*Excerpt of Detective Black novel that Maggie writes in Maggie’s Murder Mysteries: Prelude to Poison*
The lifeless body of Marlene Green was draped across the carpet as if she were sleeping. Only the pool of blood that surrounded her head like a halo and the lifeless expression in her open eyes indicated otherwise. She was known for her looks, but now that she was nothing but an empty shell, the mere residue of a person, her beauty seemed to be a cruel joke, like a broken piece of jewellery.
Detective Black stared at the body, wondering what she’d been like when she still had a pulse, when she was breathing, her heart beating in her small-framed chest. All of her hopes and dreams were pointless now. Someone had taken them away, even though it was not their right. The detective had done this long enough to be largely unaffected by cases. Meaning that, most of the time, the void he felt with each murder case was easily filled with a pint at the local pub. Some cases, though, were different. They reminded him of the price his soul was paying for this kind of job.
He stepped outside and was at the back of the manor that Marlene shared with her husband. Her husband, Craig, stood outside, inhaling a cigarette with such vigour that he ended up coughing for a full minute. A constable stood right beside him, but even she was quiet now. There came a moment where nothing was left to say.
He had been the one to find her and right now he was Black’s first suspect. In most of his cases the spouse was the culprit, and it had made him wary of both the victim’s significant other and marriage.
“Mr Green,” Detective Black said as he approached the man. He had his back to him, but turned around, still smoking. The man was in his forties, just like Black himself, but he looked significantly better. For one thing, the Armani suit looked slimming, and his teeth were exceptionally white. If he had said he was thirty, Black would have believed him. Despite the curve of his lips, the eyes portrayed a sharpness that Black often saw in criminals, and it wouldn’t surprise him if Craig Green had made his money while stepping over a few bodies.
He could see how someone like Marlene Green would have been attracted to him and his lifestyle. He could also see her coming to her senses eventually. An expensive cage was still a cage. And jewellery did not make up for the love that Craig only showed himself. Of course, Black couldn’t be sure; he had deduced this only based on the lack of pictures in the home, the separate bedrooms for him and his wife, the fact that his stepdaughter was shipped off to boarding school, and the mere look of Craig Green.
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” Detective Black said as he extended his hand. In this day and age, people didn’t shake hands as much as they used to, but he felt it important to properly introduce himself, even if it was to a potential killer. Perhaps his love for a time without smartphones or YouTube videos about cats was why he still smoked a pipe or listened to a record player. This world was too loud, in his opinion, and all he wanted was a bit more quiet.
“Thank you,” Craig said. His accent was posh and had Eton college written all over it. Not that Black needed any more reasons to dislike him.
“I’m sorry to have to ask you some questions, but as you understand, I’d like to find out what happened as quickly as possible,” Black said in a professional tone. He found it easier to get to the point when the witness, assuming for now that was all Craig was, was a man. With women, he was always too worried he’d make them cry. He hated it when people cried around him. He just didn’t know how to comfort them. It was probably one of the many reasons he was still single. Murders he could handle, emotions not so much. He’d just stammer and act like an idiot, something you don’t want when you’re trying to come across as a capable investigator.
“I understand, I want this solved as quickly as possible as well. I just don’t get who would do such a thing.” Craig’s voice cracked.
Black cleared his throat, hoping Craig would pull himself together. “Did you see a car on your way up to the house?”
“No, no. I was just–all was normal. I came home, hung up my coat, and when I got into the room, she was just lying there.” He inhaled sharply and let out a sob.
“Where did you go?” He hoped that if he asked his questions quick enough, there would be no time to cry.
“I just had a business meeting with a friend. He had this idea for a restaurant. He wanted me to invest. I said I’d think about it, and we had a nice lunch. If I hadn’t gone, then she’d still be alive. Wouldn’t she?” He looked at the detective with the kind of sadness that was hard to imitate and Detective Black felt a pang of sympathy.
“You couldn’t have known,” he said softly. “Now, please try to think of anyone who would want to hurt your wife. Anyone at all.”
The man was about to shake his head when his eyes widened. “Actually,” he said, “there was something.”
“She received a letter a week ago that had her in tears. When I asked her about it, she said it was nothing, but she burned the letter in the fireplace. I thought it was an odd thing to do, but didn’t press her. I never learned what it said, though, so I don’t know how much help that is.” He tried to smile, but it came out as a grimace.
“Thank you. Any bit of information helps, I promise.” It didn’t surprise him that Marlene hadn’t told him about the letter. If they were sleeping in separate bedrooms, then things must have cooled significantly. The first thing he would try to uncover is if either one of them had an affair. It was cliché, but for a reason. He just didn’t think Marlene was the type to sit around by the fireplace, while her husband was busy painting the town red. He didn’t read tabloids, but he knew enough to know that Craig liked to flirt. Even after putting a ring on the beautiful Marlene.
This case was going to drag up all sorts of drama, he was sure of it. But he would get his killer, as he always did.