“What we have here could be considered a surfeit of evidence.” Godfrey announced, having studied the area inside the copse. “What do you say, Doctor? Does this look like the amount of blood that Maude would have lost?”
“Well, obviously, it will be near impossible to find the true volume that’s there. But I’m confident to say that it is. Is there any way to get a better look at this without having to crouch down so? My knees aren’t what they used to be. If we go in there, I suppose we might disturb possible evidence.”
“We could trim the branches. Or even take a tree down, if necessary. Whatever it takes to help the investigation.” Toby announced. “I don’t wish to ask any of the staff to do it, but I’m sure that I can find the tools if necessary.”
“That won’t be necessary, sir.” Lynes, Clive, and the other gardener had sneaked up on them, it seemed, whilst they had been engrossed in studying the trees. “We will do anything that is needed. I brought your father’s camera equipment. I believe it is common practice these days to take photographs of a crime.” Lynes put down a heavy box, and Clive stood a tripod beside it.
“Thank you, Lynes. Would you be able to take the photographs? I never took the interest in them that Papa did, but I remember you helping him out with them.”
“Of course, sir. I like to think that I learnt something from all the work I did with him in his studio.”
There were three cameras in the box- the large format device that mounted on the tripod, a folding, medium sized Kodak, and a box Brownie. Lynes took his role seriously, having the gardeners help him set up the large camera before sending them off for saws and secateurs. He photographed the copse from afar, then moved in with the smaller cameras.
The half playing card was photographed face down, as found, and then after being turned over by Constable Miller’s pencil. Then Lynes took shots of the scuff marks from various angles. “There are already a few images on this camera.” he noted, holding up the Brownie. “I wonder what they could be? Lord Carstairs would normally finish a roll and then ask me to help him develop them.”
By now, the gardeners had returned with their tree felling equipment. Toby consulted with Lynes about which tree’s removal would let the most light into the copse. “I think I want all of them taken down, when this is all done.” he confided, as the sawing began.
The large camera came across to take pictures of the inside of the copse. But Lynes was not confident that these would come out, so supplemented them with shots on the other two cameras.
“Can you see the other half of the playing card?” Godfrey asked Sergeant Miller as they stared through the gap after Lynes had finished his photo shoot.
“All I can see is the blood. Perhaps the Doctor will be able to spot something important.” He gave up his place to Todd.
“Hmm. No, I see no playing card, either. But, if you look at the blood, you can see an outline, there, where you would have expected it to flow, but it didn’t. I think Maude lay there for a while after she was stabbed. Then she was dragged over to the lake, and dropped into it, some time later. See the marks where her feet scrubbed through the blood?”
“Did you get a picture of that?” Godfrey asked Lynes.
“I believe so, sir. But I still have a couple of frames to use up. If you would stand aside, I will make sure I have the pictures.”
As Lynes packed the cameras away, Godfrey and Sergeant Miller went back to studying the bloody ground. “I don’t think we can learn anything new from this right now, if I’m honest, Mister Hardwicke.” The Sergeant said, after a minute or two of consideration.
“I believe you are correct, Sergeant. What else can we do, do you think?”
“I’m inclined to wait for the detectives to arrive. They will have a better idea how to proceed with the investigation. I’m sure they will tell us off for all the snooping we have done already.”
“Yes. Let’s get the body off to the mortuary, and go and have some lunch. You will stay for lunch, won’t you, Sergeant.” Toby said from behind them, having eavesdropped the whole conversation.
“That would be very kind of you, sir. And then Constable Miller and I can question the staff, I suppose.”
“’He was horny. But it was too much for him. I killed Lord Carstairs. How do I get away with it.’ Blimey. That’s…. Well, it does prove Ginge’s theory that the old lord died while having it off with Maude.” Eileen said. She re-read the entry. “She does seem rather heartless. ‘How do I get away with it.’? How can she ask that?”
“Perhaps she was in shock. I imagine having a lover die on you would be very scary.” Ginge mused.
There was nothing else on the page but for the short entry that Eileen had read. Ally turned to the next page. “Ah, here we have it. The shock has worn off, and Maude. is scared and guilty and sad.”
The entry went on for three and a half pages, as Maude described the chaos of the lord being found dead, as well as how he had died. Her sentences ran on, sometimes ending abruptly and at others just trailing off. They jumped back and forth, between the assignation that had resulted in the death, its discovery, and the rush to deal with it. She had written everything down as she had thought of it, so it was as confused as she had been.
There was no hint that she should come clean about her involvement in the death of Lord Carstairs, even as she laid it out. Her seduction of him had started a week before, and been detailed in entries leading up to the abrupt announcement of his demise. She had flashed him more cleavage than normal as she poured his drinks, and he had noticed.
The lord’s first overture had been a quiet question. Would Maude like to earn a little extra, for some special duties? Of course she would, but what would they involve?
One afternoon, three days before the fateful night, Maude had sneaked up to the top floor room that Lord Carstairs used as a photography studio, and posed for him. Her entry about this was jokingly coy, merely saying that it had been good to get out of her uniform for a while. She had agreed to pose again in the future, and hinted that perhaps she could do more for his lordship.
The offer wasn’t immediately taken up, but there was an ominous foreshadowing of what was to come. Maude. started planning for the night she would next be serving the lord his nightcap. The night before the fatal assignation, her diary entry had ended with, ‘Tomorrow. I will make X proud.’
Now, her confession gave details of just how she had proceeded.
The lord had been in his top floor bedroom. He and his wife did not always share a bed. It was not uncommon for him to sleep upstairs, whilst she stayed in the master bedroom. Maude had taken his nightcap up to him, making sure to have put a few drops of the Spanish Fly concoction into it first. Maybe she had used too much, she mused, belatedly.
Making an excuse to hang around whilst the lord drank his brandy, Maude had tidied the room and waited for the aphrodisiac to take effect. It had been helped along by the sounds of passion that had started to echo around the building as some other members of staff played the game in the Black Shaft.
“It echoes right up the staircase. My father designed it so that the occupants of this room would get an earful of whatever was done on the Black Shaft.” Lord Carstairs had announced.
“Does it excite you, my lord?”
“Very much, my dear. But not half as much as you do. Would you be interested in some…. extra duties?” He had stood and let his pyjama trousers fall to the floor as he asked this. Maude. had to confess that she had been most impressed with his manhood. It wasn’t as large as X, of course, and the Spanish Fly might be having an effect, but the old lord was well equipped.
“’At that moment, I almost wished I had seduced him some months earlier. I am sure that piece would have worked just as well without the Fly.’” Ally read aloud when she reached this part of the narrative. “I imagine that would have resulted in a very different story.”
Maude had stripped quickly. She had become rather good at it, over the years. Then she had laid back on the bed, and the lord had mounted her. Even after what happened next, she had to admit to her diary that it had been a good fuck.
But then, as the lord was still hard and eager, she had rolled him onto his back, and ridden a St. George, as she called it, up and down his shaft. She had been enjoying this so much, she confessed, that it wasn’t until after she had come that she had realised something was wrong.
Lord Carstairs certainly looked happy enough. The ecstatic expression was one she had raised in many men, over the years. However, he wasn’t moving. She had felt his chest for a heartbeat, and found none. It had all been too much for him. She had killed him.
A sudden calmness had overcome her, she wrote. She had given him a quick wash, and pulled the pyjama trousers back on, then tucked him into bed. All the while, the fatal stiffness in his lordly staff had remained. Dressing as quickly as she had undressed, she had left the bedroom and sneaked down to her own.
“Well, that solves a mystery. Just not the one we had hoped.” Eileen said. “Toby will want to hear about this.”
“I will want to hear about what?” Toby asked, having just walked through the door in time to catch the last sentence.