Murder At Muirfield – Episode 35

I PAUSED near the bothy, then I went on. The woods seemed to suck in all light and I prayed my lantern would stay lit. I had extra matches in my pocket, yet I didn’t want to crouch somewhere in the blackness trying to relight it.
Nothing moved in the woods. There were no birds on the wing, no clip of deers’ hooves, not even the creak of branches, just an eerie stillness.
And so to the inevitable sight of the summerhouse. The lake was almost invisible, a wide inky blot behind the wooden building. The trees beyond melded in darkness with the night sky.
On reaching the wooden platform, I lifted up the lantern and pushed open the door to the summerhouse. It was as empty as always, yet now I knew it held a secret. I was certain of it.
Without further ado, I kneeled down and opened up the cupboards under the seating.
The lantern shone inside. The cupboards were empty, just as before. But now my quick fingers felt the underside of the seating which formed the ceiling of the cupboards. Almost immediately I found what I was looking for.
I felt paper and wax under my fingers. I pulled the packages down and brought them out. I hadn’t even opened the first one when the door creaked open.
Hadn’t I expected this? Didn’t I know, in my heart, that he’d come?
Yet it felt as if that very same heart was now breaking. I hadn’t wanted it to be true.
“How did you find out?”
I turned to face him, the packages clutched in my fingers. Adam, my sweet Adam. He stood there, tall and broad-shouldered, a black silhouette I could barely see.
“I didn’t know for sure. I guessed.” My voice was surprisingly steady.
“I deserve what’s in those packets more than he does.” Adam’s voice was thick with emotion. “That’s my future. I’ll be head gardener in a grand estate in England on the back of those. Mr Dawton doesn’t know the worth of what he’s got.”
“You’re selling his precious plant seeds without his knowledge.” My guess had been correct.
“You’d be amazed what growers will pay for what’s in there,” Adam replied. “Some of those seeds are so rare there’s only one or two plants growing in this entire country. If I sell them to the right people – rich men – then they’ll need someone knowledgeable to grow them on. I’ve got buyers lined up in London. That’s where I’m headed.”
“It’s stealing. If Mr Dawton found out, he’d sack you. You’d lose everything. Your reputation and any chance of a good future employment. It would all be over. Ellen found out about this, didn’t she?”
“She wouldn’t stop about it. She threatened me. Said she would tell Mr Dawton if I didn’t marry her and share the wealth.”
“Why not marry her, then? Was it such an awful idea?” Poor Ellen. She’d sadly misjudged her threats. She must have believed Adam loved her enough.
“I couldn’t have a wife I didn’t trust. She’d have given me up any time I didn’t agree with her.”
He took a step forward. I took an equal step back. I held the lantern in front of me as if it was a barrier.
“I didn’t want to get rid of her. She went on and on. It was an accident.” He covered his face with his hands and groaned.
“What about me? Will I be an accident, too?” I whispered to his bent head. “Did you love me at all?”
He paused and then slowly raised his head. For a moment our gazes met.
It was too dark for me to see the beauty of his blue eyes, but I felt a pang like a physical blow for all that could have been. I had loved this man. But I had never really known him.
I’d been a fool. I’d been taken in by his handsome features and strong body. The real Adam was something quite different.
“I don’t know what to do,” he said. His voice was sad and regretful.
The tiny hairs on the back of my neck prickled.
“I’m going to go straight to the house and get them to call Arthur Sankey. I can’t pretend that I won’t,” I said.
He moved forward. At that moment the door crashed open.
Bill came running in. He tackled Adam to the ground.
In the commotion the lantern was knocked over and went out. There was a scuffling and kicking. I screamed. I didn’t know which man was which.
A flying foot caught me on the shin. I cried out and fell back.
When the chaos stopped, Adam was lying face down on the ground with his hands tied behind his back. Bill was standing, breathing heavily. Behind him, timidly peering, was Miss Emily. Bill ran to me.
“Hannah, are you hurt? Did he touch you?” His fingers ran round my face and head, searching for wounds.
With a sigh of relief, he moved away.
“You’ve Miss Emily to thank for your rescue. She came and woke me up, then insisted we go to the summerhouse. She watched you leave. She knows that Adam killed Ellen.”
“Why didn’t she say so before?” I looked from Bill to Emily and back again, puzzled.
“I thought I was asleep,” Emily piped up now. She came and sat beside me.
We both looked at the bound man on the floor. He made no movement or sound. Bill was taking no chances. He looked ready for action if Adam made any threat.
“I was sleep-walking, as I do. I found myself here when I woke up. I heard angry voices so I hid in the trees. Then I saw . . . him and the maid. It was horrible. I heard the splash of water and then she wasn’t there any more. I stayed hidden until he’d gone. Afterwards, I thought it was a nightmare, not real.”
“And when you saw me tonight?” I prompted gently, putting my arm around her.
“I saw you with the lantern. Somehow I knew it was bad. I like Bill. He’s kind to me. And he likes you. I’ve seen how he looks at you. I knew he’d help save you.”
I felt a surge of protectiveness for this child who had helped saved me. I looked up at Bill.
“You did save me. Thank you.”
He coughed with embarrassment and nodded. We both pretended not to have heard Emily’s words about how much Bill liked me.
“Now we have to go and rouse Arthur Sankey to come to arrest Adam.”

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!