Chapter Two: Bruce #AtoZChallenge 2023 Who Killed Sir ABC?

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 Two: Bruce

“Lady Annabelle is right about one thing—Sir Adam did know a dangerous secret about me,” Bruce said, glaring at Annabelle through the dark hair that had tumbled down in front of his eyes. He looked awfully romantic.

“My name isn’t really Bruce Galsworthy. My name,” he paused, cast a despairing look at Meghan, and plunged back into speech, as if he was afraid that if he didn’t say it now, he’d never have the nerve again, “is Anthony. Anthony Camber.” The room was suddenly full of shocked murmuring, as if someone had said something unpardonable to a flock of chickens.

Bruce (for so we shall continue to call him) smiled, a smile that was like a wince. “I expect some of you remember the case,” he said with gentle bitterness. “The Brennerton Case, as they called it at the time. It was quite the sensation. And, of course, I was never found. The day after the murder, I enlisted. If you remember those chaotic days early on in the war, you will perhaps be unsurprised that I managed to enlist under a false name—and get away with it.

“Within a very short time, I was at the front. That was—bad, but somehow my nerve held, and somehow I told no-one my secret, when all the other chaps were confiding everything they’d ever done, and no-one was shocked at anything much.

“Then one day our trench was shelled. A direct hit. I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I was lying in a pool of blood—that was when I received the injury that would eventually cost me my leg—and everyone else was dead. I was just strong enough to switch papers and identity discs with good old Bruce, whose life story I knew very well by then, and who hadn’t anyone waiting for him at home. Some chaps didn’t, you know. Then I went out again, and when I woke up, I was in a hospital, and everyone was calling me Bruce. So I’d gotten away with it, again.” And Bruce sat back, looking tired.

Crowner was upset. He wanted secrets, yes. He definitely liked the idea of people making confessions and putting cards on tables. But when it came to confessing to murders that were none of his business… and sensational murders of the past, too… he rather wished that Bruce hadn’t spoken. Now he’d be arrested and hanged, and if he’d only kept his mouth shut…

“I have to warn you, sir, that—” the words fell woodenly from Crowner’s lips.

Bruce smiled his bitter smile. “Don’t worry! I didn’t kill Brennerton. I am entirely innocent. I’ve never murdered anyone. Only… you see, I had a little sister, Cecily. She was the sweetest girl, very light and happy. But she had something missing in her. She didn’t seem to understand some things the rest of us take rather for granted. The poor kid fell hard for old Brennerton, who was a friend of mine, and who was always in and out of the house that Cecily and I shared. I still don’t know all the details of what happened that night, but I came home to find Brennerton dead and Cecily in a kind of trance. And while I’m telling all, I’d like to say that Brennerton was a fine chap, and that he didn’t lead Cecily on or anything. I expect he never even knew she’d fallen for him. He had a girl of his own, and never looked at anyone else.  I noticed Cecily had feelings for him, but I still thought of her as a kid, and I’m afraid I just thought it was rather sweet. More fool me.

“Well, I knew the law would never have any mercy on Cecily—they wouldn’t understand about the hole in her where her morals ought to have been, and how that wasn’t really her fault. I’m not sure I’d understand, if I were on a jury—but she was my sister, and I loved her, and I’d always known how she was. And I couldn’t bear to think that they might hang her. She would never understand why, and that struck me as unbearably tragic. So I talked to her most of that night, and in the morning, I enlisted under a false name. I knew that if I disappeared right after the murder, everyone would assume what they in fact did assume—that I killed him.”

Crowner felt only mildly less apprehensive. “Please tell me you can prove this, sir,” he said.

Bruce let out a sad little laugh. “Oh, I can prove it all right. I was willing to hang for her if necessary—I think—but I wanted an out just in case. I have evidence to show that she did it. Bloody clothes, a couple of crazy diary entries, a scribbled confession. We put it all in a metal box and buried it together in the garden, in the hour just before morning. I still had the dirt stains from the shoveling on my hands when I signed my enlistment papers. It will still be there, I’m sure of that.”

“And Cecily is…”

“Yes, Inspector. Dead. Six months ago.” For a moment, Bruce’s eyes were wet, and his face suggested he was looking into the past. Then he inhaled sharply. “Yes, she’s dead, and I’m not such a sentimentalist I mind her name besmirched. She can’t be hurt, now. And I love her, but it is such a relief that she is dead. She’s safe, you see. The world cannot punish her any more for not following rules she never understood.”

“If you were safe six months ago, why did you stay?” Meghan cried out this question, a wild quaver in her voice. “He was horrid to you, always. Why didn’t you go?”

Bruce looked at Meghan, then looked away. “I had my reasons,” he said stiffly. “Let’s drop it, shall we?” Meghan opened her mouth, looked at him, and said nothing.

“And I take it, sir, that you didn’t tell Sir Adam about your changed relationship? Didn’t bother to mention to him that he no longer had a hold over you?” asked Crowner.

“I did not. I continued to crawl, as before. I thought he’d boot me if he realized he no longer had a hold over me. He was that sort of man. Uncomfortable if he didn’t have his foot firmly on the other fellow’s neck.” Bruce smiled unhappily. “I suppose he knew that to work for him, paying people would never be enough.”

“So you didn’t kill him to protect your secret. I’m going to assume, for the moment, that all that stuff about the box is true, though I will be having it up, you may be sure about that. Can you prove you didn’t kill Sir Adam for—other reasons? He seems to have been quite a killable sort of man, if you’ll pardon my saying so. Have you an alibi for the evening of the crime, from about six o’clock on?”

 “Not for the whole time. Meghan and I were together for part of the time, having dinner in the old nursery, as we often do. But I was alone for lots of that evening, going over papers in Sir Adam’s office. And his office is almost next door to the study. I could easily have slipped in any time and poisoned the whiskey, only I happen not to have thought of it. I was still at those blasted papers when I heard the alarm of fire. Like a good secretary, I went out and tried to help in the firefighting efforts, and I was hard at it for several hours—but I’m not sure I could prove I never slipped away. And there’s a tap right by the rose garden—which is right outside the study—so lots of us went round the house at one time or another, for water. We weren’t using the tap for the firehose, of course—the ornamental lake was handier for that—but the rose garden tap was a good place to get cleaned up and to fill an occasional bucket.

“Last time I saw Sir Adam—or the last time before he fell onto the terrace and died in front of all of us—was at eleven o’clock, when he announced that he’d have his whiskey and go to bed. Then he marched off round the corner of the house. Probably went into his study through the French windows in the rose garden, he often did.”

Crowner nodded. “In our interviews, you’ve seemed a bit uncomfortable about something. Wanting to mention a suspicion, but at the same time not wanting to mention it. Let’s have it now, please. I know you may feel that Sir Adam deserved to die—I even sympathize to a certain extent—and you may even feel that people who write poison pen letters deserve what they get, and so the murder of Miss Polly may also get a pass from you. But—two murders, in a couple of days. It isn’t safe. Who will be next, if we don’t arrest the person responsible? So, out with it, whatever it is.”

Bruce looked puzzled. “It isn’t exactly that I want to protect the murderer, it’s more that what I know doesn’t seem to add up. It is odd, that’s all. Haven’t liked to mention it, because I can’t see how it could have anything to do with it. But—if you insist—what about all the digging that Cecil’s been doing lately? I happen to know he’s had his cellar floor up, and I think he’s responsible for the odd pits that have appeared up on the hill of late. I know he had a motive for the murder—Sir Adam was about to turn the poor chap out of his cottage; as Sir Adam’s secretary I was intimately familiar with the details there—and I know he’s been digging, and I don’t think anyone else knows about the digging. Only it doesn’t connect up.

“And one other thing. I didn’t see Cecil at the fire. It was rather a community event, and it seems remarkable that someone who lived so close to the house should stay away. Anyway, most people turn out for a fire. Cecil didn’t. I’ve wondered since if he was around, only we didn’t see him. Sneaking into the study, you know, while everyone was busy at the back of the house.”

And everyone turned to look at Cecil.


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  1. Hold on, Beany! I’m a-comin’..
    nope, it Can’t be Cecil the seasick sea serpent

  2. Bruce’s answers all seem so candid and straightforward, it’s easy to believe he’s innocent. But exactly how does he know about Cecil’s digging? And I’m a little put off by Bruce’s statement that Cecil was, “Sneaking into the study, you know, while everyone was busy at the back of the house.” More than an implication or mere possibility, he presented it as the logical and factual conclusion of not seeing Cecil around during the fire, like he wanted to make sure everyone there got it.

    • Yeah, it is a little odd, that Bruce was so hesitant to mention the digging at all, or to point a finger at Cecil, but now that he is doing it, he’s going all in. Hmm… maybe he hopes that Cecil is the guilty party. Or, of course, perhaps he is quite sure that Cecil isn’t guilty, but wants people to believe he is, for his own sinister purposes.

      It occurs to me that I must be very careful, in my responses to comments here. Mustn’t give away anything! That will be interesting, as the month goes on. Yay! I love April!

  3. What springs to my mind is, how did Bruce know Cecil was sneaking into the study if he (Bruce) was at the back of the house with “everyone” at the time?
    On the other hand, I like the explanation of the Brennerton affair, although I do feel that if my sister were prone to murdering perfectly nice blokes, I would feel the need to put her under some sort of precautionary restraint, even if I (understandably) didn’t want her hanged.
    I eagerly await the excuse for the digging.

    • I think Bruce is just theorizing there, although he does phrase it in a fairly definite and assertive way, now that I read it again. Hmm…

      I also feel that Bruce should perhaps have made some arrangement to prevent his sister from committing more murders. Maybe he felt that a firm talking-to was enough?

      I hope you like the digging thing! 🙂

      • I wondered what the sister was doing while he was away, what with the hole in her morality and all.

        • I know, me too. Maybe Bruce hoped that the shock of committing one murder would keep her from doing another one, but… yeah, I wonder what she got up to, too. I think the problem with having this many characters (too many, frankly, for a typical mystery novel, but I hope it will work out anyway!) is that I’ll never get to explore any one person’s story nearly as thoroughly as I’d like.

  4. Bruce seems like a nice guy. At least in comparison to Annabelle (which is a pretty low friggin’ bar, I admit). I hope he didn’t do it.

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