The Common Link
November 1st, 1925
“Thank you for accompanying me to Blackpool Tower,” Leslie told Adrian as their train pulled up at the London Euston station.
“I should be the one thanking you Miss Leslie,” insisted Adrian. “If it were not for you inviting me to the party at Blackpool Tower, then I would not have been able to move forward with my current investigation.”
Once the train stopped, the passengers began filing off the train. Adrian alighted from the carriage and offered his hand to Leslie like a gentleman. Leslie flushed slightly as she allowed the detective to take her hand and and help her down. What is this feeling? She quietly thought to herself. The young woman was quite sure that her heart was for Ernest Gravetye, and yet, why was her heart perturbed just by being with Adrian?
“Leslie!” came Hattie’s voice from the crowd awaiting the arrivals.
“Hattie!” exclaimed Leslie back at Hattie.
Adrian watched as Leslie dashed up to Hattie and throw her arms around her lady companion. After breaking away from each other, Hattie hastily thanked Adrian for looking after Leslie during their trip to Blackpool. The last thing he did was escort Leslie and her lady companion to their chauffeured car.
As he saw the Hispano-Suiza drive off into the busy streets of London, Adrian spotted what appeared to be the back of a photograph at his feet. Could it have been dropped by Leslie? Picking it up, he turned it over and was bewildered at what he saw. It was of two school girls from several years ago. Getting out his magnifying glass, Adrian examined the faces of the girls.
“I don’t believe it!” he quietly exclaimed, “Miss Jezebel Doncaster and… Miss Leslie Beckford?”
He could not believe that Leslie was acquainted with the late Jezebel Doncaster. It then occurred to him that Leslie was also acquainted with the late Lady Salome Townsend, and had been previously engaged to her ex-fiancée, Maurice Higham. Could it be that Miss Leslie Beckford is the reason for Mr. Hange Hurston’s so-called vengeance? Adrian wondered to himself.
“Miss Leslie Beckford,” he quietly muttered. “Why of all people would Mr. Hurston avenge you? What is it that makes you so special?”
Adrian then hailed a taxi, ordering it to take him to Scotland Yard. During the ride, he got out the files containing the information about Mr. Hurston’s four parties. He was very fortunate to have been able to convince the party planner for the Blackpool Tower event to hand over the party plans.
Just as he had suspected, Countess Crawley’s name on the guest list was marked with a tarot symbol; the reversed Moon. As for the countess’ brother and nephew, and Felicity Heathfield, their names were all marked with the reversed Chariot. And Leslie Beckford’s name was marked with the upright Fool. Even when upright, the Moon card represented uncertainty, while the reversed side was the darker aspects of the uncertainties; fear and anxiety. What was the countess fearing? Adrian quietly wondered to himself.
It was not long until the taxi pulled up outside Scotland Yard. After tipping the driver, Adrian hastily dashed inside, straight back to his office. He passed by Commissioner Powell who was surprised to see him.
“Adrian!” he exclaimed as he followed his son, “I thought you were taking a break! Isn’t it a bit too soon to head straight back into work?!”
“Not too soon for myself,” said Adrian excitedly as he hurried into his office. “I thank you for recommending time off from work father. I have finally found the answers that I have been searching for.”
Closing the door in his father’s face, Adrian tossed the case files onto his desk and quickly updated his board. Now that he knew Mr. Hurston’s purpose for throwing these parties this year, he now needed to ascertain why the victims, the murderers and Leslie Beckford were represented by the tarot symbols.
“I must first ascertain if Miss Leslie had any disagreements with Miss Jezebel Doncaster and Countess Ethel Crawley,” said Adrian. “I shall start off by visiting Lady Doncaster. As the aunt of the late Miss Doncaster, she may know of their relationship.”
Adrian then picked up the phone on his desk and quickly contacted Lady Doncaster. Luckily, he was able to arrange a meeting with Lady Doncaster at her house during tea time.
“Forgive my sudden intrusion Lady Doncaster,” said Adrian as he greeted her with a kiss on the back of her hand. “But this is of utmost importance.”
“Yes,” replied Lady Doncaster. “As discussed on the phone, you wanted to talk about my niece and Miss Leslie Beckford. And I am more than happy to assist you in every way I can.”
“Thank you Lady Doncaster,” said Adrian as he followed her into the drawing room where afternoon tea was being served. “I have been investigating into the murders that have occurred at Mr. Hange Hurston’s parties this year. Recent developments showed that your niece and three other victims knew Miss Leslie Beckford, who I believe is the common link to this case.”
He then showed Lady Doncaster the photo of Leslie and Jezebel. Taking the photo from the detective’s hands, Lady Doncaster stared at it in brief silence before giving a sad sigh.
“Jezebel and Leslie used to be such great friends when they were children,” she sighed in reminisce. “They grew up together and even attended the same school. But just four years ago, they fell out with one another and had not spoken to each other since then.”
“May I ask what was their reason for their deteriorated friendship?” asked Adrian out of curiosity.
“Jezebel and myself began to notice how much Leslie was beginning to resemble Mr. Beckford,” explained Lady Doncaster. “While I paid no attention to this trivial detail, Jezebel took advantage of this by making Leslie the subject of gossip at school. When Leslie confronted her about this, she insisted that it was a good way to make friends and how she had the right to say anything about her as her friend. Leslie and Jezebel never spoke nor saw each other again after that.”
“Thank you Lady Doncaster,” said the detective as he sipped his tea. “You have provided me with the utmost valuable information.”
“It pains me to also say that I may be part to blame for how I raised Jezebel,” added Lady Doncaster. “I ended up spoiling her to help her overcome the loss of her parents. Even though she seemed like an uptight and flamboyant person to everyone, she was always having doubts and was constantly insecure about herself.”
Women are different on the inside after all. Thought the detective to himself.
“I have to go now,” said Adrian as he placed his finished cup of tea on his saucer before putting it back on the table. “Thank you for your hospitality and for your cooperation. There is also one last thing I’d like to request from you.”
“Anything detective,” she replied.
“Do you by any chance know a Miss Felicity Heathfield?” he asked, “I would like to know where she and the late Countess Crawley ran their book club.”
“Most certainly,” said Lady Doncaster. “Miss Heathfield and Countess Crawley usually hold their book club meetings at the Society of Antiquaries. Presumably due to the countess’ love for antiquity and classic literature.”
After giving Lady Doncaster another peck on the back of her hand to bid her goodbye, Adrian hurried out of the house and hailed a taxi to take him to the Society of Antiquaries. By the time he arrived, a book club session had just finished. He patiently waited for the club members to file out of the room until Felicity Heathfield remained.
“Oh, it’s you detective,” sighed Felicity. “I hope you’re not here to tell me that I’ve become a suspect again in another case.”
“Looks like things have gotten busier for you in such short notice,” said Adrian. “And no, you are not a suspect this time. I came here solely to ask you something.”
“Ever since Countess Crawley’s passing, someone needs to run the club until the next president can be decided,” said Felicity. “That aside, what can I do for you?”
“I would like to know about the relationship between the late Countess Crawley and a certain Miss Leslie Beckford,” explained the detective. “I have been investigating Mr. Hange Hurston’s parties this year and recent developments have proven that Miss Leslie Beckford is the common link between the murder victims.”
“Countess Crawley openly despised Miss Beckford!” exclaimed Felicity. “Miss Beckford was once a member of this book club, and the countess made sure that she was always isolated during group discussions and outings. No one, including myself dared to defend her from Countess Crawley. And once the countess became the new president of the book club, she immediately expelled Miss Beckford.”
“And was there a reason why the countess loathed Miss Leslie so much?” Adrian then asked.
“Miss Beckford hardly did anything to Countess Crawley,” said Felicity. “The countess kept voicing her disdain about Miss Beckford’s adoptive father entrusting his entire inheritance to a complete outsider. She even became paranoid about the recent rumours of Miss Beckford being her father’s actual daughter.”
“To simply put, she was scared that she might not be included in Mr. Beckford’s inheritance if the rumours of Miss Leslie is true?” suggested Adrian. “And if Miss Leslie truly is Mr. Beckford’s daughter, then everything will go to her.”
“Likely so,” said Felicity. “The countess and Mr. Beckford were once great companions until he adopted Miss Beckford. I also have to admit that I do regret choosing not to help Miss Beckford back then. Perhaps she would have been a better and true friend than the countess ever was.”
“Societal prejudice is certainly a serious issue,” commented Adrian to himself.
“Excuse me detective?” asked Felicity.
“Nothing,” replied Adrian hastily. “You have been a great help Miss Heathfield. I shall take my leave.”
There’s no doubt that Miss Leslie is the common link between the murder victims. He thought to himself as he exited the Society of Antiquaries. Leslie’s abuser was drowned in the Royal Pavilion’s lake. Her childhood friend turned foe fell to her death at the Crystal Palace. An ex-fiancée who was shot in the head at Somerset House squandered money and cheated on her, and a society lady snubbed her had been hanged in Blackpool Tower.
Now all he needed to do was further decipher the tarot symbols drawn next to the murder victims, suspects and Leslie’s name from the second to fourth party. And he knew just the person for this job…