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.
Read part two here.
Locked in the Manor: Part 3
After finding the priest hole, Marjorie instructed Terry to take her to the small living area by the entryway of the Manor and set up a table and some chairs. It made no sense to her to conduct interrogations within earshot of other suspects, as was happening previously, and thought it might be a comfort to step out of the cold hall and into the warm Manor. Marjorie believed that making suspects uncomfortable and fearful only made them more hostile to you, and if her tactic was to elicit fear then she was only allowing her gender to be a hindrance. She instead preferred to forge a connection and mould her appearance to reflect someone equally vulnerable, kind and most importantly, unthreatening. She achieved this with her lavender perfume, her rose pink lipstick and shoulder length, wavy sew-in (which was much preferred to straightening her hair with a hot comb).
The quivering figure of Antonia Adelman walked through the doorway, escorted by a frustrated but respectful Mr Walters, who grunted his way into the nearest chair available. Antonia looked like a bewildered lamb who had accidentally made its way into a gaggle of hyenas, and skittered closer to Marjorie in the hope of some kind of safety. Marjorie gave a small, sympathetic smile, and gestured for Antonia to take a seat.
“I’m very sorry for your loss Mrs Adelman. Please do make yourself comfortable. I’m Marjorie Williams and I’m here to find out what happened to your husband,” Marjorie said slowly. Antonia’s glance flitted to Terry nervously before pulling her arms around herself.
“I thought we had a detective on the case. Are women allowed to do this?” she asked, fidgeting with the sides of her dress and focusing on the edge of the table. Marjorie lightly explained her role within the police force, and then sent Terry off to fetch them all some water. Antonia looked visibly more relaxed. They then started to talk about how horrible the weather was with the viciously cold winds and frequent bouts of icy rain. This led onto a conversation about a shared love of flowers, local boutiques that showcased these flowers and then the poor fabric shops that were slowly going out of business. Marjorie had no interest in boutiques, but Antonia evidently did, and ended up naturally disclosing the reason for their stay at the Manor. They were visiting from London to see some family, and upon hearing about the fundraiser, Antonia thought it would be a charitable and hopefully enjoyable thing to do. She spoke about the whole situation so freely, that she barely registered Terry’s return.
“... and David wasn’t particularly keen, but then not many men want to support local fabric shops,” she finished with a sigh, her eyebrows knitted together and her eyes glittering with tears. “I shouldn’t have made him come. It’s all my fault,” and with that, she burst into another bout of silent sobs. Terry looked as though he would say something, but Marjorie shot him a look that pierced him to silence. She then whipped her emergency handkerchief skillfully out of her coat pocket and handed it to Antonia who mumbled her thanks between tears. It took five minutes of suppressed sobbing for Antonia to pull herself together again and feel comfortable to speak.
“Sorry about the handkerchief,” Antonia commented sadly.
“You keep it. I have many more at home. You just focus on telling me what happened and what you know,” Marjorie replied and Antonia nodded, taking a deep breath.
“So we arrived on Thursday to see David’s uncle and sort out some business. The plan was that David would do whatever he needed whilst I spent Thursday and Friday with his sister Florence around town. We would then have brunch with Brianna, David’s family friend and my best friend, and then we would head home Sunday evening,” she explained. It seemed easier for her to partake in a retelling of facts, and although she fidgeted with her dress nervously, she was no longer sobbing nor hesitating when speaking.
“Is Brianna from Birmingham then?” Marjorie asked.
“Yes, but she often follows her father down to London and stays in their house there. She doesn’t have a husband you see, and I think she enjoys traveling. I wouldn’t be surprised if she spent half the year in London”.
“And all she does is spend time with you?”
“Well David and I have only lived in London for four months. We moved there after we got married, so she was most likely practicing her music and reading before we moved. She seems very glad to have us there, glad to have company I mean, so of course she spends a lot of time with us. What else is she to do?” Antonia asked. Marjorie could think of plenty of things a young woman might be doing alone in London, but decided it was best not to speculate in front of Antonia. Her close-set hazel eyes blinked innocently at her, waiting for her to answer her question or move on.
“Please do continue Mrs Adelman,” she finally said, thinking back to the lost look in Brianna’s eyes in the hall.
“Well, when Florence and I were walking through town we saw the fabric store, and I insisted I sign up David and I for the fundraiser. Miss Alice was ever so nice after all. It was only after I paid that I remembered Brianna, so I returned and bought an additional ticket for her”
“And she was alright with that?”
“Yes of course. Brianna is quite adventurous,” Antonia remarked, and Marjorie jotted the comment down in her head. It seemed odd to her that a young lady would travel so frequently with her father for no particular reason, and that her best friend wasn’t sure of what occupied her time. She glanced at Terry who had started dozing on his chair, evidently tired from that morning's excursions and not seeing the conversation to be interesting, or the young lady to be a threat. Marjorie was inclined to agree. Her truthful tone and honest expression had not evoked any cause of disbelief from Marjorie, despite the strange travelling situation of her friend. And yet, how did she not know her husband was absent? Where was she when he was killed?
“So you arrive at the Manor and meet everyone. You settle down for dinner, eat a nice meal, and then?”
“We played some games, silly ones really. We started with cards and then played some truth and lie games. Everyone was enjoying it until…”
“Until what?” Marjorie asked, instinctively moving forwards. Antonia shifted uncomfortably.
“Until Paul Baker got rather angry. I don’t even know what it was about. One minute Donovan tells a harmless joke about finding a bride and the next minute Paul has stormed angrily out of the room. David went to follow him to see if he could calm him down and they both came back ten minutes later acting like nothing had happened,” she said warily, and her forehead creased into a frown.
“Did David know Paul?” Marjorie asked and Antonia shook her head, “and after that you played more games and then went to bed?”. Antonia shook her head again, swaying the loose dark curls around her shoulders as she did so.
“David and I were due to stay in the attic room, but Brianna didn’t want me to. She was nervous about sleeping in a strange house with no one she knew, so I slept in one of the bedrooms on the lower floor with her and Betty Adams”.
“So you weren’t with David for the rest of the evening? And you were with the other two all night?”
“Yes. All night,” Antonia replied, but this time her hazel eyes strayed away from Marjorie and she seemed uncomfortable in her chair.
To be continued...