Hello, and welcome to my 2022 A to Z Challenge! For a detailed explanation of my theme this year, see my theme reveal. But basically, I am exploring classic mystery novel murder motives, by making up a victim (Sir Adam Bracegirdle Clutterbuck) and then coming up with 26 characters who wanted to kill him. It is part genre exploration and part world-building exercise.
Today’s suspect is Meghan. I’ve mentioned her twice before, in Annabelle’s post and in Gregory’s. She is a poor relation of Sir Adam’s, a distant cousin. She lives at Clutterbuck Court, and serves as companion to Sir Adam’s wife Annabelle. Gregory, Sir Adam’s brother, wants to marry her… but whenever he proposes, she tells him that she cannot marry him. But why? Why indeed! Read on, and find out.
When Meghan was a child, she killed her baby brother. It wasn’t on purpose. You don’t give babies to curious youngsters while picnicking by a lake, not if you like the baby. Meghan was put in charge of the infant, and wanted to see how he was at swimming, that’s all. By the time her parents found them, it was too late, and the baby was quite dead.
Some people would mourn this as a tragedy without severely punishing Meghan. Meghan was only six years old, and she hadn’t meant the baby any harm. But Meghan’s parents weren’t that sort. When the doctor came to examine the body, they said that Meghan had murdered him. They seemed to actively want the girl to be dragged off in chains. When that did not happen, they sent Meghan to live with the worst possible sort of aunt–a reform school of one–and refused to have anything more to do with her.
The incident was picked up by the popular press, and became quite a cause célèbre. Meghan was universally reviled, made into a monster with the weight of a symbol, almost as iconic as Jack the Ripper or Crippen. She was referred to as “Meghan the Murderous Moppet,” among other even less kind names. Even today, if you say “the Murder Moppet girl,” people know who you mean… and they have Opinions.
But hardly anyone knows that our Meghan is that Meghan… and Meghan would really rather keep it that way.
Gregory, much younger than Sir Adam, was a child himself when all of this happened, and he doesn’t know anything about it. But Sir Adam knows, and has told her quite frankly that if she gets engaged to anyone, he will Tell All. He does not, he explained, wish to lose her valuable services. “Even if Gregory would still have you, m’dear, you and I both know that it would never work, if your past were generally known. All Society would cut you… and Gregory’s business would fail. He needs a wife who is an asset to him, and you could never be that. Not once I opened my mouth. Which I would do.” That is what Sir Adam told her when he first learned of the attachment, leering horribly the while.
Meghan disliked Sir Adam before. Now, she loathes him.
And she would quite like to marry Gregory. Or anyway, she’d like to be married, in a home of her own, and she is really very fond of Gregory.
Would she kill to protect her secret, and to win through to a better future?
And that’s it for Meghan! What do you think of her as a murderer? Is she better as a red herring? Would she make an interesting second victim if this were a mystery novel?
Personally, I think she makes an excellent prime suspect, but she shouldn’t have actually done it. And she would make a great second victim, if what you are aiming for is a tragic tone. A “misunderstood to the end, what chance did she ever have in this wicked world?” sort of atmosphere would hover about her death. Which I think could be quite effective.
In order for Meghan to be a great second victim, or even a prime suspect, the truth about her murderous past would have to come out, and it seems only Sir Adam knows who she really is. So even if she killed him, which I agree she would not, what motive would anyone think she had?
I can see Annabelle wanting to get rid of her because Gregory wants to marry her, but now it seems unlikely to me that Annabelle would kill Sir Adam if it meant his estate would go to Gregory. Unless, of course she believed she could have Gregory if Meghan were also out of the picture. But I don’t see Meghan killing anyone.
Good point, but Meghan’s past is the sort of thing that would probably turn up in a police investigation. If the officer is a nice guy, he would probably talk to her about it privately, and they could have the classic conversation, which goes like:
Suspect: will this have to come out?
Officer: only if it is pertinent, Miss.
…or words to that effect. So, the investigators (or the professional investigators, anyway) might know about Meghan’s past, but keep it from everyone else.
Annabelle would be a possible murderer of Meghan, but, as you point out, an unlikely one.
This depends whether Meghan, in her desperation, thinks, “Everyone always thinks I’m a murderer anyway, so what have I got to lose? May as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb,” or whether, on the other hand, she thinks, “I have always maintained my innocence, and I shall not sully it now!”
But I do see her as a very useful frame-ee. If the murderer finds out about Meghan’s past, they will very likely try to Set Her Up, on the theory that everyone will instantly believe in her guilt. Perhaps the murderer is even so devious and heartless as to murder Meghan, set it up to look like suicide, and provide her with a forged suicide note about how she can’t bear to go through all the notoriety again…
YES!!! I was myself thinking that Meghan is the ideal second victim, if the real murderer learns of her past and sets her death up to look like a suicide. And that is always a fun way to get a second victim into a book, because you also get a false ending.
Watson-Like Character: Well, sad about Meghan, but it looks like the case is solved.
Master Detective (raising an eyebrow): oh, do you think so? How interesting… (looks inscrutable)
By the way, I wish I could raise one eyebrow, like a master detective, but I just can’t.
*comments smugly* Oh, I can raise one eyebrow — EITHER eyebrow, one at a time. I’m just that awesome.
That is indeed impressive! And! I am extremely jealous!!
I love this theme! Going to have to go back and read through all the characters!