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!