You may like to read the first tale about Charlotte in this blog.
Charlotte found inspiration for her new novel much quicker than she expected, but not in a way she welcomed. News spread fast in Hambourne, but while Charlotte enjoyed listening to local gossip she rarely took it seriously. As a newcomer she had no idea who they were talking about most of the time.
But today, sitting in the Hambourne Abbey Refectory, her favourite coffee stop, she heard shocked whispers at the next table then felt the gaze of the three women fall upon her. One of them she thought she recognised as the timid ‘mouse woman’ from the Hambourne Happy Creatives. She pretended to be absorbed in her phone, though she had no messages.
‘Charlotte isn’t it, you were at the group last week.’
Mouse Woman was addressing her.
‘Yes, yes, er I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name.’
‘That’s okay, not many people do and when you’re new it’s hard isn’t it.’
Charlotte was happy to meet her again, she had been friendly and unintimidating at last week’s meeting.
‘Come and join us’ said one of the other women, who did look intimidating.
Charlotte imagined that mouse woman would not have issued the invitation herself, now she looked pleased to have official approval of her new friend. Like being the new girl at school, Charlotte felt pathetically grateful to be admitted to the inner circle.
‘I’m afraid we have heard some dreadful news Charlotte’ said the intimidating lady. ‘I gather you were a friend of the gentleman in question.’
Charlotte thought this unlikely as she didn’t have any friends in Hambourne yet and certainly not of the gentleman variety.
‘Oh I don’t think …’
Mouse Woman could not contain her excitement ‘Robert Falstaff, murdered.’
‘Oh no, are you sure, I mean perhaps it was natural causes, heart attack, not a suicide…’
‘Definitely murder’ said the intimidating woman.
‘Are you sure Erica?’ said Mouse Woman.
‘Yes Mini, he could hardly have stuffed his screwed up manuscripts in his mouth and cut his own hands off.’
There was a collective gasp and Charlotte felt quite sick. Hambourne Noir, what sort of place had she chosen to live? Mini the Mouse, for a moment she stifled a giggle at her appropriate name, Mini now had colour in her cheeks and it was the liveliest Charlotte had seen her. She looked around the café, a few other tables were occupied.
‘It wasn’t on the local news this morning and nobody else appears to be talking about it.’
Erica looked affronted at her doubt. ‘I happen to live a few doors away from Robert. I stepped outside to see what on earth all the commotion was this morning and there was Trudy his cleaning lady sitting on the steps of the ambulance, aluminium blanket round her, just like a TV drama.’
‘Lucky to get an ambulance,’ interrupted Mini ‘with all these strikes and hold ups at A&E, old Mr Reeves had to wait fourteen hours with his hip…’
Erica frowned ‘…so to cut a long story short I went over to see if Trudy was alright and insisted the police officers let her come inside my house and get warm, have a proper cup of tea and be interviewed away from prying eyes.’
‘You’re not supposed to give hot tea for shock’ said Mini.
‘That was hot sweet tea when my mother was with St. John’s, I didn’t put sugar in.’
‘But what did she say?’ The others were all agog.
“The blood will never come out of that Persian rug, Mr. Falstaff would be horrified at the mess.” She kept saying that over and over.’
Charlotte was wondering how long Erica was going to drag out the drama and indignant that this dislikeable woman should be privy to all the action when it was Charlotte who was the writer.
‘So how did you find out what actually happened Erica?’
‘Large drop of brandy in the tea and luckily the WPC, not that they call them that these days, had a call on her radio and went out into the hall to answer so we couldn’t hear. Managed to get the words out of Trudy before the police woman ushered me out of my own sitting room…’ she paused for effect then enacted the cleaning lady’s words. “Blue, his face all blue… and purple, bloated, then I noticed his hands were missing, well not missing, just not attached to his arms, placed neatly on his writing desk can you believe it… trail of blood all over the Persian rug, family heirloom it was, not that he had anyone to pass it on to…”
‘So she said quite a lot then’ said Mini.
‘Oh she was in a state.’
‘But who would have done such a dreadful thing’ said Charlotte. ‘Where is it you live Erica?’ she added, wondering if she could walk home that way and catch a glimpse of the drama scene, not the body obviously, but take in the atmosphere.
‘Well shall we say he wasn’t loved by everyone in Hambourne.’
‘Indeed, he was very nasty to Charlotte at the creative group’ said Mini.
Charlotte felt three pairs of eyes piercing into her soul, surely she wouldn’t be one of the suspects, just because Robert Falstaff had been scathing about her novel languishing on Amazon Kindle and her blog.
Read what happens next in the new blog…