Publication Date: October 1, 2018
Excerpt #4 – The Murder Scene
“The newspaper article mentioned other witnesses,” she said as she strolled through the chamber. “Who spoke of eerie wails and creaking floors?”
“Mrs. Hawkins, the housekeeper, as well as Mrs. Pickering, the cook.”
He folded his arms as she ran her lithe fingers across every available surface, occasionally closing her eyes and breathing deep. A sense of calm serenity surrounded her. Her steps were cautious, her focus absolute. He may as well have not existed for all the attention she afforded him.
“Would you care to inspect the balcony?” he asked, unlocking the double glass-paned doors.
She nodded and followed him outside. A lounging chair covered in a bold, floral pattern filled one corner. The short ledge around the perimeter, which barely reached Arthur’s shins, held several potted plants.
Maribeth sat on the ledge, exactly in the spot where Mrs. Turner fell, and she peered over the edge to the pond below. After bracing her palms on the ledge, she met his gaze. “This is where she tumbled, is it not?”
“Yes, indeed.” He dipped his head in acknowledgment. A lucky guess for a cunning lady. Let the show commence. “Is Mrs. Turner here with us?”
Turning her face skyward, she breathed in and out with long, measured breaths, closing her eyes, no doubt for dramatic effect. At least the woman was not predisposed to talking to the dead out loud. He found such one-sided conversations laughable.
“I’m afraid not,” she finally said on a sigh.
Why didn’t she leap at the opportunity to demonstrate her skills? This was the murder scene. If any connection was to be found, surely it was here. Confounding. He had no other word for the woman. Except inexperienced. She was green and had yet to hone her skills of deception.
“What did Mr. Turner say when questioned?” she asked, pulling him from his musings.
“Nothing.” Arthur lowered himself on the foot of the chaise longue and stretched out his legs. “By the time his solicitor arrived to attend the interrogation, Mr. Turner’s mind had slipped into oblivion.”
She lifted an eyebrow. “Do you think he knows what occurred?”
Arthur shrugged. “He resides across the hallway, and the incident occurred shortly before the scheduled Thursday tour. As such, Mr. Turner would’ve taken to his quarters to avoid the throng of visitors.” He focused his gaze on the doorway into Caroline’s chamber, away from Maribeth’s prying eyes. “I venture he must’ve heard something, at the very least.”
“Perhaps creaking floors or the wails of a malevolent ghost?” A hint of humor tinged her words. “Why do you suppose the rumors of the ghost of Madame Brown persist?”
The corners of Arthur’s lips curled up. “Well, for one, where is the sense in touring the séance chamber if it isn’t haunted by the infamous clairvoyant who resided here?”
“I see.” Maribeth folded her legs at the ankle, tapping her booted heels against the stone ledge. “So your employer is an opportunist?”
A gruff laugh escaped him. “By no means. The tours were his wife’s idea. She held a macabre fascination with the dead.” Among other things. “Even more so, I believe she enjoyed torturing Mr. Turner. He visited Chateau Swansea for a séance a few years before he met and married Caroline. When the former mistress died in childbirth, Mr. Turner acquired the estate and accepted guardianship of Madame Brown’s daughter. I believe Mr. Turner held an enduring love for the clairvoyant. Some say Arabella was jealous of Caroline living in her home and raising her daughter.”
The tap, tap, tap of Maribeth’s boots against the ledge stopped, and she shook her head. “The Turners were married ages ago. Why would the ghost attack now?”
“Because Mrs. Turner held a ceremony with her sister in the séance chamber only a week before the incident. This is why Mrs. Marsh worries the ghost may have murdered her sister.”
Her mouth formed a little O and her brow lifted with interest. “That’s right. You mentioned this at the inn. A first attempt?”
About R.C. Matthews