A Lumby Village Mystery
Part III – A Startling Discovery

By Donna Easto

The four posse members returned at a gallop around 10 a.m. Their faces betrayed that what they found was anything but a prank. The crowd surging out from the cafe to meet them fell silent.  Frank, first to the homestead, blurted, “both of them cold, lifeless.  Albert shot in the back, Sly in the head, gun by his hand.”  

Word spread quickly from person to person:  Murder!  Suicide!  Albert Duggan and Sly LaForest shot dead. Someone whispered, “there’s no police here, a constable will have to come from Vernon before the bodies are moved…unless….”  Eyes shifted to John Wilson Murray.

“No, absolutely not!  I’m on vacation and out of my jurisdiction.  I’ll nae step on the toes of the local constabulary.  Maddie, Angus lets off!  I don’t want to get tangled up in this”.  Nevertheless, he began barking out orders.  “You there! Mount up and get to Vernon right away.  And you, go back to the Duggan homestead. Keep the curious away until the copper arrives – take someone with you.  No one, including you two, is to touch anything in that house.”

“John, it sounds like a murder-suicide, does it not?” queried Angus.  “Surely, Albert was after Sidney for money.  Sly must have lost his mind when he saw he’d killed him and then shot himself.” 

“But, Angus,” Maddie spoke up “why was Sly at the homestead at all?  Mr. Duggan always visits his clients at their residence. Mr. LaForest may have been a gambler and drinker, but I cannot see him shooting a man in the back!  Despite his faults, he was a good man.”

“Whatever,” John rumbled “it’s none of our business.  Angus, shall we take a ramble around your wee Village before lunch. Maddie, will you join us?  I’d like to hear more about why you defend this “Sly,” person.  Let’s not waste time here, listening to idle gossip and hare-brained theories.” 

“Sorry, John, the pastor wants to introduce an unfamiliar hymn Sunday.  It’s ancient. I’m having trouble getting the meter and refrain down.  Also, I’m sure people will be showing up at the church to speak with the pastor about Mr. Duggan.  He was a member of our congregation.  Angus, can you handle dinner tonight?  I’ll come over later with dessert.”

“Certainly dearest, I’ve a mutton stew for reheating, a fresh loaf of bread and a jug of Mrs. Chadwick’s best cider. John, let’s take our leave now while people are focused on the riders!”

The men had just settled into their meal that evening, when a voice called out “You in the house.”  Constable Brown from Vernon stood hat in hand at the doorstep.  “I’d like to speak with Mr. Murray if it’s convenient, Angus.”    Of course, it was anything but convenient; however, John rose from the table and motioned the young man inside.  “Sorry to interrupt your meal, but there’s something out of order at Duggan’s.”  At John’s quizzical look, the constable blurted, “I’m no expert, like you, but there’s something fishy about the murder scene.   Can I be so bold as to ask you…beg you… to come out there with me, right now?”

“Constable Brown, Angus and I will accompany you – after dinner.  Sup with us and fill us in on what you’ve observed.  Maddie!  Perfect timing. Say, is that lemon pie?  Constable, we’ll be off with you to the Duggan homestead after dessert.  Maddie, your sharp eye for detail will be needed too.”

 “Of course, I’ll meet you back here in half an hour; I’ll just run home to change into my riding habit and pick up “Akela” (her gentle grey gelding) from the stable.  Enjoy the pie!”

NEXT:  Questions

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