• David Claridge

Episode Nine: J'accuse

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Sunday 14th June

It was always comforting to be in the cocoon of Henrietta, the 2CV. Hazel slid a cassette into the slot and pressed the play button. There was something about Morten Harket’s impossible falsetto that helped to focus her mind, to help her reach that ‘aha!’ moment in an investigation.

Artemis curled up on the seat next to Hazel and closed his eyes; he really wasn’t used to so much excitement in one day.

“So, Arty, what do you make of it then? Who killed Amelia Marshall?” she asked the little dog, but all she got in reply was a gentle snore.

She reached into her bag and was delighted to find a pack of sweets. The wrapper was slightly sticky on her fingers, and she was a little disappointed that the only one left was lime flavour, but it would do for now. Everyone told her it was time to upgrade and start taking digital notes, but Hazel loved her notebook because it was so easy to go back over everything, and there was something reassuring about holding it in her hands, a tangible testament to her detecting prowess.

‘Right,’ she thought, ‘let’s take another look, Hazel. See if we can work out who ended that poor girl’s life’.

Thankfully, the ‘aha’ moment had hit.

“Arty, come on! Time to go and get set up – they’ll all be there in half an hour!” She gave the little dog a nudge and he opened one eye. “Come on. Let’s go and catch us our first murderer!”

Hazel had asked everyone to join her on the terrace; she had always wanted to do that, like those famous detectives in books and on the telly. Here they all were, her prime suspects, gathered at her bidding and awaiting her verdict before she handed one of them over to the police.

She had set the chairs out first in a circle, then a semi-circle, before deciding to put them back at the tables, making everyone who had chosen to sit twist their heads as she moved around them, making her denouement. Or at least, that was the plan. She hoped that Pierre wouldn’t notice the scuffs that she had made on the tiles when dragging the heavy furniture around.

When all the suspects had gathered, Artemis let out an authoritative bark and everyone quietened down. Hazel steeped forward and cleared her throat.

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No one moved for a few seconds; they had all been stunned into silence.

“Officier, arrêtez le meurtrier, s’il vous plaît," Hazel said to the officer now standing next to her. The police had arrived just before she began her denouement and had stationed themselves in the reception, ready to stop the murderer in his tracks should he make a run for freedom.

There was a satisfying clunk as the handcuffs closed around his wrists. He put up no resistance, and as he was led away, he looked back over his shoulder, stared directly at Hazel and said, “Impressive. Well done. Maybe you should do this professionally.” A few moments later they had gone from view.

“Yes, Miss Durette. Excellent work. Thank you for your help and your discretion,” said Pierre Laurent.

“D’accord. No problem.”

“And that discretion … can we all count on it remaining? There are things that should stay secret in that notebook of yours … I think we can all agree on that?”

Shirley Grampian gazed at the floor, hoping that nobody remembered about her notepad.

“Yes, Pierre. I won’t say anything,” she reassured him. “About any of you,” she continued, “you all have my word of honour … unless the police ask, of course.”

An awkward silence prevailed, but it was soon broken by the sound of several police cars heading down the gravel drive, perhaps the last time the killer would take that journey that was so familiar to him.

It had been so obvious when she thought about it, and she would have got there much sooner if she had listened to Artemis who had barked so ferociously at the killer. These things were always about revenge of some sort – well, they generally were in the books she had read and films she had watched. Yes, everyone she had spoken to had a possible motive, but they were all quite loose, and based on jealousy or suspicions. Michael’s motive was solid and went back much further, back to that fatal boat accident when Amelia’s parents were killed, back to Amelia’s desire for justice, back to his brother Luke’s arrest and imprisonment. In his eyes, Amelia Marshall had taken his brother Luke’s freedom, and Michael Tremblay decided that it was time to take Amelia’s.

Hazel had told herself she wouldn’t get excited when she saw the story in print, but that proved to be impossible. There it was, on the front page. She let out a squeal of excitement, poured herself a glass of red and got a chicken flavoured treat from the box in the kitchen. The dog jumped up and took it out of her hand.

Hazel went to her odds and ends drawer and removed an old pair of scissors.

“Here’s one for the clippings book, Arty,” she announced to her companion, and began to cut out the article.

There was the muffled sound of a mobile phone ringing. Hazel looked around for her bag and smiled when Arty brought it to her.

A few minutes later she ended the call and let out another squeal of excitement. She threw on her scarf, picked up the keys for Henrietta and headed to the door.

“Come on, Arty! We’ve got another case! Looks like we are heading to Chez Delphine!”

Artemis jumped up, did a big downward dog, and scampered towards the door.

We hope you enjoyed your stay at Les Liens.

Full photographic credits can be found on the About section.

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