Stella Stanhope rode her bike habitually into town like she did everyday. As she glided along the narrow, barely paved road with the same scenery no matter which way she looked. Green fields as far as the eyes could see, and sheep, lots of sheep. Some might think pretty, and it was, but so boring. Nothing ever exciting happened in Hambleden, it did at one time, but not lately. Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang, Band of Brothers, and my favorite Sleepy Hollow, among others were filmed here. They even used our church for a scene in the Agatha Christie's Poirot episode "Sad Cypress". My own mother was an extra in it. My thought was broken by an unexpected sight in the sky. Black smoke in the distance, and by how much it was, not a farmer in a controlled burn. I felt instant excitement that my monotonous day was no more and pedaled faster.
As I raced thru the field I heard the fire brigade coming, as I got closer it was only the barn on fire, It looked like flames were kissing the clouds. I took out my camera that I always carry and began to take pictures. All of a sudden there was a commotion in the back of the house which was untouched by fire. I moved to see better and saw a bench they were looking at. I zoomed in with my camera and I saw what they were doing. It appeared a woman was sitting there, in a chair. I stared for a moment and she appeared to not be moving. I smiled and realized that wasn't appropriate, but I couldn't help the excitement it gave me. It's not like I caused it, but I knew nothing, but it seemed like something more was going on. Just as they stepped away from blocking her I saw it, a large knife sticking out of her upper chest but I kept taking pics till they took her away in a body bag. When the last of the police left I rode on over there, not thinking of the danger I could be in. There wasn't as much blood as I thought there would be, and there was a flower pot filled with such colorful flowers, knocked to the ground. A large deep red chrysanthemum in the middle. I glanced around and decided to take it, the scene was already processed I told myself. Little did I know this act would propel me into the middle of murder.
I put the pot of flowers on my kitchen window shelf and sat at my computer to look at my pictures when my phone rings, "Hi Stella, it's Gemma, can you come tomorrow an hour early? I'm hosting tea this week, so I need you gone before they come". "Sure Gemma, see you at 9". She hung up without saying bye. I had a small cleaning business for the last 6 years. I started cleaning on the side for extra money along with my full time job, but I was really good at it and had a lot of clients. I quit my job and started my own business. Half my job is social, most were elderly, listening to their lonely lives sometimes. A 2 hour job would end up being 4 hours. I finally sat down to view my pics, after a few minutes I noticed something off from before and after. My little grey cells were working as Poirot would say. Then it hit me, I looked at my new plant and I wondered if it was important. Were the flowers put there by the killer?
I picked up the pot of flowers thinking of my pic, it was right next to the victim before the police knocked it over like it had no link to the murder. I wondered and carefully pulled the flowers out of the pot. My eyes widened as I saw a plastic bag with something inside. I knew from watching crime shows not to touch it with bare hands and grabbed a pair of disposable rubber gloves that I wear for cleaning. It appeared to be multiple papers, hotel bills from The Foggy Lighthouse. The bill had the name Frances Glessner Lee on it. I grabbed my phone and googled her name, it was the murder victim's name, she lived with her husband and 2 children on the farm that she was found at. I looked back at the bill and she was there 1 night for 6 weeks in a row, and according to the bill had room service for 2 each time. So, was she with her husband? No it seems more likely she was having an affair. Also in the bag was her bloody wedding ring. I thought should I bring this to the keystone cops, who seem to disregard its importance. Yes, I better for there is a killer loose out there and I'm no detective, or am I? I decided I would first thing in the morning, I wanted to sleep on this info, but not before I called my gossipy client, Fernie Finnegan asking her info on victim if she knew her. She did, and told me all about the floosy as she put it.
I put the flower pot in a bag to bring to the police, but I photograph it first. I called my one customer for the day, Mrs. Henrietta Hamelbrown, that I'm not feeling well today and can I come tomorrow instead? Of course, she replies. I ask her if she knows the victim too, she reiterates the same as Fernie. I make sure the flower pot is secure and start my 2 mile bike ride. I see police action near The Salty Sea pub. I stop and observe the coroner going in, I ask what's going on and I'm told Rachele Reynolds was found dead, murdered it seems. OMG, she was a client. I tell the officer I know then victim and I need to see the one in charge, I have info. He lets me thru assuming its about this case but its about the flower pot findings. As I glance around the scene I am shocked when the coroner bends down and I see Rachele dead sitting at her table and I see her mouth appears to be sewn together grotesquely with blood red yarn. But what shocks me even more is the planter of flowers sitting on the table, exactly like the one I have, same flowers, same pot. "Yes I'm DCI Charles Chapman, you have info I'm told", I reply "I most certainly do, let's start with that flower pot on the table".
I tell DCI Chapman everything, well almost. He tells forensics to bag the flower pot. He follows me out to my bike to retrieve the other pot and it's contents, "Oh I have a sleuth of pics from the 1st murder, after your people left, thought you were all done". The DCI starts to scold me and I reply, "listen sorry but I did get you a vital clue that you all missed so...... Right, thanks I guess, you can sleuth your way out of here Miss Marple. I smile, I like that comparison. What he doesn't realize is I know Rachele very well and I'm pretty sure I know why her mouth was sewn together, but does the DCI?
The victim was a bully, always screaming and humiliating her husband in public. Making fun of his manhood and so on, that is the reason she is not a client anymore. After one demeaning episode in front of me while I was cleaning I told her off and pushed her down as I quit and walked out 1 year ago. In fact my client for today was the Sargent at both crime scenes mother, Mrs. Deidre Deddington. I knew I would find out a lot about the 2 murders from her. Sargent Avis Arlington doesn't realize what she tells her mother, she tells me. I was right.
I find out what was hidden in the second pot, a flashdrive with the victim berating her husband verbally and physically abusing him. She continues on and tells me to sit and we have tea and blueberry biscuits. I thank her for the tea and get up to do what I came for, taking all the info and figuring it out. I glance out the window to the backyard and admire the garden, all the colorful flowers. It reminds me of the same flowers in the pots, alot of chrysanthemums. I decide to check it out, there is a small greenhouse and I peek inside and to my dismay a stack of the exact pots at the 2 murders. I notice there are 2 filled with flowers, I wonder for future victims. I grab my phone and call the station. I tell DCI Chapman my discovery, he tells me to be careful and will be right there. Before I can answer I feel pain and then blackness.
I start to come around from the motion of bouncing about. My head is down and I pretend to still be unconscious, I think I am in a wheel barrel being pushed to my demise especially when I have flowers in a pot tickling my chin. I don't think Mrs. D has the strength to be pushing all 165 pounds of me so easily. My mind is a whirlwind of ideas, who is behind this, Avis? For what reason? Before I decide to confront my abductor I need to know how big they are. Just then I hear a voice I know, Barry Bathurst, the towns work shy, sociable loner as my mother described him. What did he have to do with this. He stops and puts the wheel barrel down. "Okay Avis what now?" 'Let me think, ok?" "Are you sure she didn't talk to anyone Barry?" "I said no, I hit her before she talked." Not so I thought. Then I heard "Police, your under arrest." I jump up at that command grab the pot and toss it at Barry's head as he takes off running, down he goes. Avis tries to say she was saving me from Barry the murderer. I tell DCI Chapman the truth, he arrests Avis with look of shock on his face. 'What's going on, Avis, why is my daughter in handcuffs?" I look at Mrs. D and reply "consider this my last time cleaning" as I rub the bump on the back of my head. I hear DCI Chapman chuckle at that.
A few days later as I recuperated from my near death experience DCI Chapman stops by with a Battenberg cake and I put the water on for tea. He explains why Avis orchestrated all of this. It appears Avis's fiancé had a fling with the first victim Mrs. Glessner. She was enraged, she wanted her gone. Alas the knife to the heart. And Rachele Reynolds was her finance's mother. She hated her and how she treated her son, and how she controlled him and saw how beaten down the husband was, she was having none of that. Again the sewing of her mouth for her hateful words. I asked about the other pots filled with flowers, she denies there was more victims to come. so I just started talking to the besotted and brainless Barry, when he realizes she has thrown him under the bus he might change his tune. He gets up to leave, turns and says " maybe we can have a pint sometime, I have an old unsolved case I would like your input on." I smile and reply "Miss Marple at your service."