Aunt Bessie Joins (An Isle of Man Cozy Mystery Book 10) (10 page)

“Did you get tickets for ‘Christmas at the
Castle?’” Bessie asked.

“I did.
I’m bringing Andy and Sue with me, as well.
We’re coming on Christmas Eve for the
Now that we have a little
bit of money, I think we should be supporting local charities.”

Bessie smiled at the woman.
Anne had worked hard, often holding down
two jobs at once, to support herself and her son over the years.
A recent inheritance had given her
access to more money than she’d ever imagined having.
Bessie had wondered if Anne and Andy
might spend at least some of it on extravagances, but thus far she’d seen no
sign of them doing anything but behaving very cautiously and sensibly with
their new wealth.
That Anne was
looking to give back to the community only reinforced Bessie’s delight in
Anne’s good fortune.

“If I don’t see you between now and then,
I’m sure I’ll see you at the castle on Christmas Eve, then,” Bessie told Anne
before she headed back down the hill.

At home, she put away her shopping and then
got ready for bed.
Feeling like a
change, she found a book she’d hidden away for a rainy day.
It was the newest title by one of her
When it had arrived from the bookstore in Ramsey in one of their regular
shipments, she’d hidden it from herself, determined to wait to read it when she
knew she needed a real treat.
Tonight felt like the right night for her indulgence.

With a box of chocolate truffles on the
bedside table, Bessie climbed into bed and got lost in one of her
fictional worlds.
Hours later, the chocolates were gone
and Bessie was blinking hard and trying to pull herself back to reality.

“Reality is overrated,” she told her mirror
image before she brushed her teeth and went to bed.

She kept her walk short the next morning,
and had breakfast ready to go when Pete

“I didn’t actually start cooking yet,” she
told him as she let him in.
“Everything cooks so quickly, it seemed better to wait.”

He sat at the kitchen table while Bessie began
to cook.
“You can talk while I
work, if you want,” she told her guest.
“I’ve made breakfast often enough that I don’t really need to

“Why don’t we talk about ‘Christmas at the
Castle’, rather than the case,” the inspector suggested.
“I’d like more background, if possible.”

“I think I told you everything I know,”
Bessie said.
“Was there something
specific you were wondering about?”

“You said that Carolyn
brought Christopher Hart across.
you know how she happened to choose him, rather than some other designer?”

“I’m sorry, but I haven’t the slightest
idea,” Bessie replied.
“I didn’t
know we needed a designer until she announced that she was providing one.
I’d also never heard of the man before
she mentioned him.”

“Who selected the members of the
Pete changed the

“I suppose that was Mark Blake.
He asked me to join.
I’m sure when he asked me, he told me
that Mary Quayle and Marjorie Stevens had already agreed to help.
He also asked me if I had any
suggestions for other members, but I couldn’t think of anyone to add.”

“So who suggested Carolyn

“You’d have to ask Mark,” Bessie said. “I’d
say, but no, I shouldn’t.”

“Yes, you should,” Pete told her.
“Whatever you were thinking, I’d like to
hear it, even if it’s just speculation.”

Bessie shook her head.
“I was just going to say that it’s
likely she suggested herself, but that doesn’t sound very nice.”

“But she might have?”

“She often volunteered for committee
positions, especially where there was expected to be a lot of publicity,”
Bessie said.

“So she likes to do volunteer work?”

“I wouldn’t say that exactly,” Bessie said
“She likes to serve on
various committees, but I don’t think she particularly likes to work.”

Pete chuckled.
“I take it you aren’t fond of her,” he

“I just feel that, if you’re going to
volunteer for something, you should be prepared to work hard,” Bessie
“Carolyn prefers to
throw money at the first sign of any work that needs doing.”
She sighed.
“There’s always a place for that, of
course, especially with non-profit

“Who selected which non-profits would be
involved?” Pete changed the subject again.

“At our first meeting, Mark asked for
suggestions,” Bessie said.
“We ended
up inviting about ten different groups to take part, but only five of them were
interested or able to put something together in time.”

“I don’t suppose you remember who suggested
which groups?”

Bessie thought while she turned over bacon
and sausages.
It was no good.
“It was too long ago and it didn’t seem
important at the time,” she told the man.
“We were all throwing out ideas and discussing different groups.
I don’t recall anyone being strongly in
of any one group over any other, if that helps.”

“Was anyone particularly opposed to any

Bessie shook her head.
“I don’t remember anyone opposing any of
them,” she said.
She pulled down
plates and piled food onto them.
After delivering the plates to the table, she poured coffee for them
both and then sat down opposite the man.

“There was a short debate about whether we
should allow groups that use professional fundraisers rather than groups that
just use volunteers,” she said after she’d taken a few bites.
“Marjorie really wanted to only use
volunteer groups, but Carolyn felt that the Alzheimer’s Research Fund was worth
including, no matter how they raise their money.”

“How did you feel?”

“I wanted the event to be as inclusive as
I thought we should ask
every non-profit on the island to take part.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“It was a question of scale,” Bessie
“This is the first year
MNH is trying this and Mark didn’t want things getting too big too fast.
We’d have had enough problems if all ten
groups we did ask agreed to take part, as we only wanted to use a handful of
I think, for the first year,
the size is just about right.”

“If Marjorie had won the argument, who
wouldn’t have been included?”

“Michael Beach and the Alzheimer’s Research
Fund, and Harriet Hooper and the Manx Animal Care Team,” Bessie replied.

“That would have made it a much smaller
event,” Pete remarked.

“That was one of the points that was raised
in the discussion,” Bessie recalled.
“We hadn’t actually asked anyone yet, but both of those groups were on
our short list and we didn’t want to cut the list down too far.
It turned into a fairly long discussion,

“Did it become heated?”

Bessie shook her head.
“Everyone kept calm and presented their
point of view politely.
It was our
first meeting, after all.
We were
still trying to work together.”

“But that changed?

“I wouldn’t say it changed,” Bessie
“As we got to know one
another better, there were, of course, some disagreements, but mostly we stayed
on creating the best possible event.”

“Tell me about the disagreements,” Pete
invited her.
“Breakfast is excellent,
by the way.”

“Thank you.
I should make myself a proper breakfast
more often,” Bessie said.
“As for
our disagreements, most of them were just over silly little things.
We couldn’t agree on how to decorate the
courtyard, for example.”

“And who won that argument?”

“We were still debating the issue when
Carolyn brought in Christopher Hart and told us all that he would be deciding
what would be going in that space.
He sent his instructions to MNH and they ordered and hung the

“And you all went along with that?”

Bessie sighed.
“Sometimes it’s better not to argue,”
she said.
“Carolyn offered to pay
for all of the decorations if we went with Mr. Hart’s plan.
The less MNH has to spend for the event,
the better, of course.”

“So Carolyn won that argument.
Tell me more.”

“Carolyn wasn’t happy about the plans for
the MNH room, either,” Bessie recalled.
“She wasn’t at the meeting where it was discussed and voted on, and when
she found out we’d decided in her absence she put up a bit of a fuss.”

“Let me guess, Mr. Hart was going to change
that room,” Pete said dryly.

Bessie chuckled.
“He was, now that you mention it.
And no, I really hadn’t
that Carolyn was using Mr. Hart to get everything
the way she wanted it at ‘Christmas at the Castle

I suppose, because
I’m not the scheming type, that I simply never thought about it.”

“I’m not sure that it has anything to do
with Mr. Hart’s murder, but it’s interesting,” Pete said.

Bessie cleared away the breakfast dishes and
poured more coffee.
Carolyn wouldn’t have killed him if he was helping her get her way.”

“Unless that’s what the argument was about,”
Pete suggested.
“But what can you
tell me about Richard
, Carolyn’s husband?”

“Carolyn told me yesterday that she thinks
he killed Mr. Hart,” Bessie said.

“But you don’t agree,” Pete said.
“Or you would have brought it up before

“I don’t know,” Bessie said.
“You would think a wife would know her
husband better than anyone.
only met Richard
a few times, but he really
doesn’t seem like a murderer to me.”

“Experience has taught me that most
murderers don’t seem like the type,” Pete said.

“Carolyn said that she thought Richard
killed Christopher because he thought she was having an affair with the man,”
Bessie said.
“Maybe I simply don’t
think he cares enough about Carolyn to kill over an affair.”

“You don’t think he loves his wife?”

“She was a trophy wife when she was young,”
Bessie explained.
“Richard is quite
a bit older than she is and I suspect her charm has faded somewhat over the

“But maybe she’d never cheated on him

“I don’t think she cheated this time,”
Bessie said.
“I didn’t get the
impression that Mr. Hart was interested in anything other than Carolyn’s

“Whether they had an affair or not, what
matters is what Richard
thought was happening,”
Pete pointed out.
“Does he seem
like the jealous type?”

“I’ve probably only spoken to him ten times
in my life,” Bessie said.
remember, vaguely, when he and Carolyn were first married.
He was very possessive of her then, but
in the last few years they seem to have drifted apart.”

“No children?”

“No, Richard has some from his first
I’m sure Carolyn said
something once about him not wanting to go through all of that again.”

“So if he wasn’t jealous over Mr. Hart’s
relationship with Carolyn, what other possible motive could Richard have had
for killing him?”

“I have no idea,” Bessie said.
“I don’t know anything about Richard’s
business interests, so I couldn’t tell you if they were tied to Mr. Hart in any
If Richard was going to kill
someone, I’d be inclined to think it would be over money matters, rather than
his wife, though.”

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