Colonel Winters was glad to be back in the cosy cottage that he called home. He'd had a bad day, what with being a suspect in a murder investigation and enduring the grandstanding of the irritating little man with the odd continental accent who had called them all to witness his theatrical dénouement at the Hotel Paradiso.
As he stoked the fire in the front lounge he mulled over the drama that had taken place in the Eastbourne seafront hotel lounge.
The pompous private detective paced the carpet and fixed the assembled company with an icy stare. One by one, the private eye focussed on his suspects, and one by one he showed that they each had a motive for the murder. Young Mr Arbuthnot, sitting on the arm of an overstuffed chair, was the dead man's spendthrift ward and stood to inherit the fortune; Miss Laverton, timid and nervous, was infatuated by the young man and might have administered the poison at her inamorato's request. Mr Higginbotham claimed to have invented the ointment that had made the dead man rich, and had tried repeatedly to get royalties from the company for the manufacture of his invention. If he wasn't the murderer his wife might have done it to give her husband some peace. Old Lady Armstrong, sitting ramrod-straight, her face frozen into immobility, did not seem to have a motive until everyone gasped at the revelation that before she married into the Armstrong family she had been a shop assistant, working to support her ailing daughter after being abandoned in pregnancy by the father. The little girl had died before her tenth birthday, when, possibly, expensive medical care might have saved her. And the dead man might have been the errant father.
In the corner of the room, unobtrusive, stood Sam Strapp, the Colonel's general factotum.
The colonel himself, against the empty fireplace, had been put in the spotlight; how had the little detective discovered the sorry story of his resistance work with the Maquis, and the betrayal which led to the capture of his group, and which may or may not have been the fault of the man who now lay dead in the Eastbourne mortuary?
The little detective had been playing with them all. In the end it turned out to be the butler, because his master had mistreated him.
The colonel undressed and wrapped himself in his dressing gown. Through the leaded window he caught a glimpse of movement on the drive and hastened to the door.
“Jock, come in out of the cold!”
Sam Strapp crossed the threshold and dumped multiple shopping bags on the floor in order to reach across them, cup the colonel's cheeks in his two chilled hands and give the other man an affectionate kiss. The colonel opened his dressing gown and wrapped them both in it. The bloody detective doesn't know everything, he thought with satisfaction, as he held his lover and partner tight.
© Bruin Fisher January 2011