Chapter 1

If there is anything that makes any sense out of the chaotic mess in Kelsey Mews it was that Martha Goodpenny was not responsible for any of the consequences. Sure, she was there when the victim's body was discovered face down on the staircase without a stitch on. She was the one holding the bloody knife gingerly between her fingers hoping not to disturb any fingerprints but it was obvious she was just trying to keep it away from the small toddler trying to grab anything underfoot. The fact that the infant had managed to get smeared with some of the victim's blood in such a shocking manner simply defied logic. The circumstances invited suspension of routine procedures until it could be removed from the immediate vicinity of the deceased.

Ms. Goodpenny was happy to have the weapon removed from her fingers and see it placed inside the comforting solitude of a plastic evidence envelope to await further investigation. The body was duly photographed and finally removed inside a black plastic container to the morgue for further analysis. Of course, the slit throat seemed to offer an easy verdict on the "cause of death" and the next question on the lead investigator's mind was the exact timing of the crime so that alibis could be sorted and witnesses as well as suspects questioned.

The "past middle age" widow with greying hair was not in the least bit perturbed by the sight of a corpse as she had been the wife of a Chief Inspector of Homicide for nearly three decades. She had seen more crime photos and listened to more theories of motives for murder than psalms on a Sunday afternoon. She was relieved the victim with whom she was only slightly acquainted despite the fact she was in fact her blood relative was bagged and removed because her nudity was more disturbing to her than the fact she had been recently murdered.

Chief Inspector Tower was not amused to find the widow of Harry Goodpenny on his crime scene.

He was never a fan of the late Chief Inspector who he suspected made more use of his intuition instead of good old solid police work. His widow was attractive enough considering her age but he was not in the least kindly disposed to treating her with anything other than the courtesy any civilian would expect in the interrogation room. Besides, she seemed to know a bit too much about the open safe and the missing computers and video cameras than normal for an ordinary witness. Still, he was careful in his handling of the still good-looking and fashionable Martha because he knew he owed her for not telling the long dead Harry how he had pawed and tried to kiss her when they had both drunk poor Harry under the table after the New Year's Eve celebration at the main barracks. He knew he was in the wrong but his below the beltline brain was headed in a one way direction and it was difficult to put the brakes on gracefully.

Chief Inspector Tower's wife had left him almost ten years ago this August and he knew it was his philandering with tasty new female recruits and the odd female barrister every now and then that steeled her heart to make a clean breast of it. Martha had not been one of those "friends" who told him "I told you so" but had actually brought him a casserole when he was down and out and cautioned him against drinking too much because he wasn't as young as he used to be. He considered it a class act because of the crude way he had tried to get into her knickers when the opportunity arose.

"Martha, you know will have to have a word with you at the station to get your story about the unfortunate circumstances. No need to come immediately, let's say nine in the morning and we will get this nasty business out of the way. Lady Rowena was a bit of a tramp and had plenty of eager assassins ready to shut her lips if they thought they could get away with it. I know she was your brother's child but her history is not one to brag about in mixed company."

The keen-eyed mature woman nodded her head in assent only now becoming fully aware of the severity of the crime. She had sorted the scenario in her mind a dozen times and knew there was something that didn't ring true. Before she allowed them to escort her away from the crime scene, she gave it one last scan hoping to put something into her data bank that would help her connect the dots about her niece's sudden demise.

Her visit to the luxury premises was prompted by a cryptic message from her niece to "take my little Felicia off my hands" referring to the tiny two year old whose trust fund was the primary source of Rowena's income for the past two years. Her divorce from the international playboy Ricardo Montoya was a messy business and the tabloids had even sent reporters to her door to see if she had any tidbits about her niece and her terrible reputation. She had walked in on the gruesome scene via the unlocked front door and immediately called the police to report the crime.

Before she left in the police van, Martha called her solicitor and arranged to have the toddler Felicia taken to her mother's country estate since she was the named guardian in case of any mishap happening to Lady Rowena. Martha knew her mother would be ecstatic to have a small child in the large house once more to be spoiled and over-protected. She had never had any children of her own because of some chemical deficiency and tended to be a bit off kilter around them because they often refused to be reasoned with.

She popped into the shower as soon as she got home and sat down on the wide bed that she had purchased after her husband died. They had separate smaller beds during the marriage because her departed spouse snored like a trooper just when she was always dropping off to sleep. They had gotten into a routine of having sex in other areas of the household like on the sofa or in the pantry or the shower but kept their sleeping arrangements separate and a lot more restful. In later year, her husband was noticeably not "up for it" due to a prostate problem that nagged him in having an operation that all but ended his "slap and tickle" days forever. Martha didn't mind because she had a lot of hobbies to pursue and she enjoyed looking over his shoulder to help solve the complicated murder cases that eluded the experts at the yard.

Her wardrobe these days consisted mostly of very boring undies, a pleated skirt, and a throw-over sweater that hid her still slightly perky boobs. Still, she like to dress up every now and then even if it was completely incognito in some restaurant or club far from her neighborhood. She liked to pretend she was a "high-class" working girl for the mature male members of the posh clubs but would have fainted dead away if any gent took her up on her shameful flirting right out in the open. Once or twice, she had managed to get close to some dodgy fellows to get an earful of useful information for her husband in his inquiries into some villain-related case because she looked acceptably nondescript and naïve. She remembered with great fondness how her brushes with danger managed to make her pulse beat faster and make her entire body pulsate with keen awareness of her surroundings. In the absence of physical relations, it was a God-send to have such diversions.

It was her Harry that showed her how to pick a lock and to start a motor without a key. It was all dubious information and skills for a woman just turning fifty and talents not likely to win her any friends in high places.

For some strange reason, she took a long soak and put on the French undies she had been saving for Harry before his prostate problem. Now she was ready for the interview room down at the station. Instead of the pleated skirt, she wore the tighter red one that clearly showed the curve of her buttocks when she turned round. She could see her rear in the mirror and was proud of the fact that it still looked as desirable as it did in her younger days.

Martha looked at her reflection in the hallway mirror and saw her hidden hunger and loneliness in her generally emotionless eyes. She accepted the fact she was no longer in the "hot" category but at least she was still somewhat attractive. She could tell good old Chief Inspector Roger Tower wouldn't mind a go at her feminine assets if he had half a chance and suddenly she felt like she was inclined to give him an inside rail straight to her finish line. It was a thought that put a visible sparkle in her eyes and she slapped her own hip for being so secretly naughty.

The station was crowded and chaotic as usual. The pimps and the street girls were whining out their ridiculous stories that didn't even manage to bring a smile to the jaded officer's faces. She was told to take a seat in the "reception" and found a chair between a transvestite with fairly good legs and a bearded goon who resembled Rasputin. It was business as usual on a Monday morning after a full weekend of criminal activity.

Sitting across from Chief Inspector Tower, Martha could see that he was a bit nervous. It should be quite the reverse was her thought because she was the one found at the scene of the crime with a bloody dagger in her hand. She knew she had absolutely no motivation for the crime and she had followed police procedure correctly in calling the station immediately. Besides, she could tell from the onset of "Rigor" that the body was on the staircase for at least two hours or more and quite possibly a while longer. She was certain that her niece also had a snapped neck just from the angle her head rested on the step. If she had not been stabbed, it would have most likely been put down as an unfortunate accident of a female slipping on the stairs with wet feet.

"Martha, will you state your name and your address and your age for the purposes of recording?"

She looked at Roger seeing that he was dead earnest in his interrogator persona noting that his lips seemed a bit more appealing when he showed his serious side.

"Martha Goodpenny of 315 Honeybee Lane, SW and I most certainly will not state my age unless I am charged with something."

C.I. Tower seemed a bit taken aback but he just ignored the response and went on to his next question.

"Why did you enter the premises of the deceased at 6:15 PM yesterday evening?"

She appreciated the fact that Roger was cutting to the chase right away and not fooling around with any questions he already knew the answer to.

"My niece, Lady Rowena asked me to stop by to tend to her child for a short while. Apparently, she had important business to tend to and was unable to find a suitable care-giver."

"Did she often do that?"

Martha had to admit that was a good question because it would pinpoint the extent of her involvement.

"No, she did not. In fact, it was the first I had heard from my niece since the funeral of my spouse."

She decided to add the remainder unasked response because she wanted to jump the gun on C.I. Tower's line of questioning and move his interest on to the things she had noted about the scene of the crime. He was most methodical and did not take the bait continuing with systematic questions that established her relationship with her "not quite a lady" niece, Lady Rowena.

When she tried to introduce some interesting oddities she had noticed about the crime scene, he cut her off short serving notice that it was his investigation and he was not interested in hearing any speculation from amateur detectives.

Martha was not overly bothered by the lack of concern for her theories because she knew he would soon be overwhelmed with forensic evidence that would attempt to give a picture of what had actually happened to Lady Rowena. She didn't envy him his work because it had become evident to her after some thought on the matter that the incident was staged by an unknown third party who had undone the work of some professional who had created a scene of accidental death. In effect, there was a murderer and an anti-murderer with different agendas entirely.

When she left the station, she had imparted none of this to Roger who was obviously unwilling to hear her thoughts. However, she did invite him to her garden party on the following Saturday afternoon on the promise she would pass on to him her husband's notes on several cases they had worked together.

Leaving the station, she was certain his eyes were glued to her rump much to her satisfaction because she really wanted his attention properly focused in order to be more open to her suggestions.

For the rest of this story, you need to Log In or Register