The morning eventually arrived, and Victoria and I were both ready to question the six suspects in order to establish where everybody was at the time of the murder. This was important because we may have been able to fish out the liar if we knew exactly where everybody was when they heard the scream.
The first person we decided to interview was John, the butler. We knocked on the door of his room, and when he answered, he looked like he had a sleepless night. His eyes were baggy and bloodshot. It would have surprised me to hear that he had any sleep at all. I tried to take in every detail on the expression on his face, but it was pointless, as his facial expression gave nothing away, since he looked neither apprehensive or caring towards the incident the night before.
"As you may have guessed, John, we are here to talk to you about last night", started Victoria.
"I don't know anything about the murder", he quickly replied, changing his facial expression from dull to rather excited.
"We are not accusing you of anything", said Victoria, "but we need to know where you were when you heard the scream. It would be a great aid to us if you told us".
"I was in the dining room, looking into the garden, whilst talking to Miss Douthwaite".
"What were you talking about?"
"Our plans for the future".
"And what are your plans?"
"We have none. We do not know what to do now that we cannot be welcomed here", replied John, looking down at the floor.
"Who said that?" I asked him.
"What do you mean? Nobody needs to say anything. Our boss is dead, and once this murder is solved, we will have to be out of here".
"Don't jump to conclusions", I said, feeling sorry for the elderly man, "perhaps Mary and Tim will let you work here until you retire".
"I just need the money to live", he said, with his head in his hands.
"I know. Moving on, when you heard the scream, how long did it take you to get to the basement door?" asked Victoria.
"I can't run fast, but Miss Douthwaite walked faster that I can. It took her about ten seconds to get there".
"And did you see anyone running?"
"No. Nothing. By the time I got down the stairs to the basement, I saw Margaret stood near the body, while Miss Douthwaite was kneeling over her. Miss Douthwaite and I are innocent. I'm not so sure about Margaret, because she was the only other person in the room at the time".
"Is there another exit apart from the basement door?"
"Yes. There is a window next to the cellar, but it is small, and it is difficult to open".
"How do you know it is difficult to open?"
"Once, I dropped a bottle of Lady Violet's favourite wine, and it reeked for hours. I had to open the window to let the smell out".
"Alright", I said, thinking that it was an acceptable justification for opening the window, "one more thing. Where are all the knives in the house kept?"
"I think they are all in the kitchen. Margaret will tell you more, I should imagine".
"Thank you for your time. Do you know where we can find Miss Douthwaite?"
"I hope you're not accusing her of it!"
"We're not accusing anybody at the moment. It's early days. We just need to make sure that she was with you at the time of the scream. We need to question everybody, including Mary and Tim".
"I think the murderer is probably that Tim. You didn't hear this from me, but I heard that he is nearly twice as old as her. He's obviously in this for the money", said John, switching to the gossip.
"That's what we thought. Anyway, where did you hear that from?"
"Margaret told me. I don't know where she got that from. You'll have to ask her".
"We will", I said, beginning to get more interested in the murder case.
The next person on the list to interview was Miss Douthwaite. When we entered the room where she was, the first thing I noticed was her eyes. Like John, she looked like she had no sleep for the whole night.
"So, can you tell me where you were when you heard the scream?" I asked her.
"I was stood by the window in the dining room, talking to John", she replied, quietly.
"And what were you talking about?"
"Our plans for the future, mainly. We have no idea what to do now that she's dead. Mind you, if she was going to die, I'm glad she died that way".
"What an awful thing to say!" I cried, unable to cover my horrified look.
"If you were in my position you'd be saying the same thing! That woman deserved to die, and I hope the killer gets away with it!"
"Is that because you did it?"
"No, I have an alibi - John".
"I don't think a fiancee is a good alibi".
"I know that you are engaged to be married to John".
"How did you work that out?" said Miss Douthwaite, knowing that she had been caught out.
"Obviously, yesterday, I saw a ring on your finger, just like John's. When the news about the murder got out, you covered up your finger, hoping that I would not notice".
Miss Douthwaite sighed. "Alright", she said, "but we did not kill her!"
"It means you have no strong alibi for the time of the murder. You two could have been in it together".
"Janet", said Victoria, "it's a little early to be making accusations at the moment. It's early days, remember? We are only here to establish where everybody was at the time of the murder".
"And we are no further forward. We have no evidence to say that John and Miss Douthwaite were together in the dining room. Either one of them could have killed her, then the other made a plan to establish the alibi".
"Well, we have no proof either way. We'll come to this later".
"By the way, Miss Douthwaite, did you hear anyone crying in the kitchen?"
"As a matter of fact, I heard a woman crying in the kitchen. I take it was Margaret".
"But you didn't see her?"
"No, but who else could it be?"
"Thank you for your time", I said, leaving things as open as possible.
In my mind, I thought it had to be Margaret who was crying in the kitchen, but I could not shake the feeling that someone was in there with her, and it was not her who was crying. Although I only knew her for a day, I did not think she was the type to cry over something. I knew that I may have been wrong, but I always listened to my instincts.
When we walked into the kitchen to interview Margaret, I noticed that she was sat at the staff's dining table, reading Shakespeare. That struck me as odd as she did not seem like the type of person to be reading Shakespeare. Maybe I was wrong? I watched her eyes. Although we entered the room with enough noise to distract someone, her attention was still completely focussed on the book. Her eyes were moving fairly slowly, so perhaps she was a beginner reader. Then I thought, is she reading this book to come across as an intelligent woman? It did seem a little strange that she should still be reading a book while we entered the room.
"Margaret?" I said, almost whispering.
"Hello. I was just sat here reading", Margaret replied.
"So I can see. I just need to ask you a few questions relating to the murder last night".
"I don't think I can help, but go ahead", said Margaret, appearing confident and jolly - a side of Margaret I never thought existed.
"Where were you at the time of the scream?" Victoria asked her.
"I was sat in here, alone", Margaret replied without thought or consideration.
"Alright, and what were you doing?"
"Nothing, really. Just sat here, thinking about things".
"Were you not crying about what had happened to you?"
"No. I almost was, but I'm a strong woman".
I looked at Victoria, and she looked back.
"Alright, and was there anyone else with you when you heard the scream?"
"Nobody was in here with me".
"Did you see anyone?"
"Did you hear anyone talking?"
"I think I heard Miss Douthwaite and John talking to each other in the dining room, but I can't be certain".
"And what did you do when you heard the scream?"
"I got up out of my chair, and ran to the basement. It took me about ten seconds".
"How fast can you run?" I asked, going into as much detail as possible.
"Not very fast, but as you can see, it wouldn't take me that long to leave the room, walk three feet down the hall and enter the basement".
"Was there anyone else there when you got down there?"
"Yes. When I saw the body, my surroundings were completely gone out of my head. All I could focus on was Lady Violet, lying there. I saw Miss Douthwaite, who was just ahead of me, and she knelt down and felt her pulse, I think".
"One more thing. Are all the knives kept in here?"
"Yes, and before you ask, there is only one missing, and I know who took it".
"You do?!" Victoria and I yelled together, thinking that this was a massive breakthrough in the case already.
"Yes. Amos came in here and took it. He said he needed to borrow something sharp to cut the weeds or something, so I let him borrow the knife that I did not use very often, providing he returned it today".
"Are you absoloutely sure that knife was the murder weapon?"
"Yes. Go and look yourself".
I looked at the rack where all of the knives were kept, and it was true. There was only one space, and that had to be the murder weapon. I went in that room suspecting Margaret, but now, I realised that she had given me a vital clue.
© Copyright 2016 declan mckimm. All rights reserved.