Locked in the Manor
'In 1920s Birmingham, Detective Marjorie Turner gets called to a case like no other at the infamous Selly Manor. Six suspects, one victim, a locked room and a missing hand.'
Read our multi-part murder mystery story set at Selly Manor, written by our volunteer Gaby Songui. This story is not suitable for under 14s.
Read part one here.
Locked in the Manor: Part 2
The Manor seemed eerily quiet as they approached. The stream of onlookers that usually flooded murder investigations were absent, and instead replaced by the occasional bird song on an otherwise empty street. There wasn’t a nosy neighbour, a concerned bystander, or even a passerby. The only clue that anything tragic had happened at all was the police horse and carriage waiting outside.
Beside the horse stood a familiar, lanky-looking constable who, Marjorie noted, couldn’t stop a murderer if he tried. It was strange to only have one constable outside the crime scene, but to choose one with the strength of a well-meaning turkey? Marjorie knew him as Constable Perkins, though he was most commonly referred to amongst friends as the horse whisperer, and was often at Marjorie’s cases with Jenevieve by his side. She earned his respect three years prior when some expertly planted explosives destroyed the home adjacent to his own. The roof had still been billowing clouds of dark, heavy smoke when she returned to the station with a rather squat, dark haired woman in cuffs.
“How yer doin’ Detective?” Perkins said in a tired but pleasant manner, “I heard it’s a tough one this one, and they want it all wrapped up by nightfall”.
“Do they?” Marjorie asked, not entirely surprised but slightly confused nonetheless.
They exchanged a few more words with Perkins, and found out that nothing of note had happened. The victim was still missing a hand, the suspects were sitting quietly in the hall, and no one had left the building since Constable Walkers.
The Manor consisted of two separate buildings: a hall and a home. If you walked through the gate and went left then you entered the former, and if you went right then you would enter the latter. There was a well-manicured garden between and around the two buildings, and a light grey cobbled pathway that took you around the land. Marjorie inspected the flowers upon entering, and was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the Manor. It really was a gem with its timber frame and red brick chimney, and she almost understood the appeal of being locked there for a night, if only to escape the mundanity of day to day life.
Terry on the other hand was not prone to such sentimentalities, and instead swiftly marched them into the hall. The constable guarding the doorway nodded to him, overlooked Marjorie, and then opened the door for them both.
“Nothing’s happened since you’ve been gone. Mrs Adelman’s been sniffling to herself but other than that…” he shrugged, trailing off, and Terry nodded. They exchanged a few more words and then went inside.
The hall was no warmer than the outside air, and Marjorie pulled her long velour overcoat around her to keep warm. The hunter green coat was a gift from her mother, and with its detachable fur collar and matching belt it was easily the most expensive item she owned. Her mother gave it to her in a bid to make her more feminine and desirable for a husband, but Marjorie had no such interest, and instead enjoyed the warmth it provided. Plus, she found people were more willing to talk to her when she was dressed well.
There was a low ceilinged entryway at the start of the building, and to their right was a set of wooden stairs. The stairs led up to a viewing area directly above them. Terry explained that they were using the space as an interrogation room and Marjorie nodded slowly. It seemed strange to interrogate suspects within earshot of other suspects, but she figured allowing Terry to maintain authority and pride in his work for a moment longer would be no problem.
They walked past the entryway and entered the tall, cavernous hall, centered with a large oak dining table and eight beautifully carved chairs. Five of these chairs were still spaced around the table, and the other three had been moved around the hall by suspects and constables wanting to sit apart from the group. It was all strangely quiet, and although some of them briefly glanced up when she entered, it seemed as though they were posing for a painting. All very still and subdued.
“Alright, so there you have Antonia Adelman,” Terry said, pointing to a distraught looking woman sitting on the chair nearest to them at the table. “And beside her is Brianna Miller, they say they’re childhood friends”. Marjorie noticed the space between the women and the lost look in Brianna’s eyes. There wasn’t exactly a scene of comfort before her, but they had been there all morning, so who knew what had changed.
“On the other side of the table you have Paul Baker sitting beside Javel Grey, and at the end of the table you have Betty Adams. Donovan Walsh was sitting over there,” Terry added, pointing at the chair in the corner of the room, “but it looks like he’s stretching his legs out. Nice fellow that one”.
“How many constables do we have on site?” Marjorie asked, her attention now fixed on a forlorn Betty Adams and a pacing Donovan Walsh.
“Perkins at the gate, Gibbons at the door, Travers is in the hall and I believe Andrews is around as well. Small team today,” he concluded. He shifted his weight from one leg to another and then sighed. “Let’s do a quick tour of the house then. I need to get off my feet soon, I’m too old for all this running around,” and with that Terry led Marjorie back out the hall and through the front door of the beautifully preserved Manor.
Terry led them straight through the house and up two flights of stairs to where Constable Andrews was stationed. The two men greeted each other, and Marjorie went to enter when Andrews blocked her path with his arm.
“This is no sight for a lady. Not even Mrs Adelman is allowed in here. We can’t be dealing with the hysteria with such a small team,” he said, and Marjorie frowned. Before Terry could speak she reached into her frustratingly shallow pockets and pulled out her papers. Andrews stared at them in disbelief and Marjorie felt a little ball of satisfaction inflate in her chest.
“Now if you’d excuse me Constable, I think you can wait outside,” ordered Marjorie and Andrews sheepishly retreated. The look on his face was one of both frustration and embarrassment.
“Did he really have to leave?” Terry asked pointedly and Marjorie simply smiled, before inspecting the pale corpse of Adelman strewn across the floor.
She reached for his still present hand and, to her disbelief, found the muscles stiff and rigid. The body seemed to be beyond the peak of rigor mortis, which placed Adelman’s death to the night prior instead of early morning. How come no one called until 9am? Surely his wife would have realised her husband was dead?
“What’s wrong?” Terry asked, twiddling his fingers impatiently. Instead of replying she started to inspect the stump where the other hand used to be. The wrist was unevenly cut, with torn skin and a light splattering of blood along the arm. From what she could see, the hand had been purposefully and painfully sawn off, though thankfully it had happened posthumously.
“I asked what’s wrong! Are you going to ignore me?” Terry exclaimed, and Marjorie briefly explained the situation to the shocked constable whilst examining Adelman’s decadent, fairly unruffled attire and partially bruised neck. There were no finger marks, however there were deep red and purple marks around his eyes, so the man had been suffocated but with an object instead of hands.
Finally, Marjorie examined the room and noticed a gap in the wall furthest from the stairs. After some probing at the gap, she found it was an old priest hole, filled with a blanket, several pillows, and a Bible. Someone had been in this space recently Marjorie thought, noticing the lack of dust and modern furnishings. Someone may have stayed here overnight.
To be continued...