Murder At Muirfield – Episode 09

MUCH later, lying in my attic bed and staring at the ceiling as usual, I played it over in my head. Gracie snored gently in the bed beside me.
Why had Mr Joseph been so angry?
I tried to see the inside of the cupboard once more. There had been endless rows of bottles, dark green, almost purple-black and clear glass, too, filled with wine and beer and spirits. There had been a gap on the middle shelf. It had struck me as out of place. As if some bottles had been put aside.
Was that it? Was Mr Joseph siphoning off wines for himself? Or to sell on to others?
I stopped right there. I had no right to think such a thing of a respectable man. He was the butler, after all, which was the highest of the high in the servants’ ranks, while I was almost the lowest, with only poor Janet below me.
Maybe I was wrong. But what if I was right? And what if Ellen had somehow found out Mr Joseph’s secret?
If he was found to be stealing from the household, he’d lose all chance of promotion, of moving on to the big house that Gracie had mentioned. What would he do to keep Ellen silent?
A sudden shiver made me hug the bedclothes to me.

* * * *
Without making a conscious decision, I began to think about tracking down Ellen’s killer. It was as if the house was holding its breath, waiting for an answer.
I slept in the dead girl’s bed; I had inherited her clothes; I heard stories about her from Gracie and Mrs Pearson and others. Good stories and bad.
She’d been a complicated person, by all accounts. So complicated that someone had taken her life. But why? It niggled at me.
Yet who was I to think I could solve a murder where a detective, brought all the way from Glasgow, could not? Perhaps, I had a chance he had not. I was embedded into the household at Muirfield, whereas he was an outsider, an observer.
I had a real chance to get to know everyone and their hidden depths. Of course, if Ellen had been killed by an outsider, that meant nothing.
My musings rambled on while I worked each day. The village policeman often came to visit, making himself known and asking questions. His presence was no doubt intended to warn the killer that the law had not given up on Ellen’s case. However, nothing came of it.
I was more interested in a snippet of conversation I’d heard between Mrs Pearson and Mr Joseph. I wasn’t eavesdropping, but I couldn’t help hearing their conversation.
I was in the servants’ dining hall, cleaning the chairs and ready to wax the long table. Janet was in the kitchen.
Everyone else was upstairs tending to the demands of Mrs Dawton while Mr Dawton was on a visit to Glasgow.
“But where does she go?” I heard Mrs Pearson say.
“I have no idea and it is none of our business what Mrs Smith does on her day off,” Mr Joseph replied, sounding reproving.
Their voices came from the corridor outside.
“But you must admit it’s strange,” the cook persisted. “I mean, it’s every afternoon she has off. She puts on her black coat and hat and stays out until late.”
“She must be visiting family.” Mr Joseph now sounded as if he was losing his patience with the conversation.
“But she doesn’t have any family. She told me that years ago. There’s just her since Mr Smith died. No children and no siblings.”
“There’s no great mystery, Mrs Pearson,” Mr Joseph said. “Why are you making it one? She must be visiting a friend. Come along. There’s much to do today. I can’t stand here making idle gossip.”
I heard the click of his shoes and I hunkered down and made a big deal of cleaning the chair struts. They needed it. If Mrs Pearson popped her head round, she’d see me hard at work.
In any event, she didn’t, and I was left wondering where Mrs Smith vanished to on her days off.
Before long, that wondering turned to a resolve to find out.
I was due my first half day off that week and was looking forward to it. It was too far to go home and I had planned a short walk in the country and then a good read of my book. But now I decided I’d use the time to follow the housekeeper.
So it was with great anticipation that I finished up my duties that lunchtime and put on my outdoor coat and hat.
I was pleased with my outfit. The dark green colours went well with my hair and I had finally got rid of the last weaknesses left by the illness. My colour was high and I felt strong and full of energy, despite the hard work that Muirfield demanded.
I decided that I looked attractive enough. Clear skin and youth were to my advantage.
I had planned to go outside into the side garden and linger there until I spied Mrs Smith leaving the house. Then, somehow, I’d follow her without the housekeeper being aware. I had no clear idea how I’d achieve that, but felt confident I’d manage somehow.
I was almost enjoying myself. I had to remind myself that this was my detective work and that brought me back to earth quickly. Whatever I did to discover Ellen’s murderer might very well put me in the path of a dangerous person, too.
The trouble was, it was too nice a day to think such dark thoughts. I found myself humming a tune as I skipped downstairs and out the side door. The garden here, on the opposite side from the walled gardens, was plain grass lawns and shrubberies.

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!