Saturday August 9
Cleo didn’t ask her advice as much anymore. Dorothy’s many hunches and ideas were going to waste. She had reproached Cleo, but the reaction was shock. That was nonsense. Dorothy was as involved as she wanted to be, Cleo said vowing to be more considerate of her friend’s feelings in future, even if she thought Dorothy was deluded. She did impart that decision to Dorothy.
The day started badly for Dorothy Price. She was officially a partner in the Hartley agency but she had announced to all and sundry that she was retiring to a life of Beethoven, gardening and other hobbies she had not had time to pursue and was now reproaching herself for have that silly idea. The fact is that had changed her mind and did so want to be part of things. Sadly, Dorothy did not feel accepted in the same way.
Getting up early was something Dorothy liked to do, especially in the summer, but she did not like to wake up from a nightmare, and that is what happened that sunny Saturday morning. For reasons best known to her psyche, she found herself sitting bolt upright in bed at six a.m. trying the remember where she had left her father’s old handgun, which had been replaced by a slick ladies’ pistol that she always carried around these days, despite Gary’s disapproval.
A pot of tea later, Dorothy fortunately remembered that she had discarded the old laundry-basket with the floral lining that had been a convenient place to store the gun, for an on-line purchase of a wicker laundry-basket that was also a seat. It had no lining so it was not an ideal place to conceal a weapon. The old laundry-basket was retired to the garden shed, where it could be used as a convenient container. Dorothy did not throw things away until they had absolutely outlived their usefulness. The handgun would still be tucked away under the floral lining of the old basket.
Dorothy dressed quickly and went to the shed. As a direct result of that bad dream she had decided that the handgun should be handed in. She had read the news in the Chronicle the previous day of a weeklong general amnesty for old weapons being offered by the police on a national basis, news that had probably triggered her dream. Yes, it was high time to stop hoarding her father’s old gun if she were to go unpunished.
Dorothy did not lock her garden shed. Most people in that road didn’t unless they had valuables in it. Nobody would want the old junk most people kept there, after all, so Dorothy was alarmed that the old laundry-basket had gone. It did not take many seconds to realize that with the disappearance of the laundry-basket the handgun had also gone. A few seconds later Dorothy’s thoughts were dominated by the realization that she had not only not relinquished the gun, but had no idea where it was.
What would Gary say? What would Cleo say? Could she break the news gently? After all, Dorothy was sincere about the arms amnesty and now her noble thoughts had been thwarted.
Her intention to get some serious weeding done before the sun got too hot was forgotten. She would have to own up to what had happened. After all, she had been burgled. At breakfast time she called Cleo.
“I’ve got a problem,” she said.
“Go on. It sounds rather dramatic, Dorothy.”
“My laundry-basket has gone, Cleo.”
“Do you mean that someone has broken into to your cottage? What else did he take?”
“No. Not into my cottage. Into my garden shed.”
“Forgive me for asking, but what was your laundry-basket doing in the shed?”
“I have a new one for the bathroom and the old one is useful for storing the covers for my garden chairs.”
“What else did the burglar take, from your shed? And when?”
“He left me the chair covers and I don’t know when,” said Dorothy.
“Think back to when you last went to the shed,” said Cleo, who would have liked to take Dorothy more seriously, but could not equate her friend’s annoyance with the theft of a discarded laundry-basket out of an unlocked shed.
“Don’t you go into the shed every day, Dorothy?”
“Not every day. Gardening is usually weeding and harvesting in August, so I don’t need other tools except the ones I keep in the coal shed.”
Cleo was glad that Dorothy could see her amusement. Her friend really was past retirement age.
“Of course, it’s a serious matter that someone got into the shed and took anything, Dorothy,” she said.
“That’s not the whole story.”
By now Gary had picked up the handset in the bedroom so that he could listen in to a phone call that sounded as if was becoming tedious, though Cleo was trying to put on a show of being interested. The rolling of her eyes in Gary's direction showed him what she was really thinking and amused him no end. She put the phone on speaker. Dorothy was really upset.
“What is the whole story, Dorothy?” said Cleo. “Do you want Gary to look for the laundry-basket? If so, say so!”
“He might want to when he finds out that my father’s old handgun was stored under the lining.”
Gary sat down and buried his head in his hands. Cleo was silent. No wonder Dorothy was upset. Dorothy's father's old pistol had been the subject of Gary’s disapproval ever since he had known about it even though it had got him out of one very situation.
“Are you sure, Dorothy?” said Gary. “Didn’t I tell you to hand in that weapon?”
“Oh, hello Gary,” said Dorothy. “I didn’t know you were listening.”
“Cleo sounded upset, Dorothy,” he improvised. He was irate.
“I forgot about the gun, Gary. I don’t use it anymore, but it was the only thing belonging to my father that I still have.”
“That’s no excuse, Dorothy. I suppose you do remember that Paddy Kelly was killed with a powerful handgun,” he said. “It could have been your father’s.”
“I’m sorry,” said Dorothy and Gary thought that Dorothy’s decision to retire had been a good idea.
“Where do you keep the ammunition, Dorothy?” Cleo asked.
“In the cutlery drawer,” said Dorothy. “It’s still there, but the gun was loaded, Cleo.”
“Words fail me,” said Gary. “The homicide squad is going to have to look for a laundry-basket.”
“It might not have been the gun that killed Kelly,” said Dorothy.
“It could have been, Dorothy. This is a serious matter,” said Gary, now sounding quite officious and not bit loving.
“Do you have an alibi for Monday afternoon?” said Gary. “You might need one. I’ll send forensics in. Don’t touch anything in the shed, Dorothy.”
“No, Gary,” said Dorothy timidly.
”You don’t seriously think that Dorothy could have shot Kelly, do you? Cleo said,. After Dorothy had rung off and gone to her piano to shed tears of remorse over the keys.
“I’m trying not to think seriously about what happened to that gun, Cleo.”
“I’ll send Hilda to look for the laundry-basket,” said Cleo.
“Not until forensics have been, Cleo, and better not at all. I don't want two eccentric old women meddling. I’ll phone Chris now.”
"Dorothy does not meddle," said Cleo, feeling she had to defend Dorothy though it was more than just careless of her to consign a loaded gun to the garden shed.
Chris was not sure if he should be amused by the story, but he would come himself. At least there wasn’t a corpse to deal with.
“But we can’t rule out that whoever stole the laundry-basket found the gun and used it,” he said.
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” said Gary.
“Will you be at Dorothy’s cottage?” Chris wanted to know.
“Yes. I’ll probably have to look after Dorothy. I hope she has an alibi.”
“You don’t seriously think that Dorothy would kill someone, do you?”
“I seriously think it would teach her a lesson if we let her think we suspected her. I’ve told her many times to get rid of that old gun. She reacted by getting Greg Winter to organize a new one and she did not hand in the old weapon.”
“Maybe she forgot, Gary. Don’t get so worked up.”
“I am not worked up, Chris,” Gary shouted.
“You are in a state, Gary,” said Cleo when he had finished phoning Chris. “You screamed at Chris as if it’s all his fault.”
“Someone is running around with that weapon, Cleo.”
“OK, but we don’t know if it killed Kelly.”
“We know it could have,” said Gary. “Ask Dorothy where she was on Monday afternoon.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“If Chris compares the calibres and they are the same, it’s possible, of course,” said Cleo. “We’ll find that out from size of the bullets in Dorothy’s cutlery drawer and compare them with those shot into Kelly’s back. We could also get Bertie Browne onto the search for the laundry-basket, couldn’t we?”
“We might have to, Cleo.”
“So tell me about the motive Dorothy could have had for killing Kelly,” said Cleo.
“Ask her,” said Gary. “I’m going to her cottage now. Chris is coming to collect some clues, but I’m hanged if I’m going interrogate the woman.”
“You’ll have to ask her if you want to find out anything from her, Gary. I’m going to tend to our children, and don’t forget that you love Dorothy.”
Cleo decided to phone Hilda.
“I have nothing to tell you,” said Hilda.
“But have something for you, Hilda.”
“I’m missing my laundry-basket,” said Cleo.
“I have two. I can lend you one.”
“Thanks, but I want you to go to Verdi’s supermarket and post a request for a lined laundry-basket saying you want to buy one. If you get a response, please let me know.”
“Did Dorothy Price put you up to this, Cleo?”
“What makes you think that?”
“I’ll do it for you, but not for Dorothy Price. I have to get some shopping so I’ll get that note posted on the customer request board.”
“Thanks, Hilda. I’d go myself, but I can’t leave the children.”
Hilda thought that Cleo was probably suffering from depression. No wonder with all those children.
Cleo phoned Dorothy and told her what she had asked Hilda to do.
“I could have done that,” said Dorothy.
“Hilda does not know you had a lined laundry-basket and she does not know that it was stolen, Dorothy. Let’s wait and see, shall we?”
“Very well. I can hear Gary talking outside to that forensic man. They went round the back of the cottage. I’d better look what they are doing.”
“OK, Dorothy, and if you could just remember where you were on Monday afternoon it would save Gary being suspicious.”
“I was here all day, Cleo. I saw Joe and Grit go past the cottage in the afternoon, but I have no witnesses except that I told you and I was at home at the time. How else would have seen Grit and Joe walk past?”
“Calm down, Dorothy. No one in their right mind could accuse you of going to the Common to shoot at someone for no reason at all.”
“Does that include cops?”
“Gary is angry because the gun has gone. A private eye has left it in an unlocked shed. How you would you react?”
“OK. How about this explanation: I stole the laundry-basket myself and carried it unseen somewhere. I then retrieved the gun and lay in waiting for Kelly. I then shot him because one of the eggs I bought from him was bad. Is that enough of a motive?”
“Don’t be silly, Dorothy. We all know you have nothing to do with Kelly’s death,” said Cleo.
“But you will go on suspecting me until the real killer is caught,” Dorothy said. “Being a suspect feels terrible.”
“Come over later, Dorothy. Stay for supper. Gary is going to the airport with Joe to collect Joe’s daughter. We can have a nice long chat.”
“You might be harbouring a murderess,” said Dorothy.
"Don't be silly, Dorothy, or I might start suspecting you of hiding something."
"I wouldn't do that," said Dorothy, near to tears.
“I’ll have to ring off now. One of the twins is crying. See you later.”