• David Claridge

Episode Two: Private investigations

Updated: May 28, 2020

For the full story, remember to click on the links and play the videos.

Sunday 14th June

Dr Bonnie Clyde was always pleased when she managed to get her favourite parking spot at Les Liens. Even though there was a sign with her name above the space, there was usually a member who decided to ignore that sign and leave their car there all day. She picked up her briefcase from the backseat and walked up the path to reception, trusting that the button she had just pressed on her remote control would return the cloth roof of the convertible to its closed position. Her heels clicked on the wooden floor of the reception as she made her way to the reception desk.

“Is anyone there?”, she called out. Bonnie knew that if Amelia were in this morning the reception would not be unmanned. From behind her there was the sound of a door opening, and Sylvia, the Maître d’hôtel, came in from the terrace.

“Bonnie! Good morning. You’re here before me today. Sorry, I had a bit of an incident at home.”

“It’s okay, don’t worry about it.” She knew she wouldn’t.

“I think you have a few more clients booked in today. Looking to improve their focus on the course; they booked in yesterday with Anna. I’ll just check the diary for you.”

Bonnie had been looking forward to a quiet day today, maybe a relax in the spa, and so was not happy to hear about new clients. Counselling wealthy golf fanatics on their swing was not what she had originally planned when she studied to be a psychologist, but it came with its perks.

Sylvia had been struggling to find the keys to Amelia’s office; she had been looking in the drawer where Amelia usually put them but then saw them hiding behind the computer screen on the reception desk. She unlocked the office door and let out a gasp of shock.

“Amelia! Amelia! Are you drunk again? Wake up!” she cried.

“Sylvia, what’s going on?” asked Bonnie.

“Amelia. She’s on the floor …she’s not moving. Help me – you’re a doctor!”

“I’m not that type of doctor! I think we had better call for an ambulance”

“No. I’ll call Pierre first.”

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Henrietta, as she called her 2CV was the best purchase she made when she first came to France ten years ago. Everyone had laughed at her, but she loved its cheeky personality, with its bright white body and striking green stripes. This car had accompanied her on all her cases; every personal investigator worth their salt had a sidekick, and Hazel Durette had two – the first was that trusty old car, the second was just cocking his leg up a lavender bush. “Artemis! Arête!”, she called to the small, black and white dog.

The last time Hazel had been to Les Liens was for a charity golf event. For some reason, even though she had never before picked up golf sticks, her now ex-husband had entered her into a tournament the club had arranged to raise money for local charities. Hazel ended up being paired with the club’s owner, Pierre Laurent, who was, of course, an expert golfer. Unfortunately, they came last in the tournament, and although they still managed to raise a decent amount of money, Pierre was not impressed; he said she had made him a laughing stock in front of his customers and that she ‘owed him one’. Well, this was the day when he was calling in that debt.

“Does anyone else know?”

“No, we shut the door and pretended that everything was normal. Just us three and Monsieur Laurent.”

“So, you’ve just left her lying on the floor?”

“Pierre thought it best until you got here, just in case there were any clues…”

“What, like a message scrawled in blood? You’ve been watching too many bad movies, Sylvia. It doesn’t happen like that.”

In honesty, Hazel didn’t know if that sort of thing did happen or not, this was the first dead body she had been called out to investigate. Her usual cases involved hiding in bushes trying to get photographs of cheating spouses and their lovers or tracking down lost cats.

“Do you think she was murdered?”, asked Dr. Clyde.

“Stands a good chance, unless she decided to hit herself on the head with an as yet unidentified blunt object”, Hazel retorted. She could not stand stupid questions. “Where’s Pierre?”

“He’s on his way … he wanted to finish his coffee and croissant first.”

“Bien sûr, comprehénsible.”

Hazel was always quite pleased with herself when she managed to throw a few French words into a conversation; her ‘A’ level had come in useful at times.

Artemis nuzzled at her ankle. “What is it, Arty?”, she asked. The dog padded behind the door in the corner of the office, “Arty! NO!” she exclaimed, thinking that he was about to leave his calling card, but he wasn’t. Arty had sniffed out a glass ashtray, splashed with blood. ‘Well, whoever it was who killed her, they didn’t clean up after themselves - sloppy', she thought.

She was starting to put the events in order in her mind. Sylvia had last seen Amelia at nine o’clock last night; she had called her in from the terrace to deal with a complaining (but rather dishy, according to Sylvia) guest. “I’ll need to speak to him, of course”, Hazel had said, secretly looking forward to that meeting.

Amelia had then gone into her office and closed the door behind her. Anna, the receptionist, had left at seven o’clock and Sylvia went home at half past nine. Today is Amelia’s day off, so Sylvia is the duty manager; she was slightly late getting in to work this morning because of an incident with her juicer.

Amelia usually left the office keys in the top drawer of the reception desk, under a note pad but this morning Sylvia had found them behind the computer screen on the desk, so the killer had obviously locked the door when they left and threw the keys down.

Hazel looked at Amelia, lying on the floor, her face covered in blood. ‘If only she could tell me what happened … it would certainly make my job easier’, thought Hazel. It would also be much easier if she were able to get the police involved to do a spot of finger printing and utilise whatever other tools they might have at their disposal. “Amelia Marshall, I will make sure that I find your killer and justice is served. Hazel Durette always delivers on her promises. Don’t you worry, girl. Sleep well.”

On Amelia’s desk there had been a half drunk glass of what she presumed was gin and tonic; unfortunately Hazel was unable to check by tasting it as Arty had already done the honours, jumping up on the desk chair, knocking over the glass and licking up the contents. This also meant that the paperwork on the desk had been soaked; there wasn’t much, and it didn’t seem to be that important, but Hazel thought she should keep hold of it. Looking around for something to put it in, she saw a pile of plastic wallets in a tray on the filing cabinet and decided that they would be perfect. She carefully picked up the paper and slid it into a wallet, and then into her bag.

Hazel found the key to the cabinet on Amelia’s desk and flicked through the contents of the first drawer, then the second and decided to leave them alone; they were extremely wordy and her French was not up to that standard, and anyway, it seemed unlikely that a killer would hide any vital clues as to their identity in a filing cabinet. She opened the bottom drawer and thought its contents much more useful – here lay the source of the G&T. She contemplated popping the bottles in her bag, for safe keeping of course, but instead decided to lock that cabinet back up and collect them at the end of the day … they were an expensive brand, so it would be a shame to see them go to waste. Sylvia had told Hazel that when she saw Amelia lying on the floor, her first reaction was that she was ‘drunk again’, and these bottles and the glass on Amelia's desk did seem to confirm that there may have been a bit of a reliance on alcohol. Hazel wasn’t particularly surprised by this, ‘I don’t blame the girl’, she thought, ‘I’d probably have a little tipple if I was surrounded by this lot, too’.

Unfortunately, there was no CCTV footage available from the reception or the office; Les Liens prided itself on discretion, a secret hideaway for those wanting to get away from everything, be that scandal, family, fans or anything else from which you would want to hide. She had heard rumours of the sort of things that went on here, and couldn’t wait to dive in and find out more – all for the professional purpose of solving the murder of Amelia Marshall, of course … nothing to do with how she just loved poking her nose around. If anyone in this place was going to know about any scandals, it would be Dr Clyde, thought Hazel. She could be a good place to start asking questions, but she has disappeared off to her therapy room in the spa; apparently someone was having crisis over their swing, whatever that meant.

“Sylvia, could you come in here, please? I need to ask you a few questions.”

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“Nice of you to join us, Monsieur Laurent. How was your croissant?”

“Bon, merci. How are you, Hazel? Are you now a better swinger?”

It took a few moments for Hazel to realise what Pierre meant.

“I’m afraid not. This is tragic.”

“You just have to focus. Bonnie can help you with that – she works miracles.”

“No, Pierre. I mean Amelia.”

“Quoi? … Oh, yes, of course. Une tragédie.”

How Pierre could be thinking of golf at a time like this baffled her. Did Amelia really mean so little to him? Was she just a number on the payroll? Sylvia had said that Amelia wasn’t the greatest of managers … something about being ‘over-efficient’ … but Hazel felt sure that she could sense a tinge of jealousy. It seemed to her that the Maître d’hôtel wanted to be the General Manager.

“So why bring me in, Pierre? This should be a police job, its really out of my normal field.”

“I need discretion, Madame Durette. There are many important people here and they must be protected. Find the killer, then we will go to the police.”

“I will need to question everyone. I’ll need a full list of staff and anyone who was here last night.”

“Bien sûr. I will get it for you”

“That is, if they are still here. They could have fled the scene by now.”

“No. I have made sure the gates are firmly locked. They will not get out without us letting them out. And the only other way out is over the cliff. Also, our Head Green-keeper is out there to keep an eye on things.”

“Good. I’ll start with him, then work around everyone else.”

The rain had started to fall outside, the scent of its warm droplets hitting the grass filled the air. She knew she should feel sorry for whoever had left the top down on the convertible, but she just couldn’t help laughing. 'Serves them right for being a showoff’, she thought to herself.

As much as she loved Henrietta, Hazel had always wanted a ride in a golf buggy and thought this would be an ideal opportunity. There was one sitting just outside the reception, keys in the ignition. “I’m just going to acquire this for an hour or so, I need it for my work”, she called out to anyone who may be watching. Hazel sat in the driver’s seat and Artemis jumped up alongside her. He was like a faithful shadow always by her side and had been a life saver when her marriage failed. After several failed attempts which resulted in the buggy jolting backwards and pruning the lavender bushes, she eventually started moving forward, although not as smoothly as the little dog would like.

“Quiet, Arty. I know what I’m doing. Do you want to swap places?”

He looked at her quizzically.

“We’re going to go and talk to Sid. I bet he knows what’s going on around here, always out of the golf course, eavesdropping on conversations.”

“Don’t look at me like that, Arty. It’s not just me who likes to know the gossip.”

Just a few short minutes later, they had arrived at the ultra-secure gated entrance. Sid Potter called out to her, “Have you got a licence for that, miss?”. Her keen private investigative skills detected a hint of sarcasm behind the comment. “Mr Potter? I need to ask you a few questions.”

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It had been a long, long day, fuelled by occasional coffee and some rather tasty sandwiches (Arty particularly enjoyed the egg which she soon regretting giving him) and pastries, but Hazel was ready to reveal her findings. She 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 twist their heads as she moved around them, making her denouement. She hoped that Pierre wouldn’t notice the scuffs that she had made on the tiles when dragging the heavy furniture around. Artemis barked and everyone quietened down. Hazel stepped forward and cleared her throat.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Mesdames et Messieurs, thank for joining me”, she began.

Now move on to 'Episode Three: Un petit commerce'.

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