Frisby Waterless Murders – 63

Excerpt from the book called The Frisby Waterless Murders. The third book in the Inspector Knowles series sees Knowles and Sergeant Barnes investigating why the wrong person died on a murder/mystery excursion on a steam train. It seems more than one person wanted the victim dead and the question is: who murdered Major Harkness in full view of 24 people without any of them noticing?

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“And you found out about my uncle, Roger Davis, who was in Iraq at the same time as Major Harkness?”

“That’s correct.”

 

“Well, firstly my uncle and the Major did know each other over in Iraq. The Major was in some kind of intelligence liaison role out there for the MoD. I think this was the time before he was shot and so he was able to move about with ease. My uncle came across him in Baghdad during the course of his work as the Major used to go out on patrol with them. The Major’s role was to meet some of the locals in their own neighbourhoods and talk to them about their views on the occupation by the coalition forces. My uncle accompanied the Major several times and spoke very highly of him. This lasted on and off for about two years, but then my uncle was invalided out of the country as he was in an armoured vehicle blown up by an IED. The Major came to see him in hospital and also visited him back in this country. They became quite close especially after the Major was shot.”

 

“What does your uncle do now?”

 

“Well, he has retired from the army and is enjoying life. He worked in the recruiting department for the army after he’d convalesced. He enjoyed speaking to younger people about the life they could expect in the army and helping them understand what it could offer them in terms of personal growth and experience of other cultures.”

 

“It sounds as though your uncle had a great career.”

 

“He did and as you might have gathered I have no animosity towards either the Major or the army in general.”

 

“Fair enough – did any of the other actors you know have a grudge against the Major or the military?”

 

“I think Ellie’s father was in the MoD and Daisy’s brother, Vince, is a current soldier away on duty somewhere, but I am not sure whether they bore any resentment towards the Major.”

 

“Thank you, Mr Davis, I think I have received all the answers I have been looking for, so I will bid you a fond farewell.”

 

With that Knowles stood up and allowed Mr Davis to escort him to the front door. As Knowles was crossing the threshold, he had a sudden thought.

 

“Mr Davis, when you were about to be served coffee, did you notice whether anyone was walking around the carriage?”

 

“The girl served me, I think her name was Bridie, and someone came past her and said ‘Excuse Me’ – he was heading to the rear of the train. I think she needs to work on the parking of her trolley.”

 

“He?”

The Frisby Waterless Murders – 62

Excerpt from the book called The Frisby Waterless Murders

“Who are you playing?”

 

“The Partridge from Rushton Mallory – they are one of the strongest teams in the league, but we beat them earlier in the year at their place and they weren’t best pleased, so will be thirsting for revenge.”

 

“Will they now, well I hope you keep a lid on things Sergeant Barnes.”

 

“I’m sure we will, sir, it ’s only a game after all.”

 

“Well, good luck, Sergeant and see you tomorrow.”

 

With that Knowles stood up and stretched before leaving the room. He was hoping for an early night as he was visiting the gym in the morning on his way into work. He drove out of the car park and headed for Allerton Avenue where John Davis lived at number 38. It was a street of red-brick houses, which were just about detached from each other allowing people to access the rear of the property via a narrow passageway. The front gardens were neatly kept with a predominance of small, square lawns surrounded by flowering shrubs.

 

Mr Davis’s house had a small pond instead of a lawn with a stone heron standing to one side. Some rushes and a water-lily added a touch of colour to the browns and greys of the rocks. Knowles rapped on the white front door using a brass knocker, which appeared to be older than the house and had probably been bought at one of the antique shops on the main square in Scoresby.

 

Knowles recognised the man who opened the door. It was Mr Davis and he was wearing the same pullover as he had on the train. It was a light-red colour that matched the slightly flushed appearance of the owner of the house, though Knowles doubted this was the reason it had been selected.

 

“Hello Mr Davis. I don’t know if you remember me, but my name is Detective Inspector Knowles from the CID here in Scoresby. I have some questions about the recent incident on the train.” Knowles showed Mr Davis his warrant card for further emphasis.

 

“Oh yes, that’s right, I do remember you, please come in.”

 

Knowles followed Mr Davis down the green hallway carpet and into the Lounge, which had a massive stone mantle above the fireplace, which sloped down towards the floor on the right-hand side of the room before finally finishing at the front wall of the house. Knowles wondered whether the mantlepiece and fish pond had been built at the same time.

 

“So, Inspector, do sit down – how can I help you?” Mr Davis stood by the mantelpiece as if to emphasise the sturdiness of the structure. Knowles chose a green leather chair with a view of the fireplace.

 

“Mr Davis, we are obviously looking into the death of Major Harkness and in particular we have been finding out whether any of the people on that train either had a background in the military or had relatives who were in the services at the same time as the dear, departed Major.”

The Frisby Waterless Murders – 61

Excerpt from the book called The Frisby Waterless Murders

“Exactly Sergeant Barnes, so perhaps you could ascertain who drew up the seating plan and who knew where they were sitting before they arrived on the train.”

 

“I will do that, sir, the other question I have is why would you murder the Major on a train with lots of people around when there are other quieter places to commit the crime?”

 

“Well, it must be because the murderer could only get near him on the train or wanted someone else to see the Major’s demise, perhaps to punish them too.”

 

“His wife?”

 

“Well possibly – murder her husband because of something her own father did? Maybe. I don’t think so, but perhaps that was the reason. I think the murderer might have helped the Major open the window just after he had been served his coffee. That rules out the stewards who were both helping Mrs Harkness at the time. That’s a shame as they would be the ones who would most likely choose the train for murder as that’s the only occasion they would have any reason to be close to the Major. I wonder where Gerald Kennedy and the Waferr woman were at 9:50 a.m?”

 

“We could ask them?”

 

“They’d choose the train too as they wouldn’t move in the same social circles as the Major under normal circumstances.”

 

“Isn’t that also true of the actors though, sir?”

 

“It is, Barnesy, I suppose it is, but would they have known the seating arrangements before the trip started? The train staff almost certainly would have, but not the actors. They might have known where they were sitting, but not where the members of the Round Table were to be seated.”

 

“Do you think the person who threw the meat at Maudie’s dog was the murderer or one of the attempted murderers?”

 

“Good question; I can’t be sure, but if I were to guess I would say the attempted murderer, who was hoping to kill the Major with a dart shot out of a blowpipe. It’s just a guess though as I am sure you will appreciate. For the dart to be successful the Major would have to be out in the open and not stuck in a remote seat by the window.”

 

“Right, well I suppose I should try and find out who created the seating plan and how it was arrived at, and more importantly who knew the contents and when.”

 

“That’s a good idea – so I will visit John Davis, Ellie, and the Trimbles on my way home; I wasn’t doing that much this evening anyway.”

 

“Right, well all I have to look forward to is a dominoes match at The Lion on Queen’s Square.”

 

The Frisby Waterless Murders – 60

Excerpt from the book called The Frisby Waterless Murders

“Vince is still alive though and if he’s out there then he’s not harmed in any way, so what could the Major have done to upset Daisy?”

 

“Stopped Vince getting promotion, perhaps, or had him sent out to Afghanistan again when he didn’t want to go?”

 

“Let’s ask Daisy shall we – Linda do you want to ask her?”

 

“I will do that, Inspector, I should be heading off. I will go home first before heading out to the fishing club, so I’ll probably contact Daisy tomorrow.”

 

“That should be fine, Linda, don’t let those anglers lure you away from the point of your questions.”

 

“Don’t worry, sir, I won’t – I will cast my net wide in the search for the truth.”

 

“Glad to hear it PC Smythe,” said Knowles smiling at her humour.

 

Barnes gave Smythe a mock salute as she left the room.

 

“There’s one other person who has a connection with the military and that’s John Davis – his uncle was in the forces for around twelve years during the 1980s and early 1990s before being invalided out because of a roadside bomb in Iraq. It’s entirely possible that the uncle was there at the same time as the Major.”

 

“Right, I will go and interview Mr Davis and ask him whether he holds a grudge or rather held a grudge against the Major. Maybe he’s one of the three people who believe they have successfully killed off their victim?”

 

“Perhaps he is, Inspector, so you should tell him he’s been unsuccessful in his attempts to commit murder.”

 

“I will break it to him gently, don’t worry about that Barnesy.”

 

“Don’t want to hurt his feelings at all, do you?”

 

“I will mention it to him, in a roundabaout way.”

 

“Sir, you do think that the Major was the intended victim – there’s no way that Maudie Trimble was meant to be the victim?”

 

“Yes, you’ve hit on a good point, which I hadn’t considered – I don’t think that Maudie was meant to be killed, but someone did know where she was sitting and that the Major was likely to be offered that seat if she didn’t turn up. Someone knew the Major would want to move if at all possible due to his leg.”

 

“And that someone knew he’d be easier to murder in Maudie Trimble’s seat because everyone would walk past him at some point. If he’d stayed where he was originally seated then anyone who wanted to get near him would have been seen by up to three people.”

The Frisby Waterless Murders – 59

Excerpt from the book called The Frisby Waterless Murders

“That is possible, Sergeant, but let’s find the murderer first and hopefully the attempted murderers will then become more obvious.”

 

“Right, David Yeung is in the Territorial Army with the role of Captain, but hasn’t been on a joint venture with the army proper, as it were.”

 

“As it were, meaning they were never on joint manoeuvres with the professional soldiers?”

 

“That’s right, sir, they never played with the real soldiers.”

 

“Could that have been a source of friction between them, do you think?”

 

“Who knows – could have been. Maybe Mr Yeung was wound up by the Major about being a part-time soldier rather than a full-time one.”

 

“He doesn’t strike me as being the kind of person who would be bothered by that kind of thing – anyway, is there anyone else?”

 

“Ellie Hammond’s father worked for the Ministry of Defence for 20 years. He died of a heart attack last year. He may at one time have been in liaison with army units in Belfast and Baghdad when the Major was on a tour of duty in both those places. When he returned from Iraq in 1991 Ellie’s father was given a desk job as a reward for his work abroad, although he left the MoD four years later when Ellie was nearly ten.”

 

“Did he now; was he dismissed or did he resign?”

 

“He resigned to be head of security at an engineering firm in the West Midlands.”

 

“Good for him; we should ask Ellie whether this caused her any grief.”

 

“Do you want me to speak to her?

“I will spare you the bother, Barnesy, after all you did the first round of interviews.”

 

“OK, sir, just thought I’d check. Daisy Arnold has a brother who’s in the army right now, serving in Afghanistan.”

 

“How old?”

 

“28 years old and goes by the name of Vince.”

 

“And did he join the army before the Major retired?”

 

“He did, sir, joined when he was 18. The Major has been retired for three years, bar one month, so there would have been plenty of time for their paths to have crossed. I believe young Vince was in the Guards just like the Major.”

 

The Frisby Waterless Murders – 58

Excerpt from the book called The Frisby Waterless Murders

“That would be the Waferr woman cooking up a magic mushroom delight for her clients.”

 

“You don’t like her, do you Inspector?”

 

“I don’t trust her, Linda, I don’t trust her an inch.”

 

“Could she commit a murder?”

 

“I would be very surprised if she did, very surprised indeed. She’s always been very evasive as regards her sources of various fungi she uses in her meals – she grows some in her garden, but cultivates other, more exotic types in the woods near Goat Parva.”

 

“Does she now?”

 

“She does, yes, and of course because they’re on common land she can’t be prosecuted for growing them, can she?”

 

“Are you suggesting her interest in toxicity has led her to use curare to murder someone?”

 

“Well creating potions is right up her alley, so I think I should pay her a visit and see what she’s been up to recently. I don’t think she’s murdered anyone, but she might just have noticed something or someone. Oh look, here’s Barnesy – he’s got an eager look on his face, so he must have something to tell us I am sure.”

 

Barnes entered the room and smiled. He waved a file with a slight flourish.

 

“What have you got there, Sergeant Barnes? Is a winning lottery ticket in that folder?”

 

“Not quite, but I have received back some very interesting information about a few of the passengers, sir.”

 

“Go on then, Barnesy, tell us whodunit.”

 

“Well, Barry Kenyon’s tours of duty in Ulster would have coincided with the Major’s on two occasions, albeit only for two months on each occasion. They were in different parts of Belfast though. They were in different regiments but there could have been some joint operations, which we aren’t allowed to know about.”

 

“Sounds too obvious to me, plus Barry told me himself about his injury and that he and the Major were in different regiments, so I doubt there’s a reason Barry wanted to kill the man.”

 

“But isn’t it possible that Barry was in cahoots with the attempted murderer and stopped the train right under the bridge knowing smoke would go into the carriage?”

The Frisby Waterless Murders – 57

Excerpt from the book called The Frisby Waterless Murders

“Yes, that’s correct sir, and nobody recalls seeing anyone shake his hand after 9:40 a.m. which is slightly too early isn’t it, sir? We’re looking at a time around 9:50 a.m. aren’t we?”

 

“We are, Linda, we are indeed – oh my what is going on here? How could someone jab the Major in the hand other than via a handshake?”

 

“Well, when he was putting his tray away, when he was picking up his stick perhaps, when he was opening the window in the carriage. After Sergeant Barnes and I had left, Mrs Harkness remembered the Major opened a window and phoned me just now to tell me.”

 

“Did she now – but wait a second, which window did he open?”

 

“His wife indicated it was the one on the opposite side of the carriage; it was the one behind Mrs Cridge’s seat – he opened it or tried to around 9:50 a.m. – his wife opened the window above her seat. It was right after he’d been served coffee, she was trying to open the window above her seat and he put his coffee on her tray and tried to open the other window.”

 

“And most people wouldn’t notice because either they were being served their beverage and muffin or there were one or two serving trolleys in the way. When you say ‘tried’ what does that mean?”

 

“Well, Mrs Harkness said the opening mechanism on her window was stiff and the stewards had to help her and together they opened it. She gathered that her husband was having similar problems because she heard his window open and then he said ‘Thank you for your help’ to someone.”

 

“Who would that someone have been – who wasn’t in their seat at that time?”

 

“That is something to ask the stewards, sir, it would be very noticeable wouldn’t it, because they’d have a spare cup on their trolley?”

 

“Indeed they would – from what you said, Linda, it seems like both stewards helped Mrs Harkness with her window, so anyone walking down the carriage would have been baulked by the trolleys and would have been noticed as being out of their seat.”

 

“So the person who helped the Major would have waited in the kitchen/dining car or perhaps in the toilet?”

 

“Yes, unless it was the Trimbles of course, who were in the seats closest to the dining car, but I am not sure they would have helped the Major with anything, though they might have seen something of course – I will have to ask them about that. What else did you find out from the people on the train?”

 

“Well I still have to find out about The Riverbank incident; I phoned up their clubhouse and the secretary said the chairman of the committee could answer my questions at 7:30 p.m. this evening, so I will head over there later. Marie Stellen talked to Josef Casimir about his wife’s drinking habits, which are endangering her participation in the group apparently – she has been slurring her lines sometimes and looking the worse for wear, so Marie was asking Josef to make sure Zoe wasn’t going to mess things up again. Speaking of Zoe, she did arrive in the dining car after the smoke came in before most other people, but she thought she saw Daisy Arnold coming the other way. Two of the women from the Round Table were already there; one of them was from Seat 19, Pat McMaster, and the other was Mrs Trimble. They weren’t talking to each other according to Zoe. The person creating the lunch was there mixing a salad dressing.”

The Frisby Waterless Murders – 56

Excerpt from the book called The Frisby Waterless Murders

“I presume so, but I have no idea why anyone would do that.”

 

“Someone is taking the mickey out of us; how dare they.”

 

“Better news about your dart or more accurately a fishing fly that has been twisted into a sort of dart – this has a trace of curare on it and does correspond in size to the slight hole in the Major’s neck.”

 

“A fishing fly? Someone is trying to make us believe that a member of the Major’s fishing club was responsible for firing the dart at him.”

 

“Or could it be a double-bluff – some of those fishermen are very cunning you know, Colin, and might be taking you for a ride. They have to try and outthink a fish and come up with some inspired ideas sometimes.”

 

“You’re comparing me with a fish, Dr Crabtree? I will have to think about that one. Yes, it might be a double-bluff and it seems like the person who used the fly might have the same sense of humour as the person who threw the biro out of the window – is that what you’re getting at?”

 

“It is, yes, it might even be the same person who did both, just to confuse the issue.”

 

“Thank you for that information – were there any fingerprints on the biro?”

 

“There was a smudged print and it would be difficult to get a match to be honest with you.”

 

“So it was wiped clean, deliberately wiped clean before being thrown out of the window by someone who was trying to deceive us.”

 

Dr Crabtree nodded before saying “don’t forget this is another attempted murder because in my professional opinion the dart didn’t cause the Major to die – it was the curare administered via the hand that was the cause of death.”

 

“Yes, I must remember my priorities here, you are correct Doctor, I must not get hung up on the fishing fly too much. Thank you for the information – I will go and see if we have come up with any suspects for the curare administered by hand.” With that Knowles left the lab and walked up the stairs to find Linda Smythe.

 

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“Right, Linda, let me see whether I can get this straight in my own mind. You have managed to speak to all the passengers, which is excellent work by the way, and none of them, apart from David Yeung and Mrs Cridge, can recall shaking hands with the Major on the train, but almost all of them can recall someone else shaking hands with him although they can’t be certain of the time.” Knowles rubbed his forehead with his right hand in a distracted manner and shook his head slightly. They were sitting in an interview room for a bit of peace and quiet away from the distractions of the office.

 

The Frisby Waterless Murders – 55

Excerpt from the book called The Frisby Waterless Murders

“I get all the good jobs, don’t I?”

 

“Are you offering to do the phoning for her, Sergeant?”

 

“I wouldn’t go that far, no – OK I will ask her. Should I do that now?”

 

“Sounds like a plan, Barnesy.”

 

“That’s my line, sir, you have stolen my words out of my mouth.”

 

“And you will prosecute me for what crime?”

 

“Slander is the nearest one.”

 

“I will bear that in mind, anyway I should be going to see our friends in Forensics

and see what they have to tell me.” Knowles smiled at the prospect of having his suspicions confirmed.

 

“OK, well I will go and ask Linda to phone the doctor’s practices regarding curare, assuming she’s finished phoning all the passengers about shaking hands with The Major.”

 

“See if the military records request has come back for the passengers as well, Barnesy, there may be some interesting information.”

 

Barnes headed back to his desk and Knowles walked down the stairs, two at a time, to the Forensics lab. He was expecting some news about the modified fishing hook, the empty biro, and the coffee cups. Knowles saw Dr Crabtree looking at a computer screen and walked over to him:

 

“Dr Crabtree, have you any updates for me – I had a message to ring you, but I thought I would make a personal visit and get some exercise at the same time.”

 

“Great idea, Colin, after all we haven’t seen you for the best part of a day, have we?” Crabtree had a rather acerbic sense of humour on occasions. He smiled and pointed at the screen.

 

“We were unlucky with the coffee cups – none of them contained poison. The poison must have been in the muffin.”

 

“No need to check with the stewards about how they served the coffee then,” said Knowles, “I presume the Major’s paw prints are on the cup?”

 

“They are, Colin, so we are safe there. Attempted murder by person unknown at this stage via the muffin. Right, that is good news; the not good news is that the biro is completely clean – it is devoid of curare and saliva and hasn’t even been cleaned to remove the evidence. This is a biro that has only ever been used a biro.”

 

“And yet someone threw it out of the window when the train was stopped?”

The Frisby Waterless Murders – 54

Excerpt from the book called The Frisby Waterless Murders

“But they wouldn’t have poured the coffee into the individual coffee pots 15 minute before serving it surely? We can find out I am sure.” Knowles made a note to check, “the curare must have been in the muffin, who would drink coffee that’s been standing for fifteen minutes?”

 

“Sir, correct me if I am wrong, but are we now looking for a murderer and two attempted murderers? The Major must have had a lot of enemies, don’t you think? Either that or we have just one murderer who was unsure of the quantity of curare to administer and how to administer it, so they covered all possibilities.”

 

“I think it’s three different people, but where would three different people obtain curare from without drawing attention to themselves?”

 

“Well, I doubt we’d find a garden full of lianas hereabouts; I am pretty sure that you can order a tincture of curare called Strychnos guianensis online; I looked into this last night and even if you couldn’t import it, you could head over to Belgium, for example, and get some there. This stuff has legitimate medicinal uses such as helping with severe arthritis and muscle trauma.”

 

“Wouldn’t it have to be administered by a doctor?”

 

“Yes, it would but the point is that someone could have stolen some of the tincture from a reputable user, someone who bought it to treat severe arthritis. I doubt they would miss a few drops of the stuff.”

 

“But three people would have to do this – wouldn’t the reputable user become suspicious by this queue of would-be murderers outside their door? And how would these three people find out who was using the tincture?”

 

“Perhaps over coffee at a Round Table coffee morning? Gossip-mongering in the shires? Maybe at a ukulele concert or an exercise class? Wherever people gather?”

 

“News travels fast in this part of the world that is for sure,” said Barnes, “so wouldn’t you think that the would-be murderers would have found out about each other?”

 

“Only by the legitimate user of the tincture mentioning something inadvertently,” replied Knowles, “ something to the effect that ‘so-and-so visited me the other day and they were asking about my unusual tincture too’, if you see what I mean?”