Thursday, 6 July 2017

11 - In remembrance?

Friday cont.

Cleo did not want to have any contact with Robert. One reason was his continuing resentment of Gary and the children, though he had not wanted any. Once Cleo knew why, she had decided that he felt some silly kind of humiliation since fathering children was normal, and being rendered infertile after an accident was not. He seemed unable to get his life straightened out. Even the veneer of a happy marriage had been stripped off and replaced by humiliation in the form of Edith’s blatant sex drive and his fear of it.
Edith had no idea that she had upset his equilibrium with her sex games, which in turn had led to his conviction that she must be insane. He had submitted to Edith’s advances against his better judgement and even reported her to the police, despite his embarrassment at being raped.
Robert’s relief that there was no way Edith could become pregnant through her antics with him was the only comforting reward for the reluctant lover. He had even confided in Gary once he had accepted that the cop was a more suitable partner for Cleo. She would get her children (she had already conceived one before she even married Robert, who was too cowardly to admit that he could not be the father). Cleo was sure that Robert was happy to go back to the single life once he had prised himself from Edith’s attentions.
***
What made meetings with Robert in the shop even more stressful was the renewed presence of her mother in her old job. Cleo had not seen much of Gloria since the affair with Gabriel, Romano’s younger brother, and her mother’s subsequent move into Gary’s old flat in Middlethumpton, although that had made up for Cleo’s divorce from Robert, whom Gloria had thought was the ideal partner for her daughter.
Gloria had returned to selling meat in the wake of her short affair with Romano, having ditched Romano’s younger brother Gabriel to become single again. She had a guilty conscience with regard to her daughter. Cleo was happy despite Gloria prophesizing the opposite. Would it be going too far to say that Gloria fancied Gary at the time when she thought Robert was the right man for her daughter?
“Isn’t it time you visited your grandchildren?” Cleo said when she saw that Gloria was alone in the shop.
“Do you want me there?” said Gloria. “I thought you were angry with me.”
“I am, but your grandchildren aren’t and you have no reason to be mad at any of us.”
“I’ve been very busy with the dancing school,” said Gloria. “Have you come to see me now?”
“No, as a matter of fact I need to talk to Robert.”
“He’s in the back,” said Gloria, as Robert came into the shop having heard Cleo’s voice.
“Want a special order?” he said.
Robert could still not bring himself to talk normally to Cleo, though in the end he had walked out on her.
“Not at the moment. I need to talk to you about something else.”
“Go on then.”
“Can we go to your flat to talk? It’s business and I need to record the answers.”
Robert looked alarmed, but he instructed Gloria to keep shop.
“I’m not going to seduce you, Robert, so you needn’t be scared,” said Cleo.
Gloria was not amused. She did not like to be kept in the dark about anything.
***
Robert’s flat was not particularly homely.
“Coffee?”
“If you’re making some.” said Cleo.
“I am. What this all about, Cleo? You usually avoid me.”
“Correction. You avoid me.”
“I suppose it’s a bit of both,” said Robert.
Robert thumped around in his little kitchen making coffee. Cleo switched on the small recording device she carried around.
The coffee was good. It had taken tongues of angels to get Robert drinking coffee the way Cleo much preferred it to the weak tea, lukewarm thanks to quantities of fresh milk. She had to remark that he had not shaken off the good habit of serving great coffee and gone back to what Brits fondly thought of as a good cuppa tea.
Robert said nothing.
“I need to know exactly what you saw the night you found the chorus woman dead behind the church hall, Robert,” she said as she helped herself to a rich tea biscuit and dunked it.
“Just like old times,” Robert said.
“It sure is.”
“I told Gary everything,” said Robert.
“Can we just run through what happened again?”
“Is that really necessary?”
“Yes, Robert. Let’s start where you walk behind the church hall with Edith on the way to the vicarage.”
“We walked that way because it’s quicker,” said Robert.
“How long were you with Edith before that, Robert? Did she visit you at the flat?”
“Unexpectedly,” said Robert. I made sure she did not stay long by taking her back to the vicarage. I had to promise to go in. To be honest, I was glad that corpse rescued me.
“Did you see anyone?”
“No.”
“Did you hear anything?”
“I heard a car revving up,” said Robert. “Funny. I’ve just remembered that.”
“Did you see the car?”
“No. But I remember remarking to Edith that someone was in a hurry.”
“That’s something we can follow up,” said Cleo.
“We?”
“Gary thought you would prefer to talk to me than attend an interview at HQ, so if there’s anything else you can add about that night, please tell me.”
Robert was satisfied with that explanation, especially as it removed the need to go to Police Headquarters and make a statement.
“No. I was really glad to have an excuse to leave Edith at the vicarage door.”
“I don’t care about that angle,” said Cleo. “That part of my life is over.”
“I left Edith at the vicarage kitchen door and hurried back without seeing anyone. The woman lay there just as she had when we saw her first. I had phoned Brass immediately after finding the body and he arrived at the same time as me. That’s all.”
“OK, Robert. I believe you, and so will Gary.“
“And he’s right to. I’m a busy man. I have customers to supply. I don’t tell fairytales.”
Robert hesitated before he told Cleo that Molly Moss had a new chef.
Cleo remembered that she had thought Robert and Molly would get together, but Molly had probably thought better of having such a sexless person in her bed.
“Have you stopped helping her out?”
“Yes. I had no time anyway.”
Robert blushed. He could have kicked himself for mentioning Molly.
“But you are still seeing her, I take it.”
“Yes. Now and again. Platonic, of course.”
“I think that’s a great idea, Robert. You need not be embarrassed about it, but I doubt if Molly wants a platonic partner in the long run.”
“I don’t want you to get any silly ideas about Edith or her,” said Robert. “We are just acquainted. That’s all.”
“I’d like to see you happy again.”
“Would you?”
From Robert’s tone Cleo realized that he did not intend to discuss his life any further. She would tell him something he would no doubt hear as gossip if she didn’t.
“Brass is engaged,” she said.
“Brass? Engaged? Isn’t he past it?”
“Are you past it, Robert?”
“We are not talking about me.”
“Brass is your age and he made a sudden decision.”
So the news had not spread yet.
“I can see you want to tell me, so get it over with,” said Robert.
“Brass is going to marry Edith.”
To Cleo’s surprise Robert burst out laughing.
“I’m not joking,” said Cleo.
“It is a joke,” said Robert. “How can he be so foolish?”
“He loves her,” said Cleo.
“And she loves anything in trousers or preferably without,” said Robert. “She’s a vampire.”
“Brass does not share your opinion, Robert.”
“Send him here and I’ll tell him what she’s capable of. On the other hand, get your lover onto it. He knows how I suffered.”
“I am married to Gary. If you are going to talk to me like that, it’s time I left,” she said.
“Then leave, Cleo. That suits me fine.”
Robert made for the door of his flat. Cleo followed. They parted wordlessly at the bottom of the stairs. Cleo wondered if Robert was shocked rather than amused by the idea that Brass and Edith had found one another more or less overnight. Surely he was not jealous?
At least she had learnt a bit more about that incident behind the church hall. She would tell Gary and he could instigate an investigation into the identity of the driver of the car that Robert had heard leaving. It was now Friday. It was unlikely that anything involving the chorus members could be achieved before Tuesday, when they could be questioned about their cars and who had parked in front of the church hall on the previous rehearsal night.
***
Gary was pessimistic when he heard about Robert’s observation.
“It could have been any car,” he commented. “How can we possibly reconstruct a crime from such a vague observation?”
And that was true, of course. There was only one possibility and that was that the car was seen by someone at the time, which could have been straight after the rehearsal or much later.
Gary checked with Brass that he had arrived at the church hall at about eleven p.m. That narrowed down the time when Robert could have heard a car leaving, but it made it less likely that the observation was relevant. Brass assured Gary that he had walked past the church hall parking space and not seen any car there.
Cleo proposed to Gary that she could call on residents on the other side of the road who had a view of the church hall since the car in question might have been parked on the road. Better still, Dorothy would ask around. That was the best way of not attracting too much notice. Gary thought that would not do any harm.
***
Later, Dorothy took a walk in the church hall neighbourhood after visiting Brass at the sub police station. What if someone had complained officially about the noise of a car speeding of noisily shortly before midnight?
Brass was attentive, but with air of confidence he had not had before. Dorothy found herself asking if he had had good news.
“In a way,” he said. “How can I help you?”
“Did anyone complain last Tuesday night about a car driving off noisily?” she asked.
“I wasn’t on duty. I’ll look in the book,” he said, and did, the book being the office notebook, electronic media not yet having ousted the hand-written notes for general purposes.
“On Tuesday someone reported that a car had made a terrible noise and woken her and her dog,” he read. “May I ask why you want to know?”
“Where did it happen?”
“Near the church. Somebody always notices if a car exceeds the speed limit or revs up loudly,” he said. “If I had to chase up all complaints I’d spend my whole life doing nothing else, what with noisy cars, neighbours’ branches hanging over into the next door gardens, funny business going on in respectable houses, and all those missing pets.”
“So I assume you just record the grievance and leave it at that, do you?” said Dorothy.
“More or less.”
Dorothy thought that was why writing things down in longhand was more convenient than recording them on the computer for HQ to see.
“I wonder if the complainant on Tuesday noted the number plate,” said Dorothy as she leafed through a recruiting brochure. She did not want to appear too eager.
“I have a number entered here,” he said pointing at it. “The thing is that I was not at the office that evening, but I had to turn out to a tragic incident behind the church hall because Mr Jones phoned me on my private home number. The noise complaint came in on the answering phone and was written up next morning.”
“So you did not connect it with the death of that poor woman,” said Dorothy.
“Hmmm, no.”
I expect you had your mind elsewhere,” said Dorothy, and Brass thought she was referring to his tryst with Edith.
“Not then,” he said, enigmatically. “So you know about Edith, do you?”
“No. Should I? Is she ill?”
 “I … I’m going to marry her,” he said.
“What a nice surprise. I didn’t know you were that friendly with her.”
“It all happened rather suddenly.”
Since Dorothy knew what had happened to Robert rather suddenly, she was quite astonished that Brass could be so laid back.
“Didn’t she … how can I put it? Didn’t she get a bit over-eager,” she said.
“Over-eager?”
“You know about Robert Jones, don’t you?”
Brass fell silent and Dorothy felt embarrassed.
“Oh, forget it,” Dorothy said. “I don’t know what I’m talking about.”
“That’s all right. I wasn’t born yesterday, Miss Price,” he said, winking broadly.
It was time to get off the subject of Edith.
***
“Can you find out who the car belongs to, Sergeant?”
“I don’t see why not. Give me a minute or two to contact the authorities.”
Dorothy gave the recruiting brochure more of her attention while Brass made inquiries about the car. Presently he got back to her. He wasn’t supposed to pass on such information, but he did so after cautioning her not to reveal who had told her.
“Is our secret,” she whispered. “I never reveal the source of my information.”
***
Dorothy hurried home to phone Cleo.
The knowledge that Miss Barbarella Knowles was the owner of the car that was heard racing away from the church hall occupied Dorothy’s thoughts all the way home. She would not go around asking questions until she had discussed the situation with Cleo, she decided. A number plate belongs to the car, she argued. The driver could have been someone else – perhaps the car was hijacked.
***
Barbarella Knowles, who answered to several names, none of which suited her muscular, masculine appearance and aggressive temperament, was one of the chorus women who had mobbed Laura Finch out of her director job. Although charges were not brought against any of the women because Laura was apparently murdered by someone who actually confessed and made further investigation into her death seem unnecessary, Dorothy had always had her doubts. Even the evidence damning the person who was held for guilty but insane had not convinced her.
These days, Babsi, as Miss Knowles now preferred to be called, had lost some of her hot-bloodedness. She had been an enthusiastic, loud bellowing if tuneless member of the Laura’s chorus. It was Mrs Finch’s vanity and arrogance that had incited Knowles to join the rebellion that led to Laura being rejected as MD.
Dorothy had not thought that Laura’s murder and the chorus were necessarily connected, and Laura was dead before she could be ejected as chorus mistress, but doubts had niggled her  because Betjeman Crighton was an exhibitionist and clearly not of sound mind.
Knowles had given up being a door-person at the women’s gay club in Middlethumpton and gone back to her original job of butcher. Dorothy thought she must use up a lot of her belligerence wielding an axe to meat carcases. Babsi Knowles was not popular, but she was respected and buttered up to because she was the sort of person it is better to have as a friend than an enemy.
***
Realizing that Dorothy was desperate for someone to talk to about what she had experienced or was thinking, Cleo invited her to the cottage to enjoy an espresso and report on anything she thought relevant. Dorothy loved drama and she thought Cleo would enjoy her news better if they were sitting face to face, so being invited to coffee was exactly the right thing for Cleo to do.
***
Gary would have to be told, but Dorothy stressed that it was important to know who else of the original chorus had been at the rehearsal. Margie, the dead woman, wore the Finch Nightingale chorus badge to say so. It would be better to have more facts to fall back on before Gary was put in the picture. Margie had called herself Meg in the old days. Why had she changed the name? Was that important? Dorothy did not know any of the women well, but she remembered thinking of the book 'Little Women' when she saw the name Meg and wondering how such a sullen woman got such a pretty name. Dorothy also remembered from her investigation into Laura’s murder that Margie had been one of those who follow the herd rather than lead it, so latching on to Babsi Knowles might have appealed to her.
Cleo had to point out that they would have to find out why Knowles ^had had a hold on Margie and probably on other chorus women.
“What if Margie Busby was killed elsewhere and simply parked on the marigolds?” Dorothy mused.
“I doubt it, Dorothy. There was blood on the stones. And why would a body be deposited there instead of being hidden away?”
Cleo wondered if she should tell Dorothy about the noisy car Robert had heard, but Dorothy was obviously eager to pursue her own train of thought amd Cleo was determined to argue the point.
“Anyway, wouldn’t that be too much of a risk, Dorothy? After all, there was a lot of coming and going at the church hall that evening. It would have required perfect time to coordinate that kind of action. And anyway, why dump a corpse where it was bound to be discovered very soon? There are plenty of lonely spots round here,” she speculated.
“You could be right, Cleo.”
“Then we should concentrate on someone who might have a grudge against her. Was there something going on between her and Knowles, for instance? Knowles was at odds with pretty well everyone and it didn’t take much to annoy her. Could she have become violent? Was she trying to start something with Margie?”
“Do you mean a relationship?” said Dorothy.
“Could be. We definitely  need to know if Knowles been talking or arguing with Margie and if they had gone outside to continue their argument without witnesses,” said Cleo.
“Both were heavy smokers,” said Dorothy. “That would be a reason to go outside.”
“But not enough of a reason to kill,” said Cleo.
“Remember Laura singing karaoke, Dorothy. That was excruciating. She did not have a pretty voice although she did not smoke.”
***
Dorothy was not usually prone to nostalgia, but now she remembered that Laura had complained bitterly that her singers were all smoking as though it were going out of fashion. Not that it would have made much difference to the sound, even Laura had been heard to say. The women were there mostly for other reasons, including getting out the house for a bit, cultivating friendships or just nattering. That had not changed down the years and was still a feature of women’s choruses. Where men’s choruses stuck to football and beer, women tended to go for gossip and handicrafts.
***
“Or was something else going on, such as blackmail?” said Dorothy.
“Gary can find out about the bank accounts, Dorothy. It’s worth a try and he never ignores your hunches these days.”
“Laura drank like a fish,” said Dorothy. “She claimed alcohol oiled the throat, but it actually lames the vocal cords.”
“That doesn’t surprise me. Do you remember that night at Delilah’s bistro when they were getting the karaoke machine going?”
“Yes, that was awful,” Dorothy said. “In her younger days she did not make quite such a dreadful noise.”
“If course, remembering the past will not solve the current case,” said Cleo. “We should ring Lisa Keys and ask about the attendance list. Someone must have seen or heard something and we have to find out who it was. Very often people see or hear things and don’t measure any importance by them.”
“On the other hand, Margie might have known something about Knowles and threatened her with exposure,” said Dorothy. “That would be the blackmail I mentioned. It would be a perfect motive wouldn’t it? Many murders have been done to preserve secrets. Blackmail is something a person like Miss Knowles would react to if she saw a danger to herself, though no doubt she would have no scruples about using it to extort money from others. There were plenty of stories about her criminal activities, I seem to remember, but I don’t think anyone would challenge her.”
“I’d like to know if Knowles was the last to leave the church hall,” said Cleo.
“I assume that they all left by the main door, so it’s unlikely that anyone saw Margie lying behind the building.”
“We are still assuming that she met her death where Robert and Edith found her. I wonder if Chris is of the same opinion,” said Cleo. “I’ll phone Gary now.”
***
"Do you think there could have been a time gap, Gary? Perhaps Robert and Edith got there a bit later than they said. Extra minutes before she was found might be vital to the case. Chris could only have identified the approximate time of death."
"I think Robert would have said something if the corpse had been cold, Cleo."
"Would he know that by just feeling for her pulse?"
"I don't know," said Gary. “It’s a relevant question. I expect Chris measured her body temperature. It will be in the report. But I’ll put you through to Chris. He can answer more pathology queries than I can.”
***
“What was the woman’s surname?” Chris wanted to know.
“Busby,” said Dorothy, chipping in over the loudspeaker..
“Hello Dorothy. Ah yes. I remember now. Someone identified her as her sister. The woman fell on the rockery and that’s what killed her, if I remember rightly,” said Chris. “There’s no reason to think she was taken there later.”
“And no reason to assume that she wanted to fall, Chris,” said Dorothy. “Why would she have been in the flowerbed?”
“I have to admit that it is strange. She must have tripped.”
“Or been pushed,” said Dorothy.
“Of course, she might have been drugged. There were traces of marijuana in her blood.”
“Meaning that she could have behaved abnormally,” said Cleo. “She might have smoked a joint immediately before her death.”
“That’s probable, in fact,” said Chris. “There are a host of reactions to psychoactive drugs and you can’t really predict when they will set in.”
“There might even be a cigarette stump among those marigolds,” Dorothy said. “Have you looked?”
“Not yet,” said Chris, mollified.
Gary had told him of dealings with Dorothy when she got an idea in her head. Like a dog with a bone, he had said.
“I’ll send someone, Dorothy.”
Cleo thought it was time she asked the question that was the original reason for talking to Chris.
“Did you take her body temperature, Chris?”
“She was still very warm when we found her, Cleo. She had not been dead more than an hour or two.”
“So not too long to have been dumped there from somewhere else, Chris.”
“It’s possible.”
“According to what I just heard you discussing with Dorothy, Margie was not fully in control of things, was she?” said Cleo. “Supposing she had smoked pot more than once that day? That might make her aggressive or at least likely to do something she would not otherwise have done, and that could apply to anyone at that rehearsal, resulting in a fight that ended with Margie Busby dead.“
“Are you thinking of someone else, Cleo?”
“I might be. If there was a murder, there was a victim and a killer.”
“Exactly, but there’s no way of finding out unless someone saw something,” said Chris.
“Drugs would explain why Miss Busby was not given to joining in,” said Cleo. “Dorothy remembers that Laura Finch had problems with some of the women. They may have been high.”
“I never thought of that at the time, Chris, but we’ll have to take it into account, won’t we,” said Dorothy, chipping in again.
“As far as I can judge, when men get together they tend to drink and joke a lot; when women get together some gang up against the others, and nothing surprises me about what women take to get through their lives with machos.”
“You are biased, Chris,” said Dorothy, remembering Chris’s preference for the male sex.
“I don’t go in for machos either, Dorothy,” said Chris.
“Of course men aren’t all machos, Chris,” said Cleo. “In my experience it’s individual women who conduct hate campaigns unless you have them ganging up for a mutual cause such as happened against poor Laura.”
Dorothy wondered if Chris was the right person to talk to about the case. He was a scientist, but he was not a psychologist.
“So Dorothy’s theory that Laura Finch was killed by one of the chorus might not be far from the truth,” said Cleo.
“I’ve been looking at that case again,” said Chris. “I could not find anything conclusive. That guy Betjeman confessed and there was enough evidence against him, Cleo. The rest is history. In fact it’s all history, isn’t it?”
“History could be repeating itself,” snapped Dorothy.
“I’ll think about that,” said Chris. "Thanks for phoning."
"Thanks for helping," said Cleo.
***
“You were not very nice to Chris, Dorothy.”
“Sorry.”
“You’ll have to apologize.”
“I know, but I have other things on my mind. For instance, I wonder if Margie’s sister knew something about the relationship between Margie and Knowles.”
“Assuming there was one,” said Cleo. “You could ask her.”
“Mary Busby is as fat and gossipy as her sister was grumpy and sullen. She worked at a bakery, but later moved to a chip shop if I’m not mistaken. Mary was a better singer than her sister, but Margie supported whatever mischief was going on. Knowles was the ringleader, Cleo. If Meg alias Margie was part of the gang, there must have been some sort of friendship between them. I’m sure of that. I expect Knowles knew how to manipulate weak people.”
“Was Laura capable of throwing people out?”
“I’m sure she was, at least in the early days, but she needed the numbers, however much they squabbled and however excruciating their singing was,” said Dorothy. “Of the two sisters, Mary probably got on Laura’s nerves most but Laura needed both of them. Margie, or Meg as she was called in those days, was the sly kind who played her cards close to her hand. Very Victorian. Women had a lower status in those days despite Britain being ruled by a female. I keep thinking of that novel about what went on in America at that time. In ‘Little Women’, Amy pinched Jo’s boyfriend, if I remember. Meg was the ideal housewife while Beth was the sickly one who died. It was all happy families on the surface. I always thought the whole of those novels was ingratiating to the men who were pictured as gone to war to fight for their women and America. These days the same thing goes on in those trash novels you can buy at the supermarket, where the men, often doctors, can do what they like and women are the weaker sex, but with wiles to top their rivals and win the prize – someone’s husband, usually.”
“You have an astoundingly good memory, Dorothy.”
“Musicians need one.”
“But discussing trash novels will not solve our crimes, will it?”
“You heard what Chris said, though he was cagey, I thought,” said Dorothy.
“He used to just do what Gary asked him to and did not indulge in reasoning himself. So his forensic tests could be said to be routine and possibly inadequate,” said Cleo. “His assistant then, that terrible woman – Grace I think her name was - probably kept Chris’s nose to the grindstone. But I doubt whether they discussed anything that went beyond forensic facts.”
“Chris really annoyed me just now. Miscarriages of justice often happen when the first available person is blamed for a crime,” said Dorothy. “What if it wasn’t Betjeman Crighton who delivered the fatal blow to Laura? He confessed and his evident madness seemed to add to his authenticity.”
“Laura was stabbed three times by two people, and the other guy took his own life because he thought he was guilty,” said Cleo.
“But neither knew of the other, Cleo.”
“That’s speculation.”
“Didn’t Laura also have a blow to the head?” said Dorothy. “It could have been inflicted before the stabbing and yet caused death through brain damage,” said Dorothy. “She may just have fallen and bumped her head.”
“I’ll phone Chris again. Surely that’s in the autopsy report.”
***
“You made me nervous so I read the autopsy report on Mrs Finch again,” said Chris. “There really was a bad bruise on Mrs Finch’s forehead, but it was not possible to tell when or how it had been inflicted and it was assumed that she hurt her head when she fell.”
“But it could have been inflicted when she was standing and facing someone, couldn’t it?”
“That was never given consideration, Cleo.”
“But it is possible, isn’t it?”
“I suppose it is.”
“And that could mean that the person who hit Laura Finch might also be guilty of causing Margie Busby to fall onto that rockery.”
“I have to say yes to that, but we have no evidence.“
“It’s a start though.”
“In Mrs Finch’s case, and judging from the autopsy report I now have on screen in front of me, the order of injuries was never clear. The head injury was not blamed for her death since it was deduced that the stabbings killed the woman.”
“But a fall could have been the true cause of death, couldn’t it, if the blow caused deadly brain damage that made her fall?” said Cleo. “That must definitely have happened before the stabbing.”
“Theoretically yes,” said Chris.
“She could have been lying there unconscious when she was stabbed.”
“It’s possible.”
“So the actual killer might have got away with it,” Cleo concluded.
“It is possible. Where is this all heading, Cleo? It’s too late to reopen the case. Bontemps stabbed one and he’s dead. Betjeman stabbed twice and confessed.”
“It is not too late, Chris. We have a guy behind bars for life for a murder he may not have committed.”
“He’d be behind bars anyway, Cleo. He’s as mad as a hatter and he definitely killed Mrs Finch’s son Jason.”
“Are you sure?”
“He confessed to both murders. Let’s leave sleeping dogs lying shall we? That mad guy can’t be let loose on humanity whatever he has done or not done.”
“But his parents were devastated, Chris.”
“That’s the misfortune of parents who rear a criminal,” said Chris. “But didn’t they disown him?”
“Play-acting, Chris. Defending their honour,” said Cleo. “Supposing someone knew about that incident with Laura Finch’s head injury, it might be a reason to dispose of him or her,” said Cleo. “Supposing someone else killed Jason and he covered up for that person for reasons best known to himself?”
“It’s getting too farfetched for me,” said Chris, who was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the idea that there could have been negligence over the Finch murder investigation. “Are you now thinking of blackmail?”
“Maybe not in Mrs Finch’s case, but it might have been Margie Busby’s downfall if she indulged in blackmail. After all, if Mrs Finch was being blackmailed, her death would have pre-empted any further attempt at extortion.”
“You are opening a can of worms, Cleo.”
“So what?”
“We’ll need to establish a connection between the two killings if Miss Busby’s death was not an accident.”
“Too true, Chris. Can you send me the autopsy findings from the Finch case? I’d like to compare them with Busby’s.”
“The only problem is that one punch-up is as good as the next if you have no witnesses, Cleo.”
“But you’d be prepared to go along with my theory, wouldn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Chris, “even though it casts a shadow over my work.”
“I don’t want that to happen,” said Cleo.
“No. I’m sure you don’t. I should also point out that exhuming Mrs Finch might not be of any use.”
“If my theory is correct, that would not be necessary, Chris. We are probably dealing with someone who now believes she is in the clear, since the only witness to that fight between the real killer and Laura has been exterminated.”
“Meaning Busby, I suppose.”
“Possibly. All it took was to follow the person who was following Mrs Finch that afternoon and got into a scrap with her, by chance then even witnessed the stabbings, then made a quick exit as a witness with an axe to grinds.”
 “You sound as if you suspect someone,” said Chris. “Are you going to tell me who?”
“No,” said Cleo
***
“Goodness, Cleo, you really laid into poor Chris.”
“I’m afraid I did, Dorothy, but that was the only way to prepare him for what is to come.”
“And what is to come?”
“A thorough investigation into Knowles to start with. But she must not be suspicious. We’ll have to be cautious. We need to know if she and Margie Busby had contact aside of the chorus nights. Did Busby have more spending money than usual? Did she have enemies apart from Knowles?”
“In other words, did Knowles kill Laura with Margie Busby as a witness who decided on blackmail rather than reporting the incident to the police?” said Dorothy.
“Her motive would be money,” said Cleo.
“I could call in at the chip shop,” said Dorothy. “Margie’s sister Mary went to work there after she had been ejected from the bakery because she took more than her share of buns home every day.”
“Who told you about the buns?”
“It was common knowledge. Some chorus women found it funny,” said Dorothy.”They thought Mary was better off at a chip shop since you could not count the chips.”
“How awful.”
“that’s when Margie went to work at the chip shop,” said Dorothy. “Those were the days when I often had to play for the rehearsals. Margie was not liked or even likeable. It might be a reason for contact between her and Knowles. They were both outsiders. The sister might know if Margie has recently had more money to spend. I don’t suppose she earned a fortune there. My only worry is that the sister will recognize me.”
“Then I’d better go myself, Dorothy.”
"She might recognize you, Cleo."
"Then I’ll ask questions in my official capacity. So much for opening an antique shop.”
“You can do that any time, Cleo. We might be investigating a serial killer and I can take on any mission where I would not be recognized.”
“So your retirement has been shelved, I take it.”
“For a start, I can’t wait to find out the truth about Betjeman. I’ll pay his parents a visit, shall I? He might have said something important when his head was clearer. I expect he has been having therapy.”
“I’m not sure if you can cure such mental aberrations, Dorothy, but let’s drink to success. I’ll make us a fresh latté.”
“What are you going to tell Gary?”
“I don’t want him thinking he was negligent, Dorothy. At the time we were all convinced that Betjeman was guilty. We are investigating the Margie Busby case, if he asks. But he probably won’t. He’s so wrapped up in the idea of another baby”
“You didn’t tell me that,” said Dorothy.
“I meant to. It wasn’t planned, but fate has overtaken us again.”
“I can’t criticize you. Your children are all delightful.”
“Thanks,” said Cleo. “Will you get in touch with the Crightons?”
“Yes, and you will drop in for some fish and chips, I take it.”
“When in Rome….”


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