A couple of hours had passed and dinner was in full swing. As Kitty and Thomas scurriedalong the corridor to the kitchen with the plates from the partridge they passed Reverend Ryedale and Aileen Hamilton Brooks making their way back from the ladies powder room, as thick as thieves and deep in conversation. From the bar Henry was watching Carlton smoking by the pool but his attention was caught by Jessica Abbey laughing as she walked arm in arm with the young dashing entrepreneur, Theo Black, a late addition to the dinner party. He wondered why they were heading towards the spa and the new suites but his attention was once again diverted by Brockley, the chef, who appeared and demanded a large whiskey. After downing the whiskey Brockley slammed the glass down hard on the bar and sighed.
“What’s wrong with you?” Henry asked?
“Nothing. Not now anyway. Give me another one of those will you Henry.” But there was something wrong with Brockley. He owed money, a large amount of money to Carlton. Henry knew it, in fact everyone knew it, as Carlton had delighted in lauding the gambling debt over the gregarious Feversham chef.
As Brockley headed back to the kitchen, glass in hand, Jill Cross, the gamekeeper’s wife was coming out of the snug with Lord Feversham and Bellona Morrigan, a secretive lady from County Kerry Ireland who was still wearing her scarf indoors. They were met by Robert Faulkener who had been trying to catch a moment with Bellona throughout the dinner as he had a property in mind on the outskirts of Helmsley he thought would be perfect for her.
“We could pop out to see it tomorrow Miss Morrigan if it suits you?”
“That would have been lovely Robert but my plans have changed and it’s likely I will be leaving for Ireland again tomorrow and unsure if I will be returning in thefuture.”
Before he could ask why, the gong announcing the dessert course rang, swiftly followed by the church bells chiming 11pm. While Mr. Cresswell oversaw the serving of the chocolate fondant and the Yorkshire cheese platter and Port, unbeknownst tothose in the hotel something terrible had occurred. Outside in the darkness, illuminated only by the moonlight, was a body floating face down in the pool. Carlton Bainbridge’s drink was smashed on the terrace close by and slowly but surely the water started to turn a deep, dark shade of crimson.
As the body was lifted from the water DCIJenner paced around the pool. From behind the windows the dinner guests were watching on intently and from a window in the new hotel wing, Jenner was convinced he could make out a shape in the shadows. However, he was interrupted by DS Crow who announced that the cause of death was yet unconfirmed.
“So he didn’t drown?” Jenner asked?
“It appears not sir, although it does look though he had a pretty hard knock to the head.”
“Really. That’s interesting. I wonder how he came to sustain the injury?”
“Perhaps he fell, sir? His glass issmashed just over here and from what I can ascertain from our initial statements he had been drinking heavily all evening.”
“Perhaps Crow. Or perhaps not. He may have been hit for all we know. Let’s wait to see what the CSI report yields within the hour and in the meantime let’s start to find out more about Mr. Bainbridge and indeed the rest of the party.”
Detective Jenner made his way inside towards the library where Lord and Lady Feversham were waiting to be questioned. Hecould hear hushed tones coming from within, but as he opened the door a deadly silence fell upon the room.
“Lord and Lady Feversham I must trouble you to answer a few of my questions – I’ll try and be brief as I appreciate this must be difficult for you.”
“Of course detective, we’ll do all we can to help.” replied Lord Feversham.
“How well did you know Mr. Bainbridge?”
“Very well. He was a frequent visitor to the hotel when it re-launched and he became a friend over the last couple of years.” Lady Feversham remarked.
“That said we weren’t all that close, ours was more of a professional relationship” added Lord Feversham.
“Professional relationship how, in what capacity?” probed Jenner.
Shifting uncomfortably in his chair, LordFeversham explained how Carlton acted as a broker for their art sales and acquisitions.
“You have a lot of art here, some of it valuable no doubt. Had Carlton aided you with any recent purchases or sales?”
“One or two but nothing out of the ordinary” quipped Lady Feversham.
“Well I’m sure you won’t mind talking me through them then” noted Jenner.
“Of course follow me” she smiled.
As they stood up to leave, Lord Fevershamgrabbed her arm and pulled her close before adding “I think we should tell Jenner everything dear. These things have a habit of coming out and best if he hears it straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak”.
“No George. Absolutely not. Don’t you see, we could be implicating ourselves.” At that she brushed past DCI Jenner and led the way. However, Jenner had heard part of the exchange and was determined to learn more.
After looking at the painting, Jenner took his leave of the Feversham’s and asked them to wait for him back in the library. He wasn’t’ finished with them just yet but he needed to dig around a little more first. As he entered the bar he found Natalie Wells.
“Ms. Wells just the person I was looking for.”
Her face was tearstained and her hand shook as she took a sip from what appeared to be a very large brandy.
“Would you like me to leave Sir?” asked Henry from behind the bar?
“Yes please but don’t wander too far as I have some questions for all of the staff shortly.” Henry moved away into the snug.
“So Ms. Wells how are you holding up. I suspect you’ve had quite a shock?”
A tear rolled down her cheek as she managed to whisper “Yes, I just can’t believe it, can’t accept it. Gone. My Carlton gone.”
“Well, no not really but we were partners. Partners at work in the business I mean. We were close, very close.”
“But not close like that. You weren’t lovers?”
“No.” she stammered.
He thought long and hard about his next question before asking “but you would have liked to have been?”
“I, I’m not sure what you are implying DCI Jenner” Natalie’s voice had risen now “We worked together, nothing more.”
“Of course, please accept my apologies it’s part of my job to ask difficult questions. One final thing. For now anyway.Where were you at 11pm?”
“I was talking to Miss Reece at the dining table, we were discussing a possible feature on a new avenue we’re exploring. Not that it matters much now.” She sighed.
“So you were nowhere near the pool”
“Good heavens no!” she exclaimed before taking a large gulp of her drink.
There was something in her voice that didn’t sit right with Jenner but then the same could be said for everyone he had spoken to so far. Heading out of the bar he bumped into Ginger Reece, he knew her from a couple of press conferences he had given. He liked her. She was tough and traditional in her approach to news and he respected this character trait.
“DCI Jenner, I thought you may make an appearance tonight. Awful business isn’t it?”
“Yes not quite the dinner party Lady Feversham was expecting. How did you come to be here?
“I am writing a series of features on the hotel and the new spa wing and Lady Feversham thought some of her guests may like to think there was a media buzz about the place.”
“And did they?”
“Well, yes and no” she smiled wryly.
“And Mr. Bainbridge? I know you knew him given the exclusive you were hoping to run earlier this year, exposing his somewhat less than squeaky clean dealings.”
“How do you know about that?”
“I know everything that goes on around here Ms. Reece, my mind is just as inquisitive as yours. Anyway, getting back to this evening, where you at 11pm?”
“With Natalie at the dinner table discussing a possible feature on her and Carlton for our business pages. A rather dull conversation to be frank, but she’s harmless nonetheless if not a little deluded when it comes to her business partner. I’m not sure how she has put up with him all these years. She truly cares about the art and the people she deals with, unlike Carlton who has always been out for himself.”
“Always. I thought you had only known each other a short while?”
Before Ginger could answer, Bellona Morgan and Robert Faulkener appeared with DS Crow. Jenner couldn’t help but think that Ginger seemed relieved by the interruption.
“DCI Jenner isn’t it?” Robert asked.
“Yes, and you are?”
“Robert Faulkener of Faulkener & Harrow.”
“Ah, the property consultants.”
“Yes that’s us.”
“And how is it you came to be here Mr. Faulkener?”
“I have managed the Feversham’s property portfolio for some three decades now and my father was entrusted by Lady Feversham’s father also. We’re very old family friends.”
“And did you know the victim?”
“Yes of course, who didn’t know Carlton?"
“Were you friends?”
“I wouldn’t say friends no, but I sold him his property when he moved here and so we knew each other that way.”
“Did you like him?”
“No not really, but that would put me in the majority and I certainly didn’t kill him.”
“And you Mrs…” Jenner looked in his note book “...Morrigan, that’s right isn’t it? How did you happen to be here tonight?”
“I have been staying here at the hotel while Robert tried to find me a suitable property, but my plans have now changed and I am leaving for Ireland in the morning.”
“Is that so? What brought you here in the first place, have you been to Helmsley before?”
“Mrs Morrigan clutched at her scarf nervously. “Yes many, many years ago. I was born here actually, before we left for Kerry.”
“I didn’t know that” Robert added in a surprised tone.
“I must have forgotten to mention it, I’m sorry.” She hadn’t wanted to reveal any of her family history but she felt compelled and didn’t want the detective to become any more suspicious than he had to be.
“When did you and your family move and why?”
“My parents sadly died and my brother and I were shipped off to our aunt’s where we were brought up.” She fidgeted with her scarf determined not to give away any more details.
“I am sorry to hear that, Mrs Morrigan. Both of your parents died you say. Was there an accident of sorts?”
“A fire, DCI Jenner,” she said curtly.
“I see.” At this Doctor Abbey appeared with DS Crow, who slipped Jenner a piece of paper. The detective read it crumpled it and threw it onto the fire, before making a note in his book and snapping it shut.
“Doctor Abbey I was hoping to speak with you for a moment or two?”
“Of course DCI Jenner, I was just coming to find you too. I was hoping to be of some help if possible.”
“Well let’s get started then shall we. Where were you at 11pm this evening?”
“You don’t beat around the bush do you Detective?” Alexander answered with a nervous laugh. “I was with my wife Jessica in the snug.”
“Really, why weren’t you at the table enjoying dessert?”
“I had gone to find her to give her her pashmina after she had snuck out for a cheeky cigarette. She tries to keep it from me you see, as she knows I disapprove but I didn’t want her to catch a chill.”
“But she was in the snug not outside on the terrace?”
“That’s right I looked outside but didn’t see anyone and so made my way through to the snug.”
“And you didn’t see Carlton outside?”
“No I don’t believe I did. But then I didn’t venture out as such, I only glanced to look for Jessica.”
“I see. And did you and Mr. Bainbridge get along?”
“Why yes, Carlton and I had know each other for some time and we’d never had a cross word or any reason not to get along. That said, I know he could be difficult and somewhat of a handful. Take George, Lord Feversham, he wouldn’t say ‘boo to a goose’ but it was no secret that Carlton had swindled him out of a considerable amount of money through an art deal. Then there was poor young Kitty, the waitress, she had received more than her fair share of unwanted attention and even Ginger Reece was keen toteach him a lesson or two, although I’m not entirely sure why she had taken such a dislike to him so quickly. Mr. Cresswell also had a clear disdain for Carlton and the way he swanned around the hotel and I am sure Natalie was putting a brave face on after he had rebuked her advances once again. One thing’s for certain though DCI Jenner, I don’t envy you, having to find the culprit, that’s for sure.”
Doctor Abbey’s over helpful attitude made Jenner suspicious. What did he have to hide? Alexander on the other hand had wanted to deflect as much suspicion onto his fellow guests as possible as the last thing he wanted was his wife’s tawdry affair being discussed and he certainly didn’t want anyone to know just how much he had despised Carlton.