D.I. Owens and D.S. Parker spent some time searching Marcia Simpson’s house, and did come up with some surprising information, though none of it seemed relevant to her death. There was certainly no little black book.
“She must have been joking after all,” Karen decided. “It’s as though she just enjoyed worrying people, making them squirm. She sounds charming.”
“Mmm,” Jim said. “Oh, lookey here! Some official documents. How very convenient.”
He opened an A4 envelope and took out a small sheaf of papers, spreading them out on the desk top.
“Birth certificate. Marriage certificate. Divorce papers, seven years ago,” he said, laying them to one side and moving to the next. “Here’s her retirement papers. It looks as though she has just stopped work. Maybe she hasn’t enough to do with her time and that has turned her into a vindictive busybody. Mind you, she’d have to be that way minded in the first place.”
He picked up the next paper.
“This looks like a copy of her will, and here’s another one. Two wills. What was she playing at?”
“One must pre-date the other, surely,” Karen said, “unless she happens to have two copies of the same thing.”
“Yes, one is dated later than the other and renders the first one null and void. I wonder why she kept it. Just habit, maybe. She seems to have been a bit of a hoarder.” He started reading down the provisions of the will, where the main item struck him forcibly.
“Distressed donkeys? Can this woman be in her right mind?”
“What’s wrong with leaving your money to animal charities, especially if you don’t have any relatives?”
“But she does,” Jim said, pointing to the earlier will. “She has a sister. There she is, Frances Young, due to inherit everything in the event of Marcia’s demise. I wonder how recent the latest will is.”
He checked the date, and found it was only 10 days old. Jim leaned back in his chair. Could Frances have just found out? Could she have been incensed by the news, and struck out at her sister? Bearing in mind that a healthy proportion of murders are committed by family members, this wasn’t as unlikely as it sounded.
“I think we should check on Mrs Frances Young,” he said.
“If she’s innocent, she won’t know that Marcia’s dead. So we’ll have to see her anyway.”
“Good thinking, Batman,” he said.
“I thought you were Batman.” Karen smiled.
“So I am. OK, Robin, let’s finish up here and go visit Mrs Young. According to this, she lives quite near. Let’s give her a buzz.”
Mrs Frances Young lived north of Peterford, and she met the officers at the door with a welcoming greeting.
“Come in. I’ve just made a pot of soup.”
“That’s very kind, but I’m afraid we’ve come with bad news, Mrs Young. Perhaps you’d like to sit down first.”
Mrs Young’s pink face paled, and she sat down on a comfortable armchair as the others sat on the sofa opposite.
“It’s about your sister. Mrs Marcia Simpson?”
“Marcia. What’s happened to her?”
Jim Owens told her the facts as straightforwardly as possible. Although Frances seemed upset, at the same time she seemed relieved that what had happened to her sister hadn’t happened to someone she cared more about.
“Well, it’s a shock, of course. We were never close, Inspector, but we were sisters. I did try to keep in touch, but Marcia was a law unto herself. She wasn’t that interested in me and my family. Not that I’m not sorry about well, about her dying like that. It’s terrible. Of course it is.”
Karen took over.
“Did you know your sister had made a will, Mrs Young?”
“Had she? No, I didn’t know that. But I’m not surprised. She was always very organised about that kind of thing.”
“So if you didn’t know that she had a will, you wouldn’t know that she had recently changed it.”
“No, I didn’t. Is this relevant, Sergeant?”
“Well, the truth is that you were mentioned in the first will and cut out of the second. She has left everything to a charity for distressed donkeys.”
Frances was astonished but not upset.
“Did she? Well, she’s entitled, I suppose. It might have been nice if she’d left something to her nieces, but she certainly wasn’t obliged to. And these donkeys do suffer dreadfully. You see it in these adverts that fall out of the papers. Poor things. No, that’s fine by me.”
“So you wouldn’t contest it?”
The officers glanced at each other, and Jim carried on.
“One more thing, Mrs Young. Just procedure, you understand. Can you tell us where you were last night, say between ten and midnight?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” she said with a watery smile. “We were at a friend’s house for dinner. There were six of us, and we didn’t leave till one o’clock! That’s quite racy for us, Inspector. My husband doesn’t keep good health, but last night he was in great form. He does all the driving at night. I’ve got poor night vision, I’m afraid. I can’t see any distance at all in the dark. My sister was the same. I’m sorry you’ve missed my husband. He’s out for the shopping at the moment.”
Jim Owens smiled.