Daisy was expecting the plumber and had left her office door ajar while she put her make-up on in the bathroom. She heard someone call out, “Excuse me, anyone there?” It was a woman who was leaning on a walking stick.
“Hello,” Daisy replied, “can I help you?”
“Are you Miss Hamilton – Daisy Hamilton the detective?” the woman asked, still leaning heavily on her stick.
Daisy saw before her what she would call a lady. A pleasant but proud- looking woman, who looked you straight in the eye, of about sixty-five or so.
“Oh yes, but please come in and sit down, and we can have a little chat,” replied Daisy pulling out the chair in front of her office table. “I’ll get another chair to put your things on – let me help you.”
The woman put her handbag and a paper bag from the baker’s on the chair.
“Thank you for receiving me without an appointment. You see, I went to the baker’s and saw there was some excellent-looking wholewheat bread and asked for some, but the shop assistant said it was the last piece and she was keeping it for ‘Daisy.’ As I’m an inquisitive person, I asked who Daisy was. She replied, ‘Oh you know - Daisy Hamilton the private eye!’ You seem to be well-known around here!” the lady said smiling pleasantly. “I asked her where your office was and she replied it was nearby – and here I am!”
Daisy laughed, “Well, I’ll be paying her a percentage soon for sending me clients! Would you like a cup of Earl Grey? I was just going to put the kettle on.”
“That’s very kind of you, Miss Hamilton. I’d love one, but just so I don’t take up too much of your time I’ll tell you what happened to me last November while you prepare it. First of all my name is Amy Middlemark.”
Daisy looked round surprised, “The same Amy Middlemark who writes for children?”
“Yes, I declare myself guilty!”
“I love your stories about the woodland. Oh I’m so happy to meet you!” Daisy exclaimed.
“Please call me Amy, it’s much easier. May I call you Daisy? Well, my old uncle died and I received a letter from his solicitor in London, Mr. Pike, asking me if I could drop in any afternoon that week to speak to him. It was an awkward moment because I had just had an accident and hurt my left eye. I had to wear a patch and it was difficult getting used to seeing things with just one eye.”
Daisy put a boiling hot mug of tea in front of Amy, “Oh thank you my dear, that’s lovely! Well, I went up to London on the thirteenth of November by train and then got the underground. After that I looked around for Kingsworth Gardens, the road where my uncle’s solicitors’ office is. It was about half past three by now, but starting to get pretty dark also due to a storm which was arriving. Finally I found No. 9 which was a house identical to many other houses in that rather well-to-do area, and rang the doorbell. Nobody answered so I tried knocking on the door but, again, there was no answer. Lightning struck and I noticed that the door wasn’t properly closed, so I pushed it open and just walked in – oh, I should explain that I didn’t have such a severe problem with my knee, as I do now, and was able to walk relatively well!”
Daisy put a plate of wholewheat biscuits onto the table.
“Do try these, Amy, as you like wholewheat things!” she said.
“Oh thank you, yes I will try them! Mmm, very nice… where was I? Oh yes, I walked into the house which was all pitch black. I felt for the light switch but the lights didn’t come on and I called out, “Anybody there?” several times but nobody answered. It was rather frightening! However, I managed to find my way into a room on the right thanks to the lightning which flashed in through the window. It was then that I noticed that the only noise was the thunder outside, it seemed there was absolutely nobody in the house! Naturally I thought it was all quite strange, but I decided to sit down on a chair for a few moments to collect my thoughts as my leg was giving me trouble and I was feeling a bit tired.”
“Well, you’d also just had treatment for your eye, Amy!” prompted Daisy.
“Yes, indeed! So, as nobody seemed to materialise, I decided to call it a day and just go home, but as I walked out of the room towards the front door which I had left ajar, the lights suddenly came back on and I saw a man sprawled out at the bottom of a wide staircase – motionless - with blood pouring from a wound in his chest. His eyes were closed and I went over to him but he made no movement whatsoever and I knew he was dead!”
Daisy certainly hadn’t expected to hear such a gruesome story from the writer of the Woodland Adventures.
Amy looked a bit worn and drank all her remaining tea. Then she continued, “I wanted to telephone the police, but I had no mobile and I could see no telephone around, so I went out into the street to look for a taxi, but as it had begun pouring with rain, none arrived. To cut a long story short, I eventually found one who took me to the nearest police station where I told a constable about the corpse I had found!”
“How extraordinary, Amy!” exclaimed Daisy.
“Yes! Well, the constable called a Detective Inspector – er - Thornberry, who took a statement from me and asked me to stay there at the police station while he sent a patrol car to No. 9 Kingsworth Gardens. They gave me a cup of tea – I was feeling rather shaken – and after a while Detective Inspector Thornberry asked me to come into his office. He then informed me, looking me straight in the eye, that they had found absolutely nothing - no body – no signs of blood - nothing pertaining to a death! On the contrary, it was a normal solicitor’s office – Jackson, Jackson and Pike – my uncle’s solicitors in fact! They had even spoken to Mr. Pike, who was working late and confirmed that nothing strange had happened.”
“Even more extraordinary!” commented Daisy.
Amy continued, “I was baffled and felt very ill at ease because Detective Inspector Thornberry was looking at me as though I were a poor old lady who imagined things. He then told me he would let me know if they needed any further information but - to be careful on my way home and not to slip on the wet streets! He had taken me for a complete fool, Daisy, and I had never felt so humiliated in all my life.”
Amy looked disconcerted for a while but then seemed to pull herself together,“He didn’t believe me, but I knew I had seen the body and the blood. So I left the police station determined to find out what had happened and took a taxi to No. 9 Kingsworth Gardens. The truth would soon emerge! It was even darker by now, but the storm had ceased. However, as the taxi got nearer I began to get the impression that this was not the place I had been to. For example, there was a telephone box on the corner that I hadn’t seen before.
And there it was: No. 9 Kingsworth Gardens. I got out of the taxi and saw that it was certainly similar to the house I had been to, but this time there was scaffolding all over the building and there was a brass plaque on the door engraved with Jackson, Jackson and Pike Solicitors.”
Amy took a deep breath. “So the police were right after all! But Daisy, I’m not a poor old woman. I swear I did see a body!”
Daisy nodded in sympathy at her distressed client, “Don’t worry Amy, I believe you. You saw a body, and bodies don’t just disappear into thin air!”
Amy blinked her eyes. “I’m sure the body was the victim of a murder. You remember I said I sat down in the room to catch my breath. Well, when I got home, to my horror I noticed dark red spots on my raincoat. The poor man must have sat on that chair when he was bleeding to death! I was going to have my raincoat cleaned, when I realised the victim could be traced through his DNA so I put it away in a plastic bag in a cupboard.”
“So we have got some evidence, after all,” observed Daisy. “We can take it along to the police to be analysed. But first of all we really must ascertain where you went that day, otherwise the police could say your raincoat got stained on a bus or a train or somewhere else. Amy, can you remember what the man was wearing?”
“Let me think,” Amy paused for a moment. “He was a young man and he was wearing sort of modern clothes, a sports jacket, a pair of jeans... ah yes, I remember, also a T-shirt which, strangely enough, had his own face printed on it! I’ll never forget that face!”
“How weird,” remarked Daisy. “Could you describe the house you went to, Amy?”
“Not really, because there wasn’t much light that day and I could only see with my right eye.”
Daisy insisted, “How did you know that it was actually No. 9?”
“Because the street light shone right on an embossed plaque, which had two hands trying to unite, and the number 9 was underneath.”
When Amy left, Daisy got out her guide to the streets of London and looked up Kingsworth Gardens and discovered there was also a Kingsworth Road, Kingsworth Street and Kingsworth Close not very far away from it!
“As Kingsworth Gardens can’t be the place where Amy went,” Daisy said to herself, “let’s see if one of the other three is the one she really went to. There’s only one thing to do, I’ll have to go up to London and call in at No. 9 of all these addresses if needs be!”
Daisy set off for London the next day very early. When she arrived at the underground station, which was in the heart of London, there was a sign up indicating where Kingsworth Close was. So she went there first. The houses were all very similar - upgraded and well-to-do Victorian ones. She found No. 9 easily, but it looked like a kindergarten. “Mm… don’t think a corpse was found there,” Daisy said to herself, “let’s try Kingsworth Street!” .
No. 9 Kingsworth Street proved to have two dentists’ surgeries and a chartered accountant’s office. “No, not here, that’s for certain! It should be the next one - at least I hope so.”
No. 9 Kingsworth Road was similar to the other two houses, with basement flats and steps up to the front door, but, lo and behold, there was a plaque on the side of the door with two hands stretching out to touch each other and a shiny embossed ‘9’ underneath!
“Ah, bingo! This is the place!” thought Daisy.
She read the inscription on the plaque, SRADUG - Society for Recovering Alcoholics, Drug Users and Gamblers. “Oh, I’ve got it. The two hands symbolise two people uniting in the same cause,” Daisy reflected, “It must be a very worthy cause, but I wonder what a corpse was doing here that day in November!”
Daisy tried to push the door open, as Amy had, but found it was closed, so she rang the doorbell and noticed that a new lock had been put in and didn’t quite fit the space where the old one had obviously been.
“Hello! Do you want to come in and talk to us?” A dark-haired Asian woman of about thirty opened the door and smiled at Daisy encouragingly.
“Er… yes please,” replied Daisy a bit nonplussed.
“My name’s Isha… and yours?” Seeing Daisy’s hesitation, she smiled again and said, “You don’t have to tell me. Let me invent a name for you… shall I call you Helen? Please come in, Helen.”
As Daisy walked in, she saw the staircase described by Amy and remembered that there had been a dead man sprawled out at the bottom of it. She inwardly shuddered.
Isha showed Daisy into a room on the right which was rather poorly furnished and dusty, but looked friendly enough. Isha sat down at a desk and indicated a chair for Daisy to sit on. Was it the chair that Amy had sat down on which had blood on it?
“If you want to tell me about your problem, I’ll be very happy to listen to you… Helen!”
There were three piles of printed brochures on the desk: Recovering Drug Addicts, Recovering Alcoholics and Recovering Gamblers.
“If you like, you can read whichever brochure is suited to your problem and then tell me your impressions,” Isha added kindly. At this point she continued working at her computer as though she didn’t want to force Daisy into declaring anything.
Daisy observed the inlaid carpeting to see if there was a sign of spilt blood anywhere, but this was difficult owing to the fact that it was rather dirty. Now Daisy got up rather theatrically and wandered about the room as though she found it hard to come out with her particular social problem.
She tried to look casually at the chair she had been sitting on. It was old but at one time had probably been well upholstered. The seat looked suspiciously clean. Had its cover been removed recently because there were blood stains on it?
Daisy had decided on alcohol. “Er… Isha, I would prefer to be called Helen, as you suggested. You know, I’m a nurse and if it got out about my drinking…” said Daisy as she picked up a brochure on Recovering Alcoholics.
“I understand perfectly,” Isha stopped working at her computer and smiled. “You’ve made the first step in coming here - and that’s terribly important!”
“Actually I came here in November but there was no-one, so I just left it…” Daisy improvised.
“In November? But there’s always someone here every day of the week, that is except for the anniversary of Mr. Wilfred Brown’s death, which is on the thirteenth of November. Did you come that day?”
Daisy nodded. “Er, I think so.”
“Mr. Brown was the founder of SRADUG - The Society for Recovering Alcoholics, Drug Users and Gamblers – our organisation! The people we try to help we call Recovering People! On the thirteenth of November we always go to a church service in North London as was requested in his will. He was a religious man who left us this house and some money for its upkeep to try and help save people like his gambler son who, unfortunately, died young of alcoholism and drugs! We’ve been going for eleven years now but in a few months’ time I fear there won’t be any more money left. Fortunately we have our volunteers like Nat, the therapist, who comes here two evenings a week.”
“That’s really great!” enthused Daisy, then remembering that she was supposed to have troubles she added, “but obviously you can’t help everyone. I mean, people like me don’t really want to give alcohol up, otherwise they would have already done so, wouldn’t they?”
“You clearly have a good reason why you rely on alcohol,” Isha remarked. “But let me invite you to our next meeting. We’ve come to understand that the reasons why people take drugs, drink excessively or gamble are very similar…”
Daisy tried to look a little hesitant, “Well, I don’t know if I’d like to speak to a group of people…”
Isha smiled. “Don’t worry! I will introduce you as Helen, much the same as another person who has the pseudonym of Roger. Look, do read the brochure you have in your hand. Turn up tomorrow evening at seven, but if you don’t like it, you are always free to go!”
Daisy pretended to look undecided, knowing quite well she would certainly be coming back the following evening.
The next evening Daisy turned up at the meeting, which was being held on the first floor of the house. As she started climbing the staircase Daisy stepped delicately remembering the violent death someone had met there.
Could the killer still be in the house, maybe masquerading as a recovering addict? And what about the therapist? Was he really above suspicion?
Upstairs, the door of the room where the meetings were held was open. As Daisy went into the room she saw it was, again, badly furnished and dusty. She could see there were already three men waiting. Daisy sat down but the Recovering People, as Isha had called them, pretended not to notice her. However, their faked indifference dropped when a middle-aged man, who actually looked rather scruffy, came into the room. One of the Recovering People, a fair-haired youth, jumped up as though he had a guilty conscience.
The middle-aged man spoke quietly, “Hello everybody. For those who don’t know me, I’m Nat and I’ve been a therapist here for a couple of years. I can see we've got a new person here. May we know your name?”
Daisy hesitated, “Helen…”.
“Helen, I’d like to introduce you to Roger, Emmanuel and Gerald.”
Daisy thought Roger looked like a very severe vicar in a suit, while Emmanuel could easily have been a pusher or a minder as he was a very big tough-looking man. As for Gerald, he was the fair-haired youth who kept twitching nervously.
“Now, let’s sit around in a circle.” Nat suggested.
Daisy had the impression that the quietly spoken Nat usually had everybody in the palm of his hand, and this made her feel very uncomfortable.
Just then a young woman – or was she just a girl? – came through the doorway. She was wearing an old jeans jacket which was covered with button badges with bizarre things written on them, and had a modern-type rucksack on her back to which a small koala on a key ring was attached. Unfortunately her clothes looked as though she had slept in them.
Nat smiled at her but said nothing. “Well, shall we start? How about you this time, Gerald?”
Gerald had sat down in the meantime, but, still wrapped up in all his problems, refused to look up or answer.
The young girl seized the opportunity to break in, “I’m Kelly. I’m a user, I’m here to stop taking drugs!” She looked around defiantly and plonked her bag down onto one of the chairs, opened it and pulled out a sweet just to show she was being casual about the whole affair. She then sat down next to Daisy, who had the impression that Kelly was an extremely vulnerable girl whose defiance was only a form of defence.
Nat made no reply. That was obviously part of his technique in dealing with people who had problems. He made a gesture towards Roger, “What would you like to talk about today?”
Roger replied sarcastically, “I suggest we discuss important issues like the loss of morality of the younger generation!” looking straight at Kelly.
Again, Nat said nothing.
There was a silence, then Kelly spoke up again, almost shouting. “I’ve been taking stuff for nearly six months – is there any hope for me – or am I wasting my time? Please help me!” She was shaking with emotion and accidentally knocked the chair next to her causing her rucksack to fall to the ground. A lot of the contents of her bag spilled out onto the floor and a couple of small objects rolled under the sofa in the corner.
Daisy got up and tried to move the sofa, but it proved too heavy. Gerald sat passively, still twitching. As for Roger, he looked disgusted at the whole thing but Emmanuel pulled the sofa out effortlessly and amongst the dust of many a month Kelly grabbed frantically at her things as though they were all she had in the world. Then she fingered the strange badges on her jacket as if she wanted to make sure they were still there.
“Why don’t you just go back to your parents and stop wasting our time,” interrupted Roger, the moralist.
“Because I’ve got nothing to go back to,” was Kelly’s defiant reply.
“Roger, please!” Nat interrupted, “You know you are just repeating what happened to you years ago… don’t vent out all your anger on a new member.”
Kelly reacted belligerently, “I don’t need anyone to defend me. I can look after myself!”
Gerald suddenly got upset and started weeping convulsively.
Nat pretended not to notice Gerald’s reaction and replied to Kelly, “Maybe you feel you don’t need anyone to defend you, but I’m pretty sure you need someone to accept you and love you just for yourself. Kelly, there’s another therapy session at 5 o’clock in the afternoons which I’m starting up. It may be more suitable for people of your age group.”
Half an hour later the session finished and Daisy felt a terrible fraud. Everybody got up and was going their separate ways except Kelly who wanted to ask Nat a few questions. Daisy hesitated outside the house and reflected over what had happened during the session. She had met some rather unusual characters but wondered whether one of them could be a murderer. At least she was able to eliminate Kelly from her investigation as she was completely new to the place. But what about Nat and the Recovering People?
It pained Daisy to see yet another young girl who very probably slept on the street and was risking her life every day. Maybe she could help her.
As Kelly came out of the front door, she saw Daisy who was obviously waiting for her. “Excuse me Kelly…”
“Hey, what do you want? Are you spying on me?”
“Spying on you…” Daisy was surprised at her reaction.
“Are you a social worker or something?” Kelly was getting even more defensive, “Are you going to shop me? ‘Cos if you are, you know I’ll just disappear and you’ll never find me again and you’ll have it on your conscience.”
Kelly looked very hostile and Daisy was completely taken aback, “Kelly, I’m not a social worker, I promise you! Look, there’s a fast food place around the corner – let’s go there and have a little chat!”
Kelly glared at Daisy, “All right – but just for ten minutes!”
The two women ordered raspberry milkshakes and tried to find a place to sit down and talk which wasn’t too noisy.
“I don’t think you came to the centre because you have an addiction problem,” Kelly observed.
“No, I don’t. Actually, I’m a private detective and I am investigating something very, very serious.” Daisy judged it best to tell the obviously streetwise teenager the truth, “And no - I wasn’t looking for you – I can assure you. I was there for a completely different reason.”
“Whew!” was Kelly’s reply. “Really? You’re a private eye! Must be interesting work!”
“It is, but sometimes problems crop up that are difficult to solve.”
“Tell me about it!” said Kelly nervously fingering a winged brooch pinned onto her jacket. “But what has all this got to do with me?”
“Nothing at all, but when you said you had nothing to go back to… I thought of my friend Hazel Thorpes who helps girls like you – she runs a shelter in Camberwell. I’ll give you my card with the address on it.”
Kelly looked perplexed and touched her winged brooch as if it were a sort of amulet which gave her confidence. “I don’t know about that. I want to keep coming to these sessions!”
“Well, one thing doesn’t rule out the other.”
“Mm... I don’t promise anything.” Kelly was eyeing Daisy as though she were asking herself if she really could trust her.
“OK, I appreciate your honesty.” Daisy remarked sipping her milkshake.
"Well, as you may know, private eyes cannot talk about their clients’ business and I can’t tell you anything more. Kelly, I don’t know anything much about you, but I do know that you’re probably not even sixteen years of age. Please take care. If it doesn’t offend you, I could give you twenty pounds so you can have something to eat and you’ll have enough over to get to the shelter in Camberwell by underground!”
The young girl looked at Daisy’s card, “Oh, your name is Daisy Hamilton! Mm, Camberwell, I might give it a try. By the way, my name isn’t really Kelly, it’s Cathy, but I prefer to be called Kelly!”
She then took the money and fumbled about in her bag for her purse.
“Kelly, I was wondering about the brooch pinned onto your jacket,” said Daisy. “It’s rather unusual. I suppose it’s got a special meaning for you. May I have a look at it?”
Kelly took the brooch off and handed it to Daisy. Daisy examined it carefully, “It’s got a pair of seagull’s wings and the initials A.L.A. along the bottom of it which stands for Australian Lifesavers Award. How come you’ve got a brooch like this? Have you saved someone’s life?”
“Actually I found it at SRADUG – behind the staircase at the entrance when I arrived. I was terrified to go up to the therapy room and hid behind the staircase downstairs. I stepped onto the brooch by accident and my foot stuck to it – there was chewing gum all over it! Then when I picked it up I nearly pricked my finger, so I thought the best thing to do was to pin it onto my jacket and hand it in later. Then things got so emotional and I completely forgot about it.”
Daisy thought to herself, “Mm... how strange, a brooch covered with chewing gum. I wonder if it belonged to the victim or even the murderer.”
“Kelly, I think this brooch could help in solving the case I’m on. Would you let me have it - and I’ll certainly get it to the rightful owner, or I’ll give it in to Isha.”
“That’s fine by me.” Kelly got up, “Bye-bye Daisy – see you!” and vanished into the outside world.
After Kelly left, Daisy called Amy on her mobile, “Amy, would you be able to meet me at SRADUG tomorrow evening at half past six? I need you to show me the exact position of the victim’s body.”
“Oh Daisy, I’ve got the presentation of my new book tomorrow afternoon at three o’clock, but it’s in London and I could meet you afterwards. I should have finished by about half past five.”
The next day Daisy arrived at SRADUG half an hour before her appointment with Amy. Isha saw her and smiled, “I’m so glad you’ve come back, but it’s a bit early – if you like you can go on up!” The phone rang in the office and Isha left Daisy so she could answer it.
Daisy sat down at the bottom of the stairs waiting for Amy to arrive but in vain. There was no sign of her, so she rang her mobile but there was no reply. She then decided to try and figure out on her own what the victim’s last movements must have been. She got up and looked behind the staircase but apart from dust there was nothing. She sat down again and ran her fingers over the carpeting. “Just a minute,” Daisy was talking to herself, “something’s been pushed under the edge of the carpeting here on the third step!”
Daisy tried to pull it out but it was not budging. She felt in her bag for a nail file and then slid it under the carpeting towards the stair rod and sidled the object out from underneath. As she pulled it out, she saw it was a brochure on alcoholism like the ones she had seen on the desk in the office, but this one was stained with blood, and on it was shakily written the word Manny!
“Manny?” thought Daisy. “That’s short for Emmanuel, and there was an Emmanuel at the meeting yesterday, the one who looked like a bouncer!” She felt extremely nervous at the thought of seeing him again.
Daisy reasoned, “He might be the culprit but so far I have absolutely no proof whatsoever. Well, I’m going to pin the lifesavers brooch onto my lapel and see if there’s any reaction to it from him when I go up.”
Amy was nowhere to be seen so Daisy decided to wait around the back of the staircase until the others arrived and then climbed up the stairs.
“Hello, Helen, happy to see you again!” said Nat.
The meeting began, but Emmanuel didn’t seem to even notice the brooch.
Gerald was twitching as he did the previous evening but suddenly stood up and started to talk extremely rapidly saying, “I smell blood! I smell blood! Manny, please, I can’t breath, please open the window. You know why!”
Emmanuel got up and opened the window saying, “Shush Gerald, calm down. There's no blood here.”
Gerald went on for a few moments until Nat interrupted him gently and suggested he sit down again and catch his breath. Daisy wondered what Gerald was referring to when he said, “You know why!” She looked at Manny hoping to notice a sign of worry on his face, but he seemed to remain his usual self and didn’t react at all. “He is either a wonderful actor or he’s got nothing to do with the murder,” thought Daisy.
“Helen,” encouraged Nat, “how about telling us something about yourself?”
Daisy had been fearing this, and muttered, “I... I don’t quite know how to begin. I told Isha, downstairs, I have a drink problem.”
“Would you like to add something else now?” Nat asked.
While Daisy was painfully trying to string a few more sentences together, a young man of about twenty-five or so came into the room. He was wearing designer sunglasses and looked rather handsome in his bicolour metallic jacket. Manny got up and exclaimed, “Simon, how come you are still alive?”
Daisy froze in her chair and almost stopped breathing for a moment.
Something was very rotten in the state of Denmark!
The newcomer replied, “Manny, hello there! How are things?”
The two men patted each other on the back as only old pals can.
Simon continued, “Well, detox was tough, there are no other words for it, but I managed to see it through.”
“Good, Simon,” Nat said jovially, “let me see, you look much better. Was the acting therapy of any use?”
“Well, the acting out of my drug problem certainly made me realise that I wasn’t as isolated as I had thought,” was Simon’s reply.
He glanced around the room to see who else was present and noticed Daisy for the first time. He nodded at her, “I see we’ve got a new Recovering Person!” He then seemed to notice something about Daisy and walked over to her with a strange expression on his face. “What’s that on your lapel?” he asked rather abruptly. “It looks like the Lifesavers brooch I had. May I have a look at it?”
Daisy suddenly felt very tense. “What's going on?” she thought. “Could it be that Simon, too, is implicated in the murder?”
“Here you are,” she replied, removing the brooch from her lapel.
After examining the brooch Simon exclaimed, almost in disbelief, “Yes, it’s got chewing-gum on it! It is the same one then! How come you’ve got it?”
Daisy was about to improvise some sort of answer when there was a noise of someone walking about in the corridor, opening and shutting doors. Then a female voice could be heard saying, “Oh sorry, wrong door!”
Daisy recognised the voice and called out, “Amy, we’re here!”
Amy poked her head around the door. “Oh, excuse me...”
Nat smiled, “Hello, please come in. Take a seat.”
Amy sat down on a chair next to Daisy and blinked at her as if to say, “Sorry I’m late.”
Daisy was pleasantly surprised that Amy looked so attractive. Her make-up was very subtle, she had had her curly hair cut and was dressed very elegantly. But somebody in the room seemed to have a completely different reaction to Amy. It was Gerald, who got up rigidly and stared across the room at her, mumbling, “I‘m going to stand up to you!”
Amy looked alarmed at hearing this and paled visibly.
Nat intervened, “Gerald! I don’t think she’s the lady you have a problem with, right?”
“I hope I’m not intruding,” Amy said cautiously to the five men in the room trying to regain her composure, but when she noticed Simon she went pale again and gasped. “A ghost, a ghost!” she exclaimed.
Simon looked flabbergasted.
Amy stood up, “You’re the man I saw downstairs covered in blood three months ago. You were dead, I saw you!” she blurted out.
Simon stared at her aghast. “Dead?” He thought for a moment. “Ah, I understand...” he said, still surprised, but realising what she was talking about. “You must have seen me when I was lying down on the stairs pretending to be dead!”
“Pretending to be dead? But you were covered in blood! Blood was all over the place. I sat down on a chair and when I got home I even found blood stains on my raincoat!” protested Amy.
Nat nodded his head as if he had understood everything. “I think I’d better take over now and explain what really happened that day,” he said. “Three months ago or so, I organised a murder mystery play and the Recovering People here, and some others, acted in it. The purpose of the play was to let them feel, think and act as if they were completely different people, to permit them to come out of their usual patterns of behaviour and understand that change is possible. You may know that acting is a wonderful thing for throwing out into the open one’s inner emotions.”
Emmanuel interrupted, “I was the killer. I murdered Simon because he had stolen my Lifesavers brooch which was extremely valuable. In the play, of course!”
“A brooch I had found in a car boot sale and bought for a few pounds!” revealed Nat.
“And I,” said Gerald coming out of his shell, “was the inspector who was to discover all the evidence left by the victim and the murderer.”
Roger, not to be outdone, explained, “I was the caretaker who had to discover the body and call the police at the risk of being stabbed too.”
Amy began to see through the fog, “My goodness, so it was just a play. There was no murder! But you, Simon, were completely motionless...”
Simon sighed, “There’s an explanation for all this. The truth is I didn’t feel well during the play and - I know it sounds absurd - I passed out. They had to take me off to hospital! The Recovering People here thought I was in a drug-induced coma but, in reality, I had appendicitis. They all looked pretty surprised at the hospital that I only complained of a pain in my stomach when I was apparently all covered in blood! They thought I had been stabbed!”
Emmanuel commented, “Well, tomato ketchup looks just like blood!”
“It does,” Simon laughed, “By the way, did you chaps find all the clues I left?”
The others shook their heads.
Daisy spoke up, “Well, I did!”
“You did, how’s that?” asked Simon.
“Well, I don’t know about all of them, but I certainly found the folded brochure with the word Manny written in red under the carpetting on the third step of the staircase. As for the brooch, it was found on the floor by a Recovering Person behind the staircase.”
“Where I had attached it with chewing-gum!” added Simon.
“Well, it must have fallen down, which is understandable after such a long period of time,” Daisy concluded.
Nat was looking surprised, “But tell me something, Helen, how did you know about our little secret killing? You didn’t belong to the group then. You came here for the first time yesterday!”
Daisy thought that this was the moment to come clean and explain that she was a private detective called Daisy Hamilton and had come there to investigate a murder!
Nat looked at her and smiled, “Actually it had crossed my mind that you might be a sort of inspector or somebody from social services checking up on us!”
“No, I’m not.” replied Daisy. “I came here on behalf of a client who was very upset as she thought she had stumbled upon a murder.”
Amy coughed nervously, “Ehm... I’m afraid I was the client in question. Actually I didn’t mean to come here to SRADUG, I was going to see a solicitor in Kingsworth Gardens which is near here. It was raining that day and I’d just had an eye operation so I mistook Kingsworth Road for Kingsworth Gardens! When I got here, there was a storm and inside the house there were no lights. And no sign of life...”
Nat explained, “That’s because we had decided to act our little play on the 13th November, which is the anniversary of the founder’s death. The house was officially shut and we thought nobody would be around. It‘s clear you came in at the beginning of the play when only Simon was here.”
“Amy, you must have had a terrible shock. I’m so sorry,” said Simon.
Amy felt mortified, “I don’t know what to say at this point, I have wasted your time - and Daisy’s time too.”
Suddenly there was a knock at the door. It was Isha with a letter in her hand looking very strained. “Excuse me, but this is really urgent.”
Nat took the letter and read it twice over. “Well, we knew it was coming. The health and safety authorities have made the decision that we can’t go on until the building is overhauled and proper heating is put in place. I’m sorry, folks. Unless a solution is found, it’ll be the end of SRADUG.”
There was a deathly silence in the room.
“It’s impossible for SRADUG to close down, we need SRADUG!” exclaimed Gerald blinking nervously.
“Yes,” confirmed Emmanuel, “if it weren’t for SRADUG perhaps Simon wouldn’t be with us any more and I would be... goodness knows where.”
“So what can we do? Couldn’t we try and raise some money?” Roger suggested.
“We have some money and we have the house,” replied Nat, “but according to the terms of the will left by Mr. Wilfred Brown the house can’t be sold to raise funds otherwise it would go to a hospital. It seems that we have just enough in the caddy to pay for the renovation but after that there would be no more left for electricity, heating etc. So there’s no way out, as far as I can see.”
Amy had been listening attentively, “I think there is a way out. If I guarantee to provide a big enough cash injection to keep things going for a year, would you be happy with that?”
“Well I never!” exclaimed Nat, “I think that would be marvellous and I’m sure the board of directors of SRADUG wouldn’t object to it.”
“Amy, you’ve saved us! Thank goodness you made that mistake that day! ” declared Roger happily.
Everybody looked relieved and Daisy concluded, “All’s well that ends well.”
A few days later Daisy was in her office on the telephone. “And how is Kelly getting along? I was so worried about her, Hazel.”
“She’s an intelligent kid but has been through too much. Surprisingly she seems to be getting on very well with us and wants to go back to school. Of course, she needs to continue going to SRADUG in the afternoons first of all, but as she hadn’t been taking drugs for very long I think we’re going to win this one!”
Just then Amy arrived carrying a holdall.
“Have to go for now, Hazel! Thanks very much.”
“Hello Daisy, here’s something I know you’ll enjoy,” said Amy putting a tin of biscuits on Daisy‘s table.
“Oh, oatmeal sultana biscuits, lovely. Let’s open it!”
“Well, Daisy, here’s another little something,” said Amy giving her an envelope, “I think this will cover all your expenses.”
“Thank you. You know, Amy, I was very surprised at your generous offer last week at SRADUG. That was a good thing to do.”
“Well, you know, Daisy. When you’ve had a husband who died of alcoholism...”