CHAPTER FOUR: LADY ANNE
Lady Anne was a strikingly handsome woman in her early forties. She was almost six foot in height, with a slender, willowy figure. She had a face of severe, classical beauty, framed by long, straight, silky blonde hair. Yet her eyes seemed doleful and melancholy, with dark creases around them that not even skilfully applied makeup could quite efface. To give an appearance of mourning she wore an elegant, dark dress suit.
’Lady Anne, I would like to express on behalf of myself and my colleague, Detective Sergeant Clayton here, our heartfelt condolences at this tragic loss you have suffered.’
’Thank you, inspector,’ she said, with a cold, unemotional tone.
’I wonder, your Ladyship, if I could make use of a room or chamber in Rose Manor, as a temporary office.’
’It would also serve as an interview room, where I could question, in turn, each of the eight people who were on the island when your husband was murdered. It could help us further our investigations.’
’I’ll have my butler, Bosworth escort you to the drawing room. You can use that during your stay on the island, inspector.’
’Thank you, your Ladyship.’
The door creaked open and the butler, followed by the two policemen, entered the room that Moose had been allocated. It was a sizeable chamber, with pilasters on the walls, and two large, arched windows that looked out over a grand, picturesque landscape. On the wood panelled walls old paintings, etchings and woodcuts had been hung. In the centre of the room there was a well-polished mahogany table with some period chairs placed about it. Elsewhere there was a more modest wall table, with two chairs near it. There was also a drinks cabinet; but that was securely locked.
’I trust it will meet your requirements, gentlemen. If not, then we can always---’
’Oh yes,’ interrupted Moose, ‘it’ll do fine, Mr. Bosworth.’
Clayton nodded his head. ‘Yes, very cosy.’
’I’ll need a few things taking in of course,’ said Moose. ‘And then we’re in business.’ Moose pointed to the detective sergeant for the benefit of the butler. ’I, and my assistant here, Detective Sergeant Clayton, will need to question, in turn, each person who was on the island when Sir Richard was killed.’
’Which will of course include you, Mr. Bosworth.’
’I have nothing to hide, inspector,’ said the imperturbable retainer.
’I’m glad to hear it,’ replied Clayton, with a sly grin.
’I’ll give you a list, in due course, detailing the times when we’d like to see each person in turn.’
Bosworth nodded his head solemnly.
’We’ll conduct the interviews in this room.’
’I’ll inform the others as soon as I leave.’
’And you’d better tell her Ladyship and the rest that no one can leave the island for the next few days.’
’I think they know that already, sir.’
’Well I’d tell them again, just to make sure that they get the message.’
’Will that be all, sir?’
’Yes. For now.’
’Then I’ll leave you gentlemen to conduct your investigations.’
Bosworth turned to leave.
’Oh, by the way, Mr. Bosworth.’
The butler turned round. ’Yes.’
’Me and my colleague here wouldn’t mind a drop of tea. If it isn’t too much trouble?’
’Aye, it wouldn’t come amiss,’ added Clayton.
’I’ll see to it right away, gentlemen.’
’Would you care for some toast, or biscuits, as well?’
’A bit of toast would do fine. What say you, Eddie?
’I am a bit peckish, chief, now that you mention it. A bit of toast would be just the ticket.’
’Gentlemen.’ The butler turned and left the room.
Clayton turned to scrutinize the luxurious chamber. He briefly whistled to himself. ’Now this is what I call an interview room, chief.’
’Well let’s hope our customers live up to the setting. Of course we’ll have all of our eight suspects checked to see if they have any gun residue. That’ll determine if any of them have been firing live ammunition recently.’
‘After all one of them must have fired those shots that killed Third.’
‘Unless we have someone hiding in a broom cupboard.’
The first to be interviewed was Bridget Field; the housekeeper.
’When I arrived in the study, on the heels of the butler, Mr. Bosworth, Sir Richard was already dead. Out cold on the floor and lying in his own blood. It was a terrible sight, it was.’
’I can well imagine,’ said Moose.
’But the killer had gone. Whoever he was?’ She paused. ’Well that’s as much as I can tell you, Inspector. I haven’t the slightest idea who could have done such a terrible thing. It’s quite inexplicable.’
’Did you like your employer, Mrs. Field?’ enquired Clayton.
Her eyes almost visibly darkened. ’No, I did not, gentlemen. And as far as I know, neither did anyone else who worked for him.’
Moose nodded his head. ’So there is some truth to the stories they ran about him in the press?’
’They didn’t go far enough, Inspector Moose. But then, he would sue journalists at the drop of a hat. Even if they were telling the truth.’
’Yes we have heard,’ concurred Clayton.
’But we knew what he was like. Only too well. One doesn’t wish to speak ill of the dead. But he was a very unpleasant, disagreeable, and obnoxious man. And it’s the living truth; so help me God.’
The two detectives looked at each other.
’I was shocked and surprised by what had happened that day. But I didn’t mourn his passing, or shed a tear for him. And as for the conduct of his life? Well, God will be the judge of that.’
They interviewed Mr. Bosworth, Sir Terence Brackenberry, Eddie Lancaster, the gardener (who also doubled as an odd-job man), and the cook; though without achieving the hoped for breakthrough. Only two were left to go.
’Well, it’s her ladyship’s turn now,’ said Moose.
She sat before them as impassive and emotionless as a block of ice.
’I was taking a stroll and watching some gulls circling in the air when I heard shots being fired from the direction of the house. I rushed back at once and made my way into my husband’s study, and saw his body on the floor, with servants and guests stood around it. It seemed almost surreal. As if I was dreaming the whole thing.’ She paused. ’Well there you are, inspector; that’s as much as I know about this whole, shocking business. One minute my husband, Richard, was alive and well and about to discuss business matters with some of his colleagues, and the next, he was dead. And not only dead; but murdered. As to who was responsible for this deed?’ She shrugged her shoulders. ’Well, I couldn’t even guess.’
‘Thank you your ladyship,’ said Moose. ’I realize how upsetting this must be for you; having to relive all these painful memories.’
’You’re only doing your job, Inspector. We must all cooperate with the police at a time such as this. Whatever our personal feelings might be. I’m only sorry that I can’t be of more help.’
’Did you notice anything suspicious at all, your Ladyship, that might have given some clue or intimation that your husband was in danger?’ enquired Moose.
‘I can’t say that I did.’
’Perhaps someone was acting a bit out of character?’ suggested Clayton. ‘A guest or a servant?’
’No. I didn’t see anything like that. Everything seemed perfectly normal and routine. There was nothing whatsoever, as far as I could perceive it, that might indicate, or even suggest that anything as terrible as that could happen. It was a bolt out of the blue.’
’Did your husband ever get into any heated exchanges, arguments and disagreements with his business associates; or even with his servants for that matter?’ asked Clayton. ‘Arguments which might, perhaps, have created some bitterness and enmity?’
’There may well have been some frank and robust exchanges at times, Inspector Clayton. But I’m sure that those are quite common in business circles. Indeed one might say that they’re par for the course. Neither my former husband nor his commercial associates were shrinking violets. But I can’t see how any arguments and disagreements over commercial decisions could possibly prompt anyone to think about murder.’
‘And the servants?’
’He would take people to task , if they were tardy or dilatory. But he’s not the only employer to do that. And the fact that we have a loyal staff, and there have been very few resignations or dismissals over the years, would suggest that he is a fair as well as a firm employer.’
‘Did your husband seem anxious, worried or concerned at all in the time leading up to his death?’ asked Moose.
’No. There was nothing in his behaviour or demeanour to arouse any concern, or to suggest that he was in any danger. I don’t think he had the slightest inkling that someone was out to murder him. My former husband was a very wilful and determined individual, and had he the slightest idea that some individual was out to do him harm, he would have taken immediate action to defend himself.’ She shook her head. ‘No, any thought of murder must have been the last thing on his mind.’
‘There were only eight people on this island when he was killed.’
Lady Anne nodded her head in response to Moose’s statement; and her face, as impassive and unemotional as ever, prompted Clayton to speculate that she would have made an excellent poker player.
‘D’you think there could have been anyone there, that day,’ continued Moose, ‘who thought so ill of your husband, that he, or she, would have been willing to murder him?’
‘Good heavens, no. All of our guests that day were close, long term business associates of my husband. The servants have been our loyal and trusted employees for years past. And they all depended on Richard for their livelihoods. Why would any of them, guests or servants, have wanted to murder my husband?’
‘The motive for murder isn’t always straight forward and clear-cut,’ added Clayton.
‘Of course I realise that a murderer isn’t going to advertise his intentions,’ reflected her Ladyship.
’Indeed,’ said Moose. ‘And so one of them could have been putting on an act?’
‘Of course that is within the bounds of possibility. One of the guests or servants could indeed have been the murderer.’
‘Or even the wife?’ thought Clayton, to himself.
‘But I very much doubt that that is the case, gentlemen.’
‘But if it wasn’t someone who was already here, Lady Anne, who on earth could have done the deed?’
She looked Moose in the eye. ‘I think it must have been an outsider.’
‘An outsider,’ repeated Moose, with a puzzled look on his face. He swapped a glance with Clayton, who looked similarly bemused at that proposition.
‘And what makes you think that, your Ladyship?’
’This is an island that is only a few miles from the mainland, Inspector Moose. It would be quite easy for someone to get here on a small boat. He could sneak up to the house, enter through the open French Windows of the study, shoot my husband dead, and then rush back to the boat while the others were making their way to the crime scene; and then leave for the mainland again. This may be a small island, gentlemen, but there are many coves and inlets where a boat could be berthed and hidden from view.’
‘It is a possibility I suppose,’ said Moose.
‘But who on earth could that be?’ blurted Clayton.
’Well that’s your department, gentlemen.’
‘Well that will be all for now, your Ladyship,’ said Moose.
She got to her feet.
‘And thank you once again for your cooperation.’
‘Though we may have to question you again, during the course of our enquires.’
’And if you’d be so good as to tell Sir Stanley that we’d like a word with him, here, I’d be most grateful, your Ladyship.’
‘I’ll contact him straight away.’
’Thank you, your Ladyship.’
’Well, not much to go at there, chief,’ said Clayton, after Lady Anne had left the room. ’We’ve interviewed seven of them, and we’ve hardly advanced the case an inch.’
’Well let’s hope Sir Stanley knows something about this business that the others don’t.’
‘It would help. I must say her Ladyship seemed a cool customer to me. Considering that her husband was blasted into eternity only yesterday afternoon, she didn’t seem upset or emotional about it at all. Yeah, not much of the grieving widow there, as far as I could see it, chief.’
’She might be still in shock.’
’Or she might have her thoughts on other things.’
’Like how much she’ll get in the will.’ Clayton nodded his head. ’Yeah; if you ask me there wasn’t a lot of love lost between those two.’
‘Well from what I’ve heard about Third he wasn’t the loveable kind.’
‘Do you think there could be any substance to what she said, chief, about some third party being involved in all this? Some mysterious outsider, who landed on the island, gunned Third down in his study, and then did a runner and sped off on the same boat that took him here?’
Moose pondered the question awhile and then shook his head, dismissively. ‘It sounds a fanciful idea to me, Eddie. If that was the case, then how come no one saw this mysterious stranger? And why has he left no trace of his presence here? I suppose we have to entertain the idea. But it’s a long shot, and I wouldn’t put any money on it.’