A Liam O’Hare Mystery
by Cherie Reich
I crouched close to the body, careful not to disturb the blood soaking into the Oriental rug. My fingertips pressed against his neck. No thump-thump pattered. With my watch face, I detected no breath. Lord Carrington the third was most definitely dead, although I could’ve surmised it with the amount of blood and, of course, the dagger embedded into his chest.
My companion paced around the room, only giving a precursory glance to the decease. He sniffed the air before examining an empty display case upon the oak desk.
“Find anything, O’Hare?”
“Hmm.” He rubbed his chin before leaning very close to the case. “How long do you presume he’s been dead, Johnson?”
I checked Lord Carrington’s fingers and arms. The blood was still damp, his flesh cool but not cold. “Rigor mortis hasn’t set in. I would estimate perhaps an hour, not much longer than that.”
“Hmm.” He straightened so quickly I jumped and almost planted my knee into the crimson stain.
“What is it?”
“I believe we need to speak with the residents at Ravenwood Manor.” He strode toward the door, only a faint hint of a limp detectable.
“Shouldn’t we contact Scotland Yard first?” No matter that the family called upon us first. This was a matter for the constable, not a former detective and a professor.
“They shall arrive shortly to arrest the murderer.” Without further word, he opened the door and exited the room.
Liam O’Hare’s confidence unnerved me, but I didn’t doubt him. The Irishman had a keen eye for details I never could see. I gazed around the room. Besides the empty glass case and the dead lord, I couldn’t fathom who committed such a crime.
“Don’t worry, old chap. We’ll find out who did this to you,” I whispered to the deceased.
Four people crowded into the study, not including Liam, myself, and the former Lord Carrington.
Lord Carrington’s son, James, wrapped a sturdy arm around a quite young Lady Carrington. She clutched a dainty handkerchief in her hand and leaned against her step-son. The maid who discovered the body cringed in the corner. Sobs shuddered through her slight chest as she buried her face in her hands. Last was the butler, a one Mr. George Thomas, stood pole-straight and stoic. Not a whisker twitched on the man’s face.
“This is the entire household, correct,” O’Hare inquired, his steely gaze soaking in every detail. I pondered what stories he saw with this group.
“Yes, inspector.” James Carrington moved his hand lower to his step-mother’s waist. “We have a cook as well, but Sally left a couple hours ago. George and Lydia live in-house.”
“No one else has entered this house since the cook left and we arrived?”
“George, have you let anyone else in?” James glanced toward the butler, and I followed his gaze.
“No one, sir.” The man spoke in dry, somber tones. Either he had a respect for the deceased within the room or was as dull as a weathered hansom.
O’Hare tapped his finger to his lips. “Then one of you is the killer.”
The maid let out a wail like a keening hound. I caught the butler’s eyes widening before the mask slid over them. Lady Carrington clutched to James.
“No, it can’t be.” She eyed the butler and maid, squinting with suspicion while her complexion paled.
James entwined his fingers with hers. “My step-mother is correct. There must be a fifth person here. Perhaps someone has broken into our home. None of us would murder my-my father.”
He swallowed audibly, and I noticed the first flicker of grief in the man’s moistening eyes.
O’Hare leaned against the desk and tapped along the empty container. “Do you recognize the weapon, my lady? Did it not come from this case?”
Her gaze flitted toward her husband. She wavered and I reached out a hand to steady her.
“Would you care for a seat, madam?”
“Oh, no, no.” She shook her head as if dispelling a nightmare. Her hand slipped from James’ and she twisted a rather large diamond ring around her finger. With a sigh, she said, “My husband acquired the copper dagger during a trip East. He said it was some ancient artifact. I paid little attention to it. He was always acquiring trinkets on his travels. As for the case, it did hold the weapon. Someone must’ve removed it.”
“Yes, someone must have.” O’Hare agreed before focusing his attention on Carrington’s son. “Sir, what did you remove from this desk?”
“What? Nothing’s missing.” James’ eyes darted around the room.
I followed his inquiry as well. I didn’t see anything missing, although the maid gave a loud snuffle. I should’ve offered her my handkerchief, but I didn’t.
O’Hare pointed toward the desktop. “A paper was placed here recently. Your father signed something, a document, I presume. His marks are fresh. So what did you take?”
His jaw clenched and popped. The two men stared each other down, and I started to move between them before he reached into his jacket pocket. “All right. Father was signing a document. It was a business proposition for me to journey to France and oversee his new winery. I told him I wanted to remain in England, but father was father. When he got something in his head, he wouldn’t let it go. When I saw the signed document, I took it. I figured it would be null and void if it was never discovered.” He removed the paper, showing it to O’Hare and me.
“Henry never told me you’d be leaving for France,” Lady Carrington said, taking James’ hand again.
“I didn’t wish it.” He smiled at her, and I raised an eyebrow toward O’Hare.
He didn’t pay much heed, though. “And, Mr. Thomas, when did you last see Lord Carrington.”
“It was after dinner, sir. We passed in the corridor, and he requested to be alone in his study and I was to see no one disturbed him.” His voice remained as flat as a collapsed accordion.
“So, you were the last person to see him alive, then,” O’Hare asked.
“I presume so, except, of course, for his murderer.”
“Of course.” O’Hare chuckled slightly and shifted away from the desk.
A bell rang and all of us startled except for O’Hare and the butler.
“Mr. Thomas, would you be so kind and escort the constable and his detectives upstairs?” O’Hare ambled across the room and opened the door.
“Of course, sir.” The butler gave a slight, stiff bow and left.
“Mr. O’Hare, we preferred that you and Dr. Johnson handle this case. It is a delicate matter,” James said.
“Do you know who did this to my h-husband?” A couple tears trickled down her cheeks.
“Yes, I do, and please, gentlemen come in.” O’Hare ushered three men from Scotland Yard into the now claustrophobic office.
“O’Hare, by George, what are you doing here?” The constable threw up his arms, smacking one of his detectives in the stomach.
“I’ve solved Lord Carrington’s murder.”
I almost chortled when the constable rolled his eyes, but I was too keen to discover the murderer in the room.
“Who is it?” Lady Carrington’s voice was barely above a whisper.
I held a breath as I followed O’Hare’s gaze. He appeared like a hound on the hunt, but I still couldn’t follow his logic. Did the butler do it? The maid? His son? Or his wife?
“Constable, I suggest you arrest Miss Lydia Faircloth in the murder of Lord Carrington.”
O’Hare removed a flask from his overcoat. The harsh scent of whiskey wafted through the air. I preferred scotch myself. He sipped the liquor while the hansom bumped along the road.
“Well, O’Hare. Don’t keep me waiting any longer. How did you know the maid did it?” I leaned forward to catch every word.
“Whom did you suspect?” He twisted the lid onto the flask.
I thought about it. “I must admit I suspected the butler, although I thought it was clear that Lady Carrington and her step-son might be having an affair. They appeared particularly close.”
“Indeed, they did and are.” He ran his finger along the bridge of his nose. “Of course, neither realized Lord Carrington was diddling the maid. The butler knew, so I didn’t suspect him to interrupt his master.”
“Not even for blackmail?”
“No, not even for it.”
“Then how did you know?”
“Simple, Johnson. First one on the scene is the first suspect. The maid sounded the alarm.” He massaged his knee seconds before I heard the first splatter of rain upon the roof.
“Was that all?”
“No, of course not. Lord Carrington trusted his murderer. There was little fight. He advanced toward her, making it easier to slide the unsuspecting dagger into his chest. No blood anywhere except the carpet, so his killer stood in front of him and toppled him over.”
“Anything else?” I collapsed back, unable to fathom how much information O’Hare took in.
He shrugged, a slight grin quirked his lips up. “The scene was tidy. Not a smudge of a fingerprint upon the glass case. Only a maid would pay such attention to details.”
Cherie Reich is a writer, freelance editor, and library assistant living in Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in various magazines and anthologies. Her horror novelette Once Upon a December Nightmare is published by Wild Child Publishing. She is a member of Valley Writers, James River Writers, and the Virginia Writers Club. For further information, please visit her website, http://cheriereich.webs.com, and blog, http://cheriereich.blogspot.com.