Login   Sign Up 


Death by Chocolate chapters 7 to 9

by Phelim 

Posted: 26 May 2004
Word Count: 2507
Summary: The next chapters of a not so cosy cosy crime story.

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

Chapter 7
The suspicious death, though no verdict had been officially reached, was a major topic of conversation within Wykmead. House wives and school children hung around Ivy Cottage fascinated by the faceless white overalled people who walked in and out of the house, attempting to elicit any fragment of gossip they could. The local press had sent a reporter and a photographer - just in case something interesting happened between now and the papers going to the printers.

Constable Jonathan Cooper sat in the office of his police house with Inspector Oaklea. Jonathan was giving his superior an explanation of the history of the theatre, Gareth Highfiled's role in its construction, the rumours and the main protagonists on either side. None of this was really new to the Inspector, due in part to the activities of Counsellor Orr. As such Inspector Oaklea was only listening with half an ear, waiting for the phone call from the Coroner. His interest dipped even further when the Constable got onto the subject of the play, as Oaklea had never been a fan of amateur dramatics.

“The play was a murder mystery, straight out of Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers. You know bumbling inspector and brilliant, but eccentric detective. Gareth played the detective. I was to be one of the main leads, but only for the first half. I was to be the victim, and the murderer. I know it sounds daft but the plot was simple. My character was having an affair, and wanted to kill of his wife. The chosen method was poison chocolates, but after an argument I was to forget which chocolates were poisoned, eat one and die a spectacular stage death.”

Just as Inspector Oaklea was about to say something derogatory about crime fiction, the phone rang. Picking it up he heard the clipped accents of the pathologist at the other end.

“Inspector Oaklea? Well the news is that the doctor was right. The victim was dead about 48 hours. It looks like the last thing he ate was a chocolate. The remains of it were in his gullet. The box has been sent for analysis. But the primary tests we've done suggest nicotine”

The Inspector heard himself say thank you, and put the phone down. He looked at the Constable, almost unable to believe the question he was going to ask. “You just said this play contained poisoned chocolates, was the poison specified?”

Jonathan Cooper sat quiet and looked thoughtful. Unaware of the conversation his superior had just had, he was ignorant of the significance of his comment. “Well, Gareth had not really decided the final wording. But it was down to two. One was nicotine, Gareth liked this as it was easy to get hold of. He had a bush of the plant in his back garden, but it wasn't 'classic' enough. Gareth's favourite was the old standard strychnine. Why?”

Inspector Oaklea did not answer the question direct, choosing to ask one of his own. “How many people knew about the short list?”

Both his voice and face showed Jonathan's confusion. “Well, I did, as how I died was reliant on the poison. Gareth is, I mean was, a stickler for detail. Sophie, the girl who was to play my wife, but is now my mistress, and Jennifer who was my mistress and is now my wife. Oh and Gareth of course”

For a moment Inspector Oaklea wondered what the Constable was talking about. He knew that Jonathan's wife was called Elizabeth, and that they were (as far as he was aware) happily married. Then he realised that Jonathan was talking about the play. “Could I see a copy of the script?”

It was as he said this that Inspector Oaklea realised the significance of what Jonathan had said. If only those three people knew the potential poisons, then his constable was - how ever unlikely - a suspect.

As if he had heard the Inspector's thoughts, Jonathan spoke. “We did discuss the issue in The Stag. So anybody could have heard, and enough people hated Gareth over the theatre.”

Suzette Goodwin sat silently, staring out of the window. Thankfully, surgery had been quite short. All Suzette was left with were her thoughts. As a doctor, dead bodies didn't frighten her. The problem was this was the first time she had ever come across an actual murder. And Suzette was sure she did not like it. Then there was the problem of Philip to deal with. Of all the looks in someone's eyes when they hear about a murder this was not what she expected. Surprise, shock, even sorrow would have been normal. But not for the Reverend Philip Weaver. The look in his eyes was one of excitement. Suzette had seen the James, Rendell, Christie, Keating and Sayers on the bookshelves. So he enjoyed crime fiction, any normal person would have tried to write a story. But not Philip. Here was his chance to play Sherlock. How could he? Murder is not a game.

She thought back to the conversation of earlier. Philip had looked down at his cup, almost as if he was embarrassed by something. When he looked up there was a boyish glint in his eyes.

“I've always wanted to be a detective” he had said wistfully. Suzette could still feel the flush of horror of what was being suggested. “Its natural for a vicar to be associated with dead bodies. I wonder if I could 'tag along' with the investigation?”

Suzette had failed to keep the anger out of her voice. “This is real life, not some bloody novel off your bookshelf. Gareth was murdered and it is not your job to poke your nose in.

“Anyway,” she continued sarcastically, “I'm not sure either a pink fluffy shawl or a deerstalker hat would really go with the sports car.”

Philip had risen, and looked towards the door. His eyes carried the look of a school boy who had just been caught stealing apples. “Yeah, your right. Forget I mentioned it.” Philip then left the room, tail between his legs.

Suzette Got up from her desk and walked round to the coffee machine. “I doubt Philip will forget it and he'll want my help,” Suzette said to herself.

“'Elementary my dear Suzette', ugh.

“I'll have to do it, to make sure Philip behaves himself.”

She sat back down at the desk and, opening a draw, got out a copy of the new Patricia Cornwell. Suzette had never seen the fascination in the cosy worlds of Miss Marple and Lord Peter Wimsey. But this time, as she turned the page, she felt that the last thing she needed was the explicit detail of modern thrillers.

Chapter 8
As he went through Gareth Highfield's script Inspector Oaklea could barely believe what he was reading. Every page contained another cliché, another stereotype. He had walked in to find his wife watching a “Miss Marple” the other evening. If a police officer, let alone an inspector, had acted as the one on the screen had... well, he wouldn't have even made the rank of inspector.

The police officer (what was it that these writers had about inspectors and chief inspectors?) was as bumbling as you could get. Treading over clues, chasing red herrings. Speaking with an accent somewhere between Lady Bracknell and Lord Haw Haw. Not that any of the other characters were better.

The “detective”. So upper class that even the “wot oh”s were scripted. Dressed in plus fours, a hound-tooth jacket, and cravat with a tweed cap and monocle. And with a butler as his fellow sleuth. Some form of bastard offspring from Lord Peter Wimsey and Albert Campion, with no apologies to either Sayes or Allingham. The problem was, Inspector Oaklea admitted, this is what people expected. In spite of modern writers these things still sell, and even some of the modern writers have moved on very little. The techniques are newer but, “If I ever let one of my men get into the jeopardy that these people do I'd be for the high jump. And not just once. To have my detective in a place where they are assaulted, almost killed, and need rescuing. Once is too often. To have it happen again is criminal”

Yet in a world with a battle for Kuwait, rising crime, and unemployment, maybe people need something to create a cosy world to escape to. Some people have their “Hamish MacBeth” and “Heart Beat”, others have their cosy crime novels. Mrs Oaklea, had her Catherine Cooksons. “At least I have no need for such crutches”. Inspector Oaklea congratulated himself, as he sipped on his ritual single malt.

The clock on the wall chimed the hour. As if he had been waiting for this signal, Inspector Oaklea finished off his glass. Having disposed of its contents, he lay the container down and set off for the murder free zone of the golf course.

In the study of the vicarage, Philip Weaver sat at his desk. Normally he would be writing his sermon for the following Sunday, or for the new Bible Study group he had started. But now he was writing notes on the death of Gareth Highfield.
·Building of Theatre - why wait until now?
·Change of performers for leading role - revenge? (not that likely)

·Most of parish council and half of village

·Sophie Greensands
·PC Cooper
·Sophie's Father


Philip looked at his list. It was a start. How often though had he read about Poirit or Wimsey writing such a list and coming up with the goods. There were too many suspects. Too many reasons. What had he said about feuds and bloodshed? Had someone overheard him, and decided it was a good idea?

Suzette Goodwin was having similar concerns and reservations. The image of Gareth making his entrance (he could never just come in) into the pub was a memorable one. The last time she had seen him do this, wasn't that the time she and Philip were talking about feuds and back stabbing through the local press. Had someone over heard them?

Suzette sat back and thought. Slowing her breathing she walked through what she could remember about the conversation. It was a form of self-hypnosis, but it helped. Philip was saying something about how people were now keeping a polite face while assassinating characters through letters to the editor. Someone walked past the window, possibly Gareth on his way in, but they couldn't have heard Philip. His voice was barely audible. Even she had to strain to hear what he was saying. Then Gareth had appeared. “Enter stage right”.

Unbeckoned another thought entered Suzette's head. Wasn't that the night that Colonel Orr had his accident? Were the two connected? The Colonel couldn't have killed Gareth as he was still in hospital. So, could someone have attacked the Colonel and murdered Gareth?

Suzette picked up the phone to call Philip. Half way through dialling his number she stopped. Philip was bad enough already, he didn't need any encouragement.

In the theatre a decision had been taken. The show must go on. The death of Gareth would mean casting changes, and people having to work even harder then before. An agency couldn't have come up with a better p.r. stunt. The play was once again the centre of focus in the community, and the performers were going to give it their best.

Jonathan Cooper sat on the stage reading through the script. His copy was now in the hands of the inspector, so he had had to photocopy someone else's. His script now had correction fluid all over it as Jonathan attempted to redo his notes, a process that led to some confusion. He had just come to his stage demise. This made his mind wander. Who could have picked up on the script and killed Gareth in this way?

Chapter 9
Colonel Orr arrived back at his house in his wife's Fiat Uno. There was no obvious clue to his hospitalisation, as the stitches were covered by his hat. Two walking sticks were signals to the unsteadiness of the Colonel. That and he had lost weight on an institutional diet.

The major blow to the Colonel's life was that he was no longer allowed to drive. This was part of the package that came under the heading of rest. This would also mean the Colonel resigning from the parish council. Such events were his life, and now Colonel Orr looked at his house not as a home but as a prison. It would have to go.

As Colonel Orr made his way to the steps, he paused. Somewhere at the back of his mind a memory tried to rise from the darkness of the amnesia that accompanied his fall. Despite both his and its best efforts the memory remained in the shadows. Shaking his head, the Colonel made his way into the house.

Since the death of Gareth Highfield, Robert Westland had pulled himself into his shell. While he went about his work as a postman, his round had been changed to exclude the area of Ivy Cottage. Like Macbeth who kept seeing blood, Robert appeared to be haunted, walking around a shadow of his former self.

While Robert had never been much of a church goer, Philip Weaver felt impelled to visit him. While he couldn't put his finger on it, Philip was concerned about Robert. The visits were not easy, but if Robert wanted to talk, Philip would be there for him.

The day Colonel Orr returned to his home found Philip calling on Robert. As he sat in the brown and green lounge of Robert's home, Philip meditated on the man he was with. Why would he be so afraid?

“Revd Weaver” Robert's voice had a reed like quality. “Is there any truth that he died by eating a poison chocolate?” The village had been alive with the fact that Inspector Oaklea had kept Constable Cooper's script, because of the death by chocolate. People had already put two and two together, in the manner small communities do, and decided that this was vital information.

“Not that I know of, but then I am not privy to the police investigation. Why?”

Robert Westland looked down at the carpet. When he spoke he sounded scared. “The day before I found Gareth, I delivered a large box to his house.”

For a second Philip could not see the relevance.

“What if,” Gareth continued, “that was the poison box of chocolates?”

Philip closed his eyes and shot an arrow prayer to God. Firmly he spoke, with his eyes matching his voice. “Then who ever posted that box of chocolates is guilty of murder.

Subtly Philip changed the tone of his voice to one more calming. “But you delivered them in complete innocence, and have nothing to fear.”

By the look on Robert's face, Philip could tell that his companion did not believe him.

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

Friday at 17:43 on 27 May 2004  Report this post
Hi Phelim,

Chapter 7
Reverend Philip Weaver showing excitement about Gareth’s death was a little weird then I realised he wants to play detective. I still can’t workout the relationship between Suzette and Philip.

“I doubt Philip will forget it and he'll want my help,” Suzette said to herself. – this doesn’t need speech marks, If they are thoughts.

Chapter 8
Inspector Oaklea – I like his view on the play/tv police not being ‘realistic’
Fun to see, Reverend Philip Weaver - playing detective
‘SUSPECTS: Theatre •Most of parish council and half of village.’ – good one.

Chapter 9
Good to see the return of Colonel Orr – I wonder what he will remember?
I’m interested in who sent the chocolates.
I like the last line, a definite page turner.

So is Philip Weaver the new Columbo?

Good stuff,

Phelim at 11:15 on 28 May 2004  Report this post
Thank you for the comments Dawn.

I don't see Philip Weaver in a tatty mack, more with elaborate moustaches. As for the relationship between him and Suzette, I'm pleased that some intirgue is there as it will bcome important.

Also Suzette should have muttered to herself, hence the speach marks. Will change that.


To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .