WARNING: The killer is revealed in this post. So, I mean, I wouldn’t start with this one. Unless you’re the type of person who likes knowing who done it before you read a mystery. In that case… yeah, this is the post for you. But I’d recommend starting with the Theme Reveal.
Hello, and welcome to my 2023 A to Z Blogging Challenge! For a detailed explanation of what I’m up to this year, see my Theme Reveal. But basically, I’m taking all the suspects I made up for my A to Z last year (with help from several commenters!) and putting them all into an actual murder mystery. See the sidebar for links to last year’s posts; if your device doesn’t display sidebars (if, for example, you are visiting on your phone), the links will be under the comment section, right under my A to Z 2023 participation badge.
Chapter Twenty-Six: Zoe
“I go where I am guided,” said Zoe, speaking from what seemed a great distance. “And lately, I have felt the pull of the orchard. Perhaps indeed it cried out to me, in its pain. But I have often been there, of late.”
Fred turned a furious face to Zoe. “You went into my orchard? The place was quarantined. Quarantined! Do you want to spread the disease to the other orchards nearby? How would you feel if you saw the Vicar’s apple trees start to go bad, and knew it was all your fault, for bringin’ the disease to him on your shoes? What right had you to go to my orchard, anyway? Trespassin’, that’s what you were doing! Trespassin’!”
He seemed, thought Crowner, very worked up about the matter.
Zoe, remote as ever, stared through Fred as if she did not even see him. “I was called,” she said. “I go where I am called.” Then her face took on a more human expression, that of genuine puzzlement and curiosity. “But why,” she asked, “did you have your horse Nightmare in the abandoned shed in the orchard? It wasn’t at all a suitable place for a horse. And anyway, that was when she was supposed to be lost. I was going to ask you about it, but then the next day Miss Polly was murdered, and I forgot.”
On Josephine’s lap, the little black dog grunted loudly.
It sounded remarkably human.
Ingrid and Eli froze, staring at the little dog in horror.
“That almost sounds…” said Ingrid.
“It sounds exactly like…” said Eli.
They looked at each other.
“It wasn’t Fred in that room,” said Ingrid. “It was the dog, making noises. We never… we didn’t hear him say anything, you know. Just wordless cries.”
“Little moans and grunts,” said Eli.
“We thought she’d worn him down to the point where he could no longer form words,” said Ingrid.
Fred took a small gun from his jacket pocket. “Sorry old girl,” he said, pressing the gun to his wife’s temple. “We had a good run, anyhow.”
Josephine’s blue eyes widened in alarm. “You wouldn’t!”
“Do you want to hang?” he asked.
“No! Oh…” and she looked stricken. “Very well. You’d better do it.”
Fred pulled the trigger. Then, smiling his foolish smile, he put the gun to his own head, and fired again.
The little dog squirmed out of the pile of bodies and hopped into the Vicar’s lap. The Vicar immediately adopted him.
Just a note: I am currently writing a final chapter, in which Crowner and some of the characters review all the evidence. That will be posted tomorrow! Until then, thanks to all the people who have followed this story! This has been an amazing A to Z for me!
I did not see that coming.
Thanks for being such a regular commenter, on this A to Z, Stuart! It has really helped me keep going with this, to have a handful of people commenting every day. So motivating!
Congratulations on completing the A to Z. I have enjoyed following along.
I look forward to tomorrow’s review of evidence.
Thank you so much for following along!
I hope the evidence is okay! The part where the detective explains everything is my least favorite bit of any detective novel, so I’m struggling with it a little.
I never expected that either. But then I don’t know what I expected. The dog gave it all away in the end.
Thanks so much for following along this year, Kristin! 🙂 And yes, the dog gave it all away. If only she’d left her pet at home…
Okay. I’m willing to accept that Eli and Ingrid — lovely as they are — are not very skillful amateur sleuths. The day after Sir Adam’s death, when the young couple arrived at Fred and Josephine’s at about 6pm, one must assume they were invited. The tail end of the “conversation” they thought they heard between Josephine and Fred was apparently all an act on Josephine’s part that clearly upset the dog, and it must have been Jo who made whatever sounds convinced Eli and Ingrid that Fred banged out of the house in a rage.
After claiming the uncomfortable interview that followed with Josephine seemed to go on forever, it never occurred to them — or apparently any of us, that Fred was gone long enough to go kill Miss Polly. It seems he took Nightmare from the shed, across the wooded hillside to Miss Polly’s, killed her, and returned as Eli and Ingrid were leaving.
So we now know who killed Miss Polly, but without a confession from either of them regarding Sir Adam’s death, will we get to see the evidence that he and Josephine killed Sir Adam? Someone will have to contradict Fred’s alibi for the time of the poisoning, (10:30-11) He claims he couldn’t manage fighting fire and ended up on a garden bench on the crest of the hill, looking down into the ornamental lake — in view of several people, for the whole of that time. And then someone will have to provide evidence that Josephine went into the study during that time. Is that who Leonard saw with the vial?
I trust you, Melanie. I’m sure this will all come together neatly. But at this moment, it feels like we’re missing a key piece of information we’ve had no hint of. On the other hand, I may be only as effective an amateur sleuth as Eli and Ingrid, lol.
We’ll see what you think of my explanation! I hope it comes together okay, though “neatly” is… well, I’m not really sure.
Thank you so much for being engaged with this, Susan! I’ve always looked forward to your comments.
Hooray! Cheat the noose, and don’t opt to gun down everyone else in the room instead, in order to attempt a getaway! Fair play, indeed. I must say, either Crowner and Mug were slow on the uptake, or they were deliberately slow on the uptake, which is also entirely possible. But I feel that they could easily have stopped the murder/suicide if they’d just jumped to it.
And the moral of the story is, everyone goes on and on about the unconditional love of dogs, but they shall surely betray you in the end. It was lovely of the vicar to adopt the little dog, but I’m sure that in time he will rue the day he allowed the furry little viper into his nest.
I eagerly await the grand explanation of how it all fit together! And I trust that the orchard will, in fact, be fine after all.
I always like it when semi-sympathetic murderers are allowed to commit suicide at the end of the book. So much nicer for them than a long trial followed by hanging. And I have an idea that maybe Crowner and Mug were slower to stop them than they could have been.
Rue the day, indeed!
Thanks so much for engaging with this, Anne! I really appreciated it! Your comments always make me smile.