Murder on Ellesmere
The following is a narrative of some very peculiar happenings one weekend at 12 Ellesmere Road. The story was put together by an outsider who felt that it deserved attention and needed to be known. The account is told mainly from the point of view of a Mr. James Thesiger, whose diary sheds much light on the situation. Parts of the account were unclear or left out in his diary. These sections were corroborated by the diary of a Mr. Jack Daniels, who was also at the scene.
From the Diary of James Thesiger
When perusing a copy of the London Times one morning, I noticed that the FTSE had dropped another 85.17 points in heavy trading. So when the mail came in shortly I was overjoyed by seeing a letter from Tom Major. Tom had been such a good friend of mine now for some twenty-odd years, and we still kept in close touch. The letter, it turned out, was actually an invitation to be a guest at his house for a weekend two weeks from this coming Saturday. I grinned because Major was still the old fashioned type. He avoided the phone as much as possible, even though it would probably be less work and time consuming than writing. Immediately I decided to ring him up.
"Hullo Tom?… Yes I just got your happygram… What?… Well of course I'll be there… I just called to make fun of you… A letter? Why don't you move out of your cave and come into the real world?… Of course I'm being serious… so how are you doing anyways?…"
Ringing the doorbell, I glanced at my watch and then realized just how late I was. "Bloody traffic," I muttered. Hopefully Major wouldn't be in too much of a state. The door swung open. "Well about damn time!" cried Major heartily. He was a man whose presence could be felt the moment he walks into a room. He was a rich widower in his early fifties who was the head of a small corporation. He stood erect at six feet two inches and had a full head of gray hair and a square jaw. He was a jovial character who was always good for a laugh. "Sorry but I had to get a bite to eat," I joked, "I might as well put something descent in my mouth before I get here."
"You're one to talk. The steak I had at your place tasted like a burnt tire, only it didn't have as much flavor." We both had a good laugh. "Come on in."
When stepping into the house, the stark contrast between the congested setting of London and the open space of the countryside became clear. In my house, the first thing you see when you enter is the stairs, and they are awfully close to the entrance. Hell, there's barely enough room for the door to swing open. It's almost as if you're forced to go up the stairs. To go into the kitchen or living room, you sort of have to suck in your stomach and wiggle through the daylight between the stair railing and the radiator to get through. Major's house on the other hand was far more spacious. It was not particularly large, but it was well furnished and had an open floor plan.
After introductions were made, we promptly sat down for dinner. The dining room was a medium sized room. There was a large china cabinet to the left where some of the finest china I had seen was put on display. A shimmering chandelier hung over the dinner table, one that seated six comfortably, and could probably seat at least two more. The sense of wood was prominent in the room, expensive mahogany to be exact. This was the material of both the cabinet and the dining table, along with a couple of flower stands in the corners of the room.
Once seated at the table, I took a look around and saw the other five faces that were sitting with me. Major of course sat prominently at the head of the table to my left; Tom that is. I recognized his daughter, Joanna, sitting directly across from me. She was single, mid-twenties, wavy blond hair, and had a charming personality that made her more attractive than she actually looked. To my right sat Jack Daniels, whom I had encountered a couple of times previously at get-togethers with Major. From what I could remember he worked at the same company as Tom and was also an author of some sort; science fiction, I think. Tom told me they had been good friends for ages and that they went way back. Next to Joanna and across from Daniels sat someone I had never seen before. He had just been introduced to me as Shane Donovan. Though I had never seen him, I had heard some about him from Tom. Apparently Tom didn't have a very high opinion of Mr. Donovan, referring to him as a "bad lot of goods." However he was in tight with Joanna, and this was the sole reason he was even here at all. Somehow Joanna had managed to charm her dad into letting Shane come-a tall order. And finally at the end of the table sat a very plain type of girl. Plain did not exactly mean ugly, but she was the type who would not stand out in a crowd. She had straight shoulder-length brown hair. She had a pale, round face and a tendency to blink frequently. During the pre-meal introduction I found out her name was Emily Harris. She was here on vacation from America. She seemed to be getting along well with Daniels, and the two were in the midst of some conversation about Pluto or some other heavenly body. Meanwhile, Donovan and Joanna were chatting up the usual youngster talk. I won't even make an attempt at what they were talking about.
"Pass the salt, will you?" Major said.
"Oh, I'll pass it all right," I chimed in with a certain amount of sarcasm.
"Did you hear the FTSE took another tumble yesterday? I was just reading about it this morning. The economy is dozing and people trenched in the stock market are getting screwed left and right. It's a bloody panic."
"Oh, I'm sure it will rebound. At least it better. I keep thinking it's bottomed out, it's bottomed out, but it keeps sinking lower and lower. This country is turning into crap and the only thing that wanker on Downing Street does is give in to anything Labour wants."
"You're right, our PM is a bit of a puppet isn't he?"
At this point there was a lull in the conversation across the table. Donovan leaned back and stared at his plate as if food was magically going to appear any moment. Why he'd even consider having seconds is beyond me. Tom called and soon the maid Ms. Weiss was at service. Polly for short, Ms. Weiss was a very competent do-it-all type. She was a thoroughly good-natured and loyal creature who'd been working for Major for a good many years now. Despite the gray hair and wrinkles, she was a robust woman. She's the type that if there was a milk shortage, she'd go find a cow and milk the bad boy herself. Polly stealthily moved around the table depositing more food on people's plates.
"So how long will you be staying in England?" Joanna made a stab at conversation with Emily.
"I'm here for another couple of weeks. I'm leaving for Scotland this Tuesday. I've got some friends there I want to see. I'll be back early next week and spend the rest of my time relaxing in London. It really is a beautiful city." She blinked another half dozen times.
Donovan spoke up, "so you're from America, eh? What part?"
"She's from New York all right, a true Yankee!" Major roared.
"New York? I've got a couple of mates of mine who live there. I haven't seen them in ages, I'm thinking about going this summer. If I'm there, I'll look you up. What do you think Joanna? Spend some time in America?"
"That would be lovely," Joanna said gleefully.
I looked over at Major and his face clouded over. Going to New York, my ass. Not if Tom has anything to do with it she won't.
"This salmon is delicious," leave it to Daniels to make an idiotic off-topic remark.
Meanwhile Donovan was getting carried away with the trip to New York, and Joanna was sitting there attentively much like a little kid at the circus. "…we'll go see the twin towers, go clubbing. After that we can go to Chicago, LA-"
Major, who was about to burst an artery, interjected loudly, "Dessert anyone?"
After dinner, there were two sources of entertainment: cards and television. Jack, Tom, Emily, and Joanna played a game of bridge in the drawing room while Donovan and I watched a football match between Manchester and Liverpool. It was quite a game and entertaining as well, more so because Donovan and I supported different teams. I was a true Red and Shane was a die-hard ManU fan. "Bloody hell," I moaned when United extended to a two-goal lead, which is what it would stay at.
"Looks like the better team came out on top yet again." Donovan had been rubbing it in for a good quarter of an hour now.
"Shut up, you cow," I said with a trickle of annoyance. Actually it was more like a river.
"Who's next?" Jack said as he came in through the door. Apparently the father-daughter team had succumbed to the master bridge skills of Daniels and Harris.
"Come on Thesiger," Shane said, "let's show them who's the boss."
"Watch out for these guys, they're a couple of shifty characters," Major said, "very shifty. We thought we had the edge but before we knew it they had a couple of small slams and it was over."
"We'll keep that in mind, thanks. Liverpool lost, by the way."
The bridge match was going surprisingly well. I hadn't played in some time and was clearly not having my best game. But Donovan on the other hand was playing exceptionally well and at times carried us through. Because of this and my occasional flash of brilliance, we were still in it. However towards the end of the game, we heard raised voices coming in from the other room.
"Sounds like they're having a row," Donovan looked up.
There were more raised voices, glass breaking, and a door slamming.
"That's a shame," muttered Daniels, "I bid two no-trump."
"Hush!" I barked at the fool. We tried to listen for anything else. Tom came in a minute later. He seemed ruffled to say the least. "Sorry about that, nothing to worry about; just a little misunderstanding. I'm going to sleep if you guys don't mind. See you tomorrow, good-night." I was about to say something than decided against it.
"I wonder what all that was about," said Emily.
"That's what I would like to know," said Shane, "I wonder how Joanna is."
And that's the way we ended the night, at least for the time being. Emily had managed to pull off an amazing trick to capture the rubber and the match.
"Well I'm nackered," she said, "but it's been fun. See you all tomorrow morning."
"Yes, me too. Nighty, night," I said and went upstairs behind Emily. Reaching the top of the stairs, we were immediately presented with a problem. When Major had turned in for the night, he had not yet showed us to our rooms. However, the situation was relieved when efficient Polly came bustling up the stairs.
"Oh I'm so sorry, forgive me. Mr. Major told me to show you to your rooms before he went to sleep. Here we are."
The corridor at the top of the stairs branched two ways; you either go left or right. To the left was Tom's room, along with the stairs going to the loft where Daniels would be shacked up. Almost directly ahead was a door that turned out to lead to Emily's room. To the right was a bathroom, Joanna's room, and then my room in succession. Then taking another right at the end of the corridor lay Shane Donovan's room. By the time Polly had showed us around, the other two had come up the stairs. I bid goodnight to Polly and went to bed. I think I'll read a bit and then go to sleep. It was twelve o' clock.
From the Diary of Jackson Daniels III
I lay in bed still pondering the situation with Tom. He could be such a damned stubborn person sometimes. There's no reason for him not to see things from another point of view. It's not that he can't do it, it's that he won't do it. Why be so unyielding?
It was then that I heard something from downstairs. Were my ears deceiving me or did a door just not open and close? As I lay there thinking, I heard the same noise again, followed by the swift patter of footsteps. A few seconds later, I thought I heard yet another door close. What the hell was going on down there? Strange. Damned strange.
From the Diary of James Thesiger
I woke up to hear a very irritating buzzing sound radiated by a clock on a nearby dresser. The digital display read 10:05. Jesus Christ, I'm late again; this time to breakfast. I jumped out of bed, turned the damn thing off and went quickly into the bathroom to brush my teeth. When I went downstairs it was no surprise that everyone was already there waiting for me. Well almost everyone. "Good morning, everyone. Sorry to keep you waiting again. Hullo, where's Tom?"
"I haven't seen him yet," said Joanna, "it's unlike him to sleep so late. Perhaps someone should go wake him up."
"That's a splendid idea, miss," said Polly, "I'll go wake him up now."
It was only moments later that we heard a blood curdling scream from upstairs. We all jumped and quickly ran up the stairs. Daniels was in the lead and I was right behind him. Jack nearly collided head on with Polly at the top of the stairs. I saw her and she looked deathly pale. All the color had drained out of her face like urine from a full bladder.
"What's the matter?" Daniels demanded.
"The m-master," she was visibly shaking, "it's so awful….."
I immediately charged ahead and burst into Major's bedroom. Something was terribly wrong; because there in front of me, I saw my best friend lying in bed. He was dead.
Inspector Beck Holden was a tall, thin man. His hair was much the same: long, thinning, and out of control. Holden was approaching forty-five, but the way he kept up his appearance and the constant haggling over his pension that he was certain he would never receicve, he seemed to be more like sixty. Get him out of his well-tailored clothing and he could pass for a first-rate street bum. However, his appearance was very disarming. Behind the scruffy look was a razor sharp brain that had not lost a step in over twenty years of police work. I know this firsthand since we had collaborated on two previous occasions in the past; we had a lot of mutual admiration for one another. He was the type that gets right down to it: very serious, skip the formalities. The man with him was someone I had never seen before. He was short and a bit porky, probably new on the force.
"Well Thesiger, once again you've managed to land yourself right in the thick of it," Holden said as I led him up the stairs.
"I'm telling you, this is one situation I wish I had nothing to do with. Nasty business this is."
"I agree. Oh by the way, this is Deputy Charlie Morton. Charlie, this is Inspector James Thesiger from the Yorkshire District."
"Good to meet you."
"Same here, though I wish it could have been under different circumstances."
The rest of the company remained downstairs. Joanna was in shambles emotionally and had not stopped sobbing since we had made the brutal discovery. Donovan in the meantime tried to do his best to console her. Daniels was pacing the floor with a puzzled look on his face. Harris had a blank look on her face and was remarkably calm, though she looked a bit paler than usual. Poor Polly was also grieving. She looked ten years older than she had earlier in the morning. Daniels wanted badly to come with us, but three objections quickly put an end to that.
We walked right in. The coroner had finished his job and left us the report. "This may be the first case you've ever had in which you'll have to look for two murder weapons," I remarked and waited for the response to the bombshell.
"You're kidding," Holden said lightly.
"Take a look for yourself."
I have to say I was very shocked and perplexed when I had first seen the body. Not only were there two bullet wounds to the head, but there were also two stab wounds to the torso.
"Well I'll be god-damned…" muttered Holden under his breath. "So the poor guy was shot, stabbed…tell me he wasn't poisoned?"
"I hope not. But then again I haven't read the coroner's report."
Holden exhaled rather loudly, "What kind of society do we live in where a guy is not only killed in his own bed, but has to be done in in two different ways?"
"Well it is the nineties," said Morton with a weak attempt at humor.
"The boys came in and dusted for fingerprints, though I doubt that they'll come up with anything but the usual ones: Major, his daughter, and the maid."
"You know Beck, this is out of my jurisdiction so I'm technically not supposed to be on it. But if you don't mind, I would really like to-"
"Of course, of course, James. I would be honored if you would join me on this one."
"Thanks. Tom being my best friend and all, I somehow feel obligated to do something."
"That's understandable. Now this place looks exactly like it was found, right?"
"Yes, but let me show you a couple of things that we found interesting." Lying on the floor right next to the bed was a gold lighter. "The initials J.D. are engraved into it. No fingerprints."
"Hmm," Holden examined it carefully. He attempted to light it, but only a very small flame came out. "Looks like it's running out of gas….And how about the gun? Silencer?"
"From preliminary examination of the bullet, it seems fairly certain that a silencer was used, yes."
"Had to be. Otherwise the gunshot would have woken everybody up."
"And over here," I led the way to the window, "the lock on this window looks like it's been tampered with."
"Let's see what we have here," Holden muttered, "hmmm….indeed it has been. The lock's scratched and the hinge is loose. It's definitely been forced upon."
Holden abruptly lost interest in the lock and proceeded to-in quick, sharp movements-move around and search the room. He seemed very spastic in his examination, as if he'd overdosed on speed or something. But then I remembered, that's how he always is-very unpredictable and spontaneous.
"You smell anything?" he asked out of the blue.
I took a deep breath and exhaled loudly. "No"
"How about you, Morton?"
"Can't say that I do."
After several minutes of puzzling silence during which Holden seemed to be in deep thought, I asked, "I'm mystified Beck, what does smell have anything to do with anything?"
"James, have you examined these cigar butts?"
"You notice that this room is not particularly large. For as rich as this guy was, you would think that it would be bigger. But that's not the point. How was the bathroom door when you came in?" Through a set of French doors towards the back of the room was a vanity leading to a bathroom. "It was closed," I replied.
"Now you see my point. The bathroom door was closed. The door to this room was closed. The windows were closed. There's not a whole lot of ventilation. The air conditioning was off because it was such a pleasant day.… So why on earth is there not even a faint smell of cigars? And judging from the amount of residue here, it appears as if whoever left them here was smoking like a chimney."
"Well maybe they've been there for a couple of days. Possibly the ashtray hasn't been cleaned out in a while."
"That, my friend, is a question we can pose to the maid."
Morton spoke up for the first time in a while. "The cigar butts are a smashing bit of evidence and all. But how about the body itself? How do you explain the different wounds?"
Holden was stumped. He glanced over at me, as did Morton.
"Well…Based on the obvious, it is safe to say that the victim was injured in two different ways. There was a gun involved and a knife of some sort. However, he could not have been killed by both-one had to come before the other. I had a little chat with the coroner, and he is almost positive that the bullet wounds came first, then the stab wounds."
"The reason for this is because there wasn't as much bleeding by the stab wound as there should have been. This indicates that Major was already dead-shot in the head-then stabbed twice in the torso. He even estimated that the time separation between the two events was anywhere from between half an hour to two hours."
"So that rules out the stabbing and shooting happening at the same time. Hell, it even rules out the idea that there was only one person involved. Why would someone shoot him, and then come back a half hour later to stab his corpse? It doesn't make any sense."
"The whole thing doesn't make any sense if you ask me," said Morton, "Why would anyone want to stab a dead body?"
"Someone would if he didn't know the body was already dead," I said.
"Or she…" put in Holden as he perused the coroner's report. "The gun could have been fired by a man or a woman. The report also says the knife wounds were very sharp and clean. They could have been made by a stiletto knife. Something like that would go through Major like a hot knife through butter. A woman could easily be responsible…Hmm…This is also interesting."
"What is that?" Morton asked.
"Well it says here that the time of death is estimated to be between 12:00 am and 2:00 am."
"So tell me again how that is interesting."
"Well it's fairly early in the morning."
I think at this juncture Morton wanted a further explanation, but he wasn't going to get any. I knew Beck well enough that he wasn't going to dish out any theories until he had something to base them on.
"Another thing we have to consider," I pondered, "is whether this was an outside or inside job."
Outside, we were looking up at the second story window. It was hard to tell from here that such a brutal crime had taken place inside. Meanwhile, Holden was bending over to examine some azaleas. "This place is really well gardened. Cheers to whoever keeps it in shape."
"The only way someone could get up there would be to scale the wall," remarked Morton.
"Very good, Sherlock," I remarked sarcastically, "So you don't think a murderer would carry around a twenty foot ladder?"
"These azaleas look trampled on," said Holden. The significance in that statement being that the azaleas were directly under the window in question. If anyone were to get to that window, they would have to do it via the azaleas.
"So we have evidence of an outsider…"
"I don't know James. There's something very wrong with this whole situation. I can't help but think that we're being played here. What I think we really ought to do is take a statement from everyone in the house-the guests, the daughter, housekeeping-everybody."
"Sounds like a plan. Hopefully the shock's worn off by now and we can get some solid answers. I think we should get the daughter last, though. She's taking it the worst."
We setup headquarters in the downstairs study. There was a nice desk in the room which was ideal for the process. We collectively agreed that Holden should lead the interviewing with Morton and I interjecting questions if we felt the need. Holden sat behind the desk, I sat on a stool off to the side, and Morton stood in the corner. He would make a nice coat hanger, I said to myself.
Since he was so eager to help investigate, Daniels was first in line.
"Hello, I'm Inspector Beck Holden. That's Deputy Charlie Morton, and Inspector Thesiger, of course, you know. Please have a seat." Daniels sat down in the chair in front of Holden's desk.
"Is it true Inspector, that Tom was murdered?" Jack wanted to know.
Holden paused for a moment, "Sir, can you think of any reason someone would want to do away with Mr. Major?"
"Tom was a very jovial character. He got along well with everyone. I can't think of anyone who would want to do such a thing." Daniels looked very calm and cool under the circumstances. Almost too cool. But alas, I can't let my imagination run wild.
"He didn't have any enemies that you know of?" inquired Holden.
"I don't think so. He was a very easy going, mild mannered chap most of the time."
"Most of the time?"
"Well he was a bit more serious when it came to business."
"Ahh, business," Holden leaned forward, "Now I understand Tom Major was the president of Thames Investing, is that true?"
"Yes it is."
"And you also work there?"
"Yes I do."
"And he wasn't quite so easy going at work?"
Daniels shifted in his chair, "Well…umm…it's not as though… it's not that he wasn't easy going, it's just that he was…he was very competitive when it came to business." All of a sudden Jack was not as cool and composed as before. He was stuttering. Something wasn't quite right.
"How long have you worked there?"
"Nearly ten years. In fact it'll be ten years exactly this coming September."
"Think and think carefully, Mr. Daniels. Can you think of anyone over those years who you would consider to be an enemy of Mr. Major?"
Daniels seemed to ponder the question, "No I can't, really."
"Possibly a grudge? Or maybe jealousy of his success? Anything?"
"Not that I can recall."
"Okay. Let's move on to this weekend congregation. When did you arrive here?"
"Was it abnormal for Major to host a weekend party like this one?"
"Not at all. The man was always bloody doing something or another. He never relaxed. He was always working on something, talking to someone, fixing something. The man never rested. He constantly kept himself occupied, didn't want to lose his sharpness."
"So he would not be a case for suicide?" Morton rang in.
"Oh heavens no!!!!! Is that…is it….I mean Inspector, is that what really happened?"
"No, no. That was just Deputy Morton cracking another bad joke." I shot him a look that made him crouch yet further back into his corner.
"When and where was the last time you saw the deceased alive?" Holden proceeded with the questioning.
"Umm…last night during the bridge match. He popped in to say good-night."
"So he just popped in? That doesn't sound like a very good host to leave his guests early like that."
"Well as you know Inspector," he looked over at me, "Tom and Joanna, his daughter, had a bit of a row last night. They were in the living room while we were in the drawing room playing bridge. We heard raised voices and I just think Tom had enough for the night."
"Could you hear what it was they were arguing about?"
"Oh no sir, the voices weren't clear enough for us to make out what they were saying."
"Can you take a stab at what they may have been arguing about?"
"Oh, well…I don't…I mean. I'm not-"
"Just a hunch, that's all," Holden prodded.
"Well I know they disagreed over that man Joanna's seeing. What's his name?…Let me think….Doonesbury or something…No, Donovan. That's it, Shane Donovan."
He's been living with the guy for a day now and still doesn't know his name. What an idiot.
"So I presume that Major didn't have a very high opinion of Mr. Donovan?" Holden asked.
"Well yes, that would be accurate."
Holden didn't push any farther with this topic. I knew he wanted to keep an open mind going into the interview with both Donovan and Joanna.
"One more thing, Mr. Daniels. Can you tell me if this belongs to you?" Holden reached into a bag and pulled out the gold lighter with the initials J.D. on it.
I watched Daniels very closely. He did not flinch as he denied the lighter belonged to him.
"Is there something you would like to add Mr. Daniels? Even something you think insignificant may be of importance."
"Well now that you mention it, it was a bit odd last night."
Holden immediately perked up, "What was a bit odd?"
"Well I have to say I couldn't go to sleep immediately last night. I'm in the loft upstairs from Major's room, and I thought I heard what sounded like doors open and close coming from downstairs. I might just be imagining it but I thought I also heard a swift patter of footsteps, as if someone was running or something."
"When was this?" Holden demanded.
"I'm not sure, but I guess it must have been around 1:00 give or take."
"Can you tell me how many noises regarding the doors you heard?"
"Well what was odd was that there seemed to be several over a long period of time."
"Could it be possible that what you heard was a muffled gunshot?"
"No, I don't think so. It sounded like a door clicking."
"Well thank you for your time, Mr. Daniels. You've been very helpful. For the time being we would like for you not to wander off too far, and let us know if you're leaving town. You know, in case we need your help in any way."
"Of course, of course," Jack would love to get in on the action. "So this has become an official murder investigation?"
Holden leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs. He pulled out a fag and lit it. "Cigarette?" He asked.
"You don't smoke?"
"I used to smoke cigarettes before, but now it's just cigars and pipe tobacco."
"Well you are indeed right, Mr. Daniels. It was definitely murder in the first degree and this has become an official homicide investigation."
"Well, I hope you can get to the bottom of this," he said and got up to leave.
Holden nodded, "Good day."
"Close the door will you, Morton?" Holden said.
"You should give up that filthy habit," I said as I pulled out a cigarette myself. "Got a light?"
"Catch. So what do you guys think? Did we just let a cold-blooded killer walk out the door?"
Next in queue was Emily Harris. Her face had about as much color in it as a glass of milk. Unlike our last interviewee who started off cool and then regressed to uneasiness, Emily was very nervous to begin with. She sat down in the chair in front of Holden, and fidgeted with her fingers. After introductions were made, Holden got down to it.
"You're nervous, I can tell; but don't be. We just want to ask you a few questions that we're going to be asking everyone who was here last night. Alright?"
Harris nodded slightly. She appeared to be more at ease. "First of all, I'm not quite sure how you're connected with the defendant."
She answered in a very soft voice, "Well I'm a friend