OBSERVING MURDER: PART 4
By 6.30pm I was dressed to kill, perfumed and immaculately made up. I was pleased with what I saw in the mirror, apart from the slippers – I so had to remember to put my heels on before I went out. I had folded up the piece of paper on which I’d listed my questions I wanted to have answered, together with some idea of how I was going to find those answers. If I could persuade Jeremy to help me with at least some of them, then that would surely prove a great help.
I’d already ordered a taxi to take me to the wine bar and I arrived, promptly, at 7pm. Jeremy was looking out for me and looked happy to see me. That was a relief anyway, I was a bit worried that he might chicken out once he had had time to think about everything. After greeting me by giving me an airbrushed peck on the cheek, he put his hand into the small of my back and gently led me towards a table where another bottle of Pinot Grigio and three glasses were waiting. Wait – three glasses? Who else was coming on this evening dinner date? I looked at Jeremy with, what I hoped was a questioning glance – rather than the accusatory one I was afraid I had sent his way – but he just smiled and said ‘I’ll introduce you once she comes back, she’s just gone to the powder room, feeling a little nervous I think’. Yeah well, so was I. I’d honestly thought we were having a date, one where I was planning to ask very intrusive questions, but still … I sat down while he poured me a drink, no doubt I’d find out who the ‘other woman’ was very shortly.
I’d just taken my first sip of wine when Jeremy’s eyes smiled at the corners, crinkled I think I should say. I had to look at this woman and see what I was up against as it was obvious from his face that she was one very important woman to him. So I looked, and I smiled, and she smiled back and held out her hand. ‘Jeremy came home this afternoon and told me all about you and how much you seem to know about my grandmother’s ring. I have to admit that I was so intrigued by this that I asked if he would mind if I tagged along this evening. Please do forgive me but I know next to nothing about grandmother. She was incredibly secretive, almost as if she was afraid of something, and I really had hoped that that was down to my childhood imagination. Now I’m worried that I may have been right. I simply can’t wait to hear what you have to say, and to see if I can help in any way’. Well, what on earth could I say to that? Jeremy then managed to introduce me to his mother (whose name was Jennifer), whilst, at the same time, pouring both mother and himself a drink. So smooooooth. So cleverly done. Did she really want to hear what I feared may be the result of any research? Did Jeremy really want to know? And, why on earth did she look so absolutely beautiful? It wasn’t fair. No wonder his eyes were smiling – oh lord, get a grip girl, she’s his mother! ‘She’s very beautiful’ Laurie said, inside my head. Yeah, well, thanks so much for that.
We made small talk whilst we went through the bottle of wine. I was asked about my interests, what I had done, what I planned to do in the future, where I lived, and so on – the usual small talk before getting to the nitty-gritty. Then Jeremy caught the eye of the waiter, I think it was the waiter, and informed us our taxi was waiting for us outside. We were transported to a rather lovely and very intimate Italian Restaurant where Jeremy and his mother were welcomed by name and I was made to feel just as welcome, being a friend of theirs. I had always been aware that real money could gain you access to another world but, really, I had never expected to be on the fringes of it, ever.
We were guided to a very private table, where we would be unlikely to be overheard, and I realised that Jeremy (unless it had been his mother), had planned this. Right, I thought, I’m definitely going to lay my cards on the table and ask them all the questions I had written out earlier that evening. I really wanted to know just what had happened in the past. Not just because I had dreamed it, but because Laurie had been affected by it. I had realised, albeit slowly, that Laurie knew something, something that she wouldn’t, or couldn’t tell me. I instinctively understood that she would be unable to give me much help which meant that I would have to do most of the research, if not all of it, for myself.
Over the first course Jeremy asked me if I had had any further thoughts about how we could find out anything further about his mother’s maternal grandparents. I answered by putting the list of questions, I had written out, face up on the table for them to read through themselves. They both looked very carefully at it then Jeremy told me he could possibly trace who had commissioned and purchased the sapphire ring. He promised to get onto that during the following days. His mother, to my surprise, informed us that she’d grown up aware of some box of papers that her own mother had stowed away in her attic. Her mother (Rachel) was in her eighties and no longer able to go searching about for things. It was the ideal opportunity to go looking around for anything which might relate to their family history. Jennifer looked really excited at the thought of perhaps finding something which might add to her own scant ancestral knowledge. I simply had to break in and tell them my worst fears, it would have been impossible and unkind not to.
I told them both about the link between the watch and the silver topped cane. I told them about my fears that Oswald Archibald Jefferson, Jennifer’s own grandfather, might well have murdered a young woman in 1926 outside the Kit Cat Club in the very early hours of the morning. I told her that he certainly hadn’t stolen the jewellery, that someone else had done that, but that it had ended up with her grandmother somehow. And then I sat and watched her face as the import of the words sank in. Unbelievably, she smiled. Obviously she didn’t believe me then. I know it all sounded fantastical and far-fetched, but I also knew that it was all real, that it was the truth, just that it had gone unrecorded and unknown and fallen into the great body of lost history. A history I was determined, somehow, to bring back to the surface. That made me their enemy, potentially, so why was she smiling?
Jeremy had smiled at me too, just like that, when I had told him everything. What was it with these two? Their ancestor may very well have been a ruthless murderer and they were happy about it? This was something I couldn’t get my head around no matter how hard I tried. I liked Jeremy, I liked him very much, I liked his mother too. Why was my antennae screaming at me to trust them? It was all very weird. I closed my eyes to be able to think. A hand, placed very gently on my arm, made me open them again. ‘Perhaps you need to hear my/our story, then you might understand why we are so willing to help you find the answer to your mysterious dream’, said his mother, very softly. I nodded, dumbly, I really had no idea how to deal with this mother and son’s strange responses to the very personal conundrum I had presented to them.
Jeremy signalled for the waiter to clear the first course away and waited until the second course was served, then nodded to Jennifer to begin. I listened, just as I had listened to Jeremy that afternoon, but this time more closely. I sensed that I was going to hear something very important and that I needed to be able to identify it when I heard it. I can’t explain that properly. It’s an awareness that I’ve had for years – I guess it’s something Laurie gave me, I don’t know. I got out my writing pad and prepared to make notes. Jennifer nodded at me in confirmation.
Jennifer’s grandmother had been a rather distant grandparent, whilst her grandfather had often been away. Her own mother had had a difficult childhood. Questions were deflected, any questions about her father’s work or where he was when he was away, were answered with same words every time, ‘little girls shouldn’t go asking questions about their elders’. There had been no answers, ever. Not even her uncles had been given any information about their parents’ lives. Oh yes, Jennifer and her mother had both pumped the uncles for any little hints or tales. Neither could tell them any. They had all grown up with the suspicion that their father was a spy, an idea which their mother had roundly reproved them for even thinking. They were certainly never, ever, to say that to anyone on pain of a very sound smacking (not that their grandmother would have laid a finger on them, their nanny would have been given that task). Their grandmother, being a very strict woman, was not one to be ignored and so they had all said and asked nothing further, but it didn’t stop them making up stories about the possible exploits of their father. There had been photographs of the grandparents around the family house when she was very small, she remembered that, but she hadn’t seen them for many years. She doubted that her mother would have destroyed them so it was likely they were kept in the attic somewhere. It was also known that her grandfather wrote to her grandmother when he was away, and that she kept his letters. Grandmother had once boasted that she had kept all her husband’s letters dating back to the year before their marriage. I responded that, if these letters were still extant, they could prove to be a mine of information for the family (and for me, I privately thought). Jennifer’s eyes were positively beaming by this time, but I still didn’t understand why she was so keen to open up a private family history, especially if there was something which proved her grandfather to be a murderer. I asked her that specific question. Her answer surprised me:
‘Because we know that there was something they were hiding. Something which they never talked about, not even to each other. It was palpable, something you could feel in the air. Something they skirted around, like an elephant in the room. It was huge and stifling, it was frightening and real. We were frightened of grandmother and wary of grandfather – that isn’t normal is it’? Asked Jennifer, this time with tears running down her cheeks. I looked at Jeremy and he just nodded his head. I asked, in turn, about Jennifer’s mother, Rachel. How would she feel if her mother’s property and memories were turned over and inspected, read and devoured by her own family who were of the impression that they had something to hide? Jennifer looked at me and said ‘but mother has always known there was something hidden, something wrong that they wanted to keep secret, something sinister and dirty. I think it would help her to learn what may be in the attic, and it would certainly have helped her brothers. Unfortunately, they are both dead now, I don’t want my mother to die not knowing anything’. I wasn’t so sure that knowledge is always preferable to ignorance, but I didn’t say anything, it wasn’t my place. I’d let Jeremy sort that one out.
All this time I’d been eating my meal and making notes. I turned them round and let them both read what I had understood, and asked them if I’d missed anything they thought might be important. They both assured me I had taken down everything almost verbatim. I blessed my time at university and the scrawl hand I had had to create in order to take notes down quickly, though I was pretty surprised that they could read it. I had difficulty myself sometimes. I then told them that I’d begin my searches by searching for copies of Jennifer’s grandmother, Elizabeth’s, birth certificate, the same for Oswald Archibald Jefferson, the certificate of marriage between Elizabeth Denvers and Oswald Archibald Jefferson, the census returns to chart the growth of their family, and perhaps their children’s birth certificates too. I asked Jennifer if she could let me have her own mother’s birth date. It always surprises me how little people know of the history of their own families. Sometimes they don’t even have their grandparents’ given names and no idea of their birthdates. Jennifer was no exception. She promised to get that for me for the following day when I planned to visit the National Archives at Kew and to go searching online for the certificates.
So, with my next day planned, and with Jennifer now on the case, I was feeling as though I may get somewhere. Jeremy promised to keep me updated on his search for the ring’s history and we ordered dessert. I realised that I needed to book a further couple of nights in the hotel for my room but wasn’t sure that they would have any rooms available. I unwittingly voiced this out loud as I also had no idea where else I could go for such a good price per night. I have a bad habit of talking to myself – it comes of having an imaginary friend throughout my childhood years. Yes, I was blaming Laurie.
Immediately Jennifer told me not to worry, that there were plenty of bedrooms at the family home in the city and she’d have one made up for me to move into for the following night for as long as I wanted or needed to stay. Jeremy’s eyes smiled even more broadly, though he did his best to stop his mouth following suit. I’m trapped, I thought, but what the heck, I knew it would provide me access to whatever Jennifer managed to locate in the attics and I really wanted to cast my eyes over whatever happened to be there. Laurie quite obviously agreed with this, I could tell, as I could feel her happiness spreading throughout the whole of my mind. I smiled and thanked Jennifer for her kindness and said I would be very grateful to take up the kind offer. It was the right thing to say, Jennifer beamed, Jeremy smiled as broadly as his eyes and Laurie’s warm happiness spread throughout the rest of me. Yeah, I know, it’s all very odd but I was used to her.
I returned to my functional hotel room feeling extremely pleased that it had all gone so well. I never gave much of a thought as to why everything seemed to be falling into place so quickly. I can be so dense at times. How I ever managed to earn myself a PhD I will never know.
To read the previous instalments in Observing Murder please click this link