Some Live, Some Die

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The First Party: Investigation

Lady Townsend’s body was placed on a stretcher, with a cloth draped over her as she was carried away. Adrian was with the Chief Police explaining the events that took place during the day until the murder. Everything had been sealed off to prevent any of the guests from leaving. The receptionist confirmed that no one had left the party during the concert.

“The victim is Lady Salome Townsend,” Adrian told the Chief Police. “Aged forty-two. She is the eldest daughter of the late Horatio Townsend. The cause of death was drowning. While awaiting your arrival, I took the liberty to examine the body and found finger marks on the shoulders of her clothes. This proves that someone held her underwater until she died. The murder must’ve occurred during the performance. Unfortunately we won’t be able to get a fingerprint due to the lake water contaminating the evidence.”

“Until we have the results of the autopsy, we cannot determine the time of death,” said the Chief Police. “We will need to find out first, who among the guests wanted Lady Townsend dead.”

Adrian showed the Chief Police the program for today’s party. “According to the schedule, the performance started at half-past one after the guests ate and played croquet,” he said. “The orchestra performed Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. It is almost an hour long piece, but halfway through, the performance was briefly paused when one of the guests suddenly passed out. Afterwards, the performance resumed and concluded without any further hitch. The guests dispersed for intermission at five minutes passed half-past two. Five minutes later, one of the female guests discovered the body of Lady Townsend in the lake.”

“Then we can confirm that the time of death was between half-past one and half-past two,” the Chief Police agreed. “Did you see Lady Townsend have any disagreements with any of the guests prior to being murdered?”

“I do have a few that have made it onto the suspect list,” said Adrian as he glanced at the guests. “Mr. Aristo Beckford for one.”

Leslie looked up at her father who shuddered when Adrian said his name. She couldn’t believe that her father was already being labelled as a suspect. To kill his former sister-in-law was something she could not imagine him doing. She recalled how angry he was when he discovered Lady Townsend abusing her. It was already six years ago, so he probably had moved on from that. Hopefully.

“Yes,” said Mr. Beckford nervously. “Detective Powell is right. The last time I saw her was just before the concert started. I did leave my seat a few minutes after the performance started to get a drink. I had started feeling hot, you see. On my way back, I heard that one of the guests had fainted after the Summer movement, so I went back to the marquee to get a drink for my daughter.”

“Can the waiting staff vouch for you?” asked the Chief Police. “And what was your relationship with the victim?”

“Most certainly,” said Mr. Beckford as he used his handkerchief to wipe his forehead. “Miss Townsend was actually my sister-in-law. She was the older sister of my late wife, Margaret. It was the first time since six years ago when I last saw her.”

“How do you mean?” asked Adrian.

“She and I fell out with each other,” explained Mr. Beckford. “We had some familial disagreements and hadn’t spoken to one another since then.”

“Thank you for being cooperative Mr. Beckford,” said Adrian. “As for the other suspects I have in mind. That young woman over there wrapped in a picnic blanket. The man in the brown suit with his sketchbook, and the lady in the simple white sunhat.”

The new suspects stiffened as Adrian pointed them out to the Chief Police. Judging by their body language, they knew that they were involved with this crime.

“State your names and your occupation,” the Chief Police ordered each of the suspects.

“I am Gertrude Cowell,” said the young woman. “I am Lady Townsend’s lady companion who works as a personal maid and her social secretary.”

“My name is Francis Howard,” said the man in the brown suit as he gripped his sketchbook. “I am a portrait artist by reputation who has painted for royalty.”

“And I am Clarissa Simmons,” said the lady in the simple hat. “I am a missionary worker.”

“Did you all leave the audience during the performance?” the Chief Police then asked.

Gertrude claimed that she left stretch her legs and to bask in the sun, claiming that she was not the type of person who could sit through an entire orchestra performance. Francis left to go for a smoke in the makeshift marquee for smokers. Clarissa went to the powder room to fix up her makeup.

“What was your relationship with the victim?” inquired the Chief Police.

“I have been with Lady Townsend for twenty-two years,” said Gertrude. “I am grateful that she offered me the position as her lady companion in order to help me support my family.”

“I’m surprised to hear you say something like that,” said Francis. “Several guests and I saw you arguing with her during lunch. And it definitely sounded very unpleasant.”

“Would you care to share this with us?” asked Adrian.

“It’s most definitely true that I’m grateful to Lady Townsend for giving me a job,” said Gertrude nervously. “But the only thing that irked me was how she kept belittling and humiliating me because of her pride and dignity. She was also very self-conscious about her aging which she often complained about every once in a while.”

“And why were you arguing with Lady Townsend?” asked the Chief Police.

“I was planning to resign from my role as her lady companion,” explained Gertrude. “I was offered the position as a secretary to a ladies magazine company and very much wanted to accept it. However, Lady Townsend would not approve of it.”

“I hope her disapproval didn’t drive you to murder,” said Adrian sternly. “Also, why are you wrapped in a picnic blanket? Did you perhaps, fall into the lake?”

“No!” exclaimed Gertrude, “After my stroll, I felt hot. So I went to the buffet tent to get myself a cold drink. I was in such a rush that I did not notice a waiter carrying a bucket filled with ice. I collided into him and that’s how I got wet. Mr. Beckford can vouch for me since he was there when it happened.”

“What Miss Cowell is saying is true,” said Mr. Beckford. “I did see her bump into a waiter and causing him to spill the contents of the ice bucket onto her.”

“And I would never kill her!” she then shouted, “If there was anyone who sought after Lady Townsend’s life, then you should be speaking to Mr. Howard and Miss Simmons! I’ve been by Lady Townsend’s side long enough to know that Mr. Howard used to court her until she got engaged, and Miss Simmons was an old classmate of hers.”

“Care to explain?” asked the Chief Police, “What Miss Cowell just stated, is it true?”

“Yes!” muttered Francis, “Salome and I used to be lovers. I met her when her father commissioned me to paint a portrait of her, and we became attracted to one another. However, I stopped courting her after she was arranged to be married to someone else. It was also because I was a poor, struggling artist with a working-class background at that time. However, I eventually got recognised as an artist and started painting for royalty which allowed me to make a name for myself.”

“Did you attend the party just to meet her?” the Chief Police inquired.

“I was cordially invited by Mr. Hange Hurston,” said Francis. “It was a chance encounter to find Salome attending the party as well, because I heard through idle gossip that her fiancé’s family went bankrupt which ended their engagement. When I plucked up the courage to approach her, she spurned me, claiming that she never loved me all this time and was just using me as youthful amusements!”

“Broken hearts truly can drive people to do crazy things,” said Adrian. “And your career would be over should it be discovered that you were behind Lady Townsend’s death.”

“I swear I did not kill her!” said Francis. “The one who you should be suspecting should be Miss Simmons. She spent a fortune to build a charity organisation, but Salome refused to invest in it which left her in a lot of debts.”

“Well, Miss Simmons?” said the Chief Police.

“It’s true,” said Miss Simmons as she tried to fight back her tears. “I used up most of my family fortune to set up a charity to support the promotion of Catholicism in Africa. I sought after sponsors who liked my idea, but they deemed it as too unrealistic as their conclusion. Salome was one of them. Then I later found out that she had bribed the other sponsors to decline my proposition. After that, I was racked up with debts and the debt collectors took possession of everything I had left. I even resorted selling my family heirlooms in order to survive.”

“Well, I hope you didn’t murder her to avenge your fall in social status,” said Adrian. “Although, you won’t have to worry about lodgings if you are discovered to be the murderer.”

Their conversation was interrupted when they were approached by one of the police officers. He whispered something in the Chief Police’s ear. The Chief Police nodded before dismissing the police officer.

“Mr. Beckford,” he said as he turned his attention to Mr. Beckford. “Why did you fail to mention that you had taken a detour to the reception area to place a phone call?”

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