House at the Beach – Murder Mystery Short Story
Wer sich mit Kriminalliteratur beschäftigt, kommt um die legendären Ermittler Sherlock Holmes und Miss Marple nicht herum – so auch die Schülerinnen und Schülern meines Englischkurses im ersten Semester der Oberstufe. Nach der Lektüre ausgewählter Kurzgeschichten war es an der Zeit, eigene Murder Mystery Short Stories für einen kursinternen Wettbewerb zu schreiben. Herausgekommen sind 19 Geschichten voller spannender Ermittlungen und unerwarteter Wendungen, die den Talenten Agatha Christies in nichts nachstehen. Ihre eigenen Werke können die Schülerinnen und Schüler demnächst in dem Reader Whodunnit? – 19 Murder Mysteries nachlesen. Ich jedenfalls bin sehr stolz auf die Ergebnisse und freue mich nun, eine der Gewinnergeschichten präsentieren zu dürfen! (Philipp Lohmüller)
House at the Beach
It was a rainy afternoon in London when Detective George Smith sat in front of his fireplace. The successful detective had just finished solving an incredibly difficult case, and now he enjoyed doing nothing but listening to the relaxing crackling of the fire while eating cookies his maid Martha had brought him a few minutes ago. He was slowly drifting off to sleep when the ringing of the doorbell startled him. Martha entered after a short moment and said that there was a visitor who urgently asked to see him. “Please say that I am not available today. I am exhausted and do not have time to take another case,” he whispered, but was interrupted by a young woman rushing into the living room, pushing herself past Martha. “Please Mr. Smith, I would not bother you if it was not important. I really need your help! Please say that you’ll help me!” She was very pale and her whole body was shaking. Mr. Smith agreed to listen to what she had to tell. The woman, whose name was Mary Clarkson, began to explain what had brought her to the detective’s house.
She and her best friend Olivia Sandleton had left London for a few days to enjoy some time in the beach house on Canvey Island that Olivia owned. They had been spending a great time until last night. The girls had started fighting over Olivia’s boyfriend whom Mary did not like. Olivia had screamed at her and the fight had resulted in Mary running outside of the house around 10 pm and going to a bar where she had tried to calm down. When she had come home around 1 am, she had known that something was off. The door had been wide open. She had called for Olivia but did not get a response. Then she had entered the bedroom the girls shared and had found her best friend lying on the floor. Stabbed and bloody all over. She could not find a weapon and neither did the police she had called immediately. Since Olivia had called her boyfriend in London that night and told him about her fight with Mary, the poor young woman was suspect number one.
Mary had been crying the whole time she was telling the story and her body was shaking so hard she had to sit down. “I don’t know what to do. You are my only chance! I’ve heard of your qualities as a detective and I know that you could help me! I promise that I didn’t kill her! She was my best friend! How could I ever kill her? Seeing her dead and bloody on the floor was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced! Please just help me!” Detective Smith tried to calm her down and finally promised that he would take the case and find the murderer. He left to make some phone calls, told her that he would be right back and sent Martha with some cookies and tea.
Mr. Smith came back a few minutes later and officially started the investigation. “I talked to the police to get an overview about the crime scene. According to the autopsy, Olivia was stabbed with a knife multiple times but as you already told me, no weapon was found. So suicide is definitely off the list. The police couldn’t find any fingerprints other than yours, just some dirt and traces of mortar mix on the floor.” Olivia had made her last call at 10:30, when she had called her boyfriend to tell him about her fight with Mary. The boyfriend was off the list of suspects because he had been in London at the time of the murder and even though Mary didn’t like him that much, everyone knew that he loved Olivia and would never hurt her. “So in between 10:30 pm and 1 am, everyone could have entered the house and killed her,“ the Detective concluded. “I looked at pictures of the house and the surroundings. A nice house right at the beach. And the property is huge. It being the only house in that area makes the case even more difficult because there were no people who could act as witnesses.”
“Is there anyone who did not like Olivia?”, the detective asked. Mary said no. But then she mentioned that there was this one guy, Raymond Gregory, who lived on Canvey Island and had always told Olivia that he loved her, written love letters all the time and asked her out on dates. But Olivia had said that she had never liked him and had always said no when he asked her out on a date. Maybe he had been so obsessive and mad that she turned his offers down? Suddenly, Mary remembered that Olivia had made a phone call in the morning of the day of the disaster. Olivia had acted weird, walked away and hung up the phone impulsively. When Mary had asked who it was, she had said it had just been her mother, so Mary hadn’t really thought about it.
Mr. Smith had access to Olivia’s phone data and checked the incoming calls. That day her mother didn’t call. There was just the call to her boyfriend at night after the figh and an unknown number that had called in the morning. And exactly this number also had been calling several times the week before. The detective tried to call the number but it was blocked. Was it the obsessive young guy? Mr. Smith was not really sure if this was the right trace. Had Raymond Gregory killed her just because she hadn’t liked him back? He asked Martha, his inofficial assistant, to check his alibi and get information about him.
He looked at the photos of the house again. “I am wondering why there are no other houses on this property? Canvey Island is known to be so expensive and this area right at the beach must be really coveted. You said Olivia owned the house, correct? Do you know if she also owned the whole property?” Mary nodded. „Yes. She inherited it from her grandmother who had passed away a few months before. Her heart had just stopped beating unexpectedly and it was a big shock for Olivia. She was her last relative, Olivia’s parents died when she was a kid. Olivia always said that she could never sell the property since it was her grandmother’s last wish that it would be kept in the family forever.”
Martha rushed in. She had made some phone calls and two witnesses on Canvey Island claimed that they had seen Raymond Gregory and Olivia a few days before, together, kissing in public. Mary couldn’t believe that her best friend supposedly had had an affair with that guy and never told her about it. Now she was sure that he had to be the murderer. Maybe Olivia had ended the affair and he didn’t want to? Or he had found out about her boyfriend in London? So far, Raymond Gregory was their only suspect, so they had to wait until Martha got information about whether he had an alibi or not. While waiting, Mr. Smith couldn’t stop thinking about Olivia’s house. Why was there no real estate agent interested in the huge property with the great location? And why were traces of mortar mix found at the crime scene? Then Martha rushed in again. “Raymond Gregory does have an alibi!”, she panted, exhausted from running since she was quite a corpulent lady. “That night, he went to a restaurant with some friends. He didn’t leave it until 2 am and there are several witnesses to support his alibi. I am sorry, Mary. I really hope the murderer will be caught soon. I wish that real estate agent didn’t have an alibi but I promise you that Mr. Smith will find the murderer!” Mr. Smith listened attentively and hesitated. “Did you just say that Raymond Gregory is a real estate agent?”, he asked. Martha nodded. Was it just a coincidence that this guy was a real estate agent and had an affair with Olivia? Even though Mr. Gregory had an alibi, he was the only clue they had right now and Mr. Smith had a suspicion. He decided to call Mr. Gregory but wanted to to not let him know that he was a detective.
When Mr. Gregory picked up, Mr. Smith told him that he was interested in buying some property at the beach and wanted to know whether he had something available. It was just a hunch but his gut never let him down. Raymond Gregory told him that he had a huge property to offer, in fact one at a beach on Canvey Island whose owner had died unexpectedly. He intended to build a lot of buildings there, but would also sell some of the property to private investors.
Something was wrong about this guy. He had had an affair with Olivia and now he was about to sell her property. But Mr. Smith knew that he could not convict him during a phone call so he thanked him and hung up. He had to visit Canvey Island and talk to him in person.
When he arrived at the real estate office the next day, Raymond Gregory wasn’t there. Just his apprentice, Edward Johnson. “I’m Detective Smith and I am here to investigate the death of Olivia Sandleton,” Smith introduced himself. Suddenly, the young apprentice turned pale. “Why would you think that I am involved in Olivia’s murder?”, he stuttered. Mr. Smith looked him deep into the eye. “I didn’t think that. But now I have to wonder, how exactly do you know that she was murdered? I just said I’m investigating her death and the story is not out to the public yet. So how do you know about the murder, and why do you assume that I think you’re involved in it?” Edward Johnson began to sweat. He started stammering but then he broke down. “I had to do it,” he cried out. “I am not a killer, I was forced to do it.” And then he confessed everything and told the whole story.
It really was Raymond Gregory who had ordered to kill Olivia. He had been wanting to buy her property all along. In fact, he had forced his apprentice to replace Olivia’s grandmother’s medication treating her cardiac dysrhythmia with vitamins so that her heart would just stop beating. He had threatened to fire Edward Johnson if he didn’t do it. Gregory had not known that Mrs. Sandleton had a granddaughter and he had assumed that he could get the property for little money after her death. But then Olivia had appeared. He had pretended to be in love with her because he had hoped that she would sell the property to him. They had had a short affair Olivia never told anyone about. When Gregory had realized that she wasn’t willing to sell at all, he had ended the affair and was making threats. That morning when he had called her, he jacked up the price, but Olivia still refused. She had told Raymond Gregory that she would call the police if he didn’t stop calling her. So he had decided that he finally needed to get rid of her, because he had been afraid that the police would start investigating him and the murder of her grandmother would come out. Edward Johnson had stabbed Olivia to death because Mr. Gregory had threatened him to tell everyone that he was Mrs. Sandletonton’s killer. He had done the cruel job after working at a construction site all day, that’s where the traces of mortar mix had come from. There hadn’t been fingerprints because he was wearing his gloves from work.
Back in London, Mr. Smith invited Mary over to tell her in person that the murderer was found and arrested immediately. She was crying when she received the news that her best friend had been murdered for sheer greed, but she was also relieved that the people responsible for her grandmother’s death was found and that they would have to spend the rest of their life in jail.