tree Farm.  Dougie Howton had been getting the plough out of the barn and had a terrible fright.  He was a big man and not easily frightened.  He was physically shaking when I arrived and hiding in an outbuilding ashamed of his fear but unable to stop it. “Reverend, I didn’t know who to call I can’t have seen what I saw but I know in my heart I did see it….” His voice trailed off.  “Get in the car Dougie” I said and drove to the village pub.  I ordered a brandy for him and an orange juice for myself. I was driving but that wasn’t the reason, I did not touch hard liquor and disliked the taste of beer.  As the medicinal brandy took effect, Dougie began to calm down and I relayed some of what I had experienced at the Manse and asylum while this process went on.  He sat mesmerized listening.  “So all the things we were afraid of as kids, the bogey man, demons and such exist?” He said. “Yes, I don’t know about the bogey man because I have not seen him myself but the other things, ghosts and demons certainly and a lot more besides.” I said.  Dougie looked at me thoughtfully for a moment and said “Is the stone tape theory correct?” he was a great reader and had read that buildings and objects can trap the history of a violent incident and reply it over and over again like a movie shown over and over.  “Yes. It is called a residual haunting, where tragic or violent events replay over and over again.  There is also an intelligent haunting where a spirit can respond to questions put to it with intelligent answers.” I said and Dougie regarded me for a moment digesting what I had told him. The he began to tell me how he had gone into the barn that morning to fetch the plough and seen a bright light. Inside the light was his Christina.  The light faded and it was a s clear an image of her as if he were looking at her in the flesh.  She had seemed unaware of him however and looking upwards at the mezzanine floor of the barn.  He followed her gaze and up there was her husband, drunk as a lord and angry, at her, himself, life, she never knew with him what brought on his rages.  He then turned around and saw the vision of his wife gazing up at him and startled he whirled around and caught his toe on something and fell from the mezzanine down onto the plough and died. Then the barn became its usual dingy self and Dougie had fled terrified and hid in the outbuilding after telephoning the Manse.  The rest was history and had brought us to this table in the village pub.  I explained to him that what he had seen was a residual haunting and that the spirits were unaware he was there. Suddenly realization of an inescapable truth manifested on his face.  He had realized that if the Christina he had seen was a spirit then she must be dead and he would never see her again. I put my hand over his to steady his nerves and he looked up at me grateful for the manly gesture of reassurance.  I explained then how I had seen so much blood in the outbuilding at the Elliott home.  He then began to weep.  I drove him back to the farm out of the public gaze and as we sat in the parlour drinking steaming cups of tea with his mother Annie, the police rang.  They asked for me.  They had realized I may be here having tried the Manse and found me absent.  I stood in stunned silence as the inspector relayed what they had found at the outbuilding.  Apparently there had been a struggled in the master bedroom as I deduced from the knocked over furniture and ornaments.  A row had escalated and Christina had fled outside where her husband had pursued her and continued the argument.  At some point he had struck her with a heavy object they had not found yet and dismembered her in the shed with the power saw.  The body had yet to be found.  I told him of the incident at the farm that morning and although ihe could not produce anything in relation to it as evidence in a court of law I sensed the hard bitten detective believed and understood what had happened.  Christina had got her own justice in the end.  It was a shame she had to die but she got her revenge on her killer.  The murder case was now closed as nobody could be arrested.  The murderer was dead.  They would continue to look for Christina’s body but that was all. It was obvious Dougie’s concerns for Christina’s safety in that house that had become her prison and a place where she was terrified, the one place she should have been happy and felt safe.  In the end the only love she had known she found in the arms of Dougie Howton.  While this was adultery and I couldn’t condone it I well understood it.  If only Dougie had got her away from that evil  an sooner she may well be alive today.  It was murder most foul and a huge tragedy.  A classic example of the evil man is capable of and it saddened me.  As the weeks passed Dougie gradually returned to normal life but a part of him had died with Christina.  I hoped not the best part and that he would find love again. Someone would be glad of this huge gentle man with a huge heart and so much joy to offer.  He began to spend a lot of time at them Manse and we would talk late into the night about the paranormal and he showed great genuine interest in joining me on my investigations and I accepted his offer gratefully.  I had two on my team now and we were getting more professional by the day.  It was an evolution of what would become legend, in the field of the paranormal.  I was busy with parish work, performing a few weddings and funerals and the like as well as Sunday Services.  I could not help but think that Dougie could not find true peace until Christina’s body was found and she was properly laid to rest in the churchyard. I continued to train Dougie in the meantime as it took his mind of thinks and gave him a constructive outlet for his angry energy and frustration. I had been incredible busy two weeks after the case of Christina Elliott.  I ha not noticed my housemaid Florrie who tended to be invisible most of the time.  It was part of the housemaids job to be invisible most of the time and except for mealtimes I hardly ever saw her.  The third Sunday after the case of Christina Elliott I returned early from the church and Dougie was in the library as usual studying my large collection of books on the subject of the paranormal. I was not surprised at this because he spent most days he wasn’t working in my library.  What was surprising was that Florrie was with him.  She had the same level of education as he did yet they were both intelligent people with a huge capacity for learning and Florrie became Dougie’s student as he had become mine.  Mrs Dawes appeared at that moment and said “Lovely to see isn’t it Reverend, young love. They don’t know it themselves yet but it’s obvious to me and anyone around them they are falling in love.” She said. “mmm” was my only reply.  Dougie was far from ready to meet someone. He had a lot of healing to do and if Florrie wanted him she would have to be very patient and wait a good deal of time.  I had a feeling she was up to the task, patience was her strongest quality.

Dougie’s kind, generous, gentle nature had won her heart.  I could see it in the way she looked at Dougie.  He was intent on the book between them and was unaware of her gaze.  He would remain so for a few months yet.

As time went on he became more aware of Florrie as more than a colleague in paranormal investigations he would become her life companion.  No cases came in for a long time so we devoted our time to research and investing in new equipment,  soon we were the best equipped paranormal investigators of our time.  Exactly one year after they first met I was privileged to conduct the marriage of Dougie and Florrie.  We had a new resident at the Manse.  He still worked Yew Tree Farm with his brother though and his mother Annie was delighted to finally see her son settled and happy, as was I.  he had had a very hard time after Christina’s death but I figured if she was looking down on him now she would be delighted to see him happy and settled too.  That summer a new case came in.  The middle school in little Chesterton had closed some time ago and now the pupils went to the middle school in Chesterton itself.  Little Chesterton was only small and it was no longer cost effective to run the school given the number of children was dwindling there.  A local contractor had bought the building to turn into a family home as they had been living in rented accommodation which also was not cost effective.  His business was doing well and if this building turned out how he hoped it would it would be a really great advert for his skills and boost his business.  He employed a number of local men too so provided much needed work which was scarce in the four villages.  Most of the residents worked in the town.  He rang me one afternoon in the summer.  Bob Andrews said since renovations had started on the building, his men had refused to work there late at night.  Sounds had been heard, tools moved and so on.  He began to believe as the men were truly frightened and not given to irrational fears or laziness, that there really was something going on.  My team prepared to investigate the case that would come to be known as Class Dismissed!


© Copyright 2020 Citizen Zee. All rights reserved.

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