Second Chance

-- by Anne


This story has its roots in the fourth Murder, She Wrote movie, The Celtic Riddle.

As usual, no malicious copyright infringement is intended, no money is being made, this is all in good fun.



“Last of all,” Eamon Byrne said as his videotaped last will and testament concluded, “I hope that Jessica Fletcher will be here as I asked. To her I leave Rose Cottage, together with its contents and the land on which it stands, for it was she who long ago gave a second chance in life to a man she didn’t even know.”


“I’ve been wondering,” Rita Byrne said to Jessica later as the quartet of Celtic musicians took a break from their performance in the village pub. “You promised to tell me why Da left you Rose Cottage.”

            Jessica looked at the young woman at the table beside her. Rita was like Eamon in so many ways, she realized – it was sad that they had not had the chance to reconcile before Eamon passed away.

“Ah, yes I did,” she said. She took a deep breath and began her story. “Well, I was taking a walk one evening along the cliff in Cabot Cove, and up ahead of me I saw this young man, and he was standing looking down at the rocks below. And he looked so alone … I had the feeling that he was going to throw himself over the edge …”



Eamon Byrne stood at the edge of the cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and watched the waves beat against the rocks below.  It was evening, and the light was fading quickly from a western sky made prematurely dark by rising storm clouds looming up over the horizon. Ahead of him the moon was rising, but its glow was sickly yellow and cut off from time to time by streamers of clouds racing ahead of the main bulk of the storm.  To Eamon, the sky was a perfect analogy for the current state of his pathetic life: dark, bleak, with a storm of his own making behind him and a jaundiced, empty future looming before him.

Looking away from the moon Eamon once again gazed down at the waves at the cliff’s foot. They beat against the shore as though in frustration, dashing themselves to bits that blazed briefly with phosphorescence and then were gone. Another apt description for his life, he thought bitterly – a brief, meaningless flash that was soon extinguished.

It amazed him that one man could make so many terrible choices in such a short amount of time.  And not only that: one misguided choice could quickly ripple outward to ruin the lives of everyone it touched.  Eamon had seen this for himself, firsthand. It had started with his ill-advised tryst with Rose. One night of forbidden pleasure had resulted in nine months of anxious foreboding as Rose’s resulting pregnancy drew closer to fulfillment.  That he was responsible for the staining of an unwed young woman was bad enough, but then word had gotten back to Margaret, as he knew it inevitably would. 

Margaret had not reacted well to the revelation that he had gotten Rose with child even though he and Margaret had been engaged for nearly a year. She demanded that Rose be sent away and her newborn son put up for adoption to avoid any taint of scandal – that was the price she named for agreeing to continue on with the betrothal. And then Eamon had made a second bad choice, giving in to her demands when he knew, deep in his heart, that he should have done the right thing by Rose and shouldered the responsibility he owed to her and their child. But Margaret had phrased her ultimatum in such reasonable terms, arguing that this was best not just for them but for Rose and the baby, and in a moment of weakness he had agreed.

Now Rose was dead, having hanged herself in despair at losing not only the man she had loved without hope but also the son she had clung to as the only tangible memory of that love she had left. All of this, ultimately, had been his fault, the direct result of his actions. Rose’s blood was on his hands; nothing would ever wash it away.

Eamon sighed aloud, heard only by the indifferent moon.  It was too late, much too late, to make things right – not with Rose cold in the grave and their son whisked away to be raised by her sister. He had run to sea, giving Margaret a vague promise to return in a year or so, but not even several months of hard labor and seasickness had managed to purge the stain from his soul.  By the time his freighter docked in Portland, Maine, the despair was so heavy on his heart that he could stand it no longer; he left the ship and hitchhiked his way up the coast, intending to end his life in the most remote, lonely spot he could find.

His footsteps had led him here, to this deserted spot on the outskirts of the fishing village of Cabot Cove. No one was about; the brewing storm had seen to that. That suited Eamon just fine; dying alone was all that he deserved.

Slowly he paced to the very edge of the cliff and stood there, still as a statue. Thunder muttered behind him, like an anticipatory drumroll. The waves below splashed and sucked at the rocks, beckoning him to jump.

If he couldn’t bring Rose back to life, he would join her in death.


The sound of a woman’s voice hailing him startled him out of his melancholy thoughts, causing to pause just before he took the final step into the abyss. In that instant of hesitation he thought that it was Rose’s ghost calling to him, but this misperception was corrected the very next moment when an entirely real, living person grabbed him by the arm and forcibly dragged him back from the edge of the cliff.

Blinking back tears, Eamon turned to see who had intervened in his attempted suicide and looked into the face of the woman who had called to him.  Eyes burning with the intensity of white-hot coals bored into his.

“Whatever you’ve done, whatever you’re running from, it won’t be fixed by throwing your life away.”

Eamon brushed away his tears angrily. “I deserve to die! I had my chance at life, and what did it come to? Pain and ruin!” He tried to pull away, but the woman would not let go.

“Everyone deserves a second chance,” she said.

“Not I. I broke a sacred trust.”

But she was insistent: “Everyone,” she said, “no exceptions.”

This woman had no idea who he was or what he had done, yet in her eyes he saw understanding that he had not seen in anyone back home – not in Rose’s sister, not in his family, not even in Margaret.  That he should have come three-quarters of the way around the world to be granted forgiveness by a total stranger struck him as funny all of a sudden, and he started to laugh.

The woman smiled faintly. “What is it?” she asked.

“Oh, ‘tis just the irony of it all,” Eamon replied, still laughing through his tears, “I have traveled far and wide from Ireland seeking death, and instead, on the very edge of the world, I found someone willing to grant me a second chance at life.”

His rescuer’s smile became brighter and more genuine in the moonlight. “My name is Jessica Fletcher,” she said. “What’s yours?”


Thirty years later, Eamon Byrne’s daughter’s eyes were shining as Jessica told her story. “And that was my Da.”

Jessica nodded. “Yes. I yelled at him, and he hesitated long enough for me to run up and grab him and pull him back from the edge.”

Rita looked at her in wonder. “So you saved his life.”

Jessica shifted modestly in her chair. “Well … we sat down and we talked, and he was in a terrible state of despair. He said that after what he had done, he didn’t deserve to live. And I said that everybody deserved a second chance.”

“Did he tell you what he’d done?”

“No,” Jessica replied. “He only said that he had betrayed a sacred trust.”