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-Two: The Vicar
The Vicar smiled a helpless smile. “Only wish I could. But I just don’t remember anything about it.” He looked around, saw a sea of still-expectant faces, and sighed. “I do remember being angry with Sir Adam. Oh, yes! Very angry. But then I often was angry at Sir Adam. He wasn’t a nice man.” The faces still stared at him. “I believe… yes! I recall that I had made up a little list of topics to talk over with him that day. I planned to get through as many as possible before he threw me out. But, of course, I’ve lost the list long since. I’m afraid I’m helpless without my little lists.” And he settled back, as if that closed the matter.
“I urge you to try to remember your discussion with Sir Adam, sir,” said Crowner. “You don’t really have an alibi, not to speak of, for his death. Yes, I know you have a partial one for Miss Polly’s—most of the time between six and seven you were either disentangling the church flower rota or talking with Leonard in preparation for the committee meeting at Miss Polly’s, and you and he discovered the body together. But you had just the same opportunity as everyone else to poison Sir Adam. So, really, sir, this is no time to be forgetful!”
“I don’t know if you realize,” said the Vicar, looking harassed, “what a hectic life I lead in this quiet village. There’s about a million committees to see to—seems to be a new one every month, and they all want me on ‘em—and the sermons to write—people actually seem to remember what one says, I find, so I can’t repeat my materials, and really, it does start to strain the intellect a bit, thinking of a totally new inspirational message every single week—and the Church roof…” and here he stopped. “The Church roof,” he repeated. “That was one of the things I wanted to discuss with Sir Adam! I remember now!” And he smiled proudly at Crowner.
“You wanted him to donate to the Roof Fund?” asked Crowner. It didn’t surprise him a bit. Crowner himself had given a donation to the Roof Fund, during his interview with the Vicar. He hadn’t wanted to, but it had happened. The man was hypnotic on the subject.
“Well, no,” said the Vicar, looking visibly flustered. “Or, of course, I did, but I only expect a very limited number of miracles to come my way in my lifetime, and that was not one of them.” He glanced at Fred. “That school,” he said. “They would have needed a local chapel to take the boys to on Sunday. When I heard of the sale, I thought, I really did, that my roof problems were over. The school would surely take on the repairs. It seemed such an elegant solution. And then Sir Adam—quite wickedly, I felt—decided to scupper the whole deal. It would do this community so much good, to have a bunch of youngsters about. I was planning to be very firm about that, in my talk with Sir Adam.”
“You speak as if the interview did not take place,” said Crowner.
The Vicar now wore a hunted expression. “Well, no. I suppose it didn’t.”
“There is something you are not telling us,” said Crowner.
The Vicar said nothing.
“Again, I have an intuition,” said Crowner. “You overheard someone else’s quarrel with Sir Adam, and you don’t want to tell us about it, because it wasn’t your business. And it wasn’t any of the quarrels we’ve heard about so far, or you wouldn’t feel so unhappy about mentioning it.” Crowner looked stern. “Tell us who it was, please. It is only fair. And we’ve got to get these murders solved, you know. The health of your little community here depends on it.”
The Vicar shook his head. “I have no idea who it was,” he said. “I heard quite a lot of shouting—but that was all Sir Adam. The other voice wasn’t audible. I only assume that someone else was in the room with him because sometimes the shouting stopped. I’m afraid most of what Sir Adam said was vulgar and threatening nonsense, and I did not retain it. There was one word, though, often repeated, that does stick in my mind. Bones. They were arguing about bones.”
“Bones,” said Wilhelmina, with tragic significance.
“Bones!” said Xavier, with controlled violence.
“Bones?” said Yuri, with faint hopefulness.
Crowner looked at Wilhelmina. “Madam,” he said, “tell us why you quarreled with Sir Adam about bones.”