This is part 2 of ‘Murder and Mince Pies’, if you need to catch up before reading: click here.

When she was younger, Emmeline Fontane would go sledging on the first day of the Christmas holidays. After her dad died her older brother took her for a couple of years, but once he went to university she was left to watch the snow falling from the warmth of the living room with her mother.One day, she was watching her neighbours skating along the ice with their dad when one of them fell and he cracked his head on the ground. Crimson blood snaked out across the white, claiming territory on the pure ground. A little while later, an ambulance arrived. She never found out what happened to the boy, but she remembers that feeling of helplessness. All she could do was stand and watch and hope…

She feels that now. As her partner takes the note from her hands and reads it in disbelief, she can only stand and watch and hope,  as the evidence condemns her as a suspect on her own crime-scene. It is as though she is watching from outside of her body, unable to move or speak. Her partner makes a call and speaks to their boss, explaining the situation, she still doesn’t move. Life is a game of ‘stuck in the mud’ and no one is tagging her free.

The only reason she’d been working Christmas eve was to make some extra cash to pay for her new furniture. She’d got rid of the old stuff a couple of weeks ago and had been looking forward to eating dinner on a seat that didn’t wobble tonight. That isn’t even the problem though, despite it suddenly seeming important, the problem is that with the money she’ spent on the furniture, there’s no way she can afford bail. Her partner’s face swims into vision, but it’s like she’s looking at him through a kaleidoscope. She squints her eyes and bites her lip, concentrating on the movement of his thin lips as he speaks.

“Em, did you know the victim? I’m sorry, you know I have to ask.” Emmeline fights at the fog that’s clouding her mind and forces her mouth into the shape of a response.

“No.”

“You know what it looks like Em, like blackmail gone wrong. Like someone didn’t want to pay any more and came here to sort things out. Maybe it wasn’t intentional, maybe the meeting went awry. I don’t know, but you need to speak to me now…anything could help but it’s not the time to freeze up.”

“I’ve never seen that face before. I didn’t know her Patrick I swear.”

“And you don’t know anyone who’d want to set you up then? Anybody who holds a grudge for something, might be linked in with this woman somehow?”

“I’m a cop…. there’s plenty of people holding grudges who’d be happy to kill to satisfy them Pat. But I don’t know who they’d be, I can’t even think right now. I’m going home.”

“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that yet. You know the drill. You have to go to the station, I’ll drive you down.”

In the back of Patrick’s car, Emmeline focuses on her breathing for a moment, calming herself enough to think with some semblance of clarity. She needs to find a way out now. She flicks through the crime scene in her mind: blunt object to the back of the head, seductively dressed – date? Missing fingernail and ripped dress – struggle. Broken chair – murder weapon… broken chair.

“Patty, you know this wasn’t me.”

“I do, but they don’t Em. You need to trust us to fix this for you.”

“Someone’s setting me up Patrick and you need to help me right now, ’cause if I go in there I’m not coming back out.”

“What’re you on about…Crap Emmeline, did you actually do it?”

“Of course not! But my DNA may end up on the murder weapon.”

Patrick pulls the car over at the side of the road in a manner which would have failed him his driving test. The brakes squeal in protest as he yanks on the handbrake and turns around to face her.

“What the hell Emmeline?”

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