The Worst Pies In London
He held the straight razor high,its sharp edge sparkling brightly in the light. With one continuous motion he quickly slid the razor across the throat of his next, unsuspecting victim.
"No Oliver," the director, Alfred Sheridan, interrupted, "Sweeney Todd is supposed to savour the moment that his victims meet their demise. Try it again please!" Mr. Sheridan was a tall man, in his early sixties. He was known for being well dressed, never without his french cuffed shirts and expensive cufflinks. Alfred had greying hair and a disposition to match. It was evident that he was mot much of a director but he was a major source of income for the production.
"It would figure," Oliver Trumbell whispered to Emma Magill, "That our esteemed director would have a notion or two about how to properly slit someoneís throat."
Emma laughed out loud causing the director to look in her direction. "Ah .. Mr Sheridan," Emma said suddenly gaining control of herself, "it is almost four oíclock, how about a break for tea? Iíll...um... work with Oliver on his throat cutting," Emma said giving Oliver a mischievous wink. "Besides, I am expecting two guests to be arriving soon and I would like to greet them."
"Ms. Magill," Alfred began, looking pointedly at the middle-aged red-head, "we will break when I give the word. Now, I would like to go over The Worst Pies in London once more, it sounded bloody awful this morning!"
Emma turned away from the house and faced Oliver. "Bloody slave driver," she muttered under her breath. After all, this was not the first time that she and Oliver had done Sweeney Todd at the Mayhew, she new the part well, and she had always found it great fun to play. They were doing the version by the famous playwright Stephen Sondhiem. Emmaís part of Nellie Lovett had been played, on Broadway, by one of her favorite actresses, Ms. Angela Lansbury, and she modeled her performance after her.
Emma took her place and began with injected enthusiasm:
"Wait whotís yer rush? Whotís yer Hurry?
You gave me such a fright I thought you was a ghost half a minute.
Canítcher sit, sit you down sit
All I meant is that I havenít seen a customer for weeks.
Did you come in for a pie Sir?
Do forgive me if me headís a little vague.
what was that? (- spots a bug moving) but youíd think we had the plague from the way that people keep avoidiní
no you donít (- squishes it)
Heaven knows I try Sir. But thereís noone comes in even to inhale Right you are sir would you like a drop of ale?
Thereís no denying times is hard sir - even harder than the Worst Pies in London!"
Jessica sat at Heathrow international airport. She was excited to be back in London, to be seeing her cousin Emma again and having an opportunity to spend some time with her. And then of course there was always the added bonus of spending time with George Sutherland. Jessica could not contain her smile as she thought of introducing Emma and George. "They couldnít be more different," she thought. Just then she saw a familiar face come around the corner and all of the business of the airport seemed to drift away. It was George Sutherland. George had arranged for a few days of vacation time from the Yard when he had learned that Jessica was to be visiting London. "A sight for sore eyes - and a handsome one at that," Jessica thought.
"Jessica!" George exclaimed with enthusiasm when he saw her.
"George, how have you been?" Jessica said as he drew nearer. They embraced, and she
placed a light kiss on his cheek.
"Oh.. Keeping busy as always," he smiled "I am so glad to see you again Jess, looking as beautiful as ever."
Jessica laughed. "And I am so happy to be here in London, no work with me this time just vacation!"
"Iím glad to hear that Jess, you know what they say about all work and no play." George winked at her as he offered Jessica his arm and collected her bag.
"So, where are we off to dear lady?" George questioned as they made their way to the parking lot.
Jessicaís smile returned. "There is someone I want you to meet George. Do you know the Mayhew theater in the West end?"
There was now a puzzled statement on Georgeís face. "The Mayhew? No, I canít say that I do. But Jess, are you sure that you want to go to the West End?" George asked skeptically as he opened the car door for her.
Jessica said nothing but gave George a mischievous look.
"Jessica Fletcher" George laughed "I know that look - you have something up your sleeve."
"Trust me George," Jessica said as the motor of the car turned over.
Half an hour later they pulled in front of the Mayhew.
"Now, Tell me what we are doing here Jess" George prodded
"Alright" Jessica laughed. "This theater is owned by my cousin Emma Magill, and I want you to meet her."
"I didnít realize that you had family in London," George said as they walked into the theater.
Jessica replied, "Well, Emma is a character. We have had many adventures together, and it has been ages since I have seen her. They are doing Sweeney Todd here at the end of the month and she invited me to come and see it."
By now music could be heard from the stage as the inspector and Jessica walked towards the theater. Jessica and George opened the doors into the house and saw Emma comically prancing around the stage with a pretend meat pie in her hand. George stood there for a moment unable to say a word. Jessica could do little else but chuckle.
"My God," he finally said with a gasp. "Its like seeing a singing, dancing version of you, Jess!"
Jessica laughed. "Emma has all of the talent in the family. You would never get me up on that stage."
George kept his eyes on Emma - except for the red hair, Emma and Jessica could be twins, the same big blue eyes, and captivating smile. "Itís remarkable," he thought.
Emma and Oliver gave them a wave from the stage as they finished up the musical number, and came to greet them.
"Sorry to be so long luv," Emma remarked as she greeted her cousin. "I tried to get away but the director, Mr Sheridan, had other ideas." Emma rolled her expressive blue eyes.
"Thatís enough Em," Oliver said lightly. "Jessica and her guest are here to relax, spare them the gory details."
"How have you two been?" Jessica asked, remembering the last time she had seen Emma and Oliver.
"Oh Jess, things were a bit hard for me after my daughter Kitty was charged with murder, but - well, life goes on," Oliver said with a sigh. "I am grateful that she is getting the help that she needs. Emma has had a little adventure of her own since you last saw her, havenít you Em?" Oliver smiled at Emma.
Jessica and George looked quizzically at Emma, prompting her to begin.
"I told you that I was contacted by a long ago beau of mine," Emma began, "well, he turned out to be the fourteenth Vicount Blackraven!. Unfortunately while I was his guest for the weekend he was poisoned and I was accused of the deed. Can you imagine?" She gave a light laugh - "Must have been daft."
Emma then faced George. "But Jessica, you havenít even introduced us to your ... guest," Emma said taking a moment to study George.
"Oh of course," Jessica said, slightly embarrassed. "Emma Magill and Oliver Trumbell, this is Inspector George Sutherland of Scotland yard."
"How do you do Inspector Sutherland," Oliver said extending his hand. Emma simply nodded her head and smiled.
"Very well, thank you, Mr Trumbell, Ms Magill, and please call me George."
"Well, now that the amenities are over," Emma said, breaking the somewhat awkward situation, "I want you both to meet some of people involved with the production." Emma led them to the stage.
Standing at the edge of the stage was Alfred Sheridan, who was having a rather heated discussion with the costume designer for the production, a petite woman in her mid thirties, with shortly cropped blond hair, named Fiona Bates.
"Alfred, Fiona," Emma called out, "I would like you to meet my cousin from the United States, Jessica Fletcher. And Scotland Yard Inspector George Sutherland."
"How do you do?" said Jessica, giving the director and costume designer a warm smile.
Fionaís green eyes lit up. "You are J.B. Fletcher!" she said in a charming Scottish accent.
"Yes, I am," Jessica replied.
"I am such a fan of yours, Mrs. Fletcher." Fiona gushed.
"Thank you very much, Ms....?"
"Bates," Fiona responded. "Fiona Bates."
Alfred looked very cross, his face turned a deep shade of crimson. "I take it rehearsal is over for today," he said with frustration. "Ms Magill, I hope that the arrival of your cousin and her escort will not interfere with your scheduled rehearsals," Sheridan said as he slipped on his - very expensive - coat and headed towards the doorway.
"Ms Bates," he called back, "I trust that you will see to those changes before tomorrow."
"But Mr. Sheridan I need more to go on than what we discussed." she said as pleasantly as she could manage.
"Well then find Sharon, my dear," he said with a bite in his voice, "I am headed over to Catherineís."
As he left George and Jessica looked at each other.
"Sorry about that, luv," Emma apologized, "that charming gentleman is our director Alfred Sheridan."
"What a disagreeable man," George exclaimed. "You should make him into a character in your next book, Jess."
"If I do, he would have to be the victim," Jessica agreed.
"He isnít the easiest man to get along with," Oliver said with sarcasm. "Every company has someone like Alfred. His daughter Catherine is a wonderful woman. She is our assistant director, and the only one in the company who can control her father. You will meet her and our treasurer Sharon Haggerty if you and George agree to attend a little dinner party tomorrow night," Oliver said with a smile.
Jessica looked at George.
"You both must come," Emma said.
"How could I refuse an offer like that?" Jessica smiled, "George?"
He nodded, "Of course well attend, Ms Magill."
"Wonderful," Emma exclaimed. "Now letís get some dinner, all of this rehearsing has made me frightfully hungry. Weíll stop by my flat Jessica, and you can drop your things there and freshen up."
Twenty minutes later Jessica and Emma were at Emmaís flat. Jessica was putting her things away in Emmaís guest bedroom when there was a knock at the door.
"Come in, Emma," Jessica called out.
"I am so glad that you are here Jessica," Emma said as she walked into the room, "it is wonderful to see you again."
"It is wonderful for me too," Jessica said. "You and I donít spend nearly enough time together," she laughed.
"Apparently not," Emma said with pixie in her voice. "I thought that my favorite cousin would have at least mentioned her involvement with a certain inspector at Scotland yard in her letters."
Jessica looked at Emma and coloured slightly, "George Sutherland and I are friends, Emma, nothing more," she said as she hung up a blouse in the closet, purposely trying to avoid her eyes.
Emma sat on the bed and looked back at Jessica; her eyes said that she was not going to let the issue of George Sutherland drop so easily. "Jessica," Emma said with a chuckle, "come on now luv. Itís plain to see by the way you look at each other that there is more than simple friendship between you. He does seem to be a dear man - and very handsome too." Emma raised her eyebrows and smiled.
Jessica turned to face Emma. "We have a ... a mutual respect for each other," she explained.
Emma nodded. "Why not let it go beyond *mutual respect,* Jessica?" she asked. "After all it has been almost twenty years since Frank died."
"Emma," Jessica said as she sat beside her cousin, "I know it is strange but George and I have an understanding, he knows that I am not ready for that kind of relationship. Besides," Jessica smiled, "Maybe you should follow your own advice. By looking at Oliver I can tell he still has feelings for you."
It was Emmaís turn to blush. "To be honest, I thought about it once. But Iím just not the marrying type Jessica," Emma laughed.
"Listen to us," Jessica said, shaking her head in amusement. "We are going on like two schoolgirls."
"Itís good for the soul, Jessica," Emma agreed, looking at her watch. "Goodness, we had better be going if we are going to meet our *friends* George and Oliver."
Jessica began to laugh.
Jessica and Emma arrived at the restaurant still in high spirits. George and Oliver were already seated and were chatting easily. They waved Jessica and Emma to the table.
"You ladies look lovely," George said, pulling out the chair for Jessica.
"Thank you," they said in unison.
"I still canít get over the remarkable resemblance," said George to Oliver.
"It took me by surprise too," said Oliver.
"I remember that I almost gave you a heart attack the last time I showed up in London at Emmaís request," Jessica remembered.
"Donít remind me of that dreadful incident Jessica," Emma laughed.
George looked puzzled. "Iíll have to explain it too you sometime George," Jessica said. "It really is a fascinating story."
"Jessica Fletcher, you do get into the oddest predicaments," George stated, causing everyone to laugh.
The rest of the evening passed quickly, as the quartet chatted and danced over drinks.
The next morning by the time Jessica awoke Emma was already awake and dressed in a blue jacket and skirt, reading the morning paper in the kitchen with a cup of tea.
"Good Morning, Luv," Emma said as Jessica walked into the room, still in her robe.
"Good morning Emma," Jessica said yawning, "Oh I am sorry, the jet lag must have caught up with me."
Emma laughed "No need to apologize. Unfortunately I have to be at the Mayhew in an hour for rehearsal," she sighed. "Iím afraid that Mr. Sheridan has seen to it that I will not be able to be much of a hostess to you today. You are welcome to come along to rehearsal, Jessica, unless of course you have plans to do some sightseeing."
"Oh donít worry about me," Jessica said, helping herself to a cup of tea. "George and I have plans to meet for lunch and I wanted to have a chance to do some shopping anyway."
"Sounds like fun Jessica. Iíll give you a lift of course, and then you two can meet us at the theater sometime this afternoon."
"Fair enough," Jessica agreed, "Iíll go and make myself presentable and we can be on our way."
Jessica sat down with a sigh, at the small café where she was to meet George. The bags containing her mornings shopping at her side. Jessica had ordered a coffee and was looking off into the distance when she felt a manís hands on her shoulders. She looked up just as George bent to give her a deep kiss on the lips.
"Good day, dear lady." George smiled as they parted.
"Well, good day to you George," Jessica laughed, as he took the seat opposite her.
"It looks like you have had a very productive morning Jessica," George commented as he looked at the bags that were at Jessicaís feet.
"I went a bit overboard I guess," Jessica chuckled. The waitress had seen George arrive and came to the table to take their orders for lunch. After she had left, George turned back to Jessica.
"I donít think that I have told you how good it is to have you here again Jess. I am looking forward to having a few days together."
Jessica simply smiled. " I would like that too," she said.
Just then a tall woman with long dark hair, dressed in a very smart business suit, who was walking past stopped in her tracks. "Emma," she said in a questioning tone, "why on earth arenít you at rehearsal? Father will have a fit!" A panicked look crossed her face. "He hasnít done anything rash, has he?" She looked again at Jessica. "I like your new look - a little lighter than usual - nice touch."
Jessica could not help but smile at this woman: she was undoubtably Catherine Sheridan, Alfredís daughter. "Iím sorry to disappoint you, miss, but I am Jessica Fletcher, Emma Magillís cousin from the United States."
"You are Emmaís cousin? She mentioned to me that you would be arriving," Catherine said. "I am so sorry, it is just that you look so much alike. I am Catherine Sheridan. My father is directing the production that your cousin is starring in," she said with a hand extended.
"It is nice to meet you Ms. Sheridan," Jessica said, shaking her hand. "This is Inspector George Sutherland. We met your father when we arrived at the Mayhew yesterday afternoon. I am afraid that we did not get off to a pleasant start."
"Oh donít worry about that, you are not the first to have had a cold reception from Father," Catherine said. "My official title is Assistant Director, but to tell you the truth I spend most of my time controlling my father and his legendary temper. I canít even speak to my fiancé Shawn Finch - he is playing Tobias in the play - while rehearsals are on without getting a menacing look from father. But then again those two donít get on at any time." Catherine laughed lightly and looked at her watch. "Oh, I must run. It was nice too meet you, Mrs. Fletcher, Inspector Sutherland. I hope we can chat more - are you attending the dinner party tonight?"
"Yes, we plan to be there," Jessica nodded.
"Wonderful, Iíll see you both tonight." Catherine waved as she started down the narrow street.
"Well, she must take after her mother," George said, "because she is the total opposite of her father."
Jessica agreed as the waitress returned with their lunch, a salad for Jessica and a club sandwich for George.
After lunch George took Jessica on a sightseeing drive through London. The sun was shining brightly and Jessica spent the afternoon enjoying the sights of London and Georgeís company.
They arrived at the Mayhew as, planned at five oíclock. George dropped Jessica off with a promise to meet her at Emmaís flat at 7:30 to accompany her to the dinner party.
Rehearsal was not quite over but Jessica slipped in quietly and enjoyed the last number of the production. She had to admit it was coming together well, just the right amount of creepyness. It even gave her goose bumps. She was sure that the audience would love it. Oliver and Emma were in fine voice, even Alfred Sheridan seemed to be enjoying himself for a change. She noticed Fiona busy in the background and even caught a glimpse of Catherineís fiance Shawn, a very talented young man. There was no sign of Catherine anywhere.
When the rehearsal had concluded for the evening, Jessica and Emma headed bach to Emmaís flat and dressed for the evening, Emma in a striking blue gown and Jessica in an equally magnificent red gown, one of that morningís purchases.
At 7:30 precisely, the doorbell rang. Georges eyes grew wide as the Jessica opened the door and stood before him.
"Come in, George," Jessica prompted, "Emma will be just a moment and we can be on our way."
"Jessica, you look wonderful," George commented as he entered the flat.
"Do you like the dress?" Jessica asked as she did a full turn showing the dress that emphasized her trim figure.
"Very much," George said, taking her hand and pulling her closer.
By now Emma had crept down the stairs and had watched the whole exchange with a smile on her face.
"Whenever you two are ready," she said lightly.
By the time that the three of them arrived at the dinner party, many of the other guests had already arrived. The room in the Shreidansí estate where the party was held was elaborately, but tastefully, decorated. A band was set up in the corner playing slow, elegant music. Oliver saw Jessica, Emma and George enter the room and went over to meet them. His round figure looked a little out of place in a bow tie but he was managing well enough.
"Oh, Ollie, you look so handsome," Emma smiled.
Oliver laughed. "Go on with you Em, I look like a circus clown and I know it. At least Iíll be in the presence of the three of you this evening, you will easily make up for what I am lacking." This caused them all to laugh.
Jessica began to look around the room. Many of the people from the production were there: Fiona Bates, Catherine Sheridan and her fiancé Shawn Finch, and others, presumably press and financial supporters. She also saw Alfred Sheridan in another discussion with a woman she did not recognize.
"Emma," Jessica asked, "who is that woman that Mr Sheridan is speaking to?"
"Oh, that is Sharon Haggerty, Iíve told you about her, Jessica. Come, Iíll introduce you to her," Emma responded.
"Alfred, I resent your insinuation," Sharon quipped as Jessica and Emma approached. The conversation ended abruptly as they drew near.
"Mrs. Fletcher," Alfred said, "I am glad the you could attend our little get-together tonight. And Ms. Magill, a wonderful job today keep it up my dear!" And with that he quickly retreated.
"What the devil happened to him?" Emma wondered.
Sharon kept her eyes on Alfred as he walked through the room. "Sharon," Emma began , "This is my cousin Jessica Fletcher from the United States. Jessica, Sharon Haggerty is taking care of the finances for the production, you know keeping books that sort of thing."
"It is nice to meet you, Mrs. Fletcher," the older woman with jet black hair responded, her thin hand waving slightly. "Excuse me, Emma, but there is someone I must speak to."
Jessica watched as Sharon wove through the crowd. "She is preoccupied by something," Jessica said to Emma, who nodded.
"That is not like her at all," Emma explained.
Just then George and Oliver caught up with Emma and Jessica. The band was playing a waltz.
"Care to dance, Jessica?" George asked.
"Iíd love to," Jessica smiled. Oliver and Emma quickly followed suit.
The waltz was a long one, and Jessica was overflowing with contentment as she was led across the dance floor by George Sutherland. A radiant smile never left her face.
The dance ended and Jessica and George took a seat near Emma and Oliver. Emma leaned over to Jessica.
"It looks like you two had a good time," she said smiling. "Everyoneís eyes were on the two of you and your gigantic smiles." Jessica blushed.
"There you four are," Catherine Sheridan exclaimed, waving a gloved hand. "I wanted to introduce Jessica and George to Shawn,"she said to Emma and Oliver. "That is, if I can ever find him!" she said,scanning the room.
"There he is." She pointed to a corner where a buffet had been set up. "Shawn," she called and waved him over.
"He really is a doll, Jessica," Emma said as he arrived at the table.
"How is my little Toby this evening?" Emma said with motherly affection.
"Just fine. How is my Ms. Lovett?" Shawn laughed, returning the remark with a smile to Emma.
"Shawn, I would like you to meet Jessica Fletcher and George Sutherland," Sharon said. "Jessica is Emmas cousin."
"I can see the resemblance. How do you do maíam, Sir? Will you be coming to see our production at the end of the month?" Shawn asked.
"I wouldnít miss it for the world. I saw you in rehearsal today you have quite a talent," Jessica said.
"Thank you very much, Mrs. Fletcher," Shawn said and turned to Catherine. "Are you all set to go then, my dear?"
"I am," Catherine answered. "There is so much to do and I have to get an early start in the morning, Iíll see you later." With that, Catherine and Shawn left arm in arm.
"What a lovely couple," George observed.
Suddenly there was a commotion over by the buffet and Alfred Shreidanís voice could be heard above the music. "I donít care what she told you," he said to Fiona. "Sheíll have to see me dead first!" Alfred abruptly turned and bumped into a server, causing red wine to be spilled all down the front of his white dress shirt. He said nothing but stormed out of the room with an angry flourish. Sharon quietly followed behind him.
"Well, I think that this may be an opportune time to make our exit," Oliver said. "Emma, you mentioned that you wanted to stop by the theater and pick up some things that you left behind."
"Oh, thank you for reminding me Oliver, in all of my haste to leave this afternoon I forgot to take my script with me. Would you mind terribly, Ollie?" Emma asked.
"Of course not, Em," he responded.
"Iíll see you back at my flat, Jessica. George, you remember the way to take Jessica home?"
"I do, Ms. Magill," said George as he helped Jessica on with her coat.
The theater was surrounded in darkness as Emma and Oliver went up to the front door. Emma reached in her pocket and found the key, but the door was already unlocked.
"Thatís odd," Emma commented. "I am sure that I locked it before I left tonight."
"Does anyone else have a key, Em?" Oliver asked.
"I gave one to Alfred but that is just because he is the director - it is my theater you know."
They made tenitive steps inside. Some of the stage lights were on and there was a figure on stage. As they drew closer they saw Alfred Sheridanís lifeless body sitting in the "barber chair" used in the production. His throat had been slit and his shirt was now not only stained with red wine but also a large quantity of blood. Emma let out a gasp and her hand went involuntarily to her mouth. Oliver said nothing but stood there in shock.
"Iíll call the police," Emma said after she had gained control of herself.
"Emma," Oliver said, "perhaps you should call your cousin Jessica as well."
Emma nodded and ran to the theaterís office.
The drive back to Emmaís flat had passed quickly as Jessica and George chatted about the interesting people that they had met that evening. It seemed that in no time George had pulled up in front of the flat.
"Come in for a cup of coffee, or maybe a nightcap?" Jessica asked, after a moment, George agreed.
They went inside and took off their coats. Jessica quickly headed for the kitchen and began to make a pot of coffee. George made himself comfortable in the living room, as Jessica insisted that she did not need any help in the kitchen. After a few minutes Jessica emerged with two cups of coffee, sugar and milk.
She set the tray down on the coffee table and took a seat next to George on the sofa.
"Well that was an interesting evening," Jessica began.
"It was," George agreed, "but at least we were able to spend time together. You must know that my feelings for you havenít changed," he said, looking deep into her blue eyes. He leaned over and gave her a deep kiss. Jessica responded as he gave her another.
Suddenly the phone rang giving them both a start. Jessica answered it very tentatively.
"Hello," she said, running a hand through her hair.
"Jessica, oh thank God," Emma said. "I need you to come down to the theater straight away, and bring George with you. He is still there, I hope."
Jessica cleared her throat. "Yes, he is ... still here," she said, slightly embarrassed. "Emma, what is wrong?"
"There has been a murder......."
After a long, sleepless night, George, Jessica, Emma and Oliver sat at Emmaís kitchen table and enjoyed breakfast.
"It is obvious that those wounds were not self inflicted,"George began, "but we will know a lot more when the chaps from the lab are through with the scene."
"I still cant believe it," Emma said in a whisper. "He was not the nicest of men but nobody deserves that,"she said, shaking her head and taking a sip of tea.
"Well, there does not seem to be any shortage of suspects," Jessica commented.
George looked at Emma and Oliver. "Yes, about that," he began gently, "you two were not always on the best of terms with Mr. Sheridan, were you?"
"No. I have to admit, if you are looking for suspects, George, that you have found two sitting right here in this room!" Oliver said with a touch of annoyance in his voice.
"Easy, Ollie," Emma soothed, "George is just following up on all of the possibilities."
"I didnít mean to offend you Oliver," George said. "I donít believe for one minute that either one of you committed this crime, but others in my department may not see it that way, so I am covering all of the bases."
"Iím sorry George. I do understand, it is just that both Emma and I have been through this before, being a suspect in a murder investigation is not a barrel of fun you know."
Emma nodded in silence.
"It is all par for the course," Jessica said. "What I would like to do is visit Catherine Sheridan today. I have a feeling that she may need someone to talk to."
"Good idea. Jessica, Oliver and I will come with you," Emma said.
"Jessica, Emma," George said a warning tone in his voice, "I know that I will not be able to stop you from helping me in this investigation, but please be careful. I have to stop into the office and see if any paperwork from last night has come back yet. You three keep in touch, you have my cell phone number."
"We do," Jessica said as she walked George to the door.
An hour later, Jessica, Emma and Oliver rang the bell at Catherine Sheridanís flat. They were surprised when Fiona Bates opened the door.
"Oh, Ms Magill, Mr Trumbell, isnít it just horrid?" she said when she saw them."I am sorry this had to happen while you were here Mrs. Fletcher."
"It was a devastating shock," Emma said. "We have come to see Catherine. How is she feeling?"
"She is still in a state of shock," Fiona said, "Iíll let her know that you are here." Fiona showed them into the living rom where Shawn was sitting lost in thought.
"Hello, Shawn," Emma said. Shawn looked up from the floor.
"Oh, hello. I didnít expect to see you three today," he said. "Where is the Inspector?"
"Heís back at his office," Jessica quickly answered, "waiting for some paperwork to come back."
"Catherine is understandably upset and wants to see this whole thing cleared up as soon as possible," Shawn said.
"I just want to know who killed my father and why," Catherine said from the doorway, led by Fiona. She looked tired and her eyes were red from crying. "I am grateful that I never had to see his body," Catherine explained. "Iíll always be able to remember him the way he was at the dinner party, unusually happy -" she smiled as she pondered this image, "- and with red wine spilled on his shirt."
Just then the phone rang, and Catherine answered it. A look of disbelief crossed her face. "You canít be serious," she said into the receiver. "Let me try and figure this out, Iíll be in touch." She replaced the receiver onto the cradle.
"What was that about?" Shawn asked, touching her arm.
Catherine just looked into the distance, "Last night when I was told about Father, I arranged for an audit of the productions finances. I thought that it would be the smart thing to do. That was the auditing firm on the telephone and it seems that there is a large sum of money unaccounted for. Without it, we will not be able to pay back the investors if the production does not go on."
"I thought that your father was a major contributor of funds," Jessica questioned, and as she said this she remembered the conversation between Sharon and Alfred. "Thatís it," she thought, "Sharon is responsible for the missing funds and Alfred knew about it!"
"He was, Mrs. Fletcher, but there were others who contributed substantially as well," Catherine responded, interrupting Jessicaís thoughts. "All I can say is that Sharon has a hell of a lot of explaining to do." Catherine picked up the receiver and dialed Sharonís number. No answer. "That is simply marvelous," Catherine said angrily. "She has probably skipped town or something. Iíll tell you something, Mrs. Fletcher," she continued, "Sharon Haggerty looks like a pretty good suspect. I hope that Inspector Sutherland can find her and bring her in!" With that Catherine broke into tears and left the room.
"I think that it would be best if we were to leave," Oliver said. "Good day to you all."
The three of them left the flat and got into Emmaís car.
"I want to call George," Jessica said. "He should know about this development. Maybe Catherine is right. Sharon appears to have had a motive, and she should talk to the police at any rate."
"I know a nice restaurant where we can stop for a cup of coffee, and you can make your phone call, Jessica." Emma said as she started the car.
"Sutherland here," George answered his cellular phone.
"George, itís Jessica."
"Oh, Jessica, it is good to hear from you. There have been some developments," George said.
"Same here - we had a very interesting visit with Catherine Sheridan this morning," she explained. "It seems that there is a significant amount of money that is missing from the productions accounts, and Alfred Sheridan possibly knew about it. I think that this warrants a discussion with Sharon Haggerty, donít you?" Jessica asked.
"It is amazing how much we think alike, dear lady. You will never guess who I just brought with me to the station. She was driving a little too quickly on the motorway, on her way to Heathrow," George explained. "Why donít you three come down to my office - some of the lab reports have come back and I would welcome your opinions."
"Thank you, George I think we may just do that," Jessica said. "Weíll see you soon. Good-bye."
Jessica, Emma and Oliver quickly left the restaurant with the intention of heading to Georgeís office. When they reached the carpark they saw that Emmaís windshield had been smashed. A note left behind read:
"Stay out of this matter unless you all wish to end up like Alfred Sheridan."
"This is just wonderful," Emma said shaking her head. "Now I have to have this repaired."
"We have evidently ruffled someone the wrong way," Oliver said.
"Which means that there are things that someone does not want us to find out," Jessica reasoned.
They hailed a cab and headed for Scotland yard.
The Sergeant at the front desk directed the trio to George Sutherlandís office.
"Inspector Sutherland," Emma said as they were walking in, "I want to report destruction of personal property." She had a very determined look on her face; George had seen the same look on Jessicaís face many times.
"Ms. Magill, what has happened?" George asked.
"Some bloke smashed my windshield!" Emma said.
"While I was calling you," Jessica explained. "Somebody does not want us interfering in this investigation."
George sighed. "It sounds like we have to be careful."
"Iíll say," Emma added.
Jessica looked at George. "You said that you had some new information," she said with enthusiasm in her voice.
"I do," he answered. "I learned about the missing funds about the same time as you did and that is when I sent out a search for Sharon Haggerty. In the meantime, the reports have come back from the murder scene. There were no prints on the straight razor used as in the production, except for Oliverís, but that was to be expected, so we know that our killer wore gloves. Had they simply wiped the razor clean, they would have taken Oliverís prints off as well."
"Interesting," Jessica said. "Was there anything else found at the scene?"
"There was only the murder weapon and a small button," George explained. "Other than that there were no signs of a struggle, everything was still in place."
"Then he must have been aquatinted with whoever killed him," Oliver said.
"Thatís right," Emma exclaimed. "Alfred was the only other one with a key so whoever killed him got there after he was there."
"Well, things are starting to take shape," George said nodding. "Maybe a chat with Ms. Haggerty will provide us with more details. You are welcome to come along," he said as he got up from his chair.
The Scotland Yard inspector led them to a holding area where Sharon was locked away. He had the officer open the door and escort her into one of the interrogation rooms. Jessica, Emma and Oliver were behind the one way mirror.
"Hello, Ms. Haggerty," George said as she entered the room and was seated. "I was hoping that you could tell me about what happened last night to Alfred Sheridan."
Sharonís face drained. She looked exhausted ready to break down. Jessica felt sorry for the poor creature she saw from the observation room. She hoped George would go easy on her
"I will tell you one thing Inspector," Sharon said looking at the floor. "I did not kill Mr. Sheridan."
George noticed that there was a button missing from her jacket, the same one she had been wearing last night
"Alright," said George, keeping control, "but Alfred Sheridan did find that you had been embezzling funds from the production, and that gives you a pretty god motive for murder. Plus we did find you trying to leave London this morning," he reminded her gently.
"I tried to leave this morning because I was scared, Inspector, not because I killed him," she began, tears beginning to collect in her eyes.
"Ms. Haggerty," George said, "there was also a button found at the scene and it matches the missing button on your jacket sleeve."
"I can explain all of that," Sharon wept. "I did take the money, out of simple greed. Alfred confronted me with it last night and I panicked. I left the party and followed him to the theater so that I could pick up a few of my things and be gone by morning, with the money. Alfred was the only one with a key so I had to follow him in. I was inside, about to leave when I heard shouting from the stage. I went to see who it was but I was too late, all I saw was a tall figure running out the door and Alfredís body just sitting there. I was frightened, so I grabbed my things and ran I must have popped the button on something. And well, you know the rest, Inspector," Sharon wept softly.
George turned and left the room rubbing his temples.
"What do you make of that.?" he asked the group in the observation room, shaking his head.
"I am inclined to believe her," Jessica said. "She was so shaken, I donít think that she was lying to you."
"Poor thing," Emma said, looking at Sharon with pity in her eyes. "She always seemed so strong, I canít believe it!"
"Why would Alfred have been at the theater at that hour of night?" Oliver wondered aloud.
"I guess we are back to the start on this," George said. "Anyone have any fresh ideas?" he asked pouring himself a cup of coffee. As he held it up to take a sip, a small hole in the bottom of the styrofoam cup spilled coffee onto his shirt. "Oh drat, what a mess!" he exclaimed wiping it with a paper napkin.
Jessica looked into the distance and then back at George, her eyes wide and her mind working a mile a minute.
"Thatís it!" she said. "George, I need to use your telephone."
"How can I argue with you when you have that look on your face?" George laughed. "Go right ahead, Dr. Watson."
Jessica rang the doorbell at Catherineís flat.
"Mrs. Fletcher, what a surprise to see you again," Catherine said, her eyes questioning. "Please, come in."
She led them to the living room where Catherine sat on the sofa. "Please make yourself comfortable, Mrs. Fletcher," she said.
"Thank you Ms. Sheridan, but I stopped by to let you know that George is very close to identifying your fathers killer," Jessica said.
"He is? Thatís wonderful," Catherine said hesitantly. "Has he told you anything about who it might be?"
"I have my own ideas," Jessica said, her eyes locked on the young woman. "I think that YOU killed your father, Catherine."
"Mrs Fletcher, with all due respect, you are wrong," Catherine stated, shaking her head. "I was here with Shawn when my father was killed."
"No, Catherine," Jessica said gently. "Shawn dropped you off at the theater because you said that you had work to do, your father had given you the key."
"Mrs. Fletcher," Catherine began.
"You were there Catherine, you made a slip in front of me and the rest of those involved in the production. The morning after your fatherís death you said that you would remember him the way he was at the party, unusually happy ... and with red wine stains on his shirt," Jessica explained, emphasizing the last sentence.
"So?" Catherine said, turning away. "What does that prove?"
"Your father only soiled his shirt AFTER you and Shawn had left the party. The only way you could have known about the stains was if you had seen him after that," Jessica said, shaking her head. "He also became quite angry with Fiona Bates when he learned, from her, that you and Shawn were engaged to be married. I called Fiona earlier today and she told me about the conversation that had set him off. Is that why you killed him, Catherine?" Jessica asked softly. "Because he refused to acknowledge your love for Shawn?"
Catherine looked at Jessica. "Shawn and I had managed to keep our engagement a secret," Catherine began. "Father hated Shawn and, I guess, was furious when Fiona let it slip about the wedding. Father had given me his key to the theater. I was inside doing work for the next dayís rehearsals when he came barging in with a frightful rage. I tried to calm him down. I told him that we would talk about it but he was too angry to listen to reason. All of my pent up anger towards him just took over. How dare he tell me that I could not marry the man that I love! The straight razor was just sitting there on the prop table and I Ö I ..." She began to sob uncontrollably. "I killed him," Catherine said as she hugged a pillow on the sofa.
"But Mrs Fletcher," she said suddenly turning, "I canít let you tell this to your Scotland yard friend, you understand donít you?" Catherine slowly backed Jessica into a corner and was about to go for her throat when George appeared.
"Ms. Sheridan," he said, "I would think twice about that if I were you."
Jessica breathed a sigh of relief.
The lights came up after the performance at the Mayhew. Sweeney Todd was a hit with the audience. Jessica and George were among those applauding.
Backstage, Emma and George celebrated with Jessica and George.
"Oh, I had forgotten how much I love the theater," Emma exclaimed, still pumped by adrenaline.
"Imagine us, Em, still getting applause! Not a bad night, eh?" Oliver said laughing.
"It was well deserved," George said. "I have never seen anything like it."
"I agree," said Jessica. "One of your finest performances, Emma."
"Thank you, luv," Emma said. "Now tell me, George, are things wrapped up with the investigation?"
"Very close, Ms. Magill," George said. "You know that Sharon gave back the funds so that the show could go on," he said.
"And thank goodness for that," Oliver exclaimed, lifting a glass of wine.
"Catherineís sentence has not been determined yet but her trial is coming up," George continued. "Oh and by the way, Ms. Magill it was Shawn who smashed your windshield and he has agreed to pay you for it."
"Yes, he told me as much tonight,"Emma said. "Poor lad, he really loved Catherine, didnít he?"
Emma looked in the mirror and laughed, "look at me I am a fright! Listen, Jessica, why donít you and George meet us across the way for a pint, and give me and Ollie a few minutes to clean up." She winked at Jessica.
"Alright Emma," Jessica said as she and George turned to leave.
George and Jessica opened the doors onto the street and walked arm and arm.
"I am going to be sorry to see you go Jessica," George said. "Are you sure that I canít convince you to stay with me here in London?" As he said this he took her hands and looked deeply into her eyes. George drew her close and kissed her firmly on the lips
"George," Jessica said as they parted, keeping eye contact with him. Tears threatened to overflow and spill onto her cheeks. "You know that I do care for you, very much, but it just would not work, me being here in London with you," she said quietly.
"That is one of the things that I admire about you Jessica, you are so dedicated. You know how I feel, and those feelings will not change, but I am happy to call you my friend." George said looking down at Jessica.
"You are a wonderful man, George. Thank you." Jessica smiled up at him and wrapped her arms around him. A few snow flakes fell on the ground as they headed across the street to meet Emma and Oliver.