The First Party: Solution
“What do you mean Mr. Beckford is not the murderer?” asked the Chief Police.
“Take a look at Mr. Beckford’s attire,” said Adrian. “There are no watermarks on his cuffs, trousers and shoes.”
“What are you implying?” the Chief Police then asked.
“I mean what I say,” said Adrian. “I myself had stepped into the lake twice today. What remains on my cuffs, trousers and shoes are watermarks. However, Mr. Beckford’s attire does not show any of this. This means he never went near the lake. I also contacted his solicitor and I can confirm that he did speak with him on the phone for a good twenty minutes from half-past one until ten-to-two. The waiting staff also saw him return twice to the buffet and drinks tent.”
“Then how did the murderer commit this treacherous act out in the open?” asked Mr. Howard.
“This is what must’ve have happened during the performance,” Adrian began. “Lady Townsend did not attend the concert, because the murderer told her to meet them by the lake. While she was waiting for them, she checked her reflection in the lake but was blinded by the sunlight. This allowed the murderer to strike her on the head using one of the croquet mallets to render her immobile.”
“Wouldn’t the audience have heard the commotion?” inquired Mr. Beckford, “They would’ve also heard Miss Townsend thrashing about in the lake as she was being drowned.”
“Think about it,” said Adrian. “The orchestra was playing in open air. Do you think anyone could hear anything other than the music playing?”
“No, they wouldn’t,” exclaimed Miss Simmons. “They wouldn’t want to miss any section of the performance and would try to sit through it until the very end. Even the waiting staff was watching the performance at their stations.”
“Precisely!” said Adrian. “That’s how the murderer was able to commit their crime out in the open without being seen or heard by anyone.”
“But how did murderer anticipate that Lady Townsend would look at her reflection in the lake?” asked Gertrude.
“When I was examining the body, I found a bit of spinach stuck in between her front upper teeth,” replied Adrian. “She was most likely trying to get it out with the tip of her finger until the sunlight reflected on the lake’s surface which blinded her briefly.”
“Then the murderer would be soaking wet,” said Mr. Howard. “How did they cover it up?”
“Then does this mean-” exclaimed Mr. Beckford but he broke off.
Everyone turned their heads towards Gertrude’s direction. The feeling of being stared at sent shivers down her spine. Gertrude gripped the sides of the picnic blanket around her body tight.
“Are you implying that I did it?!” she exclaimed. “Just because I’m the only one who got soaked doesn’t prove that I did it!”
“You deliberately got yourself wet,” said Adrian. “Right after you drowned Lady Townsend. You needed an excuse to hide the fact that you were already wet. That’s why you purposefully bumped into one of the waiting staff and caused him to spill the contents of the ice bucket onto you.”
“That does not prove that I killed her!” Gertrude adamantly retorted.
“Then how come you failed to mention that someone fainted halfway through the concert?” asked Adrian, “Mr. Beckford, Mr. Howard and Miss Simmons were all aware that Lady Irving had suddenly passed out after the Summer movement came to an end.”
“I.. I… I was… aware.. about it…” protested Gertrude nervously. “I just heard about it during the intermission.”
“However, you didn’t bring it up when I asked everyone of their whereabouts,” pointed out Adrian. “This proves that you still hadn’t returned to the audience when Lady Irving fainted.”
“Perhaps I thought it was trivial to bring it up during the investigation,” said Gertrude desperately. “That doesn’t mean that I’m the murderer!”
“Then can you remove your gloves?” asked Adrian.
Gertrude froze at his request. Adrian could tell by her body language that she was hiding something from everyone. He beckoned over a police officer who approached Gertrude and took one of her wrists, pulling her glove off. Her eyes widened in horror when she saw visible hand marks.
“Just as I thought,” said Adrian with a triumphant expression. “Lady Townsend must’ve grabbed both your wrists in a desperate attempt to free herself as you submerged her in the lake. You probably hadn’t realised that she would put up such a fight with the remainder of her life. That’s why you didn’t remove your gloves when you tried to light your cigarette. If we compare the hand marks on your wrists to the victims we’ll definitely get a-”
“Say no more!” said Gertrude in utter defeat, “I did kill her! That old hag deserved it!”
“Why did you do it?” asked Adrian.
“Twenty-two years ago, my family’s business had suffered a financial loss and was about to go bankrupt,” explained Gertrude as she gritted her teeth. “Horatio Townsend, who was acquainted with my father offered to help him by giving him a loan. In return for paying our debt, Lady Townsend offered to give me the job as her lady companion until the debt was paid. However, being by her side made me miserable. She was always belittling and humiliating me, no matter how hard I worked for her.”
“What drove you to kill her?” Adrian then asked, “Surely her mistreatment was not your only motive.”
“I was able to pay back the debt while serving her,” continued Gertrude. “I planned to resign in order to have a life for myself. While I was working under Lady Townsend, I attended courses in secretarial and editorial studies. In the past few months, I sent out applications to various companies hoping to seek secretary or editing jobs.”
“Was that why you were arguing with Lady Townsend?” asked Mr. Howard.
“Yes,” replied Gertrude. “Last month, I got an offer from a well-known ladies magazine company to work for them as their secretary. I could hardly believe it, I would always read their magazines when I was younger and dream of working there one day.”
“And I suspect that Lady Townsend didn’t give you her consent,” said Adrian. “Am I right?”
“You couldn’t be more right!” shouted Gertrude tearfully, “She discovered that I was going to leave her and interfered with the offer! The old hag didn’t want me to leave her! She wanted me to continue being her slave so she could have someone to vent out her temper on!”
“But you had no right to take her life!” shouted Adrian angrily, “She wasn’t the only one who destroyed your dreams, you ended up destroying it completely!”
Gertrude broke down when she heard this as one of the police officers approached her to place the handcuffs onto her wrists. Adrian accompanied the Chief Police and his subordinates to the police station in order to give them a full account of today’s events.
After the police, the detective and the murderer left the venue, the party guests sighed in relief. Some prepared to leave the venue, supposedly having had enough of today’s event due to the murder. They did not bother to stay to watch the finale of Mr. Hurston’s party. The London Symphony Orchestra performed Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony to end the day.
“Well,” sighed Mr. Beckford as he placed an arm around Leslie. “I did not expect that the murder would be solved in one afternoon. Detective Powell certainly is a fine young man, isn’t he?”
“Perhaps,” said Leslie quietly. “But I now understand why he claimed that he wasn’t kind as he presents himself to be…”