Death in an Ivory Tower (Dotsy Lamb Travel Mysteries) (28 page)

BOOK: Death in an Ivory Tower (Dotsy Lamb Travel Mysteries)
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“It was all Daphne, all along,” I began. “She killed Bram Fitzwaring with an injection of saxitoxin from St. Giles Bell’s lab, and shot Lindsey with a gun from Lord and Lady Attwood’s home.”

“But why?” Lettie asked.

“Her inner audience,” I said, recalling the phrase Claudia Moss had used. Looking at Keith, I said, “Have you ever noticed how often Daphne mentions her sister? Lady Attwood?”

Keith tilted his head to one side, and then nodded. “Yes, I have. And it’s always a major event when her sister comes to visit.”

I recalled the dressing down Daphne gave the poor gardeners on her sister’s last visit. “Harold told me once that Daphne grew up in her beautiful, witty, sister’s shadow. Daphne was the plain one, with no particular talents and a less-than-sparkling personality. Her big sister had all the boys. She had none. Her sister married a title and lived in a mansion. Daphne stayed home, destined for spinsterhood, or so she thought.

“When dowdy, fusty, old Harold Wetmore asked her to marry him—well, he wasn’t Prince William, but he was a master of an Oxford College, and he was renowned as a scholar of early English history. That was good enough. Now she could claim some sort of parity with her sister.”

“Like, okay, we’re not so rich, but we
are
respected,” Lettie said.

“Exactly. A few days ago Claudia Moss told me she couldn’t help evaluating all her own actions through the eyes of a girl she’d roomed with in college. A girl who always seemed to outdo her in every way. It was as if Claudia went through her life seeking the approval of someone she hadn’t seen in years. She called it her ‘inner audience.’ I started thinking about my own inner audience and how stupid the whole thing is.”

“Who is it?” Lettie asked.

“I’d rather not say. Suffice it to say that Daphne’s inner audience is her sister and, in everything she does, she strives to impress the woman who probably doesn’t give Daphne’s status a second thought. But what if someone is coming to destroy your husband’s reputation? What if his standing among academics is about to go straight down the tubes? Harold Wetmore was an unabashed proponent of the idea that England languished helplessly, almost returning to the Stone Age when the Romans left, and offered no resistance when the Angles and the Saxons invaded.”

Mignon snorted, but said nothing.

“How did Daphne know what Fitzwaring had in mind?” Keith asked.

I looked at Mignon. “Daphne knows the McAlisters, doesn’t she? She, John Fish, and Bumps McAlister together planned the Grey Lady stunt for our entertainment. It’s not inconceivable that the McAlisters knew Bram and Mignon were coming, and knew they had a bombshell to drop on our conference.”

“They
did
know! Bumps and I talked about it,” Mignon threw her pudgy hands to the sides of her face.

“Okay,” I said. “Bear with me a minute. Here’s where it gets complicated. Earlier this year, Dr. St. Giles Bell killed his wife. He probably injected her with saxitoxin, which he had handy. It wouldn’t have shown up in autopsy because the medical examiner wouldn’t have been looking for it. The lab may have tested her blood for alcohol or for the sort of drugs that often cause healthy people to fall down stairs, but not for a little-known shellfish toxin. I talked to Chief Inspector Child about this, but he’s not willing to agree with me until they interview St. Giles again and check to see if the forensic lab still has fluid samples from the wife’s autopsy. If not, they may have to get an order to exhume the body.”

Lettie shivered.

I said, “Daphne discovered the truth but I don’t know how. Keith, did she ever come to your lab? This would have been about February.”

“I-I-I don’t remember, exactly, but I believe she did. I believe she was keen to know more about St. Giles’s research, but I never wondered why.”

“There you go!” I said. I was anxious to leave this speculation behind and go on to the parts I knew for sure. “Assuming she knew St. Giles had killed his wife and that the police weren’t going to be able to prove it, she had information she could use for blackmail, but no reason to do so. Not until Bram Fitzwaring comes to the conference, ready to take on Harold Wetmore,

mano a mano.

“I’ll bet Daphne also managed to get into your records, Keith. She may have bribed or intimidated one of your assistants, but I’ll bet she knew Bram Fitzwaring was diabetic and was in your study. If so, aha! Perfect. When Bram dies, it’ll look like his condition killed him and if there’s any reason to suspect his death wasn’t natural, the most logical suspect would be Keith. The man who might have needed to lose a subject from his control group so his chi-square test will work out right.”

Keith’s ears reddened. “How the hell would she have known that?”

“I don’t know. Maybe she didn’t. But at least she’d know the police could connect him to you more easily than to her or to Harold.”

“But now it’s too late,” Mignon said. “Bram’s already been cremated.”

“Right. I don’t know if the police will be able to make the murder charge stick. But they have all they need to charge her with two counts of attempted murder.”

“That’s not good enough.” Mignon’s eyes narrowed in a serious scowl.

“I dare say, when Dr. Bell finds his own neck in the noose, he’ll talk plenty. And he’ll be able to tell the police exactly how Daphne did it.”

“So then what?” Lettie nudged me back to the deed itself.

“Bram was scheduled to address the whole group on the first full day of the conference, so he had to die that first night. I think, rather than fill one of his insulin vials with poison, as she did with mine, she probably slipped into his room—she can get a key from the porter’s station—and stuck the needle in him while he slept. Maybe the needle prick woke him up. Maybe he lunged at his attacker in the dark, missed, and began to lose control of his muscles due to the saxitoxin, thrashed around his room, turning everything over. Maybe Daphne was holding the door shut.”

“Okay. Now what about Lindsey?” Lettie said. “Explain what she had against Lindsey.”

“The police are probably talking to Lindsey right now, but here’s what makes sense to me. St. Giles left something incriminating on his desk, maybe an email from Daphne left open on his computer. On Monday afternoon, I called Lindsey and questioned her about how St. Giles stores his saxitoxin. She was in the hospital cafeteria at the time.

“So Lindsey wants to tell St. Giles about my call and goes down to his lab. She looks in his office across the hall, opens his desk drawer, and sees, not the incriminating evidence, but a photograph of Georgina Wetmore signed,
All my love forever, Georgina.

A little smile crept to one corner of Keith Bunsen’s mouth.

“Lindsey goes crazy. ‘That rotten cheater!’ Runs home crying. St. Giles calls, and Lindsey tells him she never wants to see him again. St. Giles has spotted the incriminating email or whatever it was, and assumes that’s what’s eating Lindsey. She probably hangs up on him and doesn’t answer if he calls back.

“St. Giles calls Daphne and says, ‘I’ve got a problem and you need to fix it. Tit for tat. You killed a man with saxitoxin from my safe, and I can get you arrested for murder. Okay, we may both go down together, but maybe not. At least you’ll go down, Daphne, unless you do what I want you to do. Kill Lindsey.’

“I need some water,” I said. “My throat’s dry.”

Lettie ran to the sideboard where they kept mixers for drinks and poured me a glass of soda water. No ice.

“Lindsey had to be silenced quickly. There was no time to plan, so St. Giles dashed off to London to get himself an alibi, and Daphne dashed off to the Attwood’s mansion to swipe a gun. She couldn’t use any of Harold’s guns. Even if she tossed it in the Cherwell, the fact that a gun was missing from his case would be all too obvious. But a gun from Lord Attwood’s huge collection would probably not be missed for a long time. Chief Inspector Child has already phoned, early this morning, and learned Daphne had actually practiced shooting clay pigeons with that very gun. Also, she knew where they kept the emergency key to a back door.”

“Oh, dear, whatever will Lady Attwood say about this?” Mignon voice was full of irony.

“Next morning, first thing, Daphne drove out to Belle Glen. St. Giles had told her how to find Lindsey’s house. She waited on a secluded path above the street of houses until Lindsey walked out and”—I looked at Lettie and lowered my voice—“shot her.”

“How do you know all this?” Keith asked. “You haven’t talked to Daphne, have you?”

“I went out to Lindsey’s yesterday, remember?” I looked at Lettie again. She nodded. “After I took the children for a walk, I did some sleuthing on my own, trying to find out where the shooter would have stood. As I stood on the path I figured the shooter must have taken, I realized I was looking straight into Lindsey’s yard. I could see her front door. It’s wasn’t that far away. I knew it was Lindsey’s because, as the children and I walked along the street, I noticed her front door was the only one with an etched glass, Art Deco style window. The rest were mostly Georgian.

“Earlier yesterday I’d heard Daphne say, disparagingly, that she hated those new flats with their postage-stamp yards and their cheap little Art Deco doors. I stood there on the path and got a strange déjà vu feeling but I didn’t consciously figure it out until late last night. I realized it must have been Daphne who was walking into Staircase Thirteen the night Bram died, simply because Daphne is so short she’s one of the few people who could walk under that bathroom window without my seeing her, even when I stood on tiptoes. I started thinking about Daphne, about Claudia’s ‘inner audience’ comment, and I wondered. That’s when it hit me. The only person who’d call the front doors of Belle Glen ‘cheap little Art Deco affairs’ was someone who’d spent a good deal of time staring
at Lindsey’s front door,
and who wouldn’t have known it was the only one of that style on the whole street. So it had to be Daphne.”

My cell phone rang. It was Chief Inspector Child and they needed me back down at Thames Valley Police Station. No sleep for me yet, but what did I care?

When I closed my phone, Mignon said, “I don’t suppose this is the most important thing, but what about Bram’s thousand pounds? The money is still missing.”

I said, “The police are questioning the scouts, especially Patricia, the woman who does the rooms on our staircase. They’ll try to find out about the money, but honestly, I don’t think they have any evidence to go on. They’ve no proof the money even existed.”

Mignon bristled and I thought she was going to take exception to that statement, but she didn’t.

“They’re mainly interested in finding out how the bottle of syringes ended up in the dumpster on Sycamore Lane instead of the sharps container in the broom closet. Mishandling medical waste and dangerous objects is an offense for which someone could be charged or at least fired. As for the money, hey! Maybe you haven’t looked in the right place yet. It could still be in the room.”

“One more question,” Keith said. “You asked if I got an upset tummy that night after the party. Did you think Bram had been poisoned by the food on Georgina’s tray?”

“At first I did, but then I figured it would have been entirely too risky. How would Bram’s killer know it would be he, and not someone else, who’d die? I think it’s likely, though, that Daphne slipped a drop or two of very dilute saxitoxin on the mussels so some people would get sick. If they did, it would appear likely that the kitchen had purchased tainted mussels.

“By the way, Keith, I’ve been wondering how you’ve managed to attend our meals and parties? You weren’t part of our conference at all.”

“Georgina. She did the place cards and the name tags. Harold is too myopic to notice and Daphne was too hurried to care.”

C
HAPTER
T
WENTY
-F
OUR

Harold Wetmore shambled into the Senior Common Room a minute after Mignon had walked out. He greeted Lettie, Keith, and me, then took up a position directly in front of the hearth. Center stage. With his hands clasped behind his back, he cleared his throat and rocked up on the balls of his feet.

This was not going to be comfortable. I’d have given anything to be elsewhere. I didn’t know whether to expect angry outrage that a guest, namely me, had dared accuse his wife of murder, or a tearful apology on her behalf. Either way I wished I’d left the room with Mignon.

“I’ve just been on the phone with Chris Burroughs. He’s the director of the Thames Valley Radiocarbon Accelerator facility. They dated the bones Bram Fitzwaring brought them and found that they all date to about 450 CE, give or take fifty years or so.”

“That’s what Mignon told me,” I said.

“And they are, indeed, human.” Harold paused and a grin spread across his face “
Most
of them, that is. But did Mignon mention that the largest bone, the one that looks like a femur, is, in fact, the humerus of an aurochs?”

“An aurochs?”

“They were ancestors of today’s cows but they didn’t go completely extinct until the sixteen hundreds,” Harold said. He pulled a handkerchief from his breast pocket, removed his glasses, fogged them with his breath, and used the handkerchief to polish them. “Not many people know that.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maria Hudgins
is the author of four previous Dotsy Lamb Mysteries from Five Star and of two Lacy Glass Botanical Mysteries, available on Amazon Kindle. A former biology and oceanography teacher, she is an avid traveler. Having visited Oxford seven times, she considers it her favorite town on the globe.

A lifelong mystery lover, Hudgins writes the sort of books she likes to read. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Sisters in Crime, and the International Association of Crime Writers. She lives in Hampton, Virginia, writes full-time, and travels all she can.

BOOK: Death in an Ivory Tower (Dotsy Lamb Travel Mysteries)
13.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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