As the early evening gloom descended, I turned the key in the door with its usual grinding reluctance, and eagerly stepped into the warmth of the kitchen. Discarding my boots and bag to drip by the door, I make my way through the house. Pausing to poor a splash of whisky into the crystal glass waiting on the table top, I peel my leggings off as though a second skin. Shivering and cold too my core, I down the amber liquid, letting its fiery strength blast through my system, regardless of the early hour. The encroachment of autumnal evenings always depressed me, so I needed the boost.
My unproductive afternoon had been compounded by the unhelpful police constable, who had blocked my attempts to get visual and any further information. I feel only the barest twinge of conscious as I splash more of the amber fire into the crystal, where it reflected golden sparkles to the ceiling, telling myself I needed the reassurance. Making my way upstairs, I decided to relax and warm up in a bath of my favourite lavender bath salts.
Wrapped in my thick fluffy dressing gown, I close the door behind me, looking myself into a world of warmth, steam and the sweet scents of Lavender. Immersing myself in the clear water, I sighed. Gradually, my tense muscles began to relax and I found my mind drifting back over to the events at the castle.
_I arrived only moments before the Detective Inspector arrived on the scene in a blaze of screaming blue lights. Huddled under his umbrella, with the long collar of his overcoat tucked up to his ears, I caught no glimpse of the man I knew to be the youngest DI on the force. Close behind his arrival, came the plain white ambulance of the forensic investigative team.
Easing my way through the murmuring crowd, I had leaned against the stone walls of the dry moat bridge to assess the surroundings. Spread out before me, the paved paths intertwining the simple grassy gardens led up to the bronze statue of the legendary hero of Nottingham, poised with his arrow taught in his bow, ready to fire upon us. The site was surrounded by high shooting positions, from the castle grounds towering above the statue from its position on the Sandstone cliffs, to the buildings lining the gradual descent to the canal. Old medieval two storey buildings sat adjacent to Victorian and Georgian brick buildings with turrets, chimneys and steeply pitched rooves juxtaposing at interesting angles as they individually addressed the gentle slope. All of these provided a clear shot from compact windows and hiding places down to the statue, where in the far corner of the garden I had seen a cluster of wailing witnesses supported by a few Police Constables. The white forms of the forensic officers gathered round the dark form stretched out on the paving alongside the plinth of the bronze figure, blocking it from further view._
Hearing footsteps, I slid down the smooth sides of the bath into the water, feeling it lap over my face as my hair drifted free on its surface.
“You in there Nina?” My brother called, his voice muted by the water and timber between us.
“No, this is Brian.” Lifting my mouth above the water, I croak, his pointless question reinforcing the days frustration.
“I see. Well, just thought I’d let you know I’m back.”
My concentration disturbed, I surge to the surface, revelling in the splash as the water churned and danced in the confines of the bath’s steep sides. Reaching for the scrub, I worked on my remaining frustration, massaging the final tension from my skin with the rough texture of the net ball. Knowing how the bath salts would stick to my hair, I knead a glob of shampoo through my hair, relishing the mixture of odours as the rose oils were released and mingled with the sweet lavender and energising lemon shower gel.
Stepping from the bath a few moments later, I wrap myself in the nearest thick towel and dressing gown before padding along the carpet corridor. Passing my clock, I am startled to note that over an hour has passed since I returned home, explaining my steadily increasing hunger pains. Skipping my usual gentle skin care regime, I briskly rub myself down until my skin glowed red as the towel stimulated the blood flow, and step into the clothes I had laid out on my bed.
Deciding to forgo the headache of drying my hair, I pin the red and green layers back from my face and head down into the kitchen.
“About time.” Jack commented, glancing up from the sofa in the lounge, his scruffy hair peeking over the open screen partition. “I thought I was going to cave in.”
“You do know where the kitchen is.”
“Yeah, but I can’t use it as well as you, and I wouldn’t want to deprive you the pleasure.”
Smiling at Jack’s ‘generous’ quip, I continue into the kitchen, shutting my empty glass away in the dishwasher. Through years of experience, I set about preparing the dinner, as Jack shuffled in behind me and started setting the table. I’ve always found washing and chopping vegetables focusing and relaxing, the tangy aromas of garlic and herbs mingling with the tomatoes simmering in the pan stimulating. Mixing the flavours in my mind, I toss a creative mix of herbs, garlic and seafood into the sauce base in a series of swift moves and I find myself humming cheerfully to the concoction. With the pasta in the pan behind, bubbling away nicely, I accepted the glass of wine from my brother and set about creating a desert from the jumbled collection of ingredients in the cupboard. Challenging my mind in different ways to the writing, cooking gave me a focused buzz that pushed the final stresses of the day from my mind.
“Another fabulous meal.” Jack sighed as he patted his stomach and leaned back in his chair. “I don’t know how you do it, but I’m very glad that you can.”
Jack’s compliments washed over me, fixing a great smile on my face, even as I recall how much work I have to do.
“Are you staying for coffee?”
Noting my hesitation, he grins invitingly, grating his chair on the lino floor as he stood.
“I thought you might feel like that, so I picked up this little temptation.” Pulling two bags from his cupboard, he threw a bag full of ground Bolivian coffee to the table in front of me where it landed with a thud. A bag of liquor chocolates soon followed. I couldn’t resist, picking up the soft bag of coffee and throwing it back to Jack’s waiting hands.
“You can tell me all the gruesome details of the murder.”
“I see.” Shaking my head I stand to make a start clearing the table as the coffee machine gurgled into action. “It’s not me nor the conversation you want, its the murder!”
“Of course!” Jack grinned. “So…?”
“I’ve got nothing.” The frustration flooded back with a growl, so I reached for the chocolate bag, tearing the plastic foil apart with a satisfying rip. Immediately, the rich scent of the chocolate and the liquors wafted up to my nose, mingling with the bitter coffee that filled the kitchen as the hot water trickled through it.
“What do you mean?” Jack picked up the mugs as the gurgling faded, leaving me to follow him with the chocolates.
“I couldn’t see anything, the police refused to give me anything, and I could find nothing except for the obvious- the site is completely surrounded by natural vantage points where the killer could have taken aim!”
“Whatever happened, it was by the castle, at the foot of Robin Hood’s statue, but the whole area was cordoned off. All I could see were clusters of constables, sobbing witnesses and the milling curiosity of the crowd! Even when forensics moved the body, of which I could only see a dark shadow, I got no ideas. Why Paul thinks this should interest me I have no idea.” I paused to sip my steaming coffee, letting the bitter liquid infuse its caffeine and warmth through my system. “Though from the few words I did manage to get from the ticket office staff, there was no explosive shot.”
“You know he was shot?”
“Well, the police receptionist didn’t deny it.”
“So…. a silencer was used?”
“Could have, but I genuinely don’t know…I wasn’t allowed to see anything. All the police told the press was that a tourist collapsed by the statue in suspicious circumstances.” Growling in frustration I pop a chocolate into my mouth, relishing the sudden flow of cool, strong liquid that burst over my tongue. “I wanted to ask a few questions of the inspector, but a constable primed with too much power simply refused to listen to me.” So used to being recognised, and being fed information, the refusal from that angry brunette had affronted me. “So I did a bit of investigating round the castle grounds looking for clues until the police got there.”
“Why the castle, not the other buildings?”
“Aside from the fact that the other buildings were included in the cordoned area, the castle is the only building open to anyone. And 150 years ago, it is the only confirmed site where Mark Coons took his shot from .”
“Oh? So you do think there is a connection?”
“I don’t know, without knowing how the victim died, I have nothing except the location,and a potentially silent attack to link them.” With my mug empty, I ease myself to my feet. “And so, sadly, to work.”
Popping a last liquor chocolate into my mouth, I leave my brother reaching for the tv remote. Knowing I would need the stimulation for a long nights catch up work, I return to the kitchen for a refill before making my way upstairs. Climbing the stairs to my attic office, I rehash my visit to the castle, recalling the scrapes on the stone walls overlooking the statue that suggested something had leaned against it, and rested on the capping stone. The DI had arrived before I got a chance to speak properly to the ticket warden, his brisk official demeanour effectively slicing me out of the situation.
They had swiftly cordoned the area off, shutting my out with grumbles and not a few glares. In the distance, I notice a photographer crawling through the undergrowth aiming up at the castle, a likely candidate for leaning against the wall if he wanted a panoramic view.
Closing the door behind be, I flick the light switch waiting impatiently as the bulb warmed up to highlight the wall and pitched ceiling plastered with notes, timelines, photographs and articles forming the vast majority of my research. My desk was littered with piles of books, empty coffee cups and pens, which I shifted a little to make room for my latest stimulation. The rain was continuing to patter against the roof light, a gentle rhythm that steadied my impatience. With the limited information at my disposal, I draft out a brief article about the current situation, emailing it across to Paul, my editor, for approval, before I settled in to work on the statue murder of 1888.
This is the follow up character development piece to Research development for a short story competition I hope to enter… if the story for this character actually works!
Introducing a murderer does what it says really- this is who she is up against.
Posted for some bubblers interest, I do point out that this is unedited, development work, not intended for anything more than our interest